Since Hat Trick takes place during a high school’s hockey season, the book includes chapters over the holidays. As with Thanksgiving, Simon and Alex are together at Christmas. This time, however, it’s an out of town trip to visit Alex’s grandparents.
In the spirit of holiday giving, there are three chances coming up to win copies of Hat Trick between now and Christmas Day so you can pickup a free copy of the book. It could be a gift for yourself or a gift for someone else.
Below is an excerpt from the Christmas Break chapter of Hat Trick so you can see what Simon and Alex are up to for the holiday. Hat Trick is available from many online retailers in ebook and paperback.
I hope everyone has a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! And stay tuned, the story of Simon & Alex will continue in 2014.
“You okay? You’re shaking a bit.”
“Nervous,” I said, as my hand closed around Alex’s. “I didn’t think I’d be this jittery about meeting more of your family.”
Alex squeezed my hand as we followed his parents up the driveway to his grandparent’s house in Boston. “You know, we did tell them you’re coming. It’s not like you’re a surprise.”
“I know. I just don’t want you guys to have any stress over Christmas.”
“It’ll be fine. And, hey, I’m thrilled you’re here. There’s no one I’d rather spend Christmas with.”
“Me, too. I love Leo and his folks, but it was going to be a long week without you.”
“And I’m happy I get to introduce you to some of my friends. I’ve gushed about you for weeks now.”
Being gushed about! That was awesome. After the chaos at school since Thanksgiving, it was good to be somewhere different. We walked up the front stairs as the door opened. Alex’s grandmother was a small woman; everyone was taller than her. She had a warm, welcoming smile and I knew immediately this was a good place to be.
“You’re here! I told your father not to go to the store right now.” She came out on to the porch and hugged her son tight. “It’s good to see you, Johnny. And Martha, Merry Christmas.” She gave another big hug to Alex’s mom.
“Merry Christmas, Mom,” Mr. Miller said.
“Yes, Merry Christmas,” Mrs. Miller said. “It’s good to be home again.”
“And Alex, the hockey star. Come here.” He stepped forward into yet another big hug. I wasn’t used to seeing all this love pour out at a family gathering. “I’ve heard everything from your father. Will we see you play this week?”
“I think so, Na-Na. We’ve brought the gear and Kevin’s pretty sure he’ll have enough people to make a game out of it.”
“Good. I’m looking forward to it. We’re so proud of your scholarship. We’ve told everyone.” She let Alex go. “Now, let me meet this one. You must be Simon.”
“Yes, hi, Mrs. Miller. It’s great to meet you.”
I didn’t know if I should shake her hand, hug her, or what.
“Come here,” she said. We moved towards each other at the same time. “You get a hug, too. I’m happy to meet you. I’ve heard a lot about you from Johnny and Martha.” I got the same huge, loving hug. “We’re glad you’re here. Do I get to see you play, too?”
“Good. And no Mrs. Miller either. You can call me Na-Na just like he does. You’re part of the family.”
“Thank you. And thanks for having me here.”
“You’re very welcome.” She released the hug. “Let’s get inside before we all freeze to death.”
“Boys, can you unload the car?” Alex’s dad asked.
“Sure thing,” Alex said.
We headed back to the SUV.
“Wow,” I said as we grabbed the first of the suitcases. “That was amazing. She’s so…so…I don’t know. Cool doesn’t even begin to say it.”
“She’s great. Grandpa Jake is, too.”
“I got a great guy that comes with a great family. Can it get any better?”
I hugged Alex, right there in the driveway. It was getting easier to do that in public these days. We’re weren’t doing any major making out, of course, but we’d hold hands or hug or steal a quick kiss. We grabbed suitcases and took them into the foyer and then went back for another load.
“We’ll see how you feel after the embarrassing stories. You’ve gotten a few from my mom. Na-Na is the keeper of a lot of the stories, and she’s got the photos to back most of it up.”
“Oooooohhhh. That’s going to be fun.”
“Be nice,” Alex said. “You have to put up with me the entire week, you know.”
He grabbed one box of presents.
“That’s not going to be a problem.”
I grabbed the other and we went back to the house.
“I hope you like my friends. Hell, I hope I still like my friends. We didn’t come home last Christmas, so it’s been a while since I’ve seen them. Kevin’s the only one I talk with regularly.”
“I’m sure I’ll like them. You’ve got good taste in people from what I’ve seen.”
“Hmm. I think you have to say that.” Alex gave me one of those quick kisses. “I’m going to open up the garage. We can store the hockey bags in there. Back in a second.” Alex headed deeper into the house and I went back out to unload the gear.
A car came into the driveway and honked as it went past.
“Grandpa,” I heard Alex shout excitedly as the car door closed.
“Alex! How long have you been here?”
“Only a few minutes. Simon and I are just unloading. Simon? Simon, come up here and meet my grandpa.”
I heard the excitement in his voice, so I jogged up the driveway to say hello.
“Pleasure to meet you, sir.”
Grandpa Jake extended his hand for a shake and I met it firmly and then he pulled me into a hug. “Nice to meet you, Simon. Thanks for making the trip up to see us.”
“It’s good to be here. Thank you, sir.”
“I’ll let you boys finish up and I’ll get these things to Carol.”
We went back out to get the gear. I grabbed my bag and sticks and Alex took his.
“I’m officially in love with your family,” I said.
“We can leave this stuff over here,” he said as we got back to the garage. “Yeah, Grandpa Jake is great. He’s the one that got me my first pair of skates and taught me how to stay up on them. I guess he’s really responsible for getting me on the road to the scholarship, and to you for that matter.”
“Aw. I love it when you say stuff like that.”
I grabbed a quick kiss.
“Come on, let’s get everything put away. You and I have a pick-up game in about an hour.”
“Yup. Kevin texted me right before I opened the garage. The coach from my old school asked Kevin to have me come practice with the guys this afternoon. It’s their last practice before break.”
“Scrimmage run by another coach, that’ll be interesting.”
We came into the kitchen and everyone was sitting around the table drinking coffee. “Can we borrow the car to go to the school? Kevin’s invited us to practice. And, Na-Na, we’ve got the school’s rink tomorrow at two, so we’re all set.”
“Perfect. Can we invite some other people since it’s at the school? We’d love to show you off.”
“Can I pretend I don’t know about that?” Alex asked, blushing slightly.
“I didn’t say a word.”
She smiled a big, proud smile.
“Say hi to Kevin for us. We’ll see him tomorrow,” Alex’s dad said as he threw him the keys.
“Will you be back for dinner? Should be right at six,” Na-Na said.
“Yes, definitely. Wouldn’t miss dinner for anything. We’re gonna go up and get unpacked before we go. Which rooms, please?”
“You guys can take the room across from the bathroom,” Na-Na said.
Alex and I traded a brief, shocked look.
“Okay. Great. Thanks,” Alex said. I followed him out of the kitchen and we grabbed our suitcases from the foyer.
“Wow,” I said, quietly as we headed down the hallway.
“Yeah. I didn’t expect to get to share a room.”
* * * *
I opened one eye and found Alex looking at me. His head was propped up on one hand. Basically he was staring, and smiling.
“How long have you been like that?” I asked, sounding half asleep.
I rubbed my eyes, trying to get them focused. The smells coming from the kitchen were incredible. The strongest of them were bacon and maple syrup.
“Few minutes. Couldn’t help it. You were adorable.” He kissed me on the mouth, a soft gentle kiss. The perfect Christmas morning kiss. I returned it delicately.
“Merry Christmas, Simon.”
He kissed me again, and nestled his body against mine. I wrapped my arms around him and nibbled on his lips. He moaned very softly as he nuzzled my beard against his face.
“And Merry Christmas to you, too,” I said as the nuzzling continued. “This already ranks as the best Christmas ever.”
“The first of many.”
“And you saying that is a perfect present, too,” I said, running my hands through his hair. “Actually the whole trip has been a great present. Your grandparents are great. Your friends, especially Kevin, are awesome. I loved that Kevin gave me the same talk that Jackson gave you. It was hard to not laugh because it was so déjà vu.”
“Speaking of presents.”
Alex rolled away and reached over the edge of the bed.
“Hey, come back here,” I said, grabbing his shoulder to pull him back.
Alex laughed softly.
“One second.” He leaned a little further off the bed before finally coming back. “Here we go.” He held out a small package, wrapped in Sunday comics. “For you. I wanted to give it to you when it was just the two of us.”
I smiled and sat up, my back against the headboard. I took the flat package and ran my hands over it, trying to figure out what was inside.
“You haven’t even opened it yet.”
“Doesn’t matter. Presents in bed on Christmas morning, it doesn’t matter what it is.”
I tussled Alex’s already well-tussled bed head before I tore the wrapping paper to shreds.
Inside were two leather bracelets, each with a purple stone, a red stone, and a black stone between them. I laid one across my wrist. Without asking, I knew one was for him.
“I love them.”
Alex smiled big. “I wanted something more interesting than trading class rings or letter jackets, something more special, so I made these.”
“You made them? Oh, wow.”
I held the bracelet up, looking at the detailing of the twisted pieces of leather, how they held the stones in place. I felt the rougher texture of the leather in contrast to the smooth stones.
“It’s a bit of Boy Scout training from when I was like eight, along with a little help from the bead store in Norwalk.”
“I love it.” I sank back down in the bed and pulled him on top of me. “I love you. Thank you for a great Christmas.”
“I wouldn’t want it any other way. It’s been a crazy month. I’m glad to be out of town and away with you.”
Alex slipped his tongue in my mouth, going for a deep kiss. I sighed in contentment as he wrapped me tight in his arms.
A gentle knock on the door stopped the kissing and Alex rolled off of me.
“Hello?” Alex called out. “Come in.”
“G’ morning boys,” Alex’s dad said as he opened the door. “Mom sent me up to tell you guys that breakfast is in about fifteen minutes.”
“I knew something smelled good,” I said.
“You’ve no idea,” Alex said. “The food you’ve had so far is nothing compared to Christmas breakfast.”
“He’s right on that. See you guys in a few minutes.” He closed the door.
“Let’s get this on you,” Alex said.
He took one of the bracelets and quickly tied it to my left wrist.
“So, the purple stone is you, of course, for your favorite color and the red is mine. The black represents a puck since that’s how we met.”
“It’s perfect.” I admired it on my wrist. “My turn.”
I took the other bracelet and tried to put it on his left wrist.
“Okay, clearly I didn’t do the Boy Scouts.”
“Clearly.” He kissed my hand. “I’ll take you through it.”
He talked me through the six steps to get the leather strip tied to his wrist.
“See. Perfect.” He laid his wrist next to mine.
“I have a little something for you, too. I didn’t plan as well as you, so I’m going to have to get up to get it.”
I hopped up from the bed, and went over to my duffel bag across the room. Quickly, I jumped back on the bed with a neatly wrapped package.
I held out the package. “Merry Christmas, Alex.”
Alex sat up and tore into the package. He looked at the framed photo and smiled.
“When was this taken?”
“It was the Kilpatrick game. It’s perfect because we always do the touching helmets thing now. The perspective is great, showing our backs with names across the jerseys. I’m sure the yearbook photographer thought we were talking strategy or something. Anyway, Leo found it in a stack of yearbook photos he was reviewing and showed it to me. I loved it and asked for a copy.”
“It’s perfect.” He put the photo on the nightstand. “Thank you.” He snuggled next to me for a moment. “I love you.”
“Love you, too.” I kissed the top of his head. “Do you think we could come back up here later? I like this Christmas snuggle.”
“We’ll get back up here, for sure.”