December is here! I’m in Sweden, so for me December means snow and ice — though not as much snow and ice as some might think. There are no polar bears wandering our streets, sorry to disappoint. While there have been days where I’ve been stuck in the house because of snow or too-cold weather, it never lasts for days as it does in stories.
But I’m not here to talk about the Swedish climate. I’ve written a contemporary M/M romance, Christmas story. It’s about an established couple that’s had a rough year. They hardly see each other, and all spontaneity is lost.
Victor, the narrator, has more or less given up. He’s prepared for a boring, lonely holiday with his partner, Jian, either working or fallen asleep on the couch.
Jian has other plans, though. He’s not willing to give up on their relationship, and he has planned twenty-four dates from the 1st of December to the 24th
The reason I began this post by talking about the December cold is because Jian has one freezing date planned for Victor.
When I was a teen, I lived in northern Sweden. There the winters are long. The river that rounded the village where I lived froze. One year, in the spring, when the ice was breaking, a friend and I decided it was a good idea to go bathing — don’t ask.
Going in was terrible. The shock the body goes through when exposed to that kind of cold — shudder — but getting out. I was standing on the jetty in the cold without a stitch of clothing and it was so warm. For hours after, my friend and I were laughing.
Would anyone ask if I would go ice-hole bathing today, the answer would be no. But …
EXCERPT FROM 24 Dates
“Come on, babe. It’s five minutes of your life, and you can curse me all the way back home.”
Victor took a deep breath, staring into Jian’s dark eyes. “I hate you.”
“I love you.”
Victor sighed and shook his head, though the words warmed his heart. “I fear for my balls.”
Jian nodded. “It’s a valid fear.”
The man cleared his throat. “Undress and stand on the jetty for a few seconds before you go in. It’ll lessen the pain … some.”
“Some?” Victor made wide eyes at him.
“The higher the temperature difference, the greater the shock for the body.”
“Of course.” He glared at Jian. This was not a date. He didn’t care what Jian called it, but a date it was not.
Jian pulled his sweater over his head, folding and putting it on a wooden bench at the end of the jetty. He kicked off his shoes and removed his sweats and socks. “Come on, Vic.” There was a challenge in his eyes, and Victor growled. He toed off his shoes, took off the sweater, and pulled down his sweats.
They stood on the jetty in their underwear gazing out over the ice and the forest surrounding the lake.
“It’s about five feet deep so you should be able to stand on the ground without a problem.”
Victor half-turned. “We’re to jump in?”
“Not head first.”
Victor rolled his eyes. Who jumped headfirst into five feet deep water?
“Hold onto the edge of the hole. Your legs are likely to go numb, and you may momentarily experience loss of muscle control. The first two minutes are mostly about breathing through it. Talking to each other is a good distraction.”
Victor glared at Jian. “Oh, this sounds lovely.”
Jian nodded and took his hand. “Ready?”
“No.” But they climbed down the ladder onto the ice. Victor’s feet burned, his toes turned red. “Fuck, it’s cold.”
Jian dipped a heel in the water and blew out a shuddering breath. “Okay, this might not have been my best idea.”
“You don’t say?” Victor touched the underside of his right foot to the surface and shivered. He let go of Jian’s hand and looked at the black water. A million reasons why he should turn around swirled in his head, but he bent down, touched his hand to the ice, and slid his feet into the water.
The shock of the ice against his ass as he sat and the cold of the water engulfing his lower legs had him whimpering. Before Jian got his feet into the water, Victor slid over the edge.
The sound leaving him wasn’t one he’d ever produced before—it reminded him of a bellowing moose. Jian laughed hard, slid over the edge into the water, and all air whooshed out of him.
When Victor Hill bought a house with his boyfriend, Jian Kouri it was a dream come true. But now, two years later, instead of living their happily ever after, they hardly see the other awake.
With Jian out the door before Victor gets up in the morning, and asleep on the couch nearly as soon as he walks in the door, the life Victor imagined couldn’t be further from reality. They don’t talk; they don’t touch, and Victor fears he and Jian have already drifted too far apart.
The holiday season is a time for hope, but when Victor comes home to find Jian with a plan to woo him for Christmas, is it too little, too late? The dates are great, and there are filled with Christmas fun to get Victor in the right spirit for the holiday, but are they enough for the two of them to fall in love again? Or is there just too much in their relationship that needs fixing?