Hagen Wylie has it all figured out. He’s going to live in his hometown, be everybody’s friend, and rebuild his life after the horrors of war. No muss, no fuss is the plan. He’s well on his way until that all changes when he finds out his first love has come home too. Hagen says it’s no big deal, but a chance encounter with Mitch Thayer’s two cute sons puts him directly in the path of the only guy he’s never gotten out of his head.
Mitch returned for three reasons: to raise his sons where he grew up, to move his furniture business to where it will thrive, and to win Hagen back. Years away made it perfectly clear that the young man he loved in high school is the only one for him. The problem? He left town and Hagen went off to war, and they have not talked since.
Mitch needs to show Hagen he’s grown up and isn’t going to let go if Hagen’s going to trust him again. It’s going to take more than a simple “Hey, honey, I’m home.” They could have a new chance at love… but Hagen is insistent he’s not diving into a relationship with Mitch again. Then again, you never know.
BACK WHEN I was in the Army, I had a buddy who was always trying to use the exact right words for things. So when in Afghanistan, instead of saying we were headed in the basic direction of Kabul to deliver guns, explosives, and whatever the hell else was in the truck we were driving that day—and ended up taking a detour—he said that this coddiwomple we found ourselves on could not possibly be safe.
I remembered turning and looking at him as he drove, thinking, the hell did that word mean? I never got the chance to ask. We were hit by an RPG and that was the last time I ever saw him.
Since I was the one of us who was allowed to get older, I realized knowing the exact word for something was actually very useful. As a result, I added many words to my otherwise meager vocabulary. At the moment, the word “petrichor” came to mind. The scent of the rain on dry earth—and even though dirt was never actually bone dry where I lived in Benson, on the coast between Brookings and Gold Beach, the smell was what I imagined the word to mean, somewhere between rotting flowers and rain.
As I ran through the woods near my house, I breathed in the cold, moist morning air of early October and tried to recall what I was supposed to do today. It was Saturday, and for once I didn’t have to work until afternoon, but I was relatively certain I was forgetting something I’d committed to. It was dicey even attempting to remember anything without my calendar because my brain didn’t work the way it used to anymore, not after the accident. I normally lived well with my limitations. It wasn’t like I forgot what I was doing in the middle of a task, and at work I stayed on top of my responsibilities with the help of a watch that talked to me and a phone that did the same. Personal stuff was where I usually found myself in the doghouse.
Wanting to get to the coffee shop before all the hipsters in town got up and headed over, I raced down the hill, cutting across the road in intervals, not looking, just darting, knowing I was the only one besides Mal Harel and Preston Garber who lived this far above the town. I sent up the millionth thank-you to my father for having been such a gentle soul that living inside the city proper had been untenable. After my mother passed away, without her happy birdlike chirping that kept people focused on her and off him, the simple…