Thursday, November 28, 2013

Turkey Jerky - Chapter 5

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Please enjoy the last chapter of my short blog story for November.

Hugs and Purrs from Fat Cat and Me!!
Chapter 5
Thursday, November 28

Though he had been well organized up until this point, there was still a crazed flurry of action filled the kitchen on the morning of Thanksgiving. It was unlike anything Landon saw in their well-kept townhome. Delicious smells wafted from the double wall ovens and various pots bubbling and brewing on the stovetop. From his pre-ordered spot against the far side of the bar counter, he watched his partner, Maxwell, covered in the most ridiculous 'Kiss the Chef' apron move from a counter where he had a small binder filled with plastic covered recipes, rush to the stove to stir one pot, to the island butcher-block top where he had bags full of vegetables, fruits, nuts, and herbs to add to whatever dish he created. All the while, Landon noticed Max kept a careful eye on the programmed timer with the various countdowns before sneaking another sip of the glass of red wine.

"You need to calm down, baby. They're not even here. They're family not strangers," Landon said, sliding his glass between his hands. He cringed after the words left him and Max turned to glare at him.

There was a ton of required teasing from their families, but everyone was coming. The table was set, the bird in the oven prepared and this one didn't slide across the floor was turning a beautiful golden color.

"A holiday meal for possible ten, what was I thinking?" Max muttered.

"You were thinking how you wanted to redeem yourself for Turkey Jerky disaster and you're doing an awesome job."

"If all this prep work doesn't kill me first, perhaps I will. Back to work."

The doorbell rang loud before the door burst open.

"Crap. I'm not ready. What the hell are they doing here?" Max leaned to the side as their family poured through the door.

"They're on time," Landon said as he checked his watch.

"No, it can't be."

"I'll deal with them. Go back to the kitchen," Landon answered as he slapped Max on the ass to get him moving.

"Hey. The apron says kiss the chef, not slap his ass."

"Oh, sorry, my mistake." Landon grinned.

Max grumbled as he hightailed it while Landon rose to greet their family.

"Mom, Dad," Landon said as he greeted his parents. "Mama, Papa," he said to Max's parents and kissed both of their mothers' cheeks. "How amazing all of you are here at the same time."

"Both of you said to be here by one and food served at three," his mother, Louise, said. "Your father didn't want to miss the game. How is Max? Oh, look at all of the beautiful decorations. I love it."

"How's the damn turkey? Are we getting jerky this time? I knew I should have stopped at the local bistro or something," his father, Lyle, grumped.

"Dad, please, Max's doing an incredible job this year to make our Thanksgiving enjoyable," Landon said. "Thanks, Mom."

"Of course he is. Just better not ruin the damn bird," Max's father said. "Why isn't the TV on? You know I don't wanna miss my Cowboys playing. Sheesh."

"TV is in the other room. I'll take your..." Landon said, but his mother stopped him as she gathered their coats. "Thanks, Mom. Put them upstairs in the second bedroom, please."

"Of course, honey. Show the boys to their game." Louise patted him on the cheek as she moved away.

"I'm gonna check on my Max," Max's mother said.

"I don't know if he wants company right now. Okay." Landon followed the older men into the room. He picked up the remote start the necessary electronics and surfed until he found the annual football game. "Here you go. Would either of you like a glass of wine, beer, tea?"

"Beer," both men said.

"Figures..." Landon walked away and stopped at the sight of his two brothers, their families, and his sister and her family. He expected one brother and family. "What the... What are all of you doing here...? And shit..." He watched Max's two brothers and their families enter the townhouse. "Oh, crap."

"Hey, Landon! How are you? Where should we set the table and chairs?" Max's older brother, Mike, called out.

"What are you all doing here? None of you said you were coming. Max is..." Landon glanced over his shoulder. "Max is gonna freak."

"Robert's parents got the flu and canceled. I called Mom who said to come here," his sister, LeeAnne, said as she pulled off their coats.

"Hi, Uncle Landon," Christalee, LeeAnne's daughter, said as she hugged his waist.

"Hey, Christy. How's my girl?" Landon said as he embraced his niece.

"I'm good. Where's Uncle Max?"

"Cooking up a feast."

"We heard everyone was gathering here from Mom. Since we went to Eileen's last year, we changed our minds last minute to come here. Sorry, little brother. We forgot to call," Landon's brother said.

"It's not a problem. You're family, Louie. The turkey is... Max is gonna freak he doesn't have enough."

"Enough what? Holy shit! Why the hell are there more people in our house?" Max asked, his voice rising higher.

Little ears were clamped with larger hands, but the kids laughed.

"Uncle Max said shit, Mama!" one of their young nephews pointed out.

Max cringed. "Hi, Tony. Sorry, Megan."

"We'll figure this out, darling." Landon grabbed Max by the shoulders, spun him, and forced him into the kitchen. "Mom, take over re-setting the table, please? Kids, Wii in the office, find it, play it! LeeAnne, Mama, I need you!"

LeeAnne grabbed a barstool on their way in and helped Landon force Max to sit on the stool before he passed out.

"The turkey feeds up to twelve. We have twenty! Twenty! Where the hell did we get twenty people?" Max cried out.

"Max, I need you to breathe and relax. We can figure this out," Landon said, taking Max's face between his hands and forced his partner to look at him.

"This is another disaster, Lan. Another one! No stores open. No time to cook another damn bird!"

"Ssh. Ssh. We'll be fine. It'll be a creative Thanksgiving."

"Honey, we all know our dad can slice a bird paper thin when he wants too. He'll do it this time. Christy, Rob and I are vegans and won't eat turkey. The boys will have a slice each or two of them will fight over the drumsticks," LeeAnne said.

"Thank god I made extra biscuits yesterday. What about side dishes? The ones I made are for so many people too," Max said.

"Again, the little kids will eat a small scoop or they wouldn't bother at all. Do you have macaroni and cheese?" LeeAnne asked.

"Yes, they do," Mama said as she pulled out three familiar blue boxes.

"Perfect. The kids will go bonkers their favorites uncles made mac and cheese for a holiday. If you have bacon, it'll be even better."

"We have bacon," Max said.

"Add it in for crunch and a little extra. What other frozen veggies do you have?"

"I..." Max looked between them.

Taking over, Landon moved to the freezer. "Sweet! A huge bag of sweet baby peas. I'm thinking my infamous smashed pea dish."

"I think we'll be good then," LeeAnne said.

Landon moved back to face his partner. "Okay? Unconventional conventional Thanksgiving with a few twists. Sound good to you, my love?"

"Anything better than Turkey Jerky," Max said.

Everyone laughed.

"Let's get cooking," Landon said as he moved to the pantry and yanked down his plain apron which he tied in place. He tied another for Mama to protect her pretty shirt. "Crap... Gotta get beer out to our dads. Someone call for a kid to run errands for us." He yanked two bottles out and popped the tops.

His sister hollered for the oldest boy, who came running.

"What? I'm trying to whoop ass in Dance Dance Revolution," the kid said as he rounded the entrance.

"Ahh... No way, buster. I'm king of the dance!" Max pointed a spoon at his nephew. "After we eat, it's going on the big screen and I'll be whooping your ass."

"Yeah, right, Uncle Max," the pre-teen said with a chuckle.

"You're going down, kid."

"Take these to your grandfathers. Don't you dare spill a drop or you'll hear them holler," Landon ordered, handing over the beers.

"Yes, sir," the kid said and took off.

"Sheesh! Thinks he can beat my ass in Double Dance. We'll see about that," Max snorted as he turned back to his pots. "Shit. We need to turn this to a buffet. Robert, Louie!" Max hollered.

"Hell, I don't miss that holler," Robert said as he chuckled. He and Louie leaned around the doorway. "Yes, oh mighty chef? Don't even think I'm gonna dare kiss you."

"Ha ha ha," Max said full of sarcasm. "Get your asses into the garage. Find the stack of chafing dishes and sternos on the shelves. Remove all the decorations on the server table and buffet table. Toss them in one of the upstairs rooms. Push them together and cover with a paper tablecloth. It's in the first drawer in the buffet. Set all the dishes and sternos, with water, and the lighter is in the drawer. We're going buffet."

"Sweet. I like buffet. We got it covered." Robert hit Louie on the arm and they disappeared with their orders.

"Lan hon, extra pans..."

"Are in the bottom of the pantry, I know. I stashed them there when we purchased them," Landon finished for Max as he moved after setting his peas to cook for his dish.

Max sent him an air kiss.

A little over two hours later, the extended family settled down at the table after going through the buffet. After their family found their seats, Landon tapped his glass and rose from the chair. He placed a hand on his partner's shoulder.

"I wanted to say a few words before we dug into this unconventional conventional Thanksgiving feast," Landon said.

"Come on, Uncle Landon," one of the young nephews complained.

All the adults chuckled indulgent at the child's impatience.

"Hang on, kiddo. To all our family gathered, those expected and those unexpected, thank you for coming." Landon raised an eyebrow to those in question as more laughter rose. "Thank you to everyone for helping increase the size of our table at last minute while our extra chefs helped our master chef created the masterpieces."

Everyone clapped after his words.

"Last, I want to give deep, grateful thanks and love to my beloved partner of my life, my heart, and my soul, Maxwell, who brought all of us together at this table, this feast, and this holiday. I love you, Max," Landon said as he stared into Maxwell's adoring gaze.

"I love you, Landon," Max whispered under the cheers of their family.

As Landon leaned down to kiss Max, their family rose in one to cry out in one to call out, "No more Turkey Jerky!"


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Turkey Jerky - Chapter 4

Chapter 4
Wednesday, November 27

The freak snowstorm fell and rose in severity over the course of the evening and day. By lunchtime, there were several inches on the roads and the cars. The big bosses put their heads together and announced everyone could head home early for the holiday, drive safe, and return on Monday. Through the cries of elation, Landon and the others hurried to shut down their stations, clean the desks, and finish last minute crap.

Pulling on his jacket, slinging his messenger bag over his shoulder, grabbing his wallet and keys, he headed to his bosses and found them in conference. "Hey there, I wanted to tell you both to have a wonderful Happy Thanksgiving with your families. As always, it's a real pleasure working with both of you."

"Thanks, Landon, you're one of the finest assistants we had around here," John Sampson said as he rose and accepted Landon's handshake.

"Thank you so much and the same to you and your partner. You mentioned he's been busy preparing everything," Lisa Coleman said as she rose and kissed Landon's cheek.

"Yes, he's driving me crazy with this intention to outdo the disaster of our first Thanksgiving."

Lisa chuckled since she heard the story. "I'm sure anything would be better than a butter slathered bird flying across the floor."

"God, I hope so," Landon said.

"This isn't company policy, but Lisa and I spoke and we wanted to give you something in thanks," John said as he glanced at Lisa.

"Oh, there's no need. I didn't get anything for the both of you," Landon said, holding up a hand.

"Nonsense, you do enough for us every work day and we want to show our gratitude. Especially during a lull in the economy and can't offer you an increase in salary," John said, pulling an envelope from his desk, and held it out.

Landon took it without opening, knowing that would be rude. "Thank you. Both of you. I truly appreciate everything." He shook John's hand once more and kissed Lisa's cheek.

"Good. Now get out of here with the rest of the crowd. Say hello to Max for us," John said.

"Both of you are leaving soon, right?"

"Within the next hour, I promise," John said.

"Bye!" Landon shoved the envelope in his pocket as he turned around, not wanting the other employees to see his private business. He buttoned his coat, wrapped a scarf around his neck, and ventured out into the cold.

It took an extra half hour to drive home to Max with the snow, but he managed to pull safe in the driveway. He got out, locked down, and raced to the door and inside.

"Damn, it's getting crazy out there," Landon said as he kicked snow off his shoes before stepping out of them. He removed his bag, peeled out of his outer layers, and hung everything in place. "Max…" Reminding himself, Landon reached into one pocket and pulled out the envelope. "Max, I'm home."

Moving to the sofa, he dropped down and opened the envelope. There was an elegant card of thanks from John and Lisa and three folded $100 bills.

"Holy shit!"

"What? What?" Max asked, raced into the room. "Sorry, was in the middle of cutting and folding yeast rolls."

"John and Lisa gave me three-hundred dollars as thanks," Landon said, holding up the money.

"Holy shit!" Max dropped on the sofa next to him and checked out the card.

"I know. They said it was only a little something."

"More than a little. Sweet. Put it in our sooper-seekrit-stash."

Landon chuckled. "Will do."

Max looked out the gel-cling covered window at the following snow. He nibbled on his lower lip. "Damn, I hope this lets up enough for everyone to get here tomorrow."

"It should pass by tonight from what I heard on the radio."


"It'll be okay," Landon said, rubbing his hand over Max's back. "What have you been up to?"

"I'm going through and preparing some of the dishes to get ready for the oven. Others can go in the oven today and finish tomorrow. I love my new timer. Thank you," Max said with a kiss on Landon's cheek.

"Welcome. Happy it can help you." Landon rolled to his feet, grabbed his bag, and glanced down at his partner. "I'm going upstairs to change. After, I'll be yours to command."

Max grinned. "Hmm. Can I command you to come downstairs naked except for a frilly apron?"

"Ahh. No."

Max snapped his fingers in an aw-shucks motion. "Dash a fantasy of mine. Fine." He walked off to the kitchen.

Landon moved in time to slap his partner on the ass and race upstairs to get away.

"Hey! You brute!"

Landon continued to laugh.

Returning downstairs, Landon breathed in some delightful scents. He followed his nose to the kitchen and sat on one of the bar-stools. He dropped his chin on his raised hand. "Whatcha making?"

Jumping a little in surprise, Max placed a floury hand against his chest. "Damn, you scared me. Hi, honey." He brushed off his hands, poured a glass of tea, and filled a plate with an extra hot Monte Cristo sandwich. He placed everything on the bar for Landon to enjoy.

"Thanks. You didn't have too."

Max waved a hand. "Little things I can do since I know I'm driving you crazy."

"Just a little."

"A little?"

Landon pinched his fingers and thumb together. A tiny crack was left between them. "A little."

"I'll have to do better."

"Please, don't." Landon picked up the sandwich and took a bite.

"As for what I'm making, it's the rest of the yeast rolls. They were my grandmother's recipe I asked my mom how to make."

"Is this another addition to the menu?"

"It was planned, but I needed help from Mom. I'll bake these until they're just cooked and stick them in the fridge. I'll finish the baking until they're golden tomorrow."

"What else has happened?"

"I deep cleaned the house on Monday before you finished the decorations. I went through and made sure the kitchen is ready. I cleaned from the cabinets to the floor and everything in between. I re-organized the entire fridge. Since they were grimy, I made sure to send all the towels, gloves, and potholders through the wash."

"Why did you go that far?"

"They were nasty." Max made a grimace.

"What else did you do?"

"I became a crafter." Max grinned, almost preened in front of him.

"What did you do? Where is it?"

"I did everything in the second bedroom. I went to a craft store, found some of those plastic pumpkins you can carve, several small wooden pumpkins, a couple of different chalk paints, brushes, dark and light waxes, and sanding paper."

"How did you know how to do this?"

"Went poking around on the internet and saw this cool table full of decorations. I followed the instructions to carve, paint, sand, and wax the pumpkins. I collected branches, pine cones, and acorns. At a store, I found these cool battery powered candles, other pumpkins, a pair of gorgeous hurricane glasses, and other items."

"What about the bags on the table?"

"Oh, we're using them too. Those were the finishing touches I wanted. I did all the craft stuff over the last two weeks."

"Is this why I didn't see you?"

"Yup." Max finished cleaning the counter, brushed off his hands, and waved to Landon to follow him.

Finishing his lunch, Landon followed and stopped at the sight of the decorated table. "Holy crap! This is gorgeous."

"Thanks. Those are the pumpkins I painted and filled them with fresh mums, leaves, and branches. I wound branches, leaves, and acorns around the hurricane glasses and those battery candles. Using votives, I placed more around the table. The little pumpkins were wrapped with this cool paper I found and wrote everyone's name on it for place settings."

"Everything looks fantastic against our plates. I like the runner."

"It's actually two runners, a silver overlay and rustic burlap."

"Wow. You're fabulous at this," Landon said with a grin and captured his partner for a lingering kiss. "Guess I don't need to decorate the table."

"Nope. It's crossed off my list in my Thanksgiving bible."

"What's left?" Landon followed Max back to the kitchen and their previous spots.

Max brought over his bible and opened it between them. He snagged a pen, clicking the end, as he moved through his prepared and detailed checklists.

"Let's see. The cranberry compote is done and chilling. The glaze for the turkey is mixed. I also washed the herbs and tied them for the turkey's interior. I sliced and prepared the carrots, green beans, mushrooms, butternut squash, and sweet potatoes. All of the herbs are rinsed and bagged. I cubed the bread and put half in the dish with the rest of the herbs and ingredients for the stuffing. The other half is mixed with the roasted butternut squash to be finished tomorrow. It's covered and in the fridge. I combined what I could in the storage bags, labeling everything."

"What about the baking?"

"We're having a spiced pumpkin cake, two pumpkin pies, and an apple-pear tart. Everything is baked. I covered and put everything on top of the washer and dryer."


"The bread is cubed for the pudding. I precooked and crumbled bacon and finished the vinaigrette. It's poured over the steamed green beans."

"All you have are the finishing details for tomorrow."

"Yup, it includes roasting one bird and all the other dishes."

"You're ready. You can do this."

"I hope you're right."

"We'll find out tomorrow."

Blowing out a long breath, Max nodded.


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Turkey Jerky - Chapter 3

Chapter 3
Tuesday, November 26

After another long day at work, Landon found himself standing in the aisle of a store, staring at the variety of programmable kitchen timers hanging on the wall. He glanced at his cell phone screen to try and match the picture to the physical choices.

"Sorry, darling, but I'm not buying five separate times," Landon said to the phone. He cleared the text and shoved the phone in a pocket.

"Can I help you, sir?" a friendly male employee asked, stepping over with a bright smile.

"I need a programmable timer for at least 10 hours and over five different timers with recall for my partner. He's in charge of dinner," Landon said. "He wanted me to buy five different ones, but no, I'm simplifying this process."

"Okay. We have several choices. How much do you want to spend?"

"What's the range?"

"They go anywhere from twenty dollars to over a hundred."

"Over a hundred dollars for a timer, are they crazy?"

"They're the high-end ones made for commercial kitchens or professional chefs."

"How about mid-range?"

"I would recommend one these for you." The employee picked up two different boxes. "This one is an 8-in-1 programmable timer with memory recall and several more options. This one is portable 4-in-1 timer, also programmable, and a little cheaper, but you'll need two of them."

"Which one is more popular?"

"The 8-in-1 is more efficient and popular."

"I'll go with it."

"Good choice. Good luck."

"Thanks, I'll need it to stay sane this holiday."

After paying for the timer, Landon made it home, grumbling as a light dusting of snowflakes started to fall. He opened the door, stepped inside, and went through the hanging ritual. He stopped short and backed several steps and stared. He blinked several times. The image didn't change.


"What? What happened? Are you okay?" Max said, running out of the kitchen, half covered in an apron, a towel in his hands.

Landon pointed a finger at the mountain of bags on the sofa. "What is this?"

"Those are new decorations and supplies for Thursday. I realized we have nothing to decorate for the fall, harvest, or Thanksgiving. We have Halloween and Christmas galore, but not for this one. I didn't want to have an empty decorated home. I went out and found all these wonderful things on sale," Max said with a grin.


"Yup. I need you to put them up. I got those cool new removable hangers to stick on the walls."

"Why did you get decorations?"

"We needed them."

Landon slapped a palm to his face and dragged it down. "Max, this is going a little overboard."

"No, it isn't. We decorate all the other seasons and holidays. Now we need this for Thanksgiving and the fall season."

"Don't go crazy and purchase a new set of china or dishes."

"No. No. I'm using the ones we have."

"Good. We can't afford new dishes."

"I know, silly, these were all on sale at the party store. Did you get my timers?"

"I got one."

"What? No. I need at least five."

"Relax. It has eight different settings." Landon held out the bag.

"All in one timer. Oooh." Max reached in and pulled out the box, sitting on the sofa to open and check it out.

Rolling his eyes, Landon shoved a hand through his hair. "I'm going upstairs to change. Lay out where you want me to hang the stuff."

"I designed everything on paper."

"Of course you did," Landon said with a groan as he disappeared upstairs.

Taking fifteen minutes upstairs, Landon returned downstairs. He saw the numerous plastic bags holding decorations spread across the length of the sofa and coffee table along with a pile of hangers.

"Come over here for dinner. I made Monte Cristos, sweet potato fries, and a salad," Max called from the kitchen, able to see him thanks to the open floor-plan.

"Those are my favorite."

"Of course I know, silly."

"We didn't buy the ingredients on Sunday."

"No. We didn't, but I brought them anyway. I wanted to do something special for you," Max said. "Come and eat."

Walking over, Landon snatched Max in his arms and kissed him hard. "I love you," he whispered against his lips.

"Love you too." Max pressed several more kisses against his lips. He pinched Landon on the ass and pushed him toward the kitchen table set for two.

Finishing the unexpected, delicious meal, Landon moved to help clean, but Max waved him away. He pulled a piece of paper from an apron pocket and held it out.

"This is what I want to go where. I pulled out the stepstool for you," Max said.

Landon opened the paper and stared at everything. "This is only for downstairs, right?"

"Everywhere, but the kitchen. I have towels, potholders, and a few magnets."

"Okay. I'll do my best."

"I know. Put on the TV or use the docking station and have fun."

Silent, Landon pulled out his phone, plugged it into the dock, and selected one of his multiple playlists he saved. Moving his hips to the music, Landon headed to the sofa, stared at the precise directions and design, and the various decorations. He selected several bags and the coordinated hangers. He opened all of them, taking them to the position Max wanted, measured, marked, and stuck the hangers in place.

Giving those hangers time to stick in place, he decided to gather the rest of the hangers and design and positioned them first. He returned to the first set, he position the trio of wreaths and leaves. Various fans, paper lanterns, and leaves were hung from the ceilings, chandeliers, and archways.

He positioned several groupings of pumpkins, leaves, gourds, and candles on every available surface. He pressed several sets of harvest gel clings to the windows. Stepping back, amazed at the amount of stuff he added to the room, and saw several more things on the coffee table. As he looked through, he noticed they all went on the table. Scooping up everything, he carried it to the table and dropped them.

"Hey, how's it going?" Max left the kitchen and moved to his side.

Landon pointed his thumb over his shoulder. Max turned, his jaw dropped, and his eyes widened with surprise and delight. At the moment, all the hours of hard work disappeared at the sight of his pleased partner. Landon grinned as he watched Max.

"It's even better than I thought. Oh, you did it perfect." Max spun and clung to Landon. "This is going to be the best holiday."

"Yeah, I'm sure it'll be perfect. Do you want to help me set the table tonight?"

"Let's wait for tomorrow so everything stays nice. It's late and you have work tomorrow."

"For half a day, yeah, but I'll be home after one."

"Fabulous. We'll finish the decorations and preparations. I'll prepare whatever dishes I can ahead of time to a certain point. The turkey is defrosting nicely."

"What do we do now?"



Monday, November 25, 2013

Turkey Jerky - Chapter 2

Chapter 2
Monday, November 25

After working a full day as personal assistant to a pair of architects in a large firm, Landon was never more grateful to be home. There were days were not much happen or other times where they kept him hopping all day. Today was one of those hopping days. They tried to wrap up proposals, contracts, and other deals before the holiday.

Kicking off his shoes at the door, Landon hung his keys on their hook, pulled off his coat and added it to another hook Max insisted on attaching to the wall when they moved in together. Max was very organized while Landon let things fall where they want. Over the years, they worked around their differences, learning to accommodate and compromise.

All he wanted to do was strip off the corporate clothes, shower, and yank on comfortable clothes. He would love to plop on the sofa, watch the tube, and relax with a mug of hot chocolate. This time of the year, he preferred the warm, rich brew instead of a cold beer.

"Landon? Is that you?"

"Yeah, sorry I'm late, bosses had me running ragged. I'm gonna take a shower and change."

"Take a fast one. I need your help with things."

"What kind of help?"

"After your shower. Go. Go."

Groaning, wondering what Max concocted while he was home alone, having taken the entire week as vacation from his job, Landon recalculated his evening, leaving the quiet night in the dust. He stripped off the once-pressed trousers and crisp shirt in the dry-cleaning bin, hung the tie on the rack, and placed the tie pin and matching links in their spots. Instead of faded sleep pants and shirt, he grabbed battered jeans and an old college shirt. He stepped into the bathroom and took a shower.

Leaving, he changed and walked out still scrubbing his hair dry with a towel. He stopped at the sight of Max in the bedroom.

"What? I'm coming. It's been a long day," Landon said as he tossed the towel in the basket.

"You do know why I'm doing all this," Max said as he dropped on the bed.

"Darling, you're going to drive yourself crazy for nothing." Landon muttered under his breath. "And me." He cleared his throat at Max's raised eyebrow. "Sorry, but true."

"There's a reason behind all of this."

"It's our family. A happy get-together over dinner."

"Ha!" Max pointed a finger at Landon.

Groaning, Landon dropped on the bed, ready for the blow-up about to begin. He wished he had a big glass of wine to handle it.

Max waved a hand in his direction. "Right. Our family gathered on a simple Thanksgiving holiday. What the hell happened to us three years ago?"

"Turkey Jerky Disaster," Landon said with a long sigh, dropping his head on a raised fist.

"Bingo!" Max rose to his feet, one hand on his hip, as he moved around the room. "I refuse to be known as the Turkey Jerky Boy in this family. I will put down the damn nightmare of the Thanksgiving from hell with this one. You'll see. I have it all planned and our test dinner went brilliant two weeks ago."

"Well, yes, it was interesting. Our friends loved the early holiday treat. Except for the one..."

"Yeah, the horrid dish is gone. I figured out any kinks or issues, changed the timing, tossed out the not-to-be-mentioned-horrid dish and brought in the other one. All is good. All is fine."

"It was a turkey breast and not an entire bird, hon."

"I swear I'm good with the timing and everything. We have two ovens this time, both calibrated to perfection. Timers… Shit! I need timers." Max shoved hands through his hair.

"Whoa. Whoa. You have two already."

"I need more than two. I need one with a long programmable time for the bird. The others will handle the other dishes. I can't do this without perfect timing."

"Okay. We'll get more timers."

"I have everything planned. I have my menu, proper temperatures, correct cooking times, and all the recipes in plastic sheets. You saw my recipe book."

"Yes, I'm proud of your preparations this year." Landon thought about the other reason for the great Turkey Jerky disaster and his lips twisted as he tried not to laugh.

"What? What is funny?"

"Oh, nothing, darling, nothing. I'm so proud of you going above and beyond."

"Don't blow smoke up my ass, Landon."

"I hope you don't plan on slathering the poor bird with so much butter. We wouldn't want it to become so damn slippery we couldn't grasp it to move it into the roaster. I would rather see it happy where it belongs in the roasting pan and not sliding across the entire length of the house..." Landon snorted, "and banging against the china cabinet." He curled over as he broke into gales of laughter.

The memory of a pale, butter-slathered bird dropping to the floor with enough speed to go sliding across the entire length of the house because of the damn wooden floors they polished the night before until it whacked against the cabinet. They both fell on their asses trying to capture the damn thing, cursing and laughing the entire time, knocking their heads together as they both dove to get it.

"We spent an hour washing the entire thing, praying we got it cleaned enough so no one could tell it got a spit-shine and wax," Max said, his mouth curled in a smile as he started to chuckle. He stood between Landon's legs. His arms looped Landon's broader shoulders as he leaned over.

"Yeah, well... I think the time in the oven killed any other potential germs on the sucker."

"Oh gawd, Lan, it was a disaster!" Max groaned. "That stupid oven. We knew the damn thing was dying on us."

"Hey, how the hell did we know it was hotter than we thought?" Landon chuckled while he crooked a finger under Max's chin to raise his lover's face to meet his green gaze with his blue one.

"When the damn bird came out black and dry as... Turkey Jerky instead of golden and juicy," Max said.

They fell into each other's arms, laughing in hysterics. After three years they were able to laugh over the entire incident to each other, but in front of their families, who continued to tease Max about the entire Thanksgiving Day disaster, it wasn't a laughing matter. This year, Max found the courage to invite everyone over and plan in a meticulous fashion, starting with a brand-new kitchen and choosing a set of brand new ovens.

Catching Max against him, Landon twisted until Max fell and rolled underneath him on the bed. He braced himself over his partner, fingers caressed the full lips, and dipped to capture the mouth in a kiss.

Max's hands lifted and his fingers slid through Landon's thick hair, holding him around the back of his skull. His mouth opened under Landon's insistence to deepen the kiss. Before Landon wanted, Max placed his hands on Landon's shoulders and pushed him back.

"What? Don't you wanna?"

"Not now. I'm trying to get things ready."

"I'll buy your new timers on my way home tomorrow. I promise. Text me the options of ones you want and where to go."

"Thank you. There is more to this than timers."

"Max," Landon said, pulled the 'a' in a long, whiny tone.

"We need to clean and rearrange the living and dining rooms so we can open up the table. I want to get things shifted now so I can plan where to set all the place settings."

"Now? Tonight?"


Landon bounced his forehead against the mattress, but it wasn't as satisfying as the handle yesterday.

"I'll make it up to you all weekend. I promise. A long sweaty weekend of loving for giving me what I want this week until Thanksgiving is over."

"Right. In between driving me nuts with getting to storage, pulling out all the Christmas decorations, and setting everything up. That is if you're not waking my ass up at the crack of dawn to go out on Black Friday."

"I was…"

Landon groaned.

"Come on. It's fun."

Pushing off of Max, Landon face planted on the mattress. "I'm dead. Gone. Adios. Leave me," he mumbled into the fabric.

Max laughed and blew against Landon's neck where he knew it was both ticklish and sensitive.

Giggling, Landon wiggled under Max's weight until they rolled and tickled one another until they were breathless and their stomachs hurt from the laughter. Collapsing against one another, Landon's head on Max's hip, they learned how to breathe again.

Far too soon, Max slapped a hand on Landon's belly and sat up, dislodging Landon's head. "Come on. Time to move furniture."


Max lifted an eyebrow and pointed toward the door.

"Okay. One furniture mover at your service," Landon grumbled as he rolled to his feet, shoved them into loafers, and followed Max downstairs.

Within several hours, they discussed, argued, and moved several pieces of big furniture around in various positions before Max was satisfied. Landon dropped, exhausted, on the big L-shaped IKEA sofa they shoved several times.

"Good. Good. I think I like it this way. Okay, now we need to move the dining table, pull it apart, and add in the leaves," Max said, smacking Landon's thigh.

Groaning under his breath, Landon followed.