New Year’s Shippin’ Eve
Karrie Roman © 2018
All Rights Reserved
“You’ll be here in ten minutes?” Ryan gasped in disbelief and looked around him. Over the phone line, Lucas chuckled.
“Yeah, ten minutes. Is that okay? Or would you prefer me to stay away longer?”
“No. No, it’s just that I thought you’d be at least another hour or two.” Ryan stood back from the carnage and wiped his brow. Sweat trickled down his cheek and between his shoulder blades, pooling in the swell of his lower back. It was hot today, uncomfortably, stinking hot, but that was summer in Australia for you. He took a deep breath and then another, fighting not to let the scene he surveyed disquiet him too much.
He was filthy and the room he stood in looked like Dorothy’s tornado had recently blown through. Ryan had been on disaster movie sets that didn’t look as apocalyptic as this. He swept his gaze to Lucifer. The black kitten was reclining on the kitchen countertop like he was a regal deity. His yellow eyes were glaring at Ryan with a look that was a cross between boredom and bloodlust. Ryan didn’t trust that kitten not to sink his claws into him, given half the chance.
Lucifer was supposed to be his cat, a Christmas gift from Lucas, but he was convinced the cat, at best, held mild disdain for him, and at worst, was plotting his imminent downfall. On the other hand, the cat adored Lucas. Its nights were spent curled on Lucas’s lap or in the crook of his neck. He’d hiss and spit at Ryan if he got within a half foot. Their intimate encounters had become less spontaneous and more well-planned undertakings since the obstinate little feline’s arrival in their lives only a week ago.
“You know, I’m gonna tell Luke this was your fault,” he mumbled to the moggy, who answered him with a yawn. The kitten then stretched and turned his back to indicate his total disinterest in whatever Ryan had to say. Cats! Or maybe it was only this cat who was definitely not one to turn to if he was after a little affection.
“What did you say?” Lucas asked.
Ryan turned his attention back to his lover but didn’t take his eyes off the cat. “Sorry, I was thinking out loud. How come you’ll be home so early?”
“We finished the interview early… You know, I can hang around here a bit if you need more time to get rid of the hot lifeguard.” Lucas’s tone was cheerful; there’d been many emotions shared between them but never jealousy. Lucas was aware of how much Ryan adored him and vice versa.
“I told you it wasn’t me he was ogling, Luke. He couldn’t keep his fucking eyes off you.”
“Oh, yeah,” Lucas laughed. “Then why the hell did he spend all day chatting you up every chance he got?”
“Well, that’s simple. Because, like everyone who encounters you, he was in mute awe of the gorgeous, talented, kind, sweet, and amazing Lucas Evers, Hollywood megastar.” Ryan would have batted his lashes if Lucas had been there to see him.
Lucas’s throaty chuckle was loud in his ear, and Ryan thought for the millionth time that it was the best sound he’d ever heard. “You are so good for my ego, Ry. Now let me hang up so I can get home to you. Ten minutes, remember. Ten minutes too long to have you in my arms again, if you ask me.”
“Flatterer,” Ryan replied. “See you soon. I love you.”
“Love you too, Ry.” Lucas murmured.
Ryan hung up and put his phone on the countertop.
Unfortunately for him, no fairy godmother had worked her magic while he’d been on the phone so the ruined mess of what had been their meal was still waiting for him. How had things gone so wrong?
It had started out as such a simple idea. Something lovers had been doing for their partners since time immemorial. But Ryan hadn’t factored in a tiny black kitten with a superiority complex and a fondness, bordering on obsession, for seafood. Now, thanks to Lucifer, and a little bit of Ryan’s own culinary incompetence, he stood in the ruins of what had once been an immaculate kitchen and their delicious dinner.
They’d been in Australia for three weeks. Lucas had wanted to spend a Christmas “Down Under” and had been able to tie their trip in with a couple of interviews and other publicity work for his latest movie. Ryan liked to think he’d shown Lucas the best of what Australia had to offer for a summer Christmas. Though having never really celebrated Christmas before, he’d had to google the most Australian things to do for the special day.
In the end, he’d taken Lucas to Bondi Beach for Christmas Day. There’d hardly been an inch of sand to spare with all the other revelers. They’d met a lot of people that day and not one of them had been Australian. They may have spent Christmas Day on an Australian beach, eating Australian food, and drinking Australian beer, but they’d done it with a beach full of fellow Northern Hemisphere tourists, who were likewise here for a summer Christmas. The massive crowd had been intimidating at first, but Ryan was an expert at handling his anxiety these days, so he had managed to enjoy the day despite the vast number of fellow revelers.
Lucas had proudly marched onto the sand in his Australian flag board shorts and matching terrycloth bucket hat Ryan had given him for Christmas that morning. Gold and green zinc had been smeared across his nose, and he’d looked adorable. His flight through the crowds while being chased by a flock of seagulls he’d foolishly tossed a chip at had been not quite so adorable, but definitely amusing.
Cold meats and salads had replaced Lucas’s traditional turkey and baked vegetables. They’d sipped ice cold beers from their cooler, and Ryan had introduced Lucas to the great Australian pavlova. While Australia and New Zealand had fought for bragging rights over the dessert for years, Ryan had assured Lucas that it was most definitely Australian, which the Kiwis who’d overheard had vehemently, though good-naturedly, argued against. Regardless of origin, Lucas had taken to the dessert with an unhealthy flourish, devouring most of it easily. He’d spent the night nursing an upset stomach and claiming it wasn’t only the animals that tried to kill you in Australia; the food was gunning for you too. But, as much as Lucas had grumbled about the dangers of Australia, Ryan was touched to see his lover embrace his homeland.
Dark sunglasses and large bucket hats had mostly kept them from being recognized, even when they joined a somewhat cutthroat game of beach soccer. For once, they’d simply been part of the crowd. They’d stayed well into the night, only leaving when alcohol-inspired singing had become too painful to bear. It had been a day Ryan was unlikely to forget.
This was only the second Christmas Ryan hadn’t spent either alone or with only his drunkard father for company, such as that was. He didn’t honestly think a man passed out, usually in his own vomit, could be counted as company.
Christmas had also been the day Lucifer had come into his life. He’d named him—unfairly Lucas thought—not long after the tiny kitten had climbed his body as if he were a tree and attacked his exposed throat. Lucas had tried to claim a loud bang had frightened the cat, but Ryan had not heard any bang, and he’d seen the fury and dislike in the pale-yellow eyes. A week later, Lucifer still seemed no closer to tolerating Ryan any more than he had to in order to ensure his survival.
Tonight was New Year’s Eve, and Ryan had wanted to surprise Lucas with a special dinner for two before they saw in the new year together. And he didn’t want to go out to do it. They were staying in a penthouse apartment on Sydney’s North Shore, overlooking the harbor and city. The Harbour Bridge was so close to their right that the giant steel structure took up most of that side view. In fact, it almost seemed like the cars on the Cahill Expressway would burst right through their living room if they veered even slightly off course.
The city of Sydney was like a sparkling jewel every night, but tonight when the fireworks would light up the city, the harbor, and the bridge, Ryan expected it was going to look particularly spectacular. It was a perfectly clear evening which promised the ideal backdrop for the pyrotechnic display.
Ryan had hoped to be dining on the balcony in time for the 9:00 p.m. family fireworks and then in bed with Lucas watching the midnight fireworks from the enormous picture window of the main bedroom. If they timed it right, he’d have Lucas inside him—or vice versa—precisely on the stroke of twelve.
“Well, Lu, are you gonna help me clean this up?” The cat gave him a side-eye and continued with his nap. The tiny feline may be plotting the downfall of mankind, but he was still adorable, and Ryan loved him.
He’d wondered if Lucas had intended Lucifer as a stand-in until an adoption came through for them. Lucas’s ex-wife, Anna, and her new wife, Antonia, had thought they were crazy for planning on children so soon into their relationship, but after almost losing Lucas twice, neither of them had wanted to waste any time. When you knew, you knew, and Ryan had known very early on Lucas was his family. It made sense to add to it with the children they both wanted.
The only issue that had made them hesitate was the thought of bringing a child into a relationship frequently under the intrusive spotlight of the media. In the end, they’d decided to go ahead with adoption after talking to other actors who managed to juggle fame and family. Why should they miss out on a dream they wanted so badly because of their career choices?
Ryan mopped up the wine with a dishcloth, lamenting the terrible waste. After a brief flirtation with alcohol, which had almost ended in disaster, neither he nor Lucas drank a lot now, but an occasional tipple, especially on special occasions, wouldn’t hurt, and that had been expensive wine.
He turned his attention to the slowly spreading mess, which had briefly been his seafood sauce, and grabbed a few paper towels. Lucifer had licked up most of the pinkish goo, but even his little fat belly hadn’t been able to fit it all in—not after he’d scarfed down a prawn or two, anyway.
Prawn shells and heads littered the floor and countertop, and even the living room had not escaped, though Ryan prayed the explosion of seafood sauce hadn’t quite reached the white leather couch.
Lucifer had sprung from nowhere, bounding through Ryan’s attempt at making seafood cocktails with ferocious glee, sending ingredients and sauce flying in all directions. The best Ryan could hope for was he’d find whatever prawn carcasses remained, because if even one was left undiscovered in this heat, the stench would quickly become unbearable. His special meal for Lucas was beyond salvation.
Perhaps, Ryan mused, Lucifer had been sent to them as a little preview of what their lives with children would look like. Messy, maybe, chaotic, likely, but Ryan suspected it’d be well worthwhile.
He got on his hands and knees, doing his best to scour under any surfaces for signs of what remained of his prawn cocktails. A long pink line of sauce graced the cupboard doors, and the fridge looked like a Jackson Pollock painting. He wiped them over, scratching with his nail in places where the sauce had already hardened.
After the spectacular ruination of his dinner, he’d have no choice now but to order something in. He tried not to be too disappointed—he’d have to get used to unforeseen disasters such as this if he and Lucas managed to adopt. The only thing that really mattered was he was with Luke at midnight. The setting, meal and anything else going on around them wasn’t important. After the upheavals of the last year or two, Ryan was hoping for a little bit of quiet in this next one.
As he was digging at a particularly recalcitrant strip of dried sauce on the floor, Lucifer suddenly leaped from the countertop and ran out of the kitchen. Ryan knew it would be Lucas arriving home before he even heard the front door open. The cat never moved that fast for anything or anyone else. Damn cat had to rub itself all over Lucas before Ryan even got a look. Ryan left them to it and finished scrubbing at the mess on the floor. He simply refused to admit he may be a little jealous of a cat.
“God, that fucking ass is perfect,” Lucas groaned from behind him after he’d managed to make his way into the kitchen.
Ryan broke out in a pleased grin at the praise. He turned to look up at Lucas. “Hey, baby.”
“Whatcha doin’ down there, beautiful?”
Ryan threw a pointed glare at the kitten purring away, happily ensconced in Lucas’s arms. “Well—”
“Are you going to try to tell me our little angel did all this?” Lucas gestured to what was left of the mess.
“He’s not our anything. Your little angel ruined our dinner so he could feed his face, and he made a hell of a mess while doing it.”
“You cooked us dinner?” Lucas asked as though Ryan had told him he’d flown to the moon rather than made them a meal.
Neither of them was terribly efficient in the kitchen, but it wasn’t the first time Ryan had made them a meal. “Yes, and a damn good one until Lucifer…” Ryan swirled his hands around to emphasize what Lucifer had done.
“You know, with a name like Lucifer, he didn’t really stand a chance. But he’s such a sweet little man. Oh, yes, he is,” Lucas cooed as he tickled the kitten under his chin.
“And they’re off,” Ryan muttered, smiling to himself. Lucas clucking over Lucifer, Ryan reluctantly admitted, was adorable. He quickly finished wiping the floor. By the time he was done, his lover and the kitten seemed to have finished with their reunion.
“My turn,” Ryan murmured as he stood and walked toward Lucas. The man was the most beautiful thing Ryan had ever laid eyes on. Even though it wasn’t possible, he seriously believed Lucas Evers grew more stunning every day, or perhaps he was simply falling more in love with him every day.
Lucas lowered the cat to the countertop and then turned back to him with his arms wide. Ryan didn’t hesitate to walk right into them. Lucas wrapped him up and they both held on tight.
“Missed you,” Lucas mumbled into his neck. There wasn’t a great difference in their height, but enough for Lucas to be able to nuzzle into his neck when they hugged. It was one of Ryan’s most favorite sensations in the world.
“That’s it now, isn’t it?” he asked.
“Yeah. The press tour is done, so I’m all yours for the next week before we go home.”
Ryan had easily walked away from a brief, though successful, Hollywood career, almost before it had begun. Anxiety had made it nearly impossible to handle large crowds—and large crowds went hand in hand with fame and celebrity. The decision was turning out to be perfect. Ryan had never been happier.
While Lucas kept going with his own career and was considered a bona fide movie star these days, Ryan slipped quietly from the limelight and found his own fulfillment. He spent his days running an agency specializing in locating missing children. It was difficult work, even though he wasn’t the one out in the field retrieving the children, but each located child had brought him enough joy to last a thousand lifetimes. Ryan was exactly where he was meant to be in life.