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Rainbow Advent Calendar

I am excited to be participating in the Rainbow Advent Calendar this year, run by the lovely Alex Jane.

If you want to read free holiday LGBTQ fics by a bunch of talented authors, join the Rainbow Advent Facebook group or follow along through Alex’s Masterlist. A new fic or two will be revealed every day leading up to December 25th.

A Very Country Christmas
This Christmas short occurs after the impromptu party where Dusty and Jamaal first meet in Hot Wishes & Cold Kisses but before Dusty teaches Jamaal how to get dirty—country style. (Free short at end of Hot Wishes & Cold Kisses. See link below)

“Hotdogs on Christmas trees? That’s not a thing.” I really shouldn’t have to explain this. If I were talking to Josie—cutie pie, sweetheart, thinks food is a decoration…and three years old—that would be different. But Jamaal is a grown man. I gorgeous haughty beautiful asswipe of a grown man.

“I was trying to make a point,” he says in the deep but elegant voice that has hints of whiskey as if pushing on those cracks will break through his cool façade to the fire beneath. And Lord help me, I desperately want to break through.

“That you’re an elitist arrogant pri—”

“My point,” he says, interrupting me, “is that the Christmas trees in this town—and this tree in particular—have no rhyme or reason. Do they just throw things at the tree to see what sticks?”

I can hear it in his voice. They means the townspeople of Clarkston Missouri. Or maybe “they” just means anyone not from Chicago. This man has been looking down on me and my town since the moment he stepped within the city limits in his five-hundred-dollar Jimmy Choos.

But he’s also looked down on me and back up in a way that has my blood boiling for a different reason. I want to break him like my dad and I broke my horse Bucky last spring. And when I do break him—because I will—his submission will be sweet. Achingly sweet. “We don’t treat our Christmas trees like an art piece in a museum—something to be admired from across the room. Here in Clarkston, decorating the tree is a festive and fun event. There are only a few rules including no hotdogs…let’s just go with no food at all on the tree.”

He raises one of those perfectly sculpted brows. It matches his sculpted cheekbones and that perfectly sculpted body. Lord, I want this man. I want to trace the lines of that perfect brow and his perfect cheekbones with my…nose. Which sounds weird, but getting that close, smelling his expensive citrusy scent and then burying my nose right behind his ear to find the real man and maybe, just maybe, getting a moan or a smile out of him.

Why is it so important to see him smile?

“There are candy canes on the tree,” he says, pointing at each one.

I dismiss his words with a wave of my hand. “Candy canes aren’t food. They’re…candy.”

Another brow raises. “And the popcorn?” he asks, crossing his arms and nodding toward the strings of popcorn on the tree.

“Well yeah, but…” Okay, I’ve got nothing. Time to go on offense. Take the upper hand, like I would with a spirited horse I wanted to ride—and those thoughts are not helpful, so I shake them right out of my head. “There’s a world of difference between a string of popcorn and hanging hotdogs like tinsel. Admit it. By suggesting it, you were taking a jab at everyone in this town.” I punctuate my statement by poking him in the chest. “I agreed to give you a chance city boy. Don’t make me regret it.”

The corner of his mouth quirks up so quick that if I hadn’t been staring at his mouth, I might have missed it. My eyes fly up and catch the smile reflected in his eyes. That look causes my heart to stutter like our old tractor that hasn’t worked properly for the last ten years and then my heart races ahead like it’s making up for lost time. I fold my arms across my chest to contain the pounding or maybe my breathing which has also decided to crank up. Jesus this man has me feeling all kinds of things I hadn’t felt in a long time.

He holds up his hands and my eyes catch on those long fingers. “I’m sorry,” he says, not sounding sorry at all. “I was teasing—your blush when you get animated is rather addictive—but now I feel I need clarification on this point. You’re saying hotdogs do not belong on Christmas trees?”

“What part of that don’t you understand, city boy?”

I might have continued my rant for another forty years or so, but his eyes flicker down to the bottom of the Christmas tree decorated with ornaments and colorful lights…and an honest to God hotdog. It perches innocently across two branches. My mouth opens but—nope. I got nothing. Now he’s grinning and I no longer care why that hotdog is there. His smile is worth…everything.

A giggle draws my attention reluctantly from those bright eyes—are we sharing a moment?—to the girl standing next to us. Josie tilts her head as she stares at us with her big eyes. Her hair is in a ponytail on the top of her head like Poppy, her favorite troll princess. But it’s her hands that catch my attention. She’s holding a bag of hotdogs torn open and leaking. In her other hand she clutches one.

“Here’s your hotdog, Dusty,” she says. She still has trouble with her Ss so it sounds like Dutty. Jamaal bites his lips and tries not to grin as she holds it up to me.

I crouch down to her level. “Josie, sweetie,” I say, not taking the hotdog. Gross. “Why do you have hotdogs?”

Her eyes scrunch in confusion. “You said hotdogs go on the tree.”

“No, I said—” Why am I trying to reason with a three-year-old holding a hotdog and looking like she might cry at any minute?

“Take the hotdog, Dusty.”

My eyes flicker up to Jamaal. The amusement still lurks there in his eyes and I give him a look that promises retribution. Smiling at Josie I take the hotdog gingerly. She grins and hugs me. I expect her to run and play with her brothers who are wrestling with Oliver, but instead she turns to Jamaal and hugs his leg. Or rather she tries to hug his leg. As soon her wet hands touch his pants he jumps back and her eyes start to water.

“I’m sorry, um sweetie but these pants are Tom Ford.”

Her entire face scrunches up and I head off the impending drama with a boop to her nose. “What’s mama doing?”

Her eyes go wide and she rushes off to find her mom. It feels like a shitty move considering everything her mom has gone through over the last few weeks, and I avoid Jamaal’s eyes as I stand up and look for a place to put the hotdog. I don’t want to leave this room—leave him—so I place it on the tree. That taken care of I think about how to fix this mess and get tall dark and way too proud for his own good to focus back on me and not hotdogs—and I bite my lips at the thought of wanting him to focus on my—

“Dusty?” My name on his lips sounds like sin. The good kind. The kind that involves naked bodies. “Are you afraid of getting dirty?”

And I need to chuck those thoughts out because we were in a room full of people. My friends, Oliver and Susie, and Zachary, Jamaal’s boss.

And Susie’s three kids.

I definitely don’t need to pop a boner. Oh, hell it’s too late for that. But I could minimize the damage. “You’re the one almost running from the room.”

“But I thought you were some tough cowhand. Used to handling animals and meat—” His dark cheeks have a light pink tint to them and it’s sexy as hell.

“Meat?” I grin at him and let my eyes travel down his body. I let out an exaggerated sigh. “I love handling meat Jamaal.” I glance up through my lashes and he blinks, his blush getting darker.

“Why are you afraid of holding a hotdog—stop looking at me like that. For God’s sake we are in a room full of people and you’re giving off these…vibes.”

I’ve noticed in the short time I’ve known him that he doesn’t cuss. Or I’ve never heard him cuss. I lean closer. “Fuck-me vibes?”

“Stop it.”

“Stop what? The vibes?” I give him another once over to make sure he understands what I mean. The bulge in his jeans tells me he does. “Or talking about the vibes?”

“Both.” He shifts his feet but it doesn’t help his situation.

I laugh and decide to give him a break. “You’re right,” I say leaning in and enjoying his sexy scent, “I’ve shoveled shit. Helped birth calves and foals—that means sometimes putting my hands inside—”

He puts his hand out like a stop sign. A gorgeous stop sign with long fingers that I imagined touching me. But I can’t get distracted by those elegant and strong looking fingers.

“So, no. Holding a hotdog doesn’t bother me but I don’t want to smell like hotdogs all day.”

“And yet you were making fun of me.”

“You, my friend, are gorgeous but you know it. and you’re an elitist.” I glare at him. Nothing pisses me off more than someone from the city coming into town and making fun of us. Making fun of me. “What makes you think you’re better than anyone here?”

“Well, for one thing,” he says with a smug smile I do not want to kiss off. “I don’t believe I’ve ever decorated a Christmas tree with hotdogs.”

And goddamnit. Now I’m grinning at him wishing I didn’t have hotdog juice on my hands so I could touch him. Kiss those infuriating lips. Not that I would anyway. This boy still needs to pass my tests.

“Hold on,” he says holding up those long fingers I’m going to dream about for the rest of my days. He rushes over to his friend, Lissa. According to Oliver, she’s an accounting supervisor at Grisham Milling. She tilts her head but then digs into her purse and pulls out a packet of wet wipes. He’s back in an instant with one in his hand and suddenly he’s touching me. Holding my hands as he wipes each finger carefully. And when he gets to the palm of my hand I bite back a moan.

“Jamaal…” But I don’t even know what I’m asking for. Not exactly.

“Go out with me,” he blurts, still holding my hands. “We talked about coffee, but it can be anything. I want—need—to spend time with you not surrounded by nosy people—” his eyes flicker over to Lissa who’s watching us almost as intently as my boss, Principal Darling, was watching us yesterday. There’s a loud scream as Josie joins her brothers wrestling on the floor. “Or children.” He glances away as if he’s afraid of my answer. This might be the first time I’ve seen him unsure and it makes him look vulnerable and sexy as fuck.

I consider his offer. But we both know it’s more than coffee. The sparks between us started the moment his eyes caught mine across the room yesterday. It would be easy to ignore his attitude about the country and people who live in small towns. What does it matter? He lives three hundred or so miles away in Chicago.

But that’s exactly why it matters. Because when he goes back to Chicago, I don’t want to be some country redneck that he fucked. I want to be more than that. I want him to never forget me.

What the ever-loving fuck is wrong with me? How did this guy get so ingrained so fast?

And I already spelled out the conditions. If he wants a coffee date, he has to pass my test. I’m not giving in already.

“How did your family decorate your tree?” I ask instead. “Was it all matchy-matchy?”


I wave my hand. “You know. Elegant and symmetrical—” Just like him. “—with no more than two colors that go perfectly together. Or did you have one where you threw everything on it to see what worked?”

His eyes return to the spot behind me and he swallows, looking uncomfortable. “Our tree was perfect. Matchy-matchy—you weren’t wrong about that.” He smiles sadly.

“You didn’t enjoy decorating the tree.” I say it as a statement because I feel like it’s true.

“It’s not—” He shakes his head. “We weren’t allowed—I’ve never…” he lets his voice trail off and I finally get it.


He shrugs like it’s no big deal but I can see in his eyes that it is. He’s looking at me again in small spurts but never for too long. “My parents have people who decorate. It’s considered—” his lips tighten around the words, keeping them in.


He snorts. “Common.”

“You are a snob.”

“No. My parents are snobs.”

I could argue with him about this, and for some reason I really enjoy arguing with him, but I have more important things to do.

“So you’ve never decorated a Christmas tree?”

The shake of his head has him turning away from me. I touch his arm, giving in to this need to feel the soft sweater—cashmere?—that draws me in like a pig to mud. I want to slip my hand under his sweater and feel the coolness—the fire—of his skin against mine. But I settle for this. Soft sweater layered over hard muscles that has me catching my breath.

“Would you like to?” I ask, feeling equally vulnerable as I wait for his answer.

“Like to…?” his eyes move to my lips and his question has nothing to do with Christmas or trees.

“Decorate a Christmas tree. With me.”

His dark eyes are wide but soft as he studies me. His only response is a nod.

Lissa gives me the side-eye as I explain what I’m doing but I ignore it and her. I didn’t need another judgmental mother or a big sister. My big brother—a backstabbing jerk—is more sibling-bonding than I need.

She thinks decorating the Christmas tree is a euphonism for something. I hope she’s right but I’m pretty sure Dusty is talking about an actual tree. And as much as I want to kiss him—capture that slow sweet smile with my mouth—I also want to decorate a Christmas tree. It isn’t the only holiday tradition my family hands off to servants because kids are too messy and my parents are too good to get their hands dirty. And then I imagine doing all those traditions with Dusty. The tree. Building a snowman. Making sugar cookies. Hot chocolate with tons of marshmallows. Getting a present that’s picked out by an actual person instead of paid staff.

As I drive my car over the dirt roads leading to Dusty’s parents farm—and his house—I put a stop to those thoughts. I’m leaving Clarkston in less than a week. Going home. Decorating one tree is fine but planning out Christmases to come is…not fine. At all. I’ve known this man for a day. How has he acquired the secret—even to me—cheat codes that bypasses my defenses and unlocks all the feelings I have stuffed away?

This is a terrible idea.

The farm spans acres and it’s breathtaking. The house is cozy but beautiful in a charming farmhouse sort of way. But unlike homes going for the look, this house is the real deal.

His parents are away, and he tells me where but the information gets lost, smothered by the cocky grin on his face. The flannel shirt hugs his body and the skinny jeans paired with cowboy books is sexy as hell.

“I was planning to do this all myself so I’m glad you’re here.” His eyes are bright with excitement and I want to capture it. Hold it like lightning bugs in a jar. That’s a thing, right? I’ve never done it, but I’ve heard of it. Not that I think Dusty can be contained in any way but to have that spark—that warmth—for later on those cold winter nights back in Chicago. I usually keep myself busy during the day so I don’t notice the loneliness. And until Dusty, I hadn’t realized how lonely I actually was. He touches my arm. “Are you okay?” he asks.

I nod, not trusting my voice.

The tree is already put together in the living room which is probably larger than my apartment. I could afford a bigger place—or let my parents pay for it—but my small place fits me nicely. And works well on the salary of an office support assistant—receptionist and personal assistant—for Zachary Coleman at Gresham Milling. Boxes are scattered around the tree.

The smell of pine surrounds me as I touch the branches and realize the tree is real. I haven’t actually seen a real Christmas tree—not one in someone’s home. I turn to say something but my words die on my lips. Dusty is staring at me with something…excitement? Sadness? Reverence?

“I love real trees. But the pine needles are a bitch to clean up. Here’s a hint for you…don’t use your mother’s new vacuum to do it.”

I bite back a smile. “How old were you?”


A grin spreads across my face without my permission. I just can’t help it. I don’t want to ruin the moment but the words pop out. “My first experience using a vacuum was at twenty-one.”

His brows go up and he shakes his head. “I think I was six my first time.”

“I bought one when I finally got my own apartment. Never mind I only had one room with carpeting. A small room at that. I couldn’t wait to try it out.”

“God you’re so cute.” He laughs and ducks his head. “I think this was a bad idea, Jamaal.”

I ignore my plunging stomach and swallow my disappointment. “You do?”

“You still have to pass my tests but having you here—alone—all I want to do is kiss you.”

This close I can see the freckles dotting across his cheeks. There are more than I realized, and I’m mesmerized by them. The anticipation in the air is intoxicating, and I grab his arm to steady myself. In that moment, I realize I can skip past the tests and the rules he’s set out. If I kiss him, he wouldn’t resist. In fact I could lean closer, and he’d be the one to make the move.

I don’t want to take the easy way out. That would be my parents’ way—my brother’s way of doing things. I want to earn that kiss. But I can’t resist teasing him—torturing him—a bit. Squeezing his arm, I let go and take a step back. I lick my dry lips and capture his gaze so he can see how much I want to kiss him even as I’m moving away.

And if we get started on other distracting things that involve less clothes and miles of freckled skin, I might not get to decorate the Christmas tree.

“Jamaal…” His voice is rough and needy and I shake my head.

“Offer me a drink, Dusty. What happened to Southern Hospitality?”

He rolls his eyes but he’s grinning and the tightness in my chest eases. “We’re in the Midwest. I’m not southern, I’m country. There is a difference.”

“In hospitality?”

“What would you like to drink, Jamaal? We have water but it’s out of the tap. Or we have iced tea. Or lemonade.” He bites his lips as he thinks and it’s not distracting at all. “And we have beer.”

“I don’t drink.” Why did I say that? It usually brings up questions I don’t want to answer. “Iced tea sounds lovely,” I add quickly.

He gives me a flash of that smile—the one that makes me want to forget about the tree—and retreats to the kitchen. I don’t follow him. I need a moment to cool down.

I walk around the room. It has that rustic feel that doesn’t feel like it’s trying to be rustic. It just is. But it’s also nice and one of the things he said yesterday comes back to me. He was saying how much he hated elitist assholes who thought they were better than him. Are you richer than me? I’m sure you think that answer is yes.

His family has money. I can see it now that I’m looking. It’s not flashy—like my parents—so everyone knows. It’s just there. The comfortable furniture. Dusty’s truck that probably cost more than a school secretary could afford. I’d assumed he was poor because he lived in the country.

God. Dusty was right. I am an elitist asshole.

He returns with our drinks and we settle on the floor to go through the boxes. Our shoes are by the door and seeing Dusty in socks without his boots makes me think I’ve gotten through one layer of his defenses. It’s somehow more intimate. I shake those thoughts off and focus on the box of ornaments.

They’re the opposite of matchy-matchy. There’s no rhyme or reason to them. It’s just a box of ornaments thrown together. My parents would have been mortified.

A train captures my eyes and I pick it up to study it. Dusty laughs but there’s a blush on his face. “I loved trains.” He shrugs. “I was five.” He takes it from me to put in the goes on the tree pile and his fingers brush mine. His touch sparks a flame that spreads through my body. I’m not sure how I’m going to make it through this without kissing him.

I ignore my body—as much as I can—and pick out another ornament. A ballerina. “And this one?”

His blush deepens as he moves it to the same pile. “Also mine.”

“How old?” I ask trying to hide the grin on my face.


I laugh and then cover my mouth—too late to hold it in.

But he’s grinning and I realize he’s not upset with me. “I was obsessed with dance at the time. I mean I also did sports but I wanted…” he shakes his head. “Besides have you seen the male dancers in their leotards? Fuck. So hot.”

There’s something about Dusty that pulls me in. He’s…earnest. And real. And everything I want…and need.

“You’re staring, Jay,” he says, biting his lip. A glint in his eyes.

“Jamaal,” I correct. Again.

“Right. Jamaal.” He stretches my name out, and I choke back a moan. Everything he does or says is intentional—focused—as if his internal dial is set to simmer. A slow heat that you don’t even realize fully until it starts to burn. I try not to think of Dusty on high heat—a full on boil—and then it’s the only thing on my mind.

I clear my throat. Would begging be appropriate? And what would I be begging for? A touch? A kiss? A night together? Or more—much more.

“Nope,” he says, standing up. He grabs a few of the ornaments and heads for the tree. Once I’m beside him, he carefully hangs the ornaments and I do the same with the few I have. Following his lead, I space them apart.


He must hear the need in my voice because he turns to face me shaking his head. “No, gorgeous. We are not doing this. You have country things to do first.

I nod, not trusting my voice.

His hand flattens against my chest and I’m sure he can feel my pounding heart. “But I don’t think I can wait another day to kiss you.” The flirty tone is gone. His words sounds as if he doesn’t want to admit them but has no choice. “I think we should start today. As soon as the tree is done.”

“I’m perfectly fine with waiting until then,” I say, trying to get control of my body and my mind. “But it will help tremendously if you stopped touching me. I’m finding it difficult to focus on anything but that promised kiss.”

“Only if you pass the tests.”

“Oh, I’ll pass.”

His fingers linger a moment more before he moves them, and I shake out my hands to distill this need to touch him. We work on the tree then with a shared purpose. But we don’t rush. We’re focused as we string the lights and sort through the ornaments before putting them on the tree. We add candy canes and little red bows. It’s a collection of ornaments and lights and memories. Dusty’s memories and I love hearing about each one. I don’t have much to share since my Christmas memories tend to be sad. When we’re done he gathers the boxes and then goes over and pulls the blinds. It’s not dark since it’s still early in the day but muted.

“Ready?” he asks with a whisper. I nod. He has a remote for the lights and when he pushes the button the tree bursts into colorful lights that play off the ornaments. It’s completely different than the beautiful but almost clinical display at my family’s home. It gorgeous in a way Christmas should be. So full. So—emotion hits me and I can’t speak.

“Are you okay?”

I stare at the tree instead of his face, worried I might lose it completely. The angel at the top is old. Something passed on from generation to generation on his mom’s side. My hand reaches for his and he threads our fingers together. I finally manage to string two words together. “It’s amazing.”

“Jamaal? Have you ever—”

When he stops I glance at him. He looks almost shy. “What?”

“Have you ever had your own ornament?”

“No.” I never even knew I wanted one.

He smiles at me and his green eyes sparkle. “New goal. Find Jamaal the perfect ornament.”

My heart does this lurchy thing that has happened quite a bit around this man I just met. “I love that idea.”

We’re grinning at each other and I worry we won’t get to the tasks he’s set up for me. And I really want to show him I can do it. He glances away. “So you like it? The tree?”

I pretend to think for a moment. “It’s missing something.”

His eyes are wide as he looks from me to the tree. “More lights?”

I shake my head.


“No,” I say with a sigh. “I was just wondering—do you have any hotdogs?”


Thank you to Alex and to all the authors who are taking part in this holiday fic fest. Thank you to all the readers, too! I hope you have a wonderful holiday season, however you celebrate.

Buy from Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0BHCLSCBZ

Free Dusty and Jamaal short: https://dksuttonwrites.com/hot-wishes-cold-kisses-bonus/