Authors: Jake Mactire
4760 Preston Road
Frisco, TX 75034
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2011 by Jake Mactire
Cover Art by Paul Richmond
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without the written permission of the Publisher, except where permitted by law. To request permission and all other inquiries, contact Dreamspinner Press, 4760 Preston Road, Suite 244-149, Frisco, TX 75034
Printed in the United States of America
eBook edition available
eBook ISBN: 978-1-61372-060-8
Against all odds, you did it! Despite everything against you, you persevered and came out on top. Words can’t express just how proud of you I am.
clouds and the murky daylight gave a gray feeling to the surroundings. The snow was deep and it was cold, almost ten degrees below freezing. Snowflakes gently and intermittently fell. As we skied through the well-spaced pines, the caw of a raven broke the winter silence.
“Hey, Jeffy, I’ll race ya back to the house!” My partner, Mike, called across the trail.
“What does the winner get, or what does the loser do?”
“Clean up after dinner.”
“You got it, bud!” He began to ski very quickly ahead of me. He looked adorable as hell with his blue jacket and cap and formfitting black tights. His legs and ass were well muscled. He turned and smiled at me, and his red beard had some ice dangling from it. Since he was looking back at me, he wasn’t looking where he was going, so he fell in a spectacular jumble of cross-country skis and poles. I laughed once I saw he was okay, and sailed past him. I was by far and away the better skier, since he was just learning, but my right shoulder was still weak as a result of a gunshot wound I’d suffered almost two months ago.
Mike and I have been together for about three months now. Not only are we partners, but we are best friends. When we met, Mike was deeply closeted, owing to a childhood in hell caused by a father who kicked him out when he couldn’t change being gay. Mike still bears some of the scars of his preacher father’s abuse. Once we got together, however, he came out of the closet with a vengeance.
We’re both small-town boys. I grew up here in the valley, and Mike grew up in a small town in Nebraska. Our ranch has an eclectic collection of characters—Sandy, a beautiful and outspoken lady I grew up with, the new ranch foreman, José, a cowboy originally from Mexico, Josh, another cowboy who’s been with us for a while, and our newest cowboy, Smitty. These folks are all straight. We also have Jeanette, a friend of mine from the gay rodeo circuit. She and I are pretty close. Our little group is completed by Renee from Seattle—she’s Josh’s girlfriend and a successful, middle-aged owner of a dress shop—and by Maria, a lovely nurse who works in Wenatchee. She and Sandy are best friends, and she’s gotten close to Mike and me also. I’m a lucky man, only twenty-eight, and I really couldn’t ask for more.
I slowed down a bit to let Mike catch up some. He was coming up quick. We came to the road we had to cross. From the snowplow, there was a four-foot-high embankment of snow and ice alongside the road. I turned sideways and climbed up it. Mike made another spectacular fall trying to get across the little wall. I crossed the road and skied up the long driveway leading to the ranch house. When I got there, I took off my skis and waited on the porch for Mike. He was pretty winded when he got there. I was gonna have to show him how to glide a bit more to conserve some energy.
“How far you reckon we skied, Jeffy?”
“About fifteen miles or so.”
“That was great! I’m really glad you taught me how to cross-country ski. I like it a lot.” I pulled him against me and gave him a long kiss. It was sweet and lingering. We both had icicles hanging from our beards.
“I like seein’ you in those workout tights, buddy.” He smiled at the compliment I’d given him.
“I think we can both agree we like watchin’ each other dressed for skiin’.”
“How ’bout we undress and get in the hot tub?”
He smiled at me. “Sounds great.”
We shucked our clothes. Cross-country skiing is quite a workout, and our tights, several pairs of socks, fleece pullovers, and polypro longhandles were soaked. We left the clothes in the mud room and went into the bathroom near the back door to rinse off. We ran across the patio to the hot tub. The water felt burning hot after the cold of the air.
“Ya know, buddy, this is one of my favorite things. Go out skiin’ or snowshoein’ and then come back, sit in the hot tub, and have dinner ready in the slow cooker.”
“Did ya ever see those old beer commercials, Jeffy? The ones that say ‘it don’t get no better than this.’ That’s what this is like.”
“I’m kinda happy we don’t have any dudes until later in the week. New Year’s is gonna be the start of the dude ranch.”
“I can’t believe it’s almost New Year’s now. Christmas sure was great though.”
“It sure was, buddy. I wasn’t sure the rings would turn out, but they did.”
I do bronze metal sculptures. I decided to try my hand at jewelry, and since Mike and I are a couple, I made us rings. They were fourteen karat gold, with ropers on each ring. When we do team roping, he’s the header and I’m the heeler, and our rings represent that. His has a cowboy riding a horse and throwing a lasso around a calf’s neck, since he’s the header. Mine shows a cowboy throwing the rope around a calf’s back legs. The faces of the rings are flat and square. I engraved the designs on them. I’d had to practice on some spare pieces of bronze to get the engraving just right. I’d also gotten him a pair of Rocketbuster boots with a cowboy on a buckin’ bronc, with mountains, pine trees, and a setting sun in the background. He got all sentimental on me, and I found out he hadn’t gotten a Christmas present since gettin’ kicked out at sixteen, eight years ago.
“Did you like your belt, Jeffy?” Mike made me the most beautiful horsehair belt I’d ever seen. Making belts, ropes, tack, and hatbands from the hair in a horse’s tail or mane is an old cowboy craft.
“I sure did. It was exactly what I wanted for Christmas.” Christmas had been really nice—presents early in the morning and a big Christmas dinner. After Josh, José, and Smitty headed back to the bunkhouse, and Sandy and Maria went back to town, Mike and I had put on some cowboy Christmas music and two-stepped round the Christmas tree.
“What did ya put in the slow cooker, Jeff?”
“I got this real good recipe for beef stew cooked in stout beer. It’s got carrots, potatoes, and mushrooms in it. I reckoned we could have it over noodles.”
“Remember the first time we ever ate together? We were ridin’ fences, and we had canned stew and noodles.”
“Yeah, and you couldn’t keep your eyes off of me.”
“Still can’t. Seems to work both ways though.”
“Nice, ain’t it?”
“Sure is.” After a while we were beginning to feel like we’d been boiled, so we got out and dried off. We headed up to our room and pulled on longhandles—one-piece long underwear—and socks before heading down to the kitchen for dinner.
“This is really good, Jeffy. I didn’t know I was marryin’ a gourmet cook.”
“Thanks, it could just be you’re hungry as hell from the skiin’.”
“What, you’re gettin’ all modest and humble on me?”
“Just tryin’ to be nice, since you’re doin’ the cleanup.”
“Jeff, one of these days, I’m gonna beat you at skiin’.”
“I guess with my shoulder, it shouldn’t be too hard. All kiddin’ aside, you’re gettin’ better every day. We can go out skiin’ tomorrow too.”
“Sounds like a plan. Wanna watch the news?”
“Sure, you know I’m not a big TV fan, but I will watch it with you.”
“I reckon after watchin’ the news, we could put in a movie, maybe cuddle a bit?”
“You read my mind, buddy. I’ll get the couch warm while you clean up.”
I headed into the living room and turned the TV on. After a few minutes, Mike came in and curled up against me. I threw a blanket over us, and we settled back to watch the doom and gloom.
One news story was particularly disturbing. Police had linked the slayings of seventeen men to one killer. The murders were up and down the West Coast, from Los Angeles all the way to Washington. There were many more disappearances. One of the theories was that the killer spent some time gettin’ to know his victims and picked those with no friends, or who were estranged from families and friends. Most were gay, but it wasn’t clear if that was just easier for the killer or if he was targeting the gay community. The seventeen bodies that had been recovered showed signs of horrific torture and mutilation. It was really chilling. I put my arm around Mike and pulled him closer.
“You’re thinkin’ that any one of those victims coulda been me, ain’t ya, Jeffy?”
“That’s somethin’ I don’t wanna think about, buddy.”
“It coulda been though. Think of those years I spent on my own, closeted, havin’ anonymous sex in parks and rest areas and stuff. It’s sad that he goes after guys who just don’t have anyone.”
“If you think about it, it’s sad he goes after anyone.”
“He must go after those guys since no one cares about ’em. The chances of them bein’ missed is slim.”
“It’s amazin’ the depravity some folks have, ain’t it, buddy?”
“Yep, like assholes who’ll reject their own kids for bein’ gay.”
“You thinkin’ about your family?”
“This time of year, it’s kinda hard not to. I wonder how my brother and sister are doin’. My old man, I couldn’t give a shit about. My mom, I ain’t too sure. She never stood up for me, but she did try to make it better when he wasn’t around.” I could feel him gettin’ all tense, and when he talked about his father, he almost trembled with anger.
“Buddy, I know it’s hard, but don’t let it poison ya. I wouldn’t wish what you went through on nobody. After so much abuse, I know it’s hard to get over it, but ya can’t let it continue to bother you. Look at ya now. You got somebody who loves ya more than anythin’, ya got a good home, a business, you’re a respected member of the community. You should be proud of yourself, despite havin’ such an asshole for a dad.”
“I know you’re right, Jeffy, but it still hurts so much. I told him I was thinkin’ about sex with guys because I trusted him. He asked me to pray with him and told me God would ‘heal’ me.”
“I remember you sayin’ that he asked the congregation to pray for you. It must’ve gotten all over town in a coupla hours. That kind of betrayal must have hurt like hell.”
“It did. That shit hurt worse than the way the people in town treated me after they found out I’m gay.” I reckoned the “shit” he was referring to was the fact that his old man and the church elders started trying to beat it out of him.
“Were ya relieved when he kicked ya out?”
“It was kind of a relief, his buyin’ me a bus ticket to San Francisco and givin’ me two hundred dollars. I was only sixteen, but I knew the abuse would stop.” I really didn’t know what to say. I just held him.