Stone Canyon

ManLoveRomance Press LLC

Heat Rating: Sizzling
Word Count: 91,000
6 Ratings (4.7)

Rancher Micah Stone shows up at Private Detective Able Kenton's office with a letter from his late mother. Micah wants answers. Able has his own letter to show Micah. Together they set out to find who killed Micah's mother and why. Their first clue leads them to an attorney and the police. Micah and Able fall in love while going back and forth from the ranch to the city, from one crisis to another. The characters at the ranch keep things hopping with their own lives filled with comedy, tragedy, and love.

They get their answer, but it comes hard.

Stone Canyon
6 Ratings (4.7)

Stone Canyon

ManLoveRomance Press LLC

Heat Rating: Sizzling
Word Count: 91,000
6 Ratings (4.7)
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Chapter One

"It's good to see you again, Mr. Stone. The car you ordered is waiting and the GPS has been set with the address you requested. I'm sorry for your loss, sir. Ms. Lizbet, she was a grand one."

"Thank you, Harry. She was that." Micah said, trying not to wince at hearing more condolences. He'd heard that people felt numb after a while, and he was waiting for that. Right now, thinking about what he'd lost with Lizbet's death was still fresh and painful.

He glanced back at the plane before heading for the car that waited. The Stones had used this small airport on the edge of Oklahoma City for years, and Micah knew most of the staff there.

"I don't know how long I'll be. I trust you to keep it ready for me," Micah shook Richard's hand.

"You know I will, sir. Take care."

Easing the luxury sedan onto the road, Micah punched in the number for the ranch on his cell, knowing Momm would answer.

"Stone Canyon. This you, boss?"

"Is that how you answer my phone, Momm?" There was a tiny bit of amusement in the question. As amused as Micah could be in the circumstances. He felt like he was living under a dark cloud of sadness, grief, and anger.

"Of course not. I'm usually completely professional. I figured it would be you. What can I do for you? I know you didn't want to take the big bag, but I packed for any occasion. Promise you'll hang those things up when you get to where you're going. I can't believe you left looking like you did."

"Why? I don't have to be dressed up to fly a plane, you know. Listen, I want you to be extra careful while I'm gone. If you notice anything unusual, you call me immediately and keep in close contact with Ronnie and Batman, okay. I'm serious, anything out of the ordinary. Don't take any chances. Don't let anyone in that you don't know."

"As if. You know I'm a big weenie. This is my safe place and the only person I feel comfortable having here is you, and sometimes you scare me."


"Okay, maybe not anymore. You're a softie, but I know better than to let anyone else know that. You take care of yourself, Micah. This place can't run without you. We'd all be lost. I'll hold down the fort here and you kick some ass up there. This sucks big ones, really." Momm was, as usual, eloquent.

"Colorful as usual, but true in this case. You take care, Momm. I'll be in touch." Micah started to hang up, but he heard Momm mutter.

"I wish."

"Stop that." Micah had told the handsome young man over and over that there would never be anything but friendship between them. Hell, he knew Momm would freak right on out if he even tried to come on to him. But the little fart loved to tease.

"Oops. Sorry. Bye." Click.

Micah patted the pocket of his denim jacket and felt the letter inside. His thoughts returned to the day he'd met Momm...

This past spring the boy had shown up at the ranch, scared and, by the look of the fading bruises, recently beaten. Without question, Micah took him into the house. The young man's first words were already legend. "Do you know how big those things out there in that field are?"

Laughing, Micah answered, "Cattle. They're called cattle and the bigger they are, the better they sell."

"You must be a rich, rich man, 'cause those are some big motherfuckers out there," the guy had Micah chuckling again.

"Do you have a name?" Micah led him to a seat at the kitchen table, went to the refrigerator and got some milk. He then headed for the store-bought cookies in the cabinet.

"Of course. Momm."

"Did you just call me Mom?" Micah stopped on his way back to the table, eyebrows raised.

"No," the man mumbled, head down now. "My name is Momm, with two m's. It's short for Mommquist. That's my name, Mommquist, uh, with the two m's."

Micah looked at the thin, short, handsome—despite the bruising—young man of clearly Hispanic descent and stood there with the milk and cookies in his hand, his expression showed that he knew the name was a lie. Momm had wavy dark brown hair, big almost-black eyes, and full lips with straight white teeth.

"Okay, Momm it is. How old are you and how'd you end up here?" Micah had several people on his staff who had come to the ranch pretty much the same way he did years ago; getting away from hell and finding a haven.

"I turned twenty-one a couple months ago. I know, I know, I don't look like it. I was moving from place to place, ended up near here, and was lucky enough to find a truck driver and he said he knew where I could go. He let me off down the road a bit and told me how to get here. He didn't tell me about the huge cattle I'd have to go through." Momm was looking at the milk and cookies like he hadn't eaten in days.

"Sorry, here." Micah set them on the table in front of...Momm. That would take some getting used to. "You could have come in on the road and not gone through the cattle. You didn't bother any of them, did you?"

"You're kidding right? Have you seen the horns on those things? Yeah, I hurt them. Walked right up and slapped 'em in the face. That showed 'em. There's three of them just layin' out there."

Micah couldn't help the snort that escaped. "So, what can I do for you? You're obviously not going to be working the cattle. Got any skills?" Micah knew Momm would never make it out on the ranch. It wasn't that he thought the young man wouldn't try, but something about him just said not a ranch hand.

"I can cook, clean, do laundry, answer phones, take notes. I would be a really good houseboy. I'd be happy to never step foot out there again. I promise I would do a good job for you and not get in your way and no one is after me, I swear, if you're worried about that. I just need a place to be safe. They said I'd be safe here."

"Do I look like someone who needs a houseboy?" Micah looked at him, frowning, knowing all the while that he was going to end up with a damn houseboy, but there was no way Micah was going to call him that.

"The place looks like it could use me and I'll make you glad you hired me, I promise. I don't take up much room and I don't eat much and I can be quiet, if I have to. I do like to talk, when I'm not scared to death."

"Well, Momm, with two m's, it looks like I have a new housekeeper. Sorry, I can't go with the houseboy thing. Actually, there's a couple of rooms off the kitchen that were used by the cook when Ted and Lizbet were here. You can have them. I'll help you get set up in there and we'll talk more later. I've got work to do now, but take your time, get a shower, a nap maybe, and I'll see you about six."

"Uh, thank you for letting me stay, really," Momm said, quietly.

"Come on, you look like you're about to fall asleep sitting there." Micah pointed to a door leading into a hallway off the kitchen.

"I'm safe now, aren't I?"

"Yes, Momm, you're safe now."

That's how it had started and Micah knew he could not do without Momm now. Momm had surprised Micah with a very good meal on the table that first night and had not stopped since. He was very efficient and as he'd said, happy to never step foot out the door. He'd gotten to where he would go into town now for groceries when someone else was going in. And, much to Micah's delight, there was no more need for store bought cookies. Momm was a wizard when it came to baking. The crew was happy, too, because Momm shared with the cook at the bunkhouse.

Micah shook his head. He had quite a motley crew out there. Almost half of them had arrived like Momm, looking for a place where they would be safe. Some were gay, some were displaced for other reasons, some had been abused by family or others, and some just needed a home. Since the Stones had provided that very thing for Micah, he found great comfort in being able to pay it forward.

* * * *

Now he'd lost both the Stones, leaving a big hole in his life. Micah had been a lonely, tortured, rebellious fifteen-year-old when he'd been taken in by the Stones. His was the age-old story of being turned out by his family when they found out he was gay. Both his father and his older brother had gotten several good licks in before he managed to get away from them. His mother had stood by, silent, as her youngest son was kicked out of the house and the family. For more than two weeks he'd scrambled around trying to find work so he could eat. School was forgotten, people he'd thought were friends turned away from him, and he didn't know what would become of him.

He'd been standing in front of a cafe in the small town of Franklin, which was about thirty minutes out of Lawton, Oklahoma, when a man touched him on the shoulder and said, "You hungry, son?"

"'M not your son." He'd managed to sound belligerent but he was both hungry and scared. Life on the road for a fairly good-looking teen on his own had proven to be dangerous. Hitching brought on its own hazards. To make it worse, his stomach growled, loudly.

"You're right, you're not my son, but you are hungry. Why don't you come on in and let me get you something to eat? Hey, don't look at me like that. I don't want anything from you. Swear it. I just think you might need some hot food."

"You got work I can do? I don't take charity. And I don't do tricks so don't ask." Micah had muttered.

"I already told you I don't expect anything like that. I'm a very happily married man. You'll love Lizbet, my wife. She's got a heart bigger than Texas and will fall right in love with you. You might find yourself adopted before you can get any work done at all. Relax, I'm kidding you. Come on, let's go get some food and then we'll talk about getting you some work. Know anything about ranching?"

Micah hadn't been allowed to stay in the bunkhouse due to his young age, and by the time he was old enough, he was family. Ted had a shadow from the day he brought Micah home. Micah wanted to learn everything, be everything that Ted needed. He felt he could never repay the Stones for all they'd given him. They told him that his being gay had absolutely nothing to do with his worth and they proved it over and over.

Ted Stone's prediction had come true. Within a year, Micah had found out that his parents had been killed in a wreck, his brother refused to allow him to attend the funeral, and Ted and Lizbet Stone became the family he craved. Soon after, he became Micah Stone and his former self, Wayne Likens, was no more. He'd come to love both Ted and Lizbet, both strong personalities, and as Ted had said, each had huge, welcoming hearts.

* * * *

As Micah drove through familiar streets it was all he could do not to turn on the street that would lead to Lizbet's home. He'd been there so many times, coming often to take her out to dinner and just spend time with her. No, he had to follow the damn GPS to this damn private detective's office so he could find out what that damn letter meant. There weren't enough damns in the world to ease his mood. He thought about how much Lizbet had come to mean to him and what he'd learned from her example.

Lizbet had doted on Micah and spoiled him with love and attention. She was so clearly in love with her big tall husband that it made Micah feel good just being around them. The devotion was obviously mutual and for years they were very happy.

That happiness crashed with the sudden death of Ted Stone from a heart attack. No one had suspected that he had a heart problem. It had never shown on any test that he'd gone through. He'd appeared to be completely healthy. The jury was out on who took it hardest, Lizbet or Micah. Their world had revolved around Ted and they spent months in a daze of pain and loss.

That was the year that Micah turned twenty-four. What changed things for both of them was the arrival of Ronnie. The doctor in town had called the ranch and admitted to sending out someone looking for work. It seemed that Ronnie Trask had come into his office after losing a fight against three other men who didn't like finding out that the new man on the crew was gay. The doctor thought Micah might have a place for him to stay and some work that Ronnie could do until he healed at least.

When the battered man showed up at the kitchen door, hat in hand, face bruised and arm in a sling, Micah had seen himself years before and something about the situation had brought Lizbet back to life also. She welcomed Ronnie in and told him he could stay at the house until he was better and then they'd find him some work. Ronnie refused to stay at the house, preferring the bunkhouse instead. He asked if his being gay was going to get him another beating.

"Not on this ranch," Micah promised. "I'm gay and no one here will ever cause you a moment's grief over your sexual preference. Now, if you don't carry your weight around here, you might get some ribbing, but there is no prejudice on the place. That's how this ranch is run. I'll take you down and introduce you to the men we have here now. Mom Liz, I'll be back for supper with you."

That was the start of their practice of accepting men onto the crew that had trouble fitting in somewhere else. Everyone was expected to be tolerant and accepting of differences. One man had a condition that caused him eye pain in bright sunlight so he wore wraparound sunglasses that made him look like Batman, thus the nickname. He and Ronnie had been there longer than most and were now, respectively, foreman and head stockman.

It wasn't long after Micah turned twenty-six that Lizbet came to him and said she wanted to move to Oklahoma City. He was dumbfounded.

"Why? You love the ranch. Are you going to sell it? Are you sick? What do you need?" Micah thought his heart would break. He couldn't stand it if he lost Lizbet, too.

"No, sweetheart, I'm not sick. I'm unhappy here without Ted. I know I have you and that's the only thing that has kept me here this long. I want to live in the city and have a nice apartment and do some charity work and have friends. You can visit often, and I'll come back here on trips to visit with you and the boys, but I just don't feel right here anymore. Don't look so shocked. I love you and no, of course I'm not going to sell the ranch. The ranch will be yours one day, silly." She embraced him, sniffing slightly.

"It won't be the same. I'll miss you like crazy. How will I run this place without you?" Micah was reaching for anything to change her mind.

"Idiot, you've been running this place on your own since Ted passed away. We both know it. I was a wife, not a rancher. I do want this wonderful place to stay in the family. I don't want it sold. I want it passed down. I know you won't have children, but you'll know the right thing to do with it when the time comes, way in the future. But for now, I want you to live here and run Stone Canyon Ranch while I go take the town by storm. Will you help me?" She leaned back in his arms and looked up at him as she asked the ridiculous question. If she'd asked him to help her get nominated for president or queen of the local prom he'd have moved heaven and earth to make it happen for her.

So, within a few months, Lizbet lived in a large, lovely townhouse apartment in one of the richest sections of Oklahoma City. Micah had been flying for years by that time and he used a lot of fuel in those months going back and forth from the ranch to her new home, getting her settled and making sure she had everything she needed. Before long, she had found several areas and ways to volunteer her time to helping others. She was happier than he'd seen her since Ted died so he knew it was a good thing. But he was lonely on the ranch in that big house all by himself.

* * * *

That was six years ago. No one had shared that house with him until Momm showed up. Now it wasn't so achingly empty anymore, but he was lonely. He'd taken trips into the city to take care of his physical needs, but he wanted more. Right now, though, he had a death to avenge and a mystery to solve.

Micah was on his way to meet Able Kenton, a private investigator in Oklahoma City, per Lizbet's request in the letter that the lawyer had given him. Her funeral had been just last week and he'd still been in a painful stupor after losing his other parent. This time there was anger, too, though. Someone had killed her. There was no doubt about it; she had been smothered with a pillow. But there was forensic evidence that she had fought her attacker, and that evidence would lead the police, and Micah, to her killer. God help the bastard, because his days were numbered. Could Micah kill another man? Right now he felt he could. He was finding out a lot about what grief could do to you.

Grief. Too small a word for what Micah felt at the loss of Lizbet. Now his grief was mixed with rage at the letter explaining she had suspected she might be a target. Why hadn't she come to him? He had a few ideas about who had gone after his mother, and he would get to that, but first he had to honor the request in the letter.

Lizbet had been out to the ranch a couple of times recently and adored Momm. She didn't even blink when Momm explained that his real name was Mommquist.

"Well, bless your heart," she'd said. "No wonder you shortened it." Momm had hugged her and they had gone off to the kitchen together. They'd become best friends and talked on the phone often; Micah feared they talked about him a lot. She'd been making noises recently about wanting him to find someone. She didn't like that he was all alone. She wanted him to find love and be happy. Yeah, him, too, but he couldn't just snap his fingers. Maybe someday he would find someone, but he would have to think about that later.

Right now he was on a mission, and according to the GPS he was getting close. As expected, he stopped the car right in front of the door that said Able Kenton Investigations. He turned the key and sat a moment in silence. Reaching for the hat on the seat beside him, he remembered getting the letter.

* * * *

Micah had been in the barn with Batman when he'd heard his name called. Walking out into the lot in front of the big barn, he was surprised to see the lawyer again. The will had already been read with no surprises.

"Hello, Mr. Jackson. What brings you back out here?" Micah shook the lawyer's hand.

"I'm performing the last duty I promised Ms. Lizbet. I was told to give this to you a week after her death. I don't know what is in it, but she brought it to me about a week before she died. I hope it's not bad news, Mr. Stone." With that, Mr. Jackson handed Micah a letter and told him good day.

Micah had walked to the front porch and sat in Lizbet's chair to read her handwritten letter. He was afraid he'd end up in tears at her last missive. Little did he know that he'd be furious instead.

Darling Micah,

I want to take this opportunity to tell you how much joy you've given me since you came to us. You made Ted and me so very happy. He was thrilled to have someone he loved to leave the ranch to, and I was just thrilled to have someone to love. You brought both of us so much joy. I thank you and love you with all my heart.

Now, to the reason for this letter. I'm afraid you're going to be angry and hurt if you're reading this and for that I'm sorry, darling. I'm doing what I think is best for you and I know you won't agree, but you'll forgive me, I know that.

I've gotten offers on the ranch before, but recently they haven't been taking no for an answer. One man in particular keeps coming back insisting that I sell the ranch to him. I've told him over and over that Stone Canyon Ranch is not for sale at any price. I know he came to see you about it, too, because he told me that you told him the same thing. Anyway, he's gone from requests to threats and I'm getting a real sense of impending doom. I know that sounds dramatic, but little things have been happening lately that I wonder about. Things missing, out of place, and I almost got hit by a car the other day. I could swear I was pushed into the intersection, but when I looked around after barely managing to jump back in time, there was no one who looked suspicious.

Maybe it's just an old woman's irrational fear, but I wanted to let you know if anything happened to me that you were to go to the office of Able Kenton. He is a private investigator here and he has information that you need to figure out what happened. I don't want the ranch sold, Micah. I want it to stay in your hands. I know you love that place, every inch of it. You and Ted used to ride for hours going over all of it and making plans.

This man keeps talking about the hot springs and plans for using the land for a resort of some kind. Not like a vacation place but to build a few houses for the super rich and famous to have a getaway with all the privacy and protection available, but with snazzy homes and oh, hon, it just sounds like a mess to me. He said his company had already bought a couple of the places next to us. Who has sold out to them? Do you know? Find out and make sure they wanted to sell.

This man's name is Omar Friedkin, and he works for a company called Global Vistas. If they're all over the globe, he needs to take his project somewhere else. He's not a nice man, though at first he came on as charming. But when I repeatedly told him I wasn't interested in selling, that I was keeping it in the family, he became rude and menacing.

I know you are sitting there going "Why? Why didn't she tell me? Why am I finding this out now?" I'm planning to, I am, but, just in case something happens before I do... I swear. I dreaded letting you know about this because I knew you'd go after this man and probably get into trouble. Promise me you'll go to Able and work on it with him. He has some other information and the two of you can figure this out without you going to jail for murder. Promise me, on the love I have for you and you for me, that you will take this letter to Able Kenton and see what he has to say. I love you. Mom Liz.

That letter made a crinkling noise as he got out of the car. He'd gone right in to the house and told Momm to pack a bag for him quickly while he got the plane ready. His obvious stress had set Momm into motion and he was in flight within the hour. Momm had been horrified that he would leave with the smell of the barn on him and wearing his dusty boots and work clothes. Micah didn't care. He wasn't going to a party; he was going on a manhunt. Bastard. Omar Friedkin's days were numbered. He just had to find the proof he needed to put the man away.

Able Kenton's eyes widened as the door was thrust open and banged off the wall behind it. Good Lord, all the man needed was the sheepskin jacket and he could stand in for the Marlboro Man. Able was looking at a real cowboy. He knew not just by the clothes, but by the smell coming off those nasty boots. His instinct was to ask "What commercial did you just come off of?" because the man really looked out of place.

His eyes got even wider as the tall, lean, handsome man advanced into the room until he stood right up against the desk. He reached into his jacket pocket and Able tensed, but he brought out a letter and flipped it onto the desk.

"Read that." The voice had command and power behind it. This was a man who was used to giving orders.

"You are?" Able tried to hold his own.

"Just read it."

Able took the letter and opened it. He recognized the writing immediately and he couldn't help a small gasp. Looking up at the man, he wondered if this was Lizbet's beloved son, Micah. She'd said he was a good-looking man and very strong. Able liked what he saw, but he put that thought aside as he read the letter. When he finished reading, he set it down on the desk and leaned over to open his bottom drawer. Digging out a folder, he drew another letter out and pushed it across the desk.

"Now you read that."

Able watched as confusion and then resignation marched across the man's face. He saw sadness in the eyes. Yeah, this was Liz's son. He felt for the guy. He'd known the woman for about four months and he'd come to be very fond of her. He had begged her to tell her son what was going on. He figured he was in for a beating when Micah read the other letter. But she'd made him promise and she'd sworn she was going to tell him. Somehow, he didn't think that was going to matter to Micah. She had hired Able because she was getting worried that someone would do her harm. For some reason, she didn't want her son to know. He'd felt it wasn't his place to question her about her family. Now he wished he had. He figured he deserved what was coming, in an odd sort of way. He'd felt bad since hearing of Lizbet Stone's death.

"What the fuck! You knew about all this? She told you to contact me if anything happened to her. You knew someone was after my mother and you let it happen? Are you insane? Who is this lawyer and what does she want us to do with him?" Micah was leaning over the desk and Able could see that it was all Micah could do not to reach out and hit him.

"I understand where you're coming from..." Able didn't get far with that line.

"Bullshit. You have no idea where I'm coming from. Someone held a pillow to my mother's face while she fought for her life. My mother! The woman that I loved above all things on this earth. She didn't see fit to tell me she was scared about someone harming her in time to help her. Now I find that you knew there was a chance that this might happen and you did nothing. She thought I'd go after this Friedkin freak. It's all I can do not to go after you right now. How could you let that happen to such a wonderful person? I just don't get it." Micah knew he was losing it, but he couldn't seem to stop himself.

Able leaned his chair back, looked up at Micah, and said, "I tried over and over to get her to tell you. She swore she was going to. She begged me not to interfere. Don't you think that I regret that I knew she was in danger and I let her talk me out of going to you? I've been investigating the company and Mr. Friedkin for her, and have reports on both that I'll share with you. It sounds like she wanted us to work together. I don't mind that. I usually work by myself, but since I've already messed up in the worst way in this case, I am agreeable to whatever you want to do. I'm so sorry for your loss. I had become very fond of Lizbet Stone. She was a remarkable woman and she loved you very much. But you know that. I'm sorry."

Able didn't know what he could do to make amends. Granted, she was his client and he was following her wishes and investigating like she wanted, but he could see that Micah didn't see it that way. He waited to see what Micah Stone was going to do now.

"She was pretty stubborn, wasn't she? I'm sure she told you not to tell me and as she was your client, I see how you would do as she insisted, but man, it's hard to think this might have been different if I'd known what was going on." Micah dropped into the chair near where he'd been standing and put his hand up to his forehead, rubbing, as if it hurt him.

"Headache? Need some aspirin? Or would something stronger help?" Able offered.

"No, I mean yes, I have a headache, and no, I don't want a drink. Do you know this lawyer she talks about?" Micah asked.

"I know of him. He's good. By the way, I got this letter yesterday with a note that said to wait to hear from you. I've been a little undecided on what to do about what I do know and what this lawyer may have. Have you eaten? How about we go get a meal and then we'll both go see this Bill Townsend and find out what light he can shed on the case. Maybe some food would help with that headache." Able stood, walked around the desk, offered his hand, and said, "A little late, but Able Kenton, nice to meet you. I'm sorry about your mother's death. I'd like to help you find out who killed her and bring him to justice. I think she might have wanted me to ride herd, pardon the pun, on you so you wouldn't end up in jail."

Micah took his hand and said, unnecessarily, "Micah Stone. Lunch sounds good. Put these letters in whatever file you have and I'll look at it while we eat and then we can talk. Thank you for helping her as much as you did. I hate thinking that she was scared for weeks and didn't let me help her. It makes me sick, literally, to think this happened because she was afraid to tell me." Micah sighed, sounding like he was taking on as much guilt as he wanted to thrust on Able.

The more time Able spent in Micah's company, the less the smell of his boots bothered him. He began to think that Micah smelled like a man who worked hard. His clothes showed that he'd been working, but they were fairly clean and well-kept and didn't look cheap. They fit him well, too. Oh yes, Able noticed that as he gathered the file together and followed Micah out of the office, locking up carefully. He'd liked Micah's big strong hand, too, when he'd clasped it. He preferred large, strong men who knew how to handle themselves. Micah Stone was more and more intriguing as Able got to know him. Having listened to Lizbet talk of Micah's virtues so often, Able was ready to believe that Micah was truly a nice man. He certainly was handsome.

Able tried not to let Micah see how he was cataloging his looks as they headed out of the office. Tall, about six three he'd bet. Micah's hair was dark, short, and covered with that battered cowboy hat. His eyes were a solid dark blue, almost navy. Able didn't think he'd ever seen anyone with navy blue eyes before. A strong nose over very nice full lips that were just begging for a crushing kiss. He knew that Micah was gay, but he didn't know if he had anyone at present, or for that matter if he would be interested in advances from Able. He decided it was worth investigating. Right now he was investigating the way those jeans fit that nice ass as he followed Micah.

When they got outside he looked around and must have seemed surprised when Micah headed for a silver Lexus.

Micah stopped and said, "What did you think I rode in?"

"You've got to admit that you look like you just got off a horse, and your boots smell like..."

"I know. Momm already fussed at me for coming straight here like this. I was in the barn when the lawyer showed up with that letter and I was so mad I just came on."

"Mom? I thought she, I mean..."Able couldn't keep the confusion out of his voice.

"My housekeeper is a man named Momm, with two m's, short for Mommquist. He's been with me for several months and has taken over the house. He's quite a character. He packed enough for me to go on a three week vacation and made me swear I'd hang my clothes up when I got settled. He's as much like a mom as any you'll find. But, he's a great cook and keeps the house better than I ever had time to do."

"Is he your, I mean do you and he...okay, none of my business." Able knew his attempt to get information on Micah's love life was awkward at best and probably too soon.

"No. He's not my anything other than friend and housekeeper. Get in, where we going?" Micah looked a little surprised by Able's interest, but had been quick to let him know of the benign relationship between the two. Good, that was good.

"Turn left at the light up there and we'll go down about three blocks to Toppers. There's parking in the back. You okay with barbecue? It's about the best around," Able said.

"Sounds fine. Maybe we can go over what you know about this. I know finding her killer won't make her any less gone, or me hurt any less, but I want to know. And she seemed to want me to work with you, so she must think you have some answers, unless she was trying her hand at matchmaking." Micah was looking at him as he put the car into park and turned off the key.

"I can't say, but I wouldn't put it past her. She knew we were both gay and she sure did give you a nice build up." Able chuckled, almost afraid to look over at Micah's expression. He was hoping for acceptance of his mother's possible attempts on his behalf.

"Right now, I am more interested in finding out who killed my mother, and where all these clues lead, than I am in meeting anyone personally. Sorry if that sounds rude. I can be pretty blunt." Micah got out and Able did the same, pausing to look over the roof of the car.

"I don't mind at all. I understand. I'm interested, just so you know, but let's just focus on what information we have and what we need to do next. Put anything else on a back burner. Deal?" Able waited to see if Micah would freak out at his words. Micah didn't. He just stood for a minute, looking across at Able consideringly, then nodded, slamming the car door and walking around it to meet Able.

Able hadn't expected him to say anything after that quick nod of his head, but when Micah reached him, he leaned down just that little bit and said, softly, "Deal." It was all Able could do not to reach up and get a taste. He'd never realized he had a thing for cowboys, but just looking at, being near Micah had him dreaming of long lust-filled hours. Focus, Able, focus.

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