Home > Sweet as Honey (Aster Valley #2)(9)

Sweet as Honey (Aster Valley #2)(9)
Author: Lucy Lennox

Truman let out a soft giggle and blushed. It wasn’t the first time I’d noticed him watching my friends display affection toward each other, and it made me wonder about his own boyfriend. Why hadn’t Mikey and Tiller invited him here with Truman?

After remembering the man had a boyfriend, I spent the rest of the evening trying not to pay particular attention to him. I barely noticed how he smelled or how he shifted in his seat every time the subject of Aster Valley came up. I hardly noticed how his laugh got deeper when Tiller’s humor got dirtier. And I definitely didn’t pay much attention to the way he absentmindedly licked his spoon long after the last traces of chocolate had been scraped from his dish.

No, if I paid him too much attention, I’d want to rescue him from whatever the hell kind of trouble he was in, and it was definitely none of my business.

But later that night, after we’d enjoyed a nice dinner and plenty of good wine and Truman had left with his arms full of leftovers, I couldn’t help myself.

“Why did he act funny when you brought up the ski resort?”

Mikey sighed and settled into the vee between Tiller’s beefy thighs on the deep sofa. We were sitting in the den area attached to the big kitchen which seemed to be their favorite place to spend time. On my last visit, I’d quickly discovered they had this enormous lodge and barely used any of it. I wondered what it would be like when they turned it into a bed-and-breakfast. Mikey was eager to host guests and feed people.

Mikey swallowed a sip of wine. “Supposedly he’s the reason the resort was shut down in the first place. His dad managed the resort for the family who owned it. When he was only like five or something, Truman snuck his grandpa’s metal sled out to the slopes. I’m not sure of the details, but he got scared or something. Ran back home and left the sled behind. The snow fell all night, hiding the sled under fresh powder.”

I winced, immediately sensing where this was going.

“The first person down the slopes the following morning was Langdon Goode, one of the best and brightest Olympic hopefuls for the Salt Lake games in 2002. He hit the sled at full speed, and the resulting injuries ruined his career.”

Tiller shook his head. “Poor guy. Then his manager and sponsors sued the operation into bankruptcy. There went the Aster Valley Ski Resort. Meanwhile, the family had moved on to other things, or I think maybe they lived part-time in Chicago? That probably contributed to it as well. They kept the lodge here as a vacation home until the grandparents died last year.”

“What happened to Truman’s family? Surely they didn’t blame a little boy for doing what little boys do.”

Mikey looked peeved. “The town blamed him. I’m sure they blamed his parents plenty, but there are definitely people in town that still hold Truman himself responsible. It doesn’t matter if your brain says a little boy isn’t responsible for his actions, the end result was still the loss of a ton of jobs. It was a major blow to the local economy that’s taken years to recover from.”

“Where are his parents now?” I asked.

“They moved to Durango after a while,” Mikey said. “Couldn’t handle the gossip and blame. Truman grew up there, but I don’t think it was a happy childhood after that. His parents blamed him, too. Probably more out of embarrassment than anything else.”

None of this sounded okay. It sounded awful for the poor kid. No wonder he was such a shy, nervous type. “Then why the hell did he come back to Aster Valley? Who would voluntarily return to the viper’s nest?”

Mikey sat forward. “He inherited his aunt’s property, and it’s amazing. It’s a plant farm. I think his aunt grew veggies and herbal stuff for home remedies, but Truman grows plants for spices. He’s the one with the spice shop I told you about.”

I remembered. When Mikey had first told me about falling in love with Aster Valley, he’d described several men he’d met in town. The cutie in the spice shop had been wearing a bow tie.

I thought about it. “I still don’t understand why he moved back here. And honestly, he doesn’t seem like a farmer.”

Tiller snorted softly. “No kidding. But he’s super into it.”

Mikey waved a hand as he talked. “He loves it, like really loves it. Plants are his thing. He’s more of a botanist. He probably got it from his aunt, but regardless, that guy has a major green thumb. I’m sure the farm lured him back. I don’t think he went to college or anything, so this was probably his best chance to start something for himself.”

I leaned back in the wide leather chair and took another sip of wine while I tried to envision the prim man from the bumblebee costume getting himself dirty with fertilizer and sweat. “How does he manage both the planting and managing the shop?”

Not that it mattered. I was simply making conversation and showing an interest in Mikey and Tiller’s new life here, even if that included their new friends.

“Most of his sales are through mail order. He closes the shop Monday through Wednesday during planting and harvesting seasons, and he has some help, too. But I’ve told tons of people about him in the cooking world, and lots of them already know of him from his company’s reputation online. Pretty impressive for a kid, right?”

“He’s twenty-four,” I said without thinking. “Not a kid.”

No one said anything for a beat while I realized I’d accidentally played a card I hadn’t known I was even holding.

“Ahh,” Mikey said carefully. “I see.”

I groaned as I leaned over to set down my wineglass. “You don’t see. There’s nothing to see. I only heard him say it.”

“Mm-hm.”

I rubbed my face with both hands. “No. Stop mm-hm-ing. I know that sound. That’s the sound my best friend gets when he’s scheming.”

Tiller grinned. “He’s got you there, babe.”

“I’m not scheming,” Mikey said with false innocence. “Besides, I thought you were schtupping the pool boy.”

I thought of Rico Moreno and his talented tongue. “No. Not schtupping the pool boy. That only lasted until your boyfriend won the Super Bowl—again—and Rico asked me if I could sneak him into your bed one night so he could say he fucked a Super Bowl MVP.”

There was a beat of silence before Mikey scrambled up onto his knees and fisted his hands as if ready for fisticuffs. “What the fuck?”

Tiller grabbed him around the middle and pulled him back down, leaning in to nip at his neck. “Would have never worked,” he assured Mikey. “I wasn’t MVP.”

Mikey let out a reluctant laugh and turned to pinch Tiller in the gut. “Ha ha, you’re hilarious.”

Tiller shot me a wink. He’d already known about Rico because it had necessitated firing him as the pool boy for security reasons. It hadn’t been a big loss to me since the relationship had been purely physical.

“Anyway,” I continued, “it’s for the best. I’m not looking for love, and I’m not even sure I’m sticking around Houston at this point.” It was probably just the wine talking, but I was feeling maudlin. I missed living in the same town as my best friend. Mikey and I had been like brothers since high school.

Mikey clasped his hands together in prayer. “Please move here. Please move here. We can set you up in one of the chalets.”

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