A Hometown Holiday is set in Amherst, Massachusetts, a small town in the western part of the state. Two of five total schools in the the Five College Consortium are located in Amherst, and it’s home to a large number of roughly 38,000 students attending those schools.
Once upon a time, I was one of those students and it was during that time my love of writing grew from hobby into something deeper. I fell a bit in love with the Pioneer Valley and set A Hometown Holiday there as a homage of sorts to the four years I spent learning so much.
He’s stepped back into the closet for a guy, but how long can he stay there?
Life in a college town suits Josh Cassidy. He has good friends and neighbors, and the bookshop café he runs with his family is thriving. As the winter holidays begin, Josh finds himself enamored with police officer Alex Curiel, an old friend who has recently moved back to town. The trouble is, Alex isn’t ready for the world to know he’s attracted to men.
At Alex’s request, Josh agrees to closet their relationship, though the secrecy quickly becomes a burden. When Josh realizes he is falling for Alex, his ability to hide his feelings from the world begins to slip, and he’s forced to decide if love is enough to keep him hiding behind closed doors.
A Hometown Holiday is a 21.5K sex-buddies-to-lovers MM novella. It features a bookshop owner with a fondness for jazz music, a closeted cop who could be Mr. Right if only he’d give himself a chance, and the warm, fuzzy HEA that both guys deserve.
After work, Josh walked four blocks down Pleasant Street to Jamison’s Pub and found it already buzzing. Alex was at the bar chatting with Matt, who somehow made juggling multiple drink orders look like no big deal. Both glanced up at Josh’s approach.
“You’re late,” Alex said in a lightly chiding tone, though a smile warmed his handsome face.
“Yeah, sorry.” Josh shrugged out of his coat. “We had a book group come into the shop tonight and it was like they were stocking up on titles to read for the next six months.”
“No shame in that, Red.” Matt set his hands on the bar top and grinned. “Alex was just telling me that you dragged him to visit that crazy record store over in Florence that you love. Have you been making him listen to your old man music, too?”
He shot a grin at Josh, who rolled his eyes as he pulled up a barstool. Matt had been teasing Josh about his affection for jazz music since junior high but Josh knew his friend didn’t mean anything by it. They shopped together regularly at Vinyl Divine in Florence and Matt was always happy listening to any kind of music that Josh might put on whenever they hung out.
Alex raised an eyebrow at Matt, however. “I never said Josh dragged me to that store. And I don’t mind jazz at all.”
“Then your taste in music is crap, just like Josh’s.” Matt reached for a pub glass as Josh and Alex laughed. “We met on the first day of kindergarten, y’know, and he was a scrawny, red-headed fuckface who worshiped the Rat Pack even then.”
“Okay, now you’re just making shit up,” Josh said. “I have never worshipped the Rat Pack!”
“You’re not exactly scrawny, either,” Alex threw in with a cute little smile that made Josh’s face warm.
“Thank you for noticing,” he said with a laugh, then turned back to Matt. “As far as the music goes, it’s not my fault you can’t see past the Weeknd, dude, but some people like a little variety. One of these days, the right guy is going to come along who likes the old man music just as much as me.”
Matt made an exasperated sound and set a pint of ale in front of Josh. “You’d better hope so,” he said, “or that record collection of yours in going to end up in storage.”
Josh picked up his glass and smiled. “Not gonna happen. Now shut up and give me a menu, please, because I need to eat myself into a food coma.”
After he’d slapped a pair of menus down, Matt moved off to take another order, which left Josh alone with Alex for the first time.
Alex’s cute little smile grew wider. “The right guy, huh?”
“Hey, it could happen.” Josh kept his tone was light and ignored the tiny part of him that hoped maybe Mr. Right Guy had already come along. “Do you want to split an order of poutine with dinner?” he asked. “Or will that be too much food?”
“Totally too much food and yes, I will help you eat it.” Alex’s eyes gleamed. He loved the decadent combination of French fries, gravy, and cheese curds. “I’ll have to run extra miles to burn it all off, but I don’t care. Are you sure you want poutine? Because I got the impression that you weren’t a fan.”
“It’s grown on me. Besides, the look on your face every time you eat it makes up for the weird, squeaky cheese.”
“Okay then, poutine to start.” Alex ran a hand over his chin, then dropped it to rest on the bar by his beer glass so his knuckles almost grazed Josh’s. His voice was lower when he spoke again, but Josh had no trouble hearing it over the noise of the crowd. “I do like your music, you know. It’s wild and beautiful, just like you.”
Heart beating a little faster, Josh smiled at Alex. “So are you,” he said, his voice just as quiet.
For a moment, the sounds and colors of the world around them faded and Josh did his best to forget. That he and Alex were keeping a secret from Matt and everyone else in their lives. That they weren’t hiding their low-key flirtations or that a mere inch separated Alex’s fingers from Josh’s, though neither would close that final distance until they were alone.
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