Dumped by his closeted lover only to fall for a man who's already taken, Spencer Hawkins finishes up his fellowship to discover he doesn't have a job. For anyone on the outside looking in, it seemed Spencer was failing miserably at life in general, until one phone call changes everything. The prospect of pulling up stakes and relocating to a new city provides the one thing he needs most---Hope.
Hunter Harrison's partner has left, abandoning not only him but their adopted son whose heart defect has left them in limbo awaiting a heart transplant that may not come in time. It took meeting Spencer for Hunter and his son to find something new to hold onto---Hope.
Building a love that can last a lifetime will take strength and the one thing they found in each other---Hope.
The two walked along a street lined with very large oaks and stately homes that Hunter explained were mostly built in the nineteen-twenties and thirties. He said that many of the residents were either doctors at the Cleveland Clinic and University Hospitals, or were professors at nearby Case Western Reserve University.
"It's a really gorgeous neighborhood," Spencer said. "Very elegant and there's so much character here. It's almost hidden too. Unless you make that sharp turn off of Cedar you wouldn't even know it's here."
"Yes, the neighbors like it that way. It's one of the appeals of living here. Eathe and I are lucky to have found our little carriage house. The elderly couple that lives in the big Tudor next door rent it to me for a ridiculously low amount and I help them with a lot of handyman kinds of jobs. They've become like grandparents to Ethan and are a huge help in watching him sometimes when I can't be there."
"What do you do for a living?"
"I play with the Cleveland Orchestra. Cello. And work is at Severance Hall, which is literally a stone's throw away down the hill in University Circle. I can be home in two minutes if Ethan needs me."
"You must be a really good cellist. I don't know a lot about classical music but in the process of moving here, I read that it's one of the top orchestras in the world. How do you manage work with taking care of Ethan?"
"It's not easy. He's not doing so well these days, which is why I didn't want to answer your question about him in front of Rogie. Rogan and Lucas know about his status but I didn't know if they had told Rogie yet."
"Is it that bad?"
Hunter stopped and turned to Spencer. "He may not live to see Christmas this year."
"Oh, God-I'm so sorry. But he seems so happy and full of life."
Tears welled in Hunter's eyes. "He's always happy and upbeat, even when I know he feels terrible. He's the strongest person I have ever known. He never complains and spends more time cheering me up than the other way around."
"I knew he has serious heart problems but Rogan didn't tell me it was this dire. Is there any hope at all?"
"There's always hope. Ethan was born with a condition called severe aortic stenosis. It's complicated, but basically it's a heart valve defect that prevents healthy blood flow from his heart to his lungs and the rest of the body. That causes him to have trouble breathing which is why we have him on oxygen most of the time now."
"Is that why he's so small? I don't mean that in a critical way."
"I know that. He's eleven with the body of a six year-old. He just never was healthy enough to grow like a normal boy."
"Isn't there anything that can be done? Wouldn't he be a candidate for a transplant?"
"Yes-and that's where the hope lies. But there's a huge shortage of healthy hearts for children his size and a lot of kids unfortunately die before their doctors can find them one."
"I thought the Cleveland Clinic is the top heart hospital in the country. Don't they have some pull or influence to get him moved to the top of the list?"
"They can do that within their own protocol, but nationally, it doesn't work that way. But the Clinic has kept him alive a lot longer than the doctors at Vanderbilt predicted three years ago. That's one of the reasons the Make-A-Wish Foundation sent him to see you play in the Sugar Bowl. We lived in Nashville at the time but the Clinic is why I really wanted the job with the Cleveland Orchestra so he and I could live close-by."
"Jesus-poor little guy. It just seems so unfair to him-and you. You're carrying such a heavy load all by yourself. Where is his mother?"
"His mother abandoned him right after he was born. She likely was a drug user, which might explain his birth defect. But because of it, nobody wanted to adopt him. He was in the foster care system until the age of two when my partner and I found him."
"You have a partner?"
"Not any more. We broke up when Ethan was four. He barely remembers David now. I'm the legal adoptive parent."
"This is all such a sad story, Hunt. I know I keep saying I'm sorry, but I am. How do you cope with all this?"
"I don't think too much about it. I just operate on autopilot and do whatever he needs. There's no time to feel sorry for myself."
Spencer placed his hand on Hunter's shoulder and squeezed. "I think you're just as brave as Ethan. I don't think I could ever be that strong."
"You never know until you're faced with the situation. For me, Ethan is the source of my strength."
"But surely you need help. Do you have anyone in your life as a support system?"
"Oh, sure. Marge and Harvey next door are wonderful and they love Ethan almost as much as I do. I also pay nurses to stay with him when I work or have to travel with the orchestra. That's where most of my money goes. And I have friends like Rogan, Lucas, and Rogie who visit him, which he always looks forward to. And the people at the Clinic are terrific. They treat Ethan like he's one of the kings or celebrities who come there for their heart surgeries."
"I asked about you. Whose shoulder do you cry on? Because I know you must need that at times."
"I guess I don't really have that."
"Hunt, I know we just met but let me help you. You're only human. Surely you need someone you can talk to about you, and I'm a great listener."
"Are you serious and not just being nice?"
"I wouldn't offer if I didn't mean it."
Hunt stopped again and smiled at Spencer. "Then yes-I'd like that. And you're not bothered that I'm gay?"
"So am I, Hunt."
"Yes way. I mean, that has nothing to do with being friends-it just something we already have in common." Spencer looked down below his feet and reached to pick up a round brown nut. "It's a buckeye."
"Yes, there's a lot of them in Ohio."
"Where I'm from buckeyes are considered good luck. My great-grandfather carried one in his pocket for as long as I could remember and he lived to be in his nineties."
"Really. I didn't know that about buckeyes."
"Here." He handed it to Hunter. "A little good luck charm in your pocket sure can't hurt."
Hunter polished it on the flannel of his coat and placed it in his jeans pocket. "You know, I think meeting you today proves that maybe it's already working."