A Warder Series Novella Malic Sunden is in hell—only not literally... yet. As a warder, Malic is used to fighting demons and squaring off against all kinds of creatures from the pit, but this year he’s facing a new and terrifying prospect: Christmas holidays with his much-younger boyfriend and his family. He loves Dylan, his hearth, but Dylan’s parents, the Shaws, are another story. They think Malic is a cradle-robber, among other things. At least their neighbor, Brad, seems to like him. Then again, maybe not. When Malic gets offered to a demon who wipes his memory of everything but Dylan’s name, it will take all Malic has to escape his new life in a hell dimension and return to the man he calls home.
I THOUGHT people only went nuts over Christmas in the movies. It had never occurred to me that in real life, people put giant fake snowmen on their lawns, put life-size Santas and the reindeer—complete with Rudolf—on the roof of their house, and draped lights over every square inch of available space that a staple gun could be maneuvered into. Even the trees and bushes were threaded with lights. It was insane, and I had no idea. And that was just the outside.
Inside, the place looked like Santa’s workshop. I had never seen so much kitsch in my life. All the red and white, it was like shopping at Target. The candles made the whole house smell like pumpkin pie, and the decibel level with the visiting family—uncles, aunts, cousins, kids, and Dylan’s parents and their friends—everyone sitting around talking, visiting, and sharing details about their lives… I had never wanted to go home so badly. It was like being in a blender with the switch stuck on mince: I was just chewed up and spit out.
I was supposed to be cheerful and friendly and invested, but there was just no way. I hadn’t been raised in loud; I had been raised in quiet. My mother stayed home and gave piano lessons to help pay the bills. My father was a college professor who taught biology. They had both been older when I was born, my mother in her midforties, my father fifty. There had only been the three of us after my grandmother passed away, and our celebrations, all of them, were small. After they died in a terrible car accident when I was ten, I was all alone. It had taken me a long time to even interact with my first foster family, and then the…