I am truly humbled and honored to be counted amongst the finalists for the 2014 Rainbow Awards in the Gay Contemporary Romance category.
Flankman (A Crow Creek Novel) is 5th in the Crow Creek Series. The location is northwestern Wyoming in the valley between the Wind River Range to the west and the Shoshone National Forest and the Absaroka Range to the east.
Daniel Blake and Tristan Wells are committed to their two-year relationship, and to keeping it a well-hidden secret. When a competitor lets them know their secret isn’t so well-hidden after all, the ground isn’t the only thing that comes up to hit hard. Danny’s facing scrutiny from rodeo management for alleged misconduct, and Tristan thinks that Ben Kincaid from Crow Creek Ranch is just the man to help ferret out who has it in for them. Wyoming isn’t known for being tolerant of “alternative lifestyles” and men who take on broncs and bulls for a living aren’t strangers to playing rough, in and out of the arena.
With their future on the line, Tristan and Danny’s relationship will be tested by those out to see an eight-second ride turn into a world of failure. Ben’s determined to have his new friends’ backs, in more ways than one. Even if they survive the spills and attacks, will Danny and Tris’s future survive Ben?
Danny Blake is a flankman, the stockman’s right-hand man. The flankman works in the bucking chutes, adjusting the flank strap around the animal before the ride.He cares for the stock, knows their quirks. He’s the go-to cowboy when bronc riders need a heads-up on what they’re in for.
With the strap in his left hand, Danny waited while horse and rider settled into that split second of agreement to do battle, and the gate swung wide on greased hinges, taking two heaving bodies into the dust of the arena. Releasing the flank strap, Danny braced his legs on the top board, shouting and hooting with the crowd as outriders and the rest of the rodeo crew cheered Walsh on.
DaisyMae spun, pivoting on her nose, or so it seemed. She’d give it easy for a tic or two, then she’d curl into herself and unleash hell on earth.
Walsh was good, riding chair seat, his knees anchored but his lower legs rotated back, spurring the mare. The mare gave no air time, no gymnastics or pyrotechnics that would have the crowd oohing and aahing. Instead she used her low center of gravity to shift and duck her shoulders, her mutton withers offering no purchase. The bucking rig slid forward, it always did, no matter how snugged down you tried to make it. It loosed a man’s sweet spot and put his heels off in thin air, making him look like a rooky.
It was over at the count of seven.
Tristan Wells rides broncs bareback, said to be the single most punishing thing a man can do to his body.
There were just two things Tristan Wells cared about, though if he gave it some thought he’d come around to realizing he had more scope to him than what some might see as just a dumb cracker, shit-for-brains cowboy.
Scope was a word his Mom liked to use. As a grade school teacher, she was big on language—using it right and proper, describing shit like she was penning a novel in the air, all flourishes and curlicues. With his sisters, it had stuck, that language thing. A bit like that fancy wallpaper ladies favored, the kind that made a room heavy, weighty. Important without the doing that proved worth.
Not that he was casting aspersions with his sisters, not at all. But when he’d made his decision, dropping out after his sophomore year at Texas A&M, to make rodeo his full time pursuit, he’d also left behind the veneer of well-spoken drummed into him by his vigilant mother and sisters.
Ducking his head, he grinned. He was due for a visit home soon, before the season really geared up. That meant washing his mouth out with soap and water, maybe donning a mental suit-of-armor. Though, the last coupla years, he’d needed that less and less. Thanks to the man ambling toward him.
The man who taught him it was okay to be himself, the man who believed in him. Without reservations.
Daniel Blake carried his cares, his beliefs, his dedication on shoulders so broad it near took Tristan’s breath away. Everyone shouldered a load, everyone. But Danny made it look easy. Easy enough that if you had a problem, a question, a concern … Danny was the man you took it to. Because he never judged. He listened, gave it consideration and asked the question back at you in a way that made it new and different and shed light in dark places.
The light he shed with Tristan was showing him how love felt, beyond the physical, beyond the crushing and the one-nighters and the scratching itches for a quick thrill. His was slow burn, as constant as the air he sucked in his lungs. A cowboy who knew no other way than doing it right.
~~Old West Proverb
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