Eighteen-year-old Gage Harris is not a part of twenty-five year old Trent Foster’s plans. He likes Gage but the intense attraction between them makes remaining just friends unlikely, and the young farmer with two small children is a complication Trent doesn’t need.
Despite all the reasons to stay away, Trent is pulled into the small family. Gage’s boys are delightful and the young man’s honesty and genuine affection impossible to resist. Trent is intrigued by a life so different from everything he’s known. As he struggles to reconcile his plans with his feelings Trent begins to suspect that his random offer of a ride in the rain might lead straight to his last first kiss.
Beautiful. It's the best word I can use to describe this book. I know I am biased, and don't feel you should buy this book on my recommendation, but I am an unashamed Diane Adams fan, and I adore her writing. Go to Amazon and Goodreads and read the other amazing reviews that this book has been getting.
Trent and Gage are soul mates, you can feel it from the first time they meet, and through trials and interruptions their romance is one that grows over time. There is no insta-love, and every word has meaning. The children are written realistically which I loved.
I’m probably the last guy anyone would think of as a blogger, but I use Gmail, and they keep switching things up in there. One day I was poking around and clicked a link. The next thing I know I have a blog. I’m not so sure it’s a good idea. Isn’t blogging like keeping a journal and then leaving it in the street for everyone to read?
I know people get stupid when they write online. Like they think they can say anything and no one will figure out who they are. That’s just dumb. There’s always some nut with nothing better to do than dig out the lie—or sometimes even worse—the truth. Not that it matters to me, once I get started it’ll be all out there. That’s the part I’m not so sure is a good idea.
Words are a lot easier to toss out there than they are to take back and can be more powerful you think. It’s crazy how just a few of them can change everything. I hate you. I want you. I love you. Or the ones that shape my world.
I am gay.
* * * * *
The smoky, badly lit bathroom reeked of urine, sweat, and sex and the sight of a familiar hand wrapped around the edge of a sink momentarily filled Trent Foster’s vision. Clearly defined veins evidence of the strength in the grip, a wide silver band clicked against the dirty porcelain. Trent didn’t know why he noticed the hand first, but sick realization swept through him before he saw the man on his knees. A stranger with his full-lipped mouth wrapped tightly around a cock attached to Trent’s boyfriend, Dennis Walkman. He didn’t see Trent. No reason he would, with his head thrown back, eyes shut tight, muscles corded as he spilled into the mouth of the kneeling man.
The soft keening escaped Dennis, a sound almost too low to hear in the busy bustle and hum of the bathroom. He’d made the same noise when Trent sucked him off before they left home for a night on the town. A quiet whine Dennis always made when he came, and one Trent thought of as his. Something broke inside, leaving him too numb to discern if it had been his trust or his heart.
“The middle of the restroom, really, Dennis? You couldn’t do this in a stall? Or the alley?” Trent’s heart pounded against his ribs, and his breath came in rapid pants as he struggled to keep his temper. Dennis’s eyes fluttered open, and his hand moved from holding the sink in a death grip to run a gentle caress through the brown hair of the man licking him clean. Trent’s fury ratcheted a notch tighter.
“Stalls were taken. Chill, Trent, no one cares.” Dennis gave Trent the same soft, lazy post-orgasmic smile he always did after sex.
“Wrong.” Trent whirled to leave, fists clenched at his side. He’d been learning to deal with his temper his entire life. He wouldn’t let a jackass cheating boyfriend break the tight control he had practiced so hard to maintain.
“Aw, come on, Trent, don’t be like that.”
Trent heard Dennis stumble after him, and when he glanced back to see him still tucking in as he followed, Trent’s temper threatened to slip out of control. He took a deep calming breath and then another as he strode through the heavy door, leaving it to swing closed behind him. A sense of cheap satisfaction thrummed through him when it nearly slammed shut on Dennis. Trent made his way through the crowd to the front of the club and out the exit door, Dennis dogging his heels. The night air felt cooler than the closely packed club, but not by much. Spring in North Carolina could be as humid as a summer day. Sometimes a brief evening thunderstorm would ease the humidity, but despite the flashes of lightning and distant rumble of thunder, there’d been no such relief that night.
“Trent, dammit, wait up.”
Despite his better judgment, Trent slowed and faced Dennis. “What the hell?”
Dennis looked puzzled, his young, pretty face scrunched together as he thought. “What’s wrong?”
Trent reminded himself to breathe and looked at Dennis. He knew the neatly trimmed dark brown hair felt like fine silk. The impish hazel eyes and ready smile in combination with a finely toned body were all part of the attraction. The younger man, in his second year at the local community college, might not be the brightest crayon in the box, but Trent had never considered him stupid. “What do you think is wrong?”
Dennis looked baffled. “You mean that?” He waved one hand vaguely in the direction of the club. “It was nothing.”
“Nothing had his mouth full of your cock.” Trent’s voice sounded stiff even to himself. He knew talking to Dennis without taking time to cool off was a mistake, but he couldn’t make himself walk away.
Dennis laughed. “Yeah, like I said. That’s nothing. Just club sex.”
Trent tried not to look as dull-witted as he felt. “Club sex.”
“Sure.” Dennis took a step closer, crossing into Trent’s space. “I’m with you. We’re a couple, but club sex doesn’t count. You know that.”
Stepping back to keep his distance, Trent searched his memory for any reference to club sex and its impact on their relationship. He came up empty. “No. I didn’t.”
Dennis frowned. “Everyone knows.”
Pinching the bridge of his nose, Trent counted backwards from ten. “Enlighten me.”
“What happens in the club is just club stuff. Flirting, hand job, sucked off, whatever. I’m with you, Trent. I’d never cheat on you.”
An ugly knot of suspicion took up residence in Trent’s chest. “You’re telling me this has been going on the whole time we’ve been together.” He thought he sounded calm, but Dennis backed away. Trent realized he was advancing on the younger man and made his feet stop moving.
“Not like—out there.”
Trent assumed the wave of Dennis’s hand indicated anywhere that wasn’t the club and waited in tense silence for him to continue.
“Dude, men aren’t made to be monogamous, especially gay men. The club gives us some variety, helps us appreciate each other. Damn, Trent, you act like you never…”
Head cocked, Trent watched as understanding lit Dennis’s eyes.
“Really? You seriously haven’t…with anyone?” Dennis’s voice verged on incredulous. It appeared that knowing something didn’t equate with understanding it.
“We’re supposed to be a couple. We live together. Those things imply a certain level of commitment to a relationship.” Trent’s temper had backed off to a slow simmer, and with the danger of imminent explosion reduced, he felt able to relax slightly. The age gap between them suddenly seemed like lot more than five years.
“We are a couple. Seriously, babe, all the guys know club stuff doesn’t count. It’s just messing around and doesn’t mean anything.” Dennis shrugged, looking uncomfortable under Trent’s scrutiny. “What happens with them isn’t the same as being with you.”
“Funny, since it looked and sounded exactly the same.” The last of Trent’s rage leeched away, leaving him feeling disappointed, hurt, and exhausted. “We’ve only been together a few months. You couldn’t be faithful for those few weeks?”
“I’ve been faithful. I told you, it doesn’t mean anything.” Dennis was beginning to sound exasperated, and Trent considered his next words carefully.
“Okay, how about this. You say club sex doesn’t mean anything, but now you know it upsets me even if you don’t understand why. So you’ll stop, right? Commit yourself to our relationship.” Trent knew better, could read the answer in every line of Dennis’s body.
“I am committed. I told you I love you.” His distress obvious, Dennis reached an imploring hand toward Trent. He kept out of reach and waited, giving Dennis time to reconsider, but he remained silent, and after a drawn-out moment, his hand dropped back to his side.
With a tired sigh of resignation, Trent broke the stalemate between them. “I know what you’ve said, Dennis. I’m as new to this whole relationship thing as you are. So maybe I’m wrong, but I think if love is real it should mean more than something you whisper in the dark after sex. I damn sure deserve more respect than finding my partner getting his cock sucked by a stranger in public.” His temper on the rise again, Trent backed off a little. There was no way he could let Dennis return to the apartment with him. “You should stay at your dorm room tonight. Come by the apartment tomorrow afternoon. I’ll have your stuff packed.”
He didn’t have the energy to keep discussing the situation and buried his hands in his pockets, head bowed, as he turned to go. Dennis grabbed his arm, and Trent stiffened under the touch but allowed him to pull him around.
“That’s not fair.” Dennis looked confused and unhappy.
Shrugging off his hand, Trent caught sight of something over Dennis’s shoulder. The pretty brown-haired boy from the bathroom lurked in front of the club, his attention fixed on them. His stance telegraphed his concern. Trent’s hand balled into a fist, and he barely regained control of the sudden surge of anger before it escaped. He met Dennis’s eyes.
“Yeah.” Dennis looked hopeful as if he thought Trent might finally catch on.
Relief flooding his face, Dennis flashed his perfect grin. “Yes, exactly.”
“Always someone different? No names? Anonymous sex?”
Smile fading, Dennis began to look wary. He didn’t answer. Trent didn’t expect him to.
“Yeah. Well. ‘Nothing’ waiting for you back there seems pretty damn worried. Like I said, I’ll pack your stuff, and you can get it tomorrow.” Trent turned and walked away without looking back, and Dennis let him go.
* * * * *
“Fuck.” Trent closed the door to his apartment with a firm click. One hand still wrapped around the cool metal of the doorknob, he rested his forehead against the hard wood. He took several long, deep breaths before he turned to brace his back against the door, sliding down it to sit on the floor. Burying his face in arms propped on his knees, Trent attempted to block out the world.
“Fuck. Hell. Damn. Shit.”
He felt like an idiot sitting there cursing to himself in the dark, but the feeling didn’t force him to his feet. In fact he only burrowed deeper into the circle of his arms. Short dark hair tickled his bare arms. He kept it cut short, spiked with product. The black silk was so fine and straight if he let it get too long he looked like a prime example of emo, despite his lack of eyeliner and ear gauges. The clear porcelain of his skin didn’t help his situation any more than his fine-boned build. Twenty-five and he looked barely out of his teens. Getting people to take him seriously proved to be a constant problem and now he had to deal with his boyfriend’s—ex-boyfriend’s—insane philosophy of a committed relationship.
Trent lifted his head and let it fall back against the door with a hard thump. No tears, he felt numb apart from the anger simmering in his chest. He liked Dennis and the possibilities for more had lured him into a trap he’d avoided most of his life. After figuring out his sexuality as a teen, he’d indulged in encounters that never went deeper than what Dennis had labeled ‘club stuff’.
Trying to remember why he thought he needed more than casual companionship, Trent retrieved a Rubbermaid storage box from his guest room closet. Everything Dennis had at the apartment would fit inside it. He’d moved in a few weeks before, but dorm life didn’t encourage many possessions, and Dennis hadn’t brought everything. The fact he hadn’t given up his room at the college suddenly seemed a clear indication of his level of commitment to their relationship. Or lack thereof.
Trent realized he’d moved from casual companionship to a steady relationship with little more depth than his one-night stands. The incident at the club made it clear they weren’t on the same wavelength, but knowing Dennis wouldn’t be back left Trent feeling empty and alone. Restless. He paused in the midst of moving Dennis’s clothes from the drawers to the container.
“Ridiculous, I’m a grown man. I don’t need some kid to play house with. Things were fine the way they were.”
Jeans, shirts, underwear, toiletries, mp3 player, and a few books filled the tub. Trent closed it and laid Dennis’s laptop in its case on top. In those few minutes the apartment had been stripped of him as if he’d never lived there. Trent stared at the tiny stack of possessions and recalled with a stab of regret their encounter before they’d left for the club.
On his knees in front of Dennis. Sucking his cock. The cool feel of that thick silver ring when it brushed his cheek. Dennis’s hand in his hair. The way he pulled Trent back to his feet after. Mouth hot, seeking, eager, licking the taste of himself out of Trent’s mouth. Hands bracketing Trent’s face. And words breathed into their kiss. I love you.
Pain flared, but not as hot and sharp as Trent expected. Instead what he’d shared with Dennis seemed like a wavering reflection of something he longed for, something beyond his ability to define. The loss of hope hurt more than losing Dennis. Trent closed his eyes and looked away from the box and the memories. Real love should be better, more…it should fucking mean something. Angry with his inability to bring his feelings and needs into focus, Trent hit the wall hard with his fist.
“Fuck.” Nursing his bruised knuckles and tender heart, he headed for the kitchen. He had a bottle of Jack that would provide the perfect end for the night, and a hangover the next day would distract him from all the emotional crap.
“Maybe it’s an age thing. Fuckin’ college kids, I need a man.” He uncapped the bottle of Jack and held it up to the light, watching it flicker with amber lights before tilting it against his lips for a long drink. He wiped the back of his hand across his lips and dropped into a dining room chair. “A guy old enough to have a damn job at least. God, I’m an idiot.” He took another drink.
The next morning Trent cautiously squinted one eye open, and light stabbed straight into his brain. Not morning. The sun never shined in that particular window until later in the day. Much later, it had to be…sitting up and forcing his eyes open against the unreasonable glare and pounding pain, Trent fumbled for his clock. Three thirty. He rubbed his eyes. That couldn’t be right. He never slept much later than eight, no matter how much he drank. Vaguely he remembered drowning his emotions until the sun brightened the horizon through the windows in the front of his apartment.
All-night drinking binge. That could do it. One thing for sure, he regretted the decision to indulge. His head felt like it might split wide open, and his stomach churned every time he moved. He knew from experience he’d feel better if he threw up and got it over with, but he hated throwing up. Trent swallowed against the bile rising insistently in his throat. He needed water. Painkillers. Strong painkillers. A couple extra-strength Excedrin might do the trick, if he didn’t move too much.
Trent found his pills in the cabinet next to the stove, mixed in among the few spices he had for cooking. He downed a couple of them with a tall glass of cool water and stood looking out the window over the sink waiting for his stomach to decide what it would do. After a few minutes of watching the leaves hang listlessly from tree branches without so much as a breeze to stir them or a drop of rain in weeks to moisten them, Trent decided to risk moving. A spring heat wave wasn’t anything new to the small southern city he’d adopted as his home, but born and bred in Washington State, he wasn’t used to the heat or the lack of rain.
“Depressing, that’s what it is.” Moments like this made him wonder if his parents shouldn’t have had him committed when he announced he planned to flee across the country for his college education. Or, more accurately, when he made the decision to accept a job offer and stay there.
“Trent, you’re an idiot, just shut up.” Talking to himself, great. Shaking his head at his own foolishness, Trent pulled one of the stools from under the bar separating the living room from the kitchen. He sat on the edge of the seat, heels braced on the floor, lost in thought. Despite the questionable wisdom of being gay and deciding to build his life in one of the more conservative places in the country, Trent had enjoyed his time at the university in Chapel Hill. He liked his job as a healthcare administrator of a small family practice office in a rural town smack in the middle of nowhere. The two-provider practice was the perfect place for Trent to cut his administrative baby teeth.
That being said, he hated the heat and the humidity of the summers, and they always started early, cutting spring short. Early spring wasn’t bad. Fall, Trent’s personal favorite, heralded cooler weather. The winters were mild, but summer was one mean bitch. The air conditioning kicked on and Trent chuckled. A bitch he hid from as often as possible. He noticed the framed picture of him with Dennis, one normally on an end table beside the couch, lying on the bar down from where he sat. He reached for it with a frown. He realized why it was out of place when he saw the key next to it. Trent’s gaze went to where he’d stacked Dennis’s things. They were gone.
“Fuck.” Sighing, Trent closed his eyes as the details from the previous night flooded his memory. The breakup could have gone worse. They could have said hateful, hurtful things to one another. Instead Dennis slipped out of Trent’s life as easily as he’d come into it. His heart ached with the loss of the relationship, but the pain lacked the edge of betrayal and loss he’d suffered the previous night.
After a while Trent shrugged and set the picture and key aside. “Maybe next time.” The idea of being alone sucked, but with the exception of the last few months, he’d spent his entire adult life on his own. He’d deal. Trent stood up and stretched the kinks out of his joints. His headache and the accompanying nausea had faded enough he felt like taking a shower. Afterward, maybe he’d grab something to eat at a place he liked down the street. He’d take his Kindle and start the new book he had downloaded a few days earlier. As for love, Trent felt sure he’d be better off without that particular complication in his life.
It’s a good thing walking to work gives me so much time to think, because I have a lot of crap to keep track of. I don’t have time for daydreams about college or what I want to do when I grow up like other guys my age. I am grown-up, and just making it from day to day takes every bit of my attention.
I’d like to believe I have some sort of control over my life, but I know better. Seriously, it’s hard to accept that I’m in charge when a random choice by some dude I don’t even know can change everything.
Trent lived in Pineville, a small city a forty-minute drive from McNair, the town where he worked. Most days he enjoyed the ride. It gave him time to think about the day ahead on the way and to unwind going home. A couple weeks after the breakup, Trent sat at a stoplight on the way out of Pineville waiting to make his left turn onto the highway. Watching the light flow of traffic, he waited impatiently, thumbs tapping against the steering wheel in beat with the song blasting from the speakers of his black GT500. The sports car was his biggest splurge upon starting to work immediately after graduation. The approach of a huge truck pulled Trent from his thoughts about the perks of being gay and single with a great job. Sitting up straight, Trent focused his attention on the traffic signal and willed it to turn green. He went so far as to consider a left turn on red just to get ahead of the vehicle before resigning himself to his fate.
“Damn.” Trent’s head fell back against the headrest as the truck loaded with live poultry roared past, headed the same direction he had to drive. Chicken trucks were not something he’d enjoyed being introduced to. Being packed into those tightly stacked cages had to be hell on the chicken. They were headed for the processing plant in McNair and were not long for this world. That depressing knowledge paired with the smell and flying feathers added up to a worst-case scenario for driving conditions. Feathers weren’t the nastiest thing hitting his car when he got stuck behind one of the trucks, and occasionally, a chicken fell out.
The traitorous light changed to green as soon as the offensive vehicle was through the intersection. Annoyed, Trent took his left turn, keeping far enough below the speed limit he didn’t catch up with the truck. With any luck someone would go around him, but even though cars piled up behind him, no one was willing to take the risk of passing on a double yellow line.
“Geez, people, someone go around me.” Trent had used the trick of driving slow to create a buffer between him and the chickens a few times. Usually he could count on some idiot to ignore the no-passing zone and breeze around him to save three minutes. With enough cars between him and the chickens, it would be safe to speed up instead of lagging so far behind. “I don’t want to drive forty-five all the way to McNair,” Trent grumbled to himself, but a glance in his rearview mirror revealed a beat-up Chevy following too closely but looking unlikely to risk passing. Just as he was ready to give up, he crested the next hill and spied a right turn off the highway he’d never noticed. Trent wavered over the decision to turn, knowing that even with the GPS he might get lost on the back roads. It wouldn’t be the first time.
“Oh, what the hell, one of these damn roads has to go in the right direction.” He signaled and took the turn. He turned on his GPS and punched the button preset to his work address. Trent ignored the personable British gentleman who immediately urged him to make a U-turn. Once he’d driven far enough to convince the GPS of his insanity, the soothing voice informed him how many miles to proceed to his next turn. Settling back, Trent grinned. He accelerated to his customary fifty-nine and a half and set the cruise control. Thanks to an insane gas tax, even the back roads of North Carolina were in good condition, and the one he was on had been recently resurfaced. Instead of the boring, heavily traveled straight shot of the highway, the road curved through the countryside without another vehicle in sight.
Farms flashed by in fields of green, dark wood fences, and thick stands of trees. Cows, horses, and goats grazed contentedly. Flocks of chickens pecked around the edges of yards. Trent slowed to a crawl upon first sight of the uncaged birds, concerned they’d decide to check out the other side of the road, but none of them seemed curious about what lay over there.
Trent grinned at the fat brown birds fluffing their feathers. “You guys look a lot better than those other birds,” Trent assured them. Safely past he resumed speed and turned up his music, enjoying the lack of traffic on the country road. The Mustang handled well on the curves; all things considered, the back road beat the highway hands down. Glad he’d put the top down that morning, Trent took a deep breath of clean country air and dared edge the car a little faster. He’d gone about half the miles the GPS advised him lay ahead when an old blue truck appeared in a driveway to the right going fast enough to convince Trent the driver meant to pull out without pausing to look for traffic.
“Fuck!” Heart pounding, Trent braked and swerved into the other lane, but the truck came to an abrupt stop in a cloud of dust. As he drove past, Trent caught sight of a pretty young blonde behind the wheel, hair pulled into a ponytail; laughing, she waved a slim-fingered hand out the window. Heart slowing as he recovered from fear of collision, Trent waved back and laughed, shaking his head. He doubted he’d ever get used to the hurry-up-and-stop method of driving so popular in the area.
Returning his attention to the road ahead, Trent sat straighter and didn’t thumb the resume on the cruise control. He didn’t want to risk a collision by being careless on an unfamiliar road. Not long after his close call, Trent caught sight of a figure walking along the right-hand shoulder of the road. Overall-clad, the guy sported a straw hat with a brim wide enough to shade his ears and neck. He walked with the confident ground-eating stride so common among the farmers. Trent eased off the gas and edged the car closer to the divider line, though he didn’t think there was much danger the guy would dart out into the road. He lifted his hand in greeting as Trent drove past. Trent waved back without turning, but a glance in the rearview mirror gave him a jolt of surprise at the sight of the youthful face under the brim of the hat.
Slowing further, he glanced over his shoulder for a better look. The guy gave a jaunty wave and flashed a dimple-bracketed grin. Flustered by an unexpected surge of attraction, Trent jerked back around to watch where he was going. He barely resisted a crazy urge to turn around and try his luck at getting a name and number.
“He’s a farmer, for God’s sake, get a grip, Foster,” Trent admonished himself. “You’ve got more important things to think about than a pretty face.” He could easily spend a lot of time thinking about that face. He wondered what a guy who looked like that was doing walking the back roads of nowhere. Resigned to the fact he’d never know, Trent corralled his wayward thoughts to focus on the day ahead. After a year and a half he still hadn’t found a dependable person to work the front office. The amount of multitasking required eventually overwhelmed even the best-qualified applicants. Another one had quit the week before, and they were running short-handed, again. He hated covering the front and began to mentally review the latest batch of applications he’d received in an effort to decide who to interview.
Trent spent the morning checking in patients and making calls to set up interviews for the afternoon. He disliked doing interviews only slightly less than handling the front office, but on the upside, he’d identified a couple likely prospects and had scheduled second interviews for them to meet the doctors. He’d leave it up to the practice owners, Doctors Mitchell and Jackson, to decide who to hire. When quitting time finally rolled around, Trent left the building with a sigh of relief. He dropped his briefcase to the pavement at his feet and lifted his hands over his head in an effort to stretch the kinks out of his back. He liked his job, he really did, but sometimes it got on his nerves.
With the knots from sitting hunched over the computer most of the day loosened, Trent grabbed his briefcase and tossed it into the passenger seat. He paused before he climbed behind the wheel to frown up at the sky. Thunderheads rolled darkly overhead with the threat of impending storm. With a twinge of disappointment, he decided to keep the top up on the car and slid into the driver seat. He let the stress of the workday slide away as he looked forward to a hot shower, cold beer, and thick steak in equal measure.
Trent pulled into the light stream of traffic, and when the turn came up to go home the same way he’d driven to work, he took it without hesitation. The air conditioner chased away the humidity as it cooled the air inside the car, his music blasted at a decibel unsafe for his ears, and if he eyed the side of the road for a figure in overalls, he didn’t plan to admit doing so.
* * * * *
As time passed, Trent’s drive to work became a challenge of timing. Too early and he wouldn’t see the overall-clad guy at all, but just a little later and he’d pass the familiar figure. He always looked the same: faded, aged overalls over a long-sleeved white button-down shirt, hat on head, and swinging the plastic red and white cooler.
He never failed to acknowledge Trent with a grin and a wave. Every time he smiled, dimples carved deep grooves in his cheeks, and Trent wanted to pull over on the spot. Considering how young he looked and the fact that accosting teenagers on back roads would probably lead to being arrested, Trent kept driving after nothing more than quick flash of brake lights.
A couple weeks after the fiasco with Dennis, Trent was ready to get out of the house, but decided something different than his usual bar crawl was in order. After a few hours on Google he decided on a day trip to the Natural Science Museum in Raleigh. The website promised life-sized dinosaurs, and reproductions or not, Trent loved dinosaurs.
Lost in thought about which of the restaurants he wanted to try after the museum, Trent didn’t notice the clouds building up until the threat of a storm darkened the sky. Disgruntled the weather dared interfere with his pleasant morning drive, Trent slowed to a crawl in order to raise the top and, once safe from impending rain, increased his speed in time to play chicken with the blue truck for the third time in a week. The truck won, and he waited while the blonde turned left across the highway. He noticed for the first time the kids strapped in their car seats beside her on the bench seat of the truck. A little one and one about four or five, he guessed. He wondered briefly if the kids’ parents knew how she drove with them in the car. Some people didn’t have a lot of sense.
Trent noticed the flash of blue overalls ahead and forgot about crazy-driving girls. The first fat drop of rain hit his windshield, and by the time he drove up beside the young man, rain spattered steadily and lightning flashed in the distance. Trent leaned over his steering wheel to get a look at the sky. It promised nothing good, and the thick dark clouds stretched as far as he could see in every direction. He slowed to a stop ahead of the young man walking blithely along as if the sun still shone.
Trent rolled the passenger window down as the guy slowed to a stop beside the car, dimpled grin in place.
“Everything okay?” he asked, seemingly unaware of the rain dripping from the brim of his hat.
“Everything’s fine. You want a ride?” Trent offered.
Startling blue eyes moved over the car and took in Trent before looking down at himself. Trent’s gaze followed the boy’s. His old overalls were worn to what looked like a buttery softness and faded nearly white in places but were clean and well mended. He looked back up at Trent, and amusement shone in those incredible eyes.
“You sure?” Rain fell harder, the guy was pretty damp.
Trent didn’t know how far the kid walked to work, but after seeing him along the road so often Trent knew he had at least a few more miles ahead. Without batting an eye toward his leather seat, Trent nodded. “Yeah, sure.” He clicked the automatic door lock. “Get in.” The wet farmer climbed into Trent’s pride and joy without further argument. He pulled the door closed behind him just as the rain began to fall so hard Trent could hardly make out the field beside them. Facing Trent, the newcomer laughed with obvious relief to be safe and dry.
“Wow, thanks, man.” He put the cooler between his feet and set his hat on his knee. “I’ve walked in the rain before and haven’t melted yet, but it sucks.” He held out a callused hand toward Trent. “I’m Gage.”
Trent looked blankly at the hand between them without noticing. His brain had stalled somewhere back when the guy, Gage, had taken off his hat. Wavy golden-brown hair hugged his head, cropped short in a style Trent thought looked like an effort to control the curl. A closely trimmed beard and moustache framed a finely formed mouth and did nothing to hide the dimples when they came. Huge shoulders strained the stitching of his white shirt, and thick thighs, disguised by the loose fit of his overalls, became evident once he was seated. Trent’s mouth went dry and he struggled to pull his thoughts back together.
A gleam of amusement shone Gage’s eyes, and Trent suspected he might be danger of finding himself on the wrong end of a joke. Clearing his throat, he clasped Gage’s hand in his own and did his best to ignore the spark that jumped between them at the contact.
“Trent, Trent Foster,” he introduced himself without releasing Gage’s hand. The unexpected mental image of those hands all over him threatened to break Trent out in a sweat.
Gage cocked his head. His slight smile made his dimples play hide and seek in his cheeks. “You aren’t from around here.”
“Originally Washington State, but I’ve been here for a while.”
Releasing Trent’s hand, Gage glanced out the windows still covered with sheets of rain. “What brought you here?” he asked. Laughter colored his words and the sound sent a shiver of pleasure down Trent’s spine. “McNair is not exactly the sort of metropolis that draws people from the far-flung corners of the world.”
“Washington is hardly a far-flung corner of the world,” Trent replied, his tone dry. It wasn’t the first time someone reacted as if he’d said he was from Mars when he mentioned Washington. “I went to school at UNC. Graduated last year.”
“Seriously?” Gage eyed him as if expecting a trick and Trent sighed. His looks never failed to sabotage him.
“Seriously, I have a Masters in health care administration.”
“I guess I won’t have to report you for stealing your daddy’s car, then.” Gage gave him a cheeky grin, his dimple denting only one cheek, and once more Trent found himself in danger of staring.
“Hardly, I’m twenty-five, and speaking of ages, shouldn’t you be in school?” Trent shot back, sure he had the guy’s age pegged right despite the facial hair.
“I work.” Gage’s tone inferred the ‘duh’ he left off, but Trent’s stomach dropped. High school kid, stupid life definitely had a grudge against him. “Besides I’m eighteen.”
“Wow, eighteen.” Trent didn’t feel much better. His attraction for younger guys was a weakness he had to stop indulging. Once he started dating again, he needed a man on the age scale somewhere above his own spot at still-pretty-damn-young.
Date, seriously? The guy is barely out of high school, if he’s even gay. Trent didn’t think he was wrong, and not only due to the way Gage set his gaydar pinging. Gage looked at Trent like he wondered what lay under his conservative dark slacks and light blue polo shirt.
“So, out of high school, then? Where are you going to college?” Trent asked instead of finding out what would happen if he leaned in for a kiss. Kiss? What the hell?? Trent pushed insane thoughts of kissing out of his head, or tried to. That mobile mouth surrounded by soft whiskers made it difficult.
“No more school for me. I work for my uncle on his farm; it’s about three miles up the road. It’s a good job and I like it.” Gage sounded defensive. Trent thought he understood why. He could imagine the arguments the kid must have been through if he did want to be a farmer. Most parents were focused on seeing their kids graduated high school and headed off to college, regardless of how their child felt about the situation.
“I don’t know much about farming. Does your uncle have a big place?”
As if realizing there would be no lecture about the importance of education, Gage relaxed. “Yeah, he’s got commercial contracts for his crops and sells some organically raised beef. I’ve learned a lot about running a place from him. Maybe I’ll have my own farm one day, but working for him is cool for now.”
“Guess we’d all be pretty screwed if no one wanted to be a farmer,” Trent chuckled.
Looking surprised, Gage laughed. “Not many people see it that way.”
“If we run out of farmers, they’ll wise up, don’t you think?”
Looking completely at ease, Gage snorted. “A little late then. Plants don’t grow overnight.”
“For me they don’t grow at all.” Trent grinned. The rain eased, he turned on the windshield wipers and pulled out onto the road. “Where are we going?”
“Up the road a piece to the big driveway on the left with the pillars.” Gage motioned at the huge field behind the fence beside the road. “This is all part of my uncle’s place. I planted that hay.”
“Not by hand, I suppose.” Trent glanced at the field. The day before the green sweep of hay waving in the slight breeze made him think of a green ocean. Today it looked wet and sad. Trent didn’t know a thing about growing anything, not so much as a flower or a tomato.
Gage rolled his eyes at Trent. “I used a tractor, pretty damn big one.”
Trent couldn’t begin to imagine the kind of machine used to plant the field, but thankfully the columns marking the driveway came into view up ahead and saved him from needing to reply. He slowed the car, preparing to turn in. The rain slowed to a sprinkle, and Trent glanced warily to where the sun threatened to break through the clouds.
Gage noticed Trent’s frown at the sky and shook his head, looking rueful. “Nothing like a morning rain to wet everything down, probably hit 900% humidity today.”
“I’m not sure I’ll live through it.” Trent cringed. Gage’s exaggeration was too close to the truth to be funny.
He laughed at him. “Whatever, office boy, I’ll be working in it all day.”
Trent shuddered. He couldn’t imagine anything more torturous. His noticed Gage’s clothes. The long-sleeved shirts had puzzled him for days. “Isn’t that shirt hot?”
“You’d be surprised the things that cool a person down in the sun; besides, I freckle.”
For the first time Trent noticed the scattered freckles across Gage’s nose, and of course his ever-ready imagination supplied a mental image of them sprinkled across Gage’s bare shoulders. Determinedly not thinking about connecting those imaginary freckles with a line traced by the tip of his tongue, Trent stopped in front of a large two-story farmhouse. Painted blue with white shutters and door, it looked homey and inviting. Distraction called for, Trent focused on it instead of freckled Gage. “Nice place.”
“It’s great. I stayed here every summer since I turned five. Uncle Nate and Aunt Sara are like parents to me. Well, I better get to work. I’m late. Guess I’ll see ya, thanks for the shelter in the storm.” Gage opened the car door, winking at Trent as he slapped his hat back on and climbed out.
“Wait,” Trent called before Gage closed the door behind him. Gage leaned to look in the car. Those bright eyes seemed to see more than Trent cared for him to. “Want to do something this weekend? I’m going to the Natural Science Museum in Raleigh tomorrow.”
For a heartbeat Trent thought Gage would say yes, but his expression shifted from accepting to regretful.
“Sorry, I work my own place on the weekend. Maybe I’ll see you on the road.” The door closed and Gage moved away, striding toward the steps where a pleasantly plump woman stood waiting with a warm smile of welcome.
Museum. “Can’t believe he didn’t jump on that offer.” Trent drove slowly up the gravel driveway, careful not to throw any of the rocks up onto his car. It seemed outside the town limits everyone had dirt or gravel drives, in town as well, come to think of it. He wondered if they had a shortage of asphalt or something. Back on the road, he distracted himself from thoughts of Gage by singing with Adam Lambert at the top of his lungs.
No more young guys. Even if Gage was the hottest person Trent had ever met. He made overalls sexy, something requiring a serious amount of sex appeal. Sandy short-cropped hair, blue eyes, freckles, Trent stopped cataloguing Gage’s attributes with a laugh. The situation had a simple solution. Trent could go back to driving on the highway to work instead of cutting through the country, and he’d never see Gage again.
* * * * *
Monday morning the sun shone hot on Trent’s dark hair as he slowed to a stop beside the overall-clad form walking beside the road swinging a red cooler. Trent lifted his sunglasses to sit on top of his head. “Want a ride?”
Gage’s smile dimmed the sun. “Trent, hey. Sure thing.” He opened the passenger-side door and slid into the seat with easy familiarity. Trent wondered how he could be so comfortable after one meeting, but Gage seemed completely at ease. He put his cooler between his feet and set his hat on top of it. He buckled up as Trent pulled onto the road.
“Where do you work, anyhow?” Gage asked. “You have a fancy-sounding degree, fancy car, and you look like a city boy, no offense, but why are you here? This is a long way from Chapel Hill or Raleigh, much less Washington.”
“I administer the new doctor’s office in town, the one down by the fitness center.”
“Oh yeah, I heard good things about the new docs. Still, it seems like you could have found a job somewhere more exciting.” Gage leaned back against the headrest, appearing to enjoy the flow of the early morning air on his face. Trent made himself look away from the strong line of Gage’s neck and pay attention to driving.
“More exciting maybe, but it’s not easy for anyone just out of college to start off higher than an entry-level position. The docs are on a budget, and I can afford to work for less to get the experience. I figured I’d work there a couple years and move on.”
“I hear a ‘but’ in there.” Gage’s tone teased, and Trent lifted his shoulder in a half shrug.
“I like it there, which I didn’t expect. It’s a good place to work, and I’m not sure how often that happens in a career. We’ll see how it goes.”
Trent hesitated but after brief consideration, despite his recent fail at romance and the slight tension always present being gay in the South, Gage was right. “You know, I am. I can’t work up any interest in planning to leave. But if I stay, everyone I know will think I’m crazy.”
“How do you know? You don’t know anyone I know.” Trent slowed for the turn into the driveway. Gage opened one eye to look at him.
“But you know me and I don’t think you’re crazy.”
Amused at Gage’s blunt opinion, Trent met his eyes. “You don’t?”
“Nope.” Breaking eye contact, Gage gathered his things.
“I could make three times as much money somewhere else,” Trent stated as Gage opened the car door.
“Sound’s nice, but money and happy are not the same thing.” He got out, then closed the door behind him but apparently still heard Trent’s hesitant reply.
“I guess not…”
Gage looked back, his eyes intense when they met Trent’s. “Happy trumps money.”
“That’s the sort of thing people with plenty of money like to say,” Trent commented and was rewarded by Gage’s laugh.
“Well, now you’ve heard it from a guy without a dime to his name. See ya, Trent.”
Lost in thought about Gage, the remaining drive to work passed quickly for Trent. The more he talked to the young man, the more intrigued he became. Happy trumps money, interesting advice from a boy who walked to work carrying his lunch every morning. Trent wondered how an eighteen-year-old ended up on his own without even a car to get to work.
I wonder if he means it. It was true enough that money and happy weren’t the same thing, but money made life easier. There were plenty of people who equated an easy life with happiness, but Trent felt certain, without needing to ask, that Gage had never been one of those people.