The Christmas Wager
walked over to his bed. ―I‘m
    bored with cards.‖
    The Christmas Wager | Jamie Fessenden

    Alternative activities flashed through Andrew‘s mind,
    proving to him that he‘d had a bit too much to drink himself.
    Thank God he wasn‘t more drunk than he was, or he might say
    something disastrous.
    Thomas sat down on the edge of the mattress and stuck
    his foot out. ―Help me with my boots, will you?‖
    It wasn‘t a request one gentleman would generally make of
    another. But Andrew had spoiled Thomas for years now,
    allowing—even encouraging—him to behave inappropriately
    when they were alone together. Andrew knew it wasn‘t solely
    for Thomas‘s benefit. He liked being relied upon; liked being
    asked to do things normally only asked of a personal valet. He
    liked the intimacy of it.
    He knelt by the bedside, unlaced the boot, and removed it.
    Then when Thomas presented him with the other one, he
    removed that, as well.
    Thomas lay back on the bed, making room for Andrew to
    perch beside him. Almost without thinking, the blond reached
    out to undo Thomas‘s cravat. The man made no move to stop
    him, merely watching him quietly with those soft green eyes.
    ―Perhaps it‘s time for me to retire,‖ Andrew said reluctantly.
    The brandy seemed to be going to his head more than he‘d
    realized. He was feeling very warm.
    But Thomas lifted a hand and placed it over his, where he
    was still holding onto Thomas‘s collar. Those beautiful green
    eyes met his, and Andrew‘s breath caught in his throat.
    ―There‘s never been a friend like you, Andrew,‖ Thomas
    said, almost in a whisper.
    Perhaps it was the brandy, but Andrew fancied he could
    see in those eyes something beyond friendship, an intense
    longing equal to his own. He leaned in close, half expecting
    Thomas to pull away. But he didn‘t, and in a moment their lips
    The Christmas Wager | Jamie Fessenden
    were touching. For a brief time, Andrew was happier than he‘d
    ever thought possible. His heart felt as if all the love he‘d been
    keeping in check for years was beginning to pour forth into this
    one kiss, and it seemed that he could feel something being
    returned by Thomas.
    Then the horror of what he was doing suddenly struck him.
    He leapt up from the bed. ―Thomas, I… forgive me. I‘m sorry!‖
    His friend was staring at him, an expression of shock on
    his handsome face.
    My God! Andrew thought, I’ve destroyed everything!
    ―I‘m sorry, Thomas.‖
    There was no response apart from Thomas bringing his
    hands up to cover his eyes, as if he could no longer bear to
    even look at his friend. Unable to stand it any longer, Andrew
    turned and fled from the room.
    The Christmas Wager | Jamie Fessenden

    Chapter 11

    THOMAS had been surprised by the kiss. He‘d never thought
    Andrew capable of doing such a thing. It was as if everything
    Thomas thought he‘d known about his friend had suddenly
    gone topsy-turvy. Was Andrew a pervert? It was inconceivable.
    But what had surprised Thomas more was his own
    reaction to it. He‘d kissed women before, and enjoyed it. But it
    had never felt so… right. And wonderful; and beautiful.
    But it wasn‘t any of those things. It wasn‘t right. It
    couldn‘t be beautiful. It was wretched. If it was inconceivable
    for Andrew to be a pervert, it was also inconceivable to think
    that he might be. Thomas had always thought of himself as a
    healthy man—a bit lazy, perhaps, with a touch of hedonism
    thrown in. But otherwise a decent sort.
    Yet a decent man would feel revulsion at what Andrew had
    done, horror, disgust… any number of things. And deep down,
    Thomas knew he did not.
    What he had felt, at the time, was… love. A love deeper
    than anything he‘d ever felt toward a woman, rising up in him,
    flooding his entire body, and reaching out to the one person he
    truly wanted… to Andrew.
    This is madness!
    He lay there for a long time, feeling as though everything
    familiar had been

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