Cherish & Blessed

By: Tere Michaels

(Faith, Love & Devotion #4&5)



CHERISH





Chapter 1





EVAN FINISHED loading the dishwasher, one ear tuned to the Rangers game on the television and the other on the hushed conversation between his youngest daughter and his boyfriend.

Rangers were up a goal in the first period. Matt was nodding a lot, covertly looking over his shoulder at Evan.

Elizabeth—his baby, his preteen, oh God—did her own recon of Evan’s activities, so he drew out the fiddling of the controls, took his time as he wiped off the countertop. Matt had cooked, and this was Evan’s way of showing he was still a contributing member of the household, particularly when he was home before midnight.

“Hey, done in here,” he called. “Anyone need anything?”

“Yes,” Matt answered, his voice flat and faintly exasperated. That clearly meant beer. Evan grabbed two out of the fridge, then shut off the small television over the dishwasher. He ambled into the adjoining dining room, where Matt and Elizabeth were holding their top-secret conference.

“Okay, time to let Dad in on things,” Matt said sternly, reaching for the bottle in Evan’s hand.

“Maaaatt.” Elizabeth’s sweet face twisted into a put-upon pout, one Evan was very well acquainted with, having witnessed the joy of puberty via his children twice before, with Miranda, which was hell, and Kathleen, which was slightly easier. Hoping that Elizabeth did her transitioning without drama was obviously a pipe dream.

Evan settled into the chair beside Matt, pressing their knees together once he got settled.

“I never took a sacred oath.” Matt opened the beer, nudging back against Evan’s leg. “Talk to your father.”

It no longer bothered Evan that the kids went to Matt—he was their friend and caretaker first and foremost, and while his allegiance was to his relationship with Evan, he always treated the kids with the utmost fairness. And love.

Elizabeth squirmed a bit in her chair, biting her lip. She tugged on her hair, the sheet of brown falling down nearly to her waist. Sometimes Evan suspected she wore it long so she could hide behind it when things got a little overwhelming.

Like now.

“Is it a problem at school?”

Elizabeth shook her head.

“Here at home?”

She paused, then nodded.

“One of your siblings?” He suspected it was her twin brother, Danny, because they were really the only two still home full-time. Katie had shipped off to Boston University in late July, and Miranda still lived in the city, doing her senior year at NYU. Neither seemed inclined to hassle a twelve-year-old.

“Spill.” Matt gave her the stink eye.

“It’s Miranda.”

That was a surprise. Evan tried not to choke midswallow as he sipped his beer.

“Miranda?”

“Yeah. Um.” Elizabeth’s face was rapidly disappearing behind her fawn brown hair. “She… okay, so last weekend when I was at her apartment with Aunt Elena? They were arguing about something after I went to bed.”

Evan gave Matt a sidelong glance, rapidly becoming alarmed with the conversation and particularly the grimace his boyfriend was sporting. “Okay, that’s technically a conversation between two adults, and I’m not sure you should be telling me what they said,” Evan said diplomatically, ignoring Matt’s raised eyebrows and his own gut-churning need to know. “Unless of course you’re concerned about someone’s safety.”

Matt snorted.

“Shut up,” Evan whispered without moving his lips.

“Well, then.” Elizabeth sighed dramatically. “Then I don’t know. If I should say.”

“But I know, and I have absolutely no problem repeating it.” Matt broke into the conversation, indignation flaring. “Elena told Miranda she was too young to get married.”

Evan’s chair squeaked as he rocked back in surprise. “What?”

“Aunt Elena told Miranda she was too young to get married, especially because they had just met, and she was being hasty.” Now freed from her indecision, Elizabeth rattled off what she had heard with enthusiasm. “Miranda said maybe she would just get pregnant, and then they’d have to get married, and Aunt Elena said this isn’t 1950, don’t be stupid.”

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