Cherish & Blessed

By: Tere Michaels

“Oh my God.” Evan was already out of his seat, heading for the kitchen and the phone and his late wife’s sister, who was going to get a thorough review of every curse word Evan had learned in the Marines and on the force.

“Dismissed. Don’t tell anyone else about this and I’ll bring you up dessert later.” Evan could hear Matt comforting Elizabeth, as he walked away, which made him feel crappy on top of being so fucking furious his temples were pounding.

“Why didn’t Elena call me and tell me this? Better yet—what boy?”

Matt followed Evan into the kitchen, snapping on lights as he went along. “Elena probably doesn’t think there’s anything to it,” Matt started, but Evan waved him off, phone already in hand.

“No, sorry. She doesn’t get to make that call.” Evan stabbed the numbers, pacing in circles. “That’s my decision.”

“Miranda’s over twenty-one.” Matt didn’t even flinch at the eye daggers Evan threw his way.

“True. She’s also living in an apartment I pay for, going to school on my dime.” The line was ringing. Evan honestly thought he would explode if it went to voice mail. “Oh right, and she’s my kid. End of story.”

“Okay, then.” Matt pulled out a stool from the breakfast nook, his beer still in hand.

“What? You think… Elena?” His sister-in-law’s voice came on the line, and by her timid tone, he knew she knew exactly why he was calling.

MATT FINISHED his beer and then another one, all while watching Evan turn an interesting shade of magenta as he wore a hole in the floor. The fight between Evan and Elena included a great deal of cursing, a segue into the number of hours he worked—which was only going to get higher when his promotion went through—and Miranda’s lingering grief over her mother’s death. All through it, Matt saw Evan grappling with each one of those issues coupled with his own guilt. They’d come a long way over the past few years, but every once in a while, Evan backslid.

He’d failed Sherri. Her memory. The kids. He’d nearly failed Matt a few years ago, when their relationship stalled amid the confusion of his nearly redefined sexuality.

But they were fine. Solid. The kids were amazing—when they weren’t being angst-ridden preteens or sassy teenagers or impossible-to-decipher young adults.

Matt, as captain of this crazy ship, kept the rudder straight, the laundry done, and his boyfriend well fucked enough to carry on another day.

Or something.

“Fine, fine. But I’m serious—you have to tell her to talk to me immediately, Elena. Immediately.” Evan was winding down, his voice rough around the edges, sweat curling along the razor-sharp line of his cropped military haircut. The T-shirt he’d changed into after work was soaked through as if he’d been running a marathon. Matt made a mental note to put on the air-conditioning in the bedroom before they went to bed.

Evan hung up, still enthusiastically cursing under his breath. Matt held out a cold open bottle of beer without commentary.

He could wait. It wouldn’t take long.

“His name is Kent and he’s in her business class and they met in July. July! How can you make that sort of decision in that short amount of time? Not to mention, not to mention—she’s twenty-one!”

Matt wisely chose not to point out how young Evan and Sherri had been when they met and fell in love and married, and hell, they had two kids by twenty-two. He imagined it was going to be brought to Evan’s attention later, when he and Miranda entered the steel cage match of their conversation.

Evan didn’t wait for a response and clearly didn’t need one. He drank half the beer, still walking circles around the kitchen as he wound down.

“She’s crazy—crazy—if she thinks I’m going to support this. She hasn’t even introduced him to me! To us. What kind of person is he? Is she hiding something? Is he? Do you know why she hasn’t introduced us?”

“Because she knows the second you have his name, you’re going to make me run a background check on him?” Matt asked dryly.

Evan leaned against the counter next to Matt’s seat with a dramatic sigh. “Yes.”

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