Read Duty and Devotion Online

Authors: Tere Michaels

Tags: #Gay Erotica

Duty and Devotion

Duty and Devotion
Book Jacket
Tags:
Gay Erotica
After their happily ever after in Faith & Fidelity, Matt and Evan move forward to a new chapter of their lives - inside the bedroom and out - with some surprises in store for both. Evan struggles with labels and feelings even as he wants to give in to his baser desires. Matt, now the ideal househusband of Queens, New York, has his own set of struggles - who is he now? What does he need and want?

A visit from his friend and one-night stand Jim Shea (of Love & Loyalty) throws everything into disarray as Evan's jealousy and unease push Matt's buttons - and not always in a good way.

Prologue

Queens, New York

“I think this couch just makes me horny.”

“How does the bed make you feel?”

Matt blinked. “I think it makes me feel…surprised.”

“I want you to come upstairs with me.”

“In a minute.” Because Matt needed to take care of something first. He put his hand on Evan's chest—scars, heartbeat, muscles—pushed him back enough to reach the fly of his jeans. He held Evan's gaze, and he liked what he saw: still some shyness, still some fear but mostly—this time it was mostly lust.

And maybe something more.

“You break up with me again, I'm going to do something drastic…like move to New Jersey,” Matt murmured, pulling open Evan's jeans and reveling in the sound it produced.

“Can't…have that,” Evan said, breathless and raw.

“Then don't.”

Matt had a tight grip on Evan's cock, and then the talking was over.

* * *

Evan put his T-shirt at the bottom of the kitchen garbage.

He shut off all the lights and headed up the stairs, heading for the bedroom. Matt had already gone up.

Matt in his bedroom.

Evan didn't freak out; he had a single moment of missing Sherri, then gently pushed the thought to the side. Not out of the picture, because she would never ever be completely gone from his mind, his life, but there was room now for both of them.

He put his hand on the doorknob, inhaled, and pushed it open. Matt was standing at the side of the bed, stripped naked and looking slightly confused.

“You, uh…changed the room?”

“Yeah, thought it was time.” Evan shut the door, turned the lock.

“I like it.”

“Thanks. Sheets are clean,” he added, helpful and a little dorky at once.

Matt laughed, shaking his head. Climbed into the bed, punching the pillows like he was settling in for a long winter's nap. Like he was settling in, period.

“Not for long. Get in.”

Evan's jeans hit the closet wall in record time.

* * *

Half an hour after happily ever after…

“So…” Evan Cerelli began, staring at the shadowy corners of his bedroom ceiling. From next to him, his—he'd really have to come up with a name that didn't make him cringe—his Matt was coasting toward the edge of sleep, making little moves to find a comfortable spot.

Apparently the “guys sleep after sex” theory was a fifty-fifty split based solely on the occupants of the bed.

“So? I told you, if you try to dump me again, I'm ditching this place for the Midwest.”

“You said New Jersey.”

“New Jersey is the Midwest.”

“No, it's not.”

“Everything after the George Washington Bridge is the Midwest,” Matt humphed.

“You're not going to New Jersey. Or the actual Midwest.”

“Then make sure you don't dump me.”

Matt shifted onto his side to give Evan an appraising glare. They'd ridden an emotionally taxing roller coaster over the past few months—falling in love unexpectedly, Evan's injury on the job, the kids, the everything that seemed to propel them into a mess. And he could easily read the aforementioned glare.

“I'm not dumping you. Idiot. The kids would never forgive me,” Evan said lightly. I would probably stop breathing, he thought. “I was just going to say…so, where do we go from here?”

“Are you quoting me song lyrics?” The sarcastic tone covered up something which Evan couldn't miss—insecurity. He rolled to face Matt, slipping an arm around his middle.

“Not on purpose. Just trying to get a handle on things.”

“You can't relax for like…twenty minutes?” Matt sighed.

“I made sure it was a half hour.” Evan smiled.

“Clock watcher.” Matt mirrored Evan's position so that they were nearly nose to nose. The heat generation they brewed between them could probably save him thousands on the gas bills for the coming winter.

It also meant they didn't have much time between conversation and the other stuff that made Evan's head spin.

“What do you want to figure out?”

“We're back together, and the kids are…the kids are very happy,” Evan began. “I want to make sure we do this right from here on out.”

“Okay by me.” Matt paused. “And for the record, I really don't know what that means.”

“It's just…before you were a friend, and that was fine, comfortable. But now…”

“But now I'm Dad's very special naked-time friend, and that might be a problem?”

“I don't think it's impossible to imagine the kids might get…uncomfortable.” Evan didn't get defensive—a fact he was epically proud of—but the worry started to plague him once again.

“I don't want the kids to be freaked out.” Evan could feel Matt withdrawing slightly. “You talk to them, see how they want it to go down, and I'm okay with that.”

“They love you,” Evan said. “I love you. They're great, great kids but I can't take for granted that it'll go smoothly for them.”

“Or you.” Matt's dark eyes got a little more shadowed. “The neighborhood. Work.”

“My boss and my partner know. My kids are happy. No one else's opinion matters.”

“Your in-laws…”

Evan groaned. “Ellie knows. Ellie's okay with it.”

“That's not…”

“I know that's not what you meant. God, are you trying to keep me awake for the rest of the night?” Evan rolled onto his back, covering his face with his forearm. His former in-laws, Josie and Phil, finding out was his number one nightmare these days, even with the resolve to make things right with Matt and move on with his life.

“This would be a bad time to make a sexually laden remark, right?” Matt deadpanned.

Evan groaned.

“Listen—I know I'm being an asshole about this, but I gotta protect myself.” Matt's voice had gone gruff and quiet again. “Maybe down the line we figure out this isn't working, and we walk away. Or maybe we get old together. Either way, I can't do blindsided again.”

“Fair enough.” Evan uncovered his eyes. “Fair enough.”

“We both want what's best for the kids. We both want to be together. The details will work themselves out.”

“I don't do seat-of-the-pants very well.” Evan laughed. “You might have noticed.”

“Fortunately I find your uptight control-freak tendencies attractive.”

“Awww, now you're just trying to romance my pants off.”

Matt's hand slid under the blanket to the elastic waist of Evan's sleep pants. “Is it working?”

Evan swallowed hard. “Uh…yeah. Actually it is.”

* * *

Evan woke up from a deep sleep, his entire body tensing in surprise. He recognized his bedroom (the place where he hadn't slept very much since Sherri's death). He recognized a person sleeping next to him (very much not Sherri and so very much not a dream). For a moment he listened to his rapidly beating heart and the nighttime sounds of the house.

Nothing was amiss.

Matt was snoring lightly into the pillow, pressed side to side with Evan, sound asleep and looking like he belonged there.

After a few moments, Evan sank down deeper under the covers, not breaking the intimate connection between his and Matt's bodies. This was the right decision, he and Matt. It made everything better in a way he hadn't imagined possible after his wife died. The people who mattered most to him were supportive of this—he couldn't worry about his former in-laws or the neighbors or strangers.

He couldn't.

Of course it was easier said than done. Evan knew he lived inside his head too much, only noticed the outside world when there was something to panic about. For so long Sherri had helped him keep those tendencies under control, but without her… Well, it wasn't easy for him to lock the door on those demons.

The shrink helped. His friends helped.

Matt helped more than all of those others put together.

Evan resisted the urge to toss and turn. He wanted a fresh start for them—all of them—but taking the kids out of the neighborhood they'd lived all their lives seemed cruel. He didn't want to make them change schools. And beyond that—could he sell the house he and Sherri had scrimped and saved to buy?

Did they make fresh starts for one's brain? An editing program to take out the crazy thoughts and keep the good stuff.

The house creaked and settled under Evan. He let the clicks of the furnace lull him off to sleep. The details would work themselves out; they would.

They would find a rhythm of their own.

Chapter One

Queens, New York

A Few Months Later

Matt Haight wheeled his overloaded shopping cart through the throng of shoppers in Pathmark; he had a list, a handful of coupons, and the twins to keep an eye on. If he let them run loose, there'd be fifteen boxes of cereal in the cart by the time they hit the checkout.

“Danny, Elizabeth—stay in the same aisle as me, okay?” Matt stopped at a display of shampoo and tried to find the note from Katie (formerly Kathleen, now only answering to Katie—particularly to the hundreds of boys who seemed to call on a regular basis) on his list. She was pretty nice for a teenager with a high IQ, but he knew better than to mess with her beauty routine.

“We're fiiiiiine,” Elizabeth sang, skipping over to the cartand standing on the back of it. “We just want to look at the canned pasta.”

“Look at it? Really? Or figure a way to smuggle it into the cart?”

“It's just so yummy,” she wheedled, flashing her big eyes and dimples.

“It's got enough sodium to stun an elephant.” Matt found the exact same shampoo that Katie had written down and put two bottles in his cart. He was three-quarters through the list and almost out of room. Feeding two adult men and three growing children required a flatbed.

Danny appeared at Matt's side looking suspicious; Matt suspected he was trying to smuggle some contraband pasta into the cart. The boy had hit nine and gone into growth-spurt mode. If they weren't feeding him, they were trying to find pants to fit him.

“My God, I'm Susie Homemaker,” Matt mumbled, ticking shampoo off his list. “Listen, I might be able to look the other way this once, but you guys have to help me finish this list before I lose it.”

“Lose the list?” Elizabeth asked, staring at the paper in his hand.

“Lose his mind,” Danny said helpfully, pulling a can of ravioli out from the inside of his sweat jacket. A semishoplift of crap in a can.

“Yes, lose my mind. We have to finish this. We have to run to the drugstore. We have to get Katie at field hockey.”

“We have to buy ramen noodles for Miranda to take back to her dorm.” Elizabeth found her sister's poor school diet to be an object of fascination and glamour.

“Right.” Matt scribbled that onto his list. Two grown men, three growing children and one NYU freshman—next shopping trip he was bringing Teamsters to load the flatbed.

They pushed on into the next aisle; Matt sent Elizabeth in search of yogurt (he had a coupon) and Danny for orange juice (ditto). Matt filled up the last tiny sliver of space in the cart with three gallons of milk and two dozen eggs.

He was rearranging cans of tuna fish and three bags of mixed vegetables when that familiar feeling of “no really, what? This is my life now!” hit him like a hot flash. Lifelong bachelor in a studio apartment last year—taking care of four kids and a semihousehusband the next. Seemingly straight with a string of meaningless sexual relationships for most of his life—living with a guy, in love with a guy, crazy about his kids in the space of fifteen months.

Matt got these moments a few times a week; they weren't regret, they were more like stunned realization. He had no complaints (okay, he really hated food shopping); he had no apprehension (okay, he was a little afraid of PTA meetings). He was in love and content. He'd take a bullet for Miranda, Katie, Danny, and Elizabeth. Hell, he'd change his name to Susie if they needed him to.

Okay, he probably wouldn't make it legal and put it on his driver's license or anything.

“Found it,” Danny said, lugging two gallons and looking at the cart speculatively. “This gonna fit?”

“No. Maybe. Okay, we need another cart.” He admitted defeat. No amount of reorganization was going to make this happen.

“Can I go get it?” Danny gave a look down the aisle where Elizabeth was still counting out yogurt containers, no doubt picking all her favorites.

“Alone?”

Matt contemplated this. Nine wasn't a baby, and they needed to give Danny some independence, including some time away from Elizabeth, who seemed perfectly content to share a metaphorical womb with her twin forever.

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