Thursday, April 10, 2008

Twice the Ride by James Buchanan

Warm, damp, and smelling of his own spicy aftershave, Jess Graff wandered out of the shower and into his bedroom. He rolled his neck, generating pops from tight muscles and bones long used to being mistreated. Bronc riding wasn't easy on the body. Construction wasn't easy on it, either, but it was the kind of job where he could take off for a few days to hit a rodeo circuit event.

Being a pretty skilled carpenter kept Jess in grub and suds. Any yahoo could knock together a two-by-four frame ... not many could reconstruct an antique molding. If the contractor on one project got pissed 'cause he was going to be gone for a bit, another would pick him as soon as he got back. And there was a nice, warm skinned Mexican cowboy waiting for him when he hit home. Or, waiting for him the times Manuel Santos Fuentes didn't tag along with Jess, or Jess didn't tag along with him. Shit, half the time Manuel's roping skills footed the hotel for them both. That boy could rope down the moon and tie it to Jess' heart anytime he pleased.

Life was pretty good these days.

However, this morning it was less than perfect. An empty and made bed, the southwestern style throw blanket pulled up under the pillows, confronted him. Damn, that meant Manuel was already up. Jess tried to remember if he had work or if it was just habit, and finally settled on his charro being an early riser. Someday he'd break that boy into Saturday morning lazies, where you'd stay wrapped up in bed not doing much of anything. Well, if he wasn't under the sheets...

Jess leaned out the door of the tiny bedroom in search of the finest thing ever to wear a cowboy hat. Nice benefit about a one bedroom shack in the desert, there wasn't a whole lot a place for Manuel to hide from him.

Dark, brown eyes and a bright, white smile said good morning. Goddamn, Manuel was just nine kinds of wonderful first thing in the A of M. Stretched out along the couch, he was dressed in nothing but last night's jeans. That rangy frame got Jess going every time. Just enough muscle ran under smooth caramel skin to flex with interesting patterns of light each time he moved. Manuel's agile fingers teased the weave on his charro bridle, trying to fix a broken weft in the herringbone pattern. Mexican bridles were beautiful in their simplicity: no throatlatch, no noseband, just cheek pieces and an ear-slot so that the horse's features would shine through.

Jess shook his head and laughed to himself. Manuel couldn't be coaxed into leaving a spare pair of pants in the drawer, but his extra tack littered the house. Jess figured that meant Manuel thought of Jess' place as home. Clothes could be got anywhere, but a good saddle was hard to come by. One leg kicked up over the back of the worn couch pulled denim tight across Manuel's crotch. The bridle he worked on hung over his knee so he could use both hands.

Jess licked his lips, remembering Manuel's musky taste from this morning. That thick prick all hot and hard in his mouth, he watched his vaquero writhe as he licked and sucked. Wanting more, he stepped up to the dingy sofa and ran his fingers through thick, black hair. With a sly grin, Manuel reached out and tugged on the towel wrapped about Jess' hips. Spicy hints of their morning fun rose from Manuel's skin, running just under the smell of soap from Jess' shower.

Jess was just about to say something, make a comment about what needed to happen to those tight jeans and his own towel, when a woman's voice broke out of the speaker phone. ""Manuelito!" Manuel's mother's rich Spanish sounded over the connection. "Debería llamarme más."

Biting his tongue to keep the comment back, Jess shot Manuel a glare as he hightailed it to the kitchen ... intent on rounding up some coffee. One of the few things that drove him up a wall: Manuel's insistence on using the speakerphone. The first time it happened, Jess had sidled in the door after work and snuggled up against Manuel in the front room. In his best come hither rumble he'd purred out, "Time to get nekkid, boy," and been answered by Manuel's boss with, "I guess he ain't coming back out to help that mare foal tonight then." Good thing that woman didn't give a rat's ass about Manuel's sexuality or he could have ended up in the unemployment line.

Either oblivious to, or ignoring, Jess' irritation, Manuel smiled again. Absently, he answered his mother. "Aye, mama, llamo todo el tiempo." That smile could wipe away just about any exasperation.