Never Too Early: The Beginning
180 pages / 52300 words
Paperback at Amazon
Firefighters Chancellor Shanahan and Tucker McBride have been together for years. They've been through the rough patches and come out the other side, although shift work, misunderstandings, and stubborn personalities can make things interesting. Chance knows that he and Tucker love each other, however, and neither of them have any interest in other people. So what happens when they meet another couple with a similar relationship? An unlikely friendship could take a possible turn.
Jake and Tor are a pair of cowboys who have weathered the storms of a decade together and have finally settled into their lives. They have a ranch, they have family, and they have each other. A rare vacation leads to a friendship, which leads to questions and a revival of long finished conversations. Is moving forward also a step back in time to issues they’ve already put to rest?
When his phone rang after dinner on Sunday night, Chance expected it to be Bonnie. They’d been playing phone tag for a week and he’d left her a voicemail several hours ago. He picked the phone up from the coffee table and answered without looking at the display.
"Remind me to tell Matt that there are other people who’d like to see you."
"Uh, okay. Matt who? And does he want to see me?" The male voice was definitely not Bonnie.
Whoops. Chance took the phone away from his ear and looked at the screen. Jake’s name and number were prominently displayed. Well, that was weird. Jake had never called him before.
"Hey," Chance said with surprise. "You’re not Bonnie. What’s up, man?" He half expected Jake to apologize for a pocket dial.
"I’m not Bonnie," Jake agreed. "And there’s not a whole lot up, ‘cept me and Tor need to be in California in a week, and thought maybe we’d be near enough to see you guys for dinner or something. I’m not sure of the distances, but Tor says he looked it up on the internet and it might be doable, if your schedules work."
The TV show he and Tucker had been watching moved to an overly-loud commercial. Chance snapped his fingers at Tucker to turn the volume down. "Oh, yeah? California’s pretty big. Where are you going to be?" Chance caught Tucker’s eye and motioned at the phone.
Tucker motioned back and then made a ‘no idea who you’re talking to’ face.
"Uh, San Diego." Jake cleared his throat. "My sister is getting some huge award thing and we’re going out to see her. Then maybe we’ll stay a couple of days, if it makes sense."
"Okay, hold on." Chance went to the kitchen and stood in front of the shift calendar on the front of the refrigerator. "I’m off from Tuesday through Friday. Tucker works some of those days, but he can do a sick day if necessary. Does that work out?"
He could hear paper rustling on Jake’s end. "The award thing is on Saturday night, and then we’re spending Sunday with her. Monday we can find something, I’m sure, and we don’t need to be back, really, until Thursday or Friday. Elias says if we don’t take a few days off this summer he’s going to quit, and no one wants that. Trust me."
Chance grabbed the dry-erase marker that he and Tucker kept for the kitchen message board and scrawled Jake/Tor Mon Tues Weds. "Yeah, I hear you. Tucker’s off on Monday, so he can probably entertain you. Then Tuesday after I get home, we can meet up or something. Sound good?"
"Yeah, that’d be great." Jake sounded like he was smiling. "You’re sure? We’re not messing up your week?"
"No way. Having visitors is cool." A thought occurred to Chance. "Have you ever been here before?"
"Nope. Tor’s been in parts of California when he was younger, but I’ve never been that far west. I’ve never been that far away from home."
Something about Jake’s statement was touching. Chance smiled as he answered. "Well, hey. There’s a lot to see away from home. Tuck and I can show you guys a good time."
"I think Tor’s counting on it." Jake laughed. "I think he’s hoping to go on roller coasters."
"Oh, sure. They all want to go to Disneyland." Chance chuckled. "Sure, why not? We can take a day and do that. I’ll think about the other two days. I mean, if you want to spend it with us. We’re fine just to point you in the direction of where you want to go."
"Please don’t let Tor loose on the freeway." Jake sounded serious. "I’m kind of counting on you to keep me safe, alive, and unlost. Also, I think Tor’d kill me if he didn’t get to hang out with Tucker. Uh, not that I don’t want to see you. I mean. Oh, God."
Chance couldn’t help laughing. "It’s okay. Best to keep the peace and let Tor and Tucker have a play date. You and I can watch fondly as they climb on the monkey bars."
"As long as I don’t have to push the swing, we’re cool." Jake sounded a little calmer. "So, it’s good? We’ll text or call on the Sunday night so Tucker and Tor can make a plan for Monday."
"Yeah, it’s good. Looking forward to it." Chance realized it was true. "We’ll talk to you next week, Jake. See ya."
"Bye, Chance. See you soon."
The connection was broken and Chance stood for a moment in the kitchen, looking at the words he’d written on the white board. Looked like they were having company.
"Can I turn the volume back up?" Tucker wandered in and opened the freezer, most likely looking for the box of Fudgsicles he’d thrown into the grocery cart yesterday.
"Yeah, sorry. Hey, Jake and Tor are coming out here next week."
"No shit?" Tucker found what he was looking for and tore the wrapper off his treat. "Stayin’ here?"
"Not here, here. Down in San Diego. But they have a few free days and Jake said Tor wants to ride roller coasters." Chance leaned back on the counter and started entering dates into his phone calendar.
"Shoot. Course he does. That kid’s a thrill seeker." Tucker grinned and offered Chance a bite of his Popsicle. "Guess I better wash my truck."
"Start with washing your shirt."
Tucker glanced down and frowned at the bit of chocolate that had dropped onto the front of his tee. "Well, dang."
Sometimes love is complicated.
Copyright 2016 Chris Owen