Nuptials in Nice

an excerpt



Prologue

Once upon a time there were three best friends who went on separate, simultaneous journeys where they all dreamed of finding the perfect match, each of them ready, willing, and aching to fall madly in love. They were tired of the dating scene in New York City, where they lived and where they found disappointment with every date, with each subsequent, empty sexual encounter. Perhaps there were other alternatives somewhere out there in the world, men who shared their wish to settle down. So they made a pact, in which each of them would chose a different foreign city as their hunting ground. One summer, three months, to find their future.

The fair-haired Matthew Donovan, a hopeless romantic anyway, ideally chose Paris.

Fun-loving, dark blond Freddie Markson wound up in the eternal city of Rome.

And the cocky, dark-haired Jake Westbury, who often thought only in the moment and was prone to impulse, chose the narrow streets of London.

By the end of their exotic, erotic summer sojourns, the following happened:

One of them found true love.

One of them found fortune in an unlikely place.

And the other? Well, he didn't return at all.

Now, more than a year has passed since these three friends have seen each other, and while some relationships have come and gone, others have been tested and endured, all of them have progressed. Now, these three friends are ready for a reunion. But such an event almost two years in the making will come not without its share of melodrama, its sexual frustrations, nor its sweaty, fervent indulgences. In the end, the three friends' pursuit of the perfect happy ending will reach ever-closer. And it will all culminate at a dream wedding for one of them that will be the crowning achievement of their quest, the fulfillment of hope, the validation of fate.

But what of the other two?

Surprises await them all. So much has to happen before anyone can say "I do."





Part One



Friends Forever



Chapter One

Matthew



"Keep your eyes closed."

"I'm already wearing a blindfold. I can't see anyway."

"Too bad, keep them closed. I don't want to spoil the surprise."

With one of his five senses diminished, Matthew Donovan tried to work his others more, namely that of sound. Just what kind of tone was captured in his lover's voice? Was it playful, suggestive? Certainly it held a tinge of mystery. Or perhaps what he heard...no, sensed, was happiness? That last emotion was rare for Anton Marcel, an artist who sometimes spent all day and night staring at a blank canvas as opposed to creating vibrant new life on it. Being all smiles wasn't one of his virtues, and it was what fed his art. While it was true that Anton could find moments of happiness it was usually when those brushstrokes began to find the image he had in his mind, and still he wore a frown they expected more of him. Anton just didn't display joy much on his sleeve much. Unlike the romantic that lived inside Matt's heart.

"Anton, where are you taking me?"

"All in good time, Matt. All in good time."

Here's what Matthew did know. They were in the back of a taxicab, traveling somewhere within one of the Paris's arrondissements. The glamorous city of light was where they lived, and until twenty minutes ago, they had been home inside the duplex apartment they shared above their business, the newly-named Gallerie Passione, down in the Marais section. As strange as the current situation was, Matt didn't feel any danger. He knew that he could trust Anton with his life; after all, for the past year-plus, he'd given even more by entrusting his heart and his future to the sexy, tortured artist. Anton Marcel and Matthew Donovan had met in Paris the summer before, fallen in love, and then formed a partnership both in love and in art. For the past twelve months they'd called the apartment above the gallery home, often sharing its wide open rooms with Anton's eight-year-old son, Henri, who sometimes spent the weekends or even a whole month with them. Most nights, though, it was just them, and they spent it quietly sharing dinners, bottles of wine, and indulging in a passion between them that showed no signs of flickering out. A candle with an endless wick.

Tonight, that had all changed.

"Really, Anton. I'm feeling sort of claustrophobic. Are we almost there?"

Matt felt the warm touch of his lover's hand on his, a kiss on his cheek. Anton's patchy beard scratched at his smooth cheek and sent a shiver of excitement through him. Playful, that's what Matt decided upon, that's what he was sensing, but not without a hint of nervousness. Was that sweat he felt on Anton's palm? Still, he didn't make any attempt to remove the blindfold and tried to keep his eyes closed. Trust among partners was paramount.

Anton's response to their location came in rapid French, but it was directed not at Matt but at the cab driver. Matt's French might have improved since he'd moved here, but it took a moment for him to understand that the driver was being told to pull up to the far corner. Anton was speaking fast deliberately, to throw him off.

"Oui, oui. Merci," Anton finished with.

"Oh, sure, that's easy to translate," Matt added with a sardonic tone.

"Such impatience, Matt. That is unlike you."

"It's not every day one is blindfolded."

"You like, we can try in bed one night?"

"Why don't we see how this plays out first?"

Anton's throaty laughter filled the confines of the cab, silenced suddenly by the sound of brakes being applied. The cab had come to a stop. Anton got out first, going around to the other side of the cab to assist Matt so he didn't trip against the curb when exiting. Matt suddenly wondered what the driver thought about this situation; probably nothing, this was Paris and he'd probably seen it all in his profession. Still, Matt felt odd being guided along a busy sidewalk without his eyes.

"Are people staring at us?" Matt asked.

"Oui, and their looks are of jealousy."

"That, I doubt."

"You are too literal, Matt. Some days, when I sit down to paint, I use the blindfold. Eyes can be deceptive. They see what they wish to see. Only your mind can capture the full essence of the world around you."

"The essence I smell is coffee. There's a café near," Matt said.

"This is Paris, Matt, there is a café on every corner. What you should smell is the forest from where the beans were grown, all of the lush green foliage that surrounds you. The sounds of nature."

"Now who's being the hopeless romantic," Matt said.

It was an accusation he'd heard often about himself. Why else would he have chosen to go to the most romantic city in the world, Paris, in which to fall in love? He thought quickly of his two best friends, Jake and Freddie, each of whom had taken their own European adventure at the same time as he, but he knew both men were back home in the states. Jake, the man behind their idea of seeking love aboard, was still searching for that perfect connection, the last he knew. Freddie had achieved better success, and now devoted his life to following after his sexy Italian stud like a horny puppy. Just then Matt tripped on a curb, and Anton had to help him to his feet.

"Something on your mind?"

"Just thinking about my friends."

"Ah, Jake and Freddie. You will contact them soon, of that I'm certain."

"Okay, Anton, this is getting ridiculous. Where are we?"

"Just some steps, and then we are there."

Matt found himself going up a staircase, feeling his way along the wall. It felt familiar, smelled familiar, too, but he just couldn't come up with why. He felt Anton's touch as the man guided him up, and then up further. It was like navigating in the dark, as though the power had gone out in the building and he had to guess at his next step. But he remained silent, sensing their destination was close at hand.

He heard a knock on a door, the creak of it opening.

Suddenly, Matt knew where he was and a smile broadened his cute face. He was about to speak when he felt a breath of air, a wafting scent of perfume.

"Who's there?" he asked.

"Never mind, darling," he heard before feeling a peck on his cheek.

"Simone?"

What was his old friend doing here? Just what was going on? The mysteries of the night deepened, heightening a thrumming inside his heart. It's not that he didn't feel safe; both Anton and Simone were the people he trusted the most. He was just feeling...well, literally and figuratively, in the dark.

He received no reply, and soon the scent of Simone's perfume was gone, as was the clack of her heels in the hallway.

The blindfold seemed to be blocking his thoughts now too.

"Anton, are you still here?"

"Always," he said. "We are here, my love, where it all started for us."

Matt was allowed to remove the blindfold, and when his eyes adjusted to the sight before him, what he found nearly took his breath away.

***

Darkness gave way to glowing light, blurred images focused into recognizable shapes. Yellow light flickered from all corners of the room, creating dancing shadows on the four walls. Candles both thin and thick, both squat and tall, sat on coasters and in holders, populating the small room. Where candles weren't in evidence, flowers were, and their floral scent filled the compact room. Matt turned to Anton, whose smile was as wide as he'd ever seen on him.

"Anton, what's going on?"

"You recognize where we are?"

"Of course, the garret," he said.

The garret was a small penthouse apartment in a five-story building in the Latin Quarter. It was where Matt first lived when he came to Paris during his three-month summer sojourn, a place he'd lucked into thanks to Simone, an ex-pat American with a heavy French affectation. The tiny studio had also once been used by Anton, perfect for an artist because of its large windows that allowed streams of afternoon sun to open up its closed quarters. A door also led out to a balcony, and it was there that Anton led Matt to.

"Champagne?" Anton asked.

A bottle of Dom Perignon was chilling inside a silver bucket filled with ice. Two crystal flutes stood beside it. A plate filled with chocolate-covered strawberries complimented the table, ensuring the most romantic vision Matt could think of.

"What's going on? It's not our anniversary," Matt said. They had met during the height of summer, and it was winter now, February.

"I had this idea on New Year's Eve. The second one we celebrated together," Anton said, "but I didn't want to be cheesy and do it on such a predictable holiday. The planning of this night was much more fun. Seeing you blindfolded, so willing but still such an uptight American..."

"Anton, you're American too."

"Mon dieu," he said with a laugh. "Not for many years."

"You sound like Simone. Speaking of, what was she doing here?"

"Helping me out...I couldn't exactly leave an apartment empty with burning candles."

"So she knows what's going on?"

"Yes, and if you'd shut up and let me continue, you'd find out too."

Matt's face flushed red, similarly embarrassed and excited. Patience wasn't among his virtues.

"Now, no more interruptions," Anton said, his French accent deepening, maybe for effect, maybe because he was nervous. "You, Matt, me, we have built a life together—we share a business, a passion for art, and an unquenchable desire for each other. Just last night, after we made love and you fell asleep in my arms, I knew I had met the man of my dreams. It's taken me a long time to reach this point of no return—to open up my heart again. After the disaster of my marriage to Gilly, I never envisioned getting involved with someone else, at least, not at such a deep level of commitment. I had my art and I had my son, Henri, and then one day...along the Seine, on a perfect summer's day, you wandered over, and my life...it did more than change. It's forever altered."

"You're not alone in that feeling, Anton," Matt said.

"I know, I know. That is what makes us so...ideal. Perfect in every sense, Matt," he said, and then he paused and looked up at the night sky, where stars twinkled like they were supposed to, adding more lights in a city already known for them. In the distance, the Eiffel Tower shot up toward the sky, itself a sparkle conjured out of magic. A breeze blew in and ruffled Matt's hair, creating goose bumps on his forearms. Or maybe that effect was from what was about to happen. He felt his heart beat faster, watching as his lover dropped to one knee and took their relationship beyond any emotion Matt had ever experienced.

"Marry me, Matthew Donovan. Let us share a life, our love, until we breathe our last."

In his hand he produced a gold ring, a simple band that brought with it such meaning.

Matt felt tears in his eyes; he'd heard no more beautiful words in all his thirty-four years than those. He took hold of Anton's outstretched hands, lifted him up, staring at the ring when it caught the light of the stars. He smiled, leaned in and kissed him. He let his lips linger, wanting to melt right there and then, and allow himself to become one with him in this moment. And isn't that what happened anyway, because Matt uttered the simplest word he knew, three letters that set his future in motion.

"Yes."

Silence held them, like the earth had stopped. Their hands locked, their eyes the same.

Anton then took hold of Matt's finger, and proceeded to slide the ring down. Before he said another word, he withdrew another ring from his pocket, an exact duplicate. He handed it over to Matt, and then held out his hand.

"Until we pick out our wedding bands, these will hold our love true."

Matt nervously, excitedly, took command of the ring and did the same as the man of his dreams had just done to him. Soon, so soon, both men were freshly adorned with rings, a bond that spoke of a promise that would take them toward so many of life's tomorrows. They kissed, they hugged, and then held each other in an extended embrace.

"I love you, Matthew Donovan."

"I love you, Anton Marcel."

They took that moment to crack open the champagne, the cork exploding with celebration that continued when they poured the golden liquid into expectant flutes, clinked and cheered, and then together they drank. The bubbly was cold, delicious, but the intoxication that was spreading through Matt was all Anton's doing. He'd dreamed of what it would be like to be proposed to, but never in his wildest dreams did he think it would be in Paris, amidst the stars and the lights and the love of a man whose imagination knew no bounds. Matt set his glass down, empty, and then pulled at Anton.

"I'm newly engaged," he said, showing off his finger.

"You are. So am I."

"Then take me to the bed, and make love to me for the first time as an engaged couple."

It was amazing to think that twenty-four hours ago, Matt had felt Anton's cock penetrate him, and while it had been wonderful, another shared experience in a series of them, what he felt now would be different. As though he could probe deeper inside his body, seeking out his heart's inner regions. Matt would let him stay there, tonight and forever.

Matt went back inside the garret, the candles guiding him. He stripped away his clothes, tossing them to a nearby chair. His cock was so hard, throbbing in his hand. He'd always taken pride in how his body looked—solid, muscular, mostly hairless. He was smooth all over, his chest like glass. As he climbed onto the mattress, he beckoned Anton over with a wanton smile. The man took a last swig of champagne, and then he too removed his clothes. Anton was wiry, his body not as thick as Matt's, but he had a sizable cock, and a chest with a light dusting of dark hair. Matt spread his hands across that chest, where he felt Anton's heart beating fast. It would beat even faster, once he entered him, once he began to thrust with all of his might.

"That's it, Anton, let me feel all of you."

Anton entered him quickly, gently, allowing their love to guide their motions, to heighten their actions. Matt exhaled after full penetration, and then urged his lover onward. Anton thrust at him, his hips increasing in speed, in impact. Matt stared up at him, his body flush with desire. This was how it was always going to be, their love-making intense, even aggressive, but beneath it was a love that had consumed them. Matt wrapped his legs around Anton's ass, pulling him in tighter, feeling his cock fill him up.

"Oh yes, oh yes, Anton...my love...my sexy lover...I want to feel you come inside me."

Anton continued to thrust at him with vigor, his body atop Matt's, his breath coming in shallow bursts. Matt dug his nails into Anton's back, drawing figure eights, even as his own cock rubbed against the light hair on his belly. Their bodies were locked tight, rhythmic, their embrace heightening the heat building between them. Sweat formed, and the slickness only had them cling tighter, harder, and Matt begged.

"Make me feel your love, all of it," he asked.

Their fiery eyes locked again, electric sparks passing between them. Anton thrust his hips hard, Matt crying out from the force of his loving impact. The sensation in his cock was building. He wanted to come, he wanted to know if this new commitment could make orgasms be felt within his soul. Then Anton lifted his body, his arms straining as he continued to fuck Matt. His chest was sweaty, the hair matted, somehow more dense.

"I'm close, baby, so close..." Matt said.

Just then Anton grabbed at Matt's ankles, and he spread him wide open. His hand snaked down and grabbed at Matt's hard cock, and he pumped the hard shaft. Yet he didn't stop with his own eager thrusts. Soon, Matt felt his cock rip with heat, and he watched as his come suddenly shot forth, landing on his own exposed chest. Anton thrust again, again, and then one last time, and he cried out as Matt felt the spurt inside him. Not one, not two, but several, and he squeezed his ass cheeks in an effort to drain his lover's cock of its juice, but not its pulsing love.

When Anton pulled out and caught his breath, Matt slid in next to him.

"That was powerful," he said, "the way you felt when you came inside me...wow."

"Our night, it is just getting started. We have the garret until dawn."

"Then let's not waste a moment."

"Your news, you don't wish to share with your friends? To scream from the rooftop?"

"Not yet," Matt said, "Not tonight. This night belongs to us. Besides, knowing Jake and Freddie, no matter the time zone, they too are probably screwing someone's brains out right now, so why should I disturb their momentary happiness. There's more than enough love in the world, if you know where to find it. I hope they've found what we have."

"Few find what we have found," Anton said.

"Keep talking that way, I might insist on an elaborate wedding."

"Oh, Matt, I expected nothing else. It will be beautiful. With the most romantic setting."

"This one's pretty nice," Matt said, "but it's more a honeymoon suite."

"Then let's give it what's expected."

They drank the rest of the champagne, then lay in each other's arms. They kissed and they talked and the candles continued to burn down toward darkness, and then, when the mood struck them, their bodies' silent urges took hold of them and they surrendered to their passion. A stroke of cock, a brush of chest hair, a scruffy nuzzle at the neck, the flame between them grew. Matt mounted the man who would be his future husband, and he felt the man's cock impale him as though Cupid's arrow had found its target.

As much as Matt loved this moment, tomorrow couldn't arrive soon enough.

He was the hopeless romantic, wasn't he? And here he was, making passionate love in a garret in Paris, to the man he was soon going to marry. Tomorrow's promise lay just beyond the door, and time would return them to it eventually. After all, there was a wedding to plan. "I do's" to exchange. For now, though, it was a delicious wonderment of love, of wild passion, of sweaty bodies coiled together as one.

One could be a number that led to trouble. Because Matt was wondering which of his two best friends would be his one best man.