Big, burly CEO Abe Behr is furious to discover someone -- probably a relative -- is embezzling from Behr Construction, a family-run business in the Sierra Nevada foothills outside Lake Tahoe.
To confirm his suspicions, Abe takes the unprecedented step of hiring a non-family accountant, handsome Jeff Mason, to go over the books and help find the culprit. As they talk to Behr relatives and visit construction sites, Abe and Jeff are drawn to each other, bringing out new, softer emotions in workaholic Abe.
Since he has sacrificed romance all his life to build the construction business, Abe’s surprised by his feelings for the handsome Jeff. He’s even more shocked when they come face to face with homophobia in the small foothills community where generations of Behrs have called home. Abe had always thought Stone Acres was a live-and-let-live kind of town.
As he and Jeff get closer, he finds out how wrong he is when he comes out to both family and a community who think he’s making a big mistake. Will being the head of a large, powerful family and a pillar of the community be enough to win Abe his happily ever after with Jeff?
“You ever come up the bank to sit under my tree? Looks like a much more comfortable place to fish. Not as rocky at any rate.” Jeff took a drink of his beer as I again scrambled to keep up. “My dad called it the Fishing Tree. He seemed to think fish congregated off the shore there.”
We sat in silence. It was my turn to talk. I’m pretty good in business situations. Not so much in social ones. At social events, mostly I hold up walls. Shake hands. Grunt a lot. Let others carry the conversational load.
Lorraine set our meals in front of us. The full burger with everything for him. The grilled mountain trout and steamed vegetables for me.
“You do a lot of fishing?” I managed after a long silence.
“Not really.” He gave a self-deprecating laugh. “My dad said fishing couldn’t be taught. He said it was something intuitive. I never had any idea what I was doing. So I never saw any use in fishing. I never saw any fish either.”
Again, silence as I processed and caught up. “It’s not rocket science. You figure out what kind of fish you want. Where it lives. Lure it to you. Then catch it.”
He looked skeptical and almost self-conscious. “It can’t be so easy,” he said with a little laugh.
“What about the different rods, lures, tackle, stuff?” He looked so serious, as if I were missing the point. As if I didn’t understand. He was right. I didn’t.
“Look. You can catch fish with your bare hands. If you want to. The extra stuff is just extra stuff.”
“If you say so.” He shook his head, a smile still on his lips. “Have you ever caught a fish with your bare hands?”
I lifted my hands and looked down at the mess that were my paws. Calluses, nicks, cuts, punctures, blunt fingers, the bandage now off the one with the splinter. These were the hands of a man who’d framed houses as a tall, rangy preteen and had lived in construction ever since. Could I catch a fish with my bare hands?
“Yeah. All it takes is absolute stillness and patience.” I sighed. “Not a whole lot of people have both together. Somebody once told me it’s all about Zen.” Somebody else said the only reason I could do it was because I was too stupid to know it was impossible.
“Zen.” His tone said he was surprised I knew such a word.
“You know, like the Eastern religion,” I answered. “Though why we still call it Eastern is beyond me. It’s really Far West, not Far East to us.” I was grumbling and rambling. Avoiding for some reason.
He rattled me. Nobody ever rattled me. I’m Abe Behr, the big Behr.
He was studying me as intently as I was him. He appeared too beautiful, too perfect, too unscarred. I just hoped his accountant skills were as perfect as he looked.
“What kind of fish you want to catch?” I asked. Staring at him wasted our time.
He pointed his fork to my plate. “How about that? It’s good, right?”
“Trout,” I agreed. “Lots of different kinds of trout.”
He looked like he’d never eaten any in his life.
“This is trout from our lake. Have a bite.”
He’d finished his burger but didn’t make a move on my fish. His expression was split between wanting to dig in and reluctance to do so.
“Just taste it,” I growled. “It won’t bite.”
His eyes snapped up to meet mine. His puzzled stare asked if the stupid bear had deliberately made a joke or not. Then he gave a happy, hearty laugh, and his fork raided my fish.
“So? What do you think?” I asked after he swallowed.
“I think you made a great joke,” he said with twinkling eyes. “And the trout is delicious. Is this why you threw your catch back? Did you know you’d get it cooked perfectly here at the cafe?”
“Naw. I was stalking the pie. Fish was a bonus.”
“They have good pie here?”
“Wait and see.”