Syncopation: A Collaborations Novel

Contributors: Jodi Payne, BA Tortuga
Series: Collaborations #2
Genre: , , ,
Release Date: January 6, 2020
Pages: 204

Colt Boudreaux was raised in the Louisiana bayou and is gifted with a talent steeped in the rich and soulful New Orleans blues tradition. He makes a living as a session musician, playing guitar for anyone who needs him. When his manager sends him to New York, the Cajun is as beguiled as he is baffled by the energy of the city—and just as charmed by Kyle Alexander.

Kyle is a successful classically trained ballet dancer, choreographer, and native New Yorker whose unbridled talent defies convention, and whose rebel spirit favors ink, shuns the orchestra, and is every bit as unique as Kyle himself.

They find a connection right away that inspires rhythm and movement, mood and music, both in and out of the bedroom. It’s not long before they’re as obsessed with each other as they are with their art, and they decide to work together on an improvisational piece for Kyle’s upcoming solo exhibition.

But Kyle is focused, and Colt is free-spirited. Colt’s work ebbs and flows with inspiration, and Kyle’s is rehearsed. Kyle is social and sophisticated, and Colt… isn’t. When their talents weave together, it’s magical, but will their differences destroy it all?

Buy the Book: Amazon

Also in this series:

EXCERPT:

Chapter One

“OO-EEE!” OH praise Jesus, that felt like motherfucking heaven. Colt let the guitar rest, dangle from his fingers, the burning of the skin under his calluses promising to make tomorrow earned hell. It was worth it. Every fucking second of it. The music had poured through them all like they was all Robert Johnson hisself.

“Damn. Damn, that was fine, Boudreaux. You can play with us anytime, right boys?” Little Mel was sweating like a whore in church, her braids and mandolin dark with their good work. Hank Bennett and Mr. Bill were in the same boat. They’d laid down their tracks, wrote some, and then started jamming again. That last piece?

Lord, Lord.

Babies would be made under that song.

“I ’preciate it. For reals.” Colt didn’t know no one here, but he knew music, and he knew jamming, and he knew when it was right.

“You want to go get some food? You have to be starving, boy.” Mr. Bill grinned at him, gold tooth shining, and Colt nodded.

“Yessir. I got a hollow leg, me. I could eat.” He couldn’t believe he was here, not really. Not here starving, either, but here making music because someone wanted to pay his happy ass to do it.

Him.

“Come to New York, Colt. You’ll play some studio gigs, write some songs. It’ll be fun.”

What? He was gonna say no? What else did he do? He picked and played.

So here he was, ’til Nathan said to do something else. This place was like a dream, and he found himself going from little room to studio to little room, over and over. He’d traveled some—Dallas, New Orleans, Houston, San Antonio—but this place was… different. Cool and exciting, but he’d never felt so small.

He pulled his gimme cap on and put his guitar away with a smile. He’d reckon it. He’d managed fine so far, hadn’t he? Yessir. And he was loving all the different folks, all the different styles. All the music.

No wonder men sold their souls for this.

“Great work, guys!” The guy who worked the booth bebopped in, grinning like a gator. “The sound rocked.”

Little Mel grabbed the guy up in an embrace, and, damn, he sorta disappeared into her.

Whoa.

“Dang, Mellons. You gotta give a brother a chance to bail out before he suffocates in there.”

Little Mel laughed, the sound rich. “You’re on the wrong team, Timmy, honey. You’re the only one that complains.”

Timmy grinned at her and winked. “Hey, I totally got that whole last track even though you were just jamming. It was pretty sweet.” The guy started cleaning up, pulling mics and dressing cables.

“Boudreaux can find one hell of a hook.”

Colt bowed at her words, making a show of it. “La, it’s a good job.”

“Timothy Webb. Timmy.” Timmy stuck his hand out for a fist bump. “You can’t fake it and keep up with this crew. That was pretty boss, dude.”

“Colt. Pleased and thank you.” He didn’t have an ounce of fake in him. Just music and a little bit of wild child.

“Now, if you’re eating with them, you might find it harder to keep up. Especially with Mr. Bill. He can totally put it away.” Timmy packed the mics into a crate and put the cables on top. “You guys using this kit tomorrow, or should I break it down?”

“Can you jam tomorrow, Cajun?”

“Surely do. Just point and shoot my happy ass, Mr. Bill.” He didn’t have any other reason to be here, and no one had said he was going anywhere else.

“Right on. I’ll leave it, then. Just need the pickups.” Timmy crawled all over the drum kit, pulling the electrics to lock them up. “Colt, just leave your cables be. You want to lock up your instrument with everybody else’s babies, that’s okay by me. So you don’t have to carry it around? I keep the key, and I’m first in, last out of here.”

“Yeah?” He looked to Little Mel, because this one wasn’t his acoustic, but she was special. She was his, and she spoke to his heart. The acoustic spoke to his soul.

“It’s cool, man. Seriously. It’s safer here than sitting by your feet at a diner.”

“Right. Thanks, boo. I appreciate it for true.” He shot Timmy a grin. “You want food too?”

“You know it. I’ll join you guys in a few. Just gotta wrap up here. Hank, you want to show the newbie where you keep your toys on the way out?”

“Oh, I suppose I can handle that. C’mon, Colt, I’ll show you the locker.” Hank hauled his ass off the chair like he was made of stone. Had to be seventy if he was a day.

“I’ll catch up, dude. Shake Shack?”

Little Mel nodded. “I’m in, honey. We’ll see you there.”

He followed Hank, a melody tickling around behind his eyes, something happy and old, something his granny had sang to him, once upon a time.

“There’s some sweet stuff in here. Trust me, your guitar will be in good company.” Hank opened a door, which looked like any other door, but the door behind that one had a handle crank like a bank vault. The old man gave it a shove, and it swung open the rest of the way by itself, opening into a large, brightly lit room. There was a double row of guitar hangers on the far wall, and shelves with just about everything else imaginable on each side. Percussion instruments, strings, drum kits, a couple of leather jackets, a pair of cowboy boots. “This whole place could burn down and this thing would still be standing. I keep a bunch of my gear in here. I don’t know who half this shit belongs to, but Timmy does.”

“Merci, Vieux. This is sweet. Never seen nothing like this.” They weren’t near so fancy, back home.

“Welcome to the Big Apple, friend. Check out the pictures on the way out, get a little perspective. This isn’t exactly a small operation.”

“Big, small—whatever. I just want to pick.” The Big Apple. Why an apple? Huh.

Hank waited for him to hang up his guitar and then followed him out. “You will, if you keep up like you did today. Something you may or may not already know? Make friends with Timmy. He makes it easy, so it’s not like you have to try very hard. But he sits at that console every day whether you’re here or not. And if you’re not but someone that needs someone like you is? Timmy’s your best friend.”

They met up with the rest of the band in the lobby.

He filed that away. Friends he could do. Shit, he liked folks. He loved music. He loved folks that loved to play. All good, so far as he went.

The Shake Shack was crazy as all get-out. Loud and busy, burgers and dogs, and since this was Times Square, everyone was there. Suits, little kids, hipsters, uniforms, you name it. Sorta felt like New Orleans, but with less blues.

They’d only just sat down when Timmy arrived. He gave everyone a wave and got in line to order, head down and texting.

“So your manager sent you up here to us?” Hank asked, pulling at his cheese fries.

“Yessir. I come up from Houston, last, laying down gospel tracks. Good work, that.” It soothed the soul, even if they’d all spent the late nights so fucked-up on grain alcohol that he swore he was gonna go blind.

Hank nodded and looked at Little Mel. “He’s working for me. You?” Colt reckoned this was Mel’s band, best he could tell. And he was pretty clear that today’s session was an audition of sorts. That’s how things usually worked out.

“You know it. We can finish this album out, if you’re willing.”

“Yes, ma’am. As you want. I’m easy, me.”

“He’s easy, him.” Mr. Bill laughed, poked Colt with his elbow. “Just playin’ with you, son. You can pick with me any day.”

“Hank, you remember that dancer we did a mix for a couple of months ago?” Timmy worked his way into the table between Mel and Hank.

“The bad-boy ballet kid?”

“Yeah, dude. Him. Kyle? He just texted me. I cut him a couple more CDs from the master. He’s coming to pick them up.”

“He was a trip and a half. I guess it did okay?”

“I think he’s going to let us know.” Timmy picked up a hot dog covered in vegetables. Something about that didn’t make no sense. “I guess they’re keeping you, dude? If not, you’d have totally split by now. This crew is pretty straight shooting.”

“I guess so. I like being kept okay.” He was easy that way.

Hank laughed, elbowed Little Mel. “He’s just like Timmy, all laid-back and whatever, dude.”

“Hey! Timmy!” A guy in a big sweater and a mop of dark hair waved from the doorway.

“Kyle. Dude.” Timmy waved his friend over.

“Duuuude.” Kyle grinned, teasing. “Good to see you.” They exchanged some complicated handshake and ended with a bro hug. “What the hell are you eating?”

“It’s that veggie dog thing.”

“Really, Timmy? Go with a cheeseburger next time. Hey, Hank.” They shook hands.

“Kyle. This is Little Mel, Mr. Bill, and over there is our new picker, Colt Boudreaux.”

Kyle shook hands and grabbed for Colt’s last. “Pleasure.”

Strong and warm and Colt’s body tightened, the sudden rush of want surprising the shit out of him. Huh. Pretty. “Pleased.”

Sit, boo, and watch you. Folks is folks and no one might want to know you swing the rainbow way.

Then again, he kind of thought Kyle held his hand, and eyes, just a little too long.

“I got your CDs, man.” Timmy dug around in his messenger bag.

“Oh, great. Thanks.” Kyle gave his hand an extra squeeze before letting go and taking the CDs from Timmy.

He set to his french fries, letting the greasy saltiness soothe his belly.

“So, Timmy, I’ve got another project to talk to you about. Do you have some time?”

“Um. Well, I’m in the studio with these guys for at least the next few days. Why don’t you come by?”

“Yeah? Okay, cool.”

“What kind of project is it?”

“I need something simple. Like really simple. Maybe just a guitar even. I’ll tell you all about it, and you can help me decide.”

“Yeah, sure, dude. No sweat.”

“Thanks, sweetheart. Nice meeting you all. I’m headed to rehearsal. Gotta run.” Kyle kissed Timmy smack on the lips.

“Later, twinkle toes.”

“Oh! Timmy! Roulette. Tomorrow night, karaoke and crazy shit. You should come.”

“Sounds great, dude.”

Kyle disappeared onto the street.

Lord have mercy, that was hot. He knew a few places in the Crescent he could do that, but here? Good to know.

Timmy laughed. “That guy is insane, dude. ‘Karaoke and crazy shit’ could literally mean anything. Oh. Colt. I meant to ask—you good with a place to stay? I know the studio is putting you up for a couple of days in a hotel, but after that? I got a room if you need one.”

“Yeah? I—I gotta call Nathan and find out what happens, but I might could use a real place. Somewhere I can cook.” He could spend him a few days in a place not a hotel room.

“Sure. Offer stands, kitchen isn’t big, but it’s got all the… kitchen stuff. I don’t cook.”

Mr. Bill and Hank gave them all a shake. “I’m gonna get Hank into a cab and head home. We’ll catch y’all tomorrow morning, yeah?”

“I’ll be in by eight. Studio is yours whenever you show, bro.”

Little Mel was looking at her phone. “No later than nine, boys. I want the full day we’re paying for.”

He nodded, nibbling on his fries. “I’ll be there, ma’am. No worries.”

He didn’t want to go back to his room and sit.

Timmy patted the table. “How about a drink and a little New York style jazz, dude?”

“Yeah? I’m in, boo.” Oh, he liked this guy. He wanted to go and see, hear. Do.

“Birdland, Mellons. You coming?”

“Timothy, if you call me ‘Mellons’ again….”

“If the shoe fits, sister.”

Little Mel grinned at him. “Get out of here before I squash you flat.”

Timmy leaned in and kissed her cheek. “Yes, ma’am. I’ll see you at eight, I know. Come on, Colt. Mellons means business.”

“Timothy!”

Timmy laughed himself silly all the way to the sidewalk.

He followed along, bebopping to the music that seemed to be everywhere. “Thanks for the invite, boo.”

“Oh, yeah. Dude, I’m up for music any night, and you don’t want to hang out in a stale hotel room when you have this city at your feet, right? Oh, and by the way? Don’t change a thing, but up here when someone says boo, they mean honey. Like ‘that’s my boo.’” Timmy grinned at him.

“Yeah? ’Kay. Good to know.” He knew that it would pop out anyway. He was all about the habits, from chewing toothpicks to falling asleep to Abbey Road.

“So I saw the CV Nathan sent, dude. You get around, huh?” Timmy turned a corner, and they headed down a long block.

“I go where the music takes me.” It was the best life. His daddy would be damn proud. Prob’ly was looking down and grinning right now.

“You’ve got sick fingers, dude. I’m glad it brought you around here. You play anything else?”

“Anything you can pick, boo.”

He could see the flag that hung outside the club down the block, and the neon in the window drew his eye a second later. There was a line—not a long one; he’d seen worse—but still a line.

“This isn’t too bad. We should be golden, dude. Hey, stand with the neon; I’ll get a picture for you.” Timmy pulled out a phone.

He went to stand, posing like the littlest Cajun dork in history, hooting as he boogied and Timmy laughed.

“That’s rad. You got AirDrop? I’ll… send it… huh.” Timmy glanced up at him and then back at the screen.

“What? My hair weird?”

“No, dude. Kyle is asking about you.” Timmy laughed. “He thinks the whole world wants him.” Timmy started texting.

“The pretty one?” For true? He liked the thought of that, yes he did.

Timmy glanced up at him again and nodded. “The super pretty one. I was about to…. It’s cool, I wasn’t trying to freak you out, dude. I can tell him to simmer down… unless…?”

“You into him? I ain’t no poacher.”

“Aw.” Timmy laughed, a little embarrassed. “No. I thought maybe I was at first a while back, but no. He’s a lot of fun, but he’s a buddy, that’s all.”

“Bon amis are good, yeah? Better than lovers sometimes.” He got that. Your friends didn’t fall out of your life near as much.

“A lot of times, dude. Totally. So, what do you want me to say? You want me to tell him to chill, or are you interested?”

“I could be interested.” His cheeks burned some, but that was okay. A guy needed a little fun in between gigs.

Timmy elbowed him and grinned. “Yeeeeah, dude. That’s the way to be. He’s a party and a half.” He watched Timmy text and speak everything out loud. “Colt… is totally… into hanging out, dude. Yeah? That work?”

When he nodded, Timmy hit Send and waited for a reply.

“Kyle says, ‘Great. Bring him to karaoke tomorrow night.’” Timmy looked at him. “Cool? This karaoke thing he does? It’s more like open mic night. It’s all theater peeps, and it’s total talent.”

He nodded. Open mic night he understood. He’d spent most his life picking for anyone who would listen. He sang, wrote, played—if it was music, he was there.

“I’m telling him you’re in.” Timmy texted, grinned at something that popped up on the screen, and put the phone away. “You have a date, boo.” Timmy winked at him.

“Lookit me!” He gave a holler, and all the folks stared.

Timmy gave him a fist bump and took his arm, steering him into the club.

Title: Syncopation
Published by: Tygerseye Publishing, LLC
ASIN: B083L9X81S

Find Jodi's full catalog with links to all your favorite formats at Queeromance Ink!

Roped In

Contributors: Jodi Payne, BA Tortuga
Series: Lone Star Series #2
Genre: , , , ,
Release Date: May 10, 2022

They say absence makes the heart grow fonder, but sometimes distance makes people drift apart.

Rope Canutt has announced his retirement from bull riding and is making the most of his final year on the circuit, riding the big shows and resting in between so he can finish the season on a high note. He isn’t sure what’s next for him. He has no plan yet and nowhere to go, especially since his family sold their ranch a few years back.

Jude Sharpe remembers Rope fondly from their younger days in Austin. Mostly he remembers how hot the rodeo cowboy was and how much fun they had hooking up every time their paths crossed. That was a long time ago, and Jude’s been married and lost his husband to cancer in the years since they’ve seen each other. Now he’s raising a son alone.

When bull riding comes to New York City, Jude’s consulting firm uses their private box to entertain clients from Houston, and Jude brings his son Silas along to see the show. Rope is riding and Jude hopes to introduce Silas to a real bull rider. They’ve each lived a whole lifetime apart, and Jude and Rope aren’t sure how much they have in common anymore. So will they be drawn to each other when their paths cross again?

The books in this series are standalones and can be read in any order.

Buy the Book: Amazon

Also in this series:
Title: Roped In
Published by: Tygerseye Publishing, LLC
ASIN: B09VD8LB9T
ISBN13: 978-1-951011-72-7

Wholly Trinity

Contributors: Jodi Payne, BA Tortuga
Series: Les's Bar #3
Genre: , , , , , ,
Release Date: January 31, 2023

Dr. Isaac Daniels and Detective Neil Thrope have been on and off Dom and sub since they met a few years ago. Isaac is all in but he’s not everything switch Neil needs, so good as things are between them, they both know it’s not enough.

Being in the BDSM community, Isaac and Neil were there to help when sub Alain Remy Broussard was assaulted by a pair of Doms who didn’t ascribe to the notion of safe, sane, and consensual. Their friend, Dom and therapist Cyrus Hughes offered Alain a place to stay, and has been working with the boy to help him regain trust. When Cyrus is called out of town suddenly, he calls on Isaac, who agrees to take Alain in while he’s away.

Isaac feels instantly protective of Alain, but it’s Neil who quickly bonds with the sub. With Alain in the house, Neil might have found the balance he craves but thought was too much to ask for. Isaac, though, has only ever had that kind of connection with Neil. Will the Dom be able to get on board and love both men as they, and he, deserve?

Buy the Book: Amazon

Also in this series:
Title: Wholly Trinity
Published by: Tygerseye Publishing, LLC
ASIN: B09RLMLV4G

Honeymoon in the Cards

Contributors: Jodi Payne, BA Tortuga
Series:
Genre: , , , , , ,
Release Date: December 19, 2023

When Marissa wins a holiday honeymoon package at a ski resort in small town Colorado, she knows she has to call them and back out of the trip. She's not getting married, after all, since her girlfriend turned down her proposal.

When the ski resort's marketing manager convinces her to come anyway to save his job, though, she can't turn down a well-deserved vacation, even if it means pretending to be engaged for the photo opportunities. What she really doesn't expect is for the other party of the fake engagement to be someone she used to know.

Rebekka shows up in Summit Springs to help her brother out, so it comes as a shock when she has to pretend to be engaged to her old college girlfriend, Marissa. They couldn't be more opposite. Mari is by the book, high dollar, and kind of high maintenance. Bekka is a tarot reading earth goddess type who's a little scatterbrained. Can the two of them learn that they've both matured and changed into people who can really care for each other, or will their relationship end when the fake honeymoon is over?

Honeymoon in the Cards is an FF (lesbian) romance featuring opposites attract and second chance romance between a Texas-born tarot card reader and a New York City ad executive, set in the fictional small town of Summit Springs, CO.

Buy the Book: Amazon

Also in this series:
Title: Honeymoon in the Cards
Published by: Tygerseye Publishing, LLC
ASIN: B0CPJWP3YK
ISBN13: 978-1-951011-96-3

Cryptic: Puzzles, Book One

Contributors: Jodi Payne, BA Tortuga
Series: Puzzles #1
Genre: , , , , ,
Release Date: August 17, 2021
Pages: 190

Derek “Crash” Wheeler never really wanted to make detective. He was a good marine and a great beat cop, but now he has to deal with cases like the one he just got handed. Multiple deaths. Probably a serial killer. That’s all bad enough, but now he has a crazy ex-profiler calling and texting, acting like he knows exactly what’s going on. 

 

Matthew Herrera has more than one clue about Derek’s case. He worked on a serial murder case once that took everything away from him, and while the perpetrator went to jail, Matthew knows the case isn’t over. This murderer likes to play games, and he doesn’t work alone.

 

Racing against time, Derek and Matthew have to learn to work together to solve this case, and they find they have a chemistry they can’t deny, even if it feels selfish to indulge. People are dying out there, and it will take all their skills to work out this puzzle before it’s too late, or before one of them becomes the next victim.

Buy the Book: Amazon
Title: Cryptic, Puzzles Book One
Published by: Tygerseye Publishing, LLC
ASIN: B09BKB3DX5
ISBN13: 978-1-951011-55-0

Refraction: A Collaborations Novel

Contributors: Jodi Payne, B.A. Tortuga
Series: Collaborations #1
Genre: , , , , ,
Release Date: January 10, 2020
Pages: 260

REFRACTION WILL RETURN SOON!

Texas artist Tucker Williams arrives in New York City for a gallery showing of his work and finds the city blanketed in snow. He meets free-spirited underwear model Calvin McIntire on the steps of the Midtown library and is captivated by a wild beauty that manages to compete with the demons that occupy his soul and fuel his work with their lust for blood and erotic imagery.

Unable to deny a new inspiration, Tucker sublets a studio and finds the city’s energy almost as addictive as Calvin. Tucker is obsessive, barely holding on to sanity as his art consumes him, and Calvin is dealing with demons of his own, trying desperately to protect his soul in a business where only his appearance has value.

They each prove to be the perfect remedy for the other’s personal brand of crazy until, in the midst of stress and exhaustion, they discover that a promise Calvin needs is the one thing Tucker can’t give him, and their heaven turns to purgatory.

Can both men find a path toward wholeness in Tucker’s beautiful but chaotic Texas home? In order for them—and their passionate relationship—to thrive, they’ll need to adapt, share their psychoses, and find a true balance between New York City and rural Texas.

Buy the Book: Amazon

Also in this series:

EXCERPT

Chapter One

Tucker Williams leaned against the steps of the library beside the big stone lion and watched the white stuff fall out of the sky. Colder than he’d ever been in his whole life, he shivered, trying to figure out what the fuck a guy like him was doing all the way up here.

The logical part of his brain, the part not frozen solid, reminded him that he had a gallery opening tomorrow. A major opening. Right.

So he was up here touristing all by himself and freezing his nuts and his toes off and waiting to show up in his best jeans and jacket tomorrow night.

Go him.

Christ on a sparkly pink crutch, everyone here wore black, and no one smiled a bit. Surely there had to be somewhere here with friendly folks and heat.

Right on cue, one of those black-clad Yankees—this one in a black knee-length coat, black earmuffs, and chunky black boots—came trotting down the steps right past him. Like every other guy on the busy street, he was on the phone.

“That spread is mine, Michael. I want it. You make it happen. I’ve got the best ass of the bunch, and you know it.”

The man stopped two steps below Tucker. “I’m easier to work with too. You tell them, okay? I need to get out of the weather. Who ordered this shit? Later.”

Huh. Earmuffs were a thing. Go figure. Tucker had to admit, the whole pseudo-duster thing was pretty hot.

“’Scuse me, sir, but is there a decent place to get a cup of joe around here?” Tucker asked.

The guy turned his head, but Tucker couldn’t get a good look at him behind the collar he’d pulled up against the weather. He was squinting against the snow, and his hair was mostly hidden under a knit hat, but it looked like it might be blond.

“There’s no such thing as a bad cup of coffee in New York. You look like you’re freezing your ass off, man. Come on, I’ll show you.” The guy just took off down the steps, and Tucker didn’t have much choice but to follow.

Good Lord and butter, these folks walked like huge flocks of birds. Great big old flocks of ravens. Oh. Oh, he could—he could paint that, right now.

“Calvin.” He was offered a gloved hand. Black leather, of course.

“Williams. Tucker Williams. Pleased.” He pulled his hand out of his pocket and shook.

“Not from around here, I take it?” Calvin gave him wink and a grin.

Cool. This one smiled. “No, sir. I’m a bit from home, but that’s obvious, I reckon.”

“I’ll say. In here.” Calvin opened a door, and Tucker was hit with the smell of baking bread and a beautiful blast of warm air. “We’re expecting a pretty good hit. How long are you in town?”

“Until Monday.” Then he’d go explore somewhere else for a few days. Although, he loved that bird image….

“Well, if you haven’t been in the city in a snowstorm before, and it looks to me like you haven’t….” Calvin laughed. “You should know that you can’t get a cab in the snow. Ever. Don’t even bother trying. Get some boots and take the subway. Just coffee? I’m gonna hang out for a bit and eat something.” Calvin pulled off his earmuffs and squinted at the menu. “Large almond-milk latte with an extra shot and the vegetarian chili… and…?” He looked at Tucker.

“Triple espresso and whatever y’all have that’s the darkest chocolate.” No way he was going underground to get on a train. No way on earth.

“Mmm, chocolate. That’s one way to warm up.” Calvin pulled off his gloves and then fished a credit card out of his pocket. “On me. Well, on my agent. It’s a work day.” He held his card up to the reader until it beeped, and the card disappeared into his pocket again. “I’m gonna grab a seat. You headed back out there?”

“I think I’ll just sit a minute. Defrost.” Eventually he’d figure out how to get back to his hotel.

“Do that.” Calvin glanced over his shoulder as he headed for a table, and this time Tucker saw a flash of bright green eyes as they caught the light. “Tell me why you’re up here in this shitty weather?”

“I have a thing I have to be at Saturday evening. Everyone told me to come up a few days early and explore. What kind of agent?” He had one too. Her name was Marge. She was something else.

“Oh, Michael. He’s a talent guy.” Calvin stuffed his gloves into his pockets. “So you came out in this weather just to visit the library? Did you get a picture with the lions, because that’s a thing. Patience and Fortitude.”

“No, sir.” It was a cool library, though, and he’d spent a couple of happy hours in the 750s, just looking. Sort of like he was just looking at Mr. Pretty here. “Are you from here?”

Their order arrived, and Calvin waited to answer. “I grew up in Vermont. But I’m from here now. Got here when I was seventeen.”

“Wow. I wasn’t ready for something like this at seventeen.” He wasn’t ready for it now, he didn’t think. Although that motion…. Tucker wondered if a guy could rent a studio space for, like, a week. Just to paint.

Calvin looked at him. “Oh. Did I say I was ready?” He laughed and picked up his latte. “No, I had a job, but I wasn’t anything close to ready for this town. I adapted pretty quick, though. It’s home now.” He sipped his latte and then spooned up some “chili.” Didn’t seem like a great combination.

Shit, he was fairly sure that vegetarian chili was a crime against nature, but he was a stranger in a strange fucking land, so he didn’t remark none on it.

“Where are you staying? Oh—that’s nosy, right? You don’t have to answer that. Sorry. I was just making small talk.” Calvin giggled.

Yeah, Tucker was pretty sure that qualified as a giggle.

“How’s your chocolate?”

“Dark.” He licked his fork and hummed, the bitter and sweet exploding over his tongue. “Possibly the best piece of whatever-the-fuck fancy-assed piece of cake I’ve ever had.”

Calvin put his spoon down. “You’re good at that.”

“At eating?” He’d hope so. Lord knew, he’d done it for years.

“No, the tongue thing. With your fork. Licking.” Calvin braced his elbow on the table and his chin in his palm, eyes narrow and a wicked smile on his lips. “Do that again.”

“Listen to you.” Lord have mercy. That was hotter than the hinges of hell. Damn, how did that… how did something like that even happen?

“Yes, listen to me.” Calvin sounded playful, and he shifted, picked up his latte, and took a sip. “Do it again, Mr. Williams? Please?”

“Well, since you asked so pretty.” Lord, please don’t let me get my ass kicked here. He took another bite, his cheeks lit on fucking fire. He licked his lips clean, then managed to meet Calvin’s eyes. “Ta-da?”

Calvin laughed and applauded, the sound pure happy. “Oh. That was lovely! So hot. You’re a riot, Tucker. I’m glad I pulled you out of the snow.” Didn’t seem like he was too worried about people overhearing, but then he leaned in closer. “Also, I think your cheeks are warm enough to melt that shit right off the sidewalk.”

“Y’think? Shit marthy. I can’t believe this mess.” That he was flirting like he knew this guy, like this feller knew him from Job.

“Wait until tomorrow morning. Might be eight or nine inches.” Calvin leaned back again and dug into his chili. “Might even be a foot. Hard to get around in this weather. Personally, I like to stay in bed all day.”

“Eight or nine inches, huh?” He couldn’t have stopped his expression if he’d tried.

“Mmm. Last I checked.” Calvin’s look was absolutely deadpan. “The weatherman doesn’t always get it right, though. Sometimes it’s a better idea to check out the radar for yourself, you know?” He took another bite and winked. “That might be carrying the metaphor a bit too far.”

He had to laugh, had to, because not only was that true, but he hadn’t expected to meet someone to flirt with shamelessly while on one of his wanders.

Calvin laughed with him. He got up to put his bowl in a rack by the garbage cans, and when he came back, still giggling, he shrugged off his coat and hung it over the back of his chair. “Warm finally.” He had on a tight green sweater that left almost nothing to the imagination. Every ridge and line of his chest was plainly obvious, and the fabric stretched across broad shoulders.

Pretty, pretty. Tucker liked that Calvin wore a color. The green suited him to the bone.

He could eat that fine son of a bitch up, yessir.

“In all seriousness, shit’s gonna close tomorrow. But the Empire State will be open and the World Trade Center, if you’re looking for a view and some local history. I’ve never been up to catch the view in the snow. I bet it’s pretty cool. You won’t have the same pictures as everyone else, anyway.”

Calvin’s phone started ringing. “Excuse me a sec?” He pulled the phone out of his coat pocket. “A-yo. Hey. No, I want the—well, you know my angle, whoever will pay me more. Oh, I’ve never heard that joke before, Michael. Ever. Yes, go with Calvin. Thanks, man.” He hung up. “Sorry.”

“No worries. I don’t mean to be keeping you from anything. Honest.” A man had to work.

“You’re keeping me from going insane in this snow. Keep up the good work.” Calvin sipped his latte again. “My agent thinks Calvin Klein jokes are funny. You can keep me from that any day.”

“Calvin Klein jokes? Like the drawers?” Those were still a thing? Lord have mercy. “Or don’t they do perfume too?”

Calvin laughed. “Cologne. And yes, they do that too, but you don’t get paid as well as you do for the underwear ads. Is that what you mean by drawers? They do jeans too, if that’s what drawers are.”

“Yessir. I mean tighty-whities. Is that what you do? Model?”

“Yeah. Sorry I didn’t say that earlier. Sometimes people get… sometimes they forget they’re talking to a real person when you tell them, so I like to hold off a bit.” Calvin winked.

“No worries. I work with models, every now and again.” For the most part, he found them patient as fuck.

“Yeah?” Calvin was flirting again. “What did you not say you do again?”

“I’m a painter—not houses.”

“Okay, not houses. What do you paint? Landscapes? People? Abstract stuff? I love art that you have to look at and think about.”

“Uh. It’s sorta… it’s a little weird.” He didn’t tell a soul at home about the paintings that he was showing here. Not a soul.

“This is New York, my friend. We make weird an art form all the time. But it’s cool. You don’t have to tell me. I’m nosy. I just ask questions.”

“I sorta make a living painting about horror, sex. Right now, birds. I’m very into birds.” He didn’t know why he did either, but he did, and he was, apparently, damn good at it.

“Horror and sex and birds.” Calvin nodded, looking thoughtful. “Can’t quite picture it. But birds are probably great subjects. They’re so aloof and knowing.”

“Yeah? Cool.” Okay, so Calvin didn’t run screaming or tell him he was going to hell; that was a plus.

“You have a pic on your phone? I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.”

“Fair enough.” Did he? Lord, yes. His phone was his goddamn life. He scrolled through, finding the album of his paintings.

“Deal.” It took Calvin about three seconds to pull up a picture of himself on a rooftop wearing a pair of blue boxer-briefs with DIESEL printed on the wide black waistband and a white tank top that he was lifting up around his ribs with one hand. City office buildings were blurred in the background. “No laughing.”

“Well, look at that. You have a nice heinie.” He could tap that, no question. “Was it hot up there?”

“Fuck, yeah. It was like working in a frying pan. They would spray the roof with a hose to cool it off, and it would dry in three seconds, and then they had about fifteen seconds before I started screaming.” Calvin laughed.

“Lord. You got some balls, I swear. I got nothing but respect for the work y’all do.” He personally thought posing was hell. He didn’t do still. Ever.

“Well, thank you.” Calvin beamed at him. “I had ice cream that day as a reward, so it wasn’t that bad. Okay, your turn.”

He pulled up one of his demon series—a fierce horned beast appearing from between white feathers, the mouth promising pure decadence.

“Oh. Oh my.” Calvin reached out and took the phone from him to get a closer look. “Fuck, man. This is way hotter than ‘horror and sex and birds’ sounded. I mean, Jesus. Look at him. You do this? You look way more… I mean, not like this. I would never have guessed. Wow.”

“No one does. That’s probably good, hmm?”

Calvin flicked his eyes from the phone to Tucker’s face. “Yes and no. I mean, you should look how you want to look, but man, the artist that does this work? With a body like yours? You could seriously rock something… way darker.”

“I tend to work buck naked. Saves clothes.” Wait. Did he say that? Out loud?

Calvin’s eyes popped open wide, and he started to laugh. Hard. Loud enough that people looked over at them, and he had to wave his hand to apologize because he seemed to be having trouble breathing.

He managed to just drink his coffee, keeping a mostly straight face. This guy let folks take his pictures in his skivvies; working naked was nothing.

Calvin silently handed Tucker back the phone, fanning himself with his other hand. He finally got a deep breath and puffed it out, grinning. “Jesus Christ. I don’t know what I was expecting you to say, but it wasn’t that. But that’s cool; I do some of my best work naked too. I just don’t get paid for that.” He winked and picked up his coffee. “Shit, my sides hurt.”

“When you get it from laughing, that’s okay, I think.” He pocketed his phone and finished up his sweet. So rich and good.

Calvin blushed. “I’m sorry. I’m not laughing at you. Honest, I’m not. I’m laughing at how stupid I am for looking at a fairly clean-cut, good-looking Texan, and… I don’t know. I got it all wrong, obviously, and for some reason that makes me absurdly happy.” The blush and a little humility made Calvin look younger, sweeter.

He grinned, that smile charming the hell out of him. “Shit, honey. I’m just tickled you didn’t ask if I was an axe murderer.”

Calvin’s eyebrows twitched. “I figured that would be rude since you hadn’t asked me that question yet.” He finished off the last of his coffee, tipping the cup up high to get the last drop.

“Rumor is you folks have all the axe murderers you need.”

“More muggers and thieves than axe murderers, actually. I don’t think I know anyone that hasn’t been robbed at some point. Especially people who look like tourists.” Calvin laughed. “You better watch your wallet.”

He arched one eyebrow. He didn’t think he’d take real kindly to that. Of course, who the fuck did? Seriously. No one just threw themselves in front of someone and said, “Fuck with me!” right? Right.

“I do, but thank you. I appreciate that warning.”

“For what it’s worth, crime usually goes way down in the snow.” Calvin slid his empty cup a couple of inches away. “I am all out of coffee.”

He leaned around the table and checked out Tucker’s boots. “Are those waterproof?”

“They do okay, yeah.” More waterproof than cold proof, for sure.

“Good. Come on.” Calvin stood up, looking more like a model now that Tucker knew he was one, and pulled on his coat. “Sorry. Unless you have plans, of course.”

“Plans? I have to be at the gallery Saturday night. That’s my plan.”

“That’s it? God, the things I could do with you for two days.” Calvin brushed a little too close as he stepped around Tucker and didn’t even pretend it was an accident.

They headed back out into the snow and retraced their steps to the library. The white stuff was starting to pile up, maybe three or four inches now.

Calvin didn’t say much on the short trip, but as he got close to the library, he poked Tucker with an elbow. “You’re gonna love this.”

He heard voices and laughter as they rounded the corner of the big building and headed into the little park next to it, where a small crowd of people was having one big snowball fight.

“You ready?” Calvin took a few steps backward and then started to run.

It took Tucker a second, but he figured what the hell? He hadn’t wanted to play so bad in a long damn time.

            Tucker gave chase, a redneck yell filling the air.

Title: Refraction
Published by: Tygerseye Publishing, LLC
ASIN: B083KMZ83B

Find Jodi's full catalog with links to all your favorite formats at Queeromance Ink!

Heart of a Cowboy

Contributors: Jodi Payne, B.A. Tortuga
Series: Higher Elevation #1
Genre: , , , ,
Release Date: October 29, 2019
Pages: 240

Heart of a Redneck

An East Meets Western M/M Romance

Colby McBride is a blue-collar cowboy trying to make ends meet laying tile in Colorado. A loner by choice, Colby works hard with his hands and finds his peace camping in the mountains outside Boulder. Gordon James is a white-collar restaurateur who owns not one, but two successful establishments in downtown Boulder. He’s a sophisticated urbanite who is devoted to his work and is accustomed to getting what he wants.

The men are friends, but sparks fly when Colby falls in love and decides to show Gordon how much fun a good old boy can be. They’re just beginning to explore their relationship when Gordon’s sister’s suicide leaves him with custody of his five-year-old niece.

Colby comes from a huge family and is eager to help with the girl and to prove his worth to Gordon. But neither of them is ready for the tremendous changes to their already busy lives, or for how this new relationship with Olivia challenges them, complicating the way they interact with each other. They say opposites attract, but can these two very different men work together to join their disparate lives and form a strong, if highly unlikely, family?

Available for purchase or to borrow with Kindle Unlimited

Buy the Book: Amazon

Also in this series:

 

EXCERPT

Chapter One

IT WAS a beautiful day. The sun was bright, and a light breeze ruffled Gordon’s hair as he got out of his Jeep Wrangler. He opened up the back, pulled out a heavy, square cardboard box and a bag with two bottles of wine, and then headed into the restaurant.

He stopped and set the two bottles of wine on the bar next to a man bent over some paperwork. “Hey, Oscar.”

“Hey, boss.” Oscar was the manager at Delmara. Gordon had hired him many years ago, not long after he opened the place. It had been Oscar’s brilliant idea to add tapas to the menu, and look where they were now. Oscar was constantly proving himself more valuable.

Gordon had asked Oscar if he’d be interested in running his new farm-to-table place, Gaia, when it opened a year ago, but Oscar had turned the job down. He said he knew what he was good at and it wasn’t yuppie tomatoes. Gotta love him.

“Oscar, these two bottles are for Mr. White. He has a reservation tonight and requested them specifically. The first one is on the house because I want him to sponsor part of the spring mentoring fundraiser. Make sure he gets his usual table and Becky as his server.”

“Got it. And is he bringing his… er….”

“Date. Call her his date. Remind Becky.” Becky had a few other choice words for her, he knew. He understood; after all, the woman, drunk at the time, had loudly accused Becky of flirting with White the last time they were in. But Becky would be fine. White liked her and tipped well, and she liked her bread buttered.

Oscar laughed. “I’ll do that. Oh, boss? Don’t forget that the ladies’ room has a….”

“Got the tile.” He pointed to the box under his arm. “But I need to make that call. I’ll go do that right now. Thanks, Oscar.”

Gordon hurried back to his office. The fucking special-order tile in that bathroom was costing him a fortune, but scheduling the work would be easy at least. His tile guy was also a buddy, and always easy to bribe with good beer. He closed his office door and dialed.

“Yo, sugarbutt. How goes it?” Colby answered him with a low drawl that reminded him of incredible whiskey poured over sugar cubes.

He put the box down on his desk and collapsed into his desk chair, grinning. “Hey, Colby. Listen, I need you to come by and install that replacement tile I ordered for the ladies’ room at Delmara. You got time this afternoon? I have a beer with your name on it.”

“For you? I’ll make time.” Colby laughed, utterly unashamed about wanting his beer. “You might have to have me dirty, though. I’ve been loading my truck with tile boxes all morning, and I’m covered in ceramic dust.”

That was Colby, always coming off a hard day’s work somewhere. “Please. Do you ever show up clean? What time will I see you?”

“Is four too late? Then I won’t have to run off.”

“Four it is. The bathroom stall has been taped off for a week. It can go one more day.” He still needed to head upstairs and change. He spent nearly every evening front of house, and he had a VIP coming in tonight, so he needed to be on time. Oh shit, he needed to pick up his suit at the cleaners. Okay, that errand was next.

“You’ll have to let it cure twenty-four hours anyway.” Something crashed, and he heard, “I swear to God, y’all. You break those tiles and I will personally rip off your heads and shit down your neck.”

“Oh, listen to you go all boss. Should I let you go?”

“Yeah, yeah. I got a reputation to uphold and shit. See you at four, man.”

Gordon laughed. Colby’s voice had dropped a whole octave. “Your secret is safe with me. See you at four.”

A raspberry sounded, and then Colby hung up on him. There was something about Colby—this genuine joy when it came to anything from working to shooting pool to watching a movie—it made the guy fun to hang out with. And Gordon needed some fun once in a while. He loved his job, but it could really eat up his personal time.

Still grinning, he put his phone back in his pocket. He cut open the box to check out the tile he’d ordered. It was the right stuff. He’d just leave it on his desk for Colby. He took a second to look through the mail Oscar had left for him. Bills, bills, and more bills as usual, but also the package he’d been expecting—the newest addition to his porn collection. He left that on his desk unopened and headed out to the bar.

“Hey, Oscar, I have to run out and get my suit, and I’m going to stop by Gaia and make sure they’re good for the weekend. I’ll be back by three. Colby McBride will be by around four to see about the tile. Send him to my office when he gets here?”

“Oh, great. Will do.”

“What do the reservations look like?”

“We’re packed, boss. Tonight and tomorrow, both.”

“Nice.”

“He’ll be out by six, right?”

“I’ll make sure he is.” It wasn’t a lot of work; it’d be okay. They could hang out and have that beer after Colby was done. Damn priorities.

“All right, I’m off.” Gordon brushed the wrinkles out of his shirt and headed out the door.

God, this gorgeous day. No wonder they were expecting a packed house. People were out everywhere. Nothing was as good for business as the promise of springtime.

After a long winter, there was nothing quite like coming alive again.

  

Chapter Two

“MCBRIDE? YOU get that utility room floor done?”

“Would I be out here looking for my draw if I didn’t, man? Y’all know I do good work.” Come on, motherfucker. Pay me. I got to tile a bathroom and see my man. He reckoned it didn’t matter a bit whether Gordon knew he was Colby’s. That was just details. Eventually he would make Gordon see him as more than a beer buddy.

If he could start his weekend with a check in one hand and a beer in the other, he would be a happy little cowboy. He’d started one job, picked up supplies for another, and trimmed out the third. He was a busy man.

Thank God for that.

“You’re the best guy out there,” Lou admitted grudgingly, handing over his draw. “And I gotta say, you will work for money.”

“I’m good that way.” He pocketed the check after peeking to make sure all the numbers were there. “Thank you, sir. I will be on the Williams’s job come Monday. Should take me a day and a half, give or take.”

“Then you’ll work that Best Western?”

“Just the lobby fireplace, man. You can get any asshole to slap down twelve-bys on the rooms.” He knew what his happy ass was worth, and it was worth more than mindless tile work. He liked to be pushed some.

“Just the lobby.” Lou rolled his eyes like dice. “The owner’s wife has ideas.”

“Faboo.” Something else he was pretty good at was talking to folks. He liked people, so for the most part, people liked him. “I can talk to her Tuesday afternoon or Wednesday, huh? Let her show me what all she wants.”

Lou snorted. “Oh, I’m sure she’ll love whatever you have to offer. Try for Tuesday, yeah? I want you done over there by Friday. I’ve got a couple of big jobs I’ve bid on for the week after, and there might be some design work on one of them. I could use you.”

“Just call.” Lou paid on time and, so far, didn’t seem to be too much of a dick, so Colby gave the big man priority. “Have a good weekend, sir.”

“You too, cowboy.”

He tipped his gimme cap and headed out to his F-250, then hauled his butt up into the cab. “Okay. Let’s get this show on the road.”

Colby cracked his window, turned Luke Bryan up loud, and put on his sunglasses. Damn, he did love to have him some springtime, even if it came later up here than it did back home. The snow was gone, the trees were budding, and the sun was making promises that it might be time to grill out wearing nothing but his cutoffs.

Between the weather and his music, the forty-minute drive from the worksite just flew on by. Traffic into town was pretty heavy but moving, and it wasn’t long before he was pulling into the lot at Delmara. He saw Gordy’s Wrangler, looking a damn sight cleaner than any Jeep he’d ever seen back home. Figured. That Wrangler probably hadn’t seen a dirt road in its life. He parked right next to the shiny Jeep, tossed his sunglasses on the seat, grabbed his tool belt, and headed inside.

“Ah, Mr. McBride.” Gordy’s manager waved him over to the bar. Hell if he could remember the guy’s name.

“Yes, sir. Mr. James called. Says he got a job for me?”

“Yes, but he wants you to stop by his office first. You remember where you’re going?”

“Think so.”

“I’ll buzz him. You can head on back.”

He headed through the restaurant to the office, thinking that the tile floor in the hall probably ought to be replaced. It was pretty beat-up.

Gordy’s office door opened before he even had a chance to knock. “Hey, man. Come on in.”

“Hey, honey. You wanting me to get to work on that bathroom, huh?” Look at that hot motherfucker. Colby did like him some stud.

Gordy closed the office door. He turned around, and Colby got a good view of his five-o’clock shadow and his crazy green eyes. “I’d really like to take a break now, but we open in two hours, and those ladies aren’t going to like you in their bathroom much.”

“I live to serve, honey, and your fancy-assed customers might be took aback by my Wrangler butt.”

“They’re not that fancy. You’re just that cowboy.” Gordy laughed, blond bangs falling in his eyes. He swept them away the way he did, one hand carding through them and then that little toss of his head. Gordy gave him one of them weird-assed man-hug deals, bicep popping through his shirt like some high-dollar Popeye. “Thanks for coming by. Now get to work.”

“Bossy old man,” he teased and opened the office door real quick before Gordy could react. “You put the tiles in the bathroom?”

“Oh shit. No, they’re on my desk.” Gordy picked up the box and handed it over. “Here. And don’t make me hound you for an invoice like last time.”

“Yeah, yeah. I’m on it.” He grabbed the box, nodded, then made his way to the bathroom. He was going to have to set up his wet saw to trim around the toilet….

Before long he was lost in the steadiness of the work, setting the tile, making sure everything was just so, and the time just flew by.

“Hey, looking good in here. Not that I would expect anything less.” Gordy set a cold bottle of beer down on the floor next to Colby. “We open in a half an hour, you close?”

“You know it. I’ll pop in tomorrow afternoon and grout it before y’all open.” He grabbed the bottle and downed half the brew. Oh, hoppy goodness. One thing about hanging with a restaurant guy? You didn’t have to drink so much Coors Light.

“That would be great. Really appreciate it. Come on up when you’re done if you want. I need a shower, and I have to put on a tie for a VIP tonight, but I’ve got some time to hang out. Back elevator’s running again.” Pretty neat that Gordy owned the building and lived two floors above the restaurant.

“Spiffy! Sure.” Man in a suit. Yay. “I got to go load my truck. You got a sign for this stall? Someone steps in here on this thin-set and they’ll slide and hurt themselves and ruin my tile job.”

“Can’t have that.” Gordy winked at him and then looked around. “Oh. I thought there was a rope and… yeah. I’ll get Oscar to set something up in here. Do your thing and then come on up. Door’ll be open.”

“Yessir. I’m on it.” It took him two trips to load up the truck and get his shit locked in his toolbox. He finished his beer on the way and took a second to wipe his face off.

Lord have mercy, he was filthy. Good thing he’d warned Mr. Fancy Tie before he showed.

He headed around to the back of the building and took the stairs instead of the elevator. The stairs were more convenient anyway; the fire door on the third floor opened up right next to Gordy’s front door.

He let himself in, as he had done many times before, and was overwhelmed as usual by the size of the damn TV in the front room. He kept telling Gordy to move it to the back wall, but the guy was as stubborn as a hog on ice. Otherwise, though, the apartment was comfortable and not nearly as showy as Gordy could probably afford to be if he wanted. Everything was new and shiny, but the couches were comfy, and the decor was basically gay bachelor pad. Framed Stonewall poster on one wall, rack of DVDs, mostly porn, under the TV, the usual. Broadway soundtracks lined up next to the stereo.

“That you?”

“No, sir!”

Some ancient rock band was on the radio. Gordy always had music going. Colby just shook his head.

Gordy came out of the kitchen still in his jeans but nothing else except the two bottles of beer he was carrying.

“You get mugged on your way up?”

“What?”

“You lost your shirt.”

Gordy laughed, holding out one of the bottles. “Have another beer, cowboy. Your jokes aren’t funny yet.”

“Now, now. Ain’t it you that ought to be having another one so I start getting funnier?” Lord have mercy, he did love to look at that man. He could watch Gordon James wander around his so-fancy condo for days.

Well, maybe not days. That would lead to long-term blue balls.

“Yeah, that’s never worked. There’s no hope for you.” Gordy took a swig of his beer. “Oh!” He pointed to the coffee table. “New porn in the mail.”

“Lord, honey. Don’t you know that’s all on the computer now?”

Gordy shook his head. “That’s vintage, my friend. The early bareback stuff. Low edit, tons of fucking. That’s not your cheap internet thrill. You should borrow it.”

“Low edit—what the fuck does that even mean, man? Seriously.” Tons of fucking he got.

“No cuts? No kissing and then cut to the money shots?” Gordon sounded a little snooty about it. Like this was something everybody knew but Colby. “You know, the whole scene—foreplay to finale.”

“Not all of us are conness… connoisseurs and shit. Me? I like a nice long bout of on-screen fucking. That way if your mind wanders….” He did love to tease.

“Your mind or your hand?” Gordon snorted. “I’m with you, the longer the better.” He drew his words out, and they had a little heat and a little growl in them. “Mm.”

“Listen to you.” He’d like for Gordon to listen to his happy ass, just for a second, just long enough to prove that he was man enough to rock Gordon’s world.

Gordon laughed. “One of these days we should hit the clubs in Denver. You get over there much?”

“Once a month or so. Depends on whether I have to run over for a specialty tile in the afternoon. That makes it easier.” And he got to dance. Damn, he did love to two-step.

“I think it’s been—God, I don’t know—maybe five or six weeks since I’ve been there. I used to go every Sunday. Last few weeks I’ve been watching a game or bad movies with this tile guy on Sundays. Or losing at pool. I’m still waiting for that chance to redeem myself, by the way.”

Few weeks? It had been three months. “Oh, now. I’ll play you any time, but you ain’t got redemption coming.”

“I might if you’d drink anything stronger than beer.”

“Country don’t mean dumb, Gordy.” He winked over. Some things were real important—knowing when to drink and when to make a bet were two of them.

“Nope. And apparently a college degree doesn’t make a man wise either.” Gordy winked right back at him. “Oh, speaking of wise. Have you got a couple of work days open in the next week or two? I’m having a new shower installed in the master bath, and I want to do something kind of modern and flashy in there with the tile after. I told them I knew a guy.”

“Yeah? Sure. We got lots of options. I’ll bring a few things over—wood-grain tile is huge right now. I did a bath the other day with glass pieces in the grout line. It looked like diamonds or some shit. Too fucking cool.”

“Glass? How cool is that? Must take forever to do, though, huh?”

He shrugged, took a long swig of beer. “Depends on what you want. They have some strips you can lay in. You do know a guy, after all.”

“Yep. A very reliable guy that does top-notch work. Thanks. Just let me know when you can show me the samples.” Gordy finished off his beer. “Drinking before work. Good thing it’s not full-on summer yet.” He set his bottle on the coffee table. “I need a shower. You want to hang out and watch the cable or whatever, go ahead. I might even have some food in the fridge.”

“You mean you’re not worried about your virtue?”

Gordon snorted and tossed Colby the remote. “Don’t drink all my beer, cowboy.” He headed down the hall toward his bedroom.

One day, man. One day I will have my shit together enough and I will make my move. Colby watched that tight little ass as Gordon disappeared into his bedroom.

He could be patient. In theory. Really he could.

He hoped.

Title: Heart of a Redneck
Published by: Tygerseye Publishing, LLC
ASIN: B09Y649SB5
ISBN13: 978-1951011758

Find Jodi's full catalog with links to all your favorite formats at Queeromance Ink!

Be sure to visit BA Tortuga online at batortuga.com

Wrecked

Contributors: Jodi Payne and BA Tortuga
Series: East Meets Western #1
Genre: , , , ,
Release Date: July 23, 2019
Pages: 276

Wrecked

An East Meets Western M/M Romance

The call comes when Beckett Adler least expects it. He’s made a new life for himself in Vermont and has a law practice of his own. After four years he’s even stopped wearing his wedding ring. So when he finds out his husband, bull rider Skyler Paulson, has been seriously injured at an event, he isn’t sure what he wants to do. He knows what’s right though, so he heads down to Baltimore to bring his man home. 

Sky knows his injuries are a career-ender, and he can’t believe Beck has come for him after all this time. He’s not a hundred percent sure what went wrong with their marriage and he has no idea how to be anything but a bull rider. But he wants this second chance, so he grabs at it with both hands. 

There’s a lot Sky has to learn, from how to walk again to how to settle down with the man he loves. Beck needs to learn to open up and how to be more trusting. For their marriage to work again, both men will have to find a way to meet in the middle. Because neither of them wants to be wrecked anymore.

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Also in this series:

Chapter One 

The offices of Walker and Adler, LLP closed closed early on Fridays. That was one of the perks of practicing law in Vermont; weekends were sacred. There were other perks--it was perfectly acceptable to show up late because there was fresh powder on the mountain, you could bring your dog to the office, and you only had to wear a suit on court days.

Of course, the rules, such as they were, didn’t concern Beckett Adler too much since he was the boss.

Beckett locked up and stepped out into the brisk afternoon, but the chill in the air didn’t keep him from stopping by the hardware store for varnish and a couple of foam brushes. In a month or so he’d get his boat back to Lake Champlain. His weekend plans included refinishing the tiller and the cleats, and maybe starting on the companionway.

He stopped by the co-op and picked up a few groceries to make his Friday night pizza, and he was nearly home when the rain started.

Rain was good. He liked snow, he loved to ski, but his mind was on the lake now; the water, the sunshine and the wind.

His phone buzzed, but the number that came up on the console was nothing he recognized, so he ignored it. He wasn’t at work; he didn’t have to answer.

He turned off Route 7 and onto Church Hill, stopping by the post office for his mail before heading home. He pulled his Jeep Wrangler into the garage and parked it next to his ancient pickup just as it started to really pour. Good timing.

The house was cold, so he stoked up the wood stove before starting dinner.

His phone rang again -- same number of course, damn telemarketers -- and he ignored it, but this time someone left a voicemail at least.

It made him nuts to have that stupid little red notification badge sitting there, like it was one more thing on his to-do list. He stuck his pizza in the oven, then listened to the voicemail on speaker.

“Uh. Hey. Hi. This is Parker Stephens. You probably don’t remember, but...shit. Shit, can you call me back on this number, man? I don’t know how to say on the phone, but I need to you call. Soon. I’ll call back in ten. It’s important, about Sky.”

He dropped the phone on the kitchen counter like it had burned him.

Sky.

He definitely remembered Parker. Parker was Skyler’s rodeo buddy. Rodeo buddy, best friend, fuck buddy. Whatever. If Parker was calling him in a panic, if the guy couldn’t just leave a message, it sure wasn’t good news.

Beckett didn’t even wear his wedding ring anymore. Did he really need to know? Did he want to?

He paced the kitchen, eyes still glued to his phone. What would happen if he called? What did that mean for tomorrow?

What would it say about him if he didn’t?

He scooped up the phone and dialed before he lost his nerve.

“Dude. Beckett, that you?” That lazy drawl was anything but. No, this was total panic. Fuck.

He closed his eyes and took a breath. “What is it, Parker?”

Is he dead? just tell me.

“Sky’s been hurt, buddy. Bad. He’s in a medically induced coma, but the docs don’t think-- I mean, if you want to say goodbye, you should come. Now.”

If I want to…?

He braced a hand on the sink and swallowed hard, working to keep it to together. He’d known in his heart he’d get this call one day. Now he needed to get through it.

Godammit, Sky. Four years since you left, and this is still harder than I thought.

He steadied his voice and focused on Parker. “Where are you? Where is he?”

“Mercy Medical in Baltimore. He was riding good, but…” Always the riding. Always.

Baltimore. Same time zone. Maybe even a direct flight. Might be faster to drive. But first he had to get Parker off the phone.

“You listen to me Parker. No decisions get made until I get there, am I clear? Unless it’s something life-saving it can wait. I’m coming.”

“You’re his next of kin and his medical power of attorney. I got no choice.”

Good.

This was Parker’s fault anyway. At least partly.

“If I can’t find a flight I’ll drive. I’ll be there as soon as I can.” He hung up the phone.

He didn’t want to know what had happened; that wasn’t important right now. And whatever was going on, he didn’t want to hear another word from that guy about it.

Jesus, Sky.

He pushed away from the counter surprised to find that despite the aching dread in his chest his knees were managing to hold him up. He rushed up the stairs to pack a bag. Jeans, a couple of shirts. He didn’t need much.

As soon as he’d closed his laptop and given up on flights, the smoke alarm went off downstairs. He raced back down with the laptop and his duffel in his arms, dropped everything and opened the sliding back doors to clear the smoke from the kitchen.

“Shit.”

He was able to yank his charred pizza out, toss it in the sink, and turn on the tap before his vision clouded.

Jesus Fucking Christ, Skyler. I swear to God if you don’t die I might wring your neck myself.

He hurried around the downstairs and muted the smoke alarm, then shut the dampers to cut off oxygen to the fire in the wood stove, closed and locked the sliding doors, and grabbed his keys.

He’d get dinner on the road.

And a huge coffee.

Title: Wrecked
Published by: Tygerseye Publishing, LLC
ASIN: B07TWK3Y8C
ISBN13: 978-1-733076-0-3

 

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First Rodeo

Contributors: Jodi Payne and BA Tortuga
Series: The Cowboy and the Dom Trilogy #1
Genre: , , , , ,
Release Date: October 15, 2019
Pages: 303

First Rodeo: The Cowboy and the Dom Trilogy, Book One

When a killer strikes, Texan and former rodeo cowboy, Sam O’Reilly, loses his older brother. Unbeknownst to Sam, James was also the lover and sub of a sophisticated New York City Dom named Thomas Ward. Sam comes to the city determined to stay until he can bring the murderer to his own brand of justice, while Thomas’ more ordered mind is hoping for a legal solution. Neither man expects their connection to the other, but having each lost someone irreplaceable, their hearts are crying out for comfort almost as loudly as their bodies are screaming for each other.

Some yearnings refuse to be ignored, but transcending their differences to explore the fragile connection between them will prove to be a steep a hill to climb--the first of many. As Sam and Thomas take the first tentative steps on the rocky path that might lead to a relationship, the killer steps out of the shadows...

And this time, his sights are set on Sam.

*Note: Each of the books in The Cowboy and the Dom Trilogy have fully realized romantic HEAs. However, the overarching suspense element leaves readers on a cliffhanger after books one and two, to be resolved in book three.

Available to purchase, or to borrow with Kindle Unlimited.

 

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Chapter One

“What the fuck are you going to do, baby brother?” Bowie stood at the gravesite, staring down at him like Bowie always had. Gigantic prick. “Do you think you’re going to fucking fix this? James is dead.”

Like Sam didn’t know that.

Fury flashed inside him, hot and fueled by an agony he’d never expected, and he turned, his fist shooting out and catching Bowie right in the uniformed gut.

Rule number two: never monologue.

That surprised Bowie enough that it doubled him over, and Sam got an uppercut in. He had to get his shots in while he could. His big brother outweighed him by sixty pounds and towered over him by damn near a foot and, he had to be honest, had ten years of being a Ranger behind him.

“Motherfucker!” Bowie reached for him, and he danced out of range.

“You kiss my momma with that mouth, grunt?” He went for Bowie’s trick knee, thankful he had his shitkickers on. That pointed toe was useful, and he had a chance to fell the giant.

Rule number three: once you get them down, keep them down.

Used to be that him and James would work together to take Bowie down. That was never going to happen again.

Never.

The thought of that closed casket, that slashed-up face he’d had the misfortune to identify hidden under the oiled wood, made him gag and stumble, and Bowie took advantage, the fists on the back of his neck enough to face-plant him in grave dirt.

“Rule number one, baby brother. Don’t start shit you don’t have the strength to finish.” The hands around his throat were strong, the tremble in them only noticeable because they were so tight.

The sound of a pistol cocking was sharp and clear, and the fuzzy image of Aunt Linda wavered in his sight. “Boys, if you upset your momma and daddy, I will be put out. Get your skanky asses off the ground. Y’all are in your Sunday clothes.”

“Seriously, Aunt Linda?” Bowie muttered. “Even I didn’t come to the gravesite armed.”

“I know you boys. Can’t trust you as far as I can throw you. Get your asses up. Now.”

Bowie stood up and hauled him alongside, just as easy as pie.

“Now apologize,” she demanded.

“He started it.” Bowie was still a suck-up.

“Jim Bowie O’Reilly! You apologize to your baby brother for putting your hands on him right now!” God, she was a harpy—broad as a barn and fierce as any woman who had raised her own siblings had to have been.

“Sorry, asshole.”

“Yeah. Me too. I just…” Sam waved one hand toward the grave. This wasn’t right. James was supposed to be in New York, living this amazing life with lights and a zillion friends. Bowie had the adventure, James had the city, and he was supposed to stay home here and…hold down the fort or something. He was the baby, and… “It should have been you, Bowie.”

Everyone expected that awful phone call. Every time Bowie was deployed, they lived with that quiet fear.

James was a motherfucking school teacher. An elementary school teacher who didn’t get tattoos or take drugs or—

“Sam!” Aunt Linda sounded horrified.

“What? It’s true!”

“Yeah. Yeah, I know.” Suddenly Bowie looked…diminished. Gray and tired and older than the seven years that separated them. “Fuck you, Sammy. I know. So what the fuck are you going to do about James? I have to report back to work.”

“I’m going to go clean out his place.” He was between jobs. Hell, he was between lives—college was pretty much done with him, he’d educated himself into obscurity in ranching, and God knew, no one needed a broke-dick cowboy with a master’s in art history, a shattered leg from bronc riding, and a temper that tended to flare at inappropriate-at-best times. He would go clean things out and see if he could encourage the detectives to find out…anything.

“You sure you’re not going to short out, Sammy?”

“Fuck you. I’ve been to Dallas, Austin. Hell, I went with James to Mardi Gras in New Orleans. I ain’t a kid!”

“You’re my kid brother, Sammy, and I only have one left now.” An expression of pure agony crossed Bowie’s face, and Sam turned his back so he didn’t have to see it.

“I’ll be fine. I’ve got the time, and Momma’s got to take care of Daddy.”

Things hadn’t been good, but the news of James’s murder had made the little baby strokes turn into a real one, and while Daddy wasn’t crippled or nothing, no one was going to let him fly. Not yet.

“Come on. They’re waiting for y’all down to the big house. You know there’s food and all the Ladies Auxiliary waiting to make a fuss.” Aunt Linda didn’t so much as let a tear go, but she did slip her Saturday Night Special into her pocketbook. “Brother Martin will want to bless you both and lay hands.”

“That son of a bitch touches me and I’ll rip out his spleen,” Bowie growled, and Sam had to smile. That was his big brother.

He could hear James, right now, echoing in his head.

Be good, Jim, honey. You’re teaching Sammy bad habits.

God, it was never going to be right. Never.

“Come on. Let’s go.”

He turned and headed for his truck. James wasn’t here. That was a grave, a body, a stone. He was going to go find James where he’d lived.

 

Chapter Two

Thank God this was New York City, the only town he knew of, except maybe LA, where yellow police tape didn’t slow anyone down. Aside from the cops, he was the only one there, the only one who cared. Thomas had about as much privacy as he was going to get.

He leaned against the side of the building as the NYPD took the tape down, balled it up, and stuffed it into a nearby garbage can. The evidence markers had been gone for a couple of days, the chalk lines were gone now too, and even the bloodstains in the concrete were already fading. Another day or two and there wouldn’t be any evidence left that James had died here.

But Thomas wouldn’t forget. He couldn’t get away from it. He lived here, worked here, walked the same goddamn streets as whoever was responsible. He still carried around memories of his time with James that he’d never share with anyone. He carried around the plans they’d made and a future that could never happen now.

He hadn’t received an invitation to James’s funeral. This would have to be his closure, watching the investigation into his lover’s murder become routine, move on to the next “phase.” Watching all the evidence disappear.

That was perhaps the most awful addition to his grief. He understood that James couldn’t be wholly out to his family back home in…well, somewhere in East Texas, but understanding it while James was alive and in his arms was one thing. Coming to grips with his exile now was something else entirely. He was bitter; he was angry. Not at James, not at anyone in particular, just at a world that made them hide. He felt humiliated, and that wasn’t a pill he could swallow without choking on it.

Everything about his life was deliberate, yet at the moment, he was experiencing a lack of control he’d never imagined possible.

One of the cops walked over and offered him a smoke. Colletti was his name. “Wouldn’t you rather be home?”

“This is as close as I want to get right now.” God, listen to him. He refused the cigarette, but just barely. Vices sounded like such a good idea.

“Dobson is going to call you, routine stuff. Did they ask you not to leave town?”

“Yeah. It wasn’t an imperative, but it was strongly suggested.” Insult to injury.

Officer Colletti gave him a nod. “We’re done here. Take care, Mister Ward.”

“Thanks.”

The squad car drove off, and New York seemed impossibly quiet all of a sudden.

A man with a duffel and a cowboy hat walked up to the stoop, and for a second, Thomas’s heart stopped. He closed his eyes until he could breathe again.

Fuck, tourists were everywhere in this city. He just hadn’t been prepared for one in a cowboy hat. He took a breath and headed down the steps. He needed a coffee.

They passed each other, the man meeting his eyes and nodding. “Afternoon.”

“Where are you going?” He knew those eyes intimately. He reached out and grabbed the man by the arm, that hazel making his heart pound. “Who are you?”

“Who the fuck is asking, motherfucker?” The little guy just popped right up into his face, those eyes flashing.

Christ, the cowboy sounded just like James too. Only James would have known better than to meet his eyes.

He stood his ground, inches away, instinct and training helping him stare the kid down. “You’re an O’Reilly. Which one? Sam, right? The bronc rider? You’re too small to be Jim.”

“Bowie,” the kid corrected immediately, even as he nodded. “Who are you?”

Nobody you’d know.

“Right. Bowie.” He let go of Sam’s arm. He knew he should back down, but it took real effort. “I’m Thomas Ward. I…knew your brother.”

Fuck. I loved him.

“Knew him? Y’all worked together?”

What was he going to do? He wasn’t going to out James now. What would be the point? It hurt, though, denying James and jumping back into a closet he’d slammed the door on as soon as he’d stepped foot in this city years ago. “No. We are…were really good friends. He told me all about you guys.”

“Oh. I’m here to…clean up, I guess. Stuff.” Sam tilted his head. “Is this your building too?”

“Uh.” Well, fuck. James had always said Sam was bright. “No.” He’d asked about moving in together. James had been thinking about it. “I was just missing him.”

“Oh. I—come on up, huh?”

 

Title: First Rodeo: The Cowboy and the Dom Trilogy, Book One
Published by: Tygerseye Publishing, LLC
ASIN: B07YM1QNK4
ISBN13: 978-1-951011-02-4

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Window Dressing

Contributors: Jodi Payne and BA Tortuga
Series: Merry Everything Series #1
Genre: , , , , , ,
Release Date: December 10, 2019
Pages: 189

When bull rider Sterling Kingsolver wins a national rodeo championship in a stunning upset, he becomes the public face of the rodeo league. But the big bosses had other plans, and Sterling knows he’s in trouble. Worst of all, though, he’s headed to New York City to do a publicity junket. Sterling is a quiet cowboy from New Mexico, and all the fancy trappings of his new title don’t sit so well with him.

Jonas Burke is an experienced public relations assistant. He’s been hired by the rodeo league to get a hick cowboy from the middle of nowhere cleaned up and presentable by New York standards, and he’s been told to cancel his week-long Christmas vacation to do it.

The two men square off a couple of times, but as they get to know each other, Jonas begins to understand what makes a real cowboy tick, and Sterling starts to realize there’s more to Jonas than a flashy smile. While taking in the sparkle and joy that is Christmas in New York City, their friendship slowly becomes more. But when trouble catches up with them, Sterling’s days in the city come to an end and Jonas nearly loses his job. Facing that infamous midnight hour, Sterling and Jonas have to decide what their New Year will bring.

Window Dressing is an opposites attract, enemies to lovers romance featuring a rodeo cowboy, a city boy in a suit, and the magic of New York City at the holidays.

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Prologue

Sterling Kingsolver was fixin’ to ruin his goddamn career for stupid pride, and he gave less than no shits.

He stood there, staring at Clint Masterson, the buzz of fury zipping between his ears like killer bees.

“Listen to me, boy. Cody Ball has been promised this year. You’re a baby. You’re a rookie. You throw this ride and we’ll make it worth your while.”

“I ain’t a cheat.” He might be a piece-of-shit caliche farmer, a desert baby balls to bones, but he wasn’t about to take a dive. He had Rookie of the Year in the bag, sure—but if he rode his last bull? Shit marthy, he would take the event win and the championship.

“We aren’t asking you to cheat, son. I’m telling you to make a smart career move, hmm?” Masterson had been one of the First Five, and he was the face of the league, the big boss. Shit, this man could ruin him. Shit.

“Fine. I think it’s bullshit, man. Total bullshit.” God. God help him. Was he considering this?

“This isn’t some little ranch rodeo, Kingsolver. This is the big time. Sometimes you have to lose a little. You got the Rookie of the Year money. Take it and run. Next year it will be yours.”

Right. Assuming he stayed healthy next year. Assuming he rode. Assuming he had another magic year. “Yessir.”

Fucker.

“Good boy. Go on. You need to strap in. Don’t make it obvious.”

Good boy?

Good fucking boy?

He stormed across the chutes, his boots rattling.

“Bit! Bit, come on! Tie on your damn glove! This is it.” Jack waved and bounced, his eyes as big as saucers. “What did Masterson want?”

“Nothing. Just to keep my ass on the bull.”

“Ah. Okay. Grab your bull rope. I’ll pull. Chance can hold your vest.”

“Right.” He went through the motions, acidic hatred burning in his belly. Motherfuckers, with their politics and shit. He could see Cody Ball and his long-assed ugly nose and sparse pussy-tickler mustache just staring him down with a bullshit smirk, knowing what they’d asked.

Just because Ball hadn’t fucking managed quite to keep himself centered, just because no one had thought Sterling was a goddamn threat until it was too late.

Now he was one ride away from taking the whole thing.

One ride.

His daddy was sitting there in the stands, the day sheet crumpled in his fingers. Daddy would know. He would know and judge, even if he never said a word about it.

“Focus, asshole!” Chance shook him. “Blue Belly isn’t going to thank you for woolgathering.” His old friend leaned close, peppermint on his breath. “Don’t do it. Ride this son of a bitch. Ride him into the motherfucking ground and make them all scream.”

“They said—”

“Don’t. Just hold on, cowboy. You ain’t a rodeo athlete; you’re a goddamn cowboy.”

Sterling nodded and got his legs set, slamming his glove shut over his rope. Blue Belly bucked in the chute, tossing his head, slamming Sterling’s leg against the gate. He didn’t nod, but the gate swung open, and he kept his mind in the middle.

Just hold on. You’re a goddamn cowboy.

That was right. He was. He was a goddamn cowboy, and he didn’t throw rides. This wasn’t a job; this was who he was.

By the time he finished telling himself that, the buzzer sounded, the arena going wild.

Well, okay then.

Time to hit the dirt and take his lumps.

Title: Window Dressing
Published by: Tygerseye Publishing, LLC
ASIN: B0827D3CM2
ISBN13: 978-1-951011-04-8

 

Find Jodi's full catalog with links to all your favorite formats at Queeromance Ink!