Once again, I didn’t add any additional words from a random word generator. I already had enough inspiration about what I wanted to do with the scene. I did manage to make this single word the very first on in the scene, though. 😁
“Nervous” didn’t begin to describe Henry’s emotions as he stepped back from Garrett’s hug and mentally prepared to call Sam. On a sliding scale with “mildly worried” at the lower end, he was fast approaching the opposite extreme with a “jumping out of his skin” level of panic.
“Papa!” Buddy hopped out of his seat and wrapped his arms around Henry’s torso.
“Buddy,” Garrett said. “Devon and I will be right here with you. Papa will be back in a few minutes.”
“Pleeeeeeeaaase?” The anxiety in Buddy’s eyes mirrored his plea—and the roiling in Henry’s gut.
He picked up the little boy and planted a kiss on his cheek. “I understand, Buddy, but just in case it’s not good news, it would be better to have me to tell you about it after the call.” Henry turned to Garrett. “I think I can keep it together, but probably best for him not to witness the letdown.”
Buddy relaxed his hold, and Henry passed him to Garrett without incident. “I’ll be back soon.”
He gave Buddy a wink that was far jauntier than his mood and followed Jonathan to a private room. Jonathan picked up an iPad. “You can make either a voice or video call using Skype or Facetime. Do you have a preference?”
“Skype, please.” The only contact information on the paper Henry had been handed was Sam’s old phone number. He could call that voice number from Jonathan’s Skype app if his attempt to reach Sam’s old account for a video-chat didn’t work. In the past, Sam had often kept the app active in the background on his tablet. They’d both used it regularly when one of them was traveling, and Sam had frequently communicated with his family using that app. Hopefully, he still used it.
It was probably wrong to blindside Sam with an unexpected video call when he was expecting voice, but good news or bad, Henry wanted to see the expression in Sam’s eyes. That would tell him how Sam truly felt better than words.
Jonathan swiped, opened the app, and handed it to Henry. “I’ll be with the others if you need me for anything.”
Henry gripped the iPad and sat. His fingers drummed on the back loud enough for the dull tapping to be heard above the sounds of the ocean. He puffed out his cheeks as he slowly released an unsteady breath, then typed in the information.
The call rang through without an error message, so Sam likely still used that account. It rang once, twice, then three times, which wasn’t necessarily a bad sign. In the past, Sam hadn’t had the Skype app on his phone. He’d only used it on his tablet, which if his habits hadn’t changed, was likely charging on his bedside table. It was the middle of the night, but he pictured Sam pacing the living room, waiting for his cell phone to ring. No way he’d be in bed.
Henry’s chin dropped after the fourth ring. Sam wasn’t going to get to it in time before the app gave up. Sam usually kept the volume low, so there was a good chance he couldn’t even hear it.
Should he retry or just call the voice number like Sam was expecting? His breath hitched when the sound changed. Then the video screen came to life, but he couldn’t make anything out in the dark room. Maybe it wasn’t Sam’s account after all?
A light came on and the room seemed to turn as the tablet was picked up. Sam hadn’t moved. Henry recognized the ceiling fan and window treatments from their bedroom.
Henry’s jaw clenched when a tousled blond man who was not Sam came into focus. The blond’s face had precisely the kind of pinched and frazzled expression one would expect to find on a man whose life had been turned upside down mere hours earlier. The man’s face softened a bit, with a saddened tilt to his brows when he looked at Henry—or maybe it was after he noticed Henry’s strained, horrorstruck expression and wobbly chin.
“Sorry,” the blond man said. “Sam was expecting the call on his phone. Hold on.”
Thank goodness Henry hadn’t caved in to Buddy’s plea, because if his uncontrollably shaking shoulders were any clue, he wasn’t going to make it through this call without crying. Sam had remarried. Did he have kids, too? Had Sam and this beautiful blond man adopted a family together?
But after a false start the man stopped and looked at Henry again. “You don’t have to worry.”
Henry clutched his chest as hope fluttered in his heart. He opened his mouth, but no words came out.
“We’re not married, and we’re not engaged. I moved in less than two months ago, and…” The man’s voice broke. “I’ve already told him I’m bowing out.”
Henry audibly blew out a rush of air as his hand moved closer to his face. He managed to squeak, “Thank you. I’m…I’m sorry to put you through this.”
Which was true. Much as Henry was thrilled to learn he hadn’t lost Sam, this man had. And the relationship had progressed enough for him to have moved in with Sam, so this ordeal would be painful for both of them.
The image jerked around as the still-nameless man who’d been Sam’s partner carried the tablet through the house. Henry caught a glimpse of the bedroom, and tears welled in his eyes. He would be happy to see familiar objects in the house, but some of his tension faded seeing that Sam wasn’t sleeping with another man under the same homemade quilt that had been a wedding present from Sam’s grandmother.
“Nash?” Sam’s voice was faint but recognizable, and beautiful blond-guy had a name.
“He called on Skype.” The wall with the gorgeous fireplace Sam had fallen in love with when they’d first viewed the house flashed by. “I was afraid the call would disconnect, so I answered.”
“Oh. Thank you. I’m s—”
“Don’t!” Nash bit out. “I get it already. You’re sorry. Everybody’s sorry. It’s nobody’s fault.” Nash’s tone tempered as his mini-tirade concluded. Obviously, he was a man struggling to retain his humanity and dignity through a distressing personal loss. His voice sounded more distant as he apparently walked away. “I’m going back to bed.”
An image of the French doors leading to the back yard jiggled until the click of the bedroom door sounded, then wobbled some more as the picture shifted, and Sam’s face came into focus.
“Henry.” Sam’s face crumpled, and a tear traced down his cheek. “I’m…” He shook his head.
“Sorry. Right. Me, too.” Henry gave a watery smile. “Not for being alive, of course, but…you know. For putting you in this position.”
“I still can’t believe this is happening.”
Henry snuffled and blinked through tears. “Every day…every single day I thought of you. Worried about what you were going through.”
“Hell.” Sam wiped his eyes.
Which was pretty much how Henry had pictured it. “Will I see you when we land in Hawaii?”
“Yes.” Sam sniffed. “I missed you so much. Even with this call, it won’t seem real until I can hold you in my arms.”
Henry still felt sorry for Nash, but Sam’s words tempered the guilt. Henry’s hands trembled as he realized Sam had settled. Of course Sam had loved Nash on some level or he’d never have asked the man to move in, but clearly Sam had never completely gotten over losing Henry. Nash seemed like a decent guy. He deserved someone who would love him unreservedly.
Henry said, “I don’t know what the coast guard has told you…”
“Not much. They’ll be in touch with more information in the morning.”
“I need to tell you about Buddy. I want your help.”
Sam blinked. “Buddy? Was that one of the other survivors?”
“A child, yes. There’s four of us, total. Three adults plus Buddy. He was too young to tell us his name so that’s what we call him.”
Curiosity sparked in Sam’s eyes. “And you want my help with…?”
“The adoption process. I had the captain of this boat alert the coast guard of my intent, but anything you can do to help…please. He latched onto me as a surrogate father immediately, and…” Henry’s voice broke. “I can’t lose him, Sam. We’re sure he’s orphaned because Garrett remembers seeing Buddy with his parents when he first got on the plane. I need some kind of agreement and paperwork in place when we land that’ll give me temporary custody. We’re both scared to death he’ll be taken away.”
“Of course.” Sam’s eyes lit. “Of course I’ll help.”
“And I wouldn’t keep him from his extended family. That would be mean. I’m totally open to them getting regular visitation.”
“Absolutely. I’ll call an attorney first thing in the morning. Don’t worry about a thing.”
Henry slumped into the soft chair. “Thank you. You have no idea how much sleep I’ve lost over the years worrying about losing him and…losing you.”
“I promise to do everything I can. I should be able to get messages to you on that coast guard ship even though we can’t directly speak again until Hawaii. I’ll keep you posted.”
Knowing Sam, having this task—this purpose—to occupy him in the coming days until they met in Hawaii would help save him from agonizing over the pain he’d caused Nash, and ease the anticipation until they could be together once more. And Sam would leave no stone unturned in his pursuit of this goal—of that Henry had zero doubts.
“Thank you.” Henry gave a shaky laugh. Finally…finally…he could relax—unwind from the tight coil he’d twisted himself into since their rescue. With the uncertainty of his future replaced by cautious optimism, he could at long last allow himself to wallow in the enjoyment of imagining his new life with Sam and Buddy.
“I love you,” Sam said. “And I know I’ll love Buddy, too.”
“I love you, too. And you will. He’s amazing.” Henry straightened. He was the last to make his call, so there wasn’t any reason not to… “Would you like to meet him now? I’ve told him so many stories, and he’s dying to meet you.”
“Yeah? That’d be great.”
Henry jumped up and returned to the lounge where the others waited.
“I like the looks of that smile,” Devon said when Henry walked in. “Good news?”
“Yes.” Mostly. Not so much for poor Nash, but in the long run, maybe it would be best for him, too. “Uh, Sam’s still on. I want to introduce him to Buddy—to all of you while we’re at it, if that’s okay.”
“Yay!” Buddy sprang up.
“We’d love to meet him.” Garrett stood and motioned for the others to join him in grouping around Henry. Devon picked up Buddy.
“You, too,” Henry nodded to Jonathan and Charles. “If you’re willing.”
“We’d be honored,” Jonathan replied.
Henry angled the tablet to take in the entire group, and Buddy’s eyes widened in wonder at the sight of the technology that had been described to him, but he’d never seen. “Sam, first of all, I’d like you to meet our saviors, Jonathan and Charles Fitch. We owe these two young men our lives.”
The brothers beamed, and Sam’s face scrunched. For a moment Henry thought he was going to cry, but he recovered quickly. “I was told a little bit about how the rescue came about. It might have been a crazy combination of adventure and luck, but you are both heroes through and through. You have my eternal gratitude.”
“Thank you, Sir,” Jonathan said. “It’s an experience we’ll never forget, that’s for sure.”
“Best holiday ever,” Charles added and nudged Jonathan. “I guess we make a good team.”
Jonathan chuckled. “We do.”
Henry nodded toward Garrett. “Sam, this is Garrett Pinkham, master weaver of hats, baskets, rope, shelter walls, and all manner of helpful things. Garrett was a high-ranking honcho at a toy company in his old life, but for now wants to spend as much time as possible with his family. When he left for Fiji, he thought he had three kids. Turns out he had three and a quarter kids, and now has four.”
Garrett laughed, and Sam exclaimed, “Congratulations! That’s fantastic.”
“Even better news than I’d dared hope.”
Putting a hand on Devon’s shoulder, Henry said, “Sam, this is Devon Engels, fisherman extraordinaire and brilliant toolmaker who in his prior life was a kickass linebacker for the Nebraska Cornhuskers and aspiring FBI agent.”
“Pleased to meet you Devon. That’s an impressive variety of talent!”
Devon snorted and grinned widely. “Henry might be embellishing just a bit there. But dude, I’ve heard so many stories about you, I feel like I know you.”
“I’ve got some catching up to do.”
Buddy grinned widely as Devon bounced him. Henry said, “And this little cutie is Buddy. He’s got a mind like a sponge, remembers everything, and has an insatiable curiosity.”
Buddy positively glowed. “And I can help Devon catch fish, and help Papa filet them, and help Garrett make sun hats. Oh, and I know how to play catch with a papaya and build sand castles!”
Sam guffawed. “Perfect. I don’t know how to make sunhats, but we can play catch and go fishing here, too. I look forward to doing that with you.”
Henry turned to Buddy and added, “Sam’s going to be working hard this week to make sure we stay together when we land in Hawaii.”
Buddy nodded solemnly and looked at Sam. “’Cause Papa’s my Papa, and I’m really scared if I can’t live with my Papa.”
“I’ll make sure of it.” Sam choked up as he murmured the words.
Henry took a deep breath as the others returned to their seats. “Well, it’s the middle of the night there, you must be exhausted.”
“We both know I’m not going to get any more sleep tonight, but that’s okay. I’ll be busy researching attorneys.”
“I love you.” Henry sniffled and blew a kiss at the screen.
“Au revoir, my love.”
Henry signed off and placed the iPad on a side table. He dropped into a chair, and Buddy climbed onto his lap. He rubbed the little boy’s head and landed a kiss to his forehead. Buddy snuggled into Henry’s chest, and Henry wrapped his arms around the child.
Jonathan moved to a small wine cooler and pulled out a bottle. “Great news all around. This calls for a toast.”
“Hear, hear!” Charles selected flutes from a cabinet and set them on a tray, and Jonathan opened the bottle with a flourish.
When Charles passed out the glasses, Buddy got a flute full of apple juice. Jonathan held up his glass and said, “A very good friend recently showed me an internet meme that he said best described his personal philosophy. I admire him for the way he takes life by the horns and owns it.
“Obviously, you didn’t intend to take this particular journey, but listening to your stories of life on that island, I was reminded of this quote, and suspect you might each embrace it as well.
“In the words of Hunter S. Thompson, ‘Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming, Wow! What a Ride!’”
“Right on!” Devon said.
Garrett and Henry grinned, and said, “Cheers!” as they all clinked glasses.
Henry’s outlook on life had altered over the last five years. Even if they’d been rescued immediately, things he’d realized and regretted as they’d plunged toward what they’d thought would be their doom, had changed him. Going forward he would never hold back in sharing his concerns and feelings with Sam. He wouldn’t avoid the difficult discussions and would take every opportunity to maximize their enjoyment of this life. Even a full life could be considered fleeting, and one never knew when it might be cut short. He vowed to live his life without regrets, and to instill that same attitude in Buddy.
Henry and Sam Miller-Greene are living the dream. They love their careers — which afford each of them opportunities to travel to exotic locations — they love their home, Sam’s caring family, and each other. They disagree on the subject of adoption, but are fully committed to each other in marriage … ’Til Death Do Us Part.
The dream is shattered when Henry’s plane crashes, and he’s presumed dead. But four people — Henry, two other men, and a child — survive undetected on a remote, small, and insignificant island. Will Sam and Henry’s love be able to survive as well?
Henry fights to endure in harsh conditions, never knowing when disaster will strike. Sam struggles with his loss, but with help moves on with his life. Will Sam be able to put aside his new love when he reunites with Henry?