**Have you read Pumpkin Rolls and Porn Sounds?? It just released on Wednesday, and in honor of those boys, as well as Valentine’s Day, here’s a little continuation of their story. Follow along with Joshua and Will as they celebrate the holiday…and a misunderstanding sneaks in. Enjoy!**
Pounds and Grounds was hopping, not unusual for an early Friday morning. I stopped in before work more often than not. Joshua left the house before I was even out of bed, with little more than a scratchy kiss to my cheek, and I liked seeing his smiling face to start my day. Plus, they had the best tea in a twenty block radius and to-die-for pumpkin rolls. Living with and loving the owner of the shop meant I got special privileges, and that included the tea and the rolls.
The place was decorated for Valentine’s Day—which had to be Maggie’s doing—with pink and red hearts and flowers. She’d even drawn in extra hearts on the menu board. She was wearing a heart-adorned headband and working the counter with her usual cheery attitude. I gave her a little wave as I skirted the waiting customers, circled around behind the counter, and found my way to Joshua’s office. I walked in without knocking, ready for the way his face would light up when he saw me. That never ever got old.
But Joshua was on the phone, and not paying attention to the door. It was impolite to eavesdrop, but I couldn’t help overhearing his side of the conversation.
“A lot of guys prefer the clean shaven look. Maybe if…yeah, you’re right….yeah, that makes sense. That’s absolutely doable…Oh yeah, I’m on board with that plan. So after work we’ll—” He cut himself off as he caught sight of me. A blush colored his cheeks above his beard and he gave me a half-hearted smile. “Gotta go. I’ll talk to you later.” He hung up the phone quickly. “Hey, baby.”
But my heart was pounding in my chest, worry climbing in my gut over what I’d just heard. He couldn’t actually be thinking about shaving, could he? No, not my guy. His beard and mustache were apart of him. He wouldn’t change that. I desperately tried to calm my racing heart.
“Joshua, what—” I was cut off when an almighty crash sounded through the café, followed immediately by the sound of breaking glass and a lot of swearing. Joshua didn’t even spare me a glance as he raced out the door. I followed him out to see the front case with the baked goods broken with a table protruding out of it, Maggie’s headband askew, and Lucas, the baker, standing in the kitchen doorway and cursing up a storm. Joshua seemed to have the situation in hand, as he calmly tried to figure out what had happened. I left him to it, knowing he didn’t need me in the middle of it, and went to work.
But I couldn’t stop thinking about Joshua’s conversation
The more I thought about it, the more worried I got. Joshua had told me that he wouldn’t change for anyone, and I sure as hell didn’t want him to. But did he think he needed to shave in order to keep me? I thought I had laid that idea to rest, and I’d done my best to show him and tell him how much I loved every part of him. I started to panic, and I tried to call him. But the calls went right to voicemail and the texts went unanswered. I could barely focus on work, and Caroline, our secretary, voiced her concern over my scattered brain more than once. Fortunately, the judge didn’t seem to notice. Or if he did, he didn’t care.
It was a trial day, and Judge Caltabiano had a light schedule, so I was able to make my escape by five thirty. I raced home, terrified by what I would find. By the time I pulled into our driveway, I was sure I was going to walk into the house and see Joshua bare cheeked and body waxed. The thought had me hyperventilating, and I barely remembered to turn off the ignition as I ran into the house. I slipped on the sidewalk and nearly fell, but even that didn’t stop me.
I knew Joshua was home because his car was in the driveway, but when I burst through the front door, I was met with darkness. Except for the flickering candles. Confused, I quickly checked outside to see the streetlights and all the other houses on our block ablaze.
“Joshua?” I called out, even as I removed my hat, scarf, and winter coat. I was pulling off my boots when I heard his soft footsteps. I looked up quickly, and my breath whooshed out in relief, my whole body sagging.
“Oh thank God,” I breathed.
His face crumpled in confusion. “Will? What’s wrong?”
“Oh my God, I was so scared you’d shaved!” The hysterics were over the top, but the excess adrenaline pouring through my veins had to go somewhere. It made my hand shake and my drama queen come out full force.
Joshua’s gasp was almost comical. “Why would you think that?”
“This morning, I heard…and then you wouldn’t answer…and I—”
“You let your brain run away with you,” Joshua finished for me, his soft smile transforming his whole face.
I nodded fast. “I sure did. But I heard you. You said clean shaven. I thought you were going to shave your beard.”
Joshua shook his head like he couldn’t believe me, and gave a soft laugh. “I was talking to my friend, Scott, making plans to hit the grocery store together so I could help him pick his meal. He was the one that was worried his goatee was a turn off for his new boyfriend.”
I blushed, but I wasn’t totally surprised that I’d misunderstood. Sometimes my head got carried away. When he chuckled and held out his hand, I took it without hesitation and let him pull me into his arms. My hand immediately went to the chest hair peeking out at the top of his shirt, reassuring myself he was still my hairy bear.
“I didn’t answer when you called,” he said softly into the shell of my ear. His beard scratching along the sensitive skin made me shiver. “Because I was worried I’d give away the surprise. You ready for your Valentine’s day dinner, baby?”
I nodded as he led me into the kitchen. He’d set the table with candles and flowers, matching plates, placemats, and napkins. He pulled out my chair for me, and pushed it in when I sat. He disappeared for a moment, but when he returned he had two shallow bowls of shrimp risotto. My heart melted into a puddle of goo. It was the first dinner he ever made for me, and even after all this time, it was still my favorite dish. I got a little choked up at the sentimentality, and Joshua just gave me a wide grin as he sat next to me. He poured us each a glass of wine, the same brand of Pinot Grigio I had brought to that first dinner, and then he held up his glass in a toast.
“Happy Valentine’s day, baby. I love you.”
“I love you,” I responded fervently. Every time I said it, I meant it more. I knew I would spend the rest of my life falling in love with him. Over and over again.