Christmas Campaign

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ISBN: 978-1-61581-301-8

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Dillon McAllister lost his partner almost two years ago, and he's tired of being alone. Unfortunately, when handsome co-worker Peter Storrs asked him out on a date last month, Dillon got cold feet and turned him down. As Christmas nears, Dillon regrets that decision, but Peter has been avoiding him ever since. Dillon is going to have to launch a campaign to win Peter's trust - and his heart.

DILLON MCALLISTER wiped his sweating hands on a napkin, crinkled it up, and stuffed it into his coat pocket. He didn't see Peter's car in the lot yet, so he still had time to calm down before heading to Peter's office. Why am I so nervous? He stepped out of the car and leaned in to grab the two cups of coffee and his briefcase. Supposedly he likes me, but Peter was almost cold toward me yesterday, and that's so unlike him. I really hope that I can get him to change his mind about me, or I'll feel really stupid about this whole campaign idea. It had all started last week at Thanksgiving...

*****

DILLON sighed as he put away the last of the Thanksgiving leftovers. His holiday meal was delicious, especially since he had cooked his favorite foods, but he really hadn't enjoyed it very much. He was just plain lonely and bored with his own company. He was estranged from his family, and his best friend, Jen Sorensen, was with her family. He had met Jen at work almost five years ago, and they were very close.

"I know - it's my own fault," he muttered. He had turned down an invitation to Jen's family dinner, but he just didn't think he'd be comfortable participating in a loud, raucous Thanksgiving dinner, much as he loved her. Her immediate family - parents, sister, and brother - was terrific to him, but he would still feel uncomfortable as her entire extended family would be there, most of whom he didn't know.

There would be questions about his relationship with Jen; she was his best friend but nothing else. Her immediate family knew he was gay, but he didn't want to have to explain their relationship to some of her more traditional-minded relatives, who didn't support gay rights and were very religious. It would just lead to trouble. Jen tried to change his mind, but all he really wanted to do was relax today and not get drawn into a fight.

Dillon morosely grabbed his coffee and went into the living room to turn on the TV, knowing he would probably watch some really sappy Christmas movie. He really missed his partner of four years, Jesse. They had lived happily together and entertained often, having many of their friends over for wonderful dinners and parties, especially around the holidays. Both he and Jesse were great cooks and loved to experiment with different kinds of foods and ingredients.

Holidays just hadn't been the same since Jesse was killed by a drunk driver nineteen months and sixteen days ago, not that he was counting or anything. He knew it was time to move on and start dating again - as Jen had starting pointing out more and more often lately - but he just couldn't seem to get over his anguish at losing Jesse. Going on a date with someone new always seemed like cheating on Jesse, although he knew it was illogical.

Just last month, for instance, he turned down a date with Peter Storrs, even though he was secretly attracted to him. Peter was gorgeous and really nice, and lately Dillon had become very aware of Peter whenever he was close by.

Dillon glanced at the cable program directory on the screen and chose It's a Wonderful Life to watch for the umpteenth time. He loved this movie, and was generally excited to see it available, as it announced the real start of the Christmas holiday season to him. He loved the period between Thanksgiving and New Year's, with all the lights, the happier moods of his friends and co-workers, the parties, and the joy of giving and receiving gifts with his friends. Last Christmas was not worth remembering, though, and he really didn't think he could go through another boring, lonely holiday like today. It was time to change his perspective and get out there.

During the years they were together, he and Jesse had created their own family of friends to replace their biological families, both of which had rejected them due to their sexuality. They had formed a close group of friends, both gay and straight, and he loved them all. He was still very close to his friends, and they had been invaluable in helping him cope with losing Jesse. He didn't know what he would ever do without them.

As he thought about it, Dillon realized he hadn't heard of any parties yet this year, but then again, maybe he wasn't on the invitee list since he hadn't attended one after Jesse died. All of a sudden, he sat up straight, ignoring the TV.

"Oh, my God! I'll throw my own party!" It could be a way to thank his friends for helping him, for putting up with his dark moods, and for not deserting him when he needed them the most.

The more he contemplated this idea, the more he liked it. He missed the cooking and all the planning involved in throwing the elaborate parties he and Jesse used to have. He would obviously have to pare down the menu a bit since it was just him, but he started getting more and more excited about the idea. He would throw a New Year's Eve party! He hadn't heard that anyone else was having one yet, and it was hopefully early enough in the holiday season that he could be first with his invitations.

Dillon grabbed the pad of paper on his coffee table, left there after planning the shopping list for his Thanksgiving meal. He started listing all the friends he wanted to invite but suddenly stopped. He didn't want to spend Christmas and New Year's Eve alone this year. He decided then and there that he would somehow get Peter to be there with him. He hadn't stopped thinking about him or wondering what would have happened if he had said yes to Peter's invitation.

Dillon looked at the clock and realized it wasn't too late to call Jen. He grabbed his cell phone and hit the speed-dial.

"Dillon? You okay?" Jen asked.

"I'm actually feeling pretty good!" Dillon replied. "I just had a brilliant idea. What would you think of me throwing a New Year's Eve party for everyone? I owe everyone so much for helping me cope without Jesse, and I suddenly feel like giving a party."

"Oh, Dillon, that's a terrific idea. I haven't heard about anyone else planning one yet, have you?"

"Nope. Okay, consider yourself invited. I'll actually get real invitations this weekend, but put it in your calendar."

"Dillon, I'm so glad you're doing this. I'll be happy to help with anything!" Dillon grinned to himself, as it was a well-known fact that his friend couldn't even boil water. Jen paused for a couple of seconds and asked, "You're going to have a date for this too, right?" She was pushing again, as usual. Dillon smiled. Trust Jen to get to the heart of the matter.

"Yes. I've decided that I want to get to know Peter better," he said, "but I'll have to come up with a way to get his attention back after turning him down last month. Do you think he's still interested? He's the only guy I've been attracted to for ages, but he's been avoiding me at work."

Jen chuckled, and said, "What do you expect? He finally gets up his courage to ask out the hunkiest guy at the office and gets turned down! You're going to have to think of something really nice to win him over - I know he was upset. He really likes you, Dillon."

Dillon sighed. "I like him too. I've decided that I'm going to come out of mourning, and I really don't want to be alone for the holidays this year. Today was dismal all by myself. I know, I know - I could have been with you, but I just couldn't face all your judgmental aunts and uncles."

"Yeah, I know. It just wasn't as much fun this year without you - we all missed you. I think my mom and dad realized why you didn't come this year, and they've already told me that they will never again host everyone for the holidays. My relatives are just way too straight-laced for us. Not only that; but having a household filled with all these people is just way too much work! You would have been miserable, Dillon. My aunts and uncles, and some of my cousins, are just too fundamental. They were espousing their views on gay marriage at dinner, and eventually Dad just cut them off and changed the subject. God, some of them are just ridiculously backward!"

Dillon groaned and said, "Thank goodness I didn't go, then. You know me, I wouldn't have been able to resist a good argument over gay rights and it sounds to me like it would have been like trying to break down a brick wall."

Jen agreed and brought the subject back to Peter. "What are you going to do to get Peter interested in you again? I haven't heard that he's dating anyone else, but I'll check for you."

"Okay, thanks. I don't really know," he sighed. "But I'll think about it tonight while I start planning the party. I want him to be my date, but I want to spend some time at Christmas with him too, not just partying. I really want a relationship, Jen. I miss having someone to come home to, someone to send silly instant-message love notes, and someone to Christmas shop for. Of course, I don't know if Peter is that someone, but he's the only one I've been attracted to for eons. He's just so nice and thoughtful. And God, he is hot!"

Jen burst out laughing. "Oh yeah, the old Dillon is back!"

Dillon smiled. Maybe he was almost back, but he would always miss Jesse. He would be there in Dillon's heart, always remembered with deep love and affection, but he realized life does go on. Dillon was ready to leave his cocoon and start living again. He chatted for a few more minutes with Jen and eventually hung up the phone feeling better than he had in ages. He had some planning to do.

On Saturday, after relaxing all day Friday by watching TV, reading cookbooks, and napping, Dillon braved the party store and chose some classy invitations for his New Year's Eve bash. He had decided to make it semi-formal and go all out with different foods and some nice live music in the background. Fortunately he had a great house designed for giving parties; it had an open floor plan, so he didn't have to rent a hall somewhere.

After living together for two years, he and Jesse had asked a friend who worked at an architectural firm to design a house for them, and they had loved the open layout and professionally designed kitchen. When Jesse had been killed, Dillon had received enough money between the settlement and Jesse's life insurance to pay off the mortgage and have some left over to make life comfortable. He was glad now that he had decided to stay in the house and not move.

While at the store, he checked out decorations and decided he'd come back to get some things after Christmas. He spent the rest of Saturday and Sunday looking at recipes, making out the invitations, and watching food shows. He was getting really excited about having the party, and in the back of his mind he kept thinking about Peter.

He first met him when Peter started at his company about three years ago. Dillon worked at a mid-sized marketing consulting firm, managing client relations as well as the client projects they did. Both Dillon and Peter had similar jobs, and Peter had trained with him for almost a month to learn how to set up and manage research projects. They had hit it off, but Dillon was with Jesse, so they remained friendly but not close. Thinking back, he thought Peter might have been attracted to him even then, but Dillon never really thought much about it. He was so happy in his relationship and pretty oblivious to anyone else.

Peter was originally quiet around Dillon, but eventually opened up to show his great sense of humor and keen intellect. They spent a lot of time learning about each other while also learning to work together. He thought Peter was hot. He was tall - at least six feet, which was a couple of inches taller than Dillon. He was lanky rather than strongly muscled, but had broad shoulders and narrow hips. His muscled legs were incredibly long, and they held up a really nice, tight ass.

Dillon was sure Peter worked out because he was so lean - more like a runner than a gym rat. Peter's mahogany hair was long, down past his shoulders, although he usually wore it tied back in a ponytail to look more professional. It was the most beautiful color of hair Dillon had ever seen, with many shades of red and brown that shone in any light. Peter had nicely shaped, dark eyebrows, a somewhat small nose that went well with his large brown eyes, and a beautiful mouth with lush lips that smiled often, showing off nice, white teeth.

Dillon remembered when Peter had asked him out. They were both in the break room pouring coffee, and Peter had smiled at him and asked how he was doing. Dillon wasn't totally together that day. He had stayed out late the previous evening with clients after attending an all-day trade show and had gotten home in the early morning. He had blearily smiled back and joked about crazy client outings. Peter had asked if Dillon wanted to go see a baseball game the next night, because he had gotten tickets from a client and remembered that Dillon had spoken a lot about baseball when they were training together.

Dillon was kind of shocked to be asked out by Peter and had briefly mumbled that he had previous plans, although he really didn't, and then he had left the break room hurriedly to get back to his office. He hadn't been very nice, Dillon recalled. He hadn't thanked Peter for thinking of him, for instance, or turned him down nicely, or even suggested an alternative outing. He had just mumbled his no thanks and escaped the room quickly. No wonder Peter was avoiding him.

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