Read an Excerpt
Copyright © Devon Rhodes 2017. All Rights Reserved, Totally Entwined Group Limited, T/A Pride Publishing.
“Thanks for coming, everyone. Make sure to send daily overviews on action items from here on out, otherwise, that’s really it for now.”
Everyone chuckled, and he smiled, relieved that the meeting had gone well. He’d been asked to stand in for his boss, J.T., who was missing that day, and lead the meeting of his peers. It was simultaneously an honor and a stressor. Some days he still felt like an imposter, playing at being a respectable businessman instead of a horse wrangler. “Have a good evening.” His words were almost drowned out by the sudden spike of noise as everyone stood and gathered their stuff.
Hill closed down his laptop and swore under his breath when he saw the time. The meeting of directors had run over, and the rest of the people quickly clearing the conference room would probably blame Hill for that. However, less than a week from the start of the two and a half month long American Royal, it was necessary for them to come together one last time and make sure everything was prepared.
He was well behind where he wanted to be in his workday now, and that was going to put him into the heart of rush hour traffic. Hill sighed. Might as well stick around the office and get a few more things done before heading home. Better use of time than sitting in his car…
His car…which was at the dealership getting an airbag recall fix he’d been putting off. David had finally just scheduled the repair himself over Hill’s protests that it wasn’t good timing with the Royal right around the corner.
“Nothing’s ever good timing these days. But come on—get your priorities straight. Better inconvenienced than dead, Hill.” A sigh. “I have office hours until five, so I’ll pick you up around five-thirty…”
“Oh fuck.” Knowing his excessively punctual husband, Hill figured David had probably been sitting down in the parking lot since quarter past five…and it was well after six.
He scrambled to scoop the rest of his things off the conference table, wedged them into the case with his laptop, then headed to his office. Ten minutes later, Hill closed the door behind him and waited impatiently for the elevator. He could finish up whatever else he needed to do that couldn’t wait until morning at home this evening.
When the elevator doors opened into the vestibule on the ground floor, he winced at the sight of his husband sitting on a couch by the water feature, leafing through some pop culture magazine.
At the same time, just seeing David took his stress down several notches. At least for the moment. He savored the minute it took to cross the lobby while enjoying David’s handsome profile.
As he came around the side of the seating area, David looked up and smiled, though it looked a bit strained.
“Sorry.” Hill wished he could bend down for a kiss. But even though his co-workers knew he was married to a man, PDA in the very public building lobby wasn’t exactly his style. He settled for a gentle squeeze of David’s shoulder.
“It’s okay. I saw a herd of directors get off the elevator just a little while ago, so I figured the meeting had gone long.” David rose to his feet and led the way toward the revolving lobby door. “I was just glad that you remembered I was picking you up and didn’t get sucked into your desk chair, never to be heard from again.”
Hill’s appreciation of his husband went up another notch at his attempt at humor when he had every right to be irritated. “I would never forget about you.” Which wasn’t precisely the truth and David knew it from the arched eyebrow and smirk he shot at him. He didn’t call Hill on it, though.
Hill settled into striding alongside David down the sidewalk, wondering where the heck he had parked. “Did you not park in the garage?”
“You know I hate garages. I found street parking not far from here.”
Not far turned out to be several blocks, and, with the temperature and humidity reaching ugly levels today, Hill’s shirt was soaked with sweat and sticking to his chest by the time David took out his fob and unlocked the car. David, of course, looked perfectly comfortable.
Hill winced as he sat and the action caused his clammy shirt to adhere to his back. “Yuck.” It had been a long, sweltering summer.
“Here—hydrate.” David slapped a water bottle into his hand then started the car.
Hill immediately reached to crank up the air conditioning.
“You know that doesn’t work until the car warms up,” David reminded him for about the thousandth time in their lives together as he checked for traffic then pulled away from the curb.
The baked air blowing from the vents wasn’t great but it at least evaporated some of the sweat. “I know. I know. I just don’t want to miss any of the cool once it gets going.” He took a drink—still cold. David had to have added ice at the clinic.
He waited for David to say the next line in their predictable exchange, but to his surprise, he didn’t respond. Just as well. Hill was argued out for the day. The silence started to get to him after a few minutes, so he turned on the radio.
“What?” Hill asked as he scanned through the stations. Most of them had talking head DJs being annoying this time of day.
David wasn’t exactly a fan of country music, so in deference, he finally settled on NPR. At least their voices were soothing. “You don’t sigh like that when it’s nothing. You’re—what? Mad that I turned on the radio?”
“I said it was nothing.”
The somewhat bitter, sharp edge to David’s voice caused alarm bells to go off. It was very unlike him to sound so grumpy. Hill turned in his seat to face David, seeing that the strained expression he’d greeted Hill with was back. Maybe it wasn’t just Hill being late that had caused it. “Did you get some bad news? You seem upset about something.”
“I’m fine. I just want to get home. Your car is ready, so I’ll drop you off at the dealership. Unless…you want to do something else first…?”
“Grab some dinner? Maybe a drink?”
Hill chuckled. “Happy hour’s over. And it’s a little early for dinner, isn’t it?” They usually ate around eight, depending on what time Hill got home.
David lost his perfect posture for a moment. “Yeah, it is. All right. I’ll just drop you at your car then.”
It looked like David was disappointed, but really, trying to go anywhere but home this time of day was silly, and David was even more of a home-body than he was. If he didn’t feel like cooking, they could order takeout or delivery later.
The rest of the ride was made in silence. David didn’t seem inclined to talk, and Hill had no idea what was bothering him. He kept saying ‘nothing’ and Hill wasn’t a mind reader, so evidently it either wasn’t a big deal or David didn’t want to talk about it. Hill scrolled through his inbox on his phone, answering, forwarding and deleting. Eventually they pulled into the car dealer parking lot.
“Okay, well, I’ll see you at home,” Hill broke the unusually awkward silence as he gathered his briefcase and opened the door, adding the afterthought as he got out, “Thanks for the ride.”
David didn’t look at him, just nodded.
A part of Hill wanted to climb back in the car, not let David leave until he told him what was wrong, but past experience told him he wouldn’t get any further than the first time or two he’d asked.
Hey, he’d tried.