Tomah has a minor obsession with Colin Abbey. He’s only been on Wild Lands Ranch for a week and he hasn’t been able to keep his eyes off the big cowboy. Colin rebuffs him at every turn and Tomah isn’t happy about having to conform to human standards while he’s at the ranch. It’s enough to make him want to go home.
When one of the first rodeos in the region comes to Colorado, Colin is curious enough to make the drive out to see what the rodeo is all about. He doesn’t know Tomah is in the back of his truck, or that the two of them are about to have one wild adventure together as they learn about each other and themselves in the heat of summer in 1969.
There were quite a few things Tomah had instantly disliked about being on the ranch. Wearing clothes and the smell of cattle were at the top of the list. The sound of the truck starting on the other side of the ranch from where he stood was right up there too. The smell of the engine might have actually topped his list.
But all of it was worth putting up with when he got to look at Colin Abbey all day. Tomah was a ranch hand, as were all of the wolves who spent time on the ranch, which made Colin their boss. He had a little sister, Constance, who tried her best not to be a nuisance, and for the most part she didn’t bother the wolves. Much. But Tomah wished Colin would bother them more. Or at least him.
Colin was massive, at nearly a foot taller than Tomah and a good seventy pounds heavier—wolves were never all that tiny to begin with. He had a head of short, curly brown hair, and his chest was nearly as hairy as that of any wolf. Tomah could have watched him all day. He had, in fact. Often enough that it was starting to become a problem for him at the ranch.
But every time Colin took his shirt off to get heavy, sweaty work done, Tomah wanted to run over to him and... well, he wasn’t entirely sure what he really would have done to Colin if the other man had let him within five feet of him. Colin seemed to have something against the wolves. Tomah was pretty sure it wasn’t that he was afraid of them. He didn’t smell like fear, at least. It was more that Colin moved away any time Tomah got close. And he always sat as far away from the wolves as possible during meals.
Tomah sighed dreamily as he leaned over the fence separating the different herds of cattle and watched Colin ride one of the horses in an open pasture. The horse was young and needed breaking in. Tomah would have loved to have that much of Colin’s attention focused solely on him.
He turned to look over his shoulder at another of the wolves. He was as old as Colin, and maybe as big too, but Tomah had known Pierce all of his life and he definitely didn’t want Pierce the way he wanted Colin. “What?” he snapped back.
“Stop staring at the human and get back to work! We need to move these cattle to another pasture. Then we’ve got to feed them. Then they need watering. And then we have to go clean out the barn since the horses are out of it. And then—”
“And then maybe you’ll learn to relax once in awhile?” Tomah suggested.
Pierce growled at him, and Tomah snarled right back. Some of the cattle turned to look at them, as if wondering what they were doing, but most of the lazy animals ignored them until they shifted and chased after them.
“You relax plenty enough for all of us here on the ranch, pup.”
Tomah rolled his eyes. Pierce needed to get the stick out of his ass. Or he needed to get laid. If Tomah wasn’t so set on Colin, he might have considered bringing that up with Pierce. But he only had eyes for one man. And, unfortunately that man seemed to want nothing to do with him.
“Tomah!” Pierce yelled at him again.
He grumbled as he turned to the cattle and got back to work. Staring at Colin some more would have to wait until later.
All of the hands ate at the dining room table, along with the Abbeys. Colin’s mother, Amelia, had insisted on their doing so from the beginning. Tomah liked eating with Colin—the rest of them, not so much. He also didn’t like that his meat was always cooked, or that there were vegetables on his plate, but Pierce had been there the longest and he had them all trying to be more like the humans and less like themselves. He pushed them around with his fork, which the humans also insisted they use. He was tempted to just pick up a piece of steak and pop it in his mouth, and pretend it was raw, but Pierce was watching him.
“What?” Tomah grumbled.
Pierce grinned. “They’re called vegetables. Eat them. They won’t kill you.”
Tomah wasn’t so sure. He was about to argue when he found Colin looking over at them. “You should be thankful my mother cooks for you,” Colin chided.
Pierce answered for him before he’d even had a chance to open his mouth. “Tomah is. We all are. It’s nice to be so welcome in your home.”
Tomah really didn’t like the way Pierce acted as if they had to lick the boots of the humans. He liked Colin. He wanted a lot more from him. But he wasn’t as into the other humans as Pierce was. The three other wolves with them barely spoke and hardly ever acknowledged the humans, or each other, unless they had to. They’d be leaving soon, since their four months on the ranch was almost up. Tomah had barely been there a week.
“Tomah...” Pierce went after him again when he didn’t start eating the vegetables.
He growled at him. He shouldn’t have, and he really hadn’t meant to, but he hadn’t been able to help himself. There were rules about how to act in the house, though. They weren’t supposed to act like wolves around the humans, and that included no growling at the dinner table.