Solitary rancher Damon Carhart expects to spend the rest of his life alone. Then an injury to a beloved stock dog sends him to the nearest veterinary clinic for help. His crusty old veterinarian friend is away and in his place is a young doctor in whom Damon initially has no faith. Once he entrusts his canine friend to Eric Vann’s care, everything begins to change. And once desire gets a bite on him, what can he do but go along for the wild ride?
Eric Vann has loved animals all his life, following in an uncle’s footsteps to become a veterinarian. He knows if he ever finds a soul mate it will be another male. When Damon comes in, fierce in defense of his favorite dog, Eric is immediately captivated. Can he overcome the other man’s instinctive resistance to the powerful attraction that begins almost at once?
Damon was saddling up his favorite gelding, a blaze-faced dun, when a whirlwind roared into the ranch yard. As the dust settled, he saw the motorcycle, a sleek black Harley. The rider dismounted and took off his helmet, revealing a head of sandy blond hair.
Eric rides a Harley? It took him a moment to absorb this surprising bit of information. He hadn't pegged the young vet for a biker type, but then he'd been wrong in his judgment about the man once already. Maybe he'd better try for an open mind. I think I'm getting to be a sour old codger ahead of my time, stuck in my narrow rut out here. Time to snap out of it.
The vet slithered out of his leathers and draped them over the bike. When he turned to start Damon's way, Damon noticed how his faded jeans clung to muscular legs, how totally masculine he looked in them and a matching western cut shirt. He wasn't wearing a hat, but, to be reasonable, Damon had to admit a cowboy hat and a cycle helmet would hardly work together. Maybe he could scare up an old one because Eric was too fair-skinned to go bareheaded in the sun all day.
Without quite realizing what he was doing, Damon had stopped and just watched as Eric strolled toward the barn. He moved with an easy gait, just short of a swagger. Cocky sucker, isn't he? Given the way his Levi's molded his body, cocky now took on a whole new meaning. Damon grinned. We'll see if he's still feeling that good when Ole Red gets through with him.
Almost every rancher had a horse like Ole Red, a savvy, old cowpony who separated the real cowboys from the wannabees with uncanny skill. The old horse would never seriously hurt anybody, but he'd left many a drugstore cowboy to limp back to the ranch in pinching boots after scraping him off with a low hanging limb, doing a little buck-jump at an awkward time or balking suddenly after starting off at a lope. If Eric managed to stay on board the full day, Damon would give him an honorary cowboy degree for sure.
Eric did not comment at first when Damon indicated the rangy chestnut waiting at the hitching rack, but Damon saw him look the gelding over. "I can saddle him if you'll point me at the gear. And you don't have to give me the kid-and-old-lady horse. I've ridden."
"Old Red is no kid horse. He's one of the savviest cow ponies you'll ever see. Just give him a slack rein and let him work." He's just smart enough to tell if you know what you're doing.
Damon kept an eye on the other man, but it was soon clear he'd tacked up a horse before. He settled the blanket, then the saddle in place, cinched it up, dropped the halter and put on the bridle, then went back to give the latigo another tug. One of Ole Red's favorite tricks was to puff himself up when cinched. That way the saddle stayed loose. When the rider went to climb on, the saddle usually rolled to dump him on his ass.
When Eric swung up and settled in the saddle, Damon could see the stirrups were a little long. No surprise since he judged the other man to be about five-nine, which resulted in legs a bit shorter than those of someone Damon's six-two. He crossed the dusty ground to stand by Eric's left knee.
"Let me adjust those stirrups a notch or two. I usually trot to get out to where I'm going. It'll be a butt-thumping ride if you can't take some weight on your feet."
Eric drew his boot free of the stirrup. Damon's hands were not quite steady as he worked the buckle loose and set it up two notches on the strap. He circled the horse to do the same on the off side. That done he stood a moment, bemused. Without thinking, he put his hand on Eric's solid thigh. The muscle felt hard and warm beneath his hand, and flexed slightly to his touch. The sensation went through him like a jolt of electricity. He jerked back his hand as he felt the flush heat his face. Damn, what's getting into me?