Turn around and walk away.

Niall stood outside the door to Josh’s apartment, his finger an inch from the doorbell, while an argument waged silently in his head.

It’s just for a week, Niall’s rational side countered.

It’s wrong, and you know it.

Niall sighed. Catholic Guilt didn’t automatically disappear when you stopped going to church. It was ingrained. Possibly genetic.

That boy thinks he might have a future with you, Guilt said, and if you spend the holidays with him, it’s going to cement that thought in his head. And his heart. And you don’t feel the same, so you should not be here.

You don’t know that, Niall replied silently, his finger moving a millimeter closer to the doorbell. I might feel the same. We only met six weeks ago. It’s not like I know everything about him.

Niall’s phone buzzed, making him jump. He pulled it out of his pocket, and swore as he looked at the caller ID. He turned and walked down the hall away from Josh’s door before hitting the Talk button. “Hi, Mom.”

“Niall, sweetie! Where are you?”

“I’m at Josh’s.”

“Put him on the phone.”

“No, I mean, I’m just outside his door. I was going to—”

“Let him know you changed your mind. That you decided to spend the week with your family. If he has any kind of appreciation for family, he’ll understand.”

Perfect timing. And it’s a perfect excuse.

Niall looked back at the door.

You can call him later and explain that your parents called, that your mom guilted you into staying with them for Christmas. It’s not even a lie.

“You should be with your family for Christmas,” his mom went on, as relentless as she’d been every time she’d called over the past three weeks. “We never get to see you anymore—”

“I see you every Sunday for dinner,” Niall said.

Don’t snap at your mother.

“And Molly’s going to be in town. You can go to the movies or something.”

“Mom, I’m not going to the movies with Molly. We’re both nearly thirty, not sixteen, and I’m gay.”

“Don’t be silly, sweetie, you always had a girlfriend in high school.”

“And I always had a boyfriend in college. I know you think it’s a phase—”

“You can explain it all to me when you come over. You have to go somewhere since you had that pipe break. You really should have demanded that they get it fixed before Christmas.”

“Like I told you yesterday,” Niall said, fighting to keep his voice low, “I’m going to spend the week with Josh.”

His mom went quiet. Niall could practically hear the wheels turning. “Is he the thirty-five year old accountant?”

“No, he’s the twenty-six year old social worker.”

“That you’ve only known for a few weeks.” She couldn’t seem to remember that he was gay, but she sure could steel-trap the inconvenient details. “I’ve made up the guest room. It’s all ready for you.”

“Josh has a guest room.”

“You’d rather spend Christmas in a stranger’s guest room than with your own family?”

Oh, dear God. Niall banged the edge of the phone against his head a few times before saying, “Hey, hi, Josh! Mom, I gotta go, love you, bye!” He ended the call and shook his head.

You lied to your mother.

Josh might open the door. Any second now.

But he didn’t.