Meet me… in the place where the sun kisses the horizon and sinks into blue shades of you and me.
Meet me there… where everything was always perfect. You and me and the damp grass at dawn and the gray dirt in the late evening rain.
Meet me where we were ourselves and not these two people who can’t even say I love you.
Meet me there and maybe we’ll remember…
We’ll remember the us we were before them, before miles, before lost hours, and you’ll ask what color the sky is, and I’ll say blue like your eyes.
And you’ll smile, and I’ll forget I ever missed you.
Luka and Rook have been best friends since they were nine years old.
Five years ago, Luka threw it all away.
When his dad’s health takes a turn for the worst, Luka must come home to say his goodbyes and mend the bridges he burned all those years ago. But coming home is harder than he imagined, and after reuniting with his family, there’s only one person he needs.
His best friend.
The one man he pushed away, the one man, no matter how hard he tried to forget, he can’t stop himself from loving.
Even if loving him means breaking his heart all over again.
Meet Me in the Blue is a stand-alone, best friends to lovers, second chance, demi-awakening, MM romance, with a whole lot of small-town heart, meddling moms, gossiping townies, self-discovery, a friendship forged of forts, Dungeons and Dragons, and a love that will stand the test of time.
“Hey, Stace.” Avoiding her expectant smile, I kept my head down as I grabbed a pint of Rocky Road from the freezer.
I preferred Moose Tracks, but Rett refused to carry it. If he didn’t love my father so much, I’d think it was personal.
“I tried to get him to order it, but you know him…” Stacey cringed and narrowed her brown eyes. “He’s a stubborn asshole. Rett said…” She lowered her voice to something akin to the man himself and my lips twitched at her attempt to mimic the old bastard. “Rocky Road is a staple.”
“I suppose he’s right. Can’t argue with traditions.”
“Isn’t the customer always right?” she asked, and I set the pint on the counter.
Chuckling, I shook my head. “I don’t think Rett gives a shit.”
Stacey bit the corner of her pink-stained lip and looked over my shoulder, grinning like she had some sort of secret. Picking up the ice cream, she shoved it into a brown paper bag. “Well, I give a shit.” Her flirty smile and bold eye contact made me wish I’d skipped coming to the pharmacy in the first place. I stared at the bag on the counter instead, feeling my pulse in my fingertips as the seconds ticked by uncomfortable and loud between us. “It’s on the house,” she said, her confidence fading. “My treat.”
“Stop being so nice all the time, Rook. Let a girl buy you a pint of ice cream.” I could hear the smile in her voice but kept my eyes down. “I insist.”
“Thanks,” I said, conceding even though I knew better.
I glanced up and found her big eyes, hopeful, staring back at me. My face heated as her triumphant grin stretched across her face.
“Anytime…” She fiddled with the small stack of flyers next to the register.
My chest ached a little, wishing I could summon some sort of attraction for her. She was sweet and conventionally attractive with a lean, athletic build. She used to be a cheerleader way back when in high school, and I remembered all the guys on my hockey team would talk about her, mostly crude locker room shit. But Stacey was just Stacey to me. Rett’s niece. Rett, who’d owned this damn pharmacy longer than I’d been alive. She could hit on me every time I walked through those front doors, which she did without regard for her own feelings, and it wouldn’t change the fact I wasn’t into her. Or anyone, really. This town was too small and too nosy, at least that’s what I’d tell myself when I got home and made dinner for one and ate this ice cream like a sad cat lady. I wasn’t sad though, and it was hard for people to understand. Especially my family. “You’re thirty-two, son. The older you get the slimmer the pickings.” And “I worry about you, worry you’re lonely in that big house of yours?” And “Stacey… she’s a sweet one.” And my personal favorite. “Son, your mother and I… we want you to know you can tell us anything. We want you to know we love you unconditionally, straight… or gay, we love you and want you to do whatever makes you happy.”
I wished it was as easy as gay or straight. What if being alone was my happily ever after? Would that be so bad?
“I heard Luka’s coming back to town,” she said, and my heart skipped at the mention of his name, pulling me from my thoughts.
“Yeah?” I swallowed past the twinge in my throat. “I saw Nora at the clinic last week, said he was coming home soon.”
“Too bad about their dad. He was a good man.”
“Is…” I corrected. “He is a good man.”
He was still alive, still breathing.
She bit the side of her cheek, her face pale. “I didn’t mean… I shouldn’t have said—”
“It’s okay, Stace.” I tried to conjure a smile on her behalf but failed. “Dr. Abrams’s prognosis isn’t a secret.”
I’d known Isaac Abrams for most of my life. He’d joined my dad’s practice when I was nine years old and was like a second father to me. I’d grown up with his family, his daughter Nora like a sister, and his son Luka used to be my best friend.
Used to be.
Luka’s smile beamed bright behind my eyes, his laugh a distant echo in my ears. It had been five years since I’d seen Luka Abrams. Five years of feeling lost without a compass.
“Is it true?” she asked.
“I’m sorry, what were you saying?”
“Dr. Abrams… he’s on hospice now?”
“Yes.” I didn’t elaborate. A man’s life, or end of life, should be his own. Not a juicy piece of small-town gossip.
“Fuck cancer,” she said, the frown on her face genuine.
“I should get going.” I held up my bag with the ice cream inside before turning to leave. “Thanks, Stace.”
“When you see Luka, tell him to stop by. It’s been ages since he’s graced us with his presence, and I’ll never forgive him if he doesn’t at least come say hello.”
I waved over my shoulder as the damp, frigid February air bit at my cheeks. The wind blew through the open front door and chilled me to the bone. Focusing on zipping up my jacket, I tried not to think about Luka and failed. After I’d spoken to Nora the other day, his name had been on a constant loop in my head, but I thought I had a handle on it. Stace mentioning him again made the realization that he might already be at home, sitting on the couch in the living room, where we used to play Dungeons & Dragons, a reality I wasn’t sure I was ready to face. After his dad was diagnosed with liver cancer a few years ago, I’d hoped he’d move back then. He didn’t. But it wasn’t like he hadn’t made an effort to keep in touch over the years, keeping tabs on his dad’s treatment. But friendship was a funny thing, and like the miles between us, he grew more distant with every missed text, or phone call. Luka used to text or call every day when he and his boyfriend from college had broken up. They’d lived together in Portland, but after they split, instead of coming home to Hemlock Harbor, Luka moved to Los Angeles. His phone calls had always been the highlight of my day, even if he was only calling to vent about the traffic. But eventually, the daily calls turned to monthly updates, and now I was lucky if I got a Happy Birthday or a Merry Christmas. I’d tried to reach out when we all found out about his dad, but it had been clear I was the only one holding on, and after a while, the grip I had on the past hurt more than it was worth. I’d had to let go.
I didn’t want to be angry at him for shutting me out, for finding himself, finding the life he wanted far away from here, far from the small-town life he never wanted. But we’d spent almost every day together, every weekend for the better part of my adolescence, and even though we’d gone to separate colleges, we’d maintained our friendship the best we could. I’d gone to the University of Washington in Seattle for both my undergraduate and graduate degrees, which was barely over fifty miles away, and felt homesick every damn day. After graduation he’d chosen to stay in Oregon, and I’d chosen to come home and work as a certified nurse-midwife for our fathers’ clinic. I couldn’t ever imagine leaving Hemlock Harbor. This place was my home. It was as permanent as the bones under my skin. Our families were intertwined, it was hard to remember a time when I didn’t know Luka.
I didn’t know him now.
I’d thought we’d be close forever. I’d thought Luka would always be my other half. He knew me better than anyone. I’d spent more hours of my life with Luka than I could count. But something changed, and as much as I wanted to blame his move to Los Angeles, or his dad’s cancer, I wondered if it was something I did, or didn’t do. I was never as bright as Luka, as audacious. When he walked into a room everyone noticed. The thought of seeing him again, after all these years, had my stomach in knots. I wanted everything to be the same while wanting to hold on to my anger too. But Dr. Abrams was dying, and I didn’t think it mattered how I felt about being left behind in Luka’s wake.
Once I was in my car, I cranked up the heater and turned onto the main road. The sun had started to set, the overcast sky nothing new, but today the clouds, and their gray fingers, dove into the pines, made everything seem heavier. I glanced at the clock on the car stereo and found myself turning right on Mill Creek Road instead of left toward my house. It took ten minutes, and I was afraid I’d miss it as I parked my car in front of my childhood home. I stepped out onto the wet street, the rain, more of an icy mist, clung to the fabric of my jacket. The lights were off inside my parents’ house, but the Abrams’s front window was lit with a warm yellow glow. I bypassed their front door and headed down the familiar path between the two houses, walking faster with each passing second, until I was under the shade of the trees. The ice cream on my front seat forgotten and probably starting to melt. Each breath, each beat of my heart, it was like I could feel him there waiting, and as I broke through to the small clearing, I saw him.
A man I didn’t recognize stood with his back to me, his eyes on the sky. The tattoos peeking out from under his damp cotton t-shirt were new, his bleach-blond hair was new too. My heart drummed inside my chest, but I was surprised to find it wasn’t in anger, but relief. So much relief.
“Meet me in the blue,” I said. “I’ll always be here.”
AM Johnson can weave a story that keeps you reading. She beautifully sets up the lifelong friendship between Rook and Luke, from age 9 until 5 years ago when Luke ghosted Rook to save his heart.
But Luke is back home to lick his wounds and spend time with his dying father. Because the families of Luke and Rook are so intertwined, there’s really no way of avoiding each other so Luke goes back to their favorite spot in the woods. Which is exactly where Rook found him, without being told he was there.
What follows is Luke and Rook becoming friends again, picking scabs that were almost healed and telling truths that needed to come out. The awkwardness and stilted conversations they had were very realistic. They WANTED to be best friends again, but they needed to learn how all over again.
Add in that Luke is gay and out and has been in love with Rook as long as he could remember. And even though Rook has never told anyone if he was gay or straight, he was assumed but everyone to be straight. And while he doesn’t think he is gay, he definitely isn’t straight. And confused.
Once Rook figures out that Luke is the one he wants, all of the walls start coming down and they figure out what they are to each other. Because it is certainly more than bff.
There’s a nice set up to what I am hoping is book 2 in the series with some side characters. That is always fun.
You will need some tissues because, like I said, Luke’s father is dying. So, ya. Be warned.
AM Johnson never disappoints.
4.5 pieces of eye candy
Amanda is an award winning and best selling author of LGBTQIA and contemporary romance and fiction. She lives in Utah with her family where she moonlights as a nurse on the weekends and hikes in the mountains as much as possible.
If she’s not busy with her three munchkins, you’ll find her buried in a book or behind the keyboard where she explores the human experience through the written word, exploring all spectrums and genres.
She’s obsessed with all things Hockey, Austen, and Oreos, and loves to connect with readers!
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