Photojournalist Austin Edmunds is something of a loner, preferring
his own company to all of the people his friends try to set him up
with. A new assignment in the Smoky Mountains might just change all
that, though, when Austin meets big, sexy hunk, Brack Edge.
Austin has never experienced an attraction as immediate as the one he feels
for Brack, and he loves the scenery and people he encounters in the
Smokies. Despite all that, life isn’t all fun and games for Austin and
Brack. They take on helping out a local kid with his homophobic family,
and Austin has a story to finish. The hardest part might just be how
Brack and Austin will handle the fact that Austin is a Manhattan man to
the core, and Brack is a mountain boy, through and through. Can they
find a way to keep it together?
Austin woke to the sounds of dogs barking and Brack laughing. Not
bad sounds, he thought. Beats an alarm clock. He lay still a few
seconds and caught more. There were birds and the chittering of some
small animals under his window. This side of the house was closer to
the trees. He felt like he was in the forest, right in the trees with
all the animals. Come to think of it, he was in the treetops
with the animals. It was certainly different from the concrete jungle
he was from. He smiled and got up, eager to meet the day, eager to see
Brack again this morning.
As he entered the kitchen downstairs, he could smell wonderful breakfast aromas. There was coffee
made, and a note on the table inviting him to get the plate that had
been kept warm for him in the oven and join Brack on the porch. He
helped himself to some orange juice from the fridge and grabbed the
plate. There was a pretty wooden tray sitting on the counter, that
Austin would bet that Brack had made, so he put all his food and drinks
on it and headed out.
Brack looked up as he came out the door. He was sitting at one of the tables on the big porch and
grinning at Austin, reaching across with his foot to push back the
chair opposite him. Austin put his food down and dropped into the
chair, returning the look.
"This is wonderful. Thanks for the breakfast, by the way. Everything looks great. Man, it's
really nice out here. Where are the girls?"
"I'm trying to teach them that, when I'm eating out here, they're not to sit
and beg, so I reward them when they stay in the yard while I have meals
on the deck. Look at them, though; they are really being tested with
you here, too. They're not used to me having anyone else out here. They
can't wait to get up here." Brack glanced over fondly at the two pretty
Austin looked behind him and there they were, both
looking at him with their hearts in their eyes. It was evident the pups
wanted to join them desperately.
He looked back at Brack, and his mind clicked in that Brack was telling him he didn't have other men here.
"You don't entertain out here?" It was such a perfect place. He hoped he
didn't sound like he was trying to find out if Brack brought guys here.
"Actually, you're the first guy I've cooked breakfast for and invited
to join me here. I've had guests that I've taken on trips into the
hills for various reasons, but they don't get quite the service or the
interest that you do." Brack looked right into Austin's eyes, grinning.
He didn't seem to mind admitting that he was interested in Austin. Austin
liked knowing he wasn't one of a crowd. Brack put his elbow on the
table and put his hand up.
Austin did the same. Their hands met and their fingers entwined, their palms pressing together for
a few seconds. They said nothing, but Austin thought they both felt
better about things. He was glad they weren't in a hurry, but Brack
seemed equally interested in pursuing this chemistry between them.
Austin began to eat and asked about the day's plans. Brack suggested they do
about a week at least of traveling the hills and shooting scenery for
the article before they went up to the Jenkins' place. He said he
wanted Austin to get a feel for the hill country, the mountains, the
beauty of the area, before meeting the people who were the main focus
of his article.
Austin was fine with it. He had plenty of time on this trip. He started to say something when he saw a
movement behind Brack. Was that…? Yes, there was a man creeping around
the corner of the house.
"Don't look now, but there's someone coming around the corner behind you. It looks like…uh…that boy
you sort of hit yesterday," Austin told him very quietly, without
letting the kid know they knew he was there.
Without even turning his head, Brack said just a little louder, "Come on over, Randy. You hungry?"
The young man jumped. He stopped a second, then came on, hands in his
pockets and his head down. He walked up the two levels of the patio and
porch and came over to the table. He cleared his throat and brought his
head up. There was a slight bruise on his jaw where Brack had hit him
yesterday, but now Austin could see that his other eye was black and
blue and swollen. He seemed to be favoring his left arm, too. Someone
had beaten the crap out of him.
"Randy," Brack said gently, "did Buck do that? Again? Why this time?"