Eric Young and Daren Creston met when both attended a pride parade in Denver with friends. They’d immediately hit it off. Three months later, city-dwelling Eric moved in with small-town living Daren, and they made their home in Colin City. Seven years later, they are still very much in love. After years of saving, Eric and Daren head to a dude ranch for a little sun, fun, and sexy cowboy roleplay in the bedroom. The place has amazing reviews, is run by vampires, and was recommended by their wolf shifter buddies. After a tragic riding accident leaves Daren’s life hanging perilously by a thread, Eric is willing to do anything to save his lover. Death, one of the Horsemen of the Apocalypse, hears Eric’s cries. His interest is piqued. When Death makes the pretty human an offer—the price, Eric and Daren’s souls—will Eric take it? And if he does, will Daren ever be able to forgive him?
Reader Advisory: This is a M/M/M ménage.
A couple of wranglers joined them and guided them between animals. The pair had introduced themselves as Murdoch and Rhyme. They were about as different as night and day, with only their heights in common. Murdock stood six-foot-one and was a tall, lean, and toned male with lightly tanned skin Standing maybe an inch taller, Rhyme was big and broad and had mocha skin. If he didn’t have a friendly smile and laugh lines around his nearly black eyes, he would have been intimidating as hell.
After Rhyme guided Eric to a small, dark-bay horse, he took a moment to admire the pretty animal’s black mane and tail, black lower legs, and dark-brown body before the vampire helped get him settled on its back. Then the wrangler explained the cues the horse knew—how to ask to go, how to turn, and how to stop. Rhyme even went over what to do should an emergency arise—pull one rein, and only one rein, toward his hip. The big man told him that the horse had been trained to immediately turn in a circle and stop.
Good to know, although Eric sure hoped he wouldn’t need it.
A few minutes later, Eric guided his horse to the right and followed the others’ animals out of the yard. The equine seemed happy to hang out with its friends, and Eric found it easy to walk beside Daren’s taller, light-gray-colored animal. In a short amount of time, the group reached a gate which Murdoch opened, and Rhyme led the way through.
Eric peered over his shoulder and saw Murdoch close the gate, then remount his horse and fall into step behind the group.
Rhyme led them along a trail that headed upward as it narrowed. Eric asked his horse to slow and fell into step behind Daren’s. The views to his left were stunning, and the wranglers pointed out different areas—a pond that flooded annually, a herd of cows they called Angus, and a meadow that was fantastic for picnics.
From up ahead,” Rhyme’s deep voice bellowed, “Everybody, whoa!”
Eric pulled his horse to a stop.
“Let me see what’s up,” Murdoch said from behind him.
Half turning in his saddle, Eric watched Murdoch swing from the saddle. He dropped the reins on the ground, then started along the narrow path, keeping to the side that fell steeply toward the meadows below. Eric appreciated it, since he preferred to be close to the mountain side.
“Won’t your horse run away?” Eric asked curiously as Murdoch passed.
Murdoch flashed a smile his way as he shook his head. “No. Pixie is trained to ground tie.” He paused just long enough to explain, “As long as the reins are trailing on the ground, she won’t go more than a step in any direction.”
Daren chuckled. Turning with a smile on his face, he questioned, “Pixie?”
Shrugging, Murdoch replied, “I didn’t name her.”
Murdoch strode onward, passing the other half a dozen horses. At some point, Rhyme had dismounted from his big black horse. The pair stood farther up the trail.
Eric spotted the problem. A tree had fallen across the path, blocking the way. The pair were glancing from the tree to the group and back again, their conversation too soft to hear.
A few seconds later, both men returned to the group.
“I’m sorry, guys. We can’t move the tree without some equipment,” Rhyme called, his deep voice carrying over the group. “We’re gonna have to turn around and take another route.”
Glancing around, Eric bit his lip. They were on a fairly narrow trail. The slope to the left and right were pretty damn steep, one slanting down and the other up respectively. Fortunately, someone near the front asked what he was thinking.
“How do we turn around?”
Rhyme pasted an encouraging-looking smile on his face. “Slowly turn your horse to the right, facing uphill. The horse will do the rest.” Eric probably wasn’t the only one to sport a dubious expression, for the big man lifted a hand in placation. “Just watch me, and if you’re nervous, Murdoch will help you as he passes.”
Eric nodded, having every intention of waiting for help. As he watched, Rhyme asked his horse to turn. The animal did as it was told, sliding its hooves over the hard-packed earth. It tucked its front and rear hooves together closely and actually made the maneuver look fairly easy.
I sure hope it is.
Sitting and waiting, Eric watched as Murdoch got one horse and rider after another turned around. It seemed he wasn’t the only one who was willing to wait patiently for help. To Eric’s surprise, Daren began turning his horse around while Murdoch helped the guy in front of him.
Eric watched with his brows furrowed as Daren’s pale gray horse took one slow step after another. It tucked its butt and its nose for several heart-stopping seconds, then it was past the halfway point. Blowing out a relieved breath, Eric began to smile at his lover.
Then something happened.
The earth under the horse’s right rear hoof crumbled away, and the animal lost its balance. Even though it scrambled for purchase, it did no good. Horse and rider tumbled over the side.
Screaming Daren’s name, Eric watched in horror as the gray animal rolled over Daren’s smaller form, then continued down the hill. Daren slid to a stop just ten feet from the trail.
Murdoch scampered over the side, stepping carefully so loose rocks didn’t fall on Daren.
Eric called Daren’s name again, and again, frozen where he sat in the saddle. His heart hammered in his chest, and tears stung his eyes. When Daren continued to lie still, his left leg at an impossible angle, dark spots began to dance across Eric’s vision.
No, no, no! I’ll do anything! Daren, please wake up!