Read New West Online

Authors: BA Tortuga

Tags: #Male/Male Erotic Romance, Western, Sci-Fi

New West (4 page)

BOOK: New West
2.23Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

There wasn’t a lot of law in the world, but there was more where Ez lived than in this desert. Enough of a society left where they wouldn’t just murder an old woman in her parlor.

Nodding, Ezrah sighed. “I just can’t lose anyone else, Jess. I just can’t. Christ, Em had his whole, long life ahead of him. We’re just starting.”

“Well, Ez. You’re down to one family member, a bunch of drovers and me. There’s not much left to lose.”

Ezrah’s mouth flattened into a straight line. “I should never have gotten you into this.”

“But you did, and I came.” And he wasn’t useless, right? He’d already given Ez more to think about than not.

He had skills. Talents.

“I appreciate it more than I can say.” Rising, Ez came to sit next to him, dishing out bowls of stew. “I’m selfish enough to be glad you’re here.”

“We were friends, once upon a time. Good friends. I wouldn’t turn you down, even though neither you or Em seem to have done your duty and giving your momma grandbabies.”

“Grandbabies? I ain’t… We weren’t. I just rounded twenty a few years ago.”

“Uh-huh. Still, you’re the oldest.” Jesse winced. Oh, that had been Em. Damn.

“Thanks.” Ezrah touched him, just a simple hand on his leg, but it sent a shock of electricity through him.

His body reacted immediately, instinctively, and he fought the urge to pounce, to take the hard, needy kiss he craved. He wanted. This wasn’t another Grounder, though, someone who could let go of all the old prejudices. This wasn’t a connection inside where he came back to reality, his body covered in seed.

This was sun-lit life, and men didn’t do that, especially not cowboys.

Ez glanced at him sideways. “You okay? You jumped about a mile.”

“I’m good, good. Someone walked over my grave, is all.”

“Oh.” Ez grinned. “Like the one you actually live in, or figuratively?”

“I’ll have you know it’s not crypt-like at all. It’s…” Filthy, smelly, a little cramped and full of weird crap from the old world. “Magical.”

“I’ll take a house above ground, thanks.” Jesse got a little poke to his leg again. “Eat.”

“It smells good. I haven’t had meat in…” he paused to think, “four summers? Five?” He’d been with the Diné on the mesa and there had been jackrabbit stew, rich and wild.

That may have been the peyote memories, though.

“You gonna get sick on me?” A chunk of rough bread was handed over, too.

“I hope not. That would be a terrible waste.”

“You know it.”

They ate for a bit in silence, Ez sucking down the food. The man could flat-out eat. Jess got it. Ezrah worked hard.

He didn’t eat as much, his stomach confused by the meat, the heaviness. It still tasted amazing, and the gravy was stunning.

Jesse licked his fingers clean, eyes on Ez, admiring. The man munched on the bread, his face all hard planes and angles in the firelight. Maybe he would dream of Ezrah tonight. That would be better than some faceless man in the Flow, for sure.

He pushed his dreads back, the beads clinking and clacking. He loved the sound, the way they clopped and clanked around his head.

“When did you start with that look?” Ez asked.

“Hmm? Which look?”

“The braids. Do the beads mean something?”

“The Diné, the tribes up in the desert, they trade for them. I got a little lost a few years ago, woke up to a mess. This helped corral it.”

“Lost? As in physically, or in the Flow?”

“In the Flow. It’s unlike anything you’ve ever seen.” It was like sunset and rain and flying on the wind with a raven.

“I bet.” Those sloe-eyes traced his face, the intensity hard to take. Ez had looked at him like that sometimes, back in the day, making him imagine things.

His body tightened, his cock reminding him he was flesh. “The Diné like my red hair. It fascinates them.”

“I can see why. They never see hair your color in their people.”

No. No, Ezrah’s almost black hair was way more normal among the earth folks.

“Nope. In fact, I’d say I’m memorable.”

“You are.” That little, crooked smile kicked up the corner of Ezrah’s mouth, so familiar it made him ache.

“How do you want me to help, Ez? How can I?”

“Well, you already have. I never thought of the dam, not really. It’s just always been there back home, you know? I needed your mind. I will a lot.” Ez paused, lowering his voice. “And in Denver, I’ll need you to make sure we get paid. It’s tough up there, and they use your Flow to cheat. I’ve heard it a lot.”

“I’ve never plugged in somewhere that big.” He didn’t know if it would blow his port, honestly. It could. His fingers stroked the tiny bump.

“Will it hurt you?” Looked as if poor Ez hadn’t thought of that, either. “Shit. I’m a fucking mess.” Ezrah set aside his bowl and rolled a smoke, lighting up.

“I’ll be fine. You don’t worry about me. You just rest. I’m here.” And Jess was doing a world of good, too.

“Yeah. Okay.” Ez chuckled. “I miss them all, you know? But Em being gone, it’s as if half of me is just missing.”

“I don’t know how to make it better.” He’d loved Em, maybe more than anyone but Ezrah. Emmett had been the best of them.

“I know. But I figure of anyone, you get it. Y’all were tight.”

“We were. He loved you, but you know that.”

“I know.” Ez gulped down his coffee. “I don’t know why I asked you to come, for sure, Jess. I needed a friend.”

“You asked me because you needed me. I came because I needed to.”

“Yes.” The stare he got made him shiver again, his nipples like little rocks.

He drank his coffee, the black liquid tasting like bitter death, but it was hot. Wet. Something he could concentrate on instead of Ez. How solid Ez was. How thoroughly male. He wanted to hold the man, cradle him. Shit, he wanted to do things that were only imaginable in the Flow.

He was a bad, bad man.

When Ez looked at him again, he ducked his head. Ez sighed. “I know it was easier to talk with Emmett.”

“Not really, I just didn’t have thoughts about him.”



Whoa. Had he said that out loud? Damn his fool mouth.

Those black brows rose, all but disappearing under Ezrah’s hat. “He looked just like me.”

“No. You look different.” He always knew which one was which. Ez had made his tongue stick to the roof of his mouth from the time he’d gotten his first erection.

“Really?” Did Ez look pleased? Man, he’d dodged a bullet there. “Even Momma says we’re tough to tell apart.”

“I’ve known you both forever.” He’d been Em’s best friend and had loved Ez since he knew what love was.

“Well, so has Mom.”

The scrape of boot on rock made them both tense up. It was just one of the youngest drovers with a covered bowl. “Cookie worked up a cobbler, Ezrah. He sent enough for y’all to share.”

Ez lit up like a Christmas tree, and Jesse had to chuckle. The man had a notorious sweet tooth.

“Thanks, Terry.”

The kid nodded and handed off the bowl before high-tailing it out of there.

“So are they scared of me or you?”

“Oh, it’s you.” Ezrah grinned. “I think it’s both, man. They’ve tiptoed around me a lot since Em.”

“I bet that was intense.” He made his best terrifying face. “I can be scary.”

Ezrah cracked right up. “Boogly-boogly. Get your ass over here with a spoon and share this with me.”

“I don’t know if my ass can use a spoon, Ez.”

“No? Not a talented butt crack?”

“Talented, sure. Able to wield a spoon?” He let the question trail off.

Ezrah was still chuckling when Jesse moved over next to him. The laughter stopped when their shoulders rubbed together. It was like a lightning strike. Damn.

Staring at him sideways, Ez drew in a deep breath, the sound loud over the crackle of the fire.

“You get the first taste.” Shit, that sounded filthy.

“Right.” Ezrah’s hand shook when he dug into the cobbler, but Jesse wasn’t going to say a word.

What the hell was he supposed to say? Let’s go rub up against each other as if we’re animals? That would probably get his ass kicked, though Ez really didn’t seem to be in an ass-kicking mood. Maybe he’d survive the night.

Still, tomorrow someone would feed him to gila monsters.

He sure hoped it would be worth the trouble.


Chapter Five




The gunshot rang out, and it was so much louder than last time. Ezrah knew because this time he could hear it rip into Emmett’s flesh. He could smell his twin’s blood, seeping into the desert sand.

And there was not a goddamned thing he could do.

Emmett clutched his shirt and stared at him, eyes going dark with blood, flesh falling away until only a gaping skull was left.

Ezrah gasped, sitting straight up in his bedroll, his eyes trying to pierce the darkness, which was broken only by the sullen embers of the fire. Shit. Oh, shit. He panted, reaching for his tobacco pouch.

“Hey. Hey, it’s okay.” Jess’ hand slid over his fingers, the man right there, surprising him.

“Sorry. I didn’t mean to wake you up.” He grasped Jesse’s hand, not wanting to let go. He needed something solid to hold onto.

“I was keeping watch.”

“Oh.” Now he felt as if he were a dream-caught idiot. He hadn’t thought one of them would stay up, not with the drovers keeping watch on their own. Surely Jesse understood they hired cowboys for that. “I can trade off.”

“We can just sit a minute, huh? Dreaming about Em?”

“Yeah.” He ran his free hand through his hair. “I can’t forget how he looked at me.”

“I’m so sorry, man.” Jesse sounded so honest.

“Thanks.” What else could he say? He was sorry, too. Hell, he was even sorry he’d asked Jess to come, put someone else in danger. He was too selfish to cut the man free, though. That hand holding his was a lifeline right now.

“The wind sounds as if it’s talking to us.”

“It does that a lot out here.” Ezrah snorted. “What’s it telling you?”

“I can’t quite understand. It’s like when you listen for something and it’s right below your ears.”

He raised a brow. “Seriously?” He could hear the wind, but it sounded like wind. Not words.

Jesse looked away, but nodded. “Sort of, yeah.”

“Well, you always were tapped into things more than me.” The whole voices thing should probably make him worried, but this was Jesse. The man had heard little people in the mesquite when they were kids.

“You mean I’m a little crazier than you.”

“We’re all a little crazy out this way, man.” That was true enough. They all had to be nuts to live in the desert.

“You have no idea. I live in the middle of nothing.” Jesse didn’t sound all that worried about it, though. In fact, he sounded pretty happy with his lot in life.

“I will, right? We have to go by there.” He thought on it. The route was really in Cyrus’ hands.

“I’ve never seen a cattle drive next to me, but I don’t go outside.”

“No. No, you glow in the dark.” Let go, he told himself, let the man have his hand back. He just couldn’t.

“And you look as if you’re crafted from leather.”

“Do I?” Maybe he did. Mirrors were kind if a luxury. He had looked at Em when he needed to know how he was aging, but his brother had always been the same. His.

“Yep. Like one of them old dolls.”

Oh, now. That was plumb mean spirited. He pinched Jesse’s hand, right between the thumb and forefinger.

“Ouch!” Jesse jumped, pouncing on him, tickling his ribs.

“Shit!” He cackled like a big, old blackbird, rolling, pinning Jess down so he could blow a raspberry on the man’s belly, bared by that bizarre hide shirt.

Jesse’s skin was sweet—how could the man taste sweet?

Ezrah couldn’t help but taste a little more, licking Jesse’s skin with his tongue. As Jess breathed, the sweet belly rose and fell. Warm. Jess was so fucking warm and so close. He’d dreamed about…

He sat up, trying to get his head to stop swimming. Dreaming about Jess just caused heartbreak. “Why did you leave, Jess?”

“You know why I left, Ez. You have to. You and Em, shit, you two couldn’t hold a secret in a bucket. Em came to me, told me people saw how I looked at you.” Matter of fact, the words were still shattering.

“You never even talked to me about it.” Ez put his hand on Jesse’s belly. “You just went.”

“They were going to send folks to make sure nothing happened. We were going to get hurt.” Jess shrugged, staring at his hand. “I’d already lost Ma and the girls.”

“They?” His world felt as if it were twisting like a tornado had him in its grip. They’d been kids. Who would hurt them for being curious? “Jesus, Jess. Who?”

“I don’t know, Ez. I didn’t ask for particulars. Maybe Emmett heard it in the bunkhouse, maybe he got warning, maybe he just read it in the wind. You know what they do to men like me…” Jesse’s voice faded, the man looking around.

Ezrah nodded. A lot of things had fallen with the Quakes, including what he was told were basic rights everyone had been given. Men who enjoyed other men, well, they took their lives in their hands. At least where he and Jess had grown up.

“I missed you,” Ez said, because he couldn’t think of anything else to say.

“I got lost in the Flow a lot. It’s a different place in there. I decided not to come back because of it.”

“I bet.” Ezrah had heard things about the Flow. Things about how much easier it was. Things that made him jealous sometimes, late at night when all he had was his hand.

Jesse shrugged. “I was scared. I was alone. Someone showed me how to slip in.”

“You’re stronger than you think, man. You always have been.” God, he wanted to just slide into Jesse’s bedroll and hold on. He was too tired to think of the other things they could do, but the possibility made his cock give a twitch.

“I try.” Jesse’s fingers stroked the back of his hand, petting him.

“You mind if we, uh, bedroll together? No one will know.” Em had always let him stay close when they had their own fire. It had started in the womb, after all.

“You’re the boss.” The words were soft, Jesse nodding for him, gratifyingly eager.

BOOK: New West
2.23Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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