**Have you read Hero Worship? It’s on sale at Dreamspinner press…and until the 19th of February everything is on sale! 25% off! Check out the Dr. Feelgood Anthology and all of the other amazing titles. In the meantime, here’s a short featuring Alex and Matt…and their first Valentime’s Day together**
If asked, Alex would say we’d only been together for four months. If he was in a particularly grumpy mood, he’d get technical and say three and a half. And even though it had only been that long since we’d admitted our feeling for each other, the truth of it was that our relationship began the day I moved into his house. Alex had thought it would only be a platonic arrangement. I had known differently from the start.
I had absolutely no doubt that Alex loved me completely. And I knew he knew I loved him back just as much. It was taking some time to shift Alex’s perspective so that he could fully trust in what we were building together. He’d spent so long thinking of me as a kid with a case of hero worship that it was hard for him to see me as a grown man with a solid job. That despite my age, I was ready to settle down. He was my forever and I was going to prove it to him.
Valentine’s Day was largely a commercial holiday and I was certain that Alex hadn’t given it much thought. But I’d been planning for this since almost the beginning. Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s—all those holidays didn’t mean as much. Though we’d spent each one as a newly appointed couple, we’d also spent plenty of them together in the past. This was our first Valentine’s Day together, though, and I wanted to make it special.
When Alex got home at seven-thirty in the morning, he was doing the zombie shuffle. He’d worked back-to-back night shifts for the last two weeks. Normally, he wouldn’t have been scheduled for so many in a row, but one of the other paramedics in the company had been injured and Alex had picked up most of the slack. He was one of the few that didn’t have kids at home; only a partner tired of sleeping alone. But as of today, he’d be free of nights for a while. And he actually had today, tomorrow, and Sunday off before he went back to days.
He didn’t even seem to notice me sitting at my desk in the corner of the living room as he shambled by. But that could have been because he had his shirt half off and obscuring his face at the time. I smiled softly. He was beyond exhausted and I knew he needed sleep. I quietly turned back to my work. I’d arranged it so I was working from home for the day and I had to put in a few hours of concentrated work before I could log off. As the website manager for a big medical complex, it was my responsibility to make sure everything was running smoothly. Ever since they had added online appointment booking three weeks ago, though, it seemed like there were always bugs that needed working out of the program.
By three, I was finally finished and I quickly shut down my computer. I walked down the hall on silent feet and poked my head into the bedroom. Alex was still sleeping soundly, his big body stretched out on cotton sheets, the blanket twisted hopelessly around his middle. If I wasn’t in bed with him, he slept restlessly. Only when he had me to cling to was he ever still in sleep. I couldn’t help the smile that stretched my lips. He was a beautiful man and, sometimes, just looking at him made my heart ache. I contemplated joining him for just a few seconds. My smile turned rueful and I shook my head. Quietly, I retreated the way I came. I wanted him to keep sleeping. I had plans for him later.
I had an hour, tops, before he rose from his slumber. He’d be ravenous when he woke. I wanted dinner on the table by the time he ambled into the kitchen looking for nourishment. I learned the art of moving silently in our eight months—seven and a half—of living together. It had been a necessity for Alex’s peace of mind. Shift work was hard on a person, and I had wanted to do everything I could to make it easier for him.
Moving with exaggerated, careful movements, I set the table. Dark red table cloth, silver candlesticks that had been my grandmother’s, the vase of roses I’d hidden in the back hall—everything placed just so until I was pleased. I stood back to admire it for a long moment, smiling. Then I glanced at the clock and swallowed down a hint of panic. It had taken me longer than I’d anticipated to get everything on the table exactly how I wanted it and now I’d have to rush to cook dinner. Fortunately, I was making Alex’s favorite dinner—linguine in clam sauce—and it was easy enough to prepare. I minced the garlic and chopped the onions while water for the pasta boiled. The pasta was just about done and the garlic, onions and clams were just about ready to go over the top of the linguine when I heard Alex’s cell phone ring from the bedroom.
Crap. I wouldn’t have time to change.
“Fuck, Carrie,” I heard Alex say from down the hall. “I got him a card. Isn’t that enough?”
I snorted back a laugh. Yeah, it was enough. It was exactly the kind of thing the love of my life would do.
“Are you in my house cooking?” Alex said, presumably to Carrie—his best friend and my sister-in-law. There was a beat of silence. “I gotta go. Don’t call back.”
I was just plating the meal when I felt, more than heard, Alex enter the kitchen. I didn’t turn around right away, fussing with the way everything looked one last time.
“Matt?” Alex asked tentatively from the doorway. I took a deep breath, crossed to the sink to place the now empty pan inside, smiled widely, and turned.
“Happy Valentine’s Day, love,” I said softly.
He just squinted at me. “What are you doing home so early?”
I couldn’t stop the chuckle and I didn’t even try. Shaking my head, my grin grew. “I worked from home today. You didn’t even notice when you got in.”
Alex hung his head, “I’m sorry.”
I moved fast, crossing the floor quickly so I could get my hands on him. Cupping his face in my hands, I lifted his head until I could see directly into those brown eyes I loved so much. “No, no need to be sorry. You were exhausted and you needed your sleep. It’s all good. Hungry? I made your favorite.”
“I can smell that,” he said, the beginnings of a smile working it’s way across his delectable mouth. He leaned forward and dipped his head enough so he could press his lips to mine. “Thank you for this. It looks awesome. The table, the food… Everything looks great.”
I pecked his lips again as an acknowledgement of his praise, then led him to the table, pulling out his chair for him. He gave me a skeptical smile as he sat. Normally, we sat facing each other across our small table, but today I’d placed us side-by-side. I had purposefully seated him in the left most seat so that he could still use his dominant hand to eat and his right could wander into my lap. If he was so inclined, that is.
We were quiet as we ate—Alex wasn’t big on conversation when he was shoveling food into his hungry stomach—but we exchanged soft touches and lingering smiles. When Alex finished his last bite and sat back with a satisfied sigh, I stood quickly, clearing the plates from the table.
“I have dessert too,” I said. Alex grinned. I went to the back hall to retrieve the chocolate raspberry cheesecake I’d made the night before. It wasn’t heated back there and it served well as cool storage. I hadn’t wanted to put it in the refrigerator in case he’d gone looking for a snack before falling into bed for the day. While I was in there, I pulled his present from where I had hidden it behind some canned goods and shoved it in my pocket.
A few minutes later, we were seated again, each with our own slice of cheesecake. The way Alex was eating had made me lose interest in my own dessert. He licked his fork after every bite, his pink tongue snaking out and wrapping around the tines to make sure he didn’t miss a single speck. And the noises he was making? They would not have been out of place in a porno. Blood rushed to my cock and my gaze was determinedly fixed on his face as it contorted into pleasure. I swallowed hard. If I didn’t give him his present now, I’d be dragging him off to bed. The instant the last bite disappeared, I shoved away from the table and dropped to my knees at his side, pulling the black velvet box from my pocket as I did so.
“The fuck?” he asked quietly.
“I love you,” I said in response.
His face turned a little wary but there was no hesitation when he said, “I love you too.”
“I want you to be mine forever.”
Alex’s expression softened and he reached out with one big hand to cup my cheek. “I already am.”
I had to swallow hard and my hands were shaking, but I opened the box showing him what was inside as I rushed out the words. “Marry me?”
“Fuck,” he said with a groan, his lids slamming shut. I just laughed. I hadn’t expected anything less from him.
“It doesn’t have to be some big ceremony. It doesn’t even have to be a ceremony at all. Just wear my ring and we’ll file for domestic partnership papers. I don’t care. I just want to be tied to you in every way possible.
Alex was silent for a long moment before his eyes opened and he looked at me. “You think Carrie would ever forgive me if I didn’t give her a chance to be best woman at my wedding?” He shook his head and gave a little laugh. Then he reached out with his other hand so he was holding my face. Quietly, he said, “I was going to ask you, you know. When I was sure you were ready.”
“I’m ready,” I assured him quickly. I knew he was worried about my age and thought I wasn’t ready to settle down. But I was. I so was. I thought he was, too, but he hadn’t yet answered me, not really, and the nerves I hadn’t felt at all up to this moment started creeping in. The longer he remained silent, the worse they got. Until I finally held the box up a little higher, bringing it back into his field of vision. “Alex?”
“Yeah, I’ll marry you. Absolutely I’ll marry you. I’m going to marry the hell out of you.”
My grin took over my entire face. My hands were still shaking as I lifted the wide platinum band from the box and slipped it over his ring finger. He waited patiently until I was done before he grabbed me and used his superior strength to haul me into his lap. The box fell to the floor, but I didn’t care. When he stood with me in his arms, we bumped against the table and I though I heard a plate clatter to the floor. But he was kissing me, carrying me to the bedroom and it didn’t matter. He was mine, and I was his. And we were going to be that way forever. Nothing could make me happier.
I’d known from the moment I’d first laid eyes on him four and half years ago that he was going to be mine. And now he was.
Happy Valentine’s Day indeed.