Greg Howe used to be such a sweet boy, but a bad experience over seas has left him scarred and skittish. Forced to return home to help out at the family Sugar Shack, Greg is confronted with his old friend Alex, who he hasn't spoken to in ten years. The bitterness of their lost friendship fades away as Alex helps Greg struggle to cope with his pain, while rebuilding their old closeness...and something more.
He'd always liked spring, the promise of a fresh start around the corner. No matter how bleak and depressing the dirty snow and mud looked at the moment, it was simply a step toward the welcoming warmth of summer and all the pleasures that season had to offer.
At least, that's what Greg told himself as the front passenger tire hit a deep mud puddle. The suspension crunched and a spray of grayish brown sludge coated the windshield of his white SUV. The optimist in him had rarely been at a loss when it came to putting a positive spin on a dreary situation. Today, like most days lately, was proving to be a bit of a challenge.
First had been the early morning call from his father, someone Greg hadn't expected to hear from at all, considering it was syrup season and Ted Howe should have been deep in the bush, tapping trees, and far from any cell towers.
Which brought him to the second issue at hand—Ted Howe had a broken leg and it was up to Greg to take over since there was no way the injury would heal before the sap dried up. Ted was stubborn enough to try hiking through deep snow to tap trees and lug full buckets with a full leg cast, and had even tried the usual guilt trip, claiming no broken bone would stop him. Greg had seen through it easily, used to his father's games, and had given in gracefully. His friends had been pushing him to take a vacation anyway.
As a child, Greg had spent a lot of time at the sugar shack, helping collect sap, stoking the fire, and watching with innocent fascination as the bland liquid turned into sweet, syrupy goodness. His father's business partner, Brad Rayner, always brought his son Alex, who was three years older than Greg, and the boys had been great friends. Cool nights huddled in front of the fire in the remote cabin, sharing a bag of marshmallows, had topped days spent running wild, exploring every hill and fallen log and had forged a relationship that lasted all through the rest of the year, despite the difference in their ages.
Until that night.
"Don't go there." No use thinking about it now.
The dirt road had been plowed throughout the winter, something it hadn't been in the past. As a kid, he'd clung to his father's back as the snowmobile flew over the damp spring snow. The rush of cold air on his cheeks and the smell of exhaust clinging to his clothes had been part of the fun—and was infinitely more enjoyable than ruining the shocks on his car driving over this rutted lane.
By the time the cabin came into view, Greg had a headache and desperately wanted a latte. He shut off the car, dragged in a fortifying breath, and opened the door. One sneaker sank deep into cold dirty slush that immediately leached up his cargo pants.
"Shit." Why the hell hadn't he told his father no? He could easily have lied and said he was heading out on an assignment.
"Need some help?"
Greg nearly squeaked at the amused voice, but thankfully managed to maintain at least a semblance of his masculinity. He hadn't even fallen on his ass, which he was prone to do even on level ground. Willing away the embarrassed flush he could feel heating his cheeks, he looked up into icy blue eyes and ended up losing his hard won composure. "Alex?"