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Is a gift of love enough to open Aiden’s heart and let Tris back in?
After the car accident that killed his parents and left his sister paralyzed, Tris is left with nothing. His family is destroyed. His reputation is shot. And all he has is the guilt of knowing it was all his fault. People in town know he’d been drinking that night, and know he should never have gotten behind the wheel. And even Aiden, the man he thought he’d be with forever, blames him too much to stay.
But Tris can’t let him just disappear. After months of loneliness and isolation, Tris brings Aiden a gift on his birthday, a hawk he’s carved from a chunk of wood they’d found in the forest during an afternoon of love. A small chink seems to open in Aiden’s heart, the first sign of forgiveness. With renewed hope, Tris takes a job renovating one of the older homes in town and tries to rebuild his life. But the townspeople have long memories, and when his sister’s condition worsens, forgiveness—and Aiden—seem to slip even further out of reach…
The car slowed and came to a stop. Tris looked out the front windshield at the aging building with the garish neon signs in the windows. Murphey’s Diner? Day just kept getting better.
“Do you mind? I have class in forty-five minutes and Murphey serves the quickest breakfast.”
“It’s fine.” Tris pushed open his door and climbed out into the crowded parking lot. “Think we’ll get a table?” he asked over the roof of the Fiat.
“There’s usually room at the counter.”
Tris shrugged and followed Aiden into the bustling restaurant. He probably imagined the silence when they walked through the door, but then again everyone had known his parents. Three months were a blink of an eye in the small town of Cherry Creek.
He lifted his chin a trifle as they crossed the crowded room and tried not to notice the whispers behind him. Conversation resumed as they sat at the counter. Aiden seemed impervious to their attention, and Tris picked up the paper menu, acknowledging he was probably being overly sensitive. The waitress smiled as she brought coffee and took their orders, and Tris relaxed enough to enjoy the precious minutes with his estranged darling.
“What class do you have this morning?” he asked and took a sip from the steaming mug. If nothing else, Murphey’s always had good coffee. Aiden shifted on his stool to face him. Tris thrilled when their knees touched and Aiden made no effort to move away.
“Chemistry. I’d ditch out to celebrate my birthday with friends, but there’s an important lab I need to finish up.”
Tris’s lips quirked. “That never stopped you before.”
“That’s only because you were a bad influence.”
Tris chortled into his mug of coffee even as a flush heated his face. It had never taken long to persuade Aiden to stay with him. A soft kiss on the sensitive skin behind his ear. A nip on the neck. Gentle sucks on Aiden’s full bottom lip, the snug silver hoop driving Tris crazy with want. He heard Aiden’s drawn breath—as if his thoughts had gone the same route—and all the blood rushed to his groin. Damn. His dick was going to need some serious attention once he got home.
He smiled secretly when Aiden had to clear his throat. “Are you coming back to college?”
The question caught Tris off guard, though he should have expected it. “Once Candice is better…” Familiar panic churned in his stomach.
Aiden’s gentle voice tore down his shaky defenses. “How is she?”
“I don’t know,” Tris whispered and swallowed the tears that would come, damn them. “I left her with the doctor. I couldn’t stay in the house.”
Their food arrived. Tris picked up his fork, stomach queasy at the sight of the greasy mounds on the cheap plate. But he dug into the eggs and spicy hash browns anyway, to stop the screams of helplessness in his head. Despair leaned its heavy weight on his shoulders. He jumped when Aiden touched his arm.
“I’m sorry, Tris. Can I see her?”
“Of course. She’d like that. She asks about you.” Tris moved the fork around on his plate. When he and Aiden had first hooked up after years of flirting, Candice had been their biggest supporter. He didn’t have the heart to tell his sister they’d broken up after the accident that had left her paralyzed. Maybe he didn’t want to believe it and saying the words would make it true. It couldn’t be true. They’d been so good together! No one knew him as well as Aiden did. No one else could drive him wild with a single hot glance.
He remembered the long nights they lay under the stars, made love, and planned their future. Aiden wanted to graduate with a science major. Tris had whispered in his ear that he really didn’t like making furniture. He had the odd wish to be a pastry chef. Aiden licked Tris’s lips and said he made a wonderful dessert.
Tris bit his lip to hide its tremble. No, he’d never admit he and Aiden were through. He’d rather live with the hope they could work things out.