Neil Logan, recently graduated equine veterinarian, always felt he’d know when he found the man he wanted to spend the rest of his life with. Unfortunately, though Neil cares deeply for him, his college roommate Jordan is not that man. Neil takes a summer position far from home, foolishly thinking time and distance will cool Jordan’s feelings for him, and they can both move on.
Neil’s job is on an island attractive to tourists. There, horses are the sole mode of transportation, and Rolf Gundersen is the head farrier. Neil is immediately attracted to the handsome, mature man, and starts to believe Rolf might be the one for him. Frustratingly, despite Neil’s best efforts, Rolf seems determined to avoid him.
When Neil discovers the reason for Rolf’s aloofness, he’s able to forge a relationship with the farrier. Can Rolf and Neil find happiness in their newfound love, or will Jordan continue to be a factor in Neil’s life, possibly undermining Neil’s efforts to win Rolf over?
Over the next few days, opportunities to confront Rolf were far and few between. Rolf continued his practice of interacting with Neil as little as possible. When they did work together it was in the presence of so many others that a conversation about sensitive topics was unwise. There were a number of occasions when Neil was alone with Rolf, but at those times it was Neil who lost his nerve and remained silent.
Finally, one day just at sunset, another chance to speak privately with Rolf presented itself. Neil came into the stable to check on a horse he’d treated earlier in the day for an abscessed hoof. When he reached the horse’s stall the tour driver responsible for the horse’s care was there.
“Hi, Karen,” Neil said to the young lady who stood outside the stall, rolling a strip of felt leg wrap. “I came over to check on Tucker. Have you changed his wrap yet?”
“All done, Dr. Logan. Rolf helped me,” she replied.
“How did he think everything looked?”
“Good. He said you did a good job opening the sole so the abscess could drain. Then he helped me rewrap Tucker’s hoof.”
Neil smiled at the compliment she’d passed along. He knew farriers could be sensitive when a vet performed a procedure they considered to be in their bailiwick.
“Well, I’ll thank him when I see him. Keep me posted on Tucker’s progress.”
“I will. But if you want to thank Rolf now, he only left just before you came in.” She indicated the backdoor of the barn. “If you hurry you can probably catch him.”
Neil hesitated. Rolf had indirectly complimented him. Neil decided this might provide a good opportunity to talk with the man.
Neil thanked Karen and walked swiftly to the door. Once outside he looked around. He saw Rolf leaning on the paddock fence, one leg resting on the lowest plank. He was looking towards the herd that had been turned out for the night. It almost seemed to Neil as if Rolf was waiting for him. Neil took a deep breath and walked over to the man. He leaned on the fence next to the farrier. Rolf didn’t turn to look at him.
“Hi,” Neil said. “Was just checking on Tucker. Karen said you thought I’d done a good job. Thanks.”
Rolf nodded, still not looking at Neil. “Ja, you did.”
“Well, thanks ... again,” Neil said awkwardly.
A few moments passed with only the sounds of horses shuffling around the paddock and munching hay breaking the silence.
Finally, Neil felt he needed to say something. “Pretty sunset. My favorite time of day.”
Deciding it was now or never, Neil said, “Say, look, I’ve been wanting to ask you ...” Neil paused. He could feel Rolf tense. “Wanting to ask you if there’s something about me that bothers you?”
Rolf closed his eyes and said in a low voice, “It is none of your business.”
Neil chuckled in spite of himself. “Well, I think it is kinda my business since I’m the one you seem to be having the problem with. I’d like to fix it if I can.”
“You can’t, and I thank you to not talk to me about it again,” Rolf said, looking at Neil for the first time. His eyes were narrowed. It was more hurt than anger that Neil saw in them.
“I’m sorry, I just ...” Neil started to say.
“Good evening,” Rolf said. He turned and, with deliberate strides, walked off.
Neil watched him go, now more puzzled than ever. What was it about him that caused Rolf such consternation?