The habit of silence is hard to break.
Isolated by a cold and lonely past, David was on his own until Seth came along. Together they've forged a life full of love, friendship, and scorching hot sex. But just days before Christmas, David discovers a long buried secret that sheds new light on the father who rejected him.
The revelation dredges up painful memories and threatens to exile him to an icy land of silence. When Seth opens their home to a young man in trouble, David withdraws even more in a misguided effort to deal with his confusion and jealousy. The fact that the bookshop he's worked at since high school is in danger of closing just makes everything worse. Seth wants him to talk about his problems, but what good are words when they can't pierce his unresolved grief?
Seth is worried about David. Something's wrong and he won't talk about it. Day by day, he's closing himself off, and everything Seth does to try to reach him just drives them further apart. As the holiday's approach, both men will learn valuable lessons from unexpected sources, but the most important will be the secret to melting a frozen heart.
The next time Trina came to the bookstore, she wasn’t alone. “Come on,” she said to someone still outside. “It’s okay, I told you. He’s really nice.” She looked over at David and grinned. “She’s nervous.”
“I don’t bite,” he said.
“Did you hear that? Come on. Do you want the new Vivian Vixen book or not?”
Eventually, Trina coaxed her friend, a tall blonde with an angular face, into the store. “Amanda, this is David. He’s cool.”
Amanda still looked like she might bolt for the door at any moment. David came out from behind the counter and held out his hand. “Amanda. Welcome to Haverstock Bookshop. How can I help you?”
Amanda shook hands with him and managed a smile, but when she spoke, her voice was barely audible. “Um. There’s a new book out -- Bound by Love by Vivian Vixen? It’s… You ordered Surrender for her…” She looked at Trina. “Can you…?”
“Yeah. Absolutely,” said David, welcoming the distraction. He took a deep breath to fight off his weariness. He wasn’t getting very much sleep at night. Worries about the store closing took turns with anger and betrayal over the secrets his dad and Mr. Haverstock had kept from him. Between them, he was up most nights. And of course Case was still staying with them, and David and Seth hadn’t attempted sex again since the disaster. And on top of everything else, Seth kept giving him the strangest looks, like David was somehow making him very sad, even though he wasn’t doing anything at all. All in all this was shaping up to be a pretty crappy Christmas. Trina and Amanda were pretty much the only bright spot on the horizon.
He went to the computer behind the counter and did a search for the title and author. “Beltane is the publisher?” he asked when the results came up.
But the book was only available as a download. No print edition. “I’m sorry. It’s digital only right now. Do you have an e-reader or a laptop?”
She shook her head.
“Amanda’s like me,” said Trina. “Just the one computer at home. She can’t really have anything on it that’s…”
“For mature readers, I understand,” said David.
Amanda flashed gave him a wide-eyed stare, and he smiled at her. “What about your phone?”
“Yeah, can you open a text file in it?”
"I don't know. It's a smartphone, but I'm not very good with it." She looked like she was adrift at sea.
David glanced at Trina. She nodded at him. “Can I see your phone? I might be able to load the book on there for you.”
Trina elbowed Amanda, who snapped out of her haze of confusion and dug in her purse until she came up with her phone.
David spent some time fiddling with it and eventually found an app that enabled her to purchase the book from a reseller site and download it, all right on her phone. He showed her how it worked.
"Oh, that's easy!" she said.
"Yeah." He realized he'd just made himself obsolete.
“Thank you!” Amanda took his hand and squeezed it. “Thank you so much.” She looked to Trina. “You were right. He’s amazing.”
“I told you.”
David looked from one woman to anotherthe other. “It’s no big deal. I’m a bookseller. It’s my job.”
“No, you don’t understand,” said Trina. “These books -- they’re m/m erotic romance.”
Amanda nodded. “Male/male.”
“Oh yeah, I figured that. I mean,” -- he nodded at Trina -- “ the cover of Surrender -- it had was obviously about two guys on it and they obviously weren't just friends. So what?”
The two women laughed.
“So what? He says, ‘So what?’” cried Amanda, jumping up and down a little.
“We’re not gay men,” said Trina.
“I can tell,” said David.
“So, the ‘so what’ is that a lot of people -- a lot of people -- think there’s something really strange about us for liking these stories.”
“They think we’re perverts,” blurted Amanda. “When I was fourteen, my parents found my Picard/Data fanfic, and they made me go to a psychiatrist.”
“My mother-in-law thinks I’m a closet lesbian,” said Trina.
“I am a lesbian,” said Amanda, “and my partner thinks I’m exploiting gay men.”
“Everybody has an opinion,” said Trina. Both women sighed.
“Wow. That’s -- Pardon me, but…that’s totally fucked-up. You’re just reading, for crying out loud. It’s none of their business!”
They grinned. “That’s why we like you,” said Trina.
David felt himself blush. “Thanks. You come here whenever you want. If we don’t stock it, I’ll order it for you, no judgment, no questions, okay?”
“Okay!” said Amanda, who seemed to have come out of her shell all of a sudden. “So what do I owe you?”
“For the book.”
“Oh no,” said David. “You already paid for it when you ordered it from the Web site. All I just helpeddid was help you load it onto your phone.”
“So?” She looked quite severe when she frowned. David wouldn’t like her to be angry with him. “Your time is worth money, and not many people would bother to do that. I’m paying you something.”
“Yeah,” chimed in Trina. “You have to let her pay you.”
“I can’t just let you give me money for nothing. That’s fraud. Businesses get in trouble for stuff like that.”
Amanda made a snort of disgust and started browsing the store. “Here. I definitely need one of these,” she said, returning with a thick volume entitled Cross-pollination: 100 Years of Lesbian Feminist Thought. It was twenty-nine dollars.
Trina raised an eyebrow.
“Oh come on, you guys,” said Amanda. “I bet there’s some really good stuff in here. Besides, I’ll put it on the bedside table, and it’ll keep my girlfriend off my case for months.” She paused. “I’ll probably get laid more often too.”
David rang her up.
“I’ll be back,” said Amanda. “And I’m telling all my pervy m/m friends about you too.”
David’s grin faltered. “Oh, um. Actually, if you want anything more, you’d better hurry. We, uh, I don’t think we’ll be in business much longer.”
“What?” said Trina.
“No!” said Amanda. “This can’t happen! We just found you.”
“Why are you closing?” asked Trina.
The looks on their faces made him feel even worse about the news. “We’re not making a profit.” There’d been so many confusing developments since Haverstock had told him about the closing, he’d forgotten the simple sorrow of the fact that in a few short days the bookshop would be gone. Now it hit him full force. “I’m sorry.”
“It’s not your fault,” said Trina.
“I know.” David wondered if there was a way that the three of them could help each other. “So, um. Are there a lot of women who like m/m?”