College football player Brett is devastated when he learns Gavin, the man he’s waited for in Heaven, is married and intends to spend his afterlife with his wife, who predeceased him.
Lost, Brett leans heavily on his friends, his dads Colton and Dennis, as well as his work as a vet tech. Brett is assigned the rehabilitation of Willow, a tall sorrel horse, who died in a lightning strike. However, where Willow goes, so does Jake Rushton, the cowboy who rides him.
Can Jake adjust to life in Heaven and, for the first time, allow someone close enough to love and care for him? Despite past hurts, can Brett be all Jake needs him to be?
As usual, the first to come through the Pearly Gates when St. Peter unlocked them were the babies and small children. No matter how many times he saw the procession of those too young to have had a chance at life, it still brought a lump to Brett’s throat.
After the older children and young adults had passed into Heaven, Brett watched as the age of the incomers steadily increased.
Eventually the tide of humanity began to ebb and along came the procession of animals. Soon Willow in his crystal cot floated through and Brett stepped forward to take charge. But as he approached he realized the edge of the cot was being held onto by a pair of scarred hands. His gaze moving upward, Brett saw tan forearms, ending with rolled up shirt sleeves and ... What the fuck was he doin’ scoping out men at a time like this?
Looking up into the man’s face -- strong, square jaw, two days worth of stubble, full firm lips, the rest of the face shadowed by a black cowboy hat. Stop it! Brett admonished himself.
“I’ll take Willow from you,” Brett hoped he wasn’t sounding as much of a dork as he felt. “I imagine your own guide will be here in a minute to --”
“I ain’t leavin’ Willow,” the man drawled in a Texas accent. “Me and him’s a team.”
“Yes, but ...” The rest of Brett’s words dried up when the man raised his head. Green eyes!
Although the man’s gaze seemed strangely unfocused, Brett still felt pinned in place by the steady unflinching regard.
“But you --” Brett tried again but this time was interrupted by Gabriel’s appearance. “Beloved Angel!”
“I apologize,” the Archangel began, but to Brett’s mind he didn’t seem all that sorry, in fact if Brett wasn’t mistaken there was a glint in the heavenly being’s eyes. “I had not realized Willow would be accompanied.”
“Uh.” Archangels did not make mistakes. At least not big ones. What the heck was going on?
“This is Jake Rushton.” Gabriel indicated the handsome cowboy still clutching the rim of the cot, seeming not to pay any attention to Brett, the Archangel, or in fact anything going on around him. “I would be grateful if you would act as Mr. Rushton’s guide.”
“Uh,” Brett repeated. He’d only been asked to be a guide to a human once before, and that had been Dennis. What was going on? “But ...” Shouldn’t he have been given prior notice to prepare to ...
Gabriel faded out in a swirl of colored light and of course the obligatory odor of rose petals.
“Well, Jake, uh, it seems as though you’re to come with me.”
“How’d ya know my name? And while we’re at it, where the hell are we?”
“Not hell,” Brett chuckled. “Quite the opposite actually. This is Heaven. My name is Bret and it seems I’m to be your guide.” Brett held out his hand for Jake to take, but the cowboy kept his hands on the cot.
“Heaven?” the man drawled. “Who’d a thought a guy like me ed end up in Heaven.” He shook his head in amusement.
Feeling the need to get moving, Brett said, “Look, you’re bound to have a lot of questions. Let’s get you to the human regeneration facility and then I’ll take Willow here to the equine one.”
They’d started walking, but on hearing the latter part of Brett’s statement, Jake stopped in his tracks. “I ain’t leavin’ Willow.”
“But he needs medical care, and you probably do, too so --”
“Ain’t leavin’ Willow!”
“Uh, right.” Jeez, this guy was stubborn. But if the lump in Brett’s coveralls was any judge, he was sexy as well. “Let’s go to the equine facility first, then once you see that Willow is receiving the care he needs maybe you’ll let me take you to the human hospital.”
“Cain’t see nothin’.”
Was the cowboy continuing to be stubborn? But another look into the man’s perfect green eyes jolted Brett into the realization that the guy was blind. “Sorry, I didn’t realize. Are you, uh, were you always blind?”
They walked a few steps before Jake spoke again. “Wouldn’t be much of a cowboy if I were blind, would I?”
Brett had to agree with that statement. “What happened?” Brett recalled what Gabriel had told him about Willow. “Were you struck by the lightning that brought Willow to us?”
“I guess.” The man tilted up his Stetson. “Last thing I remember was me and Willow was ridin’ fence, there was some heat lightnin’ striking in the next field over, then wham! And Here I am pushin’ Willow in this contraption dealy.”
As they continued to make their way to the veterinary re-gen facility, Brett did his best to explain about Heaven and what it all meant for Jake’s afterlife.
“Still cain’t believe they let me into heaven.”
“Why?” Brett asked. “There are lots of cowboys up here.”
“No, sir.” Jake shook his head, but didn’t elaborate.
“What do you mean, then?”
“A guy cain’t go around tellin’ all his secrets to a guy he’s only just met.”
“Suppose not.” Brett felt strangely deflated at the man’s unwillingness to talk. Brett couldn’t understand why, but sensed that in the brief while he’d known the stoic cowboy, they’d made some kind of connection.