Title: Pieces of Us
Author: NR Walker
Series: Missing Pieces, Book 3
Genre: MM Romance
This is the final installment in this series and is not a standalone. Reading further will contain spoilers.
Missing Pieces Series, Book Three
As Justin’s recovery moves forward, Dallas dares to hope their lives are settling into their new normal. His money worries have eased, business is picking up, and best of all, Justin now laughs more than he frowns.
Justin’s memory still eludes him, but with each snippet or flashback, small pieces of his old life start to slot into place. He remembers more of Dallas and how perfectly happy their lives used to be, and with each passing day, Justin realises he can have that again.
But when someone from Justin’s past turns up, he discovers that not all the missing pieces are good, and sadly, he and Dallas also learn just what it means to live with a traumatic brain injury.
If Dallas and Justin have to fight for their Happily Ever After, then Dallas will stop at nothing—nothing—to give Justin the life he always wanted.
“. . . as I tried to put the puzzle of myself back together, it was the pieces of us that made me whole.”
I was up before Dallas, which was unusual, drinking my decaf coffee and staring out the kitchen window. He was normally awake before me, but a headache somewhere around five in the morning had me up searching for my pills. Headaches were nothing new; sometimes I’d catch myself thinking life was returning to normal, but then the constant pain inside my head reminded me otherwise.
I was so used to headaches now I barely registered them. That continuous ache was sometimes dull, sometimes sharp, but always there. Except for this morning when it woke me up.
I was never too cheerful in the morning, but today I was feeling particularly sorry for myself. Not even watching Dallas sleep improved my mood. If anything, it made me feel even shittier. He was so good to me. He was, without doubt, too good for me as well.
But for some stupid reason, he loved me. He loved me before the accident, and that didn’t change anything for him. If anything, he reckoned it made him realise he loved me more now. It had been a lesson in taking things for granted, he’d said. I could see it in his eyes just how much he loved me. Those hazel-grey eyes couldn’t hide a thing, and I found myself recognising his moods in them.
Losing myself in them.
Dallas had said that we fell in love hard and fast the first time, and it was much the same for me the second time. He was caring, attentive, thoughtful, funny . . . everything I ever wanted in a boyfriend. He was also tall, strong, and handsome. How on earth I’d ever scored him once was a mystery to me. The fact he stuck around for a second time was just crazy.
But stuck around he had.
I hated to think where I’d be without him. If I’d decided not to go home with him when we’d left the hospital—not that I had anywhere else to go—well, they would have found me somewhere, apparently. But my heart said to go with him, and now I knew why.
Because my heart knew him.
My heart loved him.
And on days when I felt like shit—not just physically, but emotionally as well—I just felt . . . useless.
Like a kid who needed babysitting. Who couldn’t walk up or down stairs without supervision, who couldn’t even have a shower in the house by himself. And being at work was like my first day as a sixteen-year-old apprentice. I knew it was all for my safety or whatever, but that just pissed me off. I wasn’t a kid. I wasn’t incompetent. I knew how to do this stuff. And some days my brain was slow as hell; but some days my mind was fine and it was my body that betrayed me.
I hated being like this.
I hated being so dependent on other people. I hated that Dallas had to look after me like I was a toddler and how Sparra had to babysit me at work. I hated that I was aware of just how much I couldn’t do, of how much I used to do and now couldn’t.
We’d spent a few hours on Saturday at Jimmy and Nancy’s house, and I was so wiped out, it put my arse on the couch for all of Sunday. I napped on and off all damn day. I tried to do a few things around the flat with Dallas but was no good at anything.
He’d simply kissed me with a smile and told me to rest while he pottered about getting everything done while I parked up in front of the damn TV like a simpleton.
I couldn’t help but wonder how long he’d put up with it. How long would it take until he realised he could have any guy he wanted who didn’t have a brain injury? That didn’t have a fucked-up leg and who didn’t speak slow?
I heard the bedroom door open and didn’t even have to turn around. The sound of his feet got closer, then his huge warm hand slid up my back. “Hey,” he murmured. “I woke up alone.”
I sighed, now feeling even shittier than before. “Sorry. Headache woke me up and I didn’t want to disturb you.”
“Oh, you feel okay?” he asked, concerned. “Want me to get your pills?”
I turned then and offered a small smile. “I already took one, thanks.”
He put his fingers to my chin and inspected my eyes. “Baby, what’s wrong?”
I shrugged. “I feel . . .” I couldn’t find the right word. And it wasn’t aphasia. There were just too many words to choose from: awful, like shit, bad, low, worthless, horrible, useless . . . “Sad.”
Frowning, Dallas took my empty coffee cup from me, put it on the sink, and pulled me into his arms. Into those huge, strong, and warm arms, holding me against his chest where I was safe and protected and completely enclosed. I could feel my worries dissipate, and the tension left my shoulders as I melted into him.
It was such a relief and so comforting, I could have cried.
I was stupid to think for one second that I could live without him. Well, not that I thought I could, but I had wondered why he didn’t leave me. I wouldn’t survive this without him.
He rubbed my back and took deep, calming breaths which I somehow unknowingly mimicked, making myself feel a little better.
“I’m sorry,” I mumbled.
“You don’t have to be sorry,” he replied. His voice rumbled smoothly in his chest against my ear. He never moved to let go of me or even pull away. “Did you feel sad for any reason? Or just because.”
“Just because.” I sighed since that felt like such an easy way out. I needed to talk about this. I owed him that. “I just feel . . . I hate being useless and I hate how my brain doesn’t work sometimes. I hate that you have to look after me, and I hate that I can’t do everything. I just woke up feeling pretty low today.”
He rubbed my back some more and kissed the side of my head. “I get that,” he said, still hugging me. “And you’re allowed to feel those things. I can tell you that you’re not useless, but I don’t want to make what you feel isn’t valid. Because if you feel it, then it’s real and we need to work on why you feel like that.” He pulled back then and cupped my face. “But baby, you’re the strongest guy I know. You’re determined and capable, and you’ve accomplished more in the last two months than you realise. I know you must be frustrated with everything, and I don’t blame you. But if you could just see how far you’ve come.”
I frowned, because I certainly didn’t feel like that.
“You’re allowed to feel useless and frustrated. And angry and sad,” Dallas added. “Thank you for telling me.”
I sighed again, sagging against the kitchen counter. “I would be so lost without you,” I mumbled.
He kissed my forehead and pressed me up against the cupboard and wrapped his strong arms around me again, squishing my face into his chest. “I’d be lost without you too,” he replied. But then one arm was gone from around me as he reached over to the kettle and flicked it on. “I’d be lost without coffee too.”
That made me smile, despite my mood. “You drink decaf now.” Another change he’d made for me.
“Just because it’s a bit different now doesn’t mean I still don’t need it,” he replied. I was certain that was aimed at me and not all about coffee. Because I was a bit different now and he still needed me . . .
Then he shuffled me over so he could keep one arm around me while he reached for the cups. “You can let go of me,” I suggested.
“Nope. I can do both. I can make two coffees and give good hugs.”
I managed a chuckle. How had he managed to make me laugh? “Yes, you can.”
He turned his head. “Uh. The milk’s in the fridge. Black coffee it is.”
I pushed him away with a laugh. “Get the milk.”
He quickly grabbed the milk and came straight back to his spot, which was pressed tight against me, pushing me against the cupboard with one arm around me. I gladly hugged him back, using the magic of his hugs to fix me for as long as I could.
“Coffees are done.” He sipped his. “Now, shall I try for toast?”
I chuckled again. “Depends where the bread is.”
He leaned and stretched. “Got it.”
But the margarine was in the fridge so he had to let go of me, which gave me a chance to sip my fresh coffee. He made breakfast and we shared triangles of Vegemite toast, and by the time we’d showered and dressed for work, I was feeling better.
I should have stayed in bed and hugged him there rather than getting up and wallowing by myself. Dallas knew how to fix me, and I was stupid to pretend otherwise.
He stopped me at the door. “You sure you’re feeling up to work today?” Dallas asked. “How’s your headache?”
“It’s okay. And yeah, I need to work today.”
He grinned. “Good. Because I need you to work today. You’re part of the team, Juss, and I need all hands on deck this morning.”
And there he went, telling me how not useless I was without even trying. I was part of the team. He needed me. No matter how small a job I did, he needed me to do it. I gave him a nod and even managed a smile. “Okay.”
With that beautiful smile, he led the way downstairs. He had me open the front roller door and unlock the front gates; then he wanted me to check the stock levels and see if anything else needed to be reordered.
I knew what he was doing.
He was making me not useless.
By the time Davo and Sparra arrived, I was actually feeling pretty good about myself. They were both keen to use the new coffee machine, so that gave us some time to talk about our weekends until we were interrupted by our first clients of the day.
Sparra and I went to work on an old Yamaha while Davo serviced an ATV, and Dallas did some time in his office until another client dropped off a KTM. “Hey, Juss, I need you with me for this,” he said.
It was gonna be a pretty big job. The rider had stacked it on the trails, and there was damage to the front forks, suspension, steering shaft, handlebars, and the front tyre would need replacing. The rider, the teen nephew of the owner, was okay, thankfully. But they’d learned an expensive lesson about going downhill on a loose surface using front brakes. Such a rookie mistake on an awesome bike.
And for a few hours, Dallas had me doing everything I could physically do. He let me take lead and he helped me when I needed it. He was proving a point—that I wasn’t useless—and when we’d taken the front brake hose line clamp off and we were on opposite sides of the bike, I watched as he ratcheted a bolt undone, concentration and sweat on his brow. He caught me smiling at him. “What?” he asked quietly.
“I love you,” I replied. I hadn’t meant to say those words, not in the workshop, not so blasé. Davo and Sparra hadn’t heard a thing, not that I cared. But holy shit, this man . . .
His smile became a grin, the ratchet in his hand forgotten. He seemed a little lost for words.
“I know what you’re doing,” I added. “Giving me jobs I can do, making me feel not useless.”
He chuckled and put the tool down. “Just proving a point. Did it work?”
“It totally worked.”
I laughed but met his eyes. “You do these little things for me, to help me, without having to say a thing. Everything you do for me, you do because you love me, and it’s like the saying ‘actions speak louder than words.’ I never really knew what that meant. But now I do.”
His eyes softened. “Juss . . .”
“It’s an amazing feeling knowing you’re loved, so I wanted you to know too. I’ve said it before, but I wanted to say it again. I need you to know, Dall.”
He walked around my side of the bike, took my face in his hands, and kissed me. It was all soft lips and scruffy beard and far too brief. He pulled back and put his forehead to mine. “I know you love me, Juss. But you can tell me as many times as you want.”
“I love you,” I whispered this time, and he closed his eyes and smiled as though he could just bathe in those words.
Juss got up from his seat and sat on my lap. I had to pull my chair out a bit so he could fit, but he just sat right down and put his arm around my shoulder, his forehead pressed to mine. “Remember how you said we choose our own family?”
“Well, I’ve chosen mine.” He kissed me soundly. Then he picked up my fork and stabbed some meat and brought it to my lips. “Open wide.”
I laughed and he shoved the fork in my mouth. “You’re gonna feed me?” I asked.
“For all the times you helped me, now it’s your turn.”
He continued to feed me until my plate was empty and he even had some more of his own. It was fun and cute, we laughed a lot, and it had been far too long since we’d done anything fun and cute. The fact that he punctuated every forkful with a kiss made it even better.
He put the fork down and turned his full attention to me. “You know,” he said with a kiss. “I slept a lot today, so I’m not too tired.”
I chuckled because I was pretty sure I knew where he was going with this. “Is that so?”
He kissed me again, a little softer, more playful. “And we did get those test results back.”
I hummed, not too sure if he was up for anything rigorous. “You’re supposed to be on bed rest.”
He smiled. “So take me to bed.”
N.R. Walker Bio
N.R. Walker is an Australian author, who loves her genre of gay romance. She loves writing and spends far too much time doing it, but wouldn’t have it any other way.
She is many things: a mother, a wife, a sister, a writer. She has pretty, pretty boys who live in her head, who don’t let her sleep at night unless she gives them life with words.
She likes it when they do dirty, dirty things… but likes it even more when they fall in love.
She used to think having people in her head talking to her was weird, until one day she happened across other writers who told her it was normal.
She’s been writing ever since…
For more about N.R. Walker you can find her at:
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