Authors: Tere Michaels
5032 Capital Circle SW, Suite 2, PMB# 279, Tallahassee, FL 32305-7886 USA
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of author imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Cherish & Blessed
© 2015 Tere Michaels.
© 2015 Aaron Anderson.
Cover content is for illustrative purposes only and any person depicted on the cover is a model.
All rights reserved. This book is licensed to the original purchaser only. Duplication or distribution via any means is illegal and a violation of international copyright law, subject to criminal prosecution and upon conviction, fines, and/or imprisonment. Any eBook format cannot be legally loaned or given to others. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without the written permission of the Publisher, except where permitted by law. To request permission and all other inquiries, contact Dreamspinner Press, 5032 Capital Circle SW, Suite 2, PMB# 279, Tallahassee, FL 32305-7886, USA, or http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/.
Digital ISBN: 978-1-63216-157-4
Library of Congress Control Number:
Second Edition February 2015
First Edition of
published as an eBook by Loose Id LLC, November 2012
Printed in the United States of America
This paper meets the requirements of
ANSI/NISO Z39.48-1992 (Permanence of Paper).
loading the dishwasher, one ear tuned to the Rangers game on the television and the other on the hushed conversation between his youngest daughter and his boyfriend.
Rangers were up a goal in the first period. Matt was nodding a lot, covertly looking over his shoulder at Evan.
Elizabeth—his baby, his preteen, oh God—did her own recon of Evan’s activities, so he drew out the fiddling of the controls, took his time as he wiped off the countertop. Matt had cooked, and this was Evan’s way of showing he was still a contributing member of the household, particularly when he was home before midnight.
“Hey, done in here,” he called. “Anyone need anything?”
“Yes,” Matt answered, his voice flat and faintly exasperated. That clearly meant beer. Evan grabbed two out of the fridge, then shut off the small television over the dishwasher. He ambled into the adjoining dining room, where Matt and Elizabeth were holding their top-secret conference.
“Okay, time to let Dad in on things,” Matt said sternly, reaching for the bottle in Evan’s hand.
“Maaaatt.” Elizabeth’s sweet face twisted into a put-upon pout, one Evan was very well acquainted with, having witnessed the joy of puberty via his children twice before, with Miranda, which was hell, and Kathleen, which was slightly easier. Hoping that Elizabeth did her transitioning without drama was obviously a pipe dream.
Evan settled into the chair beside Matt, pressing their knees together once he got settled.
“I never took a sacred oath.” Matt opened the beer, nudging back against Evan’s leg. “Talk to your father.”
It no longer bothered Evan that the kids went to Matt—he was their friend and caretaker first and foremost, and while his allegiance was to his relationship with Evan, he always treated the kids with the utmost fairness. And love.
Elizabeth squirmed a bit in her chair, biting her lip. She tugged on her hair, the sheet of brown falling down nearly to her waist. Sometimes Evan suspected she wore it long so she could hide behind it when things got a little overwhelming.
“Is it a problem at school?”
Elizabeth shook her head.
“Here at home?”
She paused, then nodded.
“One of your siblings?” He suspected it was her twin brother, Danny, because they were really the only two still home full-time. Katie had shipped off to Boston University in late July, and Miranda still lived in the city, doing her senior year at NYU. Neither seemed inclined to hassle a twelve-year-old.
“Spill.” Matt gave her the stink eye.
That was a surprise. Evan tried not to choke midswallow as he sipped his beer.
“Yeah. Um.” Elizabeth’s face was rapidly disappearing behind her fawn brown hair. “She… okay, so last weekend when I was at her apartment with Aunt Elena? They were arguing about something after I went to bed.”
Evan gave Matt a sidelong glance, rapidly becoming alarmed with the conversation and particularly the grimace his boyfriend was sporting. “Okay, that’s technically a conversation between two adults, and I’m not sure you should be telling me what they said,” Evan said diplomatically, ignoring Matt’s raised eyebrows and his own gut-churning need to know. “Unless of course you’re concerned about someone’s safety.”
“Shut up,” Evan whispered without moving his lips.
“Well, then.” Elizabeth sighed dramatically. “Then I don’t know. If I should say.”
“But I know, and I have absolutely no problem repeating it.” Matt broke into the conversation, indignation flaring. “Elena told Miranda she was too young to get married.”
Evan’s chair squeaked as he rocked back in surprise. “What?”
“Aunt Elena told Miranda she was too young to get married, especially because they had just met, and she was being hasty.” Now freed from her indecision, Elizabeth rattled off what she had heard with enthusiasm. “Miranda said maybe she would just get pregnant, and then they’d have to get married, and Aunt Elena said this isn’t 1950, don’t be stupid.”
“Oh my God.” Evan was already out of his seat, heading for the kitchen and the phone and his late wife’s sister, who was going to get a thorough review of every curse word Evan had learned in the Marines and on the force.
“Dismissed. Don’t tell anyone else about this and I’ll bring you up dessert later.” Evan could hear Matt comforting Elizabeth, as he walked away, which made him feel crappy on top of being so fucking furious his temples were pounding.
“Why didn’t Elena call me and tell me this? Better yet—what boy?”
Matt followed Evan into the kitchen, snapping on lights as he went along. “Elena probably doesn’t think there’s anything to it,” Matt started, but Evan waved him off, phone already in hand.
“No, sorry. She doesn’t get to make that call.” Evan stabbed the numbers, pacing in circles. “That’s my decision.”
“Miranda’s over twenty-one.” Matt didn’t even flinch at the eye daggers Evan threw his way.
“True. She’s also living in an apartment I pay for, going to school on my dime.” The line was ringing. Evan honestly thought he would explode if it went to voice mail. “Oh right, and she’s my kid. End of story.”
“Okay, then.” Matt pulled out a stool from the breakfast nook, his beer still in hand.
“What? You think… Elena?” His sister-in-law’s voice came on the line, and by her timid tone, he knew she knew exactly why he was calling.
his beer and then another one, all while watching Evan turn an interesting shade of magenta as he wore a hole in the floor. The fight between Evan and Elena included a great deal of cursing, a segue into the number of hours he worked—which was only going to get higher when his promotion went through—and Miranda’s lingering grief over her mother’s death. All through it, Matt saw Evan grappling with each one of those issues coupled with his own guilt. They’d come a long way over the past few years, but every once in a while, Evan backslid.
He’d failed Sherri. Her memory. The kids. He’d nearly failed Matt a few years ago, when their relationship stalled amid the confusion of his nearly redefined sexuality.
But they were fine. Solid. The kids were amazing—when they weren’t being angst-ridden preteens or sassy teenagers or impossible-to-decipher young adults.
Matt, as captain of this crazy ship, kept the rudder straight, the laundry done, and his boyfriend well fucked enough to carry on another day.
“Fine, fine. But I’m serious—you have to tell her to talk to me immediately, Elena. Immediately.” Evan was winding down, his voice rough around the edges, sweat curling along the razor-sharp line of his cropped military haircut. The T-shirt he’d changed into after work was soaked through as if he’d been running a marathon. Matt made a mental note to put on the air-conditioning in the bedroom before they went to bed.