Heart of the Holidays

Everyone hopes his road to happily ever after will be carefree and smooth, but too often hair-pin turns and detours seem to get in the way.

Having thought he was on the road to forever before, former Silicon Valley programmer Dan Lassiter is leery about pedaling down it again. His elderly companion Charlie urges him to get to know Rick Reardon whose bakery is across the street from Dan’s bicycle shop.

Under the watchful eye of Charlie, Dan and Rick take tentative steps toward each other, all the while trying to avoid potholes such as exes, homophobes, and family problems.

As summer turns to fall and then winter, they hope that the road will be smooth going from their first date and first kiss to having what Rick’s sister euphemistically calls their “sleep overs”. At each step, though, they are tripped up and wonder why there seem to be so many bumps in their road.

Maybe Dan and Rick should heed some of Charlie’s sage advice or maybe they should listen to their hearts instead of the ghosts from their pasts.

Excerpt:

The kids and their mom arrived after lunch, right about the time Charlie usually turned in for a nap. He gave them the once over as they got out of the car, nodded to me with raised eyebrows, and ambled back toward the house. I guess he figured he’d meet them sometime, probably sooner rather than later, so he didn’t have to knock himself out now. It was the siesta part of his day.

After the kids tumbled from the car and jumped on Rick, he pointed at my open garage and waved at me. I waved back, and they galloped across the street.

“Hi, I’m McKinsey! You can call me Mack.” The red-haired boy danced in front of me. His hair blazed in the sun and was as bright as his green eyes and freckles. He didn’t look anything like his uncle. “So these are all the bikes I can ride? Can I try them out first?”

“Yeah, but don’t go very far. I’ve got an app keeping an eye on them.”

“Cool. Bye.”

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He didn’t wait for me to explain further, but ran toward the racks so fast that I thought he would barrel into them. A small hand on my arm stopped me from chasing after him.

“Don’t worry. He’s careful. He won’t hurt the bikes. We won’t go far because of mom.” Since I wasn’t worried about the bicycles, I looked down into brown eyes, a solemn face, and curly sable hair. “I’m Leslie. Everyone calls me Lee. My brother throws himself into his activities. I don’t. Can we choose any of the bicycles?”

I glanced up at their uncle who shrugged at me. The small hand let go of my arm, so I looked down at Lee again.

“Yes. You have three choices. One, you can select a bike and ride it the entire time you’re here. Two, you could come back to the garage and pick another one to ride for the day, the half-day, the hour, or however long you want it. That means if you wanted, you could ride every bike in this place in one day. Or your third choice, you could stay at the bakery and not go bike riding at all.” I winked at her. “I would choose the bakery except then I’d look like a human lead balloon if I did.”

She giggled and put her hand on my arm again.

“I like you, Mr. Dan. I think we’ll get along fine.” She nodded and gave me a long assessing once over. “Don’t worry. You don’t look like a balloon at all. Not at all.”

If she’d been in her teens, I would have thought she was flirting. But Lee seemed as if she was merely making an observation.

I liked both kids and their approaches to life. I’d be willing to bet Charlie would like them too when he got up from his nap and met them.

Unlike her brother, Lee sauntered over to the bikes, many of which were now askew thanks to Mack’s unsorting process. She carefully started to right those tossed aside. She stopped at a turquoise bicycle, hopped on, and waved to me and her uncle as she sped away. Her brother was long gone. The bike rack still needed straightening which would give me something to do while Charlie snoozed.

I started toward it. Rick had surged across the street and was striding up to me.

“Here. I’ll help.” He stood staring down at the mishmash of bikes. “If you show me how to untangle them without making things worse.”

I nodded.

“I don’t get it. Aren’t you afraid people will just take off with your bikes and you’ll never see them again?”

I watched him bend over to pick up one on the ground. My groin tightened at the sight. We were going out to dinner. Together. Soon. My heart and dick lifted as my mind piled up image after image of dinner and afterward. It was about time for me to get back in the saddle as it were.

 

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