Stuart and Cole are reunited after a decade apart, but can love overcome resentment after so long?
Cole Cassidy, Stuart Reynolds’ protector against their abusive foster father, shattered Stuart by leaving him behind the day he turned eighteen. As much as Stuart hoped and prayed that Cole would return and rescue him from the hell he lived in, it never happened.
Ten years later, Cole is stunned to find Stuart working at the Seven Plus Ranch…and Stuart is not at all happy to be reunited with the man he thought had deserted him all those years ago. Stuart learns he has been harboring an undeserved resentment toward Cole, and while recounting the time they’d endured together, a strong bond is forged between them that soon deepens into love. But Stuart is still haunted by memories of his past abuse and relives them in nightmares he feels will be too much for Cole to understand—or live with.
When a homophobic employee Cole was forced to fire returns to the ranch to destroy his work, Stuart’s nightmares escalate, and unless he can find the strength to confront his past demons, it will be his newfound relationship with Cole that’s laid to rest…
Reader advisory: This book contains scenes of homophobia, mentions of childhood rape and physical childhood abuse from the character's foster father. There is present day PTSD and a brief scene of violence.
General Release Date: 22nd September 2020
Parker Jones and Royce Chandler, joint owners of the Seven Plus Ranch, stared down at the blueprint that covered most of Royce’s desk. “Any more thoughts, Parker?” he asked his husband of seven years.
Parker ran his finger around a specific point on the blueprint. “Have they given enough room here for the extra cabin? Looks like it’ll be crammed in tight to the one next door. We’ve got more space between all the others.”
Royce put on a pair of black horn-rimmed glasses to take a closer look at the area Parker had indicated. “Hmm, yeah, I see what you mean, and I don’t like it being so close to the perimeter wall, either. Maybe they could turn it a bit so it faces a corner of the pool?” He drew an outline over the existing plan. “Let’s see what Thomas has to say when he comes over tomorrow.”
“My main concern is for the stable addition. Glad we put the guests’ and the employees’ diners on the near side of the existing stable when we originally planned all of this. Gives us a lot more leeway for further expansion if we ever need it. I’d really like to see them make a start on it before too long.” Parker drummed his fingers on the blueprint impatiently. “The concrete foundation we had poured should be set by now. We’re gonna need the stalls for the two horses we’ve got on order, and Ryan’s gonna need room for his horse. Right now, he’s over at your daddy’s ranch, but I know Ryan’s itchin’ to have him close by.”
Royce nodded. “You’re right, but even if they started construction tomorrow, which they can’t, it’d be at least three months before it’ll be habitable. Get some dates from Thomas when you see him tomorrow.” He removed his tie and unbuttoned his shirt collar, then kissed Parker’s forehead. “I’m going to shower while you pour us two nice fat scotches on the rocks. It’s been a bitch of a day and I need to put my feet up for a bit before dinner.”
“You’re working too hard.” Parker stuck a hand inside the waistband of Royce’s slacks. “You’re also getting too skinny. I’m gonna have Maria pack you a lunch so you don’t skip eatin’ when you’re at work.”
“I eat,” Royce protested. “Just, lately, we’ve been hammered with a couple of big lawsuits that are taking up all our time. One, I can see daylight at the end of a long and grueling fight, but the other is going to drag on for at least another month or two. I told Charles we have to get pickier about the clients we choose to represent. Anyhoo…” He dropped a kiss on his husband’s nose this time. “I have to shower. Be right back.”
“Okay, sexy.” Parker watched, a smile on his lips, as Royce ran up the stairs two at a time, giving Parker a view he’d never get tired of…Royce’s firm butt. Least he hasn’t lost any weight there, Parker thought with satisfaction. Still plenty to get my hands on. He walked toward the sounds of Maria, their housekeeper, getting their dinner ready. She was humming a catchy tune.
“What’s that, Maria?”
She smiled at Parker. “La Habañera. You know it, Señor Parker?”
“Sounds familiar. So, how’re you likin’ bein’ at the house? Hope we’re not too much work for you.”
“Not at all—I like it here, very much. The boys said they will miss me, but I think Emilio and Rosa will spoil them as much as I did.”
Parker chuckled. “Maybe not quite as much.”
A month ago they’d asked Maria to be their housekeeper when Ruth, the lady they’d had for years, had left them. She’d told them she and her husband were moving to a retirement village the other side of Sacramento and it was too far for her to travel on a daily basis. Maria had been their obvious choice to replace Ruth. She worked hard, got along with all the ranch hands and she was a great cook.
Parker inhaled the spicy aroma of whatever Maria had in the oven. “Smells delicious, Maria. What you got goin’ on in there?”
“Your favorite…chicken quesadilla pies. They will be ready in twenty minutes so you and Señor Royce can enjoy your cocktails first. There is salad in the fridge. I will see you in the morning. Goodnight.”
“Goodnight, Maria. Drive safe.”
Parker set to making his and Royce’s scotches on the rocks then took them outside to the patio. After placing the glasses on the table, he walked to the edge of the patio where he could look across at the spread and make sure the stables were locked up tight. The last of the guests had gone at midday and a new batch would arrive in the morning, but tonight there were only Royce and himself around, and some of the hands who lived on the property. Bliss. The view from the patio took in not only the Seven Plus spread all the way down to the pasture, but had the majestic Sierra Nevada mountains as a backdrop, the setting sun streaking the snow atop the highest peaks with its golden rays.
Parker liked running the Seven Plus, but there were times when he was glad for the peace and quiet of a night off. He watched as Tim and Ryan strolled hand in hand from the employees’ diner. They waved when they saw him and for a moment he was tempted to call them over for a beer or something stronger.
“Nope, not tonight. Just me and Royce and a kick-back night at home.”
“Talking to yourself again?” Royce’s teasing from behind made him turn to smile at his husband.
“I was just thinking that we have a little slice of heaven here and tonight I don’t want to share it with anyone but you.”
“That’s sweet.” Royce slipped his arms around Parker’s slim waist and nuzzled his neck. “I think I have a little slice of heaven right here,” he whispered.
Parker ground his rump into Royce’s crotch then chuckled. “I can feel you haven’t lost any of that ‘quick on the draw’ action. Not bad for an old guy.”
Royce laughed and squeezed Parker tight. “Look who’s talking. You are, may I remind you, two years older than me? Now let’s have that drink, then dinner…it smells delicious by the way…then you can have your way with me.”
“Does it have to be in that order?”
“Of course not!”
J.P. Bowie was born in Scotland and toured British theatres in numerous musical shows including Stephen Sondheim’s Company.
He emigrated to the States and worked in Las Vegas, Nevada for the magicians Siegfried and Roy as their Head of Wardrobe at the Mirage Hotel. He is currently living with his husband in sunny San Diego, California.