Mike leaned back in his chair and took another gulp of the dark amber liquid in his glass. He’d stopped feeling the burn in the back of his throat two – no – three glasses prior. Coming to The Stag was obviously a bad idea. It was supposed to be drinks (yup, covered that), conversation with his best friend, Tim (kind of, sort of, maybe, if Mike was paying attention), and a game on the big screen (nope – not happening). Instead of watching the Patriots kick some ass, he was witnessing an explosion of Christmas cheer.
Evergreen garland, lit with little white lights and festooned with big red velvet bows, was strung across the bar, around the jukebox, around every window, and hung from corner to corner along the rafters. Kissing balls and mistletoe were hung at intervals on those rough wooden beams above his head, and an enormous tree freshly dragged in from the forest was being strung with lights and decorated.
He wasn’t usually so bah-humbug. In fact, previous years would have had him right in the center of the activity wearing a pair of antlers on top of his Santa hat and singing along with the Christmas music Jeremy Larkin was currently playing on the upright piano. Not this year. Mike had no desire to be Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree. Lifting his glass to his lips, he drained the contents and then poured another from the bottle Conner had been nice enough to leave.
A squeal and a laugh had Mike snarling as Elizabeth Larkin, Jeremy’s mother, ran past his table with her mate Conner Pierce in hot pursuit, a sprig of mistletoe held out before him as he made loud kissing noises.
“What’s your problem?” Tim asked, confusion plain on his features.
Well, that was the question of the night wasn’t it? There was no denying it: Mike Myers, normally Mister Happy-Go-Lucky, was jealous. Jealous of Conner Pierce chasing his mate around playfully. Jealous of Jacob Pierce who was currently holding his mate’s waist as Constance Tully stood on a step-stool and placed an ornament on one of the highest branches. Jealous of the way she looked back over her shoulder at Jacob, both of them smiling and looking at each other with such adoration it made Mike’s chest ache. He was also jealous of Tarvahl Pierce who was standing off to the side, supervising; his long-time mate, Sherry, was wrapped in his arms before him, her head tilted back against her male’s broad shoulder, a content smile on her face.
It seemed like everyone was in love. Even Tim had a girlfriend; a human nurse he’d been dating and who he would probably be with right now if she wasn’t currently on shift. Mike took another drink and swiped his hand over his mouth. “Nothing.” He tried to focus on his friend across the table, but Tim was looking a little fuzzy. Yup, it would seem the liquor was finally kicking in – and kicking his ass. Tomorrow was bound to have him waking up to the headache from hell.
He looked past Tim to the couples still decorating the bar. Wouldn’t it be nice to wake up next to someone special? To feel them pressed against you, to smell their skin, feel their warmth? Mike was willing to bet it was one of the best feelings in the world.
He shook his head and then promptly wished he hadn’t as the entire place seemed to lurch sideways. Or maybe that was him? Damn. He needed to get home and sleep off the booze so that he could shake the melancholy. Obviously whiskey made him maudlin and he’d do well to remember that so he could avoid this in the future. Standing, he had to brace a hand on the table to keep the floor from tilting under his feet.
“You leaving?” Tim asked, downing the remainder of his drink and standing as well. “I’ll walk with you.”
Small towns may suck for finding a mate, but it sure was nice when you were drunk off your ass. Everything in town was within walking distance. Including Mike’s place which was above the garage he owned, and pretty much right across the street. In fact, he could see the place from the window that was lined with garland and blinking madly with twinkle lights. Maybe Santa could bring him a mate.
The random thought suddenly had him laughing as he lurched awkwardly toward the door, composing the letter in his head: Dear Santa, I’ve been a good boy all year… Pushing through the door, and stumbling out onto the sidewalk, Mike was hit with a blast of cold. The chill should have sobered him slightly, but instead, one minute he was standing, looking across Main Street toward his garage and the next he was flat on his back looking up at the sky.
It was a nice night; cold but clear. The sky looked like a swath of black velvet covered with diamonds and a single pearl for the moon. “Pretty.”
Suddenly Tim’s face was all he could see as the male leaned over him. As if he was speaking to a toddler, the big guy said, “Hey, buddy. Watcha doin’?”
Mike blinked in confusion. What was he doing? He didn’t remember falling, but he must have. Then again, nothing hurt, so maybe he had just laid down for a rest? Past Tim’s ear, a star twinkled as if it was winking at Mike. Maybe if he wished on that star…
Tim’s big paw of a hand was thrust in Mike’s face as his best friend offered to help him up. Taking it, he felt weightless for a moment as he was pulled upward and placed firmly back on his booted feet. A clap on the back from Tim and a grip on his arm for support as the two of them crossed the road toward the garage.
“So is Nurse Jennifer your soulmate?” Mike slurred as he fumbled with the keys. God, he was sloppy drunk. Bed. He needed his bed. But first he had to figure out how to open the damn door.
Tim let out a little chuckle and took the keys from him, easily sliding the right key into the lock. What a show off. Though Mike was grateful for the supportive hand as he stumbled through the door and even more grateful as Tim helped him up the stairs and into bed. His lonely, empty bed. “So is she?”
“Is who what?”
“Is Jennifer your soulmate?” Mike’s eyes were closed, but he could hear Tim moving around, he could even hear him shrug, and how weird was that?
Tim sighed, one of those content little sighs that pretty much answered Mike’s question for him. Yup, his buddy was in love. Lucky bastard.
“She’s awesome; so smart, and funny, and we have so much in common…” Tim’s voice trailed off and Mike let out a sigh of his own, though his was wistful. “I bet she laughs at your jokes. That would be nice. I think I’d like a female that laughs at my jokes.” Mike pulled one of his pillows to his chest and squeezed. “Does she like to cuddle?”
Tim let out a laugh and set a glass of water and two ibuprofen on the bedside table near Mike’s head. “Okay, buddy, enough about Jennifer. I don’t need you dreaming about my woman. I’m going to head out. Take those and call me in the morning.”
Mike let out a little snort at that joke but then sobered. “I’m glad you found her.”
Tim’s face settled into serious lines as well as he nodded. “I am too.” Then he cocked his head toward the window and lifted his chin, “Your mate’s out there, bud. You’ll find her.” Turning toward the door to leave Tim raised his arm over his head in a wave. “Night.”
“Night.” Mike repeated, giving his pillow another squeeze and inhaling the freshly laundered scent, wishing instead for the fragrance of a female – his female. Looking out the window he spotted that star again. It was so bright, perfect for wishing. Was that even a star? Maybe that was Venus. He wasn’t exactly sober, and even if he were, astronomy had never been a hobby of his. What the hell, right? It couldn’t hurt. Wasn’t there a book or a movie or something called Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus? So maybe Venus was the perfect place to cast his wish. Whether he wished on a star, prayed to God, the man in the moon, or wrote a letter to Santa, the desire was the same: Mike Myers wanted to find love.
Closing his eyes, he took a deep breath… And made a wish.
Find out if Mike’s wish comes true in the next Malsum Pass novel coming spring 2018!