The Proposal

The Proposal

Straight in. See the realtor and straight out. No stopping for so much as a coffee. Mark could go through the drive through on his way back to the interstate.

Certainly no hanging around on the off chance he might see—

Stop it.

It was over. They were getting married. Trey was getting married. But not to him. Who would ever marry him? Of course he’d have to ask someone first, but he didn’t believe in it. Just because something was legal now didn’t mean you had to do it, and he’d tried to explain how watching his mom and dad’s disastrous marriage had put him off for life and he was sure Trey understood.

The image of the cute table arrangement in their favorite restaurant would be forever burned in his brain. The candles. The balloons. Trey had even got him flowers. He’d thought—he’d actually been completely convinced it was because of his birthday until Trey had damn well gone down on one knee and every single person in the place had stopped talking.

And he’d wanted to die.

And as much as he’d tried to apologize and explain getting married wasn’t something he wanted things had never been the same since. Then Trey had joined a gym. Not that Mark had thought he needed to. He loved Trey’s body. Liked he had something to get hold of first thing on a morning and last thing at night—and every minute in between. But gradually Trey had changed. Not just on the outside, but on the inside. Mark had known he was losing him and even though he’d tried to hang on with his fingernails it had been no use.

He’d even offered to get married and Trey had fixed him with such a hurt look he’d never mentioned it again.

Nine months after the disastrous proposal Trey had packed and gone. Mark had immediately changed his job and headed in the other direction. They’d leased their cute cottage that nearly sat on the sand, but Mark had never returned. Until now. Nearly two years later he’d gotten an email from Trey saying he was getting married and would he mind if they sold because he really wanted the cash for a deposit on his new place.

So Mark had to come back one last time. And yes, he could have gone to the office to sign the contract but something—something clearly masochistic—had made him come here. He was just looking out from the bedroom window when he heard the noise downstairs and he turned to go down and meet the realtor.

“Mark.”

Mark froze at the shocked whisper. A bare step into the kitchen to see Trey stood there looking…apologetic almost? “What are you doing here?”

And Trey winced so Mark immediately felt like shit. “Not that you don’t have every right,” he rushed out. “I just wasn’t expecting it.”

And Trey didn’t reply just kept staring at Mark like he had two heads or something. Then Trey seemed to realize what he was doing and held out a letter. “This came. I’ve been keeping an eye on the mail and for some reason it wasn’t redirected to you.”

“I thought I’d changed everything.” Mark frowned and reached out just as Trey seemed to change his mind.

And their fingers brushed. Trey jumped like he’d gotten an electrical shock but Mark felt it too. And suddenly he didn’t care about whatever was in the letter. “You’re getting married,” Mark choked out. “Congratulations.”

Trey shook his head. “No. No I’m not.”

Mark’s heart beat a tattoo. “You’re not?”

Trey turned and walked into the lounge. And straight to the doors looking out to the beach where Mark had built a deck. Or tried. It was still a little wonky and it badly needed re-staining now. Mark had followed him and took in the slumped shoulders and the bowed head.

“I’m sorry,” he offered knowing how important marriage had always been to him. Growing up in group homes and never being fostered had—Mark knew—made Trey want to cling on to every bit of security he could.

He knew that. Of course, he knew that. So why couldn’t he have just smiled and let him put that damn ring on his finger? It wasn’t like he’d ever been interested in anyone else. Trey had been it for him since high school. It was Mark’s stubbornness that had driven them apart.

He wondered if the other guy had met someone else, but he didn’t like asking. And the idea that anyone would ditch Trey for another was so ridiculous it was insane. Trey was perfect.

“I ended it,” Trey said softly as if Mark had asked, and he turned around. “I worked out—just in time thank goodness—that I was more in love with the idea of getting married than in getting married to Sean.”

Stunned, Mark took a step forward then stilled. It wasn’t up to Mark to offer comfort. He’d lost that right.

Lost that a long time ago.

Trey turned back around and gazed at the beach. “What are you doing now?”

Mark turned the question over in his mind. He knew it had been a casual enquiry as to work, where he lived, who he might be seeing, but—

Was there a chance? He had to know.

“Wondering how I was insane enough to let go the best thing that ever happened to me?”

Trey stilled.

“And wondering if I begged with everything in me if my best friend would give me another chance?”

Trey still didn’t move.

“And wondering if I told him how much I loved him, how I’d always loved him, how he owns my heart, if he might ever consider turning around and letting me convince him of that?”

Not so much as a flicker. Mark closed his eyes against the sudden sting. He’d tried. It was too late. He knew that really.

“He might,” Trey whispered, and Mark’s eyes flew open. Trey had turned and was looking at him, eyes shining. “On one condition?”

“Anything,” Mark promised. Anything.

“You have to promise never to ask me to marry you.”

Mark blinked. “But—”

“No.” Trey shook his head. “I want more than that. I want you to never to let me go, and I don’t need a piece of paper that tells me that. I thought I did. For a long time I thought that being together in the eyes of the law was more important that what is in your heart. And—”

But Trey never got to finish because Mark couldn’t stay still any longer. He lunged for Trey and Trey made that special little sound in the back of his throat as Mark wrapped his arms around him and brought their lips together.

The sound that Mark had missed so much that told him Mark was home. Loved.

He never gave the letter another thought. If he had he might have been surprised at the empty envelope that Trey had stuffed into his pocket as soon as he had gotten the call from the realtor telling him where Mark was going to be.

He’d cancelled the listing anyway.

They were home to stay.

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