Wyatt Janson needed a change of scenery in the worst way, so he packed up his dog and moved to a small tourist town. When he spots a man in a vermilion beanie, he’s intrigued. Why would someone would wear such a hat in the middle of summer? Their paths keep crossing, and Wyatt soon learns that Truitt Rackley owns a dog grooming and training service. It’s the perfect opportunity for Wyatt to meet Tru.
What begins as friendship quickly blossoms into more. But Tru’s happy demeanor hides a sad past. The hat he wears is only one part of it. Tru needs Wyatt’s support as he deals with the fallout, and Wyatt is glad to be able to provide it. Now that he’s found Tru, he knows he’ll do whatever he must to keep him. Can two broken men find the happily ever after they’ve been searching for?
"This feels kind of like a date," I blurted, my thoughts rushing over each other and out of my mouth before I could think better of it.
Tru's smile slipped a fraction, and if I hadn't been looking right at him, I would have missed it. But he shrugged, and shook his head. The smile stayed, but it looked a little less bright to me. He reached up and tugged on his hat."
"Nah. Just two friends having lunch while their dogs play. No big deal." He laid out the food between us on the table, and sat down across from me. He wasn't meeting my gaze as he gestured to the food. "Which wrap do you want?"
I picked the turkey, he reached for the veggie, and I unclipped Aldo and told him to go play before I turned my attention back to Tru. His gaze was firmly fixed on the dogs, who immediately ran free. I wasn't worried about keeping my eye on them. Aldo wouldn't go too far from me, and since Fawkes seemed glued to his side, I was sure they'd be fine.
I felt like I should say something. The awkward silence between us was disquieting. We'd never had that, not even when we first met. Wanting to fix it, to get us back on an even keel, I searched my brain for something to say. I cracked the seal on one of the water bottles and took a long drink before I cleared my throat.
"It's just that I'm not in a dating place right now." It sounded lame even to me, though it was the truth.
"Fair enough." Tru took a deep breath, and then forced a smile that was almost as brilliant as his usual ones. "Let's talk about something else. You said you'd only been here for a few months. Why'd you move to Landry's Fall?"
I barely checked a groan, and then gave a small laugh. "Funny how that's wrapped up in the other thing."
Tru did groan. "Shit. I'm sorry."
"No, no. It's fine." I waved a dismissive hand, glanced over at the dogs, and then faced Tru again. "Let's just say, I was in need of a change of scenery. Badly. So since I can do my job from anywhere, I packed up the dog and moved."
Tru was quiet for a moment, taking a bite of his wrap, chewing and swallowing, before he spoke. "Okay then. Why Landry's Fall in particular?"
Now that I had no problem talking about. "My parents brought me here when I was a kid. A couple of summers in a row, this was our vacation destination. I loved it. So when I was ... I thought of this place, found a house, and moved."
The smile I got for that was real, and a warmth spread through my stomach when I saw it. I'd made him smile like that.
"Yeah, I love it too. Born and raised here, you know. After I finished school, I thought I'd have to work for Dr. Johnson if I wanted to move home again. But Rayna and Etta had just opened the clinic and it was a perfect fit."
"Why'd you leave the clinic?" I asked. "If it's not too personal."
He shook his head, and stared off into the middle distance for a moment. "It's not. I just…" He reached up to tug on his hat again. "I promised someone I'd follow my dreams. I loved working at the clinic and it was great. But working with dogs, training and taking care of them, that was where my passion lie. So I made it happen."
"That's great." I had to clear the emotion from my throat. Because obviously there was a much bigger story there. I wanted to ask, wanted to find out what put that moment of sadness in his eyes, but we weren't close enough yet. It felt like an invasion of privacy.