Six days to go to Island Counselor
due out 20th June 2016
Logan is there for everyone, but who is there when he falls apart?
Logan is forced to make some hard decisions about his future, which entails facing up to recent events. Only he’s not alone—Nick is with him. Unfortunately someone else makes a decision too, and now trouble is on its way to the Isle of Wight.
The Isle Series
THE PAT-PAT of Logan Wilde’s feet hitting the hard-packed sand echoed as he ran along the beach. He ignored the splashes of sea and sand on his shins and calves, instead focusing on the white building on the far side of the bay. The beach was mercifully free from tourists at this hour, and the sounds of the island waking up to a new day didn’t disturb his rhythm. His breathing was focused and even as he ran, although the tightness in his abdomen told him he shouldn’t overdo it.
A dog came bounding down the beach to the water’s edge and momentarily disturbed Logan’s pace. He dodged around the golden retriever, which barked happily but thankfully ignored him after that, more interested in the small waves rolling across the sand. Logan loved dogs, but he preferred to like unknown dogs at a distance. As a jogger Logan had been chased, jumped on, and even bitten by dogs. The owners were always apologetic, but apologies didn’t do much to control their mutts.
As the sun rose over the horizon, he ran on, enjoying the time to himself. Logan loved the Isle of Wight. He’d been coming here since he was a teenager on a school trip. Now that he owned a holiday cottage in Freshwater, he spent as much free time there as he could. Unfortunately—or fortunately—as his therapy practice back in South London was thriving, his free time had rapidly decreased. His time on the island was precious and he guarded it jealously. Most of the time he didn’t even let his friends on the island know he was here; he needed alone time to decompress.
Logan had nearly reached the end of the bay and was contemplating turning around, when he spotted a man sitting on the sand ahead of him. He wouldn’t have paid much attention except the man had taken off his left trainer and his sock. As Logan watched, the man swore loudly.
Logan jogged up to him. “Are you okay?”
“Do I look okay?” the man snapped. He was young, maybe midtwenties, with dark hair and long dark lashes that framed green eyes. He would have been handsome but for the sour look on his face.
Logan ignored the hostile words and looked down at his ankle. “Can I take a look? I’m a doctor. At least I was,” he amended honestly.
“Great,” the man muttered. “Like I haven’t seen enough of you lot.”
“It’s up to you. I can leave you here if you want,” Logan said cheerfully enough. “You’re going to have to move soon. The tide’s coming in.”
Sure enough, the sea was creeping up the sand and it wouldn’t take long for the beach to disappear.
The man scowled at him. “Just help me off the beach.”
Logan offered his hand. The man ignored it and tried to stand up by himself, only to crumple with a pained cry when he tried to bear weight on his left foot.
“Look, stop being an arse and let me help,” Logan said. He tucked the sock into the trainer, picked it up, and slung his arm around the guy’s waist.
They managed to get to the promenade without incident. Their progress was slow, and by the time they’d climbed the stairs, the man was sweaty and pale beneath his tan.
Logan manhandled him onto a seat and knelt at his feet. “I’m going to look at your ankle. You might need to get to the hospital and get it x-rayed.”
“It’ll be fine,” the man said. “I had an accident a few weeks ago. I shouldn’t have tried to run yet.”
Logan frowned as he gently examined the ankle. He didn’t fail to notice the man’s muscled calves and thighs with their dusting of dark hair. “I think you just twisted it.”
“That’s what I said.”
“So why do you look like you’re about to pass out?” Logan asked.
“I’m fine. You’ve done your Good Samaritan bit. Now you can go away.”
If the guy hadn’t been looking like death warmed over, Logan might have done just that. He had better things to do with his morning than deal with Mr. Bitchy, but something was wrong and Logan wasn’t going to leave the man here alone. He’d probably pass out and smack his head on the concrete.
The man tried to pull his leg away, but Logan kept him where he was. Logan sat back on his heels. “When you look like you can stand without passing out, I’ll go. Let’s start again. Hi, my name’s Logan Wilde.” He held out his hand.
The man stared at him as if he were mad, and then he gave a short laugh and shook Logan’s hand. “Nick Brent.”
“Pleased to meet you, Nick.” Logan gave him a direct look. “You twisted your ankle because…?” When Nick pursed his lips stubbornly, Logan sighed. “Jesus, Nick. I don’t need to be a doctor to tell you’re in pain.”
“It’s my left hip,” Nick said eventually. Logan nodded at him, trying to encourage him to continue. “I’m a fisherman—or I was up until a month ago. I slipped on the boat and smacked my hip. It’s taking a while to heal.”
“You can’t work until it is?” Logan guessed.
Nick shook his head. “I’m stuck on land until it does.”
“So what were you trying to do today?”
“I went for a jog.” Nick caught sight of the expression on Logan’s face. “I just thought if I could jog, then I could work.”
“So you overdid it even though your hip hurts like hell, then your leg crumpled, and you fell?”
“Something like that,” Nick said sourly. Then he sighed. “Yeah, yeah, I know I was stupid, but I’m desperate, Logan. If I can’t work, I’m not earning any money. I can’t even pay the mortgage on my flat, so I’ve rented it out to get some money in. I’ve moved back in with my mum.”
Logan didn’t need to be a mind reader to see how unimpressed Nick was with the situation. “I understand, but you have to give yourself time to heal. You’re just going to end up doing more damage if you try to force it.”
Nick huffed and refused to meet Logan’s eyes. “I need to get home.”
“Where do you live?”
“About five minutes from here. I’ll be fine.”
“You still look pale and sweaty. I’m going to get my car and drive you home. And before you argue, I’m going to put your sock and trainer on too.” He waited, but Nick didn’t say a word. “What? No arguments?”
“It hurts too fucking much to bend over,” Nick admitted.
“Hallelujah. Sense at last.” Logan carefully rolled on Nick’s sock and helped him with his trainer. “Stay there.”
Nick leaned back in the seat, scowling at Logan, who ignored it and got to his feet. Logan stretched, groaning a little at his cramped muscles. As he relaxed, he noticed Nick eyeing him up and down. When Nick caught Logan’s gaze, he looked away, still scowling, but his cheeks had gone bright red.
Well, then! “I’ll be back in a couple of moments. I’m just in the car park.”
“I can walk to your car.”
Logan patted Nick’s shoulder. “Just stay where you are, okay?” He didn’t wait for Nick’s reply as he jogged toward the car park.
When Logan found Nick in the same place that he’d left him, he breathed a sigh of relief. The guy was stubborn enough to try to walk home. Nick’s eyes were closed, the long dark lashes sweeping his cheeks. Logan was pleased Nick couldn’t see his expression because he was sure it was obvious to anyone with half a brain that Logan had the hots for the pretty guy. No, not pretty—handsome and all hot male.
Nick chose that moment to open his eyes. Logan flushed at being caught staring. Nick didn’t seem bothered by his attention, though. “Can I move now, Doc?”
“Yeah, although I’m not a doctor now. Let me help you.” Logan helped Nick to his feet. After a few seconds of wobbling, they were up, with Nick’s arm around Logan’s shoulders and Logan guiding Nick by the waist.
Nick whistled as they approached Logan’s black Audi A7. “Nice!”
Logan was inordinately pleased at Nick’s open admiration. “I love it.” He helped Nick into the car.
“I’m not a cripple,” Nick grumbled.
“I don’t want you to fall over and damage my car.”
Nick waited until they were in Logan’s car before he asked, “Not a doctor? So, what are you now? Don’t tell me—some sort of TV celebrity?”
Logan rolled his eyes. “Do I look like a celebrity?”
“So what are you, then?”
“I’m a therapist.”
“A shrink?” Nick sounded incredulous.
Logan had heard it all before and then some. “Kind of. Where do you live?”
“Near the plumbing store.”
“I know it.” He pulled away and waited for the next question. It didn’t come. Logan took a quick glance and realized from Nick’s set expression that he was concentrating on not throwing up. “If you’re going to puke, let me know. Do you need me to stop?”
Logan was pretty sure Nick had spoken through gritted teeth. “Sure you are.”
“You focus on the driving and let me concentrate on not ralphing over your nice clean car.”
“My car’s just been cleaned,” Logan admitted. “Normally it looks like an explosion in a Cadbury factory.” He was ridiculously pleased when Nick laughed.
“You’re addicted to chocolate?”
“Guilty as charged,” Logan admitted. “That’s why I run. Otherwise I’d be twice the size.”
“I’ve put on weight since I stopped working.”
Logan slowed down to turn into the lane before he spoke. “You must have been a stick insect if you think you’re a lardarse now.”
“My job’s physical,” Nick said. “I never needed to watch what I ate. Pull over behind the green van.”
“Do you miss your job?”
Nick nodded. “I’m not good at doing nothing.”
Logan fixed him with a stare. “Then don’t do something stupid like running too soon.”
“Yes, Doc.” Nick gave him a mocking salute.
“Are you getting physiotherapy?” Logan was still worried that Nick might have damaged his hip in the fall on the sand.
“I was. Only a few sessions.”
“Who gave up first? You or them?”
Nick huffed, which gave Logan his answer, and opened the car door. Logan leaned over and grabbed Nick’s arm before he could get out. Nick looked down at Logan’s hand, a look of surprise on his face.
“Don’t be stubborn, Nick. Get your hip checked out.”
“If you agree to come out on a date.”
Logan blinked. Did Nick just ask him out? “Me? Wait! Is that blackmail?”
Nick laughed openly, and Logan blinked again, caught by the amusement in his green eyes.
“Can you see anyone else in the car?”
“Well, then?” Nick raised an eyebrow.
“You’re gay?” Logan asked.
“Bisexual, if we have to slap a label on it.” Nick smiled as Logan hesitated, although it didn’t reach his eyes.
Logan wasn’t that keen on labels, but he’d always been wary about getting involved with a bi guy. Nick obviously caught his hesitation, because he turned to get out of the car.
Nick paused and looked at him. “It’s your loss. I’m a damn good fuck.”
Logan licked his lips and Nick tracked his gesture. “I bet you are, but I’m not really looking for a hookup.”
“No worries, Logan. It’s a shame.” Nick struggled as he tried to get out of the car. “Fuck!”
“Christ. Just stay there before you break something.” Logan rushed around to the other side of the car and helped Nick to his feet. “You’ve got to rest today, okay?”
Nick was breathing hard, sweat beading across his forehead. “Do you think you could help me get to the door?”
It had probably cost Nick a fair amount of pride just to ask, and Logan said, “Sure. Hold on to me.”
“Thanks. It’s the one with all the gnomes. Say a word—”
“I wouldn’t dream of it,” Logan said cheerfully.
They made their way slowly up the path. Logan looked at the brightly colored gnomes. “Which one is you?”
“I’m going to end you,” Nick muttered.
Logan had only said it as a joke, but it was too good to pass up. “One of them is you. Come on, tell me.”
“The fisherman by the pond.”
“Nothing about gnomes makes sense. I bought the fisherman as a joke present to my mum, but she liked it.” Nick sounded disgusted. “Next thing I know, we’ve got a garden full of the buggers.”
“So it was your fault?”
“Yep, and she’ll never let me forget it.”
The front door flew open, revealing a dark-haired, middle-aged woman in jeans and a T-shirt—presumably Nick’s mum and the lover of all things gnomish.
“Nick, what’ve you done now? I told you not to go running!”
Nick growled under his breath. “I’m okay. Just twisted my ankle and fell.”
“You fell on your bad hip?” She flung up her arms in exasperation. “Jesus Christ, Son, you must have fallen on your head and lost the brains you were born with. Do you need to go to A&E?”
“I’m fine, Mum,” Nick said, and Logan grinned at the whine in his tone.
Nick’s mum huffed, but she stood to one side. “Bring him in here, young man.”
Logan had intended to deposit Nick on the doorstep, but her tone suggested he’d better obey… or else. He helped Nick into a small living room with a comfy sofa. It probably wasn’t the best thing for Nick to sit on, but it was the only seat in the room. Nick sat down with a bitten-back cry. He was pale and sweaty again. “Have you got any painkillers?”
“I don’t need them.”
“Yes, you do. Where are they?”
“They’re in my room.”
“I’ll get them,” Nick’s mum said.
Logan rested his fingertips on Nick’s pulse as he waited for her to return. It was fast, but nothing he had to worry about.
Nick gave him a sardonic look. “Gonna live, Doc?”
“Sorry, old habits die hard,” Logan admitted.
Nick’s mum took her time, but eventually she returned with a glass of water and a couple of capsules, which she gave to Nick. She waited until Nick had swallowed them before she said, “I called Dr. Martin. He’s going to swing by here later.”
“Mum, I’m fine,” Nick whined. “God, you didn’t need to do that. Call the surgery back and cancel. This is out of his way, and I’m all right. I just need to rest.”
“Dr. Martin? Jeff Martin?” Logan asked.
“Yeah. I didn’t change my practice when I moved back here. Do you know him?”
“We trained together.”
“Of course you did. Great,” Nick said in a resigned tone.
Nick’s mum looked at Logan with renewed interest. “You’re a doctor too?”
“I was. Now I’m a therapist—a counselor, I guess you’d call me.”
She looked disappointed. “Couldn’t stand the pace?”
“No, I did qualify. I just found I preferred therapeutic medicine.”
“And you rescued my son?”
Logan grinned at Nick. “Much to his disgust. I’m Logan Wilde.” He held out his hand and she shook it.
“Sara Brent. Thanks for dealing with this idiot.”
“Oh Jesus,” Nick muttered. “Bonding over the cripple.”
“Whose fault is that?” Sara snapped. “I told you not to go running.”
“And now he knows Mum knows best, doesn’t he?” Logan raised one eyebrow at Nick. If looks could kill, Logan would be a pile of ash on the ground.
“Don’t you have somewhere to be?” Nick asked.
“Nick, mind your manners,” Sara protested. “I’ll put the kettle on. Do you want a cuppa, love?”
Logan looked at the clock on the mantelpiece. “I’d love to, but Nick is right. I do have to get home. I’ve got an appointment at nine.”
“That’s a shame,” Nick said insincerely.
“Your doctor is a mate of mine.” Logan fixed Nick with a stern glare. “I will be checking to see if you kept your appointment with him.”
Nick looked between Logan and the smug grin on his mother’s face, and huffed. “Yeah, yeah. Go away.”
“You’re welcome,” Logan said. Then he leaned forward and whispered, “If you ever want anything more than a hookup, this is my number.” He handed Nick a business card and grinned at Nick’s wide-eyed stare, smugly happy to have rendered the man speechless. “Bye, Sara. Pleased to have met you.”
Sara saw him to the door. She paused before she opened it. “You’re welcome here anytime, Logan.”
Logan just smiled, not sure whether Nick was out to his Mum or she was just being friendly. “Thanks, Sara. I’m sorry, I’ve really got to go.”
“You look after yourself, and I’ll make sure Nick sees the doctor.” She opened the front door. “Although it looks like Nick found one of his own.” She winked.
As he got in the car, Logan thought about Sara’s wink. She knew. Of course she knew.
“You’d better call me, Nick Brent. Otherwise I’m going to have to call Jeff to set up a date, and he’ll never let me forget it.” Logan looked at the clock on the dashboard. “Fuck! Liam’s going to bolt if I don’t hurry up.”
Logan turned the car around and headed back to the main road, half his mind on the appointment ahead and half on the huge green eyes of the man he’d left behind.