Chapter Fifty-three

Brodie was grumbling under his breath about being overheated and he was fast becoming more so with every passing minute. It had been three weeks since he broke his ankle; two weeks and four days of being stuck with kitchen duties and he was fed up. He rinsed off the potato he had just peeled and dropped in into the large pot with the others, causing water to splash over the sides. Picking up another spud, he eyed it with distaste. It was such a tedious job, made even more so because he had to take his time in order to avoid cutting himself. He had tried rushing it and got caught being careless twice, resulting in a trip over Yancey’s knee both times.

In an uncharacteristic fit of temper, Brodie hurled the potato in his hand and watched with satisfaction as it smashed against the side of the stove. Grinning, he grabbed up a second one and sent it flying.

“Just what the hell do you think you’re doing, young man?”  Walker’s voice came from out of nowhere, taking Brodie off guard and causing him to fall off the stool he had been sitting on.

The young librarian wasn’t any happier to find himself tossed over the ex-magistrate’s beefy shoulder, carried outside and unceremoniously dumped on the soft grass under a large tree. His crutches landed on the ground next to him

“Stay there and cool off while I go get Yancey to keep you company,” Walker ordered and walked off fully expecting to be obeyed.

Brodie silently fumed as he lay back and closed his eyes. “This is just great!” he groused, turning on his side and bringing his knees up to his chest.

Yancey had just finished taking inventory of all their medical supplies when Walker strolled into the infirmary. His smile of greeting faded slightly as he took in the piqued expression on the older man’s face. “Okay, Walker, what’s he done this time?” There was a touch of exasperation in the nurse’s voice.

“Aside from complaining about being so put upon, he’s made missiles out of a couple of potatoes. I’ve left him to cool off outside under the trees next to the mess tent.” Walker’s lips curled at the corners, his irritation apparently over with. “Your young man needs a bit of coddling, Yancey.”

“I guess I can provide that,” Yancey replied. “There’s not too much going on this morning with Lakota out gathering herbs for that flavoursome tea of his. Besides, I could do with some fresh air myself.” The two men chuckled over the tea comment and left the tent. “I’ll return Brodie to the kitchen as soon as I have him settled, Walker. Thank you for your understanding.”

“Hey, I’ve got two young men of my own, remember?”

Thomas headed towards the mess tent knowing he would find Galen there. They were leaving on a three-day camping trip away from the rest of the community. It was a chance for the two soon-to-be married men to spend some quality time together and do some exploring. He was looking forward to going and yet he was also slightly apprehensive. His young fiancé was pulling at his body’s desires more and more lately. It was going to take all his strength to keep to his edict that they would not engage in sexual activity until they were married. He knew that most of the men here would find him quite mad for sticking to this old-fashioned ideal, but Thomas felt in his heart the importance of keeping this sacred union to their wedding night. He knew full-well that his main reason behind this was Galen’s virginity. He wanted the first time to be perfect for this young keeper of his heart.
There was still a seething anger deep within him that Thomas could not let go. This beautiful creature had been torn from his family’s arms and exiled from all that he knew, and for what? This untouched seventeen-year-old boy had committed the sin of confessing his desire for a relationship with a man. Galen had arrived on the beach of this island on his eighteenth birthday, frightened and alone. The picture of him huddled behind that tree weak and thin from sea sickness was something Thomas would never forget. 
He knew now that it was at that moment when he first saw Galen that his own broken and ravaged heart had begun to heal. Galen had shown him it was possible to smile and laugh again. He had given Thomas his love and trust. And what had he asked in return? Only that Thomas give him some time and attention.
Thomas pledged to himself that he would do everything in his power to make Galen happy and give him at least a bit of the life he deserved. There was nothing he could do to return the boy to his family’s loving arms but he would protect and nurture this beautiful creature for the rest of his days; even if it sometimes meant protecting Galen from himself and his overly exuberant ways. He’d already tanned the pretty backside a couple of times and knew as sure as he drew breath that he’d be called upon to make such loving corrections again. 

Meanwhile, Galen was bouncing from one foot to the other as he watched Walker pack some food for him and Thomas to take on their much anticipated holiday. They so seldom got away from the everyday toil of work and chores, rarely even had time together outside of meals and campfire times. Unlike the other couples or threesomes who had more reason to steal bits of time and go off together, Galen and Thomas had never done so. Their situation was somewhat different in so far as they had yet to develop and enjoy a close intimate relationship.

“We’re going for three days, Walker. We w-won’t be b-back until late on M-monday,” he excitedly reminded the ex-magistrate. “I hardly ever get a chance to leave the compound, b-but Thomas has w-worked extra-long hours so he can take me camping. Thomas m-made arrangements with the rest of the council for this time away. He’s left instructions for Kevin to oversee the fields and Seth is going to take my p-place and help Raythe and Spyke w-with the livestock. Thomas took care of everything. Good, huh?” Galen babbled on.

“I know,” Walker patiently responded and smiled at the young man’s enthusiasm. He knew how dedicated Thomas was to their small community and knew how hard the man worked. “If anyone deserves a few days respite, it’s Thomas. But I’m not packing enough for the entire time as you’ll be hunting and fishing to augment what’s in this knapsack.”

“You’re gonna p-put in cutlery, plates and cups, right? And at least one p-pot and a frying pan, huh?”

“Yes, Galen,” Walker gave a sigh of feigned annoyance and rolled his eyes.

“Ya got some coffee in there for Thomas?” Galen started poking through the supplies to make sure nothing had been forgotten.

“I know what I’m doing, Galen. Now leave things alone.” Walker reached out and smacked Galen’s hand. “Didn’t Thomas instruct you to get your bedrolls ready?” He hoped to distract the young man and get him busy doing something other than harassing him.

“Got them right over there b-by the door,” Galen informed their head chef and pointed at the articles in question.

Walker breathed a sigh of relief when Thomas entered the mess tent.

Thomas had to smile at the look of exasperation on Walker’s face. He was sure Galen had been pestering the poor man to death. To Thomas, Galen’s innocent enthusiasm was a pure joy. However, he recognized it could wear down even a patient man like their cook. But then he couldn’t imagine taking on two partners as Walker had done. 

“Is everything ready, Galen?” Thomas asked as he slid his arm around the smaller man’s shoulder, drawing him into a hug. “I’m anxious to head out before the morning grows too late.” He laughed as the young man’s head zealously bobbed against his chest and the hug was energetically returned.

Dallas delivered his latest load of firewood to the infirmary. Although the punishment given by Yancey for rifling through his bag was long over, Dallas still provided water and firewood for the infirmary whenever it was his turn to do so. He hadn’t been feeling well for the last couple of days and was disappointed when he found both Lakota and Yancey absent.

Dallas looked around furtively as he entered the examination room. His eyes were drawn to the chest Larry had given Lakota to store the drugs in. ‘Morphine would help me,’ he thought. His bottom clenched as he imagined what Kevin would do if he was discovered. His nose wrinkled when he first saw the lock, but then the next thing he knew, he’d picked it and had a small vial of morphine in his hand along with a syringe. His mind shrieked at him ‘bad idea, bad idea,’ but Dallas pocketed his ill-gotten gains, rearranged the box to hide the missing items and locked it up again. He stepped out of the tent and ran straight into Wayne.

“Whoa!” Wayne skipped aside quickly to avoid a headlong collision. “What’s the hurry, Dallas?”

“Shit! You scared the hell out of me.”

Wayne looked at his friend in surprise. Dallas looked nervous and wouldn’t make eye contact. Wayne peered over Dallas’ shoulder into the infirmary and saw it was empty. “What are you doing in there?” he asked.

“It’s none of your bloody business what I’m doing.” Dallas flared at the innocent question, immediately slipping a hand into his pocket.

Wayne’s eyes snapped back to Dallas and he regarded him suspiciously. “I was only asking. No need to get so heated up.” Wayne chewed his lower lip for a moment, wondering how he should ask the next question. “Dallas, I’m kinda curious about something. It’s well known that you were once addicted to drugs?”

“What if I was?” Dallas blustered. “I’m not the only one who’s ever been addicted. Anyhow, I’m over it now.”

“I said you were at one time, didn’t I? I know you’re supposed to be fine now.” Wayne gazed straight into Dallas’ eyes. “You are, aren’t you?”

Dallas flushed with guilt as he felt the vial in the palm of his hand burning his skin. He should turn right around now and put it back, but he couldn’t. All he could think about was the effect of the sweet drug and how badly he wanted it.

“Of course I am,” he bluffed indignantly.

Wayne looked meaningfully at the pocket where Dallas had stuffed his hand. “What’s that in your pocket then? Did you take something from the infirmary?” he whispered.

Dallas leaned in and hissed fiercely. “Shush! Close that mouth of yours!” He looked undecided for a moment and then quickly walked away while beckoning for the other man to follow.

The two young men went a short distance into the woods. Dallas sank down onto the ground and leaned against a tree trunk. Suddenly he felt weary and needed to share his load. He held out his hand and showed Wayne the vial.

“Holy shit!” Wayne cried as his eyes became glued to the tiny glass tube. “Is that what I think it is?”

“It’s morphine,” Dallas replied. “It is the drug I prefer.” He grinned at his friend wryly.

Wayne appreciated Dallas’ honesty and slowly slid down next to his friend. “How in heaven’s name did you get addicted to that stuff in the first place?”

“I guess it first started when my father kicked me out of the house,” Dallas admitted. “I had only been on the streets for a week or so when I was struck down by a run-away horse. I ended up with a couple of busted ribs and this guy said he had something that could take the pain away. He said the first bit was free and like an idiot, I took what he gave me.”

Dallas’ laugh was hollow as Wayne listened intently. He didn’t know the other man’s world at all. He nudged his friend to continue.

“Before I knew it I was addicted and would do anything to get my next dose.” Dallas blushed. “Stealing was easy but sometimes the dealers wanted something else. I pimped for them and if they liked men, I’d prostitute myself for the drug.”

Wayne listened with his mouth hanging slightly open. “Jeez, that must have been some nightmare. So you’ve been addicted since then?”

“Yeah. I went cold turkey when I was about sixteen but within six months I was using again,” Dallas sighed. “It’s really seductive. I got this from Lakota’s medicine chest.” He held out his hand and showed Wayne the vial and syringe for a second time. “I reckon just a small dose couldn’t hurt. Want to join me?”

Wayne recoiled from the outstretched hand. “Dallas, please don’t do this. Put that stuff back. Do you know what kind of trouble you will get into?”

“Kevin will be really disappointed in me,” Dallas admitted with his voice breaking a little. “But one taste won’t hurt. It’s not like I’ll get addicted again.” Dallas sounded as if he was trying to convince himself. “It’s such a great feeling. Sure you don’t want to try it.”

No, I don’t want any!”

“It’s all the more for me then. I reckon there are at least two doses here,” Dallas said. “You’re not going to rat on me are you?” The paranoia of the addict was starting.

“Of course I won’t! What do you think I am; a snitch?”

“I hope not,” Dallas said meaningfully. “You’re a friend and friends don’t betray each other.”

“Yeah, I know,” Wayne answered as they go up and went their separate ways. He felt torn and worried about making a bad choice. ‘Maybe I should talk to someone about this,’ he thought and went to find his brother.

Seth poked his head into the tent and raised an eyebrow. “Well, well, well, what’s the big secret? Why all the whispering, boys?” he teased.

Wayne scowled.  “Nothing that concerns you!”

“Okay, sorry I asked.” Seth was rather taken aback as he thought they’d become good friends over the last several weeks.

Wes looked uncomfortable. “Well, it concerns a third party, you see.” He didn’t want to hurt Seth’s feelings.

“Yeah, that’s right, so can we have some privacy please?” Wayne asked sarcastically.

“I figure I have a right to be in my own tent but if that’s what you want, then so be it.” Seth started to back out of the tent.

“He’s right, Wayne.” Wes retorted with a frown at his twin. “He does share this tent. He has every right to be here.”

“Hey, it’s okay, Wes. I can take a hint. No one has to hit me over the head with a sledge hammer.” Seth was as able as the next man of speaking sarcastically.

Wes looked from Wayne to Seth, hoping to quench the potential falling-out. “Someone may be getting himself in a lot of trouble and could probably use our help. So it’s important we keep this very quiet and private.”

“Maybe I can help too,” Seth announced, looking back at the two identical faces.

Wayne smirked. “You wanna help, Seth? I thought your only interest is in gambling?”

“An ex-gambler,” Seth emphasized the word, “is just as capable of helping out as a ex-singer is; in fact probably more so!”

Despite himself, Wayne grinned. This bickering was going nowhere and sounding more ridiculous by the minute. Plus Seth could be pretty persuasive and witty when he felt like it.

“Give him a chance, Wayne!” Wes pleaded.

Wayne grudgingly relented. “Oh all right, but he has to swear this stays only between us. Can he be trusted?”  he taunted.

“I only gambled, Wayne. I never cheated and I don’t lie or steal,” Seth staunchly defended himself.

“Fine!” Wayne said as Seth clambered over the pallets and settled down next to Wes.

Wayne drew in a deep breath as his listeners leaned closer together and he began to recount his earlier encounter with Dallas.

“The guy is heading for more bother than anyone should have to deal with.” Seth sadly shook his head. “But we can’t just squeal on him.”

“So what are you saying Seth? That we tell no one about this?”  Wes inquired.

“I’m not sure if telling his partner or ours would help. Maybe we can stop him.”

“Do you know anything about drug addiction in the first place?” Wayne demanded. “And how do you propose we stop him?”

“I can only imagine it’s a hell of a lot harder to quit drugs than to quit gambling.” Seth grimaced at the thought. “Do you think if we tell Dallas we understand what he’s going through and encourage him to stick to the schedule Lakota put him on to help him keep off the stuff, he’ll rethink his actions? Or what if we just keep him really occupied with other activities like getting him involved in some games or something?”

“That might work,” Wes said uncertainly. None of them had any experience dealing with drug addiction.

Seth shrugged. “Well, we can only give it our best shot, right?”
“Do you think ... well, are we breaking any rules here?” Wayne whispered in a conspiratorial tone, immediately sending shivers up the spines of his two companions.

“You mean for not squealing on him? Who the hell knows, there are so god-damned many of them,” Seth griped. “With our luck, we’re probably gathering enough rope to hang ourselves. But what the heck, it’s just something friends do for each other, right? So let’s go find him.”

The twins and Seth waylaid Dallas with hopes of talking him into giving back the drugs but quickly realized they were too late as their friend had apparently already taken the first dose. While the three young men felt sorry for their friend, they were really at a loss as to how to help aside from not being the ones to tattle on him. It also crossed their minds to hope the decision to keep quiet would not prove detrimental to their own backsides, especially when they all knew it would not take long for the entire camp to hear what Dallas had done.

Thomas had unhurriedly walked along the barely visible path leading to a destination Brock had told him about. It was a place that would ensure their privacy and one to which only the mountain man had been to. The five-mile journey had taken them to the far end of the beach they all frequented, over an extended out-crop of rocks and through the forest, eventually coming upon the small inlet where they would set up camp.

Galen’s pace had been anything but leisurely. In fact, Thomas figured his companion had probably covered double the amount of miles he had, as the young man spent most the hike racing ahead with Walker’s dogs and retracing his steps back to the older man. Along the shore, Galen had collected shells, shipped rocks out over the water and played fetch with Romeo and Juliet. Thomas was tiring more from watching his fiancé that from the actual trek.

Suddenly, Galen stopped and squatted down beside a small pool of water left by the receding tide, giving Thomas his first opportunity to catch up with the hyper-active lad.

Pushing aside the dogs that had also come to investigate, Thomas peered down at what had attracted Galen’s attention.

“Look, Thomas. It’s a turtle!” Galen gazed upward with a dazzling smile lighting up his face.

“It certainly is,” Thomas replied. “And a good size one too. It would make a fine turtle soup in Walker’s pot.”

Galen grabbed up the turtle which was approximately twenty inches in diameter and held it possessively to his chest. He looked at Thomas in horror. “No! I w-want to keep him as a p-pet.”

“Okay, sweetheart, we won’t make soup. However, I think this turtle is of quite an age and he is used to his life in the wild. I think he would be very unhappy being kept as a pet,” Thomas suggested, hoping his young fiancé could see the point and let the turtle go.

Reluctantly putting the animal back where he found it, Galen looked at it longingly and sighed. He still would have liked to keep it but knew Thomas was right.

Thinking it best to move on, he eagerly proposed, “Guess we b-better set up camp, huh?”

“That sounds like a good plan to me.” Thomas smiled. “I think this is the perfect place for a camp site, don’t you?” He indicated the isolated beach.

“Uh-huh,” Galen nodded his agreement, walked over to a shaded area and dropped the bedrolls on the ground.

Thomas began to unpack the large backpack he carried. “Walker packed us a very nice lunch with bread and meat and fruit. I thought we could dig some clams to have for our supper tonight. Does that sound good to you?”

Galen’s stomach took that moment to protest its’ emptiness. “Great timing on your p-part, Thomas,” he laughed, ready to enjoy a good meal. “I sure don’t m-mind clam-digging but I w-won’t eat them so whatever we find are all yours.”

Thomas had to laugh at the sour look on Galen’s face when he said he wouldn’t eat the clams. “Okay, then along with the clams for me how about we get a nice fish to fry up for you?”

“Yes, I’d like that. So w-we’ll dig for your supper and fish for m-mine, right?" Galen was soaking up the attention being paid to him by this most important person in his life. “Did you bring a b-book for us to read before b-bedtime tonight, Thomas?”

“Of course I brought a book. Troy recommended one that he thought we’d enjoy. I’ll save it as a surprise for later. How about we gather some wood for our fire first, then enjoy lunch before we begin our digging and fishing?” Thomas was looking forward to the clams he’d always loved since his father had introduced him to clamming as a boy. Maybe he could persuade Galen to give them a try once he got them cooked up.

“Alright, b-but would it be okay if we p-put together some kind of shelter right after lunch and then get on w-with the fishing? Once that is out of the w-way, we can use all the rest of our time here just having fun,” Galen proposed and began gathering pieces of driftwood.

“Okay, when did you become so practical?” Thomas asked with a grin. “I thought I was the one who was supposed to think of such things as shelters?” He pulled Galen into his arms, causing the younger man to drop the wood he was holding and placed a gentle kiss on the sweet mouth. Thomas felt himself growing aroused from the simple contact. Not wanting to get carried away, he ended the embrace with a pat on his fiancé’s bottom. “Leave the wood-gathering until we’ve eaten. I don’t know about you, but suddenly I’m starving.” 

Somewhat disappointed in the kiss not lasting longer, Galen nevertheless went along with his companion’s plans.

“Whenever Pappous took me into the w-wild for an overnight trip, we always set up camp first,” the young man explained. “Right now though, eating sounds b-best, ‘cause I’m starving too.”

The two men enjoyed the picnic lunch provided, which to their surprise had included two carefully wrapped berry tarts courtesy of their incredible cook. Before long, they had set up a comfortable lean-to using the canvas they had brought with them and some sturdy saplings they had cut down. Thomas was thoroughly enjoying this time alone with Galen. It was giving him an opportunity to see the young man as more than just a lad in need of some love and guidance. He learned that Galen was really quite adept at what was needed to camp, even if his enthusiasm tended to get the better of him at times.

When the two men had finished constructing their small refuge, Galen stood back to survey their work. “This sure looks cosy and comfortable, doesn’t it?”

“Yes, it does. I’d say we’re ready to do our clamming and fishing now. How about we dig for the clams first? Then we can relax while we fish. I’ll teach you the fine art of the clam bake tonight even if you don’t care for them.”

“You b-bet,” Galen exclaimed and then whistled for the dogs. “I like learning new things, Thomas, and I should think a clam b-bake would be interesting, b-but I’m still not gonna eat any.” He laughed as he ran down to the shore and began searching for the small holes in the wet sand that would indicate the whereabouts of the buried clams.

The more time Thomas spent with Galen, the more he realized he would always have his hands full of a delightfully stubborn young man and it couldn’t have made him happier. Something in his nature looked forward to the challenge. Galen would never be the quiet, docile person that his late Jacob had been and Thomas couldn’t be more pleased.  

They quickly had a nice little bucket of clams dug and were sitting at the water’s edge waiting for a bite on one of their lines. “What is your favourite kind of fish, Galen?’ Thomas asked. “I love sole and halibut myself.”

“Well, I’ve only ever fresh-water fished, Thomas. I like trout, b-bass and p-perch. We used to catch a lot of sunfish too, but I was the only one who ate them ‘cause they had so many b-bones. Catfish too, even though they are really ugly. I had cod once when I w-went on one of those horrible trips with m-my mother and I like it. Do you think we can catch cod this close to shore?”

“Yes, Galen, I think we might catch a couple of smaller ones. The little ones will come in closer to shore to feed. Then we can clean the clams, which I can’t wait for. I do love baked clams,” Thomas said with a grin, thinking of the seafood with the fresh bread Walker had packed for them.

“Maybe I should m-meet the fish half-way,” Galen suggested with a laugh. Grabbing up a pole, he run along a protrusion of rocks that lead out to sea. He slipped several times on the wet boulders, barely managing not to fall. When he arrived at the end, he turned and wave to Thomas before throwing in his line. Then he sat down and waited for a bite.

Thomas cringed a couple of times as he watched Galen run across the huge wet stones. He was trying not to be so over-protective of his young love but an inner voice was screaming at him to drag the lad off the rocks. He drew a deep breath and began to make his way along the outcrop. He called out in as calm a voice as he could muster. “Galen, please be careful on the rocks.”

Galen glanced up when he felt his mentor’s presence and smiled. “It’s a slippery run, isn’t it? But we b-both made it safely.” He held his face up to the sea breeze. “There is a touch of coming Autumn in the air that feels so good, doesn’t it, Thomas?”

How could anyone resist the enthusiasm of this beautiful young man?  Galen made the smallest things in life seem new again. Thomas felt the surge of love growing in his heart and his loins. Putting his physical desires aside, he smiled. “Yes, sweetheart, it does feel good. But I hope it holds off for a while longer as it is only the beginning of September. Now let’s catch us some fish.”

They sat in companionable silence for a while until Galen’s line was tugged. Luck seemed to be on their side as it hadn’t taken too long before Galen felt that first nibble. He peered into the water and waited a few moments to be sure, then gave his line a hard sudden jerk.

“Got it!” he exclaimed jubilantly and hauled his catch ashore. Lifting the fish high in the air, Galen asked Thomas how big he thought it was.

Galen had pulled in a sizable young cod. “You’ve got a beauty there. I’d say it must be close to two and a half pounds. That, along with the clams, is more than enough for the two of us. What’s say we go cook them up; I’m suddenly hunger again.”

“Sure thing, ‘cause I’m really hungry too. Can I f-fillet this while you get the fire going?” Galen inquired as they carefully made their way back to the beach.

“Certainly you can. I’ll shuck the clams once I get the fire started.” They worked together and soon had a wonderful meal prepared.

Thomas loaded his plate with shell fish and a piece of the cod. “You sure I can’t talk you into some of these clams?” he asked as he tucked into the sweet meat.

“Nooo,” Galen shook his head adamantly as he popped a piece of fish in his mouth and licked his fingers. The two men ate hungrily in companionable silence with Galen making sure the dogs got their fair share. It had been a long time since Galen had felt this happy. Having the man he loved all to himself was what he wanted most and at the moment, his wishes were coming true. 

Working as a team once again, they quickly cleaned up after eating their fill. “Can we go for a w-walk, do you think? We’ll still have time to read b-before it gets dark.”

“That sounds like a wonderful idea.” Thomas looked at Galen dressed only in his overalls. “However, I’d like you to put a shirt on. It’s getting a bit cooler and I don’t want you to get a chill.”

Galen buttoned up the shirt he’d dug out of his pack and whistled for the dogs. They all spent the next hour exploring the shore line and woodland nearby before heading back to their small camp and settling in for the night.

Upon their return, Galen added more wood to the fire while Thomas fetched the book he’d brought with him. Curling up beside the bigger man, Galen waited patiently for Thomas to begin.

Thomas opened the book and started to read, “Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens.” He began the story about the life of the little orphan in London. After reading for the better part of an hour, Thomas noticed Galen had begun to yawn. He patted Galen’s hip. “I think that’s enough for tonight, my love. Let’s settle down and get some sleep.” 

Galen crawled onto his bed next to Thomas’ and rolled over to face the older man. He reached out and gently ran his fingers over the stubble on Thomas’ chin. He didn’t speak as he gazed into his companion’s handsome face which was visible in the moonlight streaming through the opened side of the lean-to. He was too contented just being here. Impulsively, he got up on his hands and knees, then bent over and placed a loving kiss on Thomas’ lips. 

Thomas responded to the kiss and pulled Galen into his arms, pressing his mouth hard against that of the younger man. Galen’s lips opened to his probing tongue and he slid inside, tasting his fiancé’s sweet mouth for the first time. His hands roved over Galen’s back with one hand gripping the firm buttocks. He suddenly pulled back from the kiss, panting hard. “I love you, Galen, but we need to stop.” He could see the passion and confusion Galen’s eyes. “I still want us to wait for our wedding. I hope you understand.”

“Yes,” Galen whispered his compliance but was unable to hide the disappointment in his voice. He shuffled back to his side of the makeshift bed and stared up at the stars. “Only a little over a m-month to go, Thomas, and then you’ll show m-me what all the others already know, right?”

Thomas gave Galen a gentle smile. “We’ll show each other what wonders and depths our love can attain. I know we will have a marriage that will last a lifetime. Trust me, love, it will be worth the wait.” He bent over Galen and gave him a chaste kiss. “Good night, sweetheart.”


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