Cole Morrison left Jewel’s snow-covered fir trees ten years ago. But after a disastrous family Thanksgiving, Jewel seems like the only place left to go. When a run-in with a gorgeous stranger leaves him with debt to pay, Cole’s escape from his past turns out to be much more than a lonely Christmas vacation.
Jesse Carroway, the local Jewel witch, has been running his family’s successful, small-town Apothecary ever since his grandmother passed away. When Cole stumbles into his shop and accidentally wrecks a good portion of his inventory, Jesse does the only thing he can possibly think of—offers Cole a job and himself some help for the upcoming holiday rush.
Cole’s clumsy with candles and doesn’t trust easily, but soon Jesse gets a peek at the guy behind his bad-boy reputation. As the nights lengthen toward Yule, Jesse wonders if magic is to blame or if Cole might’ve fallen into his life for a reason…
Round bulbs draped over the tree lot, illuminating dainty blue pines and tall, noble firs. Freshly chopped trees leaned against the fence, ready to be taken home and decorated. Jesse’s gloved fingers fit perfectly between Cole’s knuckles. Their breath fogged the air as they wound between trees, shoulders brushing branches, shoes crunching through snow.
“So, what kind of tree are we looking for?” Cole asked. He unlaced their fingers and set his hands on Jesse’s hips, chin perched on his shoulder.
“Oh, just a good one, you know? Something sturdy.” Jesse leaned against his warm chest, admiring a fat balsam fir with a round top. “Back in the day, people thought evergreens were sacred. We started bringing them inside and decorating them to make forest elementals and fairies feel welcome in our homes during winter. They were seen as blessings.”
“Is that why we decorate them?”
Jesse wiggled his hand back and forth. “Yeah, for the most part. People used to hang charms on their Yule trees to ask for certain things. Hearty vegetables during spring, favors from deities. Love, sometimes.”
“What do love charms look like?” Cole pressed his lips to the underside of Jesse’s jaw.
“Extremely phallic,” Jesse said, laughing through it. “Like, imagine a carved wooden penis hanging from a branch next to popcorn and paper snowflakes.”
Cole hid snorted laughter in Jesse’s throat.
“I don’t associate love with sex, though. So, mine look a little different.” He side-stepped and Cole followed, keeping hold of his hips as they clumsily made their way toward another tree. “I prefer potions.”
“Makes sense.” Cole hummed thoughtfully. He jutted his chin toward another tree. “This one looks good.”
A tapered balsam fir stood before them, thick in the middle and trimmed at the top with wide, long branches fanned around the bottom. Jesse took his time appreciating it, hiding his thoughts with a pensive gaze. The word love had left Cole’s mouth a moment ago, and all Jesse could think about was how gently he’d whispered it while they’d curled close in his bed. How he’d sandwiched might between I and love you and how Jesse had no idea what that meant.
Had Cole fallen in love with Jesse as fast as Jesse had fallen in love with him?
Or was love too big a word for where they’d landed? For what they’d found?
Brooklyn Ray (they/them) is an award-winning author of Queer Paranormal Romance and Erotica. They’re a fan of fresh brewed tea, long walks through the woods, and evenings spent reading sexy books. They write about witches, necromancers, and other magical creatures, and moonlight as a tarot and palm reader in the Pacific Northwest. Find them on Instagram @brooklynrayauthor
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