Short Stay (Love Lessons #3.5) by Heidi Cullinan
Release Date May 24
Buy it at Amazon
Why Did You Write This Story?
I hadn’t planned on writing this story at all. I’d meant to write something for my Patreon readers as a Christmas present, but it got long and complicated, so I asked them what they wanted in a short story from a known character universe. They voted, and Baz and Elijah won, though Walter and Kelly were only one vote down, and the Special Delivery series characters had a strong showing too, so I decided what the heck, let’s include them all.
I meant the story to be short, but I don’t do short well. I was having too much fun playing with the characters and thinking of things to include I knew would delight my readers. I told them, as I wrote, that every time I got stuck I asked myself, “What would the readers want right now?” then tried to give it to them. I didn’t back down from anything cheesy, didn’t let any critical voices in my head.
The result was something I loved writing and my patrons loved reading. In truth all stories are written for readers, but this one really was. It wouldn’t have happened without them. It was designed with specific readers in mind, ones I’ve come to know and appreciate more deeply in the past six months. It felt exactly like it was meant to: a gift to readers I care very much about. And they enthusiastically let me share it with everyone else, so here we are.
You crossed the streams on this one big time, sending the Love Lessons characters into the Special Delivery characters’ world. Why did you do that?
It started as a lark. I’d meant for Baz and Elijah to go to Vegas in Lonely Hearts in an early draft, so I was eager to send them there now. And I thought, well, the Special Delivery characters have to say hi, since they live there. But I couldn’t resist sending them to Herod’s itself, and then everything snowballed. I should have known better. Randy always steals the show. But it’s okay, because he does it so well.
Will what happened in Short Stay become canon in either or both series?
Yes. It doesn’t change much in Special Delivery except now Randy wants a Tesla. For the Love Lessons series, though…well, I’m not giving any spoilers, but it changed a lot in what I had planned for the rest of the White House gang story arc. Which is fine, because shaking things up and making me scared always gives me good energy in a story.
What’s next in your production queue?
My muses have been fickle lately, and every time I make plans they thwart them. What I’m working on right now, for better or for worse, are two more after-HEA stories: Shelter the Sea, a novella in the Roosevelt series, and Enjoy the Dance, a short novel in the Dancing series. (Yes, Dance With Me is part of a series now.)
Shelter the Sea is still slightly amorphous, but essentially Emmet is trying to help a friend in trouble and doing a little more growing up in the process. Enjoy the Dance began as my attempt to chronicle what happened to Ed and Laurie between Dance With Me and when they appeared in Lonely Hearts, and how the radical change in the state of marriage equality affected them personally. We also find out what happened to Duon.
After that, I’m working on the next full novels in the Love Lessons, Roosevelt, and Clockwork Love series. As per usual I’m also working on several other things as well. What specifically comes next is difficult to say, but suffice it to say, something will float to the top.
Short Stay (Love Lessons #3.5) by Heidi Cullinan
Hot messes have a hard time with happily ever after.
Baz Acker and Elijah Prince have it all. They’re engaged, and their wedding is guaranteed to be a spectacle no event will ever top. So why are they hunkered down in a quiet corner of the Acker mansion, restless and edgy while they wait out the holidays?
When Baz suggests a road trip with Walter and Kelly to Las Vegas, it sounds like an ideal escape, but it turns out Vegas only amplifies their unease. Elijah can’t slough off the self-hating his parents programmed into him, and he worries how that will affect his marriage. Baz, crippled en route because of too much time spent in the car without rest, must face the truth that his wealth and influence can’t always counteract the limits his disability will put on his—and Elijah’s—life.
With help from their friends, a wily poker player, a take-no-prisoners drag queen, and a smooth-talking casino owner, they face the truth that happiness is a state of mind, not a destination where they book a stay. What happens in Vegas won’t stay in Vegas—it will follow them all the way down the aisle.
Picking a Vegas Hotel
Elijah grinned wickedly and held up his phone. “Giles and Aaron are absolutely green that they didn’t get to come. They said they would have totally been our drivers.”
“They aren’t twenty-one.” Baz wiped his mouth with his napkin. “They wouldn’t be able to go to most bars, and they wouldn’t be allowed on the casino floor.”
Kelly wrinkled his nose. “I don’t know if I want to gamble.”
Walter nudged him. “You can do a few penny slots. Or be my arm candy while I play poker.”
Elijah flicked gently at the bridge of Baz’s glasses. “You should play poker. They’d just think your glasses were part of your schtick.”
Baz stifled a wince at how that small gesture made his eyes throb. “Craps is more my game.”
They talked nonstop for the last leg of their trip, imagining the adventures they were about to have, looking up possible excursions on their phones. Even Elijah began to get excited. “I had no idea there was so much to do. Now I wish we had more than a few days to stay.”
“I wish I didn’t have to get back to work.” Walter was driving, or rather he was behind the wheel while the Tesla situated itself precisely in the lane. “But alas, I do. Kelly and I both have to be in Minneapolis by the fourth.”
They came over the crest of a hill, and suddenly there it was: Las Vegas. The city sprawled across the desert, a throbbing oasis in a sea of sand. Great grids of brown dotted with tiny shapes of houses until the Strip erupted, framed by the mountains in the distance. It would have been more impressive at night with all the lights, but two in the afternoon wasn’t anything to sneeze at either.
Baz had programmed the hotel into the navigation, but Kelly rerouted them in a detour of the Strip with a stop at the famous sign. They couldn’t find a place to park, but plenty of other people were slowing down to get a glimpse. Kelly managed to snap a picture through the moonroof.
“Okay, let’s see this hotel,” Walter declared, and they were on to their final destination.
Baz had a little misgiving about his choice as they took in the grandeur of the casinos on the Strip. He wanted to impress Elijah without overwhelming him, a fine line Baz was still learning how to negotiate. The smaller casino had seemed so much more them, though he’d admit mostly he’d seen “ten rainbow flags” and “resident drag queen” and leapt. Plus their suite had a view of the Strip. It also had a hot tub, the photo of which had Baz already thinking about how he’d get busy in it. But the Strip casinos were varying degrees of awesome too. Super-kitschy, elegant, modern—everything was there. As they drove by Bellagio, Baz kicked himself, thinking he should have booked there. He almost had, but they hadn’t had a suite available, and the pictures of the lobby made Baz imagine Elijah bitching about being out of place.
He wanted this trip to be perfect. He wanted it to make Elijah relax and show him that no matter what, Baz would always make everything okay.
As they pulled up to Herod’s Poker Room and Casino, Baz began to feel a lot better about his choice for their accommodations. It was elegant in a more traditional, understated way. It reminded Baz a little bit from the outside of his mother’s favorite old hotel in St. Paul, both the architecture and the quiet dignity of the bell staff. It was nice without being imposing. Small enough, too, that Baz could flash some money and probably get some VIP treatment.
He felt pretty good about his choice before they got out of the car, but what sealed the deal was what he saw as he exited the Tesla and handed the keys to the valet. Along the side of the building, just under the overhang, hung the Nevada flag, the US flag, and four bright, proud rainbow flags. When Elijah spied them, he visibly relaxed.
Baz did too. This was going to fix everything. Elijah’s nerves, his quietness, his lack of faith that Baz could take care of him.
He was sure of it.
Must be 18 years of 18 or older to enter.