"Come see us," Tor invited. "Jake and me already talked about it, and I think Jake and Chance did, too. July is a sucky month, but come anytime you want. Seriously."
Jake nodded. "For sure. We’d love to show you around. Nothing cool like Disneyland, but we have fishing and horses and a drive-in theater. Sometimes, anyway."
"Disneyland’s only cool the first time. All that other stuff is way better." Tucker scooped up his pennies and brought them back to the jar. "I wanna see your spread. Then I can tell you which part of your land is good for growing tobacco."
Jake and Tor both snorted. It was an indelicate sound that spoke volumes. "There’s none of the right soil," Tor said.
"And the cows don’t need the nicotine," Jake put in.
"Half of Tucker’s blood is nicotine," Chance said wryly. "He tells me it’s good for you."
"Shoot, just look at me!" Tucker spread his arms and looked down at himself. "Don’t see no stunted growth here, do ya? Not in any area." He leered at Chance a little.
"And that’s our cue!" Jake laughed and reached for Tor’s hand. "Come on. Time to get moving."
A small thread of disappointment wove its way through Chance’s head. It had been nice, the past few days. Really nice. Jake and Tor were good company. "All right," he nodded. "We’ll walk you out."
Tucker made a face. "Man. Too bad y’all have to go."
Jake nodded and dropped Tor’s hand. "We’ve had a great time," he agreed, offering his hand to Tucker. "Thanks."
Tucker took Jake’s hand and pulled him in for a quick bro-hug. "Was good to see you," he said warmly. "We’ll keep in touch, yeah?" He looked over at Tor. "But not with you. I’m sick of you."
"Yeah, I think we’re on a friendship timeout." Tor nodded and turned to Chance. "Any time you want to get off the beach, come see our crick."
"River," Jake corrected. "A crick is way more narrow."
"I don’t know the difference," Chance admitted. "But I’ll come and see it." He offered his hand to Jake. "Thanks for dinner last night."
"Hey, no problem." Jake’s hand was warm in his. "I’ll do you a great barbecue next time."
"I look forward to it." Chance followed Tucker and Tor through the living room to the front door. "Text me when you get home. Have a safe flight."
"Will do." Jake tipped his hat at them both and followed Tor out. "Thanks again!"
"Bye!" Tucker called.
Chance watched out the window until he couldn’t see the truck taillights any longer. Just when he was about to move away, Tucker slipped an arm around his waist and peered out the window too. "Miss your little friend?" he teased gently.
"They just left," Chance laughed, avoiding the question.
"Seems to me you and Jake got along pretty good."
"Yeah." Chance couldn’t really deny that. "He’s got a lot going on behind that calm front."
Tucker rested his forehead on Chance’s shoulder. "Stands to reason that there’s more to Jake than what you first see. How else would him and Tor have ended up together?"
It hadn’t occurred to Chance to look at it that way. Tor had seen the hidden side of Jake the same way Tucker had seen much more than what Chance first presented to people.
A thought that had been at the edges of Chance’s mind for days made its way into a question. "Do you wish I was more like Tor?"
The answer came back instantly. "No, baby. I don’t want you to be like anyone. I want you to be serious and bossy and beach-lovin’ and a good medic. You be all those things. I wouldn’t know what to do with myself if you woke up one day bein’ more like Tor."
The words were reassuring. Chance kissed Tucker’s head and nuzzled at the silky strands of hair. "I’m ready for bed."
"Me too. But not to sleep."
If you're not familiar with Chance and Tucker OR Jake and Tor, it's probably advisable that you read their separate stories first. You can find them at the links below. A little backstory goes a long way!
Jake and Tor are HERE.
Chance and Tucker are HERE.
Both books have sequels and short stories, so if you need help finding them, let me know. And thank you for those emails! Chris and I are so excited to know that people are looking forward to this as much as we are.