Bill Cascade knows what it’s like to have nothing, so it’s easy for him to recognize another human being on the brink. When Bill visits his favorite bar one night, he comes across Thorn Blackstone, a twenty-something hottie who has everyone eating out of his hand. A fight breaks out and Bill comes to the rescue. Thorn, however, doesn’t want Bill’s help and pushes him away, at first.
When Thorn finally shows up on Bill’s doorstep, he’s dirty, hostile, and starving. Bill ignores all of that and gives Thorn a chance to start over. Trouble is, Bill wants Thorn for his own, but thinks he isn’t good enough for someone with such a bright future ahead of him. Naturally, Thorn thinks that’s hogwash.
What’s a guy to do when the love of his life won’t take no for an answer? Hold on and never let go.
“We’re really going to live here?” he kept asking as we walked around the house, a two-bed, two-bath one-story that was sturdy and well-cared for.
“Yes, we are. Now come on, I’m hungry. What should we make, do you think?” I led the way to the kitchen and looked in the refrigerator.
Thorn, once he’d begun receiving paychecks, had insisted on going halves in everything. I wasn’t complaining. He’d even bought himself a bicycle, though he walked more often than he rode. The man was even contemplating a cellphone.
All he’d needed was the chance to make something of himself. He’d been caught in a vicious cycle, and now here he was, blossoming into the typical twenty-something male, but with a world of experience to temper him.
“Didn’t we buy that rotisserie chicken today?” he asked. “How about that? I’ll make a salad and you can stick some potatoes in the oven.”
I listened to Thorn as he hummed his way around the kitchen, something I enjoyed. “Are you happy?” I asked.
He looked at me in surprise. “What kind of stupid question is that?”
“It’s valid. You’ve been through a lot, and I want to know if you’re in a good place right now, or if you need to see someone, maybe get some therapy? I can find out…”
I shut up, mainly because Thorn had placed a finger over my mouth. “Stop it. You’ve done enough already. I’m fine, okay? I mean, I have scary dreams sometimes, but I’m good and I’m slowly making friends, mainly because of you.” I frowned, and he added, “and because of me, too.”
He removed his finger and I said, “Good.” We finished preparing dinner, and then decided to eat on the deck at the table that was out there, facing the ocean. It was a warm, breezy evening, and it was soothing.
We ate in companionable silence, commenting briefly, every once in a while, when we saw something of interest on the beach. Later, as we ate Reese’s cups for dessert, I looked at Thorn.
“You know you can bring friends over to the house, if you like.”
“Okay ...” He drew the word out, looking at me suspiciously.
“I just want you to be comfortable here, is all.”
He frowned. “I see.” I hoped he didn’t, not really.
I ploughed on. “And don’t feel that you have stay here with me in this house forever, either.” Thorn scowled and I hastened on, “What I mean is, once you have some money saved, you might decide it’s time to move out or travel to a different town. Or you might meet some guy, and I don’t want you to feel like you owe me anything, because you don’t.” There. I’d said it.
“Are you fucking throwing me out already?” There was that temper which, strangely enough, I’d missed.
“That’s not what I meant, and you know it. I’m saying there are no strings attached, no expectations. You do what you need to, and I will be happy for you.”
Thorn glared at me. “So, if I find someone I like and want to fuck, I can bring him back here, right? That will be okay with you, too?”
I swallowed and did my best to keep my expression from changing. “If that’s what you want. You pay rent here, too. We’re equal partners.”
I didn’t expect the despair that came over his face a second later. “I think I’ll go to bed now. I don’t have to work until tomorrow night. Been a long day.”
“Thorn ...” I began, but he kept on walking.