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.” He held up the card.Trick made a show of zipping his lips.Van pulled carefully out of the building before lifting his hand in a wave as he passed the group on the porch.He waited until he was out of eyesight to pull to the side of the road.After retrieving his cellphone from his pocket, he punched in the number on the business card.After five rings, he was ready to hang up.“Hello?”Van knew immediately that he’d reached Jon’s grandfather.“Hello, sir, is Jon available?”“He’s gone to the rodeo.Can I take a message?”Thinking fast, Van remembered Trick’s request.“I was just wondering if the Peaches ’n’ Cream was ready?” He crossed his fingers, praying he didn’t sound like a total idiot.“I know he picked some yesterday, but I don’t keep up on what’s selling these days.I can have Jon call you.”Van couldn’t give the older man his cell number or it would be obvious he wasn’t from the area.“Thank you for your time.I think I’ll stop by the stand tomorrow and see what I can find.”“Have a nice evening, young man.”It was the first time in years that anyone had referred to Van as young, which made him smile.“You, too, sir.”* * * *Unlike the previous evening, Jon bought a beer and a hot dog and went immediately to the grandstand.With his cowboy hat pulled low on his forehead, he hoped to hide the bruise under the brim’s shadow.It wasn’t hard to find a seat at the top because the crowd-drawing events wouldn’t begin for another ninety minutes.Jon settled back against the security fencing and enjoyed his dinner as he watched the team calf-roping event.When he spotted a handsome man with long, silky black hair coming up the bleachers, he smiled and secretly hoped Van was headed towards him.He held his breath until Van stood over him.“Hey.”“Mind if I join you?” Van asked.Jon shook his head.“Not at all.” He scooted over even though there was plenty of space beside him.Van sat down and lifted the brim of Jon’s hat.“It looks better than I thought it would.How’s it feel?”“Like a constant reminder of my stupidity,” Jon answered honestly.“I lied to my grandpa and told him I got drunk and fell down.” He swallowed around the lump in his throat.“It wasn’t right or easy, but I believe it was necessary.”“Because you don’t want him to find out you’re gay?” Van questioned.“Because I don’t want him to look at me as weak,” Jon confessed.“It was bad enough that I couldn’t live up to my dad’s legacy in football and baseball, but to let my grandpa know I’d allowed someone to hit me while having my pants around my ankles is unthinkable.” He quickly looked around, afraid others had heard.When no one seemed to be paying them any mind, he finished his thought.“My grandpa looks at me with respect and that means absolutely everything to me.”Van seemed to consider Jon’s statement.“And that’s why you don’t want to fill out a complaint against Guy?”“Partially.” With thoughts of Van running through his head all day, Jon hadn’t given Guy much of his time.“I don’t dislike Guy, and I’m not sure I even blame him for what happened.”“Well, I do,” Van replied.“People who can’t hold their liquor shouldn’t drink, and from the sound of it, Guy’s drinking has been out of control for too long.”Jon decided to voice his own shame regarding the situation with Guy.“I shouldn’t have led him on then backed out at the last minute.”Van brushed Jon’s bruised cheek with his fingertips.“A person should be allowed to change their mind without getting something like this in return.”“I can’t talk about this here,” Jon said when he noticed someone two rows in front of them turn around.“Feel like going for a drive?” Van asked.“Sure.” Jon stood.“I’d like to get my hand stamped, though, because I want to see the broncos and bulls later.”“Sounds good.” Van led the way down the bleachers to the parking lot.“A friend loaned this to me while I’m here.Isn’t she a beauty?”Jon nodded.He’d seen the Jeep in the Cattle Valley parade a year earlier, so he knew exactly who owned it.“I didn’t know you were friends with Trick Allen.” He slid into the vehicle and reached for a seatbelt only to come up empty.“Yeah, it took me a while to find them, too.They’re not original to the car, but Trick obviously had them installed.” Van lifted a flap on the black vinyl seat and pulled out half of a lap belt.“There’s one on each side.”Once Jon was buckled in, Van pulled out of the parking lot.“East or west?” Van asked.“North, towards the mountain.There’s a road that leads to a gorgeous lookout point.” Jon took off his hat and held it in his lap.As the wind lifted and tousled his hair, he tipped his head back and closed his eyes.It had been a long time since he’d truly enjoyed a warm summer evening.He loved working the farm, but the stress of being responsible for its success or failure combined with his worry and love for his grandpa was a lot for a man in his mid-twenties.“Are we heading anywhere in particular?” Van asked.With his eyes closed, Jon let the deep timbre of Van’s voice soak into his pores.“Just keep going on this road and it’ll start winding up the mountain.Halfway up, there’s a scenic pull-off.”“Are you falling asleep on me?” Van asked.Jon opened his eyes and grinned at Van.“I’m enjoying your company too much to fall asleep.”Van nodded as he shifted gears.“The feeling’s mutual.” He cleared his throat.“I called your house and spoke to your grandfather.”Jon sat straight up in his seat at the announcement.“Don’t worry, after he told me where you were, I covered by asking if you had any Peaches ’n’’n’ Cream for sale,” Van explained.“I promised Trick I’d pick him up some in exchange for the use of the Jeep.”“Well, then, I guess you’ll have to come by the stand tomorrow.” Jon liked the thought of Van shopping at his small store.He saw the outlook and pointed to the left.“Pull in there.”Van crossed the oncoming lane and parked in front of the heavy wood fence.“Can’t see much,” he noted.“With everything going on in town, we shouldn’t be bothered up here at this time of night,” Jon said as he released his seatbelt.Pointing towards the sky, he sighed.“Besides, my favourite view is up.”Van tilted his head back.“Yep.When I was a teenager, a big storm knocked out power on the entire island.Once the rain moved through, my dad took me outside and the two of us stared at the stars for hours.”“Sounds nice.” Jon didn’t have many memories of his mom or dad [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]