A short story featuring Malcolm Bissette and Sully Tarleton
This story takes place after the timing in Following the Law (also known as October-ish)
While Reece worked hard with his crew to finish the majority of work on the Charm's massive landscaping renovation, Malcolm Bissette went in a different direction to follow Reece's request for another chance. Since his stay at Reece's house after the unfortunate drunken mishap, things were better between them. Reece opened both his home and heart and their relationship became stronger because of it, but some things remained. They continued to spend more time at Mal's small condo than Reece's place as if Reece wasn't sure how to move forward.
Mal decided it was time to take a chance. With Reece exhausted from the long hours working outside, Mal managed to coax him into staying full-time at his condo for the last few weeks without going back to his place. Though Reece was concerned about his plants and hybrids, Mal reassured him they wouldn't wither. Lucky for him, most nights Reece didn't have the energy to put up much of an argument, let alone get out of bed. He wanted to finish the project on time for the Charm's grand re-opening. He made sure he was never late finishing a job, especially one for his best friend.
Able to take advantage of the situation, Mal spoke with Sully Tarleton and a young builder, Bryce, about what he had in mind. Together, they designed a greenhouse to build behind Reece's home to give him a special permanent place for his plants, hybrids and other paraphernalia. Amazing, Sully mentioned how long he wanted to get those plants out of Reece's home, but the man had been stubborn and resistant to any changes. Now Mal could take the initiative and Sully went along with him.
While Reece remained occupied at the Charm, Mal, Bryce and a small crew laid out the grid and pad for the greenhouse and raised it off the ground. Mal learned more about construction than he wanted. He worked harder than he had ever thought to help Bryce and the others. If this gift worked the way he wanted, it would help change everything for them.
As the building continued, Mal researched what the plants would need. He learned which ones would require certain sunlight and growing requirements, the list of supplies and how to organize everything. They even made sure there was a system to mist and water everything along with a cleaning station with a sink and counter. At times, he went to town to speak with the local florist, Jude, on some details and purchased new pottery from the artist, Wyatt.
When Bryce finished the interior, Mal had everything they needed and organized. With help, he transferred all of the plants, except for a few houseplants, into their places. He placed all of the supplies, tools, potter and other items on the various shelves and the main storage area.
Once the house's interior was clean, Mal spent the next day cleaning everything from top to bottom. Without the tables of plants, the house did feel empty. He wanted to move his things into Reece's home, but waited for permission. He already moved the plants without it and he wasn't sure what Reece's reaction would be to all the changes.
After he cleaned everything, he showered, changed and ran to the grocery store for dinner ingredients and things to dress up the evening's meal from candles to cloths. He wanted to finish the surprise with a homemade meal. It would either top off the magnificent night or pacify Reece's anger. When he could let the tenderloin finish in the low oven, he raced back to the Charm as the crews finished their work.
Mal leaned against Reece's Jeep to wait. He grinned at the sight of his sweaty, dirt-streaked man walking around the corner talking with his second-in-charge. Reece's T-shirt clung to his chest, damp with sweat, and clumps of dirt and weeds caked on his jeans and boots. Even this disgusting, Reece remained gorgeous and scrumptious.
"Hey there, handsome," Mal called out.
Some of the crew whistled to get Reece's attention away. Reece looked over and smiled at Mal. He finished his conversation and jogged over to Mal with a faster purpose. He stopped in front of Mal. "Hey, you, I missed you. Where have you been all day?" Reece asked and pressed his lips against Mal's mouth in a light kiss. "Sorry. I'm still a sweaty mess and you're all squeaky clean."
"You know I don't mind at all. I was working on a surprise and it's finally finished."
"Hmm. A gift for you," Mal said and tapped a finger on the end of Reece's nose. He reached into his back pocket and tugged out a handkerchief. "Tie this around your eyes and no peeking. I'm going to drive."
"I would hope so, but…"
"No, I'm not giving any details. Do you want your gift?"
After a pause, Reece climbed in the passenger seat and tied the bandanna in place. He held the keys out in his palm. With a triumphant giggle, Mal got in the driver's side, snatched the keys and drove them back to Reece's home. He helped Reece climb down and led him around the outside until he faced his surprise.
"This is my gift to you with love and the hope we can move forward into a closer relationship," Mal said as he removed the bandana. He worried his lower lip between his teeth and watched Reece's reaction.
Reece blinked and stared. Quiet. Not moving or saying anything. All he did was study the greenhouse with the bright red ribbon bow attached to the door.
Mal continued to worry his lip. He reached out and opened the door to invite Reece to step inside. His reserved landscaper did follow his invitation and looked around for another long observation.
"My plants… My hybrids…"
"They're all there in the order you had them in the house. All are safe and sound. No mishaps. I did some research and spoke with Jude about the placement, but you can change them since you know far more than I ever could," Mal explained and led Reece to the different areas to point out everything. "Whatcha think?"
"Why did you do this?"
"So you could have a special place for your plants and a spot in your home for something else," Mal said.
Reece turned to stare at him as he asked, "What something else?"
"Me. A future together." Mal worried the inside of his cheek for a moment. "Did I fuck up everything? Oh, shit, I did, didn't I? Oh crap, damn, I'm so—"
A long deep kiss swallowed the rest of his apology and knocked him out of his socks. He didn't give a shit Reece stank to high heaven. His man was kissing him out of his mind and breath and he didn't want it any other way.
"You crazy, conniving, devious, wonderful man," Reece murmured in between kisses. "What am I going to do with you?"
"Not kill me for changing your home without asking?" Mal asked in a bright, hopeful tone. "Oh, and not hide any of my hair color kits from me."
Reece laughed and kissed him again. "I love your gift and thought behind it. Thank you for such a wonderful idea."
"Sully said he mentioned doing something like this a long time ago for you, but—"
"I never had a reason or motivation to follow through. You took it out of my hands and thank you," Reece said with another kiss. "Show me the house. I'll check out this place in more detail this weekend after we finish the Charm project."
"Will you be finished finish?"
"Just a few details would be left, but the majority is done."
"I'm proud of what we accomplished," Reece said with a grin.
"So…" Mal waved a hand at the greenhouse. "You don't hate all of this?"
"Hell no, I love it."
"Oh, good, just wanted to double check."
"Silly man. Show me the inside of the house."
Mal took Reece's hand and led him out of the greenhouse, through the unlatched lanai door and then the sliding door. They stood at one end of the massive great room.
Reece lifted his head and sniffed several times. "Something smells good."
"You did all that work in the greenhouse, cleaned everything in here, and you cooked dinner? How?"
"The majority of the greenhouse was finished yesterday. I cleaned today. As for dinner." Mal waved a hand to dismiss it. "Cooking is easy. I'm a chef and I love your kitchen."
"Only love me for my kitchen. All I get," Reece teased.
Mal smacked him on his shoulder.
With a laugh, Reece walked around the emptied great room. It included the dining area, living room with the couch, flat screen, and console, and the front hall space. He turned around and shook his head. "Rather empty in here."
"I thought the same," Mal said as he went to check on dinner. He opened the oven and basted the pork tenderloin and vegetables a few times.
"Where's your stuff?"
Mal looked up from the oven. "What?"
Reece gestured around him. "Why didn't you move in your things to complete the change?"
"Umm. Wanted permission?"
Reece laughed as he entered the kitchen. Mal closed the oven door in time for Reece to yank him back in a tight embrace. He shivered at the caress of Reece's warm breath against his ear.
"Consider this giving you my full permission. I want you in my life, Malcolm, every part of it. I would love if we could share something like what Dakota and Samuel or Sully and Chandler have. In a strange way, I envy them."
"They worked for what they have. We all know no relationship is ever perfect. It takes time and work."
"But they didn't screw up shit as bad as I did with you," Reece murmured, tucking his face against Mal's neck for a moment.
"Reece, don't," Mal said as he turned in Reece's embrace and cupped Reece's face between his hands. "I love you. A stupid silly crush for years turned into this. It's here, now, and so much stronger and different, but it's better. This love is between us. You have my heart."
"You're not getting it back," Reece warned with a lopsided smile.
"As long as I have yours—"
"You do," Reece interrupted.
"Then I don't want mine."
"Will you move in with me? We can sublet your place for a bit. You can help turn this place into a home with me. How about it?"
"I would love it," Mal said with a smile.
Reece grinned and kissed him. Their embrace lasted for a long moment until the need for breath parted them.
"Now, stinky man of mine, you need to go shower and change. I'll finish dinner," Mal said and turned Reece so he could walk across the great room to the master bedroom. "Hop to it, mister. Don't let dirt and crap fall all over those clean floors."
Reece laughed and crossed halfway. He stopped and looked over his shoulder with a raised eyebrow and sensual expression. "Can dinner hold up for a bit longer?"
Since he knew exactly what Reece was asking, Mal laughed and hurried after him. Either way, he would spend the rest of tonight and hopefully, forever, in this man's arms. It was just what he wanted.