The Scent of Pine

Celebrate Christmas Card Day

thescentofpineAshton Cross was stupid enough to fall out a window while trying to catch a criminal. Now he’s on sick leave and has been for weeks, and has nothing to do but watch his neighbors go about their day. It’s driving him insane. When he gets a Christmas card not meant for him, he doesn’t think much of it, but then there is another and another, all with the same motif.

For two years, Rafael Vidal has been hiding from his ex. He almost believed he’d gotten away when his neighbor knocks on his door to hand over a stack of Christmas cards. One look at the writing, and Rafael suspects he has been found.

When Ashton understands the situation, he’s set on catching Rafael’s ex. He might not be ready to get back to active duty at the police station, but finally, he has something to do, and he doesn’t mind keeping Rafael close. Rafael is trying to distract himself by helping Ashton put up Christmas decorations, but will they be able to enjoy Christmas with his stalker ex lurking around the corner?

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Gay Romance: 17,557 words

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The Scent of Pine


Ashton Cross glared at the Christmas card in his hand and sighed. It was the fifth. He had to talk to the mailman. The cards weren’t addressed to him, and yet they ended up in his mailbox every other day or so. This one was addressed to Beloved, East Route 12, Apt 11—he was East Route 21 and not in an apartment. And he sure as hell wasn’t Beloved. The last one had been for Precious, and while someone could be named Precious, the lack of surname made him suspect it wasn’t a woman’s name.

The first had been a holiday greeting, nothing stood out about it, and he couldn’t remember the exact wording, but he’d placed it by his coffee maker. The next had only said: I miss you—nothing strange with that either.

The third: Can’t wait until we’re together again.

Ashton hadn’t reacted much to it other than thinking some poor sap was overdoing it. Three cards in a week were a bit much, was it not?

The fourth had unease spreading in his gut. It had said: I will have you before Christmas.

And this last one said: You’ll be home for Christmas.

He couldn’t say outright that they were threats, but it wasn’t what people normally wrote on Christmas cards.

With a sigh, he turned to walk back into the house. His body hurt and his leg shook. He was still on sick leave and feared he’d be so for weeks to come.

Being home all the time was driving him insane.

Swaying, he made it into the kitchen and poured another cup of coffee. He’d go over to the apartment building once he’d rested a little. Hopefully, there would be an elevator.

He sipped on his coffee and held the five cards in his hand. They were all the same design, a vintage-looking Santa and a blank surface. Hideous. Ashton didn’t much care about Christmas cards, but as far as appearances went, these were ugly.

He suspected the intent behind the cards was something other than spreading holiday joy.

With effort, he got to his feet and put the empty cup in the sink. He grabbed his jacket and stepped out into the snow. He should sweep the stairs, but he didn’t think he could. Maybe he could, but then he’d be unable to do anything else for the rest of the day. Megan, his sister, would be over later. She would do it then. He didn’t know how he’d repay her for all she’d done the last couple of months. She did his shopping, his cleaning, his maintenance, and all he did was growl.

He waited for a car to pass before crossing the road. He wasn’t fast, and by the time he reached the sidewalk on the other side, his leg was ready to fold. With a grunt, he rested against the railing outside the apartment building. Three months ago, he’d have already been back home again. Jogging across the street and then finding the right apartment wouldn’t have taken long.

If there was any logic to the apartment numbers, he suspected it was on the second floor, the third if he was unlucky. Now, sweat was threatening to pearl, his side where he’d been sliced by a glass shard burned, and his leg shook.

He pushed away from the railing and yanked open the door—no elevator. Fucking hell! He blew out a breath and checked the apartments listed on the small board by the door. Apt 11 belonged to R. Vidal and was on the second floor.

With a sigh, he grabbed the banister and pulled himself up the first step, then the second, then the third. The cards almost folded in his hand at the tightening of his grip.

R. Vidal—could be a Rose, or a Rachel, or a Rebecca maybe. Whatever her real name was, he hoped the cards would make her happy—though, to be honest, he subjected himself to this torture because he had that niggling feeling. It was what made him a good cop, the sixth sense of knowing when something was wrong without having any evidence it was. He had it now, the alarm bells at the back of his mind were ringing.

When he reached the small landing between floors, he stopped to rest.

No sane person sent five Christmas cards, and all with the same motif. And the wording—Ash couldn’t say for sure they were threats, but…

He continued up the last flight of stairs, sweat not only threatening to break through but making his T-shirt stick to his back. At least he could claim he’d done his physical therapy for the day. A few weeks ago, he never would’ve made it out of his house.

Apartment 11 fronted onto the road, right across from his house. He tried to remember what the windows looked like from outside, but he had never noticed anything special. Eying the mail slot, he considered posting the cards, but then he knocked. He wanted to see who R. Vidal was; wanted to make sure she was okay.