YOUR BONUS CONTENT
ONE YEAR LATER
READ ON YOUR TABLET
“Are you still grumpy that you couldn’t fly here?”
We sat at a high-top table in one of the most interesting pubs I had ever seen. Unlike Bottoms Up, it had a closed-in coziness. But the amazing part was that it felt like we were drinking beer amongst the roots of a tree. Polished branches wove along the walls and replaced the beams.
Looking over a balcony to the floor below, the roots continued. A pint of beer in this fantasy-esque pub. I half expected an elf to appear. Thankfully, they were hibernating this time of year.
“I’m not grumpy. I’m stiff from sitting on a plane for six hours. The man next to me thought I made a good pillow, and I’m convinced the food came from a prison.”
“You do know the definition of grumpy, right?”
Jason hid behind a pint of beer, shrinking as I shot him a dirty look. After a year of the hustle and bustle of Vanguard, I promised him a vacation. He only had one request as we planned the week—no Sentinel. I conceded. He had grown comfortable with my dashing out during dinner or returning late at night. I reached across the table, holding his hands. It was the least I could do for this amazing man.
“Ah dinnae ken.”
We both froze as a gentleman at the next table talked to his wife. Jason squeezed my hands in glee. We kept our itinerary in Scotland simple. Explore the culture, drink copious amounts of whisky, and see the countryside. As I took his hand, bringing it to my lips, I counted my blessings. I got to experience all of this with the most important person in my life.
“Aw. Young love.” From the side of my eye, I caught the older woman smiling in our direction.
“Calum, you dinnae look at me like that?” She reached out and gave her husband a playful slap.
“Yer aff yer heid!”
I could barely make out his words, but they made me smile. He stood up and gave his wife a deep bow before taking her hand. Helping her from the stool, he kissed her knuckles. Her cheeks blushed as she fanned herself.
“Yer still not getting in my knickers.”
They both giggled like teenagers as they walked away. When I turned back to Jason, he had his hand over his mouth, stifling a laugh. He wanted culture. For our first hours in Glasgow, I didn’t think we could have asked for more.
“You know,” I said, “that is going to be us someday.”
“I hope so.”
I couldn’t help but admire Jason. It wasn’t his stunning eyes or the perfectly manicured goatee. Heck, it wasn’t even the way his shirt hugged that curvy body. Okay, maybe it was that too. In the last year, he had moved to Vanguard and taken a new job overseeing young superheroes. The parents of these kids loved him. The kids themselves were always excited to see Mister Jaynes.
He had only been in his apartment for two months when my apartment turned into our apartment. I’d be lying if I didn’t confess to missing his science fiction artwork on the walls. For all the years I lived there, it had never felt quite right. But with Jason, it had become home.
“You’re doing that thing.”
I snapped to. “What thing?” I knew the thing. Griffin and Alejandro loved to give me grief when I wandered through my own thoughts. He had been hanging out with them far too much.
“What were you thinking about?”
He blushed. It only made him cuter. The longer I stared, the redder his cheeks turned. If I did it long enough, he’d try to hide.
“I’m the luckiest man alive. I regret how things went down with us.”
“No, no. I’ve made peace with that. Really, I have. But in a way, it wasn’t a bad thing.”
He raised an eyebrow. “You might need to elaborate. Let’s see how much hot water you’re in.”
“Jason Jaynes…” I took a quick swig of beer. Then another. “I fell in love with you in the park that day. You made me nervous. The future was full of possibilities.”
It was my turn to blush. Ironic that a public relations specialist wasn’t great with words. I showed him with actions how much I loved him, but when it came to expressing my feelings, I got choked up.
“But I got to do it twice.” His eyes softened. “When you walked into Bottoms Up, I was terrified. I nearly blew a hole through the wall to get away. It took a while for me to sort through all those emotions. But I realized I was falling in love with you all over again. How many men can say they got a second chance to experience it?”
“I wish I could say the same,” he said. “But I never stopped loving you.”
I didn’t have words. I stood, stepping around the table. Wrapping my arms around him, I willed every warm fuzzy feeling into the embrace. In my arms, I held my future. If I thought about it any longer, I’d get teary-eyed.
When I pulled back, he kissed me on the nose.
“So, what’s this surprise you have planned?”
“My lips are sealed, Mister Jaynes. You’ll have to wait and see.”
“I hope it’s a unicorn.”
I couldn’t help but laugh. If he wanted a unicorn, I’d reach out to the elves. After saving their city, they’d gladly loan me one. But no, this surprise was more epic than a horned horse.
“Even better,” I promised.
I fell onto the bed. My feet ached as I crawled along my belly. I crumpled a pillow under my head. I was spoiled by being able to fly. It explained how I got this gut. If Jason had his way, I’d be a stick figure by the end of the week.
He tugged at my shoes, pulling them off before plopping next to me on the bed. I’m pretty sure he was drunk as he placed my feet in his lap. He rubbed them, and I almost moaned into the pillow.
“I think I’m drunk,” he said.
“I was drunk by lunch. How do they do it?”
“Years of practice?”
I shook my head on the pillow. “No. They’re aliens. Aliens, I say!”
“I think I can see the air,” he said.
I laughed. Jason had paced himself. We visited a dozen pubs while walking along the cobblestones of Buchanan St. The number of dapper-looking men and how casual they looked in their suits impressed me.
“I’m going to start wearing kilts when we get home,” he said before flopping onto the bed.
The best part of our day came as we sat outside a small coffee shop. A group of men in kilts with drums performed in the street. With bagpipes blaring, they put on a show that had enraptured Jason. When two nearby women started Ceilidh dancing, I couldn’t look away.
“I support this decision. But will you—”
He scoffed at the question. “Wear underwear? Bah! My Scottish ancestors would turn over in their graves.”
“You know, Gallowglass protects Scotland in a kilt. Fighting alongside him, you get an eye-full.”
“Don’t lie, you peek.”
“Damn straight! And let me just say, he’s all hero.”
He smacked his forehead. “I’m pretty sure you’re going to be sent to Superhero Human Resources.”
“Hey, I can’t be blamed when it’s flapping in the wind.”
“I should take a shower.” He got off the bed and started removing his clothes. I hardly budged as I listened to the sound of his jeans hitting the floor. Jason cleared his throat. “I said I should take a shower. Hint hint.”
My head lifted off the pillow as I eyed the stunning man in nothing but his birthday suit; his eyebrows waggled. He stole my breath. The confidence melded with a playful smirk, and it was like a drug I couldn’t quit. Suddenly, my feet didn’t seem to ache.
“We can’t let a shower that big go to waste.”
When I looked at the hotels in Glasgow, I skipped the photos of the bedroom and went straight to the shower. Any bed would suffice for a night of rutting like horny teenagers. But the shower? That required a bit more space for burly men. This one made the price tag worth every penny.
I stripped and walked into the bathroom. Eyeing the watch around my right wrist reminded me I needed to thank Asher. If they knew its ability to control my lightning resulted in shower sex, they’d give me grief.
The shower took up one end of the bathroom, a small ledge dividing it from the rest. Other than a small glass partition, it remained open. Something about the openness had me half-cocked.
The water bordered on scalding, but it was necessary when taking a shower for two. It should be standard practice to have two heads in a shower this size. They should know more than one person used it. But as I wrapped my arms around Jason, letting the water splash across my face, I didn’t care. It only meant I needed to be closer to this irresistible man.
Grabbing the soap, I massaged it into Jason’s back until his shoulders relaxed. Sexy. It was wonderful to see how it got a physical reaction. I lathered my hands before sliding down the crack of his ass. Without asking, he spread his legs and leaned forward, bracing himself against the shower wall. If I had been half-cocked before, the sight of him pushing his backside out caused a rush of blood to my groin.
I reached under his legs, cradling his balls, before sliding my hand back. He let out a gasp each time. When I turned him about, I repeated the lathering to his front, spending more than a little time soaping his cock.
“Give me the soap,” he said, snatching the bar. “I’m not ready to come.”
He gestured for me to spin about. His hands glided along my shoulders, pressing as hard as he could muster. I focused on his palms, the way they contoured my sides, sliding along my waist before cupping my ass. Sex with Jason might be amazing, but few things were more sensual than having a man wash away the day.
I was about to turn when his hand slid down the crack of my ass. His finger slid over my hole, and I wondered where this might go. I might do the topping, but I appreciated the attention. Then Jason slowed the motion, slipping a finger inside. I grunted, palms against the shower wall.
“Vacations are for exploring, right?”
Never had he expressed interest. It had been twenty years since my last experience. But for Jason, nothing was off limits. Instead of agreeing, I leaned forward, spreading my legs. He stepped out of the way of the spray, letting it wash away the soap. When his hand returned, he let his fingers drag along that sensitive spot before cupping my balls.
“Somebody’s excited?” Bottoming might not be high on my priority list. But if he wanted it, it’d become one.
There was a moment of nothing, no touching, no words, just the sloshing of water. I understood the anticipation Jason experienced when I made him beg. Whatever move my mind conjured, it couldn’t compare to the sensation of Jason’s tongue. This is why Jason whimpered. I stole from his playbook, spreading my legs wider and pushing back.
“Feels amazing.” It came out as more of a gasp than words.
Several minutes passed as he held my hips, burying his face in my ass. This is where I’d normally turn him around and return the gesture. I’d prepare him to take my cock. But in the spirit of adventure…
“Fuck me.” Words I had never uttered.
“You sure?” The disbelief in his voice said he didn’t expect it to go in this direction. “Yes, sir.” With one word, the power dynamic returned. I remained in charge.
Would he attempt another finger to give me time to adjust? Or would he—
His cock pressed against my ass. I grunted as he worked his way inside. He might not be thick, but it didn’t feel like that. With another inch, I groaned. Jason paused, running his hands along my back. He knew when to slow down and take his time. I wanted him in me, to feel the man of my dreams as he rocked back and forth.
When his hands held my hips, I let out a long sigh, letting the tension ease away from my body. Before he could push forward, I leaned back until I pressed against his belly. I was tight, and his cock must have grown since I last saw him erect, but Jason Jaynes was buried in my ass.
“Fuck,” he hissed.
I reached down, squeezing my cock, surprised by its rigidness. It had less to do with the piece of meat stretching me open and more to do with the way Jason held my hips. Gently digging his fingers into my skin, he muttered incoherent words. Every time he thought of Scotland, he’d think of this shower and him exploring uncharted territory.
I tensed my muscles while I stroked.
“Mother fucker,” he cried. “I see why you like this.”
“Fuck me.” After the second stroke in and out, his pacing turned quick. His eagerness made it hot. I squeezed down, milking his cock as his pace turned erratic.
“Come in me.”
The angle changed as he stood on his tiptoes, shoving it to the base. I held still, savoring the pulsing of his cock. The growling drowned out the sound of the shower. He pulled at my hips as if he could get any deeper.
“I’m coming,” he groaned.
I didn’t expect to feel it, but there it was, a sensation unlike any other. Jason came in me like I had done to him countless times. I didn’t expect to come while bent over, but the thought of him draped across my back sent a wave of electricity through my body. There was no time to announce it. I grunted as I shot, once, twice, half-a-dozen times.
“Holy hell,” he gasped. He shifted, pulling out. “Too much. Too much,” he repeated. “Wow.”
The shiver continued through my torso, and I had to brace with both hands. Now that was an orgasm. I didn’t move for the next few minutes, other than shaking my head. When I finally stood, my muscles ached, amongst other things.
“I’m going to be sore,” I confessed.
“Good.” He gave me a slap on the ass before I turned around. “Now you know how I feel.”
“Complaining?” I grinned.
“No.” He grabbed me by the wrist, pulling me into the spray. “No, sir, I am not.”
I nuzzled my cheek against his, giving him soft kisses as the water battered my face. “Seems I’ve gotten dirty again.”
“Good. You can go to bed like that.”
My cock twitched at the thought. I gently bit his earlobe, and he froze. “I won’t be the only one.”
Only Jason could make me feel like a horny teenager. How we ever left the house was beyond me. But it saved us the cost of going to the movies. And every night, we collapsed in a sweaty heap, then cuddled and talked about our day. The perfect end to a night.
He wrapped his hands around my cock. Round two was about to begin.
“Do the Scots turn every bank into a pub?”
“It looks that way.”
He had put on the charm to convince me to go drinking again. The man at the front desk of our hotel mentioned a bar in the train station basement. It was only a short walk, and we hadn’t seen the inside of the building yet.
The trains were modern, but the surrounding structure held a gothic beauty. On one side of the roof were all windows looking skyward. More than half were painted black, a remnant of World War II when they had to hide the lights within buildings. Even at this late hour, it was a flurry of activity as people raced to reach parts unknown.
“Would you ever want to live here?” As I spoke, I’m sure there was more alcohol than blood in my system. In Vanguard, I dealt with the duality of being a superhero. But here, I was just good ol’ Bernard.
“Wait. Are you serious?”
“No. No. Explain.” Jason didn’t allow me to hide from my feelings. It was one of the things I loved about him.
I followed the iron girders as they connected to the side of the hotel. It was almost as if the train station leaned against this old-world building. Scotland demonstrated its engineering marvels as it blended the new and the old. They displayed their past with pride, but it didn’t hinder their path into the future.
Jason placed a hand on my chest. “You’ve never uttered the word before.”
We found the entrance to the basement, a metal staircase leading downward. It was like a tomb surrounded by rock. Blue lights highlighted the bar and the booze behind the counter. Despite being a cave beneath the train station, I could only describe it as modern. I wouldn’t mind seeing this every day.
We found ourselves a table in the corner. The waitress rattled off the specials, and I ordered a Lightning Flurry. When Jason shot me a look, I shrugged. “Don’t judge me. I like a theme.”
“Are you serious about living here?”
“It sounds wonderful, but we have a great life in Vanguard. The Breakfast club, jobs we love…”
“Who said we’d give it up? We have a friend who can open portals across the galaxy. You’re not going to miss out on breakfast. And the zip tubes they’re developing at Centurion HQ should be up and running within a year. I can get to work and back in seconds.”
“Is it really that easy?”
Jason pointed at a nearby table. “They’re on a first date.”
I stole a quick glance over my shoulder. The two men must have been in their mid-thirties. They were both dressed up, one wearing a tie and the other a polo. I turned back to Jason to see him fixated.
“You want everybody to be gay. How can you tell they’re on a date?”
“The guy in the tie keeps stealing glances at the other. But when their eyes meet, he looks away. He’s nervous. He finds him handsome, maybe charming, but he doesn’t want to come on too strong.”
“You’re making it up.”
“The other one feels the same way. Every time he catches his eye, he runs his fingers along the pint glass. They’re both new to this.”
“You need to stop hanging out with Chad.”
“Do you remember being that nervous?”
I attempted a subtle glance over my shoulder. I failed. The man with the tie looked at me. I looked at his friend and gave him a smile and a chin nod, ‘Go for it.’ I hope I relayed the confidence.
“I was never nervous.” It was a bold-faced lie.
“Dense isn’t the same thing? By the time you got my attention, and I had a clue, I was already daydreaming.”
“Daydreaming, huh?” He rested his elbows on the table and leaned forward until his chin rested on his hands. He clearly wanted me to elaborate.
“Okay, as I remember it. This adorable guy sat down next to me. I was just minding my own business, trying to be discreet as I scoped out his package.”
“That part I remember.”
“It got my attention.” I winked. “But it was when I saw his eyes I caved.”
“I had never seen a guy before and thought about the future with him. But when I saw your eyes… I already imagined them in bed.”
“Determined to bed me, huh? Keep on digging this hole, Mister Castle.”
I rolled my eyes. “Not that… well, not just that. I thought about our first date. Where would we go? What would I wear? Would he find me funny? What if I got food on my shirt?”
Jason reached across the table, pushing my Lightning Flurry out of the way. It was a thing we did. Not even a table between us stopped the comforting touches. I put my hands into his, and he gave them a squeeze.
“You know that’s the definition of nervous, right?”
“By the end of the first conversation, I had answers to all of it. We’d go to the fish taco truck on the side of Trevor Boulevard. I’d wear jeans and a t-shirt with an obscure logo. He’d laugh at my jokes, not because I was funny, but because I couldn’t land the punch line.”
“And if you got food on your shirt?”
I squeeze his hands. “He’d wipe it off with a napkin. Then we’d have an awkward moment, and that’d be our first kiss.”
We both leaned back in our chairs, smiling at one another. Was it bad that he still made me nervous? The butterflies in my stomach never went away.
“Well, what happened?”
I turned to see the two men focused on us. I didn’t realize I had been loud enough for them to follow along. But Jason wasn’t the only one able to tell two men were on a date. I eyed Jason, gesturing to him.
“Our first date was a disaster. The taco truck wasn’t there that night. We opted for pizza. It tasted horrible. He tried to be funny, but it was like he rehearsed dad jokes. But he walked me to my apartment, and we stood there. I went in to kiss him goodbye, and he gave me an awkward hug. Before he let go, we finally kissed.”
“Why’d you say yes to another date?” These two were experiencing a similar encounter.
Sitting across from me was the man I loved. That day on the bench, I’m glad I lowered my novel. From there, I knew I wanted to see where our story took us. Just like the elves my book, it wouldn’t be an easy victory, but they pushed on. We had endured the first date from hell, and yet we stood under the canopy of his apartment building, unable to say goodbye.
“I fell in love with the idea of us on that park bench. Before the end of that kiss, I fell in love with him.”
I spoke my truth. The tear running down Jason’s cheek made it clear the words were well received. Since that kiss, I have treasured every moment. His foot gently tapped mine under the table.
The two men returned to their conversation while Jason and I silently studied one another. I was prepared to suggest we pay for our drinks and head back to the room. After that conversation, I wanted—
“Want to go to the bar?”
“There’s a gay bar down the street with good music.”
I turned to see the two men standing. I had expected them to end their date and go their separate ways. But when the tie put his hand in the middle of polo’s back, they were also ready to see where the future took them.
“This has been an awkward start,” Polo said.
“But who knows? Maybe we need to see what happens,” added Tie.
Did my beginning with Jason give them hope? Most nights, we were ready for bed by ten and already in our PJs by nine. Most of it was thanks to my needing quality cuddle time before bed.
“I think we should probably—”
I chimed in. “A double date? We’re in.”
I went to down my Lightning Flurry and thought better. I might be in Scotland, but I couldn’t keep up with them. Jason tossed a few quid on the table.
I smiled at him with a shrug. “We’re going dancing.”
“Next time I suggest dancing, remind me I’m old.”
“Is that the joints talking or the whisky?”
Sitting on the edge of the bed, I squinted, trying to focus on the fireplace. I had drunk enough to put a normal man in a coma. The room shifted. I found the limitations of my abilities. Meanwhile, Jason had spent the evening nursing a single pint.
“I want to know where your shirt went.”
I touched my chest. “My shirt!” Oh wait, I remembered tearing it off when I got on the stage. Wait, was I on stage? The world made little sense.
Jason laughed. “Bernard Castle, I can’t remember the last time you let loose.”
“I always let loose.”
Jason’s eyes narrowed before pushing me back onto the bed. “If that’s the case, I expect you to dance on a table more often.”
“Whoa. Don’t get crazy now.” Did I really get on a table? Was there a stage, or did I just climb… I laughed—no, I giggled. I couldn’t wait for the news to reach the internet. Tomorrow I’d find photographs of the great Sentinel, tipsy and gyrating in time with the music. I lifted my head and watched Jason pulling off his clothes. I couldn’t be happier.
I raised my legs off the floor. Jason pulled at my shoes, then my socks. When he was done there, he moved between my legs, unbuttoning my jeans and shimmying them down my hips. When he yanked them off, my legs dropped, half hanging off the bed.
“You’re drunk; that’s what you are.”
I might be drunk, but as I looked down, I remained immune to whisky dick. If the room stopped shifting from side to side, I’d mount Jason before bed. There was a good chance I’d fall on the floor. Instead, I wiggled my way up the bed until my head reached the pillow.
“Give me a second and I’ll come to bed.”
Jason vanished into the bathroom. How many drinks did I have? The couple had insisted on toast after toast. As the alcohol lowered inhibitions, they had more in common than they thought. I think they kissed. Yeah, they definitely kissed.
“Do you think they’ll make it?”
“Bram and Ewan? I hope so. Ewan asked for his number, and they planned a date to the museum.”
“That makes me happy.” I had shelved the quiet, stoic Bernard and replaced him with a living in a Hallmark movie.
I gave my cock a squeeze, casually stroking. “I’ll be mad if they don’t invite us to their wedding.”
“They’re getting married now?” Jason laughed at my absurdity.
“Yup. They’ll ask me to make a toast.”
Jason returned, crawling into bed. He nuzzled up against me, his head on my chest with my arm wrapped around him. I continued playing with myself, enjoying the lazy strokes.
“You best make it a good one,” he said.
Before I replied, Jason gripped my cock. My eyes widened at the wet, slippery sensation. While in the bathroom, he had added lube to his hand, and now he used it to slide along my cock. I shivered and tensed in response.
“Feel good?” His words were quiet, a stark difference from the shouting at the bar.
His hands reached the top, and with a firm grip, he slid to the base, giving it a squeeze. Each downstroke made my cock thicken, and from this angle, it looked huge.
He held still as he kissed my chest. “Tell me.”
This was new. During sex, my words were sparse. Jason enjoyed dirty talk. Just with words alone, he could take me from soft to erect.
I held him tighter, closing my eyes. “Nice and slow, all the way over the head.” His hand followed my guidance. “Like having that thick cock in your hand?”
Instead of replying, he licked my nipple. As he held his hand still, my hips bucked. “It’s almost as good as burying my cock in your ass.” He bit my nipple, dragging a moan from my lips. “Tighter. You want my load?”
He resumed stroking, picking up the pace as he slid his hand up and down my shaft. Jason made sure his fingers tightened on the underside of my cock, hitting that sensitive spot beneath the head. He let go just long enough to cup my balls. Without his hand, the cool air pressed against my cock. I shuddered.
“Tell me.” He resumed his stroking.
“I’m getting close. Don’t stop. Fuck, you know just how to handle my cock.” The tingle started in my toes. I switched between tensing my muscles and relaxing, swallowed by the sensation riding my body.
“Tell me,” he whispered.
“Fuck. You’re going to make me come. Make me come. Make me—” My head shot up, and I let out a guttural roar. He switched to slow strokes as the orgasm tore through my body. I watched as ropes of cum lined my stomach. Jason gave another firm squeeze, and I nearly yelped.
“Good boy,” he said. When I glanced down, he was smiling. He licked the cum from his hand before nuzzling into the crook of my arm. It took a couple minutes before my breathing returned to normal and my cock softened.
“I should get cleaned—”
“You will do no such thing.” Was Jason getting bossy in the bedroom? I’m not sure how I felt about this sudden take-charge attitude.
“I guess I’ll go to sleep right here, then.”
“That’s better,” he said.
His leg draped across mine, ensuring I wouldn’t be moving. As much as I wanted to hose off, I didn’t want to move from this spot. It only took another minute before Jason’s body twitched, a sign he had drifted into sleep. No, I’d gladly remain sticky to hold my boyfriend as he slept.
“I thought we said no flying.”
The first time I held him over Vanguard City, he had been terrified. But after a year of treating my abilities like a superpowered taxi service, he’d grown comfortable. Instead of zipping straight to our destination, I went at a lazy pace to take in the sights.
“Coos,” he corrected.
The large hairy beasts covered a hillside, grazing as we passed. The lush green turned into small towns and back into greenery. We’d have plenty of time to explore the Highlands, but right now, I had one particular town in mind.
“Are you going to tell me where we’re going?”
“We’re almost there.”
Superheroes like to act as if we have homing beacons telling us where to take off and land. I had flown across Vanguard enough to navigate by landmarks. But in Scotland, I cheated by following the roads. No hero would ever admit to it, but we relied on GPS.
We reached Loch Lomond. I veered along the west coast, admiring the majestic landscape. The Rossdhu House stood against the water, surrounded by a golf course. The building looked like a grand mansion, older than Vanguard City itself.
“We could live there.”
“You’re going to need a promotion,” I said.
“You can become a hero for hire.”
The Deviants didn’t have corporate sponsorship. There weren’t paychecks associated with our good deeds. Thankfully, when LaToya resumed her position as Director of the new Centurions, she rehired me as their public relations coordinator. Only Valiant and Elixir returned to the team, but the new recruits were making a name for themselves. Now if only they learned to control their collateral damage.
In the small village of Luss, I touched down on a street between cottages. The stone buildings were straight from the pages of Small Village Monthly and screamed Scotland. They lined the road leading toward the lake.
I set Jason down, and his face froze in awe. He wanted to see Glasgow because of the old-world charm. But having caught him browsing through bed and breakfasts for our trip, I decided to do my own research. Reaching out to Momma Castle, I discovered our family’s lineage started here.
“Welcome to Luss,” I said.
“Bernard…” Jason made Vanguard his home, but he’d never be a city boy. His heart remained in the rural outskirts of the city. You wouldn’t know it by the way he navigated public transportation, but he’d always be the child of farmers. He loved Vanguard because he loved me. This was my way of returning that love.
“It’s postcard beautiful.”
“I got us a cottage.”
“Bernard!” He came at me, jumping. His arms wrapped around my neck and his legs hugged my hips. I held him up as he showered my face with kisses. The sheer glee, the smile, the pecks on my nose, my heart filled with pride.
“Can I see?”
I set him down. “I thought we could go for a walk. There’s something I want to show you.”
Suspicion. Trying to hide something from Jason bordered on impossible. He could easily sort out when I had something up my sleeve. Thankfully, he humored me.
His arm was linked with mine as we walked between the buildings. An elderly couple went for a stroll. As they passed, both gave us a nod with a smile. I admired the way he held her hand, that spark of romance not fading with time. We’d be that couple. Even after we wrinkled and time made our joints hurt, I’d still want to feel his hand in mine. Forever wouldn’t be long enough.
“Did I ever tell you my mother’s maiden name?”
“I don’t think so.”
“Colquhoun. Her family is from Luss. When I told her we were visiting Scotland, she told me stories about visiting as a kid.”
“Mum would have loved this.”
I squeezed his arm. I hadn’t been there when she passed, and I’d carry that for the rest of my life. But on her birthday, we visited her grave and talked as if she were still the vibrant lady, claiming I never ate enough of her meatloaf.
“She’s with us,” I whispered.
We reached the end of the cottages. A path wound through a line of trees obscuring a large stone structure. We continued, Jason pulling at my arm to pick up the pace. I dragged my heels, wanting to savor the moment. I needed time, time to take in the rose window above the door, time to form words.
“Can we go inside?”
I nodded. It had been my plan. Calling ahead, I arranged to have the small parish to ourselves. Jason had wanted a true Scottish experience, and I didn’t want to disappoint. I hoped the surprise lived up to his expectations.
We walked under an arch, along a path leading to the large wooden door. Tombs rested to the side of the path, serving as a cemetery older than the United States. I imagined the spirits of my ancestors watching over us as I pulled the door open.
For a small church, they filled it with pews. From the outside, it looked as if it might be abandoned. But inside, the wood remained polished, and the carpets vacuumed. I was not a religious man, but it was hard to deny a presence.
Jason walked to a stone pedestal filled with holy water. His fingers traced along the rough surface, and I couldn’t help but smile at the way his eyes darted from one spot to the next. The quaint church checked all the boxes for him.
“Bernard, it’s beautiful.”
Yes, yes, it was beautiful, and I didn’t mean the church. The man standing here meant the world to me. It was one thing to experience Scotland, but seeing it through his eyes, it was as if I were seeing it all for the first time. He reminded me day in and day out to appreciate every detail.
I shoved my hands in my pockets, following him around. I was at a loss for words. I wanted to tell him about that feeling in my chest. We used the word love, but four letters didn’t encompass the complexity. It had been a year, and I was only starting to understand its meaning. As quickly as I formed the words, he’d laugh or shoot me a look, and I found them insufficient.
“Jason…” My voice quivered. It had taken a year before I felt I could do him justice. A year since I decided I’d wake each morning, determined to be the best version of myself. He deserved nothing less. I’d always be a man of action, but Jason needed words of affirmation. It had taken a year to learn his love language.
“Is everything okay?”
I focused on the carpet, the worn path parishioners took every Sunday as they filed in a line to their seats. They came here, ready to devote themselves to something greater than themselves. I never thought I’d find the ability to believe in the unknown. But then some guiding force returned Jason to my life.
“I love you,” I spit out quickly.
“I need to say this.”
He nodded quietly. I found it difficult to focus on his face. Instead, I looked past his shoulder to the stained-glass windows. The light from outside pushed its way through, leaving glittering beams of color along the walls.
“I’m not good at expressing myself. I need time to sort through my feelings. I never think I have the vocabulary. I’d need to write a novel to describe what goes through my head when I think of you. It’s been a year, a fantastic, amazing year. But I don’t think I’m any closer to knowing what to say.”
“Jason Jaynes…” My voice caught in my throat. I let out a long sigh. “You understand me as no one else could. When I say I love you, what I want to say is, you are my motivation, my inspiration, and my aspiration. Simply by being you, I am happy. You embrace me despite my faults and make me want to be a better man. You are my happiness. My future is brighter because I know you’ll be there.”
His eyes had softened, and his jaw hung low as he took in the words. I tightened my hand around the velvet pouch in my pocket. I fought to keep the tears from my eyes and lost. I pulled my hands from my pockets, biting my lower lip.
“Jason Jaynes.” I bent to one knee, staring up at my future, my love. “I took the long road to get here, but you patiently waited for me. You are the person I want to spend the rest of my life with.” I pulled the ring from the pouch.
Tears streamed down his face. He sniffled as he wiped his eyes. I had rehearsed the speech a thousand times, hoping to make it through without getting emotional. I should have known better. With Jason, they always got the best of me.
“Jason Jaynes, will you marry me?”
His lips moved, but no words came out. He resorted to furious nodding. I took his hand, kissing his knuckles before sliding the ring along his finger. The platinum band with an inlay of oak from the Asgardian tree of life looked perfect on his hand.
I stood, holding his head, kissing his nose before pulling him tight for a hug. In a small church in Scotland, I fell in love with Jason all over again.
“There’s more,” I whispered.
I hated hearing him cry, but the soft sobs in my ear came from a place of love. If he thought this was the end of my plan, he had another thing coming.
Taking his hand, I led him to the door. My hand rested on the ornate black handle. I paused long enough to wipe the tears from his eyes. Jason continued, eyeing the ring on his finger.
“Are you ready?”
He shook his head. “I never want this to end.” His voice remained a whisper.
I pushed the door open, and a roar started from the courtyard. By the time we exited, his eyes had widened. In the cemetery, the Breakfast club and their partners were cheering. Chad and Reese jumped up and down, clapping as if we had won an award. To be fair, at that moment, I felt like a winner.
“He said yes!” I boasted.
The roar grew. Eight of our favorite people had arrived in Scotland to celebrate our engagement. It had been Chad, who coached me through my speech. Alejandro and Griffin had shaken their heads when I tried to keep it simple. Even Xander had joined in, patting me on the chest as a reminder to speak from the heart.
Alejandro ran forward, arms wrapping around us both. He planted a kiss on my cheek and then Jason’s. “Papi, osito, happy looks good on you.”
Jason squeezed my hand. “Thanks.”
“Have you told him?”
I shot Alejandro a dirty look. He nearly spoiled the biggest part of the surprise. Turning to Jason, I took both hands, leaning in so our foreheads touched. Even while the ensemble watched, we shared a moment, just the two of us.
“Are you ready for a wedding?”
“I said yes.” I could sense the confusion in his voice.
“I’d marry you right now if I could.”
“How the hell will you make that happen?”
He straightened, giving me a quizzical look. Then he turned to give the others a once over. He connected the dots. “They’re all in on it?”
“I might have asked for their help.”
“But my father…”
“He’s waiting at his cottage.”
“But…” Jason’s voice trailed off as he sorted through all the questions. He eyed the church before looking toward the tiny village of Luss. He nodded. Returning his forehead to mine, he kissed the tip of my nose. “We’re having a wedding.”
“Really?” We had talked about a wedding before. It was only natural when watching Hallmark movies. But I hadn’t been sure he’d agree to the immediacy of my plan.
“We’re getting married!” he yelled.
“Say it,” Griffin shouted.
I rolled my eyes. But when I saw each of them waiting for their cue, I couldn’t resist laughing. I let out a long sigh. “Unleash the Deviants.”
“If the cliche works…” Jason said.
Before I could reply, EO opened four portals. Alejandro directed people to start their jobs. Chad and Reese took Jason by the hand, dragging him into a portal. As quickly as the fanfare had started, it ended.
They left me alone in the cemetery in front of the chapel. To think, a year ago, I wasn’t sure if we’d make it as a couple. But when I got out of my way and set aside my insecurities, I found love.
“I’m getting married.”
I rubbed my face, relieving the ache from the perpetual grin. Today, I chose love. But now I needed to pull off a wedding suitable for the amazing Jason Jaynes.
Luss had quaint cottages. The interior had an old-world charm due to the leather sofa and sconces made from antlers. The fire had been lit before I arrived, making the rooms toasty. I could have spent all day curled up on the couch with Jason, watching the fire while we debated the best sci-fi franchise.
Draped across the couch was a black garment bag. When I started plotting this diabolical plan, I asked Asher to tailor me a suit worthy of a heroic wedding. They agreed, but demanded they got the final say in what I wore. As I eyed the bag, I knew what I’d find when I pulled down the zipper.
Seconds later, I held a hanger with a waistcoat and kilt. Pinned to the front, Asher had left a note.
“Momma Castle is honored that you’re wearing her family tartan.”
Asher finally got their wish. These calves, for all to see. Studying the kilt and the way green and red lines crossed the dark blue, it all became real. Normally, a couple had months, if not years, to settle into the idea of getting married. But in a few short hours, I’d be wedding the man of my dreams. Everything about this felt right.
I turned to see Alejandro, Griffin, and Xander stepping out of a portal. Alejandro wasted no time wrapping his arms around my back, resting his head on my shoulder. To my surprise, each of them was wearing a kilt. Asher had been working overtime.
“How are you doing, big guy?” Xander stood by my side, eyeing the kilt. “Are you ready?”
Griffin took the hanger from my hand. “See the grin on his face? He’s been ready since Jason came to Vanguard. They’re basically married already.”
“I…” The words caught in my throat. Before I could speak, Griffin and Xander joined Alejandro, giving me a hug. “Thank you.”
“What are friends for?” Asked Xander.
I shook my head as they stepped back. “The three of you stopped being friends a long time ago. You’re family.”
“Ride or die crew,” Alejandro said.
“Yeah, you are. I never thought having coffee with a few bears would lead to this.”
“Me either,” Xander admitted. “But I’m glad it did.”
Griffin nodded. “I love you guys.”
I held my arms open, and all three squeezed in. They had seen me through the best and worst of times. Despite my attempts to keep them at arm’s length, they found their way into my heart. Now, they extended the same love to Jason.
“Are we going to sit around and be sappy, or is there a wedding to be had?”
Leave it to Xander to cut the feels short. “I suppose we should get going.”
“Xander,” Griffin pointed at me while taking a step back. “You know what’s next.”
My eyebrow rose as Alejandro stepped away. Xander rested his hands on my chest. “In true groomsmen fashion, it’s our job to help you get ready.”
“Thanks?” I suddenly grew nervous.
“Do it.” Alejandro’s excited clapping wasn’t helping.
Xander’s palm grew warm. I tried to get away, but his other hand held my shoulder in place. Dammit, he was stronger than I thought. With a swipe of his hand, my t-shirt vaporized.
“Yay!” Alejandro cheered.
“Sorry, big guy. But it’s our job to get you dressed.”
Only when he cupped my package did I realize how far this was going. The fire burned hot enough that I’d smell burnt denim for days. Alejandro and Griffin plopped down onto the couch, eyes wide.
“What he said,” Griffin said.
If they were anybody else, I’d be embarrassed standing in nothing but sneakers. But after listening to their escapades for years, this was par for the course. I hadn’t thought to get my groomsmen a gift. Instead, I placed my hands on my hips and flexed. It’d be good enough.
“Just like I remember,” Xander whistled.
“Wait. What?” Griffin’s eyes were wide in disbelief.
“Papi… Xander? Was the Breakfast council wrong?”
Xander laughed. “Gawk while we get him dressed. He has a handsome man waiting for him.”
“We’re going to revisit this,” Griffin said.
“The council is not happy,” Alejandro said, pulling the kilt off the hanger. “Not happy at all!”
We were no longer the Breakfast club. Our relationship expanded beyond the Hideout. They were family, and shortly, our family would grow by one. If only they’d stop staring at my package.
“You look…” Chad’s words trailed off as he squeezed my arm.
The road between the cottages led to Loch Lomond. The dock extended fifty feet into the water, and while it wasn’t a large lake, the Scottish fog made it impossible to see the other side. Soon, the sun would set and in this sleepy village, it’d be near pitch-black, something unheard of in Vanguard.
“Thanks for doing this,” I whispered in his ear.
“It’s the least I could do.”
In the distance, bagpipes played. A breeze caught my kilt, and it reminded me of how many people had a hand in this wedding. Alejandro and EO had overseen shuttling people from Vanguard to Scotland. Xander and Aiden coordinated the food and entertainment. And despite the Beacon buying Revelations, even Griffin and Sebastian ensured Aiden’s family attended.
“Bernard, you ready?”
And then there was Chad. I had served as the best man at his wedding. My oldest friend in Vanguard. It seemed fitting for him to officiate our marriage. He wore slacks with my mother’s tartan, another reminder that he was there for me. The friendships… we had barely started, and I was already getting choked up.
“I’ve been ready for a year.”
I only invited our closest friends and family, but it was enough to fill the seats on the dock. But as I looked down at the space between the chairs, I hardly noticed the people. At the end stood Jason. When his father stood next to him, holding out his elbows, I wiped away the tears.
The music of the bagpipes shifted, and all but one turned to watch. I caught the eye of my mother in the front row. Momma Castle wore a sash matching my kilt, and she gave a subtle approving nod. I mouthed a ‘Thank you’ before she turned to watch my husband-to-be.
It was Jason’s father that took my breath away. The man reminded me that Jason would be handsome no matter his years, but it was the framed picture he carried that struck me in the heart. While his mom had passed, Jason’s father made sure she was present to walk her baby down the aisle.
When they reached me, his father took my hand, giving it a firm shake before replacing it with Jason’s.
“Take care of our boy,” he said.
“His mom would be proud to call you her son.”
With a glance at Jason, I was happy to see I wasn’t the only one tearing up. When Jason’s father took his seat, Chad cleared his throat and started.
“We are gathered here…”
I could tell he was speaking, but the words grew distant as I focused on the man standing opposite me. Jason Jaynes. That fateful day, I couldn’t fathom where our adventure would take us. But I knew the moment I handed him my number—
“Oh,” I whispered.
Without interrupting Chad, I discreetly reached into my pocket, snatched a piece of cardboard and handed it to Jason. When he inspected it, he smiled. He thought I had been lying, but I never threw away the other half of the bookmark. Before we said our farewells that day, I had hoped it’d lead to this moment.
He mouthed, ‘I love you.’
“The couple has requested to share a few words before we proceed.”
We had? I had poured my heart out for the proposal. I don’t know if I could—
“One of us,” Jason corrected. “Bernard might melt if he has to give two speeches in one day.”
The crowd laughed. Jason understood I was a man of action. Words, they’d always be my weakness.
“Bernard Castle,” he started. “Our story has its ups and downs. It’s moved forward and been put on hiatus. Despite it all, we made it here.” Was it bad form to kiss the groom before the announcement? I wanted to kiss him. I needed to kiss him. I resisted, but barely.
“I wouldn’t look back and rewrite our story. It’s proven that when we’re adrift, we’ll always find a way back to one another. These feelings are undeniable. Some are small, like the glee on your face when a new Hallmark movie is announced. But some are big, like when I found out my bear of a boyfriend can wield lightning.”
I could see his point.
“But here we are. And my heart is filled with emotions, some small, some big. If I look for where they started, I find you.”
Dammit, I might ugly cry.
Jason nodded to Chad. The man cleared his throat once, then again. My tears were in good company as he wiped his eyes.
“Do you, Bernard Castle, take this man to be your husband for as long as you both shall live?”
Despite the tears, I couldn’t help but smile. “I do.” Two words, but I wanted to shout them.
“Do you, Jayson Janes, take this man to be your husband for as long as you both shall live?”
“I’m considering it.” He quickly corrected after I shot him a look. “I do! I do!”
The crowd chuckled.
“The rings,” Chad pointed to our fathers sitting in the front row.
His dad stood, shaking hands with my father. They handed off the rings to each of us. With a simple statement, my family had grown. I now had a father-in-law. I looked forward to arguing over which parent we’d visit first for the holidays.
We carefully slid the rings over our fingers, but as we finished, we refused to let go. I needed Chad to finish, fast. I couldn’t resist kissing my husband for much longer.
“By virtue of the authority vested in me by the city of Vanguard and the country of Scotland, I pronounce you husband and—”
I pulled Jason closed, smashing my lips against his. As our arms wrapped around one another, our feet left the dock. A gentle wind from the lake tugged at our kilts, reminding me not to fly too high. Only one show for today.
The crowd applauded as I continued kissing my husband.
“Do you think it’s okay that we bailed?”
“Let them party the night away. They’ll understand me wanting alone time with my boyfri— husband.” I spun about, seeing Jason in the cottage’s doorway. “You’re my husband.”
“You say it like you’re shocked. Did you think I’d say no?”
“This morning, I woke up next to my boyfriend. I only had a fiancé for three hours.”
“And now you have a husband,” he said. Shutting the door, he wrapped his arms around my neck. He kissed my nose. “I have a husband.” His hips swayed as he pressed his lips against mine. I kissed my husband. I’d never tire of that statement.
The swaying turned into a slow dance to the distant sound of music. I hadn’t danced this much in my life. There must have been something in the Scottish air that peeled away inhibitions.
“I can’t believe you got my father on the dance floor,” he said.
“I’m pretty sure he copped a feel.”
“Can you blame him?”
Jason froze. He stepped aside and walked into the kitchen. Lifting a coffee cup from the counter, he studied the ceramic mug. “Wait…” One of his students had made it, slightly lopsided and painted a horrible brown, but every morning he pulled it from the cupboard. “Is this my coffee cup?”
I held my words. He set it down and walked into the living room. Next to the leather couch was a framed photo of the two of us in front of the water fountain in Vanguard. The gears turned as he looked for more clues.
“Bernard… what’s going on?”
I walked up behind him, wrapping my arms around his chest. “Don’t be mad.”
“That’s never promising.”
“I couldn’t think of a suitable wedding gift. We both know that’s not my forte.” We’d never discuss the cordless drill incident again. “Welcome to our Scottish cottage.”
“You bought a house!”
I couldn’t tell if he was excited or angry. “We might not live here full time, but I thought it’d be a good place to spend weekends out of the city.”
“Bernard…” He turned around, tears filling his eyes. “You really wanted to make up for the drill, didn’t you?” Dammit, he remembered. “It’s all… perfect.”
I expected a kiss, a jump up and down, and clapping, but instead, he pulled my dress shirt from the waistband of my kilt. If that wasn’t enough of a clue, he eyed the bearskin rug in front of the fireplace. The grin spreading across his face confirmed it. I received gift approval.
“How fast do you think you can get that fire started?”
For the average man, it might take time to get the kindling going. I didn’t have time to be average. Dropping to my knees, I reached into the fireplace and summoned the lightning. With a few quick bolts, the wood smoked. Another jolt from my hands and the fire broke out, filling the cottage with light.
“Human lighter,” Jason said, “that’s handy.”
I spun about on my knee to see Jason in nothing but his kilt, socks, and flashers. As he stepped closer, I slid my hands up his thighs, delighted by the Scots’ refusal to wear briefs. I unhooked his flashers and pulled his sgian-dubh from his sock.
“I like having it on me. I feel like a rebel.”
Eyeing the dagger, I caught the etching of our names on the hilt. Asher had thought of everything. “You’re my rebel.” Tossing them to the side, I slid the wool socks down his calves, admiring his thickness. A moment later, he was naked other than his kilt.
“The Scots have this right.” When I slid my hands back up his legs, my finger grazed his balls, and the bulge in his kilt grew. “I see why they wear sporans.”
“Gotta hide the sexy,” he laughed. “No underwear… I’ve been hard since I put the kilt on.”
“I’ll have to take care of that, Mr. Castle.”
“Absolutely, Mr. Jaynes.”
We’d have to iron out a few details when we returned to Vanguard. I wrapped my hand around his cock and gave it a playful squeeze. He grunted. With a glance at the rug, I gave him a smirk. “It’d be a shame to waste a cliche.”
“Are you trying to seduce me like an 80s porn star?”
“Is it working?”
Instead, he laid down. I disrobed, adding a little swagger as I undressed. When it was nothing but the kilt, I pulled at the strap, taking my time before letting it fall to the floor. Jason whistled.
“My sexy bear,” he whispered.
I crawled between his legs, draping myself along his body as I kissed his neck. His legs wrapped around my waist. In this position, I could feel the heat of his body against my cock. When he reached between us, gently touching the tips of my nipples, I gasped.
“I love you,” I whispered.
“I love you too.” He kissed me, biting my lip hard enough it might have hurt a normal person. Jason had adapted to sex with a superhero. One part tender, one part testing my strength.
“What are you going to do, sir?”
My cock jumped, pressing against his ass. Jason’s newfound love of me verbalizing our sex forced me to embrace dirty talk. “I’m going to clean the precum off your cock.”
“Going prep you to take your husband’s cock.”
“I’m going to fuck you.” He smiled. “Hard. And when I make you come, I’m going to breed you.”
I slid down his body, kissing his chest and belly, until I stared at his cock. I swallowed his cock, dragging my tongue along the tip. When I buried my face in his groin, he grabbed the back of my head, bucking his hips. With each thrust, he reached the back of my throat.
I considered making him come before I slid my cock inside. He’d take me, but for our first time, I wanted to be inside my husband when he came. Pushing his legs back, I kissed down his taint until I reached his ass. Normally, I’d do my due diligence with my tongue, but I’ll admit, I was eager.
Jason held his legs, pulling them toward his chest, making it clear he was ready for the main event. His eagerness was enough to make me drip. This bearskin rug would not survive the night.
As I got into place, I took his legs, resting them on my shoulders. Wiping my precum along his ass, I watched as the head of my cock disappeared. He held onto my neck, forcing me to watch his face as I continued. His lips parted, a slight whimper, and by the time I reached the halfway point, he moaned.
“Fuck me,” he said. “Hard.”
I shoved inside him, my balls resting against his ass. Fingers digging into my neck, his moans drowned out the music from the reception. When I flexed, making my cock jump in him, his eyes shot open. The usual playfulness had vanished, replaced with a lustful yearning.
I gave him a minute to adjust. But after that, I stopped being a gentle top. Pulling all the way out, I slammed into him, hard enough that his entire body jiggled. It only lasted a few minutes before we reached the point of no return.
“Want my load?”
“Breed me,” he whispered.
He wrapped his legs around my waist and pulled me closer. I dropped on top of him, trapping his cock between us. I kissed him while I continued rutting. My belly rubbed against the underside of his cock, and I knew it wouldn’t be long before—
His arms wrapped around my neck. His tongue explored my mouth as his body shook. His ass squeezed my cock, and the orgasm raged through my body. He covered us in cum while I filled him, both shivering with pleasure.
“Holy shit,” he said, his body still jerking.
“Your kilt is going to need dry cleaning.”
We both laughed. When my cock softened, I rolled off to the side, curling up next to him. I rested my head on his belly, delighted by the ragged breathing. He ran his hands over my head, relaxing with a long sigh.
“Jason Castle,” he said.
My head shot up, looking at him with a raised eyebrow. “Really?”
“But I get to control the television remote for the next year.”
“Whoa. Hold up now.”
He grinned. “Don’t worry, I’ll make sure a Hallmark movie or two slips in there.”
“Hmmm.” I mulled it over. “Jason Castle.”
I nodded. “Deal. So, what are we watching first?”
“Lord of the Rings,” he laughed. “Extended edition.”
I groaned as I rested my head on his belly. “Be glad I love you, Mr. Jason Castle.”
“You’re stuck with me forever. Then we’ll need a Star Wars marathon.”
“I take it back!”
“Nope, too late.”
Wrapped up with my husband, I watched the fire dance. A year ago, I couldn’t expect this. When I laid eyes on him at Bottoms Up, he blew open a door of possibilities. Now, I couldn’t wait to see where this adventure would take us. With Jason by my side, I could conquer the world. Forever wouldn’t be long enough, but it’d be a start.