I’m A E Ryecart (Ali to my readers) and I write MM romance from the warm and sweet with all the fuzzies, to gritty, hard-edged and challenging with more angst than you can shake a stick at.
Today, I’ve got a Barista Boys short story for you. If you’ve not read the Barista Boys series, fear not, because you don’t need any prior knowledge to enjoy All He Wants for Christmas. If you do enjoy this short, you can always check out the four-book series about the men who work in a quirky little café in the heart of London’s Soho. You can find out more about the Barista Boys in the My Books section of my website, alongside details of all my other books, or see the link at the end. Enjoy!
Bernie stretched out under the duvet and the warm body snuggled up beside him tightened its grip.
“Morning,” Jared’s drowsy voice murmured against Bernie’s bare chest.
“Don’t you mean Happy Christmas?”
“What?” Jared wriggled up the bed and his tousled-haired head emerged, blinking sleepy, velvet-blue eyes. “Christmas Day? Already?”
“Hmm-mm. Maybe all that eggnog last night made it slip your mind. Plus the champagne. And maybe the glass or three of cognac.”
“Oh, don’t remind me because my head’s already doing a good job of that,” Jared groaned.
Bernie laughed and rolled over, pushing Jared into the mattress. “I know what’s good for Christmas morning hangovers. Or for any morning, hangover or not.” Bernie pressed his swollen dick against Jared’s, grinning when his lover answered with a throaty moan. God, I love him so much. Bernie’s heart skipped a beat as he gazed down at the man beneath him. How did I get to be so lucky with this man? It was a question Bernie asked himself every day.
“I know I’m gorgeous and totally irresistible, but are you just going to stare at me all morning or are you going to give me your wonder cure?” Jared bumped his hips upwards, a teasing smile lifting his lips, and this time it was Bernie’s turn to moan.
Jared shifted and hooked his legs around Bernie’s waist, and pulled him in close. Lips met in a crushing kiss as their bodies rolled against each other, slow and sensual, warm skin against warm skin. Jared groaned and clutched at Bernie’s thick, dark hair. Bernie’s heart stuttered as Jared’s long fingers scrubbed back and forwards over his scalp. It was all the clue Bernie needed to know what it was Jared was asking him for. But then, he always knew what the man who was both his lover and best friend wanted and needed, often before Jared knew himself.
Bernie broke the kiss, his lips swollen and spit-soaked. Inching down the bed, he left a trail of kisses across Jared’s chest and stomach until he arrived at the dip of his belly button. Bernie licked and lapped and sucked, a low rumble of laughter rolling through him as Jared squirmed and moaned at his touch.
“Come on.” Jared thrust his hips upwards, full of need and impatience.
“Want your Christmas present now, baby?” Bernie breathed against Jared’s belly. “Or shall I make you wait ‘til later, hmm? Make sure you’re a good boy before Santa lets you have his sack of goodies?”
“Bastard,” Jared growled, but he couldn’t disguise the laughter in his voice.
“That’s not a nice thing for a good boy to say,” Bernie said, as he kissed his way down and nuzzled into the coarse, clipped hair between Jared’s legs. He breathed in deep, and a shiver danced across his skin. The scent of the man he loved more than anybody or anything in the world still took him by surprise, always made him feel like it was their first time together, with a world of discovery and possibilities awaiting them.
“Maybe I’m not a nice boy.”
“Oh, I think you’re a very nice boy who tries hard to be very, very naughty.” Bernie licked a long, wet stripe up the length Jared’s cock, his body shaking with barely held-back mirth as Jared writhed and muttered incomprehensive, broken words.
“Please. . .”
No attitude, no sass, just need and want and desire. Bernie took his lover into his mouth.
Hot, velvet-soft yet hard as iron. Bernie closed his eyes as Jared filled his mouth, the weight of his lover’s shaft heavy on his tongue. The salty tang of pre-come hit the back of Bernie’s throat, and his heart flipped as Jared’s hips thrust upwards. Sharp, rapid, needy, impatient and demanding, Jared telling him with every move of his body what he wanted and what he wanted now.
Bernie’s tongue laved Jared’s wet, engorged head, his breathing hitching with every lick and suck. Lips gliding down the length of his lover, Bernie drenched his senses in the warm, earthy aroma of the wonderful man who had become his everything. Bernie eased back, his lips wet and swollen, his tongue all the time stroking and caressing. Jared’s hips snapped up hard. His gasping, strangled cry, and the clench of his fisted hands in Bernie’s hair, so tight it sent waves of delicious pain across Bernie’s scalp, was the point of no return. Jared’s hips stuttered and stumbled, all rhythm and control collapsing and crashing as he gasped and emptied himself into Bernie’s ready mouth.
Bright white lights burst behind Bernie’s squeezed-shut eyes as he drank Jared down. Every last drop, he wanted it all. He sucked greedily as his lover’s body softened and relaxed, wrung out and depleted. Sweeping his tongue over the tip of Jared’s wilting cock, lapping up the very last of him, Bernie gazed up.
Jared lay back, one arm slung over his eyes as his chest rose and fell in short, shallow breaths.
“Hey.” Bernie trailed his fingertips along the crease at the top of Jared’s thigh.
Jared lifted his arm and looked down at Bernie through impossibly long lashes. A flush coloured his pale skin, and his lips were plump and red. He looked sated, debauched and adorable, and a million butterflies fluttered their wings in the depths of Bernie’s stomach.
“Hey yourself,” Jared said, his voice thick and gravelly.
Bernie edged his way up the crumpled sheet, damp with sweat, until his mouth was no more than a breath away from Jared’s. Slow and tender, Bernie trailed the tip of his tongue across Jared’s lips, which parted on a deep and contented sigh as Bernie kissed him again and again. When Bernie pulled back Jared gazed at him with so much love in his eyes, and the gentlest smile on his lips. If his life ended in that moment, Bernie knew with every bone in his body he’d die in the knowledge that he was loved so very, very much.
“Think I need to return the favour.” Jared narrowed his eyes, sweeping his fingers through Bernie’s coal-dark hair.
“Yeah, I reckon it’s time I got my present, don’t you?”
“Oh yes, I’ve got just what you want. Happy Christmas, honey.”
Bernie let go of a long, shivery sigh and closed his eyes as Jared pushed him onto his back and straddled him.
“Bloody hell, have you seen the weather?”
Bernie came up behind Jared, wrapped his arms around his waist, and dropped a kiss on the back of his neck. He nuzzled in and breathed up the crisp, citrus aroma of shower gel. Jared wriggled, and laughed.
“Cut it out or we’ll end up needing another shower. Look. Look at the weather. They might have problems getting here.” Jared turned to Bernie, his brow puckered in concern.
Bernie gazed out over the snow-covered city that lay beyond the walls of the apartment they shared. High on a hill in Hampstead, the views of the Heath were magnificent, the fresh snow bright and pristine under a sky heavy with clouds that threatened to coat the city with another wintery load. On cue, fat, fluffy flakes began to fall.
“They’ll be okay. Danny and Jude stayed with Stevie and Mack last night, and they’re all coming here in the same cab. Although why we’re having members of my staff over for Christmas, I have no idea.” Bernie huffed.
“You know exactly why.” Jared twisted around in Bernie’s arms, turning away from the snowy world beyond the window. He coiled his arms around Bernie’s neck, and smiled into his eyes.
Bernie’s heart melted into a gooey mush. But doesn’t it always, when he looks at me like that?
“They’re coming because they’re your family – which makes them my family, too.”
“Only Mack is, and Stevie will be once they’re married.” Bernie said, referring to his nephew and his fiancé, but the distinction was meaningless, and they both knew it. Jared wasn’t talking about blood family, but about the family Bernie had forged together under the roof of Barista Boys, the quirky little café in a tiny Soho backstreet he owned and ran.
“They’re all your family. Every kid who ever walked through the door in need of a job, or food, or a place of safety, every one of them is your family. Here, where it matters.” Jared place a palm over Bernie’s heart.
Bernie said nothing, because how could he deny the truth? Barista Boys wasn’t just a café. It was a refuge for any waif or stray who stumbled over its threshold. It always had been, and it always would be.
“Well, I wasn’t thinking of Jude as family when he broke my newest coffee machine. It cost a fortune to get fixed. I should have fired him on the spot.” Bernie coughed and tried to clear his rough, gravelly throat.
Jared said nothing, a small smile playing over his lips. Jared didn’t believe a word he said, Bernie knew, and how could he when he didn’t believe it himself?
“Jude’s a sweet kid. Perhaps not the sharpest tool in the shed, but sacking him would be like throwing a kitten out into the snow.”
Bernie groaned, and rolled his eyes, but Jared had pretty much summed up his young employee.
“Besides, you wouldn’t want Danny and him to sit in their freezing cold flat over Christmas, would you? No heating or hot water? They can’t get their boiler fixed until the New Year. And anyway,” Jared said, his smile turning wicked, “you talked the company around into replacing it without a quibble.”
Bernie shrugged, and looked away. “I give them enough of my business.”
Jared began to laugh. “I love it when you get found out and look all sheepish. But come on,” he said, twisting out of Bernie’s arms, “it’s beautiful out there, and we’re going to build a snowman!”
“What?” Bernie’s face fell as he stared over Jared’s shoulder and through the window. “It’s fucking freezing. Can’t we stay here? We can unwrap our presents.” Bernie attacked Jared’s neck at the same time he clamped his hands to his arse, kneading his lover’s firm backside through the soft, loose-with-age jeans he wore.
“No, we can’t. Come on, let’s get out there before the rest of Hampstead does. And if I judge your snowman worthy, I might just let you unwrap a very special present later.”
Bernie piled more snow onto the misshapen lump. Not too bad for a first effort. He was freezing cold and his hands were numb, despite his heavy leather gloves. High up above London the air was crisp and clear, and the city that spread out before them was a modern, urban Christmas card.
“What the hell’s that supposed to be? Didn’t you ever make snowmen as a kid?” Jared tilted his head to the side and studied the heaped-together pile of snow as if trying to work out what it was meant to be.
“No, I didn’t. Anyway, if you wanted it to look all arty perhaps a bit of help would have come in handy,” Bernie grumbled.
“I was taking a managerial role. It’s not that bad, I suppose. For a novice.” Jared smirked, and Bernie glowered.
“What—? Shit.” Bernie half jumped, half wriggled as he tried to dislodge the snowball that found a chink in his woollen-scarfed armour and was making its freezing way down his neck. Two young teenagers ran off, laughing and shouting, stopping and turning only when they were far enough away to give him the two fingered salute.
“You deserved that, you miserable sod.” Jared was bent forward, his hands pressing into his thighs, his laughter loud in the frosty air.
“Glad I’m an object of amusement,” Bernie muttered, digging out the last of the snowball.
“Oh, come on, you grump.” Jared stood upright and hugged his arms around Bernie. “I bet you were a bad boy once,” he whispered, his warm breath wafting against Bernie’s ear.
Bernie shivered, but it had nothing to do with the icy temperature.
“Still am. Hmm, let’s go home. Please?” Bernie nuzzled into Jared’s neck.
Jared pushed him away, a big grin spread across his face. “Once we’ve finished Old Snowy. I want to make him the best snowman on the Heath.” Jared rummaged through the bag he’d brought, pulling out an odd assortment of vegetables, along with the Santa hat—and something else.
“What—hold on, is that what I think it is?”
“Might be,” Jared said with a grin.
Under Jared’s direction, the snowman began to take shape. It began to snow again, in fits and starts, adding fresh layers to the winter cityscape. More and more people climbed high on the Heath. All around them snowball fights broke out amid peals of laughter, teenagers jumped on sledges and bombed down the hill, and families built their own snowmen along with their memories of a London white Christmas.
“There.” Jared stuck the Santa hat on top of Old Snowy, then stepped back and crossed his arms over his chest.
“Not bad, not bad.” Bernie nodded his approval, but Old Snowy was more than not bad. With green apples for eyes, a long and knobbly carrot for a nose, and a thick ring cut from a red pepper, Old Snowy looked like he was staring back at them in open-mouthed surprise.
“And this. Old Snowy’s not properly dressed without this. You can’t have a snowman without a scarf.”
The rainbow scarf fluttered in the buffeting wind. They’d won it in a raffle, Bernie couldn’t remember where. It was badly knitted, the ends already coming apart, and made from some synthetic mix that scratched and rubbed. Whoever had made it, the thought, at least, had been in the right place. It was perfect to put the finishing touch to Old Snowy.
“There you go,” Jared said. “The only gay snowman on Hampstead Heath.”
“You’re nuts, you know that?” Bernie pulled Jared close, enfolding him in his arms.
“That’s why you love me.”
“I do love you, and I always will.”
Bernie sought Jared’s lips, savouring the warm wetness of his mouth, delicious and inviting against the biting cold of the strengthening wind. Pulling Jared closer, Bernie groaned as Jared’s lean and supple body pressed against his. Everything around him faded, leaving only the two of them, alone in a snow-white world.
“I think we’re providing some free entertainment,” Jared murmured against Bernie’s lips.
Bernie looked around. Nearby, two young women were building a giant snowball with the help of toddler, covered from head to foot in an elf costume. The women smiled and one gave a thumbs up, and Bernie answered with a wink before he turned back to Jared.
“Home? Hot chocolate with whipped cream, then get naked under the tree?”
Jared huffed. “With all those pine needles that are already dropping? You must be joking. But I might say yes to being bent over the sofa and—” Jared leaned in and whispered in Bernie’s ear. Bernie’s eyes widened. He’d never heard of doing that with a mince pie.
“Hmm, this is nice.”
“It certainly is. Are you sure we can’t pretend not to be in?” Bernie kissed his way along Jared’s neck, each one slow, languorous and lazy. Relaxed and loose-limbed, they lay entwined on the sofa. “You never did show me that trick with the mince pie. Do you think it’d work with Christmas pudding, as well?”
Jared’s laugh shimmied through him, and Bernie smiled as he pulled him in tighter.
“Only if you don’t douse it with brandy and set it alight, otherwise you risk a scorched—”
“Okay, okay. Let’s just park that idea for now.”
Jared shifted, yawned, and snuggled deeper into Bernie’s chest. Soon, the regular one-two of his breathing told Bernie he’d fallen asleep.
It had stopped snowing, but it had fallen thick, heavy, and fast. Although it was barely past midday, the sky was a deep, leaden grey, with a threat of more snow to come.
Bernie looked around him, careful not to disturb Jared. The tree in the corner, surrounded by a pile of presents, shimmered in the low lamplight. A long rope of coloured lights wound its way around it, draping across, over and under the heavy boughs, all the way to the top where a silver Christmas star took pride of place. Holly, with its glossy green leaves and scarlet berries, tumbled down from the mantle shelf above the fireplace. Christmas cards jostled each other for space on the bookshelf and the window ledge. Bernie breathed in the deep, rich aroma of roasting turkey wafting in from the kitchen and sighed. How my life’s changed around. Placing a gentle kiss on Jared’s head, he blinked away the tears that prickled the backs of his eyes. In his arms, Bernie held everything he wanted in life. His heart brimmed with optimism, hope and belief in a future he had thought could never be his. “It’s you who’s done this, baby,” he whispered. “It’s you who’s brought me back to life. Everything that’s good, it’s because of you.”
A year ago, and for so many years before, Bernie had sat alone on Christmas Day, locking himself away from the company of others as he drowned his dark, heartbreaking memories in a bottle of scotch and a waterfall of bitter tears. But not this year, and never again. Against the odds, and his own cynicism, he’d found life and love in a man who’d been as savaged by the world as he had.
Savaged, but not beaten. Jared had fought back, just as he had done, against the hand life had dealt them. In doing so they had found not only each other, but salvation, too.
Bernie sucked in a shaky breath. The time had come, and he was scared half to death.
Easing away from Jared, he padded over to the tree. Kneeling down, Bernie reached behind the extravagantly wrapped pile of gifts, each with a big, bright bow. He found what he was looking for, without searching, and his fingers curled around a small plain box, wrapped in nothing other than a silver ribbon.
“What are you doing?”
Bernie turned around, his heart thumping hard as Jared stared at him, clear-eyed and wide awake.
“I. . .” The words withered and died on Bernie’s lips. He’d had it all worked out; what he’d say, and how, every word of this speech practised, polished and word perfect. Looking into Jared’s velvet-blue eyes, he remembered none of it.
“Bernie?” Jared sat up, a tiny frown worrying his brow. “Is anything wrong?”
“No, nothing’s wrong,” Bernie said, finding his voice. “Nothing could be more right.” He shuffled across, the small box clutched tight and hidden in his palm. At Jared’s feet, he looked down as an unaccustomed shyness stole over him. “I had it planned, everything I was going to say, but. . .” Bernie opened his hand, revealing the little box with the silver ribbon.
Daring to look up, Bernie’s head hummed with the rush of blood through his veins. His mouth was paper-dry, and a heavy lump blocked his throat. A tiny bead of sweat meandered down the valley of his back, and his heart beat an irregular rhythm as it crashed against his ribcage.
Slack-jawed and wide-eyed, Jared looked between the box and Bernie, and back to the box. He reached out, tentative fingers shaking as he picked it up and untied the ribbon, which slipped unheeded to the floor.
Bernie held his breath as Jared opened the lid, knowing every detail of what Jared would be seeing for the first time. Jared’s hands trembled so much the box almost fell from his fingers. Taking it from him, Bernie picked up the ring, a thin band of gold bordered by bands of platinum. He held it up, and out, to Jared.
“Jared Hastings, will you marry me?”
Silence wrapped around them, as the world and time stood still. Bernie’s heart beat heavy in his chest, as he waited for the one word that would determine his future. Jared nodded, as tears fell from his glittering eyes.
“Yes. Yes, Bernie Porter, I’ll marry you.”
Bernie pulled Jared into a kiss that was deeper than the ocean. So close, it was as though each sought to dissolve into the other, neither knowing where one ended and the other began.
The buzz of the intercom, at first faint but becoming loud and insistent, broke them apart. Bernie’s phone buzzed, and Jared’s joined in.
“They’re here,” Jared breathed. “Are we going to tell them?”
“Do you want to?”
Jared smiled, so bright Bernie all but melted from its heat.
“Yes. I want everybody to know. Our family, our friends. Everybody.” Jared leaned forward and rested his brow against Bernie’s. “I love you. I love you so much. This is the best Christmas present I could ever have wished for.”
Bernie smiled as he cupped Jared’s face between his palms.
“Better than that trick with the mince pie you told me about? I’m still waiting for you to show me.”
“I’m saving that for our wedding night.”
The intercom buzzed again, and their phones pinged with left messages. Jared glanced towards the door. “Shall we let them in, or pretend we’re not here?”
“Oh, I think they need to learn a little patience, don’t you?” Bernie said, as he leaned in and claimed Jared’s lips one more time.
All He Wants for Christmas Copyright December 2018 A E Ryecart
If you’ve enjoyed Bernie and Jared’s festive tale, you might want to check out my recently released Christmas stories, Kiss Before Christmas and Company for Christmas. Both are available to read in KU.
You can find the Barista Boys four-book series here.
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