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Special Delivery — A Wrecked Holiday Novel

Contributors: Jodi Payne and BA Tortuga
Series: East Meets Western #1
Genre: , , ,
Release Date: November 24, 2020
Just in time for a Thanksgiving read!
PRE-ORDER NOW!

 

And baby makes three?
It’s fall in Vermont. The holidays are coming, the leaves are turning brilliant colors, and Skyler and Beckett are expecting a baby! They’re picking out furniture and paint colors for the nursery. They’re looking at ultrasounds and choosing names.
But nothing is ever simple for these two, and something they’re not expecting throws a wrench--or a great big crowbar--into Beck’s carefully planned paternity leave and Sky’s nursery decorations. But is it a disaster, a blessing, or both?
As with all deliveries, they’re at the mercy of fate and mother nature. They’ll be adding to their family—but they’ll be doing it in the most chaotic way possible.

Buy the Book: Amazon

Also in this series:

 

Chapter One

 

“Thank you, ma’am. Yes, ma’am. No, sir, I’m retired. Nice to meet you, sir. Hey, kiddo, I like your hat.”

Skyler had spent ten days doing publicity to support his annual Vermont invitational bull riding event that happened every spring. It was a big hit with the locals, and it drew folks from all over the country too, which made him popular in Burlington. He’d been shaking hands and signing shit like hats and programs, nodding, making goofy faces at babies, and pretending he was jealous that all the young guys were still riding.

Thank goodness for Danny, last spring’s champ, and one of those younger riders. Danny was great at pulling people in, had three times his energy, and was eager to please.

With Danny’s help, he’d secured sponsors and spread around a lot of good energy. But now he was sore, tired, and grumpy and ready to get home to his man and his critters. Flying, even in first class, was less than fun, and he had a husband waiting for him.

He finished his tomato juice and watched the orange and yellow trees. Pretty pretty.

The seat next to him was empty, which he appreciated, and he just wanted to rest until they landed. He knew Beckett was ready for him to get home too. They had to start doing the dance of his next exhibition.

This one would be number three, for chrissake. Number three in the spring, and Lord willing and the creek didn’t rise, there’d be three of them too.

Lord help him. Miss Angie had caught pregnant straightaway; one time with the turkey baster, and she was ready to go. Beckett had done good homework. Whatever service he’d found hooked them right up—he’d just made a donation in a cup, and now their little one was cooking. They would be busy as all get out come the event.

“Sir, can you put your seat back up, please?” The stewardess was a pretty girl, all big black eyes and warm smile.

“Surely.” He put the deal up, and then they were landing in short order. Lord have mercy, he was ready for this. As soon as they hit the ground, he turned his phone on.

It led to a bunch of texts.

Miss you.

Did you make your flight?

Are you home yet? I want to get my arms around you. That one was followed by a string of eggplants.

Please. Home btw. Yay.

Hey, husband. Where are you?

Pulling up to the gate. Be heading your way soon. Sky leaned a little hard on his cane when he stood, but he got his bag down without toppling over, or losing his hat, which was a win.

Beck caught sight of him before he made it off the escalator, and hurried his way. “Oh, my God! It’s Skyler Paulson! Can I get an autograph?”

“You got a buck?” He winked at Beck, one arm sliding around his lover’s back as he stepped off. It still felt bold as all get out to touch in public.

“I’m fresh out of bucks.” Beck caught him up, taking some of his weight off his hip and hugged him tight. “You good? Welcome home.”

“Thanks. Glad to be here.” They headed for baggage claim to wait. “How’s your week been?”

“Busy. I hated not coming with you, but…you know.”

“Yeah, I know. Important man.”

Beck let him lean a little bit more, handing off his phone. “Hey, did you see this yet? Angelica sent it a couple of hours ago. She had some weird cramping, and they sent her for an ultrasound.” Beckett’s hand tucked tighter around his waist. “She’s fine. The baby is fine. She had…Braxton Hicks…or something. Fakey contractions. No big deal. But isn’t our little Sky-ling perfect? The baby looks more like a baby and less like a blob this time.”

His husband sounded so damn proud.

“Is she okay? Does she need anything?” Sky’s heart raced at the thought of anything happening to either Angie or their wee one.

“She said she’s fine. She was a little worried, but she’s not anymore. I have a brief to get out, but maybe you could stop by with some of that ice cream she likes tomorrow and check in on her?”

“Sure.” God, no. He wanted to sleep. Still, no rest for the wicked.

Beck grinned at him, eyes twinkling. “And so it begins, huh? Pretty soon I’ll be on paternity leave.”

“You’ll be a man of leisure,” he teased back. He’d never even heard of paternity leave, but it worked for them, yessir.

“Leisurely not sleeping, you mean?” Beck kept both hands on the wheel but cut his eyes over to Sky. “I think it’s time to put the nursery together. Order some furniture and all that. Paint. Pick some names.”

“Okay. I’m good at putting shit together.” He liked the whole idea of painting that little room, making it all fun and somewhere a baby belonged.

“So for boys I’m thinking Ozzy, or Axl…or maybe Mick,” Beck grinned over at him. “Jimi? Elvis?”

“I will hurt you. No weird-assed names for my baby. Tanner, Dalton, Sterling, Stetson?”

“Stetson? Reel it in, cowboy.” Beck laughed. “I like Dalton, though.”

“Cheyenne if she’s a girl?” He liked Cheyenne. “Or Dallas. Denver is unisex…”

Beck raised an eyebrow. “What’s with the map names? You’re not even from any of those places.”

“What are your ideas, then? Lita? Madonna? Scary?”

“Ooh, Madonna.” For a horrifying second, he thought maybe Beck was serious. “Scarlett. Violet. Hazel…or if you’re not into colors maybe ice cream flavors. Vanilla, Raspberry…” Beckett was having way too much fun.

“Uh-huh. Brittany? Oakley? Shenandoah?”

“Shenandoah is kind of a mouthful, huh?” Beck snorted. “I’ll play along. Charlotte? Elizabeth? Sierra?”

“I like Elizabeth and Sierra both.” Actually, he thought they were beautiful. “Sierra Elizabeth. I like that.”

“Oh. Sierra Elizabeth Paulson-Adler. That’s nice.” Beck reached over and squeezed his hand.

“It is!” Oh, one down, one to go. “Dalton MacKenzie after Mackey?”

Beck nodded. “Yes. After Mackey. Perfect.”

“Wow.” He looked over at his Beck. “That was easy. I missed you all week, bad.”

Beck nodded as he pulled into the driveway. “Yeah. I was waiting on that until we got home.” Even in the dark, he could see all the bushes in front had been trimmed and the garden beds were mulched for winter. Someone had been keeping himself busy this week. “And now we’re home, so…” Beck parked the Jeep and shut it off, then pulled him closer by his shirt and kissed him hard.

The world stopped for a second, and his eyes rolled back in his head. Oh, thank fuck, that was perfect. He reached up and cupped Beckett’s jaw, giving in to the pressure of those hungry lips.

Beckett kissed him until he could only gulp air, before letting him go. “Okay. You’re home.” Beck took a deep, heavy breath, jumped out of the Jeep, and came around to his side. “Now I can breathe. It’s hard without you here.”

“I’m home. I’m tired, but so fucking happy.” Oh, the dog was losing his mind. Sky could hear him. He thought maybe he heard Walter too, meowing under the barking and howling.

“I’m not the only one who missed you. Bruiser’s had his nose to that window for days, and Walter’s been sulking.” Beck scooped Sky right out of his seat and into his arms. “Hey, you.”

“Hey, lover. Tell me I don’t have to leave again forever.” He rubbed their noses together, laughing at his weird codependence. Still, since they’d decided to have a baby, he found himself ready to nail his shoes to the floor.

“Never, ever.” That was a lie and they both knew it, but it felt good to believe it right now. Beck carried him to the front door and set him down. “I’ll get your suitcase. Don’t let the furballs knock you over.”

He braced himself and opened the door, Bruiser hitting him like a ton of bricks. “Oh, my puppy. Has Walter been mean to you, you giant beast?”

Bruiser howled and moaned, telling him all about it, and all the while Walter was staring at him, tail twitching. Uh-oh.

“Bruiser! Down, boy. Inside, go on.” Beck stepped around him and shooed the dog inside, then dropped his suitcase in the foyer. “Hey, Walt. Look who’s home.” Beck ran a hand over Walter’s back and up the length of the cat’s furry tail. “You want a beer? Should I order pizza?”

“Yes, and God, yes.” He toed his boots off, putting them beside the door. “I brought you a present from Vegas.”

“A present?” Beck pulled out his phone and Sky knew the pizza would be on its way shortly. His husband loved the whole ordering by app thing. “You mean other than the gift of finally having you here where I can touch you?”

“Yep, although that’s pretty cool.” He dug out the two bags. The first was a crazy mobile from one of the Cirque stores for the baby—the whole thing made from goofy little polka-dotted monsters. The second was another Venetian mask for the dining room. He’d been buying them for Beck for ages.

Beck’s eyes lit up as he turned the mask over in his hands. “Oh, look at this one! A devil. Those horns…I love it, Sky.” Beck kissed him and ducked into the dining room. “Where should we put it? I’ll hang it tomorrow.”

“Yeah? I’m glad you like it. I thought it went well with the winged one from last year.”

“Yes. That’s where we’ll put it.” Beck held it up on the wall near the winged mask. “Here.”

Walter howled at them from the doorway like he was possessed.

“Uh-oh.”

“Do you not want it there, Walt?” He needed the kitty treats. Stat.

Walter glowered at him, still as stone except for a jerky twitch of his tail.

“There’s a can of tuna on the counter,” Beck whispered, angling his head toward the kitchen.

“You are a gentleman and a scholar.” He went and popped the can open. “Come here, sexy one.”

Walter hesitated, but only for a second before waltzing into the kitchen with his head held high and his tail flagging. Bruiser followed, but Sky knew all he wanted was kisses. Walter required bribery.

He hand-fed his best bud with tuna, whispering to him about how he’d missed him most of all. Christ, he was owned.

Walter purred and devoured the offering, stopping every so often to trill at him and rub against his fingers. Beck distracted Bruiser with love and a chew toy, keeping the big fluff-ball out of their way.

“Walter won’t admit it, but while you were gone…he slept with the dog again.” Beck whispered the last bit. “On your side of the bed. Just like last time.”

“Oh, he’s my good buddy, you know. I don’t know what I’d do without him.” Walter had been there from the time he’d separated off from Beck, hopping right into his truck like he belonged there.

“Come get off that hip.” Beck waited for him to wash the tuna off his fingers, handed him a beer, and led him to the sofa. “Now that all the animals have said hello, you think we can make out until the pizza gets here?”

Someone had missed him bad. “This is a marvelous fucking idea.”

He took a drag of his beer, then pulled Beckett in for a hard kiss.

Beckett set his beer down with a loud thud on the table and held him with both hands. One of them caught him by the nape and the other gripped his shoulder as if making sure he were real. His husband’s kiss was reassuring, but he could feel the rough need around the edges, the heat barely under control. He smiled against Beckett’s lips, and found the heavy, denim-covered cock, rubbing nice and hard.

Damn, it was good to be wanted, to be desired. Craved, even.

“Sky.” Beck had never been shy about what he wanted. Beck groaned and shifted, spreading to give Sky more access. Sky nodded, working open Beck’s fly so he could fish out that sweet cock.

“I’ve been thinking about you all day.” Beck dropped a hand low, trying to reach his fly but couldn’t quite, so those hot fingers teased along his waistband instead.

“All day?” He stroked, base to tip, fingertip working the head. “I couldn’t wait to get back to you.”

Beck nodded, eyes starting to glaze over. “All week. But today, once I knew you were on that plane…” Beck pulled him into another kiss and rocked up into his fingers.

Someone wasn’t going to have to sleep alone tonight, and he was getting laid too.

He dove into the kiss, humming into Beckett’s mouth.

Beck shifted again stretching out and pulling Sky down on top of him, panting softly. Both hands worked his fly open. They’d never quite outgrown the appeal of rubbing off together. “This okay…on the hip?”

“Uh-huh. ’S okay. Want you.” He got them lined up, just right. “Good?”

“So good.” Beck’s hands landed on his ass as he bucked up off the couch. “You…missed me, huh?”

“Every friggin’ second.” That was clear, right? “Every breath.”

“Yeah.” Beck nodded, breathing hard and hauling on his ass. The couch was creaking ominously, which would have been funny if they hadn’t been so fucking focused.

They didn’t have time to linger, either. That pizza was coming, and they didn’t need to answer the door covered in spunk.

Beck shoved one hand between them and tightened it around both of their cocks, sweetening the friction. “Ready, baby?” Beck squeezed, giving him something to work against.

“Fuck!” He arched hard, driving them harder, pre-come slicking the way. “Beck. Beck, right there.”

“Good, yeah? I’ve got you.” Beck looked up at him, deep brown eyes holding his. “Close.”

“Yes. Love you.” More than anything on earth. He dove back into the kiss, both of them working together to get off.

“Mm. Mmm!” Most of Beck’s shout was muffled by his lips, and Beck broke the kiss long enough to get a breath as wet heat spread between them. He followed right behind, only needing a stroke or two more.

He blinked at his lover, swaying a little, heart pounding hard. “Wow.”

Beck chuckled and gave him a drunk-looking smile. “Always wow with you.”

“No shit on that.” He nibbled Beckett’s bottom lip, as lazy as he could be.

“Love you, Stud.” Beck kissed him, then rolled him suddenly, dropping him gently on the couch. “Let me clean up for the pizza guy. You relax.” Beck had his shirt off before he’d even left the room.

Damn, he loved how Beck moved, like it was still easy. He envied that a little, but he liked watching it more. It was good to be home.

 

Title: Special Delivery
Published by: Tygerseye Publishing, LLC
ASIN: B08MZ7GMFW

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

Wrecked

Contributors: Jodi Payne and BA Tortuga
Series: East Meets Western #2
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.

Buy the Book: Amazon

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

 

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

Flying Blind

Contributors: Jodi Payne and BA Tortuga
Series: East Meets Western #3
Genre: , , , ,
Release Date: July 28, 2020
Pages: 427

Flying Blind

An East Meets Western M/M Romance

Sometimes the best thing about living in New York is leaving it.

When January Bell takes a risk on a business trip to Denver and introduces himself to the hot as fire rodeo cowboy across the bar, he has no idea what he’s in for. Hawk is like nobody he’s ever met, and Jan finds he is intrigued enough to want more than just one night with the deceptively complex man.

Hawk Destry is working hard to wring every moment he can out of his bull riding career. He’s used to beating the eight second clock, but he is slowly losing his eyesight and he doesn’t have a lot of years left in the sport.

None of that seems to matter, though, when Hawk meets January, who treats him like he’s worth more off a bull than on one, and who’s willing to work just as hard to be with him.

The two men have to deal with distance and traveling, unexpected challenges when Hawk visits New York, family on both sides, and neither of them saw any of it coming. Eventually even Hawk’s dangerous job is thrown into sharp relief when tragedy strikes. How will January and Hawk find their way if they’re flying blind?

Buy the Book: Amazon

Also in this series:

 

Chapter One

Sometimes the best thing about living in New York City was leaving it.

“What can I get you?” The hotel bartender was burly and handsome, with deep-set dark eyes under a heavy brow and an easy smile framed by a carefully trimmed beard.

January smiled at the man and slid a credit card across the bar. “Do you have Glenlivet?”

“Yessir, twelve okay?”

“That’s fine. A double.”

The bartender picked up his card and glanced at it. “Running a tab, Mister Bell?”

“Yes, thank you, uh…”

He got a friendly smile. “Alex.”

January nodded. “Good to meet you, Alex.”

“What brings you to Denver?” Alex pulled the bottle down from a high shelf and set a glass on the bar in front of him. “Business? A wedding?”

He grinned and shook his head. It was a hotel bar and he was wearing one of his favorite suits. Either one of those things was a good bet. “Just a couple of business meetings.” He wasn’t going to say much more, he didn’t like to talk about his philanthropy. But his foundation was always searching for new opportunities and sometimes he had to travel to find them.

Alex poured him a generous double, put the cap on the bottle and left it within easy reach. Good call.

A pair of women waved to get Alex’s attention and the bartender inclined his head. “Excuse me. We’ll get busy here in a bit. Wave when you need me.”

“Will do. Thank you.” He swirled his whiskey and sniffed it, sighing as the rich, warm scent filled his nostrils, making his mouth water. The weather report was on the TV over the bar and he was surprised that despite the altitude, it wasn’t much cooler in Denver than it was back home. Even so, the Mile High City was much more pleasant than the Big Apple tonight.

January touched the glass to his lips, savoring the burn as that first jarring sip soaked into his tongue and slid down his throat, setting him tingling. They’d split up months ago, but this was only his second trip without Lucas and, although the bar was lively, he still felt lonely.

Or no.

Not so much lonely as alone.

He was bad at alone. He’d been both blessed and cursed with a strong, extroverted personality. He could talk to anyone, but he really did need someone to talk to, and his first glass of whiskey was always too quiet.

A raucous band pushed and bounced through the door—cowboy hats and jeans and an amazing array of sports tape and IcyHot and bruises.

“Yo, Alex!”

“Guys, Coors Light all around?”

“All but for Charlie here, man. He lost his fight with Railrunner.” One of the cowboys bellied up to the bar, damn near blinding him with a wild, excited shit-eating grin. “Let’s make him a virgin something frozen.”

Cowboys. One more reason to love Denver.

“You got it.” Alex set four silver cans on the bar. “One fakey Pina Colada, coming up.”

January glanced at the cowboy over his glass. “Somebody is on the good drugs, huh?” This cowboy seemed pretty beat up too.

“Got his ass trampled in the dirt, yessir. Made his ride, though.” God, that smile—part Dennis the Menace, part Mathew McConaughey.

Made his ride? Come on, Jan. You’re a smart guy. The pieces were floating around but he wasn’t putting them together. Injured cowboy, summertime, Denver.

Trampled. Did cowboys do MMA? January tilted his head, failing to get a look at the eyes shadowed by the man’s hat, though he caught the bright blond hair well enough.

“Railrunner, huh? Son of a bitch.” Alex peered over his shoulder at the group of men in hats as the blender whirred. “Is Charlie still on the roster for tomorrow? My girl got tickets for the show. I might have a little money on him.” Alex grinned at the cowboy sheepishly. “Sorry.”

Tickets.

“Sure he is, but you wasted your money. I’m in a solid third, and I’m taking the short-go and the event, you watch.” The guy didn’t seem to be worried in the least, or offended.

“It’s no fun to go after the easy money.” That was an obvious tease. “I guess I’ll see how you do tomorrow, won’t I?” Alex shut the blender off, poured the frozen mixture into a glass and set it on the bar. A couple of arms reached between January and the cowboy and pulled all the drinks off the bar, leaving one beer behind.

I’ll take rodeo for five-hundred, Alex. “Bulls?”

“Oh, these crazy bastards are bull riders. Good guys, great tippers, but rowdy? Wow.”

Wow was right. But they were just having fun, which was good by him. “I can’t say I’ve ever met a bull rider.”

“You want me to introduce you to Hawk there? He’s hilarious. He’s like talking to someone from a movie or something.”

He did like the accent. The shoulders too, if he was honest. And the cowboy’s ass, if he let himself go there.

And why not go there?

“Sure. I’d love that.” He’d talked to celebrities before, even straight ones.

“I’ll make the intros when he comes to grab his beer.” Alex nodded to him, like he did this every day, which January supposed he did.

“Cool. Thanks.” Well, that would never happen in New York. He sipped his drink, enjoying the warmth and watched the group of men out of the corner of his eye. So much testosterone standing in those boots. It was hot as hell.

Hawk did, in fact, come for his beer, nodding to Alex as his hand wrapped around it. “Charlie says you did good, man. Thanks.”

“No problem. Hey, you met Mr. Bell here? He’s in on business.”

“I haven’t.” Hawk turned to him, eyes hidden behind thick, little round glasses, and held out one square, scarred up hand. “Hawk Destry, pleased to meet you.”

It only took him a second to decide it wasn’t worth the risk of getting his ass kicked, so when he shook Hawk’s hand he was careful to keep it all business, despite the allure of that stubborn chin. “January Bell. Good to meet you too. Alex says you’re a bull rider?”

“That’s the rumor.” Hawk climbed up on the barstool next to him, the man laughing at himself. “Some days I do better than others.”

January grinned. “Didn’t you say you had this one in the bag?”

“I sure did, and I stand by that. Assuming I get a good draw, my bull rope doesn’t pop on me, and I keep riding like I have, I’m golden.” Hawk chuckled and rolled his eyes dramatically. “Good thing I tend to ride good late in the season, huh?”

He wasn’t sure how Hawk managed to pull off arrogance and self-awareness at the same time. It was fascinating. Maybe the smile kind of smoothed out the edges. Whatever it was, January liked it. “Your draw is what? The order you ride in?”

“The bull you ride. The order goes by ranking. Right now I’m sitting in third. We’ll see if I can’t improve it.”

He’d love to have this cowboy in the bag. “Are any of these guys ahead of you right now?” He knew he was wasting his time, but January dared to lean in a little anyway and took a sip of his whiskey.

He swore he saw Hawk’s nostrils flare, the man tuning into him. “Charlie is, but he’s hurting bad.” The words were a fascinating mixture of sympathy and complete lack of care. “Tell me about you, now. Here on business?”

“Yes. I’ve got a couple of meetings, then I head back to New York.” He tossed out a bone. “Just three nights.”

“New York, huh? I been there a couple times for events. It’s huge and shiny. Lots of folks.”

“It’s both of those things. I love it, though the hustle and the crowds can get a little much sometimes.” Thankfully he had a little sanctuary on the Upper West Side with a view of the park. He spoiled himself, he knew. Even his suite at the hotel was a splurge. “Did you like it when you visited?”

“Sure did. I like seeing new stuff. My job keeps me on the road a lot, so it’s a good thing.” Was Hawk checking him out? Surely not. They didn’t make gay cowboys, did they?

“I get away once a month or so. More in the summer if I can find an excuse. It’s hot in the city. I like the mountains, even if I don’t get there as often as I’d like. I have a great view from my suite though.” He turned on his stool and swept the hem of his suit jacket off his hip to give Hawk more to glance at, if in fact the cowboy was looking. “Do you drink scotch? This is a nice one.”

“Is it?” That smile flashed again. “Let me buy us a round, then. See if our tastes mesh.”

Oh ho. So cowboys do come in gay. Sweet.

January caught Hawk’s arm as the man reached for his wallet, trying again to get a peek at Hawk’s eyes. The glasses were adorably geeky, incongruous under the hat. “Let me, please.”

There was a sizzling moment where the air between them burned, and it was blistering, dangerous, and sexual as hell. “Sounds like a plan.”

“It does, doesn’t it?” He let go of Hawk’s arm and waved the bartender over. There was no reason to play games with the pull so strong and clear between them. “Alex? I’ll take the bottle, and I’d like to close out my tab please.”

Alex seemed a little confused but nodded and punched something into the register. “You got it.”

January dipped his fingers into his inside jacket pocket, pulled out a business card and a pen, and wrote his suite number on the back.

“Sign here, Mr. Bell. I hope everything is all right?”

“Just fine, thank you.” He wrote in a generous tip and signed his name, then lifted the half-full bottle of whiskey off the bar and handed the business card to Hawk. “I look forward to seeing you again soon.”

“Give me two shakes to finish my beer.” Hawk lifted the bottle and saluted him before he headed over to his friends, moving slow and giving him a chance to see.

“Making new friends with a sh-uit, Hawk?” Charlie was slurring a bit, but between the bruised jaw and the drugs that wasn’t surprising. “What is he, a sh-ponsor?”

Hawk looked back at him, winked, then turned back to the group, giving him a nice view at a tiny, perfectly framed ass. “He ain’t with the tour, man. I thought maybe he was a fan. Y’all going to get Charlie here up to his bed?”

He was definitely a fan. Just not of the rodeo.

He left Hawk to finish his beer and make whatever exit he needed to make and took his bottle of scotch upstairs to his top-floor suite, where he poured himself another shot of liquid courage. He didn’t feel guilty or awkward; those weren’t things he had time for. But it had been a while since he’d quite so obviously let his dick do the thinking.

It wasn’t long before a knock sounded on the door, shave and a haircut. Hell, even the knock was brash, bold. He set two glasses next to the bottle on the dresser and went to answer the door.

There was a cowboy at his door all right. Boots, hat, jeans, square shoulders, bravado and all. Something about the way Hawk was standing felt a little like a challenge.

“Hey. Come on in.”

“Thanks for the invite. I appreciate it.”

“It’s… good to be appreciated.” He’d heard a lot of pick-up lines, but that was a new one. He stepped aside to let Hawk enter, laughing gently as he closed and locked the door behind them. “Do you not get many invitations?”

“I’ve had a couple three. Just needed to make sure we understood what I came up for.” Suddenly Hawk was right there, solid as a rock, one hand on his hip.

“Scotch?” January teased.

Jesus. Hawk was giving off more heat than the sun. And with that touch on his hip, whatever electricity had passed between them at the bar was back, only this time without the restraint of public eyes on them, January could do what he’d wanted to do then. He reached for Hawk’s shirt and tugged it out of the well-worn wranglers, slipping a hand under the hem to rest on warm skin and the hardest set of abs he’d ever felt. “Damn, cowboy.”

“I live and die on core strength.” Hawk found one of his nipples through his dress shirt, thumb dragging over his skin.

Nothing like finding one of his hottest hot spots on the first try. January hissed and leaned into the touch, fingers going to work on Hawk’s shirt, buttons sliding open one by one from the bottom up. He inhaled deeply, the scent of hungry man making his balls ache. He reached up with both hands and touched the frame of Hawk’s glasses, raising an eyebrow. “May I?”

“Sure. Put them somewhere safe.” The stroking turned into a firm pinch.

His toes curled. That was fucking right. “Easy, I don’t want to drop them.” He took Hawk’s glasses, folded them carefully and set them behind him on the dresser, right next to the bottle of scotch. Didn’t get much safer than that. He bent a little, but he still couldn’t get a look at those eyes, hiding under the brim of Hawk’s hat.

He shrugged his jacket off catching it with one hand and tossing it over a chair.

“Where was I? Oh right. Here.” He fanned his fingers out across those abs again. “Living and dying.”

“Mmhmm.” Hawk put his hat, brim up, on the end table, exposing a short-cropped mass of white curls, and light blue eyes that were almost crystalline. Impressive. And lovely.

He pushed the shirt off Hawk’s shoulders and took a light, tentative kiss, wondering, asking. Not every man he’d known was into kissing a one-night stand. The answer was straightforward and direct—Hawk kissed him like he was storming a beach at Normandy.

Oh. Fuck yeah. It was so on.

He helped Hawk get the shirt off while they fought for tongue positions and with each other’s buttons and zippers. He got his fingers under Hawk’s waistband and cupped a smooth, hot ass cheek that was nearly as muscled as the cowboy’s abs. Fuck, that was hot. He worked out, but January felt like a marshmallow next to this guy.

Hawk was like a marble statue come to life—chiseled and hard, but still burning with his need. Burning he understood. He shouldered Hawk toward the bed. “Sit.” He gave Hawk a light shove to make his point and tugged the man’s jean’s over his hips.

“Let me get my boots, or I’ll be caught at the ankle.”

“Boots? Oh.” He stepped out of the way and watched as Hawk wrestled with the boots and the denim. Huh. He’d file that under things to know before fucking a cowboy.

He kicked off his own shoes while Hawk dealt with footwear drama and tossed his shirt aside with them.

Hawk stripped down, showing off a heavy cock, icy pubes, and a set of feathers inked over his collarbones.

“I hadn’t planned on bringing a stacked, sexy cowboy to my suite tonight, you know. I thought I’d be finishing another glass or two and watching a game on TV.” He kicked everything aside and stood at a short distance, letting Hawk have an eyeful too. Hawk seemed so young, naked and blue eyed and without that hat. He felt a little old.

“Mmm, that would be a waste. Look at you. I could eat your happy ass alive.”

He was a little more interested in Hawk’s happy ass, frankly. He moved forward, the proximity making him burn and his fingers long to touch. Hawk’s blond curls were baby soft as he ran his fingers through them and long enough to tug.

So he did. “How about my cock instead?”

“Oh, I do like a man that knows what he wants.” Those icy eyes flashed up at him. “You going to get it up again and fuck me like I need?”

Wow. Those eyes. And talk about knowing what you wanted. “Not to worry. I’m only offering you a taste, cowboy. We had an understanding, I think.”

“Only a taste, hmm? We’ll see about that. I’m pretty damn good at what I do.” Hawk cupped his balls, squeezing enough to bring him up on his toes.

Okay sure good whatever you want. He leaned into the touch. Something about this guy made him so ready to let go. But he had plans too.

“Humble. I’ve heard that about cowboys.”

“Meek. Mild. Salt of the earth.” Hawk understood how to unfasten another man’s slacks.

“Four for four.” He watched Hawk’s scarred fingers work, thinking they were surprisingly delicate for someone that spent most of their time with thousand-pound animals.

“You forgot hard as nails and twice as tough.”

He sucked in a breath as his cock and the air-conditioned room met. “Oh, now you’re talking about me.”

“Mmm, look at this fine bit of rope.” Hawk measured him, base to tip, then did it again, lips opening to take his tip in.

January sighed and reminded himself to be patient, but his fingers made a fist in the cowboy’s hair anyway, blond curls popping up between his knuckles. He knew without asking that Hawk would be more than ready for whatever he wanted to dish out, but he was still a gentleman despite all appearances at the moment.

First times and all, right?

Hawk cupped his balls, rolling them and making him gasp, even as Hawk’s mouth dropped down and down, the blistering suction surrounding his prick.

“Mmm.” All right, it seemed like Hawk did have something to brag about. January spread his feet wider and arched his hips forward, his eyes glued to that hungry mouth. Hawk went down on him like a Hoover, taking him in to the root and swallowing hard before moving back up to work his tip.

He closed his eyes to feel for a minute, enjoy Hawk’s heat. Hawk’s mouth was heaven, he could let the cowboy take him all the way like this for sure. Sometime, when he was with a lover he knew he’d see more than once, he would let himself indulge again. But he wanted Hawk. He wanted that strong, muscled body underneath him.

Soon. January shivered and groaned as Hawk swallowed, throat going tight around his prick. Maybe soon-ish.

In a minute.

First, he needed to enjoy what this cowboy could teach him about flying.

“Jesus.” He opened his eyes again. “I’m going to fuck you so hard you’ll still feel me when you win tomorrow night.”

“Mmhmm…” The hum sent vibrations all the way through to his bones. Fuck, Hawk was too good at this.

Too Goddamn good, and he’d had a little scotch. “Enough.” The word came out softer than he’d intended, raspy in his dry throat. He tried again, with more conviction. “I said a taste, cowboy. That’s enough.”

He tugged on Hawk’s hair, and his cock popped out of Hawk’s lips. They both groaned at the loss, with Hawk swaying on the mattress.

“That’s it.” He did appreciate a man that enjoyed giving head. “Crawl on up there and let me see that ass.” It was a thing of beauty in blue jeans, and Hawk obviously knew it. January was looking forward to what the denim had been hiding.

Hawk crawled up to the head of the bed, pretty little ass swaying back and forth to tease the fuck out of him.

“Mm-mm.” He reached across the bed to give one round cheek a love-tap, then slid out of his trousers. “Has anyone ever told you that you have a perfect ass?”

“Oh, flattery will so get you laid.” Hawk knelt up tall, ass cheeks clenched tight.

“Proud of it, are you?” He knelt right behind Hawk, coaxing Hawk’s knees open a little wider with his own, and slid his hands along the line of Hawk’s hips until they met, stretching wide again across those killer abs.

“You know it.” He could feel the way those muscles worked to keep them both upright.

He pressed close to Hawk’s back, letting his cock nestle into the warm cleft of that fine ass, and tasted a scarred shoulder with his tongue. That earned him a soft moan, and Hawk rocked back, ass teasing the hell out of him.

“There’s a little black bag next to your hat on the nightstand. Can you reach it?” So, he hadn’t made plans, but he was prepared anyway. Nothing put a damper on a spontaneous tryst like stopping in the hotel gift shop for a rubber, or worse, discovering it was closed.

“You got it.” Hawk settled deeper, thighs parted as he balanced and reached. Oh. Oh, that was the promise of pure sex. He slipped a hand through that inviting gap and cupped Hawk’s balls. They were silky and heavy and filled his whole hand.

Even better, they were shaved, smooth as silk, making all sorts of promises, each one better than another. Something told him waxing wasn’t cowboy standard issue. So intriguing, this man. A tangle of stereotypes and contradictions that Hawk simply owned, without shame or apology. It was sexy as hell.

“Tada!” Hawk straightened up, chuckling as he did. “That’s a right obliques workout. I’ll have to remember that.”

“I know I won’t forget it any time soon,” he teased and unzipped the little pouch pulling out what he needed. “That was a truly memorable view.”

Hawk put his hands on the wall behind the bed and arched, showing off shamelessly.

He swallowed hard. “Damn, Hawk.” January slicked a couple of fingers and touched the cool lube to the cowboy’s beautifully presented hole.

“Guy’s got to know how to get what he needs.”

“You don’t have to beg me, cowboy. I’m all in.” He slipped one finger inside, twisting it and circling the rim before adding a second.

Tight. He could only imagine that heat around his cock, working him. Milking him.

And Hawk was definitely focused and clear about what he needed. Jan was looking forward to blowing the cowboy’s mind a little. “I’m so ready for you.”

“Bring it on.” Hawk was so fierce, so in control of what he wanted.

January moved in close and lined up, wondering for a second if it would be rude to remind the man to breathe. “We’ll start easy.” He hooked one hand around Hawk’s hip and used his body weight to start to push inside, groaning as he met the natural resistance of Hawk’s body.

He heard the soft, shaky exhale, the first hint of any vulnerability at all. The truth of it was beautiful though and it made him shiver, the chance to own a piece of the cowboy’s swagger, even for an hour, giving him a thrill.

“I’ve got you.” He bent over Hawk’s back and rocked forward, sinking deeper into that incredibly tight heat. “Breathe. It’s good.”

“Yeah. Fucking A it is.” Hawk leaned toward him, hips moving in a steady rhythm that threatened to steal his breath.

He worked with Hawk, picking up the cowboy’s rhythm and taking it deeper, stronger. The way it built up on its own was so sweet, made him ache just right.

“Oh honey, like that. Just like that.”

That was better. That sounded like need.

“Yeah.” January focused on Hawk, his own need slowly building. “You’re going to lose your mind before I’m done with you.”

“Promises, promises.” Hawk gripped him, squeezing hard enough to steal his breath.

“Fuck,” he managed to bite out, followed by a deep grunt. Hawk was way too fucking together. He reached under and caught the cowboy’s thick prick in one hand, gripping it tight.

January felt that response, all around his cock, and the soft grunt that he got from Hawk proved that he had the cowboy’s attention.

“Hot.” He stroked hard several times before letting go and taking hold of Hawk’s narrow hips with both hands instead. He picked up the pace and drove in deep, moving beyond Hawk’s direction and taking them where he wanted to be.

Hawk reached down with one hand, pumping himself hard. With the couple of brain cells not busy, January managed to be impressed with Hawk’s balance.

That was the end of rational. He hauled back on Hawk’s hips. The sound of their bodies coming together over and over filled the room along with their rough breathing. He was determined to hold out for Hawk, but that sweet ass clung to him, hot and tight, and it took all his concentration.

“Come on. Harder. So fucking close.” The words weren’t a plea; they were a demand.

“Pushy fucking cowboy.”

He set his jaw, stared down the back of Hawk’s damp, blond head and thrust hard enough to send both of them rocking toward the headboard.

That was it. That earned him a cry, but nothing coherent at all.

So there.

January took a breath and focused on Hawk, dishing out more of the same until Hawk gave up trying to counter him. The cowboy melted around him, the heat increasing as Hawk gave in.

It was hard to resist the draw of Hawk’s shining skin and tired muscle; he could lick the man all over. And he might, later. At the moment his body was screaming to let go, and it was all he could do to keep up his nearly savage pace.

Hawk’s shout echoed as he shot, every pulse of pleasure echoing around his prick.

“Yes!” Oh sweet fuck yes. He fought through the tight grip around his hungry prick and took the last of what he needed—a handful of quick, shallow thrusts—and followed the cowboy over with a long, relieved groan.

Hawk slumped toward the wall, panting hard under him. It felt good, knowing he gave Hawk what he needed.

He shivered as he pulled away to ditch the condom, then he got a little of that taste he wanted, dropping kisses across the cowboy’s back. “Lie down with me. Stay a while.” He’d never kicked anyone out. People left and he got that, but he liked it if they stayed.

“Yeah? I can do that.” Hawk exhaled, settling down, turning toward him.

Score. He was happy to hold that body for a while. He extended an arm, inviting Hawk to move in closer. “You good? Okay?”

“Better than. I may have lost a few brain cells with that orgasm.”

He huffed, a weak laugh about all he could manage. “Well, they’re happily somewhere with mine. That was great.” He inhaled as Hawk settled in, more intrigued by the cowboy’s scent than he should be. He was truthfully more intrigued by Hawk in general than he should be.

Cowboy. Seriously, he’d had the orgasm of the year with a rodeo cowboy in Denver.

“Nap? Stay as long as you want. The suite comes with a killer breakfast.” He wanted Hawk to stay, and not because it was more food than he could possibly eat alone.

“Does it come with a round two?”

Oh. Heck, yeah. He wanted that too. “Are you kidding? That’s hours from now. We’ll be on three by then at least, don’t you think? Four?”

“Oh, I do like how you think.” Hawk snuggled right in with a moan.

He circled his arm over Hawk’s shoulders. “I’m told I snore a little,” he teased, talking through a huge yawn.

“I’ve been rooming with cowboys for fifteen years, honey. You could be the Latvian chain saw drill team and I could rest.”

He laughed, or thought he did. He tried anyway. And January fell asleep with an arm full of studly, irresistible cowboy.

 

Title: Flying Blind
Published by: Tygerseye Publishing, LLC
ASIN: B08CL2H4MR
ISBN13: 978-1-951011-34-5

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

 

Window Dressing

Contributors: Jodi Payne and BA Tortuga
Series: East Meets Western #4
Genre: , , , ,
Release Date: December 10, 2019
Pages: 189

Razor blades left by a murderer continue to remind Sam and Thomas of James, the man they lost to violence, whose killer is still out there and seems to be watching them constantly, biding his time.

Their carefully built relationship also teeters on the edge of a knife. Sam tries to be the full-time sub he thinks Thomas wants, but fails miserably, while Thomas tries to understand that Sam is unique and his cowboy’s needs don’t lend themselves to a formal BDSM lifestyle. They work through confusion, arguments, and stress, but when communication starts to break down, they struggle to reconcile their differences to learn what it means to be a “them”.

An emotional misunderstanding might be the last straw, or it might be the opportunity the killer has been waiting for to take Sam out of Thomas’s life once and for all.

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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!

Land of Enchantment

Contributors: Jodi Payne and BA Tortuga
Series: East Meets Western #5
Genre: , , , , ,
Release Date: September 24, 2019
Pages: 330

Land of Enchantment

An East Meets Western M/M Romance

East meets west. City meets country. Though there’s no denying opposites attract, can a college kid from New Jersey and a New Mexican cowboy learn to speak the same language, let alone trust each other?

When Mason Wild heads west to escape his past, he doesn’t have a plan or a penny to his name. Luckily he finds a job with a roofing company run by a rodeo cowboy who’s kind, easy to work for, and even with his jaw wired shut, hotter than July in the high desert.

Bull rider Levi Yost knows what it’s like to be down on his luck. He’s not much older than Mason, but he’s been around the block a few times, or at least around the rodeo arena. He takes a chance on the kid, giving him a job and a place to live on his ranch. The two of them discover a surprising amount of common ground, but trouble has a way of finding each of them. Mason has to learn to be fully honest with Levi, who in turn has to realize he’s not just riding out for himself anymore. 

Available to purchase, or to borrow with Kindle Unlimited.

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Chapter One

MASON WILD’S first stop after leaving New Jersey was a rest area west of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, where he met a truck driver in the men’s room who was headed down Interstate 81 toward Roanoke. It was the farthest away from home he’d ever been.

He had a little money on him but not much, and he had to stretch it pretty far because it was slow going finding rides after that until he’d passed through Knoxville and Nashville and landed in Jackson, Tennessee. By then he was a kind of hungry he’d never been in his whole life. He asked around, found some day work, and stayed there two days, keeping his head down and moving rocks around. It was shit money, but it was better than nothing, and nobody cared what his name was.

From Jackson he hitched a ride to Memphis. He was doing his best to be a good passenger, be polite like his mom taught him and just keep his stupid mouth shut. That was hard. He usually liked people and could talk about whatever when he wanted to, but right now he didn’t want to be too memorable.

Outside Memphis, he finally found a truck driver who was on a long haul. The guy was headed all the way to El Paso, and Mason figured what the hell, that was pretty damn far away, right? On the way, while the driver talked on and on for hours, he looked out the window as everything he understood disappeared in the rearview mirror and the world around him got flatter and drier. It felt like he spent weeks in that truck.

When he got to El Paso, he lucked into a stretch of work gutting some houses in town, but man, that was a long week. It was hot out and not only did the guys he was working with all seem to know each other, but they all knew what they were doing too. He knew some Spanish—you didn’t grow up in North Jersey and not know some Spanish—but apparently only enough local slang to figure out when he was being made fun of. Still, he was pretty much the biggest guy on the job, and he managed to hold his own even if they didn’t like his sneakers.

Mason hated them lately too. Everybody he knew wore sneakers at home, but out here, not only did he stand out as a city kid, but they were totally useless. He demolished a kitchen with a couple of guys one morning and stepped on a screw sticking up out of a cabinet door. It went right through his sole but luckily not into his foot. After that he spent half his time making sure he didn’t step on anything else or drop anything on his toes either. He couldn’t afford to do the hospital thing.

He was pretty sure he had enough money for some decent boots now, though, and he decided he’d buy some at his next stop—not that he knew where that was yet. But he was running out of real estate and he’d better figure something out soon. He couldn’t travel much farther away than he already had.

From El Paso the interstate only went north. He found a guy headed up 25 through Albuquerque, and hitched a ride, hoping he could bail somewhere near civilization.

It was an amazing drive—the grays and the tans and pinks seemed to be everywhere, the mountains and mesas like a whole foreign landscape.

“You know where you’re headed, kid?” The old cowboy didn’t look the slightest bit worried about picking him up. In fact, “Almon Ryder from right outside Dallas, pleased to meetcha, I do have my conceal carry permit,” looked like he might enjoy a bit of a fight.

“No.” Mason glanced over at him, wondering how polite the old guy expected him to be. He wasn’t planning on fighting anyone again. Ever. “Uh… no, sir. I’m just looking for work. You know.” Not too friendly, keep it to small talk. He’d gotten pretty good at riding in the passenger side of a semi and mostly pretending he wasn’t there, but a pickup was closer quarters.

“I do. There’s always work for guys that are willing. I’m going to see my son at UNM. He plays baseball there.”

Mason had no idea where that was. Baseball was awesome, though. “Yeah? That’s cool. Is he on a scholarship?”

“Yeah. He’s a good kid. My youngest. I have eight.”

“Sons?”

“Children. Seven of them are girls.”

“Holy crap!” He winced. “Uh. I mean, wow. That’s great. You’re totally outnumbered. And lucky. You’re very lucky.” He rolled his eyes. He should be keeping his stupid mouth shut. “Sorry.”

“I am totally outnumbered, kid. I lost my wife to breast cancer five years ago, with three still in school. Thank God for the oldest girls or the youngest might have starved.” The huge laugh boomed out, filling the cab.

Whoa. Small world. “I’m sorry, man. I lost my mom two years ago, same thing.” What a horrible time that had been. His whole senior year. “What was your wife’s name?”

“Sueann. She was a good woman. I’m sorry about your momma. It ain’t right.”

“Sueann. That’s a pretty name.” Nope. It wasn’t right. He used to think there was a bigger plan, but he wasn’t so sure anymore. He was just glad he didn’t have to break Mom’s heart when he left home. “So your youngest is in college. Where’s your oldest?”

“Married with four babies in Dallas. She’s an ER nurse. Her husband does something on the computer for work. He’s good to her and loves those babies, so I suppose I won’t have to kill him.”

“Uh. Well, that’s good, I guess?” Jesus. Everything he’d ever heard about Texans was true. Other things were true too, like this guy was super friendly and kind, but the whole gun-toting, bigger-than-life, major-accent thing? Totally true. And awesome. He’d never met anyone from Texas before now. Or wait, one of the truck drivers? The guy who’d driven him from Harrisburg to Roanoke… no wait, he was from Georgia.

His stomach growled. Loud. He looked out the window and pretended like he didn’t notice.

Almon grinned over at him. “You too, huh? There’s a McD’s up here. I’ll buy you a burger. You ain’t a vegetabletarian, right?”

He cheeks got hot. He hated handouts, but he wasn’t exactly flush at the moment. “Not me. If it’s food, I’ll eat it. That’s really nice of you. Thanks.” Vegetabletarian. Awesome.

“I hate eating alone, and I been down on my luck once or twice.”

“I’ll figure it out. I can work. I don’t know how to do much, but I’m big enough and I learn fast.” He had no choice, right? Thank God he didn’t have eight kids to feed. Whoa.

“Then you’ll be fine.” Almon pulled off and parked. “Let’s go in. Christ, my ass is too old to make this drive for a ball game.”

He got out of the truck. Almon was paying; he’d eat wherever the guy wanted to. He stretched, still a little sore from the last day of work and all the heavy lifting the smaller, older guys seemed happy to let him do. “Did you drive all the way from Dallas?”

“No, sir. I had been in Austin, seeing my four girls there; then I headed this direction.” He loved the way Almon said, “die-rection.”

“That’s a long drive. Geez. For a baseball game? He must be really good.” He followed Almon inside, getting blasted by the cool air as he held the door. The smell of the burgers and fries made his stomach growl again and his mouth water.

“Well, I haven’t seen my boy in a few months. What’s your poison?”

“Uh. The Buttermilk Crispy Chicken thing. Sandwich. Please.” And a ton of fries and a vanilla milkshake, but he wasn’t going to get greedy. Son in college in New Mexico, daughter in Dallas, four girls in Austin… he was missing one.

“Where’s your other daughter?” he asked as they headed over to a table with their food. He knew he probably shouldn’t be so chatty, but it felt good to have a real conversation with someone after almost a month of mostly keeping to himself. No one back home would believe he managed to keep quiet for this long.

“Two others.” Almon laughed happily. “Missy is in nursing school in Arlington, and Bessa’s in a band on the road. Last time I talked to her, she was in Oklahoma City, but I think she’s heading to Kansas City next. She’s hard to keep track of, that girl.”

“Two! Geez, that’s right. I’m glad you can keep track of them all.” He laughed. He’d have left one somewhere by mistake.

They sat, and the table got quiet as Mason sucked down his chicken. God, he could eat four of these things, easy. His sister had just… well, before he left, Izzy had told him she thought maybe he was still growing. He figured he just had a big appetite.

“They gave me an extra set of fries by mistake, kid. You want?”

“You don’t want ’em? Sure. Thanks.” Almon slid them over his direction, and he snarfed those down too. He had a feeling they weren’t there by mistake. He’d lucked out big-time on his ride. Back East he’d be wondering what the guy wanted from him, but Almon seemed like the legit dad type. Mason liked him.

“No problem. Doc doesn’t want me having too many, you know? I ain’t getting any younger.”

He nodded and grinned at Almon. “Better listen to the doc. If you need help with the rest of those, just ask.”

“Fair enough. I tell you what, this getting old shit is for the birds.”

“You’re not old, man. You just did a ton of driving today. Gotta be eight or nine hours to Austin maybe?”

“Thirteen by the time we get to the Duke City. We’re right outside of T or C right now.”

What? “I have no idea what you just said.” He laughed pretty hard. “I don’t know if it was the words or the accent. Sometimes I feel like I’m on another planet out here.”

“Albuquerque is the Duke City. T or C? That’s the town out here. Good camping.” Almon winked. “You’ll figure it out. New Mexico is a lot like Texas light.”

Like that was helpful. The only thing he knew about Texas was that it was huge, took forever and ever to drive across, and he didn’t really want to go back to El Paso.

“So you know where to find work in the city? If not, you might try starting down near the farms in Corrales. My son and his roommates do some odd jobs for beer money, and they always talk about driving up the hill to Rio Rancho, Bernalillo, Corrales. That direction. I will holler at him and ask, if you want.”

“Yeah? That would be awesome. I figured I was going to have to ask around, you know? But if they could maybe hook me up with a place to start, that would rock so hard.” He repeated the names in his head. Rio Rancho, Bernalillo, Corrales. He didn’t need beer money, and he wasn’t old enough to buy it yet anyway. But beer money could buy him some real food instead. He had enough in his pocket from El Paso for a couple of nights in a cheap place and a pair of decent boots. That was a start. If he could find work fast, he’d be golden.

“Can’t hurt to ask. Troy knows a shit-ton of folks.” Obviously Troy got that from his father.

“I really appreciate it, man. Thanks.” He hopped up. “Not rushing you, I just need to stretch my legs.” They were long—they got tired of being folded up under a dashboard after a while.

“Stretch away.” Almon pulled out his phone and started typing.

Mason looked at Almon’s phone, feeling kind of jealous. He missed his phone. He missed texting his crew and his sister, and Snapchat and iTunes. He even missed that stupid foulmouthed weather app. Not that he needed a weather app out here. The weather was the same every day. Hot.

He shook his legs out and scanned the other booths. People even looked different out here. More relaxed maybe. Tan too. There was an awful lot of good-looking skin out here.

The wind was blowing when he went outside, the black clouds covering the mountains like a blanket. Did black clouds mean rain? Down here or just up there? He knew he’d have a lot to learn out here, but he hadn’t expected understanding the weather to be on that list.

Mason stuck his hands in his pockets and breathed in the air. It did seem a little cooler. Sticky. And it was definitely cleaner than the city. He didn’t recognize the scent on the breeze at first, but it finally hit him about a half second before the wall of water started moving across the parking lot.

Jesus. Jesus, look at that.

He stepped back under the awning by the door and watched it march toward him. Where the hell had that come from? He got a little spray as the rain hit the sidewalk and drenched the building, but not enough to drive him back inside. This was way too cool.

The rain came down in waves, the parking lot turning to standing water in seconds. This was a deluge, and it had hit so fast.

If he were home, he’d be snapping pictures. Instead he just tried to memorize the way the water dumped from the sky and how he could just barely make out Almon’s truck at the end of the parking lot, so maybe he could tell Izzy about it one day.

“Look at that, huh? I ain’t never seen rain come down so fast and hard like here.” Almon grinned from the open door. “It won’t last.”

“I’ve never seen anything like this at all. I looked up and it was just coming at me. Like this crazy wall just cruising across the parking lot.” He shook his head. “Insane.”

“Rain in the desert. Talked to Troy, and he says he’ll make up a list of places that have steady work.”

“No way, really? That’s… wow. Thank you so much. Tell Troy I owe him a solid.” Steady work. Maybe this could be his last stop for a while. He could handle that. It was beautiful out here even if was hot and poured buckets sometimes.

“He’s a good kid. I think I’ll….” Just like that, the rain stopped like someone turning off a faucet.

He stuck a hand out from under the awning, then stepped out as well and looked up at the sky. “Huh. That’s it?” The clouds just rolled away the way they’d rolled in.

“That’s it. You ready to go?”

“Yeah. Sure.” He stared at the sky as he headed over to the truck, though, like maybe it might change its mind and start pouring again. He hopped up into the passenger side and stretched his neck as he pulled on his seat belt, feeling a little stiff and headachey. Probably that storm rolling through so fast. His mom used to get weather headaches. Or maybe like a blood sugar thing. “Thanks again for the food, man.” He was going to have to buy some Advil or something wherever Almon dropped him off.

“No problem. Thanks for the company.”

He leaned his head back on the headrest and stretched his legs out as far as he could manage, which wasn’t really far enough. “What do you do for work?”

“I own a cattle ranch, raise cuttin’ horses, and I run futurity bulls. Little bit of everything, I guess.”

Language barrier again. Some days he felt dumber and dumber by the minute out here. “You lost me again. What’s a futurity bull?”

“It’s a baby bucking bull, for all intents and purposes. You know, for the rodeo?”

“Oh yeah, I’ve heard of a rodeo. Guys have to ride crazy bulls and they win all kinds of money if they stay on long enough.” Why anybody would do that, he had no idea. He’d never seen anyone ride, but he kind of thought the guys were crazier than the bulls.

“If they’re on the big show, yeah. The steadier money is in the ropers.”

As they drove on, Mason had a bunch of questions, and Almon answered them patiently and told him about all the different rodeo events. It passed the time for one thing, but he kind of thought Almon enjoyed teaching him.

The mountains just kept getting bigger and closer. There weren’t any trees, really, just these huge rocky things. He wasn’t sure he’d ever get used to so much open space.

Things got quiet, and Almon turned on the radio. He closed his eyes after a while, not feeling all that great. Carsick maybe. It didn’t feel like a lot of time had passed, but when he opened his eyes again, it was almost dark out. He must have fallen asleep.

“Grab you some water, kid. You look green.” Almon pulled into the city, the trails of light flashing madly.

“Huh? I’m good.” He wasn’t good. The streetlights made him squint, and his brain was trying to escape out the top of his head. He’d sell his soul for some Advil. He reached over the seat and grabbed a bottle of water. “Is this Albuquerque? You can let me off anywhere, man. I really appreciate everything. I know you have people to see.”

“This is Albuquerque. Do you have somewhere to go?”

He shrugged. “I’ll find something.” All he needed was that list. He could find somewhere to crash for tonight, head right out in the morning to get work, and then—oh, shit. “You’re gonna want to pull over, man.” Seriously? He was gonna hurl.

Almon didn’t say a thing. The truck just swerved right off to the curb and Mason jumped out and brought up his lunch. After that, his head really started to pound. He rinsed his mouth and spat, then leaned back against the side of the truck with a groan. “Fuckin’ A.”

“Water, kid. Pound water. You got altitude sickness.” Almon handed him another bottle.

He took the bottle and swallowed back a huge gulp, but it didn’t sit right in his stomach. “I’ve got what?” He wasn’t sure that water wasn’t going to come back up too, but he kept drinking. Almon seemed to know what he was talking about. “There’s a little alien in my head, and the bastard is going to town with a jackhammer, I swear to God.”

“Water will fix it. Keep it down, and then we’ll try Tylenol. Do you have somewhere to go?”

“Not yet. I’ll find some… something. Shit.” He turned around and braced a hand on the truck, sure he was going to puke again, but he didn’t quite. His guts just felt punky.

“No. I’ll get you a room at the Motel 6. Just for a night until Troy can get you some information. Drink your water.”

He leaned on the truck again and finished off the bottle in his hand. “Thanks. It would be great if you could drop me at the Motel 6. I can get myself a room.” He felt like he was dying. He needed a room tonight; he’d figure it out. He could let his boots wait another week.

“I’ve got a room too. No stress.” Almon grinned, the look a little wry. “Troy’s got five roommates. Male ones. I’m not staying there.”

He snorted. He tried for some sort of grin but wasn’t sure he managed it. “Oh. Gross. I hear that. Can I get another water?”

“Absolutely. Keep drinking, have a nap and a shower. You’ll be okay.”

He climbed back into the truck and pulled out another bottle of water. “I guess you’re used to this altitude thing?” He sipped the water and sank back into the seat.

“Not everyone has a problem. I have a daughter that just has to fight it with all she is.” Almon gave him a half grin. “You ready for me to move again?”

“I guess I can relate to her, huh? Yeah, I’m good. Just gonna keep my eyes closed.” He’d like to look around, get his bearings, but that was going to have to wait for tomorrow.

“We ain’t got far.”

Almon was telling the truth—they pulled into a Motel 6 a minute later, and then Almon handed him a key card for a room, just like that. “I got to go grab my boy and take him to supper. You get some rest, and if you want, I’ll introduce y’all in the morning over breakfast.”

He looked at the key card and then back at Almon, trying hard to just accept help gracefully. It wasn’t easy. “Thanks. I owe you. Have a good dinner. I’d love to meet Troy tomorrow.” Hopefully he’d feel better by morning. Right now, he was going to fight back the frustration he was feeling and try to be grateful, crawl into bed, and die for a while.

“Drink your water. It will help, huh? Even if it makes you feel like your back teeth are floating.”

“Totally, man. I’m on it.” He stuck out his hand to shake, looking Almon right in the eye like Mom taught him to. She said nobody trusted a man that couldn’t look them in the eye. “Thanks again.

“You’re welcome. Get some good rest, and I’ll knock in the morning, okay?”

“Will do. Night.” He gave Almon a nod, backed up a few steps, and then set off to find his room.

He sucked down the rest of his water as soon as he got inside. He wanted to shower. He knew he should. He probably smelled like a… huh. Like a homeless guy, which he pretty much was right now. But that bed was calling his name, and that’s as far as he got. He’d clean up in the morning.

Title: Land of Enchantment
Published by: Tygerseye Publishing, LLC
ISBN13: 978-1-7330076-8-9

 

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Heart of a Redneck

Contributors: Jodi Payne, B.A. Tortuga
Series: East Meets Western #6
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: B07ZRT9XRD
ISBN13: 978-1-951011-08-6

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