“Is that your new book?” Zach set down the sketch pad and pencil he was using so he could clear a space on the art supply covered coffee table. The box that Shaun held was a large rectangle and appeared to be heavy as the weight was causing the muscles in his upper arms to stretch the material of his shirt.
“The first ten copies hot off the presses.” He set it down then sifted through the pile of pens, pencils and other assorted tools. The Exacto knife he had been looking for was hidden under a large triangle, a flexible ruler and a plastic pencil box that contained a set of watercolor pencils. Zach carried one with him, the challenge was to find it. “Maggie called me a couple of days ago and said they'd been shipped, but I wasn't expecting them until tomorrow. ”
“I can't wait to see how they look.” Zach scooted forward so he was balancing precariously on the edge of the couch cushions. His gaze flicked back and forth between Shaun's face and the box now dominating the room. “The proofs were awesome, but this is the real thing.”
“Yes it is.” Shaun grinned and leaned for a quick kiss. “The first one is the most nerve wracking.”
“Really?” Zach shifted his gaze from the box to Shaun, the expression on his face making him look closer to Cody's age than his own.
Shaun's grin widened showing that he was just messing around. Dodging a carelessly aimed shove he uncapped the knife before opening the box with three precise slashes on the heavy packing tape. He exchanged a quick, excited look with Zach as he lifted then folding down the flaps. Inside were several neat stacks of books each one separately encased in a cushion of bubble wrap. With hands that Shaun swore were not shaking, because he was too cool and professional for that, he lifted out the one he could reach the easiest and handed it to Zach. “Your art work is on the cover, you should see it first.”
“Are you sure?” Zach took the book as reverently as if he was being handed a new born child. He held it, staring, as if unsure what he should do. Little bits of color showed through the covering, enough to tantalize without giving any true view of what was inside.
“Yes! Open it! The waiting is making me crazy.” Shaun was practically vibrating with excitement and nervous energy.
Zach chuckled, raw and scared, but genuine. He leaned in for a quick kiss before tearing at the tape that held the protective wrap in place. As the layers were unwound the picture on the front became more visible. The vibrant reds, blacks and whites that graced the cover stood out in contrast from each other forming a picture that was stark and strong, but with a compelling warmth at the center. The blocks of color curved around and framed the words Love's Journey printed in a font that mimicked a more legible version of Shaun's handwriting. Farther down in a slightly bolder version of the same writing was Shaun's pen name.
“Wow. It looks amazing!” Zach ran his hand over the cover seeming to be able to feel the colors through the pads of his fingers. His face showed a mixture of shock and disbelief that his art was gracing the cover of a published novel.
“That's your copy.” Shaun's grin widened when Zach pulled his eyes away from the book and looked up. “I'll even autograph it if you'll you autograph mine.”
Grinning now, Zach handed over the book and rifled through the stack of pens on the table until he found a thin permanent marker that stated in loud gold letters that it was archival quality. With a flourish he presented it to Shaun who uncapped it, opened the book, and tilting it away from Zach began to write. After a moment he offered it back to Zach before capping the pen and setting it down.
The solid black print on the page read To Zach for showing me that even though you stumble sometimes the journey is worth taking. The words proclaimed that this, without a doubt, was the dedication page as well a public declaration of love. Underneath, in carefully printed letters, Shaun had added 'Thank you for being the best part of my life. Everything you are and do inspires me to be a better writer, father, and man. I love you, babe. With all my heart.' He had signed it with his real name adding a heart to the end of his last name matching words to picture in perfect representation of how he and Zach blended together.
“You dedicated it to me?” Zach didn't lift his eyes from the page, afraid that if he did the words would have changed when he looked back down. “I thought...” He paused and swallowed, eyes still glued to the words. “I thought it was going to be Gabe.”
“He gets the next one and I gave him lots of ass pats in the acknowledgments.” There was a slight intake of air and Shaun continued, his voice a little more breathy and rushed than before. “This is a love story. I thought it should be dedicated to the man I love not my brother.” The book slid out of Zach's fingers and disappeared from his view. He heard the soft sound of it being placed back in the box then felt as the sofa shifted indicating that Shaun had sat down. Two fingers tipped Zach's chin up so he was forced to look Shaun in the eyes. “I love you. Any time you have doubts you can open the book and see it there in black and white.”
Unable to speak, Zach opted to let his actions show what he was feeling. Gently, tenderness infused in every movement, he reached up to rest a hand on the back of Shaun's neck before guiding him down for a kiss.