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by Sue Brown
Category: Erotica/Gay-Lesbian Erotica/Romance
Description: A decade on from their first kiss, Luke Murray is more in love with Simon every day. Running the Lost Cow ranch for Luke's parents, they keep their heads down and get along with the locals, even if Luke is known for being a hothead. Then one day they discover the local store owners refuse to serve them. They're bewildered until Luke's mom tells them the new pastor has targeted the couple in his sermons. Suddenly Luke and Simon find themselves alienated from people they called friends, and their ranch comes under a series of attacks. As the town's hatred and homophobia turns on them, Luke and Simon will face a critical choice: give in to the town's demands and disappear, or stand and fight for themselves and their love.
eBook Publisher: Dreamspinner Press/Dreamspinner Press, 2011 2011
eBookwise Release Date: March 2011
19 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [313 KB]
Reading time: 201-282 min.
The yawn caught him by surprise. Luke stretched his arms and rolled his shoulders, trying to relax back muscles that had tensed up after three hours at the computer. If he was yawning at nine o'clock in the morning, it was time to stop. He squinted at the screen. The spreadsheets were done and the accounts almost up to date. Another half an hour and it would be done.
He looked longingly out the window. It was still early enough in the year that long sleeves were needed first thing in the morning. Somewhere out there his ranch foreman was riding back to the house to make his morning report, enjoying the early morning sunshine before the heat sucked the enjoyment out of the day.
Luke pouted at the computer, despite the fact there was no one to see it. He wanted to be out there on Lulu sucking in lungfuls of the morning air, smelling the sweet grass instead of stuck in front of a computer. He was a cowboy, dammit, not a goddamned paper pusher.
"If you're not careful, your face will freeze like that forever."
"I'll be chained to this chair forever," he commented sourly, turning around to look at his ranch foreman grinning at him through the open window. As ever, his floppy, dark hair was covering his eyes, and Luke resisted the temptation to go to the window and push the hair back so he could see the large ocean-blue eyes with their mischievous glint.
"Not finished yet?" Simon sounded sympathetic, knowing just how much Luke hated to be stuck inside with the books.
Luke scrubbed the back of his neck. "'Nother half-hour, I think. Just got the accounts left." He grimaced. "Was the fence still up?"
Simon nodded. "Not for long, though. How 'bout we have our morning meeting, and then I'll fix breakfast while you finish up. We need to get to town to sort out the feed before Lil arrives with the new stock."
"Sounds like a plan. Meet you in the office?"
"Five minutes for me to hand over to Chuck, and I'll be there," his foreman promised.
Checking the window to see Simon wasn't still watching, Luke poked his tongue out at the computer. His mood vastly improved, Luke grinned at he made his way up to the "office." Now it was time for his reward.
* * * *
He'd known Simon for ten years, and for over half that time they'd been running the ranch. Technically it was still his daddy who owned it, but they both knew it was only a matter of time before he sold it to them. Luke's older brother had no interest in ranching, and his sister was at college. Neither of them had an objection to Luke taking over. Luke's parents lived on the outskirts of the ranch, closer to the town.
Simon had been Luke's roommate at college. It had taken about five minutes for both of them to realize they'd met a friend for life. It took a little longer for Luke to come clean about his sexuality. It was one thing to be instant buddies with a guy, but he was from deep Bible country, and he wasn't stupid... except when he was drunk.
Turned out Simon had his secret too. It took a month, too much cheap beer, a homophobic prick, and Luke being stupid to discover what Simon was hiding. Simon had to drag Luke physically out of the bar before he got them both arrested for assault and Simon for underage drinking. Luke was a hothead when he was filled with liquor and so riled up he'd have gone back in there to complete what he'd started. Even then Luke was wiry and strong, a legacy from growing up on the ranch. Simon was like a blade of sweet grass compared to now, but he had the height advantage, and he used it, crowding Luke against the wall and pinning his wrists against the rough brick until he calmed down. Still struggling against him, Luke spat abuse at Simon for not letting him finish beating the crap out of the man who'd called them faggots as they had a quiet drink in the corner.
Simon had stopped the bitter words before Luke said something they'd both regret. He did it the only way he could, pushing Luke even closer into the brickwork and licking, licking, Luke's lips.
"Shut the hell up," he'd sighed as he bent down and kissed him.
Luke could still remember the taste of soda and wings as Simon captured his mouth in the sweetest kiss he'd ever experienced. Luke was four years older than Simon. He'd delayed going to college because his daddy had been sick, and by the time he finally got there he felt like an old man compared to the young kids fresh out of school. Simon was different; he seemed older, tempered by life despite the fact he was only eighteen. Luke was no stranger to kissing but nothing had prepared him for the realization that by the end of this kiss he knew this boy was the one he wanted to spend the rest of his life with. The shock silenced him more effectively than the actual kiss.
By the end of the evening, he found out Simon felt the same way, and when Luke went back to the Lost Cow ranch at the end of his college course, it was inevitable Simon would follow him. His momma and daddy dealt with Simon's arrival the way they dealt with Luke's announcement that he was gay: they were kissed, hugged, and told to keep their heads down. And for the most part, they did. The hands knew, of course. They knew everything. Those that had a problem quickly left and those that stayed kept their mouths shut.
Ten years on, and Luke still couldn't believe his luck in finding someone he wanted to spend every waking and sleeping moment sharing his life. Simon had worked his way up to ranch foreman, and they shared the responsibilities for running the ranch.
They quickly worked out Luke was a lot less cranky when he got the paperwork out of the way early in the morning, leaving the rest of the day free to be a cowboy, out with the hands. Which was why they did the morning meeting after the paperwork as a reward for being a good boy. No paperwork, no report, and damn, wasn't Luke an asshole for the rest of the day if that happened.
Luke went into the office and got the shower running. He shucked off his clothes and stepped into the hot water with a sigh of relief. He let the water run over his face and down his body as he relaxed, a low moan of bliss escaping him.
"Hmmm, looks like you've been getting ahead of me, bossman."
Luke smiled. "I'm not getting anything at the moment. Thinking it's about time my foreman gave me his morning report."
A warm, solid body slid in behind him, pressing up close against him. "Reporting for duty, sir."
This was Luke's favorite time of the day: his cowboy giving him the important news as his hand slid down Luke's flat abs to enclose his already hard cock. Simon bit down on the tender skin at the base of Luke's neck and jacked him firmly.
He leaned into the bite and shuddered as Simon sucked a bruise into the tender skin. "Anything need, fuck, mentioning?" Luke gasped as the pad of Simon's thumb dipped into the slit on the head of his cock.
"Good, do that again."
"What? This?" Simon bit down hard on Luke's shoulder blade. At Luke's frantic nod, he bit him again. And again, marking him possessively over his back. Luke writhed against him, ignoring the spray of water in his face as he pushed back against Simon's teeth.
"Fence still up on the far side?" Luke gasped as Simon bit down particularly hard on the sensitive skin on his hip bone.
"Yeah, but it needs replacing. It ain't gonna last another winter."
"We'll order the posts 'n' stuff in town. Touch me," he begged. The bastard was on his knees but ignoring the hardasfuck cock almost leaping out for his attention.
Simon looked up at him, the water plastering his hair all over his face. His eyes were dark and blown, he looked wild, and Luke wanted him now. "It'd be cheaper to order it on the net. Beg!"
"I just did," Luke pointed out. "You know I prefer supporting the locals." He caught the determined look in Simon's eyes. Oh fuck. Simon would walk out if he didn't. "Please suck me now, sir, before I lose my fucking mind."
"So damn bossy for a bottom." Simon leaned forward and licked the head, chasing the taste as it was washed away.
"'M your bottom, and don't you forget it." He was clutching onto Simon's head, trying to direct him where he wanted that mouth, but Simon wasn't having any of it.
Simon got to his feet, ignoring Luke's moan of protest. "You're wasting your money."
Luke was spun round again and shoved up against the tiles. They were still cold, despite the hot water pounding against them. He squirmed, trying to get some comfort for his dick.
"Still!" Simon ordered.
He stayed perfectly still, knowing better than to move. Simon was just as likely to walk out and leave him like this if he didn't obey. He felt Simon's hand slide between his ass cheeks, and then he was being probed, fucking tormented, as he was prepared, Simon making sure he brushed Luke's prostate every third stroke or so.
"Hate you," he hissed.
"Nah, you don't," Simon murmured, his voice lazy and amused in Luke's ear.
"Yeah, I do. Are you gonna fuck me or just use me for finger exercises?" He looked over his shoulder and caught Simon's expression. "Fuck!"
"As you wish."
The next second he shrieked as his face was pressed into the tiles, and he was impaled on the hard shaft of Simon's cock.
"You shriek like a girl," Simon grunted as he thrust hard. Luke grunted back. The cold tiles were digging into Luke's bones as he was shoved and pounded into next week.
"How many girls you been with?" Luke tried to ask, although forming coherent sentences when his brains were being fucked out wasn't easy. Considering the length of time they'd been together, he should know the answer to that question.
"A few, long time ago." Simon sounded somewhat breathless.
"I catch you with a woman, I'll tear your balls off," Luke threatened. It was no idle threat, as Simon knew. His partner had the temper of the devil, and he'd given Simon shit more than once for eyeing up another man. Their relationship was totally exclusive: no question, no room for anyone else.
"You talk too much."
"Then fuck, don't tease."
"Shut up." Simon pulled back until he was almost out, just the head of his cock caught at the rim. Luke whined at the loss. "Not another sound."
Luke opened his mouth to retort and then shut it quickly.
"Good boy." The soft purr made Luke shiver.
Simon took Luke's hands and placed them flat against the tiles, covering them with his own larger hands. He pushed Luke further into the side of the shower. Luke's cheek was flat against the tiles, feeling every ridge, every imperfection. Simon bent his head so his lips brushed Luke's ear.
"Don't you dare come until I tell you, y'understand?"
Luke nodded, still not being given permission to speak, but the anticipation was almost killing him.
"I love you," Simon whispered as he did every morning when Luke was silenced. It drove Luke mad not being able to respond, which was, of course, why the bastard did it.
All he was allowed to do was try to keep standing as Simon pounded him toward an explosive orgasm, unable to hang onto anything, unable to make a sound, unable to come until he was given permission.
Because, yeah, Luke might be the boss of the Lost Cow ranch, but in the "office," in here, Simon was most definitely in charge. Luke fucking loved morning report.
* * * *
As they were getting dressed, short sleeves now that the day was heating up, Simon made a sudden noise. Luke looked up from rolling on a sock.
Simon pulled a black T-shirt over his head, his tanned muscles rippling. It was like watching porn, Luke thought, watching his man getting dressed. Porn just for him.
"I took a call from Momma before I came up. She asked if we could visit her before we go into town. Said it's urgent."
Luke glanced at the clock. "By the time you've cooked breakfast and I've finished the accounts, it's gonna be gone eleven. We've gotta be back by two for the new stock. I'll call her on the way in and tell her we'll visit this evening."
"Momma sounded kinda stressed." Everyone on the ranch called Luke's mom Momma, even his daddy.
Luke frowned. "Wonder what's up. Did she say?"
"Not really. Something to do with the new pastor."
Luke grinned at him as he stood up. Their old pastor, who'd been with them since Luke was a small child, had just retired and the new man started last week. Normally the two boys went with Luke's parents to the Sunday service, but yesterday they'd been up half the night trying to repair some fences which came down in a sudden storm and had boycotted the service in favor of a couple of hours sleep together.
"He's probably upset old Ma White with his sermon. New man an' all that. It'll be fine." He grimaced, thinking of the accounts he had to go back to. "Breakfast?" he asked hopefully.
"Sure." Simon leaned over and gave him a kiss which he returned eagerly.
A few breathless and distracting moments later, they went downstairs to get the rest of the day underway, Luke's momma sliding out of their minds.
* * * *
It was well after eleven before they left the ranch. Chuck, Simon's deputy, had wandered in as they were eating breakfast to ask for advice regarding Del, another of the horses. Luke was the horseman, and he dealt with most of the minor problems, rather than call out the vet.
Luke looked over at Simon as they pulled closer to Parson. He was slumped back in the seat, legs sprawled out, and the gentle bulge in his jeans taking Luke straight back to a few hours earlier. His eyes were shut, and Luke took the opportunity to stare at him closely. Fine lines were fanning out from his eyes, and he needed a shave. Maybe Luke would offer later. It was so intimate, the feel of the razor scraping along stubble, baring neck and throat to the only person they trusted with such a task, the sensitive skin soothed with soft kisses. It was like offering himself up, sensual and slow.
"Keep your eyes on the road, bossman."
Luke gave him a smirk but obediently turned back to the road. "Just admiring the view."
Simon snorted. "Nothing you haven't seen before."
"The only view that's worth seein'," Luke said huskily.
His partner opened his eyes and smiled at him. "Should see the view I get to look at everyday."
Luke's breath caught in his throat. Fuck, he adored this man.
"Did you manage to sort out Del?" Simon asked.
Dragging himself away from admiring Simon's arms, Luke thought about the chestnut horse. "He's fine. Chuck was just worrying. Been thinking you were right, though." Simon looked over inquiringly. "It's about time we got another horse." It had come up in another of their morning meetings. Simon had suggested it as Lulu was getting on a bit. Luke had been resistant to the idea as he'd had the large bay horse since he was ten, but he'd had to admit, she was getting a bit long in the tooth for the kind of work he needed.
"Not sure Macken will sell to us again." Macken was the local horse dealer and one of the traders who had made it obvious he was unwilling to do business with them.
"Perhaps if you stopped calling the horses names like Lucifer, Deliverance, and Leviticus he might be happier. What are you gonna call the next one? Sodom?" Simon suggested dryly. He paused. "You're not, are you?"
"Nah, can't think of a short version. Sod just doesn't cut it."
"You've tried, then."
"Yeah. Momma pitched a fit." Luke gave Simon a mischievous grin.
Simon rolled his eyes, then asked, "Did you call her?"
"Damn, I forgot. Never mind. I'll call her on the way back."
"Don't forget. She said it was urgent."
"I won't, Mom."
Luke stuck his tongue out as he pulled into a parking space in front of Benson's Feed.
"I keep telling you one day your face will freeze." He did, at least once a day. It didn't stop Luke.
"You'll still love me. Now git, and sort out that fencing."
They didn't kiss, as they were in town, just squeezing each other's hand before they got out of the car. Sometimes it killed Luke to have to be circumspect, but this wasn't the place to declare his love for Simon, even if most people had an idea.
"See you back here in half an hour. I'll pick up something from the deli." Simon loped off down the road.
Luke watched him go, just for an excuse to admire his ass, then turned into the store, saying a cheery hello to another one of the customers. He wasn't sure of his name, but he knew it was a hand from Stevenson's spread. To his surprise the man just grunted at him and walked off. Luke stared after him and then shrugged. He'd been friendly enough in their previous encounters.
He stepped up to the counter and waited for his turn. Marion was working the till today. She ran the store with her husband, Dave. They were friends of his parents, and Luke had gone to school with their children. There had even been the fanciful suggestion that he should marry their daughter, Jeannie. That was of course before Luke declared himself batting for the other team and found the only person that rocked his world.
The customer completed his order and left. Luke smiled at Marion.
"Morning, Marion. How are you today?"
"Fine," she said curtly. "What do you want?"
"The usual order, please." Luke frowned slightly. Marion Benson was usually very cheerful and extremely polite. She tended to do most of the till work as she was better with the difficult customers. Cowboys round Parson weren't known for their flowery manners.
"Is anything wrong, Marion?"
Luke was taken aback at her rudeness and thought he would talk to his mother about it that evening. Lost Cow placed the same order every month, so it didn't take long to finish up. She didn't seem to want to chat as normal, so Luke bade her farewell and went to leave the store.
As he reached the door, Dave stopped him. He didn't seem to want to look Luke in the eyes, and there was a sheen of sweat across his brow.
"I'd appreciate it if you'd send Chuck in to do business in future."
Luke just stared at him, unable to believe his ears. "Dave? Is something wrong?"
Dave seemed fixated on a point on the concrete floor. "Just be better all round if you didn't come in here for a while. Chuck can do it, or you can phone it in, and he can pick it up. Order's the same every month."
"So you're happy to take my money but not deal with me directly. Is that it?" Luke asked sharply. He could see the man squirming in front of him.
Dave looked over at Marion, who gave him a brief nod. "It's best that way. Marion and me, we can't be seen doing business with you or Simon at the moment."
Luke swallowed hard as his stomach turned. What the hell? "You've known me all my life, Dave. Now you've got a problem? Have we offended you in some way?"
"Please, Luke, just send Chuck in." There was a pleading look in Dave's eyes, but Luke's temper was up, and he wasn't in the mood to be generous. He'd been coming in here for years. His daddy had done business with them since the Bensons took over the store. They knew he was gay, and they'd never made a single issue about it.
"I don't think so. You'll honor the order I've just paid for?"
"We'll be taking our orders elsewhere from now. You won't be getting our business again."
Losing the Lost Cow's order would be a blow to the Bensons' business, and Dave blanched. "Luke, please, there's no need to do that. Just lay low 'til things settle down."
Ignoring the plea and not really understanding the way it was phrased, Luke stalked out, furious and upset all at the same time. He stood on the forecourt, not really sure what to do first. Then he saw Simon coming toward him, his face a bright red. He was either angry or embarrassed. Luke had a good idea which it was.
"They wouldn't serve me. That bastard wouldn't serve me!" Simon was so angry he could barely string the words together.
Simon nodded. "He made me wait, and then he said he wouldn't serve my kind. My kind!" He was spluttering. Luke laid a hand on his arm to calm him down, but he shook it off angrily. "I've played soccer with this man. I fuckin' helped him when his little girl was sick. I...."
"I know, Si, I know, okay? The Bensons were the same." Luke grabbed his arm again and made him stand still. Normally Luke was the one losing it, and Simon was the voice of reason.
"Them too?" At Luke's nod, Simon said, "What the hell's goin' on? The town's gone nuts over the weekend."
"Damned if I know, babe."
"Fucking faggots. You ought to be put down before you infect decent folk!"
They looked up at the vitriolic words. Some men in an old Chevy spat at them as they drove by. Luke knew the men. They were hands on a neighboring spread.
"What on earth is going on, Luke?" Simon stared after them with a bewildered look on his face. Luke wanted to kiss it off his face.
As Luke opened his mouth to suggest they get the fuck out this hellhole formerly known as his hometown, his cell rang. Before he could say a word, his mother was talking.
"Luke, is that you?"
"Yeah, Momma, I'm here."
"I told Simon I need to see you before you go into town. You were supposed to visit me this morning." His mother sounded agitated.
"Sorry, Momma. We got distracted." He ignored the knowing sigh. "What's going on? When did we become Public Enemy No.1?"
Simon was pacing over to the truck. Luke unlocked it with the remote. Without looking back Simon got in and slammed the door.
"It's the new pastor. He's been getting people all riled up. He's not like Jim. This new man is all fire and brimstone. He took over an hour to tell us the devil was among us and should be driven out. He was targeting you and Simon. Didn't mention you by name but everyone knew who he was talking about."
"But we're part of his congregation. I've been going since I was a little boy. He does know that, right?" Luke's heart sank as he listened to his mom. It had been a long time since he'd had to face this kind of homophobia.
"Not anymore, son. He says it's God's will to rout out the deviants, kept quoting all these Bible verses."
Luke tugged on his hair, something he did when he was stressed. He was aware Simon had turned to watch him and he put his arm down. "Yeah, Momma, I know the ones." He'd been quoted every Bible verse that so-called God-fearing folk could find and a few more besides. Even Pastor Jim had tried in his time.
"Listen, we gotta go. Lil is coming over at two, unless she changes her mind."
"It's started already?" Pamela sounded distraught.
"It's all right. Nothing we can't ride out. It's natural for folks to follow their preacher."
He hoped he was right because it sounded like this man was more than the normal bigot. He had authority and influence. God, look what he'd achieved with one sermon. He could drive Lost Cow to the wall within months if he persuaded everyone to stop doing business with them.
"They're your friends, Luke."
"Not anymore, it seems. The Bensons and Tom Smith have already told us to get outta town."
There was a bitten-off curse. His momma never swore, which told Luke more than anything how stressed she was. Then Pamela said, "I'm coming over. Two o'clock you said? Daddy and I'll get lunch and drive on over. Do you need any food?"
"No, Momma, we did that yesterday. Honestly, you don't need to come."
That was the last thing he needed. An angry partner and an upset mother. Just peachy. Luke sighed. The day had started out so well.
"Lil's a friend." So were Dave and Marion. "If there is trouble, I want to know about it."
Simon was still watching him, tapping his fingers impatiently on door. "I'll see you later on, then."
"We'll be there." She sounded determined.
Luke snapped the cell shut and walked toward the car. He slid behind the wheel and looked over at his man. "You all right?" Stupid question.
"Yeah." Simon didn't meet his eyes, though.
Luke leaned over and cupped his chin. "I love you." So fucking what if the narrow-minded pricks in this town had a problem with it.
Simon slumped in his grasp. "I love you, too, dipshit."
"That was Momma." Simon nodded. "We've got a big problem." He managed a laugh as Simon rolled his eyes theatrically.
He gunned the engine, and they got going toward the Lost Cow. As they drove, Luke described the conversation with his mother. Simon said nothing, just stared out of the window. Out of the corner of his eye, Luke could see his bleak expression. After he finished Luke waited for Simon to say something. A few minutes went by.
"Si?" Luke asked uncertainly. "Say something."
Out of the corner of his eye he caught Simon shrugging. "What the fuck is there to say?"
Luke was taken aback. He expected... he didn't know what he expected... but it wasn't this. "You know what this could mean for us, the ranch, if the town turns against us. We might have to give up the ranch. There might even be attacks on us. Everything we've worked toward could go to hell."
"Yeah, I get it. Believe me. I get it." The bitterness was evident in every word, and Luke felt there was a whole hidden meaning there he didn't know about. That scared him as well because he didn't know where it was coming from. After ten years he thought he pretty well knew everything there was to know about his partner.
"Well, do we stay and fight or do we turn tail and run?" Simon asked.
There was only one answer. Whatever Luke could be called, he was no chicken. "Have you ever known me to run from a fight?" he demanded.
Simon grinned, a weak version of his usual smile but there nevertheless. "Can't say as I have. Fight it is, then."