Lean Stroud is wanted for robbery and a murder he didn't commit. On the run to California with his partner-in-crime, Kenneth, he spots the relentless bounty hunter, Thomas Grady, on the train. The only way to protect Kenneth is to create a distraction, and that's what he does when he flees the train at the top of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. He forces Thomas to chase him, but nothing can prepare him for what it means to be caught.
Thomas Grady always gets his man, and Leon Stroud is no exception to that rule. But almost from the moment Thomas touches Leon, he wants the outlaw for something besides his bounty. Driven by desire he doesn't understand, he repeatedly claims Leon's body on the long journey from Soda Springs to San Francisco -- and Leon only begs for more. An even bigger threat, with a larger bounty, could be the very thing they need to drive them together. Or tear them apart.
He felt inclined to untie one of Leon's wrists -- perhaps out of a misplaced sense of guilt. He doubted Leon would run, and it didn't matter anyway, because Thomas didn't intend to sleep while he was untied. He reached between their bodies and found the knot, working the rope until it finally loosened.
Leon didn't move. He didn't even wiggle his fingers. "What're you doing?" The wariness in his tone was to be expected. He probably thought this was a trick.
"I'm showing you a bit of human kindness. Are you going to make us both regret it?"
Silence. He waited for a snide comment, maybe something about how Thomas wasn't human, but it never came. Leon slipped one hand free of his bonds, while the other flexed, over and over again.
He half-rolled back in order to meet Grady's eyes. "Thanks. And no, you won't regret it."
"Good." He closed his fingers over the back of Leon's hand, trying to warm the numb skin. For a moment, the entire situation struck him as unbelievably absurd. What did he care if this man was shivering with the cold and had numb fingers? He never cared before when his bounties were uncomfortable, and he certainly never cuddled with one of them. But then, he typically didn't abuse his bounties either, and so maybe he owed that much to Leon, at least.
It wasn't just the circle of his arm that created an intimacy between the two men. The soft, warm breath pluming in the dark air in front of Leon dissipated into shadows to settle above and around them. Leon never tensed, nor did he pull away from Grady's touch.
"Where were you headed to?" Leon asked. "Someone going to be pissed you didn't show?"
"No. I've been tracking a guy who goes by the name of Phoenix. I heard he might have been in San Francisco. It was a thin lead, but enough to put me on a train."
"And seeing me was enough to get off it. Lucky for Phoenix."
"I'll catch up with him. Then I'll collect two bounties in San Francisco. It'll be a good day for me."
"Not so good for me and Phoenix."
"No, but we all make our choices, don't we?"
"Well, some of us try." Leon huddled deeper into his coat, which had the effect of driving his back harder into Thomas. "Then there's guys like you who take those choices away."
Thomas's lips thinned, and the annoyance he had felt earlier spiked behind his eyes. "No, you took your choices away when you started robbing coaches and killing people."
Leon threw off Grady's hand, turning in on himself in order to find warmth. "Never did. Not that it makes a difference to you. All you care about is your damn money."
Thomas didn't know why he was having this argument, only that he could feel his heart pounding faster. "I guess we do have something in common, then. I doubt you rob innocent people because it's just a good time."
"That doesn't mean I was planning on doing it for the rest of my life. But sometimes, a man has to do what he can to survive."
"And sometimes, a man gets caught. You should take it like a man and stop your whining."
Leon rolled around at that, and even in the dim light from the fire, his eyes flashed. "Take it like a man? Are you shitting me? I was doing just fine until you got greedy. Only, it wasn't good enough to just drag me in for the bounty, was it? You needed me to get off." He smiled, but there wasn't an ounce of amusement in it. "I'll bet you can't even get it up otherwise. You just took of the opportunity while you could."
Thomas acted without thought, grabbing Leon's shoulder and forcing his face to the ground, sitting up at the same time. He held the other man down, wishing that his cock wasn't already aching.
"I don't remember you fighting too hard to stop me. It must not bother you to be on your knees like a woman."
Leon struggled against his grip, one elbow knocking against Grady's arm. It didn't do anything to dislodge his hold, but it did serve to infuriate Leon more.
"You want a fight? It'll be my pleasure to give it to you."
Thomas caught Leon's free wrist and yanked it back down to the small of his back. As soon as Thomas released his shoulder to secure his hand, Leon began jerking and twisting, trying to get away from Thomas and kicking dirt onto the fire. Thomas growled with frustration and threw one knee over Leon's body, straddling his ribs to keep him still as he finished tying the knot.
"I thought you said you were going to behave."
Leon grunted as he balled his hands into fists. "That was before you started with the name-calling. I'm not some piece of shit you scraped off your shoe. And I'm definitely not some woman, too soft to take what you're dishing out."
"I didn't start this. I was trying to be nice to you. Trust me, that's a mistake I won't make again. You know what I think your problem is? That you didn't get off, too."
"No, the only problem I've had for the past two days is you." He tried to buck Thomas off, but his slighter frame was no match for Grady's greater bulk. "Will you get the hell off me? You've already got me in your favorite position. It's not like I'm going anywhere, now is it?"
Thomas quietly agreed with him, but before he could move, Leon shifted again -- just enough to grind against Thomas's erection. He squeezed his eyes shut, trying not to think about the fact that Leon was right -- he was in Thomas's favorite position.
"Is that really what you want?" Thomas asked, not convinced he cared either way about what Leon wanted.
"What, you think I'm going to beg to suck you off again?" His body had gone still, but his hands stretched, testing the returned fetters. Fingertips skimmed along Grady's arousal and froze. The fact that they didn't pull away was almost worse. "I take it back. It's not that you can't get it up. You can't get it to go back down again."
Thomas pushed his hips forward, almost automatically, straining for more contact with Leon's fingers. He wanted to insist that this was Leon's fault, and Leon's problem, but he didn't want to reveal that Leon had somehow managed to work his way under Thomas's skin. No doubt, Leon would figure out a way to work that fact to his advantage.
"I can think of a way to make it go back down again."
"Yeah, I just bet you can."
In spite of his annoyed muttering, Leon hooked between the buttons on Grady's fly, slipping rough fingers inside to scratch along his aching shaft. His breathing had quickened, faster and thicker clouds forming at his mouth before drifting away. Thomas would have bet his best pistol that the man was hard as a rock, too.