Rory Brown grew up in care but found a home, friendship, and a much-needed sense of security working on the Double J ranch. As far as Rory is concerned, fellow cowboy, Zane Fox, is perfect. Zane is strong but gentle, kind, big, ruggedly handsome ... and straight.
Rory works alongside Zane, eats alongside Zane, and when an ice storm causes a power outage, he sleeps alongside Zane ... for warmth.
Inhibitions lowered after getting drunk on his twenty-first birthday, Rory Kisses Zane and confesses his feelings for the man. The next day, when Rory learns his father is dying, although estranged from the man, Rory feels obligated to see him one last time. Zane follows Rory to Kansas and confesses he has feelings for Rory, too. After learning his father has died, Rory and Zane set off for home in Zane's old truck. However, bad weather and a mechanical breakdown mean they have to hole up in a guesthouse. Rory doesn't mind, it gives him a chance to explore things with his hunky new boyfriend. And there's a lot of Zane to explore.
Life on the ranch is little short of idyllic, Zane is everything and more Rory could want in a lover, protector, and friend. A tiny part of Rory knows he should brace himself for if/when the other shoe -- or cowboy boot -- drops. Rory is thrown when evidence of Zane's heterosexual past reveals itself, leaving him totally devastated.
Are Zane's feet made of clay, or can he redeem himself and once again become Rory's rock?
As they weaved their way back to the booth, the bar even more crowded than earlier, Rory had another glorious view of Zane's back, this time sans duster. Okay, so without it Zane looked less superhero-like but in Rory's expert opinion he was still all hero. Tall, broad, strong, shaven headed. A bit like Dwayne Johnson maybe. He chuckled. Dwayne, Zane. Even their names were similar.
Rory got an excellent idea for a gift for Zane's next birthday. A "The Rock" T-shirt. Assuming they still were being manufactured. Maybe he'd try and see if anyone had any on eBay.
They'd reached the booth. Liam and Wayne slid farther in, meaning he and Zane would be on the end. Zane gestured for Rory to enter first.
"Why, thank you, Dwayne." Rory smiled at his slip of the tongue, but the loud music meant no one else heard it.
Jimmy waved at Tonya, who came over, notepad in hand. "Another pitcher and four glasses, darlin'," he said, smiling up at her from his seated position.
"Sure thing, handsome." She leaned over the table to retrieve the empty pitcher and glasses, her low cut top revealing a fair amount of cleavage.
Rory chuckled. She was so barking up the wrong tree with this crowd. Well, maybe not with Zane. It's your birthday, remember? the little voice reminded.
"And a Diet Coke for me," Barry said.
"And another club soda for me," Zane added.
"Coming right up, fellas." She turned to Rory. "You having a good birthday, Rory?"
Rory nodded and smiled, pleased and surprised she'd remembered his name.
"Be back in a minute with your drinks."
Rory knew he shouldn't look, he'd only be storing up heartbreak for himself, but he had to turn to look at Zane to see if he was watching Tonya leaving. But there was no heartbreak. Zane was staring down at his finger that was drawing something in the condensation on the table. Then, possibly sensing Rory was watching him, he looked up and met Rory's gaze. He smiled.
"You okay?" the big man asked.
Rory couldn't help smiling back and nodding.
Tonya soon returned and, like a good waitress, remembered everyone's order. Was her smile just that bit broader and fixed on Zane just that bit longer when she handed him his club soda? No, Rory was imagining it. He yawned. But he didn't feel tired.
Barry took a sip of his drink. "I hope this Coke is caffeine-free, otherwise I'll be up half the night."
Jimmy leaned in and whispered something to Barry, who reddened and lightly slapped Jimmy's chest.
Rory laughed. It was his turn to redden when Jimmy's and Barry's gazes focused on him. "Sorry, I think I'm a bit drunk." He confirmed this by hiccupping.
Jake poured him a glass from the fresh pitcher. "Here, drink this, it'll cure your hiccups."
Rory doubted it but didn't want to offend anyone by refusing. "But I probably should make this my last."
He ended up having two more glasses. After all, he didn't want it to go to waste.
Barry excused himself to visit the john, both Jimmy and Jake deciding they ought to go, too. Rory watched them leave. Although there were no obvious signs they were together, the occasional brush of shoulders or a light touch made Rory wish he had someone who he could ... he didn't know. He yawned. Why was he suddenly feeling so tired?
"Let me out, guys," Wayne said. "Think I better drain the lizard before we leave."
Zane and Rory slid out of the booth, Rory feeling decidedly unsteady on his feet. He laughed at the weird but not unpleasant sensation.
"You're gonna be hung over in the morning, Liam told him.
Rory shook his head. Why was the room spinning? He put a hand on the table to steady himself. "Don't get hangovers."
"That's because you don't drink much."
Rory found that incredibly funny. But he couldn't fault Liam's logic.
"When you get back to the ranch, drink some water and take a couple Tylenol, okay?"
"Yes, boss!" Rory saluted Liam but ended up smacking his nose. He found that extremely comical, too.
Jimmy, Jake, and Barry returned.
"We ready to roll?" Jimmy asked.
"Can't go. No Wayne." Rory giggled.
"Do you need the bathroom before we go?" Liam asked.
Rory tried to think. He didn't know the answer, then realized he'd forgotten the question. "What did you say?"
Liam smiled. "I'll take you just in case."
"No, I'll take him." That was Zane. Sexy, wonderful, dependable Zane.
"My hero." Rory sighed and leaned against Zane's immoveable bulk. Rory tested Zane's immovableness ... immovability? by pushing at Zane then slapping the man's stomach. He didn't move an inch.
"Hey, quit it," Zane said, staying Rory's hand.
Rory mused aloud. "You're like a rock. The Rock. No, Rory's Rock."
"And you're drunk," Liam told him.
Rory found that incredibly funny and couldn't stop laughing as Zane guided him away. Where were they going again?