Home > Final Stretch (Glen Springs #1)(4)

Final Stretch (Glen Springs #1)(4)
Author: Alison Hendricks

"What'd he do? Wear the wrong brand of cleats during a game? Ruin an endorsement deal?" I’m teasing, but I honestly can't think of anything that might qualify as ‘some trouble.’

"Bit of a bigger deal than that," Jake says with a half-smile. He glances back to his students, then to me. "A tape got uploaded of him fucking some guy. Everybody's losing their shit."

My eyes go wide and there's no way I can hide my shock. "Travis is gay?"

"He's bi. I thought I told you about that. He came out in college. Thought Dad was going to have a heart attack over it, but of course since it was Trav, he could 'tolerate' it."

There's a bitterness to his words that I need to unpack later on, but for now I'm fixated on this tape. "If people already know he's bi, what's the big deal?"

"It's, uh… explicit. And not… I mean, people see Trav a certain way, and this doesn't really…" He makes a face. "Look, I'm not talking about my brother's sex life with you. You can ask him yourself if you want. He'll be here tomorrow."

In Glen Springs? It must've been a huge scandal for him to need to lay that low. Our town has maybe three thousand people in it, and that's a generous guess. The only time we ever even get tourists is when people lose their way while trying to get to Lexington.

It's a big part of why I love this place so much.

"He's staying with you?" Jake nods. "On purpose?"

Another nod. "He's the one who asked."

I wouldn't say Jake has a bad relationship with his brother, but despite being only five years apart in age, they barely know one another.

"So… how's that going to go?" I ask, knowing he'll get what I mean.

"I don't know." He shrugs. "I'm kind of excited. It's been years since I've seen him in person, and without Dad around, maybe it'll be different this time."

I frown a little and reach out for him, giving his arm a squeeze. "I hope so."

"He's a good guy, and it honestly sounds like he could use a break from the spotlight. He's just…"

Jake doesn't finish that sentence, but I can finish it easily enough in my head. A liability. Travis was just a liability. Jake has spent years feeling like "less" in their father's eyes, and Travis being around is only going to dredge that up.

"Hey, I know that look," Jake says suddenly, gesturing to me. "That's the same look you got on your face every time I told you I was going home for the holidays."

And with good reason. Jake came back a mess, each and every time.

"Just give him a chance, okay? It's not his fault he got mixed up in all of this."

I'm not sure if he's talking about football, the sex tape, or their dad's legacy. Maybe all three. It doesn't matter, though. My answer is the same.

"I'll try."

But if he hurts Jake the way the rest of his family has, we're definitely going to have a problem.









I make it to Glen Springs around 11 a.m. on a Wednesday.

Jake told me ahead of time that he'd be teaching during the week and asked if I needed him to take the day off, but I didn't want to make a bigger deal out of this than it is. The less fanfare right now, the better. Even from my brother.

I pull up in front of his house and pop the trunk of the rental car, grabbing my stuff out of the back. He told me to look for a key in a turtle pot, and the instruction was apparently a lot more literal than I expected. It's in the shape of an actual turtle, and the key sits inside where anyone could just come up and grab it.

The house is actually pretty nice, but as soon as I set foot inside, it's easy to tell my brother's a bachelor. Clothes are strewn about, staying wherever they landed when he stripped them off. There are stacks of books and papers that probably only make sense to him. And the whole place looks like it could use a good dusting.

I'm a little surprised, honestly. Our dad was such a neat freak. But I guess Dad spent most of his time on the road with me, telling me over and over again that it left a bad impression to leave your bed unmade—even at a hotel.

I wheel my suitcase over to what looks like a guest bedroom. The bed's made in there, but when I poke my head briefly into Jake's room, I can't help but smirk. The comforter's just haphazardly pulled up over the sheets and the pillows.

It'll give me something to do while I'm here, at least. Calling Jake was my knee-jerk reaction, but the second I passed the county line into Glen Springs, I had no idea what I was going to do with myself for however long it takes this to blow over.

Finally get to know my brother after twenty-six years, I guess.

Speaking of… I pull out my phone, double-checking the time on his text. He told me to meet him at the local diner at six, and there's no way I'm not eating for seven hours.

Leaving my suitcase in the guest room, I pad into the kitchen and open the fridge. What I see in there is just downright depressing. A six-pack of Coors with one bottle missing, a couple Chinese takeout boxes, half a brick of cheddar jack wrapped in cellophane, some bottled water, a bottle of mayonnaise, and a jar of pickles. A search of the pantry doesn't give me much more, and I start to wonder if my brother just lives off sandwiches and Pop-Tarts—with a side of cheese and pickles, apparently.

My mission's pretty clear. He's letting me into his home, so I'll earn my keep. I'll stock his kitchen and maybe do a little cleaning later if there's time. Maybe it'll soften what's probably going to be an awkward reunion.

Looking up the local grocery store, I head over there with every intention of filling a cart with fresh food. There's actually a good selection of produce, and I pick out the things my nutritionist would want me to be eating, praying Jake will like them, too. By the time I leave that section, the bottom of my cart's covered in greens. I make a beeline for the dressings, hoping to extend an olive branch. Salad doesn't exactly get my motor going, either, but a good dressing can make anything palatable.

Checking the labels on the vinaigrettes is something I do out of habit, but as I'm turning a balsamic over in my hand, it slips. The cylindrical, plastic bottle crashes to the floor with a thwack, then rolls straight down the aisle.

Where it's stopped by a man's boot.

He bends to pick it up, and I follow that large, worn boot to a pair of tight-fitting jeans that cling to lean legs, the muscles in his thighs clenching as he reaches for the bottle. My eyes meet his mossy green ones, and a little jolt of electricity threads just beneath my skin as he offers me a smile.

He's a good-looking guy. Not made up like a celebrity, but genuinely attractive. Expressive eyes, full lips, square jaw covered in stubble. His brown hair is short but messy, the kind I could imagine running my fingers through.

"Thanks," I say with a laugh as I take the bottle from him.

"No problem." His voice is deep and rich.

Even standing at his full height, I notice he's shorter than me. Probably by a good five inches, if not more. Short, but… compact. Built with lean muscle that looks like it was shaped by work outdoors, if his tan is anything to go off of.

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