Love is a fragile thing, and it can slip through your fingers if you don’t hold on tight….
When Zack Jung’s AA sponsor and friend commits suicide, he’s desperate to hold it together, and there’s only one place he can turn. He calls Josh and Kris, and they take him back to their ranch outside Santa Fe.
A cowboy to the bone, Cimarron Duran cherishes his orderly life and routine. He likes his neighbors, Kris and Josh, but he has less than no interest in the hipster personal trainer who comes to stay with them—or at least, he plans to fight his interest in favor of his solitary life and his art.
But some things are as inevitable as the weather, and when Zack and Cimarron finally come together, they find they don’t want to let go. It won’t be easy, though, for two men with pasts like theirs to forge a happy future together.
- 4 Read lists
- 2 To Be Read lists
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Heat Level: 4
Romantic Content: 5
Ending: Click here to reveal
Character Identities: Gay
Tropes: Hurt / Comfort
Word Count: 74,000
Setting: Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA
Languages Available: English
Series Type: Same Universe / Various Characters
Zack sat in the dark, glad he’d finally remembered to plug in his phone. It had been dead for two days while he searched for a charger.
His place was kind of a wreck.
He dialed a familiar number first, then hit the red button. No. That number was out of service. Okay. He’d meant to call Josh anyway.
Zack found the favorites and hit Josh’s name.READ MORE
It rang and rang, and he almost hung up, but then he heard a breathless “Hello? Zack? Man, hey!”
“Hey. Are you busy?” Was that his voice? It was raw, as if he hadn’t used it in weeks.
“Never. What’s wrong?”
“I—” He swallowed hard. The program emphasized communication. Asking for help. He was good at this shit. “I need help, Josh.”
He sat there, the pain in the center of his gut so big that tears prickled his eyes. Josh was a good man. A good friend. No questions. Just yes.
“I’m kinda stuck.”
“Stuck? Stuck how?”
He took a deep breath, noticing how shaky it was when he let it out. “Well. I’m at home. But I’m out of food. And laundry. Kinda everything.”
“Okay…. Do you need money? I can PayPal you or wire you some right now.”
“No. No, I’ve got some savings. I just…. I can’t leave.”
“I don’t understand.” A bottle opened, fizz sparking through the phone. “Start at the beginning, buddy. Start at the top.”
“I’m in crisis, Josh. Super-duper.” There. He’d said it. “If I go to the store, I’ll slip.”
“Okay. I can be there… it’s what? Noon? I’ll be there by the small hours, okay? I swear. Can you hold out that long?”
“I think so. I’m so sorry.” He lost his voice there for a moment, the tears so close to the surface.
“Don’t. Don’t. Talk to me.” A door opened, Josh barking out, “Kris! I need you!”
“I am…. I swear, I’m just sitting right here. I don’t know what else to do.”
“Good. You talk to me. We’re going to come. You’re going to love Kris’s new truck. It’s fancy. I love it.”
“Is it? I could maybe order pizza. I didn’t think of that. And a two liter.” Just talking to Josh was easing his panic.
“Oh, that’s cool. You can even do that online. Pizza rolls from Austin’s. Those are the best.”
“I can. I can do that. It, well, I’ll tell you all about it in person. Okay? I’m sorry, I didn’t have anyone else to call.”
“You don’t have to be sorry. Seriously. You know you’re my friend, man. More than that. We’re in this together.”
“I know. I know. But you’re not in Austin anymore, and I tried to go it alone. I did.” He was breathing hard now, panic pushing in.
“I’m next door to Texas, man. Right next door. You ordered them pizza rolls yet?”
“No.” He reached for his laptop, then opened it. “Right. Pizza rolls. Ranch. Two liter of Dr Pepper, right?”
“Yeah, meal of champions, man. You remember when we would have that and watch the world’s worst movies? DodgeBall? Repo Man?”
“The entire Scary Movie franchise. How’s your art?” He wanted to keep Josh talking so he didn’t have to.
“I’ve been painting like my ass is on fire. I’m taking a sabbatical right now.”
“Are you? So I’m not killing the artistic flow?”
“I am. Kris and I were talking about heading down that way, so now we have an excuse.”
“Oh, well, that’s good.” Zack hoped it wasn’t a lie, but he was selfish enough not to care too much.
“It’s not a lie. I miss your face. I need to see you.”
“I’m good with that. I am. I ordered pizza rolls.”
“Cool. I love you, man. I’m coming.”
“I know. Thank you. You always have my back.” Not like Ray. Not a bit like that bastard Ray.
“Forever. I swear to God. You know, we ought to go up to Taos; they have great pizza there.”
“I do love good pizza.” He was a personal trainer, but Zack believed in the eighty/twenty rule. Eighty percent of the time he ate baked chicken and steamed broccoli. The other twenty, he ate pizza and drank Coke.
“Me too. I went out with Cy the other day, and we ate Navajo tacos. You would have loved them.”
“Good salsa? We should get tacos while you’re here.”
“Mostly ground-up chile with water, but it’s okay. You know I love tacos.”
“I know. I love veggie nachos.”
“We’ll have both. Kris will want chimichangas.”
“With queso.” He felt so normal for a moment, so real.
“God yes. You, me, Kris, and… can we have guac too?”
“I hear the guac up there is good.”
“Delicious, but you know how I feel about Kerbey queso.”
“I do. God, now I really am hungry. I’m glad you made me order food.” His shoulders were relaxing inch by inch, but they were sore from being so tense.
“I know, right? Now you have food before we get there, and we’ll feed you when we show.” Josh’s care and friendship wrapped around him like a hug.
Hell, he might sleep if he ate and his stomach stopped growling. “Thank you, Josh. I mean it.”
“You’re welcome. Whatever it is, you’re not alone.”
“I know. I do. Now.” He took a deep breath, then another. “Can I call again? After I eat?”
“You can. I have the car charger. I’m coming, Zack. I’m on the way.”
“I’ll be here. Not going anywhere.” Possibly ever again.
“I love you, man. Wait for me. Call me whenever.”
“Okay.” He felt brave as fuck when he hung up, but he had to pee before the food came, and maybe find a clean plate. “Love you too.”
He had already headed to the bathroom before he realized Josh hadn’t heard him.
So Zack texted the words, just so Josh didn’t think he was doing anything drastic.
It was going to be okay, and if it wasn’t, friends were on the way.COLLAPSE