Purchase at Amazon ARE B&N
The old girl came at him, her eyes wide and her nostrils flared. She aimed to escape, no matter what it took. She was a mean one, had been for years, always looking for trouble. He’d kept his eye on her all morning, just waiting for her to make her move. With her head low, she aimed for his gut.
Lane Daniels jumped; he scrambled up the tall metal fence, jerking his feet away from her aim seconds before her horn scrapped the rung he’d been standing on. He pushed himself over the top and dropped to his feet outside the corral. The cow bawled, jumped, bucked, and huffed, spraying spit all over the dirt where he’d been standing only moments before. He pushed back his cowboy hat and adjusted his gloves as he blew out a quick breath, thankful he’d gotten away from the cow yet again.
“Whoo boy, you almost got it in the dick, or was it your belly?” Jamie called out. He looked half like a scraggly rodeo clown with that huge smile on his face, his bright plaid shirt, and his flaming red hair sticking out from under his tan Stetson—the one Jamie’s daddy wore when he worked this very same ranch. Jamie told that story over and over again, letting Lane know just how long he’d been connected to the Crazy Hills Ranch, and how he knew the place better than anyone.
Andy, Jake, and Sterling, three of his ranch hands, busted out laughing, slapping their knees and pointing at Lane; then they danced around funny, like a cow would run them over at any moment. Lane smiled and laughed with them. They’d been at it for hours and needed some comic relief. Being the target of their jokes didn’t bug him. They all respected him as boss, even if they did rib him unmercifully during the workday. Hell, most cowboys were total practical jokers; pushing buttons and clowning around to lighten the mood and make work fun. At least his crew played nice and didn’t pull any destructive pranks.
The cattle bawled as three more calves were cut from their mammas. It was hard on the cows when their babies were culled from them. The old gal would have run him through if she’d been a bit faster and he a bit slower. She knew his actions were wrong by her. She had a little girl calf, so at least the baby wouldn’t be aching between the legs when the veterinarian finished his tasks.
Lane breathed out a heavy sigh as the cowboys went back to work. In a few months they’d be here again, doing the drill for a second time this year. Rolling Acres, the ranch next door, had asked Mister Miller to take their cows and work them, paying a handsome percentage of the profits from market. Lane had agreed to the plan—now he wished he hadn’t. Too many of Rolling Acres' cows weren’t on the same calving schedule; not that they were mismanaged, but at Crazy Hills he ran a tight ship.
Lane slapped his hands on his jeans, wiping them off. His head hurt and he wanted more coffee, some good barbecue, and maybe a hot man to snuggle with—possibly even take the edge off—but only the first two were a sure thing. He’d been up since three this morning and the sun had about hit its apex. He didn’t want to check the time, didn’t want to know how long they’d worked. He loved being a cowboy but hated working cows through the chute to give them medicine, especially the babies. Days like today made him long for a good jump zone even if he were getting shot at. At least they were almost done with the cows and then he’d have the luxury of kicking off his boots, enjoying some of that barbecue and beer with the boys while they joked with each other. Too bad he felt the need to keep his sexuality under wraps and couldn’t go into town for a quick screw. He didn’t have time off to drive into Houston for a few more weeks so getting some loving would have to wait.
The crunch of tires on gravel sounded behind him. Not today. Jamie came close again and glanced over Lane’s shoulder, his face going blank.
“Shit.” Jamie drew out the word to two syllables then spit a stream of tobacco juice into the dirt a few feet from Lane. “Here comes trouble.”
The last thing Lane wanted, or could stand, made its way to the corral. Perhaps the unexpected guest was Daddy Big Bucks and not his son, Gresh the Third. He didn’t want to look, didn’t want to know, and didn’t want to think about Gresh. Ignoring the sound of the car behind him, pretending he hadn’t heard anything on the gravel road, would only last so long. The car drew closer and slowed. Acting as if he wasn’t here would prove useless since he couldn’t ignore the man who wrote his checks. The boss ruled and expected to be catered to, especially out here in Texas ranch country. Hell, that was unfair; Gresh wasn’t too bad of a guy and Hamilton was old-school, imprinted during a different era with different expectations.
Lane’s foot started tapping and the skin nearest his spine tingled. He gritted his teeth and forbid any errant thoughts. Who the hell drove their rich ass out here to pay the ranch a visit in the middle of the week on a workday? Gresh or Hamilton? Lane turned his head in time to see Gresham Hamilton Miller the Third step out of his shiny black BMW, his Italian loafers attracting dust like flies to honey. Lane groaned and bit his lip. Damn, why did he have to think of honey and Gresh at the same time?
Lane didn’t curse and tried to not show any reaction to observing the man, though his dick didn’t obey. He forced his thoughts to go dark, thinking pain, like when his leg had snapped in two, to will his dick down. He gritted his teeth as he pulled off his well-worn work gloves. After wiping his hands on his jeans, he looked down and cursed. Filth from driving cattle and working them through the chute covered him. Dried cow shit, blood, and whatever the hell else he’d gotten into while rounding up the cattle flecked his jeans.
Gresh looked like he’d stepped off the cover of GQ. His white starched shirt and black slacks wouldn’t fly here, but he sure looked delicious enough to eat. Damn, had to be today of all days for him to show up.
Lane pushed his hat low on his head, covering his eyebrows and hiding his peepers. He didn’t want to look Gresh in the eyes and see his contempt. Lane found it humiliating enough to be covered in cow shit, he didn’t need Gresh’s judgment on his choice of employment, which Lane happened to love; well, except for today because working the cattle sucked donkey balls.
“Lane, good to see you.” Gresh held out his hand, ready to shake.
Lane started to stick out his hand but held back. “Sorry, I’m dirty from working today. Mister Miller, what can I do for you?”
“We’ve been through this before, it’s Gresh.” The million-dollar smile lit up the man’s face, leaving Lane tingly all over.
Lane pursed his lips and squared his shoulders. “If you don’t mind, you’re the boss and I like to keep it formal.” Goose pimples rose over Lane’s arms as awareness of the man raced through him.
If he said Gresh’s name out loud he’d get hard, like rock hard, and granite would have nothing on him. Too many nights he’d taken care of his wood, whispering Gresh over and over again as he ran his fingers over his pole. The name would wake up his dick and he didn’t need that. Hell, hard enough not imagining Gresh’s full lips on his body, Gresh’s hands twisting in his hair. Fuck, cool it, idiot.
“Well, I came by to say that Daddy is really pleased with your numbers this year. We were going over the financials and wanted to sit down and talk with you about next year.”
“You could have called. We’re kind of busy out here.”
Gresh looked out across the cow pens at the cowboys tossing their hats in the air, their whoops of celebration carrying across the fields.
“I think they just doctored the last of the cows,” Gresh said. “Y’all seem to be done. And if I remember correctly, tomorrow will be a light work schedule, even for the foreman.”
Lane watched as baby cows and mammas were reunited at the exit gate to the pens. Smarty-pants in the education world might not think that cows had feelings but witnessing a mamma and baby reunited after the cowboys worked them told him a different story.
“We want you to drive into Houston tomorrow. We’ll meet at the office downtown, and Daddy wants to take you to dinner.”
This time Lane groaned. A half-day away from the ranch was the last thing he needed. Fuck, he sure as hell didn’t want to spend Friday evening with Gresham Senior. Crap, not like he’d be going on a date anyway. He wasn’t out of the closet so to speak. But traveling into Houston to meet men like the Millers wasn’t exactly the type of men he wanted to play with on a late Friday night. If he took the time to drive into town he’d go straight to Get Bent, Houston’s hottest gay bar and, well, he’d get bent. Hell, maybe he would stop by the bar on the way home to take the edge off. A little poke would go a long way to relieving the pressure of being near this guy.
Gresh walked closer to the pen, his ass looking super fine in his dark slacks. The material hung just right, cupping the rounded globes of the ass he wanted to nail. Fuck, the desire to rip off Gresh’s pants and push him up against the fence raced over Lane, and he had to clench his fists to stop himself form stalking forward and claiming the man. Gresh had no idea Lane played for the other team and wanted to hump him like a dog in heat or be the one getting humped, with Gresh hanging over him, pounding into his ass. Lane shivered. The poor man would probably punch his lights out. Fuck, knowing what he did about Gresh, he’d probably find a lawyer to sue him or send him a strongly worded memo. Gresh wasn’t a pussy, but he took proper to a new level. Raised in the world of private schools and even more private clubs, Gresh lived differently than he did.
Lane had no idea how Gresh kept in shape. The guy probably belonged to one of those fancy pants gyms in the city with a personal trainer. Not that Lane cared how Gresh got his amazing body; he appreciated the muscles all the same. Too bad he’d never get the chance to run his tongue over the man’s sweet skin, finding all the dips and bulges, sucking love bites and marking the man as his own.
Gresh spun around and the smile on his face almost knocked Lane on his butt. Then again, Lane could stare at Gresh for hours and never tire of the sight.
“So, Lane. We’ll see you tomorrow downtown Houston. About three?”
Lane nodded once. “Sure. I’ll be there at three. I’m looking forward to seeing Hamilton.”
“It’s a date.” Gresh stuck out his hand for a shake and Lane almost accepted.
At the last second, Lane held up his hands and shrugged. “Sorry, still dirty.”
“I’ll see you tomorrow.” Gresh turned around and sauntered back to his luxury car.
Lane tore his eyes off Gresh’s perfect ass before any of the other cowboys noticed Lane drooling over a man. He’d picked a bad job to match with his sexuality. Who the hell ever heard of a gay ranch foreman? He was damned good at his job and knew animal husbandry better than almost anyone this side of Houston. Crazy Hills turned a huge profit compared to most other ranches that were drying up and selling off.
Lane took pride in the work he did, but he’d never be enough to capture Gresh’s eye, much less his heart; he’d need double X chromosomes to do that. Through the entire conversation he'd kept his gaze elsewhere, afraid to meet Gresh’s eyes. What a coward. So what if two years ago Gresh had curled his lip and turned his nose up in a blatant show of snobbery every time Lane entered the room. Lane had grown wiser and ignored those types of people. But hot damn, he wished Gresh would open his eyes and stop despising the work Lane did and the way Lane made a living.