Here is the final chapter of my holiday short story featuring the boys from Leaning Into! And yes… it’s a bit NSFW. 😉 For those of you who may have missed it, Leaning Into Forever, will be available soon at all online retailers! Also, be sure to mark your calendars for Book 3 in my Out in College series. Out in the Offense will be here January 10!
I’m off to wrap gifts!! Merry Christmas, everyone!! Have a safe and very happy holiday. Love, Lane xo
Leaning Into the Holidays- Part 4
Conrad Winery had become a second home amongst our group of friends. Nick moved to Napa less than a year after he met Wes Conrad. The vineyard, tasting room, processing plant, and various storage and supply warehouses were located on a gorgeous property with sweeping views of the valley. It was more of a compound than a simple business location. Wes and Nick’s ranch-style home was within walking distance of the tasting room. Wes’s business partner, Geordie, lived up the hill from them with his boyfriend, Levi who owned a popular restaurant in town. And there was even talk of Ryan and Danny, long-time employees and good friends of Wes and Geordie’s, building a small bungalow on the far edge of the estate too.
It was funny how seamlessly our lives had intertwined over the past few years. It felt like yesterday that I was yelling at Nick to return the personalized bottles of Conrad wine stacked in my office. Who knew that fateful trip to Napa on a rainy afternoon would introduce Nick to his future husband and the rest of us to an extended family of friends?
“What’s your favorite animal?” Zane asked as he navigated our Range Rover along the quiet ribbon of highway toward the winery on Christmas Eve afternoon.
I snorted a laugh, twisting in my seat to face him. “Spirit animal, wild animal, pet? Where are you going with this one?”
“Okay, smartass, let’s go with spirit animal first.”
“Hmm. That’s tricky. I want to say something fierce like a lion or a grizzly bear, but I’m probably an elephant,” I said.
“Ha! Why an elephant?”
“What’s wrong with elephants?”
“There’s nothing wrong with them. I happen to love elephants. They’re pretty cute. Didn’t you make me watch a documentary on the National Geographic Channel about them a couple of months ago? The things I do for you,” Zane sighed playfully.
I huffed. “I didn’t make you watch it. You could have left the room. And don’t pretend you weren’t fascinated. You liked it as much as I did.”
“That’s debatable,” he teased. “Okay. I guess it was interesting. They said elephants are extraordinarily attentive and sociable, and loyal. So yeah…that could be you. I just don’t think of them as a sexy animal, and baby, you’re sexy beast.”
“Yeah, you. Fuck, this morning was hot.” Zane made a production of adjusting himself before returning both hands to the steering wheel.
That was an understatement. It began with a normal morning chat over a cup of coffee. I stood behind the island while Zane lounged on a barstool. We’d been discussing his mother’s sudden plan to go out of town for the holidays. It caught Zane by surprise and spurred a few changes in our schedule. Originally, we were going to spend Christmas with her and tell her our news. But if she wasn’t going to be in town, there was no reason for us to fly to Orange County until my parents got home from their cruise on the twenty-seventh. Supposedly Wendy would be home that day too. The whole concept of her not being there bothered Zane more than I realized it would. I quickly switched the topic to house-hunting.
Thankfully, he took the bait. His zoned out expression faded as I talked about our home and whether or not it was ideal for raising a child. We loved our place and we knew we wanted to stay in the Marina district. But our townhouse had a ton of stairs. Too many for my peace of mind. Zane suggested putting up gates, but I wasn’t sure that would be enough. We had an open floor plan with a family-style kitchen and generous bay windows with views of the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz.
I suppose I got caught up pontificating the amazing amenities in the area. I didn’t think anything of it when he skirted the island to rinse out his coffee cup before coming to stand beside me. And when he slipped his warm hands under the elastic of my pajama bottoms and gripped my cock as he nuzzled my neck and murmured “mmhmm”, I figured he was trying to distract me. It didn’t necessarily mean he wanted to act on it. Zane had a habit of casually sticking his hands down my pants when we were home doing mundane things, like watching TV or brushing our teeth. Sometimes it led to more, but not always. I was too worked up about school districts and property taxes to think twice he might have an ulterior motive. And frankly, I was glad he’d stopped thinking about his mom. But then he lowered my PJs and briefs and sank to his knees behind me.
He bit my left cheek and smacked my right one, then pulled my ass open and licked my entrance. And suddenly, nothing else mattered. It happened so fast, I didn’t have a chance to do much more than grip the countertop and reach for my dick when he darted his tongue inside. Zane was an expert at the art of rimming. He licked, sucked, and flicked his tongue over the sensitive skin until I was a whimpering, needy mess. When my chant of “fuck me, fuck me” escalated, he stood abruptly and unzipped his jeans.
He opened a drawer in the island, and fished around in the back for one of the many bottles of lube he insisted should be stored all over the house…in case of emergency. He flashed a devilish grin my way and kissed me hard before instructing me to stay where I was and bend over. I hummed in appreciation as I turned my head to watch him pull his jeans and boxer briefs over his rigid pole and then apply a liberal amount of lube. He moved behind me and wrapped his arms around my chest before molding his length against my crack as he whispered sweet nothings. The dirty version he knew always turned me on. When he slid his middle finger alongside the sensitive skin, I might have gone a little crazy. I held my ass open and begged him to fuck me. He didn’t hesitate.
Zane lined his cock at my entrance and pushed, slowly making his way inside me. He didn’t stop until he was balls deep. He rested his forehead on my shoulder and kissed my neck before reaching for my aching cock. And then he moved. Sweet and steady. Not too fast and not too slow. At least that was how it started. He probably knew I’d want it harder and faster the second he rubbed his thumb over my slit and sucked the precum from his digit. And when he whispered how fucking amazing I tasted…that was when the tempo changed.
Zane’s calloused hands roamed along my spine. He pistoned hips with growing urgency and picked up speed. When he clutched my left shoulder for purchase and smacked my ass, it was over. I shot ropes of cum over my fist and across the countertop and Zane was with me a moment later. He lost his rhythm and roared my name as his orgasm slammed into him and held me close, trembling wildly in the aftermath.
We didn’t move immediately. He was probably trying to catch his breath and me?…I wanted him inside me for as long as possible. I loved this connection. I loved the feel of his body against mine and his cum dripping from me. And if I complained about the mess we made later, he knew I was kidding. I loved him more than I could say and I’d do anything to keep him close.
I stared at his profile in the SUV and linked our fingers before kissing his hand as the memory faded. “It’s always hot.”
“True. Now quit talking about sex. I gotta concentrate on the road,” he grumbled playfully.
I threw my head back and laughed. “I didn’t say a word.”
“You were thinking about it.”
“Guilty,” I admitted with a chuckle. “So what were you saying about elephants?”
Zane snorted. “I really don’t know.”
“Spirit animals, favorite animals…” I reminded him.
“Oh yeah. Have you ever had that conversation with Geordie? Josh told me that’s what led to their super-size bunny. I’m kinda wondering what giant stuffed animal we’re going to be carting home tomorrow. Elephant sounds about right. It just better not be life-size.”
I chuckled. “It could be some kind of a water animal for you. A sting ray or a dolphin or a—”
“Shark,” Zane said, lifting my hand to his mouth and nipping my thumb.
“Ouch. We’ll see soon enough.” I pulled my hand away and reached for my cell just as we neared the gated entrance to the winery.
“Did Geordie say how many people are coming tonight?” he asked.
“Just family…or friends who’re like family. Josh said his dad and Lars were going to swing by at some point too. We’re all staying at Nick and Wes’s, but Geordie and Levi have room for extra guests.”
Zane parked the Range Rover and unbuckled his seat belt. “Like who?”
“Does it matter?” My reply was carefully flippant.
“No. I hope it’s small though. Just us and the guys.”
“What about Lauren? She might stay for dinner too.”
“Sure. Lauren’s cool, but it would be nice not to have to make small talk with thirty people we don’t know well,” he sighed before opening his door.
“Hang on. You love these gatherings. We’ve spent plenty of holidays here. It’s always beautiful. Geordie makes sure of it and—”
“I know. And…hey, I’m sorry. I’m happy to be here. That’s not it. I just—I don’t get why my mom didn’t tell me at the beginning of December that she’d made plans for the holidays. It’s not like her. We could have gone up last weekend to see her and told her about the baby. Honestly, I’m worried about her. Did she tell you who she was going to be with? She said ‘friends’ to me. Very generic. Do you think she’s seeing someone?”
“She didn’t say, but maybe. I don’t know. Zane…” I caressed his cheek and brushed his hair away from his face. “She’s fine. We’ll see her very soon. We’re going to have a great time with people we love tonight and on Christmas day. And we’ll see our families right after. I’m sorry the plans changed, but—”
“Don’t apologize,” he assured me with a grin. “You’re here. That’s I care about. Come on, babe.”
My smile faded when he stepped outside. The sooner we were surrounded by our friends in the winery, the better. Fuck. I should have known this might not go smoothly.
Conrad Winery was decked out for the holidays. As in a team of elves had descended and made sure every nook and cranny in the main tasting room had a touch of Christmas. Sprigs of holly and fresh garland were draped along the bar and along the mantle of the stone fireplace on the opposite end. A massive tree twinkled in the corner and mistletoe hung from the spherical iron chandelier delineating the tasting and lounge areas. Holiday music was playing in the background. “Silver Bells”, I thought. I couldn’t tell over the din of laughter and the sweet sound of familiar voices. When Danny yelled a greeting, the room erupted in a resounding. I was immediately overcome with a feeling of joy and gratitude. Eric was right. This was where we belonged tonight.
I dropped our overnight bags and a bag of gifts in the middle of the room and waited for Eric to meet me under the mistletoe. He set the presents he’d carried in on one of the high tables then slipped his arm around my waist and glanced up at the bough of green tied with an ornate red ribbon. “Are you going to kiss me or what?”
I chuckled and ran my hands down his back before sealing my lips to his. He hummed into the connection, oblivious of our friends’ cat calls and wolf whistles a few feet away. I broke the kiss then whispered something slightly lascivious in his ear that made him laugh. Then I yanked him against me in a playful embrace and felt the edge of a something like a small box in his coat pocket. I stepped back and was about to ask what it was, but we were surrounded before I had a chance.
“Merry Christmas, darlings!” Geordie effused with his arms outstretched. “What would you like to drink? Levi my love made a rum eggnog concoction. Heavy on the rum. I assured him it’s the only way to drink eggnog.”
“Sure, I’ll try some,” Eric said. “And thank you for hosting again. You must be exhausted, Geord. Was the winery open today?”
“We closed at two o’clock today. More than enough time to prepare for tonight. Besides, it’s just family.” Geordie beamed. “Look at how handsome you two are, decked in your holiday finest!”
He snickered at our Christmas sweaters. Mine had a moose with light bulbs on its antlers while Eric’s featured Santa stuck in a chimney, ass up. The chimney was wrapped in lights and yes… both of our sweaters blinked obnoxiously. They were seriously ugly, but it was tradition. Just like it was tradition for Geordie to be the only one who never participated. When we first met him, he was mourning the death of his long-time partner, Mike, who’d started the winery with Wes fifteen or more years ago. He dressed only in black with the exception of eye-catching jewel-toned shoes until he met Levi. Nowadays, he didn’t participate because according to him, he wasn’t made for tacky sweaters.
There was no denying Geordie was a beautiful man. He was six foot four with a lean, willowy build, dark hair, and olive skin. He emanated warmth with a serious dose of fabulous. The combination drew people in. To be included in Geordie’s orbit of those he considered family felt like an honor. I was glad he’d met someone like Levi, who seemed to get that without having been told. They were complete opposites. Levi was a former baseball player turned restaurant owner. He had the athletic physique of a former athlete and the patience of a saint.
I laughed when he nodded at Geordie’s rapid-fire instructions about cocktail orders and where the luggage should go, rolling his eyes playfully.
“…to our house. Eric and Zane are staying in our blue room.”
Levi set his hand on Geordie’s hip and pulled him against his side. “Got it. What time do you want everyone at the house?”
“Five sharp. We have plenty of time for…”
Everyone was talking at once now. I could see Eric hugging Grant and Miles then crouching low to greet Anna while Josh and Finn smiled nearby. Nick and Wes stood with Ryan and Danny behind the bar. Lauren sat at one of the barstools chatting with Jeff, Josh’s dad and his husband, Lars. A young man I didn’t recognize and a woman with her back us hovered nearby. Maybe Lauren’s friends. A couple of extras, but everyone I cared about was accounted for.
If the holiday went according to plan, we’d have appetizers in the tasting room then head to Nick and Wes’s for dinner. At some point, Geordie would lead a sing-along and insist on watching Christmas movies until we all pleaded exhaustion. Then we’d retire for the night in the rooms we always slept in when we stayed at Conrad Winery. And Eric and I always stayed at Nick and Wes’s.
“Excuse me.” I held my hand up to interrupt Geordie before he spun away to oversee official holiday duties. “We’re happy to stay at your place, but—”
“Wonderful! We’re thrilled to have you. I was going to have Jeff and Lars stay with us, but we have an extra guest and I think this will work out better.” He patted my arm sweetly and stepped backward with a wink. “I hate to give away too many secrets at once, but Levi and I have a very large gift for you both.”
I smiled. “We’re prepared. I drove the Range Rover.”
“Smart man. Have I told you how happy we are for you?”
“You did, Geord. Thank you.”
He’d sent a giant bouquet of pink and blue flowers to our house and made a big mushy toast at the annual holiday party he’d hosted at Conrad Winery a couple of weekends ago. Part of me wanted to beg him not to give us a stuffed animal too, but I didn’t want to rain on his parade. Family was important to Geordie. I hoped he and Levi had kids one day too. They’d be amazing dads.
“Don’t thank me. It’s my pleasure. I never thought we’d host family parties with a kids’ table. Look at us now. Things have certainly changed….and in a very good way.”
Eric returned to my side and looped his arm through mine. “Are you thirsty?”
“No, I’m okay.”
“Are you sure?” he prodded.
“Glass of wine or a beer? Maybe we should try that eggnog or—”
“Zane, my darling…Go to the damn bar,” Geordie sighed theatrically before turning away, singing “Santa Baby” at top volume.
Levi snickered at my confused expression. “Come on. I’ll get you a beer.”
I frowned at Eric. “Is something going on?”
“I don’t think so. Why?” he asked, gently tugging at my sweater.
“’Cause everyone’s acting weird.”
“Don’t be silly.”
I greeted our friends with fist bumps and hugs, and razzed Josh about his tacky sweater before bending to scoop Anna in my arms. She was almost three years old now and super chatty. I complimented her beautiful dress and pretty blonde hair and got an earful of toddler chatter. I nodded and bounced her in my arms until she giggled. Then I ramped it up a notch and tossed her in the air, accidently bumping the barstool behind me. I tucked Anna on my hip and turned to apologize…and froze.
She launched herself into my arms just as Josh pulled Anna from me. I pushed back slightly and stared at her in wonder. Wendy Richards was a beautiful woman. She was a quintessential California girl with blonde hair and blue eyes who exuded health and a sense of well being. She was a true free spirit and the best woman I knew.
“What are you doing here? I thought you said you were going out of town.”
“Yes. This is out of town for me! Eric wanted to surprise you and…well, surprise!”
I looked over at my husband in wonder. Eric hurried forward and hugged my mom tightly then motioned for me to join in. I obeyed automatically. I couldn’t speak though. I knew exactly what he’d done now and I was overwhelmed by the gesture.
“Let’s go by the fireplace,” Eric said, stepping backward. “It’s kind of loud over here.”
Our friends gave us high fives and raised their glasses as we walked into the adjoining space. Eric grabbed our bags of gifts and handed one to me, then went directly to the tree. He knelt and signaled for me to come close, then whispered, “Are you okay?”
“Yes. Thank you. You’ve got some big plan going here, don’t you?”
Eric smiled bashfully. “I thought it would be nice to have all the people we love the most in one spot tonight.”
“What about your family?”
“We’ll see them after Christmas. They’ll be excited for sure. But they’re out of town anyway, and this is your favorite day. I want you to have everything you want.”
“Er…baby, I do.” I bit the inside of my cheek to keep my emotions in check. “I love you.”
“I love you too.” He rested his forehead against mine and kissed me. “Come on. We have to tell her now before anyone slips up. Unless you have anything special you want to say or do, I have a gift for her that should tell her everything. Your call, Daddy.”
I stood slowly and inclined my head toward my mother, standing in front of the fireplace. “Go on. Give her the gift.”
Eric pulled a small red box with a white satin bow from his pocket. I set my hand on his shoulder. He smiled at me, and then presented the gift to my mom.
“Are we opening gifts now? Yours are at Geordie’s house. Maybe we should wait until later,” she suggested, fiddling with a tassel on her wacky penguin-themed Christmas sweater. It looked like she got the sweater memo, I mused as I pushed the box into her palm.
“We’re doing things out of order tonight, Ma,” I said with a laugh. “I’m really happy you’re here and I’m pretty sure I married the coolest fuckin’ guy on the planet…excuse my language. He found a way to fix something I’ve wished I could address for a long time, and—Look, I can’t explain. You just need to open that.”
She knit her brow as she pulled at the end of the ribbon then tore the paper back, revealing a plain white box. She glanced between us before lifting the lid.
Silence. I actually thought I could hear “Silent Night” in the background now. That was almost a little too perfect.
Then my mom set her hand over her mouth and burst into tears. “Oh, my God! A baby? A real baby? I’m going to be a grandmother?”
“Yeah. You are.” I pulled her into my arms and held her for a moment. When I thought I could speak, I reached for Eric’s hand and cleared my throat. “We’re gonna be dads. And…it’s a big deal. We’re scared out of our minds, but we’re ready at the same time, if that makes any sense.”
“Trust me, I know exactly what you mean,” she said in a half laugh, half cry.
“I know you do. Sometimes, I think about how it was always just me and you. You probably weren’t ready for me, and I know that being a single parent wasn’t easy. I used to wish we had more family around. The non-judgmental kind who just want to be part of your life. Especially around the holidays. But as I got older I realized how lucky I was to have someone in my corner who devoted every resource she had to make my life richer. Not with money, but with experience. With opportunity.
“You made it possible for me to meet every person in this room, including the man I love. I didn’t have a dad, but I had…have an amazing mom. Even though I’m sure I’ll make mistakes, I think Eric and I are gonna be okay. And spending this holiday with my amazing mom, my husband, and the family we chose…this is the best Christmas ever.”
She sobbed as hugged Eric and me. I kissed their heads and then looked up at the faces of our friends looking on in the next room. I beckoned them over and laughed like a loon when Grant put Anna on his shoulders and raced to our sides. Everyone followed. Nick and Wes, Miles, Josh and Finn, Jeff and Lars, Danny and Ryan, Geordie and Levi… and even Lauren and her date.
“Gather round, everyone. Merry Christmas, my friends, my brothers… I love you guys. Group hug!”
Merry Christmas, everyone!!