Dane Westerfield left Vermont a decade ago without a desire to return. California was home now. Or rather, his partner of six years, made it home. But when the unexpected death of his lover leads to the revelation of long kept secrets, Dane returns to the Vermont town he grew up in to help deal with his grief.
On the way to his sister’s home, he runs into Theo Mason, his first love. Theo had been one of the reasons Dane had been eager to leave Vermont and Dane’s not eager to see him again. Yet the rugged police officer makes it clear he wants another chance. Theo’s patience and understanding catch Dane off guard, and Dane finds himself wanting to give into Theo and his familiar heat. But Dane can’t shake the feeling that it’s too soon to try one more time.
There was a chill in the air, which was fairly typical for March in Vermont, but at least there didn’t appear to be any snow, and the sun was out. About halfway to Northfield, Hank pulled into a parking lot of a restaurant I didn’t remember from my last time there. Of course I hadn’t been back to Vermont since I left at sixteen. I was sure a lot had changed.
It was one of those family-type restaurants where you could get anything from pancakes to pizza.
“This seems nice,” I said as I followed them inside and up to the hostess.
“It’s my favorite place, Uncle Dane,” Alex told me.
I smiled. “Then I am sure I’ll love it.”
As the hostess led us around a corner and to a table, I saw him. I froze, simply staring at him sitting in a booth across from some woman with long red hair. I could only see the back of her head. He was older, of course. So was I. But I would have known that dark hair, those piercing dark eyes, that strong jaw, anywhere. My gut clenched.
“Dane?” Emily called after me with a frown. They’d arrived at our table, and I was still standing in the middle of the restaurant staring at Theo Mason.
Then just like that, Theo noticed me and took his attention off the face of his dinner companion to stare right back at me. I saw tension on his face the instant he recognized me.
It just had to figure that I hadn’t been in Vermont even an hour, and staring me in the face was one of the main reasons I left in the first place. I shouldn’t have come back. What the hell had I been thinking?
“Dane!” Emily said louder. She began walking back toward me, and I realized I needed to stop causing a scene in the middle of a damn restaurant.
Besides, did I really want him to know ten years later he still had the power to hurt me?
I plastered on a smile and met my sister halfway to the table.
“What’s the matter with you?” she asked in a loud whisper.
“Nothing. Just saw someone I recognized. No big deal.”
“Theo? Oh, I didn’t know you knew him that well.”
I resisted the urge to snort. “Yeah, well. Let’s just have our dinner.”
I sat between the twins and chose chicken fingers and onion rings for dinner, though I knew Donald would never have approved of all that fried food. But eating healthy hadn’t saved him. And just like that the loss of Donald weighed heavily on me to the point that I could barely follow the chatter from Emily and her family.
“Uncle Dane,” Annie said in a tone that told me she’d been trying to get my attention for some time.
“What is it, sweetheart?”
“Hi, folks.” A deep male voice spoke from the opposite end of the table from where I sat.
Minus his lady friend. Whoever she was. Could have been his wife for all I knew. I apparently had a knack for falling for bisexual guys with wives.
Emily, who was right next to where he’d stopped at our table, smiled. “Hello, Theo. I thought I saw you.”
Theo returned the smile and glanced down my way. “Just thought I’d stop by to say hello. That’s not your little brother, Dane, is it?”
Theo had gone to school with Emily, actually. They’d been in the same grade, three years ahead of me. I’d forgotten Emily wouldn’t really know about my very brief time with Theo. How Theo had been my first back when I turned sixteen and he’d been nineteen. It wasn’t like either one of us was going to talk about it. Definitely not me.
“Yes, that’s Dane. Isn’t he gorgeous?” This time she smiled in my direction, and it was such a sweet, sisterly smile I had to refrain from growling at her for her loaded question.
Theo’s gaze swept over me, lingering perhaps a bit longer than it should. “He’s really grown up.”