Tangled in Tinsel

Dear Santa, please leave a red-headed lumberjack under the tree. I’ve been a very good boy.

Dean Hancock does not have time for the gorgeous, red-haired, cowboy lumberjack that nearly shattered his windshield with a Christmas tree. He’s on the hunt for a long-lost cradle carved by the artistic genius Gustav Gilt. After being lost for a hundred years, the antique appears five days before Christmas in the tiny town of Tinsel.

God has a wicked sense of humor.

On the verge of an academic and financial breakthrough, he doesn’t have time to ‘get friendly’ with the local cowboy Levi Bruce. If he hasn’t authenticated the manger in the middle of the town square before Christmas Eve, he’ll lose his antique shop and any dreams he had to find a real Gilt. But it won’t stop Dean fantasizing about his lumberjack riding in on a white horse and lassoing him just right.

Levi Bruce spends his days waking before dawn, tending his tree farm, going to bed after dark, and starting the cycle all over again. It’s a long, lonely life, but with his dog Harry at his side, he thought it was enough. Then that handsome, charming man from the city had to stroll in and upend everything. The wolves are at the door, a big company threatening to take his family farm out from under him. The last thing Levi needs is distracting dreams of kissing the delectable man under the mistletoe.

Will these two fools open their hearts by the fire of the farmhouse’s hearth? Or will the promise of millions, a family secret, and an eccentric artist’s masterpiece rip them apart forever?

Tangled in Tinsel was created in part thanks to my wonderful readers who voted on what they wanted to see in a Christmas romance. This gay, Hallmark-influenced romance is a heart-warming, hilarious, steamy mug of Christmas cocoa.

Coming November 30th!

EXCERPT

It wasn’t until they rolled under a sign for Bruces Tree Farm arching over the dirt road that it struck Dean. He agreed to truck out to the middle of nowhere with no means of escape because a guy asked him. Okay, a handsome guy with unforgettable eyes and so much red hair it gave Dean heart palpitations, but still. It didn’t seem wise. Some might even call it suicidal.

When the truck stopped and Levi hopped out, his dog quick on his heels, Dean clung tight to his bag and stared up at the farmhouse. It looked cute, very Home on the Prairiesque in opposed to House of Amityville. The A-line roof boasted blue embellishments leading down the sides while a couple of flower boxes filled only with snow hung below the windows. Exactly the kind of place no one expected to find a pile of bodies in the dirt cellar.

While two pine trees had stood sentinel by the sign, this area was mostly mud. The snow was ripped up by tire tracks in the direction of a barn just to the left and down aways from the house itself. Seemed a better place to do the killings, if for the smell at least.

“How’re you gettin’ on?” Levi asked, no doubt wondering why Dean suddenly forgot how seatbelts worked.

“Just good. No problems,” he insisted while unhooking his belt the way Levi taught him and finally setting foot on the ranch. Harry dashed up the porch and barked at the door, his tail wagging mercilessly. It wasn’t until Levi paused beside Dean that he realized he’d left the poor man to carry all the luggage.

“Here, I can…” Dean began reaching for his bags.

“No, no, it’s okay,” Levi insisted, his grip remaining a fixed point while Dean’s kept moving until he wrapped his palm around the back of Levi’s hand. The thumb arrogantly brushed over Levi’s and his fingers believed they had some right to slip between the man’s knuckles.

What was he doing? Dean yanked his hand away and dashed back a step, then two more. Years of having to survive locker rooms came flooding back, Dean widening his stance and throwing his chest out on autopilot. Somehow trying to look like the biggest masculine bastard in the room was a straightness invisibility cloak. 

“The, uh, the house is up this way,” Levi said, his face vanishing below the brim of his hat. He turned away and stared at the front door maybe three feet from them and shrugged.

Harry entered first, the dog quickly leaping about into a cozy living room. Only a faint glow from a nightlight in the corner lit it up. Dean couldn’t see much through the door save a couch and a hint of the fireplace.

“Let’s see, uh, sitting room’s through there,” Levi said. “Kitchen’s back that way along with laundry behind.”

“Hoping to put me to work already?”

“What?” Levi gasped as if Dean was serious.

“I can scrub the floors just fine, but I’ll be half-assing it unless there’s a royal ball at the end of my servitude.”

Levi chuckled and began to climb up the claustrophobic staircase. The ceiling hovered so low, he had to stoop to keep his hat on. “Afraid I don’t have any glass slippers, coaches, or pumpkins around.”

You do have a damn handsome prince though. 

Dean’s cheeks burned at the thought when Levi swiveled his head and his eyes sparkled. For a moment, Dean feared he said the thought aloud. No, it’s okay. Levi’s just waiting for a response.
“Well, if any fairy godmothers show up, I think I’ll skip the foot lacerations and ask for an all-paid trip to the Caribbean instead.”

Levi snickered and bowed his head. He paused at the edge of a surprisingly small door and pushed it open. “This is your room, where you can sleep.” He flicked on the light, revealing a quaint room brimming with country kitsch. A single bed bore a green quilt with chickens on the patches. All the furniture was the distressed white that every Pinterest mom loved complete with long lace doilies on the top. Striped mint and olive green wallpaper climbed up the bottom half of the walls while the top was painted in more white.

Slowly, Dean eased a step in, listening to the creak of the floorboards. Levi slipped in behind him, placing all of the luggage on the floor in front of the wardrobe. “I hope it’s…I mean it’s not a suite at an inn, but it, um…”

“The complete lack of life-sized Santa statues makes this infinitely better.”

“Good.” Levi beamed. 

Dean eased over and sat down on the bed. He braced his legs for fear of sinking in, but the mattress fought back like a slab of granite. Trying to get a feel, he bounced once, and a spring quartet broke out below him. Squeaking the bedsprings, Dean gazed up at the man standing in his room, watching.

Suddenly, Levi reared back and leaped for the door. “You…you probably want to, long day and all. Um, there’s a bathroom down this way.” He dashed to open another door revealing a toilet hiding in the dark. “Feel free to shower, or…lots of water, and towels, and watery towels.”

He’d had every intention to shower at the inn, but Dean’s brain overran with images of Levi standing in the same spot he’d be buck naked. Water running down the rough terrain of his tree-carrying body, steam rising from the tiles while he scrubbed off every inch of his skin studded with tomato red hair. 

“I’m…” Dean coughed to try to drop his voice. “I think I’ll turn in. Long day, very sleep, much needed. Wow.”

“Okay. If you need anything, I’ll be outside doing chores.”

“It’s dark out,” Dean said, turning to the jet-black sky just outside the circle windows.

Levi shrugged. “Didn’t expect to be in town so long and animals got to be fed. Shouldn’t be too long, but I’ll try to come back in quiet to not wake you.”

“Are you…isn’t there anyone else out here?” He’d said he didn’t have a wife but weren’t farms one of those things that required lots of people to help run? Dean expected to be swarmed by a flock of Bruces, but all he found was a quiet house.

He paused in closing the door and dropped his head. “I don’t…it’s just me here. So, see you in the morning.”

“Levi,” Dean called before he vanished. “Thank you for…all of this. It’s very kind of you.”

“Well, I just thought that…” He shuffled on his boots. “I wouldn’t want you to risk hypothermia. Good night.”