I’m happy to introduce you to a friend of mine and her writing. Cindy Sutherland’s first novella, Cowboy Way, releases tomorrow from Dreamspinner Press, with another gorgeous cover by Paul Richmond. The blurb:
Ryan Andrews is on the run from past mistakes he doesn’t know how to fix. Lost and alone, all he really wants is a place where he can be himself, but when he pulls up at the ranch where he’s found a job and spies his gorgeous new boss, Ryan is pretty sure fate is out to get him.
Jake Evans is an ex-soldier trying to carve out a life on the ranch he inherited from his grandmother. He doesn’t even have time to realize how lonely he is until the new ranch hand shows up in his driveway. Ryan looks even more lost than Jake feels, and Jake’s locked-up heart seems to break open. Can these two men find in each other find the companionship they crave? Or will their pasts eclipse any possibility of a future?
Cindy was kind enough to provide me with a short excerpt from her story (after the cut). I read it in an early draft form and really enjoyed it, so I’m looking forward to reading the finished product!
Jake led Bella to the corral gate and let her in before using the hose attached to the barn to fill her water trough. He let himself out of the corral, making sure the gate was latched before heading to the barn and grabbing a small bale of hay, dropping it into the corral.
Ryan smirked as he saw Jake slip the brave little horse an apple out of his pocket. She blew out of her nose before nibbling on the sleeve of Jake’s denim shirt. Jake laughed, and Ryan was once again struck by the beauty of him. He patted her nose and turned to go back in the barn. “Coming?” Ryan was pretty sure he would follow him anywhere.
They settled the rest of the horses, making sure they all had feed and water, until they were down to the last two. “Now, my horse is the big bay out there, Aragorn. He’s been mine for a long time, and we understand each other.” Jake grinned before continuing.
“Now, here we have Buck.” Jake was standing beside a big buckskin horse, light brown with a darker mane and tail. The intelligence and humor in that horse’s eyes matched his owner’s. “I know, obvious name, but I was sixteen at the time. He’s smart and fast, but he has a little attitude. He is mostly good natured, just likes to play tricks now and then. Gotta make sure the gate is double latched when he’s out there, because otherwise he escapes.” Jake was rubbing the horse’s nose fondly, and the horse seemed to be nodding in agreement with the brunet.
Jake walked over to the next stall, and there was a pinto horse, smaller than the other, but beautiful. It was mostly brown, with a white patch on its hindquarters and observant eyes that were a little mistrustful.
“Ryan, meet Beau. He is one of those rescue horses I told you about. His owners were drug dealers, who pretty much forgot he existed and left him to starve. Thank God, a nosy neighbor decided that enough was enough and called the sheriff. She got a hold of me, and we went and got him. They were so stoned, they thought it was funny. He was skin and bones, but look at him now.” Jake beamed at the horse with obvious pride, running his hands over the horse’s neck and shoulders. Ryan looked at the man and the horse and was pretty sure he was in love. With both of them.
He walked up to Beau with his hand held out, letting the animal get to know his scent before moving in to put his face on the horse’s neck and lovingly touching him everywhere he could reach. Ryan knew a kindred spirit when he saw it, and apparently the horse did too. It wasn’t long before his head was turned, resting on Ryan’s shoulder, while Ryan whispered in his ear.
Jake was awed. He had never seen anything so beautiful in his life. He cleared his throat so he could speak. “Guess we found your horse.”
Ryan looked at him from the other side of the horse, and the happiness he saw on Ryan’s face took his breath away. Jake was pretty sure he had never believed in love at first sight, before now.
They were both still touching the horse, and their hands met by accident, tangling together in the soft mane. They were both jolted by the touch, neither in any hurry to move their hand.
Ryan ducked his head, taking a deep breath before sliding his hand away and back down the horse’s side. He looked into Jake’s eyes. He knew it was time. “Jake, I have to tell you something. Something about me. Jake, I’m—”
Jake cut him off. “I know, Ryan.” It was his turn to duck his head before looking back up. “I called the place you used to work, from the references you gave me. The owner told me you were gay and hoped he didn’t mess up your chances for a job. He felt bad, you know, but didn’t know how to deal with it.”
Blue eyes met brown in a searing gaze, both of them feeling a burning in the pit of their stomach. Jake was the first to move. He slid under the horse’s neck, standing up in front of Ryan, so close he could hardly breathe. His hand came up to touch Ryan’s face. “Ryan, I—”
Ryan leaned in, cutting him off with a hesitant press of lips before pulling back to look at Jake again. Jake stood there for five heartbeats before using the hand on Ryan’s face to pull him up into a toe-curling kiss, and there was nothing hesitant about it.