When Hurricane Lauris strikes, former lovers, Gage and Collin find themselves trapped together with old emotions and passion rising between them.
As a professional rider on the NRHA circuit, Gage Chapman has known success. He's also known discrimination. Many people didn't want an openly gay rider competing in the sport, much less winning again and again on his champion Paint stallion, The Shaman. Wanting to get away from it all, Gage had left Utah to set up a breeding farm in North Carolina and there, he found what he'd always hoped for, a man he could love.
Collin Maddox is the town deputy with his sights set on becoming sheriff someday. He knows local attitudes wouldn't be real pro on voting a gay sheriff into office, so he's kept his sexuality a secret for years. For all the care he has for Gage, his secret tore them apart, leaving them both with regrets and broken hearts.
Now Hurricane Lauris is coming in fast and strong. Gage has refused to evacuate and leave his horses behind. Knowing Gage is alone, Collin goes to Gage's farm to help him, only to find himself trapped there. Hurt, anger, and passion erupts between them. As the storm rages around them, both men wonder if this is a new beginning, or the final ending.
Gage stepped outside and caught hold of his black cowboy hat, gripping the doorframe with his other hand as the wind slammed into him. The hair on his arms rose with the electricity and energy in the air and also, some fear. The slate-gray sky was growing steadily darker. If he didn't know it was morning, he would have thought night was preparing to fall. The black clouds in the distance foretold it was only going to get darker.
Hurricane Lauris was coming and she was going to wreak havoc.
Gage made sure the door to his house was securely closed, then looked across his farm toward the long main barn up the dirt lane from his brick home. Fear made his heart beat quicker than usual and it wasn't for himself. It was for all the lives in there: mares, foals, yearlings, youngsters in training, and most certainly his stallion, Shaman. Twenty-one horses total, too many to evacuate.
When word came of Lauris, and how big and powerful the hurricane was going to be, he'd called the owners of the mares stabled at his place for stud service from Shaman and told them to pick up their horses and get them to a safe place. All the visiting mares were gone now, but it would've been a huge operation to move his horses. Hell, it had been when he'd brought them out to North Carolina from Utah a little over a year ago. He'd had fewer horses of his own then and it still took a semi hauling a massive air-ride equipped trailer for the cross-country journey.
On top of that, even if he could've secured transportation, there was nowhere out of the hurricane's path that he could take all of them. He wasn't about to hook up his horse trailer, load a few of them, and abandon the rest to their fate. Whatever fate waited for them, would be his as well.
Gage scanned the empty pastures, watched young trees swaying and bowing with the wind. There were no large trees near the house, but there were several lining the main barn and he didn't trust them to hold. He'd already prepared the visiting mare barn for the younger horses and ones in training. He'd moved half of them before his exhaustion caught up to him and he needed to take a quick break.
He still wasn't sure it was the right thing to do, keeping the horses in the barn. The shelters in the pastures were solid, the posts supported underground with concrete when he'd had them built to be able to withstand high wind, but he worried about something blowing into the pastures and hitting one of the horses. Instinct would probably guide the older horses to seek out the safest part of the pasture and he knew Shaman would guide his mares and foals to where they'd be most protected, but he still didn't want to risk letting the babies weather this outside. And what if one of the trees near the pastures fell and crushed the fence, leaving an escape for the horses to get loose?
Lauris was his first hurricane. When he moved to the Wilmington area last year, that first hurricane season had been a quiet one, and in turn, gave him a sense of comfort he knew now he shouldn't have had. When the news reports came in that Lauris was going to hit landfall as a Category Four, his stomach had knotted, his chest tightened, and he felt completely lost.
He'd called the friends he'd made in the area with horses, called his vet, his farrier, asking all of them for advice. For every one who said to keep the horses in the barn, another person said keep them out to pasture. Since no one had a solid answer, he went with his gut and decided he'd keep them in. Only, he hadn't thought
of the trees near the barn until the wind started kicking up. The visiting mare barn was new, same as the massive indoor arena he'd had built off the back of the main barn, and there were no trees around it. Both buildings would be safe. He hoped.
Gage gave the eastern clouds another wary glance. He'd thought he would have more time. He'd been working nonstop in preparing the farm and he was going to be taking it down to the last minute.
The sky...he'd never seen anything like it. He'd seen bad thunderstorms before, but they seemed nothing more than a gentle shower compared to the fierce and dark power in the sky at that moment. The clouds were so thick, rolling and swirling. Lightning danced and flickered within them and it seemed the sun itself had retreated from the heavens before the force coming in.
It all made him feel so very small...and so very alone.
He had sent his two farmhands away two days ago to be with their families and get out of the storm's path. He didn't think it would bother him so much, facing the storm on his own. The darkness growing, the winds strengthening, he wished had he someone with him- a certain someone in particular. As far as that person was concerned, hurricane or not, that didn't make it different than any other day. It'd been two months since he and Collin ended their relationship. The time hadn't eased the ache of missing him, or the hurt, anger, regrets...
Gage took a deep breath. Now was not the time to face all that again. He was sure he'd have plenty of time while this storm raged around him to think on what he and Collin once had together...or what they could've had. He wouldn't have anything else to do except think. That might be one of the most daunting things about this damn storm.
Taking a deep breath to clear his mind, Gage stepped toward the porch steps. Out the corner of his eye, he caught the flash of blue and red lights.
Gage turned his head toward the lights. A police SUV rolled into his driveway and through the open gates. He'd left the gates open in case they locked up when the power went out, but he couldn't believe who was coming up the driveway now.
The SUV rolled to a halt, the lights blinking out. The driver's side door opened, Collin Maddox, deputy sheriff...his ex...climbed out, his black hair cropped too short to be tousled by the wind.
They'd started seeing each other four months after he moved here. Some punks had come onto his property in the middle of the night, broke into his tack room, and stolen three saddles. None of his saddles were cheap, but his show saddles alone were worth a few thousand apiece and the thieves had gotten his favorite one. Too bad for them, the tack room had an alarm and a security camera in it. When the alarm sounded, he'd bolted out of bed, snatched his cell phone, and raced out to the barn. The thieves were gone by the time he got out there, but he'd called the police and it was Collin who responded.
When Collin rolled up in his police SUV and stepped out, he almost forgot the reason he'd called the police in the first place. He'd never seen a sexier or hotter man than Collin. The need to offer smiles to Collin and throw in some hints at being interested took over some of his anger at the thieves. Collin had stayed professional as he took notes, but was also extremely friendly, leading him to believe there was interest on Collin's end, as well.
Two days later, Collin had called him to report he'd found the thieves and his saddles. To thank Collin for all his hard work, of course, he had to offer to take him to dinner. Collin had accepted and it led to the most
amazing night of sex he'd ever had in his life. Many, many more followed for eight months...and then, it was over.
And he hadn't stopped missing him since it'd ended. Though, from how pissed Collin looked now, it didn't appear as if the feeling was mutual on Collin's end.
Collin slammed the door closed and marched around the front of the SUV, glaring up at him with eyes only a few shades lighter than the dark gray sky. "What the hell are you still doing here? Not that I don't already know."
Two months later and Collin had the same tone of voice as when they last spoke. Despite that, Gage couldn't stop his gaze from moving down Collin's six foot two body or his mind from remembering one of the reasons why they had been together. He'd seen Collin naked so many times, the crisp khaki uniform shirt and dark pants didn't hinder his mind from imagining Collin bare.
Collin's chest was thick with muscle, his abs well-defined, black hair dusting both his chest and abs, thinning to a trail that led down to a long, veined cock, the girth of which always left him feeling it the next day and wanting more. He remembered the power and muscle in Collin's legs, how good their weight felt up on his shoulders when they'd switch and he was driving into Collin's ass. And that ass, the round curves of the cheeks, the heat and tightness of it on the inside; he never could get enough of it.
Their relationship had its problems, but the bedroom had never been one of them. If sex would've been enough to make it work, they would've grown old together.
But it wasn't.
His defenses rising from Collin's reprimanding tone, Gage folded his arms across his chest. "You're right, you should know. I'm making sure my horses are going to be all right."
Collin stomped up the steps. "Your horses will be fine. Get in the truck. I'm taking you to the storm shelter."
Being four inches shorter, Gage tipped his head back to meet Collin's gaze. "The hell you are."
Collin snapped his arm out to the side, pointing to the east. "In case you can't see it, there's a big fucking hurricane about to make landfall. It's my job to make sure folks are evacuated and safe, and you're neither. Now c'mon."
"Your job? That's the only reason you came here? Because it's your fucking job?"
Gage watched as Collin took a deep breath, turning his head to the side as if looking at him would only increase his anger. Just like old times. They were picking up right where they left off. He didn't know how he could be so happy and so pissed to see someone.
Collin slowly brought his gaze back to him. As he spoke, his voice was unnaturally even with forced patience. "What's it going to take to get you to leave here with me?"
"There's nothing you can do. I'm not leaving."
"Of all the stubborn..." Collin flung his arm back, pointing to the SUV. "Get in the goddamn truck!"
Gage stepped forward, closing the distance between him and Collin to half an arm's length. "I'm not leaving my horses!"
Collin's eyes narrowed with anger. "I know you love them. God knows you spent more time with them than you ever did with me, but you can't stay here and risk your life for them!"
"Well I sure as shit ain't gonna leave them to fend for themselves! And maybe we would've spent more time together if you wouldn't have been ashamed to be seen with me!"
"You never did understand-"
"I understood more than you ever realized! I tried to tell you that! I tried to be there for you, but you didn't want that! You didn't want a relationship! All you wanted was a fuck!"
Collin spun away, storming toward the steps. "I don't know why I thought I should come here."
"I don't know why you did, either. Other than it being your job."
Collin tore open the door to his SUV and glared up at him, raising his voice over the wind. "That's something else you never understood. How much I care about you."
Gage took a step forward, but his voice caught in his throat as Collin slid into the SUV and slammed the door closed. He stood motionless, despite how his mind screamed for him to race down the steps as Collin swung the SUV around. He did nothing, only stared while Collin sped down the drive and veered onto the street.
Large drops of rain began to patter down. Gage slowly lifted his gaze from the vacant road to the sky.
What had he done? Moments ago, he was standing here alone wishing for someone to be with him, then when someone came, he drove him away. It wasn't just anyone, though. It was the one man who he wanted to be around more than anyone else and at the same time, couldn't bear to be with from the pain. And all that pain from things unsaid surged through him, leaving his mouth running despite wishing he could stop it.
It made him wonder if maybe this wasn't the first time he'd driven Collin away...
The wind gusted harder. The rain increased, pelting him. Lightning flickered in the black eastern clouds and thunder rumbled.
Gage felt more alone than he ever had. Considering some of the things he'd faced, that was saying a lot, but all those past threats had come from people. He could handle people. This storm...it was beyond anything he could handle and now he had to try to do it alone.