Deputy Mark Forrest and Nurse Francis Archer can’t deny the chemistry that arises between them. A chance meeting awakens the idea of something greater than either had ever imagined.
Mark craves being able to let go, and Francis loves to take him out of his head. But Mark’s past bears a truckload of personal demons that have kept him in the closet and made him lash out at the LGBTQ community in the town he’s come to regard as home.
Despite finding love and a new purpose in Acker, Francis’s new job might end up being temporary, and he doesn't want to lose the life he's settled into. Can the two of them build a future together despite a bitter past, and diverging paths?
Mark swallowed hard when the guy took his glass and prowled closer. The bar was empty near Mark, and so far, he’d projected enough of a vibe of not wanting to talk to anyone that people had stayed away. This one though .... Something in Mark’s chest trembled and his stomach clenched.
He watched as the stranger took his coat off and hung it on one of the hooks on the underside of the bar, next to Mark’s jacket.
He lifted his bottle to his lips, only to notice he’d emptied it. The guy gestured to the bartender, and in no time at all, she’d replaced his bottle with a new one.
“My treat,” the man said, grinning slightly. He pushed a tenner over the bar to the woman and told her to keep the change. “I’m Francis.”
Because politeness was ingrained in him, Mark willed his hand to not shake as he held it out. “Mark.”
Francis seemed surprised at his gesture, but he took Mark’s hand and gave him a squeeze. A manly handshake. There was something about the touch that made Mark a little bit jittery.
When Francis let go, the shake had lasted just a second too long and Mark could feel goosebumps on his arms. What the fuck?
“So, Mark, what brings you here?” Francis took a sip of his white wine and peered at Mark.
He’d sat on the barstool closest to Mark’s. Since they both were sitting sideways, Mark could feel the warmth of Francis’s knees almost touching his.
He shrugged, attempting casual and calm. “Thought I’d grab a beer or two.”
“That’s it?” Francis grinned again. “Well that’s a shame.”
“O-oh?” Mark hated how he couldn’t hide the stutter.
“Yeah, I’m traveling through and I couldn’t sleep, so I came in for a drink and maybe, if I’m lucky, some company.” Something calculating entered Francis’s expression.
Mark hummed noncommittally. That was why he was here, and obviously Francis was reading him like an open book. He hated the feeling, it was too reminiscent of the times he’d stared into the barrel of a gun while still a beat cop.
“What do you do?” Francis asked after a long moment of silence.
“Law enforcement,” Mark murmured. That was true and still vague enough. “You?”
“I’m a nurse, actually. At a maternity clinic.” Francis tensed, but he was still smiling. Loved his job, but had problems there? Maybe it was the queer thing, because Mark had no doubts about Francis’s sexuality.
“What’s that like?” he asked, sipping his beer slowly.
“It’s great, mostly. Heartbreaking sometimes. Difficult. But it’s fulfilling, too.”
“Is the maternity side where you’ve mostly worked at?”
“No, I was an ER nurse for almost twelve years, then I went to work with a GP for a few, and now I’ve been with the clinic for five.”
“From what I’ve seen at work, ER nurses work hard and see a lot of shit,” Mark mused.
Francis chuckled. “Oh yeah. It got to be too much. You see the best and the worst of humanity in that job, really. Must be a lot like your job.” Francis peered at him, again scoping him out.
“Yeah. Definitely. Never been shot at, though,” Mark said dryly. “Yet.”
“Here’s to not getting shot at all, eh?” Francis lifted his glass and Mark tilted his bottle in response.