From the By Degrees Universe meet Christian and Remy, close friends who may be destined to be something else…
Christian Murphy is out, proud and very often loud.
Remy Benoit is an equal opportunity flirt, but he swears
guys are not his thing.
Different lifestyles had never interfered with their close
friendship, but after too much alcohol and almost kissing
under the mistletoe a year ago they’ve started to drift apart.
A special holiday event brings the men together, and this
time around they might have to acknowledge that mutual
admiration and respect are not the only things making them
seek each other out.
“… and I just got off the phone with the designer. She assures
me we have the space to build Mrs. Claus’ kitchen in addition to
Santa’s workshop. Which is marvelous, don’t you think?”
Remy Benoit glanced from the grocery shopping list he was
writing to the phone on his desk, an amused smile on his lips at
the tone of his friend’s voice. Chris’s enthusiasm was impossible
to resist on a regular day and downright contagious when he was
excited about something, even if that something happened to be
his plans for Christmas decorations. Chris was so hyped up by
the whole thing Remy was ready to go buy some ice skates. Hell.
He could almost taste the eggnog and smell the mistletoe.
In the middle of a disgustingly hot August day.
The memory of the two of them standing under the mistletoe
at a mutual friend’s New Year’s Eve party eight months ago made
Remy clear his throat. They’d been chatting up a storm, because
that’s what they did whenever Chris was in town, and somehow
ended up by the door, even though he couldn’t remember moving
around the room.
He’d been very close to kissing Chris that night.
“So we’re going to have the ice skating rink, a two car train
that will take people from the entrance to the little North Pole
village in the back of the parking lot. We’re going to have fake
snow, and ice sculptures, and Santa’s workshop. And lots of elves,
Remy blinked, thinking how Chris looked a little like one of
those elves from the Lord of the Rings movies, what with being
tall and lean and all elegant and shit.
Had it not been for their friend Braxton choosing that
moment to wish them well on the New Year, Remy would’ve
messed up their friendship by giving into what he liked to refer
to as alcohol induced curiosity.
There was no other explanation for it.
Chris was an extremely good looking man, and damn if he
didn’t have the most charming personality Remy had seen this
side of the Mississippi. The masses were drawn to him like
moths to a flame and he had to admit he was affected the same
way. But no matter how curious he got, he shouldn’t mess with
Chris’s head like that.
Because they were good friends.
Because Christian Murphy was the poster boy for flamboyantly
And Remy was not.
Flamboyant. Or gay.
Deep down in his gut he knew Chris would’ve welcomed the
kiss. There were occasions in which Remy could’ve sworn there
was more than friendship and camaraderie in the way Chris gazed
at him with those sparkly turquoise eyes of his. Like that one
time when Remy showed up at his place for moral support when
Chris decided it was time to get rid of his grandma’s personal
possessions, or the time when Remy slipped and fell.
Chris had re-arranged an entire week of work appointments
and meetings in NYC just so that he could travel to Houston
and nurse Remy’s twisted ankle. The injury wasn’t that big of a
deal and Remy had plenty of people willing to help him had he
needed them. But the guy showed up anyway.
They both knew Chris’s presence wasn’t necessary, but they
ignored that fact.
Just like Remy chose to ignore the nagging voice in the back of
his head that told him Chris would like to be more than friends.
“… that you have no problems wearing the elf suit.”
“What’s that about an elf suit again?”
“Have you not been paying attention?” Chris’s sigh was over
the top. It matched everything else about him. “I’d like for the
staff to dress like elves. You did hear me when I said I need your
“I’m not wearing a green suit with candy cane tights.”
“Don’t be ridiculous.” Chris tried to sooth him. “The tights
will be green too.”
“Bet you’d look scrumptious,” Chris whispered.
“Bet you’re right,” Remy answered without missing a beat or
worrying about the fact that his voice had dropped at least two
octaves. “But you say that to all the boys, so it ain’t gonna change
“What kind of a slut do you take me for?” Chris giggled.
Being thirty, he should’ve sounded like an idiot. He should have.
“I only say it to the really gorgeous ones.”
“Not dressing as an elf.”
“Will you at least please wear the hat?”
“Only ‘cause you’re so pretty when you beg.”
He knew that he was playing with fire whenever they engaged
in this sort of exchange, but he liked Chris too much to stop
talking to him.
Flirting with him.
Remy looked forward to spending as much time as he could
with Chris whenever Chris left his home in New York City to
visit the house and art gallery he owned in Houston. They always
Remy knew he had talked Chris into coming to Houston way
too many times.
But surely that didn’t mean anything, right? Because he wasn’t
the only cool guy Remy knew and liked to spend time with, and
Chris was very much aware of that fact.
There was Mac, Remy’s best friend, and Braxton, who also
happened to be his boss and Chris’s childhood friend. One was
straight, the other gay. They were extremely good looking men.
Remy was thirty-two years old and even though he’d never been
attracted to a man he didn’t have a problem acknowledging his
friends were hot.
But he had never wanted to kiss either one.
Or any man, for that matter.
Not until Chris.
Which confused the shit out of him.