The Mistletoe Maneuver

Dedications: This story is for Sam and Amanda, and I hope you enjoy it! My especial thanks to Freddie Milano for reading it over for errors, and of course appreciation for ALL THE FEELS.

Merry Christmas 2013 to one and all!

The Mistletoe Maneuver
Copyright © 2013 by Talya Andor

The worst of all Christmas carols was jangling out its jaunty theme of cuckolding and maternal adultery when Kenneth Whitaker crossed the polished expanse of marble that took him across the vast glass-walled lobby. Kenneth clenched his back teeth and put on a smile for the benefit of Sheila, the receptionist, as he bent to sign in at the front desk. “Seems unfair that they keep you working while everyone else goes upstairs to party,” Kenneth said, as though he hadn’t been working sixty hours a week through the holidays for the past fifteen years. The Vanderbrandt company party was the one free pass for all executives.

Sheila gave him a brief show of red, red lips stretched over very white teeth. “After I sign everyone in, I lock the lobby doors and I get to go upstairs, too,” she replied. “We party all night, after all. I don’t begrudge everyone else the head start.”

Kenneth nodded. Someone from the Vanderbrandt group had left out a Montblanc to sign the register and he penned his name with an offhand flourish, dropping it into the bend where the pages met. He paused and scanned over the list of those present, but wasn’t quite bold enough to flip back a page. “Anyone from the Yamato group here yet, Sheila?”

That earned Kenneth a smirk. “Funny you should ask, when one of them wanted to know if you were here already. Twenty minutes ago.”

“Oh.” Kenneth squared his shoulders and pulled in a slow breath. Time to face the music. Hopefully it would at least be a different carol upstairs. “Better not keep them waiting, then.”

Kenneth’s short walk to the brushed steel elevators beyond the front desk was the march of a soldier going to battle. The inquiry from the Yamato group meant a very specific Yamato would be there waiting for him. The fact that Zach had asked Sheila was his advance notice that yet again, the hunt was on.

The elevator ascended, and Kenneth’s stomach attempted to stay on the ground floor. It had been years since he’d seen Zach Yamato–too young, too sleekly gorgeous, too precocious–and fended off his wandering hands and blunt proposition. He had to close his eyes for a moment to steady himself. “I’ve wanted you for years,” Zach had breathed into his ear, attempted to kiss him, and only when he’d pointed upward with a cheeky grin had Kenneth realized he’d been steered directly under the mistletoe at a darkened corner of the ballroom dance floor.

Kenneth’s eyes popped open when a chiming note heralded the arrival of his elevator at the party floor. The entire top floor of the Vanderbrandt building was a stadium-sized atrium complete with towering crystal skylight and exposed steel girders. They were draped for the occasion with boughs of evergreen punctuated with the bright red splash of holly. A woodsy scent assailed Kenneth’s nose as he stepped out of the elevator, gift bag dangling from the crook of his arm. The anonymous gift swap took place at midnight, and a table already piled high and wide was pushed up against a wall to his right. The table itself was covered in shiny mylar reminiscent of gift wrap. Kenneth added his contribution to the precarious stacks.

He turned to assess the brewing party for danger zones. Christmas music with a more rock-driven beat drifted through hidden speakers, and the press of people was hidden partially from view by the staggered placement of three towering firs decked with all the tinsel and lights they could bear. A gauntlet of familiar faces stood between Kenneth and the wet bar at the far end, and the DJ was out of sight in a crow’s nest on the second level that wrapped around one side of the atrium. The other side opened onto a terrace that afforded one of the most spectacular views the city had to offer.

Yamato Senior was visible enough, standing in clear view within a cluster of the Vanderbrandt group’s most elite executives. As always, he wore an impeccably tailored suit and his slight frame and iron-gray hair provided no other tells for the massive clout he wielded. His bodyguards stood an unobtrusive distance apart, hands clasped in front of them, eyes shielded with dark glasses even indoors. His translator Reiko was beside him, stunning in a champagne-colored off the shoulder dress, her black hair newly clipped into a pixie cut. She was all smiles in contrast to Yamato’s stoic face.

There were other important players present, Kenneth noted, accounting for his colleagues, their allies, even a few key business rivals. The Vanderbrandt group’s Christmas parties were legendary, and not to be missed. He started out across the maze of mingling associates and headed for the far side of the room, keeping a weather eye out for a certain youthful storm.

The last time Kenneth had seen Zach, he had promised to make the same offer the following year, and reminded Kenneth he wouldn’t have the excuse of his being underage to turn him down. That had been three years ago.

He headed for the bar but second-guessed himself before he got a drink in hand. Liquid courage was all well and good, but it would be best if he had a clear head when—not if—he was ambushed by Zach.

“What can I get for you, sir?” the bartender asked with an attentive tilt of the head.

“He’ll have a gin and tonic,” a smooth velvety voice interjected, and Kenneth had to control a wince.

He would have recognized that voice anywhere. In his head he’d secretly—and often—referred to it as auditory sex, and if it could have been bottled and sprayed as a pheromone someone would be making a damn good profit. Or more importantly, getting laid in all the best ways.

Zach sidled into view on his left side, gorgeous brown eyes daring Kenneth to contradict his order. He was shorter than Kenneth by half a head, which meant he had grown a few inches during the past few years. Like his father, he wore a suit, though it was a slim European cut that hugged his trim figure. It was dark green and he was wearing a cranberry-colored tie with a swirling silver pattern. The scent he wore had changed, though it was still dark, spicy, and utterly intoxicating to Kenneth.

The bartender waited for Kenneth’s nod to start making the drink. Kenneth swallowed and reminded himself a drink in moderation wouldn’t melt his defenses. He’d nurse it all night if he had to.

“Kenneth,” Zach said, his lips twitching up in a brief smile before dropping it for a watchful expression.

That made Kenneth’s brows rise. It wasn’t the approach he’d expected, or received before. “Zach,” he replied in kind. His eyes traveled over Zach a second time. He was taller, thinner, his face emerging into sharply handsome definition where the last roundness of childhood had clung to the planes of his face before. Zach had high cheekbones, expressive slanted brown eyes, and a full bottom lip that tempted Kenneth to thoughts of sucking on it.

A drink slid across the counter and Kenneth picked it up, taking a cautious sip, his eyes returning inevitably to Zach. It was possible he’d assumed too much. With the amount of time that had passed, it was entirely possible Zach had himself a college boyfriend.

That thought brought an unexpected pang and a frown pinched Kenneth’s brow. “So do you … how’s school?” He had to correct himself swiftly before he could ask something inappropriate, and looked down into his glass. He couldn’t blame a single sip for that impulse.

A slow, delighted smile spread across Zach’s face as though Kenneth’s fumbling inquiry had been the answer to a question Zach hadn’t asked. He reached out and before Kenneth could sidestep, fingers glided over his forearm to rest at the bend of his elbow. Even between layers of cloth, the touch was startlingly intimate. “Why don’t we go out to the balcony and I’ll tell you all about it?” His voice assumed a husky quality that made Kenneth’s gut jump. He couldn’t help but associate that kind of raspiness with arousal.

Kenneth took a fortifying swallow of his drink. “I don’t know, is there any mistletoe out there?”

Zach’s eyes rounded. “Mr. Whitaker! What are you suggesting?” He couldn’t maintain the facade of innocence. His face relaxed into his faintly mischievous smile before Kenneth had even answered.

“Only that history has a tendency to repeat itself,” Kenneth said dryly.

Zach waved a hand, indicating the lavish interior of the atrium. “Plenty of boughs of holly, but I dare you to find a sprig of mistletoe in those lofty girders.”

“Hmm.” Kenneth could delay his response all he liked, but he couldn’t deny how much he did enjoy Zach’s company, all seduction attempts aside. He was sharp-witted and confident in the way the littlest brothers of a large clan often were, and cut across Kenneth’s diffidence with his disarming bluntness. Not to mention, there was a certain guilty squirm of pleasure in being sought out, even aggressively pursued by such an attractive boy.

“Hey,” Zach said, lowering his voice for Kenneth’s ears only. “I’m not some intern or lowly subordinate, you know? There’s no power imbalance. It’s not like you’ve got me in your thrall.”

Kenneth had to stare, mouth dropping open slightly. He snapped it up. “Zach, you’re over a decade younger than me,” he said, keeping his voice equally contained. It was mortifying to say it aloud, but apparently he had to lay out the stark reality.

“And I’ll bet I’ve had more sexual partners than you have,” Zach countered, lifting his chin.

“How … but … no, what’s that got to do with it?” Kenneth began to sputter.

Zach flashed his cheery, polished grin at Kenneth and gripped his elbow, beginning to steer him through the crowd.

It was remarkable. Though it had been so long, Kenneth had no difficulty recognizing when the mask slid over Zach’s face, replacing his genuine warmth and mischief and of course the alluring sensuality.

Kenneth kept a grip on his drink and let Zach guide him for the moment, unwilling to be seen kicking up a fuss in front of other high-level executives. It occurred to him that Zach was likely counting on that instinct, but there wasn’t exactly anything he could do about it. He glanced Reiko’s way and found himself locking eyes briefly with Yamato Senior.

Senior’s brows went up before his expression returned to impassivity. He accorded Kenneth a slight nod, to which Kenneth replied by bowing at the waist as much as he was able before Zach towed him onward.

“Come on, oh gods, that was your second mistake! Never lock eyes with the old man,” Zach hissed in his ear.

“What was my first mistake?” Kenneth had to ask.

Zach gave him a look through lowered lashes. “I’ll tell you later,” he said. “If you play your cards right.”

Kenneth had to resist the urge to drain half his remaining gin and tonic. Alcohol wouldn’t make it better, he had to remind himself. It would only make things seem better, until they got abruptly worse. He tugged his elbow out of Zach’s grasp. “I’m not sleeping with you,” he said, tone stern as he could make it.

“Sleep has nothing to do with what I want tonight,” Zach replied with a wicked smile. He slid his arm deftly through Kenneth’s, latching on tight enough that it would require force to pry him off.

“All right, to the balcony,” Kenneth acceded. He couldn’t help but sigh. Then again, he had known it would be that sort of night since Sheila had let him know a Yamato had asked for him.

Besides, he wasn’t being dragged against his will, strictly speaking. He did want to catch up, and be regaled with tales of all–or at least some–of Zach’s college exploits from the past few years. Knowing Zach, he had beyond his fair share. Images intruded of confident, beautiful Zach sharing his gorgeous self with other men, handsome and rich and accomplished, painful enough he had to shut his eyes for a second.

When he opened them, they had passed through the open doors onto the wraparound balcony that curved around most of the top floor. There were other people around in duos and trios and Kenneth let himself relax somewhat. It was hardly the stage for seduction.

“See?” Zach flung his hand around in a sweeping gesture encompassing the populated balcony. “I can hardly take advantage of you here, can I?”

There was a trace of bitterness there that Kenneth wouldn’t let himself analyze. Zach was young, rich, destined to be supremely successful. He was accustomed to getting what he wanted; Kenneth had to be the one to lay the boundaries and make sure he didn’t get it when it simply wasn’t right. “Come on, Zach, you’re not the one who would be taking advantage,” he replied, folding his arms.

Zach stepped closer to him and touched his elbow. His head cocked at an inquisitive angle. “You really believe that, don’t you?” he murmured.

Kenneth wouldn’t be dragged into that subject. “How’s school?” He stubbornly dredged up his question from earlier, the one that had gone unanswered.

Zach tilted his head another direction, and the mischief returned again. “Don’t you mean, where have I been these past three years?”

“I … no, I wouldn’t presume to ask,” Kenneth demurred, though it had been at the top of his mind. “I’m sure things have been busy, and—”

Zach cut him off with a finger across his lips. Kenneth drew back as though he’d been burned; the single touch of his skin to Zach’s was electric, and exactly why he should avoid it.

“I’ve been in Japan these past three winter breaks,” Zach said.

Kenneth pursed his lips but refused to ask.

“Visiting Grandpa Yamato,” Zach continued. He looked away, out over the balcony. “He passed away this past summer, though, so my winter breaks are my own again.”

“Sorry … I’m sorry to hear it,” Kenneth said. His brow creased. “Yamato-san was always here, though.”

Zach waved a hand in an airy gesture. “Ah, he could go back to Japan any time, you know? But he wouldn’t miss the Vanderbrandt parties, they’re too important for networking. Me, I could only get to Japan during the long breaks. So it was important to pay my respects to family. Cement my position, so to speak.”

“Were you close?” Kenneth risked uncrossing his arms to sip at his drink again.

“To Yamato-ojiisan?” An incredulous snort escaped Zach and he flapped a hand. “No, not at all. But for my mother, appearances have to be kept. And as far as cementing my position in the family, I couldn’t care less about that crap. I’m going to be a think tank analyst, not a businessman. My father lets me get away with it because he thinks it could be useful to the family someday, not to mention I’m the youngest so his heir is already secured.”

“Think tank, huh?” Kenneth stood back and gave him a faint smile. “What led you in that direction?” It was typical of Zach, he thought with affection, for him to commit himself to an endeavor before he’d even left college. Most kids didn’t know what to do with their degree even once they’d been graduated for a year or more.

“My own interests,” Zach replied. He widened his eyes. “You got me started thinking about it, actually.”

“Me?” Kenneth hoped his tone hadn’t sounded too surprised.

“You said …” Zach put his head to one side and sounded like he was quoting. “Most kids try to figure out what they want to do while they earn their degree, instead of using their degree to earn the skills they need in order to do what they want.”

“That’s true.” Kenneth was startled to find Zach had not only paid attention, but applied it. “You’re pretty young to know what you want to do so early.”

Zach stepped closer, eyes taking on a challenging glint. “Being young doesn’t mean I don’t know what I want.”

“I never said that,” Kenneth replied adroitly. He glanced over his shoulder. There was no way to step back without seeming like he was ceding territory. Yet if he stood his ground, Zach brought their bodies that much nearer. Either way was a losing proposition.

“And I’m not a kid,” Zach pressed.

“Now, that—” Kenneth began, because as far as the age gap was considered, that distinction was insurmountable.

“I’m two weeks away from twenty-one,” Zach said, and plucked the drink from Kenneth’s unresisting hand, lifting it to his lips and draining it in a few swallows. When he lowered the glass, his brows had acquired a challenging quirk. “Who’s going to care?”

I will, Kenneth thought forlornly, but it was the tail end of a thought from three years prior. Zach had kissed him under the mistletoe and promised so much more. He’d offered everything, and when Kenneth had protested, he’d countered with I’m two weeks away from eighteen. As for a direct answer to his question, Kenneth knew that no one else on the top floor was likely to care or even notice, especially considering the drinking age was lower virtually everywhere else in the world and Vanderbrandt was an international company.

“You really shouldn’t do that,” Kenneth said, addressing the defiant act as well as Zach’s intentions.

Zach surprised him with a wistful smile. “Don’t you do anything you shouldn’t do?”

“I have,” Kenneth replied steadily. “Which is why I don’t want you to regret it.”

“Would you?” Zach ducked his head and peered at him from beneath the fringe of his thick black lashes, and it was beyond obvious they weren’t talking about drinks at all. “Is that why you said ‘no’ back then?”

“‘Is that …’ What? No, I … Zach, you were under age,” Kenneth said, spacing out the words to emphasize them.

Zach responded with a brief toss of his head and roll of his eyes. “Did you honestly think you’d ever get prosecuted for statutory rape? Please.”

The rising panic warned Kenneth he was beyond the risk of losing control of the conversation. His first mistake had apparently been showing up at the party to begin with, when he’d known Zach was there and looking for him. “That’s beside the point,” Kenneth said in sharp, clipped tones. “Zach, I’m the adult and you’re the kid. Which is why—”

“Was the kid,” Zach corrected, twice as sharp. “Which is why I’ve left you alone the past three years. I could have pushed to make it to this party if I wanted to, you know. I gave you the space and time to decide I’d grown up enough, gotten whatever you thought I had to get out of my system.”

Kenneth stared at him in disbelief. It was patently absurd. Why go to such lengths to sleep with him? He’d known years ago that Zach tended to be rather predatory that way, but in spite of how close they’d gotten, Zach had never tried anything until … until … his mind swirled as it stuttered across the connecting dots. It wasn’t the springing of a long-planned trap. It was a determined young man’s attempt to plant himself on equal footing. But did that really mean Zach wanted a relationship?

“Unless …” Zach began to shrink back, doubt clouding his face. He folded his arms. “You actually aren’t attracted to me.”

That drew a short, surprised laugh from Kenneth. The prospect was unthinkable to him the same way it had apparently never occurred to Zach. The honorable thing to do would be to confirm it, and let Zach down gently on that basis so that his pride might not be too wounded. Let him think the attraction wasn’t there, rather than age and class gap and too many other factors for Kenneth to take the risk.

The very thought, that it was the risk, fear, perception of others holding him back had Kenneth straightening his shoulders. He had never let anyone else dictate the course of his career. Why should he let the expectations of the people around him put a leash on his personal life?

Because career and personal life can intersect in the worst ways, Kenneth’s mind supplied, and he rejected it.

He’d waited too long to reply, and Zach’s expression dropped into stony neutrality. He began to back away. “My mistake,” he muttered.

He should let the mistake ride, Kenneth knew, and perhaps it would mean less risk, less certainty of hurt in the long run. Yet he found himself reaching out to grasp Zach’s arm, catching him and anchoring him in place. For an instant he was without words, tongue moving over the dry seam of his lips as Zach’s eyes flashed up at him, surprise and dawning hope scrawled across his too-pretty face. At least, he was too pretty for Kenneth to resist any longer if it was what they both wanted.

“You’re not wrong.” Kenneth managed to get the words out though his voice scraped raw as though he’d been smoking. To him, the life without risk had never been worth living.

Zach rewarded him with a smile, one of the real, honest ones that spread across his face and filled his eyes and warmed Kenneth from top to toe at the same time. “Then,” he said, and made a small gesture. “What are you waiting for? Besides me to grow up?”

Kenneth shook his head, releasing a wry chuckle. “You know what? Besides me getting over my own hang-ups, I don’t really know.”

That seemed to embolden Zach. He sidled close, very close, but only to take Kenneth’s arm and draw him toward the railing. “Oh, yes, I knew I’d be fighting those Midwestern values of yours all the way.”

“Zach,” Kenneth said, speaking his name as half protest, half acknowledgment. The warmth of Zach’s body radiated against his even through their layers, more acute from the chill upon the air even though the terrace itself was warmed. They stood thigh to thigh at the railing overlooking the magnificent view, but Kenneth only wanted to drink in Zach’s face, the minute play of expression across his features, and absorb the significance of the moment. Was it giving in, or was it seizing freedom?

He couldn’t decide, and wasn’t sure if it mattered.

Kenneth brushed his fingers over the top of Zach’s hand, drawing his attention. “I really do want to know how school has been, you know.”

Sly mischief touched the corners of Zach’s lips. “It wasn’t a covert way of asking where I’ve been?”

“Not only that.” Kenneth ducked his head at the admission.

Zach kept his dark eyes fixed on Kenneth, steady and unwavering. “And you’re not trying to change the subject on me?”

“I’m absolutely trying to change the subject,” Kenneth replied frankly. He needed some time to process the momentous shift that had taken place within him, going from resistance to yielding in more or less the space of a heartbeat. One thing hadn’t changed, and it convinced him his decision was the right one: Zach was every bit as breathtaking, and worth the trouble they’d face. “But I do want to hear about those three years.”

“Ah, well, I’ve got a lot to tell.” Zach settled in at the railing but kept his arm a warm loop through Kenneth’s. “Sure you don’t want another drink?”

There was a bit of a challenge in the question, Kenneth reflected. Did he want to blunt his senses or interrupt their momentum by going to get a drink? “I’m certain.”

They stood at the railing and talked for what could have been hours, though Kenneth’s Amiga told him only one had passed while Zach regaled him with stories of campus antics, weaving in a narrative of how he’d realized his analytical and research skills and honed in early on his career choice. As he spoke, Kenneth realized with amusement that Zach was deftly skirting around some rather obvious gaps in the college experience, censoring his tale to avoid mention of drinking or hooking up. He was young, and there had likely been a fair amount of it, but Kenneth appreciated not hearing about other men. Zach had always been astute at reading people, and though Kenneth hadn’t said a word he probably bristled with possessiveness.

And so the battle between his morals and desire had never been much of an issue after all. Kenneth could waste time bemoaning all that he hadn’t let himself have before, or he could seize the chance with the handsome young man who was offering himself all over again. Zach had indeed grown in the intervening years, he was unmistakably not a kid … and it seemed the only one who had changed his mind was Kenneth.

“Hey.” Zach’s mouth was close to his ear. It brought Kenneth’s attention to how near they were crowded together on the railing, sharing one another’s airspace. “You got quiet.”

Kenneth reached up, stroked Zach’s jaw, and his resolve solidified. In that moment with Zach’s eyes upon him and his skin silky beneath Kenneth’s fingertips, he was certain the dance between them could never have ended any other way. Zach fascinated and drew him in like no other, certainly not the lovers who had come into his life and left it after a brief time, declaring him too cold or too challenging by turns. Zach challenged him, and had enough warmth for the both of them.

He drew Zach in and kissed him. Zach gasped softly against his mouth but surged into the kiss with gratifying eagerness. His lips were as skilled as Kenneth could have anticipated, but the tenderness and the way his hand cupped the side of Kenneth’s neck, cradling him, holding him there, was all new and purely his. Kenneth had forgotten in those few years how great Zach’s kisses were, but was fast becoming reacquainted—and thought he could get addicted.

When they drew apart, Kenneth’s fingers were tangled in the fringe of hair at Zach’s nape and Zach was beaming at him, his entire face all but transmitting his joy.

“Yeah?” Zach prompted, breathy, tipping his head to one side.

Kenneth nodded, not trusting himself to words. Once before, he’d made the light in Zach’s face go out, shutters slamming down, and watched him withdraw. All of the arguments for why they shouldn’t be together were still there, intact and valid, but at the end of the day what mattered was how Zach felt … and how Kenneth felt too. So long as they wanted one another, Kenneth wasn’t going to give old ghosts or hypothetical challengers a say. And Kenneth had never denied he wanted Zach, at least.

Zach slipped his hand into Kenneth’s. “Come inside,” he said. “I’ve got something to show you.”

Kenneth raised his brows. “Oh?”

“Mm-hmm.” Zach’s lips curved in a tantalizing smile.

Intrigued, Kenneth let himself be led again, by the hand instead of the elbow. They re-entered the glittering throng of the party. The lights seemed brighter after the contrast of the darkness that had robed the balcony, and the cacophony of voices were more shrill and intrusive after an hour of quiet spent with Zach. In that moment, poised on the threshold of a gathering of his most far-flung colleagues and closest enemies, Kenneth wondered if it was enough simply to be seen.

In his world, there was damage control to be done, alliances to cement, plots to uncover—or lay plans for—and the work never stopped even as suits sipped from champagne glasses with cautious shark-like smiles. It was dangerous and unpredictable and thrilling, dancing barefoot on the edge of the blade, and Kenneth loved it. The work fueled his pulse. That night, however, he wanted to set it aside for something—someone—else that stirred him just as much.

A wave of people parted, and Kenneth fought to keep his expression serene as he came face to face with Yamato Senior himself. Kenneth had been formally acknowledged in his presence only a few times in a passing fashion, though he was high up in the Vanderbrandt predatory chain. Higher-ranking executives had always been present and it was the Vanderbrandt himself who dealt with Yamato Senior on a regular basis.

Yamato Senior’s flat brown eyes were on him, and Kenneth’s mind was replaying a shrill oh gods, never lock eyes with the old man at him as he noticed little details like the way Yamato’s brown irises seemed to bleed ever so slightly into the surrounding white and the steadiness of his hand as he offered it instead of the most perfunctory bow.

He always bows, Kenneth recalled, keeping the considering frown off his face. His thoughts raced as he extended his own hand to answer the gesture. To do otherwise would be unthinkably rude, yet the handshake instead of the bow denoted a change in status. To Yamato’s right, Reiko gave him a smile etched in bright red lipstick, her face equally unreadable.

“Mr. Whitaker,” Yamato murmured, his low accented voice remaining between them like a secret as his dark eyes bored into Kenneth’s.

“Yamato-san,” Kenneth replied. He returned the pressure of Yamato’s hand and eased back when Yamato’s fingers released his.

“Please take care of my son.” His formal words were heavily accented but the meaning behind them was unmistakable. He regarded Kenneth without blinking.

Kenneth ducked his head briefly, suppressing a smile. He’d suspected for years that Yamato had a good command of English, primarily because of the way his eyes moved around the room when his English-speaking colleagues had the floor. Reiko was a useful feint, and garnered him more time to think through all his potential moves before he had to compose his own replies.

“With my life,” Kenneth said, flashing a brief glance Zach’s way. He was a fascinating study in crimson and bitten lips, more mortified than Kenneth had ever seen him. It was amusing to discover there was something that could embarrass him after all.

Yamato huffed softly and extended a single thin finger, aiming it at the center line of Kenneth’s chest. “With your heart,” he returned, giving Kenneth a fierce glare.

Kenneth broke his smooth persona, returning that glare with a surprised smile. He nodded, accepting the correction. “Yes, sir,” he said. “With my heart.”

Yamato gave a curt nod and turned to Zach, fixing him with his formidable attention. “Zach,” he addressed his son, and from his lips the name sounded more like Zaku. He addressed him at length in Japanese.

Reiko sidled closer to Kenneth, putting a hand on his arm, and together they stepped away from father and son.

“Did that just happen?” Kenneth stage-whispered.

That earned Kenneth a smile of such stunning force, if he’d possessed an ounce of hetero tendency he might have been drawn in by Reiko’s charm. As it was, he couldn’t help smiling back. “Yamato-san is very fond of his youngest son,” Reiko said so quietly Kenneth barely caught the words, and no one else would be able to. “All stern appearances aside. It’s why he spoils him shamelessly.”

“And now he’s handing him off to me like a bride?” Kenneth had to add.

Reiko’s eyes widened briefly and she hid her smile behind a hand. “You’re familiar with the custom, I see.”

“I know a fair amount regarding Japanese culture, and not only because of Zach.” Kenneth tried not to smirk. The admission cost him nothing, and might earn him more respect. People underestimated Reiko because she was perceived only as Yamato-san’s translator, rather than his right hand.

“I admit I thought it would be more of a struggle.” Reiko studied him for a moment, hand still raised, fingers curling under her chin.

“I struggled for three years,” Kenneth said. “Tonight I decided not to waste any more time. It became less about denying what Zach wanted and letting myself be free to pursue what I did.”

Reiko nodded. “You don’t handle any business directly for Yamato-san, Mr. Whitaker.”

Kenneth inhaled. It was a barbed inquiry. “No, I don’t.” The very fact that Reiko mentioned it could be a good sign, or a warning it would never happen because of his involvement with Zach.

She studied him a moment longer and leaned in as though to give him an air kiss, though her mouth simply hovered beside his cheek. Her hand brushed his wrist as a clean floral scent surrounded him, jasmine and cherry blossom with a subtle citrus note. “That may change, Mr. Whitaker. Continue to pursue excellence.”

When she withdrew, Kenneth gave her a brief nod and said nothing in reply. There was no need.

Zach descended on him in a whirlwind of tailored limbs and flustered expression, taking his arm and shooing Reiko off. She retreated with a bell-tone laugh, returning to Yamato Senior’s side as they parted rows of executives in their wake once more.

“So,” Kenneth said in a speculative tone as Zach raked his hair back with one hand, turning an annoyed scowl on the room at large.

Eyes narrowed in Kenneth’s direction.

Kenneth smiled and said nothing. After the brief interlude with Yamato, Kenneth considered it beyond permissible to disappear. It would keep the entirety of his colleagues off balance and guessing. He would be free to pursue excellence when he returned to the offices and boardrooms below.

For that one night, the remainder of his attention belonged to Zach, who had his arm like he owned divine rights.

“He wouldn’t throw Yamato business my way because I’ll be dating you, would he?” Kenneth asked outright. There was no need to couch his way through sounding that out with Zach; he was too smart and would pick up on Kenneth’s intended meaning anyhow.

Zach’s eyes widened. “On the contrary,” he replied. “That would make him far less likely, so for him to go ahead and do it anyhow would mean he thinks that highly of you.”

Kenneth frowned at him. “He barely knows me.”

Zach snorted and shook his head. “Have you seen how observant he is, Kenneth?”

That was all he said, but it warmed Kenneth. He directed a brief smile at the holly-adorned girders overhead.

It took the better part of half an hour to work their way across the crowd. Despite Kenneth’s resolve to give the remainder of his evening to Zach alone, there were people who wanted to greet them, and they had to stop and say hello and endure the polite social chatter. Zach kept a grip on his elbow, though, and together they made their way through the busy floor.

They reached the far hallway and Zach blew out a sigh. “Phew! Thought we were never going to make it! You are too popular.”

“Everyone wanted to say hello to you, too,” Kenneth reminded him.

Zach gave him a dizzying grin. “Because I’m a Yamato.”

Kenneth brushed a lock of hair from his face. “Now who’s being unobservant? Because you’re you. Trust me, between your charm and your good looks, you’ve got the entire room eating out of your hand.”

“Ah, well, I don’t care about them.” Zach flicked his fingers and turned an intent look on Kenneth. “But as long as you think I’m charming and gorgeous—”

“You know you are,” Kenneth cut in.

“—that’s what I care about.” Zach finished and flashed him an unrepentant grin. He shifted his grip on Kenneth from his elbow to his hand. “Come with me.”

“I already am,” Kenneth said with a rueful twist of his lips, but couldn’t bring himself to regret his decision.

“Not yet you’re not.”

Before Kenneth could protest the cheesy joke, Zach drew him toward the nearest office door. The atrium had a few conference rooms and small offices for general use, when Vanderbrandt wanted to impress other high-level executives with the building’s sweeping view of the city. Kenneth knew for a fact that a fair few of his colleagues took advantage of the privacy to hook up in those out of the way offices during company parties, but it was far too early in the evening. Everyone else still needed to be ‘seen,’ after all.

“Zach, we shouldn’t be back here,” Kenneth said, gripping Zach’s fingers tight.

Zach flashed a brief smile over his shoulder, but drew him onward. “Why, think I’m going to offer you something to get us on Santa’s naughty list?”

“No … yes … it’s just that—” Kenneth said, trying to plow through his momentary fluster to lay down a decisive denial.

“Just nothing.” Zach reached the first door and turned the knob, dragging Kenneth in after him and shutting it quick. He flipped on the lights.

Kenneth’s eyes went right to the ceiling and his mouth dropped open.

“I’m glad you already agreed to date me,” Zach said, tone casual but fingers tense in his. “But I figured if all my persuasive skills weren’t enough on top of blatantly throwing myself at you, this might have a chance of sealing the deal.”

“Zach,” Kenneth said, and trailed off as he kept staring at the ceiling. It was decorated entirely with thick sprigs of mistletoe, row after row packed in so tightly that the only sight overhead was thick masses of the distinctive green leaves with clusters of white berries. There wasn’t a single inch of ceiling uncovered. It would be impossible to navigate the room without being under a bunch of mistletoe dangling overhead.

Beside him, Zach had gone quiet.

“What … when …” Kenneth began, and discarded those questions as unimportant. He looked at Zach, who had his head cocked, eyes huge and hopeful.

“Too much?” Zach whispered.

Kenneth shook his head. “You’re absolutely ridiculous,” he said. He tugged Zach closer. “You go completely over the top. You’re persistent, and cocky, and you definitely shouldn’t be pursuing a relationship with someone my age—”

Zach’s brown eyes sparked defiance and he opened his mouth.

“And those are all things about you that I’m pretty sure I couldn’t do without,” Kenneth concluded. He put his arm around Zach, pulling their bodies taut. “So, no. Not too much. Just right. But I’ll warn you, if you start with a grand gesture like this, you’ll have me expecting you to continue on in this manner.”

Zach gave him a wide smile followed by an unexpectedly coy lip bite. “Not going to be a problem.”

Kenneth laughed, lowered his head, and kissed him. The shape of Zach’s smile curved against his lips for a split second before he dissolved into the kiss, parting his mouth against Kenneth’s. Their tongues met, slow and exploring at first, pressing and thrusting with increasing force and surety as they learned what each other responded to and what felt best when they came together.

When they drew back, Kenneth rested his forehead against Zach’s and Zach’s breath stirred in quick exhalations against his skin.

“Yatta,” Zach whispered.

Kenneth laughed. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

Zach pulled back enough to give him a crinkle-eyed smile full of warmth and mischief. “Don’t tell me you don’t know what ‘yatta’ means, Kenneth.”

Kenneth leaned in to kiss the dimple to one side of that happy smile. “Oh, I know. But what’s the context?”

Zach pointed overhead, and Kenneth looked up once more at the ceiling packed with mistletoe. It had probably cost a fortune to cover the entire room. “Success,” Zach said. He winked. “It worked.” He tugged on Kenneth’s tie, exerting pressure to draw him toward the nearest couch.

“Did it?” Kenneth teased.

Zach gave a serious nod. “I got my kisses,” he replied. He seated himself, keeping his grip on Kenneth’s tie, forcing Kenneth to kneel astride him or risk strangulation. “And I’m about to get a whole lot more.”

Kenneth settled his thighs to either side of Zach’s, bracing himself over him with a hand on the back of the couch. He dipped his head and obliged with a gentle, consuming kiss. Their lips came open, tongues stroking together at once. Kenneth indulged them both with slow exploration, licking wetly across Zach’s lower lip and pushing his tongue into his mouth to claim it. When he lifted his head and finally opened his eyes, Zach was panting lightly, his hands roaming Kenneth’s backside.

“I feel like I’m going to crush you,” Kenneth complained, shifting atop Zach’s thighs. He didn’t want to commit his full weight to Zach. At six-three, he was broad-shouldered but well proportioned—he was big but didn’t look it, while Zach was slim and lithe.

“Then slide down here beside me and kiss me again,” Zach said, adopting a tone of command.

“Hmm, I would, but then it would be too hard to get up again.”

Zach stroked a hand down his dress shirt, eyes heavy-lidded. He licked his lips. “Making it hard is exactly what I’m after.”

Kenneth snickered. He lifted his hand to cup the side of Zach’s jaw. “Our first time is not going to be on a conference room couch with the Vanderbrandt Christmas party right outside the door.”

“No?” Zach tilted his head, the hazy lust on his face shifting to a trace of daring mischief. He, like Kenneth, enjoyed a challenge.

“No,” Kenneth said firmly.

“So …” Zach tugged on his tie again. “Take me back to yours? Unless you want to go to a hotel down the street.”

Kenneth considered it. Either had its merits, but a hotel was impersonal no matter what luxuries it would provide. Taking Zach to his place would be welcoming him into his home, and hopefully mark an auspicious start to their relationship. “I’d rather take you to my place.”

The smile that lit Zach’s face made Kenneth certain he’d chosen the right course.

Sneaking out of the party wasn’t so difficult a proposition as Kenneth might have thought. When they emerged from the back conference room, everyone else was circulating through the atrium or outside on the balcony, and it was a straight shot from the hallway past the gift table to the elevators.

“Sure you don’t want to wait until midnight for the gift swap?” Kenneth couldn’t resist needling. The swift look of disbelief he received in response was worth it.

“The only thing I want you to open right now is a condom.” Zach paused and his expression shifted to considering. “Or my pants. I can’t decide which first.”

Hand in hand, they hurried over and stood shoulder to shoulder as they waited for the car to reach their floor.

Kenneth bumped his shoulder against Zach’s. “That was extraordinary.”

The corner of Zach’s mouth lifted. “What, the ceiling decorations?”

Kenneth nodded. He wanted to tug Zach to him and kiss him, but figured he would wait until they had the nominal privacy of the elevator car.

Zach’s smile widened. “You haven’t seen anything yet.”

“Oh?”

“Mm.” Zach’s chin dipped. “When you take me to your place, you get to unwrap me, after all.”

“Ah.” Kenneth placed a hand at the small of Zach’s back, ushering him onto the elevator. “That always was my favorite part of Christmas.”

In anticipation of a night of drinking and merriment, Kenneth had rented a car. They had to wait arm and arm while the driver brought it around, and despite the lack of drinking Kenneth still found it a good investment. It allowed him to keep both hands on Zach as they tangled together in the backseat with the privacy partition raised. The ride was long enough to cause frustration, and Kenneth had to pull back more than once when Zach pressed ardently against him. When they arrived, Kenneth tipped his driver a C-note and wished him a happy holiday while Zach pulled Kenneth’s free arm around him tight.

One final elevator ride remained between them and the momentum they had been building all night … and even longer, considering the years they’d wanted it.

Zach crowded him to the far wall of the elevator the instant they boarded. His mouth was on Kenneth’s throat, kissing, biting, making Kenneth hiss as he slid his arms around Zach and his hands went straight to Zach’s ass. He groaned, less from the nipping kisses and more due to the feel of those palmfuls of flesh, taut and round beneath his hands. He’d wanted to grab Zach’s ass for longer than he wanted to admit and it was better than he’d let himself imagine.

“God, your ass,” Kenneth said. He squeezed it and Zach rubbed himself shamelessly against his front.

“You like it?” Zach licked his throat.

Kenneth twitched and pulled Zach closer with the hold on his ass, which the height difference made interesting. His cock was rubbing against Zach’s stomach and Zach ground his cock against Kenneth’s inner thigh. “You … ahh … you know I do.”

“Show me,” Zach invited. He hitched up against Kenneth’s body, opening his legs.

Kenneth caught on and lifted him, gripping his ass securely as Zach wrapped his legs around Kenneth. He reversed their positions, putting Zach’s back to the elevator as he held him up against his body. Zach gasped and nuzzled his jaw, kissing along it toward his ear.

“That is so sexy,” Zach murmured beside his jaw, and kissed it again with a hint of teeth.

“What?” Kenneth chuckled. He latched onto Zach’s ear, tonguing the lobe, and Zach jerked in his arms.

“That you can just lift me like that.” Zach settled against him, arms tightening around Kenneth’s shoulders, and pressed his erection into Kenneth’s stomach. “Hot.”

“Oh, you like that?” Kenneth flexed his hands on Zach’s ass. He was certain he could hold on until something –or someone—made him let go.

“Nn, means you could … fuck me standing up.” Zach rubbed against him again and latched his mouth onto Kenneth’s neck in a way that meant he’d have a hickey in short order.

Normally Kenneth would protest the marking, but he’d make an exception that once. For Zach. It was Christmas, after all.

“You could fuck me right against the elevator wall,” Zach added, and the words and the writhe of his body against Kenneth’s made him crowd Zach even closer to the wall, craving friction for his aching dick. They kissed again, mouths meeting with sloppy urgency. “You could get in me right here.”

“Not tonight,” Kenneth managed when their lips parted. He thrust up, doing his level best to rub against Zach’s ass while Zach kissed him and squirmed in his arms, trying for closer than close. “Maybe later.”

Zach writhed against him, licking a line along Kenneth’s jaw to kiss his way into his mouth again. Kenneth swore he could feel Zach’s cock twitch against his stomach. “Promise?”

“If we can get away with it,” Kenneth said.

Zach tightened his legs around Kenneth, ‘sitting’ up in his arms and kissing him harder. “Oh, I can get away with anything.”

“You? I’d believe it.” Kenneth was grateful the elevator doors slid open in that moment, because the more Zach ground against him the more tempted he was to take him up on the suggestion to have him right there. Practicalities such as lack of lube and a condom had dissolved from his consideration for the moment.

“Let’s go.” Zach bit his ear and unwrapped his legs from around Kenneth. The toned strength of them was like a promise for later. He slid down Kenneth’s body when Kenneth loosened his grip and kissed him so distractingly that the elevator doors were closing by the time they headed out of the car. Zach laughed and grabbed his hand.

Kenneth’s insides were churning with a heady mix of excitement and nervousness as they hurried up the hallway together. Part of him was still fixated on all the ways a relationship between them could go badly, no matter how much he wanted it. He reminded himself not to borrow future trouble at the beginning, held tight to Zach’s hand, and crowded him up against the door for another kiss.

“Come on, come on,” Zach said, pawing at his pocket and eliciting the jangle of keys.

“Eager much?” Kenneth grinned down at him. Zach was flushed, lips parted, eyes bright; he was a distracting enough sight that Kenneth almost dropped his keys. He held onto his motor skills by a thin margin and guided the key into the lock. Zach adhered to his side and made Kenneth let go, after all, but at least the key was already half-turned.

“Of course I am; you made me wait three years for this.” Zach’s hand moved over his stomach and his other caressed across the tops of Kenneth’s buttocks.

Kenneth groaned but managed to wrangle the door open before he descended on Zach.

They left a trail of clothes behind them to mark the path to the bedroom, kissing and touching each part of each other they revealed, and climbed into Kenneth’s king-sized bed together. Zach knelt and faced him, his expression open and fearless. Kenneth knew his own had to be reflecting his wonder. There had been a lot of factors that could, and should, have stopped them from reaching that moment and yet …

“Here we are,” Kenneth said softly, lifting a hand to brush his knuckles over Zach’s cheek. They were naked in bed together and he couldn’t help but pause for reflection.

Zach gave him that brief, blinding smile of his. “Took you long enough.”

“I never would have when you were seventeen, you know,” Kenneth said, brows pulling together in a brief frown.

“I know,” Zach replied with a nose wrinkle. “I mean, it pissed me off at first. But I figured it out, and then … I decided you were worth the wait.”

Kenneth caught his breath. Once again he wanted to ask Zach if he was sure, but had the sense—just barely—to hold that back. He was the one who hadn’t known what to do with the gift Zach wanted to give him. “How do you want to?” he asked instead.

Zach caught on immediately. He flashed another brief, brilliant smile. “I have to admit, I’ve always fantasized you’d want to do missionary first.”

That pulled a startled laugh from Kenneth. “What, so we can kiss?”

“Mm-hmm, and so you can look at my face,” Zach replied. He swayed forward to steal a kiss and Kenneth took hold of his hips, thumbing them before sliding his hands around to grab Zach’s ass again.

“Missionary’s got its place in my heart, but it’s not the best position for kissing,” Kenneth said. He pressed in for another kiss that started out with slow heat but built rapidly. They strained close. Zach’s hard cock pressed against his belly and Kenneth’s nudged high on Zach’s stomach in turn. “We don’t have to go all the way, you know.”

His statement caused another nose wrinkle. “Don’t have to, but we’re going to,” Zach replied. He cocked his head. “We’ll have plenty of time to go through every position in the sexual repertoire and maybe invent some new ones just for us but this … I’ve been waiting a long time for this. For you to be ready and willing to go all the way.”

It was the wistful look in Zach’s eyes as much as the assertion that hit Kenneth in the gut. “Then we will,” he said at once. “Whatever you want.”

“Oh, good.” Zach stroked from Kenneth’s stomach to his groin, wrapping a hand around his cock for the first time.

Kenneth’s cock went painfully hard and he hissed.

“Whatever I want could be a tall order,” Zach continued, squeezing his cock. “I’m a bossy bottom.”

Kenneth pushed up into his grip. “I never would have suspected.” The touching and kissing they had done so far had gotten him so riled up it wouldn’t take much to push him over the edge. “Whatever we do, it had better be quick.”

“Attitude.” Zach squeezed his cock. “Keep giving me that and it definitely won’t be quick.”

“I’ll give you something, all right.”

Zach tilted his head, giving Kenneth an appraising look. “You’d better.” He hooked his fingers at Kenneth’s nape and drew him in for a bruising kiss that had a fair amount of teeth. “On our sides, then? If you want kissing?”

“What I want is rapidly becoming irrelevant.” It was an embarrassing admission; Kenneth had always prided himself on his stamina. “I’m pretty sure I’m going to come in about five thrusts once I get in you.”

“Oh, there’s ways to make sure that doesn’t happen,” Zach said obscurely. He tumbled back, tugging Kenneth down on top of him in one controlled movement. Their lips met again, and Kenneth couldn’t help grinding down against hot, silky flesh. When they broke the kiss, Zach was panting too. “But maybe next time.”

“Into a little D/s?” Kenneth wondered.

“Would it surprise you?” Zach’s brows slanted.

“Not in the least.” Kenneth kissed him again. “But, as you say, maybe next time.” That sort of play had to be discussed and agreed upon. Right then, the only thing Kenneth could think about was getting them both to come. He kneaded Zach’s ass for a moment before letting go and getting up for the lube and condoms by the bedside, fetching one of the towels he kept there too.

“Missionary,” Kenneth said, and couldn’t help but grin at the look of triumph Zach flashed his way.

“I knew it.” Zach grinned over a lip bite.

“It’s not the greatest for prostate stimulation,” Kenneth warned, uncapping the lube.

“I have two good hands and the best view of the sexiest man I’ve ever wanted,” Zach said. “I don’t anticipate any problems coming.”

That might have made Kenneth laugh, but he was focused. He got his fingers in Zach, got him open and wet, and kept a hand on his cock while he watched his face. At every hitch of breath or slightest pained expression, he changed his tactics, either backing off with fingers or jacking his cock with greater attention.

“Fucking do it,” Zach said at last from between gritted teeth.

“You’re scowling at me,” Kenneth observed.

“Because I’m trying my hardest not to blow my load,” Zach said. “Get on me.”

Kenneth tore a hole in the first condom, he was that excited. He tossed it into the bedside trash, went for another, and managed to get that one open and unrolled over his very eager cock. When he was positioned over Zach, cock nudging at his prepped hole, he had to pause and remind himself to breathe. Their eyes met.

“Kenneth,” Zach whispered. Yearning crossed his face, followed by heavy-lidded lust, and at last a kind of calm anticipation.

Kenneth took another steadying breath. He could have said many things right then. None of them seemed fitting, either too trite or premature. Instead he nodded and pressed forward.

Zach made a strangled noise and his legs tightened against Kenneth’s sides.

“Okay?” Kenneth said anxiously, going still.

“Fucking … you’re fucking huge,” Zach whispered, and tipped his head back, exposing his throat.

“Fuck.” Kenneth couldn’t hold back. The sight of Zach spread out beneath him offering everything was too much to resist. He shifted his hips and his cock slid deeper.

Zach gave a little cry and lifted up, legs flexing around Kenneth. Kenneth should have stopped, taken another moment to let Zach adjust, but the move frayed the little self-control that he had left. He grunted and slammed home, and Zach moaned response and lifted up into it.

With that much, they clicked together and found their pace. It was ragged, urgent, Kenneth hammering down into Zach with quick piston strokes, Zach raising up to meet each one. The eye contact was intense, as painfully intimate as the way they were joined or even more so. Kenneth held onto Zach’s shoulders and pounded into him, forgetting to be careful, any thought of caution blown out of his mind by the rapid slap of their bodies as they met and thrust urgently together.

Kenneth had guessed he wouldn’t last long, and he was right. He was too close, Zach rapt and sweaty beneath him, tightening around Kenneth just so and murmuring the most beautifully filthy things that Kenneth had ever been gifted.

“Yours, I’m fucking yours, you’re splitting me wide and it aches so good and you’re filling me up like no one ever has, no one ever will again because you’re mine and making me yours with each stroke of that perfect big dick of yours … yours …”

He gave Zach a few slow, long thrusts and his breath stuttered out of him. “Gonna … I’m gonna …” If he hadn’t been so driven, caught up in the desperate press of their bodies, he might have been embarrassed at coming so soon.

“Yes.” Zach arched beneath him, sounding exultant. His hand was on his own cock, pumping even faster than Kenneth was fucking him. “Yes, yes, come in me, come inside me. Make me yours.”

If that hadn’t been enough, the sight of Zach blissful beneath him as he took his cock was more than Kenneth could withstand. He gave into it and lurched over Zach with another deep groan, hips pumping furiously. His orgasm crashed over him and his arms trembled. He remained propped over Zach, though, giving him considerably more lazy thrusts.

“Keep fucking me,” Zach ordered.

“Zach …” Kenneth was still hard, but he wouldn’t be for long.

“Harder.” Zach’s legs were like bands of steel against his sides.

Kenneth shuddered and plowed into him hard and fast. It was too much, but he didn’t have to maintain the pace for long. Zach arched again, face contorting in beautiful agony. His release spattered against Kenneth’s stomach and Kenneth groaned again, wishing he could get hard all over from the sight alone. He propped himself over Zach until the lines of his face smoothed out and he blinked up at Kenneth with sleepy dark eyes.

“Now can I pull out?” Kenneth asked with a trace of humor.

“You may,” Zach said, patting his pectoral.

Kenneth did, shifting to the side and removing the condom, wrapping it in a tissue from the nightstand and dropping it in the trash. Once that was done he settled in beside Zach. “Cuddler or not?”

“I want all your cuddles,” Zach replied, rolling over and snaking an arm across his waist. He rubbed noses with Kenneth briefly before drawing back to make a face. “That way I can make sure you haven’t had second thoughts and sneaked out in the middle of the night.”

Kenneth tapped his nose, making Zach’s eyes cross. They both chuckled. “Not a chance,” Kenneth said, addressing that fear seriously. “I knew once I started with you, it would be impossible to stop. That’s what made you so dangerous from the start.”

Zach snuggled closer and they shared another kiss. “Hmm, I knew you were a smart man. That was your first mistake, you know.”

“Oh?” Kenneth huffed softly. “I must have been good to get that answer.”

“Very, very good.” Zach’s hand slid down Kenneth’s backside and took hold where his thigh met his ass. “Your first mistake was showing up at the party if you really, truly didn’t want to fuck me.”

“Conceded.” Kenneth didn’t even bother to resist the urge to set a hand to Zach’s ass. His fingers fit so perfectly into the groove. “But as I believe I’ve shown, I really, truly wanted to. What next?”

“Kissing, lots of kissing, then we’re going to make each other come again,” Zach said very seriously. “Sound good?”

“Whatever your heart desires,” Kenneth said, equally serious. He had promised to take care of Zach with his whole heart, and what he’d been gifted with so far exceeded any fleeting Christmas wish he knew he’d devote himself entirely to the endeavor.

“My heart desires you.”

“Then I guess we both got what we wanted.” The mistletoe hadn’t been needed. However, it certainly made for a memorable start.

16 comments

  1. I scrolled down a bit to see how long it was and unexpectedly hit a patch of dirty talk. HELLO. I am BLEARY AS HELL but I read it and wanted to give you an immediate reaction, so here’s my subpar comment.

    “Mm-hmm, and so you can look at my face,” Zach replied. I lolled extensively.

    I liked the derailed typical mistletoe plot. Of course, you being you, killed it.

    I also liked that the intimacy~ went from scorching to tender and longing-y (or, well, fulfilled-y). Yes that is a word.

    SUPER ADORABLE A+ WOULD READ AGAIN (xmas tradition???)

  2. I don’t know what I liked more, and there was clearly so much backstory between these two characters and I could have read more about that (backstory is my favorite), but I think as it is, it’s brilliant and sexy. The fact that we know how old Zach is and how long he’s wanted Kenneth, just makes me squee inside, not sure why I enjoy the age gap like this in other stories, and in here it worked out brilliantly. Love how far Zach went to finally get the man he wanted and I’m so glad Kenneth finally let himself take what he also wanted in return.

    All in all, I enjoyed this immensely! Thank you for writing it, and as usual, you are so highly talented. 🙂 Happy Holidays to you and yours!

    1. Their backstory could fill another couple of stories for sure! I probably won’t get around to those, alas. I did really enjoy Zach and Kenneth, though. And of course because it’s a holiday story everything worked out pretty easily. 😀 Very happy you enjoyed it so much! Thanks very much for your lovely comment. Happy holidays to you and yours as well!

  3. This was a delicious Christmas treat, thank you. I don’t feel the least bit guilty consuming this one and wouldn’t mind going back for seconds or thirds.

  4. This was a pleasure to read on a snowy Saturday afternoon. I very much enjoyed the characters, especially Zach. He’s a man who knows what he wants, but more especially, I liked that he was patient and figured out the best time to go for what he wanted. Lovely story, thank you! 🙂

    1. I’m so glad to hear it! Zach definitely knows what he wants out of life … and he figured out the way to go and get it! That determined young man. 😀 Thanks for your comment, Mel, I’m very pleased you enjoyed this little story.

  5. Thank you for the Christmas treat! I absolutely loved this! I loved the fact that Zach had the patience to realize what he wanted, in more ways than one, and to go for. And the fact that Yamato-senior was apparently in the know the whole time just added that extra bit of “YAY!” to the story. As always, your characters are engrossing and they make you feel like you know them, even though you’re meeting them for the first time. 🙂 I hope we get to see more of them at a later date!

    1. I am really chuffed you enjoyed it so much, thank you! Zach is one of those precocious little jerks, I love him. 🙂 And Yamato Senior may not have known the whole time, but he was perceptive and adaptive enough to adjust once he figured it out. So pleased you enjoyed Kenneth and Zach! I don’t think I would have any complaints writing a bit more of their story at some point. 🙂 I really appreciate your comment!

  6. This was such a fantastic Christmas story! Loved it all, from how relentlessly Zach pursued Kenneth, to him finally realizing he couldn’t just not give in to what Zach wanted, if it was what Kenneth himself had wanted all along. I also adored the scene with Yamato Sr. and Reiko, and of course, Kenneth and Zach finally making love there at the end. As always, your writing is fabulous, so descriptive and engaging and I thoroughly enjoyed reading this.

    1. Yaay, thank you so much! I was worried it might seem like too fast a turnabout, but once Kenneth realized the depth of Zach’s commitment, that basically was it for him. And he never really did have a chance from the beginning, Zach would have snared him one way or another. 😉 I am particularly fond of the scene with Yamato Senior and Reiko, they kind of sprang it on me but it was a welcome intrusion. Kenneth and Zach were great together. I appreciate your lovely compliments, thanks! And happy New Year. ;D

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