Pretend(3)

By: Riley Hart


Her eyes grew wide, obviously satisfied she didn’t have to defend Wes’s honor by making sure Gavin didn’t come to steal his man.

“Braden says you play instruments. He says you teach kids how to play ‘em. Can you teach me?”

Gavin got a pinch in his chest, but he made himself ignore it. “I used to teach. I don’t anymore, but I would love to show you how to play.”

“Yay!” Jessie squealed before running for the swings again.

Gavin pushed to his feet. “She’s like a little tornado. What does she want to play?”

“You haven’t seen anything yet, and beats the hell out of me. This is the first I’ve heard of it.”

The two men walked over to the porch and sat in the camp chairs. “Love what you’ve done with the place,” Gavin teased him. Though he was surprised. Braden worked with his hands a lot, and he’d always loved outdoors. He was surprised his friend hadn’t done more with the property.

“Funny, asshole. I hadn’t lived here too long before I met Wes, and before him, I wasn’t home often enough to care what it looked like. Now…well, we don’t want to take Jessie away from her home, ya know? It’s where she lived with her mom. We think it’s important that we stay there.”

Gavin ran a hand through his hair, trying to figure out how to respond to that. It was so crazy to hear Braden speak that way. He’d always been the free spirit while Gavin was the band geek, and now here he was, living this family life that Gavin had never come close to having. “You’ve changed. Grown up.”

Braden wrinkled his nose. “If you don’t take that back, I’ll be forced to kick your ass.”

Maybe he hadn’t changed too much. Both of them laughed.

“You look good. Got more muscle on you than you used to.” Braden nudged Gavin’s arm.

“Fuck off. We can’t all be sports-playing firemen.” Though, Braden was right. Gavin had started working out more lately. It wasn’t something he paid much mind to when he was younger. Now, he realized how much he enjoyed it.

“It’s hard being this good.”

“Married, huh? Does Wes know what he’s getting into, agreeing to a lifetime of dealing with your shit?”

Braden looked at Gavin and grinned. “He wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Gavin didn’t doubt that was true.

“What about you? Do you know what you’re going to do? I’m not sure if you realized this, but we have schools in Blackcreek. You can still teach, Gav.”

The pinch in his chest came back, only now it multiplied. It was like a fucking sledgehammer. “I don’t know what’s next. I don’t know what I want to be next, either. Now’s not the time to talk about my shit, though. I still can’t believe you’re getting hitched. Tell me about your life.”

Braden picked up where Gavin left off, talking about Wes and Jessie and how they wanted their relationship to be as official as they could for their little girl. Gavin listened to him, genuinely happy for his friend, but also wondering what in the hell was next for himself.





CHAPTER TWO

“Are you stalking me?” Mason took the chair beside Gavin. People were just starting to fill into the empty spaces for the wedding that would start in just a few minutes. It was a hot day in early June, the sun roasting around them.

Wes and Braden were having a small ceremony, with less than fifty folding white chairs lined up in front of an oversized tree with big, weeping branches that sat in the middle of Noah and Cooper’s property.

Gavin glanced his way. “If I was stalking you, wouldn’t I be hiding?”

“True.” He leaned closer, smelled the light sent of cologne. “You never know with the way you ran the other day.” Mason hadn’t expected to see Gavin again, figured he’d been passing through town; but it was obvious now that he’d come to town at least for the wedding.

“Ran, huh?” Gavin raised a dark brow at him. “Maybe I just wasn’t interested.”

Mason laughed at that. He’d seen the look in Gavin’s eyes. Saw it now as well, even though it seemed to be muted by a slight shyness. He was interested, attracted at the very least.

The look on Gavin’s face changed. Not in a bad way, just contemplative. He was a thinker. Mason could tell that much early on, and he weighed his thoughts right now before replying. Gavin looked up and around them. Was he in the closet? No, Mason didn’t think so. Newly out, then?

Before he had the chance to speak, the officiate walked to the tree and stood below it. Wes and Braden joined him, Braden in black slacks and a short-sleeved, button down shirt. Wes matched except in contrasting white. Both of them looked casual, with Jessie standing beside them in a long summer dress.