Ryan Putnam has lost everything. Laid off from teaching high school and dumped by his lawyer boyfriend, he has nowhere else to go but his childhood home -- the Good Fortune ranch. He plans to take the summer to regroup and start over. He never expects to be smitten with a cowboy. Especially not a cowboy like Teo Mendez, who is everything Ryan’s ex-boyfriend is not.
Four years after his wife's death, Teo Mendez has returned to what he loves the most -- working the land. He believes the Good Fortune ranch is the perfect place to build a new life for his son, Antonio. When his boss's brother Ryan shows up to work, the other man’s haunted eyes reminds Teo of everything he has lost as well. So he offers the only thing he can -- his friendship. But it doesn't take long for Ryan to reawaken long dormant emotions and desires.
Ryan doesn’t intend to find a relationship. Teo doesn’t want to complicate his life with a fling. What they have between them, however, is too powerful to ignore.
“You’re young, though. I bet when you’re ready, you’ll be able to find somebody else.”
“Thing is, you never know you’re ready until there’s somebody already there.”
With his gaze lowered, he had a perfect view to see Teo’s hand move. It crossed the distance between them, touched his thigh briefly, then lifted until it curved around the back of Ryan’s neck. It was even stronger than he’d imagined, barely affording the room to tilt his head so that he could see what Teo was actually doing, but the moment his lashes lifted, Teo’s mouth met his.
The firm kiss left little doubt it was deliberate. Teo touched his tongue to Ryan’s lips, and they parted automatically, giving the other man the space to plunge past. Something that sounded remarkably like a groan came from Teo’s throat. His grip tightened, and his other hand came around Ryan’s body to curl into his side and practically pull him onto Teo’s lap.
Ryan went numb with shock at the initial touch, but as the caress deepened, his whole body flared to life. He gripped Teo’s hard biceps, and closed his eyes, turning himself over to the kiss. It never occurred to him that he might be responding a little too enthusiastically, or too hopefully. All he knew was he had to take advantage of the contact while he could because it was perfect. Better than he had fantasized about. His cock was hard and throbbing before the kiss broke, and his palms itched to explore Teo’s entire body.
His lungs burned when Teo finally pulled back. Ryan swallowed a mouthful of air, but when he leaned forward to take another kiss, Teo wasn’t there.
“Shit,” Teo muttered.
His hands fell away from Ryan’s body, and the heat disappeared from where his thigh pressed into Ryan’s. Ryan opened his eyes in time to see Teo rise off the stairs, pacing forward several yards before halting and running his fingers over his bowed head.
“I didn’t mean it to go that far,” he heard Teo say, though he had to strain in order to make out the words. “I shouldn’t have done that.”
Ryan bit back his very strident protest in favor of a softer question. “Why?”
“Because you don’t need me muddying things for you. You need a friend right now. Not ... that.”
Ryan disagreed. He very much needed that. In fact, he was sure he needed that more than he had ever needed anything, including food and water. But he had only been out of a very long term relationship for a week and a half. He didn’t want Teo to be his rebound fling. His friend, yes. Something more, later? God, if Teo ever wanted that with him, he’d thank his lucky stars.
Besides, Ryan sensed this was another one of those boundary issues. And Ryan wanted to respect that.
“Yeah. You’re right.” Ryan stood as well. “But ... um ... what’s going on? I thought you were ... well, I mean, you were married.”
Teo didn’t look back at him. “I was married, because I fell in love with Carmen. Before her, I lived with a guy named Kirk.” He paused. “He’s the reason my family disowned me and I moved north.”
“Oh.” He sent a silent prayer of thanks to his mother. When Nora found out he was gay, she told him she loved him, and he’d better bring John to the Good Fortune so she could meet him. He didn’t know what his brothers felt about him being gay, but none of them, not even Ty, would go against Mama in her house. “You’re full of surprises, Teo. You know that?”
That finally drew Teo’s attention back to him. “Because I’m attracted to a good man when I see him?” He shook his head. “John was an idiot to let you go. And I’m a bigger idiot for taking advantage of you just because you get under my skin.”
“Because I didn’t think you noticed any men, good or bad.” Ryan moved forward, but he felt a little lightheaded. He could not remember the last time anybody had affected him like this. “Look, you didn’t take advantage of me. But if you want ... we’ll just pretend that this didn’t happen.”
“Can you do that?”
Ryan swallowed. “Yeah. I’m going to have to. I want your friendship. I’m not in a good place for anything more, and you don’t want to take advantage of that.”