Length: 62,771 words
Rafael Patino has a great life in Rain Valley. He’s a teacher at the high school, has a great group of friends, and enjoys the occasional baseball game. Other than the sporadic call from his drunken mother, he’s pretty content.
He’s also been in love with his best friend Dustin for nearly a decade. Years of keeping those feelings under control are put to the test when they begin a summer project together.
Dustin Vance builds furniture for a living, has just earned his pilot’s license, and has an amazing best friend. When he buys a 1976 Cessna Skyhawk, he asks Rafael to help restore it, then travel with him to Wisconsin for the largest aviation convention in the world.
As they spend their days working on the plane, they begin to spend their nights together. Will they find love in the clouds, or will they stall out before they even take off?
A cool breeze blew past him as he walked out into the night. Rafael texted Dustin before he pulled out of the parking lot, letting him know he was leaving the hospital and asking about Mac’s phone number.
He put the phone back in his pocket and made the short drive home. He wasn’t going to check his phone if Dustin answered, but he didn’t hear an alert anyway. Dustin was probably sound asleep in his bed. He might have to get that number in the morning.
As he turned onto his street, he saw a vehicle in his drive and smiled when he realized it was Dustin’s. His best friend had a key, so he was probably inside. He pulled into the drive and parked behind Dustin’s Honda, peering inside just in case, as he headed inside.
He flipped on the entryway light as he closed the door and found Dustin sprawled out on his sofa, sound asleep, his arm crooked over his head. Rafael was pulled to him like a magnet and he was too damn tired to fight the urges at the moment, so he gave in and let himself look. Dustin’s T-shirt rode up, showing a stripe of pale skin and Rafael imagined it was soft and silky. His fingers itched to slip under the hem. He stared a little too long, though and by the time he dragged his gaze up to Dustin’s face, his friend’s eyes were open and he was staring right back at him, a smirk on his lips.
“You want to take a picture of … something?” he drawled out teasingly.
Heat flooded his cheeks and he forced a chuckle. “Whatever.”
Dustin rose from the sofa and strode over and hugged him hard, as if just remembering what had happened. “God, I’m so sorry, Raf. Is the girl going to be okay?”
Rafael nodded, but wrapped Dustin up in his arms, letting his head fall to Dustin’s shoulder.
They stayed like that for a while. With anyone else, Rafael might have been embarrassed that he was fighting the urge to cry. Dustin held him tight and shared his strength. It crept into Rafael, shored him up. Helped him get past the image of Daisy huddled in that hospital bed. At least for a while.
When he finally pulled away, Dustin kept his arms around him and Rafael was too exhausted to read anything into it.
“Why are you here?” Rafael’s voice was quiet as he stared at Dustin.
“Because I know you, Raf. I know you care about all of your students — you open your heart to everyone. But I also know you’ve been particularly worried about this girl. I just didn’t want you coming home to an empty house.”
Rafael’s heart cracked more and he was raw. Open. Vulnerable. The world had reared its ugly head and shown its hideousness and he was lonely. Bone tired and lonely. And he didn’t want to be lonely. At least not for the night. He swallowed hard. “Will you … stay?”
Dustin nodded, no hint of hesitation in his blue green eyes. “Of course.”
Sarah Hadley Brook lives smack-dab in the middle of the Heartland and is the mother of two wonderful young men, as well as two cats. During the day, she works in the nonprofit world, but reserves evenings for her hobby-turned-passion of writing, letting the characters she conjures in her mind take the lead and show her where the story will go. When not working or writing, she can be found reading, working on dollhouses, trying her hand at new recipes, or watching old movies and musicals. In her ideal world, Christmas would come at least twice a year, Rock Hudson and Doris Day would have costarred in more than three movies, and chocolate would be a daily necessity. She dreams of traveling to Scotland some day and visiting the places her ancestors lived. Sarah believes in “Happily Ever After” and strives to ensure her characters find their own happiness in love and life.
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