“I have got to go!” Tony insisted, although he was half-laughing and his eyes were dancing with amusement.
“Huh-uh,” Max argued. The smaller man reached for Tony’s waistband and pulled until the two men were pressed front to front. “You’re not allowed to leave.”
Tony’s arms came willingly around Max’s slim waist. “I do have to leave. This is the third day in a row for these clothes…and no, don’t say anything about how little I’ve been wearing them.” He laughed as Max smirked. “Mom and Dad are coming this afternoon and I need to go get some things ready at my place. Besides, didn’t you say something about needing to run to the bank and a few other places?”
“Yeah,” Max admitted. “But I’d rather stay here with you.”
“Believe me,” Tony said emphatically, following up his words with a fervent kiss. “I’d rather be here with you too. But we’ve spent nearly three days in bed, Handsome. My body needs some recovery time and I do have things to do.”
Max sighed in his arms. Tony hugged him and rested his chin on Max’s head. “Hey,” he said after a quiet minute. “Who’s to say we can’t get our things done together?”
“Together?” Max asked, pulling back a few inches to be able to look Tony in the face.
Tony nodded, his thick, sandy hair bouncing slightly with the movement. “Come with me and we can work together at my place and then run any errands we need before I have to go get my parents.”
Max smiled. “How come we didn’t come up with this simple solution an hour ago?”
“Because you distracted me,” Tony teased. “But it is simple. We’re a couple, and couples do more together than just have amazing sex for days on end.”
Max blushed bright red, a sight Tony thoroughly enjoyed. The two shared another brief kiss before Tony, with mock severity, turned Max away from him and toward the coat closet.
“Grab your coat, and a hat!” he emphasized with a light swat. “We’re leaving in two minutes.”
First stop was Tony’s townhouse. As they walked in, Max wasn’t sure what exactly needed prepared. He’d noticed before and learned even more in the last few days that Tony could be a bit anal about cleanliness and organization. His place was clean and neat, not looking like anything was out of place. Still Tony insisted that the bed clothes needed washed, the floors vacuumed, and a load of dishes in the washer needed put away.
“I should pick up some extra groceries too when we go out later,” he said as the two of them shrugged out of their coats and he pressed the button on his answering machine to hear the messages.
There were several. Tony wrote down phone numbers and deleted as needed. Max didn’t pay much attention to them until a sweet, feminine voice came across the machine.
“Tony, honey. It’s Mom. I lost your cell phone number, sweetie, so I hope you get this. Where are you? Dad and I haven’t heard from you in a few days…”
Tony’s mother rambled on about the lost phone number for another minute, making Max chuckle when Tony rolled his eyes with familiar acceptance. Tony’s amusement faded shortly thereafter when his mother seemed to get to the point of her message.
“The flight lands at 4:06. I don’t remember what gate, but I’m sure you’ll know. Isn’t it great that Tommy and Parker are coming too? I told them to pack warm clothes for the east coast. I wish Tonya and Nigel and the kids could have come, but they’re watching the shop while the rest of us visit. You’ll have to consider coming out to see us later this year. Bring your boy along too if you like. Oh, Dad’s reminding me to tell you not to buy coffee. He’s bringing his stash. We’ll see you tomorrow, honey. Bye!”
“Oh boy,” Tony muttered as he ran a hand through his hair. Max watched as he pulled his cell from his pocket, pressed a few buttons, and shook his head with an air of annoyance.
“What’s the matter, Tony?” he finally asked.
Tony rolled his eyes, but put an arm around Max’s waist when the younger man came to stand at his side.
“Tommy,” he answered in one word.
Max wasn’t following. “Tommy? Oh, isn’t that your brother?”
“Yeah, and Parker is his partner. You heard the message. Apparently they’re coming out to visit too.”
Tony sounded put out, and Max assumed it was from the unexpected company. “Do you have enough room?”
“Yeah. Mom and Dad can have my room. Tommy and Parker can have the spare. I’ll bunk on the couch.” He pressed a firm kiss to Max’s temple. “Sorry, Love. I don’t mean to sound like they aren’t welcome. It’s just annoying to have no warning. I should have suspected that Mom might invite the others to come. She has a tendency to do that. But I would have appreciated Tommy or Parker giving me a call and a heads-up. I’m surprised Parker didn’t. He’s usually on top of things like that.”
Max recalled Tony telling him about his family. Tommy was twenty-three, seven years younger than Tony, and had been with his partner, Parker, for five years. Tony was the middle child, and then there was Tonya. Tonya was thirty-two, married to Nigel and had four kids. Max didn’t recall the children’s names.
“You sound like you have a problem with Tommy,” he tried to say tactfully.
Tony backed up a few paces and sat on his sofa, pulling Max to come sit next to him. “I don’t have a problem with Tommy. I love him. The kid could charm an Eskimo into buying snow. He’s adorable and fun to be with, but he’s spoiled rotten,” Tony admitted. “Which is mostly our fault because it was so hard to say no to him when we were growing up. He often means well, but he can be rather self-absorbed. It probably never occurred to him to call and ask me if it was ok to come with Mom and Dad.”
Tony absently rubbed his fingers on Max’s neck, lightly tickling along the smaller man’s hairline. “I had hoped to not bombard you with too much family. I know you tend to prefer fewer versus more people. Are you going to be ok with a couple extra?”
Max nodded resolutely, despite feeling a little twinge in his stomach about trying to make a good impression on Tommy and Parker as well as Tony’s parents.
“You’ve seen the crowd my family can create. I’ll be all right,” he tried to assure. “Besides, I’m not going to be with you all the time when they’re here.”
Tony sighed. “I know, but I wish you were. I’d like you here as much as you’re comfortable.”
“I’ll be here whenever you want, Tony. I do have some articles to work on, and I assumed you’d want some individual time with everyone, but I’ll be with you whenever you want if I’m able.”
Tony’s hand slid from Max’s neck to his shoulder and he pulled until Max was forced to lean solidly against him. “You know I think you’re pretty wonderful?” he said softly and with a hint of seduction.
Max smiled at the tone. “You’ve mentioned it once or twice.”
Tony kissed him, initially lightly but quickly giving into a firmer and deeper kiss. His body urged him to get rid of the smaller man’s pants and have his way with him, but time constraints and the things that needed to get done had to take precedence. He broke it off with a frustrated groan.
“Come on, honey. We’ve had our play time. We’ve got less than six hours to get everything done before the plane arrives.”
Max issued a matching moan, but the men untangled themselves and worked together to get things done to Tony’s satisfaction. Laundry was done, dishes put away, the vacuum run, the bathroom cleaned, the spare room dusted, and the small Christmas tree that Tony had set up had several ornaments rehung.
The men drove out to pick up subs for lunch before making runs to the bank, the post office, Max’s newspaper to collect some notebooks, and lastly the grocery store.
At the grocery, Max was somewhat surprised at the amount of boxed items and frozen dinners Tony was filling the cart with.
“Is this what you all eat?” he couldn’t help asking when the cart was half full.
Tony shrugged. “I know. Kind of pathetic isn’t it? But you know I can’t boil water without burning it. I’m afraid it runs in the family. Tonya’s the only one who can make a decent meal, and she won’t be here. Parker actually isn’t bad in the kitchen, but I don’t want to impose on him to make our meals for us.”
“Impose on me then. You can’t spend the next week eating frozen lasagna, peanut butter sandwiches, and snack cakes. Let me make the meals for you. You know I like to do it, and maybe it will help your family think well of me.”
“Sweetheart, they’re going to think well of you because you’re a great guy, not because you cook for them.”
Max had his doubts, but he refrained from expressing them. “Let me anyway. Please? At least a few times?”
“If you have time and we’re in agreement, I have no problem with it. Not tonight though. The lasagna will be fine for this evening. I’d rather have the chance to let my family get to know you instead of having you slave away in the kitchen.”
“No ‘buts’ except your cute one sitting next to me this evening.”
Max rolled his eyes, giving in but still getting a wink and a light smack from Tony for the action.
Tony saw the group of blonde heads before they saw him. The sandy blonde hair was a cornerstone of the clan; and Parker, although not blood family, had coloring very similar to the rest of them.
He lifted a hand and waved, and in a moment it was returned with smiles and waves from his family. Weaving through the crowd, he reached his mother first and hugged her tightly.
“Hi, honey! Oh, I’ve missed your hugs! You can just hang onto me until I warm up. It’s freezing here!”
Tony laughed. “Mom, you’re still in the airport. You haven’t even been outside yet!”
“Well, someone should turn the heat up! I guess I should let you go so you can hug your father. I’m going to put my hat back on!”
Tony obediently hugged his dad, who embraced him tightly. “It’s good to see you, son. You look good, but not a bit of tan in sight.”
“That’s a summertime thing here, Dad. You lot are going to look exotic compared to the rest of the population.”
Tobias—Toby to his friends and family—smiled at his son, his eyes crinkling with good humor and revealing a lot of his laid back ways in the look.
Tony finally turned to the other couple and swung his little brother up in a big hug. While he and his father were tall and bore a lot of muscle across their chests and legs, Tommy was the “runt” of the family. Although toned from years of growing up in a surfing family, he was lean and less defined than the other men, and at 5’6” he stood only an inch taller than his mother, and several inches shorter than his father and older brother.
“Hey, you’re gonna squish me to death!” the younger man complained good-naturedly as Tony lifted him off his feet. “Trying to kill me already?”
Tony laughed. “Not yet, Runt, but a phone call that you’re coming might be nice next time!”
“Eh, you’re such a perfectionist about things, I knew you could handle the invasion.”
“Pest,” Tony replied with a smile. He put the smaller man back on his feet and turned to Parker. “Hi, Parker. I am glad to see you two. It’s nice to have the family be able to get acquainted with my life here.”
Parker smiled, his handsome face and eyes twinkling behind his glasses. “It’s hard to get a California boy away from the sand,” he stated. “Especially three of them. I am glad we can finally see where you’ve set some roots. I hope it really wasn’t a problem that we decided to come.” He flicked a mildly scolding look to Tommy. “I thought Tommy had called you and asked about our visit.”
“It’s not a problem,” Tony assured, not missing the very subtle flinch on Tommy’s face. “I have room for everyone, and I’m looking forward to introducing you to Max.”
“Hey, yeah, where is the boy toy?”
This time Tommy was on the receiving end of a frown from all four members of his family.
“He is not a boy toy,” Tony said definitively. “He is Max, and he’s very special to me. I’d appreciate it if you showed him some respect.”
“Tommy’s just teasing, honey,” their mother cut in. She always was the peacemaker in the family. “Come on now, everyone. We’ll never get to meet Max if we don’t collect our bags and get to Tony’s.” She gripped her oldest’s hand. “Can you get us to baggage claim, honey? I might dig out another sweater before we go outside, and there wouldn’t be any coffee around here would there?”
She was off and running. The men let her. It was easier to let things go and listen to the familiar ramblings of their mother than to get into anything.
A half hour later, Tony brought his family into the townhouse he called home, promising all the while to set on a pot of tea for his mother who repeatedly claimed to be freezing. Considering the three men who’d traveled with her looked fairly chilled as well, Tony thought tea was a smart idea.
“Come into the kitchen, everyone,” he invited. “I’ll stick the lasagna in and the oven will warm up the place more.”
He already had the thermostat set a little higher at 73, knowing his family would need it, but he grabbed a blanket off the back of the couch as well.
“Wrap up, Mom. You’ll get warm soon. Don’t worry about the bags, Dad. We can get you settled in the rooms once everyone has warmed up.”
Tony had a hot mug in everyone’s hands in short order. Tommy dumped three spoonfuls of sugar into the drink before gripping the warm cup and sipping the hot liquid.
“Sheesh, Tony. How do you stand this weather? Your blood must be thick as tar if you don’t mind it!”
Tony laughed. “You get used to it, although I do tend to bundle up a bit more than those who’ve grown up here.
“You said Max grew up in this area, didn’t you?” Tobias asked as he helped his wife settle the blanket over her shoulders.
Tony nodded. “Yes. He doesn’t mind the cold so much.”
“When will we get to meet him?” Parker wondered.
“Tonight,” Tony answered with a smile. “I asked him to join us for dinner. He’ll be here around seven, so we have time to get you settled and if anyone wants a shower or an hour to lie down, that’s fine.”
Both options were taken. Tony’s parents, after having a tour of the house, chose to lie down and rest for awhile. Parker and Tommy took the option of a hot shower while Tony unpacked a suitcase of wrapped gifts that his mother directed him to place under the tree.
In the bathroom, Parker grabbed a naked Tommy and brought him onto his knee as he sat on the toilet lid. Tommy looked impish at first as he took in Parker’s equally naked form, but he lost his smile as the bigger man gave him a firm look.
“Ok. I know. I’m sorry!” the small man said immediately.
“No, you’re not,” Parker determined. “You flat out lied to me, Thomas.”
“No, I didn’t! You asked if Tony was ok with us coming.”
“And you said he was thrilled about it.”
Tommy squirmed. “No, I said he was thrilled to have family coming to visit.”
Parker, with years of experience, read between the lines. “Which means he was thrilled your parents were coming, but you never actually called him to ask if we would be welcome.”
“You know he would have said yes,” Tommy asserted.
“Do I? Let’s examine the evidence. One, Tony invited your parents, not the rest of us, to come visit. Two, he’s in a new relationship and I now have the idea that he may have wanted to introduce Max to your parents first. And three, you purposefully chose not to call Tony and ask, so I deduce that you thought he might say it was better to make the trip another time instead of coming now. Am I wrong?”
“It’s been a year since we last saw Tony!” Tommy hedged, not answering the question. “And he’s been saying since he moved away that he wanted us all to make a trip out sometime.”
“Which you never really wanted to do until you found out he was dating someone seriously. You wanted to come for your own curiosity, not just to see your brother or fulfill his desire for his family to see what his life is like here. And all that aside, you still lied to me, Thomas. It’s a problem we’ve been working on almost since day one, is it not?”
Parker always knew how to come back down to the meat of the matter. Tommy ran his toe along the tile pattern on the floor. “Maybe, but I wanted to meet this guy, Parker. What if he’s no good for Tony?”
“Tommy-baby,” Parker said with more understanding than Tommy quite expected as the older man used a favored pet name. “I know you idolize your big brother, but it should have been his choice on when to introduce his boyfriend, not yours. Besides, Tony’s a pretty smart guy. I trust him to not just jump into a foolish relationship.”
“What about Kieran?” Tommy argued, referring to the man who’d cheated on his older brother a few years earlier.
“Kieran fooled all of us, not just Tony,” Parker stated. “All I can say is that he wasn’t as committed to the relationship as your brother was. But I still believe we can trust Tony to be smart about the man he wants to spend the rest of his life with.”
That got Parker a wide-eyed look of horror on his partner’s face. “You think this Max guy is going to be around for good?!”
And that look and question told Parker that he’d hit the root of Tommy’s fears. He kissed his husband’s tanned cheek. “You’re afraid Max is going to take Tony away for good and leave you out?”
Tommy’s eyes got a bit bright with tears. “He left to move out here after he broke up with Kieran. I thought he’d come back to California one day, but if he’s serious about this Max person…”
Parker held Tommy securely. “Baby, your brother adores you as much as you idolize him. Max is not here to replace you in Tony’s life, but wouldn’t it be nice for your brother not to be living by himself? Doesn’t he deserve someone to come home to and a man to love the way you and I love each other?”
Tommy nodded, although Parker could see that it might take some time and some getting to know Max before he’d feel better. The older man hoped that Max really was worth it. In any case, he and Tommy had some issues to work out between them.
“Why is it you couldn’t tell me any of this before?” he asked.
Tommy shrugged, but it wasn’t a put off. “I thought you might make us wait to meet Max, and that wouldn’t make me feel any better. I wanted to meet him now, so I didn’t say anything.”
“Actually, you did. You lied,” Parker reminded. “And now I’m wondering if there’s some trust lacking between us since you couldn’t talk about this to me before.”
Tommy’s head came up swiftly to meet Parker’s eyes. “No! I trust you. I just…” He looked pleadingly at the older man.
Parker had an idea that Tommy wanted him to make the admittance for him, but he shook his head. “I think you need to say it, Thomas.”
The smaller man flinched. “I wanted things to go my way, so I told you what you wanted to hear instead of being completely honest.”
Parker nodded. “And is this a problem we’ve dealt with before?”
Tommy’s lip quivered dramatically. “Yes, but Parker, you can’t spank me while we’re here!”
“And why exactly not?” the older man asked with just a bit of surprise.
“Because people will hear!” Tommy said as if it was obvious.
“Baby, I will do all I can to not embarrass you, and I know we generally keep this part of our lives private. But, it was Tony who introduced us to the benefits of discipline between us, so I don’t think he’d be surprised…”
Tommy made a face, but he didn’t comment.
“…and although your parents are naïve to it, I’m fairly certain they won’t hear anything. We know from experience…” This comment was made with a private smile. “…that your mom and dad are deep sleepers. We haven’t disturbed them yet.”
“But I don’t waaaannnttt you to!” Tommy said in a last ditch plea.
“Then do not lie to me,” Parker said firmly.
Tommy wilted at that and Parker patted his hip. “Let’s get showered, baby. We’ll take care of matters in our room then before Max gets here.”
Despite knowing what was coming, the men still enjoyed the shower, taking their time under the spray and finally feeling fully warm since landing in snow-covered Pennsylvania.
They dried and dressed in the bathroom before going to the small spare room that Tony had shown them earlier. Tommy’s parents were at the other end of the hall, napping in the master bedroom, and from all appearances Tony was still in the downstairs of the townhouse.
Parker closed the door behind them and moved to his suitcase, withdrawing a small wooden paddle from within. He turned to sit on the foot of the bed, and held a hand out to his smaller partner.
“Parker, please…” Tommy whined at the sight of the paddle, even as he obediently came to the older man’s side. “Did you have to bring that?”
“If I hadn’t, I’d be using my belt, Thomas. This is far from the first time we’ve dealt with this issue. You are going to learn that getting your way is not always the most important thing, and that lying is not to be an option…ever.”
Tommy whimpered, but he undid his jeans and slipped them and his underwear down to his knees. Parker took his hand, helping him get situated over his lap before placing a heavy forearm across the smaller man’s back and tapping the paddle on the upturned cheeks.
“What aren’t you going to do, Tommy-baby?”
“Lie,” the small and already remorseful voice answered.
“Are you going to talk to me about things weighing on your mind in the future?”
“Yes, sir,” Parker heard, although the voice had gotten softer.
“Thank you,” Parker replied, putting a lot of love in his tone and already sounding forgiving. That still didn’t stop him from raising the paddle and applying it firmly to the bottom over his knee.
Tommy yelped at the swat. He was never able to hold it in very well once a spanking started, and a paddling usually meant immediate tears. Parker was well aware of that. He kept it to an even dozen swats, but he made each stinger fully felt and could hear his husband choking on repentant tears when he laid the paddle on the mattress.
“All right. All done, baby,” he soothed as he let Tommy slide to his knees and grip him around the waist.
The younger man cried against him for several minutes and Parker slowly rubbed the reddened skin until no new tears were falling. He took a handkerchief from his pocket and wiped the streaks away, kissing Tommy’s full and appealing lips when he was done.
“I love you, Tommy-baby. It’s going to be a good visit. I promise,” he said with certainty.
“You can’t promise that,” Tommy debated as he swiped at his eyes and let Parker help pull his pants up.
“I can,” Parker asserted. “It’s going to be good because we’re here together. And even if we run into issues, you know that I and your parents and Tony love you. How much better can a trip get than to be surrounded by people you love?”
Tommy took a deep breath. Parker had a knack for putting things in perspective. “It’s going to be a good visit,” he agreed.
Tony had hoped to welcome Max into the house without a crowd of family, but it wasn’t meant to be. His parents, brother, and brother-in-law were settled in his living room, happily watching Home Alone—one of his brother’s favorite movies—as they all waited for Max to arrive.
Tony was with them, but he wasn’t watching the tv so much as the window near the front door in the hopes of seeing Max pull up. He stood almost as soon as the now familiar car parked by the curb. His family grinned at his back as he issued a polite “Excuse me” and went out to meet his boyfriend.
Max opened his door as Tony reached the driver’s side. “Hey. Am I late?”
“No, I’m just anxious to have you here, and I thought we could walk in to greet my family together.”
Tony could see that had been the right move to make. It was clear Max had some nerves running through him. Tony reached for his hand and pulled him a few inches closer to drop a comforting kiss on Max’s lips.
“They’re going to love you,” he said softly.
“I hope so. Were you this nervous to meet my family?”
“I changed my shirt four times and my pants three,” Tony admitted.
Max grinned. “Really?”
“Really. However, I did remember to wear a hat when I left the house.” He ran his hand through Max’s uncovered hair.
Max’s familiar blush crept up his face. “I was hoping you wouldn’t notice. I didn’t want to have hat hair tonight.”
Tony’s smile was soft. “I understand, but no complaining if you end up with a cold or an ear infection.”
“Never have before,” Max stated.
Tony pecked his lips again. “First time for everything. Come on, Handsome. They’re excited to meet you.”
They walked hand-in-hand through the front door, which helped Max’s nerves until he saw four people standing and waiting as he and Tony came inside.
“Down, everyone,” Tony laughed. Max may not have been able to tell, but Tony could see that his family had some nerves going on too. He brought Max a few steps to where his parents stood.
“Mom…Dad, this is Max. Max, these are my parents, Tobias…”
“Toby,” Tony’s dad corrected pleasantly as he shook Max’s hand.
“…And Tori,” Tony continued as Max offered a hand to the lone woman in the room.
“It’s nice to meet you,” Max greeted politely.
“It’s nice to meet you too,” Tori returned. “Oh goodness, Toby, isn’t he handsome? Max, you have about the most gorgeous complexion I’ve ever seen!”
Tori’s words brought the blush Max had prayed he’d be able to avoid that night full force to his face.
“Mom…” Tony pleaded slightly, seeing Max’s discomfort.
Tori waved off her son’s concern. “Oh pish! Everyone likes to know they look good. And Max, honey, you are very handsome. You must turn heads wherever you go.”
Tony gave Parker a grateful look when the man stepped up and distracted Tori as he offered a hand to Max.
“Max? I’m Parker Bleu, Tony’s brother-in-law. Welcome to the family.”
Max’s blush started to recede as he focused his attention on Parker. “Thank you,” he responded softly. “I hope all of you don’t mind me being here the first evening of your visit.”
“It probably would have driven us crazy to wait,” Parker answered. “I know Tommy has been anxious to meet you.” He put an arm around the young man next to him and pulled him a bit closer.
Looking mildly suspicious, Tommy shook Max’s hand. “Hi.”
“Hi. I’m glad you came,” Max said a bit hesitantly but genuinely. “Tony’s met all my brothers and sisters, so I’m glad to be able to meet one of his.”
Tommy nodded, seeming to still be scrutinizing Max, which made the poor man nervous. Tony tossed a questioning look to his little brother as he urged everyone to have a seat.
“The lasagna has another half hour to bake,” he let them know. “So we might as well settle here for now.”
“That’s ok,” Toby said phlegmatically. He’d noticed the mild tension in the room, but his demeanor was unconcerned. “Max, why don’t you tell us about your family? You said you have brothers and sisters?”
Max nodded, grateful for the lifeline. Tony cast a grateful look to his dad as well, and the family discussed siblings, nieces and nephews until the oven timer chimed.
When dinnertime did arrive, conversation focused very much on Max, which Tony tried to shift a little to keep his boyfriend from feeling completely put on the spot, but it kept coming around to the lone brunette in the group. He was asked more about his family, his job—which Tori thought being a writer was wonderful, his hobbies, and his life in general.
Tony, knowing his family meant well, had forgotten that they weren’t as private about as many things as others. Parker was a bit more reserved to that end, and didn’t add to the questioning, but Tony found himself deflecting several personal questions that were directed toward Max, including ones about past boyfriends, how much money he made, and even whether he might want kids someday.
That was territory that the two of them hadn’t discussed at all at that point, and Tony worked to avoid a direct answer for either of them by saying that Max’s nieces and nephews were a lot of fun, and explaining a game the kids had played during the Christmas Eve at Max’s parents.
He was rather grateful when everyone had eaten their fill and dinner was over.
“All right everyone. Max and I can handle the clean-up. Go get comfortable in the living room. Dad, I’ll set some of your coffee on and bring it in when we’re done. All right?”
“Tony, you took care of dinner. You shouldn’t be left with the clean-up,” his mother argued.
“It’s all right, Mom. It’s your first night and I want you all to relax. I promise there will be plenty of chances to help this week.”
That pacified the woman and Tony saw everyone but Max from the room. When they were gone and out of sight, he took the dirty glasses from Max’s hands, set them in the sink, and hugged him.
“Are you hanging in all right? I’m sorry if some of the conversation tonight was inappropriate.”
“It’s ok,” Max said softly. “I guess some of that was a little embarrassing, but it wasn’t mean or anything.” Max leaned into Tony’s solid embrace. “I can tell they love you…and miss you, and I appreciate that they want to get to know me. It’s better than being ignored.”
Tony rubbed Max’s back. “I feel like I’m missing something,” he stated. “Are you sure there’s nothing wrong?”
“Well…um…” Max stumbled. “I was wondering if I had offended Tommy somehow. He didn’t have much to say.”
Tony had noticed that too, but he was also aware that his little brother was probably still somewhat subdued from the spanking he’d received earlier. Tony had heard a few of the swats drifting down from upstairs, and could take an educated guess on what it was for.
“I think Tommy has just had a rough day and is a bit tired,” he told Max. “No one in our family cares to travel too much, and the cold bothers him. I’m sure he’ll be more approachable after a good night’s sleep.”
Max nodded, accepting that. Tony dropped his lips to his and took advantage of their temporary privacy for a slow kiss.
“I’m so glad you’re here,” he said softly when they broke apart.
Max smiled somewhat dazedly from the kiss. “Me too.”
Tony tried to get comfortable on his couch. The furniture was cozy enough, but at six feet tall, Tony was a tad long for it, and if he rolled over too far he’d fall off. He sighed, wishing he was sharing Max’s bed again. After three nights there with the body heat of Max against him, it was hard to be anywhere else. It was amazing how quickly one could get used to the pleasure of sharing meals together, talking about important as well as inconsequential things, falling into bed for the sole purpose of physically knowing one another, and waking up to the security of that man lying next to you.
They’d only been apart a few hours, but Tony was not liking the separation; and it wasn’t just physical. He missed Max’s quiet but friendly way of talking. He missed that mixture of shyness and confidence that blended together in Max’s personality. He missed the teasing and the sweet playfulness that came out as their bond grew tighter, and the amazingly deep thoughts the man could come up with that would take Tony completely unawares.
He sighed loudly. It had been a hope that allowing himself to think on his love would lead to rest and sweet dreams. Instead, it had thoroughly aroused him, and now there was no Max to help put out the fire.
Muttering over his own frustration, he rolled off the couch and went in search of a cold drink.
Tommy hated wearing pajamas. More than once Parker had heard him say, “Beds expect a naked body…more than one if they’re lucky!”
It wasn’t a problem at home. They owned a small house near to the beach. It was within walking distance to the shop Tommy’s parents owned and where Tommy worked part time. And it was only a short drive to the university where Parker was employed.
At home, since it was just the two of them, Tommy could be as naked as he wanted—and Parker didn’t complain. However, in Pennsylvania, where there were three other people in the house and the temperatures were fifty degrees colder than they were used to, Parker was insisting on pajamas.
Tommy, not in a good mood, grumbled about itchy material and threats to Parker’s anatomy if he woke up with night sweats.
Parker took the grouches in stride, having heard them before and knowing it was his husband’s way of letting off some emotion. He kept an eye on the smaller man as he changed as well, noting that Tommy’s slim bottom was still a vivid pink from the paddling only a few hours earlier.
He crossed the room as Tommy reluctantly pulled the pajama pants on and wrapped his arms around the young man’s waist, letting one hand slip under his husband’s waistband and caress the warm skin.
“Why the grumps, baby? I thought we dealt with things earlier.”
“I’m just tired,” Tommy said immediately, and Parker saw it for the excuse it was. He didn’t doubt that Tommy was tired. It had been a long day of travel, and an emotional one at that, but Parker knew there was more.
“You were quiet tonight,” he said, treading lightly more for Tommy’s sake than his. “I take it you didn’t like Max?”
Tommy wrinkled his nose, and refused to meet Parker’s eyes. The bigger man’s hand continued to rub the sensitive skin of Tommy’s backside.
“I liked him,” Parker said sincerely. “He was sweet and kind, and it’s clear that he cares very deeply for your brother.”
Tommy huffed. “He’s a ‘pretty boy’. Mom went on and on about it, and how can we get to know him if he barely says two words. I thought he was distant.”
Parker cleared his throat in a way that made Tommy look at him warily. “Tommy-baby, I thought you were more distant that Max was tonight; and besides that, it’s not a crime to be on the quieter side. Plus, I’m taking into account that Max was nervous as all get out. He’s shy, honey, but he wants us to like him because we’re important to Tony. As we all get to know one another better, he’ll probably speak up a little more.”
Parker kissed Tommy’s nose. “As far as him being a ‘pretty boy’, looks are purely a matter of opinion. There’s no need to harbor any jealousy. I’m sure your brother does find Max very appealing, but my head is turned more to adorable blondes with gorgeous green eyes.”
That finally brought a grin—wicked as it was—to Tommy’s face. “I’m afraid there’s not much I can do about that. There’s only one adorable blonde in this room, and his body has been imprisoned by itchy pajamas.”
“Mmm,” Parker murmured. “Good thing I have the key to free it.”