Out Cruising

Part I of II

With characters from Out, Out for the Holidays, Home, Uncomplicated Choices, and Noah

Zach Coleman

 

Out of my way, cruise virgin coming through.

 

“Darling, the ship isn’t leaving without us,” Henry called.

 

I huffed and glanced over my shoulder, seeing how far behind the others had fallen. Slow fuckers. Didn’t they realize it was unacceptable that I was the only person in our group of friends who hadn’t been on a cruise yet? The past few weeks, it was all I’d heard. Over the years, Henry and Martin had gone on a shit-ton of cruises. Adrian and Dominic had been on one last summer, Casey and Ellis too, and Noah and Julian had gone a couple times.

 

That left me, and if anyone needed this accidental vacation, it was this fucker.

 

“Is everyone here yet?” I did a quick headcount in the queer sea that was this terminal. Noah and Julian were on their way; we knew that much.

 

At least Dominic and Adrian were past security now. They’d said goodbye to Thea, who’d be staying with Adrian’s parents while we shook our asses through the Caribbean. And what asses we were surrounded by… I lowered my shades and eyed the couple walking past me wearing jeans that rode up way too much. Was camel-toe butt a thing? I suppressed a shudder.

 

Henry reached me at that point, and he raised a brow at me. “Really, Zachary?”

 

“If you ever wear anything that revealing, we’re going to couples counseling,” I told him.

 

He laughed. “That makes more sense.”

 

Martin sidled up next to Henry, having noticed the asses too, and licked his lips. “I’m so ready for this vacation. To think, you almost canceled.”

 

Don’t remind me.

 

“What’re we waiting for, more fans of Zach’s?” Casey reached us too, walking hand in hand with Ellis.

 

Casey and I were giving Dominic some good-natured shit for not having introduced us to each other sooner. We were clearly meant to be BFFs forever, along with Dominic.

 

Henry squeezed my hand. “Isn’t this where you throw a fit about the word fans?”

 

“Nuh-uh.” Not this time. I didn’t have fans; I had a ridiculous number of followers on Instagram and YouTube, and sometimes I was recognized. And no, I would never call them fans. It implied I was some Hollywood actor or musician, when in reality, I was a temporary model who was slowly withdrawing from that scene. But for this trip, I was gonna let it slide. Let them be my fans. Let them fucking worship me. ’Cause my beast got all possessive then, and it turned me the fuck on. He was too cute when he tried to hide it, too.

 

We continued toward the ship once Adrian and Dominic had caught up, and I wondered curiously if the others had any play planned out.

 

“Play?” Dominic’s forehead creased.

 

“Well, I’m gonna go full-on twink,” I said frankly. “Henry’s gonna be my Daddy.”

 

“Oh?” Henry’s mouth twisted with mirth. “I didn’t know about this development.”

 

In response, Dominic eyed an amused Adrian up and down. “Who’s gonna be the Daddy?”

 

“You wanna wear skimpy briefs with me, Dominic?” I waggled my eyebrows.

 

Whereas Adrian cracked up, Dominic stiffened, his humor all gone. “I think that settles it,” he muttered. “I’m the Daddy. Teach, you can be my plaything. You gotta be draped over me twenty-four seven.”

 

“That’ll make for some interesting tan lines,” Casey mused.

Didn’t they realize what a golden opportunity this would be for us? We were all devoted fans of a hard fucking, and that’s what I got when I flaunted my junk in front of people. Best part was that Henry fucking loved it. I guess it had to do with the fact that I didn’t love the actual attention, just what it did to him. Either way, this was why I’d bought a few pairs of briefs and tight trunks to wear around the pool.

 

So far, spring had brought Henry and me a lot of anxiety, because of what was going on at home, so in order for me to enjoy this week, I was gonna have to drive my man crazy. It was just how shit worked.

 

The reason I now called it an accidental vacation was because we’d had it booked for nearly three months, and everyone had taken time off work to make it. Then Henry and I got a call we’d been damn near praying for, which instantly shot this vacation out the window. But then we suffered a minor blow, and now it was either this or staying at home going insane.

 

Don’t think about it, don’t think about it.

 

I blew out a breath and let the distractions steal my attention.

 

Anticipation spiked as we boarded the ship. We were surrounded by men—and fucking hell, it seemed everyone had a wandering eye. We hadn’t even reached our staterooms! But anyway.

 

The excitement grew, and I couldn’t stop pointing at shit and tugging on Henry’s arm. Everything was so big and lavish. From the website, I knew the ship had fourteen stories, several restaurants and bars, a casino, two nightclubs, a spa, two gyms… The list went on.

 

“You’re incredibly adorable when you’re excited,” Henry murmured against my temple.

 

I kissed him quickly, only to be distracted by the massive chandelier as we went up a set of escalators.

 

“You were right, baby. We need this,” I said. “But I might need reminders.”

 

“We’ll remind each other, my love.”

 

I gripped his hand tighter. It was just as rough for him.

 

The crowd thinned the higher up we got. Henry had made the reservations for all of us, and he’d booked us some fancy suites with balconies.

 

“Is this really right?” Dominic hesitated outside their room.

 

“Given the events of this past week, I may have upgraded us.” Henry opened our door, and my brows flew up at the sight of what was waiting for us. “I think we all deserve some pampering.”

 

“My Daddy’s too rich,” I mumbled.

 

He cleared his throat and prevented me from entering. He was giving me a familiar look that was far too specific. And hot.

 

“Not this time,” I said and slipped past. He could save the “it’s our money” spiel for another day. “Holy fuck.” We had our own Jacuzzi on the balcony. “Henry, I see places in which we shall screw like royalty.”

 

We had a bedroom and a living room area, both rooms with a magnificent view of the ocean. Sneaking into the bathroom, I spotted two sinks, the bathtub with jets, and a private nook for the toilet. Sweet Jesus, he’d gone all out. And I thought I was getting used to this.

 

Too funny. Instead of chocolates on the pillows in the bedroom, there were two condoms.

 

“These open!” I heard someone holler, the sound muted. I zeroed in on the balcony and pushed the door open. I came face-to-face with Casey. “The doors open.” He grinned.

 

I grinned back. “Fan-fucking-tastic.” This way, we could all sit here and get wasted together. “Hot tub party’s gotta go on the list.” The Jacuzzi took up one corner, with a plastic wicker chaise taking up the other. I had a feeling I’d find Henry sprawled out there with a book more than once.

 

Dominic and Adrian soon opened the other door, having gone straight through Julian and Noah’s veranda, and Casey and I waved.

 

“Yo…this is nuts.” Dominic peered down the railing. “The suite’s almost as big as our apartment at home.”

 

“Is Henry certain about this?” Adrian asked.

 

“Oh yeah, don’t worry about it,” I replied. “When bad shit happens, he spends money.”

 

I had to remind myself this hiccup was temporary. I was pretty sure… No, I was sure. Goddammit. Those two angels would have a home with us. Sam and Hope. How quickly we’d fallen for them from the first time we’d met at Adeline’s shelter. We just had to suffer through a week of the kids being with their aunt first. It wasn’t going to change anything. They wouldn’t choose to live with her instead—and she liked us! She merely wanted to spend some time with her niece and nephew. Nothing would change.

 

It only sucked because we had this piece of paper, the approval that made us foster parents, dangling over our heads—and it wouldn’t be ours until this week was over. Until Sam and Hope had spent these days with their aunt. Away from us.

 

“I heard my name.” Henry stepped out on the veranda.

 

I scratched my nose and shook the thoughts that brought me down. “Yeah, we were talking about meeting up by the pool later.”

 

“We just haven’t discussed which one,” Casey added. “Zach said he had to ask you.”

 

I bumped his fist.

 

“’Cause you’re my Daddy,” I finished smoothly.

 

Dominic snorted.

 

Henry obviously didn’t buy our bullshit, but he let it slide and checked his watch. “Well, we have the mandatory safety drill that no amount of money will get us out of.”

 

“Why does it sound like you’ve tried?” I asked, amused.

 

I haven’t—”

 

“Martin.” I nodded. I should’ve known.

 

“Indeed.” He inclined his head. “Anyway. Our luggage will arrive any minute, and I received a text from Noah. They’ve boarded and are on their way up.”

 

“I’m not gonna get starstruck,” Casey swore.

 

Ellis walked out of their suite and wrapped his arms around Casey’s chest from behind. “He’s going to get starstruck.” He smirked and nipped at Casey’s jaw.

 

“Why would you get starstruck?” Dominic asked. “Oh, ’cause the dude’s a Hollywood cat?”

 

“He’s a quite famous director, sweetheart,” Adrian murmured wryly. “I admit, I’m looking forward to meeting him. I’ve seen his films.” He nudged Dominic with his elbow. “You remember Catching Stars, don’t you?”

 

Dominic shrugged.

 

“He’s extremely down-to-earth,” I said. “You’ll like him, D. First time I met him, I made a complete idiot of myself, and he didn’t even tell me about it until months later.”

 

Henry didn’t know about that, and he looked to me, curious. “I don’t recall you saying anything out of place.”

 

I smiled, a phantom flush of leftover embarrassment flooding me. “I mixed up his damn movies when I complimented Sophie’s acting in one of them.”

 

“Aw.” Henry hugged me to him, finding it all too funny.

 

Casey was nodding. “I can see myself doing that. I’ll just refrain from mentioning any titles.”

 

Good call.

 

“All right. Enough chitchat,” I decided. “I feel like there’s a drink with my name on it somewhere.”

 

Then I could unpack and slip into something slutty.

 

*

 

Messy hair or no…? I drew my fingers through it and checked the mirror. It was probably time to give the sides a buzz again when we got home.

 

There was a knock on the bathroom door, followed by Henry’s voice. “We’re waiting for you two now, dear.”

 

I walked over to open the door enough to poke my head out. “We’re having a bit of a body crisis. Can we meet you guys by the pool?”

 

He furrowed his brow in concern. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing a hunk like you can help us with,” I insisted. “We’ll meet you there. The pool we passed on the way back from the drill?”

 

It was a done deal, and I closed the door a few seconds later, returning to my task. Of convincing Casey to borrow a pair of boxer-brief-type swimwear from me. He didn’t wanna go all out with a Speedo, and I guess that was okay. I’d corrupt him at some point.

 

Henry, Ellis, and Adrian were rocking plain trunks. Dominic’s board shorts were a little longer. I knew from experience that Noah and Martin were gonna show up in the same type Casey wore, and Julian was unpredictable. He liked to swim, so it wasn’t unheard of that he showed up in a Speedo. Otherwise, he went with board shorts. These were important decisions to make, in short.

 

“I don’t know why you’re hesitating,” I told Casey.

 

He made a face at the mirror. “Okay, you’re right, I have the ass for it. But I have two kids at home, man. More often than not, Ellis and I end up shoveling mac and cheese into our mouths if we wanna eat.” He skimmed a hand over his perfectly fine stomach. Maybe there wasn’t any definition, but I barely had that either. “You’ll know what I’m talking about soon,” he said. “Bye-bye home-cooking that isn’t thrown together in a rush.”

 

I smiled despite what he’d said. ’Cause I couldn’t fucking wait.

 

He faced me with wide eyes. “I’ve forgotten what a salad looks like.”

 

I chuckled and threw a beach towel at him. “You’re wearing that, end of. Ellis will wanna eat you alive.”

 

He bit his lip and gave the mirror another glance. “Why the fuck is Ellis still so cut? I work out more than he does.”

 

Ellis wasn’t necessarily cut—same with Henry—but they had stockier frames and carried a bit of bulk around their chests and biceps. It helped that they had more natural tans and some sexy chest hair.

 

“I swear it’s the goddamn Hayes genes,” he muttered, wrapping the towel around his waist.

 

I had to stop him. “I’m sorry, hon, but no.” I removed the towel. “If there’s one thing I’ve learned in modeling, it’s that you gotta have attitude. You have a rockin’ fucking body, and if you don’t think so, you gotta fake it till you make it. If you show yourself off like the hot piece of meat you are, others will see you as a hot piece of meat. For fuck’s sake, your thighs are incredible. Suck it up, buttercup.”

 

He pursed his lips and eyed me. “Keep talking.”

 

I grinned and threw my own towel over my shoulder. “Or we skip the talking and walk out and show these queens how it’s done.”

 

He blew out a breath and nodded once. “I hear you. I’mma suck it in.” And he did. He sucked in his nonexistent stomach.

 

“Not what I said, but whatever.” I opened the door, and then we were heading for the elevators.

 

We’d only talked briefly with Noah and Julian at that silly safety drill. They were tired as hell, jet-lagged after coming straight from LA, whereas the rest of us had flown in from Seattle yesterday. But Julian had promised they were gonna save their nap for before dinner.

 

“Christ, this raft is big.” Casey entered one of the four elevators and pushed the button for the pool decks. “It’s a good thing I can’t feel us moving.”

 

I’d heard of his distaste for being on the water. Cruises were okay for the reason he’d mentioned, though he’d hesitated a little when learning we were sailing out of Fort Lauderdale. Ellis had assured him a dozen times this wasn’t hurricane season before Casey had agreed.

 

On the next floor, four men joined us, all of them giving us appreciative glances, and I think it gave Casey a little boost.

 

Next time the elevator stopped, I adjusted my junk just so and ran a hand through my hair. I had a man to seduce.

 

I’d made sure to put on some good-smelly stuff too.

 

“Don’t forget to ask Ellis to put lotion on you,” I told Casey quietly.

 

“Obviously.”

 

The pool area hadn’t filled up too much yet, and we spotted the others before they could see us. They’d found loungers in a corner, and the tables were already filled with drinks. Fuckin’ A.

 

Henry looked edible. One arm up, hand casually placed under his head, one knee drawn up a bit. Black trunks, chest glistening, Ray-Bans on. He was chatting with Martin and Julian. Dominic and Adrian were in the pool, Noah was standing up while he was applying sunscreen, and Ellis appeared to be choosing between two books.

 

“This is gonna be a great week,” I decided.

 

“God, yes.” Casey draped his towel around his neck and gripped the ends loosely. “Three dudes checking out our men at three o’clock.”

 

I narrowed my eyes at the guys in question. “They can form a fucking line.”

 

It was a good time to make our presence known, and I worked the big pool deck like a runway. Even though I’d never actually been on one. It wasn’t really what makeup models did. But if anyone needed help applying mascara, I was their guy. I’d learned. Somewhat. Okay, it was hit or miss, but sometimes it went swimmingly.

 

“I’m gonna get fucked in public at least once during this trip.” It was my promise to myself.

 

“Seriously?” Casey lifted his brows.

 

“Seriously. Henry is a bit disillusioned and thinks I’m a grand prize. He gets off on staking a claim with others around, and I just get off.” I guess I was hopeless that way, but in truth, he was the grand prize, and he was all mine. These bitches were going to realize that very soon. Additionally… “Sex is sexy as fuck.” I shrugged.

 

Casey laughed under his breath as we rounded the pool. “This trip will do Ellis and me good. We need it.”

 

“Everything’s okay at home, right?” I asked only to make sure. Henry and I had found an amazing group of friends, partly because we were all seemingly addicted to our significant others. It made for fantastic get-togethers.

 

“Oh yeah. Just the kids. Natural cockblockers.”

 

That made sense.

 

Right then, Henry spotted me. He did a slight double take before lowering his shades, and I caught the tick in his jaw. My cock liked.

 

I heard Ellis cough. Someone had seen his husband in new, tight threads.

 

“I love you, Zach,” Casey whispered. “He’s gonna tear me up later.”

 

I smirked and continued toward my beast, who sat up when I reached the foot of his lounger.

 

“That doesn’t look like any of the swimwear I packed for you, darling boy,” he murmured, gaze landing on my briefs. “Are you trying to kill me, Zachary?”

 

I twisted my body and cocked my hip so he could get a quick glimpse of my ass. “No, just please you, Daddy.”

 

“I’ve taught you well, honey,” Martin cooed.

 

I grinned and flashed him a wink before refocusing on Henry. Of course, me being me, I had to take it a little too far and turn it into a joke. “Can you cover me in that white stuff?”

 

Perfect moment for Noah to pass me and let out a laugh.

 

Henry patted the cushion between his legs, and I sat down and scooted farther up for some lovin’.

 

“Is that true, baby?” Henry gathered me even closer, my back to his chest, and grabbed the bottle of sunscreen on his table. “Have you been taking slut lessons from Martin?”

 

“His whole life is a slut lesson,” I teased, loud enough for Martin to hear.

 

He didn’t deny it. Or perhaps he wasn’t listening. He was sipping a margarita and scanning the men instead. I’d been warned there would be a lot of single men here. Many came on these cruises with friends.

 

Henry pressed his lips to my neck and began rubbing in the lotion across my chest in sensual strokes. To push the envelope a little, I pulled up my knees to rest them on the edge of the chair. That should give the pool crowd a view.

In my defense, the majority of the guys around the pool had something they wanted to show off.

 

“I know what you’re doing,” Henry whispered in my ear.

 

I shivered and glanced up at him. “Want me to stop?”

 

He shook his head and brushed his thumbs over my nipples. “Just be careful. It’s your first gay cruise, and we can get aggressive.”

 

I knew that. Martin had spent the past week with us in Camassia, and he’d shared as many fond memories as horror stories from his years of going on cruises.

 

“You’ll protect me, right?” I went for my most innocent grin, letting my dimples do the talking. He knew very well I could defend myself, but this was our fantasy, dammit. I was here to get out of my head and be a little wild, and then he could throw me down and teach his little boy a lesson. With his big cock.

 

He smiled faintly, side-eyeing me. “Try to stop me.” He slipped a hand between my legs and gave my junk a squeeze. “Now you got white stuff on your cock.”

 

“Oops.” I stifled my laughter and sat up so he could do my back. I could smell Henry’s own sunscreen, the boring type you sprayed on, which meant I wasn’t gonna get to rub him all over this time. Later, I consoled myself.

 

For now, I looked over at Julian, who was studying the trip’s itinerary. Noah was sitting behind him, his chin resting on Julian’s shoulder, and he pointed at something in the brochure that made Julian blush.

 

They were too cute together.

 

“Julian, you finding anything for us to do?” I asked.

 

He cleared his throat and let out a little laugh. “Well, Noah thinks we should try the spa.”

 

Noah looked over at me with a lazy grin. “They’ve got couples massages.”

 

“Sign me up,” Casey and I said at the same time.

 

“Were you two separated at birth?” Ellis asked, amused.

 

We were nodding, ’cause yeah.

 

Another shiver ran through me at Henry’s magic hands stroking my back.

 

“I think I wanna get something waxed,” I mused. “I’ve never tried that.”

 

That raised a lot of opinions, evidently. Martin was all for it. Henry was skeptical. Noah went, “Uh, kid, you barely have any hair,” and Casey proclaimed we suddenly weren’t that much alike.

 

“What’re you talking about?” I pointed to my thighs. “I’ve got about as much hair as…” I looked around me. Um. Ellis—no. Henry and Noah had more too. Man, I was a slut for thighs. I rubbed Henry’s thighs just because I had to. His fuzz was coarser than mine. “All right, fine, so I’ll do something else.”

 

*

 

An hour later, I’d had my first drink, and I was chilling in the pool with Julian and Dominic. The others were getting their tan on. Except for Martin; he’d found a young couple to flirt with at the bar.

 

“So, there’s a lotta fucking going on here, isn’t there?” Dominic asked plainly. “Teach and I went on a couples cruise for gays last year. It was a lot less, uh…”

 

“Whorish?” I offered.

 

He nodded. “There’s a condom dispenser in the bathroom behind the bar hea’.”

 

I laughed. I was gonna Instagram the fuck out of that.

 

“We shouldn’t be surprised,” Julian said wryly. “Zach picked the cruise.”

 

“Guilty.” I sank down to the next step on the stairs so the water reached my shoulders. “I need to sow my wild oats in Henry before we go home again.”

 

Everything was about to change. For the better, undoubtedly. But still. We’d be locked down a bit more, and I was going to go all in where our new responsibilities were concerned. Mistakes were bound to happen, but I wanted things to be as perfect as possible.

 

Henry and I had gotten lucky. The grim reality was that money and connections talked, and I didn’t wanna think about how long we’d have to wait to become foster parents if we hadn’t been able to provide the kind of home we did. Compared to the couples who waited for years, I felt bad for feeling like I had waited forever. Because that was how it felt. After meeting Henry, shit had just clicked, and I’d been ready for everything. Now, nearing two years later, things were falling into place.

 

“Are you gonna quit at ShadowLight?” Julian asked, confused.

 

I shook my head. “No, we’ll still travel back and forth a lot, but I won’t take any work trips aside from that. And it’ll have to wait.” We had squared everything with Brooklyn, who knew I wouldn’t be back in LA for at least four or five months. “Sam’s PTSD is pretty bad. We can barely touch him without him panicking.”

 

My chest hurt at the thought, and it was one of the reasons I’d agreed to this trip when all was said and done. Lots of distractions—fuck yeah, a lot of fun distractions, but also enough that I’d most likely exhaust myself sooner rather than later. I was going to run myself ragged so I didn’t think too much about the two kids who’d stolen my heart. And Henry’s.

 

“That’s rough,” Dominic murmured, shaking his head. “How’s Hope coping?”

 

“A little better,” I replied. “Sam protected her from most of the abuse. She scares easily, but she’s curious. It helps that she’s fond of William.” He was her counselor, and he’d earned her trust quickly.

 

Henry and I had spent the day with them two days ago, and I already missed them. But it was part of the process—a very slow one. In order not to overwhelm them, we couldn’t see them as often as we would’ve liked. We’d come a long way, though. Short visits had, over the past few months, turned into longer stays and, recently, sleepovers at our house.

 

Then their aunt had appeared. She’d long since ceased all contact with her sister and the father who’d abused Sam and Hope until the authorities had intervened. After a lot of back-and-forth, and after the caseworker’s approval as well as Sam and Hope’s, they would get a week with their aunt now. They’d all stay at Adeline’s facility, but it’d been agreed that Henry and I would stay away to prevent either of the children from being too overwhelmed.

 

“Can we change the topic?” I asked hesitantly. I needed a lighter subject before the guilt hit me anew. Going on vacation wasn’t wrong, but it was hard to convince myself of that. Part of me felt like I should’ve been at home to pace a hole in the floor.

 

*

 

After a while, we returned to the others, once we’d detoured to the bar for drinks, and Henry’s warm body was waiting for me. He elevated the backrest farther and parted his legs so I could use him as my own lounger, and he appeared to appreciate that I’d just come from the pool.

 

“Now I don’t have to go in,” he murmured drowsily. “I have you to cool me down.”

 

I chuckled and leaned back against his chest. “Wanna try this?” I held up my tropical drink, perfectly layered in pink and blue.

 

“Yes, please.” He accepted the drink and took a sip, humming. “Oh, I thought it was going to be sweet. I like this one.”

 

So did I. Blue curacao and pink grapefruit were going to be my besties for this trip.

 

Everything was perfect while we shared my drink, and it turned into one of those moments where we reminded each other of our company with lazy little touches, a hand on his thigh, a kiss on my neck, as we people watched and listened in on other passengers’ conversations.

 

Casey and Ellis were quietly debating whether they were gonna take a dip in the pool, the biggest counterargument being they were so comfortable where they were. Dominic and Adrian were whispering back and forth, grins and nuzzling exchanged, as they reapplied sunscreen. Noah was reading and had covered Julian with a towel, presumably because the guy had fallen asleep. Jet lag was fun that way.

 

Eventually, Casey and Ellis decided it was time to cool down, and they went to the pool, all while Ellis checked out Casey’s ass in his new swimwear. Fucking score.

 

“You can pull up your knees like before,” Henry murmured against my neck. “Feet on the edge. Part them a bit more.”

 

“Perv.” I smiled and tilted my head back for a kiss. And maybe I was a perv too, for how quickly I obeyed.

 

“I love it when men watch my boy,” he whispered into the kiss. I shivered and exhaled on a moan, snaking my tongue around his. He went further, skimming a hand down my front to fondle my junk. “They can fantasize about this beautiful cock and never know what it’s like to suck it or feel it inside them.”

 

“God.” I flushed and squirmed.

 

He smirked and patted my cock before easing off. “Don’t get hard, darling.”

 

“Cocktease,” I accused.

 

He found me funny.

 

And that was the moment Casey and Ellis reemerged from the pool.

 

“Thanks for the show, you whores,” Casey said with a smirk.

 

I held out my hand. “I’m not a whore unless I charge for it, babe.”

 

He laughed and reached for his towel. “Good one. Anyone want anything from the bar? Ellis and I are heading over there after my knees have checked the cleanliness of the bathroom floor.”

 

I let out a wolf whistle as he grabbed Ellis’s hand and started dragging him toward the bar.

 

It was my hope that all my friends got their freak on this week.

 

*

 

By the time Ellis and Casey returned, Henry and I had shared a quick shower next to the pool. I’d wanted to get rid of the itch from the saltwater, and he’d needed to cool off some more. Ellis was cuddly, no fucking wonder, not to mention suddenly very hungry, so we ordered snacks. Our tables filled up with sodas, beers, fries, wings, sliders, and onion rings.

Around the same time, the cruise had officially kicked off. Florida was gone from the horizon, a couple announcements had been made on the PA system, and music began playing over the pool area. Julian had no choice but to wake up, and he was cute when he was scowling and rubbing the sleep out of his eyes.

 

Noah made it better by filling a plate with fried food.

“We should play a game to get to know one another better,” Casey suggested. “Basically, I need to know if I have to stay on my best behavior around Noah and Julian or if they’re batshit crazy like the rest of us.”

 

“Noah’s mental,” I said around a mouthful of fries.

 

The man in question snorted and finished a slider. “You say the sweetest things, kid.”

 

I blew him a kiss.

 

“Be as batshit as you want, dear,” Henry assured Casey. “If you believe Julian’s sweet and innocent, it’s only an act.”

 

At that, Noah barked out a laugh and said, “Finally, someone else sees it,” whereas Julian squeaked and blushed. He balked at what Henry had said, and I had to admit, I was curious about the comment.

 

“Well, let’s face it,” Henry went on, “he’s the young man who not only seduced his stepmother’s brother, but he did it with pot and porn.”

 

“Oh God,” Julian mumbled and palmed his face.

 

“That ain’t even half of it. First time I bottomed for him, he cuffed me to the bed,” Noah added, smirking. “I’ve come home to find him dressed up like a schoolboy, he gives the most enticing lap dances, and, Zach, my boy knows exactly what you can wax.”

 

My eyebrows went up, and I licked dressing off my lip. This was…eye-opening, which I guess it shouldn’t be. I knew most of this already, yet Julian’s adorkable behavior had had me pretty fooled for the almost two years I’d known him, despite the ink on his rib cage, despite the nipple ring. Dammit if Henry wasn’t right. Julian was far from innocent.

 

“You and I should talk later,” I told Julian.

 

He slid a scowl Noah’s way. “I’m gonna give you so much crap for that.”

 

“What? It’s about time people believe me when I say I married a little freak.” Noah stole a kiss and turned Julian’s frown upside down. “What was it you begged for last week?” He swiped a hand over his trimmed beard. “Scruff burns on your—”

 

“Enough!” Julian slapped a hand over Noah’s mouth, and I smiled widely. “I think you’ve had too much sun.”

 

“Never mind, I’ve gotten all my answers.” Casey was enjoying the show.

 

Noah chuckled and removed Julian’s hand. “No, a game sounds good. We don’t know the rest of you very well. Maybe you only say you’re batshit.”

 

“I think I’ve proved myself plenty,” I said with a hand on my chest. “The rest of you, have fun.”

 

“Two clowns in the group.” Dominic spoke up, studying all of us. “Casey and Zach. Henry’s the mother, Ellis has solutions for everything, and Teach thinks the world is his classroom.”

 

“What does that make you?” I grinned.

 

He widened his arms. “The voice of reason, of course.”

 

“I’m an excellent mother,” Henry agreed.

 

I suppressed a snort, ’cause while Dominic was right about Henry, there was so much more to his statement that made it hysterical.

 

Adrian was on my side. “I’d say Henry’s the last person to underestimate. Just look at what he’s done to Zach in so little time.” He winked.

 

Okay, maybe he wasn’t on my side. “What the fuck? I corrupted Henry. He did nothing to me.”

 

Everyone laughed at that, clearly not believing me.

 

“Yo, you were completely different when we met,” Dominic chuckled. “Now you’re all…” He couldn’t find the word.

 

“Out.” Henry’s murmur nearly melted me. It was true. I had evolved a shitload since he and I met, and I’d never been happier. Kidding aside, I had Henry and Martin to thank for much of it. Where the hell would I have been if I hadn’t had them to turn to?

 

I smiled and nuzzled his neck. “I’m still more deviant than you. If it weren’t for me, half of us wouldn’t know how Viagra worked.”

 

“Whoa.” Casey straightened and narrowed his eyes. “Who’s been trying Viagra?”

 

I gestured at Henry and me, then sent a sly look over at Dominic and Adrian.

 

“Really.” Casey raised a brow at Adrian. “I’ve known you how many years? This is the sort of stuff you tell me.”

 

Adrian’s shoulders shook with laughter, and he reached for his ball cap and put it on backward. “I guess we don’t fuck and tell as much as you do.”

 

“Fuck and blog about it is more like it,” Dominic snorted.

 

I cracked up at that. I was a new follower of Casey’s blog, and I liked it. He revealed it all, mostly in a humorous way.

 

As Casey and Dominic started bickering, with the rest of us throwing in a couple digs too, Henry leaned closer to Noah.

 

“As you can see. Batshit.”

 

Noah nodded with a dip of his chin and smiled in a pensive way at his hubby.

 

*

 

“Where’re we going?” I yawned and quietly closed the door behind me.

Julian jerked his chin toward the elevators. “I made us an appointment.”

 

“For what?” I frowned, confused.

 

He didn’t answer. He chose a secretive, frustrating little smirk instead.

 

The sun had taken it out of us earlier, and we’d decided a siesta before dinner was best. So, as far as I knew, everyone but Julian and I was asleep. And that Julian was the one who’d wake me up was weird. The last hour by the pool, his yawns had been constant.

 

“Do I need to change?” I asked. Because I’d only yanked on a pair of sweats.

 

“Nope.” He was dressed the same, with the addition of a T-shirt, so I guessed I was safe. He’d gotten at least a little sleep, too. The dark, loose curls of his hair pointed in every direction. “I’ll reveal a little bit,” he conceded as we entered an elevator. “You and I are the ones with partners who are on the other side of forty-five.” As if I could forget Noah’s last birthday. Henry and I had been invited to the party at their beach house, and it’d been a riot. “And I can only make guesses about you and Henry based on what I’ve seen, but the older our men get, the younger you and I wanna appear. So, I’m thinking we might share a slight…fetish, if you will.”

 

I side-eyed him. “I’m listening.”

 

“I’m done speaking.” He flashed another smirky smirk, yet at the same time, his cheeks colored. We exited the elevator, and instead of heading toward the pool area, he linked his arm with mine and steered me in the opposite direction. “All right, one last thing.” His fading British accent made a reappearance there. “The first time I did this a couple years ago, the absolute mortification was utterly worth it when I saw Noah’s reaction.”

 

Oh my God, what was he talking about? I was on the edge of my fucking seat. Thankfully, we came to a stop—outside the spa—and the excitement reared its horny head again.

 

“What’re we getting done?” I asked impatiently under my breath. I would agree to anything except manicures and shaving my crotch. I kept it neat and trimmed, but neither Henry nor I liked it completely bare.

 

“Our butts,” Julian said, blushing. “The fuzz is gonna go.” Then he nudged me through the doors where a glass-encased waterfall and a smiling woman waited behind the front desk. “Hello, we have a five o’clock appointment.”

 

“How do we get our butts done?” I blurted out, too intrigued to whisper.

 

“Oh, yes, two number thirteens,” The woman enthusiastically pointed at the menu in front of us. “You’re scheduled in with Paulo and Annette.”

 

One word stood out in the menu, causing my eyes to widen. Wax. I was gonna get my ass waxed, and number thirteen included the whole area, cheeks and the ouch-in-between.

 

“Heh.” I swallowed audibly. Okay, so now what? Drop ’em and spread ’em?

 

*

 

“Well, you handled that…okay.” Paulo disposed of his latex gloves while I carefully pulled up my sweats. “Want me to call someone for you? Your Daddy, perhaps?”

 

My glare was instant, probably not looking very vicious. “You assume I have a Daddy just because I happened to shed a tear or two?”

 

He flicked me an amused glance in the mirror above the sink at his little cleanup station. “I work these cruises every season. I pick up on things.”

 

I sniffled, rolled my eyes, and wiped my cheek with the back of my hand. “I have a fiancé, not a fucking Daddy.” It was technically true. My calling Henry that was a role-play thing and a cutesy thing. A term of endearment much like honey, except for in bed when I wanted him to ravish his boy’s ass. “I’m totally gonna tell him you violated my privates, though. He should have you arrested.”

 

Paulo snorted and turned around with a wry smirk. “You’re a cute little queen.”

 

“That’s neither here nor there,” I snapped. “Can I go now?”

He made a by-all-means gesture at the door. “I have a feeling you’ll find a waxer when you go home.”

 

I was so outta here. “I seriously fucking doubt that. Good day—”

 

“Remember a bath might—”

 

“I said good day!” I barked out and left his torture chamber.

 

Julian was waiting for me outside, and his brows went up cautiously as he noticed my mood. I grimaced; merely walking felt weird now. My butt cheeks glided together without those fine hairs in the way, and it was fucking strange.

 

I’d been lucky in that I’d never had that much hair. My ass and thighs had some fuzz; the problem was the color. The darkest brown against pale skin made it look worse than it was. Now my ass was baby smooth, and I had half a mind to give myself a wedgie. Like, to give my buns a piece of lettuce.

 

“How do you feel?” Julian asked carefully.

 

“Violated and slippery,” I said, pushing open the doors to leave the spa. There was a hair salon right next door, and I contemplated treating myself to a scalp massage. “How often do you do this?”

 

He shrugged. “A few times a year now. The first time is always the worst, Zach. I swore I’d never be back after mine.”

 

My steps faltered, and I eyed him. “Are you some masochist too? Do you and Noah go full-on kinky?”

 

He spluttered a laugh and flushed. “No, not at all. I just like driving him crazy.”

 

I huffed and decided I’d definitely earned the right to be pampered. “Come on, I’m gonna show you what pleasure is like.” I nodded at the salon and pulled out my phone. “Oh God, it feels like my ass belongs to someone else.”

 

I sent Martin a message.

 

At the hair place with Julian if you wanna join. xo

 

“I don’t need a haircut,” Julian said.

 

“Shampoo session with a scalp massage,” I replied. “I can’t go back to the suite yet anyway. Henry will know something is wrong.”

 

Martin texted back, saying he was on his way, and I ushered Julian inside the salon.

Soon, we were shown to two chairs, and I sat down carefully, wincing and whimpering. The “soothing” lotion Paulo had applied wasn’t helping for crap.

 

“I’ve never gone to a place for this.” Julian looked uncomfortable. Something must be wrong with him. He could get his ass waxed, but coming in for a scalp massage was strange? No, he was strange. “By the way, when we go back to our rooms, I’ll get you this cream I have. I bought it in LA. A cool bath and some of that cream, and you’ll be in heaven.”

 

I’d be the judge of that.

 

Martin arrived while Julian’s shampoo girl got started with him, and I asked the guy at the front desk to bill whatever Martin wanted to my room. And I should’ve known Martin wouldn’t want more than the massage. He still only allowed one stylist to do anything to his hair.

 

“I thought you were all napping, darling.” Martin sat down in the chair next to mine.

 

“That was the plan,” I grumbled. “Julian thought it would be fun if we got our asses waxed.”

 

While Martin lit up with glee and looked weirdly proud, the guy behind me couldn’t pretend he hadn’t heard, and he smiled in sympathy. He was all kinds of beautiful and had long, shiny hair, dark skin, dimples, and abs visible through his skintight top.

 

“Anything else I can do for you, hon?” the stylist asked.

 

I glanced at my reflection, contemplating, and shrugged. “Can you give the sides a trim?”

 

“Of course. I’ll be right back.”

 

“Tell me everything,” Martin demanded, one ounce of excitement away from bouncing in his seat. “My God, look at you, Zach. You’ve come such a long way. I remember the first time I got waxed…” He sighed with a fond smile that made me roll my eyes.

 

People needed to quit speaking so affectionately about waxing.

 

“What do you get done?” I wondered, eyes narrowed. Martin looked like he could be hairy, but I’d never seen anything out of place.

 

“My back. If I didn’t do anything, you’d think I had Greek blood.” Martin waved a hand. “We can’t all be born with Henry’s genes.”

 

True, he was delicious.

 

“Now, tell me about your appointment,” he said. “Did it truly hurt that much?”

 

Yes and no. “I expected it to hurt more in between the cheeks, but the only thing that was sheer agony was when he got close to promise land.” I flinched at the memory and felt myself clenching.

 

I heard Julian chuckling, his face tilted back and bliss radiating from him as the shampoo girl worked her fingers through his curls.

 

“The humiliation burned pretty hotly too,” I said. “I mean, seriously. I’m standing there with my ass cheeks spread for a stranger, and he’s pasting wax around my asshole. It’s not a vacation thing to do.”

 

My stylist was back, dragging his manicured nails through the short hair along the sides of my head. It felt amazing, unlike waxing. “You got a man, honey?”

 

I wriggled the fingers of my left hand along the armrest to show my engagement ring.

 

He smiled widely and winked. “Then you’ll forget all about the pain before the day is over.”

 

“Oh Christ, yes. Henry will lose his mind,” Martin purred.

 

I hoped so.

 

*

 

Well, fuck. Henry was up when I came back to our stateroom. His hair was a bit rumpled from his siesta, and he was enjoying a cup of coffee on the balcony.

I poked my head out. “Hi, baby.”

 

He looked up from his book and smiled. “There you are. Oh—you went for a haircut. It looks great.”

 

Excellent cover. “Yeah, I met up with Julian and Martin. I’m just gonna take a shower.” I jerked a thumb over my shoulder. “When’s dinner?”

 

“We have reservations for seven-thirty.”

 

That should be enough time to cool down my slippery butt and rub in some of that ointment. Julian had filled a travel-size bottle for me, and it smelled amazing. He’d also told me it was organic and good for a lickin’. Though, he hadn’t phrased himself quite that way.

 

“Cool.” I nodded at Henry’s book. “Didn’t we already read that one?”

 

We’d bought about a dozen parenting books this spring, so it was possible I was getting them mixed up.

 

“We did, but I wanted to go through the sections we highlighted. I keep worrying.”

 

I could tell, and I walked over to him to plant myself sideways across his lap. Carefully. “They’ll be with us soon.”

 

Aside from Sam and Hope wanting to be with us, we had Jasmine, their social worker, on our side. She challenged the system frequently and didn’t get sucked in by the bureaucracy, despite her thirty years in the field. It helped that she was gay herself, and she and her wife had four adopted children. Additionally, her wife was a kick-ass lawyer.

 

“I know how to cheer you up.” I kissed his scruffy cheek. “When we get to Nassau, how about we ditch the others and go shopping for kids’ stuff? We have two whole rooms to fill.”

 

“I’d like that.” He hugged me to him. “I haven’t considered that we can actually start decorating the rooms now.”

 

Exactly. It’d been one of the things we’d refrained from before we knew for sure.

 

Jasmine’s wife had given us some grim stats, too, that worked in our favor. And the cold fact was that Sam and Hope didn’t stand much of a chance of finding a family. Not with their background of abuse and neglect. People wanted newborns without baggage who could fit into their families.

 

“Okay, I need to write a list.” Something had lit a fire under Henry’s ass, and he patted my leg, a silent way of telling me to move. I stifled a snicker and rose, and then I watched him head inside while mumbling stuff to himself. “Everything has to be perfect… Perhaps an outdoorsy theme for Hope… Didn’t Sam say she liked green? I’m sure he did.”

 

I grinned to myself and scratched my nose. My man was distracted, leaving me to my shower. Or quick bath.

 

*

 

An hour later, everyone was gathered around a big, round table and had been served dinner, and I was eye-fucking my steak. I was gonna devour every last inch of the goodness.

 

“Before we dig in,” Adrian said from across the table, “I’d like to say something.” He lifted his beer, so the rest of us followed suit. “To Henry and Zachary, who, in a few days’ time, will expand their family. Sam and Hope will thrive with you guys, and I can’t think of any couple better suited to be their parents.”

 

“Hear, hear.” Noah tipped his bottle our way.

 

I swallowed thickly and managed a nod and wobbly smile at Adrian.

 

“Thank you, Adrian. That means a lot to us.” Henry gave my leg an affectionate squeeze under the table and took a sip of his wine.

 

“So, who’s next?” Dominic surveyed the table and landed on Noah and Julian.

 

Noah chuckled and pressed a lingering kiss in Julian’s hair.

 

“As my husband likes to say, we collect nieces and nephews instead,” Julian said with a quirk of his lips. “I’m not even sure I could take care of a dog, much less a child.”

 

“I reckon we were born to be the fun uncles,” Noah agreed. “We’ve turned into cat people lately, too.”

 

“Oh yeah, Blue has two little brothers now.” Julian’s eyes lit up the way most parents’ did about their parents. It was funny and sweet. “They can’t stand Noah.”

 

I laughed, having seen the kittens hiss and take swipes at him.

 

“Because I steal your attention.” Noah smirked. “Blue loves me, though.”

 

“We could get a dog,” Casey told Ellis, pensive. “We probably have to move soon anyway.”

 

I perked up. “You’re moving?” I knew they wanted a big family, though I’d assumed they were waiting to adopt until Theo was a little older.

 

Ellis inclined his head and wiped his mouth with a napkin. “Casey was hired to design someone’s backyard behind the high school in Downtown.” I wasn’t too familiar with Downtown, although I knew the school wasn’t far away from where they lived now. “He saw they were building new houses nearby that we might be interested in.”

 

“We’ll see when they’re finished,” Casey added. “But we’re keeping an eye on the bidding.”

 

“Are there are a lot of vacation homes in your town?” Noah asked.

 

Holy hell, that made me perk up even more. “Yes, and you’re more than welcome to buy one of them,” I said quickly. “You two need a place for when you wanna get away from LA.”

 

“We’re only thinking about it.” Julian cautioned me.

 

“I’ll find you listings,” I replied. “I know a guy who knows guys.” I pointed subtly at Henry and widened my eyes. “We’ll make it happen.”

 

Noah shook his head in amusement.

 

“Good lord, you and your lumberjack town,” Martin muttered into his wineglass.

 

“Don’t be catty, dear.” Henry patted Martin’s hand. “You know you’ll have to find a weekend place in Camassia soon enough.”

 

So true. Martin wouldn’t have the same access to Sam and Hope as he did with Mattie and Ty, who were happy in LA. Also, I was in the process of convincing Martin to open one of his pastry shops in Seattle. If he could open one in Portland…come on.

 

Stay tuned for Part II in the next newsletter!

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