“Careful where you throw that hay!”
Luke squeezed the shovel in his hands tighter, holding his annoyance at bay. These rough-stock cowboys were grating on his last nerve. “Sorry,” he said through gritted teeth, without any sincerity behind the utterance.
A warm hand landed on his shoulder. Instinct kicked in, startling Luke, and he almost punched his boss in the face.
The robust man with a stylish brown beard and a crooked, disarming smile brought his hands up his sides. “Easy, man. We’re all friends here, right?”
Embarrassed at the scolding, no matter how kind, Luke gruffly mumbled an apology. “Sorry. War flashbacks.” At least that part was entirely untrue.
Ben Stark, the foreman of the Smoking Gulch Ranch, tipped his felt cowboy hat a bit. “Understood.” He glanced over Luke’s shoulder at two other ranch hands working by the entrance to the stables. “If the guys are giving you shit, let me know, okay?”
Luke had a past as an undercover agent and he knew the risks of ratting. In close-knit communities like ranches that was especially true. Talking trash behind someone’s back to the boss was a sure fire way to get into trouble fast. Still he said, “Yeah.”
Ben walked off, shooting the breeze briefly with the two other ranch hands. The truth was no one was giving Luke shit about anything except his use of the pitchfork. He handled hay like a hungry animal foraging in the dirt.
All the guys at the ranch were nice—and to Luke’s surprise several of them were either gay or bisexual. And all of them liberal in their views of sexual minorities. Apparently the owner of the ranch, Simon Westfield, was gay. Plus, he had a husband—as gay marriage had been legal since 2014—and two little kids. The town of Snow Lake was far more tolerant than any rural town he’d come across, with several ranches either owned or worked by gay cowboys. No one batted an eye at them anymore.
As nice as that kind of progress was, especially in the outback of America, it had been almost two weeks since Luke had arrived to the ranch. While he’d definitely earned his living as a ranch hand, he sure wasn’t making headway into the case into a possible drug operation. Snow Lake was a sleepy little town where nothing much ever happened.
Or so he’d believed initially.
Sharing a renovated, modern bunkhouse with about a dozen cowboys and ranch hands had put him firmly in the heart of town gossip. Luke learned quickly that appearances were indeed deceiving. Snow Lake was revealed as a seething den of sin under a sleepy surface. Attempted bank robberies, gay bashings, stalkers and assassins, unjust custody battles, biker bars and a BDSM club, murder and mayhem. Listening to the guys rambling on, Luke started to feel like he was on candid camera, and that at any second they’d all jump up and call out, “sucker.” In fact, Luke might have preferred that scenario over the incredibility of these tall tales being for real.
“Hi, Luke.” A shy voice came out of nowhere. For the second time in five minutes Luke damn near jumped out of his skin.
As he turned, Luke came face to face with a young cowboy. Wisps of brown hair, a nose full of freckles, a hint of a stubble, melting chocolate-colored eyes, and soft, pouty lips. Thin, lean and lithe body, dressed in jeans, old army boots, a light-blue T-shirt, and a straw cowboy hat.
Eli. Little Elijah Townsend. The best thing on this case.
“Hi, Eli.” Luke tipped his own felt cowboy hat, as silly as the gesture seemed since they were both shoveling hay and stood mere ten feet apart. Eli’s smile and light chuckle confirmed as much.
Luke ducked his head and blushed. Eli really was awfully cute. There wasn’t anything feminine about him, but the second Luke had laid eyes on him, he’d known Eli was gay. Whatever the indefinable, elusive characteristic was, Eli had it in spades.
Plus, Eli’s presence just reminded Luke of how little good sex—or any kind of sex, in fact—he was getting.
“Saw Ben chatting with you,” Eli said, shaking Luke out of his sex-riddled thoughts. “Something wrong?”
“Nah.” Luke shook his head and smiled. “You good?”
Eli smiled, the look like pure sunshine. “Wouldn’t you like to know.”
He winked at Luke and ambled back to the other end of the stables to continue his hay-work. It wasn’t Luke’s imagination that Eli moved in a way to guarantee Luke’s eyes were on Eli’s delectable bouncy little ass. The sassy imp. What gall.
Luke went back to his own shoveling with a wide grin on his face.
“Roll over,” Luke said, breaking Eli’s concentration on pure pleasure.
“Huh?” The command seemed weird considering Luke was the one on top.
But without explanations Luke flipped them around so that Eli sat astride over Luke’s crotch, mimicking their positions from before. “That’s better,” Luke murmured, a shy grin appearing on his lips, like he wasn’t sure of the reception.
Eli stared down at the man he could read like an open book at times—and worse than an undecipherable ancient scroll at other times. “What did you have in mind?”
Luke worried his bottom lip between his teeth, gnawing at the thing so badly it was a small wonder he wasn’t bleeding profusely already. His cheeks reddened but Eli had a hunch that it wasn’t arousal that brought the crimson hue upon his fair skin.
Finally he whispered, “I…I wanted to know what you…the Dom does in bed.”
The confession surprised Eli. Usually he could tell when guys were turned on or off by his Dom facet. Luke didn’t seem the type to let another man to dominate him, sexually or otherwise. But it sure wasn’t an unpleasant surprise.
Eli knew he should tread carefully. Sex could be fun and playful but that didn’t mean the subject should be taken lightly with a novice. “How much experience do you have with BDSM? And no, I don’t mean watching porn.”
Luke’s Adam’s apple bobbed wildly and he blinked a couple of times. When he spoke, his tone remained hushed and cautious. “None.”
Eli nodded, choosing his words with care. “But…you’re interested in it?” With a shrug that was anything but casual, Luke said nothing. But his face was intent and his hard-on hadn’t gone anywhere. “Would you like to try something maybe?” Eli already had several wicked ideas he was toying with. They’d be wonderful with Luke, he surmised, anticipation building within him.
Luke licked his lips, blinking hard. Finally he nodded frantically.
Eli shifted into his Dom mode in an instant. “Hands above your head,” he ordered, his voice one that accepted no retorts or rebukes.
Startled at the sudden shift in mood and role, Luke hesitated. Then, slowly like trapped in a muddy swamp, he raised his arms and rested his hands above his head on the pillow.
“Good boy,” Eli praised Luke, crooning softly. Too bad he didn’t have his handcuffs with him. What could he use… He stretched down, yanked Luke’s leather belt from the jeans hoops, and tied it around Luke’s hands, binding him to one of the vertical wooden bed railings.
All the time, Luke watched Eli’s motions rapt, his eyes wide and unblinking, his mouth agape, without moving an inch. He didn’t struggle or try to stop Eli. Of course, Eli was well aware that stillness alone didn’t wasn’t a guarantee that Luke really wanted to do this. They’d both know as soon as things got to head.
Once he was done, Eli pressed his palms over Luke’s pecs. Luke’s heartbeat was rapid and quickening with the touch, the muscles jumping under his touch. But Eli said nothing and did nothing. This was meant to ground Luke, to calm him down before he had a stroke.
Soon Luke seemed to get with the program. His taut body relaxed, his pulse calmed, and his breathing slowed. Even a small smile rose on his lips. His unwinding was an act of trust. Eli had no intentions of betraying that faith placed in him.
“If you say red, I will stop,” he advised Luke, his tone level. One of them had to keep control over their emotions and thus the situation. “If you say yellow, I will slow down and you will tell me what you like or don’t like, and then we’ll see if we should still resume. If you say green, I proceed with your consent. Do you understand?”
The nervous swallowing from Luke didn’t go unnoticed by patient Eli. “Yes.” Luke’s voice cracked, a hoarse tone to suggest his excited state. But Eli waited for the actual word, as yes alone wasn’t enough. Luke let out a surprised chuckle when he reached that conclusion. “Green.”
Humming happily, Eli grinned at Luke who did the same. Luke must have been in the state of mind to follow Eli’s lead. That was fine, since Eli had no intentions of breaking through too many barriers in one night. Perhaps just one or two would do.
“Are you going to tell me what to do?” Luke asked, his expression curious rather than worried. Eli wasn’t about to deny the man’s right to ask about what troubled him. But Eli was glad that Luke didn’t seem nervous, only anticipating.
Eli cocked his head to the side, contemplative. “Would you like me to?”
Luke chuckled, mirth dancing in his green eyes that held flecks of gold. “You always gonna answer me with another question?”
Eli grinned. “Would that upset you?”
“Nope.” Luke smiled, relaxed and easy, confident in his position even with his hands bound. “And yes. I wouldn’t object if you…ordered me to do stuff.”
Well, that opened up a whole host of delicious possibilities, Eli thought in amusement.
They were both naked already so commanding Luke to undress for Eli’s pleasure was no longer an option. Neither could Luke touch Eli where he willed.
At least…not with his hands.
Eli dropped forward, bracing his hands at the sides of Luke’s head so that Eli’s chest all but brushed against Luke’s face. “Lick my throat.”