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Rose's One Night to Forever
Author: Vivian Arend





April, Red Boot ranch



* * *


Chance Gabrielle was tired of living out of suitcases.

He followed the GPS of his rental car, turning down the rustic driveway. A scene from a country and Western movie lay before him as he stopped in the wide car park outside a small cabin. One of a dozen scattered around the area.

Stepping outdoors, he was assaulted by fresh air and the scent of the spring afternoon. The distant mountains still held snow, but the nearby fields were mostly clear. Brown grasses and open fields flowed toward rolling hills dotted with pine trees of varying heights.

The landscape held grace. A kind of beauty that reminded him of his homeland in Ireland and yet something fresher. Younger. A land that Chance could already sense would suit the man he called brother to a T.

It didn’t matter how few years they’d had together before Chance had grown up and moved away, that truth had always been clear. His little brother, Cody, was a man of the earth and eager to work with his hands.

Chance’s career might be less physically challenging, but it too was full of life and appreciation of beauty. Hopefully, Heart Falls would inspire him and suit him as well as it did his brother.

He turned from the majestic scenery and made his way up the cabin steps.

Before he could knock, the door swung open and a tall man dressed in jeans, boots, and a cowboy hat jerked to a stop in the doorframe.

His stepbrother’s expression flashed quickly through surprise and confusion to settle on utter delight. “Chance. Holy shit—you’re really here.”

“I really am,” Chance agreed, a smile coming easily. “Gawd, look at you.”

Cody caught him in a tight embrace, slapping Chance on the back with enthusiasm. “I had no idea you were coming. Did I miss an email or something?”

“No, I didn’t warn you because I wasn’t certain I’d be able to pull it off.” Chance stepped back and clasped Cody by the shoulders. His brother’s eyes were bright, the white skin of his face and hands tanned in spite of just having come through winter. Contentment sat easily on his shoulders. He looked good. “I don’t have long, but I wanted to see with my own eyes that you were still kicking.”

“I would have told you if it were otherwise,” Cody promised with a hint of twisted humour. “Come back as a ghost, or somehow made myself appear in one of your fantasy paintings.”

Chance had so much to share, but his brother’s quick glance at his watch warned a drawn-out conversation was not in the books. “I’ve surprised you, and I’m keeping you from your duties. Can you take a break later for us to chat?”

“How long can you stay?” Cody asked.

“I return to Ireland tomorrow with a weeklong stop in Germany first. My flight’s at four p.m.”

A snort escaped his brother. “This isn’t a visit; it’s a flyby.”

“Pretty much,” Chance agreed. “But I needed to try my luck.”

Cody took a deep breath then motioned to the deck chairs outside the cabin. “Let me contact my boss to tell her I’ll be late. She won’t mind, but I have a site evaluation in an hour with an inspector, and they’ve been a pain in the ass to schedule. I have to make that one.”

“We’ll have time,” Chance promised.

“In the morning, if nothing else.”

Chance waited as Cody made a call, using the opportunity to admire not only the surroundings but how well his younger brother fit into the space. He looked completely at home.

A sharp jab of jealousy struck before being instantly vanquished. Chance wanted nothing but the best for his family. The choice to wander the world and live apart from them had been his own.

The decision to change his mind was also his to make.

Cody settled into the other chair. “Talk fast,” he teased before sobering. “It’s good to see you. Seriously.”

“I would have given you more warning,” Chance said, “but I had three different meetings myself. The final gallery thankfully decided I was one step shy of God himself and didn’t ask for a single change to my proposal. Which meant, instead of being done tomorrow with barely enough time to head to the airport, I had an extra evening.”

“I’m glad you came. Just pissed off that this is one of the few days I’m absolutely booked solid.” Cody shook his head. “So tell me—the gallery showing in Calgary. Can you come for a longer stay when that happens? I assume you’re still curating shows for your fancy art goddesses and what have you.”

“I am, but I have other plans as well.” Chance leaned forward, elbows on his knees. “I’m moving.”

“Interesting. London? Berlin?” Cody tilted his head. “New York?”

“Heart Falls.”

Cody coughed and frowned. “You’re shitting me.”

Dear Lord. “Your expressions never fail to make me laugh. No, brother, I’m not taking the piss, as we would say in Ireland.” Chance paused to let out a peal of laughter. “God, your face.”

“You’re full of surprises today. Moving to Heart Falls.” Cody glanced around then back at Chance. “Did you somehow pull me into one of your fantasy pictures? Are we living on the edge of reality, surrounded by the myths and legends of ancient Ireland?”

“I tell you I want to move back to Canada and closer to you, and you think I’m winding you up?” Chance shook his head. “You have no idea how much I look forward to the change.”

Cody dipped his head. “Okay. I didn’t mean for that to come off as not wanting you around. I’m shocked, though. It’s not what I expected, but having you here would be great.”

“I’ll share more as I figure it out myself. In the meantime, tell me what you’ve been up to. And show me your couch so I have a place to sleep tonight.”

His brother rose to his feet, glancing at his watch. “I can do one step better than the couch. You can have your own cabin for the night. I know they’re not fully booked right now.”

Chance was led to a cabin a few doors down, and Cody pointed out salient parts of the ranch as they walked. Catching up felt good.

They emailed and messaged occasionally, but living on different continents had made the past few years more hit-and-miss for communication. Chance had missed the daily exchanges they’d enjoyed when young.

“I’ll try to get free for dinner,” Cody offered, “but, like I said, today is hell. I’m working the afternoon and evening, and I’m on call tonight.”

“Oh, you’re grand,” Chance said. “I’ll need a suggestion for dinner, though.”

Fifteen minutes later, after a few more quick exchanges and explanations, Cody was gone.

Amusement and contentment settled in Chance’s gut. This was going to work out fine. He tucked his hands in his pockets and took himself for a stroll. Wandering the place his brother called home.

His memories drifted to the past. They’d had a few rough moments between them right after Chance’s father had fallen in love with Cody’s mum—online dating, of all things—and brought the two boys together into one family. Mostly because back then, the age difference meant Cody had followed Chance around like an eager puppy.

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