The squeal of brakes had me exhaling. Any minute now, he’d be stepping out of my brother’s Toyota. With just a few metres and steel between us, I had no idea how to react, not with the nervous excitement thrumming in my veins.
The doors opened, and movement caught my attention. Dan Madison followed after my brother, his eyes already on mine.
His hand tightened around the pack of beers he carried, and pink coloured his cheeks.
But that was likely my imagination making a much bigger deal about this reunion than it really was.
Funny, the things you noticed, though. He had new glasses. They were thicker rimmed than any style I’d seen him wear before. He rocked the whole hot geek vibe. Killed it, in fact.
Though there was nothing geeky about him in the traditional sense. Not when he worked with his hands for a living as a carpenter, and I doubted so much had changed that he wasn’t digitally challenged beyond a game on the Xbox.
It took everything in me not to allow my gaze to eat him up.
Two years—however brief on that one-week visit home—of not working side by side with the man when I talked him into fitting me some new doors.
Two years of not listening to his addictive laugh that made me smile so big my face hurt.
And two years since once again, he’d left me disappointed when he’d waved goodbye and headed back to the city—and his boyfriend—where he’d set himself up with a new life away from the Sunshine Coast hinterland.
Never once had I told him about how I felt, the right time never seeming to arrive. If I’d known he was gay before he’d left town when he was twenty, perhaps I would have been more obvious with my crushing. At eighteen, I’d been very definitely out. But Dan’s sexuality came as a surprise. Craig had dropped that bombshell when I was in my second year of uni.
And hadn’t that been a kick in the gut, swiftly followed by elation. For the first time ever, I’d considered that just maybe I had a chance.
The chance never came, though.
There was no point when we lived a couple of hours apart. Long-distance wasn’t something I thought I could handle, even when it was for my brother’s best friend, the man who’d snagged a piece of my heart when my balls first dropped and my dick had thickened watching Gerard Butler in 300.
There was also the fact he’d had a boyfriend. Had been the exciting word of the day. Almost a year ago, they’d split.
The gravel under his feet grew louder, and his gaze remained fixed to mine. Barely a metre apart, and he stopped, shifting the six-pack to his side.
“Hey, Ross.” Pretty light-brown orbs peered back at me, wide and just as mesmerising as I remembered. “Bloody hell, you’re a sight for sore eyes.”
I grinned, uncertain of the words that might fall out of my mouth.
I didn’t need to worry. In Dan’s next breath, he said, “Get your arse over here already and give me a hug.”
I ignored my brother’s snort as he snagged the beer from Dan and walked on past us.
A deep exhale escaped my lungs as I stepped forwards and pulled him into my arms. I wrapped myself around him, holding him tight. The feel of his large limbs, strong and firm, wrapped around my own frame made my heart sing.
“Good to see you too, mate. About time you made the move back to civilisation.” My grin remained wide when I eased away, his snort making me chuckle.
“Yep. You better believe it. You know, a Subway opened in town, and Bunnings got an extension. Civilisation at its best.”
Dan’s laugh washed over me like a familiar hug, the sensation warming me, much like the log fire already built in my sitting room did.
“Come on.” I gripped his arms, giving a happy squeeze. “Let’s go and grab one of those beers.”