Valentine’s Day is a time for many of us to celebrate with our significant other, whether it is our lover, husband, wife, whomever it is that shares our lives and our hearts. There are many things we relate this holiday with; flowers, champagne, candlelit dinners, and even making love.
What many may be surprised to know is that the root of the holiday comes from ancient Rome and a festival called Lupercalia. The festival was a fertility celebration held annually on February 15th. But in 496 A.D. Pope Gelasius recast the pagan festival as a Christian feast day and changed it to February 14th, declaring it to be St. Valentine’s Day.
Personally the festival name makes me think of shapeshifters! Maybe this is where mpreg shifter romances were born? Kidding, of course. But it’s definitely interesting history!
In my newest release, Champagne Kisses, Sam Evans is looking forward to spending the holiday with his lover only to be disappointed when his boyfriend ditches him for work. Who wouldn’t be depressed and upset over such a thing? But Sam isn’t quite prepared for the surprise that awaits him after he closes up shop after work.
Their date cancelled on the most romantic day of the year, Sam Evans feels betrayed by Dean, who often puts work before their relationship. Brooding about his lover's lack of commitment toward him, he leaves work early only to be stunned by what awaits him outside the door.
February 14th, 3:05 P.M.
Sam Evans stared broodingly out of the window of the small bookstore he worked at part time. There were little to no customers in the shop and he couldn't be more thankful. His spirit was definitely not in the mood for being people-friendly. All he wanted to do at the moment was wallow in self pity. How could Dean do this to him?
"I'm sorry, Sam, but it's a really big case. We can't afford to miss anything or he could walk."
"But it's Valentine's Day! You can't take a few hours off to spend it with me?"
"I'll make it up to you. I promise. I've gotta go. I'll call you later."
Damn him! Sam scowled even harder. Six months they'd been together and Dean still put his work over their relationship. Sometimes he wondered if it was even worth it, but then he'd remember how sweet and sexy the man could be and his anger would dissipate until the next time Dean would cancel a date or break plans they'd made together. He loved him and couldn't imagine spending his life with someone else, but if things didn't change soon, he wasn't sure how much longer he could deal with it. Though Dean had no idea how deep his feelings went. They'd never used the big L word and Sam would be damned if he said it first with how things were between them.
He hadn't even gotten Dean anything for Valentine's Day. Because if they weren't going to spend it together, what was the point of getting him a gift? Maybe he'd even done it a little bit out of pettiness and disappointment. Okay, it was true. He'd been selfish and hadn't wanted to think about buying something for Dean because he was mad and because it depressed him even more to think about spending the holiday, meant for lovers to be together, alone.
Sam thought back to the first time they'd met and flushed at how clumsy he could be at times. His best friend and confidante, Aaron Beckinridge, had opened a catering business a little over a year before he met Dean. Sam could still hear Aaron's excitement when he'd found out he'd gotten the gig for a huge charity dinner party for some of the big wigs at City Hall. A few hours before the event, Aaron called Sam in a tizzy because he was short-handed and needed a body to help fill in. He'd begged Sam and despite Sam's many attempts to wiggle out of the obligation, Aaron managed to back him into a corner until Sam reluctantly agreed. He'd never been entirely comfortable in social settings, but at least he wouldn't be expected to make polite chit chat or entertain anyone.
At first, the party had been dull, a bunch of stuffed shirts bragging about their latest wins in the courtroom or their golf handicap. As the night wore on, Sam wandered through the crowd holding a tray of champagne glasses while attempting to entertain himself by making up stories about the attendees. One overweight man who brayed like a donkey and sweated like a pig reminded him of the arrogant, selfish Duke in one of his stories. A seemingly straight-laced blonde woman in a tight black dress would have made the perfect gold digging Black Widow. He made mental notes of everything to work into his stories, including some of the decorations and food from the evening.
In the midst of his imaginings someone bumped his arm causing the tray to over balance. One of the champagne flutes tipped and spilled all over a pair of expensive-looking black patent leather shoes. Sam immediately apologized and looked up into the most breathtaking hazel-green eyes he'd ever seen. His voice failed him.
Easily six foot four, the man towered over Sam's mere five-nine. The severe cut of the tuxedo clung to the stranger's lightly muscular physique in all the right places. Short light brown hair swept back from the man's features accentuated the strong jawline and firm rounded chin with a slight cleft in it. Sam's mouth dried out in desire and he swallowed hard, attempting to find his voice once more. He shoved a strand of his almost shoulder-length dirty blond hair behind one ear nervously.
"No worries. I hated these shoes anyway," the man drawled amusedly, his full lips lifting in an almost smirk.
Sam snapped out of his daze and blushed. "I'll get something to clean it up with," he mumbled and threaded his way toward the kitchen at the back of the mansion to grab a towel. Rushing back out, he saw that the attractive guy had disappeared and fought off disappointment as he cleaned up the spilled drink. He didn't delude himself into thinking the man could possibly be gay. If he was a guest at the party, it meant he was a lawyer and he hadn't heard of many gay lawyers, if any at all, in this city.
Sighing, he went back into the kitchen, dropped the rag on the counter and decided to take his break. "Hey, Aaron, I'm going to get some fresh air."
Aaron waved him off, shouting instructions at one of his regular waiters. Sam walked out of the back door leading onto a large balcony overlooking a huge, well-kept garden, which no doubt cost more than he made in a year. He breathed in the night air deeply as he moved to the railing and leaned against it, his hands resting on the cold cement. He tilted his head to stare up at the bright half-moon overhead while berating himself for being so inept. The man probably thought him an utter disaster. Frowning, he shook his head and tried to dislodge the stranger from his mind. Why should he care? After tonight, he'd never see the man again anyway.
He sighed once more. He wanted to be home, surrounded by his books and working on his latest novel. At least there he didn't have to worry about making a fool of himself. Books aren't concerned with what you look like or how you act. What he loved most about books was that they were places to lose yourself in. Somewhere you could hide from the cruelty of the real world and become a sexy, brilliant detective or a suave, confident prince who could have anyone they wanted, go anywhere they wanted and they never embarrassed themselves. It was why he loved working for A Book Nook, his usual day job. Most customers who came in were like him, looking for an escape from their lives. His own novels weren't main-stream, but he made enough to be comfortable working part time and writing.
"I always did detest these kind of parties," a deep, sexy voice disrupted his thoughts and Sam jumped, turning to look at the owner. The man he'd spilled the drink on stood a few feet away from him. He'd been so wrapped up in his thoughts, a bad habit mind you, that he hadn't even known the guy was there. How long had he been watching him? The butterflies in his stomach kicked up once more and he could only nod in response to the stranger's comment before turning back to staring at the stars and moon. Sam tensed when the guy approached and leaned onto the railing near him. He could feel the warmth radiating from his closeness and bit his bottom lip.
"I'm going to guess this isn't your usual gig either."
Sam shook his head, still finding his voice locked in his throat.
The stranger hummed. "If I hadn't heard you apologize earlier I'd wonder if you were mute."
"No," Sam murmured. "I can talk."
"Ah, there's his voice," the man teased gently, tilting his head toward Sam.
"I'm really very sorry about your shoes," Sam apologized again, glancing at him out of the corner of his eye.
"I told you don't worry about it. I have several pair like these and between you, me and the flowers, I'd rather go barefoot." One hazel-green eye winked at him.
Sam blushed and swallowed hard, his fingers curling into half-fists on the railing. His chest tightened almost painfully. He'd never been very good at idle conversation. Even as a child, he'd found it hard to open up to strangers. It took forever for him to make friends, but once he did, he allowed himself to let go and show more of his true self to them. "Well… um…"
"Dean Saunders," the guy offered.
The man's name was as hot as the package. Sam managed to force himself to reply. "Sam Evans."
"It's nice to meet you, Sam," Dean said holding out his hand.
Sam stared at Dean's manicured fingernails uncertainly for several breaths.
Dean chuckled lightly. "I'm not going to bite, you know."
Sam's blush deepened at his social ineptitude and he placed his hand in Dean's, shaking it briefly. When he pulled away, he felt Dean's fingers trail over his palm and shivered at the almost caress-like touch. "I… uh… should be getting back to work," Sam mumbled, pushing away slightly from the balustrade.
"Stay," Dean cajoled. "I could use the company and I'm sure your break is a lot longer than five minutes."
He gave a brief nod at Dean and relaxed against the banister. Nibbling on his lower lip, Sam focused on the fountain in the center of the garden, watching the way the water sprayed into the air before raining down to the surface. Dean shifted beside him and turned, leaning his elbows on the railing and tipped his head back to gaze up at the stars.
"So when you aren't serving stuffed shirts at a party, what do you like to do, Sam?" Dean asked casually.
"Oh, this isn't my usual job," Sam protested. "I was just helping out my friend Aaron. He was short staffed and asked me to help out. I'm actually… I work for a bookstore." He'd never felt comfortable telling others that he was a professional novelist. Most people took it as him bragging, or at least he thought it seemed they did. Although Aaron would always tell him to stop being so modest and to brag all he wanted, that becoming a published author was a huge accomplishment. Sam still felt as though he was showing off when he talked about it.
Dean gave the lop-sided grin Sam was beginning to see as his signature smile. "That suits you more than this place."
Sam frowned, his brow furrowing. "What's that supposed to mean?"
"It wasn't meant as an insult," Dean assured him. "I just meant that you seem like the type who prefers more casual environments rather than all this." He gestured toward the mansion and the party inside.
Eyeing Dean, Sam debated on whether to accept the man's words at face value, but figured it wasn't worth challenging since he didn't know him well enough to be certain Dean was being rude. "And what about you? Do you prefer casual or all this?" Sam tossed back, waving his hand similarly to Dean.
Dean shrugged. "I like being where I can be myself. The only reason I attend these parties is to meet shy, handsome waiters with gorgeous brown eyes."
At first, Sam felt a warm flush race over his skin, but then he thought about Dean's words and scowled, shoving away from the rail, the happy glow gone. "You don't have to mock me."
He spun around to go back inside except Dean grabbed his wrist, stopping him. He kept his back to Dean, trying to tug his hand out of Dean's grip. "I'm sorry, Sam. I wasn't mocking you. I'm afraid my flirting skills are a bit rusty."
Sam stopped struggling and turned enough to be able to see Dean. Flirting?
"Give me another chance, please?" Dean asked softly, his grip loosening and his thumb rubbing across the smooth skin on Sam's inner wrist. "I'd like to take you to dinner."
His fear of being hurt as he had been in his last relationship kept him from accepting immediately. He'd remained single for five years because he didn't want to ever go through the same pain again. Aaron constantly told him he needed to stop letting his past keep him from finding love, but it was easier to say than do. It was kind of like when you fell off a horse and were afraid to get back on. The longer you went without returning to the saddle, the stronger the hold your fears have on you. Several breaths went by before Sam replied. "I… I don't know."
Dean straightened away from the balcony railing and leaned closer to Sam, his fingers still loosely circling Sam's wrist. "Take a chance, Sam. One date and if you aren't convinced by the end that I'm a good guy, you don't have to see me again."
Sam hesitated again and Dean reached up with his free hand to brush a strand of Sam's hair back from his face. "One dinner. That's all I'm asking."
Taking a small leap of faith, Sam decided one dinner couldn't hurt, so he said yes. One date turned into two, then three, and finally on the seventh date Sam allowed Dean to seduce him. In the last six months, they'd been doing fairly well despite the multiple times Dean cancelled one of their dates to work on a case. Sam knew Dean wanted to help people and worked hard to do so, but he couldn't deny it still stung that Dean would rather be at work than with him. This Valentine's Day ditch was the hardest of them all. Why couldn't Dean find at least a couple of hours to spend with him? Didn't he want to? Or was Dean tiring of him already?
Sam regularly battled his fears and anxieties. His ex-boyfriend had left behind a lot of scars. Not physically, but emotionally. At the end, when the reality of how long the relationship had been dead sank in, Sam hadn't wanted to accept it at first because it would mean the three years spent together meant nothing and he'd still been desperately clinging to the hope that they could work it out. Over the course of time since the breakup, he'd come to realize just how one-sided their relationship had been; the emotional and mental abuse, the way his ex would try to change him and mold him into what he thought was acceptable, and the way he'd used him until the very end. Dean had shown him even more just how wrong everything had been.
Sighing, Sam heard his boss, Marla, come out of the back room. "What are you so mopey about?" she asked, raising an eyebrow as she set a box of books on the front counter. She was one of his closest friends, right up there with Aaron, and knew him fairly well. More than once she'd helped him with his problems. When she'd found out he was seeing Dean, she'd fairly squealed in excitement and demanded all of the details. At the age of fifty-two, Marla had been married and widowed, had two adult children over the age of eighteen, and spent most of her waking hours running the bookstore. Sam had been trying to get her to go out more, to date, but she'd just laugh and say, "Sam, my late husband was the love of my life. No one will ever be able to give me back what I lost and I really don't need to go on a bunch of bad dates to tell me that."
He bent further over the counter and watched her cutting the tape on the box. "Dean's stuck on a case and won't be able to spend Valentine's Day with me."
Marla chuckled while opening the box and beginning to remove the books in it for stocking. "Child, if people only expressed their love for one another one day a year, there'd be a lot less marriages in this world. Dean loves you and that's all that matters."
Sam frowned. "He hasn't told me he loves me."
Marla stopped what she was doing and put her hand on her hip, shaking her head. "You seriously can't tell me that you haven't noticed how head over heels for you that man is, can you? I've seen the way he looks at you when he picks you up. It's like he's seeing his very first sunrise and it leaves him breathless."
Sam ducked his head bashfully for a minute before peeking up at his boss. "You really think so?"
"I know so, hon." Marla reached out and patted his hand lightly. "Tell him how you feel, Sam. You might just be surprised."
He nodded as she went back to stocking the recent shipment on the shelves. Was Marla right? Should he just tell Dean he loved him?
"It's a little slow today so we're closing up shop a bit early, hon." Marla looked at her watch. "Instead of eight, let's call it at five, okay?"
"Sure thing, Marla." Not that he had anywhere important to be.
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