Happy Valentine's Day!
Today's Valentine's special is a short featuring Manny and Josh from Full Circle (Sanctuary #5).
“What are you doing for Valentine’s day?” Kayden asked.
He kicked and bounced on the spot; the rope holding him steady flexed with the movement.
“Stop doing that!” Manny snapped. “You're freaking me out.”
Kayden looked at him and then deliberately bounced a few more times. Manny closed his eyes. It wasn’t like he was scared of heights—that wasn’t the issue at all. He’d done worse than abseil off the top of a forty-story skyscraper high above Manhattan.
Nope, it wasn’t the heights. It was the waiting. Oh, and the fact that Kayden seemed to have the devil in him and couldn’t stay still. He’d already walked a few feet away and then free-swung back to the starting point. He’d bounced, flailed, and generally destroyed Manny’s concentration for the last ten minutes.
That shit’s getting old.
Kayden persisted. “So what are you doing for Josh for Valentine’s?”
“You first,” Manny said.
“Me?” Kayden blinked innocently. “I’m not doing anything for Josh. He’s not my boyfriend, Beckett is my boyfriend.”
Manny didn’t even give him the courtesy of a reply to that one. In fact, he didn’t say a word, but finally, as Manny knew he would, Kayden broke the silence.
“I got Beckett an iPad—” Manny didn’t think that was incredibly inspired, but he didn’t say so. Kayden continued. “—and I recorded this message.” Kayden bounced a few more times on the window glass. “It will play when he turns it on.”
“Look at little Kayden, all grown up and romantic,” Manny teased.
“Fuck off.” Kayden pulled his beanie lower over his face. The wind forty stories up was a force to be reckoned with, but they were sheltered from it at the moment; didn’t stop the cold, though. New York in February was colder than a witch’s tit.
Kayden wasn’t letting this rest. “So, what are you doing for Josh?”
Manny hadn’t told anyone about the gift he had for Josh. The same gift that had been burning a hole in his pocket at Christmas and New Year’s, and now at Valentine’s. The sturdy platinum ring was always with him; even now he had it on a chain hidden beneath his thermals, just in case something happened.
He wanted Josh to know, even if he died, that Manny had loved him, that he’d always meant one day to ask Josh to marry him.
Movement on the other side of the glass—Nik there in a tux, with a glass cutter, and Manny tensed in preparation.
“Show time,” Kayden said, and he immediately went from bouncing and annoying to utterly focused. The glass gave way and Kayden was in first, Manny next.
“Ten minutes,” Nik said, straightening his bow tie and then nodding. He left and pulled the office door shut behind him.
Manny did a three-sixty. “Now where would I be if I were plans for a nuclear device?” he mused.
Kayden smacked him upside the head. “Floor safe, moron.”
Manny narrowed his eyes at his friend. “I was joking.”
Josh pulled two beers from the fridge, handing one to Manny and then taking his own bottle to the couch. Dinner had been wonderful, at a family-owned, tiny Italian restaurant. The lighting was low, the food perfect, the wine just the right one to go with their meal.
Josh had waxed lyrical over all of it.
Manny didn’t taste a single thing. All he could do was stare at Josh, at his beautiful green eyes, at the way his dark hair fell over his forehead.
“Are you okay?” Josh asked, settling down next to Manny on the sofa. “You’re very quiet.” His voice sounded odd, as though he wasn’t sure whether he should ask that, or maybe he was apprehensive to hear the answer.
“Just thinking,” Manny said, feeling the tension radiating from Josh at that answer—which, he had to be honest, was a non-answer that explained absolutely nothing.
“About us?” Josh shifted a little so that there was space between them and then turned to look at Manny.
“Yes,” Manny said, “about me and you and everything here.” He gestured to their loft.
They’d only just moved in. Hell, it had only recently become safe for them to be back in the States, back in Albany. They had the sofa and a huge TV, a bed with bedding that Josh had picked out, in a strong, solid blue with matching drapes. There were towels in the bathroom, Josh’s favorite beer in the fridge, and Manny’s gun safe installed with codes only he and Josh knew. Josh was making this a home, and Manny loved coming home to the new thing that Josh had done. Yesterday he’d found him covered in pale blue paint from where he’d created a feature wall in their bedroom. They’d ended up sleeping on the sofa for the night because the bedroom stank of paint, but that didn’t matter.
Life was good.
“I thought—” Josh began, then stopped and placed the beer on the table, turning back to Manny and looking so damned earnest. “I thought we were happy here. Did I do something? Am I too… I don’t know, needy or something? Pushy? I know I should have discussed the paint with you. I didn’t mean to—”
Manny cut him off, kissing him thoroughly until Josh was pliant in his arms and they were both seconds from taking it into the bedroom. Or the kitchen. Or maybe right there on the sofa.
“I love that you are making this a home for us,” Manny said. “I wish I were here more.”
Josh seemed happy with that, snuggled into Manny’s side, and sighed. “Do you miss the cabin in Canada?” he asked softly.
Manny didn’t have to think about the answer. “I do.”
Josh sighed again. “Seemed like we had all the time in the world there.”
“Yeah, it seemed that way.”
And that was the problem. Manny missed the cabin as well. He missed being there with Josh 24/7. He loved his job, but he loved Josh more. He didn’t miss the fact that they'd been isolated, or cut off from the business end of Sanctuary, but hell, he missed the alone time he'd had with Josh. Could they be happy together in this new place when life got in their way? Two nights ago he’d been recovering stolen flash drives after dangling on the side of a skyscraper. What if he got hurt? What if this was the best they had?
Am I selfish to want more?
They sat in silence a while longer.
“You want to go to bed?” Josh kissed the side of Manny’s neck, working his way up until their lips connected.
So sweet. So damn sexy and hot and sweet and so freaking perfect.
And suddenly, Manny had enough. He shoved at Josh, who slid back and away with surprise and hurt on his face.
“Manny? What’s wrong?”
Manny scrambled up off the sofa and slid to his knees, looking up at Josh. “This is so selfish….” He heard his voice crack, his chest so tight it was hard to breathe. “I know I do stupid things. I know I put others who need me before us, and I’m sorry, okay.”
That wasn’t a question but a statement from the heart.
Josh’s wide-eyed shock subsided, and in its place was a kind of grief. “I understand if you don’t want—”
“No, you don’t get it. I’m fucking this all up,” he added. Why were the words so damn hard to say?
“I get it.” Josh made to stand up.
Manny stopped him, and abruptly the words were there. He scrambled for the chain around his neck, pulling it up and over his head and unclasping it, sliding off the two rings. One for himself, one for Josh.
“Marry me,” he said and held out Josh’s ring. “Inside, it says forever, and I want that with you. And I know what I do is sometimes dangerous, but I’m good at it, and I can spend more time—”
Now it was Josh’s turn to interrupt Manny, and he placed a hand very firmly over Manny’s mouth. “Yes,” he said.
“One hundred percent yes.”
Then somehow Josh was on the floor with him and they were kissing and promising all kinds of things for the future.
“I love you,” Manny said. “Always.”
Josh kissed him and laughed. “Forever.”
And they lived happily ever after.
Despite Manny nearly doing jail time after the next mission with Kayden.
Kayden swore he didn’t bounce on the glass of Trump Tower that much, and anyway, it was all Nik’s fault for the extra time he’d spent setting the booby trap in the office desk. It made Nik late and gave Kayden way too much time for bouncing out into the night and back against the glass.
Manny still isn’t talking to either of them.
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