By: Diana DeRicci
Published: Jan. 30, 2013
ISBN # 978612920634
Word Count: 47349
What Readers are saying:
…sweet love story! The main characters are made for each other, and the secondary characters are fun!
Brice has a crush. Unfortunately it’s on a friend’s straight younger brother, Jake. Brice knows chances are between slim and none for anything more between them, but no one says he can’t fantasize about the hunky guy. When Jake’s teenage daughter, Rebecca, enlists Brice’s help for a final paper for school, Brice and Jake get the chance to really know one another, bonding over Brice’s garden into friendship.
Except their friendship gets tested and reshaped when Jake volunteers to come stay with Brice for a couple of days after he’s injured by a student. Jake has a history no one knows about. And Brice is the one man capable of reawakening dormant feelings in Jake.
Will Jake be able to embrace yearnings he hasn’t experienced in twenty years? Can Brice trust Jake’s changes to be real? It’s a challenge for the both of them, but no one said love would be easy.
Brice Reynolds leaned over a bent and braced knee on his chair as he gathered his teaching agenda and things to take home for the weekend. A stack of tests to grade, a thousand and one things to do. At least there were only six more weeks left. He stretched, scooping the last into a sort of acceptable pile in front of him.
The light clearing of a throat drew his attention to his open classroom doorway. He smiled seeing who it was. “Hi, Terra. How was your chemistry test?”
“A nightmare,” she groused. “But I know I passed.”
“That’s the important thing. Did you pass well?”
She crossed her eyes. “The jury is still out.”
He smiled for her. “What can I do for you?”
“Uncle Ian wanted me to see if you were still on for tomorrow.”
“Are you kidding? I’ll be there.” He let his foot drop to the floor. “Did he want me to bring anything?”
“Nope. I think Uncle Jake and Uncle Jessie have it covered. And you know when they come, there’s too much of everything.”
Brice smiled. Yeah, he was very familiar with the Drew family’s need to stuff everyone stupid at a barbecue. “Just have him call me if he needs anything last minute. I’ll be by around three otherwise.”
She nodded with a smile. “See you.” Clutching her backpack in her hand where it poised on her shoulder, she spun and vanished.
In the two years since moving to Jasper, he’d found the town very hospitable. He’d made several good friends, which helped life go by. One of them was Terra’s uncle, Ian. They’d met at Terra’s registration the fall of the previous school year. Quiet and hardworking, he owned one of the auto repair shops in town. He was also partnered with one of the local sheriffs, Caleb Drew. Well, now married. They’d done the deed over Christmas a year and a half ago. It had been a very enjoyable and intimate experience to share with them and he was thankful to call them friends.
His hands slowed closing his briefcase. Because of Ian, he’d had the chance to make new friends and meet Caleb’s family, who’d all taken him in as if he’d always been there. At home, in West Virginia, he’d suffered familial obligation to be included but there was no one who embraced diversity like Ian’s family did. He smirked then straightened, sliding the chair under his desk and checking that all the drawers were locked.
He couldn’t say his family had truly been understanding, but what did it matter? He didn’t live near them any longer. Jasper was small town America. It was friendly, and except for a few sour grapes, a pleasant community and area.
Brice had been invited to the guys’ wedding, several barbecues and even a holiday gathering this last season to celebrate their anniversary. He was one of the family. Ian’s, Caleb’s and Terra’s. It wasn’t a bad family to have.
Arriving at Ian and Caleb’s the following sun-filled afternoon, he was greeted by the scents of wood smoke. His mouth watered almost immediately. One thing he’d learned: Ian knew a mean trick or two with hot fire and beef. He stepped toward the back of the home, hearing conversation as he got closer.
A loud squeal was all the warning he got before a young brunette he recognized came tearing around the corner. He jumped out of the way. And waited. Flushed against the house, two more raced past him, laughing maniacally. Cautiously he put a foot out and when no one else appeared, he scooted around the corner, discovering several sets of eyes pinned in his direction.
He popped a thumb to gesture over his shoulder.
“Water guns,” Jessie explained.
“Let me guess. She wasn’t given one.”
“Not yet.” Jessie laughed. “Don’t worry. She will get even.” Jessie approached and offered a hand. “Good to see you, Brice.”
“Thanks for inviting me.”
A waved hand drew him deeper into the backyard. Hugs and handshakes welcomed him. Bethany, Jessie’s wife, handed him a beer then tossed a filled water gun to Becky. With a war cry that would have chilled the most hardened battle soul, she charged her male cousins, Terra at her side. The battle was on now that it was even. Brice quickly found himself caught up in conversation with Ian and Caleb, laughing at their antics.
They chased each other back and forth, around the house, squirting streams of water until damp turned into soaked. At least with the warming weather and bright sunlight, they’d never feel the water chill. Summer was coming. Every single one of those kids was ready for it.
Brice barely paid the sound of a car door closing any attention, assuming it was a neighbor. That assumption soon proved to be very erroneous[
Brice spotted Jake, Caleb’s youngest brother, clearing the corner of the house about three seconds before the shrillest scream of surprise silenced everyone. Maybe even those across town.
“Aaron!” Terra shoved her gun at Becky and launched for Aaron when he appeared behind Jake, jumping into him and clinging like a monkey. Luckily he caught her and held her as they kissed.
“All right you two!” Jessie scolded after about a minute, though without any real displeasure. Slowly, very slowly, Aaron let Terra reach her feet in front of him.
“So I guess that means they’re still going strong, even with him in college this year?” Brice nudged Ian with an elbow.
“Still going strong.” He hadn’t moved too far from the grill since he’d started cooking, keeping an eye on the food he was making, glancing up every few seconds to follow Aaron and Terra holding hands to talk while a ceasefire was called in their water war. “He’s a good kid, and she’s no one’s fool.”
“They have a very supportive family. It helps.”
Ian grinned and shrugged. “It doesn’t hurt that the last thing Aaron wants to do is piss off Uncle Caleb, because he will tell Jessie and the hammer will come down.”
Brice sniggered. He could absolutely believe that. “Did he drive?”
“Jake went to get him at the airport. It’s why he wasn’t here.”
Brice wasn’t going to confirm the fact that he’d noticed Jake hadn’t been there when he’d first arrived. It really wasn’t his business. He didn’t want anyone else to think he was interested in Jake for more than family. It really sucked having an entire family of good looking men, Ian included, but Brice wasn’t going to jeopardize his relationship with them by letting on that he thought Jake was gorgeous.
Since Ian and Caleb’s wedding and meeting Caleb’s brother who had dressed in a sharp suit for the event, Brice had harbored a bit of a crush for the other man. More than a crush since he’d allowed himself to dream. Yet a crush was all it would ever be. The man was a divorced single father, and had never once made any type of hint that he could be into men. Sometimes it happened. A man discovering he was either gay or bi after a lifetime of disappointment, or worse—failure, but among the testosterone of the Drew brothers?
Ian had already nabbed the Drew brother that played on his team. And Caleb was so completely Ian’s, there was no contest.
Brice did know Jake had been single for several years, the ex having taken up with someone else and then moved out, leaving him with his daughter, a house, and a mess to clean up. He hadn’t ever seen it, but he was sure the man dated. Jake might even have a girlfriend. Just because there wasn’t someone there with them now meant very little.
He wasn’t as broad as either Caleb or Jessie. Jessie was built like a football linebacker, and Caleb was thick. Brice didn’t know for sure, but he thought there were a few years between Jake and Caleb, which put him about five years older than Brice. Not a big deal for him there, either. Brownish/black hair with the amazing blue eyes all three of the brothers had been blessed with, and a smile that could melt glaciers. He swallowed the sigh.
Yeah, Brice was totally crushing on the youngest Drew.