Hearth and Home

Hearth and Home by E.T. Malinowski Read Free Book Online

Book: Hearth and Home by E.T. Malinowski Read Free Book Online
Authors: E.T. Malinowski
said.
    “Perfect,” Bayberry said again. He leaned forward, unable to resist, and placed a kiss on the pert tip of Thistle’s nose. “I will see you at your place at eight o’clock. Should I bring anything?”
    “Um, wine? A white, if possible.”
    “Done. See you at eight, Thistle,” Bayberry said, and then he left the office.
    There was a jaunty bounce in Bayberry’s step all the way home. He had a date with Thistle, at Thistle’s house, tonight. Everything was perfect. Thistle was perfect. He loved Thistle.
    Bayberry froze in place. He loved Thistle? Did he love Thistle? As he thought about it, Bayberry realized, yes, he did love Thistle. Now all he had to do was get Thistle to love him. Piece of cake… right?
     
     
    T HISTLE MADE it home after finishing the day’s reports in record time. He glanced around his cottage and did an impulsive flight-of-the-bumblebee-type cleaning job, despite not needing to do so—Thistle only made a mess in the kitchen, generally speaking.
    The Alaskan salmon he had purchased would be perfect for dinner. Now he just had to figure out a recipe he could throw together given the time he had available. Everything had to be perfect. It just had to be.
    An hour later the salmon, seasoned with lemon and rosemary, was baking in the oven nicely. Gingered green beans were simmering on low, and the peaches-and-cream pie he’d baked yesterday would be a perfect finisher. Thistle rushed into his bathroom to get cleaned up. Twenty minutes, tops, and he was out, dressed, and setting a small table on his patio, surrounded by his garden. Thistle smiled. It was a distinctly romantic setting.
    He hoped Bayberry got the hint.
    Thistle lit the two tapered candles and put the hurricane glasses around them. He straightened the silverware and folded the napkins for the third time. The timer bell went off, and Thistle hurried back into the kitchen to pull everything together. Just as he finished serving up two plates, there was a knock on the door. Thistle glanced at the clock on the wall: eight o’clock. Bayberry was right on time. Thistle smiled. He set the plates on the counter and went to answer the door. The aroma from the foods filled his house, calming him in a way he hadn’t experienced since his grandmother had crossed the Veil.
    “You’re punctual,” Thistle said with a smile as he opened the door for Bayberry.
    Before the words faded from the air, Bayberry cupped the back of Thistle’s neck and pulled him into a gentle, and very thorough, kiss that made his toes curl. The soft whimper that escaped his lips would have embarrassed Thistle if he could have formulated a coherent thought, but the feel of Bayberry’s lips on his always sent them scattering to the four winds.
    The need for air made them step apart, and Thistle felt the loss more keenly than he thought he should. He took a deep, supposedly calming breath and then licked his lips, only to taste Bayberry. He whimpered again and felt his cheeks flush with heat—well, more heat—as he ducked his head. He took another deep breath and then attempted to look at Bayberry again. The smile that greeted him was stunning.
    “I’ve actually been walking up and down the lane for the last twenty minutes,” Bayberry admitted. The blush that stained his cheeks made Thistle’s belly flip-flop. He knew he was grinning like an idiot, but Bayberry didn’t seem to mind. Bayberry held up a bottle. “I remembered the wine, barely.”
    “Eager, then?” Thistle asked, leading the way to the garden.
    “Very,” Bayberry said as he wrapped his arms around Thistle’s waist from behind and nuzzled his neck. “Something smells absolutely divine.”
    “Thank you. I hope you enjoy—”
    “The food smells good too,” Bayberry said.
    Thistle could feel Bayberry’s smile against his neck. It made him chuckle. “Just soap and me.”
    “I want your scent all over me,” Bayberry murmured as he put nipping kisses along Thistle’s

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