When they were teenagers, Quinn MacGregor and Aaron Larsen fell in love over the course of one magical summer. It ended in bloodshed and tragedy.
Now, ten years later, Quinn is back in Spruce Creek, Nevada, to inherit his family’s criminal cartel. His cousin Jimmy has been making friends -- and enemies -- in dangerous places, but that doesn’t mean he’s happy to hand over leadership to Quinn. And Jimmy might not be the only one who wants Quinn out of the way for good, especially if Quinn’s secret comes out.
Aaron Larsen is back in Spruce Creek to sell his former family home. Aaron lost a leg in Afghanistan, and he’s drinking too much and battling depression and PTSD. The last thing he needs is for Quinn MacGregor to drop back into his miserable life. But when Quinn is shaken by the news that he left more behind in Spruce Creek than his bad memories, he turns to Aaron like it’s old times, and Aaron doesn’t know how to say no.
The events of ten years ago cast a long shadow, and in a town where they can’t trust anyone else, Quinn and Aaron just might have to learn to trust each other again.
Aaron didn’t get started on the wallpaper that afternoon. Instead, he limped back upstairs for a nap and woke up craving a drink. He wanted whiskey and would have settled for beer, but he discovered when he wobbled back downstairs again that either he’d drunk everything last night, or Uncle Will had quietly disposed of his meagre stash.
Aaron sent a text to Brody, only to discover that he was out of town for the day. Had Brody mentioned that to him? Probably. Between the booze and his pain meds, Aaron wasn’t exactly firing on all cylinders.
Shit. He’d have to go to the liquor store on his own.
Aaron glared at his crutches. He didn’t like the idea of using them, or his new prosthetic, on Spruce Creek’s uneven sidewalks, but he was also still nervous about driving. He’d got a truck with an automatic transmission after coming home, but he still had to focus on remembering to use his left foot on the pedals, instead of trying instinctively to use his right. Still, driving was the better option.
His prosthetic leg was still upstairs. Aaron was supposed to be wearing it but, like the wallpaper in the den, he just kept putting it off. In the hospital, stupidly, he’d been looking forward to getting fitted for his prosthesis. He’d figured he could put on a pair of jeans and nobody would even know, right? Not once he sorted out issues with his balance, at least. Except that was before he learned about just how painful a socket could be, and how much just wearing the damn thing could make him sweat like a pig, and how sensitive the scar tissue was, and how prone to irritation his stump was, and how fucking sore every other muscle in his body got from trying to compensate for the prosthetic. And all this after the prosthetist told him how lucky he was that the amputation was below the knee. If Aaron was lucky, and if he had it better than a bunch of other guys, then shit, he never wanted to feel what they were going through.
It took ten excruciating minutes to leave the house, limping back and forth on his crutches to find his wallet, then his car keys. He already felt wrung out by the time he made it to his truck.
A few minutes after that he was pulling into the parking lot at Bob’s Liquor, and then shuffling on his crutches toward the entrance. The doors were a pain in the ass. They weren’t automatic, so it took some juggling to get them open, and the guy behind the counter didn’t seem inclined to come over and help.
Aaron grunted at him as he moved past him down the aisle. Jesus, after this trip he’d more than earned a drink. A six pack of beer and a couple of bottles of whiskey should do him for a few days. Aaron wasn’t naïve enough to tell himself that his drinking wasn’t a problem -- he just didn’t give a fuck about addressing it right now. His life was a mess, and drinking dulled his too-sharp senses, and he was okay with that.
He peered at the shelf of whiskey bottles, and then straightened up so he could see over to the counter. “Hey, can I get a hand over here?”
The guy eyed him narrowly, like he was debating whether or not Aaron’s pinned-up jeans leg was part of some elaborate costume or something. Then he sighed and set his magazine down, and shuffled out from behind the counter to join him in the aisles. “What do you need?”
“Two bottles of Jack,” Aaron said, and then nodded toward the refrigerated cabinet at the back of the wall. “And a six pack of Bud.”
The guy tucked the bottles of whiskey into the crook of his arm, and headed for the beer. Right on cue, the door to the liquor store opened, the buzzer sounded, and Aaron looked up to see who’d just walked in.
His heart stopped.
It was Quinn, he thought, though he had short hair nowadays. It didn’t hang in waves down his back any more like it had when they were teenagers, like it had that night when Aaron had run his fingers through it and -- He shook the memory off. Quinn’s hair was scruffy and mussed up. He looked older than he should have, though Aaron was in no position to judge, and sharper around the edges. His jaw was set like he was expecting trouble, and that mouth that Aaron had once spent a summer kissing was pressed into a thin, tense line.
Aaron turned his back, his heart thumping, and pretended to be interested in the whiskey bottles on the shelf in front of him.
“This what you want?” the clerk asked, shoving a six pack of Bud into his field of vision.
“Yeah,” Aaron said, keeping his voice low. “I’ll be up to pay in a second.”
Whatever Quinn was after, it wasn’t whiskey. Aaron listened as the clerk rang up Quinn’s purchase, and didn’t relax again until the buzzer sounded and the door rattled open and shut again. Only then did he turn around and make his way slowly to the counter, the tips of his crutches squeaking a little on the grimy linoleum floor.
Aaron paid, and glanced out the front window of the liquor store while the clerk ran his card. Quinn MacGregor was still in Spruce Creek? Why the hell hadn’t Brody said anything? Okay, so Aaron hadn’t asked, and Brody hadn’t exactly known they’d ever been a thing, but Quinn’s dad had murdered Aaron’s in cold blood, so a fucking heads-up would have been nice. Of course, Brody was still the same inveterate stoner he’d been back in school, so asking him to wrap his brain around shit was like trying to push water uphill most of the time.
Aaron took his card back from the clerk and tucked it into his wallet. “Thanks.”
It took him a while to figure out how to carry his bags.
“I’ll get the door,” the clerk said. “You’re the old sheriff’s kid, right?”
“Yeah,” Aaron said, wondering which way this was going to go. He wasn’t in the mood to hear about how great his dad had been. He appreciated that the sentiment came from a good place, but ten years later all it did was open those old wounds all over again. “That’s me.”
The guy came around the counter to hold the door for him. He glanced down at Aaron’s missing leg. “Thank you for your service.”
And that was a whole new wound.
Aaron grunted in response, and then maneuvered himself carefully back out into the chill October air.