Title: Worst Holiday Ever
Authors: Kilby Blades, R.L. Merrill, Marie Booth, Adrienne Bell, Eva Moore, Kari Lemor, Meg Bellamy, Preslaysa Williams, Erin St. Charles
Publisher: Luxe Press
Release date: November 15, 2018
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal, LGBTQ
Tropes: meet the family, holiday romance, romantic comedy
Tags: Gay, Queer, Bisexual, Straight, CisHet
Pairings: M/M, M/M/F, M/F
It’s the most wonderful time of the year! OK—scratch that. It’s time for another obligatory family gathering. And nothing spices up the egg nog like bringing your partner home. Surely your belligerent brother-in law, your gimlet-eyed granny and your drunken uncle will keep it classy. With forced proximity and alcoholic beverages, what could possibly go wrong?
Guest post from R.L. Merrill:
Having a word count limit can be a blessing and a curse. In this particular story, I’d had so many different family members and encounters planned, but I wasn’t able to fit them all in. As it was, I was still over the limit by a couple thousand, but thankfully our organizer and my gal pal Kilby Blades just patted me on the head and let me at it. The story stood strong as it was, but there was one scene I hated to remove, and that’s because it was based on a real-life incident. Here’s an alternate scene from what was in the book.
Dalton pulled off Highway 238 and took the windy canyon roads up into the Castro Valley hills. Percy and Deborah had recently moved Deborah’s parents into their home while they had a new home built in a nearby development. The current one wasn’t fancy enough. Percy’s contract overseas would be up in two years and they planned to come back to a brand new place. In the meantime, Gloria and Howard continued the family tradition of brunch on Thanksgiving. When Orrie had spoken to his grandmother two days prior, asking what they could bring, she’d groaned and told him the most curious tale.
“Deborah’s father showed up on my doorstep and gave me two hundred dollars and said he and his girlfriend would be here for brunch. I couldn’t exactly say no, but it will certainly make things interesting. I’m so glad you’re bringing Dalton. He’s such a nice man. You’re sooooo lucky to have found him, darling.”
Orrie was sure he would hear that a lot today. And while he agreed, there was nothing like being put in your place by your beloved grandmother.
“Boys. I’m so glad to see you! Come in, come in. The neighbors are here and Orrie, your great aunt Marvel and your great uncle John. They brought an exchange student with them. She’s come all the way from Germany, can you believe that?”
“I can’t believe it, can you believe it?” Dalton said with a wink as he hugged Gloria.
“Oh, you brat,” she said, patting him on the cheek. “You’ve found such a cheeky one, Orrie. It’s a good thing he’s so handsome and charming.” Then she pulled them in close. “Scott is here with his girlfriend. You’ll help with that Orrie dear, won’t you?”
“Of course, Grandma.”
Dalton and Orrie exchanged worried looks. If Scott was here, that would certainly make for a tense meal.
Gloria took Dalton’s arm and ushered them inside the living room. Orrie steeled himself for all of the comments as they entered the room and greeted his family:
“Don’t you two look adorable.”
“Yes, Dalton is the CEO of Bishop Tech, isn’t that wonderful?”
“Orrie, are you still playing that music?”
“Our Orrie is sooooo lucky he found Dalton.”
“Orrie, I hope you are being good to Dalton.”
“I know, I know,” he finally said. “I’m sooo lucky.” He said the last with a smile for Dalton.
“I’m the lucky one,” Dalton answered.
“Well, you boys are late, so go ahead and take your seats. I’ve already got all of the food out on the table. Mimosas?”
“I’ll make one, Grandma. You sit down,” Orrie said, walking her over to her seat at the table. He knew Dalton wouldn’t want one, but he needed one if he was going to get through this meal. Dalton had already given him absolution from any consumption necessary to get through the day. Dalton himself was a teetotaler, a choice he made after a lifetime dealing with alcoholism in his family.
He left Dalton at her side at the table and hurried into the kitchen, where he found a disturbing sight.
Aunt Marvel’s son Scott stood at the counter in front of a large turkey wielding a large butcher knife, but something about the way he stood was all wrong.
“Hey, Scott? Need a hand?” he asked as he walked around the island and froze.
The fact Scott was still standing was a miracle. The dude was on the nod.
He looked up from the turkey he was trying unsuccessfully to carve with heavy lids.
“Hey, it’s Orrie Jones! What’s up, Orrie? When did you get here?” Scott thankfully put down the knife and stuck his hand out to shake.
“Just now. Say, why don’t you go sit with Anna and I’ll finish up here.”
“Oh, no, I got this,” he said, stumbling a bit and grabbing onto the counter for support.
“I insist,” Orrie said. He placed an arm around Scott and led him out to the table, pulling out his chair for him next to his girlfriend.
“I’ll just be a minute with the turkey,” he said to his grandmother. She frowned at Scott, but then smiled at her sister. Marvel had tried so hard to save her only son from the throes of addiction to no avail. Scott was in his late forties now and looked about sixty. He didn’t have much longer to be kicking around at this rate.
Shaken, Orrie hurried back to the kitchen and carved what was left of the turkey. He placed as much meat as he could onto the platter and brought it out to the table. Dalton was sitting next to a pretty blonde and carrying on a conversation with her in German.
“Orrie, dear. Meet Elke. She’s a German exchange student staying with us this semester while she takes courses at East Bay with John and her housing placement fell through. Elke, this is my grandson, Orrie Jones. He’s a famous singer, did you know that?”
“I didn’t know that, did you know that?” Dalton whispered in his ear and God bless him for it.
Orrie shook hands with the slight woman. She didn’t smile and seemed to be feeling a bit out of place. Orrie could relate. He’d been a member of this family for twenty-five years and he still felt out of place.
Gloria raised an eyebrow at Dalton but she could never stay mad at him. “And Elke, this is my ex-husband, Gus Wrona.”
“Nice to meet you, Mr. Wrona,” she said, shaking his hand vigorously.
“Elke what part of Germany you from?” Gus asked her. “You know, my parents were from Kostrzyn. That’s not too far from Berlin. They didn’t do too well during the war, that’s why they came here.”
Elke turned to face Gus and placed her hands in her lap.
Orrie gripped Dalton’s leg beneath the table.
“Mr. Wrona, I am very sorry for what my country did to your country.”
Dalton squeaked when Orrie squeezed his thigh with a tighter grip.
“Oh, I’ve never been to Poland.” Gus slapped his thigh and laughed heartily. “I was born here.”
The table fell silent for a beat before Gloria saved the day.
“So, Dalton, how is your mother? Is she almost finished with her treatments?”
Orrie squeezed Dalton’s thigh again, gently this time. Dalton and his mother might frequently find themselves at odds with each other, but he loved her dearly and her diagnosis of breast cancer four months ago had been tough on him. Thankfully she was handling the chemo very well and would be finished with a great prognosis in two more months.
“She’s just as ornery as ever, Gloria. Thank you.”
Dalton smiled at Orrie and then turned to serve himself from the turkey platter. He froze, his arms outstretched and a slice of turkey balanced precariously between the serving utensils.
Orrie followed his line of sight to find Scott and Anna. Anna’s face hovered no more than two inches from her huge pile of mashed potatoes. She’d made a little hollow in the top for gravy, and that’s all that was on her plate. As she breathed out of her open mouth, ripples moved across the gravy lake.
Orrie squeezed Dalton’s thigh again and Dalton tightened his quad. Without tearing his gaze away from the disaster in front of him, he leaned over to Orrie and said, “Baby, you’re going to leave bruises,” through clenched teeth.
Orrie smoothed the spot with his hand and gave a little pat.
“Scott? Dear, would you please pass me the cranberry sauce?” Gloria asked. She always knew how to deal with the situations like these. Being married to Gus ensured that. He’d been a heavy drinker, as had Deborah. Orrie and Olive had been sheltered from it as a child, but now that their parents were gone, they’d had to grow up quick. Man, he missed Olive right about now.
“How is your sister, Orrie?” Howard sat at the head of the table and smiled kindly. Gloria chose wisely for her second husband. Always mild-mannered, Howard had a way of bringing some peace to their gatherings. “I can’t wait to see the new baby.”
“It was a tough delivery, but she’s doing okay. Her and Alex are in love with their new little girl and the boys are just as wild as ever.”
“That’s wonderful. Gloria and I will be going to see them just as soon as Olive is ready to receive guests.”
“I’m sure she’ll love that,” Orrie said, catching Scott’s head dropping once more out of the corner of his eye. He nudged him under the table with his foot and Scott sat up, looking around confused.
Marvel glanced over at Anna and cleared her throat loudly. “So tell me, Orrie. Do you have any more television performances planned? We loved seeing you on Jimmy Fallon.”
Orrie smiled. He’d always loved Marvel. “Actually, I might be on—”
“Your father called us from Greece this morning. He said he would try to call you later. Isn’t it amazing, they get to go to Greece? Dalton, honey, has your business ever taken you to Greece?”
Dalton wiped his mouth with a napkin. “Yes, ma’am.” He shot a sorrowful glance at Orrie. “Twice, actually.”
“Orrie, dear, you’re so lucky to have found such a handsome man who’s so successful! Perhaps he’ll take you to Greece on business someday.”
“Yeah, maybe,” Orrie said. He looked at his phone under the table. By Dalton’s calculations, they needed to stay at least 90 minutes. It had only been 50 so far. Damn.
“Orrie, son, are you going to be around this weekend?” Howard asked. “I could really use some help with those boxes in the garage.”
Orrie swallowed hard and folded his hands in his lap. “I’m leaving for more tour dates tomorrow night, Grandpa. I’m sorry.”
“I’d be happy to come over,” Dalton said, placing his arm around the back of Orrie’s chair for support.
“Oh, no, dear. We know you’re far too busy to come help with something as silly as those boxes. Howard, come on. You know the boys are too busy.”
“Grandma, I’d be happy to help, I just—”
“Gloria, it’s no problem.”
Dalton was so good with Orrie’s family. I really am lucky to have him.
“I’ll grab my good for nothing brothers and be over Saturday,” he said with a triumphant grin.
Orrie shot him a grateful look.
“You are such a good man, Dalton. Orrie, you are so—”
“Lucky. Right. I know.”
And Scott’s face plopped right into his pile of stuffing.
Thank you so much for having me on the blog today and for supporting our ode to family drama. We’ve all had it, we all have those memories, so why not put your feet up and read someone else’s story? If you want to find out more about my world of Rock ‘n’ Romance, please check out my website at www.rlmerrillauthor.com. Stay Tuned for more Rock ‘n’ Romance!
“You hardly ate anything.” Dalton rubbed Orrie’s back. He’d suggested the donuts because he knew Orrie would be too stressed out to eat.
“I don’t know why she insists on serving quiche at these things. Who the hell eats quiche, anyway?” Orrie picked at the spot on his finger.
Dalton shook his head. “Only old people. And hipsters.”
Orrie laughed humorlessly and leaned back in the seat. “You don’t have to do the boxes this weekend. I can do it tomorrow before I leave.”
“Forget it,” Dalton said as he started the car. “I get you to myself tomorrow until I take you to the airport, and I’m not losing a single minute of time with you.” He leaned over and kissed Orrie sweetly. “It’s been a long six weeks, baby.”
“Too long. I missed you.” Orrie closed his eyes and Dalton took that as a good sign. He hoped that meant Orrie would be able to relax at their next stop. Because hesure the hell wouldn’t.
Ahhhh, Casa de Bishop. The eternal bachelor pad. The house where Bishop men went to lick their wounds and drink. A lot. And today being Thanksgiving and the holy day of the pigskin, Dalton had prepared his defense. He just had to get past this next two hours, and then he and Orrie would move on to…his mom’s. Okay, make that the next four hours.
He pulled the car out of the pretentious neighborhood where Orrie’s grandmother lived and drove down the hill to the more blue-collar area of Castro Valley. It was a funny town in that way. You had these newer, expensive developments up in the hills and canyons, but a lot of old neighborhoods from the forties and fifties that remained affordable for the low- to middle-income folks in the East Bay.
Peter Bishop, Dalton’s father, lived in such a home, one he’d inherited from his parents. The boys had grown up there, and currently, Dalton’s brothers Terrence and Stanley lived there with him. Both had broken up with their significant others in the past year and now, with their divorced father, they lived the life of swingin’ singles. Dalton just hoped the house was in better shape than it had been the last time he was here.
“Hey, doll,” Orrie said, reaching for his leg. “I know how much you worry about them. You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to. If you want to go…”
And that was just one of the many reasons Dalton loved this man more than anything. He looked over and Orrie was smiling at him in that way that made Dalton feel like any second he was going to be a weeping mess on the floor, but in a good way. Not in the way he’d grown up experiencing.
“I want to see them. I do. We’re supposed to be thankful on Thanksgiving, right?”
Orrie nodded, frowning. “You are the most thankful person I’ve ever known. You see the positive in everything. Sometimes to your own detriment.”
Dalton barked out a laugh and his eyes burned. He was tired of fretting over a situation that was never going to change.
Orrie got out of the car and walked around to Dalton’s door, which he promptly opened, pulling Dalton in for an embrace that felt more supportive than seductive, and yet it had both effects. Dalton may have been the one to pursue Orrie, but Orrie had seduced Dalton with his compassion as much as his passion, with his love as much as his loving.
“If you promise not to take any shit from your brothers, I’ll promise not to cause any bodily injury.”
Dalton snorted and dropped his forehead onto Orrie’s shoulder. “You know they’re going to give me shit, and I know you’re going to give it right back. Just don’t hit anyone this time. You don’t have that luxury, you know? You can’t afford any injuries.” He thought about Orrie picking at his finger and hoped it wouldn’t get worse as the day wore on.
Orrie sighed and kissed Dalton’s head. “I’m insured,” he said against Dalton’s hair. “If I happen to have an injury, they’ll find some other poor schmuck to play guitar for me. Shouldn’t be too hard. Any adolescent boy could play—”
“Stop it right there. You’re as full of shit as a Thanksgiving turkey.” Dalton put a finger against Orrie’s lips.
“I’m serious, baby. Please.”
Orrie laughed. “We have an audience. Should we give them a show?”
Orrie just loved to be demonstrative in front of Dalton’s brothers. They couldn’t contain their disgust, not so much because Dalton was gay, but because the thought of their oldest sibling being sexually active with anyonemade them want to hurl. Since Dalton had been more of a father to Terrence and Stanley than dear old Dad, they tended to treat him that way.
“I’d say we should give them a show, but honestly, that’s not playing fair. If I want them to behave, I can’t exactly go sinking to their level.”
“So I shouldn’t fondle you right here?” Orrie slid his hand down Dalton’s chest.
Dalton winced and sucked in a breath.
“Did I hurt you? I’m sorry.”
Dalton pressed his lips together firmly and pulled back from Orrie. “I’m fine. Really.” Was that my voice coming out sounding like a little girl’s?
Before Orrie could interrogate him, which would really ruin the surprise Dalton had worked so hard to make happen, Peter Bishop slammed open the front door.
“Hurry up, you two, before Terry burns the damn turkey!”
Dalton stared wide-eyed at Orrie. “Did he just say turkey?”
Orrie nodded, his brow furrowed once more. “Are your brother’s actually cooking?”
“Come on, you two. I gotta get in the backyard.”
The screen door slammed shut and Dalton jumped at the sound.
“Have your phone ready to call the fire department,” he said to Orrie as he sprinted up the walk. Dear God, don’t let those idiots burn the place down.
About the authors:
Eva Moore: As a young woman, Eva Moore loved nothing more than to dive into the pages of a book. She even met her husband while reading a romance novel. When the second baby came along though, she found she had little time for diving into anything but laundry. Missing her stories desperately, she began to make up her own. The stories she played with while she washed dishes and changed diapers demanded space on the page, and she was hooked. Winning Cherry Adair's Finish The Damn Book Contest has propelled her career into high gear. Eva now lives in Silicon Valley, after moving around the world and back, with her college sweetheart, her three gorgeous girls, and a Shih Tzu who thinks he is a cat. She can be found most nights hiding in her closet-office, scribbling away, and loves to hear from the outside world.
Kilby Blades: Kilby Blades is a fresh new voice in smart contemporary romantic fiction. A business executive by day, by night she writes dynamic characters into (and out of) tantalizingly complex predicaments. Critics laud her "feminist romance", noting empowered heroines and multi-dimensional heroes who are staunch advocates for their partners, stepping back from their own spotlights in order to let their women shine. From dry wit in her angstier books to blatant humor in her lighter ones, her characters are resplendent in their witty repartee. All her stories, regardless of genre, serve up delicious dilemmas and never-before-seen plots. When she's not writing, Kilby goes to movie matinees alone, where she eats Chocolate Pocky and buttered popcorn and usually smuggles in not-a-little-bit of red wine. Kilby is a mother, a social-justice fighter, and above all else, a glutton for a good story.
Erin St. Charles: Erin grew up watching Star Trek and reading Barbara Cartland novels (don't hate), wishing she could create something that brings her love of science fiction together with her love of romance. Still a romantic nerd at heart, she writes sensual, diverse stories that blend fantasy, adventure, and love.
Kari Lemor: Kari Lemor grew up as one of those kids who read all night under the covers. Once she had her first glimpse of a romance novel at age 12, it was all over. Romance was in her blood. It would be many years before the stories that ran rampant in her head finally drove her to put words to paper, though. She wrote self-indulgently for the first few years and only recently began penning stories to share with others. She still writes stories that are self-indulgent but hopes others might get some enjoyment from them too. Now that her children are all grown and have moved out, she uses her spare time to create stories of love and happily ever after romances where heroes ride to the rescue of damsels who have already saved themselves. She lives with her husband in a small town in New England dreaming of warmer weather. But only if it's near the ocean.
Adrienne Bell: Adrienne Bell is the author of over a dozen action-packed romances including the bestselling contemporary Second Service series and the new Exiles of the Realm paranormal series. She loves nothing more than writing quirky heroines with a knack for finding trouble and the hardheaded heroes who help them fight their way out of it. Adrienne lives with her husband and sons on the far edge of the San Francisco Bay Area where she spends her downtime reading, binge-watching nerdy television, and scrolling through Disneyland fan websites.
Meg Bellamy: Along with her husband, her family and her books, language is Meg's passion. In fact, by day she's a mild-mannered language teacher. Currently, she teaches ESL (English as a Second Language) to international students, but in her early teaching days, her main subject was French. Though her French is a bit rusty these days, she figures a trip to France would help fix that. She's also studied Russian, Spanish and Italian. This love of language spills over into her writing craft and appreciation for books -- and travel! Meg also has to travel to see other family members in New Jersey -- a mere continent away from Meg's home in Northern California. Being a published member of the community of writers with her contemporary romances and women's fiction is the fulfillment of one of Meg's most cherished dreams. Her first release, Homecoming, was released October 19 -- a week before her birthday -- from The Wild Rose Press.
Marie Booth: Marie's a Northern California girl with a love of all things artsy fartsy - as her brother says. A theatre and fantasy geek, she writes sexy paranormal romance and has a hot contemporary series releasing this year. You can contact Marie here:
R.L. Merrill: Once upon a time... A teacher, tattoo collector, mom, and rock 'n' roll kinda gal opened up a doc and started purging her demons. Several self-published books and a debut from Dreamspinner Press later, with more tucked away in her evil lair, R.L. Merrill is still striving to find that perfect balance between real-life and happily ever after. You can find her lurking on social media where she loves connecting with readers, being a mom-taxi to two brilliant and busy kids, in the tattoo chair trying desperately to get that back piece finished, or headbanging at a rock show near her home in the San Francisco Bay Area! Stay Tuned for more Rock 'n' Romance.
Preslaysa Williams: Preslaysa Williams is an award-winning author and actress. She writes contemporary romance and women's fiction with an Afro-Filipina twist. Preslaysa has a Bachelor's degree from Columbia University and is currently earning her MFA in Fiction from Seton Hill University. Connect with Preslaysa online at her website (www.preslaysa.com) or on any of these social media platforms:
R.L. Merrill is giving away a $25 Amazon gift card ORa $25 Dreamspinner Press gift card with this tour. Enter via Rafflecopter: