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Surrendering My Affection: Sulfur Springs Book 4 by Taylor Rylan (1)

Cody — 1

 

There was seriously something wrong with me. I was happy for my two best friends, but nope, that definitely wasn’t for me. I was bisexual and I’d had both a boyfriend and a girlfriend, yet both had treated me like shit. My ex-boyfriend flat-out denied we were together when we got caught by the foreman of the ranch, and my ex-girlfriend when I wanted to take things slow and wait before having sex. Well, she’d moved on before even telling me bye, and now she was with someone else.

That’s why I was done. I was through trying to date anyone. They weren’t worth the effort. And I still had to figure out how to tell my two best friends I liked both men and women. Hawke came out in high school, but it wasn’t a surprise. Everyone knew he was gay before he even said so. With Tristan, he simply introduced us to his boyfriend one day. I never would have seen that coming though. So why did I have a problem telling them?

“Hey, Cody. Are those muffins ready yet?”

I glanced at the timer on the oven and shook my head. “Three more minutes, Emme. And they’ll need to cool for a few more after.”

“Damn. People are impatient this morning. When they’re ready, will you bring them to the desk for me?”

“Don’t I always?”

“You’re a doll,” Emme said while nodding.

“At least someone thinks so. I’ll bring these out in a few,” I told her as I put on the hot mitts. The timer was about to go off, so I was ready. I heard the door to the kitchen swing shut behind Emme, but I didn’t look toward it; I was busy, and the last thing I needed was a burn from the oven. I turned off the buzzer as it sounded and then opened the door to pull out the trays of various flavored muffins before I set them on the stainless steel counter to cool. More muffins went in, and the timer was reset.

I loved my job, but it was all I had anymore. My relationship with my parents had been going to shit for years, and I was tired of them only wanting me around when I could do something for them. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my younger brothers, but they were eighteen and sixteen now. They didn’t need me to babysit them. Now, I kick their asses at Halo, fuck yeah!

Did I mention that I needed a life of some sort? I’d watched my two best friends fall in love and all but settle down, but apparently that wasn’t for me. Nope. I spent my days baking for the Knotty Springs Resort, and my evenings I spent either fixing up the small cabin Denver had let me move into or playing on the new Xbox I’d purchased after the fire. Yep, no life.

I retrieved a tray from the shelf above the counter, and after transferring the muffins from the pans to the tray, I went in search of Emme. She needed the muffins, and I needed to find something else to do to occupy my time. My friends were busy, and I didn’t want to be a nuisance, asking them to take pity on me and hang out.

I sighed as I walked through the swinging door that connected the kitchen with the small dining room. The resort was so much more successful than Denver had ever anticipated, and he was already looking into expanding the offerings by way of food. The original plan was lighter fare, simply muffins and pastries, but the customers wanted full dining options, so that was being fixed ASAP.

“Cody, thank you,” Emme said with a huge smile on her face. It wasn’t even eight in the morning yet, but she already looked frazzled, and that didn’t bode well for the rest of the day. When Emme was frazzled, things fell apart.

“What’s wrong? You look like you’re stressed.”

“No, it’s nothing. Honestly. I didn’t get a whole lot of sleep last night, and I think I’ve had one too many coffees this morning.”

“Oh, gotcha. Well, maybe switch to tea or something? You look like you’re ready to…I’m not sure…maybe bite someone’s head off or something.”

“I’ll take that into consideration. Thanks for the muffins, Cody. I’m going to take these into the other room. Let me know when you have more?”

“Sure thing,” I told her over my shoulder as I turned and left. I needed to get back to the kitchen and make sure the muffins in the oven were okay. I arrived back to discover Hawke there, bopping along to the music he had playing through the Bluetooth speaker on the shelf. Guess there was no chance of the muffins burning.

“There you are. I figured you weren’t far with only ten minutes left on the timer.”

“Nope. Emme needed muffins. What are you doing here? I thought you were busy moving in with your guy?”

Hawke snorted before chuckling. “You think I’m allowed to do anything having to do with moving my stuff in with his? Nope. He has a few of the guys from the firehouse helping, and Trace told me to go relax, so here I am.”

“How is being at work relaxing?”

“I’m out of the way, and you know I love to bake. I need to get back into things.”

“How are you doing?”

“I’m fine, Cody. Promise. I just need some familiarity, and this is it.”

I nodded at Hawke before walking over to the oven and checking on the muffins. They were about finished, but not quite, so I got busy pouring the next batch. As if on autopilot, I grabbed the hot mitts and pulled out the muffins when the oven timer sounded, replacing them with the next batch.

Was this really what my life consisted of these days? Making muffins and scones in the mornings and then doing not much of anything else after work? I needed a life, desperately. But thoughts like that led to places I didn’t necessarily want to go. I wasn’t quite ready to think about that. About, him. But…fuck. I couldn’t help but think about him. All the damn time.

“Hey, you going to get that?”

“Wha…huh?” It was then that I heard my phone ringing. I walked over to where it was on the counter and declined the call without even looking at it. That was my mother’s ringtone, and I wasn’t in the mood to talk to her.

“Okay then. Everything okay?”

“Yep, just peachy. Just don’t want to talk to my mom.”

“Oh. Understandable. They still being that way?”

“Yep. So I’m not jumping at the opportunity to chat with them when they call.”

“Do they do that often?”

“Not really, no. And if something was seriously wrong, my sister, Evelyn, would let me know.”

“True. I can’t believe she’s a mom already.”

“Dude, she’s been a mom for a while now.”

“Yeah, but still.”

I smiled at Hawke but went back to rolling out the scones I was working on. My baking for the morning was almost complete, but there was still the cleanup that would take an hour or so. It would certainly be quicker if Hawke was here.

“I’m curious. Are you back at work now?”

“Yep. And if this is it, we’re going to have to talk to Denver. Err, Dad.” Hawke sighed as he stumbled over the whole “Denver is my dad and not my brother” situation. Hell, it made sense though.

“Why do we need to talk to him?”

“There isn’t enough for two here. Not really. From what I’ve heard from Emme, the spa is booked well into next year. Dad needs to open up a full kitchen and offer meals.”

“I agree. But you and I both know that neither of us is a chef.”

“Yeah, but all restaurants should have desserts, breads, things like that. That’s us.”

I thought about it and nodded. Hawke was right. But was that something Denver wanted to do? Looking around the kitchen, I realized it was set up for full service, but really, we only used a small portion of it.

“You have that thinking look. That always got us into trouble in school.”

“What? You’ve got to be kidding,” I joked, looking over at one of my best friends. Damn, were we really twenty, almost twenty-one already? Well, except for Hawke. He’d just turned twenty and was almost an entire year younger. But he was right. My antics had often gotten the three of us into some sort of trouble at school. Hawke shook his head at me and went back to making coffee cake.

That made me wonder if we could expect a visit from Collin later. I sighed. I’d never admit it to either Hawke or Tristan, but I’d always found Collin hot. He was married now, and he was head over heels in love with his husband. Not that I blamed him one bit. Dalton was…well, Dalton. That reminded me—

“Hey. We should kidnap Tris. We need to talk about some things.”

“All right. When do you want to do it? His cast came off a few days ago, so he’s easier to kidnap now.”

“Oh, I hadn’t thought about that. Do you think he’s up for dinner out or something? I haven’t talked to him in about a week. I know he’s super busy with his sisters and everything.”

“Hmm, I’m not sure. Honestly, I’ve been a little preoccupied, and it’s been a few since I’ve talked to him as well.” Hawke looked sad for a moment, and that made me wonder what was causing it. “What happened to us, Cody? We all used to be so close, since forever.”

“Yeah, but we’re growing up. We’re still friends, we still talk, but you two have partners now. You’re busy with them.”

“That’s not fair to you though.”

“How so? I’m happy for the two of you.” I was. Hawke was completely in love with Trace, and it showed. And Tristan, well, he and Walker worked. They had a lot to deal with, on both sides, but they were making it work. Walker had stepped up and didn’t even bat an eye when Tristan had been awarded custody of his sisters. That said something about a man. Tristan had a keeper, for sure.

“Cody?”

“Hmm?”

“I was talking, but you were off in your own world. What’s going on?”

“Nothing. Just spacing out today I guess.” I put the scones onto the baking sheet and set them over beside the oven so they could go in when there was room.

“Everything okay? I know Tris and I have been busy with our guys, but I’ll always make time for the three of us. I’m sure he would as well.”

“It’s all good, Hawke. Really. I’m not hopeless. I can entertain myself.”

“I realize that. I just feel bad.”

“You don’t have to. Honestly.” I walked to the oven, pulled out the last batch of muffins, and slid in the first of the scones. Yep, there definitely had to be more to life than making pastries and going home to an empty cabin. Question is, was I ready to get out there and have a life?

I heard Hawke squeal and glanced over in his direction only to see him smiling as he bounced toward the door. There was only one person who could make Hawke squeal and bounce like that, and sure enough, when I glanced over my shoulder, there was Trace.

I went back to prepping more trays of scones and trying to load the dishwasher when I finished with the bowls and measuring cups. I heard Hawke and Trace leave the kitchen, thankful I didn’t have to watch the two of them make lovey-dovey eyes at each other. Fuck, when did I become such a cranky asshole? I honestly was happy for them.

I needed…something. Problem was, I wasn’t exactly sure what that something was. Hell, maybe I needed to get laid. That seemed to make Hawke and Tristan happier people. My only problem with that my only sexual experience had been with a guy, and that hadn’t ended well. When Angie started pushing to have sex, I just couldn’t do it. What did that even mean?

“Hey, Cody?”

I turned to look at Hawke after he’d come back into the kitchen. I glanced behind him but didn’t see Trace anywhere. “Yeah? What’s up?”

“So Trace is going to talk to Walker, who will help us kidnap Tristan tonight. Does that work? The guys are on shift tomorrow, so if not, it’ll have to wait a few days.”

“Nope, I’m good with tonight. We staying in somewhere or going out?”

“How about dinner and we take it from there?”

“I’m always up for dinner. Five Guys?”

“You know it,” Hawke replied with a smirk on his face. Now to just survive the next several hours until we could grab our third musketeer and have some fun.