We’re so please to have Heidi Cullinan bringing a little holiday romance to The Novel Approach today, on the tour for book three in the Minnesota Christmas series, Winter Wonderland. Enjoy the exclusive excerpt and then be sure to click on the Rafflecopter widget below to enter for the chance to win an e-copy of the book.
Blurb: Finding Mr. Right can be a snow lot of fun.
Paul Jansen was the only one of his friends who wanted a relationship. Naturally, he’s the last single man standing. No gay man within a fifty-mile radius wants more than casual sex. No one, that is, except too-young, too-twinky Kyle Parks, who sends him suggestive texts and leaves X-rated snow sculptures on his front porch.
Kyle is tired of being the town’s resident Peter Pan. He’s twenty-five, not ten, and despite his effeminate appearance, he’s nothing but the boss in bed. He’s loved Paul since forever, and this Christmas, since they’re both working on the Winter Wonderland festival, he might finally get his chance for a holiday romance.
But Paul comes with baggage. His ultra-conservative family wants him paired up with a woman, not a man with Logan’s rainbow connection. When their anti-LGBT crusade spills beyond managing Paul’s love life and threatens the holiday festival, Kyle and Paul must fight for everyone’s happily ever after, including their own.
Warning: Contains erotic snow art, toppy twinks, and super-sweet holiday moments. Best savored with a mug of hot chocolate with a dash of spice
Excerpt: When Paul arrived at the Parks farm, Daryl Parks got off his tractor and came over to shake Paul’s hand. “Good to see you, Paul. How’s business?”
“Going well, thank you.”
“Say, do you guys repair iPods? The one we use in the shed stopped working, and I can’t even find a way to open the thing up.”
“Well, I can repair them, but I’m not certified. And I have to tell you I’m about a one-to-one ratio, fixing vs. breaking it more.”
Daryl chuckled. “That’s a sight better than I’ve managed. Would it be okay to give it to you today, or should I bring it by the shop?”
“I can take it, sir.”
Daryl grinned and slapped Paul on the shoulder. “Come on. Kyle’s in the back. I’m coming along to watch, because he never stopped to take a shower like Jane told him to, and he’ll be fit to be tied now that you’re here.”
Paul wasn’t sure what to say to that, so he followed Daryl Parks.
The farmer gestured to the far side of the yard. “We were clearing snow this morning and accidentally busted the dragon and the princess. Linda Kay sobbed like you wouldn’t believe. Guess this was a very special princess. Jane told her to leave him be, but Kyle wouldn’t hear of letting her wait. That boy’s soft as jelly for his sister.”
Daryl led Paul to the side of the garage, where Kyle crouched diligently over a five-foot sculpture. Linda Kay stood bundled beside him, watching intently—until she saw Paul approaching. Then she poked Kyle in the arm and whispered, loud enough for them to hear in Logan, “Hey. Your boyfriend is here.”
Kyle had been in a kind of work trance, but at this he startled and rose, giving Linda Kay a look that said there would be retribution later. “It can’t be two fifteen already, can it?”
“It’s two twenty, actually,” Daryl said with a grin.
Kyle winced and clutched at his hat. “Oh my God, I haven’t showered or anything.”
“Which is your own fault, because your mother called you at least four times.” Daryl glanced at Paul and indicated the sculptures with his head. “So, what do you think? He’s not bad with a pile of snow, as far as I reckon.”
As understatements went, this one was a whopper. Behind Kyle was a dragon, at least ten feet long and four feet high. Its tail wound around a real rock, which had been painted to look like a gold nugget. Its head rested on a stump—subtly, as the dead tree was clearly for support only—and it breathed snow-fire that arched across a small snow-brick wall. It was so alive it looked ready to leap across the fields. The scales, the eyes, even the fine detail on the flames were stunning.
But the dragon was nothing compared to the snow princess who stood beside him. She was a sculpture, carved out of a single, solid block of snow. Her shoulder-length hair blew in unseen wind. Her snow-cape billowed over a poufy gown with intricate beads and folds. Her crown sat boldly on her head, and in her hand was a star-shaped wand with gold beads in the center. What caught Paul by the edge of the heart, though, was the face. It was a beautiful, wide-smiling face, with a stubby nose, slightly slanted eyes and bit of tongue protruding past the lips.
In short, it was an ice princess with Down syndrome.
Paul realized they were waiting for him to respond, but all he could do was shake his head and keep staring in wonder. “Amazing,” he managed at last. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Kyle used a mittened hand to shield his eyes from the weak afternoon sun as he looked back at the house. “I really do need to shower. Do you think they’ll be mad if we’re a little late? I can be fast.”
Paul would see to it they weren’t. “You go get your shower. Don’t rush.”
Kyle blew him a kiss then pointed the knitwear at his father. “Help her mist them down so they freeze hard tonight. Just a mist.”
Daryl waved his son off, and Paul stayed to watch as Linda Kay, carefully supervised, misted her snow sculptures with the large spray bottle she’d been clutching. Several times she cackled, a noise both wicked and charming at once. At one point, as if seized by sudden joy, she held the spray bottle aloft, tipped her head back and sang loudly and in no key whatsoever, “Valley high, I call yoooooooou.” Then she resumed her spraying, until her father told her she needed to stop or she’d wreck them.
She relinquished her bottle to Daryl, but she tugged on Paul’s arm when he tried to leave. “Take my picture,” she said, beaming. “With the snow princess. Because we’re both pretty cute, right, sexy man?”
“Linda Kay.” Daryl’s tone was a warning.
Linda Kay chuckled again, sticking out her tongue. Laughing, Paul got out his phone and urged her to get closer to her doppelgänger. He took several pictures, one with her standing at attention, one with her mimicking the pose, and one with what Linda Kay called her baby-eyes pose, which Paul assumed was supposed to be bedroom eyes. In each photo, her tongue protruded.
After four more photos, Linda Kay attached herself to Paul’s arm. “Okay, hot stuff. Let’s go get hot chocolate and snuggle, okay?”
He couldn’t help but laugh with her, and though Daryl tried to get him out of his role as escort, Paul gave him a nod to let him know this was fine. She had such joy. Plus, she was all kinds of saucy and smart. A little inappropriate, missing several social cues, but on the whole, delightful.
Once they were in the house, she showed him where to put his boots, made them each a hot cocoa in a Keurig machine, and tugged him toward the den. “Come on. The babies are all sleeping, so we have the TV to ourselves. We’ll watch a movie while you wait for Slow Poke.”
Jane Parks appeared from around a corner. She smiled briefly at Paul and greeted him before turning to her daughter. “Kyle will be ready in a few minutes. You do not have time for a movie.”
Linda Kay crossed her arms over her chest. “Fine. I’ll show him just the valley high.”
She plunked Paul on a soft brown sectional and bustled to the DVD player. Soon the opening titles of South Pacific played on the screen. Tongue out in concentration, Linda Kay punched at the remote until she queued up a scene. She bounced and giggled as she pushed play. “Here we go. Valley high.”
The scene was a bunch of soldiers on an island—well, an island movie set, because it was an old movie, from an era when there was no such thing as green screen or special effects. A black woman started to sing about a lonely island, and when she got to the chorus, Paul realized she was singing Bali, not valley. A quick check on his phone revealed this song was “Bali Ha’i”, where the matriarch of an exotic island lures the lead so he can fall in love with her daughter. Linda Kay, however, was clearly singing valley high. Singing it at the top of her lungs, from the bottom of her belly. She sang to the woman on the screen, to the far side of the room, to the window. She sang with abandon, and with no clear words ninety percent of the time. Until the song called for valley high.
As the song wound to an end, abruptly a bright tenor filled the room, sending a tingle down Paul’s spine. Kyle—hair artfully styled, green sweater making his complexion glow, jeans snug enough to show off his slim hips—sailed into the room, arm extended as he joined Linda Kay in an unusual duet. When he sang with her, she hit more of the words, but mostly she garbled along until she got to the good parts.
Paul noticed Kyle got all the words right, except like Linda Kay, he sang valley high.
When they finished, Linda Kay clapped and pulled her brother down to kiss him on the cheek. “I love you, Kyle David.”
“I love you too, Linda Kay.” He kissed her forehead. “I’m going to go with Paul for a while. I’ll be home around dinnertime, and I’ll kiss you before I go to work. Okay?”
She swatted him playfully and stuck out her tongue with mischievous glee. “Go on, you lovebird. I’ll catch your act later.”
Kyle raised apologetic, slightly helpless eyebrows at Paul. “So. Should we go?”
Paul rose. “Ready when you are.”
About the Author: Proud to be from the first Midwestern state with full marriage equality, Heidi writes positive-outcome romances for LGBT characters struggling against insurmountable odds because she believes there’s no such thing as too much happy ever after. A member of Romance Writers of America since 1999, Heidi has served as president of Rainbow Romance Writers, run local chapter newsletters, and volunteered for committees on the national level. In addition to teaching writing since 1993, she also served as the writer’s workshop coordinator for GayRomLit Retreat for 2013. Find out more about Heidi at heidicullinan.com.
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