The thing Dan Lewinski loved about Hanukkah, more than the latkes and the menorah, more than the anticipation of nightly gift-giving and large, semi-confrontational family dinners, was his weighted dreidel.
It no longer worked on direct family members of course. They all knew he was a cheat and had long since given up playing the game with him unless they used their own dreidels. But whenever someone new would join Dan for the first-night dinner, Dan would get a glint in his eye, a spring in his step, and start whistling.
“You’re whistling,” Connor said.
Dan turned from where he was setting Connor’s modest dining table to see his boyfriend entering the house, burdened with two bulging paper sacks full of groceries.
“So what if I am?” Dan countered. He went back to setting the table with Connor’s best plates. There were about five different styles of dishware, something Dan’s mother would undoubtedly note and rectify posthaste
“You only whistle when you’re up to something mischievous,” Connor said. He placed the bags on his kitchen counter and came over to kiss Dan. He looked at the set table. “Nice job.”
“I should have brought my plates over from my house.”
“We could do it there,” Connor suggested. They had debated which house would be better for hosting their first joint Hanukkah dinner as a couple. Dan’s had matching cutlery and tasteful, if IKEA, furniture. Connor’s home was a hodgepodge of designs and colors, collected from the years he spent in hiding and picked up on the road.
But Connor’s larger house sat eight comfortably around his dining table, and that had been the critical deciding factor.
In addition to Dan’s parents, Jon and Jennifer Lewinski, they invited Dan’s brother, Steve, and his new girlfriend, Ariel, and Connor’s older sister, Sheila Cole-Bergman, and her husband, Eric.
The official first mingling of relatives had Dan feeling jumpy. His parents and brother had already met Connor, but Sheila and Eric were relatively quiet, unassuming people, and Dan feared they’d find his own family a little—how could he say it?— obnoxious
“Did you get sour cream?” Dan asked.
Connor nodded. He started unloading groceries. “And apple sauce. And barbecue sauce. And your father’s hideous fake salt.”
“Good man.” Dan whistled again, fingering the dreidel in his pocket. It had been a gift from his grandfather on his father’s side, now deceased but forever remembered for his endless affection for pranks and magic stores. It was rare to find a man in his eighties trying to strategically place whoopee cushions and pull coins and batteries out of unsuspecting ears, but Dan’s zayde
had continued the annoying practice until the grim reaper dragged him away.
Dan even thought his zayde’s last words had likely been “Ta da!” but that hadn’t been confirmed by the nursing-home attendant.
Dan took a quick scan around the room for things out of place. There were half a dozen tennis balls lying around, property of Connor’s dogs, Nacho and Nash, but there was no point in putting the toys away early; the dogs would just drag each one out and plop them wetly back on the carpet in front of the nearest homo sapiens.
Other than the dangerous dog toys, the place was spotless. Connor typically kept a tidy house, but the two of them had put their backs into it over the past two days, and the place positively shined with cleanliness. The fir floor glistened. Connor’s dark-purple curtains had no dust anywhere near them; all knickknacks and miscellaneous accoutrements were either dusted and displayed or packed away to leave clear surfaces. White lights framed the two large front windows.
Satisfied the house passed muster, Dan returned to the kitchen and finished unpacking the food while Connor turned on the stove to boil water.
Connor cracked eggs in a bowl. He gave Dan a bright smile before bending to his task. When Connor smiled, his face resembled that of a shy, serene angel.
It was a face Dan had grown to love this past year. Well, two years actually, since he first officially laid eyes on Connor Katz. Connor had been the subject of a year-long investigation on behalf of Connor’s sister, Sheila Cole-Bergman, who’d been worried someone from Connor’s past in the illicit cult of the Conscripted would lure him back, or worse, harm him.
But in March Dan and Connor had been in a plane crash, and they had been the only survivors. Over a difficult and frightening week, during which the two of them had to survive in the Alaskan wilderness, they’d grown close. Connor had initially rejected Dan once he’d learned the only reason Dan had been on the plane was because he’d been following Connor as a private investigator. But they’d subsequently made amends and had dated these past nine months with very little to fight about.
It almost frightened Dan how compatible they were. He expected couples to have misunderstandings, grievances, moments of doubt. And yes, they would occasionally argue, but over stupid things—whether a movie was good or terrible, the best way to deal with Dan’s possibly alcoholic brother, or whose turn it was to do the laundry.
And there were strange tensions unique to Connor, given his unconventional upbringing. Having grown up without the character-shaping experiences of Harry Potter, the internet, or even an awareness of fashion, Connor had to learn how to be a normal American male by pretending. He was smart and a fast learner, but occasionally he did screw things up.
For example, he thought Crocs were a good choice for menswear.
They lived separately but spent nearly every night together, at one house or the other. Lately they’d gravitated more to Connor’s, primarily because he had a fenced yard and it made caring for his two black labs easier.
And Dan found most of his worries about their relationship—whether they’d find enough common ground to keep them together through the boring times as much as the perilous ones—were unfounded. They shared many tastes and affably joked about their differences. They were both early risers, and foodies, and horror movie fanatics. And while Connor was an obsessive artist, almost annoyingly so, it was only as bad as Dan’s own Seahawks obsession.
In other words, their life together was good
. So good, Dan hesitated mentioning anything that might cause discomfort between them. But that strategy had backfired badly when they’d first met. And issues rarely improved with silence and time.
“I talked with Gordon today,” Dan said casually, shelving the pasta.
Connor didn’t acknowledge the comment, attacking eggs in a bowl with a fork.
“You know, my contact at the FBI,” Dan clarified.
“I know.” Connor kept his eyes down.
“He’s given us some tips on how to prepare your evidence to minimize any accusations of tampering.” Dan cleared his throat. “And he thinks you should come in and give a formal witness statement to start their prosecution of Savage.”
Connor’s dark hair hung over his pale face, his light hazel eyes staring at the ingredients in his bowl with obvious tension.
“Never mind.” Dan looked away, folding up the paper bags. “It’s totally your decision, Con. I won’t mention it again.”
At that, Connor looked up. “I don’t mean to dismiss it.”
Connor shrugged. “It’s hard. I’m scared, I suppose.” His shoulders were ramrod straight. “That makes me a coward.”
Dan closed the distance between them. He massaged Connor’s shoulders. “No, it doesn’t. It makes sense to be cautious. And taking the cult’s papers to the feds is going to open a big can of worms, and everything will be out in the open. I get it if you don’t want to.”
Connor huffed. “I want
to. That’s not the issue. I want Savage busted. But…what if this hurts Kyrie? Me?”
“Kyrie is living with your uncle in California—she’s fine. And you have nothing to fear. I’ve got your back, and I’m wicked with a gun. Ex-cop, remember?”
Connor smirked at that. “Great. Shoot my way to freedom.” He pulled Dan into an embrace, and the two of them hugged each other tightly. “Let’s not think about it tonight, all right? Let me enjoy the holiday, and then I’ll get back to the FBI and the fucking cult. But right now, I want to forget it.”
Dan didn’t voice his concern—that they’d avoided it for months now. He knew Connor wanted revenge, and wanted justice, but whenever Dan tried to help him forward with his plans, Connor stepped back.
And every time he did, that fucker Mark Savage continued to operate, taking innocent peoples’ money, blackmailing and brainwashing his way into controlling them, and getting rich on their labor and suffering.
But Connor knew this far better than Dan did. He
was the one who’d experienced the abuse and betrayal firsthand. He was the one who’d had to yank his younger sister, Kyrie, from the cult against her will. She was the one in ex-cult therapy. It was their story to tell. So if Connor wanted to have a chance to enjoy himself, who was Dan to kill that plan?
Dan didn’t answer with words. He moved back slightly so he could kiss Connor instead.
It amazed Dan that he would still want this, after all these months of kissing. He’d grown tired of kissing in the past, with other partners. The wet, sloppy embrace, the bumping of teeth and the taste of someone else’s mouth, the frustratingly slow build of pleasure. Why kiss when you had permission to simply drop to your knees and suck cock instead?
But Connor made kissing worthwhile. He cupped the back of Dan’s neck, holding him gently but unforgivingly, rough cheeks and soft lips, playing over Dan’s mouth with a series of slow kisses, a lick, and a gentle venture inside, just the tip of his tongue.
And Dan would open his lips and the kiss would immediately fill him with need, and every time Dan’s tongue plunged deep into Connor’s mouth a reciprocal surge and thrust would raise his cock as he imagined other hot, soft places that Dan could push into.