Author: Caitlin Ricci
Release Date: December 5, 2016
Cover Artist: Natasha Snow
Theme: Anthology, Seasonal
Word Count: 10600*
Sex Content: Non-Explicit
Caitlin Ricci © 2016
All Rights Reserved
Callen hated Christmas. He hadn’t always, but things changed. He hated the music that started right around Halloween, and he hated that every grocery store he went into smelled overwhelmingly like cinnamon. It was two weeks before Christmas and he had a hard enough time getting motivated to go outside. Everyone with their holiday cheer and the stores all catering to the materialistic masses, and he was pretty much done with it all until Valentine’s Day rolled around. Maybe not even then because, being single, he hated that holiday too.
His nurse aid was late by ten minutes, so when his cell phone started ringing, he didn’t look at the caller ID. He was expecting Yvonne to tell him why she was late, again. Instead he got his sister, Annette, and he instantly regretted answering the phone as soon as she gave him a cheery “Hey, little brother.”
He tried, and failed, not to groan. “What do you want?”
“To make sure you’re getting out of the house. Timothy and I are taking the kids to the cemetery this weekend. Want to come? Might do you good to see them.”
He rolled his eyes. He hated that his sister talked about going to visit their parents’ graves in the same way she had when they were alive and she was telling him he should join them all for Saturday night dinner.
“No.” Their parents weren’t there. The cemetery wasn’t a place anyone needed to visit. If it made her feel better to go and talk to some marble slabs, then so be it, but she needed to keep him out of it.
She sighed angrily. “They were my parents too, you know. You weren’t the only one who lost people you loved last Christmas,” she snapped at him.
He was about to yell back at her when she’d hung up, denying him the satisfaction of hanging up on her first. She was right; she’d lost her parents too, but he’d lost them and so much more, and none of it was fair or right. She hadn’t been driving the car. She hadn’t been distracted. She hadn’t caused the crash that had killed their parents, and Annette needed to get that through her head really quickly because Callen was tired of trying to make her understand.
Someone knocked on his door, and Callen pressed the button to open it. “You’re late,” he called out to Yvonne.
“Sorry! I couldn’t find a parking space in your building’s lot.”
Callen frowned up at the ceiling. He couldn’t do much more than that. He didn’t exactly have a lot of range of motion left anywhere below his chest.
“Who are you?” He heard footsteps and turned his head to see a guy probably no older than his own twenty-three standing in his bedroom doorway. He had on gray scrubs with a black long-sleeved shirt on underneath, and his hair was black as well. It was unruly as it fell haphazardly around his face.
“Harry,” he introduced himself. “Yvonne’s sick, so I’m your fill-in. You ready to get out of bed?”
Callen eyed him warily. He’d had Yvonne for months, and even though he didn’t like her, or the fact that he had to have a nurse aid at all, at least she knew him and his routine. And she was in her fifties and not at all attractive to him. Harry was the kind of cute Callen would have lusted after a year ago, and he wasn’t comfortable with the idea of him doing the intimate and highly embarrassing things to him Yvonne had to. “How much experience do you have with paraplegics?”
He shrugged easily. “About twelve years’ worth. My cousin was in an accident when he was a kid. He’s seventeen now. I started taking care of him when I was a teenager. What are you afraid of?”
A lot, and Callen also didn’t like how direct Harry was being with him. Yvonne was quiet and thoughtful. Harry hadn’t stopped smiling yet. Callen glared at him. “Nothing.”
“Everyone’s afraid of something,” Harry challenged him. “I’m afraid of not being able to pay my rent, and I kind of need these four hours with you that I’m covering for Yvonne today, so let’s get moving and you can tell me all about why you’re upset when I have you in the shower. She said you had an attitude, but I’m not that worried about you making me cry or anything like that.”
He was being completely ridiculous and inappropriate. Callen wanted nothing to do with him at all. “I’d rather wait for them to find someone else.”
“Okay. Might take a few hours.”
That was fine with Callen. “I don’t mind.”
“Might take a few days.”
That couldn’t be allowed to happen.