Truth & Tenderness

By: Tere Michaels

(Faith, Love & Devotion #6)

Acknowledgments





This has been a long journey—seven years since their story started and twice that from the time that Matt and Evan (and Jim and Griffin) first appeared in my thoughts, and I couldn’t have come this far without the tireless support of friends and family.

Thank you to my husband and son, who’ve always been so proud and supportive: thank you.

Thank you to my family and friends, who read a gay romance for the first time just because my name was on it: thank you.

Thank you to my fellow writers, who’ve celebrated my success, urged me through the dark days, and recommended my work like it was their job: thank you.

Thank you to my editors and publishers and cover artists and publicity folks: thank you for your amazing work.

Thank you to my fans—what can I say? Your fierce love (and irritation) for these characters has been a revelation and a dream come true. To invoke passion, to stimulate the creation of actual feelings for fictional characters—it’s what every writer dreams of doing when they sit down with that blank sheet of paper. Thanks, from the bottom of my heart.

This one’s for you.





Prologue





EVAN FIXED his tie in the mirror, smoothing imaginary wrinkles from the dark material as he tucked it into his jacket. Out of the corner of his eye, he caught sight of his hat sitting on the bed, the last piece of his dress blues to put on.

Today it began.

His captaincy with the New York City Police Department.

The swearing-in ceremony at 1 Police Plaza was scheduled to begin in two hours. Downstairs, his family waited—and fidgeted—in their good going-out clothes, with cameras and cell phones ready for his descent. Their raucous laughter and conversation drifted through the door. They were loud and obnoxious, and he had no doubt they were practicing wolf whistles for when he was announced.

He loved them so much.

But yeah. Evan Cerelli, captain of Midtown South.

A box of things collected and forgotten sat on the emptied desk of his new command; a selection of pictures—updated and carefully chosen—waited downstairs in his workbag. Tomorrow at eight in the morning, he would conduct a meeting of senior officers to discuss the current temperature and immediate necessities of the quiet precinct.

Evan swallowed, smoothed back imaginary unruly hairs of his salt-and-pepper military haircut.

From rookie on a beat to captain, a twenty-plus-year career shaping into a life he couldn’t even have imagined. He remembered his first swearing-in ceremony when he graduated from the Academy. Sherri and the little girls by his side, their shining and happy faces as he became a member of the NYPD. Sitting across from them at lunch, sharing a tender look with his beautiful wife. Grateful for a job with good pay and great benefits so he could take care of the three people he loved most in the world.

Evan couldn’t have predicted today. Any of it.

He blinked at his reflection, a blip in time of a different day, a different room, a different solemn outfit. That was an ending, a painful life-changing agony that he wasn’t sure he could survive, and this—this was his next new beginning.

Touched by nostalgia, Evan bypassed the hat and went for the small wooden box tucked behind the ceramic lamp on top of his tall dresser. It held three rings: a large gold band, and the smaller matching one with the delicate engagement ring returned to him by the coroner. He brought the box out of the shadows and into the light from the lamp. Easy to remember putting those rings on Sherri’s finger, the cool slide of the metal as she put on his.

And then the slide off, the decision that while he’d always love his wife, their marriage was in the past and being with Matt was the present.

The future.

Evan’s throat tightened. He’d long made peace with the minefield of loving two people so absolutely. The life he lived now didn’t feel like a substitute or settling—Evan had taken the hand dealt to him by circumstances, done his best, learned from his mistakes.

Learned as best he could.

Nothing was perfect, but it felt good.

He brushed his fingertips over the rings, tracing each before shutting the box, and then returned it to its rightful place. Hat in hand, he took one more look in the full-length mirror, from shiny shoes to the faint gray mixed among the darkness of his buzz cut. The mantle of captaincy—the family waiting for him, waiting to celebrate this day.

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