Authors: TJ Nichols
Elf on the Beach
By TJ Nichols
Roone Sorley is an elf on a mission. He has one year to live in the mortal world and experience everything it has to offer before deciding if he is going to return to the North Pole and immortality or stay and become human. Christmas in Australia is all sun, sand, and surf. For Kyle Morgan, that means lots of tourists wanting to learn how to surf, but he hates Christmas. This time of year always reminds him about the family he doesn’t have.
With the clock ticking and only days left, Roone plans on making the most of the heat and the beach and his hot surfing instructor. Beyond that he has no idea what he wants. However, with a little magic, he might be able to give Kyle exactly what he needs.
how to surf was always fun. The kids threw themselves into it and had a certain fearlessness that most adults had grown out of. However, this adult class was mostly made up of European University students who had decided to have a hot, sandy Christmas instead of a snowy one. Kyle had never seen snow, so he couldn’t judge, but he had plans to go snowboarding next winter.
Snowy or sunny, he was sure he’d still hate the holiday season.
How many of the would-be surfers were spending the holidays overseas to avoid their families? At least they had families to avoid. If he had a real family, he’d be spending it with them instead of alone.
A couple of German girls in bikinis giggled and fell off their boards. They hadn’t even gotten in the water yet. He grinned and repeated what he’d said about balancing their weight.
They giggled again, but Kyle wasn’t interested in them. The guy in low-slung board shorts and skin that didn’t look like it had ever seen the sun was much more interesting. He grinned impishly as he practiced going from lying down to standing up on the board. His long dark hair flopped over his eyes.
Roone glanced Kyle’s way, as if seeking approval.
Kyle nodded. Roone’s grin widened; then he looked away.
Had that been a look? Had he not been imagining the sizzle? A fling would go a long way to improving the holiday season. Or at least provide a distraction. Yeah, because they always worked out so well.
Kyle dragged his gaze back to the other students. He was not having any more one-night stands or go-nowhere flings. They were little more than sugar highs that left him with a craving for something more. He wanted what he’d never had, love.
“Right, let’s get you lot wet.” There were fifteen minutes left of the class. He was willing to bet that none of them would manage standing up on the board. “If anyone stands up today, I’ll buy you a beer.”
Adults were generally too worried about looking stupid to really try. But it was funny as fuck to watch. He put his board in the water and walked out until the waves were lapping at his knees. “Right. Come on, give it a shot.”
He lay down, then got up and rode the next wave to show them it wasn’t that hard. It was barely a wave, more of a nudge closer to shore. Once class was over, he was going to paddle out and have a proper surf. While conditions were perfect for beginners, it was a little tame for him, but still better than staying dry.
The six wannabe surfers waded awkwardly into the water.
“No sharks, yar?” one of the German girls asked.
“No sharks.” None had been sighted close in, and the beaches were patrolled. No one wanted another shark attack in Margaret River. It wasn’t good for tourism or his income… or the person getting bitten.
Roone lay on his board, tried to stand up, and then promptly fell off. Kyle swiftly splashed over, but the young man resurfaced, laughing. Kyle still offered his hand, even though it was clear Roone didn’t need help. Roone took it, his grip firm. His pale skin glistened as water streamed off him. He flicked his hair out of his eyes.
Kyle shook his head. “There’s no rush. Get a feel for it, then stand.”
“But I’m in a rush.”
“Holiday almost over?”
The grin faded for a moment. “Two weeks.”
“You can always come back.”
That killed Roone’s grin completely. “I’ll be standing before the end of this class. I want that beer.”
Kyle much preferred the grinning Roone to the serious one, but he wasn’t going to deny him a beer. It didn’t take long for the smile to return, along with a frown as Roone concentrated. The girls managed to get to their knees, squealing as they fell off. The other three guys were trying but getting distracted by the girls.
Teaching surfing lessons was never dull.
“Okay, last try, then back to shore.” Kyle clapped his hands together. He glanced at Roone.
Roone met his gaze and held it. He moved from lying to standing with such grace that Kyle wondered if the falling off had all been an act. “Yeah!”
The other students gave Roone a round of applause. Kyle nodded and let his gaze linger. There was definitely something there.
Roone bowed and then promptly fell off with a splash. Kyle smiled. Roone looked like a whole lot of fun, and they had the whole week of classes together. He caught his thoughts before he could imagine unwrapping Roone for Christmas. This was exactly the kind of short-term thing he had sworn off. He shouldn’t. He wanted to.
It was only one beer. He didn’t have to take every hot guy who smiled at him home. But it was Christmas… one last fling as a present to himself?
His promise to eat more than candy was only two weeks old, and he was already finding ways to sneak his hand into the candy jar.
It was one drink. It didn’t have to go any further. He wanted it to go further. “I owe you a beer.”
“Yes you do.” There was a definite glint in the man’s blue eyes.
There was no doubt that Roone had intended on claiming that beer. After everyone had packed up their boards, Roone lingered.
“Were you serious about the beer?” There was a slight frown, as though he was no longer sure.
Kyle considered him for a moment. “Yeah.” He had been planning to catch a few waves, but they were too small to be interesting. “I just have to finish up here, and I want to grab a shower….”
His gaze slid over Roone again before snapping up to his face. Showering with a friend was always more fun, but not in public and not today. Not with someone who wasn’t sticking around. No matter how badly he wanted the sugar hit.
“Did you want a hand?” Roone said with a straight face.
Kyle refused to bite and make a suggestion. For all he knew Roone was just friendly, not gay. He needed to back up and chill.
“Why don’t you tell me where you’re from? I don’t think you said.” All the other students had.
“I didn’t. Lapland. Way to the north.”
“Like the North Pole?”
Roone nodded, and that smile was back, like he was promising to make all of Kyle’s Christmas wishes come true. That wouldn’t be hard, as Kyle had very low expectations. One of his foster families would send something, but the others probably never spared a thought. They certainly hadn’t bothered when he’d lived with them. Christmas had been new pajamas, shoes for school, and maybe some chocolate. His friends at school had gotten game consoles, games, action figures, and skateboards.
“Guess a summer Christmas is a novelty.”
“It’s cold all year there, so I’ve spent the year chasing summer around the globe.”
“And yet you are still as pale as a snowflake.” Kyle secured all the boards on the trailer of his car.
Roone glanced down. “Yeah, apparently I don’t tan.”
“Or burn.” In Australia that was a bigger consideration. Unless he wanted to be getting cancers cut out before he turned thirty, sunscreen was essential. Especially in his line of work.
“Fifty plus sunscreen. I learned the hard way.”
“At least you learned.” Kyle rested his hand on a board. “I’d like to hear about your travels. Maybe we could get a bite to eat as well as a beer?”
What was he doing? Why was he trying to turn this into a date? Was it a date? Only if Roone said yes, and from the way his eyes had just lit up, he was totally going to say yes.
“That sounds like a lovely way to spend the evening.”
Evening. Kyle swallowed. He was going to get burned again. No, they could have dinner… they didn’t need to fall into bed. Then he caught Roone checking him out. Kyle had never been good at resisting temptation, but he was going to have to learn to if he wanted more than sex.
Roone’s gaze lingered on Kyle’s chest before he gradually looked Kyle in the eye. Guess in Lapland it was too cold to run around in board shorts and flash some skin. Aussie beaches must be a feast for a skin-starved man. Kyle raised an eyebrow, and Roone’s cheeks darkened.
“I’m going….” Roone hooked his thumb in the direction of the change rooms.
“I’ll catch up with you there.” He watched Roone walk away, bag slung over his shoulder.
Kyle released a breath. He’d better get packed up, washed up, and get his A game on. He wasn’t sure if that meant resisting or giving in. Maybe tonight he’d just test the water.
under the shower and washed away the gritty sand. He had two weeks left before he had to decide if he was going home or staying in the human world. The year had gone so fast. He’d traveled everywhere. Crammed every day with things he wouldn’t be able to do in the North Pole.
Was he ready for a lifetime of winter when there was so much summer? He loved summer.
He missed home, his parents and siblings, and the life he knew he could have there. But the human world was so different and varied. He’d seen how much the humans needed magic in their lives. How much they needed the magic elves created and handed out.
Could he live a life without using that magic?
He placed his hand on the wall and watched as ice crystals formed, spreading out from his palm. If he stayed he would lose all magic. He would have to find a job and become human.
His chest tightened at the idea. The year in the world was supposed to make his decision clear, but it hadn’t. If anything he was more confused now than he had been when he’d hopped on the reindeer-drawn sled and left the elven city, sliding through what humans called reality and into their world.
There was no magic created here.
And so few believed in magic.
He smiled as he remembered some kids staring at him as if they knew what he was. Maybe they had, because they’d been young enough to still believe. When they’d pointed, he’d checked that the tips of his ears were hidden by his hair. They had been. Most people grew out of that belief fast. Which was a pity, because believing in magic let it into your life.
He turned off the tap and dried off, swapping his board shorts for black cargo shorts and throwing on a bright orange surf brand T-shirt.
While he’d never surfed before, he had snowboarded, and he’d been skiing as soon as he could walk. He’d mucked around in class and on the board, but only because the instructor was too cute for words. All tanned and golden like he’d been dipped in honey. Roone wanted to lick him just to see if he’d taste sweet.
Maybe he’d get the chance tonight. He hoped so. One last holiday fling before he had to choose. He was only twenty. He shouldn’t have to choose for the rest of his life.
But that was what they did. All elves got a year to travel and to explore. Some never came back. Those that did made Christmas truly magical. He was going to get to see a human Christmas. He was so excited to experience it from the other side.
Perhaps Kyle would let him see how his family celebrated.
He stuffed his wet things into his backpack and found a bench so he could watch the surf while he waited. The ocean was so vast. The world was so big. He could travel for the rest of his life and still not see everything. He wouldn’t be able to travel if he stayed, as he’d have a limited amount of money. This year had been fully funded. His every desire had been achievable because of magic.
It had taken him a couple of weeks to realize that wasn’t how people actually lived, and that had made him sad. Because of the restrictions and rules about the year away, he hadn’t been able to give away the money. So he’d made sure to tip well and buy things and then give them away before he left the country. If he hadn’t, he’d be lugging far too many suitcases.
A shadow fell across his feet. Roone glanced up and smiled.
“There’s a nice pizza place over the road, or we can hit the pub. Your choice.” Kyle had changed into checked shorts and a snug black tee that clung to every curve of muscle.
He didn’t want to drink at all. The beer was an excuse to see more of Kyle. “Pizza sounds great.”
Dinner with a handsome surfer, that was way better than surfing lessons… unless those lessons were being conducted in private.
They crossed the road and walked up to the pizza place. It smelled divine. He’d fallen in love with pizza long before he’d reached Italy. If he decided to go home, he was going to be taking a pizza stone with him. Maybe even one of those little outdoor pizza ovens. He could already imagine the fat flakes of snow sizzling on the hot stone of the oven.