Jumping In With Both Feet
Hanson has never liked the water. When he was a kid, Jarod, his jerk of a big brother, used to throw him in the deep end to watch him flail for fun, before jumping in to rescue him. Hanson still remembers the burn of water in his lungs, the terror that this time his brother might wait too long.
It’d been bad enough that when Hanson’s little niece and nephew were born, he’d worried that Jarod might think it was a funny joke to play on them, too. But age (or his sister-in-law) has thankfully dulled his brother’s sadistic streak.
Unfortunately, time had never taken the edge off Hanson’s fear of the water. Which is why it was noteworthy that he was currently in a row boat with his boyfriend, Marshall, and he’s not entirely sure why he’s not wearing a life vest. He supposes, should he fall in, he trusts Marshall to be faster to jump in and save him than Jarod ever was. Even so, he’s careful not to rock the boat.
“Juniper Lake,” Marshall says, rowing them farther from shore. The summers spent here at Jew Camp, as Marshall calls his family’s summer program for urban Jewish kids, have given him an ease with boats. “A misnomer since there aren’t many junipers around at all. It’s all maples and oaks. One of my favorite things in the world is rowing to the middle of the lake at the height of autumn. It’s surreally beautiful.”
“Okay,” Hanson says, his eyes drawn to the shimmer of light in Marshall’s blond hair. “Sure. If you say so.”
Marshall’s eyes soften. “I’m going to teach you to swim next summer.”
“And I’m going to sprout wings and fly shortly after that.”
“You’ll master the water and the sky with me at your side.”
The water splashes gently with each sweep of the oars. Hanson smiles despite himself. That’s something he loves about Marshall--he never tells Hanson to stop being sarcastic or dramatic. No, Marshall just takes him as he is.
“Are you ever going to tell me why you’re torturing me like this?”
Marshall grins. “Come on. Don’t you trust me with your life?”
“Clearly, I do. I thought that was evident enough the time I let you talk me into riding that roller coaster at Six Flags.”
“Yeah, but you’re only mildly afraid of roller coasters. You’re terrified of water.”
Marshall blows a soft breath out and slows his rowing. “I wanted to show you something.”
“Okay. I’ve witnessed that you’ve got strong arms for rowing across liquid death. Are we done?”
Marshall lets the oars drop and shrugs. “No, I wanted you to see the world from the middle of the lake. And I wanted to prove something to you—that we’re better, stronger together. That not even your biggest fear is anything compared to the power of us.”
“I…you’re…uh….” Hanson’s heart fluttered in his throat. “You’re being weird.”
“Because, the thing is...” Marshall leans forward, his head tilted and his eyes warm with affection. “The thing is, Hanson...I love you and I want you to marry me. Like for real. This isn’t a joke. I want you to marry me.”
“Whoa.” Hanson feels like he might start to cry, and he hasn’t done that since he was fifteen and his best friend dumped him when he’d come out.
Marshall puts his hands on Hanson’s face and neck. They are strong and callused, and Hanson leans forward to grip Marshall’s knees.
Hanson’s throat is dry but he manages to rasp out a joke. “You're asking me here? You do realize the implication is if I say no, you’re going to shove me out?”
Marshall laughs and shakes his head, leaning forward and brushes his lips against Hanson’s softly. “You know I’d never shove you out or you wouldn’t be out here with me, and you know I want to take care of you forever, and you can trust me with every last thing you’re afraid of, because I love you more than anything, and I’d never let you down. And I trust you with all of me, too. That’s what’s amazing about us. So...will you? Will you marry me?”
Hanson feels a crazy urge to scream, “Yes!” and throw himself overboard. It seems like the easiest way to show Marshall how much he truly does trust and love him. Instead, he leans forward and presses his forehead to Marshall’s, gazing into his blue eyes, and whispers, “Yeah. Let’s get married.”
Marshall looks like he might cry, but kisses him instead.
Later, Hanson watches Marshall row confidently through the water, all remaining anxiety lifting from his chest as the shoreline comes closer. “So...wedding next summer here at the camp?”
“Yeah,” Marshall says. “That’d make my dad really happy, and it’s really a great place. We could have the campers be, like, our wedding chorus or something.”
“They’d sing ‘Kumbaya’?”
“Uh, no. It’s Jew Camp, idiot.”
“Right. So, ‘The Dreidel Song’.”
“I’m about to not marry you,” Marshall said, laughing under his breath.
“And then after the wedding, you can toss me in the lake and teach me to swim.”
“How about we toss Jarod in the lake instead? Together?”
Hanson grins. “Deal.”
As the row boat scrapes against the shoreline, Marshall leans forward, grips Hanson’s hair, and kisses him again. “I love you so much. Me and you? We’re gonna conquer the world.”
“Or my fear of water.”
Snfff, love that! Thank you, Leta!
Leta Blake and Keira Andrews have a new book out: Earthly Desires.
Part of the Tempting Tales series.
Cursed as an infant with a lack of physical and emotional gravity, Prince Efrosin can’t keep his feet on the ground or his head out of the clouds. Laughing his way through life, he’s never been weighed down by love and lust.
Then one fateful day, his tenuous tie to the earth is severed and he blows away on the wind. He’s rescued by Dmitri, a handsome young woodsman who suffers from a mysterious curse of his own, and the two strangers are irresistibly drawn together. Experiencing sex and love for the first time, they dive into a delightfully sensual and passionate affair.
But the evil witch who cursed them is planning her ultimate revenge. Efrosin and Dmitri must fight to find their fairy tale ending and live happily ever after.
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