Authors: Cassie Decker
By Cassie Decker
Fate has a way of bringing people together, like it did when Tucker Wright and Callum Richards met unexpectedly in an airport coffee shop and formed a deep connection in the short time they had to spend together. But fate can also be cruel. When Tucker loses Cal’s phone number in his hurry to catch his plane, he has no way of reaching Cal. Then a dead car battery and a snowy night force their paths to cross again, will Cal believe Tucker and ring in the New Year with a little help from kismet?
A time for new beginnings, for fresh starts. And after the year Tucker Wright was coming to the end of, a new start was just what he needed. He really couldn’t think of a better way to ring in the New Year than with a few new friends at a secluded cabin on the outskirts of Aspen, where he had just moved. A relaxing evening in a beautifully rustic locale was sure to do wonders for his stressed-out and run-down mind.
There was no denying the year had been rough on Tucker. Losing three website clients to larger, cheaper web design companies was a big enough blow. A water main break that flooded his apartment and destroyed thousands of dollars’ worth of computer equipment before his move to Aspen was just icing on the damn cake. But on top of all that, the thing that really hurt him the most was finding, then losing, the most incredible man he’d ever met, and all within the span of two short hours.
Three months earlier and roughly two hundred miles due east, Tucker was sitting in an overpriced airport coffee shop in Colorado’s DIA, waiting out a two-hour delay for a flight to a web developers’ convention in Boston. He was sipping idly on a too-expensive latte and watching the hurried movements of other travelers passing the window in front of his table, when a blur of dark hair and broad shoulders and green flannel and faded blue jeans entering the shop caught his attention. Tucker damn near burned his tongue clean off with the giant gulp of coffee he distractedly swallowed down while his widened eyes tracked the man all the way to the counter.
A sudden swell of conviction, urgent and heavy, tightened up Tucker’s chest as he watched the man absently run a hand through his hair while he waited for his drink, and he knew then and there he absolutely had to meet him. What he
know, though, was that fate had a funny way of messing with the plans one had, and for Tucker, that meant he’d be spending the next three months of his life wishing like hell things had gone differently that day.
Glancing away from his dashboard GPS with a sigh, Tucker looked back to the winding, dark stretch of wintery mountain road before him. Thick ribbons of snow danced through his SUV’s high beams and he flicked the windshield wipers to a faster setting. Taking some time to celebrate New Year’s with a few friends almost seemed selfish given how many different projects he had piling up back at his home office, but seeing as how he had just worked through the entire Christmas holiday, he thought maybe it was okay to be a little selfish just this once. And more than that, he hoped it would be a good distraction for him, that it would be a good mental break from the memories of a certain dark-haired cowboy that kept playing and replaying in his brain until it almost made him crazy. As he continued his trek to the cabin, Tucker groaned in frustration and raked a hand through his short blond hair, making it stick up even more than usual. His mind wandered, like it did every day with every other thought, back to the man in the coffee shop.
Callum Richards was the name the man gave when he introduced himself, coming to sit right next to Tucker at the long table by the window. “But only my momma calls me that,” he said in a lazy Southern drawl, shooting Tucker a wink and a lopsided grin. “To most folks I’m just Cal.”
Tucker looked over at him, stunned into silence. Now that he could see the man up close, his heart started pumping a little harder. There was no denying Cal was attractive, ruggedly so, with a strong jaw and straight nose that curved up a bit at the end. He was taller than Tucker by a few inches, more solidly built, and seemed like he might have five years or more on Tucker’s thirty. It was Cal’s eyes, though, deep cobalt blue like the sky at dusk, that drew Tucker’s attention right away. They were unfathomably rich and contrasted so beautifully against the inky-black waves of his hair that Tucker felt like his breath was snatched right out of his lungs. And then Cal’s slow, easy smile and firm, warm handshake brought all the air back in one gasping rush.
A soft chuckle rumbled out of Cal’s chest at the sound Tucker made, and it was enough to promptly short-circuit Tucker’s brain, rendering him a special kind of speechless; he barely had the mental capacity to give his name in return.
Thankfully he somehow rediscovered his voice after his initial stunned floundering, and the two quickly fell into an effortless conversation, talking like they had known each other for years instead of minutes. Tucker sat, by turns talking and listening intently, taking in everything from the animated way Cal used his hands when he spoke to the faint wrinkles that creased the corners of his eyes when he smiled. To say Tucker was completely captivated would be an understatement.
People continued to filter in and out of the coffee shop, but Tucker barely noticed at all; he was completely engrossed. They spoke of their jobs, and Tucker discovered Cal was a former ranch hand and now current mechanic working hard to hopefully open his own shop soon in Vail, where he was currently living. They talked about their hometowns—his was Denver, the very city they were sitting in, and Cal’s was Austin, Texas. Tucker found rather quickly Cal had just returned from there, having traveled back home for his sister’s wedding, and decided last minute to stop in for a shot of caffeine on his way out of the airport to retrieve his truck from the garage. The long drive back to Vail and the fact he hadn’t slept much over the last week with all the wedding festivities happening spurred him to enter the café and lay down more money than he thought fair just for a cup of regular black.
“Well, that and the hot blond sitting in front of the window,” he added with a wink before bringing his drink to his mouth.
Tucker looked behind himself, momentarily confused about who Cal was talking about. A warm blush burned across his cheeks and he dropped his eyes to the nearly empty paper cup in his hands when he realized
was the hot blond.
“Not so bad yourself,” Tucker said earnestly, once again bringing his gaze back up to Cal’s. He mentally damned his fair skin for giving away his embarrassment so easily when he saw Cal smirk good-naturedly.
“So what about you?” Cal asked, leaning back in his chair and stretching out his legs. His worn leather cowboy boots thumped down loudly onto the tiled floor. “I’m guessing you didn’t just come here for the
Letting out a breathy chuckle and shaking his head, Tucker set his cup down on the plank table before him. “I’m on my way to Boston for a web designers’ convention,” he explained, “for three fun-filled days of responsive web content, computer code encryption, and design performance.”
Cal looked at him as if he had just grown a second head. “I have no idea what you just said, kid, but you seem pretty excited about it, so I’m excited
you.” He brought his drink up in a little toast, grinning broadly before taking a sip.
Tucker smiled sheepishly and brought a hand up to rub across the back of his neck. “I
pretty excited,” he admitted, reaching his other hand out to trace his fingers around an old water ring on the wood table. Cal’s gaze followed the slow circular path while Tucker continued, “These conventions are great networking tools for small businesses, and I’m hoping to make a lot of connections when I’m out there.” He went on to tell Cal his own fledgling design business absolutely
on the relationships he would make over the next three days.
Cal nodded thoughtfully. “Good for you, kid,” he said. “Putting yourself out there like that ain’t easy, and it takes a hell of a lot more courage than most folks these days seem to possess or even understand.”
Cal’s words filled Tucker with a swell of pride. His own family hadn’t really seen how much he had invested in his web design business. They didn’t understand how strongly he needed something of his own, something he alone was responsible for.
He gave Cal a grateful smile and then the two were quiet for a moment, pulling off sips of their coffees while Cal raked his eyes over Tucker from head to toe. Tucker felt a flush of arousal at Cal’s slow perusal, and he looked away. A low chuckle quickly brought his gaze back up to see Cal’s blue eyes dancing with mirth when they connected with Tucker’s.
“Now, let me guess,” he said. “You were
excited to get going to that big ole convention that you got to the airport nice and early so you’d have plenty of time for a hot beverage and a stimulating conversation with a handsome stranger before catchin’ that plane?”
Tucker laughed outright then, loud and ringing throughout the café. He quickly slapped a hand over his mouth and blushed when he saw other patrons in the shop turning to look at him with unmasked curiosity. Cal’s expression softened and he chuckled too, leaning forward in his chair a bit, patting Tucker’s knee in a comforting manner and awaiting his reply. Tucker glanced down to Cal’s mouth, seeing him parting his plush lips on an exhale, and he almost forgot what he was about to say.
“I—I didn’t find out that there was a delay on my flight until I had already gotten through security,” Tucker stammered, pulling his phone from his pocket to check the time. “I’ve still got like almost two hours and… oh
.” Tucker’s stomach twisted nervously when he saw what time it actually was. He had less than ten minutes to make it to his gate. How the
had time gone by so fast?
Scrambling to stand and gather up and untangle the straps from his laptop bag and carry-on beside his chair, Tucker muttered out an apology, his face positively burning with embarrassment.
Cal stood too, a concerned frown tugging at his mouth. “Where’s the fire?”
Tucker looked up at him, swallowing hard. He really,
could not miss this flight, but seeing Cal there before him almost made him want to. How could he walk away when they’d only just met?
“My plane,” he said, his voice unsteady as he tried to offer up some sort of explanation as to why he was suddenly so desperate to make an exit.
Understanding broke across Cal’s face and he held out his hand, palm up, like he was expecting Tucker to put something in it. Tucker looked down at his hand then back up to Cal’s face, utterly dumbfounded.
“Your phone, kid,” Cal said with a grin. “Lemme put my number in it while you get yourself together, and when you get back here to good ole Colorado, you hit me up, okay?”
Tucker nodded emphatically, not even bothering to hide his enthusiasm, and shoved his phone into Cal’s hand. He knew he’d be texting him as soon as his plane hit the tarmac in Boston; the last thing he wanted was to lose the connection that had already started forming between them.
Bending down, Tucker went about the task of untangling the straps from his two bags with fingers that suddenly seemed aggravatingly uncoordinated while Cal typed away on his cell. When he finally stood and settled first his carry-on and then laptop bag over his shoulder with a satisfied sigh, Cal slipped his phone into the back pocket of his jeans with a lingering caress. That damn charming lopsided smile curved up one corner of the cowboy’s mouth, and heat immediately pooled low in Tucker’s belly, making his jeans seem a little tighter. He felt himself listing forward like a ship cut loose of its moorings, helplessly drawing closer to the man before him until he was pressing gently against Cal’s solid chest.
Cal looked down at him, his eyes darkening considerably as he lowered his head. His lips came to hover just inches from Tucker’s, and the warmth of his coffee-scented breath washing against his skin made Tucker shiver. “You better catch that plane before you miss it, kid,” he whispered. And then he pulled back, a soft smile playing at his mouth.
Tucker, somehow managing to remember how to breathe, nodded. “Right.”
But even though his brain urged him to start moving, he remained rooted to his spot for a few moments, simply looking at Cal. He traced his eyes over all the curves and hard edges of his face like he was committing him to memory. And maybe he was because, damn, three days was going to be a long time.
Leaning forward, Tucker let his eyes slip closed and went in for a kiss, only wanting one little taste. But before his mouth even barely brushed against Cal’s, he was being held back gently. He blinked his eyes open and looked up to see Cal staring down at him, all playfulness gone. There was a weighted gravity shadowing his gaze, and it almost seemed to Tucker that Cal was fighting to restrain himself in some way.