Truth & Tenderness

By: Tere Michaels



Evan Cerelli took a deep breath, then went to join his family downstairs.





Chapter 1





“DAAAAD!” KATIE yelled, checking her watch with an exaggerated toe-tapping annoyance Matt knew she got from living with him the past few years. The living room was packed with five Cerelli children, Kent the significant other, plus their extended family, Helena and Shane, and the air had started to get a bit ripe.

“I’m turning on the air-conditioning,” Danny said as he walked by. Matt didn’t try to stop him even as Miranda balked.

“It’s still winter!” Fortunately her boyfriend, Kent, was there to wrap his arms around her with an accompanying coo.

“Too many people in the house, not enough air.” Matt glanced at his reflection on the TV screen—off, for once; he didn’t think it had that setting—one last time.

“Am I taking pictures?” Helena asked, even as her husband, Shane, gently removed the expensive camera from her hands.

“No, sweetheart.”

They made an interesting couple, Shane in his snazzy tan suit and jade green tie—and a haircut that probably cost $150—and Helena in her dress blues, pin neat and pulled together. Something about the uniform made Matt melancholy, no doubt the tip of the iceberg before a day spent at 1 Police Plaza, in a sea of blue, with waves of memories washing over him.

And now all the water metaphors were making him need to take a piss.

“Daaaaaaaad!” Katie yelled again.

A door slammed overhead; then the clatter of footsteps began. Shane angled himself like a paparazzo at the bottom of the staircase, jostling against Katie like he was jockeying for best position.

It escalated quickly, the neat row of Cerelli children school photos shaking against the wall.

“Oh God, the pictures are going to be blurry,” Miranda huffed from behind them.

The mock fighting stopped as Evan stepped into view—and Matt let a flirty wolf whistle fly. The blush on his boyfriend’s cheeks made it even more worthwhile.

“Wow,” Matt said, low and as sexy as he was capable of making his voice.

Evan smirked as Matt easily pushed his way between Shane and Katie, then closed the distance between them. “Like something you see?” Evan asked quietly.

But not quietly enough, because retching noises began behind them, led by Helena.

As Evan paused on the last step, Matt ignored them all, sweeping an arm around Evan’s middle.

“Whatever dirty thing you’re going to say, shut up,” Evan muttered as he leaned down to kiss Matt on the mouth—quick, fleeting, but sweet enough to make Matt behave.

“Oh, that’s a nice shot. That’s the cover of our Christmas card right there,” Katie said loudly as Elizabeth giggled.

Evan leaned around Matt’s embrace. “Can we start making our way out to the car? We’ll take pictures after the ceremony.”

“Yes, sir!” That was Helena. Then all the kids echoed her sarcastically, even Miranda and Kent.

“They’re not moving, are they?” Matt asked, sneaking his hand down to pinch Evan’s ass under his jacket.

“No,” Evan answered as the corners of his mouth began to twitch.

“I got this.”

Matt moved quickly because he knew Evan knew what he was going to do—Matt wasn’t subtle. Ever.

Matt surged up to plant a wicked kiss on Evan’s mouth—tongue, a bitten lip. It sounded wet and dirty, and from the squeals behind him, it looked it too. The door slammed a few seconds later, the hooting and hollering trailing behind the kids a second after.

Evan pulled away, finally. His mouth looked lush and gorgeous, his eyes were a little unfocused, and a faint hint of perspiration was forming at his hairline.

And at some point, he’d dropped his hat.

“That cleared the room,” Evan said, a tiny bit out of breath.

“We’ll have to remember that after we get back from the ceremony,” Matt said with a smirk, so wicked that Evan shook his head.

“The uniform, right?”

“Well, it helps that you’re wearing it and I’m specifically tuned to want to jump you in any and all clothing.” Matt adopted a solemn expression. “That’s probably a good thing, or this could be an especially uncomfortable ceremony in a room with that much blue polyester.” The joking helped, even if Evan’s face was doing that painfully sympathetic thing.

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