“MOM, I’M worried about the planet we’re leaving behind for your grandchildren too. It’s horrible how our air, water, soil, and food are polluted because of lobbyists from wealthy corporations who control conservative politicians.”

“You’re wrong, Bobby. The environment is polluted because nobody cleans as good as I do.”

I sighed.

Mom said, “I’m also concerned about the economy your son and nieces and nephews will inherit. It’s sluggish and getting worse because people go out to eat and travel too much. They should stay home and cook, like me.”

“It’s sluggish because average people don’t get any ‘trickle-down,’ unless we pee on ourselves by accident.”

“No, people who work too hard, like you, are the reason there’s a bad economy.”

“Little did I know that defending clients being evicted from their apartments, losing their medical insurance, and getting fired from their jobs was destroying the country’s economy.”

“Well, now you know, Bobby. That’s what mothers are for. To educate their children.”

I needed a break from Mom. Hi, I’m Bobby McGrath. Since you can’t see me, I’ll tell you I’m twenty-six, tall with frizzy red hair, green eyes, and a swimmer’s build. That is whenever I get to the gym for a swim while my husband of two years, Paolo, hits the weight room. I’m also a lawyer, specializing in civil rights cases. My husband and I live with our adopted son in the city with the greatest cheesesteak in the US. Philly is also the city with the most lactose intolerant people. That dichotomy perfectly sums up my mother’s reasoning.

I sat on the turreted window seat overlooking the department store my father manages. Gazing out the window, I enjoyed the late-night shoppers illuminated by the candy cane–decorated street lamps. As they trudged through the snowy street, some people disappeared into Dad’s store with hopes of finding the perfect holiday gift.

“How does me working too hard hurt the economy, Mom?”

“Because you’re too tired to go out and buy anything,” Mom replied.

“I just bought Paolo’s Christmas gift: a gold watch with sapphire stones that match his eyes.”

“And what did Paolo get you?”

“Nothing… yet.”

“How do you know?”

“I know his hiding places. They’re all empty.”

“See! That’s why the economy is in a slump.”

The marigold, violet, and burgundy flames danced in our fireplace, surrounded by the white marble mantel and gold lions on each side. I wished Paolo was next to me. “Paolo’s been incredibly busy. He’s designing a new line of men’s sportswear that his boss Edgar is calling, ‘The Edgar Line.’”

“Why not ‘The Paolo Line’?”

“Good question.”

“I have another question.”

“I assumed you did.” Clad in my red nightshirt, I took a sip of hot cocoa and rested against the baby-blue pillows.

“You know I adore Paolo, and I trust him implicitly.”

“But?”

“He’s been working every night this month.”

“And?”

“Don’t you think that’s strange?”

“Strange how?”

Mom said, “I remember you telling me Paolo’s father told Paolo’s mother he was working nights. Then he’d visit one of his girlfriends.”

“Paolo is nothing like his father.”

“Of course.” Mom sighed. “Still, Paolo’s mother looked the other way at his father’s shenanigans with other women. So many spouses do.”

I choked on my drink. “Do you think Paolo is cheating on me?”

“I didn’t say that, Bobby.”

“Then what are you saying, Mom?”

“I’m saying that some men cheat. Especially men who work at night. Like when Gavin cheated on your sister, Roseann.”

I glanced over at a silver framed picture on our antique cherry wood end table. The photo of Paolo, Geoffrey, and me was taken the day our eight-year-old foster child became our adopted son. After three years with Paolo, his olive skin, wavy chestnut hair, Roman nose, and sculpted muscles still caused my heart to skip a beat and my nightshirt to tent. The joyous look on Paolo’s handsome face whenever he is with Geoffrey and me confirmed my faith in him and in us.

“Wasn’t Paolo a playboy when you first met him in his family’s villa in Capri?”

“Where you sent me to meet my distant cousins. And you conspired with Paolo’s mother to get Paolo and me together. And then you and Dad hosted our wedding in your backyard summerhouse!”

“And aren’t you glad I did?”

“Yes. Because my husband is loving and loyal. Like Dad, who by the way works nights in December playing Santa Klaus.”

“I don’t think Dad’s cheating on me in a Santa suit.”

“I don’t know. Some of those elves are pretty cute.” I giggled.

“Where was all this wit when you were in college and law school, and I sat up nights worrying about your celibacy.”

I followed the gold swirling molding of our Victorian-era apartment. “You worried about me not having dates in college?”

“Of course. I didn’t want to die and leave you all alone in the world.”

“Nobody is dying, Mom.”

“Except your father.” She sighed.

I slid to the edge of my seat. “What’s wrong with Dad?”

“He has a heart condition. Did you forget?”

“Of course not.”

“So I told him he needs to find someone else to play Santa at the store, and come home at five o’clock. Take a hint from your mother, Bobby. Keep your man at home after dark.”

The brushed nickel doorknocker tapped lightly as our large cherry wood front door opened. “Paolo’s home.”

“Finally.”

“Good night, Mom.”

“Remember what I said!”

Paolo looked more amazing than the models of his menswear. He hung up his long black leather coat in the entryway closet and then walked toward me with his muscles bulging out of a tapered sapphire dress shirt and gray dress slacks. After sitting next to me, he rested his head on my shoulder. “I have never felt so tired in my whole life.” His Italian accent still made me shiver with delight.

I smelled lemons—and cologne. “Did you eat dinner?”

“Edgar went home to his wife and kids. I had to take out a client.”

“Is that why you smell like cologne?”

He nodded. “The scent must have rubbed off in our handshake.”

I put Mom’s cautions in the back of my mind. “Paolo, there are only a few days left before Christmas. You shouldn’t be working so hard.” Hoping he would take the hint, I added, “Most people are out shopping.”

“Are Geoffrey’s gifts all hidden in our bedroom closet?”

I nodded. “He tried to wait up for you, but he fell asleep. I nearly did too.”

“Forgive me.” Paolo wrapped his arms around me and everything was right with the world. “I miss you both so much.”

We shared a long, wet kiss.

“Can’t you tell Edgar that you need to work from home on your laptop?”

Paolo exhaled. “He wants to check up on me, and for me to show each draft to the sportswear client.”

“Then Edgar will take credit for your work.”

Paolo massaged his forehead. “Edgar is the boss—at work. But I am no longer at work. Time to play.” The devilish spark in Paolo’s eyes caused me to forget the fact that many men do play at work. We kissed again. Our bodies sizzled like the flames in the fireplace illuminating us. Careful not to knock over our white Christmas tree laden with gold bulbs, Paolo took my hand and led me into our bedroom. The minute I shut the door behind us, we stripped off our clothes and leapt onto our four-poster.

When we were in each other’s arms, I said, “Are you trying to have your way with me?”

He chuckled. “I am not trying. I am succeeding.”

“Serves me right for being so easy.”

“It serves me right too.” Paolo lay back on our white sheets, looking like a Greek god. “You are the love of my life, Bobby.”

“You are love to me.” I lay on top of him and kissed his forehead, eyelids, nose, cheeks, and mouth. He gasped in excitement and then licked and nibbled on my neck. When I squeezed his round shoulders, high-peaked biceps, and full pecs, I felt ready to explode. I licked down his chest and flicked at his erect nipples, and Paolo let out a shriek of delight. He ran his fingers through my hair, pushing my head slowly down his stomach until my breath brushed close to his manhood, where he clearly wanted more. I licked his black pubic hair, and then took each of his balls in my mouth. After licking his long, thick shaft, I tickled his foreskin with my tongue. When Paolo moaned, I kissed his mushroom-like head, and finally sucked until Paolo cried out. Tasting his precum, I released him and lay on my back. Paolo was quickly on his knees, next to me. After he kissed and sucked every inch of my long, thin dick, I was dizzy with desire. He lifted my legs.

“I need to be inside you, Bobby.”

“Always, Paolo. Inside my heart.”

He entered me cautiously. After I relaxed, he leaned into me, possessing what was his and I pushed back in acquiescence. As I massaged his rippling back, buttocks, and thigh muscles, Paolo slid his warm tongue into my mouth and showered me with warm wet kisses. The thrusts in my mouth matched the thrusts down below. I happily gave myself to the man I love as our bodies became one. He whispered in my ear, “Sei il mio cuore.”

“You are my heart too, Paolo.”

He rested his body on top of mine, and I prepared myself for the warm river of his released love inside me. Instead, Paolo’s thrusts became slower and less intense. When they stopped altogether, Paolo rested his face on my shoulder, and I heard a soft snore. Surprised, I wrapped my arms around him and stared at the wall.