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About JulieLHayes

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    Bisexual, leaning female
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    St. Louis
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    writing, reading, movies, music, crocheting, knitting, cross stitching, needlepoint

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  1. @Headstall Thanks! Fanfiction is fun to write too, especially if you're passionate about your characters. Thanks for stopping by! @Valkyrie I think if you read it, you'll understand the title
  2. “I think we should tell Roy first,” Lee said once they’d gotten their fill of the hot tub and gone back inside their cabin. “I think he deserves to know before anyone else, what do you think?” They’d dried themselves off with the generous towels the cruise line provided and sat together on the bed, sipping more Prosecco. “I think you’re right,” Marshall agreed. Lee reached for his hand and squeezed it. “No time like the present. Assuming we can get a signal.” He released Marshall’s hand and reached for his phone on the bedside table. “He’s two hours behind us, time-wise. I’m sure he’s still up.” He placed the call on speaker and punched in Roy’s number. Marshall was relieved to hear it ring. That was a start, anyway. Roy picked up quickly. “Lee? Everything all right?” Lee chuckled. “Everything’s perfect, Roy. Just perfect.” “Glad to hear it.” Marshall could hear relief in the sheriff’s voice. “I didn’t expect to hear from you while you’re on vacation. You’re headed back, right about now, aren’t you?” “We are,” Lee confirmed. “I have you on speakerphone, Roy, and I have Marshall right here.” “Hey Marshall.” “Hi Roy.” “You guys having a good time?” “Everything is so perfect… you have to try it sometime,” Marshall said with enthusiasm. “Come with us next time.” “I think I just might, if I find someone I want to go with. You know the old adage. Two’s company…” He didn’t finish the thought, but Marshall understood what he meant. “I want what you guys have,” Roy said frankly. “You’re like the most perfect couple I know. Seriously.” “Appreciate you saying that, Roy.” Lee smiled at Marshall, instilling him with even greater confidence. “How’s everything at home?” “Same old same old. Nothing new. Been to Partners once or twice. The guys said to say hello if I talked to you.” “That’s nice of them.” Lee cleared his throat. “The reason we called… well, other than to say hello and see how you’re doing… is to give you some news. Are you sitting down?” “Uh oh, this sounds serious. Yeah, sitting down now. What’s up? Is something wrong?” “Not at all, in fact the opposite. We wanted you to be the first to know… I asked Marshall to marry me.” A moment of silence followed Lee’s statement. Marshall could imagine what thoughts were flying through Roy’s mind. Probably many of the same ones he’d had initially when Lee had popped the question. “Is that possible… I mean….” Roy seemed at a loss for words. Lee quickly jumped in to fill in the gaps. “It won’t be official, no, but it’ll be for us. We want a ceremony with our friends, exchange rings and vows, and make our commitment to each other.” “I think that’s a great idea, congratulations to you both,” Roy said sincerely. Marshall breathed a soft sigh of relief. He hadn’t realized how worried he’d been about Roy’s reaction to their news. He should have known better. “Do you have a date in mind?” Roy asked. Lee and Marshall exchanged glances. They hadn’t exactly gotten that far. “Not yet. I thought we’d stop in Galveston and look for rings. Probably the sooner the better, don’t you think?” He looked to Marshall for confirmation, and Marshall nodded his agreement. “Yeah,” Lee repeated, “the sooner the better.” “All right then. You’ll be back tomorrow, right? Late morning, early afternoon?” “Something like that.” “Guess I’ll see you both then. I have to let you go, got a few things to do. Congratulations again, I’ll talk at you when you get here.” He hung up before either Marshall or Lee could get out a good-bye. “What’s he up to?” Marshall wondered. Lee shrugged. “Maybe he’s got a hot date? Or maybe someone in the town needs him for something?” Marshall hoped that was all it was. Guess he’d find out the next day when they returned to Burnham.
  3. Exactly! And no one will question it since they have the same last name anyway!
  4. JulieLHayes


    Either knock him unconscious or maybe have something blur his vision. Have him trampled by a herd of Girl Scouts lol
  5. JulieLHayes


    I'm enjoying this story, watching their relationship grow. I can't wait to see the Colonel's reaction when he realizes who Liberty is.
  6. Marshall was sure he could not have heard Lee correctly. Marry him? How? They both knew their union would never be permitted by any government anywhere. Attempting to take out a marriage license would probably only get them both in trouble. Marshall might wish it to be otherwise—with all his heart, he wanted to be out and proud with Lee—but he knew that could never be. Could it? His heart was pounding, and for a moment, he couldn’t speak, too choked up for words. Finally, he managed to get out, “Lee… how?” “It won’t be anything official,” Lee said softly. He cradled Marshall’s hand between both of us, looking deep into his eyes. “But we can have a private ceremony, just us and a few of our friends. We can exchange vows… and rings.” Rings. Suddenly Lee’s suggestion began to make more sense as Marshall considered the ramifications of the rings. They would be visible proof of their union, something that bound them in the eyes of the people around them. Something that said they weren’t available to anyone else better than mere words could. Most importantly, they’d be as close as they could ever get to being truly married. At least in the US. Marshall was sure their union was illegal everywhere, to be honest. Everywhere but their own hearts. “But only if you want to,” Lee added, and Marshall realized he hadn’t actually answered the question. How could Lee doubt his answer, though? “I would love to marry you, Lee,” Marshall said. “I want to be with you for the rest of our lives. You and me, always.” “That’s what I want too.” Lee’s smile was radiant. “When we get home we can look for rings. We’ll be in Galveston anyway, want to look there? I bet we’ll get a better selection there than in Tucker Falls, much less Burnham.” Marshall suspected that was quite true. Especially since he didn’t think anyone in Burnham sold wedding rings. “I’m sure Denver and Dustin won’t mind,” Lee said. “Nah, I’m sure they’ll be cool with it. Especially once we invite them to the wedding.” Lee’s brow arched. “Are you sure? I mean, you sure you’re comfortable with that?” Marshall nodded. “I am. Plus I think it’ll help resolve everything once and for all with him.” Although Marshall didn’t mention him by name, he knew Lee would know whom he referred to. “Not that I think there’d be a problem anyway. Plus I figured you meant the guys from Partners, right? And Roy, naturally.” “Naturally Roy,” Lee responded. That one was a given. Roy was their very best friend, their trusted companion. Of course they couldn’t get married without him being there. “We should drink another toast,” Marshall said. “Agreed.” Lee poured more of the Prosecco, then set the bottle down. He raised his glass toward Marshall. “Here’s to our future union, and to many years of wedded bliss,” he said solemnly. “And here’s to marrying the sexiest damn man in the state of Texas,” Marshall said as he clinked his glass against Lee’s. “That would be you,” Lee said with a grin. “Not arguing with you, old man,” Marshall said, returning the grin, “even though I’m right.” He linked his arm through Lee’s, careful not to spill anything into the hot tub. “You’re so sexy you make me hard just looking at you.” He was gratified to see a faint blush come to Lee’s cheeks. “Then let me return the compliment and, at the risk of giving you a swelled head, I’ll just say you star in some damn sexy dreams.” They both smiled contentedly as they raised their glasses and drank.
  7. Where there is a will, there is a way!
  8. When they returned to their room, Lee called Room Service and ordered a bottle of Prosecco. “Want anything to eat with that?” he asked Marshall. Marshall considered for a moment. He wasn’t really hungry now, but he might be later. “Maybe some of that lava cake we had before?” Something sweet would hit the spot after making love. “Sounds good to me.” Lee relayed the order, then hung up. “What’s Prosecco?” Marshall asked. “It’s like champagne, but sweeter,” Lee replied. “A little something special for our last night here.” Lee pulled Marshall closer to him, circling his waist. “A special night for a special guy.” Marshall warmed at Lee’s words. “Being with you is what makes everything special,” he said sincerely. Lee kissed him softly, then with a growing fervor as they pressed together, losing themselves in one another. Only a knock at the door kept them from escalating their kisses to the next step. They drew apart reluctantly. Lee answered the knock and admitted a steward with their order. “Good evening, sirs,” the steward greeted them as he rolled a cart into their suite. “Celebrating our last night on board, are we?” “We are indeed,” Lee replied. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a few bills which he handed to the man. “Thank you very much, we can take it from here.” “Very good, sir. Enjoy your evening.” He nodded at each of them then discreetly withdrew. Lee verified that the door was locked behind him, then turned to Marshall, a wicked gleam in his eyes. “Alone at last,” he said with a grin. “Still want to drink this in the hot tub?” “You know it.” “No time like the present then. Grab the glasses.” Marshall quickly obeyed, as Lee picked up the ice-filled bucket containing the Prosecco. They carried everything out to the deck and left it on the table beside the hot tub, then returned to their room and stripped before returning to the hot tub. The night was balmy, with just the hint of a spice-laden breeze. They could hear music from one of the other decks, some kind of jazz. Just loud enough to be heard without being intrusive. Lee popped the cork on the Prosecco and poured it into two glasses before they climbed into the warm water, sitting across from one another. He handed one of the glasses to Marshall and took the other. “What shall we toast to?” Lee asked. “To the best time of our lives,” Marshall promptly replied, clinking his glass against Lee’s. “To the best time,” Lee repeated. They each drank. “I think I like this even better than the champagne,” Marshall commented. “It does tickle a mite, though.” “As I recall, the champagne did that too,” Lee drawled, and Marshall had to laugh at that. “Yeah, I guess it did.” He took another sip. “It’s really good. I’m glad you thought of it.” “I am too.” Nothing more was said for a moment. Then Lee cleared his throat, and shifted his position. Marshall wondered if he was making room for him to come over, and he began to move toward him, but Lee held up one hand. “Not yet. I want to talk to you first.” That sounded ominous. “Did I do something wrong?”Marshall asked anxiously. “What? Oh God no, don’t think that,” Lee hastened to assure him. “Nothing like that. Just have something on my mind, and I want to say it to you, but I want it to come out right, that’s all.” He reached for Marshall’s hand and when he received it, he squeezed it. “Marshall, you know you mean the world to me, right?” Marshall nodded. “And you know I’d do anything for you, don’t you?” Marshall nodded again. “This trip… it’s been more than a great time. I think I’ve had my eyes opened to something I probably should have realized sooner.” Marshall couldn’t help but feel anxious again. This sounded so ominous. Surely he wasn’t going to start that stuff about Marshall needing or wanting someone closer to his own age, someone who wasn’t Lee. “Lee, you know I want you and only you, forever.” Marshall tried to control his quivering lip. Damned if he was going to cry. No way. “I know that,” Lee said solemnly. “That’s why I’m asking you this… will you marry me?”
  9. Denver and Dustin were waiting for them when they arrived in the dining salon. “Good thing you sent us in first,” Denver commented as they took their seats around the table. “Look at this place. It’s packed.” “Guess everyone had the same idea we did,” Lee said. Wall-to-wall men. Testosterone filled the air in abundance. “Last night to get laid,” Dustin quipped, and everyone laughed. Every table was decorated with a centerpiece consisting of the same beautiful flowers Marshall remembered seeing on the islands, in brilliant shades of red and orange and purple, and each bouquet bore the familiar Gay Pride flag. A fitting end to his first gay cruise. A server appeared, and they all ordered beer and appetizers, followed by more beer and thick steaks and crispy fries. Dessert was a coconut Panna Cotta with mango and sweet whipped cream. Everything was done to perfection. Afterward, they walked up to the deck for a last look at the ocean by moonlight. Marshall found himself standing next to Dustin. Lee and Denver were engrossed in conversation farther down the rail. They stood together in a companionable silence. Marshall was trying to decide which he wanted to do more—find one of the night clubs and dance, or get Lee naked as soon as possible. He was surprised Dustin wasn’t taking advantage of the night to find a partner. Men were being less than subtle in their propositions. The only way to avoid being asked to go to bed was to appear as if you were already taken. And sometimes that didn’t help, especially for those men whose philosophy was the more the merrier. Marshall knew he’d never be one of those guys. He was happy being one of two. Laughter filled the air as men eagerly hooked up for this final night at sea. “If you want to…” Marshall was trying to be delicate. He didn’t want Dustin to think he was trying to get rid of him, just wanted to let him know he’d understand if Dustin wanted to hook up with someone. “If I want to what?” Dustin gave him a perplexed look. So much for subtlety. “Um, you know.” Marshall shrugged. “I thought maybe… for your last night…”He turned away, watching the moonbeams dance across the water, in case he’d embarrassed Dustin with his question. “Oh.” Marshall held his breath, in anticipation of either an explosion or an argument… or worse. He was surprised to hear a low chuckle from Dustin. He glanced back at him. “Yeah, I don’t blame you for thinking that, but honestly, I’m not interested in a one-night stand.” Before Marshall could say anything, Dustin quickly added, “And I’m not going to hit on you again, honest.” That was a comforting thought. “No, I get it, I really do,” Dustin continued,”But that doesn’t mean I don’t want the same thing you and Lee have. And I’m not going to find it by hanging out in bars. I bet you didn’t meet Lee in a bar, did you?” Marshall shook his head. “No, I sure didn’t.” Not that he was about to admit how they really did meet. That was and always would be none of Dustin’s business. “Maybe moving to Tucker Falls will help. At least I hope so. Are you guys from Texas originally?” “No, Georgia,” Marshall replied. “We just ended up in Texas.” “Great place to live. I just need to find my own place in it, you know?” Marshall nodded. “Yeah, I can understand that. Oh, don’t let me forget to give you my email address.” “I won’t forget,” Dustin promised. “You know something?” “What’s that?” Marshall asked. “Lee’s a damn lucky man.” “And Lee knows it.” Marshall heard Lee’s voice at the same time he felt his arm around his waist, the brush of his lips across his head. He couldn’t help but tingle at Lee’s touch. “You’re both lucky,” Dustin said. “Amen to that,” Denver agreed. He stood beside Dustin, grinning at Marshall and Lee. “Hey cuz, want to get a last drink or two?” Dustin suggested. “Sounds good to me. You guys coming?” he asked Marshall and Lee. Lee pressed more tightly against Marshall’s back, and Marshall knew damn well the decision was his to make, and that Lee wouldn’t squawk either way. “I think we’ll catch up to you in the morning,” Marshall said. “Sounds like a plan. Want to catch breakfast here or Galveston?” “How about Galveston? We can meet you and get off the ship together.” “Okay, just text me in the morning. G’night, guys. C’mon, Dust.” “Night,” Dustin said, following his cousin. “See you in the morning,” Lee said, as Marshall turned to face him. “I take it you don’t want to go to the bar?” “Nope. Hot tub, cold drinks and you sounds like the perfect way to spend our last night,” Marshall said. Lee grinned. “Then let’s do it.”
  10. All too soon, it seemed, the last night of the cruise arrived. Despite all the fun they’d had, Marshall wasn’t sorry to going back home to Burnham, and their lives there. To their own bed. Their own business. And to Roy, the best friend they had. The Wandering Star would dock in Galveston the next day, then they’d have the drive back to Burnham, where they’d part company with Denver and Dustin. At least they’d reached an understanding between them, and Dustin had been nothing but on his best behavior for the reminder of the cruise. It had been quite an eventful trip, in many ways. Marshall and Lee were dressing for their final dinner, the same fancy clothes they’d worn at the captain’s table. They’d arranged to meet Denver and Dustin and Roger and Kenny, and afterwards go drinking and dancing. Live it up on this final night. They probably weren’t the only ones with that idea. Marshall stole a glance at Lee, watching as his long fingers knotted the maroon tie into place. He smoothed it down and looked up to catch Marshall watching him. The corner of his mouth quirked up in amusement. “Like what you see?” he asked. “You know it,” Marshall said, not the least embarrassed at having been caught looking. Lee turned toward Marshall, his gaze raking over him as if inspecting him. “You look damn nice,” he said. “We’re a handsome couple.” Marshall grinned. “You got that right.” Marshall leaned up and kissed Lee’s cheek tenderly. “What’s that for?” Lee asked. “For this trip. For having the time of my life. And because I love you more than anything in the world.” “I’d do anything for you,” Lee said, “and you know I feel the same way.” He pulled Marshall closer and their lips met, softly at first, then lingering a little longer until they stepped back to take a breath. “Tonight’s our last chance to do it on a cruise ship,” Lee teased. “At least on this trip. There’ll be others.” That thought pleased Marshall very much. “Don’t think I don’t have something in mind,” he bantered back. “I have plans for that sexy ass of yours. Big plans.” “Is that so? Someone seems rather sure of himself, don’t they?” “Yes, someone sure does.” Marshall stepped closer to Lee, bridging the gap between them once more. His hands wound around him, coming to rest at the base of Lee’s spine. “You objecting?” “Did I say I was?” “Good, glad to hear it,” Marshall said. “Maybe order up some drinks when we get back tonight? Out on the deck?” “I like the way you think,” Lee approved. “I thought we’d make this last night one to remember,” Marshall said. “I want to get a few more pictures too. I’m going to make a digital scrapbook and file them all away.” “Digital scrapbook? Don’t they make photo albums any more?” Marshall laughed. “It’s the twenty-first century. Hell no.” He noticed Lee’s eyes were dancing with amusement. He hadn’t been serious, of course. “We can print them out, if we want to, you know, but digital is a lot less clutter.” “You sure do know a lot.” Lee slid his arms around Marshall’s wait, and they stood, gazing into each other’s eyes. “I had the best teacher in the world,” Marshall replied just before they kissed again. When the knock on the door came, they drew apart with reluctance. “To be continued later,” Marshall promised as he headed for the door, opening it to admit Roger and Kenny. “We’re not too early, are we?” Roger asked, standing in the doorway, looking back and forth between Marshall and Lee. “We can come back in a few minutes.” “Naw, we’re ready,” Lee said. “Denver and Dustin should be there already, holding the table. Denver texted a few minutes ago.” “Sounds like a plan,” Roger agreed, reaching for Kenny’s hand. They waited in the hall for Marshall and Lee as Lee looked around the cabin then closed and locked the door. The two couples walked hand-in-hand to the elevator and rode it up to the deck where the restaurant was.
  11. JulieLHayes

    Chapter 56

    “What are we drinking?” Denver asked. “Nothing fruity,” Dustin replied, and they all laughed. He caught the eye of one of the swimsuit-clad servers and waved him over. “Cold beer all around?” Everyone agreed, and in short order four cold bottles sat on the table before them. The four men kicked back and relaxed with their cold brews. “So, after the cruise, you going back home, Dustin?” Marshall asked. He remembered Dustin saying he was staying with Denver just until the cruise. Dustin shrugged. “I dunno. I’m kinda rethinking things, you know?” “What kind of things?” Denver sounded surprised, so obviously this was nothing they’d discussed. “I been livin’ in that small town my whole life. It’s time I got out of there. I was thinking about maybe relocating in Tucker Falls.” “Don’t you need to have a job to do that?” Denver asked. Marshall couldn’t help but hope Dustin had no ulterior motives, not when things were going so smoothly. Tucker Falls was awfully close to home. “And a place to stay,” Dustin agreed. “I’m more than willing to work and pull my weight. I was hoping maybe I could stay with you, cuz.” Dustin threw Denver a hopeful look. “I’ll be able to pay rent and my share of expenses as soon as I can. I have a little money saved up, should help tide us over. I mean, nothing great, but a little.” Denver tilted his bottle back and took a long drink. Marshall couldn’t tell by his expression if he was happy about the idea or not. “We can try it out,” he said at last, “with the clear understanding that you will contribute to expenses, and if there are any problems, then I’m going to send you packing. Is that agreeable?” “Very agreeable, and very fair,” Dustin said, grinning widely. “I appreciate that, Denver. I promise you, I won’t make any trouble. I’m thinking about doing something with computers, maybe even take some courses.” “There are online courses you can take,” Marshall spoke up. “Give me your email address and I’ll send you some information.” “I appreciate that, Marshall,” Denver said. “I’ll do that as soon as I find something to write on.” “That’s cool,” Marshall said. “No rush. We have the whole drive back too. Do you have your own place, where you live?” Marshall thought he heard Denver snigger, and Dustin squirmed a little before finally replying. “No, I live in my parents’ basement. How embarrassing is that?” “Could be a lot worse,” Denver pointed out. “Lots of people don’t have even that much.” “I know, but it’s not like I can bring anyone home, either. Not with the little ones running around, and my mom there.” “Doesn’t your mom know you’re gay?” Marshall asked. “Sure, she knows. She’d be thrilled to see me with someone, but I don’t want to get her thinking that way about every Tom, Dick and Harry I bring home.” Marshall arched his eyebrows and Dustin turned even redder. “I didn’t mean it like that. You know how parents get, wanting to know all about someone you’re seeing, wanting to know if it’s serious, all that crap. Didn’t yours give you the third degree about Lee?” Now it was Marshall’s turn to blush, feeling his cheeks warm at Denver’s words. He didn’t know what to say that wouldn’t either be a lie or reveal too much. Finally, he settled on a veiled truth. “I got my dad’s permission to be with Lee, didn’t need anyone else’s.” He stared at the table, unwilling to meet anyone’s eyes. He felt Lee take his hand and squeeze it reassuringly. “Anyone ready for another round?” Lee asked. “This one’s on me.” Everyone did, and the conversation turned into other avenues. But Marshall hoped that having Dustin closer wouldn’t turn out to be a major disaster for all of them.
  12. The pool on the Lido Deck was buzzing with activity by the time Marshall and Lee arrived, but there was as much action outside of the water as in. Marshall got the impression that at least some of the men who came here were looking to hook up, and did just that. A lot of flirting going on, as well as kissing and other activities. He noticed that if things looked like they might progress any farther than they should in public, a cruise employee was quick to step in and steer the amorous couple toward more private areas. Which left plenty of room for them to actually swim in. By the time Denver and Dustin arrived, Marshall and Lee were in the water, having challenged each other to raceswim the length of the pool. Marshall hadn’t been able to beat Lee, but he’d gotten damn close, which was saying something, ‘cause Lee had some damn powerful strokes, so he didn’t mind losing to him. “Hey guys, how’s the water?” Denver greeted them. “Water’s great,” Marshall said. “Come on in!” “You got a table?” “Yeah, right over there.” Lee nodded in the direction of an white table underneath an umbrella emblazoned with the cruise logo. They’d left their drinks there, as well as their towels. “You can set your stuff there too, if you like.” “Much obliged,” Denver said. He handed Dustin what little they’d brought and he didn’t fuss, just put it on the table next to theirs and quickly returned. “Got room for me in there?” Dustin joked. “I think there might be a little,” Marshall replied. “Come on in. Just don’t splash.” Dustin laughed and eased himself into the water, followed by his cousin. “This feels nice,” he said. “I expected it to be colder, but it’s not.” “Not cold at all,” Marshall agreed. “You any good at swimming?” “Fair to middling. Want to see?” “I’ll race you,” Marshall countered. “Length of the pool.” “What’s the winner get?” Dustin asked. “Winner takes on Lee,” Marshall smirked. He had every confidence that Lee could beat Dustin handily. “Is that good with you, Lee?” Dustin looked toward him. “Fine with me,” Lee said. “Loser buys drinks?” “You’re on,” Lee replied without hesitation. “Not so fast. You have to beat me first,” Marshall reminded him. “I didn’t forget. I just assumed I’d beat you,” Dustin smirked. Marshall rolled his eyes. “You remember what happens when you assume, don’t you?” “Yeah, but don’t worry, I don’t intend to make an ass out of either of us.” Dustin laughed. “In that case, come on,” Marshall challenged him. They got Denver to act as starter. He counted down to one and they took off. Marshall reached the end of the pool and was dismayed to see Dustin. The question was which one had gotten there first? “It was Dustin,” Denver affirmed, “but just by a fraction of a second or so. Damn close call. Good race, guys.” Marshall wasn’t overly disappointed. Now he could watch Lee take him down. And that would be worth having lost to Dustin to begin with. “Good race,” Dustin echoed, slapping a wet hand on Marshall’s shoulder. He glanced up at Lee, who swam close to them. “You ready to take me on?” “Maybe you should rest up after your victory,” Lee teased. “I wouldn’t want anyone to say I took advantage of you.” “I’m ready to beat you right now,” Dustin bragged. “Denver, want to get us started?” “If you’re sure,” Denver said. “I’m sure.” The two men got into position, and Marshall found a better vantage point to watch from as Denver counted them down and they took off. Marshall couldn’t help but admire Lee’s physique as his strong body sluiced through the water. Beside him, he thought Dustin looked puny. Of course, he might be a little prejudiced in Lee’s favor. The race was close at first, and Marshall wondered if maybe Dustin had a chance when suddenly Lee surged forward with a greater strength and pulled ahead. He reached the end of the pool, the clear winner. Marshall watched Dustin arrive, too late, and wondered how he’d handle the defeat. For just a moment, his concerns over Dustin resurfaced, knowing he had a temper. But the two men shook hands in what seemed to be an amiable fashion, then swam back to where Marshall and Denver waited. “Good race,” Marshall said, “but I knew Lee’d win. I didn’t have any doubt about that.” Lee shook his head, as he caught his breath. “That’s why I bring my own rooting section,” he grinned. “I hope I didn’t ruin your evening,” Dustin said, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, Marshall thought. “How so?” Lee asked. “Well, didn’t y’all say you were going dancing after this? I hate to think I tuckered you out too much for that. I mean, at your age and all.” His grin belied any sting in his words, and everyone laughed. “The only thing you need to worry about is paying for that next round. It’s all yours.” Lee’s grin was even bigger than Dustin’s. “Ouch.” Dustin pretended to be wounded, putting his hand over his heart. “A drink sounds real good,” Denver said, “especially when he’s paying. Let’s go.” They all agreed that was a splendid idea, and climbed out of the pool.
  13. JulieLHayes

    Chapter 54

    I must confess, those are very intentional
  14. JulieLHayes

    Chapter 54

    The dinner invitation was for eight o’clock. Lee didn’t believe in being fashionably late, so they arrived a few minutes early. They weren’t the first ones there. Four other couples were already seated. Denver and Dustin came just after they did. Promptly at eight o’clock, the Captain took his seat. “Good evening,” he said, offering a friendly smile. Captain Merrill stood well over six feet tall, with a strong physique. He looked to be about fifty, with dark wavy hair, and a well-trimmed beard and moustache. When he smiled, Marshall thought he resembled a giant teddy bear. “Thank you for joining me this evening,” the captain said. “Why don’t we start by introducing ourselves? I’m Captain Isaac Merrill.” He looked at the first man on his right, and introductions were made all around, as drink orders were quietly taken. “I hope everyone is enjoying the cruise,” Captain Merrill said, and his guests responded in the affirmative with great enthusiasm. “Do you do cruises like this very often?” one of the guests asked. “You mean to the Virgin Islands? Often,” the Captain replied. “No, actually I meant gay cruises,” the same man said with a smile. “My husband and I would like to come back, if you do this again. We’ve been having the time of our lives.” “This is one of our regular cruises,” Captain Merrill confirmed. “You should come back often. There is so much to see, more than you can explore in a single week.” Marshall considered that a great idea, but he also knew there were other places he wanted to see. They’d always have the memory of this vacation, though. This was one trip he knew he’d never forget. He reached for Lee’s hand, their eyes meeting. Lee’s smile confirmed what Marshall was thinking, how happy they both were to be there. The dinner was a fabulous success. The food was fantastic, starting with the appetizers. Each dish was better than the one before. Marshall was more of a meat and potatoes kind of guy, but he thought the fresh fish was great, and it was served with some delicious sauces. There was a veal Oscar dish, served with lobster, which he loved. Everything was accompanied by a choice of drinks, so he sampled different kinds of wine, according to the course. Some were more to his taste than others. He found the red wines a little sour, but the Prosecco was scrumptious. And the desserts were beyond description. Conversation was lively, although he listened more than he spoke, but he enjoyed hearing what the others had to say. Lee had always said that Marshall had two ears and one mouth, so he should listen more than he talked, and he liked to follow Lee’s teachings as closely as possible. After everyone had eaten, the couples began to disperse, but the Captain requested that Marshall and Lee, Denver and Dustin wait for just a moment, so they did. “On behalf of the cruise line, I would like to apologize for what happened,” he said, addressing Marshall and Dustin. “I assure you, we don’t usually have some problems on our cruises.” “Stuff happens,” Dustin said, and Marshall nodded. “Nonetheless, I appreciate your understanding, and the cruise line would like to make it up to you. Your next cruise is on us. Any ship, any destination.” He handed each man an envelope. “This contains a number for you to call when you’re ready to sail with us again. I look forward to having you on my ship again.” He gave them a sharp salute, before heading off, greeting other guests as he left the dining room. Marshall was floored. He certainly hadn’t expected that. One look at Lee, and he knew Lee hadn’t either. “Looks like we’ll be taking another cruise,” Lee commented with a grin. “Looks like,” Denver agreed. “You think they’re doing this to prevent being sued or something?” Lee shrugged. “Maybe. Does it really matter. You weren’t planning to sue, were you?” “Nah, I don’t think so. You?” Denver asked. “Got better places to be and better things to do than worry about getting tied up in court.” He turned to Marshall. “Want to head up to our room, set for a few minutes, then head out to the pool?” “Sounds perfect to me!” Marshall exclaimed. Lee reached for his hand, then impulsively pulled him close for a quick kiss. “I think that sounds good,” Denver said. “We’ll meet you guys out there.” The two couples separated, heading to their own cabins.
  15. The store looked as though it had been stocked with this cruise in mind, including clothing for the man who liked to go out in drag. Lee guided them past the racks of glittery dresses to the more conservative part of the store. Marshall was hoping fancy didn’t mean having to wear a tuxedo. No offense to the guys who liked to wear them, but they weren’t really his style. Luckily, he didn’t see any of those here. What he did see were some pretty nice suits, though. He’d never really needed a suit before. He liked to dress up, sure, but usually that meant Western style, with maybe some expensive boots to go with the clothes. These suits had matching vests and everything. He fingered the material of one of the jackets. It felt nice to the touch. But he had no idea what might look good on him. He watched Lee as he went through the racks. He knew Lee had good taste, and he trusted his judgment. There were some bright-colored suits, Marshall noticed, but he wasn’t sure how well they would look on him. When he touched a bright blue jacket, Lee shook his head and moved his hand away from the offending suit. “No,” he said simply, “that is not a good look for you.” Marshall had known that, he was just yanking Lee’s chain. “So maybe yellow?” he countered with a grin. “Only if you’re planning on being a rodeo clown,” Lee snorted. “I think you should wear something more like an earth tone. It’ll compliment your hair. And if we get the right shirt and tie, it’ll make your green eyes pop, and show off the color.” Marshall was impressed, as always, with how much Lee knew about things. It wasn’t surprising that Lee knew what to do. He’d been making clothing choices for Marshall his whole life. If it wasn’t for Lee, Marshall would have only known second-hand clothes. When his mother had stolen him from Lee, that’s all he got from her, if he was lucky. Otherwise, he depended on donations, and those didn’t always fit. Lee moved to a different rack, Marshall close behind. He noticed Denver and Dustin were nearby. Denver was holding up a gray suit to Dustin, but he shook his head so Denver put it back. Personally, Marshall had to agree that the color didn’t suit Dustin, but he didn’t say anything, turning his attention back to Lee. “What do you think of this one?” Lee asked. “What color’s that? I kind of like it,” Marshall said. “It’s a kind of rust,” Lee said. “This particular shade is cognac. It has a matching vest. Like it?” Marshall nodded. He did like the color. Lee held it up to him, and Marshall saw the approval in his eyes. “Suits you,” Lee said. “Let’s pick out a shirt and tie and you can try them on.” Just then, they were approached by a well-dressed man of indeterminate age. He looked critically at the suit in Lee’s hand and then at Marshall, as if assessing them both, then gave a vigorous nod. “That will look very good on him, I agree. Can I show you our selection of shirts? I’m sure you’ll find something to you taste.” “Lead the way,” Lee said agreeably. Marshall was surprised at the selection the shop had. The helpful clerk found a white shirt with green and silver threads running through it, and a patterned tie that he called mauve. At first Marshall wasn’t sure, but he took everything into the dressing room and tried it on. It all fit well, he had to admit, but the real test would be Lee’s reaction. He got his answer when he stepped out of the dressing room and watched Lee’s eyes light up. Confidence boosted, Marshall did a slow turn, so Lee could see it from all sides. “What do you think?” “I think you look amazing,” Lee said frankly. “Do you like it?” “I do. Should I change back into my clothes?” “Yeah, go ahead. We have a little time before dinner. Don’t want to get it mussed up.” A few minutes later, Marshall came out of the dressing room, casually dressed once more. “Your turn,” he said, and they began to hunt for something for Lee. Lee ended up choosing a black suit, as he tended to be more conservative than Marshall, but he got the same shirt that Marshall had, along with a maroon tie. When he came out of the dressing room, he took Marshall’s breath away, he was so handsome. While they waited for Denver and Dustin to find something for themselves, Lee and Marshall browsed about the shop, and ended up getting some black socks as well. Lee charged everything to their room, and the clerk who had waited on them was more than happy to wrap their purchases. Once Denver had done the same with their purchases, they stood just outside the shop for a moment. “Guess we’ll see you at dinner,” Lee said. “You betcha,” Denver agreed, and the two couples parted company for a little while.
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