Closing Time

Closing Time by J.M. Snyder
Mitchell Nolan is a bartender working late on Christmas Eve. As the last patrons leave, he stays behind to clean up. Why hurry home? There's no one waiting for him, and he knows Santa won't bother leaving anything special for him this year.

Then he meets Romy Lariner, who ducks inside the bar when his car won't start. Sparks fly between these two lonely men this Christmas Eve. Maybe Santa has a little something up his sleeve for Mitchell after all ...



The bell above the door tinkled quietly as someone entered the bar. Mitchell looked up from the floor and frowned at the young black man standing just inside the double wooden doors. Should've locked those.

The man was Mitchell's age, maybe a few years younger, and wore a bulky winter coat he held closed at the neck with one hand to keep the snow out. His cheeks were a dark red, like cherry-tinted cappuccino, flushed from the bitter wind. As he surveyed the empty room, his dark eyes glistened. When his gaze settled on Mitchell, he grinned, revealing straight, white teeth that almost shone in the dim light. Then he tugged off the striped cap covering his head to reveal a head full of long, tight curls that sprang free above a heart-shaped face. Running a hand through his hair in some attempt to tame it, he called out, "Hey there."

Despite the late hour and the weariness clinging to his bones, Mitchell found himself smiling back. The stranger's skin was a smooth, dusky shade the color of heavily creamed coffee. Those eyes reminded him of Jamal's, but it was his hair that made Mitchell look twice. "Hey yourself," he replied, leaning on the broom handle. "Sorry, but we're closed."

"I figured." The man looked around again with interest. "My car won't start. I just wanted to know if maybe I could use your phone?"

His smile brightened, making Mitchell's heart skip nervously. Damn. He starred as the man unsnapped his coat. Now he'd never get to sleep tonight, thinking of the way that hand ran through those curls and imagining it on his own body, clenching in places he hadn't been touched in a long time. He wanted to dip his fingers into that hair, feel it in his hands and see those dark eyes staring up at him, hooded and sated, sweat pricked along that smooth brow, those ruddy lips curled around his...

Stop it! He thrust the images away. He didn't need to think that, didn't need to make it harder for himself, not tonight.

The stranger cleared his throat and asked, "Do you mind?"

"Mind what?"