Finding love was the last thing he’d expected when he moved back home.
After Robby learns that his father’s had a stroke, he packs his things and moves back to the town and ranch where he grew up. Being there means that he has to hide his sexuality. Even so, Robby is happy to be back. But he doesn’t have time to enjoy being at home before Joon, his brother’s best friend from university, steps into his life. Joon is the most confusing and captivating man Robby has ever met.
Beautiful beyond words and with a quirky and eccentric personality, Joon attracts Robby as no one else has before. Robby repeatedly succumbs to his desires, but every time his fears get the best of him and he ends up hurting Joon. When he realizes he has fallen for Joon, he fears it’s too late and that he’s already lost him.
Then, when things finally look good in their relationship, someone steps in and threatens their happiness. Almost losing Joon forever makes Robby realize he’s let his fears keep him away from his family, instead of trusting their love for him.
Reader advisory: This book contains instances of homophobia and internalized homophobia, gun violence, and chronic illness.
General Release Date: 28th March 2023
Robby sighed, watching the familiar sights as he drove by. He’d never thought he’d be back in his hometown except to visit. His stomach started quivering as he drew closer to his family’s ranch. Attending college had given him the opportunity and freedom to experiment, to finally be who he wanted to be. Because of that, Robby hadn’t been able to live out here anymore, not when that meant hiding who he was. But he missed his family and the ranch, and he hated that he’d had to leave them.
When he’d received his brother’s call about their father’s stroke, he’d remembered what his aunt Lily had always told him—“You can’t run from your problems”—and she was right. He was back after trying to run away. Despite not wanting to be trapped here, Robby had done what he had to do. He’d quit his job, taken care of his small apartment’s lease, packed his belongings and sold what he didn’t need. When he had gotten into his car, he had known he’d have to resign himself to a lonely life.
Robby snapped out of his thoughts as he entered the familiar driveway of their ranch. He pulled in behind his father’s truck and parked his car. He sighed as he looked over the house where he had grown up. It was the same as it had always been, but not the same at all. It was a simple white ranch house with a huge porch where the family always gathered after a hard day’s work. Much had changed now—the only things reminding him of those days were the swing and the flowerpots his aunt loved so much.
Grabbing his phone from the dashboard, he climbed out as Ben, their foreman, walked out of the barn. Robby smiled at the big man.
“Look at what the cat dragged in.” Ben grinned, heading his way.
Robby enveloped the older man in a bear hug. He had missed him. Ben was like a big brother to both him and his older brother Drew.
“How’ve you been?” Robby asked as he pulled away.
“Good. I never thought I’d see the day when you moved back here.”
“Yeah, me neither, but…” Robby sighed. “How’s Pa?”
“Better. He was a strong and healthy man before this happened,” Ben reminded him. “The doctors say that with physical therapy, he’ll recover most of his mobility. He’ll never be able to work on the ranch like before, but at least he’ll move around and take care of himself.”
His pa, Jack Westland, was a proud man. He would hate being unable to work on his ranch, but needing someone to take care of his personal needs would have crushed his spirit.
“Drew is at the hospital. He went to talk with the doctors about Pa’s therapy and the changes we’ll need to make around the house,” Ben informed him.
Robby nodded in understanding. They had a long road ahead of them.
The screen door of the main house screeched open, and his aunt marched down the steps. “Robert, it’s so good to see you around here again,” she called.
Robby cringed. He was in trouble. His aunt and Pa called Drew and him by their full names only when they’d done something bad. Robby knew why his aunt was mad at him. His decision to move to the city had disappointed his family. They had respected his choice and never tried to change his mind, but they didn’t agree or understand. He’d offered no reason for his move, which had added to his family’s confusion.
“Oh, come on, Auntie. Don’t be mad at me.” Robby tried to imitate the pout that had gotten him out of trouble when he was a child. His aunt was fighting a smile, so it was still working.
“Don’t make that face at me, Robert. It won’t work this time.” His aunt waved a finger at him. Of course she wouldn’t back down so easily. “One year, Robert. One year has passed since the last time you visited. And I’m sure it would have been longer if your pa hadn’t had his stroke.”
Robby flushed with guilt—his aunt was right. If Pa hadn’t had a stroke, he would have found excuses not to visit again. “I’m sorry,” he said.
“What is the reason my Robby was so busy that he couldn’t come here for at least a few days? Did you find some beautiful lover in the city?”
Robby caught his aunt in a firm hug. “Hardly. I have the most beautiful girl at home. Those city girls can’t compete with you.”
His aunt giggled at his words. Even in her late forties, she was still a stunningly beautiful woman.
“Stop flattering me. You and Ben unload your truck and then come to the kitchen to eat lunch,” his aunt ordered before walking away.
“Yes, ma’am!” he and Ben shouted and saluted at the same time before going to his car.
He smiled when he heard his aunt’s musical laugh as she went inside the house.
* * * *
After eating lunch with his aunt and Ben, Robby went to his room to unpack his clothes and toiletries. The rest of his things could wait. He heard when his brother came home, but didn’t go downstairs immediately. He didn’t want to face him. Robby was ashamed to meet Drew because when their pa had collapsed, his brother had seen the worst of it.
However, he couldn’t hide forever, so he finished putting most of his clothes in the closet before going downstairs. He found Drew in the kitchen, finishing up a late lunch.
Drew looked up and smiled when he walked in. “Robby! It’s so good to see you.” He stood and hugged him tight.
“I’ve missed you so much. I’ve missed everything—the ranch, the hands, the animals.”
Drew pulled away and looked at him. “Then why did you leave?”
Robby grimaced and took a seat across from Drew. “It’s complicated.”
Drew gave him a stern look but didn’t press the matter. Robby was grateful for that.
His brother pushed his plate away. “As good as someone in his situation can be. The stroke damaged his right side. He has to undergo physical, occupational and speech-language therapy. He has to learn how to use the left part of his brain again, so he can do everyday activities, such as eating, drinking, dressing and so on. His speech hasn’t been badly affected, thankfully, but he still needs some therapy.”
“Has he started rehab?”
“Yes. The hospital has a rehabilitation center, so they transferred him there. We’ll have to move Pa’s room downstairs and make some changes around the house and ranch, so we’ll be ready when he returns home.”
“I suppose they won’t discharge him for a while.”
“It might take a few months.” Drew stood and grabbed his plate, rinsing it before placing it in the dishwasher. “Go rest. Tomorrow, I’m going to put you to work,” he warned him.
“Already? I hoped I’d have a few days to relax.” Robby grinned.
“You’re not on vacation, brat!”
Robby tried to pout, which made Drew roll his eyes.
“I’m happy that you’re back.” He squeezed Robby’s shoulder as he passed by, walking out of the house.
“Me too,” Robby said as he stood up and went to his room.
He listened to his brother and tried to rest. It had been too long since he had worked on the ranch, and Drew wouldn’t go easy on him just because he was rusty.
Despite wanting to relax, he was too agitated, so he started unpacking more of his things. He stopped when it was time for supper, and he went downstairs.
Some hands came by to greet him. They ribbed him, calling him a city boy and asking if he’d forgotten his roots. After dinner, Robby spent some more time talking with Drew, Ben and his aunt.
The past weeks since the news of his father’s stroke had been hectic. He’d been in a state of shock for a day or so. The memories of his mother dying of cancer had resurfaced, and he’d realized how close they’d been to losing their father as well.
Quitting his job, packing, moving and worrying about his father had left him exhausted, and now that he had gotten back to the ranch, the exhaustion caught up with him.
When he went back to his room and got into bed, he fell asleep instantly. Thankfully, he’d remembered to set his alarm.