The creak of the barn door opening drew Alejandro’s attention away from the stall he’d been mucking out. Nearing noon, he’d been up for hours. First feeding the livestock, and now cleaning the pens where his dad’s horses were kept. Stardust, a gelding his father had used in the past to cull the herd, lifted his head and snorted, before returning to the ration of oats and alfalfa Alejandro offered to get him out of the stall. Heaving one last fork full of straw and manure into the wheelbarrow, he straightened. Halfway done. All that was left was to spread out the fresh bedding. The rap of knuckles against the wooden stall door made him look up from the bale he was cutting the twine on.
In a battered black hat, a thin white T-shirt and faded blue jeans that cupped a bulge Alejandro wanted to explore, Benji was as tempting as a cool glass of sweet tea on a hot summer day.
It just isn’t fair. Here I am soaked through and he’s barely broke a sweat. Resting one arm on the top of the pitchfork, Alejandro wiped his forehead with a folded handkerchief from his back pocket. It felt like it was already over ninety inside the barn. “So what’s the verdict? Are we gonna have a cool house tonight?”
“Unfortunately, no.” Benji pushed back his hat, exposing several damp silver curls. With the streak of grease across his right cheekbone, he almost looked adorable.
“Well hell. Guess I’m gonna be calling that A.C. guy.” He’d really hoped that it would be something simple to fix. But instead it looked like they’d be coming back to a steaming hot house after checking the fences.
“No need to do that.” Benji picked up the curry brush off the shelf and moved closer to Stardust. “I just needed to order the part. Guy at the hardware store told me it should be in next week.”
Alejandro nearly sagged with relief. “Thank God. I thought I was going to have to sell off my truck to fix it.”
Benji chuckled, then swept the brush over Stardust’s hindquarters. “Now don’t go doing that. How are we gonna eat? The bike won’t hold much in the way of supplies. At least not enough to satisfy a man with my appetites.”
Alejandro swallowed hard, turned back to the straw bale, and tried to not wonder if the man’s appetites in bed were as voracious as those for food. But he kept his reply light. “Well, if last night was any indication, I may end up slaughtering a cow and putting it up. That might last us ’til the end of the summer. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone put away as much as you did last night.”
“Might be a good idea.” Benji just smiled. “Save you a fortune on meat alone.”
Breaking open the bale, Alejandro nodded. “I’m all for saving money.” He forked some straw on to the floor. “Probably the same reason you rode your bike instead of driving.”
Benji worked his way over to Stardust’s other side. Then glanced up at him, a twinkle in his blue eyes. “Yep. Besides I love the wind in my hair. Which is why I love to ride.”
Tightening his fingers around the handle, Alejandro forced himself to breath, to not throw himself at Benji’s feet and beg to be the next thing the man rode. What the hell was wrong with him? Even during his first carefree days at college he hadn’t been this damned horny. It was as if Benji was his catnip. All Alejandro wanted to do was rub all over the other man. Instead of acting on the compulsion, he continued to spread the straw. He was suddenly glad that the closed stall door stood between his aching cock and his new hand’s sharp gaze. “Still I can’t believe you rode all the way from San Antonio? That had to be a long haul.”
“Not as long as a sixteen-hour day on the back of a horse during roundup.” Benji shrugged, and gave Stardust one last pat. “Which reminds me, times a-wasting. If you point me in the right direction, I’ll get the horses ready, while you finish taking care of…”
“Stardust.” Alejandro supplied.
“Stardust.” He ran his palm over the horse’s dappled nose, before offering the gelding a carrot he must’ve snitched from the kitchen. Neighing softly, Stardust snuffled it out of his hand. “And while he’s a beaut, I’d think this boy would be happier with you on his back than my heavy ass.”
Straightening, he gave Benji a thorough going over. The man was delusional. If there was an ounce of fat on his frame, Alejandro would eat his hat. “Whatever.” He nodded to the back of the barn. “You’ll find the tack hanging on the far wall. Geronimo, the tan quarter horse, is in the second to last stall. He should be a good ride for you. But be careful. He may seem docile at first, but he likes to bite.”
“Will do.” Then he was gone and Alejandro gave a sigh of relief. Maybe a dowsing in the horse trough was in order. Anything to keep from jumping his new hand.
“Damn it. Get your fucking head in the game, you idiot. You are not going to touch that boy.” Muttering to himself as he pulled the saddle off its rack, Benji tried to ignore his aching cock. The look on his boss’s face when he mentioned loving to ride had prompted a vision of Alejandro, writhing on top of him as he gave his boss a slow, long ride. One that had nothing to do with horses or motorcycles, but everything to do with sating the fire raging inside of him.
The nicker from a nearby stall jerked him free of the amorous thoughts. He lugged the saddle toward the stall. Perhaps it would be best if he kept his distance from Alejandro. But how the hell was he going to do that?
Cautiously opening the door, he approached the sixteen-hand quarter horse. As Geronimo stomped his feet, he tried to focus on gentling the horse, but found himself thinking about his boss. Everything about Alejandro, from his music, to his infectious laugh, to his incredible cooking and trim physique, reminded Benji of how long it had been since he’d had a lover. While never a promiscuous man, Benji had his share of lovers. But over the years, he’d become more selective. It took more than an itch needing to be scratched for him to park his boots under a man’s bed. He honestly had to like the guy.
“Shit.” He cursed, and barely managed to avoid being nipped as the quarter horse lunged at him― teeth first. If he wasn’t careful, the damned horse was going to take a chunk out of his hide. “Whoa, there, sweetheart. I’m not gonna hurt you.” He pivoted, never taking his eyes off the horse, and tugged the saddle blanket free. The horse eyed him and stamped its foot again. “Aw come on, baby. Don’t be like that. We both know you want to go for a nice, long ride.”
Continuing to croon in a soft voice, he barely managed to get the blanket and saddle over its broad back and was cinching up the buckle when Alejandro appeared in the opening of the stall.
“Better press up with your knee and drive the air out of his lungs. I think he finds it quite humorous to have both his rider and saddle hanging upside-down under him.”
Benji drew back and looked at the horse. “Now you wouldn’t do that to unsuspecting me would you, boy?”
The horse actually flattened its ears and tried to nip at him again. Benji glared at the horse. “You sure this horse is the right one for me to be riding, boss man? He’s a bit more than skittish, if you know what I mean.”
Alejandro draped his arms over the top of the stall gate. “Don’t take it personal-like. He has a thing about his stall. Doesn’t like others in it with him. Well other than that three-legged calico cat that’s been around forever.” He handed Benji the bridle. “But once you get him saddled up and out of it, he’s the best horse around.”
“If that’s the case, why not wait to tack him up until you bring him out of the stall?”
Alejandro chuckled, before straightening. “Ever had to chase a quarter horse? I remember Dad chasing his ass halfway to town before he caught him. Don’t think I’ve ever seen the old man that mad in my life.”
Benji bit back a laugh as a memory tugged at him. A slender Hispanic man chewing out a horse in the middle of the road leading to town. The Spanish curses flying out of his mouth would’ve made the sinner blush. “It was this horse? I remember when that happened. It was just before I left town for good.” He shook his head. “Some of the things that came out of your pa’s mouth. Haven’t heard language like that since. Your dad was a helluva man.”
Alejandro’s smile fell. “I wouldn’t know. Once I turned ten, he forgot I existed.”
He eased the bridle over Geronimo’s head. He had a hard time imagining the same man who’d chased a horse for nearly ten miles had abandoned his only child. But considering his own relationship with his dad, it was probably best if he didn’t speculate. “Well, even good men can be assholes at times.” Lord knew his was. “Sorry I said anything.”
“Don’t worry about it. I’ve made my peace with it. It’s in the past anyway.” Alejandro moved back from the door. “Ham or roast beef sandwiches for the ride?”
“Ah, roast beef, I guess.” Benji couldn’t believe his ears. Had the boy just switched from talking about his dad to food?
“Roast beef it is.” Then he disappeared, but not before tossing over his shoulder an order to meet him in the front yard in ten minutes.
Staring after him, Benji sighed. “So, that’s not the way to earn brownie points with the new boss.”