The Egg Hunt is an Easter story, maybe the title tipped you off. It used to be called Once in a Forest, and then it wasn’t as easy to guess. Now it’s been renamed and has a shiny new cover, though.
This is the story of Jason and Tom.
Jason comes to Nortown to visit his friend, Aiden, but Aiden failed to inform Jason there would be a dog in the house when he arrived. His precious little doggie got a scare and ran off into the woods.
Tom has no plans of spending the holiday with anyone, least of all an attractive yet annoying guy from the city, but he can’t leave the poor soul stranded, and since the dogs don’t seem to get along…
Tom watched with interest as Jason’s gaze softened when he looked at Aiden. He couldn’t have stopped the smile on his lips even if he’d wanted to when he met Tristan’s annoyed gaze. This weekend could turn into a real treat.
He’d figured he’d be depressed since it was Easter, and what was more depressing than a soon-to-be thirty-five-year-old spending a holiday alone? He had the egg hunt on Sunday, and for the rest he’d be working, but this sure looked like it could turn interesting. It gladdened him that Tristan was going to have an even crappier weekend than him. He tried to hide it by taking a sip on his coffee, but in the end, he gave in to the chuckle.
“What are you laughing about?” The stern look Jason gave him sent a shiver travelling through his body. Tom ignored it. He didn’t act on reactions like that, not in this town.
“Nothing.” Tom kept sipping and tried to keep his face blank, but he could feel his eyes crinkling at the corners as he looked at Tristan again.
“Something funny, Tom?” Tristan’s voice took a growly turn.
He shrugged. “Nothing you’d appreciate.”
“Figured as much.”
Tom needed to change the subject before he said anything that might further increase the tension. “So, the dog? What breed, and how long has he been gone? What do we do?”
“He’s this tiny little Jack Russell terrier.”
Tom almost choked on his coffee, and Tristan gave him his trademark one-raised-eyebrow look.
“Yeah, just a tiny little Jack Russell,” Tristan confirmed.
“He is tiny!” Aiden looked between Tristan and Tom. “Why are you two looking at each other like that?”
“Well…” Tom hoped Tristan would cut him off with some smart comment, but the amused twinkle in his eyes dashed those hopes all too fast. “Jack Russells were bred for hunting in dens. They go up against foxes and badgers underground.”
“Biscuit wouldn’t do that. He’s never hunted anything in his life.”
Somehow Tom found that hard to believe, but he shrugged to calm Jason down a little. “What I mean is he’s not a fragile little thing. But…” Tom trailed off as Aiden reached for Tristan’s arm, and a wave of envy washed over him. He shook it off. “But it’s still cold, so no matter what, we need to find him.” And the ice was not reliable this time of year, not that Tom was going to say it out loud, but it was still the case.
Tristan patted Aiden’s hand. “Why don’t the two of you—” he nodded at Jason “—go back to the cabin and see if he’s come back. Maybe check the forest around it.”
“Okay.” Aiden downed the last in his cup and held out his hand for the car keys.
Tom didn’t say a thing while the two men got up from their seats and headed for the door. He watched them go to Tristan’s car, hop in, and then the lights came on.
“You’re okay with that?” He was still watching the car as it pulled away from the café. He turned back to find Tristan studying him through narrowed eyes.
“What do you mean?”
“If Aiden were mine—” He nearly choked on his words. He should not be saying things like that. “I’m not entirely sure I would let him out of my sight with that guy around.”
Tristan paled a bit, and Tom instantly regretted his words. He’d forgotten all about Paul, Tristan’s ex-husband, for a moment. How could he be so insensitive? It had taken years for Tristan to recover from Paul cheating on him. The worst of it was that people had known and said nothing. Tom hadn’t known about it, but he liked to think he would have spoken up.
“I have to trust him.”
Tristan’s strangled whisper made Tom’s stomach ache. So much hurt, which was why he’d never even consider getting a partner. It wasn’t worth the gossip, and it certainly wasn’t worth the pain if things didn’t work out.
“I was only joking around, Tris. Aiden would never…” And he prayed to God that was true.
“I need a favour.” Tristan gave him a serious look.
“Anything.” He had to offer after having ripped the old wound open.
“I need you to let Jason stay with you.”
“What?” Once again, the hum of the voices in the café diminished, and every pair of eyes turned their way.
“I can’t ask Jen to take him in. They don’t have the space, and if we ever find the darn dog…” Tristan shook his head. “If we ever find the dog, he can’t stay with us. I’m not sure which dog would rip the other to pieces, but I’m not risking a bloodbath.”
Tom could see Tristan’s point, but he wasn’t in the mood to have a stranger living with him over Easter.
“I’ll owe you one, and Aiden will give you a free massage tomorrow morning.”
So much for working through the weekend.
Jason has one rule when it comes to holidays – work his shift behind the bar and then find a willing body to distract himself with. One night is long enough to satisfy his needs and still walk away with his heart intact. It has worked out fine for most of his adult life, but this Easter, he’s trying something new. He’s leaving the city to visit his friend, Aiden, who recently moved in with his boyfriend in the middle of nowhere, but one unfortunate incident leaves Jason without a place to sleep.
Tom doesn’t do relationships, he rarely does hook-ups and never too close to home. Living on his own without attachments is far easier than having the whole town knowing about him. As the holiday approaches, his lonely house grows even quieter than normal – at least until his friend, Tristan, dumps an arrogant bartender in his lap.
As soon as Jason lays eyes on the gruff lumberjack whose home he’ll be sharing, he knows who’ll warm his bed for the weekend and help chase away any pending holiday gloom. Too bad Tom doesn’t want to get with the programme. As much as he wants to let Jason close, he won’t risk outing himself for a weekend fling. Will Jason trust Tom not to break his heart if he stays longer than a couple of days, and will Tom value their relationship higher than the town gossip?