It surprised him when Trevor admitted, “I wasn’t sleepin’ either. I heard you.”

“You did?”

“Yeah. Now I’m thinkin’ if I would’ve gotten up when you did maybe we coulda saved that damn horse.”

Edgard frowned. “But you told Chassie—”

“I told Chassie what she needed to hear so she didn’t feel guilty,” Trevor said irritably. “If anyone’s gonna be takin’ on the brunt of the guilt around here, it’s gonna be me, not her.”

“Which is noble, Trev, but you didn’t have to be so cruel to her.”

“You tellin’ me how to handle my wife, Ed?”

“No. I’m telling you after what she’s been through in the last couple of days you should’ve expected she’d be an emotional train wreck. You should’ve been more sympathetic to her losing the horse, not less.” Edgard mentally braced himself for Trevor’s temper to explode.

But it didn’t, he just nodded. “I know. Even as that mean shit was runnin’ out of my mouth like I’d developed a case of scour, I couldn’t stop it.” Trevor hit the brakes and threw the truck in park. His hands gripped the steering wheel below where he’d placed his forehead. “Ah fuck. I can’t believe what a prick I am sometimes.”

Trevor’s shoulders rose and fell quickly. Was Trevor crying? Or hyperventilating?

Either way, Trevor wouldn’t accept his comfort, so Edgard stayed immobile, aching for the chance to pacify the man in mind or body. To ease him in some way, because seeing Trevor hurting was still like a knife in his gut.

Finally, Trevor sighed. “I never wanna be like him. Never.”

“Be like who?” Edgard asked, even when he knew.

“Like my father.”

Edgard didn’t offer him any false words of comfort.

“It scares the hell out of me. Chassie don’t know what a bastard my dad was. Still is.

I didn’t tell her about some of the shit he’d pulled because I…goddammit, I worried she wouldn’t marry me because she’d be afraid I’d turn out like him.

“Now I can’t tell her because I’m afraid with all the other stuff that’s happened, she’ll kick me to the fence. Seems I can’t tell her nothin’ without fear of losin’ her.” His short bark of laughter rivaled the cold for bitterness. “I suck at this spillin’ my guts stuff.

I always have. You know that probably better’n anyone.”

“Yeah, well, it’s a lousy excuse. It always has been.”

Trevor slowly lifted his head and gave Edgard an incredulous look. “How is that smartass answer supposed to help me?”

“Oh, so now you want my help?”

“Well yeah, since it’s obvious I fucked up and it’s obvious you think you know how to fix it.”

“Fine.” Edgard pointed to the cell phone clipped on the dash. “Call her. Say, ‘Baby, I’m sorry I was an asshole. I love you’, but for Christsake don’t qualify it.”

“Qualify it, meanin’ what?”

“Don’t tack on, ‘I was an asshole because I’m under stress’, just apologize. Period.”

They stared at each other.

“That’s it?”

“Sometimes the smallest gestures have the biggest impact.”

“Can’t be that easy,” Trevor muttered, snatching the phone. He faced out the driver’s side window but didn’t lower his voice.

“Hey, Chass. No. Nothin’s wrong. I just wanted to say…I’m sorry. You know, for earlier today. In the barn. I was a jerk.” When Trevor started to tack on, “Because…”

Edgard reached over and smacked him on the arm. Trevor whirled back around. “Jesus, Mancuso. What the fuck?”

Edgard shook his head and mouthed, “No excuses.”

Still glaring at Edgard, Trevor said, “No, nothin’ happened. Ed spilled his coffee all over himself. Yeah. He’s fine, even when he’s graceful as a bear.” Trevor mouthed,

“Asshole,” at Edgard. Pause. “Sure. Sounds good. We’ll be home for lunch in a bit. Love you too, baby.”

After he snapped the phone shut, he stabbed the antennae at Edgard and warned,

“You ain’t allowed to gloat, amigo.”

“I promise not to start humming the Mexican hat dance and clacking my castanets in victory,” he said wryly.

“You’re hilarious.” Trevor put the truck in drive and they were bumping across the uneven terrain.

Edgard squinted at the unfamiliar stark scenery outside his window. Dirt-covered snow stretched across miles of flat prairie; dead clumps of brownish grass poked through the thin layer of white. Wind stripped the moisture away from the ground in places, leaving patches of red dirt. Skeletal trees, rocks, tumbleweeds scattered along the fenceline added to the vastness and the loneliness of the scene.

Isolation. Desperation. It fit Edgard’s mood, not only today, but for the last year.

Gruffly, Trevor said, “Thanks.”

“You’re welcome.”

Silence filled the truck cab. So many things had been left unsaid. Again. Maybe they were doomed to be stuck at that impasse. Unable to go back; unwilling to move forward.

The events of last night seemed so far away, in that surreal state where Edgard questioned whether it’d really happened.

A few minutes later, out of the blue, Trevor spoke again. “You’ve changed, Ed. You always were quiet, that strong silent type of guy, especially in public, but you’re even more so these days. What gives?”

“So glad you noticed,” Edgard muttered.

“I’ve noticed lots of things.”

Edgard’s head whipped around at the silky resonance in Trevor’s tone. “Yeah?”

“Yeah. But mostly I notice how you get a little prissy when I bring up something you don’t wanna discuss.”

His mouth dropped open. “Prissy? For Christsake, I’ve never been prissy a day in my life.”

Trevor grinned. “See? That right there was prissy.”

“Fuck off.”

“Just sayin’…”

Trevor’s you-know-you-love-me grin had always been Edgard’s downfall. He smiled back. “Asshole.”

“So, you gonna tell me why you don’t wanna talk about what happened to you in the last few years?”

Edgard didn’t respond. Didn’t know where or how to start, actually. He focused his attention out the window, absentmindedly pinching the tips of his wet leather glove between his fingers and thumb. “It doesn’t matter.”

A warm, dry hand covered his, stopping his restless fingers, and damn near stopping his heart. Edgard didn’t move. He was frozen in that place between hope and fear.

“It matters to me,” Trevor said.

Edgard waited for Trevor to realize they were still touching and jerk his hand back.

But he didn’t, he kept holding on. And yeah, maybe it did make Edgard prissy, but the urge to weep overwhelmed him. He cleared his throat. “What happened is my mother died.”

“Oh, shit, buddy, I’m sorry.” Trevor squeezed Edgard’s hand. “When?”

“About a year and a half ago. Car accident. A shitload of bad stuff happened afterward.”

“Family stuff?”

“Yeah. It sucked. Big time. I still can’t talk about it.”

A moment of silence. Of acceptance. “Lemme know if you change your mind.”

Edgard nodded and Trevor didn’t pester him further.

But Trevor continued holding Edgard’s hand in silence until they returned to the house, proving the smallest gestures did have the biggest impact.

Chapter Eighteen

Trevor spent the hours after lunch in the office catching up on paperwork. Maybe he’d find a way to come up with the money to pay Gus.

Right. Might as well wish for a pot of gold.

Country music played in the background while Chassie did laundry and scurried around the house cleaning. A peppery aroma wafted in and he sniffed with appreciation.

Swiss steak. One of his favorites.

Edgard had borrowed his truck, but hadn’t been forthcoming about his destination.

Truthfully, Trevor needed the break from both his wife and his former roping partner.

His life was one fucked up, confusing mess. Being with Edgard last night hadn’t cleared up his inner turmoil, just added more fuel to the fire. Trevor loved his wife with an all-consuming passion. But if it was all consuming, what the hell was he doing thinking about…doing Edgard again?

He shoved his office chair to the wall and propped his feet up on the small desk. It was more than sex. He and Edgard had been good friends before becoming lovers, sharing everything, from their love of playing practical jokes, to ways to stave off boredom on the range. Although their life stories were vastly different, they’d clicked.

After spending eight years on the circuit surrounded my men, Trevor admitted to himself that he needed male companionship. Chassie was great, but he missed that macho bullshit and competitiveness he’d gotten from his rodeo buddies.

After he’d moved on, from both his family and the circuit, he’d been so busy scrambling to make a living he hadn’t thought much about friendship. Colby had been his best friend for years, both on and off the circuit. Naturally things’d changed after Colby’s injury and Colby settled down with Channing.

But before that, their friendship changed when Colby discovered Trevor and Edgard were together, because Trevor confided in Colby less and Edgard more. They’d still participated in threesomes, foursomes with whatever chicks tripped their triggers, but when the romp ended, more often than not, Trevor crawled in bed with Edgard. Which left Colby alone most nights.

The last year on the circuit tempers were short, even after Colby started winning consistently. Being a selfish bastard, Trevor hadn’t noticed Colby’s loneliness until Channing joined them on the road.