Author: Jodi Payne & BA Tortuga
Word Count: 66,988
Page Count (pdf): 278
Date Published: 7/23/19
Publisher: Tygerseye Publishing, LLC
File Types available: pdf, mobi, epub
The call comes when Beckett Adler least expects it. He’s made a new life for himself in Vermont and has a law practice of his own. After four years he’s even stopped wearing his wedding ring. So when he finds out his husband, bull rider Skyler Paulson, has been seriously injured at an event, he isn’t sure what he wants to do. He knows what’s right though, so he heads down to Baltimore to bring his man home.
Sky knows his injuries are a career-ender, and he can’t believe Beck has come for him after all this time. He’s not a hundred percent sure what went wrong with their marriage and he has no idea how to be anything but a bull rider. But he wants this second chance, so he grabs at it with both hands.
There’s a lot Sky has to learn, from how to walk again to how to settle down with the man he loves. Beck needs to learn to open up and how to be more trusting. For their marriage to work again, both men will have to find a way to meet in the middle. Because neither of them wants to be wrecked anymore.
The offices of Walker and Adler, LLP closed early on Fridays. That was one of the perks of practicing law in Vermont; weekends were sacred. There were other perks: it was perfectly acceptable to show up late because there was fresh powder on the mountain, you could bring your dog to the office, and you only had to wear a suit on court days.
Of course, the rules, such as they were, didn’t concern Beckett Adler too much since he was the boss.
Beckett locked up and stepped out into the brisk afternoon, but the chill in the air didn’t keep him from stopping by the hardware store for varnish and a couple of foam brushes. In a month or so, he’d get his boat back to Lake Champlain. His weekend plans included refinishing the tiller and the cleats and maybe starting on the companionway.
He stopped by the co-op and picked up a few groceries to make his Friday night pizza, and he was nearly home when the rain started.
Rain was good. He liked snow, he loved to ski, but his mind was on the lake now: the water, the sunshine, and the wind.
His phone buzzed, but the number that came up on the console was nothing he recognized, so he ignored it. He wasn’t at work; he didn’t have to answer.
He turned off Route 7 and onto Church Hill, stopping by the post office for his mail before heading home. He pulled his Jeep Wrangler into the garage and parked it next to his ancient pickup just as it started to really pour. Good timing.
The house was cold, so he stoked up the wood stove before starting dinner.
His phone rang again—same number of course, damn telemarketers—and he ignored it, but this time someone left a voice mail at least.
It made him nuts to have that stupid little red notification badge sitting there like it was one more thing on his to-do list. He stuck his pizza in the oven, then listened to the voice mail on speaker.
“Uh. Hey. Hi. This is Parker Stephens. You probably don’t remember, but…shit. Shit, can you call me back on this number, man? I don’t know how to say on the phone, but I need to you call. Soon. I’ll call back in ten. It’s important, about Sky.”
He dropped the phone on the kitchen counter like it had burned him.
He definitely remembered Parker. Parker was Skyler’s rodeo buddy. Rodeo buddy, best friend, fuck buddy. Whatever. If Parker was calling him in a panic, if the guy couldn’t just leave a message, it sure wasn’t good news.
Beckett didn’t even wear his wedding ring anymore. Did he really need to know? Did he want to?
He paced the kitchen, eyes still glued to his phone. What would happen if he called? What did that mean for tomorrow?
What would it say about him if he didn’t?
He scooped up the phone and dialed before he lost his nerve.
“Dude. Beckett, that you?” That lazy drawl was anything but. No, this was total panic. Fuck.
He closed his eyes and took a breath. “What is it, Parker?”
Is he dead? Just tell me.
“Sky’s been hurt, buddy. Bad. He’s in a medically induced coma, but the docs don’t think—I mean, if you want to say good-bye, you should come. Now.”
If I want to…?
He braced a hand on the sink and swallowed hard, working to keep it together. He’d known in his heart he’d get this call one day. Now he needed to get through it.
Goddammit, Sky. Four years since you left, and this is still harder than I thought.
He steadied his voice and focused on Parker. “Where are you? Where is he?”
“Mercy Medical in Baltimore. He was riding good, but…” Always the riding. Always.
Baltimore. Same time zone. Maybe even a direct flight. Might be faster to drive. But first he had to get Parker off the phone.
“You listen to me, Parker. No decisions get made until I get there, am I clear? Unless it’s something lifesaving, it can wait. I’m coming.”
“You’re his next of kin and his medical power of attorney. I got no choice.”
This was Parker’s fault anyway. At least partly.
“If I can’t find a flight, I’ll drive. I’ll be there as soon as I can.” He hung up the phone.
Beckett didn’t want to know what had happened; that wasn’t important right now. And whatever was going on, he didn’t want to hear another word from that guy about it.
He pushed away from the counter, surprised to find that despite the aching dread in his chest, his knees were managing to hold him up. He rushed up the stairs to pack a bag. Jeans, a couple of shirts. He didn’t need much.
As soon as he’d closed his laptop and given up on flights, the smoke alarm went off downstairs. He raced down with the laptop and his duffel in his arms, dropped everything, and opened the sliding back doors to clear the smoke from the kitchen.
He was able to yank his charred pizza out, toss it in the sink, and turn on the tap before his vision clouded.
Jesus Fucking Christ, Skyler. I swear to God if you don’t die, I might wring your neck myself.
He hurried around downstairs and muted the smoke alarm, then shut the dampers to cut off oxygen to the fire in the wood stove, closed and locked the sliding doors, and grabbed his keys.
He’d get dinner on the road.
And a huge coffee.