A Christmas Portrait

an excerpt



Prologue

"Hey, look at this." Peter Brandon passed the card he held to his husband, Jeff Stevens. "Rod and 'A' must be the only people we know who still use snail mail to send messages."

"Well, they're old school," Jeff said taking the card. "Still write letters and send out real birthday cards and stuff instead of using the Internet and texts. Kinda nice really." He scanned the card. "What the heck is a pantomime?"

"It's a traditional British show done at Christmastime, mainly for kids...you know fairy tales, Cinderella and the like."

"How do you know about them?"

"I saw one years ago when my mom and dad took me to London the first time. Can't remember much about it, but 'A' told me he's played the 'Dame' a couple of times. Mother Goose or something like that."

"He plays a dame?"

"Yeah, it's another tradition. A man always plays the Dame. In Cinderella, the ugly sisters are usually guys in drag and made up to look even uglier."

Jeff shook his head. "Doesn't sound like something I'd want to see."

Peter chuckled. "Read the rest of the card."

"It would be wonderful if you and Jeff could somehow manage to be there opening night," Jeff read aloud. "'A' is very nervous about his return to the stage and would love to have friends there to support him. I know it's a lot to ask but if your Christmas plans aren't yet set in stone we'd love to have you stay with us in London. Your room is always ready."

He looked across the table at Peter. "Are you seriously considering this?"

"Well, Nick and Eric will be in Pittsburgh spending Christmas with Nick's sister, Andrew and David are tied up with family obligations, and Mom and Fred are going to be in Hawaii, so it would just be you and me anyway."

"But all the way to London? I don't know if I can take that much time off. We'd have to stay at least a week, wouldn't we?"

Peter nodded. "Plus a couple of days traveling time, but Nick will be back to look after things. They're only going away for two days. I think we should consider going. Rod and 'A' have been good friends for so many years now..."

"What about Emily and Jerry and the kids? You know you love being over there handing out gifts..."

"We can do that before we leave."

"So your mind's made up, oh Master? I have no say in this whatsoever."

Peter grinned at him. "Of course you have a say."

"But it better be, 'when do we leave,' right?" Jeff pushed his chair back from the table. "Well, I better get to work, earn some more shekels to pay for this trip, by the looks of things."

Peter got up and slipped his arms around Jeff's hard body. "You don't mind too much do you?" he asked and gave Jeff's lips a peck. "We could use a short vacation."

"Yeah, but London in December? It'll be freezing cold. Meanwhile Eve and Fred will be sunning it up in Hawaii. We could have gone there, don't forget. They did invite us."

"Yeah, but they also invited Martha Harley, and as sorry as I feel for her after all that pain and humiliation she went through after that shit went down about her husband I really couldn't stand listening to her prattling on and on about stuff I could care less about!"

Jeff laughed. "Don't hold back now, Peter, just tell us how you really feel."

"Well...sorry, but she just gets on my last nerve. How my mother can stand it I'll never know."

"They've been friends since kindergarten or something."

"I know, and I bet even then Martha was the gossip of all time. You'd think Mom would've given her a wide berth..."

"Okay, so make the arrangements. I can't stand here chit-chatting all day."

Peter gave him a sly grin and pushed his crotch against Jeff's. "We don't have to chit-chat...there are other ways to start the day, you know...like this..." He slid an arm round Jeff's neck and pulled him in for a long, lingering kiss.

Jeff groaned. "You always know how to get my engine running. I was going to the office."

"Later," Peter murmured. "Much later."