Authors: Keira Andrews
Tags: #Festival of Lights
FESTIVAL OF LIGHTS:
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This e-book is a work of fiction. While reference might be made to actual historical events or existing locations, the names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
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Copyright © December 2007 by Keira Andrews
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As he rounded the staircase, Lucas McKenzie stopped for a moment and sighed. He could already hear the pounding bass emanating from above, and he knew without a doubt it was coming from his room.
Well, from Sam Kramer’s room.
It was technically Lucas’s room, too, but Sam didn’t let that stop him from doing exactly what he wanted to do, when he wanted to do it. As the star forward on Brookfield University’s basketball team, Sam was used to getting his way, and Lucas didn’t have the energy to argue most of the time.
The hallway was crowded with revelers celebrating the end of the December exam period. Everyone in the dorm except Lucas was a senior, and although he knew some of them well enough to say hi to, he hadn’t really made any friends. Lucas stepped over the drunken people sitting in his doorway and was greeted by a can of cold beer that bounced off his chest and rolled to a stop under the foot of his bed.
“Buddy!” Everyone was Sam’s buddy. “School’s out!” Sam whooped loudly, his muscled arms thrust over his head. Dark-haired Sam was tall and gorgeous; his chiseled features and 2 Keira Andrews
sculpted muscles would be just as at home on a movie screen as they were on the basketball court.
Lucas gave Sam a thumbs-up. “I’m totally stoked!” He’d learned early on in the semester that the best way to deal with Sam was to smile and agree with everything he said.
“Grab a beer and party with us!”
Nodding and smiling, Lucas retrieved the beer from under his bed and popped the top after stashing his knapsack in the closet -- currently the only part of the small room that wasn’t occupied by a fellow student. A girl Lucas recognized as living down the hall was sprawled on his bed, sticking her tongue down the throat of a guy who looked old enough to be in his seventh or eighth year of college.
“Holidays are here!” Sam’s proclamation was met with a loud cheer from the partygoers. Lucas kept the smile on his face as he worked his way back into the hallway, holding his can of beer aloft in a toast. He headed back toward the stairwell, hoping that he wouldn’t run into --
“Lucas!” Andrea Price materialized in front of him, grinning widely.
“Hey, Andrea. How’s it going?”
“Great! I’m so glad exams are over. I can’t wait to go home.”
“Me either.” Lucas found it easier to just lie. “Well, enjoy the party!”
“You’re not staying?” Andrea touched his arm, her fingers light on his bicep. “I thought maybe we could hang out in my room.”
Lucas groaned inwardly. Andrea was a beautiful girl -- blonde and petite with a bright smile -- but she just wasn’t Lucas’s type.
Not by a long shot.
He’d dated girls before, and he knew plenty of them found him attractive, but he wasn’t sure why. He had no fashion sense to speak of, and although he was almost six feet, he Eight Nights
didn’t have bulging muscles like Sam and the other athletes. Yet the other day he overheard Andrea and her friend cooing about his blond hair and green eyes.
Unfortunately, he didn’t find women attractive. At least, not in the way they found him. “Andrea, I’d love to, but I’ve got a really bad headache. I’m just going to get some air.
Her face fell just a fraction before she smiled again. “Sure, I understand. Well, merry Christmas if I don’t see you again tonight.”
Leaving a disappointed Andrea in his wake, Lucas reached the stairwell and headed up one more flight to the roof. He would love to have her for a friend, but she seemed incapable of reading his signals, so he’d started avoiding her a few weeks earlier. He briefly considered dating her so he could meet some other people, but he swore when he left Michigan that he’d stop pretending. Start being himself.
Of course, he was too nervous to join the campus gay association, so now he didn’t date women or men. He told himself it would be his New Year’s resolution to have the balls to join the club and at least meet some other gay people. That would make it official -- still a bit of a scary prospect.
Frigid night air greeted him as he pushed the door open. A group of five or six people huddled together nearby, puffing away on cigarettes. Lucas nodded to them and walked to the other side of the roof, which was usually deserted. Leaning against the waist-high brick wall, Lucas peered out, his breath clouding in front of his face. He was being antisocial, which wouldn’t help him fit in at Brookfield.
Thanks to his father’s job in sales for Ford, they’d moved around a lot over the years, and Lucas had never made lasting friends. He hoped college would change that, but he felt utterly disconnected from his peers.
4 Keira Andrews
He could still feel the bass from downstairs through the soles of his sneakers, the faint thudding more bearable at least. The campus spread out before him, lights twinkling merrily on the trees that lined the drives, winding their way around the stately old buildings.
It was Friday, December 21, the last day of the fall semester. Lucas was fairly confident he’d done well on his last exam -- organic chemistry, ugh -- a couple of hours before, and he had hoped Sam’s parents had already picked him up to take him home. Sam lived in New York City, a few hours away from the tiny town in upstate New York that was home to Brookfield. Lucas wanted nothing more than to relax in his room and have an early night after being up late studying for the last two weeks.
Clearly he’d have to wait until tomorrow, when the campus emptied, to get some peace and quiet. Yet as much as he wanted some time to himself, Lucas knew that the next two weeks would be a little too quiet.
Tomorrow all the students who hadn’t already left for home would be taking off, leaving the campus a ghost town. He was the only one on his floor not going home for the holidays, and although he would be glad for the respite from the constant partying, it would soon give way to loneliness.
He thought of his father, and quickly took a gulp of beer to ward off the tightness in his throat. Some more smokers arrived, laughing gaily as they piled out onto the roof. Taking another swig of beer, Lucas joined the party.
* * * * *
Another sharp rap on the door echoed through the room, and Lucas forced himself to open his eyes, since it sounded like Sam wasn’t yet able to form words. It felt like he’d only been sleeping for an hour, but the light streaming through the window told a different story.
“Samuel, it’s your mother.” Her voice was soft yet firm on the other side of the door.
“Uhhh,” Sam repeated, his head still buried under his duvet.
Lucas made his way to the door, kicking empty beer cans under the bed and trying to cover up the evidence of the previous night’s activities. When he opened the door, he smiled brightly, not without some effort. “Mrs. Kramer? I’m Lucas.”
“How nice to finally meet you.” She extended her hand and shook his firmly, the tasteful jewels on her rings sparkling.
He stood aside as she swept into the room, surveying the piles of Sam’s dirty clothes, books, and discarded pizza boxes. Mrs. Kramer looked in her early fifties, although Lucas couldn’t be sure. Sam rarely mentioned his family; most of his conversations revolved around basketball, partying, and girls. Many, many girls.
Sam’s mother was an average height, with dark brown, bobbed hair betraying no hint of gray. Her black skirt and camel-colored coat were crisply pressed.
Sam groaned again unintelligibly.
Lucas smiled at Mrs. Kramer. “He’s not really a morning person, but I guess you know that.”
“Indeed I do.” She marched the few steps over to Sam’s bed, heels clicking on the tile floor. With a brisk motion, she yanked the duvet off. “Time to get up, young man.”
Sam, clad only in his briefs, groaned again before rolling over onto his back and opening his eyes. “Mom, chill. I thought you were coming later.”
“It is later. Almost noon.”
Sam whined, “What’s the rush?”
“Hanukkah starts tonight at sundown, which I’ve mentioned to you a number of times.
So get up and get moving. It’s a three-hour drive home, and I have things to do.”
Grumbling under his breath, Sam stood and shuffled off to the bathroom down the hall, leaving Lucas and Mrs. Kramer alone. Lucas smiled. “I’d offer you a seat, but…”
6 Keira Andrews
Returning his smile, she perched on the side of Sam’s bed. “This is fine.” She glanced around the room one more time before focusing her attention on Lucas. “So, are your parents coming today as well?”
Lucas hated this part, and the looks of pity that inevitably followed. “No, I don’t have any family.” He forced a happy expression onto his face. “But it’s cool. I’ll get the place to myself for a couple of weeks. It’ll be great.”
“No family? None at all?” Mrs. Kramer regarded him with a new interest that unnerved him a little.
“Well, I have some cousins in Texas, but I’ve never met them.”
“What happened to your parents?”
Lucas blinked in surprise. Usually people beat around the bush for a while before getting to that question. “My mom died when I was little; my dad in September. Cancer.”
“I’m so sorry to hear it.” Her face pinched in concern. “That must have been very difficult for you.”
Difficult didn’t really begin to cover it, but Lucas nodded. “Yeah.”
“That’s why you didn’t start school until October. I remember Sam wasn’t too happy to find out he’d be sharing a room after all. I told him he should have moved off campus, but he insisted on the dorm. I can only imagine that’s due to the large number of girls living here.”