Tate eyed the lightning flashing across the horizon warily. As long as the storm stayed on the horizon and the wind stayed relatively calm, they wouldn’t be in any danger, but if it picked up, he’d have to find a safe place to pull off the road. He’d make up the hours later if he got too far behind schedule, but he wouldn’t risk himself, his truck, or most especially Mason by driving in high winds. His current load was light enough to make the trailer susceptible to the force of the gusts.
The distant roll of thunder sent a shiver of excitement down Mason’s spine. He loved storms, but he wondered how safe it would be to actually drive through one in a semi. Not that he doubted Tate’s skill, but since riding along with his lover on several trips, he’d learned you could never assume the same for the other drivers on the road around them. “Will we be able to keep going?” he asked, his mind already dreaming up ways they could pass the time if they were forced to pull off the road. His gaze traveled over Tate’s lean form behind the wheel, silhouetted by another snap of lightning. “Or do you think we should stop for the night?”
Tate glanced at the clock, then back out at the strengthening storm. “I was really looking forward to sleeping in our bed tonight rather than in the truck,” he admitted, “but I don’t like the way this weather looks. At the very least, we’re going to have to pull over and sit it out. We can see what time it is when it blows over and decide if we want to try to get home or wait until tomorrow.”
“You know it doesn’t matter to me where we sleep, as long as I’m with you.” Mason slid a hand to Tate’s knee with a light squeeze. He hadn’t been riding with Tate long enough for the excitement of spending nights with him on the road to wear off yet, and every time they curled together in the small sleeping space in the back of the cab, it reminded him of their first night together, when Tate had rescued him from running off the road in a blizzard. The lightning’s aftermath rumbled through the charged atmosphere, and Mason suspected tonight could be nearly as intense. “If it doesn’t matter that you don’t drop off your cargo until tomorrow, that might be best. We don’t have to be at Whippoorwill Lake at any particular time; I just told Anne I’d call her when we were on our way.”
“As long as we’re in Atlanta by noon tomorrow, the company won’t care,” Tate replied, beginning to look for a likely exit where they could pull off. “And I have to admit, I don’t like the looks of that storm. The trailer’s already pulling at me, and we’re barely on the edge of the bad weather. If it comes this way, we’ll have to stop anyway. Better to do it now when we can choose rather than later when we don’t have another option.” His stomach fluttered a little at the thought of meeting the director of the retreat and conference center where Mason had suggested they get married. His lover had assured him the director was completely comfortable with alternative lifestyles and wouldn’t mind at all that they were a nontraditional couple. All the reassurance in the world couldn’t erase the memory of his mother’s reaction when he told her. If it hadn’t been for Sarah, he didn’t know what he’d have done, where he’d have gone. It made him leery even now, fifteen years later, of talking about his sexuality.
Mason didn’t miss the sudden tension in Tate’s leg beneath his palm, though he wasn’t sure if it was from the storm or his mentioning their appointment to tour Whippoorwill Lake. He’d fallen in love with the center, a collection of cabins surrounding a central lodge nestled in the North Georgia mountains, when his publisher held a regional meeting there several years earlier. When he and Tate began talking about a commitment ceremony to solemnize their union, Mason knew Whippoorwill was the perfect place to make their vows. He just hoped Tate wasn’t having second thoughts. He started to pull back his hand, but reminded himself that withdrawing into himself wouldn’t solve anything. He wouldn’t know what Tate was feeling unless he asked. “Is something beside the storm worrying you, babe?” he said softly, rubbing Tate’s leg in a soothing caress.
Spying an exit, Tate eased the truck off the road and pulled into the parking lot of a travel plaza. Putting the rig in park and setting the engine to idle, he turned to face his lover. “Just nervous,” he admitted. “I haven’t had many people in my life take it well when they’ve learned I’m gay. It makes me leery of admitting it to strangers, even when I know they’re predisposed to be sympathetic.”
“I’ve already talked to Anne and she’s perfectly fine with the fact that we’re both men. In fact, she said they’ve had several nontraditional ceremonies at the center—she’s got photos from some to show us tomorrow, along with more traditional wedding parties.” Now that the truck was stopped, Mason unfastened his seat belt and leaned forward, cradling Tate’s face between his hands. “Besides, it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks, does it? There will always be some people who won’t accept what we feel for each other. We just don’t need to have anything to do with them. And Anne isn’t like that, and neither are my family or friends.”
Tate summoned a smile. “I know that. Your family couldn’t have been more welcoming, and I know you wouldn’t have suggested Whippoorwill Lake if Anne wasn’t open-minded. It’s not a logical reaction. It’s just an ingrained one.”
Beneath the ache in his heart, Mason felt an undercurrent of anger at the way Tate had been rejected by his family when he’d admitted he was gay. He couldn’t change the past, but he could be sure his lover had no doubt how much he was cherished now. Leaning forward, he claimed Tate’s lips in a slow, sensual kiss. A steady rain was beginning to beat against the cab’s windows, but Mason didn’t care whether anyone could see them. Tate was the other half of his heart, and he didn’t care who knew it; but if they were going to move beyond kissing—which he had every intention of doing!—they’d be more comfortable in the back. “Let’s see if I can’t coax a different kind of reaction out of you, hmmmm?” He dropped a hand to the fly of Tate’s jeans, humming at the heavy shaft he could feel swelling beneath the worn denim. “Yeah, that’s the kind of reaction I was hoping for. Let’s take this upstairs, shall we?”
Tate grinned, hips lifting into the provocative touch. “Oh, yeah.” He pushed out of his seat. “I don’t imagine you fancy a steering wheel digging into your back while I’m inside you.”
Grinning back, Mason wiggled his eyebrows. “Maybe I’d make you ride the steering wheel for a change—give you something to remember when you’re driving without me.”
“All I have to do is close my eyes and I remember,” Tate promised. “Every moment we’re together is burned like a brand into my heart and it just takes a whiff of your cologne, the sound of your voice, to bring them all rushing back. But if you’re going to give me something to remember, I’d rather do it on the bunk. It’s been… a long time.”
Mason had meant the comment to be teasing, but Tate’s response set his cock throbbing. He’d topped more often than bottomed before meeting Tate, and though he’d certainly had no complaints about their lovemaking since, the thought of sinking into Tate, of coming inside his lover, set a coil of heat spiraling in his groin. Even more, knowing Tate trusted him, loved him enough to offer him something Mason suspected he’d shared with few other lovers set his heart racing. “Then I’ll have to take a long time getting you ready for me,” he murmured, his voice husky with desire.
Tate’s eyes closed on the thought, body swaying into Mason’s in the tight space, the thought enough to have him aching. “A very long time,” he agreed, reaching for his lover’s hand and leading him back into the sleeper section of the cab. Slowly, knowing he had his partner’s full attention, he worked his T-shirt up, revealing the tawny skin beneath, inch by provocative inch. Finally pulling it over his head, he started on his jeans next, unbuttoning the four buttons one at a time, peeling the plackets open so they highlighted his boxer-clad erection, a wet spot already staining the cotton. Turning to give Mason a better view of his ass, he bent to remove his heavy work boots and to pull his jeans down and off.
Mason withstood the provocative striptease until Tate bent over, flagrantly flaunting his trim ass practically in Mason’s face. No man who spent most of his time sitting in a truck should have an ass that fine! With a low growl of arousal, Mason grabbed Tate’s hips, pulling the boxers down and using his weight to carry them forward onto the bed. Pinning Tate by the shoulders, he bent until he could nip at the rounded globes of Tate’s cheeks. “God, I could eat you up,” he groaned, soothing the red marks with long swipes of his tongue.
“Be my guest.” Tate wriggled his ass invitingly, hoping to entice Mason to give him a thorough rimming as part of getting him ready.
Knowing how much Tate enjoyed this particular form of foreplay, Mason took things slowly, letting Tate’s anticipation build by gradually moving closer to the crease separating his lover’s cheeks with nips and kisses, raising a few marks he was sure would linger a day or two in the process. That was fine with him—he’d enjoy the reminder of this every time he saw the marks on Tate’s ass. Not until Tate was shifting beneath him, calling him a tease, did he relent and spread the reddened cheeks. He dropped a trail of soft, open kisses up and down the dark cleft before letting his tongue come out to play. After retracing the same path several times, enjoying the musky scent and taste of this most intimate area, he sucked at the puckered ring, the tip of his tongue exploring every crease and fold of muscle.
Tate bit at the pillow to stop an unmanly whimper from escaping as Mason lavished attention on his body, licking and sucking at the sensitive flesh for what felt like hours before finally penetrating. Tate didn’t know if it was planned or not, but it had the desired effect. He was so desperate for more contact that he didn’t even flinch when the tip of Mason’s tongue penetrated him. Instead, he simply pushed back, asking for more contact, more loving.
The muffled sounds escaping from Tate’s mouth spurred Mason on. He wished he could see Tate’s face, look into his eloquent dark eyes to read his reaction, but those sounds were enough to convince him that Tate was enjoying this. Using his thumbs to spread Tate open, he burrowed his tongue deeper into the dark channel, the velvet-soft flesh squeezing around him. He could only imagine what it would feel like around his cock. Moaning at the image, he pulled his tongue back and then drove in deeper, the out-and-in movements a foretaste of how he meant to claim Tate when his lover was ready to take him. Each taste probed a little deeper, his thumbs pressing past the slick muscle to bracket his tongue and stretch the tight entrance to accept him.
Tate felt his guardian muscle protest, then give in as Mason’s thumbs joined his tongue. He panted harshly through the initial burn of the unfamiliar stretch, the sensation of Mason’s tongue fucking him so enthusiastically enough to override the instinctive desire to pull away. His body relaxed into the delicious licking and sucking, opening to Mason as sweetly as the other man could have desired.
Mason could tell the moment Tate’s body stopped resisting him, and the flare of heat that flooded his veins at the realization shocked him with its intensity. He wanted to make Tate come this way, but even more, he wanted them to come together, to feel Tate’s spasms of ecstasy squeezing him as he rode out his own climax. “That’s it, babe,” he murmured, wiping his chin on the back of his hand before sliding in two saliva-coated fingers in place of his tongue. “Open up for me, so I can show you how much I love you, the way you always show me.”
Tate choked back a sob at the feeling of fullness that accompanied Mason’s probing fingers, lust spiking in him as much from the dark, husky words as from the deep, penetrating touch. Suddenly, not being able to kiss Mason, to see his handsome face, was unacceptable. “Let me turn over,” he begged.
Surprised at the empty feeling inside his own body when he slid his fingers out of Tate to let him roll over, Mason realized he was still fully dressed. Begrudging any second not spent touching Tate, he pulled his clothes off as fast as he could, letting them fall to the floor. Turning back to Tate, Mason stopped and just stared, the sight of his lover with his knees drawn up, supporting himself on his elbows while one hand coasted in lazy strokes over his reddened cock, stopping his breath. “God, you’re beautiful,” Mason whispered, kneeling between Tate’s legs. His fingers traced the outline of the phoenix tattoo adorning one hip, his eyes meeting Tate’s overflowing with love. “How did I ever get lucky enough to find you?”
“It was fate,” Tate assured his lover, the thought that someone else could have passed along the snowbound route where he’d first met Mason before he did enough to chill his blood. Reaching for his lover, he pulled the bigger man down on top of him, needing the proof that he’d been the one to rescue Mason, the one to capture and hold his heart. “Make love to me, Mason.”
Mason had meant to take more time to be sure Tate was prepared for him, but he wasn’t about to say no to a request like that. Reaching for the lube they kept under the pillow, he squeezed some onto his fingers before pressing the bottle into Tate’s hand. “Get me ready while I get you ready,” he rasped, the slicked digits gliding back to stretch and twist and open Tate as thoroughly as he could.
Tate cried out at the feeling of the cool gel, coating his palm quickly and reaching for Mason’s erection. He ran his hand up and down the hard length, covering it completely, then settling in to play as his lover finished preparing him. If the speed of Mason’s finger-fucking suddenly increased, Tate was hardly about to complain.
“Easy,” Mason cautioned, his breath hitching when Tate’s fingers started seeking out the most sensitive spots on his already throbbing cock. He couldn’t let that continue or he’d come before he ever got inside Tate. Stilling Tate’s movements with his free hand, he rubbed over the bump of his lover’s prostate until Tate’s hands rose up to clutch at his shoulders. “Now?” he gasped, leaning in to cover Tate’s lips in a hard, wet kiss. “God, babe, tell me you’re ready for me now!”
“Yes,” Tate replied, his breath sawing in and out of his lungs. “I want to feel you.” His fingers clutched tightly at Mason’s shoulders as the tip of his lover’s cock replaced the plunging digits inside him. He tensed for a moment, but Mason teased him perfectly, shunting just the tip of his cock in and out of Tate’s hole until he finally relaxed, letting the head slip deeper, and then deeper still. He was sure he was leaving bruises on Mason’s shoulders, but his lover did not protest.
“Oh God, babe,” Mason panted, biting his lip to keep from giving in to his body’s urge to bury himself inside Tate’s seductive heat. “You feel… so good….” Bracing an arm on the mattress next to Tate’s head, he slid the other under Tate’s back, cupping his ass in his palm and lifting just enough to let the head of his cock hit Tate’s sweet spot. Rolling his hips, he massaged it with steady pressure, leaning down to catch Tate’s groans in his mouth. “So good… Tate… so good,” he chanted between kisses, his voice breaking as Tate squeezed around him.
Tate couldn’t find the breath to reply, between Mason’s kisses and the incredible pressure on his prostate, but he felt like he ought to be the one telling Mason how good it felt. Robbed of speech, though, he settled for clenching around Mason’s cock, trying to make it even better for his lover.
Tate might not have answered in words, but the fervor of their kisses and the eager way he tightened around Mason’s cock with each rock of his hips convinced Mason that Tate was loving this too. Not sure how much longer he’d be able to hold back, Mason pulled his hand from beneath Tate to circle his lover’s cock, already leaking a string of pearly pre-come from the tip to pool around the phoenix tattoo. Tate’s hoarse cry when his fist closed around him shattered Mason’s control, his movements growing erratic as curls of heat flared along his nerves like lightning. His balls tightening, Mason drove into Tate with short, choppy thrusts, trying to hit his lover’s prostate with every stroke. “Tate!” he groaned, thunder pounding in his ears as his orgasm crashed over him.
The hot rush of fluid inside him combined with the prodding thrusts against his sweet spot triggered Tate’s release as well, his cock disgorging load after load onto his stomach and chest. He cried out wordlessly, unable even to form Mason’s name in the moment of ecstasy. Instead, he pulled his lover’s face to his, capturing the sensual lips in a mind-numbing kiss as aftershocks continued to shake him. Finally, his mind cleared a little, leaving him gloriously aware of the cooling fluid on his chest, the softening cock still inside him, and the weight of Mason’s body atop him. “Each time I think I couldn’t possibly love you more, you find a way to change my mind,” he murmured, nuzzling Mason’s neck. He stretched a little, easing muscles tight from driving and even tighter from making love, listening to the sound of the rain on the truck’s roof. He suspected the storm had passed enough that they could continue, but that would mean getting up, and he really, really didn’t want to move.
“Now you know how I feel every time we make love.” Mason tried to roll to one side, but Tate’s arms tightened around him, holding him in place. Not anxious to move himself, so long as he was sure he wasn’t crushing his lover, Mason settled his head on Tate’s shoulder. “Can we just stay here until morning?” he asked, the soft patter of rain around them making it easy to forget they were sleeping in a truck a few hundred yards from the interstate.
“Nowhere I’d rather be,” Tate replied sleepily, fingers stroking lazily through Mason’s dark hair. He was asleep almost before they’d finished their first circuit over Mason’s scalp.
Tate’s leg jiggled restlessly as Mason drove them deeper into the mountains north of Atlanta, the road getting narrower and steeper as they went. He’d offered to drive, but Mason had insisted they take his car. Now he was glad he’d given in, despite being mildly uncomfortable in the passenger seat. He wasn’t used to riding while someone else drove. To distract himself, he looked out the window at the lush scenery, the leaves still the bright green of early summer instead of the darker green they’d turn as the season went on.
They turned off the main state highway—such as it was—onto a narrow road that was barely wide enough for Mason’s car, much less for two cars to pass. “I think I’m glad we didn’t bring my truck,” he joked.
“I’m not sure it would clear some of these trees,” Mason agreed, negotiating a sharp curve. “Besides, you deserve not to have to drive all the time.” He smiled at the reminder of their previous night’s lovemaking, reaching over to rest a hand on Tate’s bouncing knee. “Relax, babe. I may not have a CDL, but I promise I can get us up the mountain in one piece.”
“I trust you,” Tate said immediately. “I’m just not used to being driven anymore, not after fifteen years in the driver’s seat. So how far are we from Whippoorwill Lake?”
“We’ve actually just reached the beginning of their property.” Mason turned at a weathered wooden sign announcing Whippoorwill Lake Lodge and Conference Center onto a narrow gravel lane. “Though we’re still a few miles from the main buildings. One of the things I love about this place is how secluded and peaceful it is. You don’t hear anything at night but the crickets and frogs. No city noise, no traffic.”
“I spend a lot of nights in the middle of nowhere,” Tate replied, “but there’s always the truck idling in the background and the lights from the rest stop where I’ve pulled over. I think I might enjoy a few nights truly away from civilization.”
“Wait until you see the view from the top of the mountain.” Mason eased the car through another curve, passing the first of the cabins that dotted the property. “We can reserve one of the cottages for as long as you want to stay. I thought since my family would be coming down from Chicago, they might want to stay here too, at least for a day or two. Actually, anyone who doesn’t want to drive back to Atlanta after the ceremony could spend the night, at least if they make a reservation early enough.”
“How many people can stay here?” Tate asked curiously, seeing a scattering of cabins, some closer to the road, some farther back in the woods. All of them were rustic in design, no two exactly alike. Some looked small enough to only have one room, while others looked like they could probably sleep eight or ten. “Your family alone is huge.”
“There are twelve or fifteen cottages of different sizes, and some of them can accommodate up to twenty people. If we’re lucky and can reserve them all, that should be plenty of room. My family won’t mind sharing—hell, they’d be in and out of each other’s rooms all night anyway at a regular hotel. This just makes it easier for them to all congregate together.”
Tate chuckled, though his heart clenched at the loss of that closeness with his own family. Not that he had a big family even before his mother disowned him, but now it was just him. “Then I guess we’d better see what Anne has available so there’s space for everyone.” Mason pulled the car to a stop in front of the building marked Office and they climbed out.
The door opened and an elegant black woman, her hair tightly braided and styled into a chic twist, walked out onto the porch. “Welcome back to Whippoorwill Lake, Mason,” she said warmly, the slow, rolling lilt of her voice bringing back to mind magnolias and jasmine and the roots of the deep, deep South. “And you must be Tate. Bring yourselves inside. I have some iced tea if you’d like some, or some fresh lemonade.”
“Iced tea would be wonderful, Anne,” Mason answered, holding the door for her and Tate to step inside. The porch opened into an airy reception area, with doors to the kitchen and dining room on one side and a large meeting room on the other. Anne led them across the polished wooden floor, the tap of her heels making a dog who’d been dozing on a hand-braided rug perk up his head to regard them with interest. When Tate paused, the Shetland sheepdog uncurled and pranced up to them, her head nudging his hand until he began to pet her. “That’s Molly, the one-dog welcoming committee for Whippoorwill Lake,” Anne commented when Mason knelt to scratch behind Molly’s ears.
Tate plopped down on the floor next to Molly, grinning like a loon when he got a lapful of warm, furry dog. “Hi, there, girl,” he crooned, ruffling her fur enthusiastically. “It’s been a long time since I’ve had a dog to say hi to.” He smiled up at Anne. “It would hardly be fair to keep a pet when I’m gone as much as I am.”
“You can stay right there the entire time you’re here and Molly won’t complain,” Anne assured him. “Shall I bring your tea in here so you don’t have to get up?”
Tate shook his head wistfully and rose. “That’s hardly to fair to everyone else. I can wait and play with her later.”
“You’ve just made a friend for life,” Anne remarked as she escorted them to the suite of offices opening off the back of the reception area. “I promise I’ll keep her from trying to take part in your ceremony,” she added with a warm smile. “Have a seat and tell me about what you have in mind.”
“Nothing big or overly formal,” Tate said immediately. “Just a gathering of family and friends to celebrate our commitment to each other. Mason can give you a better idea of numbers. I don’t imagine anyone from my family will come, so it’ll just be Sarah on my side.”
Once again, Mason’s heart ached for Tate. “We should send an invitation to your mother,” he said softly. “She might be regretting the distance between you and just not know how to approach you.”
Tate snorted in disbelief, but Anne’s presence kept him from expressing his true opinion of the likelihood of that ever happening. “I don’t want to talk about it,” he said simply. “What about catering for the reception? Do you have staff or can you recommend a company?”
The property manager met Mason’s troubled gaze and was wise enough to allow the change in subject. “We have a wonderful cook on staff, Ruth Ann Montgomery. She refuses to let us call her anything as formal as Executive Chef, but she makes the best food you’ve ever tasted. You’re welcome to look through our catering suggestions, or let us know if you have something special you’d like prepared. I’d invite you to lunch so you could taste her cooking for yourself, but she went back to Selma this weekend to visit her mamma. You’re welcome to stop back any time you’re in the area, though.” Anne handed the two men a printed brochure with sample menus and pictures of delicious-looking table displays.
Tate’s eyes widened as he looked at the menu. Seeing the bacon-wrapped scallops, he glanced up at Mason, eyes darkening a little with lust. “We could definitely do the scallops,” he proposed. “Does anything else catch your fancy, Mason? You’re the cook in the family.”
“If the weather is warm enough for us to have the ceremony and reception outside, maybe an assortment of warm and cold hors d’oeuvres,” Mason mused. “Little things that will let people move around and mingle with each other.”
“When were you thinking about having it?” Anne asked. “The weather stays clement usually into late October.”
“October sounds beautiful,” Tate admitted, thinking about all the trees they’d passed on the way in. “All the fall colors!”
“Early October then, rather than late,” Anne declared, flipping her calendar open. “We have a vacancy for the second weekend of October. At the moment, none of the cabins are rented out then.”
“Can we put a hold on all of them?” Mason asked, still hoping some of Tate’s family would be there for him by then. “We don’t have an exact idea of the numbers just yet, but we might well need them all.”
“That’s fine,” Anne agreed. “We’ll need a deposit, of course, but as the date gets closer, if you find you won’t need them all, we won’t hold you responsible for any we’re able to rent outside your event.” Penciling in a note on her calendar, she closed it and turned back to Mason and Tate. “If you’re planning to hold the ceremony outside, we can put up an arch or columns or other backdrop, or you can just pick a spot on the grounds and make your vows against whatever view you like best.”
“I’ll walk Tate around the grounds later so he can see what he thinks, but I like the idea of keeping it as simple as possible,” Mason said. “As beautiful as the trees will be with the leaves changing colors, I don’t think we’ll need any other backdrop.”
Tate flipped to the back of the book Anne had given him, grimacing a little when he saw all the wedding cakes. “Can we come up with something other than these for a cake, though?” he asked. “We’re not exactly the traditional bride and groom.”
“We could do something like this,” Anne suggested, flipping back a couple of pages to a tower cake made up of petit choux pastries, coated in a caramel glaze to keep them in place. “Or we do a lovely, tiered chocolate fountain.”
Mason’s eyes lit up and he met Tate’s gaze with a devilish grin. “Could you do one in dark chocolate?” he asked. “My mother and sisters will want to put together a sweet table, and one of those fountains with fruit would be a terrific centerpiece.”
“Of course,” Anne assured them. “Dark, milk, or white chocolate, it all works the same.” She jotted down a note. “Any particular fruit you want? Or pieces of pound cake?”
“Pineapple,” Tate replied immediately. “Lots and lots of pineapple.”
Mason felt himself blushing at the memory of the Valentine’s Day dessert he’d prepared for Tate—and the multiple ways they’d enjoyed it. “Maybe we should save the pineapple for later—in our cabin,” he murmured, low enough for only Tate to hear.
“We’ll set aside a plate before the reception starts,” Tate agreed, head tilting close to Mason’s. He almost pulled back rather than kiss his lover, but the approving smile on Anne’s face gave him the permission he needed to drop a quick peck on Mason’s lips. “What else do we need to think about?”
“Do you have someone in mind to perform the service?” Anne asked. “If not, there are several local ministers we can recommend.”
“Would they be willing to perform a ceremony for two men?” Mason asked, knowing his own church would not formally sanction their union.
“Do we need a minister?” Tate asked Mason seriously. “Nothing anyone else could say will make my vows to you any more binding than they already will be. If it really matters to you to have someone there, I won’t say no, but your promise and mine is all I need.”
“I don’t need anything more than that either,” Mason assured him. “Will that be all right?”
“That’s perfectly fine,” Anne agreed. “We had a lovely ceremony just last month where the two partners wrote their own vows. I can even recommend some books and websites to give you ideas if you have trouble deciding what to say.” She added another paper to the pile of brochures in front of them on the desk. “Now, I’ve given you plenty to think about, but none of it has to be decided today. Why don’t the two of you explore the grounds for a bit? You can come back and let me know if you have any other questions.”
“Thank you,” Tate said sincerely, standing and reaching across the desk to shake Anne’s hand. “I have to admit, I was a little nervous about all this, but you’ve made it remarkably painless.”
Anne smiled. “My nephew is gay, and he and his partner are two of the loveliest people I know, so I’m hardly likely to be offended by your choices. Go on, enjoy the woods today. There are only a few cabins occupied, and most of them are people here for meetings so you shouldn’t be disturbed. And all but one group is leaving this evening.” She paused, leaning forward to add conspiratorially, “I highly recommend the hot tub.”