At forty-five, Jared Tailler suddenly feels old. When his employer grounds him, he starts thinking in terms of measuring his coffin. Well, not quite, but he’s creakier and hairier than he was ten years ago, and his closest relationship is the one he has with his frequent-flyer card.
It’s time to get out there.
On the first day of a five-day hiking trip, he meets Finley Macrae, a younger, seemingly brighter man. As they inch together in halting steps, Jared learns he’s not the only one lost out in the blue—Fin’s good cheer hides a turbulence deeper than Jared’s midlife crisis. Maybe together they can find the trail to happiness.
A story from the Dreamspinner Press 2015 Daily Dose package
“Never Too Late.”
“This short novella is sweet and sexy and touching…” — Goodreads review
“I truly loved this story. It’s short…will only take about an hour to read, but it’s packed full of depth and emotion.” — Smitten With Reading
FIVE DAYS. He could do this for five days.
Jared Tailler resisted the urge to press two fingers to his opposite wrist. He could feel the uptick of his pulse in his throat, anyway, an unsteady thrum that would likely interfere with simple things like talking. Breathing. Instead, he sipped at the afternoon air, tasting warmth more suited to August than June, and held the breath in his lungs until his pulse settled.
Five days. He could hike for five days. He could hike in the company of fifteen or sixteen other men for five days. Be grounded, in touch with the earth; take in greater breaths of fresh air. Talk to people. Make a friend before he lost the second half of his life to the obscurity of the first.
A face appeared in front of him, a study of light and dark. Pale skin, hair so dark it might be black. Eyes of a startlingly clear blue, just like the sky over their heads. Showing a smile, the man thrust a hand out. “Hi, I’m Fin. Finley Macrae.”
“You’re a long way from the Highlands, Finley Macrae.” No, he couldn’t have said something normal, usual, like “how do you do,” or “hi, I’m Jar. Jared Tailler.” And thank Christ he hadn’t. Seriously, who wanted to be called Jar?
Jared breathed out, discovered his lungs were already running on empty, and breathed in again.
In front of him, Finley cocked his head, blue eyes sparkling in the sunlight. His smile broadened. “Oh, aye!” he said in a fair imitation of a Scots accent. With his pale skin and angular features, the man had an almost elfin appearance, despite his height. His smiles were quick. His wit obviously quicker. Dropping the brogue, he continued, “I’m actually local, but if the accent does it for you….” One eye closed in a quick wink.
Swallowing, Jared put his hand out to meet the shake that had been left in an awkward pause. “Right, ah… right. I’m Jared. Tailler.”
A warm hand closed around his. “Nice to meet you, Jared. Want to be hiking buddies?”
Thirty-some years distant from school and still he remembered the terror of being picked last. Grab a partner, Jared, any partner. Make the best of it.
“Y-yes.” The answer stuttered out of him before he could overthink it. “Sure.”
Fin looked as if he’d won a prize. “Hey, great! We’ll be roommates too.”
Roommates? Oh, right. The rooms at the bed and breakfast inns were all double occupancy. Hopefully with two beds. Upland Adventures specialized in hiking trips for gay men, but their website hadn’t looked like a hookup forum—which was why Jared had chosen them. He wanted to get out there, but maybe not out there.
Their guide called for attention, and Fin stepped in close. The scent of warm skin, laundry detergent, canvas, and man wafted over. Jared breathed in again, and this time he found his smile came naturally. Five minutes, and he’d already made a friend. An attractive friend.
He could do this.