Authors: Luna Jensen
5032 Capital Circle SW, Suite 2, PMB# 279, Tallahassee, FL 32305-7886 USA
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of author imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Letting Hearts Heal
© 2015 Luna Jensen.
© 2015 Maria Fanning.
Cover content is for illustrative purposes only and any person depicted on the cover is a model.
All rights reserved. This book is licensed to the original purchaser only. Duplication or distribution via any means is illegal and a violation of international copyright law, subject to criminal prosecution and upon conviction, fines, and/or imprisonment. Any eBook format cannot be legally loaned or given to others. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without the written permission of the Publisher, except where permitted by law. To request permission and all other inquiries, contact Dreamspinner Press, 5032 Capital Circle SW, Suite 2, PMB# 279, Tallahassee, FL 32305-7886, USA, or http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/.
Digital ISBN: 978-1-63216-316-5
Library of Congress Control Number: 2014951379
First Edition January 2015
Printed in the United States of America
This paper meets the requirements of
ANSI/NISO Z39.48-1992 (Permanence of Paper).
To the dreamers of the world.
The most thank-you-ed of thank-yous to the wonderful Dreamspinner Press crew, for giving me a chance.
still snowing when Mason came out of McDonald’s, where he’d been holed up for an hour. It wasn’t the pretty kind of snow that left a town wrapped in an idyllic blanket of white. Instead, it was the kind that turned to slush and made a gray day grayer. It did nothing to improve Mason’s rotten mood. He shuddered and drew the worn jacket closer. He’d overheard people talking about an upcoming blizzard. Judging by how the snow had picked up, it might be about to start. And he was out of options. His pride was, anyway.
Mason looked up and down Main Street. Where to go? As he contemplated, a gust of wind lifted the baseball cap from his head and held it hostage before dropping it in the middle of the slushy street, where a car immediately ran it over.
Swearing under his breath, he waited for traffic to slow before heading out to rescue it. Before he had the chance, however, movement in the corner of his eye caught his attention. A little boy darted into the street, clearly too young or unbothered to check for oncoming cars.
Forgetting all about his cap, Mason ran after the boy. An SUV sped by and covered Mason’s jeans in slush, but with a racing heart and head full of possible disasters, he managed to grab the boy’s shoulder and yank him out of the way right before a car hit him.
“Whoa, little man. Let’s get back on the sidewalk before we end up as roadkill.”
The boy looked up at him, then at the street, before reluctantly turning around and weaving between the parked cars with Mason’s hand still on his shoulder.
“If you need to get over to the other side, I’ll help you get across, okay?”
“Wyatt.” A man came running and squatted in front of the boy without even glancing at Mason. “Oh God, you nearly gave me a heart attack. Don’t ever do that again, okay?”
“The hat.” The boy pointed to the street, and Mason realized with a sinking feeling that the little guy had risked his life for an old baseball cap.
“No more running into the street. Do you understand, Wyatt?”
After a moment, the boy nodded, and the man stood up and finally looked at Mason. “Thank y—Mason?”
Mason’s heart jolted. He should have recognized him sooner. Dean Walker. Mason had been dreading—and hoping—to run into him during the two days he’d spent in their hometown.
“Hi, Dean.” Mason hoped his voice didn’t shake. Seeing Dean again was a shock to the system, more so than he’d expected. And damn—time had improved Dean’s looks. The almost black curls were cut short, which was a shame, but the clear blue eyes and the dimple in his left cheek were the same. Taller than Mason by at least five inches, and more filled out than Mason remembered, Dean Walker was like a fantasy come true. A fantasy that Mason had never been able to forget. The feelings that had forced Mason to leave the valley were still very much intact.
“I can’t believe it’s really you.” Dean’s smile was infectious, and Mason returned it before he found himself enveloped in a hug he’d dreamed of for years. Dean was warmth, danger, and home.
Taking a step back to compose himself, he looked down at the little, wide-eyed carbon copy of Dean and couldn’t help but smile. How had he looked at the boy and not thought of Dean? “Thank you for wanting to save my cap, but remember to look out for traffic next time, okay?”
Dean closed his hand over the boy’s shoulder. “Mason, this is Wyatt, my son. Wyatt, say hello to Mason.”
Ignoring the stab of pain in his heart, Mason crouched in front of the boy. Of course Dean had gotten past his
just as Dean’s dad had assured Mason he would. And of course he had a family. “Hello, Wyatt. It’s very nice to meet you. Thanks for wanting to save my cap, but be careful in traffic, okay?”
The boy nodded, his eyes wide with a seriousness that looked out of place on such a young child.
“What are you doing back in town?” Dean asked.
Mason stood up and adjusted the bag on his shoulder. “Long story. I didn’t know my Aunt Margaret had passed away, though. I kinda came to see her.”
“Oh.” Dean’s smile fell. “Yeah, she died last spring. I’m sorry. She often asked if I’d heard from you when I ran into her in town.”
“The people who moved into her house said she’d been sick?” It had been a punch in the gut. The only family member left who wasn’t a homophobic idiot was gone, and she’d also been sick without him even knowing. He’d been bad at keeping in contact, but dealing with family wasn’t one of his strong points.
Dean nodded. “Something with her lungs as I heard it. It was pretty quick. I don’t think anyone knew how to reach you. Your cousin Henry tried.”
“Yeah, I… well, Dad and I, we….”
Dean nodded. “I figured it was something like that when you didn’t come home for the funerals. I’m really sorry, Mason. It’s been some tough years for you.”
Uncomfortable, Mason shifted from one foot to the other. The slush was seeping through his sneakers, and he didn’t want to think about how he’d missed his mom’s funeral because his father had been too angry or disgusted to contact him—or remember how badly he’d reacted when he got the word that his father had passed away too. And Dean’s assumption that it had been some tough years was the understatement of the century.
“Are you staying in town? You’re always welcome at the ranch if you need a place to stay.” Dean cleared his throat. “It’s been too long, Mase.”
“I don’t know,” Mason hedged. Mr. Walker was long gone from the ranch he’d run like his own little kingdom, and a warm place to stay sounded like heaven. The last time Mason had slept in a real bed was too long ago. But the thought of having to watch Dean as the happily married family man was nauseating.
“It’s just Wyatt and me at the ranch,” Dean said as if he’d read Mason’s mind. “It’s kind of a long story too.”
Swayed by Dean’s revelation and the snow chilling him to the bone, Mason nodded. “Thanks. Perhaps you have a job opening?”
“I might, but that’s another long story.” A ghost of a smile crossed Dean’s face, and Mason desperately wished he knew what had put it there. “Do you have a car?”