[Siren Classic ManLove: Alternative Contemporary Romance, MM, HEA]
Pepper Landry had been abandoned by his lover. It had all but broken him at the time. However, he had picked up the pieces. He hadn’t expected TJ to return almost five years later, wanting to get back together. Pepper’s life was going great. He had two beautiful children and was expecting a third. As much as his heart wanted TJ, he was terrified. Was loving TJ worth the risk to his heart?
Returning to Silver was what TJ Waters needed to recover from his time as an undercover cop. When he returned, he knew he wanted to be part of Pepper’s life again. But was there any place in it for him? And did he deserve to be in it? He had left the man and broken things off without explanation. Pepper had moved on. Still, TJ knew he had to fix himself before he could fix his relationship with the love of his life.
Pepper tried on the fourth shirt and examined himself critically in the mirror. He was at the department store and trying to find an outfit for the dinner Jade and Stephen were giving that evening. TJ would be there. It wasn’t a date. That would make it more relaxed for both of them. He wanted to look nice. And he wanted to look sexy. But he didn’t want to look like he was trying.
Pepper was going for casual sexy. The thought made him smile as he took off the shirt, replaced it on the hanger, and then reached for the next of his choices. He probably couldn’t go wrong with any of them. However, he wanted to see some heat in TJ’s gorgeous brown eyes.
They had spoken every night, and Pepper felt positive about his budding relationship with TJ. Getting to know the man again was interesting, although Pepper felt that he was holding something back. It would be revealed in time. For now, they spoke in generalities. There was nothing too personal. Pepper didn’t want to go there yet.
It was kind of working with a new pair of shoes. Wearing them for short periods helped break them in. Pepper needed to get to know TJ like that. The last time he’d jumped in with both feet, and look where it had gotten him. Nowhere.
Their life was on rewind. They got a do-over. Pepper wanted to be sure it was done right. He had already lived with regret. He didn’t want to do it again.
“Haven’t you made a decision yet?” Molly called through the door.
Pepper smoothed the soft, clinging sage-green cotton over his abs. It felt good. It fit well. He twisted one way and another. It was basic, but it was flattering. It was sexy, without screaming sexy. It was just right.
Opening the dressing room door, Pepper walked out and let his sister judge his choice. “It looks good,” she told him. “I like the color. Very autumn and brings out the green in your eyes.” She sighed. “One problem. You look like you belong on a spaceship.”
Pepper got it. With the V-neck and the long sleeves, he did look like he should be in a science fiction movie, about to be launched into space.
“Dammit.” He was trying too hard. “I’ll be back out in a moment.” Two minutes later he was coming out in a yellow-and-black plaid flannel shirt. He had new black jeans that would go perfectly with it. “This is it. Casual, looking good, without being too obvious.”
Molly nodded. “Yep, that’s it. It’s the perfect choice for supper with friends on a chilly evening. You also look adorable in it. Like a miniature lumberjack.”
After choosing his three favorites, and returning the others, Pepper headed to the counter with Molly to pay for them. They went to the diner down the street to order their lunch to carry out. Then they crossed the street to eat their sandwiches at one of the tables in the village green, enjoying the crisp air and the sunshine.
“So, you’re going to try again with TJ?”
Pepper shrugged. They’d discussed this before. She had her doubts about it working out. To be fair, so did he. “Yes, I’m trying again. It could go either way, but I have to know.”
“I don’t want you to get hurt. You were crushed when TJ left.”
Nodding, Pepper reached for an onion ring. “I know I’m taking a risk, but I have to do it.”
Frowning, Molly nodded. “I don’t think I want to ever fall in love.”
It was strange that his sister had never met someone she liked enough to love. She was a wonderful person. She should be attracting equally wonderful people. Of course there were plenty of those in Silver. Yet she hadn’t met that special person to turn her heart to mush.
“Don’t let what happened between TJ and I put you off. What we had was intense. We just weren’t ready for it.”
“You’re taking a lot of blame on yourself. You’re not the one that left with barely a word before or after.”
Pepper shrugged. “I don’t have answers. TJ and I have stayed away from speaking about the past at length. We’ve barely spoken about it at all. Our conversations don’t get much beyond the weather, Silver, and our favorite movies and books, and whether or not they should be made into movies.”
Molly made a face. “Wow. Exciting. Why haven’t you guys talked about what happened?” she asked curiously.
His sister’s question was from concern, not nosiness. There was nothing they wouldn’t share with each other.
“I don’t think we’re ready yet. We’re getting to know each other again. Or maybe we’re just getting to know each other.” Of course, living in a town the size of Silver, you knew who people were. There was a slight difference in their ages. They had been in different grades in school, hadn’t hung out with the same people. It was when they’d been formally introduced that the lust had flared like an exploding sun. “When we first met, there was this instantaneous lust between us.” Pepper felt the heat flash through his body as he remembered the incredible passion they had shared. “It was all about sex. We couldn’t get enough of each other.” He was glad his sister didn’t comment or make faces. Some people didn’t want to think about two men possibly having sex. Molly nodded in understanding and waited patiently for him to go on. “We did talk about a future together. Marriage, kids. Even a dog or two. Then he was gone.”
“I would’ve kicked him in the nuts, when he came back."
“You know, you could come over and I could take your mind off things.”
There was dead silence. TJ couldn’t even hear Pepper breathing. A sense of panic set in. What if he’d rushed things between them? Crossed the line he couldn’t go back over?
“I could. Let me call my sister. Uh, won’t your parents mind?”
TJ was so surprised by Pepper’s response that he blinked a few times. He swallowed hard before answering. “No. I’ve moved out to the homestead cabin, so everybody gets some peace at night. I’m not always quiet.”
“Yeah, you could say that. So, they’re not going to mind at all. And we can be as noisy as we want and no one will be the wiser.” He paused, and then asked cautiously, “You do realize I’m asking you to come out here so we can have wild, crazy sex all night?”
“I do. I’ll be there in an hour. I hope it lives up to the hype.”
“Baby, would I bullshit you about hot sex?”
Pepper giggled. “Not that I remember. Fifty-nine minutes and thirty seconds.”
The call ended as TJ glanced at the clock. Smiling, he got up and moved around the cabin, setting the mood for the evening. Despite being tempted to go all caveman and toss Pepper over his shoulder to carry him to the bedroom, something he’d done a time or two in the past, he was going to use more finesse tonight.
There was a trio of fat candles on the shelf, serving as a decoration. He took the metal plate behind them and put it on the table, before placing the candles on it. He lit them with a match taken from a box over the large hearth, once used for heating the formerly single room structure. TJ paused as he blew out the match, staring at the fireplace. A smile spread across his face. There were already logs set in place. All he needed to do was add kindling and a touch of flame to them. By the time Pepper arrived, the fire would be as romantic as they came.
Knowing Pepper wouldn’t drink alcohol, TJ didn’t bother checking to see if there was wine tucked away in one of the cupboards. He already knew there wasn’t any beer in the refrigerator. It was something he would have to correct. There was sweet tea, however, a staple in their household.
Walking into the bedroom, TJ looked around. He’d already put everything away. It hadn’t been much. The queen-size bed was still made. That wouldn’t do. TJ wanted it to look inviting and went to fold back the quilt and blankets, plumping the pillows after he did so. Stepping back, he frowned. Something else was needed. Glancing around, he spotted what he wanted on the dresser. There were several more candles. He left three where they sat beside the mirror, and then he took the other two, placing one each in their holder on the bedside tables.
TJ went for the matches and returned to the bedroom to place them on the dresser. He wouldn’t light the candles until he heard Pepper’s car. Hopefully they wouldn’t waste any time getting to the bedroom. They had talked for weeks, getting to know each other again. However, if Pepper didn’t want to have sex, TJ would accept that. He wasn’t a beast. Never that. He had killed the beasts, not become one.
By the time TJ heard the sound of tires crunching on gravel, he was at the twitchy level of nervousness. It was as if he’d never spent any time with Pepper, had never shared the most intimate things with him, both physically and emotionally. TJ shied away from how he’d cheated them both out of a terrific future together. That came from one part of him, the one that regretted the way he’d taken off on Pepper, leaving him without explanation. The other part of him acknowledged that he had done a lot of good for hundreds, if not thousands, of people while working as a cop in Texas.
He lit the candles, praying everything went right.
Hurrying to the door, TJ opened it. The chill air rushed in, tightening his nipples significantly. Pepper noticed, of course, and snickered. “I hope that cold’s not causing anything else to shrink.”
“If it has, you can remedy that.”
Pepper wiggled his eyebrows as he entered and began peeling off his long coat. TJ nearly swallowed his tongue, when he saw that Pepper was naked, his legs bare as they disappeared into his heavy, insulated boots. “Talk about warming things up,” he said as handed off his coat to TJ and hurried to the fire. “I got quite a draft up under my coat, when I got out of the car. Not quite frozen, but I need to work off the chill. My damn dick is trying to crawl inside me. Asking you to give me a blow job first thing seems a little rude.”
Standing behind Pepper, TJ admired the slender, graceful body. If Pepper had been an animal, a bird specifically, he would have been a swan. Every movement he made was elegant. He was gorgeous from head to toe. The delicate black, swirling tattoo on his right arm and leg only added to it.
“I don’t mind that kind of rudeness.” His gaze was now fixed to the nicely rounded ass. It was firm, all male, and in definite need of TJ’s attention. “Those boots sure make a statement. Very fashionable. Have you warmed up yet?” he asked, getting closer, needing to hold Pepper in his arms. It was something he’d dreamed about doing for years. Only that. Just holding him close and letting their energy seep into each other.
Pepper turned to TJ, a grin on his face as his dick pointed directly at him. “I think I found it.”