Shilo David, still stinging from the lengthy and bitter breakup with a previous lover, flees to the quiet woods in Eagle River, Wisconsin. There, he hopes to find solace amongst the color of the trees and foliage, and possibly rediscover his inspiration and creative spark. He winds up finding much more.
Jeffrey Layton, who has lived in Eagle River for many years, is also on the rebound after losing a boyfriend. However, his mate was taken from him by cancer. Jeffrey’s apprehensive about leaping into another relationship for fear that his next true love will also be snatched from his grasp. Then he meets Shilo.
Together, the two learn love is an emotion to be embraced, not spurned, and it’s possible to find the person you’re meant to be with, even when the cards are stacked against you. Shilo learns it’s sometimes necessary to kiss a few toads in order to find your prince, while Jeffrey discovers he has it in him to love another while still caring for those who have left. In this tale, love has no boundaries, and not even the changing hues of the leaves in the forest can compete with the beauty of true happiness.
The Blue Spruce Café was full tonight, and there were several families and couples waiting on benches in the foyer. Trixie came out of the kitchen and immediately noticed Shilo.
“Shilo! Shilo David, isn’t it? You look dressed to kill. Just don’t snuff out any of the paying customers.” Trixie immediately disappeared into the smoking section of the café, which could easily be detected by the white cloud that irritated some of the people in the hall.
A few customers looked a little ill at ease, obviously not getting that Trixie was making a joke. Shilo took a seat near the door. Tonight was the polar opposite of his first visit to the Blue Spruce. He wondered what was so great about the special that people were practically breaking down Trixie’s door. Shilo took a whiff of the air. He smelled some kind of fish, as well as seasoning that could be used on French fries. That’s it! The special was fish and chips.READ MORE
Shilo returned to reality when he felt a cold draft from the opening of the front door. A well-built man stepped in. Shilo did a quick examination of the man. He had dirty blond hair, an earring in his left ear and two rings on his left hand. He looked like he worked out. Shilo wondered if he had a six-pack.
Trixie came back into the foyer and saw the man. “Hey, sugar! We’re a little busy tonight. You know how it is, being the Friday night fish fry and all.”
Shilo smiled, pleased that he’d guessed correctly.
The man waved to Trixie and came over to where Shilo was sitting. “Is this seat taken?”
Shilo made a motion to the bench on his left to indicate it was available. As he sat down, Shilo carefully scrutinized the mystery man. He wore a gray T-shirt, blue jeans with a hole in the knee, and a pair of sneakers that looked like they’d lived through the Reagan era.
“Like what you see?”
Shilo’s eyes widened. He didn’t realize the man had seen him staring. “I-I’m sorry. I just... This is kind of embarrassing.”
“That’s okay. I didn’t mean to put you on the spot. My name is Jeffrey.” He held out a hand. Shilo took a second to notice how strong the hand looked before he put out his own hand and shook Jeffrey’s.
“Don’t believe I’ve seen you around here before.”
“I just moved to Eagle River about four days ago. I’ve barely had time to carry all the boxes inside.
“Wow! You must unpack quickly.”
“Not really. The rest of the stuff should arrive in the next couple of days. I just got here early to check things out.”
“So, what do you think?”
“It’s nice and small.”
Jeffrey smiled. “Yeah. It’s a quiet community for folks who like that sort of thing. We don’t have too much crime here, which is wonderful. It makes my job easier.”
“What are you? A lawyer?”
“No. I could never be that sleazy. I’m a police officer.”
A police officer? No wonder he was built like a brick house.
“Really? Sounds interesting.”
“You’d think it would be, but it’s not really. Not around here, anyway. Most of my time is spent telling people to slow down on the roads or rescuing children or beloved pets from trees. I’m not complaining, though. At least I don’t get shot at.”
Shilo smiled. He didn’t quite know how to respond to that.
“So that’s my story. What about yours? What brings you to Eagle River?”
“You wouldn’t want to hear about it.”
“Try me. It doesn’t look like we’re going to get in for another few minutes, depending on when the folks already in the café decide it’s time to go.”
Shilo took a deep breath. Did he really want to divulge everything? He looked into Jeffrey’s eyes, and he wasn’t sure what it was in those eyes that assured him, but he knew Jeffrey could be trusted.
Shilo told him everything, from the day Chandler dumped him to the day he got the ninety thousand dollar settlement to the day he moved to Wisconsin. Jeffrey sat and listened, with a look that appeared to be part attentive, part concerned.
“So I packed up my cat, my boxes, my life, and I came up here.”
“Must be kind of tough moving from the place where you grew up.”
“Kind of, but my parents and my sister relocated to Wisconsin three years ago, so it’s not like I’m completely isolated from my family.”
“Really? Do they live in Eagle River?”
“My parents are in Birnamwood, and my sister and her husband live down in Racine.”
“What made them move up here?”
“Well, my brother-in-law grew up in this state, so as soon as Lynn got married, they came up here. My sister has a couple of kids, so you know Grandma and Grandpa had to follow. I was content to live in Arizona, but after the thing with Chandler, I knew I had to find a place where I could start over.” Shilo turned to Jeffrey and gave him a forced smile.
“I can relate,” Jeffrey said.
“Shilo! A booth is ready for you!” Trixie was standing at the arch to the non-smoking section.
Oh, thank goodness, Shilo thought. I’m not going to have to get lung cancer tonight.
Shilo stood up. Jeffrey did so as well, Shilo assumed out of politeness.
“I guess I’ll see you around,” Jeffrey said, shaking Shilo’s hand.
“I hope so.” Shilo walked to the arch, stopped and turned around. “Hey, Jeffrey?”
Jeffrey had already taken his seat again and looked lost in thought, but the sound of his name caught his attention. “Yes?”
“I think there’d be room at my table, if you’d like to join me.”
Jeffrey grinned. “I’d love to.”COLLAPSE