“Oh God!” Tony threw his hands up in exasperation.
“What?” Jim asked. He juggled two bags in his left arm, while he fumbled with his key ring, trying to locate his front door key.
“Dad’s at it. Again!”
Jim stopped searching. He felt a smile tug at his lips when Andrew’s voice floated toward him. “Are you really complaining about his singing voice?”
Read more about Jim, Andrew, and Tony in A Purrfect Match.
“Jim! He’s singing love songs! At the top of his lungs!” Tony replied.
The nerve! Love songs. Jim cast an amused glance at his and Andrew’s son. At the age of thirteen, Tony had reached the awkward, gangly teenager stage.
“What is it? That he’s singing so loud anyone can hear him? Or his choice of songs?” Jim asked.
You know I love him but… why does he have to sing Whitney Houston songs? It’s embarrassing! The others are starting to look at me strangely when we meet here and Dad forgets we’re here.”
“Did you tell him?”
Tony shook his head. “No.”
“I don’t want to hurt his feelings. You encouraged him to sing and he loves it. I just wish he’d tone it down a bit. Could you…?” Tony trailed off. He lifted his head to look at Jim beseechingly. Even though his eyes were hidden behind his glasses, he still reminded Jim too intensely of Andrew to be able to refuse him.
“I hate when you do that,” Jim groused.
Tony snatched the key ring from Jim’s jacket-pocket, raised up on tiptoes and kissed Jim’s cheeks. “You’re the best.”
“Yes, of course I am.”
Tony flashed him a smile, then unlocked the front door, grabbed their orange-furred cat, Nika, to prevent her from running off, and hollered, “We’re back!”
Instantly, the singing stopped. Jim walked in, shut the door with a swift kick, and carried the bags over to the kitchen counter. Andrew was drying the last dish, when Jim said softly, “Hey, babe, having fun?”
Andrew set the dish aside, came over to Jim and wrapped both arms around his waist. With a content sigh, he rested his head on Jim’s shoulder, but not without Jim noticing his slightly embarrassed expression. “Tony’s not happy with me, hmm?”
“He’s perfectly happy with you, just not with your choice of songs.” Jim dropped a kiss on Andrew’s cheek before he began to nuzzle Andrew’s throat and face.
“You’re not Mr. Frosty right now, so stop rubbing against me.”
“If I’d be rubbing against you, I’d be doing this.” Jim pressed his pelvis against Andrew’s, intent on playing this game for a while.
“Guys, please! Easily influenced teenager in the room!”
“You’re only easily influenced when you have to decide between ‘normal’ food and fast food,” Andrew replied as he lifted his head from Jim’s shoulder.
“Are you going to make moony eyes at each other for the rest of the day?” Tony slapped his hand against his forehead in mock-exasperation. “Of course you will, since you’re celebrating your seventh year anniversary today, though I really don’t get the difference to any normal day at home. There are already hearts dancing and blinking around Jim’s head.”
“Did he just say something about hearts and moony eyes?” Jim asked in a low voice.
“If you’re smart, you better run,” Andrew said.
Tony erupted into motion when Jim charged him. He was halfway up the stairs by the time Jim caught up and threw him over his shoulder. Laughing, and hanging upside down, Tony drummed his hands on Jim’s back. In between fits of laughter, Tony demanded to be let down while Jim walked back downstairs.
“Dad! Do something!”
“And what exactly should I do? I think I might be too busy staring at Jim in utter amazement. What with all the hearts putting on a show around his head,” Andrew replied.
“No! You’re not!”
“Are you sure? I could completely lose myself in drinking in the sight of my most wonderful—”
“Dad!” Tony’s voice grew shriller. “Please!”
“You interrupted me in the middle of my description of my wonderful—”
“I know he’s wonderful and all! Now, could you please tell Mr. Wonderful to let me down? I’ll even do the dishes tonight.”
“You’re not home tonight,” Andrew objected dryly.
“That’s why I’m offering it.” Seconds later, Tony squeaked because Jim dropped him several inches. “I’ll do the dishes tomorrow when I’m back from Joey’s!”
“Sounds like a plan to me.” Jim gently lowered Tony to the floor. Nika rushed toward her owner and wound around him while she cast suspicious glances at Jim.
“She’s pissed off because you treated me so badly,” Tony said with a cheeky grin. “You know what that means.”
Jim heaved a long-suffering sigh, which earned him an eye-roll and a grin from Andrew. “Go ahead. Make up with our cat. I’ll unpack the bags.”
“All right, all right.” Jim shifted into his feline form, stretched every limb to the extreme, then slowly ambled over to Tony, who was sitting cross-legged on the floor. Nika and Jim exchanged a headbutt before Jim draped himself all over Tony’s lap. Nika looked at them for a whole minute, then walked away with her head held high.
Jim heard Andrew talk to Nika, who meowed to announce her suffering. Whatever Andrew did seemed to appease her. Jim looked up at Tony, enjoying how deep Tony’s fingers dug into his fur to pat and massage.
Jim was dozing off when Tony suddenly lifted him in his arms and whispered, “I want to show you something.”
Tony ascended the stairs with Jim in his arms and carried him to his room. There, he set Jim on the floor and walked to a drawer at his desk. His hand hovered over the drawer’s knob for a long time until Jim noticed that Tony’s hands were shaking. He hurried over to him and purred but it didn’t do the trick.
When it became apparent that Tony needed Jim in his human form, he brought some distance between them, shifted, and then grabbed the throw blanket from Tony’s bed to tie around his waist. Walking up behind Tony, Jim laid his hands on his shoulders. “Tony? What’s going on?”
Tony shrugged but remained silent.
“Do you want me to get Drew?”
“No. I… I made something for him. Well, no, it’s for both of you but… I’m not as good as you are and I don’t know whether I should show it to you and… and I don’t want to go to Joey’s tonight. I want to be here with you and Dad and celebrate your seventh year anniversary as a couple. I’ve always been here for this day before, but I know you planned a night for two—”
“Tony! Breathe!” Jim interrupted.
Tony tore the drawer open, grabbed something, whirled around and shoved it into Jim’s hands. After this outburst, he put as much space between them as possible. Jim watched Tony standing in a corner of his room, for all the world looking as if he’d been caught doing something horrible.
Jim glanced at the self-made book in his hands. Tony had inherited his father’s talent, although he didn’t see it that way—no matter what Andrew and Jim told him.
He read the book’s title aloud. “How Mr. Frosty came into our life.”
“The title sucks,” Tony declared, his voice giving away his stress level.
Jim opened the first page and, to his astonishment, he discovered Tony had created a comic book of the events that had brought Jim into Andrew’s and Tony’s life.
Half an hour later, Jim had looked at each drawing and read every single world. Tony had inched closer to him the more Jim had smiled.
“This is incredible,” Jim whispered.
“Do you think Dad will like it too?”
“Like it? Tony, he’ll love it! He’s probably going to cry.” Jim chuckled when he imagined Andrew’s face.
“Ah, I believe I can live with that, since I’ll just give it to him before I leave for the night.”
“You said you didn’t want to go to Joey’s?”
“No buts. Call him and tell him your parents made you stay at home because there’s a family celebration. Go on, sport.”
Tony’s face lit up at Jim’s suggestion. He hugged Jim before he bounded out of the room to retrieve the phone. Jim left the book on Tony’s desk and, still in awe, walked downstairs, where he found Andrew lounging on the sofa with Nika curled up on his lap, purring loudly.
“Not that I don’t enjoy the view, but aren’t you cold?”
Ignoring the question, Jim said, “Change of plans for tonight. Tony’s staying with us.”
Andrew’s face fell and Jim quickly sat down beside him. After wrapping an arm around Andrew’s shoulders, he whispered, “Believe me, it’s worth it. Tony has an incredible surprise for us.”
“How do you know it’s a surprise?”
“He showed it to me.”
“Then it’s not a surprise anymore.”
“It is for you.”
“Why am I always the last to see surprises?”
Jim chuckled, then lowered his voice. “I promise I’ll make your ass tingle surprisingly hotly later tonight. Sound good?”
“Yeah.” Andrew laughed, then kissed Jim. “I only got food for the two of us. Guess, I’ll have to make something up so it’ll be enough for all of us.”
Jim watched Tony walk upstairs, the phone in his hand, while Andrew got up from the sofa. Nika meowed in protest and strode over to her favorite place on the window sill, then began the laborious task of grooming herself. Andrew walked into the kitchen where he stuck his head into the fridge.
Jim smiled. How have I ever gotten this lucky?
After a delicious meal, Jim, Andrew, and Tony sat around their dining table. Jim patted his belly and sighed. “That was good.”
Andrew sent him one of his dazzling smiles; one of those that told Jim all he ever needed to know.
Tony cleared his throat, then said, “I, um, I know you wanted to spend tonight differently, and I promise I’ll go upstairs soon.” He paused for dramatic effect. “I’ll make sure to put on my headphones, too.”
“You better turn the volume up,” Andrew muttered.
“That’s a first. You telling me to do something that might not be good for my health.”
“We all have to make sacrifices.”
Jim and Tony laughed, then Jim reached out for Tony’s arm and squeezed. “Go get your surprise, sport. I’ll get Drew situated on the sofa so he falls on soft cushions when he faints.”
Tony pushed away from the table. “You just want an excuse to have him on your lap.”
“I don’t need an excuse. I’ll have him sit on my lap whenever I want.”
“Right. Could you two not speak as if I’m not around? Thank you so very much. Oh, and I’m perfectly capable of sitting on my own. Whatever it is won’t cause me to faint,” Andrew declared. He rose from his chair, walked over to the sofa, and curled up in his favorite corner. Jim watched him stare at Tony’s retreating back before he asked in a low voice, “It won’t, right? I mean, lead to me fainting?”
“I’m not sure about that, but if you don’t get teary-eyed, I don’t know who you are,” Jim replied. He seated himself next to Andrew, then crooked a finger.
Andrew stretched his legs out over Jim’s lap, smiling. Jim pushed a hand between them, under the fabric, and stroked Andrew’s calf.
“Better?” Andrew asked, amusement clear in his voice.
“I never thought you’d be such a touchy-feely guy.”
“I’m not. It’s you.”
“Yes, you corrupted me.”
Andrew choked on a laugh. “Maybe you ought to punish me for that?”
“It’ll be my pleasure to redden your ass later.”
“I’m very much looking forward to it.” Andrew tried unobtrusively to adjust his shirt to conceal his crotch.
Jim couldn’t help but grin at the gesture. “I love how receptive you are. Even after seven years.”
“It’s very addictive.”
Tony descended the stairs in a hurry, almost tripping over his feet at the bottom, which caused Andrew to inhale sharply. Tony skidded to a stop in front of Andrew, holding his gift as if it was a bomb that would go off any second.
Andrew stared at Tony open-mouthed and with growing concern visible on his face.
“Dad! You have to take it.”
“You’re shaking,” Andrew stated. Jim watched the concern shift to fear when Andrew attempted to pull away to get up.
Jim clamped his hands down on Andrew’s legs. “Drew, it’s just a gift.”
“Ow. Stop playing bench vise.”
Jim lessened the strength of his grip, then smiled encouragingly at Tony. “He’s going to love it, trust me.”
Andrew’s gaze skittered from Tony to Jim and back again. “This is all very thrilling.”
“Move over, Dad. I need to sit down. This is making me nervous.”
Jim cut Andrew’s protest short. He lifted him on his lap and ignored Andrew’s surprised yelp. “He said to move over.”
“I hate when you just lift me and put me wherever you want,” Andrew huffed as he squirmed into a comfortable position.
“Dad, even I can tell you’re lying. I never thought you’d be such a bad role model.”
Tony and Jim laughed at Andrew’s flabbergasted expression. A moment later, Tony shoved his gift into Andrew’s hands.
“I wanted to make something special for your anniversary because…” Tony trailed off and shrugged, then gathered his courage to add, “Even though you singing Whitney Houston songs drives me crazy, and Jim hogging all the warm water in the morning makes me grumpy, you still are the best parents in the whole world and I love you.”
Jim swallowed against the lump in his throat while he blinked away tears. Andrew scooted closer to Tony and wrapped him into a tight embrace. Jim couldn’t hear what he said, but from Tony’s watering eyes he deduced that he fared no better.
“Dad, don’t cry. I’ll never tell you again if it gets you that wound up.”
“I told you he’d be crying,” Jim chided.
“But only after he’s seen the book.”
“I’m not crying,” Andrew protested. “I’m just… touched.”
“Babe, you’re totally crying,” Jim cupped Andrew’s chin in one hand after he’d released Tony. “Or, at the very least, you’re on the verge of crying.”
“It’s still not crying.”
“Okay, okay!” Andrew rubbed his eyes with his shirt sleeve. Jim let go of Andrew’s chin to smother the wild affection that surged up within him into something tameable.
Jim wrapped his free arm loosely around Tony’s bony shoulder while he circled his thumb on Andrew’s right hipbone. Fine tremors fluttered through Tony and Andrew and, not for the first time, Jim was amazed by the intense love between them.
He felt Tony stiffen underneath his palm when Andrew took the book and gasped. Jim tucked Tony into his side while he waited for Andrew’s reaction. His hands became unsteady and shaky the further ahead he got in Tony’s book, but he still didn’t say a word. Tony barely breathed next to them.
Come on now, Drew. Tell him how awesome this is!
After Andrew had finished with Tony’s book, he carefully placed it on the coffee table, then said in a throaty voice, “That’s what you spent so much time on lately.”
Tony nodded, which Andrew couldn’t see because he was still balancing on Jim’s knees with his back turned to them. Jim felt increasingly unsettled by Andrew’s reaction to Tony’s gift and, from the nervous vibrations he received from Tony, he felt the same way.
Tentatively, Tony asked, “Dad? Don’t you like it?”
Andrew whirled around with tears streaking down his face. “What? I love it. I just… wanted to get a hold on me so I couldn’t embarrass you.”
All the tension seeped out of Tony and he lunged for Andrew’s neck to hug him. “It’s okay for today, Dad.”
Andrew leaned into Tony and held him tightly while he—rather incoherently—thanked him.
It took Andrew a few minutes to calm down. Then they all huddled together on the sofa, Andrew and Jim fencing Tony in, with Tony’s book open on his lap. Andrew captured Nika before she could paw at it, and they spent the rest of the evening talking about the scenes Tony had drawn, remembering how their family had started.
The plane banked as it descended, and through the Plexiglas window Zach could watch as the clouds wisped by, growing thinner. A moment later, it seemed like it was green all the way to the horizon: thick, dense, heavy green, green that was a dozen different shades from almost yellow to almost black. The green of jungle.
Yeah, here they called it “cloud forest” and it was a tourist attraction, but it was still jungle. Air thick and redolent of decaying plant life, pungent and musty, punctuated by the buzz of insects and the calls of invisible birds. He was already regretting the impulse that brought him here—he had a hard time in greenhouses, for Pete’s sake, the smell of growing things and the sound of bugs still having a tendency to make him nervous. But something in him said that now was the time to do this.
Alicia had been surprised by his phone call, but expressed delight that he would be coming to visit. He was pretty sure she wasn’t delighted, really; it was more likely she was shocked and dismayed. He’d seen his aunt a few times in the years since he’d been home, but always on his own turf, at home in Colorado, or last year when she attended a conference in Boston, at school. He loved her dearly, but the idea of coming back here to Costa Rica, where he’d been kidnapped ten years ago, had never been on anyone’s radar, least of all hers. She didn’t expect it of him.
He hadn’t expected it of himself. But over the last few months an anxiousness had been building in him he couldn’t explain. School was great, his relationship with David, though long-distance, was equally good. He’d made friends at school, which he hadn’t expected, but then they were all nerds together. The hoopla over the book about his kidnapping was finally dying down and he was able to spend less time being interviewed and more time on homework. He didn’t understand why suddenly he was getting edgy, why the nightmares were getting worse instead of better, and why the idea of running away was suddenly in his head.
And then he realized that this weekend was the ten-year anniversary of the kidnapping.
Ten years. Half of which he’d spent in a jungle much like the one rising way too fast to meet him, and the second half trying to recover from the first. A balance, finally. Equal time. Or something like that.
At 2:30 one morning, woken from sleep by another horrible nightmare, he’d picked up his tablet and gone online to book a flight to Costa Rica. When he’d awakened the next morning, he found the confirmation in his inbox, and stared at it a long time until he realized what it was.
He didn’t want to do this. But something said he had to.
Aunt Alicia, when he’d called her two nights ago, had said of course he could come visit, and did he want her to send a driver to pick him up? Her voice had been hesitant—it was her driver whose body they’d found after Zach had disappeared: stripped, throat cut, and stuffed behind a Dumpster in the airport utility lot. They’d figured out later that somehow he’d been conned into giving Zach’s information to whoever killed him. Alicia wasn’t sure that Zach would trust just anyone, so she promised to have the driver call her on his cell phone when Zach arrived and confirm that it was him. Zach, who’d been taking self-defense classes for the last three years, said that was fine and he wasn’t afraid. Oddly, he hadn’t been.
Until the moment when the pilot said that they were on approach to Juan Santamaria Airport. Then his skin went cold and he felt the beginnings of a panic attack. Pulling out his inhaler, he took a couple of puffs, closed his eyes, and focused on his breathing.
“Are you all right, sir?” the first class cabin attendant asked.
He opened his eyes, glanced up at her, and tried for a smile. “Yeah. Just… you know.”
She probably thought it was fear of flying, but that was okay.
The plane touched down, bounced twice on the tarmac, and then they were at the gate.
He made it through Customs, and only had a backpack, so he didn’t have to deal with luggage, so he just texted Alicia that he was on the ground. She texted back almost immediately that her driver was there and would meet him outside the arrivals terminal.
He didn’t remember much about last time. Just walking out into sunlight and hearing his name. After that, darkness and heat and fear and, eventually, pain. So much pain. He stared at the big glass doors out into the same sunlight, suddenly paralyzed.
He was safe here, in the air conditioned terminal. He could just turn around and switch out his return ticket for the next flight back to Boston. The only one who’d know would be Aunt Alicia—he hadn’t told his parents or David….
He was just turning to do that, when he caught a glimpse of someone crossing the pickup lane from the parking lot. Just another American tourist, he supposed, a lean, lanky man, tanned and lithe in Hawaiian shirt and khaki shorts. His baseball cap shaded his face and he wore dark glasses, so Zach couldn’t see his face, but he reminded Zach of David. Something in the way he walked, as if he weren’t in a hurry, and the world could damn well wait for him.
He hadn’t told David. He knew he was in for it when he got back, once Taff had found out that he’d gone off to Costa Rica without a word to anyone. David would have wanted to go with him, to ease his way, but he didn’t want that. He wanted to be able to come by himself, to have the courage to walk through those doors—or not—on his own, with no one holding his hand. He thought Taff might be disappointed in him if he didn’t make it, but if he had been here, Zach would have had to walk through those doors whether he wanted to or not. Because it would have been because of David that he’d done it, not for himself.
And as much as he loved David and would do anything for him, he needed to do this for himself. Because this was the only way he could get past it. He needed to walk through those doors—or not—for himself, to prove to him that he could face that fear. He’d faced a lot of them in the last five years. Yeah, one of the things he’d learned was that he didn’t have to face all of them alone, that David and his parents and even his friends would have his back, but this…. This was something he needed to do alone. To prove to himself that he could. He’d been alone that first time. He needed to be alone this time too.
He thought again about turning back to the desk to trade in his ticket for the next flight. Thought again about Taff. Thought about the hopes he had for the two of them, thought about how much he loved and missed him. Thought about having one less bit of baggage to hold between them, one less bit of bitter memory to taint their love, one less bit of fear keeping them from having the best of all possible relationships. He knew he was a difficult person to love, but if losing a little bit of fear made it easier, then damn, he was going to do this.
He sucked in a breath, nodded at the airport employee who was giving him a curious look, and walked through the glass doors, out into the light.
Into heat, and noise, but thankfully what filled his nose was diesel and tar and concrete, not the musty pong of jungle. He took deep breaths of the humid, acrid air, letting them out slowly until his tension eased and he felt almost… well, not normal, but normalish. Composed enough to look for the driver Alicia had promised.
He almost didn’t react; the voice was so quiet he thought for a moment he imagined it. He turned to see the guy in the Hawaiian shirt. Not a guy who reminded him of David, or who walked like David.
His lover pulled the sunglasses off his face and searched Zach’s. “Are you mad? Alicia called your folks and they told me. I caught a flight yesterday. She said she thought you didn’t want anyone to know but that you might need me here….” He trailed off as Zach reached out and put his hand around the back of his neck.
“You,” Zach said, “are exactly what I need right now.”
The tightness eased from David’s face. “Oh, thank God. I was afraid you’d be pissed.”
“I figured you’d be pissed when you found out I came here without you. So we’re even.” He glanced around; no one was paying attention, but he still didn’t feel comfortable actually kissing Taff. So he just leaned his forehead against his lover’s and closed his eyes. “God, it’s so good to see you.”
David rubbed his shoulder. “You too,” he said in a low voice. “Come on. We got better than an hour’s drive to Santa Elena. Your aunt’s looking forward to seeing you. She’d have come herself but they couldn’t get a replacement guide at such short notice.”
“So she said on the phone.” Zach bumped David’s shoulder. “I just didn’t expect such a good-looking driver. Come on. Where’s the car?”
The car was a battered and muddy Range Rover, but Zach didn’t care. He waited until David unlocked the passenger-side door, tossed his backpack over the seat into the back, and then grabbed David, pushing him against the back door and pinning him there. David looked up at him, his brown eyes smoky, and Zach felt a delighted chill run through him. “God, I’ve missed you,” Zach said, and forestalled any response by covering David’s mouth with his. God, so sweet, the first kiss after a separation, and the knowing that soon they’d be together, skin to skin, heart to heart, Taff soft and yielding beneath him.
When he released him, David’s eyes were unfocused, his face flushed, and his breathing ragged. “Jesus, Zach, we’ve got a fucking hour’s drive yet!”
Zach laughed and got in the car. After a moment, David got in, shot him a fulminating look, then started the engine.
It was nearly an hour and a half later that David pulled up to a tiny cottage on a bluff overlooking the coffee plantations they’d just driven past. “Alicia said to get you settled, and she’d see us for dinner. She lives in that house”—he waved at another, larger cottage a couple of hundred yards away—“and we’re supposed to go up there about 7. Which is about three hours from now, so plenty of time to get… rested.” His eyes twinkled wickedly. “This is a cottage for visiting scientists, only there’s no scientists visiting, so it’s all ours for the weekend. Quiet. Private.”
“I love my aunt,” Zach said.
“Me too,” David said. He took Zach’s backpack from his hand, threw it onto the couch, closed the door, and dragged Zach into the bedroom.
Zach caught him by the arm and pulled him around, clamping his hands on David’s shoulders and gazing down into that beloved face. It had been nearly two months since David’s last flying visit to Boston, and he had missed him. Missed holding him, missed kissing him. Missed making love to him. “Mine,” he said softly, and kissed him.
“Yours,” David agreed, his voice husky, “yours, right now and forever.”
“Especially the right now part,” Zach said. He pulled the Hawaiian shirt off—the baseball cap hadn’t made it out of the car—and ran his hands over David’s tanned chest, grinning as David closed his eyes and moaned. Then he undid the khaki shorts and followed them to the floor, sliding his hands down to David’s hips and holding him while he took David’s sleek shaft into his mouth. David keened softly and buried his hands in Zach’s hair. Zach released him long enough to say, “God, I have missed the way you taste…” before taking him down again.
“I need you naked—now,” David groaned. “God, Zach, I need you.”
“I’m here.” Zach gave David’s cock a long, teasing kiss, then surged to his feet, tumbling David onto the neatly made bed. He stripped fast, driven crazy by the sight of David lying there, his hand stroking himself lazily, wearing nothing but a wicked grin.
He shoved David’s knees apart and crawled up on the bed, looking down at him. “I don’t suppose you have any lube?”
“Under the pillow,” David said, still with that wicked grin.
“You are so smart,” Zach said admiringly, found the lube, and within seconds was buried deep in David’s willing body. They lay still a moment, eyes locked, then Zach whispered, “Thank you for coming.”
“I haven’t, yet,” David teased, but kissed him tenderly before rocking his hips invitingly. Zach groaned and started to move, slowly at first, then faster, hiking David’s legs higher up on his arms and plunging into him. David threaded his fingers through Zach’s hair again, holding not tight, but sure, anchoring Zach, until Zach gasped, “Now, Taff, now,” and David moved one hand to his own cock. Zach shifted his weight to one hand and wrapped the other around David’s, and the two of them brought David off first, letting him spill hot and wet, his body convulsing around Zach.
Zach felt it to his bones, felt David let go, and let go himself, riding the same wave of pleasure and joy. He collapsed on top of David, heedless of the wetness between them, and buried his face in David’s neck, breathing the familiar, beloved scent of David’s sweaty body.
“Welcome to Costa Rica,” David rumbled beneath him.
He raised his head and met his lover’s laughing eyes. “Thanks. I’m liking it so far.”
Read more about Zach and David in Finding Zach.
Adrian’s Librarian by Hollis Shiloh
Rakish Adrian Knowles kisses the wrong man by mistake and meets Oliver… who quickly becomes the only man he wants. Adrian’s Librarian by Hollis Shiloh, available from Dreamspinner Press.
One night at a masquerade party, rakish Adrian Knowles kisses the wrong man by mistake and meets Oliver Windham. Feisty yet wary and broken, Ollie desperately needs a friend. Almost against his will, Adrian finds himself playing the hero… and falling in love.
Adrian hires Ollie to set his library to rights—after having his servants put all the books out of order. He promises himself he’ll treat Ollie only as a friend, but Ollie quickly becomes the only man he wants.
A Timeless Dreams title: While reaction to same-sex relationships throughout time and across cultures has not always been positive, these stories celebrate M/M love in a manner that may address, minimize, or ignore historical stigma.
Length: Novella (103p.) | Genre: Historical -European, Timeless Dream, Regency |Release Date: May 22, 2013 | Buy as eBook (ISBN: 978-1-62380-700-9)
The Gig by Kim Fielding
An accident left Drew unable to communicate through either speech or writing. Travis is determined to help Drew find ways to succeed. The Gig by Kim Fielding, available from Dreamspinner Press.
An accident in Drew Clifton’s past left the former novelist with aphasia, unable to communicate through either speech or writing. Through sheer strength of will, he built a quiet but lonely life for himself. But now he’s fallen in love with Travis Miller.
Travis has his own issues—a permanent eye injury and unemployment. But he’s determined to help Drew find ways to engage and succeed again in the wider world, and a guitar-playing gig at a local coffeehouse seems like a good start.
Dylan Warner and Chris Nock happen to be in the audience that evening, and they have a few niggling problems of their own. Perhaps a chance meeting will provide solutions that might benefit all of them.
Length: Short (24p.) | Genre: Contemporary | Release Date: March 22, 2013 | Free eBook (ISBN: 978-1-62380-712-2)
Buried Bones by Kim Fielding
If Dylan and Chris want to build a lasting relationship, they’ll have to get rid of a ghost, face family, and deal with old emotions. Buried Bones by Kim Fielding, available from Dreamspinner Press.
Werewolves don’t have a how-to manual—nor do men embarking on a new life together.
It’s been a few weeks since Dylan Warner wolfed out and killed Andy, the crazed werewolf who originally turned him and later tried to murder Chris Nock. Architect Dylan and handyman Chris are still refurbishing Dylan’s old house as they work out the structure of their relationship. They come from very different backgrounds, and neither has had a long-term lover before, so negotiating their connections would be challenge enough even if Dylan didn’t turn into a beast once a month.
To make matters worse, Dylan’s house is haunted, and events from both men’s pasts are catching up with them. Dylan has to cope with the aftermath of killing Andy, and Chris continues to suffer the effects of a difficult childhood.
In his quest to get rid of the ghost, Dylan rekindles old friendships and faces new dangers. At the same time, Chris’s father makes a sudden reappearance, stirring up old emotions. If Dylan and Chris want to build a lasting relationship, they’ll have to meet these challenges head-on.
Length: Novel (250p.) | Genre: Mystery/Suspense, Werewolves/Shapeshifters, Ghosts/Spirits | Release Date: May 22, 2013 |Buy as eBook (ISBN: 978-1-62380-711-5) | Buy as Paperback (ISBN: 978-1-62380-710-8)
“Hey, baby!” Alex shut the door and threw his keys on the table. “You home?”
He sighed. This made the third night this week that Ben wasn’t home when Alex got back from the film studio. Alex didn’t begrudge Ben the time he was spending with Pablo to start their new outdoor excursion business, and he was thrilled that Ben was doing something that made him as happy as acting made Alex. Still, he missed him.
“Whine more,” he told himself and walked into the kitchen to scope out dinner. He missed Ben’s cooking, too. Without him around to whip up one of his delicious meals, Alex had to settle for scrambled eggs or leftovers. He was opening the refrigerator when his phone buzzed with a call from Jeff.
“Hi.” He pulled open the crisper and regarded the week-old lettuce and a few rubbery carrots.
“The details are coming together beautifully, my dear.”
“Tell me,” Alex said, giving up on veggies and taking out some leftover chili.
“I picked up the ring, and it’s stunning.”
“I know, isn’t it? Kate did a great job.”
“And I booked you a limo to the airport at 4 p.m. tomorrow.”
“Thanks.” Alex’s thoughts about the tickets to Paris hidden in his desk vanished when a pile of saucepans toppled with a crash. “Whoa!”
“What was that?”
“Nothing. Some pans fell.” He picked up a saucepan from the floor and put it on the stove.
“Baby, don’t tell me you’re cooking again. Didn’t you learn your lesson when you almost burned the house down?”
“Shut up. Ben’s out so I’m fending for myself tonight. Back to the ring. You can get it to Claudio’s restaurant before lunch tomorrow?”
“Yes, yes. Such a romantic. I wish I had a man to buy me a ring and take me to Paris. By the way, how did you figure tomorrow being your anniversary? Seems like a random date.”
“Not at all,” Alex said, dumping the chili into the pan. “September 13th of last year is the day that Ben showed up at my house in LA and we finally got together.”
“It’s been a year? Wow.”
“And I don’t know if you remember this, but Mercury had gone out of retrograde the day before. You’re the one who pointed that out at the time.”
“The stars were aligned, darling. Aw, so it’s the anniversary of your first kiss.”
“Well… not exactly. We kissed once at the lodge.”
“You did?” Jeff sounded indignant. “When you were still laboring under the delusion that I was your soulmate?”
“Er… yeah.” Alex smiled, knowing Jeff was never going to let him live that down.
Jeff made a tsk-ing noise. “Hussy.” Alex chuckled. “Does Ben even know about this anniversary?”
“No, I don’t think he’s made the connection about the date. He’s probably going to laugh at me for making such a big deal out of it.”
Alex didn’t mind that Ben wasn’t aware of their anniversary. He was the one in their relationship who went all out with the celebrations and big romantic gestures, while Ben tended to be more low-key. He glanced at the platinum and star sapphire ring on his left ring finger that Ben had given him on his thirtieth birthday. Then again, when Ben did do something romantic, it was usually perfect.
~ ~ ~
“Isn’t this one a beauty?” Ben leaned over to get a better look at the catamaran bobbing gently in the blue water.
“Mmm, yes. Quite a beauty,” Alex said, closing his arms around Ben’s waist as he murmured the words into his ear.
Ben’s lips quirked. “You sure you’re paying attention to the catamaran?” He caught his breath when Alex pulled him closer, his breath hot against the back of Ben’s neck.
“Catama—what?” Alex asked, grazing Ben’s earlobe with his teeth.
Ben let out a laugh. “You’re impossible.” He broke away and took Alex’s hand. “Come on, I’ve got something else to show you.”
He was glad that Alex had gone along with his sudden urge to go to the marina and look at the new catamarans he and Pablo had just purchased. It was a pretty lame excuse but Alex was the one with the imagination, and it was the only thing Ben could think of to get Alex out of the house so he could kidnap him.
“What time is it?” Alex asked, once they were back in the Range Rover.
“Eleven-ish.” Ben drove them out of the marina parking lot while Alex fidgeted beside him. “Why are you so jumpy?”
“I just—I don’t want to be late for lunch.”
“Oh. Okay.” Ben had no intention of having lunch in some restaurant. Not today. But he didn’t need to tell Alex that quite yet. He drove in silence for a few minutes while Alex played with his phone. He wondered how long it would take Alex to realize that Ben wasn’t headed towards downtown. He glanced over. Good, Alex had put in his earbuds and was leaning back with his eyes closed.
It was a gorgeous day, and Ben drove on, humming “What A Wonderful World” under his breath. A half-hour later, after they were well outside of the city, Alex opened his eyes and then sat up with a start.
“Where the hell are we? What time—shit, Ben, it’s 11:30—where are you going?”
Ben couldn’t contain his smirk as he drummed his fingers on the steering wheel. “I’m kidnapping you.”
Ben winced at Alex’s screech. “Don’t get so panicked. I’m taking you away for the weekend.”
“But, no—we’re going to miss the lunch and—”
Ben frowned. “Since when is lunch at Claudio’s so important? We can always do that another time—”
“You don’t understand—”
“—and if I want to take my boyfriend away for our anniversary, I can.”
“—we have to get back… what?”
“I said, if I want to take my boyfriend away for our anniversary, I can.” This time, Ben didn’t even try to hide his triumphant grin, especially when he saw how Alex was staring at him, his gorgeous eyes wide in shock.
“Anniversary?” Alex repeated in a small voice.
“Yep. Today is the one-year anniversary of you and me.”
“And… and… what?”
Ben nodded, feeling smug that he’d finally managed to surprise Alex with a romantic gesture before Alex had beat him to it. “A year ago today, I came to your house in LA and we had it out.”
“I know—um, I mean… you’re kidding. Today’s the anniversary of that?” Alex’s voice sounded odd and Ben was having a hard time figuring out his reaction.
“Yeah. It’s the anniversary of when you almost threw me out of your house and then we ended up in bed together and then I never left. It’s been one year today.”
He cut his eyes over to see how Alex was taking matters, and found him gazing at him with a face full of wonder. “You remembered,” Alex whispered, like a kid who has just found out that Santa is indeed real.
“Mm-hmm.” Ben chuckled. “I’m surprised you didn’t, Mr. Celebrate-Any-Occasion. Anyway, I’m taking you away to a cabin in the woods, and before you freak out and think I’m gonna make you go fly fishing, it’s like the most luxurious cabin ever, and I’m gonna cook for you and pamper you and have my way with you for three days.”
“Wow.” After a short silence, Alex said, “Um, can you pull into the next gas station we come to? I need to pee.”
“Well, that wasn’t the reaction I thought you’d have to being kidnapped, but sure.”
“No! I mean… oh, fuck, pull over.”
“Pull over and stop this car. Now.”
No sooner had Ben driven on to the shoulder and stopped the car than Alex was on him, grabbing his face between his hands and kissing him over and over until Ben was breathless with it.
“You remembered,” Alex repeated between kisses. “You’re perfect.” More kisses. “I love you so much.”
Ben wanted to grin at Alex’s exuberance and do a fist pump at the same time, but instead found himself sinking into the deliciousness of Alex’s mouth. He was startled when Alex pulled away and snatched up his phone.
“Let me….” Alex panted and Ben was glad he wasn’t the only one who was breathless. “Just let me text Claudio’s and, um, can we find a gas station soon?”
“Okay, okay.” Ben started the car and got it back on the road. “You can always go in the bushes if you have to pee so bad.”
“Bite your tongue,” Alex said, moving his thumbs furiously over his phone.
“I’d rather bite yours.”
“You betcha,” Ben drawled, lips still tingling from Alex’s kisses.
~ ~ ~
Alex shut and locked the door to the gas station restroom, trying not to shudder at the grimy floor and stultifying heat. A few flies buzzed overhead. Holding his breath so he wouldn’t have to smell anything, Alex pushed the speed dial number for Jeff.
Jeff picked up after one ring. “What the hell is going on? Everything’s ready.”
“Ben remembered. And he kidnapped me to take me to a cabin to celebrate.”
Jeff snorted out a laugh. “Of course he did. I’m surprised he isn’t making you sleep in a tent.”
“No, no—it’s some luxury cabin.”
“But what about Paris? And the ring? You’re supposed to be in an airplane in six hours.”
“I know, but—Jeff. Ben remembered. And he planned this whole romantic weekend. So, do me a favor and change our tickets to next week. Oh, and cancel the limo. And can you get the ring from Claudio and hold on to it for me? Oh, and the hotel—”
“Stop! Why don’t you just tell Ben what you planned? You still have time to get back to LA and make the flight.”
Someone pounded on the door.
“Just a minute,” Alex called. He said into the phone, “No. I—it doesn’t matter. It’s so sweet of Ben to do this, and I don’t want to spoil his plans. He’s so happy that he remembered and was able to surprise me. I’m not going to tell him that I remembered too, until we get home.”
“Oh, alright. You guys are too sappy to be real, though. I’ll get everything rearranged.”
“Thanks. I owe you big-time.”
“You owe me many blow jobs, but since I’m not getting those from you any more, I’ll take the equivalent. A spa vacation would be lovely.”
~ ~ ~
Ben lay in the circle of Alex’s arms, the only light coming from the dying fire in the fireplace. They’d had a perfect first day and Alex was adding to it by placing little kisses on the top of Ben’s head, while humming a love song into his ear.
The sound of something crashing around outside interrupted them.
Alex lifted his head. “Bears?” He was a city boy through and through, and being in the wilderness tended to make him nervous.
Ben rubbed a soothing hand over his arm. “Sounds like animals of some sort. Not sure.”
The next moment a familiar voice whined right under their open window. “Fuck, Nicole! Why didn’t you bring a flashlight?”
“Quiet, let’s just drop off the ring and papers and split.”
Ben and Alex both sat up. “Why are Jeff and Nicole here?” Ben whispered. “I thought I was kidnapping you away from everyone.”
“Beats me. Did you tell them the location?”
“Nicole was the one who found the cabin for me.”
Alex got out of bed and stalked over to the window in all of his glorious nakedness while Ben enjoyed the view. “What the hell are you two doing here?” he called.
There was a muffled shriek and then silence. Eventually, Nicole’s voice said, “You weren’t supposed to know.”
Jeff’s voice, sounding petulant, said, “Only someone forgot the flashlight and it’s fucking dark out here.”
Alex turned back to Ben, who was trying not to laugh. “What do you say, baby? Should we let them in?”
“Why not?” Ben leaned over the side of the bed, picked up Alex’s shorts and threw them at him. “Here, put these on. No one gets to see you naked anymore but me.”
Alex caught them and said out of the window, “Okay, you creatures. We’ll let you in so you can explain what brought you out to our secret hideaway.”
A few moments later, Ben and Alex ushered in a sheepish Nicole and a grumpy Jeff. Ben got some champagne flutes out of the cupboard, saying over his shoulder, “Make yourselves at home. You can help us kill another bottle of champagne.”
He grabbed a bottle out of the refrigerator and straightened up to find the three of them in a huddle, arguing in furious whispers. This wasn’t all that unusual—Alex and his friends tended to be dramatic—so Ben set about opening the champagne. Once he’d popped the cork and was pouring the bubbly into glasses, he said, “Anyone want to tell me what y’all are whispering about?”
Nicole gave an emphatic shake of her head to Alex, who sounded like he was protesting something, and moved closer to Ben. “Alex planned something today, too.”
She drew in a breath and said, “He’s been planning for your anniversary for ages, and I thought you should know that he didn’t forget.”
Ben walked over to stand in front of Alex, who was scowling at Nicole. “How come you didn’t say—oh, wait, was that what the lunch was about?”
After what looked like an internal struggle, Alex’s face softened. “Yeah. But you were so happy about surprising me that I didn’t want to mess it up. And I was so happy that you remembered!”
He said the last with such amazement that Ben didn’t know whether to laugh or be offended.
“Of course I remembered. This date is etched on my brain. It’s the day my life changed forever. I’ll never forget.”
Alex appeared on the verge of tears, the big softie. Ben reached up and stroked his cheek. Whatever Alex might have been about to say was interrupted by an audible sniffle from Nicole, who wiped her eyes.
“Oh, for God’s sake,” Jeff said. “Here, Alex, give this to your boyfriend.” He put something into Alex’s hand and stomped to the table, muttering, “I need champagne.”
“What’s that?” Ben asked.
“My surprise.” Alex broke into a grin. “This was the first part that was going to happen at the restaurant.” He dropped down on one knee and presented Ben with an open ring box. “Ben, will you be my everything?”
“I already am, Alex.”
“I know, but I want you to stay with me forever. Please.”
Ben stared at his expectant face and then at the ring, a near duplicate of the platinum and star sapphire one he’d given Alex nine months ago on his birthday.
“Someone has good taste,” Ben teased.
“Try it on,” Alex said, beaming.
He took the ring out of the box and tried it on. It fit perfectly. He tore his eyes off the sapphire to gaze back at Alex who was waiting patiently on one knee.
“Will I stay with you forever? Of course I will. That’s been the plan all along.”
“Yay!” Alex cried and shuffled forward on both knees to throw his arms around Ben. “Love you, love you, love you,” he chanted into Ben’s stomach, face pressed close.
“Love you, too, you nut,” Ben said softly, running his fingers through Alex’s hair and watching his new ring sparkle in the light.
“Show him the other thing,” Nicole said, still wiping away tears. She handed Alex a piece of paper.
Alex sat back on his heels. “Here, honey.” He held the paper up to Ben and got to his feet as Ben scanned it.
It seemed to be an itinerary with flights, hotels, excursions… “Paris?” Ben lifted his head and met Alex’s eyes. Alex nodded, practically quivering with excitement.
“Will you come to Paris with me for our anniversary?”
“Are you kidding? Of course! Wait—this says the flight was today.”
“Changed to a week from now, courtesy of yours truly,” Jeff said, pouring himself another glass of champagne.
“So, let me get this straight. You got me a ring and a trip to Paris and that was all going to happen today?”
“And instead you let me take you to a cabin in the woods? And pretended that you hadn’t remembered?”
“Because I loved that you remembered, and made a surprise for me and I—I don’t know. I didn’t want to mess it up. It was so sweet.”
Ben pulled Alex into a hug, suddenly overwhelmed with how much he loved him. He heard Jeff’s voice in the background.
“Well, Nic, I think our work here is done. We’re leaving, guys. We’ll see ourselves out.”
“Love you two.” Nicole’s voice. “Have fun.”
Ben didn’t move from their embrace. The door slammed shut, and he and Alex swayed back and forth for a minute longer, clinging to each other.
“I like our friends,” Ben finally said.
“I like them, too, but I like you more.” Alex squeezed him even tighter.
“Love me, you mean.”
“Yes. I love you. And now, if you don’t mind….” Ben squawked in surprise as Alex swept him up into his arms and started to stagger toward the bedroom.
“Happy anniversary,” Ben whispered, letting himself be borne along in the shelter of Alex’s arms.
Read more about Alex and Ben in Mercury In Retrograde.
Aadon studied his handiwork. The candle-lit table—set for two instead of three—gave a clear indication of how the evening would go. Jesse would be home from his night class any minute and Aadon was ready to make his evening special. He set a gift in white and silver wrapping on the table and straightened a bread knife. He was obsessing only because he wanted everything perfect. He and Jesse were three years into this relationship, and the first two hadn’t exactly been easy.
Year one had been riddled with false starts, overshadowed by Jesse’s fear, and interrupted by the trial to keep Jesse’s abusive ex, Anthony, behind bars. Tension, especially on the physical side of things had kept them at arm’s length.
Year two had been consumed with Aadon’s brother Ricky and his needs. Their parents had finally washed their hands of both brothers. One for being gay and one for being so damaged, they no longer saw the brilliant boy they’d raised in the wreckage. Aadon figured it hurt them too much to try to figure Ricky out. That didn’t make it any easier to understand their desertion.
Keys in the lock pulled Aadon back to now.
Jesse was home and nothing else would distract them tonight. They’d fought hard to make it to year three. That required celebration. A smile came easily as his lover slipped through the door and locked it again behind him. As he set the chain in place and reached for the light switch, Aadon covered the space between them, deliberately making his footsteps heavy so Jesse wouldn’t be taken off guard.
“Hey, babe.” He ran a hand down Jesse’s arm and covered his fingers on the switch, removing his hand before he could turn the lights on. “Welcome home.”
A soft smile curled Jesse’s lips and his weight sank back onto Aadon’s chest. He gave so easily lately, and Aadon accepted the gift, wrapping both arms around his smaller lover and nuzzling his face into Jesse’s neck. “I’ll take your bag and we can relax.”
“I have homework,” Jesse whispered, tilting his head to give Aadon a larger swath of skin to kiss.
“I gotta…” A gentle shiver ran through Jesse’s slight body. “Mm.”
Aadon licked along his neck, tasting the day’s sweat and Jesse’s natural flavour. “Tomorrow’s Saturday. I’ll help you catch up. Tonight is us.”
“Aadon.” Jesse lifted a hand to try and cover his neck.
Aadon gripped his wrist and pulled the hand away, gently guiding it down to rest at the small of Jesse’s back. He made the move slowly, relishing the way Jesse’s breath hitched into a faster cadence and absorbing the warmth seeping into his skin where Aadon kissed him.
“Ricky,” Jesse began, but Aadon tightened his hold and brought his lips close to Jesse’s ear.
“Is at Sarah’s. They’re playing Monopoly with Jennifer and Carl.” He rested his chin on Jesse’s shoulder. “Believe that? Ricky, playing Monopoly.”
“Sure I can.” Jesse shifted, straightened and waited for Aadon to release him, giving permission for him to turn around. “Taking him from that group home was the best thing you could have done for him A.”
A wide smile opened across Aadon’s face. “Best thing we could have done. I never would have managed without your help.”
“Whatever. He’s made a lot of progress. Did he know Carl was going to be there?”
Aadon nodded and lifted the strap of Jesse’s bag over his head, laying the burden aside and taking his hand. “He came with Sarah when she came to get Ricky. You should have seen him and Ricky both. It was so sweet even I got a bit of a toothache.”
“Do you think Ricky’s figured out that Carl and Carla from his group sessions are the same person?”
Aadon shrugged. “Not sure. He seems to feel safe with Carl, and he’s the only guy other than us he really relaxes around, so if he doesn’t know know, he must sense it on some level. That he isn’t like other guys, I mean. But hey”—he turned Jesse towards the dining table—“tonight, no talking about Ricky. Just you and me.”
“Oh wow.” Jesse stopped and stared. “Oh shit.” He turned wide eyes to Aadon. “What’s the date?”
Aadon grinned. “You’re getting your phone fixed next week. You are so lost without it!”
But Jesse’s eyes glimmered and his face fell. “It’s today. Oh my god, Aadon, I forgot. I lost track—”
“And I love that about you.” He pecked Jesse’s cheek. “Most days, anyway. It’s cute. Now sit down. I cooked.” He winked and pushed Jesse into his chair. “For energy later.”
“You even got me a gift!” he touched the silver and white wrappings. “I am the worst boyfriend ever.”
“You’re the most adorable boyfriend ever.” Aadon kissed his cheek again.
“Wait. Is this wrapped in paper towels? And tinfoil?” When he looked up his expression stuck on disbelief.
Aadon shrugged and set the gift out of his reach. “I used what was on hand.” He felt his own cheeks heat a bit and dropped his gaze. “Don’t get too excited, Jess. It’s all very much home grown. You know what our bank accounts look like.”
Jesse nodded and his gaze went back to the gift. “Yeah. I know.”
“I wanted to take you out.” He shrugged. “Sarah came up with the Monopoly idea and I jumped all over it.” He went to the stove as he spoke. “Not so fancy, but I did my best.”
He returned to the table with a steaming pan and placed it on the table “Eat up.”
“I’m getting better at this meatless thing. I think you’ll like it.”
The meal was good enough for Jesse to have a second helping, so Aadon took that as a sign his vegetarian cuisine was improving. He could cook just about anything with animal fat and butter and have it taste good. Without those crutches, it required more finesse to create a meal his discerning boyfriend enjoyed.
Once they had cleared and rinsed their dishes, Aadon picked up the gift and carried it to the bedroom.
“Hey! Where are you going with that?”
He smiled back over his shoulder. “In here. You go shower while I get things ready.”
“Aadon, this is already enough. I didn’t get you anything—”
Aadon had put the small box down and come back to him. He picked up both of Jesse’s hands. “I’ll tell you what.” Capturing Jesse’s undivided attention, he pulled in a deep breath and willed his heart to slow to a more sedate rhythm. His request was big, and he knew it. “Give me tonight.”
“Tonight?” A tiny crease appeared between Jesse’s eyebrows. “What do you mean?”
Aadon licked his lips and offered his most reassuring smile. “Tonight. I’m in charge.”
The tiny crease got a tiny bit longer. “You’re always in charge, A.”
“I mean really, really in charge, Jess. The way you never let anyone be in charge of you.”
Jesse twisted out of his grasp and took a step away. “I let him be in charge. Remember?”
Aadon’s heart plummeted but he didn’t let it show on his face. He didn’t let his hands tremble or his voice waver. “I know you did. But he can’t hurt you now, and I will never, ever hurt you like that. Not ever. We’ve been taking baby steps for a long time now and I believe you’re ready.”
“Ready for what, exactly?” His retreat had stopped and he stood in front of the open door to their bedroom. “We’ve already done things on that list you made me give you. The list of things I thought I’d never want to do.”
Aadon nodded. “I know you have. And it’s been at your pace, right?”
Jesse nodded. “Not fast enough for you?”
“Jess, it’s faster than I ever expected you’d want to go.”
“So? What more do you need?”
Aadon cupped a hand around the side of Jesse’s head. “I don’t need anything. But I want. I love being your boyfriend and your lover.” He curled his fingers a little bit tighter. “Understand that that’s enough for me. It truly is.”
“Then what is this about?”
“Letting me run things. Going with what I tell you without questioning me. Trusting that I won’t let you get hurt.”
Jesse’s head bobbed in a clipped nod. “I know you’d never let me get hurt, A.”
“Good. Go take a shower.” Gently, he tugged at the hair on the nape of Jesse’s neck. “Scrub.” He took a strong, controlling kiss and his insides wibbled at the way Jesse loosened and turned pliable beneath his hands. “Scrub well,” he said as he pulled away to admire the dazed look on Jesse’s face. “Inside and out. I expect you to be very clean for me.”
Jesse swallowed once, twice, then licked his lips and nodded.
Aadon tipped his head to one side. “Speak?”
“Yes,” Aadon corrected. “The reply is actually ‘yes’.”
Jesse’s eyes widened a fraction. Nothing had ever been remotely formal between them even if Jesse did let Aadon call most of the shots in bed.
“Reply,” Aadon said softly, imbuing the word with n undercurrent of command he hadn’t exercised in three years.
For what seemed like ages, they stood watching one another before Jesse finally swallowed and said the word.
A faint blush accompanied the agreement. It was all Aadon could do to keep the grin on the serene and controlled side of elated. “Good. Off you go. Ten minutes.”
Jesse nodded, turned, took a few steps but stopped and faced Aadon again. “You’re timing me?”
“What did I say about asking questions?”
Aadon lifted an eyebrow.
“Please,” Jesse said softly, ducking his head. “Just tell me that one thing. I’d like to know what the parameters are. At least a bit. If I do something wrong, what happens?”
“I will never, ever lay violent hand on you, Jesse. No corporeal punishment. Ever. It’s as much a hard limit for me as it is for you.” He smiled and let more of the Dom show. “But yes, there will always be repercussions, but they will fit the crime, as it were.”
“And the crime for taking too long in the shower would be what, exactly?”
Aadon considered for a moment. “Getting dirty, I suppose.”
Aadon almost laughed at the slight squeak in Jesse’s voice. “Don’t get your hopes up. Dirty in the we-still-haven’t-swamped-out-the-attic way, not in the fun way.”
Jesse shuddered. “The attic is filthy. And there are probably spiders.” He ran delicate fingers through his hair. “And cobwebs.”
“So don’t take too long, because naked attic dusting probably wouldn’t be fun for you or be my ideal vision of our anniversary night. You’re down to about seven minutes.” He glanced at his watch. “Six and a half, actually.”
“That isn’t long enough!”
Aadon laughed. “Attic.”
“Ugh!” Jesse scooted into the bathroom and closed the door.
Aadon lingered to see if he would lock it. Sometimes, even now, he did. He held his breath as the door handle shivered and rattled, the lock clicked, but there was no time to feel the disappointment take hold. The sound hadn’t even dissipated before the handle twisted and the door opened a crack and stayed that way.
Aadon let out a sigh of relief. The partially open door was an unspoken symbol between them from very early on. If Jesse left the door open, they were moving forward. He went over and pushed it a little further open. Jesse was naked and testing the water temperature. His clothes were neatly folded on the toilet seat, his towel ready on the edge of the sink. All his little rituals kept order in his world. Nothing messy or out of place. Holdovers from trying to keep a demanding boyfriend in a good mood, maybe. Now, years later, they were ingrained: a part of him. Aadon could appreciate the necessity and the comfort he found in them.
As cooler breeze from the living room wafted through the steam in the tiny bath, Jesse looked over his shoulder. A blush snuck over his skin but he smiled. Still shy, as if Aadon hadn’t seen him naked a thousand times.
Aadon said nothing. He watched as Jesse got under the spray. The soap and rinse was quick and efficient. The rest Jesse hesitated over, glancing at Aadon through the clear shower curtain.
“You going to stand there and watch?” His voice shook a bit and the effect on Aadon was instantaneous and dizzying.
“Four minutes,” Aadon grated out, breath mostly caught in the speed of the blood rushing to his dick.
Jesse groaned and turned his back, picked up the soap, faced Aadon then covered his growing cock and turned his back again. Admittedly, there was no good way for him to hide what he had to do, and his discomfort was nothing short of adorable.
“Make sure you get it all,” Aadon said, dropping his voice to a low register that experience told him made Jesse’s skin bloom with goose flesh. “I’m going to have my fingers up there soon enough. I don’t want any surprises.”
Pink rushed up over Jesse’s torso and neck as he squirted soap into his hand.
Aadon would have loved to stay and watch his delicate fingers disappear inside his body, but he knew Jesse had issues with the nastier sides of anal sex. Carefully, he swung the door most of the way closed and left him alone to prepare. There would be plenty of opportunities to watch his lover truly pleasure himself that way. He added it to his mental list of things to do in the near future. Often.
Seven and a half minutes later, he was snuffing out the last of the bedroom candles when Jesse presented himself, still pink form hot water, in the bedroom doorway.
“Two and a half minutes too late,” he said.
“But…” Jesse glanced round the room, at the candles on every surface, neatly standing on miss-matched teas saucers and trailing thin columns of smoke.
“Attic,” Aadon said. “That was the deal.” He held out a stack of white dusting cloths. “We’ll start under the window and work our way back towards the stairs. Once all the clothes are used up, we can come back down.”
Jesse’s eyes sparked. His lip trembled, but he took the cloths without comment. Aadon handed him the broom and dust pan and waved him towards the attic ladder in the short hallway.
Jesse gripped the broom in a tight fist. “Aadon I—”
Aadon kept his own grip on the broom. “Jesse, babe, my call tonight. No questions.”
Jesse eyed the square in the ceiling. “I have questions.”
Aadon dropped a kiss on Jesse’s shoulder. “I know you do. They’ll be answered as we go, promise.” He moved past and lowered the ladder, motioning Jesse up the steep incline.
“Naked?” He looked horrified.
Aadon nodded. “Up you go.”
Once up the stairs, Jesse lingered by the railing and stared at the curtain less window.
“How many of our neighbors do you think are going to look in our attic windows this time of night, babe?” Aadon asked gently. He trailed the tips of his fingers down Jesse’s spine. “Start with that box under the eaves.” He pointed to a cardboard box far under the low eaves, sides gray with a thick film of dust.
“I can’t get that out.”
“Not without getting down on your knees,” Aadon agreed.
Jesse studied the floor, face pale. “You’re really going to make me do this.”
Aadon stroked his back again, finding the knobs of his spine, fingers sliding through a slick of sweat. “Yes, babe. I am. As an example of how it works.”
“How what works?”
“When I give an order, it’s an order. You follow it. You’ll know, at the beginning, what will happen if you don’t. As we progress, you’ll come to trust me enough to know I will never hurt you. Just correct.”
Aadon lowered his arm, his fingers stroking over the curve of Jesse’s ass. “Because when you put yourself in my hands, you have to know I’ll take care of you. That you can depend on the truth of what I say, on the rules and on me to keep to them. That includes when you get it right and when you don’t. I’m not going to teach this lesson when you’re vulnerable to me in any way Anthony made you vulnerable. I’m going to teach in a way you can feel safe.”
“By crawling around in the dust, naked, in clear view of the neighbors. In the dirt.” He shivered.
“Mrs. Sheldon is ninety seven years old. Her bedroom is on the other side of her house, and she never opens her curtains. I checked last night, turned on all the lights up here. You can’t actually see in from the street and if you could, you’d only be able to see the ceiling. Stay on your knees, and no one will ever even know you’re in here.”
“On my knees,” Jesse repeated in a near-breathless whisper.
“Yes.” Aadon applied gentle pressure to his shoulder.
After a moment, Jesse gave, kneeling at his feet.
“Perfect.” He brushed fingers through Jesse’s hair and his lover glanced up at him.
His eyes were so wide open. Every ounce of his vulnerability poured out.
“You’re doing fine, babe,” Aadon assured him, running fingers along his jaw line, keeping his voice in that same low register that calmed him. “Get to work now.”
Jesse shuffled forward, on his hands and knees, the few paces necessary to reach the box. A puff of dust rose and he coughed as he flipped the flaps open. Inside a pile of bowling trophies glimmered dully up at them.
“You’ll have to polish those and put them in that tote. We’ll bring them to the goodwill. Believe it or not, people buy them, for some reason.”
Jesse removed them, one at a time, and dusted them off. They only required quick swipes with the soft cloth to eliminate the dust. The box had protected them from the worst. His first cloth was barely even soiled by the time he’d packed the dozen or so trophies into the plastic tote.
Pulling off the tape and flattening the box proved by far to be the dirtiest part of the job. He leaned it on the stair riling and moved on. He’d spent a half hour and gone through a box of old text books and one of baby clothes before he slowed and glanced to Aadon.
“All the cloths,” Aadon reminded him, eyeing the pile of unused cloths next to Jesse’s dust-smeared leg.
He watched as Jesse glanced around and chose his next target: a tall dresser covered in knick-knacks from someone’s living room. The ceramic figures proved far more dusty than the things protected by cardboard, and he quickly went through all but one of the cloths. He smiled triumphantly as he ran the last one over the dresser top and held it up for Aadon to see the deep gray smudges over its fuzzy surface.
Aadon nodded approval and offered a wide smile. You can pull the dresser out and sweep that corner, now that it’s empty. Then you’re done.”
Jesse did as he was told without comment. He had to twist the bristled end off the broom handle and get down on his knees to get at the thick layer of dust under the eaves, but he did so without complaint. he was quickly done, a substantial pile of fluffy grime sitting in his dust pan, sweat on his chest and smudges on his face.
“God your gorgeous,” Aadon said, spontaneous praise making Jesse smile.
Under the dirt smudged over skin was a thin veneer of sweat that gleamed in the low light. Aadon rose from the stuffed chair he’d been sitting in and held out a hand. “Come here.”
Jesse obeyed instantly, taking Aadon’s hand and stepping close he stopped, inches from rubbing his nakedness against Aadon’s clothing. His cock wasn’t hard, but it wasn’t completely limp, either.
Aadon looked him over critically. “You’re filthy, you know.”
Jesse shuddered. His smile faltered as though the reminder might trigger a panic attack. Another holdover from Anthony that had blindsided Aadon when he’d first moved in with Jesse. He’d cleaned up a lot of his sloppy ways to appease the very deeply-ingrained pathology Jesse had to keep things clean and orderly. He wasn’t as bad as he’d been. Therapy had worked wonders. But he still had a need for personal cleanliness that bordered on obsessive and Aadon had resigned himself to believing that might never go away.
“You know what I think about the dust and dirt stuck to you? Clinging to your sweat?” He deliberately took hold of Jesse’s upper arms and drew his lover against him, pressing their bodies together so Jesse could feel his hard-on under his pants.
“Exactly.” Aadon closed his eyes, tightened his grip and used Jesse’s body to rub and grind his erection, reveling in the pleasurable sparks the friction sent racing through his body.
Jesse stood statue still, allowing the use. Not a sound escaped him. A sign Aadon knew meant he was on the verge of a break down. Jesse’s time with his ex had damage him in ways it would take years of patience to heal. Aadon knew that. One of the deepest scars was this one that manifested in silence when Jesse was frightened, or worse, when he was actually enjoying what was being done and feared to say so. He didn’t dare speak up for fear of Anthony’s reaction to his discomfort or his pleasure. They fought daily to overcome that barrier.
“Jesse,” Aadon whispered, soft and low in his ear, “hard work looks extremely sexy on you.”
A tiny sound leaked from between Jesse’s lips and Aadon couldn’t decide what it meant, so he pressed on, hoping to fill his lover’s head with reassurance and acceptance.
“So sexy, I could fuck you right here.”
Aadon grinned. “Yes. You are. And it looks fantastic on you. Come here.” He led Jesse to the chair, positioning him behind it, facing the tall back. “There’s your gift. Open it up.”
Jesse bent to retrieve the small box from the seat and Aadon took the opportunity to remind his lover how hard he’d gotten watching him work. He ground his cock against Jesse’s ass.
Jesse froze, hand on the box, and moaned. Sound was a good sign. Aadon lay a hand between Jesse’s shoulder blades to hold him down. “Stay where you are and open it.
“A…” Jesse breathed, but did as he was told, barely pausing to brush at the dark finger prints he left on the paper towel wrapping.
“Good boy,” Aadon offered. “Just get it open.”
Jesse dropped the wrappings and remove the lid of the box. “You gave me a tie?” He lifted the fabric from the box. “Wait, this is my tie. I hate this tie.”
“I know.” Aadon traced a series of small hearts in the sweat on Jesse’s back. “After tonight, I’m pretty sure you won’t be interested in wearing it around your neck any more. Pass it back here.”
“Aadon, I don’t understand.”
“You will. Pass me the tie.”
Jesse did, reaching behind himself to hand it over, since Aadon now had his legs and hips trapped against the back of the chair and he didn’t have room to straighten even had he tried.
Aadon smoothed fingertips along Jesse’s forearm, down his wrist, wrapping his fingers lightly around it as he took the tie with his other hand.
Jesse sighed and nodded. His body went a little more lax, but his breathing was sill fast, his voice breathy when he spoke at all.
Taking time to be gentle but firm, Aadon wrapped the tie around Jesse’s wrist. “The other,” he said.
Jesse took a breath before lifting his other arm to reach back and allow Aadon to wrap the tie around that one, too.
“You really going to fuck me?” Jesse asked. His voice shook. His legs trembled and Aadon took a moment to sooth him with touch.
“First I’m going to tie you, and then, yes. I’m going to fuck you, right here over the chair until you can’t think.”
Jesse said nothing. His trembling didn’t cease, though it didn’t get any worse, either.
Aadon proceeded to do exactly as he’d said he would, wrapping the tie carefully and securing Jesse’s hands at the small of his back. He tested the bonds, running a finger between tie and skin. It wasn’t as secure as it could be, but for this first time, he wanted Jesse to feel like he had options. He wanted to see if his lover would take the option of securing his own freedom if he got scared, or if he could trust enough to let Aadon take care of him.
“Spread you legs a little bit, lover,” Aadon instructed, tapping the inside of Jesse’s ankle.
Jesse’s breath came in deep, even draws, like he was concentrating on not hyperventilating.
Aadon stroked his back, waiting patiently as Jesse repositioned himself He praised him thoroughly once he had.
“Now you’re dirty in the messy way and the fun way,” Aadon observed, running a hand over Jesse’s ass, slipping his fingers between his cheeks, and tickling at his hole.
“Oh God,” Jesse whispered.
“I’d ask you to hand me the lube from that gift box, but…” He tugged at the tie biding Jesse’s wrists, eliciting a soft moan. “I much prefer you this way right now.”
For a time, he explored Jesse’s body, running hands over his ass and thighs, dipping low to caress his cock to hardness between his legs. Jesse squirmed and his breathing lost the carefully measured cadence. His lover was panting, his hands twisting in their bonds, his body rubbing over the chair as he writhed into Aadon’s touch. Aadon could hardly bare to ease up on the torture long enough to open the lube. He compromised by concentrating his touch on Jesse’s balls and cock as he flipped the tube open with one hand and wedged the open tip between Jesse’s cheeks.
It was a slightly rough, definitely possessive way to get the lube where he wanted it
Jesse gasped and arched, breath catching, body quivering a moment before he groaned in displeasure as Aadon dropped the tube and let the lube slide and slip between his cheeks.
“You want it?” Aadon asked softly.
Jesse groaned again and lifted his ass.
“You’ve never been this…greedy before.” Aadon dragged his nails over the skin of Jesse’s ass.
“Oh fuck, A…”
Aadon smiled. “Do something for me, Jesse,” He said as he took his hands from Jesse’s body and stepped back for a better view.
Jesse went up on his toes, reaching, hands clenching and unclenching on air. “What? Aadon?” he craned around, twisting his neck without rising to see behind himslef.
“You can reach your own ass cheeks, can’t you?”
Jesse experimented, stretching his arms and fingers and finally nodding. “Yeah.”
“Where do you want my cock, Jesse?”
“What?” Jesse went still, hands splayed across his own ass.
“Where do you want my cock?” Aadon unzipped, deliberately loudly, and dropped his jeans, allowing the buckle to clank onto the floor. He stroked himself as he wandered around to the front of the chair. Jesse managed to keep his eyes on Aadon for most of the circuit. Aadon crouched in front of the chair, sure Jesse could see his rigid cock as he stroked it idly, and dug his fingers into Jesse’s hair.
As he expected, Jesse’s eyes drifted closed and his body relaxed. A small sigh escaped as Aadon lifted his head by the hair.
“Look at me, Jess.”
Instant obedience. Jesse’s lashes fluttered and his big brown eyes fixed on Aadon. The limitless vulnerability was still there, but now backed with trust as Jesse gazed at him, waiting.
Aadon ran a thumb over Jesse’s bottom lip, slipped it into his mouth and let Jesse taste the precome from his cock. “Your choice, Jesse. Spread your cheeks or open your mouth.”
Jesse stared at him, limp, wanting so much Aadon was suddenly, deeply unsure if he could deliver.
“Too bad you didn’t get me a dildo for our anniversary,” Jesse whispered. “You could have done both.”
It was Aadon’s turn to stare, speechless at the bold statement. Then he was pulling Jesse forward, yanking him close enough to kiss, one hand in his hair, the other under his jaw, forcing his head up and his mouth open with his tongue.
Jesse was in no position to fight him or stop him. He didn’t even try. He opened. And opened and opened until Aadon was in danger of falling into him completely.
There was not a whisper of protest or a single tense muscle as Aadon hauled on him, dragging him further over the back of the chair until his feet had to be off the ground and he was suspended, hips on the high back of the chair, head in Aadon’s grasp.
Aadon backed off, steadying his own rush of needy greed, balancing Jesse where he had some modicum of control with the tips of his toes on the floor and his head lifted to gaze up at Aadon.
“Do whatever you want to me,” Jesse said softly. No more whispers or uncertain tremor in his voice. “Anything.”
Aadon grabbed up the lube, slapped some on his dick and rounded to the back of the chair again.
Jesse had gripped his ass once more and parted his cheeks, offering his naked hole for Aadon’s taking.
It was all Aadon could do to take the time to slick his lover’s insides and stretch him enough that taking him wouldn’t be unbearable. Because he was in charge and could take what he wanted didn’t give him permission to hurt Jesse, so he managed to slow himself down enough prepare him.
Right up until Jesse moaned pitiably and begged.
“Jess, I’m trying.”
“Fuck me. Please.” He pulled at his ass cheeks, humped the chair and begged and Aadon saw no further reason to hold back.
The coupling was as rough as anything had ever been between them. Jesse had no purchase to move into Aadon’s thrusts. He could only hang there and take what Aadon gave. His moans and whimpers were enough to convince Aadon gentleness was not what his lover wanted right then. He was after the power and subjugation he’d learned once to fear. Now he just wanted it, and Aadon had that to give and more.
The chair creaked and scraped along the hard wood planks, thumping with the force of Aadon’s pounding. After a few minutes, Jesse went quiet, limp, his breath coming in pants with every heavy slam of Aadon’s body against this. His fingers slackened, too, and he groaned, whispered Aadon’s name. A small, broken sound came from him just before his legs tightened, his toes scrabbled in the dust and his hole clenched tight around Aadon. He came in a rush of breath and series of soft sobs.
Aadon spiralled hard after him, gripping his hips and jerking into him with short, sharp thrusts that left Jesse trembling all over. He wanted to collapse over Jesse’s back, but managed to keep his feet long enough to get Jesse back on his, and then they were both slagging to the floor in a sloppy pile, Jesse tumbling into Aadon’s lap and curling tight against his chest.
“God, I’m a filthy mess,” he moaned.
Aadon took his face in hand, turned him so he could kiss him, deep and honest as he could make it. “Yes. You are.” When he backed off enough to see Jesse’s face, there were tears tracking through the dirt on his cheeks. “Okay?”
Jesse nodded, sniffed and moved an arm, like he’d meant to wipe the wetness from his face. Still tied, he didn’t have that choice, so he tucked himself closer to Aadon and sighed. “Yeah. I’m good.”
Aadon couldn’t help but grin. “Oh you’re good, Jesse. Perfect. I think cleaning the attic was less of a punishment than I thought it might be,” he said as he released the tie and Jesse curled his arms in against his stomach.
In his arms, Jesse shivered. “No. I hated it. Spiders and dirt and filth.” He swallowed hard. “Only for you, A.” He kissed the side of Aadon’s neck. “Anything for you.”
Aadon held him tight for a long time, until the floor boards were too hard against his bare ass and Jesse was shivering with cold.
“Come on. Let’s get you cleaned up.”
Jesse nodded and wobbled to his feet. Aadon went down the ladder first, worried Jesse’s shaking legs might give out on him, but they made it safely down. Jesse had brought the gift box and tie with him. He set it beside him when Aadon deposited his lover, safely wrapped in a warm blanket, on the bed and went to run a bath.
When he came back, Jesse handed him the box, closed, a slot cut in the lid.
“Toy fund,” Jesse said. “I can buy one of those small coffee makers for work, and not buy so much take out coffee. We can save up.” He gazed up at Aadon hopefully.
“You were serious about that.” His blood raced a bit and he had to swallow hard to keep his very physical reaction to the idea under control. “Both ends…”
Jesse nodded. “A, there were things I wanted to try. Before. Things Anthony ruined for me.” He smiled a radiant expression, even through the dirt on his face. “I thought I was ruined for life, but I’m not. Not with you.”
Aadon took the box from him and poked through the keys and pens on his dresser, coming up with a handful of change that he dropped through the slot. He held it up and couldn’t help the sting behind his eyelids. “When we look back at this in twenty years and I tell you the best anniversary gift you ever gave me was an empty cardboard box, I hope you know I mean it.”
Jesse smiled at him and nodded. “Right up there with re-gifting me my own really ugly tie.” He held open his arms and Aadon knelt in front of him, wrapped him up and buried his face in the blanket and the scents of dust and sweat and sex.
“I love you, Jesse.”
Jesse kissed his hair and sighed. “I love you, too. I love how safe you are. Thank you.”
He probably would have got through the night without crying if Jesse had stuck to I love you. Jesse merely stroked his hair and dropped kisses every once in a while as Aadon pulled himself back together in a configuration better suited to always being Jesse’s safe place.
You can read more about Aadon and Jesse in Jaime Samms’s Better.
I knew the day was shitty the moment I’d gotten out to my car and found a splat of bird shit on the windshield. I should have taken that as a sign. No, instead I decided to hose it off and head out to take some shots because the light was perfect and there was a cotton candy frost of fog rolling in over the area.
Sometimes, life is trying to tell me what to do and I just don’t listen.
Which was why I somehow knew that something crappy was going to happen the moment I climbed up a fire escape to take a shot of the river and my foot shot out from under me. There wasn’t time to do much more than swear and hope. Pray perhaps but God already kind of told me I was going to have a bad day, what was I expecting from him? An air mattress?
It was only ten feet down but I couldn’t twist around in time. My thoughts as I tumbled from the fire escape were of Cole-ah and then my camera. If the fall killed me, someone would steal it because I wasn’t in a good neighbourhood. My shoes were probably going to be gone too. Classic Converses but still, practically new.
I probably thought of the shoes and camera because I didn’t want to dwell on how sad Cole would be. If Rick’s death hurt him, I think mine would kill him. There’s only so much death a man can take and hyung had taken much more than his share.
Wincing, I expected the hard ground so I was shocked when I hit in a juicy splat. Curled up as tight as I could around my camera, I struck hard and my lungs lost hold of any air they had in them, leaving me breathless and hurting. It took me a minute to first jumpstart my breathing and when I did, I found the air tasted of rotten vegetables.
That’s when I noticed I was sunken down into a spoiling stew of rotted cabbage leaves and onions, with possibly a garlic and fish head layer beneath it.
Thankfully my camera seemed dry and whole but standing up was a struggle, especially since the dumpster’s bottom seemed buried beneath refuge and gore. I hung my camera strap over one of the dumpster’s outer hooks to keep it safe while I tried to get out of the soup I’d fallen into. Television always showed people jumping in and out of the large metal rectangles with a graceful ease. The truth is far from that. I couldn’t get a purchase on the edge of the lip and when I did, my shoe’s rubber bottom slipped off in a loud squeak.
There was no way in hell I was taking my shoes off. Not while I was standing in ground zero of a chemical warfare laboratory.
The shirt only helped protect my belly a little bit because I left a curl of skin somewhere on the dumpster’s lip when I finally was able to hoist myself up. And while the alley’s cement was harder than the dumpster’s garbage, it was a hell of a lot less smelly.
But shit, it hurt. My back complained a bit, more because I landed hard on my knees and hands. Years of dancing and I could spin around a pole but try to climb out of a dumpster and I suddenly turned into a three-legged elephant.
Grabbing my camera, I squished back to my SUV and the day continued to piss on me. Trying to find a bright side to my missing tires and rims, the thieves at least propped the Explorer up on wooden blocks so whatever the round thing my wheels had been attached to weren’t on the ground. I knew where the gas went and when the lights flashed red on the dash, it was time to take it in for either oil or radiator fluid but that was pretty much all I knew about cars but I’d didn’t think the car could support its weight on its thin metal plates.
It looked like my phone survived the dunking, probably because my jeans were thick enough to ward off most of the dumpster’s liquid and I carefully dialed Triple A’s come-help-me number.
“Hey, mister!” A little boy… I think it was a boy… was sitting by the Explorer’s rear end, his stubby legs straddling a beaten up red tricycle. Snot ran down his nose and his tongue crept up from his mouth to lick at it. Swallowing, he grinned at me in that insane way kids did. “You stink!”
Caught in the voicemail loop of the call, the last thing I wanted to deal with was a booger-eating kid, especially one stupid enough to think I didn’t know I smelled like the ass end of balut-vomit. Taking one step towards him didn’t do anything to scare him off so I did the next best thing I could.
I shook furiously, splattering him with as much of the rotten cabbage stew as I could then listened to him screaming for his mother as he peddled off down the cracked sidewalk.
“Gguh-juh.” I’d be the first one to say I’d been childish. And I’d do it again. I must have turned the corner in age because all I could think was his parents didn’t teach him proper respect. They would suffer for it when he got older.
Which brought me back to my mother and sisters. As if I needed another reminder I’d failed my family.
Someone at Triple A finally answered and I began my battle. After negotiating and pleading with them to venture into a neighbourhood more known for hood than neighbour, I called Cole-ah to beg him to come pick me up.
“Hey, agi. What’s up?” His voice was warm. It was always warm, especially when he was talking to me but right then, I needed him to just sit and mumble to me over the phone until I could find a shower to wash the crap off my skin.
I gave him a brief description of what happened, leaving out the extent of the fall but there was no bullshitting him. Someone just didn’t accidentally stumble into a dumpster. He knew I’d been above it but thankfully he didn’t say anything other than ask me for the address.
Then got very quiet when I told him where he could find me.
“Really?” Sarcasm sometimes came easily to my lover. This time, it literally flew out of his mouth like a tengu searching for its next victim. “You couldn’t maybe have flown to Beirut or Afghanistan? Maybe even the Doctor could have come by in the Tardis and you could have maybe dropped in on Normandy or Waterloo?”
“Are you coming or what?” I mumbled into the phone, keeping an eye out for the kid in case he returned with a parent.
“I’ll be there.” He sighed. “Shouldn’t be more than twenty minutes.”
“Maybe you can bring a trash bag or something for me to sit on?” I sniffed myself and reeled back from the stench coming up from my body. The sun soaked through me and I was baking in the cabbage stew’s odor. “The Rover’s new…”
“Babe, a drunk gay Korean threw up on me in the Rover. I am pretty sure nothing can compare to soju and kimchi.”
“Yeah, trash bag. This tops it.” I shook my legs out and something green slithered out of my jeans, plopping onto the street near my feet. I waited a moment to see if it would crawl away but so far it looked safe. “Just… shit, hurry.”
I didn’t see the headless mouse until it was too late. Leaning against my stripped down Explorer, I took off my Converses and socks to dry out and stupidly put my foot down without looking.
In this neighbourhood, there was a pretty good chance I’d step on a needle or something like that. No, I had to find a decapitated rodent some cat probably left behind to woo his piece of tail.
Which all meant I stepped on Romeo’s damned mouse with my bare foot.
I could have gone through life not knowing when a headless mouse gets stepped on, its guts squirt out like a popped party favour. I especially didn’t need to have its smelly innards shoot out from between my toes and over my foot.
“Fucking son of a bitch.” English is a great language to swear in. There’s a guttural oomph to English I can’t get in Korean and it has a lot of hard sounds compared to my native tongue. Gearing up for another round, I was surprised to see my absinthe eyed lover drive up in his Rover.
“Hey, need a ride, sexy?” Cole-ah can dance his eyebrows above his eyes. It always makes me laugh. “I got something sleek and hot you can try out.”
“How you’d get here so fast?” I had to lean against the Explorer. Putting my foot down would just smush the rodent guts into my skin. Because I needed more smelly gore on me than I already had. “You said twenty minutes.”
“No traffic.” His nose wrinkled so I guess he’d finally gotten a whiff of me. “Man….dude… I love you but damn.”
“Don’t remind me.” I jiggled my foot. “Tell me you have something I can wipe this off with? I stepped on a mouse.”
“I can tell. You’ve got a tail hanging from between your toes.”
Pretty sure I screamed like one of my sisters. Maybe not because Cole only chuckled a bit. If I’d screamed, I’m pretty sure he would have laughed hard enough to pass out.
“Let me park the car, get you cleaned up and you can change into the clothes I brought you.” He pulled the Rover up behind my SUV and I was inflicted with the humiliation of getting my toes cleaned with window cleaner and a sunglass chamois. The Triple A guy arrived during the assault on my dignity and Cole stepped in while I hopped over to the side of the Rover to see what Cole stuffed into a duffel bag.
Working at Dorthi Ki Seu wiped away any modesty I might have had so I didn’t mind opening the Rover’s passenger door and stripping down to my briefs. Considering we were in the asshole of Los Angeles’ ghettos, I wasn’t the first mostly naked man anyone would see today. At least I was partially hidden by the door.
“Oh, Cole-ah, I love you.” He’d shoved an industrial sized bottle of hand sanitizer into the duffel along with spare clothes and a towel. “Thank you.”
Using at least half of the alcohol smelling liquid on my hair to get the stench out, the stuff dried nearly as soon as I slopped it on but I enjoyed the stink leaving my skin. I was having difficulties reaching my back when Cole-ah came around the front of the car.
“Turn around. You’re going to hurt yourself if you keep twisting like that.” Cole-ah took the bottle from me and sloshed some into his hand. I turned and he coated my back, getting into the crease of my ass below the waistband of my briefs. “Quit wiggling.”
“I can reach there.” I scolded him playfully but I let him continue. His hands moved over my shoulder blades, briefly touching the scar Sheila gave me. He kissed the spot and I made a gagging sound. The sanitizer would be disgusting to taste but he did it anyway.
There was nothing more that I wanted to do than lean against him and just stay there.
“How about if you get into the car and I’ll clean off your feet again?” He whispered into my ear, his voice seductive and hot. “You’re standing on a used condom.”
“I fucking hate you.” Muttering under my breath did no good. Cole-ah’s hearing was like a dog’s. He laughed and helped me get dressed then hoisted me up into the car before I could object.
Grabbing my foot, he scrubbed my toes with more sanitizer and the towel. Inspecting my sole, he nodded once. “There you go. All sparkly clean.”
“Until we get home and I can take a shower.” Grumbling had no effect on Cole’s wicked smile and he shut the door on me, cutting off anything I could mutter at him.
The ride home…Home… God, would I ever get used to saying that? It was a quick trip. Cole-ah had as much good luck heading back as he did coming to get me. The roads were clear with only a few snarls in the usual places but we were at the house before the smell of my clothes and shoes ate through the garbage bag Cole-ah put them in.
I got into the shower as Neko was screaming hello at me. Grabbing the smelliest soap we had, I lathered up then worked on getting my hair clean. I was rinsing my head for the second time when the shower door opened and I felt a draft of cold air on my back and ass.
Then I felt a warm, muscular body against my back and ass and the world suddenly got so much better.
Strangely enough, I smelled kalbi on Cole when he snugged up against me.
“What are you up to?” I could feel what he was up to. His thickness pressed into the crack of my ass and my body purred all on its own.
“Do you know what today is?” His mouth followed the curve of my shoulder then Cole-ah nipped at the bend on my arm. Right after my neck, Cole-ah kissing or biting my shoulders or back drove me insane.
Okay anywhere he bit me drove me insane. And from the way he was chewing down my body, I was going to be rice noodle in a few moments.
Concentrating on what he was saying, I blinked, getting water in my eyes. “Um… no? What’s today?”
“Today, agi,” He punctuated his words with a suckling nibble on the small of my back and I had to press myself against the shower wall or I’d have slithered down the drain. “Today is exactly a year ago that we first met.”
Cole turned me around and I thanked God the shower wall had places to put soap and shampoo bottles because it gave me ledges to hold onto. The tile was warm on my skin, something else I was thankful for because when Cole-ah’s mouth wrapped around my dick, I would have gone into shock from the cold on one side and the hot on the other.
His huge hands held my hips, supporting my weight as I gripped his shoulders. That mouth…his tongue…his teeth… teased every inch of me and I nearly lost myself when I felt his throat around me. There were things he could do with that damned mouth and he did every single one of them, swallowing around me when I thought I couldn’t take much more.
His hair was wet when I stroked it and it gave me something to hold onto when he pitched my hips forward to slide a damp finger into my depths. He rocked into me, just enough to draw me into a taut bundle of nerves then his lips drew me forward, suckling and lightly biting every delicate span of skin he could find.
When he found the sweet spot inside of me, I gave in, surrendering every bit of myself into the hot clamp of his mouth. He milked me slowly, drinking in every gush pouring out of me. It was the closest I’d come to Heaven that day and knowing Cole-ah, it wouldn’t be the only time I’d die against him before the sun rose.
The coaxing fingers were now frothing my skin with soap and I let him guide me back under the warm water to wash away the suds. There were more kisses but I was sleepy and probably would have to explain the bruises I’d found on my legs during the first ten minutes of my shower. From the faint throbbing spots on my hips, there was a good chance I could convince Cole-ah he’d left them there but the stinging guilt in his enormous green eyes would do me in.
I’m man enough to tell him the truth.
Especially since he is man enough to love me while I struggled to find it.
“Happy anniversary, jagiya.” Cole kissed the corner of my mouth and the heat began to build up inside me again. “I love you.”
“I love you too, hyung.”
It was true. There was no greater truth than that. In the middle of every shit storm past and present, Cole stood in the middle, a sheltering rock I could cling to and warm my soul. It took me too long to realize that but now, I knew I could always hold onto him and the world could burn up around us and I’d be safe. He would keep me safe. I knew that now.
Even if I couldn’t feel my legs and my ass was complaining it needed more of the man holding me.
“Let me feed you. I cooked you kalbi.” He laughed when I eyed him suspiciously. “No, really. It tastes good. I even made purple rice. The panchan I got at H-Mart so you’ll just have to choke down what someone who knew what they were doing made.”
“Saranghaeyo, Cole-ah.” I needed to say in Korean, just to cement it into my soul. The corners of his eyes crinkled when he smiled and I grinned back at him, a drowned rat formerly stinking of rotten cabbage.
“Saranghaeyo, Kim Jae-Min,” He replied. “Now dry off so I can tell you how we’re going to be uncles.”
You can read more about Cole and Jae in the Cole McGinnis Mysteries Series.
Outlast the Night by Ariel Tachna
Unemployed and out of luck, Sam moves to Lang Downs and learns life as a gay man isn’t impossible—and Jeremy can be part of it. Outlast the Night by Ariel Tachna, available from Dreamspinner Press.
Office manager Sam Emery is unemployed and out of luck. When his emotionally abusive wife demands a divorce, he contacts the one person he has left, his brother, Neil. He doesn’t expect Neil to reject him, but he also doesn’t expect the news of his divorce—and of his sexuality—to be met with such acceptance.
Neil takes Sam to Lang Downs, the sheep station Neil calls home. There, Sam learns that life as a gay man isn’t impossible. Caine and Macklin, the station owners, certainly seem to be making it work. When Caine offers Sam a job, it’s a dream come true.
Jeremy Taylor leaves the only home he’s ever known when his brother’s homophobia becomes more than he can bear. He goes to the one place he knows he will be accepted: Lang Downs. He clicks with Sam instantly—but the animosity between Lang Downs and Jeremy’s home station runs deep, and the jackaroos won’t accept Jeremy without a fight. Between Sam’s insecurity and Jeremy’s precarious position, their road will be a hard one—and that’s without having to wait for Sam’s divorce to be final before starting a new life together.
Sixteen Songs About Regret by J.S. Cook
Simon flees to London to pursue music. When he meets Stephen, their careers take off, but they may be too scarred for a relationship. Sixteen Songs About Regret by J.S. Cook, available from Dreamspinner Press.
Prodigy pianist Simon Duckworth has a dark past. After being violently raped when he was thirteen, he flees to London, ashamed and determined never to tell a soul. He gets a job at a Denmark Street music shop, but it stifles him. At the first opportunity, Simon answers an ad for a musician, an act that changes his life forever.
Stephen Abednego has seen the same ad. He arrives in London with little more than his ambitions and a sheaf of poems, but together, they’re enough to get him hired. Under their new manager’s watchful eye, Stephen falls for Simon—but Stephen is deeply closeted, and Simon may be too emotionally scarred for a mature relationship.
With their manager’s help, their music rises, dragging them into the hectic world of superstardom, but success doesn’t come without a price. Each step out of the ennui and coal smoke of 1960s industrial London must be paid for in regret. With social convention standing between them and the whole world watching, Stephen and Simon discover that finding each other is not as easy as it seems.
Until Forever Comes by Cardeno C.
When a young shifter tells Miguel they’re true mates, destined to be together, Miguel sends him away. But Ethan is persistent. Until Forever Comes by Cardeno C, available from Dreamspinner Press.
Ethan Abbatt is a wolf shifter who can’t shift. Plagued by pain and weakness all his life, he hopes to find an honorable death by joining his pack mates in a vampire attack. Instead, Ethan learns two things: draining his blood releases his pain and his wolf, and he has a true mate—a vampire named Miguel.
Miguel Rodriguez is more than four centuries old. Strong, powerful, and vicious, he walks through life as a shadow, without happiness or affection. When a young shifter tells Miguel they’re true mates, destined to be together, Miguel sends him away. But Ethan is persistent, and Miguel can’t resist for long. Once Miguel gives in, being together comes naturally. The challenge is keeping themselves alive so they can stay by each other’s side until forever comes.
by Matt Brooks
“I see in the L. A. obituaries that Mary Miles Minter died,” Rey remarked, reaching for his coffee. “Stroke, apparently.” He turned the page of the Sunday paper, oblivious to Dale’s quizzical expression.
“And I’m interested in this because why?” Dale finally asked, after Rey had turned another page.
Rey looked up. “She was a big star in Hollywood,” he answered. “I’m surprised you don’t recognize the name. She made dozens of films. She and Mary Pickford were just about equally famous. Silent era. She was still a big name when I was a boy.”
“Oh,” Dale said, his voice flat.
“She was acting in film at the same time as Lillian Gish,” Rey added. “And we saw Gish get a Lifetime Achievement Award or something like that last spring, remember? On television?”
“One of those we’ve-never-given-you-an-Oscar awards Hollywood hands out every year,” Dale scoffed.
“Yes, well . . .” Rey’s voice trailed off.
“Well, with her gone now, and Fred Waring just last week, I guess my life is over,” Dale said drily. “I’ll just have to marry royalty or something to get a little excitement back.” He reached for the business section. “You’ve read this already, right?” he asked, twitching it out of the pile.
Rey glanced up. “Uh, yes. All yours.” He regarded Dale quizzically for a moment, then went back to the newspaper. “You’re moody this morning, sweetheart,” he said behind the page. “Are you feeling okay?”
“Oh, yeah, I’m fine,” Dale said slowly. “Just thinking about years passing. I keep coming back to the fact that we’ve been together twenty years now. It doesn’t seem anything like that long,” he continued. “But here I am, almost forty, and I wasn’t even twenty when we met.” He sighed.
“You have regrets?” Rey asked carefully. “Lost youth, maybe?”
“Oh, heavens, no!” Dale laughed. “How could I regret that? Twenty years with the most wonderful man . . . I’ve been so lucky.” He leaned across the table and took Rey’s free hand. “Do you remember Thomas and Lucas, who came to the hotel when we were first dating? They’d been together over forty years? And remember how Lucas said his mama taught him to thank God every day for the good things in his life? You know I do that – morning, noon, and night – thank my lucky stars that we met and I get to spend my life with you.” He kissed Rey’s palm. “No, corazón. No regrets. Never any regrets.” He paused. “Well, actually I do have some regrets. Those gold corduroy bell bottoms, and the burnt orange and chocolate brown sweater I bought in ’73.”
Rey laughed. “I never did understand how you got suckered into that fashion statement,” he said.
“Just about couldn’t find anything that wasn’t flared that year, if you recall.”
“And it made you look short and squat, with all that fabric flapping around your ankles and the collar covering half your shoulders and chest.”
“Fashion isn’t helping lately, either. Put this oversize stuff on me and I look like I’ve been raiding grandpa’s closet,” he grumbled. “At least I have a couple of suits that fit and look like they belong on my body. I suppose I’ll have to hang onto them until styles change for the better.”
“Wardrobe thrift,” Rey said with a soft chuckle.
“Well, I’ve decided what I want to do with all the clothing money I’ve saved in the last couple of years,” Dale said as he set the paper down. “It’s time to have a party.”
Rey glanced up, alarmed. “Party? You don’t like parties,” he said.
Dale corrected him. “I don’t like big parties. They make my head hurt. But a small party now and then isn’t a bad thing. I’ve always enjoyed the pool parties the tíos give, after all, and they’re not usually big groups of guys. Besides, why did we buy this house except because we wanted to entertain more?”
“So, what do you have in mind for this not-big party?”
“I thought Labor Day afternoon would be good. It’s the twentieth anniversary of when I moved into Honeymoon Cottage with you. Closest we’ll ever get to a wedding anniversary, probably. I thought a lunch buffet, catered but not formal. Probably no more than three dozen guests. Family and people who’ve been important to us as friends over the years, not business connections.”
“You’ve been thinking about this.”
“Well, you know I like to plan things, not just jump in and start splashing around.”
Rey laughed. “Yes, you do plan.” He went back to the paper for a moment, then spoke from behind the page again. “And when it’s over, you and I are going to steal away like honeymooners and go out of town for a couple of days.”
“What are you talking about? Tuesday’s a work day,” Dale said, shocked.
“Arrange with your crews to take a couple of days off,” Rey said mildly. “You’re the boss. You can do that.”
“What are we going to do, like honeymooners, then?” Dale asked.
“Just plan your party. Leave the rest of it to me,” Rey said, turning the page.
Labor Day morning was foggy and gray. Surveying the weather through the oversized patio doors, Dale was only disappointed for a moment. The fog usually lifted by noon at this time of year; the afternoon should be fine for the party. He finished his coffee and got out the duster and the carpet sweeper. He’d learned not to do more than tidy things up on the day of a party: inevitably, there would be more cleaning to do afterward – why do it twice? Besides, there was something soothing about using the carpet sweeper, quietly freshening the rugs after the ostrich feathers had taken the dust off the furniture.
Rey came out of the bedroom as Dale was finishing with the sweeper. They ate breakfast quickly, and Dale cleared the kitchen for the caterers, swabbing down the counters and putting the small equipment into the pantry.
The catering crew arrived at 11:30 to begin setting up. Dale had decided on a picnic theme with a light wine punch, the crew to wear tee shirts and jeans. It looked wonderful when everything was in place, a mix of Mexican and Anglo foods arranged for easy eating, set out on red checkered tablecloths, and punctuated by several small bunches of common garden flowers – daisies, tickseed, cornflower, dog roses – in canning jars.
As they usually did for larger entertainments, they had asked Tío Germán and Tío Mark, nephew Patricio and his lover Joe to come a bit early. They were all good at getting a party going, and it was a pleasure to see them in any case. Doña Ysabel, Rey’s mother, would come a few minutes after 1:00, when the party officially began, and she was another who could brighten conversation and make a party come alive.
It was Doña Ysabel who noticed the ants. She brought her concern to Dale, who promptly moved toward the buffet tables to see what the problem was. He came back with the worry cleared from his forehead, chuckling. “They’re part of the decoration,” he said, happy not to have an insect attack. “I told them I wanted a picnic – and what’s a picnic without ants?”
Ysabel laughed. “I should have known from the size of them,” she admitted. “Very clever, though.” She went back to the buffet for a cup of punch before greeting her brother and his lover.
The crowd ebbed and flowed through the afternoon. Patricio’s parents arrived around 2:00 and his father, Raúl, managed to keep his ill humor to himself the entire time they were there. Both Patricio and Dale heaved sighs of relief when Susanna and Raúl came to say thank you and goodbye after an hour of tension for Dale and wariness for Patricio. Rey and Joe were considerably more relaxed, and simply laughed at their lovers as they watched Raúl leave through the side gate. “No grumbling about grandchildren today, Tricho,” Dale said. “You think the five he has might be enough now?”
“Damn, I hope so, Tío Dé,” Patricio replied.
“He can rag on your brothers if he wants more,” Joe said comfortably. “I’m sure they’ll oblige him if he makes enough stink about it.”
Around four o’clock, Rey edged next to Dale and muttered in his ear, “You finished packing? The caterers should be starting to clear up soon.”
“My suitcase is in the car,” Dale said. “All I have to do is write a check and lock the house.”
The last guest left at 4:45, and Dale immediately went to the den to get his checkbook. Along with the check, he handed the caterer an envelope with a generous tip for the crew. By 5:15, it was impossible to tell that there had been a party for forty guests in the garden, aside from the bent lawn grasses and scuffed gravel paths.
“So, where are you taking me?” Dale asked as they drove away. “You told me to pack casual clothes but put in a sport coat and slacks. You have a plan, obviously. Spill it, baby.”
“Nope. Surprise. Trust me.”
Dale had to be content with that as they drove north; no amount of prodding and guessing elicited any more information from his lover. He finally settled back in his seat and gave up on the game, setting his hand on Rey’s thigh as he had always done when they drove anywhere – a comforting habit now, for both of them.
When they stopped in Morro Bay after a couple of hours’ driving, to stretch their legs and have a smoke, Dale began to suspect what Rey’s plan might be, but he kept it to himself. It was a beautiful evening; a walk along the waterfront and a sandwich from the boxed supper the caterer had provided were a pleasure he could enjoy without nagging, so he relaxed and let the trip continue to flow.
His suspicions were confirmed when they pulled into the parking area at La Barranca Motor Inn in Monterey. “I knew it!” he crowed, turning to Rey. “I guessed you were taking me here, where we had our first vacation together. What a sweetheart you are!” He leaned over to give his grinning lover a quick kiss before clicking his seatbelt open and jumping out of the car.
Dale’s surprise was complete, however, when they were taken to Suite 210, the same room where they had stayed in 1964, now expanded in renovations, with a water view through the french doors to the balcony. A bouquet of roses with real fragrance stood on the small dining table; smaller posies were placed throughout the two rooms, and Dale inhaled their perfume with delight. Rey knew he despised the hothouse roses that had begun to appear in flower shops, flown in from all over the world, perpetually in season – beautiful but cut before they had a chance to develop any scent.
Rey moved the bouquet off the table and they ate their belated supper, Dale occasionally giggling with joy. After they finished the meal, they unpacked, took a leisurely shower together, and fell into bed for an unhurried session of sweet lovemaking. They fell asleep spooned together, listening to the ocean.
Room Service knocked at 8:00. Rey let the waiter in, and they sat down to breakfast later than they ever did at home; in comparison, it felt almost like brunch.
“You’re going to spoil me for real life,” Dale joked, pouring second cups of coffee. “I could certainly get used to this schedule. It’s nearly nine o’clock and we’re still at the table.”
Rey laughed. “It would last about a month before you got twitchy and began finding things to do early in the morning again. Don’t kid yourself. You get up and going even when you’re not wide awake.”
“I guess that’s true,” Dale admitted ruefully. “Still, I can fantasize, can’t I?”
“Of course you can, sweetheart. Now. What do you feel like doing today? Walk along Cannery Row? Look at historic gardens? Prowl the art galleries?”
“Let’s look through the art galleries,” Dale said after a moment. “Find out what the competition is up to. You can take notes for Joe, when we get together with him and Tricho next weekend.”
They spent the morning strolling through galleries and marveling at the prices of some of the art. Dale resolved to task Rey with increasing his own prices when they got back home. If the paintings they saw in some of the galleries, ranging from indifferent hackwork to downright ugly, were getting that kind of money, talent like Rey’s should certainly be rewarded, he thought. After lunch on the waterfront, they returned to the Inn for some snuggling and a siesta.
Dinner that evening was romantic, at a small French restaurant a few blocks from the Inn. They walked there in the dusk, not quite holding hands, and Dale marveled at how life had changed for them in the twenty years they’d been together. When they first met, it was dangerous even to look too friendly when people were around; now they could walk down the street without trying to look like they were just buddies. After the meal, they went to a club the desk clerk had mentioned, El Fandango, and there again Dale marveled at the way things had changed – when they met, gay clubs had small, discreet signs and no windows open to the street; the sign for El Fandango, on the other hand, was bright neon and the façade was open windows from end to end. The all-male clientele was a mix of types, from leathermen to clones to twinks to bears. Several couples were dancing as they entered, and Rey pulled Dale onto the dance floor for a couple of songs before they looked for a table.
Dale mentioned his reaction when they returned to the Inn. “Being in a different town like this really brought it out,” he said. “I remember how discreet we had to be when we first met, and how careful we were in talking around other people. I felt so daring the first time I kissed your cheek in Sal’s place, but tonight it almost felt like we could have bedded down in that booth and there wouldn’t have been more than a raised eyebrow.”
“Remember that word – almost,” Rey said, looking scandalized. “Times have changed, I grant you, but not quite that much.”
“I think beating back the Briggs Initiative in, what was it?, ’77 or ’78 made a big difference in our lives,” Dale said. “Sure, it was all about the teachers, but it spilled over onto all the rest of us. Hah! Take that, enemies of equality!”
“Speaking of taking that,” Rey said as he peeled off the last of his clothes, “I’m going to take a quick shower and then I’m taking you to bed.”
“Ohhh, god,” Dale moaned appreciatively. “You’re going to do unspeakable things to me, aren’t you.”
“Yes. And you’re going to love them.” Rey went into the bathroom and a moment later the sound of water came through the door.
Driving home on Friday, Dale felt more relaxed than he had in months. “Thank you for whisking me away, love,” he said. “You knew what I needed better than I did. So romantic! A real second honeymoon.”
“Who do I love?” Rey asked rhetorically. “My papi, that’s who.”
“And who do I love?” Dale countered. “My papi, is who. The sun and the moon and the stars, all wrapped up in one man, and I get to love him all my days. I’m so damn lucky!”
Did you enjoy Second Honeymoon? If so, look up Honeymoon Cottage, the Dale and Rey’s full story!
Contest 1 (Going to the Dogs) winner: H.B., whose name was drawn from the hat. H.B.’s entry was Loving Fur Ball, name Cuddles! Love it. I’ll be contacting you, H.B. to get your preference of which e-book. Thanks!
Contest 2 (Easy Peasy) winners: 1st draw, Catherine! I’ll contact you, Catherine, to get some mailing info. 2nd draw, Holly! I’ll be in touch to make sure you can get your prize downloaded! Thanks to you both.
And thank you to everyone else! I had a great time.
This will be a quick post. I’d hoped to do a little more, but time has gotten away–as it will do when you’re having a good time–and I’m overtime already. So, mostly pictures here, but my hope is that these might be fuel for some talking points in tomorrow’s chat, which will be at the Dreamspinner Goodreads board. The time is 12-5 Eastern or 9-2 Pacific. In case you missed out on the contests or conversation here or just want to chat some more, I’d love to see you there!
Now, down to places: After Seattle, (see NSFW previous post), Luki and Sonny go to Nebraska. Here’s Lincoln, which is an important place in the search for Jackie:
And they end up in the desert of Eastern Washington (yes, most of Washington state is dry, arrid land. This is a forest, actually, and is beautiful, but it’s dry, dry, dry and hot! Here’s the Umatilla:
After this they start a new story, Saving Sonny James, and the opening finds them back home in the weather-ruled Olympic Peninsula:
But then an awful lot happens, and the next thing he knows, Luki is desperate to save Sonny… in Paris, France…