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“You finally thinking of settling down or something?”

Tyler cracked up. “Me? Dude, you know me. I’m not ready to stop living yet.”

And then Sparks said something that was like a gut punch. “I thought the same thing, but honestly? I realized I wasn’t really alive until I met Violet.”

As Tyler followed Sparks back inside, he thought about his life. About his bare house and his weekends filled with beer, women, and late nights, and he wondered for the first time if Sparks might be on to something.

Chapter Eight

TYLER AND HIS friends were out at Mick’s, a military bar in Old Town, shooting pool and drinking beer. Although they used to hang out several times a week, with Martinez and Sparks both in serious relationships, they had cut it down to just once, maybe twice. It sucked for Tyler, because this time out with his friends was almost cathartic. They talked about all the shit going on personally and at the program; anything he needed to get off his chest, he could do on nights like this.

He stood at the edge of the pool table, drinking from his beer glass, and realized that this time was coming to an end. Tyler was twenty-eight, and already his group of single friends was down by half. It wouldn’t be long before Kline got back out there and met someone new, and then he’d be the last man standing.

Sure, there were other trainers he could hang with, but these were the men he’d been through some shit with. And not just group therapy—he knew he could call on them anytime, and they would have his back.

Friends like that were hard to find, and it sucked to lose them.

“Yo, Best, mind if we join you?” a woman asked behind Tyler. He turned around and found Megan Bryce, one of the newest Alpha Dog trainers, standing with Slater Vincent. Slater had been assigned to Alpha Dog right before Bryce and was a silent dude, hardly the social type with anyone except Bryce.

Tyler couldn’t blame the man. Bryce’s thick brown hair, clear blue eyes, and compact body were definitely attractive.

Damn, Tyler was going to have to add another type of woman to avoid: the coworker. Because every fiber of his being was tempted to flirt with her.

“No, you’re both welcome, but you get the next round,” Tyler said.

Tyler’s phone started buzzing in his pocket, and when he pulled it out to check the screen, an unknown number flashed at him. He was tempted not to answer it, but he found himself sliding his thumb across the green phone icon.

“Hello?” Damn, it was hard to hear in the loud bar. “Hang on a second; I’m having trouble hearing you.” Pushing his way up the stairs through the throng of bodies, he finally made it outside onto the planked walkway. “Sorry, who is this?”

“Is this Tyler Best?” a woman asked.

Tyler started to get antsy, wondering if this was a former lover calling with bad news. “Yeah, that’s me.”

“Mr. Best, this is Fiona McCarthy at Mercy San Juan. I’m calling about Henry Coleson. He has you listed as his next of kin, is that right?”

Ah, no.

“Yes, that’s correct.”

“I am very sorry to call like this, but Henry passed away forty-five minutes ago,” she said.

“What do I need to do?” he asked.

“Well, his instructions include being cremated, and he left detailed instructions for you, as well as a private letter. If it’s a bad time, you can come by and pick up everything tomorrow, and we can release him to the crematorium then—”

“I’ll come now,” Tyler said.

“Oh, all right. Well, I’ll have everything waiting for you.”

“I appreciate that. Thanks.”

Tyler hung up the phone and swiftly sent a text to Kline, letting him know where he’d gone. Tyler hadn’t talked about Henry to anyone but Blake. Not because he didn’t trust his other friends, but because . . . Hell, he just hadn’t.

Damn, he couldn’t believe he was gone. He’d been preparing for this moment since the first day he met Henry, but he hadn’t actually ever pictured how he’d react

. For someone he hadn’t even known a year ago, Henry had touched something inside him.

But when Henry had told him he had nobody, Tyler hadn’t realized what he’d actually meant. That Tyler was the only person in the world he could release his body to. A guy he had only known six months.

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