“Are you sure this isn’t overkill?” Cael asked, wondering how he was going to get out from the sea of Christmas lights surrounding him on all sides. “I think we’re one crazy cousin short of a Griswold family Christmas.”
Dex shook his head, his tongue poking out in concentration as he replaced the tiny lightbulb in the string of lights he held. He’d been searching for the damned thing for almost an hour.
“I’m also concerned for people’s retinas,” Cael muttered as he gauged the distance between him and the sofas around him. If he dove straight ahead, he should be able to make it to the armchair.
“The only thing people are going to be blinded by is awesomeness.” Dex plugged the little bulb in just as Cael made the leap. The living room exploded into white light.
“My eyes!” Cael yelped as he fell, missing his target. Except instead of falling onto hundreds of pokey, stabby lights, he landed in a pair of big strong arms.
“Sorry!” Dex shuffled around the room, and the lights went off.
Cael blinked, his vision filled with thousands of white dots, but among the dots, he could make out a handsome face looking down at him in concern.
“You okay, sweetheart?”
“My hero,” Cael said with a sigh, as he turned, and cuddled up against Ash’s broad, muscular chest. He inhaled deeply, and let out a low hum. “Mm, you smell like Christmas cookies.”
“I just finished baking the last batch, and was bringing them over.” Ash kissed the top of Cael’s head, and put him on his feet, his eyes narrowing at Dex. “You ass. What the hell is all this? I thought you said you two were getting ready to string up the outside lights.”
Dex blinked at him. “We are. I just had to replace one of the lightbulbs.”
Ash stared at him. “Are you telling me all these lights are for outside?”
Dex waggled his eyebrows. “Yep.”
“No way.” Ash shook his head as he took in the blanket of Christmas lights. Not one piece of the living room rug was visible. It was nothing but lights and green wires. “Are you insane? There’s enough lighting here to land a plane!”
“Actually,” Dex said, holding up a finger as he went to the kitchen and returned with a large blueprint of the front of the house which included the schematics to “The Daleys’ Eye-gasm-inducing Décor of Christmas Awesomeness.” “As you can see by my very detailed Achlys-created plan that I have the exact number of lights needed.”
Ash counted off his fingers. “One. You’re an idiot. Two. That title needs to change because I want to make it through this holiday without throwing up in my mouth. Three. What the fuck is Achlys?”
Dex lay the blueprints on the couch. “It’s like Themis, but the TIN version. On steroids. It’s artificial intelligence, and connects to the Dark Net.”
Ash’s jaw dropped, and Cael chuckled. “Yeah, that was sort of my reaction when he told me.” Cael shook his head. He’d been surprised, but then remembered it was his brother. “I still can’t believe TIN let you use their government artificial intelligence system to create a blueprint of your house for your Christmas decorating.”
Dex shrugged, mischief in his bright blue eyes. “I ran it through as a training scenario.”
“I don’t even want to know,” Ash grumbled, heading toward the kitchen. Cael followed him, smiling at the scent of freshly bakes Christmas treats. The island counter was lined with insulated carrying totes, and with every container Ash removed, Cael drooled a little more.
“Did you make the Christmas mix?” Cael asked excitedly.
Ash removed a container, and handed it to Cael, kissing his cheek. “Of course I did, baby. I know how much you love it.”
Dex appeared beside him, and leaned over his shoulder to sniff at the container. “Ooh, Christmas mix.”
Cael hugged it close to his chest. “This is mine. If you touch it, so help me I will stab you with one of your lawn candy canes.”
Dex held his hands up and backed away slowly. “Right. Sorry. Forgot that’s the Willing-to-commit-murder-if-you-so-much-as-sniff-it Christmas mix.”
Cael peered at Dex, following him with his eyes as his brother rounded the counter to peek at the other containers. No way he was letting Dex anywhere near his super yummy Ash-made treats of goodness. Cael opened the lid, and Ash laughed softly at Cael’s happy sigh. He took a small handful out and stuffed it into his mouth. The sugary explosion in his mouth made him moan.
“Oh God, this is so good.”
Ash cleared his throat, and subtly adjusted himself. “Sweetheart, can you, um, maybe eat that later? Or in private?”
“Cael, please do not make your boyfriend pop a boner in my kitchen.” Dex made a gagging sound, and Ash scowled at him.
“Screw you, Daley. You can hang up your own damn lights.”
“No dice, Keeler. We had a deal. Sloane and I would use our super-secret spy connections to get Cael moved into your apartment, and you would help me decorate the house.” Dex snagged a sugar cookie from one of the containers, and shoved half of it in his mouth. When he spoke, it was through a mouthful of cookie. Classy. “I want this to be the best Christmas my boo has ever had.”
Ash arched an eyebrow at Dex. “I still can’t believe Sloane married you.”
“Yep,” Dex said waggling his eyebrows. “He married me good. You’re stuck with me.”
Ash groaned, and Cael rubbed a hand over his back soothingly. “It’s okay, babe.” He stood on his toes, and kissed Ash’s cheek. “Besides, that means he’s stuck with us,” Cael said, winking at his sexy boyfriend. Ash grinned wickedly. He wrapped his arms around Cael, and Cael slipped his hands up Ash’s chest.
“What are you two doing?” Dex asked, frowning.
Ash leaned in, and Cael slipped his arms around Ash’s neck, bringing their lips together, both of them moaning into the other’s mouth.
“My eyes!” Somewhere to Cael’s right, Dex cursed, and a chair fell over. “My shin!”
Cael laughed against Ash’s lips. Mission accomplished. Oh, this was going to be the best Christmas ever.PART TWO NEXT WEEK.
Copyright © 2017 Charlie Cochet. THIRDS published by Dreamspinner Press.