“How’s Meridian?”

“The same.”

“What do you need done this morning?” Edgard blasted Trevor with a warning look.

“And don’t say nothin’. It’d be an insult to Chassie because I know she works her ass off before noon.”

What the hell? Ed was being protective of his wife? “I already fed the cattle.”

Edgard lifted a brow. “This early?”

“Yeah. I couldn’t sleep.”

“Chassie didn’t call?”

Trevor shook his head. “Thought I’d get all my shit done early so we’d have time to talk when she comes home.”

“Sounds like a plan. Where were you off to?”

To pine over another thing I can’t have in my life.

Jesus. That sounded pathetic. Trevor twisted a version of the truth. “Our neighbor to the south is thinkin’ about sellin’ his place. He’s given us first shot at it. Still hush-hush.”

“I take it there are other folks who’d want that piece of land?”

“A few. Kind of an Old West code, if you like your neighbors, you offer it to them first. But it ain’t like we’d get it cut rate. Gus’s usin’ the money to live off for the rest of his life, so I got no interest in screwin’ him out of a fair deal.”


“But I don’t know if Chass and I can afford the down payment, say nothin’ of the buyout price.” Embarrassed, Trevor scowled. “Thought I’d head over and see how he’s doin’.”

“You want company?”

“Yeah, I’d like that.”

Edgard smiled. “See? That wasn’t so hard.”

Rather than step in another nest of snakes, Trevor snagged his coat and headed outside.

Once they were in the truck, Edgard asked, “Who’re the other neighbors who could meet the asking price?”

Trevor threw it in reverse and gunned the engine. “That’s what sucks. Gus’s neighbors on his south end are the McKays.”


“McKay is McKay around here. Their massive ranch crosses the borders of several counties and employs the sons and cousins and a half dozen or so ranch hands. Buyin’ that acreage is a fart in a windstorm for them. But for Chass and me, it’d be a way to guarantee we can make a go of it.”


He could feel Edgard’s gaze burning into him. “What?”

“How soon does Gus need a guarantee you have the funds?”

“That’s what I’m aimin’ to find out today.”

Edgard nodded and went silent again.

Gus Dutton’s place had gone to seed in the years since his wife passed on and his offspring decided they were too good to ranch in Wyoming. Still, Trevor couldn’t imagine why Gus’d move to the desert to be with those ingrates.

Gus ambled onto the sagging porch and hobbled down the steps. “Mornin’, Trevor.

Where’s the missus?”

“Weddin’ shower in Wheatland.”

“Pity. She’s a mite easier on the eyes than you are.” He jerked a thumb to Edgard.

“Who’s that?”

“This is my old ropin’ partner, Ed Mancuso. Ed, this is the orneriest coot in the county. Which was why he and Harland West were such good buds.”

Edgard thrust out his hand. “Nice to meetcha, Gus.”

“A roper, eh? You any good?”

“Used to be. I ain’t competing any more. But them rope skills do come in handy on the range.”

“I hear ya,” Gus said. “So what brings ya by, Trevor?” He rubbed his gnarled hands together in exaggerated glee. “Got earnest money for me?”

Trevor grinned even when his face felt encased in plastic. “Come on, Gus. You were married for a helluva lot longer than me. Chassie’s the one with the checkbook.”

Gus grinned at him. “Always knew that pretty little gal was the smartest of the West lot.” Gus focused his rheumy eyes on Edgard. “You a rancher around these parts too, now that you ain’t travelin’ the circuit no more?”

“Not exactly.”

Gus squinted suspiciously at Edgard. “Where’d you say you was from again?”

“He didn’t say, but Ed’s been livin’ on his ranch in Brazil.”

“Brazil, as in South America?”

Edgard scowled. “Well, more specifically—”

“—specifically he was born right here in Wyoming,” Trevor interjected and relayed the sad tale of Edgard’s mother and father and his family connection.

Gus was appropriately wide-eyed. “Hell, boy, why didn’t you say you was related to the Bordens out by Cloud Peak? I knew your grandpa and your grandma. Good people.

Your last name ain’t Borden?”

“No, sir. My stepfather adopted me when he and my mother had their first child, so I’d have the same name as my siblings. My middle name is Borden.”

“Good enough. Now you fellas wanna take a look around?”

“If it wouldn’t be too much trouble.”

“No trouble a’tall. We’ll take your rig, Trevor, that way I can point out the interestin’ stuff to Ed.”

The tension mounted in Trevor’s truck when Edgard slid into the middle of the cab, right next to him, with Gus on the outside. To make matters worse, the stick shift was centered on the floor so Edgard had to straddle it, putting one foot on Trevor’s side and one on the passenger’s side.

Edgard scooted in, leaving about a foot between them.

“Move in,” Gus instructed. “I need a little extra room to stretch my bum leg out.”

The truck bounced as Gus hoisted himself in and Edgard’s left thigh pressed Trevor’s right leg.

“Ah. Much better, huh?”

Trevor turned his head the same time Edgard did. His eyes locked on those full lips.

Dammit. Edgard’s mouth was so close he could smell his sweet-coffee breath. His gaze traveled up the line of Edgard’s nose and connected with yellow-brown eyes.

There it was. That jolt of something deeper than lust.

“We goin’ or what?” Gus demanded.

“Yeah, we’re goin’,” Trevor said, breaking the moment. Putting the stick shift in gear, right between Edgard’s legs, Trevor’s fingers brushed close enough to feel the heat drifting from the crotch of Edgard’s jeans.

They were going all right. Straight into the mouth of temptation. And just Trevor’s luck; this time he was in the driver’s seat.

Don’t get a hard-on. Don’t get a hard-on.

But with Trevor’s muscular thigh rubbing against his, and the almost constant necessity for Trevor to shift, Edgard fought a losing battle. His cock was so sensitive he feared Trevor’s palm on his crotch would send him over the edge.

“See that?” Gus said. “Used to be a stock dam. So dry the whole damn thing dried up.” He chuckled at his own joke.

“Where else do you have water?” Edgard asked.

“Miller’s Creek. Snakes through the canyon, but there’s a couple flat places the cattle can get to.”

“Does the same creek run through Chassie’s and your place?”

Trevor shook his head. “Our stock dams are about in the same sad shape. We do have a natural spring, which means we don’t hafta haul as much water, but no creek frontage.”

An additional water source would be worth the price of the land. Edgard knew out in the high plains desert, access to fresh water was a higher commodity than gold. No wonder the McKays were so hot to have it.

“Hey, swing by the old homeplace, would ya?”

“Where is it again?”

“Down that embankment. Whoa. Right. Hard right.”

“Shit. Hang on.” Trevor cranked the wheel, which sent Edgard crashing into him with enough force he had to brace his hand on Trevor’s thigh.

Gus was too busy laughing to notice Trevor’s surprised gasp.

Don’t squeeze that firm thigh. Don’t do it.

Edgard briefly let his fingers trace the inside crease of Trevor’s jeans as he pushed off to return to his own space.

The simple move seemed to rattle Trevor.

But Gus was running off at the mouth again so the moment was short lived.

For the next two hours the trio bumped across the frozen ground. Each directional shift sent them careening into each other, and if Edgard could believe his eyes, the zipper on Trevor’s jeans bulged more than normal.

As much as Edgard would love to pretend the feel of half of Trevor’s body rubbing against his, whether accidental or on purpose, was foreplay, it wasn’t. And he’d do his part to keep Trevor’s promise to Chassie even if it damn near killed him.

“So whatcha think of my place, Ed?”

“If I say I don’t know why you’d wanna live anywhere else, Trevor and Chassie would both shoot me.”

“That ain’t an answer,” Gus pointed out.

“I know.” Edgard grinned. “But it’s the best you’re gonna get outta me, Gus.”

Back at the ranch, while Trevor used the bathroom, Edgard finagled the answers he needed from Gus on a couple of things.

Then they were off, on their way home.

Finally Trevor said, “Gus is old school. But I’m surprised he didn’t ask you more questions about your operation in Brazil. He lives for shit like that.”

“It ain’t as interesting as it sounds. Ranching is pretty much the same world over.”

“What were you two talkin’ about when I came back outside?”

Edgard shrugged, not willing to divulge anything yet. “Just shooting the breeze. He has an opinion on everything and needed to share it with me. I figure he’s pretty lonely.”

“I reckon. He and Agnes were married for sixty years, so I can’t fathom why he’d leave this place and never look back.”

“It seems his decision will work out good for you.”