Gift Exchange






“I don’t know what to say.” Second Lieutenant William Marshall gazed at the little bundle of treasure that Third Lieutenant David Archer had just placed in his hands a few minutes after they’d come off watch.

Will was not only surprised but slightly tipsy, having for once drunk his entire spirit ration with the intention of getting to sleep as quickly as possible. If he were asleep, he would not be lying awake alone in his hammock two days before the last Christmas Eve of the eighteenth century. Alone, longing for the pleasure of David beside him in bed, a pleasure they would both have to do without until their next chance to be private together on shore leave. One day in October, All Hallow’s Eve, was all they’d had since the previous August, and every day of abstinence was more trying than the one before.

He’d thought David would be snug in his own berth already, not appearing in his greatcoat at the door of Marshall’s tiny cabin aboard the frigate Calypso. A brown paper bundle in his hands held a thick, warm winter scarf and two pair of stockings knit of the same fine dense wool.

“You don’t need to say anything,” David assured him cheerfully. “Just use them, please. The weather’s been bitter enough, these past weeks.”

No doubt of that. Nor was there any way to lie convincingly and deny that he was always freezing cold on watch, in the damp biting winds of the English Channel where they had spent the last two months guarding against Bonaparte’s blockade-runners. “Davy,

I can’t—”

“Of course you can!” David’s grin faltered. “Why ever not?”

“I—I haven’t anything to give you in return.” He had meant to visit the little bookshop in Plymouth and find a book of poetry for his lover, but the captain had left him in command of Calypso during their brief stop in port. He’d known Davy would understand, but there were very few opportunities to show David how much he cared. They weren’t like ordinary sweethearts, who could carry one another’s love tokens publicly. And it was even worse to be empty-handed in the face of David’s generosity.

“My dear friend…” David shook his head. “It sounds trite, I know, but you could give me the pleasure of sharing the gift.”

It was unfair of him to be so reasonable. Will ran a hand through his untidy black hair, trying to come up with a response. “Davy—”

“Truly, Will—not only does my mother knit the things, she has set both my unmarried sisters to fabricating them as well.” He made a comical face. “Keeps them out of trouble, I suppose, but they’ve sent more than I shall ever use. It would please me very much to see you comfortable.”

William’s hands were warmer just holding the items; he was especially cold right now, wearing only his nightshirt. The thought of how those stockings might feel on his chilly shins, the scarf blocking the icy draft down his coat, was undermining his resolve.

His pride still balked. “Davy…is there anything I possess that you would like to have? Anything at all that I might give you?”

An odd longing flickered across David’s face for a moment, then he smiled and shook his head. “No.”

“What is it? I know there is something—”

The look now was exasperation. “Will—Oh, very well. Yes, there is. One thing, and we can call it even.”

He could not imagine what that might be. “What, then?”

Fire lurked in the blue eyes that met Marshall’s brown ones. “A kiss.”

A too-familiar, suppressed sensation shot through Marshall’s body, but he fought it down. “What? Here, on board the ship?” They had spoken of this when they’d first become lovers, and decided that strict celibacy aboard ship was the only way to keep themselves safe. The Articles of War, the draconian law of the Royal Navy, decreed death by hanging for men who took one another as lovers, and the horror of seeing that happen to the man he loved was more than Marshall was willing to risk.

David bit his lip. “I’m sorry, Will. I beg your pardon. I know we agreed to behave ourselves at sea, and I think that’s wise. But tomorrow is Christmas Eve, and I don’t think one kiss would be such a risk.”

“Perhaps not. But Davy, can you stop at just a kiss? I’m not sure I could.”

“You’re right, I know you’re right,” David said with a sigh. “But please, Will, do keep the woolies. You never buy anything for yourself, and you have no idea how cold I feel, watching you shivering on the quarterdeck.” He gave Marshall’s arm a quick squeeze. “I’m sorry, I’d better go now.”

He shifted, turning away; Will caught his shoulder. David looked up, their eyes met, and for a long moment Marshall just looked at him, his gaze caressing the fine-boned beauty of David’s face, the sea-blue eyes, the perfection of his lips. Remembering how it would feel to touch those lips. To kiss them.

Nervous under the scrutiny, David licked his lips. “I’m sorry—” he began again, and Marshall kept hold of his shoulder and bent his head swiftly, catching David’s half-open mouth with his own.

It didn’t last very long. A little pressure, moist softness, David’s warm breath caressing his face, a tiny tug as they pulled apart—then his own frantic grab for David’s waist so he could steal a second kiss, longer and deeper. David’s fingers were cool on the sides of his face now, and the taste of him made Will suddenly ravenous for more. A third kiss; somehow he was holding David tight against him, and the kiss was turning into something that involved his whole body.

He pushed David’s coat aside, discovering that they were both dressed for bed. David must have had a sudden generous impulse and tossed the greatcoat on over his nightshirt.

“Will—we shouldn’t—what if someone were to come in?”

He heard the words, but they were murmured without conviction—and David’s hands were now clutching Marshall’s shoulders, locking them together.

“No one will come in, Davy.” He reached over and slipped the hook closed on the door, then leaned back against the bulkhead beside the door, pulling his friend closer, discovering that Davy was as hard as he was. Rum and desire made him lightheaded; his body was

urging him closer, but part of his mind was all too aware of the possible consequences. “Davy, what—what can we—”

David straightened, his expression dazed and wondering. “What do you want? Wait, just a moment.” He cupped Marshall’s face very gently in one hand, and searched his eyes. “Will, you really don’t have to pay me back, you know. Especially not like this.”

They were speaking in whispers; it was so good, so sweet, and so very dangerous. But some things were worth the risk. “I do,” Will said. “Now. Quickly. It’s been too long, Davy.”

More kisses. There was a sharpness in the taste of David’s mouth now, an urgency. Will’s hands slipped to Davy’s arse as their bodies settled into a rhythm of sorts. Davy’s hands were roving. Down his back, his thighs, up his sides, thumbs slipping between their bodies to tease his nipples while Davy’s mouth muffled his involuntary moan. He was panting, weating; his body was pushing toward completion but the pressure was not—quite—enough.

“Will?” Davy’s whisper called him back to rational thought. “I’m going to do something. You must keep quiet. Can you do that?”

Gasping, he nodded. “What?”

“I’ll show you.” Davy kissed him, tongue flicking lightly across his lips. When Marshall sought to deepen the kiss, Davy switched targets, rubbing his lips across his jaw, down the side of his throat. Marshall arched back against the bulkhead, shivering at the contrast of warm mouth and cool breath. He nearly cried out when Davy’s mouth closed on a nipple, but managed to keep it to a strangled gasp. A part of his mind was grateful for the gusty winter wind outside; their little noises would be lost in the natural sounds, and the creaking of the ship.

“Can you keep quiet, Will?” Davy asked softly, then licked his ear and wrapped his fingers firmly around Marshall’s yearning cock.

He groaned, reaching to reciprocate, but Davy shifted just out of reach. “You must stay quiet.”

“I will…Davy, for pity’s sake—!”

Davy chuckled, and slid slowly down the front of Marshall’s body. He knelt for a moment, gently cupping Will’s balls. “Quiet, now,” he warned. “Shhhh…”

Marshall had to bite his own hand to keep quiet as Davy took his cock into his mouth. His whole being narrowed down to that one intense point of pleasure. But after a moment he mastered himself, reaching down to tangle his fingers in Davy’s golden hair. The sensation was unbearably good, utterly perfect. Davy held him braced, firmly but gently, while his mouth…dear God…! The gathering pressure suddenly peaked and he was thrusting frantically, and Davy somehow kept up with him as he went over, was there with him, catching him in his arms he slid bonelessly to the floor, holding him as he sprawled there panting, trying to compose himself.

“Oh my God, Davy…”

David was laughing softly, and Will was struck by sudden remorse. “What about you? What should I do?”

Davy kissed him, a light salute. “Nothing. I came too. Couldn’t have stopped it, Will, I got caught in your squall.”

“Oh.” He looked closer, saw a patch of wetness near the hem of David’s nightshirt. “But I should have done something for—”

“You did exactly what you should have,” Davy said. He pulled Will into a close embrace, then relaxed his hold. “For once, you simply let me give you what you wanted. Thank you.”

Marshall blinked. “You—you wanted a kiss.”

“And I got it, too!” Davy’s grin was positively wicked. He pushed himself to his feet, extended a hand. “You’d better climb into bed before you pass out down there, Will. And I’ll be asleep myself in a minute or two, so I’d best be in my own cabin.”

Marshall took his hand. He would have liked nothing more than to squeeze the both of them onto his berth, and doze off with Davy’s breath warm against his neck, but that would be fatally stupid. He hoisted himself up reluctantly, his head spinning with drink and happiness.

David guided him into his hammock and kissed him again, then picked up the forgotten woolens and wrapped the scarf snugly around Marshall’s neck. “There.”

“But…” He plucked at the scarf. “Davy, you’ve given me so much…”

“It’s a little bit of wool. After what you just gave me, I ought to give you a whole sheep!” He laughed at Marshall’s horrified expression. “Well, perhaps not, that might cause talk. Pleasant dreams, Will! Merry Christmas!” Still smiling, David pulled his greatcoat back on and let himself out.

Marshall lay back and pulled the blanket up to his chin. He could never recall having felt so content. He knew he ought to be ashamed, or at least indignant at how easily David had seduced him, but he just could not manage it. Not right now. He was too relaxed, too

comfortable…too warm. His body tingled with the happy memory of Davy’s touch, and the scarf around his neck still held the faint scent of his friend and lover. Better than mistletoe.

The End
Copyright Lee Rowan, 2006. All rights reserved by Linden Bay Romance, LLC

Merry Christmas, indeed!

Perhaps they ought to celebrate Twelfth Night, too. And Candlemas, of course. And possibly Spring Equinox…

Advent Calendar Giveaway!

One lucky commenter will win a copy of either the new edition of Walking Wounded, or a copy of Sail Away, which is currently out of print.

12 Responses

  1. Oh, that was just lovely! 😀
    Thanks for the Christmas present!

  2. Those lads – any excuse.

    “Oh, it’s today. Let’s celebrate!”

    Thanks for posting.


  3. That was delightful, Lee! I think they should follow the Mad Hatter’s lead and celebrate their “unbirthdays.”

  4. Oh my, how hot was that? Completely loved this snippet from two of my favourite characters in m/m fiction. Now I need to go back and re-read the books 😀 Thank you for this.

  5. Thank you, Lee! Reading Tangled Web now. Hope you keep getting good reviews for it. (Sure you will!) Happy Holidays!

  6. oh that was great!!

  7. I don’t know if the UK has joined the US in celebrating National Talk Like a Pirtate Day (Check it out…there’s a web site), wherein we all imitate Robert Newton playing Long John Silver. The web site lists suggested pirate pickup lines. My favorite is: “Arrrgh…How’d ye like to shiver me timber?”

  8. Love it! 🙂


  9. Those two always bring a smile on my face. Thank you Lee for the story and Marry Christmas 😀

  10. Ahh. This was just what I needed after a long, lousy day. Thank you so much for sharing more of Davy and Will!

  11. What a wonderful Christmas treat. Thanks, Lee!

  12. Is it too late? Regardless, I love Dave and Will. I hope we get to see more of them in the future. Thanks Lee. Btw… I love Walking Wounded. It was the first book of yours that I got.

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