I proudly present ... *drumroll* ...
Both assured by their respective parents the other would not be present at Henry's mother's annual Christmas gathering, they attend. Finding they have been duped into seeing each other, Henry realizes that this may be his only chance to try and make things right. But will he be able to convince Jack to come home?
[Chapter One by RJ Scott is HERE]
Chapter Two - by Chris Quinton
Emotional blackmail from his mother had forced Jack into a smart charcoal suit, burgundy shirt and toning tie. The first person he saw was Henry, in a blue sweater that would match the colour of his eyes, and jeans. Damn him. And of course, Georgina Parry was there with him, hanging onto Henry's arm like a tentacled limpet. Jack turned away from the sight and stared out of the window. Calm and collected, remember? Doesn't matter if you're feeling as if your heart's been ripped out of your chest. Georgina, daughter of Don Parry—sorry, Sir Donald Parry, OBE—was twenty-eight, unattached, lovely, and the indulged only child of a very influential man. Parry had received a knighthood in the Royal Birthday Honours List in the summer, for services to neurosurgery and research. Cutting edge stuff—he snorted bitterly at his pun—in Henry's field of expertise. At the same time, Henry had landed a position in Parry's team in Birmingham's Queen Elizabeth Hospital.
The Lewises had thrown a party to celebrate their friend's rise in the social hierarchy, and Henry's new career under him. Emily loved entertaining, thoroughly enjoyed the whole nightmarish organising and staging. She'd been best friends with Good Old Don's wife, Caroline—and Jack's own mother—since their first days at school. But college, university and then his job had kept Jack himself out of the Parrys' circles. Until that party.
Henry had introduced him to the new knight, and Parry had been pleasant, welcoming. He'd shaken Jack's hand, Caroline had air-kissed his cheek and Georgina had beamed at him. Like everyone else in their circle of friends, they knew that Henry and Jack were gay and together. It wasn't a problem, socially or professionally. But Jack's choice of career was. And Henry had stood by and said nothing when first Parry, then his daughter, had scorned him. Oh, he'd looked uncomfortable, irritated, but had remained silent.
And that was the beginning of the end.
"Hi, Bones," said a familiar voice. He glanced round to see Tim Elliott standing at his shoulder. Very close. "Long time, no see. How's it going with the ankle biters?" Once he'd been a spotty, plump child. The adult Tim was good-looking and knew it. His dark hair was immaculate, his goatee and moustache perfectly trimmed, giving him a rakish charm few could resist. When Jack was a gangly school kid and Tim an overweight one, Jack hadn't liked him. The feeling hadn't changed over the years.
"Evening, Porks," he responded, using a childhood nickname in his turn.
"I think we've both outgrown those labels," Tim said, smiling with all his teeth. "You're looking good, Jack. Made it to Headmaster yet?"
"Nope." Tim's hand landed on his hip and Jack stepped away from the contact. "I don't want it."
"No ambition?" Tim tut-tutted annoyingly. "Surely you won't spend the rest of your life in a classroom trying to educate the little monsters?" Tim moved closer, crowding Jack into the window alcove, and once more he put his hand on Jack's hip, sliding it back and down over Jack's buttock. That was the last straw. Then Jack looked up to see Henry frowning at them from across the crowded room. Anger rose, and he balled his hands into fists.
"Timothy," he said quietly. "If you don't take your hand off my arse in the next few seconds, I will punch your lights out."
Tim started to laugh, but quickly reconsidered and backed off, raising his hands with a placating smile. "Can't blame a man for trying. Come on, give me a break, Jack. I've been keen on you for years. Why don't we—"
"Fuck off," Jack said succinctly. "Not interested."
Tim scowled. "You think he'll take you back? Not a chance, Bones. He's a high flyer these days—got Don on his side, and Georgie's hot for him. Didn't you know he's bi?"
Jack pushed past him with enough force to rock Tim on his heels, and forged a path to the buffet table. As usual it was laid out in sections of sweet and savoury. Inevitably, artistic arrangements of salmon and of prawns featured strongly. Jack winced and made a fast turn towards the door. It was time for a strategic retreat.
* * * *
Three months weren't anywhere near long enough for Henry to forget how stunning Jack looked in a suit. Or in shabby tee-shirt and cut-offs. Or, even better, nothing at all. The shock of seeing him was enough to distract him from trying once again to free himself from the girl who insisted on clinging to him as if he was some kind of trophy. He'd known her too long to stand on any kind of ceremony.
"Georgie, let go of me for Christ's sake!" he hissed. "I am not your boyfriend!"
"Yet." Her smile was predatory.
"Not going to happen. Gay, remember?"
"Not the way I remember it." She smirked. "The den we made in the old willow tree? Forgotten that, have you?"
"Wiped from my mind," he snapped. "The one and only time I met up with a girl's bits."
"We were twelve," Georgina pointed out. "It's probably time you tried it again, Hen."
"No." He reached past her and tapped his mum lightly on the arm. "Mum, did you invite him?"
She turned with a fond smile. "Jack? Of course, dear. We thought it was time you two actually talked to each other. This seemed like the ideal opportunity."
Involuntarily, Henry's gaze searched the room and homed in on Jack. He was over by the far window, standing far too close to Tim.
"Damn it!" he growled, turned on his heel and headed for the door, shaking off Georgie in the process.
"No, dear," he heard his mother say. "Let him go."
The study offered Henry a much needed haven, stacked though it was with scores of coats, hats and scarves. Someone had provided a long rail on wheels, probably borrowed from the village hall by the vicar. It and its solid wall of hanging coats made the perfect barrier between his dad's favourite chair and the rest of the room. And the door. Henry slumped into the chair and rubbed his hands over his face. God, I want you back, love. But he didn't have the first idea how to go about it. Nor was he the only one at fault. Six of one, half a dozen of the other...
The door opened and closed, and someone sighed. The coat rail moved, and, "Oh, shit." Jack's voice, sounding tired and slightly broken. Henry sprang to his feet, facing his ex-lover.
"Sorry," Jack said before he could speak. "You're waiting for someone. I'll clear out of your way."
"You're not in my way," Henry replied quickly. "Jack—"
"No? You sure you want the lowly primary school teacher hanging about while you screw your boss's daughter?"
"No! I'm not—she isn't— Fuck you!" It was too much. Jack was too close, the scent of his aftershave a subtle warmth in the air. Too familiar and necessary. Henry lunged forward and cannoned into Jack. Their mouths met in a devouring kiss, full of heat, hunger, and aching loneliness. But all too soon Jack stiff-armed him away.
"No, sod it!" he panted. "You don't have the right to do that any more!"
TBC..... Chapter 3 will be posted on December 20th on Meredith Russell's blog
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Injured on duty and no longer fit for active service, soon-to-be-ex-Coast Guard Bran Kaulana is drifting, filling his days helping out at the Wai Ola Rescue Center, one of Honolulu’s wildlife charities.
He’s working with the new veterinary, Steve, a man drawn to O’ahu by his fascination with dolphins. As their friendship slowly deepens into love, the two men are caught up in the mystery of injured seals and dolphins, a ruthless gang of smugglers and a not-so-dormant undersea lava vent.
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