Truth & Tenderness

By: Tere Michaels



So Matt kissed him again, bringing one hand up to touch his face gently.

The gesture said, I’m fine.

Evan took a deep breath as he came up for air. He nodded, his gaze never leaving Matt’s face.

That said, I know.





THEY TOOK three vehicles to 1 Police Plaza, Evan checking his watch the entire time. Matt felt validated with his “you kids go in one car, we’ll go in another” being a good call. He knew his boyfriend, and he knew the freaking out hadn’t reached full capacity yet.

“We’re good. We’re early. Calm down,” Matt soothed, following the slow-moving traffic toward the nearest parking garage. Three blocks away and he’d already made a reservation online—not to mention he’d purposely gotten everyone out of the house forty minutes early.

His phone beeped and Evan reached into the center console to read the text.

“Jim is already here,” he read.

Matt put on his blinker and waited for an opening in the traffic to pull into the entrance of the underground parking. A guy in an orange vest across the street was waving at him frantically with his flag.

“I bet you Jim got here an hour ago.”

Evan read the text again, then laughed as he dropped the phone. “Ninety minutes.”

Jim Shea, Matt’s old friend and now security company partner, had made the drive down from Dutchess County to help them celebrate. His fiancé, Griffin, was away in Los Angeles finishing up production on a movie, so Matt and Evan were making sure Jim got fed and watered properly in his absence.

While they weren’t the best of friends, Evan had grown comfortable with Jim’s presence in their lives. And Evan adored Griffin, Jim’s fiancé—who, in turn, adored trying to make Evan sputter in public—and the jealousy he’d felt over Jim and Matt’s one-time affair had dissipated.

Slowly.

“Griffin sent me a very nice e-card with a rude joke in it,” Evan commented as Matt finally put Orange Vest Guy out of his misery and pulled in, followed by the second SUV, driven by Miranda, and then Shane and Helena’s kicky Fiat.

“I would expect nothing else.”

“He also sent a gift with Jim, but apparently I’m not allowed to open it until we’re alone.”

Matt fist-pumped as he parked the car at the bottom of the ramp. “Woo-hoo, sex toys!”

“Oh my God.”





THE ENTRANCE of 1 Police Plaza, predictably, held a slow-moving line to security. Their sprawling group got ID’d and searched eventually, with everyone seeming to have been bitten by the same jittering bug of nerves at the same time. Evan gave each of the family a kiss (except Kent and Shane, though the latter asked nicely) and then dashed to the stage. Matt watched him go with a ridiculous smile on his face.

“Ugh, so gross,” Katie said, dreamy and delighted, as she looped her arm around his.

His favorite Cerelli child on one arm and the two youngest accounted for—Danny shadowing Helena and Shane and Elizabeth stuck to Miranda’s side—Matt led everyone to the auditorium.

Jim was “by the flags” and saving a row; even with the crush of humanity excitedly filling seats, Matt felt confident Jim’s glare would keep interlopers away.

He was right.

In his own Seattle PD dress blues, retired detective Jim Shea cut quite the distinguished figure. Several ladies were checking him out without even bothering to hide it, and at least two rookies tripped on a stripe in the rug walking by.

Matt couldn’t hide his grin when he caught Jim’s attention.

“Hey, Officer Stud. If you had a boom box, everyone would think you were the entertainment,” Matt teased as Jim stood to give him a hug.

“Jackass.” Jim punched him in the arm as they separated. He exchanged pleasantries with the kids, Shane, and Helena; then everyone played musical chairs for the best view.

Shane sat on the end, Katie by his side, as professional photographers for the day. Miranda put Elizabeth on her lap so the petite teen could see over the tall people in front of them, while Danny slouched as he played with his phone.

Matt and Jim sat on the other end, Matt flipping through Jim’s program to find Evan’s name. Two other captains were getting moved up today, and a half-a-dozen speeches were on the agenda as well.

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