Book Title: Two Soldiers for Christmas
Author and Publisher: Aurora Crane
Cover Artist: Cormar Covers
Release Date: November 25, 2022
Genre: Contemporary M/M/M Romance
Tropes: Brother’s best friends, established couple adding a third
Themes: Christmas in Australia, pining
Heat Rating: 3 flames
Length: approx. 28 000 words
It is loosely connected to another series with cameos, but can be read alone.
It ends with a satisfying HFN
If Zach hadn't already fallen in love with this man, this would have been the moment. The point in a rom-com movie where everything slows down as that realisation kicks in. Except there were no oh fuck feelings to accompany it. It wasn't a surprising feeling for him. Zach welcomed it.
"What are you—?" Avery said, his eyes widening in horror. They widened further when he looked down at himself. "Oh my god."
He slammed the door in their faces.
Felix chuckled. "Think he forgot we were coming?"
Something crashed loudly inside and Zach instantly shoved his bags at Felix and rushed through the—thankfully unlocked—door. If it hadn't been, he would have put his boot through it.
Avery was standing next to a small scaffolding set up, the floor surrounding it covered in white sheets, and dozens of tins of paint in different sizes. There were about six jars of murky water and paintbrushes and a few rollers, along with an iPod speaker dock that had splashes of paint all over it. An iPod that Zach was pretty sure was older than Avery was sitting in it, low Christmas music playing.
The only part of the situation that didn't fit was the paint tin that Avery was holding in his hand, red paint puddled all over the sheets and some of it leaking onto to the tiling.
Avery stared at him, red paint dripping from his hair. "Um..."
"Are you all right?" Felix asked. He took the paint tin from Avery's hand and checked it over while Zach took Avery's face in his hands. Zach turned his head left and right, making sure he hadn't hurt himself. It looked like all the red was just paint, but it was best to be sure.
Avery was still staring, wide-eyed, at him. "Yeah—yes? I'm fine. I just..." He sighed and gestured at the scaffolding with the hand that Felix had just let go of. "Knocked down the paint tin. It's going to take me hours to clean this mess up."
"I think you're supposed to have a harness on when you're up that high," Felix said, looking over the scaffolding with a slight frown on his face.
"It's not high," Avery said.
"Still above regulation height," Felix said.
"Aren't you just a walking inspector?" Avery shot back sarcastically. "It's fine."
"What would happen if you did fall?” Felix’s eyes narrowed. “If you were here alone and hit your head?"
Avery threw his hands up in aggravation. "I guess I would just die?"
Zach bit back his snarled reaction to those words. He knew that Avery wasn't being serious, but it still made him feel like he'd been slammed in the head by a helicopter rotor. He might not have been a medic, but he knew how quickly a head injury could turn bad.
He reached out and grabbed one of the scaffolding legs, and then pushed. It rolled easily under his grip. "You don't even have the safety on," he said flatly.
"So what?" Zach repeated, his voice rising unintentionally. "So have a little more care for your personal safety."
"What, you guys are going to suddenly act like you give a shit about me?" Avery’s hazel eyes were blazing.
"When have we not cared about you?" Felix asked. He sounded like always did—even and level-headed. But Zach knew him too well. He could hear the tremor of hurt that Felix was so good at concealing. Hearing it made anger rise in Zach's stomach. They didn’t deserve that. They’d never been dismissive of Avery, not once, in all the years they’d known him.
"I've been doing this for years and I'm still here, so go pull your big brother act on someone else," Avery said, turning his back dismissively.
Zach whirled him around and trapped him against the scaffolding, bracing himself with one hand gripping tightly to it. "Big brother act?” he bit out. “You think that's what this is?"
Avery's pulse visibly jumped in his throat. The things that Zach wanted to do to him, the thoughts he had, weren't brotherly in any way. He took hold of Avery's chin and stroked his thumb across it, just under the alluring curve of his bottom lip. Avery's pupils dilated, his lips parting in shock.
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