Riding along as the sun beat down on his face, Alejandro sighed. Despite the heat and the various aches from mending the fences, this is what he’d missed while he’d been away at school. Sure the ice time with the guys had been great. He’d enjoyed the hell out of pitting his strength and speed against other men, while playing hockey for the Oklahoma State Cowboys, but the scholarship had merely been a means to an end. It’d helped pay for his coveted agriculture degree. But nothing compared to riding a horse across the rolling fields and smelling nothing but fresh air and… cow manure. He wrinkled his nose. Well, he could do without the last thing, but to feel free, he’d put up with a lot of things, including the smell of shit.
“Only a few hundred yards more. If we’re lucky, we won’t find any more breaks, and we can head back to the homestead.” Benji called out from where he rode a few paces ahead of him. Since the incident in the barn, the man hadn’t stopped razzing him. All an effort, he assumed, to pull him out of his funk.
“Well, shit― guess I spoke too soon.”
Alejandro sighed as he looked to where Benji was pointing. A huge section of the fence sagged a good eight inches. It would have to be repaired before one of the fifteen hundred pound steers decided it wanted the succulent grass on the other side and simply pushed the fence over to get to it. This was like the third major break in the fencing they’d found. “Christ, I’m surprised Dad had any cattle left with the fences like this.”
Benji shrugged as he pulled the carpenter’s hammer from his saddlebag. “I don’t think they were this bad before the last roundup. It was probably the guys the estate hired to bring in the cattle. They probably weren’t paid for anything more than getting the stock to market. Mending fences is something that only the owner or foreman would worry about.” He glanced over his shoulder at Alejandro. “Well, get moving boss-man. Surely a youngin’ like you can keep up. Unless you’re planning on cryin’ uncle and heading back to the ranch house with your tail tucked between your legs?”
Had Benji just called him out? He pushed his hat back to study the other man. The smirk on Benji’s face said that he had. “Not a chance.” He wiped his brow with the back of his arm, before swinging his leg over the cantle. “But for that insult, I just might not share the location of a lovely little pond that’s great for skinny-dipping.”
“Hmmm― we’ll see about that.” Benji eyed him thoughtfully, before turning back to the fence. “Let’s get this fixed. Then we’re gonna have a little talk about this here pond.”
Alejandro pulled the wire cutter out of his saddle bag. “We can talk all you want, but I’m still not telling you.” He joined Benji at the fence and couldn’t resist poking at his cowhand. “At least not until you ask me real nice and give me a ride on that bike of yours.”
Benji frowned. “You want to drive my bike?”
The mischievous imp inside him grinned. “Nope. I want to wrap my arms around you while you take me for the ride of my life through town.”
For a full second Benji looked like he’d been hit upside the head, before he cleared his throat. “Excuse me?”
Batting his eyelashes at the man, he pursed his lips. “Think of what all the little old ladies would say. There goes that fast Delgado boy, corrupting that silver-haired fox. We better lock up the rest of our men before he takes a fancy to them and seduces them away from us God-fearing women.” As Benji’s eyes widened and his mouth gaped open like a fish out of water, Alejandro couldn’t hold his laughter any longer. It spilled free. “Gotcha.”
Benji shook his head, but a reluctant smile crossed his face. “You had me going there for a second, boy.”
“So here it is. The greatest wonder ever known to many a hot, tired cowboy.” Alejandro bowed and swept his arm out as if he were presenting the little pond to the Queen of England. “Cool luscious relief awaits, my Sir Cowhand.” He whipped his hat off. “Last one in is a rotten, toad-sucking egg.”
Benji was ready to throttle the fool. He’d acted like a clown for the past hour as they’d rode the rest of the fence-line. Now his boss was acting like he was twelve. “Exactly how old are you?”
“Almost twenty-five, last time I checked.” Alejandro grinned over his shoulder at him as he shed his boots. “Come on, pops. Or you’re gonna end up being―”
“What? A toad-sucking egg?” He asked dryly as he dismounted Geronimo and led the horse over to a nearby shrub to wrap the reins around a branch.
“No… worse. A big, fat chicken!” He tossed his shirt to the ground, before reaching for the fly on his jean.
Benji froze as Alejandro shoved the jeans down his legs, boxers and all. His mouth went dry as the plump balls and semi-erect cock came into view. “For fuck’s sake.” He spun around before he did something stupid, like pin his boss to the soft ground next to the pond to find out if Alejandro tasted as good as he looked.
“Aw come on, Benji. It’s not like we don’t have the same parts.”
Which is exactly the problem. “Are you in the water yet?”
A splash was his answer. Benji waited two long minutes before cautiously turning around. The rumpled clothing on the ground mocked his control. After listening through the paper-thin walls as his boss’s bed creaked, his imagination had been stretched to the limit. Especially when he’d heard what sounded like a low groan of pleasure. The idea that Alejandro had been stroking his cock less than six inches from him had Benji reaching for his own dick. Who’d ever thought to put the beds in both rooms against the same wall had either been a voyeur or hadn’t thought of what the sound of another’s pleasure would do to the person trying to sleep on the other side of the wall.
His dick hardened behind his zipper. His body’s reaction assured him that entering the water would be a disaster. He stalked over to his horse and swung up into the saddle, wincing as the leather saddle horn butted up against his erection. “I’ll see you back at the house later.” He’d use the shower at the house, then head into town. A cold beer away from temptation was safer than going with his first idea.
“But… where are you going?” Alejandro asked, an almost dumbfounded look on his face as he stood alone in waist deep water.
“Out. For some adult fun, junior.” He almost wished the words back when Alejandro sank back into the water. It has to be this way. Then he kicked the quarter horse into a trot― telling himself he was merely riding back to the house, not running away from Alejandro.
Pacing the kitchen, Alejandro glared at the clock over the stove. The luminous dial read almost midnight. On the scarred Formica table top, the ranch records mocked him. He’d been trying for hours to balance the books, but his dad’s idea of bookkeeping was like nothing he’d ever seen in his life. It was even more foreign than the college calculus class he’d taken his senior year at OSU. Frustrated with both the arcane number crunching and his absent cowhand, his temper was frayed. So when he heard the growl of the Harley Davison as it pulled into the yard, he stalked over to the window.
In the moonlight, he could make out Benji’s roughly hewn profile as he shut off the bike. He’d half expected some slinky bimbo to crawl out from behind his hand, but couldn’t deny the relief he felt that Benji was alone. When Benji pushed the bike on to its main stand and threw a leg over the machine, Alejandro moved back from the window. Never let it be said that I’m invading his privacy. He’d just sunk back into his chair and was once again trying to decipher the damned ledger when Bojangles gave a soft woof.
Standing in the doorway, Benji froze, taking in the scene before him. Alejandro could only imagine what he was thinking. Papers strewn over every available surface, a cup of half cold coffee and his boss sitting in a pair of boxer shorts with his hair standing up in every direction from the number of times he’d run his hands through it.
“I wasn’t expecting you to be up.” Benji’s voice came out like gravel.
“Working on the ranch books. Or at least trying.” He amended. “Dad wrote it in some kind of short hand I’ve never seen before.” He pushed the thick yellow papered ledger away from him.
He was surprised when Benji stalked closer, then spun the book around to face him. His fingers traced over several lines. “This here,” he pointed out a figure with a two-letter combo behind it, followed by another set of numbers, “means he got paid a stud fee. The first number is the stud number, the second is probably a client’s initials, while the last is agreed upon servicing. For instance… this six means that he was paid for six draws.” He scanned down several rows. “Your dad had a helluva stud service going on.”
“You can read it?” He couldn’t keep the relief from his voice.
Benji glanced up. “Yeah, it’s similar to the code I learned on the Flying J. A lot of old-school guys use this type of bookkeeping. It’s not hard to learn, once you learn the basics. If you want, I’ll teach you.”
Alejandro jumped up and wrapped his arms around Benji. The scent of beer teased his nose, but was so faint the man had maybe had a few several hours ago. “Thank you, thank you.” It took a few seconds to realize that Benji was stiff as a board. Drawing back, he stared at the man. “What…”
Benji pushed him away. “Look, I…” He raked his hand through his hair. A look of disgust crossed his face. “I don’t think this is going to work. I’ll see if I can put a few calls in and find you another hand.”
“What? No! I don’t want another hand.” Panic built in Alejandro’s stomach. Even in the short time Benji had been at the ranch he’d enjoyed the man’s company. And today had proved how well they could work together. He didn’t want to start over with another hand. “Look, I swear being gay isn’t contagious― and I’ll keep my hands to myself. Just don’t leave. You have so much experience to share with me.”
Benji scowled at him. “I’m not your fucking father.”
Alejandro pulled back, stung. “I had a father, thank you very much. And I don’t want another.”
Benji began to pace. “Fine, older brother, or whatever relation you want to stamp on me. I can’t be what you need.”
He crossed his arms over his chest. “And what exactly do you think I want?”
“Fuck, I don’t know! At times you treat me like an older brother, like fucking around at the pond today. At other times, like this morning when you fed me and commiserated about my mom having cancer, I swear you were feeling sorry for me.” Benji growled, and tossed his hat on the table. “But what just confuses the hell out of me is the instances when I can see the lust rising off you. Like you want to rip off my clothes and do mean things to me.”
Alejandro sank back into his chair. “So? You’re an attractive man and I happen to love older men. There’s no crime in looking.”
“Exactly! You’re thinking with your dick! The youth of today is confusing. Nothing like what I was like when I was sowing my oats.” He placed his hands on his hips. “You found a potential lover, then got to know them more than just a few hours or days before deciding to jump in the sack together. Unlike you, I didn’t go to college and screw an obscene amount of lovers. So if you’re looking to use the down-on-his-luck cowhand as another notch in your damn bedpost― forget it!”
Alejandro clenched his jaw at the accusation. Anger, only rivaled by the pure frustration he felt at his father’s abandonment, rose in him. “Fine, let me lay this out for you in simple terms.” He held up his hand and began counting. “One― I’ve had exactly two lovers in my life. Both I happened to care about deeply before we made love. I’ve never been promiscuous.”
He surged out of the chair. “Two― I happen to find your company enjoyable, so forgive me for acting like a goof. I tend to do that when I’m having fun. Three― I don’t feel sorry for you. I remember what it was like to lose a mother, and did what I wished someone had done for me. Besides, I enjoy taking care of people. It brings me pleasure. And four― I do happen to find you attractive and would jump at the chance to be your lover.”
He got right up in Benji’s face. “But I will never force myself on another man. You’ve drawn the line in the sand. So if you decide to stay on, your virtue is safe. The fag won’t touch you. But don’t for a second use my sexuality as an excuse to leave.” He slammed the ledger shut. “I’m going to bed. If you’re here in the morning, great. If not, I hope your mom gets better fast.”
Slipping out of the room, he let the tears he’d been holding at bay flow. Why the fuck was he so screwed up in the head over Benji? Twenty-four hours shouldn’t be enough time to make this kind of connection.