Chocolate Kisses and Romance
~ Shreveport ~
Tanner Thomas brushed his wheat blond hair over his shoulder and straightened with a grin playing on his lips. He backed away from the massive desk located between two windows that overlooked his backyard. The two trees stretched their limbs up high providing a canopy from the sun as they stood sentential over the swing set that had been installed three days ago.
His hand went to his chest as warmth filled him. Everything in his life was perfectly in place filling him with a sense of contentment.
He jerked his hand from his chest and hurried from his lover’s office, not wanting to be caught in there. Sinclair didn’t mind him being there, but his presence would diminish the surprise a little.
“Yes, baby?” he called.
He grinned at the childish voice that called his name. His niece and now daughter Cassie had recently emerged from the cocoon created by fear and grief. The shining inner beauty glowed revealing a curious and sweet child.
“There you are,” Sinclair said rounding a corner.
Tanner’s lips tugged into a smile as butterflies fluttered in his stomach. His husband was beautiful with brown skin and chocolate eyes that set him on fire.
Tanner met him half way and leaned into Sinclair reveling in the muscle and warmth of his lover as Sinclair’s free hand snaked around his waist and drew Tanner against him.
“What were you up to handsome?” Sinclair quizzed holding Tanner’s eyes.
His voice was deep and soft drawing a shiver from Tanner. “Nothing,” he said breathlessly. “Just looking for my sketch book.” A viable lie since he did misplace it a lot now with a child in the house.
They’d adopted Cassie not long ago when Tanner’s sister was killed by a stalker in collusion with his sister’s husband. Since then, he worked when and where it was convenient as he attempted to create a new line of baby books and journals for a school teacher who wanted to provide the items for her students.
“I don’t think I believe you, sweet Tan,” Sinclair murmured and lowered his head to steal a slow kiss.
“Mmm.” Tanner gripped Sinclair’s hip and sank against him feeling Cassie’s hand rest on his back. “Don’t be so suspicious,” Tanner told him. It was so hard to surprise the man. “What’s up?” he asked caressing Sinclair’s jaw and savoring the abrasive feel of the neatly trimmed beard beneath his hand.
“I’m going to drop Cassie at your brother’s. Brooke’s parents are taking the kids to Party City for a kids day out and then she’s sleeping over.”
“Really? Did they ask?”
“Umm-hmm. Brooke said her mother took a liking to Cassie, and she wants to get to know her since she’s their grandson’s cousin. Plus she’s near Jessie’s age and they like the idea of Jessie having a close friend.”
Brooke was his brother’s Nelson’s wife. They only had one child who was younger than Cassie and Jessie.
“That would be nice if they became good friends, but I’m not going to have them poisoning Cassie against us,” Tanner said angrily. Brooke’s parents didn’t like him or Sinclair because they were gay and they still blamed Tanner for their daughter’s death.
He’d been teenage lovers with their dead daughter’s husband who was also dead. Their killer had tried to kill Tanner as well as his sister.
Sinclair sighed. “Tan don’t be so negative. Anyway, I told Brooke at the first sign of any negative behavior Cassie wouldn’t be going around them anymore.”
“Good,” Tanner snapped. “She’s been through enough, and she’s going to have enough questions about us and her parents as it is as she grows up.”
“We’ll handle it all,” Sinclair told him gently. “Don’t get so worked up. Anyway, I think it’s a good idea for her to get to know Brooke’s family. They’re a part of our lives no matter how much they try to keep their distance from us.”
“Translation, if something happens to us, she’ll have a home.”
“They’ll know and care for her, Tanner.”
“Plus, she’ll come with a big price tag,” Tanner muttered.
Sinclair laughed. “Get used to it Tan. My money is going to open plenty of doors for her and bring us some grief. We just need to be prepared to handle her antics and other people’s.” He dropped a kiss on Tanner’s lips. “I won’t be gone long.”
“When you get back, let’s go out to Holiday In Dixie.”
“Looks like rain,” Sinclair told him.
“So what? Cassie won’t be with us to get wet. Are you afraid of melting into a puddle of brown sugar?” he teased and playfully poked his husband’s flat stomach.
Sinclair laughed. “I’d be too much for you to handle, baby.”
“You already are, but I like it that way,” he murmured. “So, can we?”
“For a few hours,” Sinclair told him. “I need to finish my edits. My editor has been riding my ass hard these last few weeks.”
“Sinclair,” Tanner said in a warning tone.
Sinclair gave him an exasperated look. “Tell your sweet daddy bye, Cassie.”
The child beamed at him. “Bye Da-dee.” She leaned toward him and Tanner took her from Sinclair giving her a hug.
“Be back soon,” Sinclair told him.
Tanner handed Cassie back and kissed Sinclair. “Maybe we can have a little more fun after edits?”
Sinclair grinned. “You’re insatiable and love it.”
Tanner grinned but he definitely wasn’t the insatiable one. Sinclair’s sex drive was still pretty strong for a man knocking on forty.
He walked his man and their child out watching as Sinclair strapped Cassie in and talked to her making her laugh. The child had been nearly failure to thrive not many months ago. Her mother and twin brother’s murders had driven her to near silence and half-eating.
Now, she was alive and glowing with healthy and happiness. Sinclair was good with her that Tanner couldn’t wait to adopt their second.
After dropping Cassie off, Sinclair stopped to pick up his surprise for Tanner. Tanner was a little self-conscious about being spoiled, but Sinclair liked seeing that light of happiness in his eyes.
When he got home, soft rock issued forth from the speakers in the living room, and he headed to his office to check his messages. He’d been in such a hurry to get out of house he’d forgotten his phone.
Sinclair opened his desk drawer in search of the sleek device and found a red rose atop an envelope. He laughed softy and lifted the rose to his nose before studying the envelope which was blue with a book border signifying Tanner had designed it on the computer and he grinned.
Tanner wasn’t much for romancing him. He simply didn’t seem to know how. Every once in a while though he did something that surprised Sinclair and this was one those times.
He opened the envelope and removed the sheet nestled inside. Unfolding it, Sinclair grinned at the heart at the top of the page.
I don’t think I told you lately that I loved you, and I’m grateful everyday that you moved next door to me. If you hadn’t, I’d still be searching for my other half and likely in all the wrong places.
I just want you to know. I’ll never stop loving you.
Sinclair held rose to his nose as he grabbed his phone and checked his messages. There was one from his editor that he decided to ignore and one from his mother. He was no longer on good terms with her, but decided to call her back.
“Hi, Mom.” He set the rose aside and fixed his gaze on the note Tanner had written him. His family didn’t want any part of his life since he’d chosen to spend it with a man. He’d sent them a message about having adopting Cassie, but didn’t expect any kind of reply. “I got your message.”
“I got yours too,” she said quietly. “I was surprised to hear you’d adopted a child. I don’t understand why you’d do such a thing.”
“She’s Tanner’s niece,” he replied. “Her mother was killed.”
“And there was no other family?” she asked and he heard the anger in her tone.
“None that would take her. Besides, she trusted Tanner to give her child a good home.”
There was a long silence. “I see. Well, I don’t know what to say except, it’s too bad you didn’t think this through. It’s not like you to be so gullible. I told you he only wanted you for your money and now he’s got his hooks into you deep.”
He laughed. “Mom, you’re insane. Tanner had me and everything that was mine before that. I wanted kids and I love Cassie already. I hate you won’t be part of her life, but I’m getting your message loud and clear.”
“It’s okay,” he broke in quickly. “I’ll only message you once a month from now on just to keep in contact. If you or any of the family needs me for any reason, call me. I love you.” He ended the call deciding not wait for her response.
He couldn’t keep doing this with her. Tanner was his life, his entire world, and Tanner’s note and the way Tanner looked at him made it clear Tanner felt the same way.
A tap on the door drew his gaze the note and he smiled not wanting to Tanner to know just how angry and how hurt he really was. “Come in Tan.”
Tanner pushed the door open and came in wearing an uncertain smile. “I heard you on the phone,” he said coming to a stop next to Sinclair’s chair. He put a hand on the back of his head and stroked. “Is everything okay?”
“Yep.” He grinned and pulled Tanner onto his lap. Sinclair kissed him and groaned. “Thanks for the rose, and in case you don’t know. You’re the one who saved me.”
Tanner smiled. “How? You already had your act pretty together.” Tanner searched his gaze.
“How?” He signed. “Baby, when are you going to realize my life was so empty before I met you? I had a career I loved, but I didn’t have the love I so desperately wanted to find whether I was willing to admit it or not.”
Tanner gave him a startled look. “Sin,” he murmured. “You make me so happy. My heart is so full—” He put a hand on his chest. “I can’t even breathe for it sometimes. Just when I don’t think I could get any happier or more in love you go and do something that makes me fall deeper.”
He wasn’t one to cry, but right now his eyes were damp from the emotion in Tanner’s eyes and in his own heart. “Tan.” He hugged Tanner tight. “I love you.”
Tanner kissed his cheek. “Was Cassie okay when you dropped her off?”
“She was fine.”
“Then that was your editor you were talking to?”
“My mother,” Sinclair told him. “I told her about Cassie, but she wasn’t interested. So, why don’t we head out?”
“Sin, I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be. She can’t help the way she is, and I’m not going to try to force myself on her.” He kissed the tip of Tanner’s nose. “Let’s ride.”
Tanner held his gaze a moment longer, and the pain in those gray depths just about broke Sinclair’s heart. Then, Tanner got to his feet. Tanner’s family was pretty much against them as well except for his younger brother, Nelson. And Nels wasn’t exactly one hundred percent in their corner either—yet.
Sinclair barely found a parking space in the designated parking area for the festival. This was why he didn’t come to the damned thing. It was always packed and especially on the weekend when kids were out of school.
The festival marked the beginning of spring in the city and there was a carnival, food—always food, live music and a treasure hunt.
Sinclair paid for their tickets and Tanner immediately dragged him through the crowd to the Ferris wheel.
“No,” Sinclair grumbled. “I hate that damned thing.”
“Next year we’ll bring Cassie. I bet she’ll love all the excitement.” Tanner looped his arm through Sinclair’s as they stood in line. The smell of alcohol, sweet and savory foods, and sweat roamed around them along with the roar of the crowd milling around and hanging out at tables. The band was on a break it appeared.
The festival was a pretty big draw especially to those with kids. Though it was obvious to Sinclair couples enjoyed the recreation as well.
“I don’t think so,” Sinclair said. “It’s too noisy.”
Tanner laughed. “That’s half the fun.” He kissed Sinclair’s jaw.
The couple in front of them turned. The woman glared at them and the man with sneered. “This is a the gay circus,” he muttered. “Go do that disgusting shit someplace else.”
Tanner released Sinclair’s arm and tucked his hands behind his back.
“Mind your own business,” Sinclair told him. “Hey, Tan what is this?” He removed a small jeweler’s box from his pants pocket and held it up.
Tanner’s gaze swiveled to it. “Sin,” he said softly.
“I don’t know what the heck it is. Do you want to check it out?”
Tanner bit his bottom lip and Sinclair smiled.
Now the woman in front of them was watching, attention transfixed. Tanner flicked the lid of the box and let out a squeal and threw himself into Sinclair’s arms.
Sinclair laughed holding Tanner against him.
“You’re going to spoil me.” He untangled himself from Sinclair. “Put it on me?”
Sinclair grinned. “Turn around.”
Tanner did as he was told and removed the necklace with the heart and baby block charm from its case and handed it over. He tugged his thick blond hair to one side and Sinclair secured the clasp before kissing his neck.
Tanner turned around as rain started to mist down on them. He looked up at the gray sky and laughed. “It won’t rain,” he exclaimed.
“Right,” Sinclair grumbled and Tanner threw his arms around him.
“Love you, baby,” he whispered.
Excerpt from A Taste of Chocolate
“I’m working on it now.”
“I’d love an autographed copy,” he said, giving Sinclair a flirty look. Damn it, he muttered to himself. He’d promised himself he wouldn’t do that.
“Not a problem,” Sinclair said with a smile.
They finished the meal amidst conversation about Sinclair’s latest novel. Once they were done, Tanner helped clear the table and load the dishwasher.
“The meal was great,” Tanner said, looking up at Sinclair.
“You’re a good cook.” He gave him a smile that he knew was a little shy of being a come-on. He just couldn’t help himself. He was really trying, but there was something about Sinclair that held him, drew him like a moth to a flame.
Sinclair pushed away from the counter on the opposite side of the room, and Tanner knew he was in trouble. He’d pushed the man too far.
Sinclair put one hand on either side of Tanner on the counter and brought his body nearly flush with his and Tanner’s heartbeat double-timed even in the face of possible trouble.
“Are you looking for a casual fuck or someone to be your man, Tanner?” Sinclair asked and leaned a little closer to Tanner.
“What?” Shock permeated his voice.
“I’m not the kind of man you want to play with, Tanner,” he went on. “I like to fuck often and vigorously. I like to take tight asses in as many ways as I can think of to try. Sometimes I even like a little bondage or S&M.”
“I see.” The man was gay. Thank you, God.
“So don’t keep flirting with me, like you want in my bed.”
“And I’m not looking for a casual fling right now,” he said. “I’m really tired of all the bullshit games. I just want a guy who wants to stick around for a while because he wants to get to know me.”
“I guess you get all kinds of guys wanting you for your money, huh?”
He shrugged. “I don’t tell most men what I do for a living because I don’t want a gold digger trying to lead me around by my dick.”
“Well, maybe it’s just all this luscious chocolate they want to taste,” Tanner murmured and reached out to glide his hand down Sinclair’s muscled arm. What was he doing? The man was so out of his league. “Or maybe they think you’re hot in jeans and want to see if you’re as hot out of them.” He stroked a tentative hand over Sinclair’s hard thigh and moved it carefully between them to brush the bulge in Sinclair’s pants. “Fuck.”
Sinclair’s brows lifted. “Keep groping me, Tanner, and I’m going to start thinking you want to taste my chocolate candy.”
Tanner swallowed convulsively. “Maybe I do.”
Sinclair gave him a mocking smile and backed off.
Tanner frowned. “I call your bluff, you run?” He should be the one running. He was used to living a solitary life and keeping the fact that he was gay quiet. People knew he was gay but he hadn’t dated in years. He didn’t if he could stand the prying eyes of nosy people now, but he wanted to give it a try.
“Run?” Sinclair asked. “I merely took a step back for both our sakes.”
“I’m not a twink,” Tanner told him, stalking Sinclair as he retreated to the other side of the room. Yeah, he was crazy, but he’d never wanted a man this bad. Not even Kyle. “And yeah, you’re running from me. Is it because you know I want you? Or is it because you’re straight and thought you could mess with my head for flirting with you?” He came to a stop in front of Sinclair and gasped when Sinclair reached out and jerked him against his hard body.
“Think about what you’re inviting, Tanner,” Sinclair warned him quietly. “I meant what I said. I know what I like, and I don’t go easy on little boys playing at being men.”
“I’m not playing at anything. I’m two months shy of thirty years old,” he threw back. And he was ready to feel a man’s caresses and taste his kisses again.
“Good, I don’t like little boys still making up their minds and running when things start getting too hot.”
“You’re the one who’s running,” Tanner muttered. There things he might not be able to face like showing his man off all around town, but he wasn’t going to let that stop him. That was a bridge he could cross when he came to it.
Sinclair kissed him. Caught off guard, Tanner gasped into the kiss but recovered quickly. He slid his arm Sinclair’s neck and leaned into the kiss.
And oh it was delicious. Tanner leaned in closer, eager to savor and sample the full impact of Sinclair’s full lips and questing tongue. It had been so long since he’d had a man’s kisses let alone had a man. He moaned when Sinclair’s arm crushed him closer and damn if it didn’t feel good.
Tongues dueling, teeth nipping, and hands stroking over hard planes and masculine curves. It was just too good. Tanner thought he’d go insane from overload of intimate contact. He hadn’t had that much touch from anyone in so long he’d forgotten how delicious it could be just pressing up against a man.
“God.” Tanner panted as Sinclair broke the kiss to kiss his neck. “Oh, God.”
Sinclair nipped his neck and sucked, and Tanner groaned. He stroked his hand over Sinclair’s head. He felt so good, Tanner didn’t want to stop. He could go on like this for hours. Then Sinclair lifted his head to look at him.
“Damn, I didn’t mean to just attack you that way,” Sinclair said as he took a single step back.
Tanner panted. “Wow, you’re a good kisser.”
Sinclair gave him a smile. “So are you.”
Tanner laughed a nervous laugh. “It’s been a long time for me.”
“Raising the kids,” Sinclair said rather than asked.
“Yeah,” he admitted then sighed. “I kind of put my needs on the back burner.”
“Now, I’m ready to live again,” he murmured. “This is a fine place to start.”
“I’m not looking for a casual boyfriend, Tanner,” he reminded him. “Coming off your long hiatus you need less.”
Tanner shrugged. “Well, look at it like this, Sin,” he said. “You’re not looking to put a ring on a man’s finger, so what’s the harm in going out with me?” The only way he backed off now was if Sinclair told him no. He shaking inside, but he was tired of letting what he wanted go because he was too afraid to go for it.
Sinclair gave him an amused stare. “I could do that,” he admitted, stroking his hands up Tanner’s arms and back down to his hips. “You do make a hell of a pizza.”
Tanner grinned. “You could have that and me, too.”
Sinclair chuckled then sobered. “I just need to make a few other things very clear to you, Tanner,” he said, putting some distance between them.
Tanner frowned. “Are you one of those control freaks who have to control everything?”
Sinclair gave him an amused look and then said, “I’m clean, I test every three months, I am not in the closet, and my work is important to me.”
Tanner considered Sinclair’s words then said, “I’m clean, too, good, and my work is important to me, too. So, we’ll work with your inability to have fun.”
Sinclair laughed. “Where’d you get that from?” he demanded.
“Umm, you’re a workaholic, but I’ll fix that,” he said. “I’ve had a long dry spell. I want attention.”
Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/a-taste-of-chocolate-ea-reynolds/1115093004?ean=9781622426027