"It's a good group, though. We're nice people there. Well, if you're not into it, I understand that." Max shrugged one shoulder. "It's just too bad." He slowly released Theo's wrist, letting his fingers trail over the back of his hand. He saw Theo's gaze flicker his way and suppressed a grin.
Do I still make him nervous? Am I a jerk because I'm starting to like that I do? He raised his shoulders almost to his ears, then dropped them, pushing his hands deeper into his pockets. Letting out a breath, he saw it in the air.
"It's getting late in the year," he said, turning his head to look at Theo.
Theo was scanning the tree line. Max resisted the urge to look himself, because he'd rather look at Theo. There was an amazing stillness about him, his body held at the ready without tension. The shadows cast by his brow turned his eyes slate-colored.
The house lights created a yellow pool that separated the yard and the field into different spaces. Here the night surrounded them. There wasn't another person in sight; it was just the two of them. Mist rose in little clouds across the raggedly tufted field, a miniature sky they stood above. Max's next thought came without embarrassment.
This is seriously romantic
He stepped in close, making those black-fringed eyes widen, and reached out with both hands to cup Theo's jaw. Everything was as natural as breathing, and it was breath he felt on his mouth as he came in for the first touch.
Delighting in the softness of Theo's mouth, Max closed his eyes. Theo was a pillar of heat that drew him near, away from the chill, but he didn't quite let their bodies touch. That would take away from the kiss, which was paramount. Theo's inhalation was suction, and then those silken lips parted and he leaned into Max. Max put his fingers around the back of Theo's skull, pressing his palm into thick curls.
It was enough to put him on the precipice. If he went over the edge, this would turn to shoving and nipping and sweating and tugging and all kinds of other things that made him breathe harder just thinking about them. This was starting to look like an exciting place to tumble to the ground together. For a moment, he teetered.
Hell with it. Let's do this. Weird or not, I want him. Max dropped his hands to Theo's hips and jerked him close. At the same time, he shoved his tongue into Theo's mouth.
Making a noise in his throat, Theo groped at Max's jacket, then grabbed it in both hands. Then he held Max in place as he took a big step back. They looked at each other in silence. Max waited for an explanation, but didn't get one.
"Sorry," Max said, trying not to sound disappointed. But that was as far as he got before intense tingling spread across his back. He turned sharply to look toward the back of the property. At exactly the same moment, Theo also turned to look, but Max was too distracted to process that oddity.
If it weren't for his sensitivity to the spirit world, Max doubted he would be able to see the dark figure standing between two trees. He felt its presence as a pressure on the base of his skull. It made him sweat with the strength of its presence. Even though he felt its malevolence, this was an unfamiliar dread. He knew that this wasn't Deep Murky because it had none of the aura of decay and swampy water.
He glanced at Theo, then looked longer, startled by the intent look on his face. Theo seemed to turn into someone else, his expression coolly focused, his posture straight and strong. Then, his eyes never leaving the shadow, Theo began to run.
"Theo?" Max blurted, startled. Wait, can he see that? "I don't think you should --" Theo was already halfway to the trees; his speed took Max's breath away. Belatedly he took off after, shocked by how little progress he made in comparison. "Theo! Don't go in there! Wait!" Max could no longer see the peculiar shadow in the trees, which was no comfort. That didn't mean it was gone. He didn't know what the thing intended.
Theo stopped at the edge of the trees. By the time Max caught up, the shadow was gone, its unearthly presence no longer making his skin tingle. Breathless, he looked into Theo's face. Quickly, alertly, Theo probed the trees with his eyes. His breathing, to Max's great annoyance, was nearly normal.
"What's going on?" Max asked. Theo gave him a sharp look.
"You shouldn't be here," he said.
"Theo," Max laughed in exasperation, "this is my property. What are you looking for?"
Abruptly Theo sagged, turning his attention to the ground.
"I'm sorry," he mumbled. "I -- I can't."
"Seriously, you can tell me." Max reached out to put his hand on Theo's upper arm. He didn't miss how Theo's gaze landed on his hand. "Did you see something in here?"
"You'd better go inside." Theo abruptly began walking quickly back across the field.
"Theo --" Max found himself, yet again, hurrying after Theo. For some time they walked in silence, Max annoyed to find Theo's stride too brisk. "Was that inappropriate?"
"No," Theo said, his tone miserable. "That's -- that's not --"
"You can talk to me. What did you see back there?"
"Nothing," Theo said quickly.
"Nothing? Theo, you took off like a bat out of hell. You were chasing something." And if you know what it was, I'd really like to know.
"Hey," Theo snapped. "I'm weird. You know that." He shook his curls back angrily. "You don't know -- anything about me. Let's just l-leave it at that." With that he took off at a run, heading for the road. Max stared after him.