2 Weeks and Counting till Leaning Into Forever is Here!!

Geordie’s story will be here in just less than two weeks! Mark your calendars/Goodreads pages for June 29. And to give you a teensy taste, here’s the first teaser from the Leaning Into ForeverLeaningIntoForever-teaser2-900x675

My son graduated from college today which seems like a great reason to kick off a celebration! One less tuition bill and Geordie! LOL. There’s a giveaway at Lane’s Lovers right now. Be sure to stop by for a chance to win!

I’m off to buy chocolate cake! (All celebrations need cake and/or alcohol)…

Happy Reading!  Lane xo

Better Than Wedding- Ch.1-12-All Parts- (NSFW)-A Matt & Aaron Short Story

Here it is! After months (or years, LOL), the long wait is over! Woohoo! Better Than Wedding is posted in its entirety below. And yes, this story is NSFW.

Those familiar with Better Than Good  will most like catch quite a few references to Matt and Aaron’s initial story in this short. I have to admit, I love writing glimpses into beloved characters lives post-book. It’s fun to get a peek into what they’re doing now and how they’ve evolved. I’m happy to know that so many readers feel the same. It’s incredibly rewarding to know how much these characters mean to some readers and the impact they’ve made. Thank you for embracing Matt and Aaron and all of my boys. I’m truly grateful.

Happy Reading! Lane xo

*Fun Fact/Coincidence: Better Than Good was released almost exactly five years ago (July 8). And in this story, our boys have been together for five years too. ❤

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Better Than Wedding–Parts 1-12

Part 1

Planning a wedding was like learning a new language. Venue, invitations, flowers, guest lists, deejay, photographer. The plethora of choices and the countless decisions to be made was overwhelming. At least I thought so. My fiancé didn’t seem fazed in the slightest. Aaron was extremely organized by nature and he had great taste. I had no doubt our wedding would be beautiful. Whether we’d stick to an agreed budget was another story, but it was only June. We had four months until the big day. Plenty of time. I wasn’t sure why he suddenly had a mile-long list of things to discuss. Then again, Aaron was chattier than most people. I could have listened to him all night. As long as he didn’t expect intelligent conversation from me until after the game, it was all good.

“Classic black and white tuxedos for sure. Vic tried to talk me into white bow ties for us and black for our groomsmen but I want to keep the overall feel to be elegant yet simple. That one little detail might throw everything off. What do you think?”

“Sounds good.” I nodded absently and shot what I hoped passed as an interested look before refocusing my attention on the flat-screen over the fireplace.

Aaron rubbed his foot on my crotch then shifted closer to me on the sofa. “Our first fitting is Saturday morning at ten o’clock. Did I mention we have an appointment to visit two florists and a photographer with Vic too?”

“Hmm. Okay.” I grabbed his foot and massaged his toes but kept my gaze locked on the action unfolding in front of me.

“I think we’ll go with Jay and Peter’s baker, Jean-Luc. He’s doing these incredible cakes that are ten tiers high… or more. It may be a bit tricky to cut into and I’m worried about the crystal chandelier grazing the top but I can ask the hotel to move the chandelier for the night. Don’t you think?”

“Sure. Sounds good.” I squeezed his big toe and pumped my fist in the air when LeBron sailed over two opponents to dunk the basketball to give the Cavs a two-point lead.

“Which part…the oversized cake or relocating a thousand pound antique light fixture?”

Aaron dropped his foot then set his notebook on the coffee table and sidled closer. I opened my arms in invitation and pulled him against me, loving the scent of soap on his skin. He’d gone for a run after work then showered and made dinner. I’d hoped to join him for the run but I couldn’t get away from my desk in time. After three fourteen-hour-days in a row, I was mentally and physically fried. Kicking back with a beer and watching the game with my man at my side was all I needed.

Actually dinner would be nice too. I was starving. I pushed Aaron’s dark hair from his eyes and kissed his forehead.

“Both, babe. Is the chili almost ready?”

“Almost.” He slipped his left hand under my T-shirt and ran his fingers down my chest. “We should have the dream wedding we want right?”

“Mmmhmm. Oh! Damn, did you see that?” I gestured at the TV incredulously.

“No. I missed it,” Aaron huffed, pinching my right nipple. Hard.

“Ow.” I captured his wrist and scowled.

“Sorry.”

He didn’t look particularly contrite but I let it slide. It was a two-point ball game with twelve seconds left in the fourth quarter. There’d be plenty of time to play later. I brought his hand to my lips and kissed his knuckles. “Behave.”

Aaron purred in response then climbed onto my lap and flung his arms around my neck.

“I think we should have massive rose and orchid arrangements on every table.”

Five seconds left. Tied game. Time out called by the Cavs.

“Okay.” I lowered his head to my shoulder so I could see the screen. Aaron nuzzled my neck and burrowed closer.

“Let’s have two champagne fountains. One for the front of the ballroom and one for the back. The unicorn ice sculpture can go in the foyer. I definitely want a sit-down dinner. I’m not picky about the menu. I just want to be sure we offer caviar and filet mignon. You like filet mignon, right Matty?”

“Mmm. Yeah, I love it,” I replied distractedly as both teams walked back on the court with one second left.

“Me too.” He licked my ear lobe and hummed. “And lobster too. Of course, there’s the age-old question…deejay or band? Let’s see if John Legend is free to play during the dinner. Maybe Cher can handle the reception. You like her, right?”

“Who?”

“Cher.”

“Um…sure. Yes!” I hooted as the Cavs scored in final second. “For the win, baby!”

I squeezed Aaron’s ass and sealed my mouth over his in what was meant to be a short celebratory kiss, but fuck, he tasted good. Like red wine and cinnamon. I licked his lips in a silent request for entry then shifted sideways and gently pushed him flat on his back before climbing on top of him. I was glad I’d changed when I got home from work. The thinner fabric of my basketball shorts and his pajama bottoms made for instantly gratifying friction. I sucked on his tongue as I adjusted my hardening shaft alongside his and then rocked my hips.

After almost five years together, I would have thought some of the intensity between us would have mellowed somewhat. But it was stronger than ever. Yeah, I’d had a long day. I was hungry, tired and my brain was definitely on cruise control but I wanted him.

Aaron hooked his legs over my ass and arched his back when I slipped my fingers under the elastic of his pajamas. I tilted my chin to deepen the kiss, gliding my tongue over his until we were breathless and gasping for air. He smiled then opened his mouth to speak and— my stomach growled. Aaron chuckled when I lifted my brow. “Are you hungry?”

“Very. Did you say something about filet mignon?” I asked, pressing a kiss on his nose before sitting up.

He rolled his eyes. “No, we’re having chili, remember?”

“Oh yeah.” I stood then held out my hand and pulled him against me. “Want some help?”

“I think I can manage. Come eat. Do you want another beer?”

“No thanks.” I followed him into the kitchen adjacent to the living room and sat at one of the barstools.

Our condo had an open floor plan so I could watch the game’s highlights on the big screen from my perch. I swiveled in my seat and frowned when I realized he’d turned the TV off. I thought about going back to the living area for the remote just as he pushed a giant bowl of chili in front of me from across the island.

“Don’t even think about turning the television back on,” he reprimanded.

I furrowed my brow but thought better of responding when I heard him mumbling in Spanish. I picked up my spoon instead and studied my hot-tempered Puerto Rican American man for clues. I’d learned over the years that sudden language shifts usually signaled a change in mood. He seemed fine though. And he looked amazing. I admired the way his plain white T-shirt hugged his toned arms and contrasted with his olive skin. And when he turned around and smiled at me, I swear my heart stopped for a beat. Aaron Mendez was a beautiful man. Inside and out. I was momentarily lost in those hazel eyes and the mischievous smile that probably meant trouble was coming my way but, fuck if I cared. I still couldn’t believe he was mine sometimes.

“Come sit with me.” I patted the barstool next to mine. “Tell me about your day.”

Aaron topped off his wineglass before skirting the island. “It was a basic ho-hum day… meeting after meeting. Nothing exciting. I’m ready for Saturday.”

“What’s Saturday?”

“A no work day. And we’re meeting with our wedding planner. I was worried his ideas would be too pricey, but Vic will be thrilled when I tell him you agreed to spare no expense on the reception.”

“That doesn’t sound like something I’d say,” I huffed, blowing on a spoonful of chili before taking a bite. “Mmm. This is delicioso.”

Gracias. Well, someone who looks and sounds a lot like you just agreed to a unicorn ice sculpture at our reception,” he deadpanned.

I snorted. “Yeah right. You can’t use anything I say in the last few seconds of a playoff game against me.”

“Does that mean no to two champagne fountains too?” He snickered at my stone-faced expression as he reached for his wine. “Fair enough but you’d better start weighing in before I’m tempted to do something crazy. This isn’t just my wedding, it’s our wedding.”

I turned to fully face him. “I thought we were set. We have a date, a place and a minister. We agreed on invitations and we even talked about our honeymoon. What am I missing?”

“The details, Matty! All the details.” Aaron flashed an incredulous look at me and smacked his hand on the island. “Look, you’re busy at work and I know the last things you think about are table décor and cake toppers but I’m busy too and I can’t stop thinking about them. And then my head explodes with more choices like roses or lilies, chocolate ganache or buttercream and don’t even get me started on the seating arrangements. It’s making me crazy!”

“I can see that.” I chuckled then set my spoon aside and snaked my arm around his waist when he glared at me. “Hey, I’m kidding. Tell me what you want me to do. How about if I choose the flowers?”

“Oh no. Definitely not. I know you too well, Matty. You’d wait until the last minute then either ask your secretary or my future monster-in-law to help and there’s no way in hell I’d—”

“Hey. No need to get nasty here.” I threaded my fingers through his and kissed the platinum band on his left ring finger.

“I’m sorry. I know I told you I’d handle things but you’re kind of strict about the budget.”

“One of us has to be if we want to buy—”

“I know.” Aaron leaned against me and kissed my shoulder. “I think it’s a great idea but the problem is that you don’t really understand how much things are. You need to be part of some of the major decisions so you get the picture. I have a proposition to make.”

“Oh boy. What did you do and how much is it going to cost?” I asked, slipping his glass from his hand and taking a healthy swig.

“Ha. Ha. It didn’t do anything. Yet. But let’s be real, this whole thing is going to cost a fortune but it’ll be worth it. I’ve already done a bulk of the research and Vic is a great resource but I still think we should plan a weekly chat so I can go over things with you before we meet the wedding planner. That way we won’t waste time or veer off course…because yes, Vic really did ask how my fiancé felt about a caviar bar.”

“Oh my God.” I set the glass down and gulped.

“Don’t worry, Papi. I told him it wasn’t your style. But gosh, I could easily get talked into a champagne fountain. It sounds romantic, doesn’t it?”

“No.”

Aaron snickered at my quick reply and gestured for me to eat. “See the problem? I promise I won’t make any rash decisions, but I need your input on some things if we’re going to make it to the altar without you wringing my neck when I’m ten thousand dollars over—”

“Ten thousand!” My jaw dropped as I widened my eyes comically.

“Calm down. I’m innocent. I’ve been so good it hurts,” he said with a sigh. “But if something is going to hurt it should be in a good way. And preferably with an orgasm or two. Don’t you agree?” Aaron lowered his hand and rubbed his palm over my half-hard cock.

“Y-yeah.”

“We should have our husband-to-be chats once a week to discuss our plans.”

I lifted my hips slightly and cupped his neck to bring him closer. “Good idea.”

“But you’ll have to give me your undivided attention,” he purred as he pulled at the elastic band of my shorts and boxer briefs. Then he slipped his fingers under the fabric and grabbed my dick. “I don’t want to compete with basketball, baseball or anything else. It’ll be a special date. Just me and you.”

“Mmm. Yes.” I licked the corner of his mouth then pulled his pajamas and boxer briefs down and kneaded his ass.

“We can be flexible about the day and time,” he said in a throaty tone, nipping my jaw as he stroked me from base to tip.

“What about location?” I asked, tracing his crack with my middle finger.

“Yes. Anywhere is fine.” He smeared precum over my cock in a lazy circular motion he knew drove me insane.

I stilled his hand and bit his bottom lip. “Then I think we should have our first planning date now. In bed.”

Part 2 

Aaron hummed in response then stood and pulled his T-shirt over his head. He twirled it playfully in one hand then dropped it on the coffee table and turned toward the master bedroom. He cast a come-hither look over his shoulder when he reached the doorway and then pushed his pajama bottoms and briefs over his ass.

“Are you coming, Matty?”

Holy fuck, he was beautiful. I gripped my cock and swallowed hard but I couldn’t speak. And wasn’t that just… weird? We’d been together for years now. I didn’t understand how it was possible that I wanted him more than ever.

My dick had a heartbeat of its own. I felt dizzy as I pushed away from the island and wordlessly moved toward him. He extended his hand and laced his fingers in mine. I pulled him backward before he stepped into our room. Then I backed him against the doorjamb and nuzzled his neck, licking a seductive trail along his jaw.

“Fuck, I love you,” I growled. “And I want you so bad it hurts, Aar.”

“Me too. What are you going to do about it?” He threw his arms over my shoulders then stood on his toes and sealed his mouth over mine.

Our tongues collided then twisted in a sweet frenzy. I yanked him against my chest and ran my fingers through his hair, tilting his chin slightly to deepen the connection. I sucked on his tongue and bit his bottom lip then splayed my hands on his ass and squeezed. He broke for air with a gasp and licked his swollen lips.

He made sure my eyes were on him when he sank to his knees and tugged my basketball shorts and briefs down.

“Suck me, baby. Go on.” I tapped my throbbing cock against his cheek in invitation.

Aaron shivered and closed his eyes for a moment before swallowing me whole. I rested my hands on his head and cautioned myself not to move for a second. He gripped me at the base and fondled my balls while he bobbed his head, sucking and licking me into certain oblivion. I rocked my hips forward and did everything in my power not to give in to the urge to let my hips fly. Aaron wouldn’t mind. He loved it when I lost control, pulling his hair while I fucked his mouth like a man possessed. But I didn’t want to come like this.

“Stop.” I set my hand on his forehead, groaning when he released me with a pop. I pulled him to his feet and crashed my mouth over his. Then I backed up slightly and stuck two fingers in my mouth. “Turn around,” I commanded in a low raspy voice.

Aaron obeyed immediately. He clung to the doorjamb and arched his back.

“What are you going to do, Matty?” he asked, wiggling his hips.

I chuckled softly as I wrapped my left hand around his cock. I massaged his entrance with my free hand then leaning in to lick the shell of his ear.

“I’m gonna fuck you,” I purred, pushing a saliva-slick finger inside him.

Aaron groaned then bucked backward, riding the single digit like a pro. I knew it wouldn’t take long before he begged for more. I added a second finger and upped the tempo, stroking him into a frenzy as I whispered a litany of X-rated promises. Truthfully, dirty talk wasn’t my forte. I wanted every nasty thing he was willing to do but verbalizing it always made me blush. Tonight I was too strung out to overthink. His unfettered fluidity as he gyrated and whispered my name over and over gave me a heady sense of power. I added the tip of a third finger and bit his shoulder. My dick ached with need. It wouldn’t take much. The right amount of friction would send me over the edge, I mused, grinding my thick shaft against his side.

“I want you now. Please Matty,” he whimpered.

I released my hold and smacked his ass hard enough to leave a handprint. “Bed.”

Aaron nodded then hurried across the room. He shoved the duvet aside before scrambling onto the king-size mattress on his knees. I moved to the nightstand and reached for the lube. The bottle was almost empty. I turned it upside down then shook and squeezed it manically. I pulled open the top drawer and swore.

“What’s wrong?”
“We’re out of lube,” I said. “I must have put the new one on my side of the bed. Stay there. Don’t move, baby.”

“No. You left it in the shower this morning when we— oh fuck. I can’t wait. Just do it,” he pleaded as he threaded his arm between his thighs to tap his hole.

“I’ll go slow.”

“I don’t want slow. I want you to fuck me.”

I gulped and gripped my cock at the base, hoping to stave off the urge to plunge inside him. I smeared the meager bit of lube on myself and then ran my fingers gently across his hole. I inched closer in a daze and pulled his cheeks apart, studying him for a moment. Damn, he was perfect. Just touching him felt amazing and knowing how incredible he tasted and—

I bent to rub my stubbled chin against his ass then I licked his entrance and pushed my tongue inside him. Aaron cried out and clutched the sheets. He chanted my name as he lowered himself to his elbows and stroked his rigid prick. His wanton need spurred me on. I licked him over and over, running my hands down his back haphazardly as I flattened my tongue over his sweet hole.

“Oh Matty, I think I’m gonna come,” he grunted.

“No.” I straightened immediately and smacked his ass again. “On your back.”

Aaron flipped over and spread his legs wide so fast it might have been funny at any other time. Not now.

I pulled him to the edge of the mattress then set my cock at his hole and pushed my way inside my lover. I went completely still to give him a moment to adjust to my girth. When he tilted his hips, I got the message it was time to move. I held his ankles, pausing to press a kiss on his foot. I eased almost all the way out before surging forward until my balls rested against his ass. Aaron hooked his hand around the back of my neck and pulled me on top of him. He drove his tongue in my mouth and dug his heels into my ass, silently requesting me to speed it up.

“Tell me what you want, baby.”

He sucked my bottom lip as he slipped his hand between us to grip himself. “Harder.”

I licked his lips and shook my head. “Harder what?”

Aaron whimpered. “Matty.”

“Tell me. Do you want me to pinch your tits hard? Or spank you har—”

“Fuck me!”

I gathered him against me and pushed him to the middle of the mattress then let my hips fly. I moved like thunder, losing myself in the steady push and pull as the tempo accelerated to near combustible. Aaron clasped his legs around me and held on for dear life. I could feel his hand moving between us…faster and faster. His breath quickened. His grip faltered and his eyes took on a glassy look I recognized well.

“Come for me, baby. I’ve got you,” I whispered, pumping my hips and sinking deeper inside him with every thrust.

“I’m—oh fuck yes.” He fell apart a moment later. He squeezed his eyes shut then trembled like mad as cum spurted between us.

I didn’t stop moving but I slowed instinctively. I had to watch him. He was so beautiful. Unguarded, free and completely open. When he opened his eyes again, I was overcome with a feeling I couldn’t name. Maybe that was a strange sentiment but it was true. One second we were simply moving toward a shared orgasm and the next, I was staring at the other half of me. Separate yet whole. Connected somewhere beyond a physical state.

I brushed his hair from his forehead and pressed my lips to his as I hovered above him. I breathed him in as I rocked my hips. I was utterly in awe of… us. We were so much more than we ever set out to be. My timing might not be right but I couldn’t help thinking I should acknowledge how special this was and how fiercely I wanted to protect and nurture it.

“Are you okay?” Aaron asked, rubbing his nose against mine.

“Yeah. I just… I love you.”

He smiled. “I know. Show me, Matty. Come inside me. I want to feel you let go.”

So I did.

I roared with the force of my release, spilling everything I had deep inside him. He soothed my hair from my brow and traced his fingers along my spine while I shook in his arms.

When I thought I could speak and act normally again, I propped myself on my elbows and gazed down at him. The contrast of his dark hair against the white pillow and flecks of gold in his hazel eyes were lovely. But I couldn’t think of a single thing to say that didn’t sound like a mushy Hallmark Valentine card so I gently disengaged and flopped gracelessly beside him. Aaron rolled sideways and laid his head on my chest.

“Does it ever freak you out that you’re going to be stuck with me forever?” he asked after a few minutes.

The wistful question and the fact he didn’t seem particularly bothered by the mess of sweat and cum binding us together made me do a double take. I nudged his forehead until he looked up at me.

“No. We belong together. I know we do. I’m more afraid to lose you than I am to be with you forever.” I winced at my words choice. Lame, Sullivan. 

“You’ll never lose me, Matty. I’ll always be here for you. I promise to be everything you need. Your friend, your conscience, your partner in crime, your lover. I promise—”

“Hey.” I held his chin, frowning at the sheen of tears in his eyes. “Why are you crying?”

“I’m not,” he said, swiping at the moisture with the back of his hand.

“What is it then?”

Aaron pursed his lips and sighed. “I love the way you look at me. And I want always to be worthy of that look.”

“You are. You—”

“Shh. Let me finish.” He set his finger on my lips then continued. “It’s true that I like nice things but all I want is you, Matty. I don’t really care about unicorn ice sculptures and champagne fountains. I don’t care about having a big reception and a lot fuss. I just want us to be married. I’ll run away with you tomorrow if you want. We can get married in Vegas and—”

“No way.” I shook my head vehemently and furrowed my brow. “We’re gonna do it all, Aar. The ceremony, a kick ass reception, the honeymoon come first. And yeah, some day we’re going to buy a house in the ’burbs and fill it with kids and dogs. It has nothing to with having things. We’ll do it because we love each other and want to share what we have. But that’s somewhere in the future. Right now, the important part is us. You and me. If we wanted the unicorn, we could have it.”

Aaron’s smile was electric. “You have a funny way of saying just the right thing sometimes. Te amo, Matty.”

“I love you too.” I cocked my head and squinted at him. “Of course, we don’t actually want the unicorn, though. Do we?”

He barked a quick laugh that turned into a chuckle. “No unicorn.”

“Good. See? This wedding planning stuff is going so well already. Come on. I have a feeling you’re gonna make me help you change the sheets. Let’s shower first.” I sat up and patted the mattress. “They’re not bad. Maybe we don’t have to—”

“Are you kidding me? This whole sheet is a wet spot.” He hopped off the bed and motioned for me to follow him to the bathroom. “Shower, sheet change, kitchen cleanup and then… let’s have a small discussion about what we’re going to accomplish when we meet with Vic. Deal?”

I snorted when he offered his hand to me. “Nope. We aren’t the ‘shaking hands’ kind of husbands-to-be.”

“Oh? What kind are we?”

I scooped him in a fireman’s hold instead and smacked his ass. “This kind. Let’s get movin’, Mr. Sullivan.”

Aaron’s melodic laughter ricocheted off the marble and glass tile in the bathroom. I caught our reflection in the mirror as I set him down and pulled him against me, marveling at how fucking right the platinum band looked on my finger. Aaron slipped out of my embrace and danced toward the shower. His conversation was all over the place as he turned on the water, a dog saw on his run and a funny billboard advertising fungal cream… but his joyful air was contagious. He was happy and light and everything I wanted but couldn’t quite express with words. I simply knew he was the one I wanted to spend the rest of my life with.

Part 3

Aaron was a serious control freak. When he initially suggested hiring someone to help keep us organized and on track, I was a little skeptical. It seemed odd that he’d want anyone else’s opinion or input about our big day. I figured he’d run the show and give me updates and budget breakdowns when I asked. He had an eye for color and proportion and a great sense of style. It seemed like asking for an outsider’s opinion would just confuse things. I didn’t get it.

“Matty, there’s nothing to get. This is Vic’s job. He cuts hours of tedious research out of the equation so I can keep up with my actual job and ideally stay under my boss’s radar. Marsha would flip if she saw my browser history lately. I’m not sure how I’d explain ‘resorts in Puerto Rico’, ‘cutting edge table décor’ and ‘how to tell to your mother that her priest won’t be officiating the ceremony’. I’m up to my eyebrows in too many details as it is,” he sighed dramatically.

I reached for his left hand when I stopped at the red light and laced my fingers with his. “What did the internet have to say about dealing with parents?”

He shifted in his seat and kissed our joined hands then gave me a lopsided smile. “The gist was…be honest and handle unrealistic expectations in a forthright manner.”

“Sounds reasonable.”

“Sure. But she’s not going to like it,” he grumbled. He slipped his hand from mine and pointed at the green light. “Turn left at the next light.”

“I don’t see the problem. We’re getting married in DC, not Maryland. It’s a no-brainer. A Catholic priest isn’t going to officiate the wedding either way. We’ve been through this and—”

“Their deacon will.”

“The creepy guy with a black wig who never smiles?”

“Yep.”

“You don’t like that guy,” I reminded him.

“I know but my parents do. Maybe they think he has Catholic street cred or something,” he huffed.

“I don’t care what he has. He’s not marrying us.”

“I know. I just have to break the news to my folks.”

“Your parents loves me. I’ll tell them,” I said, turning on to a tree-lined street with beautiful brick homes set far from the street.

“Remember, we pass two stops signs and it’s on the right. And no… I don’t want you to get in the middle of Mendez family drama. You may be tempted to call the wedding off and I love you too much, Matty. I’m not letting you go,” he said theatrically. “Oh! This is it. Turn right.”

I snickered at his dramatic tone as I pulled into the gated drive. “I’m not going anywhere. And we aren’t changing our minds to make our parents happy. We chose the minister a long time ago. We like her. End of discussion.”

Aaron leaned across the console and purred in my ear. “I love it when you take charge and get all alpha with me. It’s so hot.”

I barked a quick laugh as I veered the BMW into a parking spot in the mostly empty lot. Then I turned off the engine and faced him. “Alpha, eh?”

“Yeah, I’m a little dizzy right now.” He fluttered his eyelashes then cupped the back of my neck and pulled me close, resting his forehead against mine.

I ran my fingers through his hair then kissed his nose before sitting back and adjusting my cock in my khakis. “Something must be wrong with me. I can’t believe I can get hard when you’re talking about priests and parents.”

“Ew. I was trying to help us both forget about that part.” Aaron inclined his head toward the stately manor. “Okay, let’s do this.”

I grabbed his elbow before he opened the passenger side door. “Wait up. What are we doing exactly and how long will this take?”

“Matty, you agreed—”

“Hey, I’m here and I’m willing to listen but I’m kind of hoping not to spend our entire Saturday with Vic.”

“I thought you liked him.”

“He’s fine. Actually, he’s cool. But he’s so…”

“Extra?” Aaron supplied with a laugh.

“Yeah. He wears me out,” I griped.

“A lot of people say I’m ‘extra’ too, you know. Do I wear you out?”

I chuckled. “Yes, you definitely do.”

“Hey!”

“Hey yourself. Just do me a favor and stick to the plan. What is the plan again?”

“To check out the venue on an actual wedding day to get ideas for flowers and the overall feel of the place. Vic is working this one so I don’t think we’ll spend more than an hour with him. But we can go straight to the photographer’s studio afterward.”

I made sure he saw my glazed expression before I exhaled. “If possible, let’s keep it short and sweet.”

“Yes, sir.” Aaron shot a sassy smile at me then picked up his manbag and opened the car door.

We walked hand in hand along the hedge-lined pathway leading to the mansion’s grand entrance. The historic landmark dated to the turn of the last century. Aaron loved the climbing ivy on the brick façade and the enormous fountain in the middle of the circular drive. His awed expression cracked me up. We’d visited the Claridge Estate a few times since we’d gotten engaged a few months ago and each time he seemed more enthralled with our choice of venue. I couldn’t blame him. The house and grounds were stunning.

Aaron paused at the bottom of the steps leading to the main door and let go of my hand. He pulled out his cell and snapped a dozen photos. I didn’t bother reminding him he’d already taken these pictures. He loved photography and studying nuances in light and color was his favorite pastime. Since he was only armed with an iPhone, I figured I was getting off easy today.

I shoved my hands in my pockets and strolled to the opposite end of the staircase. I spotted a delivery truck parked along the side of the building unloading floral arrangement and was just about to call Aaron over when a lilting voice singsonged his name from the landing.

Aaron glanced and smiled. “Hi Vic. How are you?”

“So much better now that the Mendez Sullivan party has arrived.”

Vic held his arms open like he was welcoming us to his home. He flew down the stairs and wrapped Aaron in a bear hug then spent the next five minutes complimenting his hair, his shirt, shoes and even his phone case. Okay, maybe it was two minutes. I didn’t mind. It gave me a chance to check out our flamboyant wedding planner from afar.

Vic Greene was a fireball. He had short platinum blond hair, bright blue eyes and a golden skin. He was a little taller than Aaron and had the same lean, tone physique and a penchant for highlighting his classically handsome features with rouge, lip gloss and eyeliner. I liked Vic but truthfully we didn’t interact much. Aaron was his main contact, which made it easier for everyone. They shared a passion for style and design and all things fabulous. And I was…boring in comparison.

Don’t get me wrong. I knew I was considered good-looking but I was seriously uninteresting compared to Vic and Aaron. Today was a perfect example. We were all dressed similarly in khakis and short-sleeved button-down dress shirts in deference to the humid summer day. However, my shirt was plain blue while Aaron’s was white with some squiggly pattern on it and Vic’s was a pink floral number that somehow matched his two-toned shoes. As Aaron said, Vic was “extra”.

I braced myself for a whirlwind greeting when Vic finally turned to me. He widened his eyes and put his fingers on his pink glossed lips and shook his head over and over. I glanced at Aaron for help but he was busy taking more photos so I swallowed hard and held out my hand.

“How’s it going, Vic?”

He blinked manically then clasped my hand theatrically and grinned. “Very well indeed. Are you ready to be amazed?”

“Um… sure,” I said, pulling my fingers free. I hooked my arm over Aaron’s shoulders when he paused beside me to take another picture. “Aren’t we, babe?”

Aaron shot an amused glance at me then leaned into my side like a doting husband-to-be. “Yes! Amaze us. What do we get to see?”

“Well, we’ve started setting up for this afternoon’s wedding so everything is a bit topsy turvy but you’ll get a fair idea of what this grand ol’ place looks like all dolled up. The entry alone will make you cry,” he enthused.

“Who’s getting married?” Aaron asked.

“A senator’s daughter. She wanted a fairytale affair with crystal chandelier hanging from tree branches outside and orchids cascading from satin ribbons in the ballroom. There’s even a wall of white roses. I kid you not. It’s divine. Come see.” Vic clapped then turned on his heel and led the way up the steps.

When he darted ahead of us and disappeared inside, I pulled Aaron back by his belt loop before he could follow. Then I set my hand under his chin and gave him a stern look.

“I’m the wedding bouncer, aren’t I?” I scowled.

“Wedding bouncer?” Aaron’s full lips quirked in a lopsided smile that made me want to lick him.

I kissed him instead and wagged my finger at him. “Yeah. The guy who provides a sanity check so you don’t do anything impulsive. We’re just looking, Aar. I don’t care how divine the flowers are. We have a budget and we’re sticking to it.”

“Definitely Alpha. Wow, that turns me on. Note to self, don’t read shape-shifter sex scenes before a tame wedding planning session.”

“Aar—”

He held his hand up to stop me then bit his bottom lip and continued in a husky voice, “Yes, you’re my sanity check. I need you to keep it real for me but… I also need you to be open to new ideas too. We’re just here to browse and take notes. I can already tell you our color palette and floral selection will not mesh based on the season alone.”

“I’ve been with you for long enough to know expensive flowers are available year round, babe.”

Aaron flung his arms over my shoulders and sighed. “That’s kind of romantic. But don’t worry. We aren’t shopping. Look at this like a scouting trip for a photo shoot. We do this sort of thing at the magazine all the time. It’ll be fun. You’ll see.”

I rolled my eyes but tucked my hand in Aaron’s and let him lead the way inside the grand foyer.

“Wow. It’s so beautiful,” he said, staring up at the enormous crystal chandelier in the domed ceiling.

I pointed at the ornate moldings and museum-quality landscapes hung high above the wainscoting and was about to comment on their pristine condition when Vic called Aaron’s name.

“Go on. I’ll be right there. I want to look at some of the art.” I gestured toward a huge painting of the Potomac near an arched doorway.

“Don’t get lost.” He winked before heading toward Vic.

I watched his ass in his perfectly fitted khakis for a moment then stepped around a deliveryman carrying a huge box of flowers. I waited for him to pass then moved forward and immediately ran into a pretty blonde. We paused and said a quick round of awkward apologies but instead of moving on, she grabbed my elbow and cocked her head.

“Wait. I know you. Matt Sullivan, right? I’m Steph. It’s been a long time. Maybe five years? I’m… I was Kristen’s roommate. Remember me?”

Part 4

“Steph. Yes, of course. How are you?” I smiled and held out my hand. It was probably a clumsy gesture but I wasn’t clear about the protocol for bumping into an ex’s friend. Especially one I hadn’t seen in years.

“I’m great.” She beamed and ignored my hand, pulling me in for an impromptu embrace before pointing at the riot of flowers on the table under the crystal chandelier. “It’s so good to see you! I just popped by with my mom to check on the table arrangements. She’s very particular about the details. I am too, but not like her. Vic has been such a godsend. He’s super patient and he has great taste. I trust him to make everything perfect. But Mom insisted and—oh my gosh, I’m sorry. I’m talking too much. It’s just—today is my wedding day!”

“Wow. Congratulations. That’s fantastic. Vic was telling us about the big wedding here this afternoon,” I commented before stepping sideways to get a better look at Aaron.

He was engaged in an animated conversation with Vic and a woman I assumed was Steph’s mother on the other end of the room. She had short blonde hair and was dressed like her daughter in chic casual clothing that in no way downplayed her aristocratic bearing. She certainly looked like a politician’s wife. I couldn’t remember if I knew Steph’s father was a senator. Five years was a long time and truthfully, we’d never been more than acquaintances.

“Yes! That’s me. And Philip. We’ve been together for four years but I think you and Kristen had already broken up so you probably never met him.”

“Probably not,” I agreed.

“She’s one of my bridesmaids,” she added with a look I had a feeling was meant to double as a message.

I stuffed my hands in my pockets and smiled. “That’s nice. How is she?”

Fuck. Why did I ask? The last thing I needed was for my polite inquiry to be misconstrued.

“She’s good. She lives in Virginia but she’s talking about moving back to DC for a job. Did you know she’s single? I mean… you may not be, but—”

“I’m not,” I responded quickly.

“Right. I figured that unless my mother added you to the guest list at the last second and you got the time wrong, there was a good chance you might be here with your significant other.”

“Yeah, I’m here with my fiancé. We’re getting married in October.”

“Oh. That’s wonderful. Really. I’m not sure I’ll tell Kristen though. I get the impression you were ‘the one who got away’,” she said wistfully.

I had no idea how to respond to that and when I spotted Aaron waving at me then turning to join me, I knew I had less than twenty seconds to think of something.

I gave a flustered half-laugh and settled for, “That was a long time ago.”

“True. A lot has changed. I actually heard you were—”

“Hello! You must be the bride. Congrats! Everything looks stunning,” Aaron gushed. “Vic is going to give us a sneak peek of the ballroom then we’ll head out the garden and be on our way. I’m Aaron, by the way.”

“It’s nice to meet you. I’m Stephanie. Are you working with Vic?” she asked as she shook his hand.

“Yes. Well…on our wedding,” Aaron replied with a shy smile.

“You and Vic are getting married? Gosh, he never mentioned it.” She cast a curious glance between Aaron and Vic who was still deep in conversation with her mother. “Congratulations. I’ll have to give him a hard time for keeping his news to himself!”

Aaron chuckled then linked his arm with mine and shook his head. “Thank you, but wrong guy. Vic’s a doll but he’s not my type. Even if he was…my fiancé wouldn’t approve. Would you, Matty?”

I flung my arm over Aaron’s shoulder and kissed his temple. “Definitely not.”

“Oh. You’re— oh, right.” She opened and closed her mouth twice before continuing. “I—that’s awesome. Good for you! Um…so how long have you been… a couple?”

“Five years. Or close enough,” I answered.

“That was when you and Kristen split up.” Her pensive tone reminded me of a private investigator on a Netflix series trying to establish a timeline and crack a mystery. I didn’t detect any malice. Just curiosity.

“Roughly, yes.” I squeezed Aaron’s arm then pulled back slightly and slipped my hand in his. “We should go. We’ll take a quick look around and then get out of the way. Congratulations, Steph. It was nice to see you.”

“Yes, congrats! Everything looks lovely. It’s going to be a perfect day,” Aaron enthused.

“Thank you,” she said distractedly as Aaron and I stepped away.

We made it three feet before she called my name again. Aaron glanced at me then at Vic who was frantically motioning us to join him.

“I better go see Vic. Hurry, before we get kicked out,” he whispered.

I watched him for a moment then turned back to Steph. She gave me a sheepish smile that instantly put me on guard…which was crazy. There was nothing more to say here. We had one significant person and a handful of acquaintances in common, but those connections ended years ago.

“Matt, I hope this doesn’t sound completely awkward but I’m wondering if— would you be willing to talk to Kristen?” Her words came out in a jumbled rush.

She had the grace to look flustered by her question but when she didn’t attempt to retract or laugh it off, I felt obliged to respond. I was proud of myself for curbing my initial “what the fuck?” reply and settling on something simpler.

“Why?”

“Kristen was crazy about you, Matt. I wasn’t kidding when I said you’re ‘the one who got away’ for her. She’s been in a couple of nowhere relationships since you guys broke up and I can’t help thinking she has unresolved guilt or maybe fear that keeps her from really giving of herself in a relationship. Talking with you might help her let go. I don’t mean to put you on the spot. Think about it. We can get ahold of each other through Vic. Oh! I should get going. It was great to see you and—”

“Hang on.” I blocked her path before she could walk away. “It’s been five years, Steph. That’s a long time. A lot has happened in between then and now. I’m engaged to someone else and—” I huffed in exasperation, unsure how to nicely tell her I thought her request was distasteful and completely out of line. When nothing came to mind, I blurted, “What makes you think she’d want to talk to me anyway?”

“She loved you, Matt. I think she still does.” Steph set her hand on my elbow and smiled wanly before heading toward her mother.

Okay, that was… annoying. And weird. And totally uncomfortable.

I scratched the back of my neck and searched for Aaron. He was standing with Vic in the doorway leading to the grand ballroom. His hands were all over the place. No doubt he was in the middle of a detailed description of how he wanted everything to look at our wedding. I knew him too well. He might solicit my opinion and insist it was important that I have a say, but the truth was he knew exactly what he wanted.

Some days I still couldn’t believe he wanted me.

Aaron looked up abruptly as though he sensed my stare and grinned. And fuck, I was so damn grateful he did.

I moved quickly to his side and put my arm around his waist. “Are we ready?” I asked.

“Yes. Follow me this way, gentlemen!” Vic instructed, ushering us into the adjoining room.

Aaron pulled at my shirt and waited for Vic to move out of hearing distance before whispering, “Are you okay?”

I lifted his hand to my lips and kissed his knuckles. “Yes. Come on, we should go—”

“But what did she want?”

I sighed and shook my head irritably. “I’ll tell you later. It’s not a big deal.”

“Hmm. She was your ex’s roomie, huh? I want to hate her for no good reason but she has impeccable taste. Or her mother does. It just seems weird to run into her.”

“It is weird,” I agreed with a huff.

Aaron laced his fingers in mine and tugged my hand. “You can tell me all about it later. Check out the pink long stem roses on the tables. Aren’t they incredible?”

I nodded absently and followed him into the ballroom. We listened to Vic’s spiel regarding the design elements he used for the wedding taking place in a few hours and his suggestions for our own reception. Flowers, cake, centerpieces, food stations versus sit-down dinner. It didn’t take long for my attention to wander and my mind to travel back in time to when the concept of being stuck to someone for the rest of my life was my personal version of hell.

What bothered me about the conversation was that I knew I’d never loved Kristen. At all. It was hard to believe that after five years, she thought twice about me. I didn’t want that. I wished her the best. But I’d moved on. And after all this time I figured she had too.

Vic left us on a bench in the garden under a weeping willow tree after we’d walked through the indoor and outdoor areas. He encouraged us to take our time and soak up the ambience. He also said something about channeling our romantic feelings into ideas for the ceremony but I wasn’t sure what that meant so I kept quiet and let Aaron do the talking until Vic tapped his watch and gestured toward the mansion.

“I must go. You have another hour before I’ll need the area clear. Call me this week, Aaron. Au revoir!” Vic blew us kisses then turned on his heels and speed-walked up the pathway.

Aaron leaned against my shoulder and sighed dreamily. “Isn’t this amazing?”

“It is.” I kissed his forehead. “Want to get married under this tree?”

Aaron’s grin split his handsome face in two. “How about on hillside overlooking the river? Fewer bugs, I think.”

I snickered. “True. I’m glad we aren’t having a summer wedding. The mosquitos are brutal this year.”

“Hmm. I think that’s why the senator’s daughter isn’t using the garden today as much as we will.” He sat up and lowered his sunglasses. “So… what did she say to you in there? And don’t tell me it was nothing. Something is bugging you. Time to come clean, Matty.”

I brushed his hair from his eyes and shrugged uncomfortably. “She asked me if I’d be willing to talk to Kristen.”

Aaron dropped his jaw comically and shook his head. “You must be fucking kidding me.”

“Nope.”

“So what did you say? Are you going to call her?” he asked indignantly.

I turned to face him and hiked my knee on the bench between us. “Are you nuts? No, of course not!”

He pursed his lips like he was trying to contain a smile. “Why not? I mean… I trust you. I know you aren’t going to run away with the ex. You love me too much.”

I grinned. “I do love you too much. Or maybe it’s just the right amount of too much. But I’m still not going to call an ex-girlfriend and counsel her about her blasé love life. She and I weren’t friends. Not like that anyway. Whatever we had ended five years ago and it probably should have ended before then. She wasn’t the love of my life. You are.”

“You’re mine too. But… what if you really were hers? Do you think that’s possible? Does true love have to be a two-way thing or—”

“Yes, it does,” I said emphatically. “It absolutely does. Look, I’m not the world’s most intuitive guy when it comes to stuff like this but here’s what I do know… it always takes two people. I’m not talking about sex. I’m talking about commitment and growth and wanting the same things. And communication. Kristen and I were companions for a short time years ago. Maybe she wanted something more but I didn’t. Not until I met you.”

“Did you know you wanted to marry me some day?” he asked in a bashful tone.

“I was too afraid to know what I wanted in the beginning. You scared me. Or maybe it was how you made me feel that freaked me out.”

“I’m five eight when I stand up straight, Matty. How could I possibly have scared you?”

“You’re doing it right now,” I said, brushing my thumb over his lower lip.

“What am I doing?”

“You’re making it hard to breathe. You’re perfectly the other part of me, Aar, and it’s kind of magical and awe-inspiring and yeah… scary too. But I know you feel the same way about me and that’s when I realize I’m one lucky fucker.”

Aaron threw his head back and laughed. “Me too.”

“And as much as I wish everyone could feel this awesome, I know my limitations. I’m not Kristen’s ‘the one’. I never was. There’s no point in dragging up the past when you’re about to embark on your future.”

“And I’m your future,” he replied matter-of-factly.

“Exactly.” I leaned in and kissed him, resting my forehead against his. “Are we done running errands?”

“Well, we were gonna go to the bakery.” Aaron hummed then licked my lips. “Unless you’d rather go home.”

I pushed my tongue inside his mouth and glided it alongside his then pulled back and bit his chin.

“Home.”

Part 5

Curt tossed the basketball to me then ran under the hoop to catch the rebound as the ball swished through the net. He whooped with glee and did an obnoxious dance that made the teenagers waiting for the court chuckle. Jack rolled his eyes and snaked his arm around his boyfriend’s waist and effortlessly dislodged the ball then threw it at me. I hugged it to my chest and gestured for the teens to take over before heading to the park bench to collect my stuff.

It was a beautiful Saturday in mid-August. Warm, but not as humid as it had been most of the summer. I grabbed a water bottle from my bag and guzzled half of the contents before glancing up at the blue sky. I adjusted my sunglasses and bobbed my head in acknowledgment when Curt and Jack came to join me. We’d played our weekly round of pick-up basketball with our friend, Jason and continued goofing around for another fifteen minutes after he’d left. It had been a fun morning with friends but I was ready to go.

“Hey, do you mind dropping me off on your way home?” Curt asked, bumping my elbow hard enough to splash water down the front of my basketball shorts.

I glared at him then took another swig before pouring the rest of my water over his head. Curt sputtered indignantly then shook his hair like a dog coming in from the rain. I punched his bicep and braced myself for retaliation. Our collegiate-style sparring dated back to our law school days when we were roommates.

Curt Townsend was an accomplished lawyer now and one of my best friends. His easy-going nature and self-deprecating sense of humor won me over years ago. And while I occasionally wanted to smack him upside the head, I knew I was lucky to have him in my corner. And Jack too.

Jack was Curt’s seriously drool-worthy older boyfriend. He was tall, dark, handsome, and covered in colorful ink. His Harley-riding, leather badass persona was the exact opposite of Curt’s more conservative nature but it was obvious to anyone who paid attention that Jack was madly in love with his man. They complemented each other well, I mused as Jack ruffled Curt’s damp hair then bent to kiss his partner’s forehead.

“I’m supposed to meet a client at the bar and I think Curt’s anxious to get home,” Jack drawled in his slow Southern accent.

“True. I’m sweaty and gross and I don’t want to stick to the vinyl seats at the bar while I wait for my boyfriend to haggle with a vendor over the price of Patron. Help me escape, please.” Curt lowered his sunglasses and gave me a faux wide-eyed panicked look.

“There’s no vinyl in my bar, smartass. Those seats are pure leather,” Jack huffed, pulling his T-shirt off and reached into his bag for a clean one.

I chuckled as I stood. “Sure thing, buddy. Let’s go.”

I rolled my eyes when Curt nodded absently while his gaze traveled hungrily over Jack’s torso. Jack pulled his clean shirt on and then winked at his man before yanking him to his feet. I stepped away to give them a modicum of privacy and dug my cell from my bag to call Aaron.

He answered the phone on the first ring. “Hello handsome. Did you miss me?”

I grinned and felt my cheeks redden for no apparent reason. “Of course. What are you wearing?”

“Absolutely nothing,” Aaron purred.

“Are you serious?”

“Yep. I just got out of the shower so unless a towel counts, I’m naked, Matty.”

His tone was playful and sexy but the last thing I needed was a hard on in basketball shorts. I gulped. “Um, we’re just finishing up now. I’m going to drop Curt off but I’ll be home after that so just…stay naked, okay?”

“Mmm. Yes.” Aaron’s seductive hum went straight to my dick.

“Fuck, I better go before my boner gets out of control. Thanks a lot, Aar.”

His melodic laughter drifted through the phone. “I’m sorry. Oh hey! Did you ask him?”

“No. Not yet. I didn’t want to it in front of a big audience,” I said.

“Well, now’s your chance. Or maybe you should bring him here. I’ll make brunch. Can Jack come too and what about—?”

“Hey, slow down, babe.”

“But it’s a good idea,” he insisted.

“Yeah, okay. You’re right. I’ll invite him over.”

“Perfect. I better get dressed.”

I snickered as I pulled my bag over my shoulder and positioned it to strategically cover my bulge. “I’ll see you soon. Love you.”

“I love you too, Matty.”

I shoved my phone in my pocket and looked around for my friends. Jack waved from the other side of the chain-link fence then pulled Curt against him for a quick kiss. Then he revved his motorcycle, secured his helmet and pulled away.

“What’s the hold up, Sullivan? Let’s go!” Curt tapped his watch impatiently.

I knew he was joking but I didn’t take the bait this time. I pulled out my keys and led the way to my BMW.

“What are you doing today?”

“Besides waiting for you to unlock the car?” he asked sarcastically. “Not much. Why?”

“Ha. Ha. I was just wondering if you and Jack are doing anything special.”

“Special?” Curt paused before opening the passenger side door and cocked his head. “If you’re asking if we’re going to have sex when he gets home later, the answer is a definitive yes.”

I huffed in amusement then chucked my workout bag into the backseat and slid into the driver’s seat. “Thanks for sharing but no, I—are you hungry? Aaron’s making brunch. Do you wanna come over?”

“Now?”

I pulled my seatbelt on and turned on the engine. “Yeah now.”

“Is this a spur of the moment thing?”

“Don’t overthink it, Curtster. It’s scrambled eggs, fruit and avocado toast. You coming or not?”

Curt grinned. “What about French toast?”

“Ask him yourself, asshole. If he’s feeling sweet, I bet he’ll hook you up.”

“Thanks. I’m in. I thought Saturdays were your designated ‘wedding planning day’,” he commented as he fastened his seatbelt. “How’s it going?”

“Good. We have almost everything locked into place. The invitations will be ready to mail soon and I just put down the deposit at the resort we’re staying at in Puerto Rico for our honeymoon. We have a little glitch on the parent side, but we’ll work it out.”

“Uh oh. What did your mom do?”

“Believe it or not, it’s not my family this time. Aar’s folks want the deacon from their church to perform the ceremony. His mom is super excited because supposedly after much deliberation the old fart has agreed to set his misgivings aside and marry a couple of homosexuals. I think there was a hefty fee including gas mileage involved but I don’t know the specifics. I only know it’s the last thing we want. We have the minister already. I thought he’d told his mom about it a few weeks ago, but… here we are. We’re supposed to visit them next weekend. Aaron says he’ll talk to them before then, but if he doesn’t, we’re in for an uncomfortable afternoon at the Mendez house.”

“Sounds like the opposite of fun. If Jack and I ever tie the knot we won’t have to deal with family crap. Thank God. He has one sister, I have one brother and they both know better than to mess with Jack.”

“Do you think you will get married? I mean… eventually,” I amended as I turned into the garage of my condo complex.

“Yes, I think so. But I doubt we’ll have a big ceremony like you and Aaron or like Peter and Jay did. A justice of the peace quickie and a kickass party is more our style,” he said with a laugh. “Weddings are expensive.”

I parked my car and opened my door. “You’re telling me. Sometimes I wished we’d streamlined the process too.”

“What do you mean?”

“I can’t wait for us to be married but I could do without the unsolicited opinions of family and friends on how it should be done. Everyone has big ideas about wedding etiquette. You wouldn’t believe the conversation I had with my mother about inviting some great uncle I’ve never met before in my life. And with Aaron’s family, the church conversation is usually followed by twenty questions about when we’re going to have kids and how we should raise them.”

Curt shuddered theatrically. “That sucks.”

“I know it comes from a good place but it does suck.”

We were mostly quiet in the elevator ride to my floor. Just as I was about to put my key in the door, Curt grabbed my elbow.

“I haven’t given my unsolicited opinion, have I?” he asked with a frown. “If I have, I didn’t mean any offense. I’m genuinely happy for you guys. Heck, I was there from the beginning. I remember the way you looked whenever talked about Aaron. Your eyes got twinkly and you’d get this stupid grin on your face and I remember thinking… ‘damn, Matt’s in love with a guy’.”

I grinned as I pushed the door open. “Seems like yesterday, doesn’t it?”

“Yeah. It does and—” He gave me an intense look before he continued. “I’m really happy for you both. A wedding isn’t the same as being married. Anybody can throw a party, but you guys are ready for the real thing.”

I dropped my bag on the bench in the entry and let the strains of a Spanish song playing loudly in the background filled the space. It was a funny sort of touchstone moment. The memory Curt evoked was a powerful one. I remembered standing inside the doorway of our bachelor pad wondering if I could possibly explain how I felt about Aaron to my gay friend who assumed I was straight. I’d been afraid and yet hopeful. I knew if anyone might understand, it would be Curt.

When I’d eventually told him I was bi and love with a man, he’d been there for me. No questions asked. He still was.

I pursed my lips and nodded. “Thanks, man. I love him and yeah, we are ready.”

“Cool. I’m starving. Where’s Aar?” Curt slugged my bicep playfully and stepped into the great room.

“Wait!”

Curt waved at Aaron when he called his name from the kitchen then looked back at me absently. “What is it?”

“I— will you be my best man?”

Part 6 

Curt’s shocked expression was priceless. “Really?”

I chuckled. “Yeah, really.”

Curt grinned then pulled me against him in an enthusiastic bear hug. He released me and nudged my shoulder. “What about your brother? I thought you already asked Sean. Did something happen?”

“No. You’d be joint best men. I know that sounds weird but—”

“Come on in. You can talk about it over pancakes,” Aaron said with a smile. “Are you hungry?”

He stood in the doorway stirring batter in the large blue bowl tucked under his arm. His gray sweats hung low on his hips revealing a sexy sliver of skin. I had a sudden urge to slip my hand under the elastic and squeeze his perfect ass. My gaze traveled up his toned chest. The definition in his abs was visible through his snug white T-shirt. Fuck, he was hot. I stared at his full lips for a moment before I caught his knowing look.

I moved to his side and kissed him. It was supposed to be a quick hello kiss but he smelled so good and his lips were so soft. I couldn’t resist sliding my tongue in his mouth and—

“Geez, you two. Get a room,” Curt groused, pushing by us as he made his way to the kitchen. He flopped onto one of the barstools at the island and leaned on his elbows. “I believe this calls for a celebration.”

Aaron broke the kiss and shot a sultry look at me that made my dick twitch in my shorts. Then he danced to the island, set the bowl down and flung his arms over Curt’s shoulders.

“Thank you. It means a lot to both of us,” Aaron said.

Curt smiled then scooted his stool sideways to make room for me to sit next to him. “I’m excited to be part of the wedding. Thank you. So… how does it work? Do Sean and I split important duties? I call bachelor party. Your brother will hire the wrong kind of strippers at a seedy hotel in Vegas. We can’t take chances like that, Matt.”

Aaron picked up the bowl and skirted the island. “No strippers, Curtis.”

“Is that a hard rule or are you open to negotiation?” Curt teased.

Aaron glared at him and shook his head definitively. “Hard rule. No discussion necessary. Beer, champagne or mimosa? And how would you like your eggs?”

“Scrambled, please.”

I tousled Curt’s hair and gave him a playful shove as I stood again to grab our drinks. “Don’t mess with Mr. Sullivan-Mendez. If my husband says no strippers, there will be no strippers.”

Aaron beamed before turning to the stove. I pulled orange juice and a bottle of champagne from the refrigerator. I set the flutes on the island and prepared our mimosas while Curt regaled us with cringe-worthy bachelor party options. Bungee jump, tattoos, drinking games. I handed a glass to Curt and one to Aaron then rounded the island and reclaimed my seat.

“Should I call Sean? How will this work?” Curt asked.

Aaron pulled a batch of pancakes off the griddle then set the neatly stacked plate on the island. “I don’t think Matty wants a bachelor party.”

Curt raised his champagne flute then set it down again. “You don’t?”

I shrugged. “I don’t know. I’ll think about it, but I didn’t ask you to be my best man so you’d plan a party for me. Aar and I asked our brothers and we’re happy we did but… something was missing.”

“The gay part?” Curt joked.

Aaron chuckled. “No, silly. The part where the people who’ve been by our sides through major life events stand with us when we make a public commitment to be together forever. I adore my brother and my mother would’ve had a fit if I hadn’t asked him but Jay’s my best friend. He belongs there. And so do you.”

“We’ve been friends for a long time, Curt. Hell, you were with me the night I met Aar and it would mean a lot to me if you were with me the day I marry him.”

Curt pursed his lips and nodded. “I’m honored. Truly honored.”

“Cool. You’re not gonna cry or anything, are you?”

“Fuck off, Sullivan,” Curt huffed. He lifted his glass in a toast and smiled. “I promise to make a much better speech at the wedding but for now… to the future Mr. and Mr. Sullivan-Mendez. Thank you for including me on your journey.”

We clinked our flutes together and sipped our mimosas. Then Aaron inclined his head toward the food and told us to serve ourselves.

“This looks good, babe. I’m starving,” I said, piling my plate with pancakes, eggs.

“Me too,” Curt agreed around a mouthful of pancakes. “So did I get your names right? Does it matter whose goes first?”

I speared a giant pancake bite and popped in my mouth, leaving Aaron to answer that question. I had no clue how the etiquette of hyphenating last names worked.

“There’s no right or wrong,” Aaron replied. He helped himself to extra fruit then leaned against the island and methodically separated the strawberries from the blueberries before continuing. “It could be Sullivan-Mendez, Mendez-Sullivan but it might just be Sullivan.”

“You mean you’ll keep your own names? Lots of people do that. If or when Jack and I tie the knot, that’s what we’ll do. From a business perspective, it would be a pain in the ass for either of us to change our names. You have to deal with driver’s licenses, passports…”

I hovered my fork above my plate as Curt went on about government agencies and bank accounts and focused on Aaron. He seemed perfectly at ease yet somehow pensive too. His head lowered so his dark hair fell over his forehead. I admired his long lashes against his olive skin and the subtle way he tilted his head to indicate he was listening. But I knew him too well. He was lost in thought, no doubt turning over the part Curt misunderstood. But I knew what he was thinking.

He sensed my gaze and gave me a shy smile I returned with a wink. We’d become experts at wordless communication over the years and it seemed heighted lately. We weren’t going to discuss a name debate in front of Curt or bore him with the other million details we had yet to work out before the wedding day. We’d talk when we were alone. In the meantime, these silent connections in the form of a nod, a wink or a glancing touch grounded us. I wouldn’t pretend to know what was on his mind but I knew we’d figure it out together.

 

Jack came by to pick up Curt after his meeting. He joined us in another toast before hiking Curt’s bag over his shoulder declaring they both needed showers. I closed the door and headed back to the kitchen to help Aaron clean up. He was singing softly to himself as he scrubbed a pan. I didn’t recognize the song piped through our speaker system but it didn’t matter. He was happy. I could see it in the curve of his mouth and the sway of his hips. I moved behind him, nuzzling his neck as I slipped my arms around his slim waist.

“Want some help?”

“Sure, you can load the dishwasher,” Aaron instructed, twisting slightly to plant a kiss on the corner of my lips.

“Okay.”

He bent his head again and scrubbed a little harder, content in his own thoughts. I wanted in too. I wanted him to look at me, talk to me, laugh with me. And if he wasn’t going to give me his undivided attention on his own, I’d find another way to get it. I opened the dishwasher and stacked the plates on the lower rack. Then I reached for the champagne flutes and gently leaned them against the plates.

“What are you doing?” Aaron asked with a frown.

“I’m loading the dishwasher.”

“You’re doing it wrong and you know it.”

“Don’t be ridiculous. I know what I’m doing.” I gave him a wide-eyed innocent look before continuing my chore.

When I haphazardly set a coffee mug next to a cereal bowl on the top rack then closed it and put a mixing bowl over the champagne flutes, he lost his mind.

“Oh. My. God. You can’t do it like that. Out, Matt!”

“Hey, I got this. Hand me the forks, babe.” I wiggled my fingers expectantly.

He shooed me aside. “No way. Move it. You’re making more work for me. I’m going to have to reorganize everything now.”

“Oh come on. It’s a dishwasher, not a Rubik’s Cube. What’s the big deal?”

Aaron narrowed his eyes and pointed his forefinger at me then launched into a mini tirade in Spanish. I didn’t understand three quarters of what he was saying but I caught the gist. When he threw in a couple of Matthews, I threw my hands in the air in surrender and backed away from the dishwasher.

“Ouch. You must mean business. You never call me Matthew. Are you going to do that with our kids when they’re driving you crazy?” I asked conversationally.

Aaron turned off the faucet then dried his hands on a paper towel before pivoting to face me. He let out an exasperated breath but his lopsided smile was affectionate and sweet.

“Like you?”

I grinned mischievously. “I can hear it now… ‘Matthew Junior Sullivan-Mendez’,” I said in a mock scolding tone. “Is that what we decided?”

Aaron shrugged with faux nonchalance. “Whatever you want is fine with me.”

I barked a quick laugh and crossed my arms. “Yeah right. I’m not that gullible. What’s going on? I thought we had the name thing settled.”

“Yes, but—I was thinking something more traditional might be better.”

I studied him for clues but came up blank. “Since when?”

“Recently. Or maybe always.”

“It can’t be both. What happened?”

“My mom—”

“I knew it,” I huffed in annoyance. “What did she say?”

“Honestly, nothing. Yet. But I’m nervous about telling her we aren’t using the deacon. If I tell her I’m changing my name to Sullivan, she might forgive the deacon thing.”

“That’s nuts,” I said, furrowing my brow.

“Yeah, but I’m from a very traditional Catholic family, Matty. Everyone is willing to set aside tradition to support us and I feel bad that I’m not making any concessions for them. I’m not getting married in a church, I’m not using their deacon. I asked Jay to be my best man and then had to go back and ask my brother after my parents had a fit that you’d asked yours.”

“Hey. We don’t have to please everyone, Aar. This is our day and we get to call the shots. If you really want the smarmy deacon dude to marry us, I’ll be okay with it but—”

“I don’t.”

I cradled his chin and rubbed my thumb over his bottom lip. “I know you don’t. Look, the best man idea was a good one. It’s a sweet and meaningful sentiment. Those guys will always be part of our lives. But taking my name isn’t the same thing. If you want to do it, that’s great…but if it’s really about doing something traditional for your family then it’s not so great.”

Aaron nodded. “You’re right. Maybe we should keep our own names for now and reevaluate after we have kids.”

“I like that idea,” I replied. I rested my hands on his hips for a second then gave into temptation and pushed his sweatpants over his ass.

He kissed my jaw then bit my chin playfully. “And what if I don’t want to hyphenate at all?”

“Then we won’t hyphenate. Anymore questions?”

Aaron chuckled. “No, but it’s probably good to discuss this now and avoid future arguments.”

“We rarely fight, Aar.” I traced his crack with my middle finger and licked his neck. “And I think this matters more to you than it does to me. Sullivan-Mendez or vice versa or you take my name or I take yours…whatever you want if fine by me.”

“Really? You’d take my name? Oh. What are you doing?”

“I’m putting my finger in your ass,” I purred as I pushed a digit between his cheeks and tapped his entrance. “And yeah… why not?”

“Fuck, that feels good.” He lowered his hand and jacked my cock through my basketball shorts. The thin material made it easy for him to grip my shaft. “You know I’ll probably take yours though.”

“Hmm. My name or my dick?” I asked, pushing the tip of my finger inside.

Aaron laid his head on my shoulder and groaned. “Yes, but I want your dick now.”

I slapped his ass, loving the way he shivered in response. I sucked on his bottom lip and then gestured for him face the counter.

“Please tell me there’s lube somewhere in this kitchen,” I pleaded as I freed my cock from my shorts. I stroked myself a few times then pressed my length between his ass cheeks and pumped my hips before reaching around to grip his prick.

“Mmm, yes. The top drawer next to the fridge.” Aaron leaned back to kiss me then he bent over the counter and stuck his ass out in a blatant invitation that made me instantly lightheaded.

I pushed my shorts down my legs and stepped out of them before going to search for the lube. I pulled my T-shirt over my head and tossed it on the counter next to Aaron. I would have kicked off my shoes and socks too but the sights of my man bent over, swaying his ass seductively was too enticing. I couldn’t wait. I opened the bottle and poured a generous amount on my fingers and immediately pushed a digit inside his hole. Aaron winced and then went still.

“Shh. I’m sorry. I’ll go slower, baby.” I ran my free hand along his spine and whispered sweet nothings until he begged me for a second finger. And then a third.

“Now Matty. Please.”

I added more lube then set my throbbing cock at his entrance and pushed. Aaron draped himself over the counter theatrically when I breached him. I chuckled as I snaked my arm around him and pulled him upright so his back rested on my chest. Then I bit his shoulder and kissed it better over and over while he lowered himself on me, inch by inch. When his ass rubbed against my balls, I kissed his ear and breathed him in.

“I love this. I want this forever. I love you, Aar. So much, baby.”

He twisted sideways and brushed his nose against mine. “I love you too, Matty.”

Aaron closed his eyes when I surged forward. The urge to fuck him and dominate him was strong but I took my time. We moved together in a gentle push and pull that slowly built to a steady thrusting motion. I held him close, fondling his balls while he stroked himself. Sex in the kitchen wearing sneakers with an open dishwasher next to us brought to mind wild, frenzied fuck sessions. But this felt oddly intimate and almost sweet in a way I couldn’t easily define.

We’d done a variation in this kitchen many times in the past. On the island, over the barstools, against the refrigerator. Just last week, he climbed onto my lap buck ass naked while I sat fully clothed on a dining room chair then impaled himself on my shaft. The contrast of business exec chic with his naked state had been a heady aphrodisiac.

This was different. The passionate connection was the same but the underlying message punctuated with thrusts and sighs, groping hands felt poignant somehow. Like a perfect fusion of lust and love… of friendship and commitment. And when I lost my rhythm, I clung tightly to him and came deep inside him, I felt joyful and light and grateful.

I didn’t understand how it was possible, but I loved him more everyday. I loved his heart, his kindness and the childlike pieces of him that wanted to make the people he loved happy and proud. And the strong man underneath who recognized the need to make new rules and new traditions.

For us.

Part 7

Aaron’s parents loved me. I admit that probably had something to do with the fact I liked sports. Sure, they appreciated that I loved their son too but they also liked that I could watch endless baseball, football and hockey games with his dad while Aaron helped his mom in the kitchen. Maybe our interests were somewhat stereotypical, but it was just who we were. I liked sports and couldn’t boil water without making a mess. Aaron liked to cook and he still referred to ‘half-time’ as ‘intermission’ regardless of how many times I’d corrected him. His very traditional Puerto Rican parents didn’t fully understand the idea of two men in a committed relationship so they fixated on the stereotypical aspects they could relate to. According to Aaron, they hetero-normalized us, but at least they tried.

Most of the time Aaron was happy they made an effort but sometimes, it drove him crazy. He was torn between being grateful for their love and support and yet frustrated that they weren’t able to see his side. He made concessions where he could in an effort to honor his parents because underneath the light eyeliner and the faint touch of gloss on his full lips, he was a good Catholic boy who wanted to make his folks proud.

However, neither of us was willing to make any more major exceptions on our wedding day. And telling them wasn’t going to be easy.

Aaron was mostly quiet on the drive from DC to the Maryland suburb where he’d grown up. I didn’t press him and I didn’t complain about the techno pop dance music he insisted would help his nerves. I kept my left hand on the steering wheel and held his hand with the other in a show of solidarity. We were a team now. He wasn’t on his own.

I let go when we reached the turn off and gave him a sideways smile. “How are you?”

“Fine. Will you pull over?”

“Why? What’s wrong?” I asked, furrowing my brow.

“I’m gonna be sick.”

I turned into a residential section a couple of blocks away from his parents’ home and pulled over to the side of the road next to a high row of hedges. He took his seatbelt off when I stopped the car and bent over, resting his forehead on his knees.

“Aar?” I rubbed his back and then thread my fingers through his hair. “Baby, look at me.”

He sat up and obeyed. “Can we just elope?”

I shook my head. “No.”

“Is it the money? ’Cause I don’t care about the money and I can try to get our deposits if—oh my God. I really am going to get sick.” He licked his lips and squeezed his eyes shut.

“No, you’re not. You’re fine. You’re just nervous, Aar. I get it but it’s going to be okay. Open your eyes,” I instructed firmly. I traced his jaw and ran my thumbs over his cheekbone soothingly. “I’m here too, you know. I’m not going to let anyone hurt you.”

“I’m not worried about them hurting me. It’s the other way around. I’m going to hurt them and I hate that. I feel so selfish. My mom has always been in my corner. Always. It kills me to think she’s going to be disappointed.”

“She’s going to be okay with it. Maybe not today but she’ll come around,” I said.

“What if she doesn’t? What if she won’t speak to me?”

I rolled my eyes and groaned. “That’s not gonna happen. You’re losing it, babe.”

“I am losing it! I’m seriously going nuts. I’m freaking out over the craziest shit and second guessing decisions like… Did I go overboard on the cake design? Did I choose too many orange flowers? Am I going to break my mom’s heart when I tell her we don’t want the deacon anywhere near our ceremony?” He took a ragged breath before adding with a sob, “And what happens if you change your mind and—”

“Aaron, stop.”

He covered his face in his hands then looked up and sighed. “I had a nightmare last night that you left me at the altar. I woke up in a panic. I was sweaty and my heart was beating so fast I couldn’t breathe. It took a second before the fog cleared and I realized we were home in bed and that you hadn’t left me for your ex and you weren’t singing to her or—”

“Oh my God. Aar, you have to stop.” I held his chin and gave him a stern look before leaning across the console to kiss him. “Why didn’t you wake me up?”

“Right,” he scoffed. “Doesn’t everyone want to be woken up at four a.m. by their lunatic fiancé blabbering about a bad dream? Scratch that… any dream featuring my boss, my mother and your ex-girlfriend is a full-blown nightmare. I suppose I should just be grateful your mom wasn’t in it too.”

I bit my lip to hide my smile. “Wow. That does sound terrible. But you know I love you and I’m not going anywhere.”

“I know but it was horrible. And I don’t need a psychologist to tell me that it was a sign that I have too much stress in my life. I can’t even close my eyes without my brain coming up with more things to stress about. Last night, for example… I got demoted at work, my parents disowned me and you sang our song to your ex! I’m afraid to go to sleep,” he grumbled unhappily.

“It was just a dream, babe,” I replied calmly. I turned off the engine and opened my door. “Come on. Let’s leave the car here and walk to your parent’s house.”

“What? No. We’re already late and—”

“We’re not late. And if we are, they’ll forgive us. You need some fresh air before you hyperventilate. Let’s go.”

Aaron joined me on the sidewalk and pushed his sunglasses on his nose. In spite of his fragile mental state, he looked sexy as fuck in his snug fitted light blue polo shirt and khaki shorts. I was dressed similarly in a black polo but I couldn’t quite pull off casual chic the way my man did. I put my arm over his shoulder and kissed his temple then laced my fingers in his.

“Are you sure you want to hold my hand?” he asked dubiously. I could tell from his tone he was pleased.

I kissed his knuckles and nodded. We walked down the sidewalk lost in our thoughts for a few minutes. I paused in front of the deserted park and inclined my head. “Five minutes on the swings. What do you say?”

Aaron grinned. “Okay.”

I was a little surprised he trudged through the sand without complaint. I made small talk about the warm weather, the blue skies and how quiet it seemed in the park to distract him. We sat side by side on the black rubber industrial swings, holding on to the thick chains while we swayed to and fro.

“Did you play here when you were a kid?”

“All the time. There’s a bigger park on the next block with new equipment but when I was little, this one was the only game in town. The woods just beyond are a great place to play tag or hide and seek,” he said, gesturing to the copse of tall trees nearby. “I’m a fast runner and an excellent hider and seeker so I was usually the first one to suggest a game. Life was so much easier back then. Being a grown up sucks.”

“Not always. Sometimes, it’s pretty cool. Like now. Well, minus the mini breakdown. Ow.” I chuckled lightly, twisting my swing out of reach when he smacked my arm playfully.

“I’m sorry I flipped out. I’ll be fine after I get this off my chest and tell my parents how we feel. Just… don’t give up on me, Matty,” he said with a lopsided smile.

“I never would,” I replied. “Listen, I know they’re your parents but I want you to let me handle this.”

He swiped at the stray hair in his eyes then cocked his head.  “What do you mean? How?”

“I’ll do the talking. I’ll explain our decision and put a nice spin on it. I’m a lawyer. I’m good at that stuff. You can chime in whenever you want, of course, but I think it might be better coming from me. Less guilt and emotion, you know?”

“I’m trying not to be emotional but—”

“You can be as emotional as you want. It just means you care. But this is stressing you out and I can help. Will you trust me?”

Aaron pursed his lips and dabbed at the corner of his eyes. “Yes. Thank you.”

“Don’t thank me. Just take a deep breath and relax. Everything is under control. Work is going well, your parents love you, I love you and if you feel overwhelmed, talk to me. I don’t want you to get sick and worn down because of bad dreams and—”

“It was the worst dream. Marsha told me I should be the office coffee boy, my parents wouldn’t open their front door when I knocked and then…” He twisted the chains of his swing and pushed his glasses down his nose to give me an incredulous look. “We were at a party with a lot of people and then suddenly it was just me and you and your ex. And it was fine until you started singing to her. I couldn’t actually hear music or words but I knew you were giving her something that belonged to me and I screamed and… woke up sweating and shaking. It was awful.”

“But it didn’t happen and it never would,” I assured him patiently.

“I know.” His smile was sweet and sincere.

We entwined our feet and swayed together like two birds on a branch for a minute. Then I stood and moved behind him. I captured his head and pulled his glasses from his nose then kissed him upside down. “Wanna push?”

Aaron giggled. “Sure. Why not?”

“Hang on tight,” I warned. I hooked his glasses in my shirt then grabbed the chain links on either side of him then stepped back and let go.

“Ha. I don’t think I’ve ever been pushed on a swing by a boy I liked,” he said dreamily.

“You mean I’m your first?” I joked.

“Yes. You—whoa…Matt! That’s too high!”

I pushed the swing then ran underneath it and sent him flying. He howled with laughter as he soared skyward then back to earth. He was so pretty and vibrant and full of joy and ready to begin a new life with me. As husbands. My heart skipped a beat then did a somersault and cartwheel. And in that moment it felt like a really big deal that he wanted me forever. Like a gift of some kind. I wanted to tell him but I didn’t have words to match the sound of his laughter or the way his smile began in his eyes and poured out of him in waves.

My throat closed around the sappy sentiments. I knew better than to try to voice them in words. But I could sing to him instead.

“It’s a little bit funny, this feeling inside…”

Aaron locked eyes with me and dragged his feet in the sand until he slowed to a stop. I reached for his hand and linked our fingers, singing out the lyrics to Elton John’s “Your Song” just for him. His eyes shone bright with unshed tears and an intense look of adoration and affection. If it was possible, I swear I fell even deeper in love with him.

Part 8

Aaron seemed calmer by the time we reached his parents’ street. Unfortunately, all of his angst transferred to me. Okay, that was an exaggeration. I wasn’t overly nervous but I wished I’d had more time to prepare my argument. Aaron and I had been a couple for a long time and the Mendez family had been welcoming from the beginning. Unlike my own family. Scratch that… my mom was the only Sullivan who’d occasionally struggled with my sexuality. It wasn’t that she didn’t like Aaron. She did. But she would have preferred that he wasn’t a man. Eventually she’d learned to accept that I loved him and that I wasn’t going to change my mind, but she’d caused some tension along the way. Through every bit of drama my mom introduced, I was grateful to Aaron’s parents for their steady support. But this was still our wedding and we were doing this our way.

I squeezed his hand when we paused at the bottom of the brick path leading to the two-story home where Aaron had grown up.

“You ready?”

“Yes.” Aaron nodded then yanked me backward. “Wait—no. What are you going to say?”

“I don’t know exactly. It’ll come to me.”

“You can’t wing this, Matty. Practice on me first and I’ll tell you if it’ll fly.”

I furrowed my brow and let out an exasperated huff. “You’re going to have to trust me. I didn’t write a speech but—”

“I did and I memorized the whole thing. The original is in Spanish but here’s a synopsis… ‘Mama, Papa, gracias para—”

“That’s still Spanish,” I commented, crossing my arms over my chest.

“Oh. Right. Um… ‘Thank you for everything you’ve done for us. We love you and appreciate you but we’ve decided to go a different route regarding our wedding service.’”

“Sounds like a resignation letter, babe.”

“Dammit. You’re right. It sounded better en español.” And he was off.

I let him recite his speech in his parents’ native tongue for a minute or so before setting my hand over his mouth and kissing his forehead. “Cool it, Aar. It’s going to be all right. I promise.”

“So you say, but… how will you start? Do you have an intro handy or an ice breaker?”

I pulled off my sunglasses then slipped my hand in his and headed for the front door. “You want me to tell a joke? Maybe you should tell one in Spanish and once you get them laughing, I’ll tell them our plans.”

“That’s actually a good idea. That way they’ll still like me and—”

“I was kidding, Aar. They love you and they always will.” I paused at the top step and straightened his collar. It was perfect, of course, but I needed to keep my hands busy because in spite of my encouraging words, I was nervous as hell. One of us had to fake it though. I took a deep breath and gave him a lopsided smile. “Hey, are you gonna love any of our children less if they don’t do things exactly the way you hoped?”

Aaron’s grin was automatic. “Of course not! Nice move, Matty. You know I love it when you talk about future kids. It makes me feel…bubbly.”

I snorted. “Bubbly?”

“Yeah, like silly happy. We’re gonna do it all, aren’t we?”

I nodded. “Yes. Everything we said when we first met. House, kids, dog.”

“Hmm. I think we said kids, dog, and an apartment in the city.”

“We did.” I caressed his cheek, loving the way his eyes twinkled merrily at the memory of a long-ago conversation.

And just like that I knew we were both remembering that Sunday morning when we’d first talked about ‘us’. We’d laid in my queen-sized bed in the bachelor pad I shared with Curt and our friend Dave and spent the morning sipping coffee and daydreaming. We’d painted a rough sketch of what we wanted in a relationship. We hadn’t dared to dream too far ahead. Calling each other ‘boyfriend’ had been as much as we were willing to commit to that day. What we had was thrilling and new and scary as hell, but somehow I think I knew Aaron was ‘the one’.

“Do you think we’ll ever move to New York City?” he asked, tilting his head to lean into my touch.

“Is that something you still want?”

“Maybe someday but not right away. I want to raise our kids here.”

“In this neighborhood?” I widened my gaze comically.

Aaron snickered and shook his head emphatically. “No, but someplace like this. And I can’t believe I’m saying this but… I want to live closer to my parents when we’re ready to start our own family. Would you be okay with that? ’Cause if you are, I know how to handle this chat.”

“What do you mean? Are you planning on bribing them with future grandkids if they back off?” I whispered, mimicking his low tone.

“Yes. Well, sort of.”

“Aar…”

“I got this, Matty. They’re my parents. I should do the talking. Thank you.”

“I didn’t do anything.”

“Yes, you did. I love you. If I need you to jump in I’ll give you a secret sign… like this.” He wrinkled his nose and twitched it.

“Ha. You look like you’re gonna sneeze.” I cupped the back of his neck and brushed my nose against his then kissed him tenderly. “Just do me a favor and keep your speech in English so I know what’s going on.”

“Deal.”

“And do it right away. Let’s not prolong this, okay?”

Aaron stepped backward and set his hand on the doorknob. “Okay. Are you ready?”

When I nodded, he opened the door and called out a greeting to his parents. His voice ricocheted off the tile floor and echoed around the high ceiling in the foyer. I glanced at the jumble of family photos lining the walls as we moved through the formal living room to the back of the house. I could have predicted before we walked into the great room that his dad would be lounging in his favorite easy chair watching football on the giant flat screen and his mom would be in the kitchen making more food than the four of us could possibly eat for lunch. There was always a chance that Aaron’s sisters or brother and their families would join us too but I figured Aaron would know.

The Mendez’ were a tight-knit clan. Whenever they gathered for family brunches or dinners, the decibel levels rose to ear-splitting highs. It wasn’t unusual to have the television blaring on one end of the great room and music on the other while a dozen or more people competed to be heard above the din in Spanglish. The atmosphere was chaotic but always welcoming, though today it seemed relatively quiet.

“Hola!” his mom called from the stove.

Aaron greeted her in Spanish then shouted a quick hello to his father in the next room. I waved to his dad and then laughed when Aaron’s mom rounded the island and crushed him in a bear hug before giving me the same treatment.

“Where have you boys been? I was getting worried. Lunch is almost ready.”

“It smells muy bien,” I said.

Aaron and his mom exchanged an affectionate smile at my heavy American accent. It was easy to see that my man came by his good looks naturally. Aar was at least six inches taller than his petite mother but they shared the same light olive skin, dark hair, hazel eyes and symmetrical bone structure. Side by side, they were stunningly beautiful.

She pushed her bobbed hair behind her ear and gestured toward the family room. “You relax, Matthew. Watch the game. I’ll call you when the sopa is ready.”

“Okay, I’ll—”

“Mama, wait. I have something to tell you,” Aaron blurted.

“Tell me while we cook. I need two minutes. Come help.” She pulled his elbow and then continued in a rapid fire Spanish I had no hope of understanding.

I mouthed “now?” when Aaron looked over his shoulder at me. He shrugged and took a deep breath then tried again.

“Mama, we need to talk. Por favor.”

“What is it? Are you calling off the wedding?” Aaron’s dad joked as he lumbered into the kitchen. He stopped to shake my hand before heading for the refrigerator.  He grabbed beer and held it up for my inspection. “You want one?”

“Um… no gracias,” I replied.

He shrugged then raised his bottle in a toast before glancing expectantly at his son. “Well?”

“Of course we’re not calling off the wedding,” Aaron huffed. “But uh….

His dad was a heavier set man in his early sixties with white hair and dark twinkling eyes. Aaron described him as a typical macho Latino patriarch when we first met and maybe that was true to a degree but he was also a fiercely loyal family man who adored his wife and children. He could be a little gruff at times but he was a good guy who thankfully liked me. In a way, I understood his need to keep things simple between us. He didn’t know how to discuss my relationship with his son but he could talk sports all day and night. And he liked that I made the effort to keep up with him.

“What’s wrong?” his dad prodded. “Did you run out of money? You have fancy taste, son.”

Aaron rolled his eyes. “No. Money isn’t an issue.”

“Oh good. Then can you lend me ten bucks?” his father quipped with a hearty laugh.

“Very funny. I…um…” Aaron licked his lips and twitched his nose. But before I could take over he continued. “We’re not going to use the deacon from your church. We asked someone else to marry us. We hired her a few months ago. And yes, I know I should have told you sooner but I didn’t want to hurt your feelings or disappoint you and—”

“What are you saying?” his father asked, cocking his head curiously. “Who is the ‘she’? I don’t understand.”

Aaron gave me an apologetic look then repeated his speech in Spanish.

His mother gasped in distress and clutched her heart theatrically. “You need a blessing. A wedding isn’t just a party. You must have a connection to the church. It’s important.”

“We know this isn’t just a party, Mama. The ceremony is important to us. The words, the readings, the songs… they matter. This is the biggest day of our lives and I don’t want the deacon from your church to be part of it. I’m sorry, I’m just—not willing to negotiate on this.”

Aaron’s words came out in a rush. His parents stared at him then at each other but no one said a word for an excruciatingly long time. The air was thick with uncertainty. Someone had to break through it or we’d all choke.

I cleared my throat and paced to the far end of the island and back again like a lawyer preparing to grill an important witness on the stand. I stopped at Aaron’s side and wrapped my right arm around his shoulders then cast my gaze between his bewildered parents.

“I love him. He loves me. We know we’re lucky to have the support of our family and friends and we appreciate it. But we also know that not everyone wants us to be happy. They say marriage isn’t for two men. They say we can’t have what they have because God doesn’t condone our union and I’m sorry but that’s bullshit. It’s wrong and hateful and I refuse to stand in front of anyone who thinks he’s doing us a favor by bending his so-called rules to officiate our wedding.

“We aren’t coming at this with rainbow colored lenses. We’ve given a lot of thought and care to our decision. We know without a doubt we are worthy of love and happiness. We’re not second-class citizens. Our union isn’t less than any other couple because we’re men.  You can’t tell me God doesn’t approve. I won’t believe it. Because if God is love, then we’ve already been blessed a million times over.”

I squeezed Aaron’s shoulder and swallowed hard before adding, “And just so you’re clear… I love your son. Aaron is my everything. He’s the most remarkable human being on the planet. I’m more thankful than I can ever say that he’s willing to spend the rest of his life with me.”

It felt like one of those mic drop moments that was incredibly therapeutic but came with less fanfare than one would think. My audience of three looked slightly stunned. Aaron’s folks were certainly taken aback. And Aaron was just… quiet.

I kissed his temple just as he snaked his arm around my waist and glanced up with a smile. “Te amo.”

Before I could respond, his mom launched herself between us and held on tight. She sobbed softly as she swayed back and forth.

“Sí, Matthew. El amor es el amor.” She patted my cheek and released me then turned to draw Aaron into her arms.

I sighed in relief and gave my father-in-law-to-be a hesitant smile. He held my gaze for a few scary seconds before raising his beer bottle in a toast.

“You’re a good man, Matt. I like you. Be good to him.”

“Always, sir. You don’t have to worry about that.”

He thumped my back and winked. “I’m not worried at all. I see love and that’s what matters. You want that beer now?”

I gave a half laugh and nodded effusively. “Yes. Definitely.”

I slipped my hands in my back pocket and stepped back to survey my fiancé and his family. It struck me out of the blue that this next step really was a leap of faith. There were no guarantees. Only a determination and the will to create a life together. Our way. I wanted the family photos on the walls. I wanted fingerprints on the windows and a dog or two in the yard.I couldn’t wait for that long-ago daydream about dogs and kids and an apartment in the city or a house in the suburbs to become a reality. With Aaron.

Part 9

The stack of files and law journals on my desk had taken on a life of their own. I stared out the window at the lone fluffy cloud marring the otherwise perfectly blue sky. I’d been at my desk since six o’clock in the morning and I was pissed I hadn’t accomplished more. Two major contracts needed to be prepared by the end of the week but my concentration was shot.

I glanced at my watch then closed my eyes. I had less than two hours before I had to be home. I forgot the reason but Aaron had been adamant about the time. Maybe it was a last-minute fitting or—

A loud buzz ripped me from my reverie. I reached for my cell, pausing to check the caller ID before answering.

“Hi Shel, I—” I pulled the phone away to save my eardrums from the shrill screaming on the line. When I thought it was safe, I tried again. “Shelly?”

“Oh my God, are so excited? Four days and counting! Are you ready for your big day, little brother?”

“Uh… yeah. I think so. At least, I will be.” I raked my fingers through my hair then swiveled my chair away from my computer. “When are you arriving?”

“My flight gets in tomorrow afternoon but I think Mom and Dad and the rest of the fam will arrive before me. Mom mentioned something about checking into the hotel and hitting a museum before dinner with Aaron’s folks. And of course, she’ll want to inspect the rehearsal dinner venue. I have a killer speech prepared and I can’t wait to make you cry,” she teased.

“I’m not gonna cry.”

“Liar. We all will. Mom especially. You know how weepy she gets at TV weddings. She’ll be sobbing when she walks you down the aisle. You’d better have tissue on hand just in case.”

“As long as she behaves herself, it’ll be fine,” I said.

“She loves Aaron, Matt. We all do. I’m sure she’ll have her annoying mother-in-law moments but Aaron can handle her. He’s become an expert at it.”

“Yeah, but I don’t want him to have to worry about anything. He’s stressed out enough as it is. We both are,” I admitted with a sigh.

“Matt, it’s going to be gorgeous and amazing and I can’t tell you how excited I am for both of you. And in her own way, Mom feels the same. Just wait until you and Aaron have kids of your own. She’ll probably want to move into your spare bedroom.”

“Great. Something to look forward to,” I snarked.

Shelly chuckled. “I know it’s about to get crazy for you with out of town guests and dinners and speeches and a gazillion details to worry about, but if you need me to do anything at all, call me and I’ll be there in a flash. I can get an earlier flight. No hesitation.”

“Thanks Shel.”

“I love you, Matt. See you tomorrow.”

I ended the call and stared at my computer screen for a full minute, willing my pulse to slow down and for some semblance of focus to return. Holy fuck. The lightheaded, slightly nauseous feeling seemed to get worse. Was I having a panic attack? I stood abruptly and paced from one corner of my office to the other then back again, giving myself a pep talk as I picked up speed. You’re not nervous. You’ve got this. You won’t forget anything. And even if you do, he’ll still love you. It’s okay.

I stopped in front of the floor to ceiling window and let out a rush of air. Nope. It didn’t work. If I didn’t have a million things to do on a cramped schedule I’d take a walk and grab a latte or a dozen donuts or something. But time wasn’t on my side and I had a tuxedo to fit into. So I did what I always did when I was at wit’s end. I called Aaron.

“Hi, Matty, I’m—hang on a sec.” Loud voices and a crackling noise sounded in the background. Aaron barked an order to someone before addressing me. “Is everything okay?”

“Sure. Whatcha doing?”

“I’m at a photo shoot near the Lincoln Memorial. It’s a zoo. What’s wrong?” Aaron asked worriedly.

“Nothing.”

Silence.

Well, not really. It was noisy on his end but I could tell he was moving to get away from the cacophony so he could hear me. And now I felt like an idiot. We were both busy. Neither of us had time for meltdowns.

“Okay, I can talk now. What’s up?”

His breathing sounded labored. I could picture him walking fast and then stopping to push his hair from his brow. It was longer than he usually wore it but it looked sexy on him. I love threading my fingers through it. Like this morning when I was inside him. He’d been on his knees, gripping the headboard with his ass in the air, urging me on with a steady “fuck me, Matty, fuck me”. I had one hand in his hair, pulling his head back to lick his neck while I stroked his cock with the other. The frenzied heat had an almost manic quality that was seriously hot, though a bit jolting at five a.m. In a good way. The memory of him falling apart in my arms and then licking his cum from my fingers had me in a semi-aroused state all damn day.

I adjusted my suddenly interested dick and refocused. “Nothing. I just… wanted to say hi.”

“Are you going to tell me you’re having second thoughts?”

I barked a quick laugh and sank into my chair. I knew calling him was a good idea. I already felt better. “Not a chance. Are you?”

“No, but your ‘hi’ sounded a like a cry for help.”

“Wow. You know me pretty well.”

“I should hope so. Well? Details, please.”

“My sister called to say she was excited for us and…I freaked out. We have so much to do. So many dinners and speeches and people. Maybe we should go to city hall tomorrow and get married in front a judge. Let’s take care of the real thing so we can enjoy the parties without so much stress.”

“You have no idea how tempting that is,” he said with a sigh.

“I was kidding, but yeah…I’m feeling overwhelmed.”

“I’ve had a few of those moments too, Matty. This morning I was in my office going over layouts with my team for a holiday ad Marsha decided had to be completed by noon. It was going well until Vic called with twenty questions about the seating chart. We worked through half of his list before I had to cut him off when my assistant said your mom was on hold. She wouldn’t leave a message. She insisted on waiting to speak to me.”

“My mom? What did she want?” I asked, furrowing my brow.

“She wanted to know my mother’s favorite perfume.”

“That’s random.”

“Honestly, I think it was a test. She keeps me on my toes to make sure I’m worthy in-law material. She calls me all the time, Matty. Usually she’ll leave a message but lately, everything is urgent,” he huffed in amusement.

“Why didn’t you tell me she was harassing you?”

“She’s not. Today was a bit much but most of the time I don’t mind. I figure she needs assurance that I love you and that I’m going to take good care of you. Like a good wife,” he said sarcastically.

“You’re not going to be my wife.”

“I know, but you know how she is. I kid you not…the other day, she asked if I was going to stop working when we have kids.”

I slumped forward and banged my head on my desk. “Oh my God. You should have told me.”

“You have enough to worry about. Yes, I was mildly annoyed but I wasn’t surprised that she considers me your “wife to be”. I played it cool and told her we’d consider all options when the time came.”

I chuckled at his businesslike tone and then let out a beleaguered sigh. “Fuck, I love you, Aar. I’m stressed out of my mind and…I just needed to hear your voice.”

“I love you too. Take a deep breath and remember we’re almost there. In one week we’ll be on a beach in Puerto Rico, kicking back on chaise lounges with margaritas… and we’ll be married. Finally.”

“I can’t wait,” I said earnestly.

Aaron hummed in agreement. This time the silence on the line was comforting. I was tempted to close my eyes and sink into it. But there were things to do.

“Give me a brief rundown of what’s happening over the next couple days so I can wrap my head around where I need to be and what I have to do.” I pushed my chair back slightly and reached for a piece of paper and a pen.

Aaron chuckled. “Okay. Tonight we’re picking up our tuxes and getting haircuts. Tomorrow, our guests start arriving. We’re having dinner with our families downtown and then drinks at Jay and Peter’s house with our friends. I’m working a half-day Friday to finish up any details with Katie and Jay. The rehearsal starts at five o’clock and dinner is directly afterward. Fifty people RSVPed for dinner and—”

“Fifty? Do we know fifty people?”

“Oh my God, Matty. Chill. Yes. It’s mostly family and some out town guests. If you have to work all day that’s fine, but you’ll need to be at the venue at five p.m. sharp. I’ll remind you ten more times, I’m sure.”

I swiped my hand over my stubbled jaw. “Do I have to make a toast?”

“Yes. Something simple to thank everyone for being there. Do you want me to do it?” he asked.

“No. You’ll get emotional and then I’ll get emotional and…I can handle it,” I assured him.

“Okay. Well, the wedding is Saturday. Brunch the next morning and then…the honeymoon. Ta da! Everything is nearly in place. You just have to show up on time, smile a lot and make a small speech Friday night,” he said patiently.

“What about the vows? Did you write yours already?”

“Yes, of course. Don’t tell me you want me to help you with yours.”

“No need. I did it months ago. Want to hear? I memorized them too,” I bragged.

“You did not,” he snickered.

“I did. Let me practice, baby. Just once.” I cleared my throat theatrically before launching into storyteller mode. “’Five years ago, I thought I was a straight dude but the second I saw this guy—’…that’s where I’ll either point at you or sling my arm over your shoulder like we’re a couple of bros and say, ‘I knew I had to have him. Often.’”

Aaron groaned. “You’re hilarious. Now let me get back to work so I can help pay for this wedding. Are you feeling better now?”

I grinned and though he couldn’t see me, I knew the gesture wasn’t lost. “Much better. How many more hours until this is official?”

“Seventy-one hours and thirty-four minutes… give or take a few,” he replied quickly.

“I’m ready, baby.”

“Me too, Matty. Me too.”

Part 10

The smell of freshly brewed coffee and sizzling bacon wafted through our condo. I shuffled from the bathroom to the kitchen, juggling a couple of Advil in one hand and rubbing my eyes with the other. I was more than half asleep and only vaguely cognizant that it was crucial to power through my fierce desire to curl back in bed and pull the covers over my head for some serious hibernation. Today was important. It had to be the reason for the bacon before five a.m. and once I had coffee, it would all become clear. I hoped.

“Good morning, Matty,” Aaron singsonged.

I grunted an incoherent greeting and slumped onto the nearest barstool. Aaron turned with a spatula in hand and flashed a tired smile my way. He immediately did a double-take, but thankfully, didn’t ask questions. He set the spatula aside and poured a generous cup of coffee for me then pushed it across the island countertop toward me.

“Thank you. Can I have water too, please?” I set my Advil on the island and gave him a pathetic look.

Aaron rolled his eyes but tossed a water bottle at me before heading back to the stove to tend to breakfast. I kept my gaze on his hips and did my best to follow his conversation while I sipped coffee. He said something about eggs before running through his itinerary for the day. I listened up for important bullet points but I wasn’t quite ready to participate in the actual forming of sentences.

He set a platter piled high with scrambled eggs, bacon and toast on the island along with two empty plates and utensils and then skirted the counter to join me.

“How are you feeling?” he asked, gesturing for me to help myself.

“My head hurts.”

“Hmph. All I can say is… I told you so. How many shots did your brother talk you into?”

“I dunno. Did I do anything stupid?”

I winced at the thought. I rarely had too much to drink and never on a weeknight. Jay had insisted we include Sean in our post-family dinner get-together at his and Peter’s home. Sean had a hard time accepting that I was bi and in love with a man in the beginning. But I had to give him credit for trying. He’d made an effort to get to know Aaron and some of our friends over the past few years. The problem was Sean tended to add alcohol to any situation that made him nervous and hanging out with a room a group of gay couples wasn’t exactly his comfort zone.

“No, you just told everyone how much you love me. Over and over and over.” He chuckled then gave a few examples of my over-the-top amorous lines.

I sighed then chomped a slice of bacon like a carrot. “Not the worst thing in the world, is it?”

“Nope. You did tell Sean that he should try sucking cock though. That was a teensy awkward.”

“I did not,” I insisted.

“You did. But everyone with the exception of Katie’s uber-straight techie date and maybe Sean, agreed with you so it was more funny than embarrassing. But you’d better behave tonight. I will be seriously pissed if my husband-to-be gets bombed the day before our wedding. Or worse yet, at our wedding,” he said in a steely tone that brooked no argument.

“You have nothing to worry about,” I promised.

“I know. I just don’t want anything to go wrong,” he replied earnestly.

“Everything will be perfect. Vic has assured us multiple times that he has this under control. Flowers, cake, photographer, decorations, deejay… am I forgetting something?”

“People. What if I missed a typo on the invitations and the time or place is wrong?”

“Oh please. I know you too well, Aar. I bet you’ve rechecked the invites multiple times since they were printed. Be honest, you checked again when you woke up this morning too, didn’t you?”

Aaron pursed his lips and then grinned. “Maybe. My obsessive compulsive side is raging at the moment. This matters to me.”

“Hey, it matters to me too.” I set my finger over his lips to stop his speech. “Believe it or not, our wedding matters to a lot of people. We’re incredibly lucky. We have amazing families, friends and co-workers rooting for us. Hell, random people, like Karen the checkout lady at the grocery store and our favorite baristas at Starbuck’s, have demanded we post the ceremony on Youtube so they can be part of the action too. Yes, this is our day, but we’re getting married in front of a fuckton of guests tomorrow who have supported us and shown love and encouragement and I don’t take any part of that for granted.

“Maybe someday, two guys getting married will just be another wedding between crazy kids who fell in love and decided to spend the rest of their lives together. But now, it’s that and a little more. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t ask you to marry me to make a statement. I asked you because I love you and I want everyone to know this is real. We don’t need a piece of paper to know this is real, but you know what I mean. Right?” I leaned in to kiss his lips and gave him a lopsided grin.

“I know exactly what you mean. Thank you. I love you too.” Aaron sniffed then gently wiped the corner of his eyes. “Just think, the next time we have breakfast in this kitchen, we’ll be husbands.”

I set my hand on his thigh and leaned in to kiss his cheek. “How did we get here?”

“I have no idea,” he laughed. “But I like it.”

“Me too. So try not to stress out tonight or tomorrow. The party is already in motion. All we have to do is enjoy.”

“Okay… just remember to be on time and—”

“Oh my God.” I fell forward and rested my forehead on the island.

Aaron snickered merrily then threw his arms around my waist and showered me kisses. “Okay, okay. I’ll stop. You know what’s good for tension release?”

I sat up quickly and pulled him between my legs. “I have ideas but they’re all x-rated. What did you have in mind?”

Aaron furrowed his brow and tapped his forefinger on his chin as though considering his options. “Hmm. Mutual handjobs or blowjobs either here or in the shower or back in bed or… you can fuck me.”

“Ah, the romance,” I huffed sarcastically then stood and tugged his pajama bottoms over his ass and squeezed.

He rocked his hips against me and raked his fingers down my back. “Hmm. I’ll make it up to you. ‘Stress relief’ sex sounds kinda hot though. Hard and fast and dirty. What do you say, Matty?”

I wisely didn’t say anything at all. I followed him back to our bedroom, pulling my clothes off along the way. I stroked myself and watched in mesmerized fascination as he disrobed in record time, poured lube onto his palm and then mine before crawling on all fours onto the middle of the bed. He reached between his legs and massaged two fingers over his opening and slipped one inside.

I think he said my name but it was hard to hear anything over the rush of blood in my ears. Going from zero to hundred in seconds flat made me dizzy as hell. My heart skipped a beat or two as I positioned myself behind him then lined my aching cock on his hole and pushed inside him. I moved slowly at first but it didn’t take long for him to adjust and beg for more. Harder, faster and more.

There was nothing particularly romantic about the act but it was hot and sexy and completely uninhibited. We didn’t make love. We fucked in a carnal frenzy that was life affirming in a completely different way. The bed creaked and the headboard thumped rhythmically against the wall as we sighed and groaned and then finally fell apart. I pumped my hips and flattened Aaron to the mattress, spilling myself inside him and then trembling in the aftermath.

We didn’t move immediately. Yeah, we’d made a mess and there were a million things to do before tonight but moments like this were too perfect to rush. The real world could wait. I kissed the back of his neck and flopped gracelessly beside him. I played with his hair, pausing when he opened his eyes and grinned at me. I returned the gesture and rolled to face him. I started to speak but honestly there was nothing left to say. This was perfect.

 

Wedding rehearsals always seemed like a waste of time to me. I’d been a groomsman in a few weddings so I felt as though my opinion was a qualified one. Not that anyone was interested in my thoughts on the matter. My only job was to be on time. I worked until mid-afternoon to clear my schedule while I was on my honeymoon then picked up my parents from their hotel and headed to the Claridge Estate. We arrived fifteen minutes early and were greeted by Aaron’s family and quite a few of our friends.

Aaron pulled me aside before Vic started the festivities. He looked sharp and sexy in fitted khakis and a navy gingham button-down shirt. I ran my finger along the row of buttons and smiled at him. “Hi.”

“Hi yourself. I want to introduce you to my cousin and her family before I forget,” he said in an even tone before lowering his voice and continuing, “You have no idea how badly I want to kiss you right now.”

“Do it,” I challenged.

Aaron stood on his toes and pressed a platonic kiss on my cheek. “There.”

“Geez, after this morning I kind of expected tongue,” I teased. “That’s all you got?”

“You’re hysterical. Your mom is on her way over and she’s smiling. Should I be alarmed? It’s an extra big smile. I’m assuming that’s good.”

“It’s all good.”

“Yes, I—”

“Oh Aaron! You’ve absolutely outdone yourself. I love this place. It’s stately and grand and gorgeous. I can’t wait to see it decked out in the flowers and decor you’ve chosen,” my mother gushed, slinking her arm around my waist.

“What makes you think I didn’t choose the flowers?” I asked with a laugh.

“Because I know you.” My mom winked at Aaron then reached for his hand and squeezed it affectionately. She cast a meaningful gaze between us and pursed her lips. “There are a lot of people here and there will be three times as many tomorrow so I want to take my chance while I have it to…to welcome you, Aaron. I love Matt more than anything in the world. And to know he’s found someone who loves him, respects him and will always put him first means more to me than I can say. You’ll know yourselves someday how that feels. For now, thank you.”

My mom hugged him tightly before turning to embrace me too. Aaron and I held eye contact when she stepped aside to make room for other well-wishers. She seemed genuinely happy for us but conflicted too. Or maybe even in pain. It didn’t make sense. I inclined my head meaningfully then hurried after my mother before she joined my dad on the other end of the room.

“Mom!”

She spun around and smiled as she dabbed tears with a handkerchief. “I’m just running to the restroom. I’ll be back in time to practice walking you down the aisle,” she said in an overly sunny voice.

“Are you okay?”

She pushed her shoulder length blonde hair from her shoulder and rolled her eyes. “You know how I get at weddings, Matthew. It’s much more significant when a piece of your heart is getting married. I know that sounds silly but you’ll always be my boy. I see the intelligent, handsome, incredible man you’ve become and I’m so very proud of you. But I still see the beautiful baby I brought home from the hospital. Here we are, the day before your wedding and I can still picture your first birthday and school plays and all the team sports… baseball, hockey, football. I felt your pain when you failed and your joy when you succeeded.

“I’ve always been part of your story but I wasn’t prepared for Aaron. I had no idea you were bi but I meant what I said when you told me that you’d met a man. You’re my son and I love you… that never changes. But I struggled and I couldn’t understand why because that man is so damn kind and anyone can see how much he loves you. Then I realized I didn’t want to let go. Man, woman… it wouldn’t have made a difference. You’re still mine. And now you’re Aaron’s too. Someday you’ll have kids and it’ll change again. It’s the way it’s supposed to be but I admit it’s bittersweet sometimes. I don’t know if I’m the kind of mom who can ever really let go but I’ll try to adjust my grip a little,” she chuckled lightly. “I love you, Matthew. And I love Aaron. Be happy.”

This time when she hugged me, I crushed her against me and held on tight. I willed myself to get my emotions under control before I released her and had to face a roomful of curious friends and relatives.

“Thank you. I love you too. Always have, always will.”

She smiled and then kissed my cheek and headed toward the restroom.

I pushed my hands in my pockets and let my gaze drift around the room before focusing on Aaron. He was so damn beautiful. I didn’t get what he saw in me some days but I understood my mother’s sentiment all too well. He owned my heart. The whole thing. Someday I’d share a portion of him with our children. His time, his affection… but that was different. That was somewhere in the future and it wouldn’t be possible without this beginning.

Part 11

Saturday morning was absolutely gorgeous. Blue skies, sunshine and not a single cloud in sight. A perfect day to get married, I mused as I pulled back the curtain. Sunlight streamed across the hardwood floor and the unmade king-size bed in the master suite. Well, half unmade. I glanced at Aaron’s side and felt a stab of longing for him. I hated sleeping alone. I knew this was a special occasion… the ultimate special occasion, but I wished he was here. I grabbed my acoustic guitar from the stand in the corner and propped my pillows against the headboard then reached for my cell and sat on the edge of the mattress. I tucked the guitar to my chest and typed a quick message.

Happy Wedding Day!

Aaron returned my text immediately. He repeated the sentiment and added, Can you believe it’s really today?

No. I feel like I just met you. 

He sent a laughing emoji. It’s been five years, Matty.

I remember everything about that night.

What was I wearing? he challenged.

A red T-shirt.I fixated on the flashing ellipse indicating he was typing but within three seconds I was too impatient to wait. Can I talk to you or is that against the rules?

My phone buzzed a moment later.

“Good morning, baby,” I answered.

“Good morning, almost husband. God, you sound sexy,” he purred.

“You do too. I wish you were here. Why aren’t you here again?”

“Tradition.”

I huffed. “I’m lonely, I’m horny and I hate having the bed to myself.”

Aaron chuckled. “I can help you with the horny part tonight but the rest is all you for now. You shouldn’t be too lonely. Your brother spent the night and Curt, Jack and the guys should be over soon. I heard something about a pick up game of basketball before lunch with the family. Enjoy the quiet while you can, Matty.”

“Hmph. How’d you sleep last night?” I asked as I tucked my phone between my ear and my shoulder and strummed my guitar.

“Not great. I was too keyed up. Jay and I stayed up talking all night and— what are you playing?”

I didn’t answer him right away. I switched chords and hummed a few bars of “Tiny Dancer” then flattened my hand over the strings abruptly. “What do you think?”

“I think it’s the wrong Elton John song,” he deadpanned. “But don’t play our song now. I don’t want to jinx anything.”

“Let me get this straight. I can’t see you before the ceremony, spend the night in the same bed, and now you don’t want hear my solo. I knew you were superstitious but not that bad,” I teased.

“I’m not superstitious, I’m Catholic. Which may be the same thing now that I think about it. I like tradition. And a little mystery.”

“There’s not much mystery here, Aar. I’m still me. My dick didn’t grow in the middle of the night and I’m not sure if I put the cap back on the toothpaste after I used it ’cause that’s how I roll sometimes and…”

“Your dick didn’t shrink, did it?”

“Ha. Ha,” I snarked.

I forgot what I was going to say when Aaron burst into laughter. I let the joyful sound wash over me and ground me and make me so fucking grateful for whatever forces in the universe led me to him five years ago.

“I know who I’m marrying. I love you just the way you are.” He waited a beat before adding, “But make sure you put that cap on and pick up your towel too, please.”

“Don’t worry.” A comfortable silence drifted between us for a moment. “I could do this all day,” I said in a low tone.

“What?”

“Just talk to you. I love the sound of your voice.”

“Mmm. Even when I’m nagging you?” he asked with a half laugh.

“Yeah. And even when you’re yelling at me in Spanish and I can’t understand a word you’re saying. I must really like you.”

Aaron chuckled. “I love you, Matty. In fact, I love you so much I’ll marry you this afternoon if you want.”

“I want. I love you too and—damn, I should go. I hear Sean banging around in the kitchen. I think it’s his not-so-subtle way of asking where we keep the coffee. Just a few more hours till you’re mine. For life!” I cackled in a faux evil voice before hanging up.

I set my guitar on the bed and pulled on a pair of old gray sweats then headed out to the great room. Sean raised an empty coffee mug in greeting just as the doorbell rang.

“That should be your friends. I told the doorman to send them up. I just figured out your coffee machine. Want a cup?” my brother asked sleepily.

“Yeah, thanks,” I replied, moving toward the foyer.

The second I cracked the door open, Curt, Dave and Jason pushed their way inside and tackle-hugged me.

“I think we’re supposed to sing “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow” now,” Curt announced.

“Not necessary,” I assured him as I fist bumped Jack on his way to the kitchen.

“We brought stuff to make Bloody Marys and Mimosas for a pre-game toast,” Jack said, sliding a paper bag on the island. “Pick your poison, Matt. I’ll bartend.”

Curt batted his eyelashes at his boyfriend and sighed dreamily. “He’s such a sexy bartender.”

Jason, Dave and Sean groaned at the over-the-top affectation while Jack chuckled softly. He made himself at home, going through the cupboards and pulling glasses out for the drinks.

“Are you ready for this wedding stuff?” my brother asked, handing me a cup of coffee.

I thanked him then perched on a barstool and grinned. “Very ready.”

Everyone gathered around the makeshift bar on the island, calling out their drink order to Jack and chatting about inconsequential things like the breakfast at the hotel where Dave and his girlfriend were staying and whether or not we’d have a hard time getting a court after ten o’clock on a Saturday.

“There’s no way we’d get a court at the park now. Peter reserved one at the club. He’ll meet us there when we’re ready to go,” Jack said as he lined up six cocktails. He picked up a Bloody Mary, skirted the island then wrapped his arm around Curt and lifted his glass in a toast. “To Matt and Aaron.”

I set my coffee on the counter and reached for a Mimosa and clinked my glass against everyone’s and took a sip. I glanced at my circle of close friends and was overcome with a rush of gratitude I felt compelled to acknowledge.

“Hey, I’m—thank you. I have three speeches in my head of varying importance that I have to get through tonight and this was going to be part of one of them, but… I feel like I should say this now.” I took a deep breath then smiled. “Thank you. Thanks for being my friends and my champions. Thanks for always being in my corner and helping me navigate some questionable choices… although in all fairness, some of those suggestions were yours.”

“You mean Dave. He was the worst when we were in law school,” Curt said, high fiving Jason while Dave shook his head in denial.

Everyone laughed and pointed at each other. When Sean went quiet, I bumped his arm. “Yeah, I’m talking to you too.”

Sean made a funny face. “Me?”

“Definitely you. I don’t think ever got in trouble until my mom married your dad. I can’t blame you though. I was always willing to follow a good time and a bad idea,” I said with a laugh. “Anyway, just… thank you. All of you. But maybe Curt especially. If you hadn’t insisted on going to that club we might not be here right now. But more importantly, if you hadn’t encouraged me to be myself, I might have lost my way. So to my friends…I love you guys and I appreciate you. Thanks for being here for me.”

We raised our glasses again then thumped each other on the back and gave bro hugs that lasted a little longer than usual before steering back to neutral conversations with less emotional impact. It wasn’t necessary to bare my soul. They didn’t expect it or want it. Just being there for each other was enough.

I spent the morning playing basketball with my friends then showered and met my family for lunch before heading back to the condo to get ready with Sean. My parents insisted on stopping by on their way to the Claridge Estate. My mom probably wanted to inspect me and assure herself I wouldn’t show up for the biggest day of my life wearing a wrinkled tux. I didn’t argue. I was too nervous to anything except nod. Did you brush your teeth? Yes. Do you have Aaron’s ring? Yes. Do you have your guitar? Yes.She narrowed her gaze and gave Sean a look I bet translated to “keep a close eye on your brother”.

I was quiet on the ride. My fingers itched to play the guitar if only to assure myself I hadn’t forgotten how. Fuck, I was a mess. I swiped my damp palm on my trousers before opening the car door and retrieving my tuxedo jacket while Sean grabbed the guitar case from trunk.

“Are you okay, man? You look pasty.” My brother cocked his head and gave me a searching once-over.

“Yeah. Just nervous I’m going to forget everything. My vows, the song.”

“Don’t put your hand in your hair. You’ll mess the gel… at least that’s what mom told me to tell you. And stop freaking out. I know this is big day and I don’t blame you for being scared out of your mind.”

“Not helping, Sean,” I snapped.

“He loves you, Matt. You can forget the words, forget the melody… hell, you can forget your name and he’ll understand.” He paused to pull his own tuxedo coat on. “It’s a little late for second thoughts but—”

“I don’t have second thoughts. I’m just… nervous,” I repeated.

Sean nodded then threw a companionable arm over my shoulder. “I get it. You’re a lucky dude. Some day I want what you and Aaron have. Except with a girl. Let’s get you inside before your wedding planner yells at me. He issued very strict instructions to me about what time to get you here and where to park. I’ve got five minutes to get you inside with your guitar or he’s gonna do something involving fairy dust to me. Come on.”

Vic greeted me with a hug then led me to a private room. “You look so handsome! Your guests have started to arrive. Your friend, Curtis and his extraordinarily hunky boyfriend are waiting for you. In fifteen minutes gorgeous Jack will place your guitar on the stand in the gazebo then take his seat. Soon after our quartet will signal that we’re ready to begin. Do you have any questions?”

“Is Aaron…?”

Vic smiled kindly and patted my arm. “He’s with his brother and Jay and Peter. And can I just say… this is easily the most attractive wedding party I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. If only one of them was single.”

I shrugged apologetically. “Sorry Vic. I think the only single guys here are straight.”

“Even your brother?”

“Very straight.”

“Hmm. Too bad. I like him.” Vic winked then stepped backward. “I’m sure I’ll say this ten more times today but… congratulations. You and Aaron are a lovely couple. You deserve all the happiness in the world. Now remember your cues. Once you escort your mother into the garden, it’s show time.”

Twenty minutes, Jack tapped his watch and inclined his head. “It’s time.”

He kissed Curt, gave me a hug and fist-bumped my brother before picking up my guitar case and heading outside. I heard the strains of a violin in the distance, my mother’s voice in the hallway, and Curt and Sean talking next to me. In some ways, it was sensory overload but I felt oddly… calm.

I sucked in a deep breath and smiled. “I’m ready.”

Arduous planning had gone into our wedding day. I’d been privy to every conversation about music, flowers, an indoor/outdoor ceremony… the list was endless. To witness the culmination of months of thoughtful decision-making unfold in beautiful precision was an incredible feeling. Sure, I still had butterflies in my stomach but my heart was filled with pride when I walked my mother down the garden aisle strewn with rose petals. The gazebo was decorated with a riot of white roses and ivy. A small but elaborate crystal chandelier provided an extra pop of ‘fabulous’ I was pretty sure Aaron never mention. Not that I’d complain. Everything looked amazing. And our perch on river’s edge gave our guests an extraordinary view of the Potomac on a gorgeous autumn day and made it seem as though we were part of a landscape painting.

I kissed my mom’s cheek and waited for her to take her seat before taking my place next to Sean and Curt under the archway. I smiled a greeting to our minister. Just as the quartet went quiet, a man in a navy suit stepped forward with a classical guitar and strummed the first few chords of Pachelbel’s Canon in D. I knew Aaron wanted to walk down the aisle. He’d made it clear that was one traditional element he wanted to keep. But the classical guitarist surprised me. I looked across the archway at Jay then followed his gaze just as Aaron escorted his mother down the aisle.

My breath hitched and my heart almost fucking stopped. Fuck, he was beautiful.

I bit the inside of my cheek and willed myself not to cry but holy crap, it wasn’t easy. Aaron’s classic black tux fit his trim form to perfection. Honestly, he could have stepped out of a GQ ad. But it was his radiant smile and slow, confident gait that captivated me. If I lived to be a hundred, I’d never forget the moment he left his mom and moved to my side. Everyone disappeared. We could have been the only two people on the planet. Our family and friends, the kind-eyed minister standing two feet away. Even the music and the view faded to background noise. My senses locked in on the gorgeous man in front of me and I never wanted to look away.

“I love you,” I whispered, though not as quietly as I’d hoped.

The minister made a joke about us being off to a fine start that sent a twitter of laughter amongst the guests. Aaron grinned in response then reached out to hook his pinky finger in mine before inclining his head to indicate we were ready.

We’d planned every facet of the ceremony. We included three readings, one from the Bible for Aaron’s family and two sonnets we liked, read by Aaron’s brother, my older sister and Aaron’s friend, Katie. I listened to their lilting voices as I stared into his eyes and realized I wasn’t nervous anymore. I was grounded and present and completely in tune with my surroundings.

The minister said a few words then indicated it was time to exchange vows.

“Aaron, would you like to begin?” she prompted.

He nodded then reached for my hands and looked up at me with bright beautiful eyes.

“I love you, Matty. I’ve loved for years. I love your patience, your strength and intelligence. I love the way you see more than one side and always strive to seek truth and justice. You are honorable and kind I am honored to be your husband. I love the way you look at me like I might have answers you need and a place for you to call home. I may not always have answers but I promise to be your home. I promise to love you, respect you and honor you in sickness and in health for as long as we both shall live. Tu eres mi corazón y alma. Te amo, mi amor.”

I heard someone sniffling nearby and in a moment of panic, I was afraid it was me. But I was okay. I had this.

Te amo.I love you, Aar.” I licked my lips and blinked around the tears in my eyes before attempting to speak again. “I remember the day I met you. Time stood still. I swear. There was loud music, voices, laughter and then… silence. And I didn’t know what was happening but I knew I’d better pay close attention. Little did I know I’d met the other half of me. My better half. From day one you’ve turned my world upside down. You’ve shown me who I am, who I could be and dared me to embrace the pieces I didn’t understand. I’m in awe of your strength and resolve. I’m humbled by your kindness and compassion. I promise to love you, respect you and be the best husband and partner I can possibly be. Above all, I promise to be your friend, your safe place, the one person you can count on in sickness and health…for always.”

Aaron launched himself in my arms. I held him close then pushed back slightly and dried a tear on his cheek. “Shh. We still have to get married, babe.”

The minister chuckled. “Matt, do you take Aaron to be your lawfully wedded husband, to have and to hold, to honor and cherish in sickness and in health from this day forward?”

“I do,” I replied in a strong, clear voice.

“Aaron, the ring,” she prodded. Aaron slipped my platinum band on my left hand and then stared into my eyes when the minister spoke again, “Aaron, do you take Matt to be your lawfully wedded husband, to have and to hold, to honor and cherish in sickness and in health from this day forward?”

“I do,” he answered.

I pulled his ring from my pocket and slipped it back on his finger and held his hands tightly.

“By the power vested in me, I am honored to pronounce you husband and husband. Congratulations.” She beamed.

A roar of applause and cheering sounded as I cradled his face and finally kissed my husband.

Part 12

I rested my forehead against Aaron’s for a moment and pretended we were alone. “We did it,” I whispered.

“Yes.” He kissed me again then looked up at me and grinned.

His eyes were wet with unshed tears but that luminous, beautiful smile of his did things to me. I squeezed his hand and inclined my head toward our friends and family meaningfully. Our guests cheered even louder as we lingered on the top step of the gazebo. I knew they expected us to make our way back up the aisle, slapping high fives and basking in the first round of congratulations before the real party began. But I had one more thing to do here.

I lifted Aaron’s hand and pressed a kiss over his wedding ring then stepped back to retrieve my acoustic guitar from the stand behind me. I hooked the strap over my shoulder and adjusted the height on the microphone before casting a shy sideways glance at my new husband. Aaron’s smile wobbled slightly but he bit his lower lip to keep his emotions in check. I knew exactly how he felt. Love had a funny way of making you feel empowered yet fragile at the same time.

I scanned the rows of familiar faces and fixated on our parents briefly before taking a deep breath.

“When I asked Aaron to marry me, he had a special request. He wanted me to play our song. There isn’t a big story behind this one. It just happened to be the first song that came to my mind the first time day I realized this felt like the real thing.” I spoke into the microphone but focused on Aaron only when I continued. “We were jogging and it started to rain. And then it started to pour. We went to a coffee shop to dry off. We were dripping wet… our hair, clothes, shoes. I remember complaining about what a miserable day it was but you just laughed and said ‘This is the best kind of day, Matty. I love it.’ The first thing that came to my mind was, ‘And I love you.’ I wasn’t ready to say those words then but I couldn’t get the feeling out of my head. So a couple of hours later when you asked me to play something on my guitar, this was the song I chose. It’s simple but meaningful and you understood what I was trying to say. Standing here now in front of you and the people who are most important to us as husbands is… I don’t have words. So I’ll play your song instead.”

“It’s a little bit funny, this feeling inside…”

We held eye contact while I sang. Occasionally he swiped at the tears in his eyes but he didn’t look away. This belonged to him. To us. But on the most important day of our lives as a newly married couple, it seemed appropriate to share it with the people who mattered to us.  This song had always been a touchstone of sorts for us. A signal that something new and incredibly special had begun.

 

Here’s the thing about our wedding… we spent months of planning and a ridiculous amount of money for something we could have accomplished within fifteen minutes at City Hall for less than fifty bucks because we wanted to create a memory and share it with the people we loved. We maximized our moment in every way possible. We chose a gorgeous venue at a stately manor historic manor home with views overlooking the Potomac. The reception was held in an elegant ballroom with ginormous crystal chandeliers, antique mirrors and landscape artwork from the nineteenth century. The tables were decked with votive candles and tall slender vases filled with orchids and roses tumbled onto white linen tablecloths.

Aaron insisted on a sophisticated sit-down dinner. The food was amazing and the toasts were entertaining. Jay, Curt and Sean had the room in hysterics with highly embellished stories of past exploits. Our parents and some work associates chimed in with heartfelt well wishes too. The atmosphere was warm and inclusive. There may have been two hundred guests but somehow the evening felt intimate. The guitarist who’d played during our ceremony serenaded us during dinner until the deejay took over. And except for a brief break from the dance floor to cut the cake and give another round of toasts, we danced nonstop.

My feet were killing me by the time our limo arrived to whisk us to an exclusive hotel in town where we were escorted to the honeymoon suite. Jay had dropped off an overnight bag for us earlier so we didn’t have to do anything but show up. We were travelling light anyway. The plan was to meet a few friends and family members downstairs at the hotel for brunch before heading home to grab our luggage. Then we’d head to the airport to catch our flight to Puerto Rico in the afternoon.

But the last thing I wanted to think about was what came next when we finally closed the door behind the chatty bellman. I kicked off my shoes and turned just as Aaron popped open a bottle of champagne.

“More champagne?”

“Matty, there’s no such thing as too much bubbly on your wedding day. He handed me a flute then tapped his glass against mine. “To us.”

“To us.”

I sipped the sparkly wine then set my flute on the table at the same time he did and slipped my arm around his waist. Aaron caressed my face then smiled as he started working the long row of buttons on my shirt.

“I think that was the most perfect day ever. Thank you.” He pulled the fabric from my trousers and pushed my shirt over my shoulders before pressing a kiss on my chest.

“It was incredible. But I should thank you.”

“We did it together.”

I threaded my fingers through his hair then gently nudged his forehead. When he glanced up at me, I sealed my mouth over his and then licked his lips until he let me inside. The kiss was sweet and unhurried. And after a manic and emotional day, it felt like heaven.

Our lips fused as we slowly undressed each other. I took my time unbuttoning, unbuckling and unzipping, letting the anticipation build. I hooked my fingers under his boxer briefs and sighed in pleasure at the feel of his bare skin. Then I squeezed his ass and shoved the fabric out of the way. Aaron groaned when I traced his crack and pulled his cheeks apart to massage his hole. He gyrated against me, grinding his rigid cock against my upper thigh. When I bent my knees to adjust for our height difference, he took the hint and stroked us together with a firm grip, twisting his wrist the way I liked it. he kept a languid pace until I bucked my hips in a quest for more friction.

“Bed,” I commanded in a raspy voice.

Aaron nodded then furrowed his brow and glanced around the spacious suite as though just noticing his surroundings. “We aren’t home. Shit. Do you have lube?”

“Well, not on me,” I joked, kicking my tuxedo trousers aside and gesturing at my naked body.

“Very funny. Did you pack any?”

“You always pack it. Check our bag.” I pulled back the duvet and climbed onto the king-size bed. I was so fucking tired, I was almost afraid to lay my head on the pillow. I propped myself on my elbows and watched Aaron frantically dig through the bag Jay had dropped off earlier.

“I can’t find it.” He set his hands on his hips and bit his bottom lip thoughtfully. “Where else would I put it?”

“Aar…”

“I remembered every fucking thing on my list, but lube. How is that possible? On our wedding night, no less!” He pushed his hand through his hair in frustration and stared into space.

“Aar, come here.”

“Do not suggest saliva. We’ve tried that and it hurts,” he griped.

“We could always call room service,” I suggested, tucking one arm behind my head and stroking myself with my free hand.

Aaron let out a reluctant half laugh. “Hello, I’d like to order a sundae and a bottle of lube.”

I chuckled at his affection. “Check your wallet. Sometimes you carry those little packets.”

“Good call.”

He sifted through his wallet and held up a small packet triumphantly. “Ta da! Matty you’re a genius.”

“I have my moments,” I quipped as he handed me the tiny sample of lube. “There isn’t much in here.”

“It’s all we have.” He flopped into bed and curled beside me, throwing his arm across my chest and tangling his legs with mine. Poor guy was exhausted.

“Hmm. Roll over on your stomach.”

He promptly obeyed, lowering his hand to stroke himself as he lifted his ass in invitation. I crawled between his thighs and reached for the lube while I rubbed my thumb over his entrance. Fuck, that was hot. The contrast of his olive skin against the white sheets and the curve of his perfect ass. I dropped the lubed quickly and bent to lick him. Aaron gasped in surprise and pleasure. Then he swayed his hips in a silent request for more. I pumped my own cock as I worked him over, pausing to suck his balls before returning to his sweet hole. When I flicked my tongue over the sensitive skin and pushed a finger inside, he went a little crazy.

“Oh fuck, Matty.”

I kept a steady tempo, doing as much as I could at once. I used my hands to jack us simultaneously while I tongue fucked him. A tingle of pleasure tripped up my spine, but I didn’t want to come like this. I slapped his ass then knelt back to open the lube, dripping it over my cock and on my fingers. Then I slipped one finger inside him followed quickly by a second.

“Does that feel good?”

“Yes. Fuck me. Please.”

I lined my dick at his entrance and pushed and holy fuck, I swore I saw stars. I took my time, inching my way slowly in spite of his pleas for harder, faster, more. I wanted us to savor this moment. I wanted to make love to my husband. To physically show him I meant every word of every vow I spoke today. I caressed his sides and kissed his shoulder and then finally began to move. He was so tight and beautiful and fuck, he felt amazing. I could have done this all night long.

Aaron reached for my neck. He craned his neck to kiss me while I rocked my hips in a steady, even motion. When he pulled his knees under him, I disengaged and gave him room to roll onto his back. I laughed when he spread his legs wide and made a funny face. Then I dove on top of him and thrust inside. Aaron wrapped himself around me, pulling me in as he lifted his hips. And all semblance of control fled. I shifted my weight on my elbows and stared deep into his eyes and let go.

I pistoned my hips, relentlessly fucking him. Aaron jacked himself, pulled me close as he thrust his tongue in my mouth. It didn’t take long before the momentum built and we couldn’t hold on. He threw his head back and cried my name as his release him. I gathered him to me, burying my face in his neck and moved like thunder until an intense wave of pleasure pulled me under then sent me flying.

I couldn’t stop shaking. I collapsed on top of him and bucked my hips over and over while Aaron held me close, smoothing the hair from my forehead and whispering in my ear. When the haze cleared, I looked down and brushed my nose against his, drinking in the sight of my husband beneath me.

“What did you say?” I asked, bending to nibble on his lower lip.

“I said I love you and I love what we did today. This is the best day of my life,” he whispered.

I was too overcome to say anything right away so I nodded in agreement and kissed him.
“Me too, Aar. I can’t wait to grow old with you. I mean, I’m not in a hurry to get old or anything but…”

Aaron snickered. “I know what you mean, Matty.”

“You do, don’t you?”

“Yes. You love me too,” he singsonged.

“So fucking much. You know…I meant everything I said today, Aar. The readings, the poems, the love songs. All of it. Even the corny stuff. I’m just so happy you’re mine. I love you, baby. I’m ready for the next chapter.”

“Me too, Matty.”

Everything he felt was in his eyes. Love, friendship, pride, joy and hope. Today was incredibly special but we both knew it was a beginning. We’d come a long way in five years but there was so much more we wanted to accomplish. Yet somehow I knew we’d do it all. One chapter at a time.

The End

**For those curious, here are the readings Matt & Aaron chose for their wedding

1 Corinthians 13:4-13

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.  For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 1but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

 “Love Sonnet 17,” by Pablo Neruda

I don’t love you as if you were the salt-rose, topaz
or arrow of carnations that propagate fire:
I love you as certain dark things are loved,
Secretly, between the shadow and the soul.

I love you as the plant that doesn’t bloom and carries
hidden within itself the light of those flowers,
and thanks to your love, darkly in my body
lives the dense fragrance that rises from the earth.

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where,
I love you simply, without problems or pride:
I love you in this way because I don’t know any other way of loving

but this, in which there is no I or you,
so intimate that your hand upon my chest is my hand,
so intimate that when I fall asleep it is your eyes that close.

“How Do I Love Thee,” by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of every day’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love with a passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints,—I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life!—and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

Leaning Into Forever Cover Reveal!

Ta da! The cover for Leaning Into Forever is officially revealed!LeaningIntoForever-1400x2100

Isn’t it gorgeous? A huge thank you to Reese Dante for another beautiful cover! Leaning Into Forever is Book 7 in my Leaning Into Series and this one belongs to Geordie and Levi. Geordie is a no-nonsense diva with a broken heart. He’s not sure what to think of the former baseball player turned restaurant owner but he can’t deny that Levi is sexy, funny, patient and possibly the best thing to roll into wine country in years. When their tentative friendship evolves into something more, Geordie will have to decide if he’s ready to embrace the future with Levi and lean into forever.

Sigh… Geordie and Levi’s story is my first true comfort/healing novel dealing with devastating loss and personal rebuilding. It demanded to be told at a base level, holding nothing back. That meant plenty of tears, anguish but thankfully laughter too in the writing process. These two took me on an emotional journey. They dared me to get out of my comfort zone and tell a story that ultimately reminded me why I love romance.

I can’t wait for you to meet them. Mark your calendar for June 29. I’ll post the Amazon link the second it’s live!

In the meantime, here’s the blurb for Leaning Into Forever:

Geordie de la Rosa is a legend among wine lovers in Napa Valley. His ultra-fabulous style paired with a penchant for leading impromptu sing-a-longs has made him a star attraction at Conrad Winery. Co-owning a well-respected winery was never Geordie’s aspiration but he likes the niche he’s made for himself. He won’t deny that his job and his friends have helped ease his heartache and grief after the death of his longtime partner.

Levi Yeager excels at the art of reinventing himself. He’s been a minor league baseball player, a college coach and now a restaurant owner. The problem is he doesn’t know anything about the food business. And when his chef quits unexpectedly, he’s afraid his new venture is doomed. But Levi isn’t a quitter. It may be the only thing he has in common with the beautiful, sassy man from the neighboring winery who agrees to help get his new business up and running. Neither man counts on their fast friendship or the wild attraction they feel for each other. However, they know they won’t stand a chance until they let go of the past and lean into forever.

Better Than Wedding, Part 11- A Matt & Aaron Short Story

The big day is finally here! Woohoo! This particular chapter is rather important but there is one more coming. Check back this weekend for the final installment.

ALSO, the cover reveal for Leaning Into Forever is happening this Thursday, May 31! Mark your calendars…Geordie’s story will be here June 29. And the audiobook for Leaning Into the Look should be available next week. Omg! So much happening!  ❤

Happy Reading! Lane xo

*Previous Chapters 1-6, Chapter 7, Chapter 8, Chapter 9,
Chapter 10

unknown-2-1Better Than Wedding– Part 11

Saturday morning was absolutely gorgeous. Blue skies, sunshine and not a single cloud in sight. A perfect day to get married, I mused as I pulled back the curtain. Sunlight streamed across the hardwood floor and the unmade king-size bed in the master suite. Well, half unmade. I glanced at Aaron’s side and felt a stab of longing for him. I hated sleeping alone. I knew this was a special occasion… the ultimate special occasion, but I wished he was here. I grabbed my acoustic guitar from the stand in the corner and propped my pillows against the headboard then reached for my cell and sat on the edge of the mattress. I tucked the guitar to my chest and typed a quick message.

Happy Wedding Day!

Aaron returned my text immediately. He repeated the sentiment and added, Can you believe it’s really today?

No. I feel like I just met you.

He sent a laughing emoji. It’s been five years, Matty.

I remember everything about that night.

What was I wearing? he challenged.

A red T-shirt.I fixated on the flashing ellipse indicating he was typing but within three seconds I was too impatient to wait. Can I talk to you or is that against the rules?

My phone buzzed a moment later.

“Good morning, baby,” I answered.

“Good morning, almost husband. God, you sound sexy,” he purred.

“You do too. I wish you were here. Why aren’t you here again?”

“Tradition.”

I huffed. “I’m lonely, I’m horny and I hate having the bed to myself.”

Aaron chuckled. “I can help you with the horny part tonight but the rest is all you for now. You shouldn’t be too lonely. Your brother spent the night and Curt, Jack and the guys should be over soon. I heard something about a pick up game of basketball before lunch with the family. Enjoy the quiet while you can, Matty.”

“Hmph. How’d you sleep last night?” I asked as I tucked my phone between my ear and my shoulder and strummed my guitar.

“Not great. I was too keyed up. Jay and I stayed up talking all night and— what are you playing?”

I didn’t answer him right away. I switched chords and hummed a few bars of “Tiny Dancer” then flattened my hand over the strings abruptly. “What do you think?”

“I think it’s the wrong Elton John song,” he deadpanned. “But don’t play our song now. I don’t want to jinx anything.”

“Let me get this straight. I can’t see you before the ceremony, spend the night in the same bed, and now you don’t want hear my solo. I knew you were superstitious but not that bad,” I teased.

“I’m not superstitious, I’m Catholic. Which may be the same thing now that I think about it. I like tradition. And a little mystery.”

“There’s not much mystery here, Aar. I’m still me. My dick didn’t grow in the middle of the night and I’m not sure if I put the cap back on the toothpaste after I used it ’cause that’s how I roll sometimes and…”

“Your dick didn’t shrink, did it?”

“Ha. Ha,” I snarked.

I forgot what I was going to say when Aaron burst into laughter. I let the joyful sound wash over me and ground me and make me so fucking grateful for whatever forces in the universe led me to him five years ago.

“I know who I’m marrying. I love you just the way you are.” He waited a beat before adding, “But make sure you put that cap on and pick up your towel too, please.”

“Don’t worry.” A comfortable silence drifted between us for a moment. “I could do this all day,” I said in a low tone.

“What?”

“Just talk to you. I love the sound of your voice.”

“Mmm. Even when I’m nagging you?” he asked with a half laugh.

“Yeah. And even when you’re yelling at me in Spanish and I can’t understand a word you’re saying. I must really like you.”

Aaron chuckled. “I love you, Matty. In fact, I love you so much I’ll marry you this afternoon if you want.”

“I want. I love you too and—damn, I should go. I hear Sean banging around in the kitchen. I think it’s his not-so-subtle way of asking where we keep the coffee. Just a few more hours till you’re mine. For life!” I cackled in a faux evil voice before hanging up.

I set my guitar on the bed and pulled on a pair of old gray sweats then headed out to the great room. Sean raised an empty coffee mug in greeting just as the doorbell rang.

“That should be your friends. I told the doorman to send them up. I just figured out your coffee machine. Want a cup?” my brother asked sleepily.

“Yeah, thanks,” I replied, moving toward the foyer.

The second I cracked the door open, Curt, Dave and Jason pushed their way inside and tackle-hugged me.

“I think we’re supposed to sing “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow” now,” Curt announced.

“Not necessary,” I assured him as I fist bumped Jack on his way to the kitchen.

“We brought stuff to make Bloody Marys and Mimosas for a pre-game toast,” Jack said, sliding a paper bag on the island. “Pick your poison, Matt. I’ll bartend.”

Curt batted his eyelashes at his boyfriend and sighed dreamily. “He’s such a sexy bartender.”

Jason, Dave and Sean groaned at the over-the-top affectation while Jack chuckled softly. He made himself at home, going through the cupboards and pulling glasses out for the drinks.

“Are you ready for this wedding stuff?” my brother asked, handing me a cup of coffee.

I thanked him then perched on a barstool and grinned. “Very ready.”

Everyone gathered around the makeshift bar on the island, calling out their drink order to Jack and chatting about inconsequential things like the breakfast at the hotel where Dave and his girlfriend were staying and whether or not we’d have a hard time getting a court after ten o’clock on a Saturday.

“There’s no way we’d get a court at the park now. Peter reserved one at the club. He’ll meet us there when we’re ready to go,” Jack said as he lined up six cocktails. He picked up a Bloody Mary, skirted the island then wrapped his arm around Curt and lifted his glass in a toast. “To Matt and Aaron.”

I set my coffee on the counter and reached for a Mimosa and clinked my glass against everyone’s and took a sip. I glanced at my circle of close friends and was overcome with a rush of gratitude I felt compelled to acknowledge.

“Hey, I’m—thank you. I have three speeches in my head of varying importance that I have to get through tonight and this was going to be part of one of them, but… I feel like I should say this now.” I took a deep breath then smiled. “Thank you. Thanks for being my friends and my champions. Thanks for always being in my corner and helping me navigate some questionable choices… although in all fairness, some of those suggestions were yours.”

“You mean Dave. He was the worst when we were in law school,” Curt said, high fiving Jason while Dave shook his head in denial.

Everyone laughed and pointed at each other. When Sean went quiet, I bumped his arm. “Yeah, I’m talking to you too.”

Sean made a funny face. “Me?”

“Definitely you. I don’t think ever got in trouble until my mom married your dad. I can’t blame you though. I was always willing to follow a good time and a bad idea,” I said with a laugh. “Anyway, just… thank you. All of you. But maybe Curt especially. If you hadn’t insisted on going to that club we might not be here right now. But more importantly, if you hadn’t encouraged me to be myself, I might have lost my way. So to my friends…I love you guys and I appreciate you. Thanks for being here for me.”

We raised our glasses again then thumped each other on the back and gave bro hugs that lasted a little longer than usual before steering back to neutral conversations with less emotional impact. It wasn’t necessary to bare my soul. They didn’t expect it or want it. Just being there for each other was enough.

I spent the morning playing basketball with my friends then showered and met my family for lunch before heading back to the condo to get ready with Sean. My parents insisted on stopping by on their way to the Claridge Estate. My mom probably wanted to inspect me and assure herself I wouldn’t show up for the biggest day of my life wearing a wrinkled tux. I didn’t argue. I was too nervous to anything except nod. Did you brush your teeth? Yes. Do you have Aaron’s ring? Yes. Do you have your guitar? Yes.She narrowed her gaze and gave Sean a look I bet translated to “keep a close eye on your brother”.

I was quiet on the ride. My fingers itched to play the guitar if only to assure myself I hadn’t forgotten how. Fuck, I was a mess. I swiped my damp palm on my trousers before opening the car door and retrieving my tuxedo jacket while Sean grabbed the guitar case from trunk.

“Are you okay, man? You look pasty.” My brother cocked his head and gave me a searching once-over.

“Yeah. Just nervous I’m going to forget everything. My vows, the song.”

“Don’t put your hand in your hair. You’ll mess the gel… at least that’s what mom told me to tell you. And stop freaking out. I know this is big day and I don’t blame you for being scared out of your mind.”

“Not helping, Sean,” I snapped.

“He loves you, Matt. You can forget the words, forget the melody… hell, you can forget your name and he’ll understand.” He paused to pull his own tuxedo coat on. “It’s a little late for second thoughts but—”

“I don’t have second thoughts. I’m just… nervous,” I repeated.

Sean nodded then threw a companionable arm over my shoulder. “I get it. You’re a lucky dude. Some day I want what you and Aaron have. Except with a girl. Let’s get you inside before your wedding planner yells at me. He issued very strict instructions to me about what time to get you here and where to park. I’ve got five minutes to get you inside with your guitar or he’s gonna do something involving fairy dust to me. Come on.”

Vic greeted me with a hug then led me to a private room. “You look so handsome! Your guests have started to arrive. Your friend, Curtis and his extraordinarily hunky boyfriend are waiting for you. In fifteen minutes gorgeous Jack will place your guitar on the stand in the gazebo then take his seat. Soon after our quartet will signal that we’re ready to begin. Do you have any questions?”

“Is Aaron…?”

Vic smiled kindly and patted my arm. “He’s with his brother and Jay and Peter. And can I just say… this is easily the most attractive wedding party I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. If only one of them was single.”

I shrugged apologetically. “Sorry Vic. I think the only single guys here are straight.”

“Even your brother?”

“Very straight.”

“Hmm. Too bad. I like him.” Vic winked then stepped backward. “I’m sure I’ll say this ten more times today but… congratulations. You and Aaron are a lovely couple. You deserve all the happiness in the world. Now remember your cues. Once you escort your mother into the garden, it’s show time.”

Twenty minutes, Jack tapped his watch and inclined his head. “It’s time.”

He kissed Curt, gave me a hug and fist-bumped my brother before picking up my guitar case and heading outside. I heard the strains of a violin in the distance, my mother’s voice in the hallway, and Curt and Sean talking next to me. In some ways, it was sensory overload but I felt oddly… calm.

I sucked in a deep breath and smiled. “I’m ready.”

Arduous planning had gone into our wedding day. I’d been privy to every conversation about music, flowers, an indoor/outdoor ceremony… the list was endless. To witness the culmination of months of thoughtful decision-making unfold in beautiful precision was an incredible feeling. Sure, I still had butterflies in my stomach but my heart was filled with pride when I walked my mother down the garden aisle strewn with rose petals. The gazebo was decorated with a riot of white roses and ivy. A small but elaborate crystal chandelier provided an extra pop of ‘fabulous’ I was pretty sure Aaron never mention. Not that I’d complain. Everything looked amazing. And our perch on river’s edge gave our guests an extraordinary view of the Potomac on a gorgeous autumn day and made it seem as though we were part of a landscape painting.

I kissed my mom’s cheek and waited for her to take her seat before taking my place next to Sean and Curt under the archway. I smiled a greeting to our minister. Just as the quartet went quiet, a man in a navy suit stepped forward with a classical guitar and strummed the first few chords of Pachelbel’s Canon in D. I knew Aaron wanted to walk down the aisle. He’d made it clear that was one traditional element he wanted to keep. But the classical guitarist surprised me. I looked across the archway at Jay then followed his gaze just as Aaron escorted his mother down the aisle.

My breath hitched and my heart almost fucking stopped. Fuck, he was beautiful.

I bit the inside of my cheek and willed myself not to cry but holy crap, it wasn’t easy. Aaron’s classic black tux fit his trim form to perfection. Honestly, he could have stepped out of a GQ ad. But it was his radiant smile and slow, confident gait that captivated me. If I lived to be a hundred, I’d never forget the moment he left his mom and moved to my side. Everyone disappeared. We could have been the only two people on the planet. Our family and friends, the kind-eyed minister standing two feet away. Even the music and the view faded to background noise. My senses locked in on the gorgeous man in front of me and I never wanted to look away.

“I love you,” I whispered, though not as quietly as I’d hoped.

The minister made a joke about us being off to a fine start that sent a twitter of laughter amongst the guests. Aaron grinned in response then reached out to hook his pinky finger in mine before inclining his head to indicate we were ready.

We’d planned every facet of the ceremony. We included three readings, one from the Bible for Aaron’s family and two sonnets we liked, read by Aaron’s brother, my older sister and Aaron’s friend, Katie. I listened to their lilting voices as I stared into his eyes and realized I wasn’t nervous anymore. I was grounded and present and completely in tune with my surroundings.

The minister said a few words then indicated it was time to exchange vows.

“Aaron, would you like to begin?” she prompted.

He nodded then reached for my hands and looked up at me with bright beautiful eyes.

“I love you, Matty. I’ve loved for years. I love your patience, your strength and intelligence. I love the way you see more than one side and always strive to seek truth and justice. You are honorable and kind I am honored to be your husband. I love the way you look at me like I might have answers you need and a place for you to call home. I may not always have answers but I promise to be your home. I promise to love you, respect you and honor you in sickness and in health for as long as we both shall live. Tu eres mi corazón y alma. Te amo, mi amor.”

I heard someone sniffling nearby and in a moment of panic, I was afraid it was me. But I was okay. I had this.

Te amo.I love you, Aar.” I licked my lips and blinked around the tears in my eyes before attempting to speak again. “I remember the day I met you. Time stood still. I swear. There was loud music, voices, laughter and then… silence. And I didn’t know what was happening but I knew I’d better pay close attention. Little did I know I’d met the other half of me. My better half. From day one you’ve turned my world upside down. You’ve shown me who I am, who I could be and dared me to embrace the pieces I didn’t understand. I’m in awe of your strength and resolve. I’m humbled by your kindness and compassion. I promise to love you, respect you and be the best husband and partner I can possibly be. Above all, I promise to be your friend, your safe place, the one person you can count on in sickness and health…for always.”

Aaron launched himself in my arms. I held him close then pushed back slightly and dried a tear on his cheek. “Shh. We still have to get married, babe.”

The minister chuckled. “Matt, do you take Aaron to be your lawfully wedded husband, to have and to hold, to honor and cherish in sickness and in health from this day forward?”

“I do,” I replied in a strong, clear voice.

“Aaron, the ring,” she prodded. Aaron slipped my platinum band on my left hand and then stared into my eyes when the minister spoke again, “Aaron, do you take Matt to be your lawfully wedded husband, to have and to hold, to honor and cherish in sickness and in health from this day forward?”

“I do,” he answered.

I pulled his ring from my pocket and slipped it back on his finger and held his hands tightly.

“By the power vested in me, I am honored to pronounce you husband and husband. Congratulations.” She beamed.

A roar of applause and cheering sounded as I cradled his face and finally kissed my husband.

To be continued…

**For those curious, here are the readings Matt & Aaron chose for their wedding

1 Corinthians 13:4-13

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.  For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 1but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

 “Love Sonnet 17,” by Pablo Neruda

I don’t love you as if you were the salt-rose, topaz
or arrow of carnations that propagate fire:
I love you as certain dark things are loved,
Secretly, between the shadow and the soul.

I love you as the plant that doesn’t bloom and carries
hidden within itself the light of those flowers,
and thanks to your love, darkly in my body
lives the dense fragrance that rises from the earth.

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where,
I love you simply, without problems or pride:
I love you in this way because I don’t know any other way of loving

but this, in which there is no I or you,
so intimate that your hand upon my chest is my hand,
so intimate that when I fall asleep it is your eyes that close.

“How Do I Love Thee,” by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of every day’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love with a passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints,—I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life!—and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

Better Than Wedding, Part 10- A Matt & Aaron Short Story (NSFW)

We’re getting closer! There are just two more installments left in this short story about Matt and Aaron’s journey to the altar. Woohoo! I have a project to complete before I can concentrate on parts 11 and 12. I’ll keep you updated but it will most likely be in the next ten days. On the bright side, those last chapters will be posted a couple of days apart.

So here we are… the day before the big day! Who’s ready?

Happy Reading! Lane xo

*Previous Chapters 1-6, Chapter 7, Chapter 8, Chapter 9

unknown-2-1Better Than Wedding– Part 10

The smell of freshly brewed coffee and sizzling bacon wafted through our condo. I shuffled from the bathroom to the kitchen, juggling a couple of Advil in one hand and rubbing my eyes with the other. I was more than half asleep and only vaguely cognizant that it was crucial to power through my fierce desire to curl back in bed and pull the covers over my head for some serious hibernation. Today was important. It had to be the reason for the bacon before five a.m. and once I had coffee, it would all become clear. I hoped.

“Good morning, Matty,” Aaron singsonged.

I grunted an incoherent greeting and slumped onto the nearest barstool. Aaron turned with a spatula in hand and flashed a tired smile my way. He immediately did a double-take, but thankfully, didn’t ask questions. He set the spatula aside and poured a generous cup of coffee for me then pushed it across the island countertop toward me.

“Thank you. Can I have water too, please?” I set my Advil on the island and gave him a pathetic look.

Aaron rolled his eyes but tossed a water bottle at me before heading back to the stove to tend to breakfast. I kept my gaze on his hips and did my best to follow his conversation while I sipped coffee. He said something about eggs before running through his itinerary for the day. I listened up for important bullet points but I wasn’t quite ready to participate in the actual forming of sentences.

He set a platter piled high with scrambled eggs, bacon and toast on the island along with two empty plates and utensils and then skirted the counter to join me.

“How are you feeling?” he asked, gesturing for me to help myself.

“My head hurts.”

“Hmph. All I can say is… I told you so. How many shots did your brother talk you into?”

“I dunno. Did I do anything stupid?”

I winced at the thought. I rarely had too much to drink and never on a weeknight. Jay had insisted we include Sean in our post-family dinner get-together at his and Peter’s home. Sean had a hard time accepting that I was bi and in love with a man in the beginning. But I had to give him credit for trying. He’d made an effort to get to know Aaron and some of our friends over the past few years. The problem was Sean tended to add alcohol to any situation that made him nervous and hanging out with a room a group of gay couples wasn’t exactly his comfort zone.

“No, you just told everyone how much you love me. Over and over and over.” He chuckled then gave a few examples of my over-the-top amorous lines.

I sighed then chomped a slice of bacon like a carrot. “Not the worst thing in the world, is it?”

“Nope. You did tell Sean that he should try sucking cock though. That was a teensy awkward.”

“I did not,” I insisted.

“You did. But everyone with the exception of Katie’s uber-straight techie date and maybe Sean, agreed with you so it was more funny than embarrassing. But you’d better behave tonight. I will be seriously pissed if my husband-to-be gets bombed the day before our wedding. Or worse yet, atour wedding,” he said in a steely tone that brooked no argument.

“You have nothing to worry about,” I promised.

“I know. I just don’t want anything to go wrong,” he replied earnestly.

“Everything will be perfect. Vic has assured us multiple times that he has this under control. Flowers, cake, photographer, decorations, deejay… am I forgetting something?”

“People. What if I missed a typo on the invitations and the time or place is wrong?”

“Oh please. I know you too well, Aar. I bet you’ve rechecked the invites multiple times since they were printed. Be honest, you checked again when you woke up this morning too, didn’t you?”

Aaron pursed his lips and then grinned. “Maybe. My obsessive compulsive side is raging at the moment. This matters to me.”

“Hey, it matters to me too.” I set my finger over his lips to stop his speech. “Believe it or not, our wedding matters to a lot of people. We’re incredibly lucky. We have amazing families, friends and co-workers rooting for us. Hell, random people, like Karen the checkout lady at the grocery store and our favorite baristas at Starbuck’s, have demanded we post the ceremony on Youtube so they can be part of the action too. Yes, this is our day, but we’re getting married in front of a fuckton of guests tomorrow who have supported us and shown love and encouragement and I don’t take any part of that for granted.

“Maybe someday, two guys getting married will just be another wedding between crazy kids who fell in love and decided to spend the rest of their lives together. But now, it’s that and a little more. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t ask you to marry me to make a statement. I asked you because I love you and I want everyone to know this is real. We don’t need a piece of paper to know this is real, but you know what I mean. Right?” I leaned in to kiss his lips and gave him a lopsided grin.

“I know exactly what you mean. Thank you. I love you too.” Aaron sniffed then gently wiped the corner of his eyes. “Just think, the next time we have breakfast in this kitchen, we’ll be husbands.”

I set my hand on his thigh and leaned in to kiss his cheek. “How did we get here?”

“I have no idea,” he laughed. “But I like it.”

“Me too. So try not to stress out tonight or tomorrow. The party is already in motion. All we have to do is enjoy.”

“Okay… just remember to be on time and—”

“Oh my God.” I fell forward and rested my forehead on the island.

Aaron snickered merrily then threw his arms around my waist and showered me kisses. “Okay, okay. I’ll stop. You know what’s good for tension release?”

I sat up quickly and pulled him between my legs. “I have ideas but they’re all x-rated. What did you have in mind?”

Aaron furrowed his brow and tapped his forefinger on his chin as though considering his options. “Hmm. Mutual handjobs or blowjobs either here or in the shower or back in bed or… you can fuck me.”

“Ah, the romance,” I huffed sarcastically then stood and tugged his pajama bottoms over his ass and squeezed.

He rocked his hips against me and raked his fingers down my back. “Hmm. I’ll make it up to you. ‘Stress relief’ sex sounds kinda hot though. Hard and fast and dirty. What do you say, Matty?”

I wisely didn’t say anything at all. I followed him back to our bedroom, pulling my clothes off along the way. I stroked myself and watched in mesmerized fascination as he disrobed in record time, poured lube onto his palm and then mine before crawling on all fours onto the middle of the bed. He reached between his legs and massaged two fingers over his opening and slipped one inside.

I think he said my name but it was hard to hear anything over the rush of blood in my ears. Going from zero to hundred in seconds flat made me dizzy as hell. My heart skipped a beat or two as I positioned myself behind him then lined my aching cock on his hole and pushed inside him. I moved slowly at first but it didn’t take long for him to adjust and beg for more. Harder, faster and more.

There was nothing particularly romantic about the act but it was hot and sexy and completely uninhibited. We didn’t make love. We fucked in a carnal frenzy that was life affirming in a completely different way. The bed creaked and the headboard thumped rhythmically against the wall as we sighed and groaned and then finally fell apart. I pumped my hips and flattened Aaron to the mattress, spilling myself inside him and then trembling in the aftermath.

We didn’t move immediately. Yeah, we’d made a mess and there were a million things to do before tonight but moments like this were too perfect to rush. The real world could wait. I kissed the back of his neck and flopped gracelessly beside him. I played with his hair, pausing when he opened his eyes and grinned at me. I returned the gesture and rolled to face him. I started to speak but honestly there was nothing left to say. This was perfect.

 

Wedding rehearsals always seemed like a waste of time to me. I’d been a groomsman in a few weddings so I felt as though my opinion was a qualified one. Not that anyone was interested in my thoughts on the matter. My only job was to be on time. I worked until mid-afternoon to clear my schedule while I was on my honeymoon then picked up my parents from their hotel and headed to the Claridge Estate. We arrived fifteen minutes early and were greeted by Aaron’s family and quite a few of our friends.

Aaron pulled me aside before Vic started the festivities. He looked sharp and sexy in fitted khakis and a navy gingham button-down shirt. I ran my finger along the row of buttons and smiled at him. “Hi.”

“Hi yourself. I want to introduce you to my cousin and her family before I forget,” he said in an even tone before lowering his voice and continuing, “You have no idea how badly I want to kiss you right now.”

“Do it,” I challenged.

Aaron stood on his toes and pressed a platonic kiss on my cheek. “There.”

“Geez, after this morning I kind of expected tongue,” I teased. “That’s all you got?”

“You’re hysterical. Your mom is on her way over and she’s smiling. Should I be alarmed? It’s an extra big smile. I’m assuming that’s good.”

“It’s all good.”

“Yes, I—”

“Oh Aaron! You’ve absolutely outdone yourself. I love this place. It’s stately and grand and gorgeous. I can’t wait to see it decked out in the flowers and decor you’ve chosen,” my mother gushed, slinking her arm around my waist.

“What makes you think I didn’t choose the flowers?” I asked with a laugh.

“Because I know you.” My mom winked at Aaron then reached for his hand and squeezed it affectionately. She cast a meaningful gaze between us and pursed her lips. “There are a lot of people here and there will be three times as many tomorrow so I want to take my chance while I have it to…to welcome you, Aaron. I love Matt more than anything in the world. And to know he’s found someone who loves him, respects him and will always put him first means more to me than I can say. You’ll know yourselves someday how that feels. For now, thank you.”

My mom hugged him tightly before turning to embrace me too. Aaron and I held eye contact when she stepped aside to make room for other well-wishers. She seemed genuinely happy for us but conflicted too. Or maybe even in pain. It didn’t make sense. I inclined my head meaningfully then hurried after my mother before she joined my dad on the other end of the room.

“Mom!”

She spun around and smiled as she dabbed tears with a handkerchief. “I’m just running to the restroom. I’ll be back in time to practice walking you down the aisle,” she said in an overly sunny voice.

“Are you okay?”

She pushed her shoulder length blonde hair from her shoulder and rolled her eyes. “You know how I get at weddings, Matthew. It’s much more significant when a piece of your heart is getting married. I know that sounds silly but you’ll always be my boy. I see the intelligent, handsome, incredible man you’ve become and I’m so very proud of you. But I still see the beautiful baby I brought home from the hospital. Here we are, the day before your wedding and I can still picture your first birthday and school plays and all the team sports… baseball, hockey, football. I felt your pain when you failed and your joy when you succeeded.

“I’ve always been part of your story but I wasn’t prepared for Aaron. I had no idea you were bi but I meant what I said when you told me that you’d met a man. You’re my son and I love you… that never changes. But I struggled and I couldn’t understand why because that man is so damn kind and anyone can see how much he loves you. Then I realized I didn’t want to let go. Man, woman… it wouldn’t have made a difference. You’re still mine. And now you’re Aaron’s too. Someday you’ll have kids and it’ll change again. It’s the way it’s supposed to be but I admit it’s bittersweet sometimes. I don’t know if I’m the kind of mom who can ever really let go but I’ll try to adjust my grip a little,” she chuckled lightly. “I love you, Matthew. And I love Aaron. Be happy.”

This time when she hugged me, I crushed her against me and held on tight. I willed myself to get my emotions under control before I released her and had to face a roomful of curious friends and relatives.

“Thank you. I love you too. Always have, always will.”

She smiled and then kissed my cheek and headed toward the restroom.

I pushed my hands in my pockets and let my gaze drift around the room before focusing on Aaron. He was so damn beautiful. I didn’t get what he saw in me some days but I understood my mother’s sentiment all too well. He owned my heart. The whole thing. Someday I’d share a portion of him with our children. His time, his affection… but that was different. That was somewhere in the future and it wouldn’t be possible without this beginning.

To be continued…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Special Guest Post Michael Rupured & The Case of the Missing Drag Queen

A warm welcome to my dear friend, Michael Rupured and congratulations on your new release The Case of the Missing Drag Queen! Drag queens are quite popular in my house. My son and daughter are HUGE RuPaul fans. They have a standing Thursday night text debate critiquing the queens performances on Drag Race. The fact she’s so well know and respected is a testament to the amazing changes in the LGBTQ community over the past decade. Thirty plus years ago, things were so very different. Thank you for sharing your new release and an exclusive excerpt here today, Michael.

Best wishes! Lane xo CaseoftheMissingDragQueen[The]_postcard_front_DSPPMuch of the action in The Case of the Missing Drag Queentakes place in a gay bar in 1982. After nearly four decades of field research, I am somewhat of an expert on gay bars. In my opinion, the late 1970s and early 1980s were the high point—a sweet spot between the 1969 Stonewall riots credited for launching the gay liberation movement and the arrival of HIV.

When I came out in 1979, our gay lifestyle outside of work was getting together with friends to get ready to go out, going out, and then hitting afterhours parties until the sun came up. Gay bars were crowded six nights a week. On Sundays, if there wasn’t a party, we drove to a city where the bars weren’t closed.

That world was wild, crazy, and largely underground. Society was more homophobic than not. Unmarked entrances granted access to gay bars for those in the know.

Oh, the stories I could tell….

And do. That’s what’s fun about writing fiction. Nobody knows the difference.

The Case of the Missing Drag Queen

Series: Luke Tanner Mysteries, Book One

Publisher: DSP Publications

Genre: Mystery, LGBT Fiction

Word Count: 60K

Cover Artist: Alexandria Corza

BUY LINKS

AMAZON| B&N| KOBO| DSP PUBLICATIONS

Blurb

Broke, saddled with a mountain of debt, and dependent on his Aunt Callie’s support, aspiring writer Luke Tanner has returned to Kentucky to put his life back together after a failed five-year relationship.

On his twenty-fifth birthday, Luke meets diminutive Pixie Wilder, a long-time performer at the Gilded Lily. After headliner Ruby Dubonnet doesn’t show up, Pixie takes her place as the star of the show—a motive that makes her a suspect in Ruby’s disappearance.

Luke reluctantly agrees to help his new-found friend clear her name. He and Pixie set out to find the missing drag queen, and in the process, put themselves in danger.

Author Bio

Michael Rupured writes stories true enough for government work about gay life from the 1960s to today. This life-long Southerner was born in Fayetteville NC, grew up in Lexington KY, and after 18 months in Washington DC, moved to Athens GA where he’s lived since 1999. By day, he’s senior faculty in the College of Family and Consumer Sciences at the University of Georgia. He’s an avid fan of the Georgia Bulldogs, the Kentucky Wildcats, and any team playing the Florida Gators. In his free time, Michael tinkers with his garden, plays with Toodles (his diabetic chihuahua), and keeps up with his many friends around the country. Previous novels include Until Thanksgiving(thriller), No Good Deed(mystery/thriller), Whippersnapper(regional), and Happy Independence Day(historical). Visit his website, follow on Twitterand Goodreads, like his Facebook page, or shoot him a message (mrupured@gmail.com).

Excerpt:

Chapter 2 (Click here for Chapter 1)

Friday, October 22, 1982

The ringing wouldn’t stop. Luke squeezed his eyes shut, covered his head with a pillow, and curled into a fetal position beneath the covers. All he wanted to do was sleep, but the ringing continued and apparently wasn’t going to stop until he answered the telephone.

He threw back the covers and squinted at the wind-up alarm clock ticking loudly on his dresser. Almost two o’clock. He reached for the phone, inadvertently knocked the handset off the cradle to the floor, and when he bent to retrieve it, bumped his head hard against the corner of the bedside table.

“Dammit!” He rubbed his tender scalp and checked his hand for blood. None. Just a concussion. At least the ringing had stopped. He grabbed the handset and put it to his ear. “Hello.”

“I called to wish you a happy birthday, but that horse has obviously left the barn.”

“Aunt Callie,” Luke said, scratching himself and wishing he’d thought to remove his toxic underwear before going to sleep. He sat on the edge of the bed and palmed his forehead. “Sorry. I didn’t get home until three o’clock in the morning.”

“Anybody out that time of day is up to no good if you ask me.”

Luke rolled his eyes and shook his head. “I worked late.” He started to tell her he’d made almost two hundred bucks, but kept his mouth shut. On top of past-due bills, a mountain of credit card debt, and a car loan, he owed her a small fortune for rescuing him from a life on the streets of Atlanta after Mr. Wrong booted him out of the condo they’d shared for nearly five years with little more than the clothes on his back and a shoebox of old photographs. A few more nights like last night and he could start paying her back.

“Well,” she continued, “I didn’t call to fuss. Hard to believe you’re twenty-five years old.” She sighed. “I remember when you were born. Your parents and I were so excited. Nathan was thrilled to have a son, and Sally….”

Luke didn’t know what to say. Memories of the parents who’d disappeared on a cruise to celebrate ten years of marriage were fuzzy and dim. Having lived longer without them than with them, he’d adjusted. Life went on.

“After all this time, I miss her every single day.” She sniffed and blew her nose. “We still having dinner together tonight?”

“Yeah,” Luke replied, like he knew what she was talking about. He vaguely recalled her saying something a couple of weeks earlier about dinner on his birthday but couldn’t remember any details and didn’t want to have to ask.

“Our reservation is for six thirty. Don’t be late,” she said. “The Brougham House is always busy on Friday nights.”

Luke breathed a sigh of relief. “I’ll be on time, I promise.”

“I hope so,” she said. “See you tonight.”

He hung up the phone and stretched. His birthday had completely slipped his mind. Understandable. All the good ones were behind him—reaching double digits at ten, becoming a teenager at thirteen, driving at sixteen, voting at eighteen, and drinking at twenty-one. The rest would be depressing reminders of his advancing age and impending death.

So much for sleeping until time to return to the Gilded Lily. Spending his birthday alone in bed all day, though sadder than sad, was all he wanted to do. But first, his bladder demanded attention.

On the way to the bathroom he glanced around his depressing, messy apartment. He’d covered the picture window with an old, rust-stained sheet. The ugly sofa and uglier easy chair he’d found at the Goodwill store were piled high with laundry done or waiting to be done—he no longer knew which was which and relied on smell to tell the difference. Mail and important papers were piled up around a well-used manual typewriter on the card table set up in the eat-in kitchen.

Good thing Aunt Callie was meeting him at the restaurant. No need to worry about her coming in—or anyone else for that matter. The guys he’d run around with five years earlier had left town, and since returning to Lexington, he’d found no new friends to replace them.

He flushed the toilet, washed his hands, and stepped into the kitchen, ignoring the sink full of dirty dishes. Though not exactly bare, his cupboards and refrigerator offered little in the way of food, and nothing he hadn’t grown tired of eating. Dinner at Lexington’s fanciest restaurant would be a treat and a nice change. Without bothering to heat it up, he settled on the remnants of a frozen pizza and headed back to bed.

The moment his head hit the pillow, the telephone rang again. Luke groaned, sat up, and reached for the handset. “Hello.”

“Mr. Tanner?”

“Yes.” Luke didn’t recognize the voice.

“Millicent Maxwell in Apartment 3. My toilet isn’t flushing properly. Mr. Sinclair said to call you.”

“Okay. Be right there.” Luke sighed. In exchange for half off his rent, he managed the eight-unit Sinclair Arms for Buddy Sinclair. He slid into a pair of jeans, pulled on a T-shirt and tennis shoes, and stepped across the hall to Mrs. Maxwell’s apartment.

Forty-five minutes later, Luke could feel her breath on his neck. She stood so close, he feared she might fall when he went in for a closer look. He braced himself in case he had to catch her, leaned forward, and sighed with relief when she didn’t lose her balance. He flushed again and watched the tank empty.

Mrs. Maxwell pointed an arthritic finger at the bowl. “Still didn’t go down.”

Luke folded his arms across his chest and stroked his chin as he studied the porcelain fixture. He’d done everything he could think of, but after two dozen flushes, most of the Toasted Oats he’d dropped in the toilet had gone nowhere.

“I’ve never been so embarrassed in all my life.” Mrs. Maxwell clucked several times. “My granddaughter couldn’t stop crying, bless her little heart.” She put her hand over her mouth, shook her head, and whispered, “Said she’d flushed and flushed.”

“Sorry.” Luke jiggled the floating device for the umpteenth time and peered inside the tank again. “Everything works the way it’s supposed to.” The cereal hugging the side of the bowl mocked him. “Obviously, something’s not right.”

“Can you fix it, or not?”

He placed the lid back on the tank and faced her. She obviously didn’t think he could. He had doubts as well. Admitting he had no idea what was wrong or how to fix it wouldn’t help. He smiled and nodded. “Yes, ma’am!”

She placed her hands on her hips and peered over her glasses at him. “When?”

Luke cleared his throat. “Um. Soon.”

Her arms dropped to her sides. “In the meantime, what am I supposed to do about that?” She gestured toward the Toasted Oats clinging to the side of the bowl.

“I’ll take care of it.” He reached down and, without gagging or retching even once, plucked the cereal from the toilet and dropped the soggy O’s into a frilly trashcan covered in the same flowery fabric as the shower curtain. He held up his wet hand and moved toward the sink. “Mind if I wash up?”

“Please do.” She pulled a worn hand towel from a vanity drawer and set it beside the basin. “Don’t leave soap in the sink, splash my mirror, or dirty up my good towels, you hear?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

Her watchful look suggested she didn’t believe him—about keeping the bathroom tidy or fixing the toilet. Luke lathered up with all the care he could muster. He dried his hands, mopped up around the sink, and dropped the towel she’d provided onto the vanity. “I’ll fix it in the next day or two. I promise.”

“I sure hope so.” She studied Luke’s face for a moment. Her expression changed to one of concern. “Have you seen Ruby Dubonnet this morning?”

Luke furrowed his brow. “This morning?” Why would he have seen her this morning and why did she ask?

“Yes.” She nodded. “She lives in Apartment 2.”

“Ruby Dubonnet?”

Mrs. Maxwell nodded.

“No.” Luke shook his head, more confused than before. “Haven’t seen her.” If he had to guess, she was probably shacked up with the big tipper.

“We’d planned to take the bus over to Turfland Mall this morning to do a little shopping before having lunch at the Blue Boar cafeteria.” Mrs. Maxwell wrung her hands. “I’ve known her for years, and she’s never even been late without calling. I waited for thirty minutes after leaving her a message before knocking on her door, but she didn’t answer.”

Luke wasn’t sure what surprised him more. That Millicent Maxwell and Ruby Dubonnet were longtime friends or that Ruby lived in the apartment next door. He’d never seen her around, nor was her name on the list of tenants Mr. Sinclair had given him. “I’m sure she’ll turn up soon.”

Mrs. Maxwell nodded but didn’t seem convinced. “I hope you’re right.”

She closed the door before he could say more. Not that he had anything to add. He heard the deadbolt slide and the chain falling into place and knew she watched him through her peephole as he let himself into his apartment and closed the door behind him.

 

 

 

Better Than Wedding, Part 9 (Mild NSFW)- A Matt & Aaron Short Story

Last week, I thought this would be a ten chapter story but it’s shaping into eleven parts, with a possible twelfth in the form of an epilogue. But as you can tell from this chapter… the big day is nearly here! I’ll post the next installment next week!

Happy Reading! Lane xo

**Previous chapters: Chapters 1-6, Chapter 7, Chapter 8

unknown-2-1Better Than Wedding– Part 9

The stack of files and law journals on my desk had taken on a life of their own. I stared out the window at the lone fluffy cloud marring the otherwise perfectly blue sky. I’d been at my desk since six o’clock in the morning and I was pissed I hadn’t accomplished more. Two major contracts needed to be prepared by the end of the week but my concentration was shot.

I glanced at my watch then closed my eyes. I had less than two hours before I had to be home. I forgot the reason but Aaron had been adamant about the time. Maybe it was a last-minute fitting or—

A loud buzz ripped me from my reverie. I reached for my cell, pausing to check the caller ID before answering.

“Hi Shel, I—” I pulled the phone away to save my eardrums from the shrill screaming on the line. When I thought it was safe, I tried again. “Shelly?”

“Oh my God, are so excited? Four days and counting! Are you ready for your big day, little brother?”

“Uh… yeah. I think so. At least, I will be.” I raked my fingers through my hair then swiveled my chair away from my computer. “When are you arriving?”

“My flight gets in tomorrow afternoon but I think Mom and Dad and the rest of the fam will arrive before me. Mom mentioned something about checking into the hotel and hitting a museum before dinner with Aaron’s folks. And of course, she’ll want to inspect the rehearsal dinner venue. I have a killer speech prepared and I can’t wait to make you cry,” she teased.

“I’m not gonna cry.”

“Liar. We all will. Mom especially. You know how weepy she gets at TV weddings. She’ll be sobbing when she walks you down the aisle. You’d better have tissue on hand just in case.”

“As long as she behaves herself, it’ll be fine,” I said.

“She loves Aaron, Matt. We all do. I’m sure she’ll have her annoying mother-in-law moments but Aaron can handle her. He’s become an expert at it.”

“Yeah, but I don’t want him to have to worry about anything. He’s stressed out enough as it is. We both are,” I admitted with a sigh.

“Matt, it’s going to be gorgeous and amazing and I can’t tell you how excited I am for both of you. And in her own way, Mom feels the same. Just wait until you and Aaron have kids of your own. She’ll probably want to move into your spare bedroom.”

“Great. Something to look forward to,” I snarked.

Shelly chuckled. “I know it’s about to get crazy for you with out of town guests and dinners and speeches and a gazillion details to worry about, but if you need me to do anything at all, call me and I’ll be there in a flash. I can get an earlier flight. No hesitation.”

“Thanks Shel.”

“I love you, Matt. See you tomorrow.”

I ended the call and stared at my computer screen for a full minute, willing my pulse to slow down and for some semblance of focus to return. Holy fuck.The lightheaded, slightly nauseous feeling seemed to get worse. Was I having a panic attack? I stood abruptly and paced from one corner of my office to the other then back again, giving myself a pep talk as I picked up speed. You’re not nervous. You’ve got this. You won’t forget anything. And even if you do, he’ll still love you. It’s okay.

I stopped in front of the floor to ceiling window and let out a rush of air. Nope. It didn’t work. If I didn’t have a million things to do on a cramped schedule I’d take a walk and grab a latte or a dozen donuts or something. But time wasn’t on my side and I had a tuxedo to fit into. So I did what I always did when I was at wit’s end. I called Aaron.

“Hi, Matty, I’m—hang on a sec.” Loud voices and a crackling noise sounded in the background. Aaron barked an order to someone before addressing me. “Is everything okay?”

“Sure. Whatcha doing?”

“I’m at a photo shoot near the Lincoln Memorial. It’s a zoo. What’s wrong?” Aaron asked worriedly.

“Nothing.”

Silence.

Well, not really. It was noisy on his end but I could tell he was moving to get away from the cacophony so he could hear me. And now I felt like an idiot. We were both busy. Neither of us had time for meltdowns.

“Okay, I can talk now. What’s up?”

His breathing sounded labored. I could picture him walking fast and then stopping to push his hair from his brow. It was longer than he usually wore it but it looked sexy on him. I love threading my fingers through it. Like this morning when I was inside him. He’d been on his knees, gripping the headboard with his ass in the air, urging me on with a steady “fuck me, Matty, fuck me”. I had one hand in his hair, pulling his head back to lick his neck while I stroked his cock with the other. The frenzied heat had an almost manic quality that was seriously hot, though a bit jolting at five a.m. In a good way. The memory of him falling apart in my arms and then licking his cum from my fingers had me in a semi-aroused state all damn day.

I adjusted my suddenly interested dick and refocused. “Nothing. I just… wanted to say hi.”

“Are you going to tell me you’re having second thoughts?”

I barked a quick laugh and sank into my chair. I knew calling him was a good idea. I already felt better. “Not a chance. Are you?”

“No, but your ‘hi’ sounded a like a cry for help.”

“Wow. You know me pretty well.”

“I should hope so. Well? Details, please.”

“My sister called to say she was excited for us and…I freaked out. We have so much to do. So many dinners and speeches and people. Maybe we should go to city hall tomorrow and get married in front a judge. Let’s take care of the real thing so we can enjoy the parties without so much stress.”

“You have no idea how tempting that is,” he said with a sigh.

“I was kidding, but yeah…I’m feeling overwhelmed.”

“I’ve had a few of those moments too, Matty. This morning I was in my office going over layouts with my team for a holiday ad Marsha decided had to be completed by noon. It was going well until Vic called with twenty questions about the seating chart. We worked through half of his list before I had to cut him off when my assistant said your mom was on hold. She wouldn’t leave a message. She insisted on waiting to speak to me.”

“My mom? What did she want?” I asked, furrowing my brow.

“She wanted to know my mother’s favorite perfume.”

“That’s random.”

“Honestly, I think it was a test. She keeps me on my toes to make sure I’m worthy in-law material. She calls me all the time, Matty. Usually she’ll leave a message but lately, everything is urgent,” he huffed in amusement.

“Why didn’t you tell me she was harassing you?”

“She’s not. Today was a bit much but most of the time I don’t mind. I figure she needs assurance that I love you and that I’m going to take good care of you. Like a good wife,” he said sarcastically.

“You’re not going to be my wife.”

“I know, but you know how she is. I kid you not…the other day, she asked if I was going to stop working when we have kids.”

I slumped forward and banged my head on my desk. “Oh my God. You should have told me.”

“You have enough to worry about. Yes, I was mildly annoyed but I wasn’t surprised that she considers me your “wife to be”. I played it cool and told her we’d consider all options when the time came.”

I chuckled at his businesslike tone and then let out a beleaguered sigh. “Fuck, I love you, Aar. I’m stressed out of my mind and…I just needed to hear your voice.”

“I love you too. Take a deep breath and remember we’re almost there. In one week we’ll be on a beach in Puerto Rico, kicking back on chaise lounges with margaritas… and we’ll be married. Finally.”

“I can’t wait,” I said earnestly.

Aaron hummed in agreement. This time the silence on the line was comforting. I was tempted to close my eyes and sink into it. But there were things to do.

“Give me a brief rundown of what’s happening over the next couple days so I can wrap my head around where I need to be and what I have to do.” I pushed my chair back slightly and reached for a piece of paper and a pen.

Aaron chuckled. “Okay. Tonight we’re picking up our tuxes and getting haircuts. Tomorrow, our guests start arriving. We’re having dinner with our families downtown and then drinks at Jay and Peter’s house with our friends. I’m working a half-day Friday to finish up any details with Katie and Jay. The rehearsal starts at five o’clock and dinner is directly afterward. Fifty people RSVPed for dinner and—”

“Fifty? Do we know fifty people?”

“Oh my God, Matty. Chill. Yes. It’s mostly family and some out town guests. If you have to work all day that’s fine, but you’ll need to be at the venue at five p.m. sharp. I’ll remind you ten more times, I’m sure.”

I swiped my hand over my stubbled jaw. “Do I have to make a toast?”

“Yes. Something simple to thank everyone for being there. Do you want me to do it?” he asked.

“No. You’ll get emotional and then I’ll get emotional and…I can handle it,” I assured him.

“Okay. Well, the wedding is Saturday. Brunch the next morning and then…the honeymoon. Ta da! Everything is nearly in place. You just have to show up on time, smile a lot and make a small speech Friday night,” he said patiently.

“What about the vows? Did you write yours already?”

“Yes, of course. Don’t tell me you want me to help you with yours.”

“No need. I did it months ago. Want to hear? I memorized them too,” I bragged.

“You did not,” he snickered.

“I did. Let me practice, baby. Just once.” I cleared my throat theatrically before launching into storyteller mode. “’Five years ago, I thought I was a straight dude but the second I saw this guy—’…that’s where I’ll either point at you or sling my arm over your shoulder like we’re a couple of bros and say, ‘I knew I had to have him. Often.’”

Aaron groaned. “You’re hilarious. Now let me get back to work so I can help pay for this wedding. Are you feeling better now?”

I grinned and though he couldn’t see me, I knew the gesture wasn’t lost. “Much better. How many more hours until this is official?”

“Seventy-one hours and thirty-four minutes… give or take a few,” he replied quickly.

“I’m ready, baby.”

“Me too, Matty. Me too.”

To be continued…

Better Than Wedding, Part 8- A Matt & Aaron Short Story

And they’re back! Here’s part 8 of Matt and Aaron’s journey to the altar. There are just two more chapters left in the short story. The next one will be posted next weekend! Enjoy!

Happy Reading!  Lane xo

*In case you missed them, here are the previous installments: Chapters 1-6 (NSFW), Chapter 7

unknown-2-1Better Than Wedding- Part 8

Aaron seemed calmer by the time we reached his parents’ street. Unfortunately, all of his angst transferred to me. Okay, that was an exaggeration. I wasn’t overly nervous but I wished I’d had more time to prepare my argument. Aaron and I had been a couple for a long time and the Mendez family had been welcoming from the beginning. Unlike my own family. Scratch that… my mom was the only Sullivan who’d occasionally struggled with my sexuality. It wasn’t that she didn’t like Aaron. She did. But she would have preferred that he wasn’t a man. Eventually she’d learned to accept that I loved him and that I wasn’t going to change my mind, but she’d caused some tension along the way. Through every bit of drama my mom introduced, I was grateful to Aaron’s parents for their steady support. But this was still our wedding and we were doing this our way.

I squeezed his hand when we paused at the bottom of the brick path leading to the two-story home where Aaron had grown up.

“You ready?”

“Yes.” Aaron nodded then yanked me backward. “Wait—no. What are you going to say?”

“I don’t know exactly. It’ll come to me.”

“You can’t wing this, Matty. Practice on me first and I’ll tell you if it’ll fly.”

I furrowed my brow and let out an exasperated huff. “You’re going to have to trust me. I didn’t write a speech but—”

“I did and I memorized the whole thing. The original is in Spanish but here’s a synopsis… ‘Mama, Papa, gracias para—”

“That’s still Spanish,” I commented, crossing my arms over my chest.

“Oh. Right. Um… ‘Thank you for everything you’ve done for us. We love you and appreciate you but we’ve decided to go a different route regarding our wedding service.’”

“Sounds like a resignation letter, babe.”

“Dammit. You’re right. It sounded better en español.” And he was off.

I let him recite his speech in his parents’ native tongue for a minute or so before setting my hand over his mouth and kissing his forehead. “Cool it, Aar. It’s going to be all right. I promise.”

“So you say, but… how will you start? Do you have an intro handy or an ice breaker?”

I pulled off my sunglasses then slipped my hand in his and headed for the front door. “You want me to tell a joke? Maybe you should tell one in Spanish and once you get them laughing, I’ll tell them our plans.”

“That’s actually a good idea. That way they’ll still like me and—”

“I was kidding, Aar. They love you and they always will.” I paused at the top step and straightened his collar. It was perfect, of course, but I needed to keep my hands busy because in spite of my encouraging words, I was nervous as hell. One of us had to fake it though. I took a deep breath and gave him a lopsided smile. “Hey, are you gonna love any of our children less if they don’t do things exactly the way you hoped?”

Aaron’s grin was automatic. “Of course not! Nice move, Matty. You know I love it when you talk about future kids. It makes me feel…bubbly.”

I snorted. “Bubbly?”

“Yeah, like silly happy. We’re gonna do it all, aren’t we?”

I nodded. “Yes. Everything we said when we first met. House, kids, dog.”

“Hmm. I think we said kids, dog, and an apartment in the city.”

“We did.” I caressed his cheek, loving the way his eyes twinkled merrily at the memory of a long-ago conversation.

And just like that I knew we were both remembering that Sunday morning when we’d first talked about ‘us’. We’d laid in my queen-sized bed in the bachelor pad I shared with Curt and our friend Dave and spent the morning sipping coffee and daydreaming. We’d painted a rough sketch of what we wanted in a relationship. We hadn’t dared to dream too far ahead. Calling each other ‘boyfriend’ had been as much as we were willing to commit to that day. What we had was thrilling and new and scary as hell, but somehow I think I knew Aaron was ‘the one’.

“Do you think we’ll ever move to New York City?” he asked, tilting his head to lean into my touch.

“Is that something you still want?”

“Maybe someday but not right away. I want to raise our kids here.”

“In this neighborhood?” I widened my gaze comically.

Aaron snickered and shook his head emphatically. “No, but someplace like this. And I can’t believe I’m saying this but… I want to live closer to my parents when we’re ready to start our own family. Would you be okay with that? ’Cause if you are, I know how to handle this chat.”

“What do you mean? Are you planning on bribing them with future grandkids if they back off?” I whispered, mimicking his low tone.

“Yes. Well, sort of.”

“Aar…”

“I got this, Matty. They’re my parents. I should do the talking. Thank you.”

“I didn’t do anything.”

“Yes, you did. I love you. If I need you to jump in I’ll give you a secret sign… like this.” He wrinkled his nose and twitched it.

“Ha. You look like you’re gonna sneeze.” I cupped the back of his neck and brushed my nose against his then kissed him tenderly. “Just do me a favor and keep you speech in English so I know what’s going on.”

“Deal.”

“And do it right away. Let’s not prolong this, okay?”

Aaron stepped backward and set his hand on the doorknob. “Okay. Are you ready?”

When I nodded, he opened the door and called out a greeting to his parents. His voice ricocheted off the tile floor and echoed around the high ceiling in the foyer. I glanced at the jumble of family photos lining the walls as we moved through the formal living room to the back of the house. I could have predicted before we walked into the great room that his dad would be lounging in his favorite easy chair watching football on the giant flat screen and his mom would be in the kitchen making more food than the four of us could possibly eat for lunch. There was always a chance that Aaron’s sisters or brother and their families would join us too but I figured Aaron would know.

The Mendez’ were a tight-knit clan. Whenever they gathered for family brunches or dinners, the decibel levels rose to ear-splitting highs. It wasn’t unusual to have the television blaring on one end of the great room and music on the other while a dozen or more people competed to be heard above the din in Spanglish. The atmosphere was chaotic but always welcoming, though today it seemed relatively quiet.

“Hola!” his mom called from the stove.

Aaron greeted her in Spanish then shouted a quick hello to his father in the next room. I waved to his dad and then laughed when Aaron’s mom rounded the island and crushed him in a bear hug before giving me the same treatment.

“Where have you boys been? I was getting worried. Lunch is almost ready.”

“It smells muy bien,” I said.

Aaron and his mom exchanged an affectionate smile at my heavy American accent. It was easy to see that my man came by his good looks naturally. Aar was at least six inches taller than his petite mother but they shared the same light olive skin, dark hair, hazel eyes and symmetrical bone structure. Side by side, they were stunningly beautiful.

She pushed her bobbed hair behind her ear and gestured toward the family room. “You relax, Matthew. Watch the game. I’ll call you when the sopais ready.”

“Okay, I’ll—”

“Mama, wait. I have something to tell you,” Aaron blurted.

“Tell me while we cook. I need two minutes. Come help.” She pulled his elbow and then continued in a rapid fire Spanish I had no hope of understanding.

I mouthed “now?” when Aaron looked over his shoulder at me. He shrugged and took a deep breath then tried again.

“Mama, we need to talk. Por favor.”

“What is it? Are you calling off the wedding?” Aaron’s dad joked as he lumbered into the kitchen. He stopped to shake my hand before heading for the refrigerator.  He grabbed beer and held it up for my inspection. “You want one?”

“Um… no gracias,” I replied.

He shrugged then raised his bottle in a toast before glancing expectantly at his son. “Well?”

“Of course we’re not calling off the wedding,” Aaron huffed. “But uh….

His dad was a heavier set man in his early sixties with white hair and dark twinkling eyes. Aaron described him as a typical macho Latino patriarch when we first met and maybe that was true to a degree but he was also a fiercely loyal family man who adored his wife and children. He could be a little gruff at times but he was a good guy who thankfully liked me. In a way, I understood his need to keep things simple between us. He didn’t know how to discuss my relationship with his son but he could talk sports all day and night. And he liked that I made the effort to keep up with him.

“What’s wrong?” his dad prodded. “Did you run out of money? You have fancy taste, son.”

Aaron rolled his eyes. “No. Money isn’t an issue.”

“Oh good. Then can you lend me ten bucks?” his father quipped with a hearty laugh.

“Very funny. I…um…” Aaron licked his lips and twitched his nose. But before I could take over he continued. “We’re not going to use the deacon from your church. We asked someone else to marry us. We hired her a few months ago. And yes, I know I should have told you sooner but I didn’t want to hurt you feelings or disappoint you and—”

“What are you saying?” his father asked, cocking his head curiously. “Who is the ‘she’? I don’t understand.”

Aaron gave me an apologetic look then repeated his speech in Spanish.

His mother gasped in distress and clutched her heart theatrically. “You need a blessing. A wedding isn’t just a party. You must have a connection to the church. It’s important.”

“We know this isn’t just a party, Mama. The ceremony is important to us. The words, the readings, the songs… they matter. This is the biggest day of our lives and I don’t want the deacon from your church to be part of it. I’m sorry, I’m just—not willing to negotiate on this.”

Aaron’s words came out in a rush. His parents stared at him then at each other but no one said a word for an excruciatingly long time. The air was thick with uncertainty. Someone had to break through it or we’d all choke.

I cleared my throat and paced to the far end of the island and back again like a lawyer preparing to grill an important witness on the stand. I stopped at Aaron’s side and wrapped my right arm around his shoulders then cast my gaze between his bewildered parents.

“I love him. He loves me. We know we’re lucky to have the support of our family and friends and we appreciate it. But we also know that not everyone wants us to be happy. They say marriage isn’t for two men. They say we can’t have what they have because God doesn’t condone our union and I’m sorry but that’s bullshit. It’s wrong and hateful and I refuse to stand in front of anyone who thinks he’s doing us a favor by bending his so-called rules to officiate our wedding.

“We aren’t coming at this with rainbow colored lenses. We’ve given a lot of thought and care to our decision. We know without a doubt we are worthy of love and happiness. We’re not second-class citizens. Our union isn’t less than any other couple because we’re men.  You can’t tell me God doesn’t approve. I won’t believe it. Because if God is love, then we’ve already been blessed a million times over.”

I squeezed Aaron’s shoulder and swallowed hard before adding, “And just so you’re clear… I love your son. Aaron is my everything. He’s the most remarkable human being on the planet. I’m more thankful than I can ever say that he’s willing to spend the rest of his life with me.”

It felt like one of those mic drop moments that was incredibly therapeutic but came with less fanfare than one would think. My audience of three looked slightly stunned. Aaron’s folks were certainly taken aback. And Aaron was just… quiet.

I kissed his temple just as he snaked his arm around my waist and glanced up with a smile. “Te amo.”

Before I could respond, his mom launched herself between us and held on tight. She sobbed softly as she swayed back and forth.

“Sí, Matthew. El amor es el amor.” She patted my cheek and released me then turned to draw Aaron into her arms.

I sighed in relief and gave my father-in-law-to-be a hesitant smile. He held my gaze for a few scary seconds before raising his beer bottle in a toast.

“You’re a good man, Matt. I like you. Be good to him.”

“Always, sir. You don’t have to worry about that.”

He thumped my back and winked. “I’m not worried at all. I see love and that’s what matters. You want that beer now?”

I gave a half laugh and nodded effusively. “Yes. Definitely.”

I slipped my hands in my back pocket and stepped back to survey my fiancé and his family. It struck me out of the blue that this next step really was a leap of faith. There were no guarantees. Only a determination and the will to create a life together. Our way. I wanted the family photos on the walls. I wanted fingerprints on the windows and a dog or two in the yard.I couldn’t wait for that long-ago daydream about dogs and kids and an apartment in the city or a house in the suburbs to become a reality. With Aaron.

To be continued…

Leaning Into Touch Audiobook Blast & Narrator Q&A- Plus more Better Than Wedding!

AUDIOBOOK-art-Ad-1200x628Leaning Into Touch is available on audio now! Woohoo! The official tour blast begins today. Note the blog stops below and come by for a chance to win a $10 Amazon Gift Card. AND be sure to stop by Lane’s Lovers at 8pm EST for a Q&A with Nick J. Russo, the narrator of Leaning Into the Fall and Leaning Into Touch. I met Nick at GRL briefly in October last year and he’s so personable, friendly and very talented! My number one question would be “How do you do it???”.  Join us tonight! Of course, I’ll be giving away copies of the Leaning Into Touch audiobook and Amazon gift cards!

And yes! Matt and Aaron will be back this weekend. I’ll post Part 8 of Better Than Wedding either Saturday or Sunday. Stay tuned!

Happy Reading & Listening!   Lane xo

 

4/25 Dani’s Book Review Blog http://www.facebook.com/danisbookreviews
4/25 Drako’s Den drakosden.weebly.com/blog
4/25 Happily Ever Chapter https://www.facebook.com/happilyeverchapter
4/25 Kitty’s Book Spot! https://kittysbookspot.blogspot.com/
4/25 Mirrigold Mutterings and musings https://mirrigold.com/
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4/26 Dawn’s Reading Nook https://dawnsreadingnook.blogspot.com/2018/04/discover-lane-hayes-leaning-into-touch.html
4/26 Southern Babes Book Blog Www.facebook.com/southernbabesbookblog
4/26 Valerie Ullmer | Romance Author http://www.valerieullmer.com/2018/04/leaning-into-touch-by-lane-hayes/
4/26 velvetpanic https://velvetpanic2.wordpress.com/blog/
4/26 Wicked Faerie’s Tales and Reviews http://wickedfaeriesreviews.blogspot.com/
4/26 Moonbeams over Atlanta https://eloreenmoon.wordpress.com/
4/27 Bayou Book Junkie http://bayoubookjunkie.blogspot.com/
4/27 BFD Book Blog http://bfdbookblog.net
4/27 Dog-Eared Daydreams http://www.dogeareddaydreams.com
4/27 Everyone Deserves a Happy Ending www.mjhauthor.com/blog
4/27 Mainely Stories https://MainelyStories.com
4/27 Making it Happen http://moonangel23.blogspot.com/
4/27 MM Good Book Reviews http://mmgoodbookreviews.com/
4/27 Nicole’s Book Musings http://nicolesbookmusings.blogspot.com/
4/27 The Faerie Review http://www.thefaeriereview.com/
4/27 Wicked Reads www.wickedreads.org
4/27 Stories That Make You Smile https://authoraddisonalbright.com
4/27 Boy Meets Boy Reviews http://boymeetsboyreviews.blogspot.com
4/27 Xtreme-Delusions http://www.xtreme-delusions.com/

Leaning Into Touch is Available on Audio Now!

Yes, Leaning Into Touch is here on audio! Nick J. Russo is back to narrate Josh and Finn’s story and he’s delivered another fabulous performance. Check out the purchase and sample link here.

AUDIOBOOK-art-Ad-1200x628And be sure to stop by Lane’s Lovers next Wednesday, April 25 at 8pm EST for a Q&A with Nick. There will be giveaways!  I’ll send out another reminder before the FB event.

Better Than Wedding will be back next week along with updates on Geordie’s story and my next project. In the meantime, I’m off to pack for a weekend in NYC! Woohoo! Pics to follow.

Happy Reading and Listening!

Lane xo