Ash Watts has his life exactly how he wants it: burgeoning career, gorgeous boyfriend, and an apartment with a fabulous view of LA. But his perfect world comes crashing down around his ears when he learns of his only sister's untimely death. A small town isn't all he finds when he lands in Freedom, Alabama for Annie's funeral. This small town is brimming with secrets; secrets that could change Ash's life forever.
Kaleb Gibson, honest-to-God cowboy, and native of Freedom, born and bred, found his best friend the moment Annie Watts breezed into town. Her death left a gaping hole in his heart, and while Annie's brother may have her same dark hair and green eyes, Kaleb refuses to lose his heart all over again, and he can’t forgive the man for neglecting his sister when she needed him most.
Revelations from Annie's Will throw Kaleb and Ash together in ways they never imagined. Will Kaleb be able to carry out Annie’s last wishes without killing her beloved brother and without revealing a secret from his own past that could destroy everything? And will Ash stick around long enough to see that Freedom may hold an even more perfect life than he could have imagined?
“You know I’d come with you if I could,” Mason said for the hundredth time as he wrapped his arms around Ash, drawing him close and pressing his lips against the dark waves of Ash’s black hair.
“Yes,” Ash replied, annoyed that, in the midst of this clusterfuck, Mason sought his understanding to make himself feel better. At this point in time, he couldn’t care less about the other man’s feelings; lost in his own misery.
“What with the Marianne Wheatley thing and not to mention Ronald Kline breathing down my neck—”
“Mase, I said it’s okay, you don’t have to go over it again, it’s fine,” Ash glanced over Mason’s shoulder at the departure board and tried to ignore the anger roiling in his gut because, to be honest, it wasn’t okay—any of it.
Three days ago he’d been cocooned in a sleeping bag, in Mason’s arms, and now he stood at the security check-in at LAX about to board a flight to Mobile, Alabama. Then he had to hire a car and drive to the ass-end of nowhere. Of course, the locals preferred to call their home town Freedom, all 1872 of them. Not that he gave a shit about their feelings either, not when the purpose of his journey was to bury the only person in this world he truly loved, and who loved him—his sister, Annie.
Ash wanted to be charitable, but it was difficult. He hadn’t had a great deal of experience in relationships, but he’d assumed that when you were committed to someone, weddings and funerals were two occasions you could pretty much rely on having a date. Apparently for Mason, the ruling only applied if he could get there and back in a lunch hour. Sitting on a plane for almost six hours, some of which would be on the tarmac in Houston, definitely didn’t fit in with his boyfriend’s hectic schedule.
Glancing over Mason’s shoulder at the clock on the wall behind him, Ash extricated himself from Mason’s arms, “I’ve gotta go, I’m going to miss my flight. I’ll call you when I land,” he added, turning his head at the last minute as Mason kissed him, bypassing his lips and brushing his cheek instead. In the dim recess of his mind he guessed he should have felt bad, but he was hell bent on getting his body on the plane before he ran screaming from the airport like he wanted to. He ignored the hurt expression on Mason’s face because he had nothing left to give in the sympathy stakes and strode towards the security checkpoint to take his place in line. He’d look back when the security guard returned his boarding pass and drivers licence, he told himself— but when the items were placed in his hand, he couldn’t bring himself to. Mason represented reality and if he had any hope of getting through this, he needed to cut himself off from as much reality as possible.
Ash strode quickly to the gate without a backward glance and handed his boarding pass to the smiling stewardess who directed him towards the front of the plane. Mason had paid for the flight and when he’d insisted that Ash go first class, he hadn’t argued, silencing his inner voice who’d piped up that it was the least Mason could do if he was making him go alone. Ash stowed his bag in the overhead locker and took his seat by the window, fastening his seatbelt once he was comfortable. Well, as much as one was able, first class or not, when you were a little over six feet tall. Comfort didn’t appear to be a word airplane designers were familiar with. He took out his cell and turned it off before placing the slim piece of metal in the drinks holder beside him. Laying his head back against the seat, he gazed out at the gray of the tarmac below them.
Every bone in his body ached from exhaustion. Not that it made any difference if he was awake or not, because the last few days replayed like a badly edited movie in his head regardless. The cop had blue eyes and the left one drooped at the outer corner, giving the vague impression he couldn’t decide whether or not to wink at you. Ash wondered if that was weird; to remember the color of the eyes of the man who’d told you the one person who meant everything was gone. Was the sound supposed to fizzle out like a bad signal, leaving you with a ringing in your ears as the man’s mouth moved but no noise came out? And was it perfectly normal to throw up over the poor guy’s shoes about ten seconds before you passed out? Ash hoped so; otherwise he needed to brush up on his etiquette for future reference.