On this night, the longest night, darkness waltzed in her own glory through deserted Jackson Square.
The vintage apartment on Rue Ste. Anne looked festive and, aside from a bit of shimmer on the hardwood floor, immaculate.
“What the—” Steven turned in a slow circle. He was standing in a sea of glitter. “Bloody hell! The staff will throw a fit.”
Coordinating the brush and dustpan was an awkward struggle until a trail of pine needles caught his eye. He dropped the tools and followed the track through a hidden wall panel and down into Lock’s private chambers to find a barefoot man, standing on a ladder.
“What took you so long?”
“You’re decorating another tree?” Steven giggled out loud. “You have two in the parlor already.”
“This is my personal tree.” Lock pointed to a table overflowing with velvet bags and colored ornaments. “All local antiques. I’ve been collecting.”
“Lots of sparkle.”
“I knew you would approve.” Lock pushed Steven into a formal chair and lit the sea of candles arranged around him. “A drink for my honored guest?”
Steven pointed at the cognac decanter.
“Perfect choice.” Lock sauntered to the bar and returned with a snifter. He knelt down, unlaced Steven’s shoes and tossed them away. “Now, relax while I work.”
“You’re seducing me?”
“Between my charm and the twinkling lights.” Lock unbuttoned his white shirt. “I certainly hope so.”
Steven’s eyes grew wide as he watched Lock float across the room and drop his shirt to the floor. “You know, you need to clean each crystal teardrop before you hang it.”
Lock’s glowing skin rippled over his warrior muscles as he fluffed branches. “Always in charge, aren’t you?” He breathed on each ornament and polished.
Wicked mercy. Steven pointed to the other side of the massive tree. “You might need to move the ladder. Lift things.”
“Yes, sir.” Lock climbed down one rung at a time and dropped his jeans to the floor before he repositioned the ladder.
Steven caught his breath and hid it with a healthy sip of cognac. He grinned and nodded vigorously when Lock looked in his direction. “Lovely…big blank space over there. Keep working.” He waited until Lock turned his back before unzipping his trousers and settling deeper into the chair.
Lock ran his hands under the waistband of his satin boxer shorts and slipped them lower on his narrow hips. He leaned across the tree, adjusting each jewel until they twirled flawlessly.
He loves watching me watch him. Steven melted into the romantic room. His eyes wandered across Lock’s sculpted physique. How did I get so lucky?
Lock flashed across the chamber, leaned on the arms of Steven’s chair and whispered in his ear. “Any more instructions?”
“Explain to me, how you’re so tan.” Steven unbuttoned his cuffs and ran his hands up Lock’s chest. “I’m a ghost next to you.”
“I was a surfer in Australia.” Lock brushed his lips across Steven’s mouth. “This is pale for me.”
“Don’t you miss it?”
“I used to.” Lock shifted back and locked gazes with Steven. “Then I stepped into New Orleans and laid eyes on you.”
“Tell me, again, when did you first see me?”
“At the Masquerade Ball—in your tuxedo and black mask, ordering everyone around.” Lock slid his thumb across Steven’s lower lip. “The past vanished that night. Now, I cherish the moments…every moment with you.”
“You’re the best thing that’s ever happened to me.” Steven rubbed his nose against Lock’s. “Out of all that tragedy…it’s unbelievable.”
Lock dove into Steven’s lips, lifted him out of the chair and tossed him on the bed. “Believe it.”
“Wait!” Steven seized Lock’s hands just as he grabbed fistfuls of silk. “Custom tailored shirt.”
Lock flashed a smile and bared his fangs. “Take it off or I’ll rip it off.”
To all the Children of the Darkness…
A Very Blessed Nightside!
Just in case you missed how Steven arrived at Lock’s private decorating party…
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