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The Solstice Mistletoe Effect (Mistletoe Science 2)

The Solstice Mistletoe Effect (Mistletoe Science 2)
Release Date: 23 June 2010

Lance Rivera and Magnus Carstens are settling into their new life as a family with Magnus's nephew Jakob. But Magnus's parents are not enthusiastic about his choice of life partner and try to separate Magnus and Lance while they vacation in Sweden with Jakob. The woman they think more suitable for Magnus is Sigrid, an ex-student who is his intellectual equal and has loved and pursued him for years.

Magnus seems oblivious, but when an attractive offer from the University of Stockholm is added to the mix Lance faces a crisis: What if Magnus chooses the new job and a life with Sigrid over the family he's started with Lance and Jakob?


Pages: 126
Words: 30,187
Heat Index:Heat Index
Cover Artist: Mara McKennen
Book Type: EBook

Chapter One


"Are you ready to go?" Lance looked down at Jakob, whose hand reached up to clench his as they walked toward the front door. His lover, Magnus, had gone outside to warm up one of their two SUVs. Since he was from Sweden and had spent years on expeditions to research glaciers, he was a lot less sensitive to the freezing January temperatures than Lance. Even though Lance had grown up in Mistletoe, Wyoming, he'd only recently moved back from L.A. and was having a harder time adjusting than he'd expected.

"Sure!" Jakob wore his new down coat, matching mittens, and scarf. He looked a lot more ready to face the cold morning air than Lance felt. "It's okay to be a little nervous, right? I mean, this is a new school, and I don't know anybody there."

"Of course it's okay to be nervous." Lance was a little jittery himself. This was the first time that Jakob would be on his own after the FBI had returned him from being kidnapped by his other uncle, Brian, and his wife Nancy. They hadn't agreed with Magnus being named Jakob's legal guardian after Magnus's brother and his wife had died in a plane crash early last year. "But I think that you might know a few of the kids already. Remember our visits to the skating rink?"

"That's right! George and Fiona said they'd see me in school." Jakob grinned as he picked up his backpack.

"Mistletoe Elementary is a very good school. Uncle Magnus and I checked it out before we enrolled you." Lance was still nervous, but they couldn't keep Jakob at home forever. Besides, the boy needed kids his own age to play with.

The drive only took twenty minutes. Magnus was driving and Lance focused on the route; he'd be driving Jakob to school in the future, since Magnus would be at work at Grand Teton National Park. Today was an exception. Magnus hadn't wanted to miss Jakob's first day, so he'd arranged to start work a few hours later than usual.

When they arrived at the school, Magnus quickly found parking, and they walked toward the entrance side-by-side, Jakob skipping ahead. A few of the other parents who were dropping off their children did a double take when they saw Lance and Magnus walking together. Some stopped in their tracks and openly stared. Lance was surprised. They weren't even holding hands.

He tried to shrug off the uncomfortable feeling of being watched because their family was different, but it wasn't easy. He knew that Wyoming wasn't exactly the most progressive state where same-sex relationships were concerned, but facing the reality of being noticed and stared at like that was harder than he'd thought.
He was relieved when they reached the principal's office.

"Welcome to Mistletoe Elementary. My name is Helen Rutherford." The grey-haired matron in a surprisingly cheerful light green pants suit shook Jakob's hand and greeted Magnus and Lance with a small smile, pointing at some chairs. "Please, have a seat."

When they'd made themselves comfortable, Ms. Rutherford pulled several sheets of paper from a drawer, sat down behind her desk, and put on her reading glasses.

"I'm glad that you were both able to come by today. So many parents don't make the effort to be here together." Ms. Rutherford smiled at Jakob, laugh lines crinkling around her bespectacled eyes. "And it's a pretty important day for you, Jakob, isn't it? I'm sure you're glad that both your-uncles? -are here with you."

"Lance isn't my uncle!" Jakob grinned. "At least, not yet."

"He isn't?" Ms. Rutherford pretended to be surprised, but the twinkle in her eyes gave her away. Lance relaxed a little. It looked like this woman had a sense of humor.

"No, but that doesn't matter, does it? He's really good at taking care of me, and I love him as much as my Uncle Magnus." Jakob looked ready to defend Lance against any possible attack from this stranger.

"You're right, Jakob, it doesn't matter. At least not to us. But there are a few rules and regulations which require some paperwork to ensure that both your Uncle Magnus and Lance will be recognized as if they were your parents. Just in case something happens and to make sure that they're the only ones who can pick you up from school." Ms. Rutherford pointed at the sheets she held. "So they need to complete and sign a few forms."

"Okay, I guess." Jakob nodded and watched patiently as Lance and Magnus went through three sets of papers. They provided contact details and a password for when they wanted to authorize others to pick up Jakob.

Ms. Rutherford took the sheets back when they were done and looked them over carefully. Finally, she took off her reading glasses and smiled at them.

"Looks as if we're all set, gentlemen. Let me just put these away safely and I'll show you to Jakob's classroom." Ms. Rutherford got up, walked to one of the lockable filing cabinets, and put the paperwork into one of the many drawers.

They followed her through the quiet corridors decorated with colorful drawings and craft projects until they reached one of the classrooms at the very end of the hall. Ms. Rutherford turned toward Jakob.

"Now, the other children have been in here for about ten minutes, but they know to expect a new student. So, we'll walk in, I'll introduce you, and then your teacher will take over. His name is Mr. Harris." Ms. Rutherford waited for Jakob to nod before she opened the battered-looking door.

With a last uncertain glance at both of them, Jakob followed her into the classroom. Lance had trouble staying where he was, and Magnus didn't look as though he was faring much better. God, it was hard to let Jakob go after all he'd been through. But coddling him wouldn't do any good at all. Lance sighed.

"This is much harder than I thought." Magnus's deep voice woke Lance from his gloomy thoughts. He looked up into silver-blue eyes that were shining with emotion. "He's been to school before, of course, but that was before all the craziness with my idiot brother-in-law. You'd think that the fact they're in prison, awaiting trial, would make me feel better about letting him go, wouldn't you?"

"I know what you mean. We've had him under our protection for almost two weeks, so it feels weird to let him stay with strangers." Lance frowned.

"It's not logical to feel like this-but I still do." Magnus grinned. "Sometimes I wish I could return to my blissfully ignorant state where I could just ignore emotions. You have taught me too well, älskling."

It made shivers of delight run down Lance's spine when Magnus called him "sweetheart" in that deep baritone of his. He wanted to touch his lover so badly, but he knew he couldn't. The risk was too high. The looks they'd been given earlier, when they hadn't even done anything, were burned into Lance's memory. He didn't want to do anything that could provoke a similar or worse reaction.

"I love it when you speak Swedish. I wish we could go home right now." Lance smiled when Magnus winked at him.

"So do I!" Magnus grinned. "Hold that thought until tonight and I'll teach you some new words."

"Sounds good. We might need a few new traditions and customs as well, now that Jakob's in school." Lance grinned back.

"Makes sense. It's a new phase in our lives, isn't it?" Magnus stepped back to make room for Ms. Rutherford coming out of the classroom.

"That went really well. Jakob chose a seat next to some friends he's apparently made over the winter holidays. Mr. Harris seemed satisfied with the arrangement." Ms. Rutherford smiled and led them toward the exit. "Thanks again for coming by and supporting Jakob. We'll keep a close eye on him to make sure he settles in, and we'll let you know if anything out of the ordinary happens."

They shook hands and were outside before they realized they'd been dismissed. Lance started laughing.

"I guess being the principal means you have certain skills, and Ms. Rutherford doesn't seem to be hesitant about using them with parents as well as students." Magnus looked a little stunned, but he was smiling as well.

* * * * *

Lance checked his watch for the fifth or sixth time within the last four minutes. He knew that he'd arrived at the school much too early, but surely it was three o'clock by now? He shifted in his seat, trying to make himself comfortable. It wasn't the car seat that was the problem, though. He was eager to see Jakob and find out how the first day of school had gone for him. And he wanted to get away from the stares of some of the other parents who were waiting to pick up children. It looked like their little family had made quite an impression this morning if those people still remembered him.

Finally, the first kids appeared at the door. Lance soon detected Jakob amongst the laughing and jostling kids. The boy seemed oddly quiet, but he looked relieved when he saw Lance. He opened the rear car door and climbed into his booster seat, buckling himself in.

"Hi, Jakob." Lance turned around so he could look at the boy.

"Hi, Lance." Jakob's eyes were overbright.

"Hey, what's wrong?" Lance was about to unbuckle himself to climb into the back and take the boy into his arms. He looked like he needed some comfort.

"Nothing's wrong. I just...." Jakob blinked, trying not to let the tears fall. "Can we please go home?"

"Sure we can go home. As long as you promise to tell me what's bothering you." Lance waited until Jakob nodded before he turned back toward the front and started the car.

The twenty-minute drive seemed much longer than it had this morning. By the time they made it into the house, Lance's stomach was in knots. They sat down on the sofa in the living room and Lance opened his arms, finding them full of confused little boy only seconds later.

"Okay, Jakob, now I know something is definitely wrong. Would you please tell me about it?" Lance had to hold back his own tears at seeing Jakob so distraught.

"Some-some of the kids in my new class are really mean." Jakob burrowed against Lance's chest and slid his arms around him, holding on for dear life.

"Why? What did they do? Did they hurt you?" If anyone had done something to Jakob they'd have to deal with Lance.

"They said some really horrible things when we talked about our families. At first, they felt sorry for me when I talked about Mom and Dad and the plane crash last year. I explained to them that it was okay because I have Uncle Magnus and you now. Some of them got really upset. I mean, I know that not everyone likes or understands two men living together like you and Uncle Magnus do. But why do they make it sound so bad?" Jakob looked up, his face scrunched into a frown. "You're not doing anything wrong, are you?"

"We don't think we're doing anything wrong, no." Lance sighed. "But not everybody agrees with us. We've never talked about this, but some people think that two men loving each other is wrong."

"I know. Mom and Dad talked to me about it when they explained why Uncle Magnus didn't have a girlfriend." Jakob swallowed. "But I never thought that anyone would be so awful about it. They wanted to know what it was like to live with ‘sinners'. Some of them even laughed when I said it was just like having two dads. Like they didn't believe me."

"I know. And some of them won't ever believe you. They can't understand because they're too prejudiced against anyone being different. It's what they've been taught to believe, and most people never think about what they've been taught." Lance took Jakob's head between his hands and looked straight into his eyes. "Don't let that ever stop you from thinking and believing what you know is right in your heart. And if any of them ever does anything more than laugh at you, you've got to let Uncle Magnus and me know, okay? We can't let bullies get the better of you."

"Okay." Jakob pulled back and looked down at his lap. "But there's more."

"All right, tell me." Lance really felt for Jakob. He'd been through so much already and now this.

"They-they made fun of you." Jakob closed his eyes. "They said it was stupid for a man to stay at home and not have a job. That being a housedad was like being a coward."

Lance was stunned. This was something he hadn't expected. Thinking about it now, he probably should have. Mistletoe was a very traditional town, and even his own parents had expected him to learn a profession and become successful in it. They hadn't said anything when he quit his job at his sister's store to go and live with Magnus, but they hadn't looked overjoyed either.

It wasn't as if the decision had been easy for him. Giving up the ability to earn his own money had been a major step. At the time, he'd thought it was the right thing to do, and Magnus had been wonderfully supportive. It wasn't as if they needed a second income, and Magnus had understood Lance's wish to do what he'd always wanted. Besides, how else were they going to do a good job at raising Jakob? Especially for the next couple of years, while the boy was adjusting to the fact his parents were dead?

"I don't know what to say to that, Jakob." Lance put a finger under Jakob's chin and gently pushed up until the boy was looking at him. "Do you think they're right?"

"I don't know. I've never known a housedad before." Jakob shrugged. "I thought it was the same thing as being a housewife. Lots of kids in my class have a mum who stays at home and doesn't work. So, what's the difference between them and you?"

"I think you're exactly right." Lance laughed with relief. Leave it to Jakob to figure it out and put it in words simple enough for anyone to understand.

"So why don't people understand? Is it because that's the way they've been taught, like you said before?" Jakob tilted his head in question.

"Yes, they probably believe that anyone who makes a choice different from what they consider to be ‘normal' is a coward." Lance wanted to believe that too, but sometimes facing society's prejudices was very hard. Even though he knew he'd made the best choice for his own and his family's well-being, it was hard to face others' disapproval.

"That's just stupid. If anyone's a coward, it's those people who don't want to try anything new." Jakob smiled and snuggled closer.

If only that would make the nagging feeling of doubt go away. Lance could only hope that he'd find a way of dealing with it.


©Serena Yates, 2010
All Rights Reserved

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