fbpx

Heart of a Redneck

Contributors: Jodi Payne, B.A. Tortuga
Series: Standalone #with BA Tortuga
Genre: , , ,
Published by: Tygerseye Publishing, LLC
Pages: 240

HEART OF A REDNECK WILL RETURN SOON!

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?


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

 

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

Be sure to visit BA Tortuga online at batortuga.com

Land of Enchantment

Contributors: Jodi Payne and BA Tortuga
Series: Standalone #with BA Tortuga
Genre: , , , , ,
Published by: Tygerseye Publishing, LLC
Release Date: September 24, 2019
Pages: 330

AVAILBLE FOR PREORDER!

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. 

Buy the Book: Amazon

Also in this series:

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
ISBN13: 978-1-7330076-8-9

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

Wrecked

Contributors: Jodi Payne and BA Tortuga
Series: Standalone #BA Tortuga
Genre: , , , ,
Published by: Tygerseye Publishing, LLC
Release Date: July 23, 2019
Pages: 276

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~~Universal eBook Links

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
ASIN: B07TWK3Y8C
ISBN13: 978-1-733076-0-3

 

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