Nate Granger is losing everything to mental illness; his job, his home, and even his sanity. All he has left are his three ancient cats and a best friend who lives across the country. Faced with the choice of trying to piece the tattered remains of his life back together or move in with the man he’s always dreamt could be his and start over, Nate is too afraid of losing Jamie to decide.
After Jameson “Jamie” McKendal lost his wife to cancer, he buried his grief in online video games, which is where he met Nate. Now he specializes in rescues, both as a park ranger, and as an animal rehabilitation specialist. He knows a skittish animal when he sees one, and Nate’s been in need of rescue for a while. A decade of friendship has Jamie thinking he might want more, but he has to help Nate heal first.
Can Jamie convince Nate that his worth lies in who he is and not what he can do for others? Does Nate even dare to hope for a chance to find love in the aftermath of his chaotic life?
Read on for a snippet and about the author….
Nate rubbed his hands together, surprised at how quickly the temperature dropped as the sun set. Maybe Charlie was on to something about the weather being cold. Jamie switched all his leashes to one hand and reached for Nate, taking his left hand and stuffing it in Jamie’s right pocket. Jamie’s hand was huge around Nate’s. And so warm. Nate sighed internally at the sweetness. Why couldn’t Jamie have been the one? Why did fate have to make them so different and yet so much the same?
“Put your other hand in your hoodie pocket with the leashes. The critters won’t mind. They have fur. Night gets cold here. By November we’ll be in the thirties every night.”
Nate did as he was told, enjoying the way Jamie’s hand cupped his, and his closeness. He was so warm. Did he get just how much of a comfort it was to have him close? Even if Nate felt like shit for needing anyone.
“They are so well-behaved,” Nate whispered.
“Training,” Jamie said. “Lots of training and socialization. There are times when I have to do a dozen walks a night. This batch has all been with me a while. They keep each other in check, but if there was something big like a fox, or something that set them off, they’d probably drag me along with them.”
“How do you do it?” Nate asked after a while. They’d walked some distance and turned around, crossing the street so they could walk along the other side and give the dogs something new to sniff.
Jamie laughed. “I’m not any more normal than anyone else. I have a pet goat, remember?”
“You’re quirky,” Nate admitted.
“Nothing wrong with quirky. We’d have never met if we both weren’t quirky.” Which was the truth.
Nate wondered if Jamie realized he was holding Nate’s hand. Did he get just how amazing it felt? How much Nate had dreamed of walking under the stars hand in hand with him? He’d spent years convincing himself that no matter how much he might dream of Jamie being the one, it just wasn’t possible. Being in love with a straight guy was hard enough. Add to it the fact that said straight guy was his best friend just made it worse. He feared doing anything that might change their relationship.
“Thank you,” Nate said.
“Being you. Taking care of me. Your patience.”
Jamie smiled. “One of the few things I’m very good at.”
“I think you’re good at a lot of things.”
“Like?” Jamie prompted.
“Are you fishing for compliments?”
“I’m sure you’re very good at rangering. And you used to kick my ass all the time at WoW. Plus the critters love you. So I think you’re pretty good at rescues.”
“They always fight a little at first,” Jamie said.
“My rescues. There’s usually some snarling, biting, and crying in the beginning. Change isn’t easy for anyone,” Jamie said. Nate didn’t think they were talking about the animals anymore. Jamie bumped his shoulder. “Time is usually a better healer than anything I can do. Sometimes you just have to wait them out. Make sure they have the basics until they are ready to ask for more.”
“How long does that normally take?”
Jamie shrugged. “Depends on where they come from and how long they’ve spent with the world damaging them.”
Thirty-seven years in Nate’s case.
They reached the house and Jamie shuffled everyone into the backyard. Nate didn’t want to let go of his hand, but he had to so they could unleash the dogs. The bags were deposited into a trashcan outside the gate. “This is compost. The bags are biodegradable. This bin gets picked up once a week, but it stinks. So I keep it away from the house.” Jamie put the batch of bags back in the cupboard by the leashes. “Just grab the bags when you take them out. Harry doesn’t usually go when we walk. He’s got a back corner I clean once a month. The dogs do though.”
“What do you do when it’s cold? Do they still stay outside?”
Jamie pointed off to a shed Nate hadn’t been to yet. It was big. Sort of barn looking, but old. “It’s heated, though we don’t get all that cold. Harry usually comes inside in the winter. Matilda is always in the barn at night. I keep clean hay for her and blankets. She likes her space. Had another pony once, but that was just too much work. I’ll leave the horse rescues to Jason. If Mattie didn’t like it here so much, I’d have moved her out with Jason’s horses so she had buddies. But she seems to like the dogs. And sometimes I find her and Harry snuggled together.”
Nate put the leashes back up as Jamie handed them to him. They were all color coded with the hooks, which was brilliant.
“You tired? Or want to watch a movie? I figure we can try to get the kitties together. Maybe eat some pastries.” Jamie headed inside with Nate close behind him.
Nate was surprised to be met with Leo in the kitchen. “Oh my God, how did you get out?” Leo sat there, unconcerned. Had Nate left the door open when he’d gotten ready for the walk? Friar Tuck jumped down off his chair and stalked toward Leo. “Oh no!”
Jamie held out a hand to stop Nate from sweeping Leo up. “Just give them a minute. If they swipe at each other we’ll take them to corners, but Tuck is pretty neutral.” Jamie went to the sink and washed his hands. Nate copied him even though he’d just been holding leashes. He kept an eye on Leo who was all of five pounds and Friar Tuck who looked twice his size, even missing a leg.
Tuck reached Leo and rubbed along his side, only for Leo to turn and lick himself as if he’d just been made dirty. They barely acknowledged each other. Jamie grinned. “Figured they were both too old to care much.”
“What about Ember and Ash?”
Jamie shrugged. “They’ll either get along or they’ll avoid each other. You know how picky cats are. Let me jump into the shower and we’ll watch a movie.”
It was after nine. “Don’t you have to be up early?”
“Seven?” Jamie shrugged. “I was up a lot later talking to you most nights. You forget you were two hours ahead of me. Go change into some jammies and meet me in the living room. I’m thinking it’s a Guardians night.”
“You just love the music from that,” Nate shouted back as he made his way upstairs.
Nate’s door was open, but both AJ and Riley were still in the room. AJ on the bed and Riley on the bookshelf. Funny enough, Ember and Ash were on the bed too, curled up into twin gray balls about four feet from AJ. Nate hurried into a pair of sleep pants and a T-shirt. He probably could have gone to bed since he was pretty tired, but didn’t want to disappoint Jamie. In fact, he looked forward just to spending some time with his best friend. Too much time had passed during Nate’s illness in which he’d pushed people away. He didn’t want to do that to Jamie anymore.
Nate headed back downstairs to find Jamie fiddling with the TV. He waited for Jamie to get started, though the box of tarts was on the table. He rifled through it and found one of the lemon special diet ones. It was fantastic. Jamie glanced his way and grinned. “They’re amazing, aren’t they?”
“So good,” Nate moaned with a mouthful. “These are the special ones, and I didn’t think they’d be as good. No gluten or sugar.”
“They make a chocolate avocado pudding cake that is amazing. Flourless. It’s thick and rich. Need a huge glass of milk to eat even the tiniest sliver.” Jamie got the movie going and sat down on the edge of the couch. He reached for the box and balanced it on the fluffy back of the sofa. Nate took the other end. Jamie pointed to a blanket hanging off the chair nearby. Nate grabbed it and curled it over his lap, letting his bare feet rest on the middle cushion. He kept glancing Jamie’s way to see if he’d get mad at Nate for having his feet on the furniture, but he said nothing. His feet were bare too.
Leo leapt up into Nate’s lap. “Hey, baby boy. How you doing?” Nate asked him as the cat put his nose to Nate’s collar and began to knead. “I’m here for you.” Nate stroked the cat. Jamie shifted in his seat so he could put his feet on the middle cushion too, and dug them up under the blanket. Nate smiled and tried to ignore the fact that Jamie’s feet were cold and they were touching.
Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1683904025253917/
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorLissaKasey/
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Lissa-Kasey/e/B008FTIBOK