The Contractor (Red’s Tavern #8) Read Online Raleigh Ruebins

Categories Genre: M-M Romance Tags Authors: Series: Red's Tavern Series by Raleigh Ruebins

Total pages in book: 79
Estimated words: 74298 (not accurate)
Estimated Reading Time in minutes: 371(@200wpm)___ 297(@250wpm)___ 248(@300wpm)

And since my dad had died a year ago, sometimes it was as if I could barely feel anything at all. I threw myself into work as a distraction from how empty it felt—both in the old house Dad had left to me, and how empty I felt inside.

Tristan was the person who could cut through the fog in my head. When I was around Tris, he unlocked a part of me that probably would have disappeared by now if I’d been alone. He reminded me that life should be fun. Tris couldn’t help but bring energy into any room.

My own chemistry sure as hell changed the moment he was with me.

“Put some clothes on already so we can go camping,” I said, even though my gaze was starting to gravitate toward the dips and curves of his abs. I gave him a little shove in the direction of his room. “And why does it smell so good in here?”

“Because I’m making peanut butter chocolate chip cookies for the drive,” he said. “You’ve been deprived of your favorite cookie for a whole month, so I figured I’d have them ready to go.”

“Have I ever told you how much I love you, Tris?”

“Maybe a couple of times,” he said, cheeky. “Definitely not enough for how big my ego is.”

“Cocky much?” I teased.

“Just a little,” he said.

I let out a long breath. “I am so happy you’re back,” I said. “This town doesn’t feel the same without you.”

His expression darkened, suddenly, like a stormcloud passing right over the sun. It was something nobody else would have noticed, but I’d been a diligent student in Trying to Understand Tristan Wood for years now. I could tell he felt weird, for some reason.

What the hell was that? Why would Tristan act weird when I said I was happy he was back?

“I’m glad I’m back, too,” he said, still holding that strange sadness in his eyes. He started to walk off down the hallway to his room, but then paused, turning to raise an eyebrow at me. “Oh, and I also got veggies for us to grill tonight. I know you’ve probably had nothing but steak and potatoes while I was gone.”

“What’s so wrong with an all meat and starch diet?” I joked. “It’s gotten me through thirty years of life.”

“We’re at least making red pepper and onion skewers!” he called out from his room. “Veggies are essential, Blue.”

A few minutes later, Tristan emerged from his room wearing a tight, grey runner’s T-shirt and shorts that left very little to the imagination. We got ready and packed up, loading my truck with everything we’d need for a simple overnight camping trip.

Tristan’s strange, sad reaction earlier stuck around in my mind. Sure, I secretly wished I could kiss every inch of his body, but those were just selfish, fleeting desires for a straight guy. In reality, I was Tristan’s best friend, and I had to make sure he was okay. And he certainly hadn’t seemed okay in that moment after I’d told him I was happy he was back. Why would he look so sorrowful to be back here in Kansas?

Tris and I always opened up to each other on late nights at the campground. I’d promised myself I’d get to the bottom of it tonight.

It was a two-hour drive over to the Cedar Bluff camping grounds, and we set up shop a little ways back from Big Creek, in a spot that we’d all but laid claim to over the years. There were two giant old trees we always set up our tent underneath, and a little dirt path we’d hammered out over time that led down to the creek.

I could smell the far-off scent of other campers cooking meat over their fires, and the pine scent of the shrubs around our own campsite. This was the place I could breathe. Alongside the person I could breathe easiest with. Back when I was a kid, Dad used to take me camping all of the time, and Tris and I had picked up the tradition as adults. Before Dad had died, I’d often brought him back the best smooth rocks from the river’s edge here at Cedar Bluff to add to his collection.

My heart ached a little thinking of it now—the neat little line of rocks that Dad had arranged carefully and artfully by the front door of his house. Well, my house, now, which was still weird to imagine. Since Dad died, I’d ignored the rock collecting, but Tristan had kept it alive, adding to the collection any time he found a good one.

Once we had our campsite set up and a little fire going, we cracked open two summer wheat beers and sat next to each other on our chairs, watching the sun slowly set past the swaying trees.