Todd Brooks is a firefighter about to enjoy a brew at his regular gay hangout when he’s duped into filling in for a bar team member who suddenly backed out of the annual gay rodeo. Not being out to family or co-workers, Todd accepts the challenge and plans his excuses for missing family and work events during the rodeo.
When he meets his rodeo teammates, Todd is immediately taken with Riley Simms, who will be coaching him on horsemanship and the events they endure. Todd falls hard for his horse, Beaumont, and even more so for his mentor, Riley. Can a closeted professional and an out and proud cowboy make it happen?
Note: This short story was originally published in the charity collection, Love Is Proud.
One early spring evening I stopped in after my shift rotation and parked myself on my usual perch. Dakota brought over my brew of choice and absently placed it in front of me. No greeting or fanfare, no hey handsome, good to see you. He treated me as if I was just another customer. It took while and a couple of shots of Sambuca -- for Dakota, not me -- before he finally opened up. He told me how The Cuir prided itself on involvement in the gay community and Dakota, one of the owners, went all out to participate in things like Pride, sponsoring the gay men’s choir, and putting a team in the rodeo. His breath hitched when he mentioned the rodeo. Our city hosted an annual gay rodeo which was part of the international gay rodeo circuit. The major gay bars in town all entered teams. Only a few short days ago one the regulars, a true hottie, pulled out for reasons known only to him and his new beau named Beau. Dakota had a very short window to replace Tyler or forfeit his team’s participation. We sat while I provided comfort and soon a sinister smile spread over his face. Dakota poured me a shot, then a second. He had a wide grin and called Wes, a young bartender, over to join us. He whispered something and the man’s face lit up with a huge smile. Dakota brought one more shot and then went to tend to other patrons. Every time he spoke at a table, collective pairs of eyes wandered my way and a few men nodded.
I was feeling the shots and wanted to get some idea of what was going down. Wes beamed, clapped me on the back, and brought over a black muscle shirt with bold white letters. CUIR TEAM 2016 -- G.R.R.R. with the acronym spelled out below in smaller white font below, Gay Rockies Rodeo Roundup. I shook my head briefly until Tina walked up and wrapped a python of an arm around my shoulders. She was a big woman, part-owner of the bar and, from what I’ve been told, fluently bisexual. “You’re our home team hero. You’ve saved us from losing face, especially to that bunch of bangers at Boyzwalk. Come out back with me and Wes. We’ll explain the events we’re in and who you’re teamed up with. Take your shirt off and put on the team uniform.”
I walked behind in a daze, peeling off my shirt and wondering when I’d lost control of the evening. I heard a few wolf whistles and hoots and grinned. I’m six-two, one-ninety, and being a firefighter I work out hard, so I know I earned the admiration of the drunk crowd. I listened carefully as Tina explained our events. We were in the Barrel Race, Flag Race, Goat Dressing, and the Wild Drag Race. I can’t believe I actually giggled when they explained each event. That sentiment faded when they informed me that I was going to be in drag in that three-person event. My heart did a thump so loud I’m sure Dakota could hear it from the main bar when an absolutely gorgeous man walked in with four beer bottles in one hand and four shots in the other. He flashed a wide smile at me and distributed the drinks.
“Todd, this is your rodeo partner, Riley Simms. Riley, Todd Brooks. Riley is going to be your guide and instructor for the arena events. He’s got acreage just south of town. You’re going to be spending all your free time together and I don’t want to hear of you doing anything except practice.” She narrowed her eyes and glared at us both. “I’ve heard of some of your activities, so once more, for the record -- this is not a hookup. The Cuir is going to come out on top.” She whipped her head around to Wes when he snickered. “You got something to say, young buck?”
Wes laughed. “Speaking of tops, how in heck are two devoted alpha males going to do anything besides practice? I mean, look at them. Aside from Todd giggling like a schoolgirl a few minutes ago, two more butch males were never made.”
Riley flashed that wide grin at me once again. “If I can teach him to be a rodeo star I sure as heck can guide him toward the dark side of man-love. Besides, I hear he’s hung so much that even if I wasn’t a total top I’d run screaming.”
I wondered who was spreading rumors about my private parts but figured we should get back to the program. Even in my drunken haze I knew I had serious work ahead of me if I was going to be a serious contender. I thanked all that’s mighty that I was starting my four day break. I’d have to book the long weekend off, but that wouldn’t be a problem. I needed to survive the morning’s hangover first.