The Cowboy Way(10)

By: Anna Alexander

The image of Greta, naked and straddling his waist with the stars dancing above them, made his cock swell and his temperature jump. Man, he really needed to focus on not getting aroused every time he thought about her. If he wasn’t careful, he was going to embarrass himself more than he already had.

He turned from the truck to head toward the barn and hoped the earthy scent of the stalls would help relieve the intense swelling that caused him to walk funny.

Behind the hills, the sun was setting in a brilliant ball of orange and pink. Entranced by the swirl of color, Trey stepped up to the corral and rested his foot on the bottom rail of the fence to admire its beauty. During this time of the year almost the entire herd was deep in the hills, feeding for the summer, which left the paddock before him empty save for the few heifers that were too ill or too weak to make the journey. Their tails flicked in short snaps as they ignored his presence.

Now this—this he remembered. A summer sunset dusting the rocky hillsides with a rosy blush meant the end of a day of hard labor and the promise of supper time and talks around the fire pit, or maybe a game of catch in the driveway with some of the hands. This was home.

Nearby a door slammed shut and Mark walked out of the open side of the horse barn.

“Hey,” Trey greeted.

Mark nodded. “Hey.” He adjusted the tilt of his black cowboy hat. The color matched his closely cropped hair.

“Everything check out all right?” Trey asked.

His friend’s lips twitched. “They’re cows and they’re eating. Not much more exciting than that.” He ambled over and copied Trey’s stance. “I have the boys working on mending the fence lines. The last of the alfalfa’s been harvested. It’s been pretty quiet.”

As Mark filled him in on the status and particulars of the rest of the ranch, Trey felt his eyes widened and gave a low whistle. “I’m doing pretty well.”

“You sure are, Hoss.”

“I have a feeling that you’ve had a big hand in that.”

Mark smiled. “You’d be correct.”

“By the way, you’re Hoss. I’m Little Joe, remember?”

“Whatever you say, Hoss.” Mark winked, continuing the battle that had raged between them since they were twelve and spent their weekends in a little shed his father had turned into a clubhouse for them. They had a little black and white television with rabbit ear antennae that picked up one channel that ran all day marathons of Bonanza and Wagon Train. It wasn’t much, but they it was all their own.

Trey laughed and turned back to the sunset. He licked his lips and drew a deep breath. Pause, pause, pause. “Greta…Greta seems pretty great.” Was that a subtle-enough transition?

Mark shot him a sideways glance. “Greta is great. You lucked out when you married her.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out a pack of cigarettes.

Trey frowned. “Since when do you smoke?”

Mark looked at him in surprise as he lit up. “Since when did you stop?”

His eyebrows shot up. “I smoke?”

“Naw.” Mark chuckled and exhaled a long stream of smoke. “I thought if I said you did, you might join me.”

“No way, Hoss. Hey, blow it that way, man.” He shook his head then looked out into the distance.

Both men went quiet as they watched the landscape turn soft purple in the waning light. In the barn, the wood slats of the stall creaked as a horse leaned its heavy weight against the wall. A fly brushed past Trey’s ear, the buzz sending a tiny shiver down his back. Mark stubbed the end of his cigarette into the fence and placed the butt into his front pocket. Trey looked back at the house, then out toward the horizon again.

“Are Greta and I good?” He finally gave voice to the question that had been burning a hole in his gut.

Mark tensed. His oldest friend threw him that wary sideways glance of his. “What do you mean?”

“I mean, do we get along and do we, you know,” he jerked his head left and right, “get along?”

Mark let out a long breath and tilted his hat lower over his eyes. “I try to make it a point not to meddle in other people’s lives. Especially relationships. Why don’t you ask your wife?”

Trey scowled. “I don’t want her even more frightened of me.”

Mark’s gaze narrowed. “Why is she frightened?”

“She’s not frightened–frightened.” Damn, he was fucking this up. “She’s just uncertain about me. You know, about where my head is at, or not at. I don’t want her to feel like she needs to tell me what she thinks I want to hear. You’ll give it to me true. Right?”

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