Growing up in small town Montana, two cowboys defy the odds to find music and love.
Sage Wallstatt loves music, horses, and his family. He dreams of playing the guitar with a country-rock band. Meeting his best friend at age seven, they became inseparable. Sage's feelings change when he never looks at girls, only Kaden. One magical night alters their paths. Two years later, as Sage scrambles to pull his life together, he has to decide to follow his dreams or stay on the ranch. Should he defy all to walk hand-in-hand with his chosen partner?
Kaden Carmody grew up with the best and the worst until he meets his best friend, Sage on a school playground. He finds solace with Sage and their cave hideout. One night changes everything until reality yanks them apart. Breaking free, Kaden returns to figure out the truth of his feelings for Sage, defy his father, and understand the gay man hiding inside.
After playing several gigs with a newly formed country rock band, Sage Wallstatt raced home. He couldn't wait to tell his best friend everything. When they were seven, they promised with drops of blood and spit to be blood-brothers forever. Living next door on the massive cattle ranch, Kaden Carmody and his family were the complete opposite of the smaller Wallstatt lands. Over the last few months, Kaden had become more distant. They needed time in the cave to reconnect. He unearthed the hidden ancient walkie talkie. Turning it on, he pressed the button in a specific series they concocted.
"Come on. Come on. Be there."
The receiver beeped back while Sage unpacked the tattered traveling bag.
The crackle dissolved into Kaden's voice. "Are you back, guitar man?"
"Hey, just got in. Meet at the spot?"
From the tone he knew something was wrong. Shoving a few things into a backpack, he packed his old guitar and changed shirts. He stomped into older boots, yanked the faded ball-cap lower, and shrugged into a field coat. Even when playing on stage, Sage didn't change his ball-cap for a typical Stetson like most country singers. Running to the barn, he saddled his favorite mount, Amber Dancer, and rode north. Reaching the special spot in a cave hidden in the northern mountains, Sage didn't see Kaden's mount in the makeshift grazing corral. Unsaddling and grooming Amber, he checked the quiet receiver and beeped it.
"Here. Checking in," Sage said.
"Held up. Be there soon."
The receiver beeped back along with Kaden's voice. "Be there soon."
"I'll be waiting." Sage lowered the receiver and stared at the darkening sky and carried his bags inside.
Within moments he put together the small camp. Settling on a foam mattress, Sage leaned against the stone, guitar on his lap, and strummed the chords. He stared at the flickering flames as he hummed the words. Hearing Amber whinny, he put down the guitar and raced outside. The rider was hunched over his horse.
Recognizing something was wrong, Sage went to Kaden's side. He saw the vicious start of a black eye and split lip. Under the fringe of coffee-dark bangs and a dark Stetson, Kaden kept his gaze down. Sage placed his fingers under Kaden's chin. "What the hell did he do to you?"
"Does it matter?"
"He's hitting you."
"I had worse." Kaden unhooked his backpack. "How did the shows go?"
"People showed up! It was awesome. We'll still need to work on the sets, but I'm optimistic. It would be better if you played. Zeke can be an ass."
"I told you I can't. I hate how we barely get a chance to see each other."
Sage wrapped his fingers around the back of Kaden's head. His fingers slid through the soft dark hair and knocked off the Stetson. With his other hand, he reversed his ball-cap. Pressing their foreheads together, he felt his best friend trembling.
"I swore to stand by you as your friend, brother, and compatriot. We're blood-brothers for life," Sage said, reminding Kaden of his life-long promise. "I'll take care of Glory. Are we staying here for the night?"
"Yes, I don't want to return home."
Releasing his grip, Sage swept Kaden's Stetson from the ground and slapped it against his thigh to remove the sand. He held it out to Kaden.
Turning his ball-cap around, Sage turned his attention to the gelding. "Let's get this saddle off, and you can join your pal." He rubbed the soft nose. He brushed down the horse and turned him loose.
Lifting the saddle, blanket, and reins, Sage carried them to the cave to protect everything. There were rumors of a storm sweeping over the mountains but nothing definite. He set Kaden's tack next to his pile. Both of the saddles were worn with use and age.
Sage headed deeper inside where the ceiling lifted. The fire, a natural opening allowing the smoke to escape, warmed it.
Kaden didn't get far, other than removing his jacket, belt, and boots. He faced the fire, poking at it with a long stick. His black eye was visible in the firelight.
Adjusting the front of his jeans as a sudden pressure rose against the zipper, Sage settled down on the other bag. He yanked off his boots and set them aside. He tossed his hat across one of them. "What's going on?"
"Shit with my father, but forget about it. Tonight is about us." Kaden moved his gaze from the flames and to Sage.
Silence fell between them for a while.
Sage wanted Kaden Carmody with everything inside of him. He wanted him sexually. He was in love, deep in love, with his best friend. Girls never got this reaction, not even when they wore skimpy suits at the local waterhole. Their bouncy breasts and soft skin did nothing for him.
For years something about his best friend drew his attention. Being around Kaden tugged at him in ways no girl ever did. He knew every inch of Kaden's golden body from their times in the lake. His cock responded and swelled. So many times, he wanted to tell Kaden, to see what he wanted. At the same time, he didn't want to lose his best friend. He thought he was gay when they fooled around, masturbated together to dirty magazines, but this was more. Not only was he gay, but for the last couple of years, he knew he loved his best friend. As the thought hit him about these deep feelings nagging him throughout the trip with the band, Sage straightened and rocked back on his heels.
Holy shit! It's true. I love Kaden Carmody. Not best friend love but partner and lover love. Oh shit, we're so screwed.
"Hey. You okay over there?" Kaden asked.
"Yeah. Yeah, I'm fine." Sage rubbed a hand over the back of his neck. "You hungry? I have the usual stuff to cook."
"Sure, I can use some food."
"You got it." Sage went to the bags. He located the skewers and a makeshift stand they hid in one of the plastic tubs. He skewered hot dogs and set them in the stands to cook. He found the stash of camping supplies. Returning with plates and silverware, he let Kaden set out buns and potato salad.
"Did you get all this from home?"
"Yup, Mom put it together since she knew I would come out and see you." Sage spun the dogs. "Want water or soda?"
Sage gave the skewers to Kaden to keep moving. He located two bottles and sat next to Kaden. He handed over the first one and cracked open the second while they studied the grilling dogs.
Kaden watched from where he sat. "Got the marshmallows?"
"Of course. Been a while since we had decent s'mores."
"Love the stuff. What kind of chocolate?"
"They're your favorite, dark mint." Spinning the dogs again, Sage brushed a hand over his jeans. "What did you want to talk about?" He lifted the bottle to take a sip.
"Do you have a girlfriend?"
Sage spewed water at the sudden odd question. "What? Why do you ask?"
"You never mention kissing a girl. All our other friends are bragging about who they kissed but not you."
"I don't have one to mention."
"Don't know why the sudden interest, but I don't know how to tell you this--" Sage paused and turned the dogs in a deliberate attempt for a pause. "I don't like girls. At all. They do nothing for me." He shifted the skewers to one hand and tugged at a frayed thread on his jeans. He lifted his gaze to meet Kaden's quiet, waiting gaze. "I'm gay."
"Okay. When did you know?"
Sage stared at the flames. "I thought I was when we were younger. The perky cheerleaders in their short skirts never turned me on. The last few years traveling with the band helped solidify the idea in my head. I'm gay. Don't want anything to do with girls."
"What does turn you on?"
Sage lifted his gaze and stared at Kaden. "You."
"I'm the same. Gay. You turn me on."
"We're both gay." Sage wrapped his fingers around Kaden's wrist. "Why did it take so damn long for us to tell one another?"
"Fear of the unknown."
"We're blood-brothers. We tell each other everything. It's always been you."
"Yeah, me too. It hit me hard when you left for the first series of gigs. I didn't know if you would find someone else. I can't lose you." Kaden turned his hand to clasp Sage's wrist.
"I'm not going anywhere. I'm too busy with the band and on stage to check out someone. I don't look at anyone like I do you." At a sizzling sound, Sage turned the dogs. "I think they're done."
"Yeah. Almost charbroiled. Just the way we like them."
Sage lifted one skewer and placed the dog inside the bun. He held it out to Kaden, who took it. As he repeated the procedure to get his dog in a bun, Kaden poured mustard across the blackened skin. Laughing at Kaden's reaction to a hot bite, opening and closing his mouth to get cooler air, Sage kept his dog naked. He blew and bit into the dog.
Things were quiet as they ate the simple meal, even cooking two more dogs when they realized they were hungrier than they thought. After Kaden washed and cleaned the mess, they chilled out a little longer. Soon Sage gathered the bag with their swimming stuff.
"Ready for the pool?"
"Yeah, I need some water time."