Sunday, August 1, 2010


I could hardly believe it was happening. Christmas with Stewart’s family? Little shivers ran up my spine and I think my palms actually got a little clammy.

I peeked over at Stewart and studied his profile – it was strong and calm and I could believe that the answers I needed resided in that face. A warm rush swept over me. My man, he belonged to me, and there I was sitting quietly beside him, determined to put all my faith in him as he drove us northwards, towards his home where we were going to spend Christmas with his folks.

How good did that sound?

Panicky good in reality.

My thoughts were tumbling over themselves, never a good sign. I crossed my arms and huddled and I would have thumped my feet on the floor of the vehicle if I had thought I could get away with it.

Stewart turned his head. “Cold honey?”

“Uh-uh,” I shook my head. “Am fine.”

His smile was teasing and sweet. “Nervous?”

I made a noise.

“Don’t be honey,” Stewart said with a comforting pat on my thigh. “They are going to love you.”

“Uh-huh,” I said and this time my tongue tied itself into knots.

We had all cheered when the idea was first brought up. I didn’t want to go home for Christmas this year, I was not even sure if I would be welcome after my fight with my dad. Going away with Stewart had seemed a great alternative, especially since it meant I could spend the entire holidays with him. I didn’t like the idea of being apart over the festive season at all, which would have been how it would be if I had gone back home.

It took me weeks to work up my courage to call home to tell them my plans.

“You’re not coming home for Christmas?” mom had sounded disappointed and sad, but she didn’t push too hard, which sent ambivalent thoughts through my mind.

Then she asked what I would be doing instead.

I told her quite truthfully I would be spending Christmas with some friends and their families. No, I wouldn’t be alone in my apartment; I wouldn’t starve, but in all likelihood would be stuffing myself with all sorts of unhealthy goodies and having a lot of fun celebrating a traditional Christmas. That was what Stewart had told me anyway, that his family did Christmas in a very traditional manner.


“What’s his name?” Mom had asked casually when I said I would be bringing a friend home for Christmas. She didn’t fool me a bit. I could hear the excitement in her voice.

”Marcus.” I replied.

“Marcus.” She said it like she was savouring some fine wine. “And what does Marcus do?”

I told her he was still studying but would be graduating soon, and that he used to be in my class, but not any more. I could almost see her eyes widen as she took that in, but then she recovered her poise and continued in her usual warm way. “Your friends are always welcome, Stewart. When should we expect you?”

I was planning to drive in on the 23rd, arriving sometime in the afternoon. My elder sister Abby would most likely make it home only on Christmas Eve itself, sometimes just before the clock struck twelve. She was some hot-shot business analyst in New York and her career was her entire life. Still single past her mid-thirties, it didn’t look like she would ever marry.

Fortunately my younger brother Michael chose not to follow in our footsteps and he was not only married but also expecting their first baby. The whole family was in raptures over the arrival. Figured. That would be the only source of progeny for our family. I could only guess what kind of pressure that put on poor Judy, Michael’s wife.

We got our Christmas shopping done early. In the past, I usually went to the stores with a list in my hands and methodically purchased all my gifts within the hour. I did mostly sensible gifts, preferring gift certificates and suchlike. Personal cheques worked too when I ran out of ideas or was really short on time. Those were really easy and took care of at least half of the people on my list. No point in giving presents which people did not appreciate, I thought; much better to let them select what they liked.

Marcus was disgusted and told me I was just plain lazy! He made me tell him about every member of my family and what they liked or disliked. He took notes. Then we spent hours browsing at various shops over a week. Marcus refused to let me buy a single gift voucher. By the time we were done, the living room was piled high with brightly wrapped presents.

Marcus had hesitated when I asked what gifts he was getting for his family.

“I don’t know ...” He shrugged, keeping his eyes down as he flipped through some CD labels in the store. “My brother Mike would love to get a copy of this, I know.”

“Then why don’t you get it for him?”

“Maybe,” he said, moving away from the rack. His fingers were nervously tapping.

“Would you like to drive up next weekend?” I asked. “You can at least hand deliver your gifts even if you don’t spend Christmas at home.” I suddenly felt guilty that he and his dad weren’t speaking and that he wouldn’t get to spend the holiday season with his own family.

He looked alarmed. “No way!”

I knew he had unresolved issues with his dad so I didn’t press him. The old man was proving to be more difficult and stubborn than I anticipated. At my prompting, Marcus had tried a couple of times to talk to him but he always refused to take the call. I could see it hurt Marcus whenever his mom made an excuse that his dad could not come to the phone. Finally I stopped making him do it. I had no wish to subject him to this kind of pain.

But there was no reason in the world why Marcus could not send gifts for his mom, brothers and sister. And even his dad. It was after all the right thing to do and I told him what I thought. In the end Marcus agreed to get the gifts delivered. He seemed happier once that was taken care of.

We shut up the house on Wednesday morning. Christmas was on Friday and we would probably stay through till Sunday at my parents’ house. We also thought we could stop by somewhere on our way home, spend a couple of days exploring one of the small towns in between. That meant we would be gone for almost a week.

“What time do you think we will arrive?” Marcus asked shortly after we started out.

“We should be there by two thirty, maybe three,” I repeated as patiently as I could. I had told Marcus how long the journey would take, depending on whether we stopped for breaks.

“So we’re stopping?”

“Yes. We’ll stop for a bite around noon. There’s a pretty decent pub a bit further up.”

“We should have waited for Philip and Ben,” Marcus grumbled. “It’s just a few hours difference! It would have been so much more fun if we travelled together!”

“And you know why that won’t work, Marcus,” I responded calmly.

“But they live just five minutes away from your folks,” he protested. “You said so yourself.”

“I know, but driving in together would mean one of us would not have a car to get around, and even though we could borrow my dad’s, it would still be a hassle. Another reason it’s a bad idea is that we also would not be able to stop over on our way back. Ben is not taking the whole week off.”

“Ben!” Marcus scoffed. “Philip could make him! He works ridiculous hours! It’s Christmas!”

“And that is none of our business.” I looked at Marcus and he pouted. “Besides, don’t you want to disappear somewhere with just me? I thought you were looking forward to a short holiday with just the two of us?”

“Yeah,” Marcus said in a low growl. “I am!”

He lifted his head and looked at me with pleading eyes. “Stewart, you know I am looking forward to meeting your family and ... and spending Christmas with them, but ...”


“But what if they don’t like me?”

“Honey,” I reached out and grasped his hand. “Why wouldn’t they? Hmm?”

He glared at me, withdrew his hand, shrugged eloquently and stared out the window.


Stewart was being extremely irritating, refusing to understand or sympathise. It’s all very well for him; it was HIS family we were going to visit. He had no idea how nervous I was. I was hoping I could have Ben with me. He would have been just as nervous and edgy since this would be his first official visit to Philip’s folks as his partner. At least I hoped so.

I must have dozed off after our brief stop for lunch at the pub. They served good meat pies which we washed down with cold ale. Exactly what I needed to settle my nerves. Comfort food as I knew it. When I next opened my eyes, the car had come to a stop at a junction and I realized with a jolt we had arrived.

A big sign at the side of the road said Welcome to Ashley Downs. It was a lovely little town, interspersed with the natural beauty of parks and hiking trails, with a large nature preserve nearby and even a lake. Stewart showed me the town’s recreation park as we drove through; they even had a skating rink.

Most of the homes were country-styled with generous plots of gardens which were tended with obvious care. As we passed by the town the roads contoured with the rolling hills. We drove for about ten more minutes and turned off down a smaller road.

“Here we are,” Stewart said with a smile.

I braced myself.

“Come on!” Stewart was already out from the car and opening the boot to retrieve our luggage. He shouldered the two bags easily and came to my side to open the door.

“Ready?” he asked.

I felt comforted by his smile.

The front door opened and a large lady with a heavy bosom beamed at us.


Stewart pulled me out of the car and turned to face her, his face wreathed in smiles. “Josie! Are you here already?”

“Of course! I wouldn’t miss your arrival for anything, especially since your mom told me you’ll be bringing a guest!” Josie’s eyes crinkled as they swept past Stewart and focussed on me.

I felt a flush ride up my face and I wished I could hide behind something or someone.

Stewart yanked me forward. “Marcus, meet Josie. She is a close family friend and makes the best pies and puddings ever and Christmas won’t be the same if she weren’t around.”

“That’s what you say every year, Stewart! Shame on you, is that all I am good for?”

From the way Stewart hugged her, I could tell it was not. There was obviously a lot of affection between the two of them. Josie patted Stewart’s back and kissed him noisily on the cheek. Then she turned her attention to me.

“Marcus isn’t it?” She asked, and her voice was jovial and hearty and rather loud.

I nodded and extended my hand with what I hoped was the right amount of confidence. “Hello Josie. Pleased to meet you.”

Luckily for me, she just smiled and took my proffered hand without attempting to hug or kiss me. Her eyes were shrewd as they ran over me but I didn’t feel violated or anything; in fact I liked her almost immediately.

“What a sweet boy!” Josie murmured loud enough for everyone to hear and my blush deepened. “About time you brought him home Stewart!”

Stewart laughed. “Josie!” he admonished jokingly.

I sighed with relief when Stewart reached out and held my hand.

We walked into the house and immediately the aroma of cinnamon and butter and honey assaulted my nostrils. There was some heavy baking going on, it would seem. I cheered up somewhat.

Footsteps were heard hurrying down the hallway. A middle-aged lady whom I could tell at a glance was Stewart’s mom appeared, her arms outstretched.

“There you are.”

She embraced Stewart and then without hesitation me as well. She was slender and graceful and very beautiful. I could see where Stewart got his looks. Same wonderful smile. It made me feel at home right away.

“You must be Marcus.”

I smiled back at her and replied, “Yes, ma’am.” My nervousness had miraculously disappeared.

“Call me Angela!” she said. “No one calls me ma’am unless they are in trouble!”

Stewart grinned. “I’ll take our bags upstairs, mom. Then perhaps we can have some tea?”

Josie had already started to walk back to the kitchen. “Tea is ready! Plum cake freshly baked this morning. Hurry now.”

“Josie made it especially for you,” Angela said as we climbed the stairs. In the same breath, she continued easily. “I’ve also made up the spare guest room in case it’s needed. You decide how you want to do this, darling.”

I saw Stewart wink at me and I quickly ducked my head and followed him up the stairs.

“What is she saying?” I hissed at Stewart the minute we were out of hearing.

“Nothing babe,” Stewart said with a laugh. “My mom is the most diplomatic person in the world. That’s her way of saying its all right if we sleep together, or not.”

I squirmed. “P-perhaps we should ... I should sleep in the spare ..”

Stewart cut me off. “Don’t be ridiculous!” He pushed me into a bedroom which I assumed was his and dumped our bags down on the floor. He closed the door and sank down on his bed (which was a queen-sized one) and pulled me onto his lap.

We kissed for a long time, until I finally relaxed my shoulders and leaned into him. He slid his hands into my sweater and they were warm against my skin. I was starting to get excited when he pushed me off and stood up.

“Let’s go see what there is for tea.”

I sighed regretfully. “I don’t want tea!”

“You will when you see it,” Stewart promised.


I loved showing Marcus my childhood home and I loved showing Marcus off. I could tell Josie and mom liked him instantly. Well, that came as no surprise. I was pretty sure they would have been determined to like him no matter what he was like.

The kitchen was lovely – warm and cosy against a biting wind outside. I walked in with one arm flung comfortably around Marcus’ shoulders. A teapot was already set out on the kitchen table, next to a rich dark plum cake.
Something was baking in the oven and there were numerous pots and pans on the stove, all happily bubbling away.

Mom smiled and pulled out a chair at the table. “Come sit down Marcus. Are you hungry? Did you stop for lunch?”

She was giving him the favourite child treatment.

Marcus responded as genially. “Yes, we stopped for pies at a pub not too long ago so I’m not really hungry, but this cake looks irresistible.”

That drew an approving smile from Josie who proceeded to cut him a big slice and put it in front of him. “You eat that, dear, and tell me what you think,” she said.

Both women held their breaths expectantly while Marcus made a show of cutting a piece of cake and putting it in his mouth, then slowly chewing. He h’mmmed and nodded his head and managed to mumble with genuine appreciation “very good! yummm...”

Mom and Josie were delighted with his response and I hid my chuckle as I slid into the chair next to Marcus. He would have them eating out of his hands in no time.

“Where’s dad?” I asked, pouring tea into a cup and passing it to Marcus.

“He’s gone with Michael to get the tree. We’ll put it up tonight. We wanted you kids around to do that.”

“Is Abby back already?” I asked with some surprise.

Mom rolled her eyes. “She couldn’t confirm as usual, so we’ll expect her when we see her. I just hope she arrives in time tomorrow. We’re going to the Cullens’ as you know.”

That was one of our traditions. Christmas Eve at Philip’s place, and Christmas lunch at ours.

“Don’t tell me she still hasn’t found herself a boyfriend?” Josie remarked as she handed me as generous a slice of cake as Marcus’. “She’s a good looking girl but she’s not getting any younger, what’s she waiting for?”

“Heavens! You can’t talk to her about these things, Josie. She gets up and walks out of the room.” Mom sighed.

I bit into my cake and it was incredibly good. I told Josie so, hoping to divert the conversation. My sister had been a fiercely independent child and she had grown to be an even more self-dependent woman. She treasured her freedom; I didn’t think marriage was ever in her mind.

“How are Michael and Judy doing? And the baby?”

That was strategy and I was not ashamed to use it. Mom immediately launched into all the details of Judy’s pregnancy and what they had planned for the baby room. Josie chipped in with numerous questions and Marcus and I ate our cake in peace.

“Want to take a walk outside, Marcus?” I asked once we had drained our cups. “We’ve got about a half hour before it starts to get dark.”

“Sure.” Marcus stood up. “But can I help with the washing up first?” he asked politely.

Josie sighed and smiled at Marcus with a twinkle in her eye. “What a sweet boy! So well mannered!”

Mom waved us off. “No, no, you boys go and have fun outside, so long as you don’t freeze. Josie and I have to finish cooking and its best you not be in the way.”

We put on our jackets and escaped through the back door into the yard. The house was built on several acres of land and we had a wide expanse of lawn and shrubs and trees on three sides. I guided Marcus down the cobbled footpath, towards the coppice. We stopped at the fringe where the small trees and bushes had been trimmed back to stumps. A pile of wood was neatly stacked next to a bench; those served as a supply of firewood during winter.

We walked for a bit and then sat down at the bench, shoulders touching. I turned to Marcus and leaned over to kiss him. “How’s it going so far?”

He smiled back at me. “It’s not as bad as I thought. I like your mom, and Josie.”

“And they like you too.”

We stared into the distance, letting the cold numb our cheeks as the sun began to dip. Marcus was very quiet.

“What’s wrong baby?”

He shook his head and shrugged.

“Come on, tell me. I want to know.”

“I was just thinking ...” he began, and stopped abruptly.

“What?” I prodded.

He swallowed. “I was imagining how it might have been if we had gone home to my place instead of coming here. Met my family instead.”

I had thrust my hands into the pockets of my jacket to keep them warm but I took them out and grabbed Marcus’ hands instead. “Sweetheart, my folks have known for years about my sexual inclination. They’ve had time to get used to it. Their best friends’ son is also gay and the two families talk. That’s Philip, in case you haven’t worked that out.”

Marcus elbowed me in the ribs and I wrapped my arms around him, and wrestled him onto my lap.

“Come here!” I growled into Marcus’ ear. “Don’t let that spoil our holidays, ok? Your folks don’t love you less; they just need time to understand and accept you.”

“Will they?” Marcus asked very softly, his tone sceptical.

“They will once they understand,” I said more confidently than I felt.

“I don’t know. I think not all families are as understanding as yours. I know some families even kick their kids out. Perhaps mine will too.”

I held Marcus tightly, as close to my chest as I could get. Our layers of clothing made hugging slightly tricky but I could feel Marcus’ heartbeat against mine.

“You don’t know that,” I said quietly.

Marcus continued in a whisper. “If and when they do find out about me, about us, I don’t know how they will take it.”

“We can’t worry about that until it happens. This trip here is about you getting to know my family and them you. I want you to enjoy yourself, feel comfortable with them, have a good time. We’re gonna have a good time together, as a family, as it should be. So stop worrying about anything else for now, ok?”

I nuzzled his neck and waited patiently until I felt the melancholy leave his body and he turned to me and clung on to my neck.

“I love you,” I murmured, feeling a sudden explosion of warmth deep inside. I needed him so much.


We were just in time to help haul the tree into the house. Which didn’t leave much opportunity for introductions. The older man smiled as we came up but the younger one, who looked so much like Stewart, yelled at us.

“Come help!”

Stewart jogged over and I followed suit, both of us grabbing a portion of the tree and together we brought it into the living room. I just went with the flow, they apparently had the exact spot already mapped out and soon the tree was vertical and we all stood back to admire it.

“Good choice!” Stewart remarked, brushing off his hands.

“Yeah, we booked early, told Bern to keep a good one for us,” the younger man said, looking over at me. “Hi!”

“Hi,” I greeted back.

“Oh sorry,” Stewart hurried to apologize. “Dad, this is Marcus.” Turning to me, he said, “my dad John, and my brother Michael.”

We all shook hands. It felt a little strange to be in the middle of all the Spencer men. I was an outsider. I didn’t have their looks, their height or their build and I felt somewhat intimidated and ill at ease until Stewart touched my elbow and smiled into my eyes. He obviously wasn’t shy in front of his folks. He didn’t fawn over me or anything, thank God for that. My skin crawled just visualizing it. But it was very very pleasant that he made appropriate physical contact just when I needed it.

I also secretly marvelled at the fact that his dad was so open and comfortable with our relationship. I had worried about him the most frankly. I had used my own dad as a benchmark, and I could see how far wrong I had been. Stewart’s family (those I had met so far anyway) had welcomed me and treated me with kindness, showing that they accepted me, and it was a sobering and steadying sensation.

John was studying at me and I quickly turned my attention to him.

“I hear you’re in your final year at the university where Stewart lectures?” he said conversationally.

“Yes, sir.” I nodded my head respectfully. He had that kind of presence.

“Is that how you met?”


“What are you studying?”


“And you were in Stewart’s class before?”

My eyes darted to Stewart, who was looking slightly wary. Luckily Michael came to our rescue.

“Oh come on dad!” Michael objected with a laugh. “You’re not giving him the third degree already? The poor guy hasn’t even had a drink yet!”

John smiled serenely. “You’re quite right Michael. It’s a cold day and dinner is about ready, so how about an aperitif? Stewart, I believe we’ve got a nice bottle of sherry somewhere. Or do you prefer something a little stronger? We’re not driving anywhere tonight so we can relax.”

Stewart and Michael went over to the bar and began to look over the selection, discussing the various merits of each bottle. I quickly escaped from John to join them, and John announced that he would go gather the ladies so we could have a toast together

Once I was no longer the centre of attention, I relaxed. It was nice as they poured drinks and chatted around the fire. I basked in the warmth of their family reunion and their closeness. Against the greying skies outside, the living room was snug and inviting and alive with laughter and love. The conversation was interesting and strangely enough I didn’t feel the least bit left out. Not even when I didn’t understand some of their jokes. They were really nice decent folks and I felt so fortunate that I had been included so easily as part of their family.

I met Judy, Michael’s wife. She was petite, very pretty and obviously pregnant. She became the next target of focus. A lot of the conversation revolved around her health, the baby’s arrival, doctor’s instructions, her nutrition, and she took it all with a sweet smile. A few times I caught her stealing a glance at me and somehow I felt as if we were accomplices. I winked at her once and returned her smile and I think we became good friends from that point onwards.


Although I tried not to show it, I had been a bit anxious but I shouldn’t have. It seemed to me Marcus blended effortlessly into the entire clan. I could tell mom and Josie were prepared to dote on him. They each told me separately how cute he was and what nice manners he had. Josie insisted I tell her what Marcus liked so she could include some his favourite foods in the meals she planned to cook. She did that only for the ‘kids’ of the family! Mom moved an extra pair of bedroom slippers into my room, discretely indicating her acceptance and understanding of our sleeping arrangements.

After dinner we moved to the living room for coffee and dessert. Tiny sugary cupcakes and a warm carrot pudding with brandy sauce! Marcus settled down happily with Judy and sampled everything, neither caring much for their waistlines.

We finally got down to dressing the tree. While Michael started to unravel the lights, I pulled Marcus up from the sofa and we went out to the car and brought all the presents in. Everyone expressed surprise when they saw us.

“Good heavens!” mom exclaimed. “Stewart, did you really go out and buy presents this year?”

I looked at Marcus, who was trying to shake his head at me. He deserved the credit, so I said, “actually, it was Marcus who put me up to it.”

I saw Marcus flush but he gamely joined in the teasing and even took sides against me when Michael chided me for my lack of imagination and efforts when it came to Christmas shopping. We were putting the final touches on the tree when we saw headlights in the driveway.

“Could it be ...?” Mom started to say, her eyes lighting up.

“Abby?” Michael went to the window and peered outside. “Yes! It is her!”

Abby came in with a strong blast of cold wind and her usual aplomb and fanfare. Having taken a cab from the airport, she got the driver to lug her numerous luggage and bags into the hall. She tipped him generously and thanked him vociferously, both of them exchanging Christmas greetings like old friends. Then she closed the door with a loud and satisfied sigh and threw her arms wide open in a theatrical pose.

“I’m home, family!”

Everyone swarmed around her, except Marcus. His eyes were big and round as he stared at her. Abby had that kind of effect on people when they first laid eyes on her. She was always larger than life, able to attract attention wherever she went. Sometimes she offended people with her candour and direct manners but to those who really knew her, she was a warm-hearted and generous person.

Since everyone was absorbed in her homecoming, I took the opportunity to lean down and give Marcus a quick kiss on the lips. His eyes darted over to the group.

“Relax, its ok even if someone saw us,” I whispered.

He smiled back at me. “That’s Abby?”

“Yep. My sister Abigail. But don’t call her that or she will be cross. She prefers Abby.”

Abby managed to peel off her leather gloves, unbutton her designer winter coat and unravel the long scarf around her neck all at the same time. As usual she was dressed very elegantly in the latest fashion. Her eyes swept the room and rested on me and Marcus and she paused, which for her was electrifying. Abby hardly paused in her life.

“Stewart, is that your friend?” She gave the last word a strong emphasis. Without waiting for an answer, she descended upon us like an eagle making a swoop. If I didn’t have a hand on Marcus’ back, I believe he would have slipped behind me. I didn’t blame him; Abby could be quite overwhelming.

I hugged her and kissed her cheek. “You are looking good, Abby. For your age.”

She scoffed at me and pretended to cuff my head. We used to fight a lot when we were small.

“What’s your name?” Abby demanded, thrusting out her hand at Marcus.

“Hello, I’m Marcus.”

“That’s right, I remember now. Aren’t you still up at university? You look awfully young! Where has Stewart been hiding you?”

I moved behind Marcus and wrapped an arm over his shoulder, holding him so that his back was pressed into my chest. “Don’t mind her,” I whispered loudly. “She has absolutely no manners and you should know her bark is worse than her bite.”

Abby snorted loudly and dumped her coat, gloves and scarf into my hands. “We’re family ... and I only have this weekend to get re-connected with everyone. No time for silly chatter. Stewart never brings any one home, and you’re the first. We’re going to be friends, Marcus, aren’t we?”

“Y-yes,” Marcus stammered. “Of course.”

“There you go Stewart,” Abby said with aplomb, as if she had never had any doubts.

By then Michael and dad had moved her luggage upstairs and mom was asking her if she had eaten dinner.

“Not one bite! I have been fasting all day just for Josie’s cooking!” Abby said, drawing an approving beam from Josie. “Feed me, Josie!” Abby linked her arm around Josie’s waist and marched Josie off to the kitchen.

“Is that it?” Marcus nudged me. “That’s the entire clan?”

I laughed at him. “Yes, that’s all!”


I felt wonderful as I snuggled into Stewart’s bed, knowing this was where he had slept for years. Outside I could hear the household settling down and it was a good feeling too. The muted good-nights; the closing of a door; the soft padded footsteps. There was something about hearing a house settle at night that made you an integral part of that family unit. As if you belonged. As if you had a right to hear those sounds.

I was beginning to recognize each person’s individual traits and personality. Their characters were diverse but as a whole, they functioned together. It had been so easy becoming one of them. I had been included so big-heartedly that I never noticed that within a few hours I had become engrossed in everything and everyone; it was amazing.

My phone buzzed and I picked it up from the bedside table. There was a text message from Ben. I quickly texted back.

“Who is that?” Stewart asked as he came in, fresh from the bathroom, hair damp and smelling very nice.

“It’s Ben.”

Stewart came over to the bed. He leaned down and kissed me. “Are you doing all right?”

His eyes were dark and mysterious.

“Mmm .... More than all right.” I was. I had had a much better time than I had anticipated. I reached up to touch his face and he kissed me for a second time.

My phone vibrated and Stewart pulled away. “Ben again?”

“Yep – they are turning in too.” Ben wanted to know how my day went. I texted back ‘just fine’.

Stewart slipped into bed beside me and reached to turn off the light on his side-table. I turned to face him and he pulled me to him and began to slowly run his hand over me, coming to rest finally on my hip. We started to kiss and his fingers were slipping past the elastic band of my sleeping pants when my phone vibrated yet again. I tried to hide my giggle.

“Now what?” Stewart grumbled.

I glanced quickly at the message and hid a smile. “He just wants to say good night,” I replied, rapidly hitting the key pads.

“Enough texting,” Stewart ordered. “Put it away now.”

I hurried to send off my last message and put the phone back on the night table.

I turned back to Stewart and snuggled closer. “Where were we?”

He smiled at me in the dark. I felt all keyed up and secretly thrilled that we would be making love right there in his bed with his family so close by. We would need to be quiet and careful and that only added to my excitement.

Within minutes I had slipped out of my pants and Stewart had one hand in between my thighs when the blasted phone vibrated yet again. I turned on reflex to pick it up – as much to stop the noisy vibrations as to see the message – when a sharp slap rang out.

“Ow!” I cried out, and then quickly lowered my voice to a much more subdued ‘ow’.

"It's only Ben!"

“Leave it!” Stewart’s voice was low but no less commanding.

I was more than ready to obey.

Ben would just have to wait.