Schoolteacher Charlie Matthews returns to his hometown, looking to regain a sense of community, reconnect with friends, and settle down. It looks like his dreams have come true when paramedic Josh Campbell attends an accident at the school. It’s love at first sight, and a romance begins.
But Josh’s reluctance to come out to the brother who raised him puts pressure on their fledgling relationship. While Charlie understands Josh’s concerns, he can’t help growing impatient. After all, Charlie came out years ago.
It’s not until Charlie confronts his own parents and realizes he hasn’t come to terms with their rejection that he fully understands what Josh has to lose. But Josh is Charlie’s hero, and Josh will do anything to prove to Charlie that to be part of a family, he doesn’t need his parents.
HE WAS in love. Totally, wonderfully, head over heels in love. Love with a capital L, hell, love in full uppercase. All it took was one look, one simple glance, and he was a goner. Of course the object of his admiration was classically handsome—tall and athletic, glowing with good health. Bright eyes, wide smile, waves of shining hair tucked behind perfect ears. He was like all Charlie’s dreams come true, with golden skin hugging strong muscles that strained on long limbs. But even if Charlie hadn’t been attracted to the man’s spectacular good looks, there was no way to overlook his actions.
When Charlie first saw him, he was kneeling on the schoolyard ground, tending to a little girl who was lying prone on the soft-fall rubber surface under the play equipment. She was one of Charlie’s second graders. Her right leg, bent at a strange, unnatural angle, gave a big clue as to her injury. Charlie hoped the leg was the worst she was hurt.
An efficient auburn-haired paramedic was treating her injured leg while the gorgeous guy knelt by her head, hands on either side of her blonde curls, keeping her still. He whispered into her ear, the words obviously having a calming effect—the little girl stared intently up at him, the hitch in her breathing the only evidence of any distress. There was a gentleness to his touch, despite the large hands, and caring in his tone as he concentrated on his patient. How could Charlie not fall in love with this glorious combination of caring, masculine beauty?
“Mr. Matthews. Mr. Matthews.” The urgent high-pitched voice and persistent tugging on his hand drew his attention reluctantly away from the scene unfolding in the playground. Shit, he thought, what the hell am I doing just standing here staring when I should be taking care of the other children, who are no doubt worried and scared? Dropping to one knee and looking Jennifer in the eye, Charlie gave her his full attention. “What is it, Jenny?” he asked, knowing she was going to voice her worry about her small friend on the ground.
“Is Alison going to be all right, Mr. Matthews?” she asked in a low and quavering voice. He replied in a way he hoped would calm her fears, by keeping his voice even and low.
“She’ll be fine, Jenny. Her mummy and daddy will meet her at the hospital, and Miss Bryant is going to go stay with her until they get there. Alison is in very good hands. See those paramedics?” He pointed toward the action under the monkey bars, and she looked across at the small group on the ground and nodded gravely. “Well, they’re very good at their jobs. They’re going to take Alison to the hospital so the doctors can put a cast on her leg. I’m sure she’ll be back at school in no time.”
“But she won’t be able to play,” she whispered, obviously still worried for her friend.
“No, she won’t,” he admitted. “At least she won’t be able to run around for a while, but she will be able to draw and play board games. I know you love to draw, so maybe you can play with Alison to make her feel better. I bet you’ll be able to write your name on the cast too.”
At that, Jenny met his gaze and finally smiled. “Really!” she said with excitement. “That’d be totally cool!”
They looked up as the paramedics wheeled past with the gurney. Little Alison was tightly strapped aboard. She was lying still, no doubt in shock, and holding tightly to the hand of Charlie’s hero. He only glanced their way for a second, obviously reluctant to take his attention away from the little girl who needed him, but that was enough. Their gazes connected, his warm brown eyes seeming to look straight into Charlie’s soul. The surge of emotion that flooded through him took him by surprise. The paramedic blinked and the spell was broken. They moved swiftly past Jenny and Charlie, then loaded the gurney into the back of the ambulance.
Charlie stood frozen to the spot, still holding Jenny’s small hand in his, and watched the ambulance leave. Finally he took a deep breath, turned back to the schoolyard, and started to round up any children still in the playground.
“Come on, everyone,” he called. “It’s time to get back to class.”
As the last stragglers made their way into the single-story building that housed the small group of classrooms, he knew he would be spending the afternoon reassuring the children. He decided that making get-well cards for Alison would be the best way of distracting the group of second graders.