From Chapter Four...
A full moon hung high in the sky, gilding the back garden in silvery light. A breeze which carried a hint of dampness slid around him. To think he had once considered the winters cold in London. The night was downright mild compared to the frigid temperatures that gripped hold of New York. He scanned the terrace which stretched across a good portion of the back of the mansion and then scanned the surrounding grounds. No sign of Sasha, or anyone else for that matter.
Undeterred, he took the stairs and followed the dirt path that led into the garden. Neatly manicured hedges of about chest height bordered the path. He stretched out a hand, brushed one of the bushes and then stopped in his tracks.
The night air carried the sound of a muted voice. A male voice. Then the distinct sound of footsteps on wooden floorboards. He peered into the darkness, but he could not make out what was hidden behind the small cluster of trees ahead.
He heard the crunch of dirt beneath shoes before a figure appeared from around a bend in the path. Tall as himself and broad of shoulder. His heart did not even have the chance to leap on to the possibility before it became obvious the man was not Sasha.
"Pardon," the man said, gruff with impatience, as he brushed past Thomas.
Thomas's head snapped over his shoulder. His eyes narrowed. Why had that man been buttoning his coat?
He looked back up the path, beyond it to the cluster of trees which likely hid a gazebo or similar ornamental structure common in the gardens of the aristocracy. Suspicion formed in the pit of his stomach.
His strides now swift, he continued along the path and found a white gazebo in a clearing beyond the trees. Inside was none other than Sasha. Even with his hands braced on the far rail, slumped back to Thomas and golden head bowed, he knew it was him.
His footsteps echoed on the wooden steps as he went inside. "Who was that man?"
Sasha straightened. For a long moment, not a sound broke the silence. Then Sasha turned to face him. "Linus Radcliffe."
Radcliffe? The man was a known rake of the worst order, or at least he had been before Thomas had left London. Hot and swift, jealousy coursed through his veins at the mere thought of Radcliffe laying even one hand on Sasha, never mind whatever had necessitated buttoning his coat afterward. "You were meeting withhim?"
"In what fashion does it concern you?"
None. Thomas had no right at all to jealousy. Yet he could not deny it, and it hurt tremendously to know Sasha had left the ball to meet another man when he knew Thomas was there.
And in a gazebo out of doors, no less, where anyone could have walked by and seen him. Had the man no sense?
"Why are you here?" Sasha asked, breaching the distance between them.
He stopped less than a pace from Thomas. So close, the night air carried the scent of his skin, of Sasha, awaking old memories he would never forget. Had never been able to forget, no matter how he had once tried.
It had been so very hard, coming to terms with the feelings Sasha roused within him. He'd spent a good three years fighting them, but even working himself from dawn until past dusk for endless days managing one of his uncle's hotels had not done a bit of good to rid Sasha from his thoughts or from his heart. And the past few monthsâ€¦ He resisted the urge to shake his head at himself. Why had he thought someone else could possibly take Sasha's place? Ridiculous, and a pathetically desperate notion.
But if nothing else, the time apart simply reinforced what he'd known from the first moment he'd pressed his lips to Sasha's—that there would be no one else for him.
"Why are you here?" Sasha demanded again.
"I wish to speak with you, Sasha."
Sasha glared at him. A shiver gripped Thomas's spine. He felt the chill in that stare, even in the darkness of the shadows. A firm reminder Thomas no longer deserved the use of the intimate name, but he couldn't bring himself to call him by his family name. The man could never be anyone but Sasha to him.
He shrugged, distinctly uncomfortable in the face of Sasha's obvious hatred, and well deserved hatred at that. "It has been some time since we have spoken."
"And with good cause." Sasha flicked his fingers, an impatient little motion for Thomas to move aside. "I need to return to the ballroom."
He stood his ground. "I wish to speak to you."
The shadows from the wooden beams overhead could not mask the way Sasha's beautiful features hardened. "We have nothing to discuss."
"Yes, we do."
"No. You left me," Sasha shot back, the iron in his tone poorly masking the pain behind the words.
Thomas flinched. Sasha might as well have punched him in the gut, for the effect was the same. The wind knocked from his lungs, his senses left reeling.
© Ava March
My True Love Gave to Me
Part of the 'Men Under the Mistletoe' Holiday Anthology
Author: Ava March
Publisher: Carina Press
Genre: Regency-set M/M erotic romance
Alexander Norton loathes the festive season. The revelry of the ton is a reminder of Christmas four years ago, when his first love, Thomas Bennett, broke his heart and fled to New York without a word. So when he encounters Thomas at a holiday ball, Alexander is determined not to let on how much he still hurts.
Thomas has returned for one reason only: Alexander. Having finally come to terms with his forbidden desires, he will do whatever he must to convince Alexander to give their love another chance. But instead of the happy, carefree man Thomas once knew, Alexander is now hard and cynical. Saddened to know he's to blame for the man's bitterness, Thomas resolves to reignite the passion he knows lies hidden behind the wall of disdain...