ANGER, desire, jealousy, longing—all battled against each other for supremacy, leaving Ty shaking and a little unsteady on his feet. He leaned against the jamb of the barn door to steady himself as the war inside his heart and head raged. How the hell had he gotten here? No connections, no emotions, and no complications, that had been his motto. Yet here he stood staring out into the barnyard as Conner went up to Quinn, a large smile on Conner’s old and weathered face, and Ty’s chest tightened painfully at the sight of Quinn. For a moment, desire and longing moved to the forefront as he watched Conner say something to Quinn and a brilliant smile bloomed across Quinn’s face. To Ty, the smile was like a match to a torch, heating him. God, Quinn was so gorgeous, so very sexy standing there in the tight Levi’s that accentuated his perfect ass. A black T-shirt stretched tightly across his impressive bulk, showing each valley and ridge of his muscular back and chest. But that smile, that magnificent, happy smile on Quinn’s handsome face touched Ty deep inside, and for a moment, he lost himself in the pleasure that smile elicited. For a split second, all the anger and pain melted away, and Ty couldn’t help but smile in return. Then, like the sun coming out from behind a cloud, Quinn’s smile turned radiant, and he lifted a hand and waved. Ty turned his head in the direction Quinn was staring, and pain, raw and consuming, ripped through him, causing his knees to buckle, and he leaned more heavily against the door to keep from falling.
Ty turned his gaze back to Quinn, watching as the man continued to talk with Conner, his smile still broad and his eyes never leaving Lorcan. Why did Lorcan have to come back to town? If he’d just stayed gone, Quinn would still be Ty’s. This pain shredding his chest was why he never let anyone get close to him. He had learned as a small boy that caring about people caused pain much more consequential than any physical injury ever could. A bullwhip in the hands of a skilled Dom gave him the most pleasurable pain. A confident master could make him scream and send him flying to such heights he could soar out of his body, out of his head. That kind of pain he understood. Skin splitting, muscles straining, and flesh bruising, that kind of suffering he not only understood but also craved. This… this agony that was compressing his heart so tightly he couldn’t breathe, Ty didn’t understand at all. He couldn’t use a salve or ice pack or even rest for a few days to give his body time to heal. No amount of pain reliever or alcohol could completely drown out what he felt as he watched Quinn look at Lorcan with that smile on his face.
A lump formed in Ty’s throat as he watched Conner hug Quinn, then head back toward the house. He knew what it felt like to hug that hard body, to be in Quinn’s embrace, and he longed to feel it again. When Quinn started to walk toward Lorcan, Ty shook his head, silently pleading that Quinn not go to him.
As if Quinn had heard his plea, he stopped and turned his head toward Ty, and their eyes met. For a moment, Ty let himself believe that Quinn was choosing him over Lorcan. Quinn was his, and he’d come to Ty, tell him he was sorry, that he’d made a terrible mistake running to Lorcan and wanted Ty back. The smile on Quinn’s face fell, and the fantasy was snatched away.
Pity, understanding, and apology were what he saw staring back at him in Quinn’s blue eyes, but not a shred of desire or want. Ty’s stomach rolled and bile burned the back of his throat, and just like that, the anger reared its ugly head and the battle turned in its favor. He crossed his arms over his chest and glared at Quinn. Don’t you dare fucking pity me. He’d seen that look on the faces of his teachers when he was a kid, sometimes in the tired eyes of the social worker who came to remove him from one shithole, knowing they were sending him to another. He would not tolerate that look from anyone, especially Quinn.
Quinn made a move as if to come to him. No the fuck you don’t. Ty spun away from the door and stomped off toward the other side of the barn. His boots eating up the dirt and dust, he let his anger propel his body forward until he was out the door on the opposite side of the barn, and he didn’t stop until he reached a small grove of trees. His breath coming in short, harsh pants, he paced and raged until he collapsed against the base of a wide oak. He drew his knees up and hung his head. “Fucking Quinn!” he groaned.
Ty inhaled deeply, struggling to find some calm. He was surrounded by the scents of fresh-cut hay, wide-open fields, and grazing animals, and that should have been enough to calm him. When he had been a boy, they had had a calming effect on him, and he tried to find that calm now. He hadn’t had many opportunities to enjoy life in the country back then, but he’d gotten lucky a couple of times to get foster families who owned small ranches, and they had been some of the best times of his life. Those families hadn’t been any better than the ones he lived with in the city; they took him in not because they gave a rat’s ass about an abandoned kid but for free labor. Still, he’d learned to ride, muck stalls, and care for the livestock, and he’d loved the tranquility of the country and working with his hands. He’d been given three square meals a day and a roof over his head, and as long as he worked hard, the owners didn’t bother him too much. It sure beat the hell out of the inner city projects. He shuddered. Those had been a fucking nightmare. That train of thought isn’t helping, he chastised himself and leaned his head back against the tree. Just breathe.
Rolling his shoulders, trying to release some of the tension, Ty took in another deep breath of the sweet scent. Unfortunately, it was going to take a hell of a lot more than the sights and sounds of a cattle ranch to calm him. Nothing was soothing him these days. To make matters worse, he didn’t even have the release he sought from The Push. He’d given up working there all but one day a week to help Quinn out. It didn’t matter that Marcus had been about to cut his hours back; he could have found another gig with one of the other leather bars, maybe even gotten into one of the private clubs, but no. No, his stupid ass had to go and offer to help out the arrogant son of a bitch, Quinn, and what the fuck had he gotten in return?
Ty removed his hat and ran a hand through his sweat-dampened hair. I’ll tell you what it got me: not a fucking thing!
Well… that wasn’t entirely true, now was it? One too many times leaving early for Quinn, only going in the back rooms with Quinn, and spending his one night a week behind the bar waiting for Quinn instead of working the crowd had gotten him a real pretty pink slip.
Life may not have been all that great before Quinn walked in the door of The Push that first time, but it hadn’t sucked as much as it did now. He had been content going about his business, flirting with the customers, and had had a sweet list of Doms who requested him and knew exactly what he liked. His life had been completely uncomplicated until that sexy son of a bitch walked into The Push and said, “Join me on the dance floor if you got a break coming anytime soon.” That first night hadn’t been much more than a blowjob in the alleyway, but Ty had known instantly that he’d never met anyone quite like the arrogant cowboy, and he’d been right. Quinn had swept into his life like a whirlwind, leaving him with only the memory of his taste and touch, but Christ, it had been enough to produce some hot fantasies. He’d given up hope of ever seeing him again, but he had been one happy bastard that he’d been wrong. Just thinking about how Quinn had fucked him that first time had his heart beating hard in his chest and his dick throbbing as the images solidified in his mind. No one had ever made him fly like Quinn or given him what he’d needed so badly.
Just as quickly as the blood had run south, it raced to his head, causing it to throb with a new kind of agony when he thought of how his body hadn’t been the only thing Quinn had dominated. No, the fucker had to force Ty to feel something more than just the pleasurable pain, something he swore he’d never allow anyone to do. His hands tightened into fists, crushing his hat as he struggled against the anger ripping through him, but it held him in its grip. My body wasn’t enough, was it, Quinn? Ty’s muscles tightened, and his breath became harsh. “You just had to fucking dominate my heart too, didn’t you,” Ty cried out with labored breaths. “Fucking hell!” Oh, God, he was coming unhinged, thoughts of Quinn rocketing from one extreme to the other, leaving him struggling to keep up.
You’d have thought Brian would have taught your stupid ass not to let your heart make any of the goddamn decisions. Ty slapped his hat against his knee and angrily plopped it back on his head. Yeah, well, he wasn’t all that damn smart, was he? Sitting here having a conversation with himself was proof positive of that. Besides, he was sick and tired of comparing Quinn and Brian. They were nothing alike. Brian had been an uncaring, sadistic prick who took advantage of a kid with nowhere to go, and Quinn… well, Quinn wasn’t anything like him. Even when Quinn had been full of rage, walking into The Push with a huge chip on his shoulder and his don’t-fuck-with-me attitude, there had been an underlying goodness to the man. The way Quinn had gently helped him to bed, tended to his back with soft, soothing touches of his fingers as he worked salve into Ty’s wounds. Ty had always known Quinn was a good man, completely different from anyone he’d ever met, and no way in hell was he going to step back and let Lorcan have him. Quinn was his.
Ah, Lorcan. That one word summed up all his problems and gave Ty a moment of true clarity. If it weren’t for Lorcan coming back, Ty would still have Quinn. The guy was sexy, he’d give him that. Ty had never seen hair quite like that before, at least not on a dude, but from what he could tell, Lorcan’s hair was the only thing that made him special. The immature little shit sure didn’t deserve someone like Quinn. He just needed to figure out how to get rid of his little problem.
What to do, what to do, he asked himself as he tapped a finger against his knee. Focusing on Lorcan was helping him find a balance for his out-of-control emotions. Lorcan was the root of his problem, and getting him out of the picture was the one thing both his mind and body agreed upon.
From what Quinn had told him, Lorcan was the kind who ran when things got rough. Ty liked rough, was in fucking heaven when things got very rough. He sure as hell wouldn’t run. Oh no, he’d be on his knees begging, submitting to Quinn’s brutal side. Quinn could deny his harsher tendencies all he wanted, but Ty had felt the power, the excitement in those strokes. He’d seen the look in Quinn’s eyes, heard the roar of his release and felt his pleasure when he was dominating a lover.
Quinn needed to dominate.
He needed Ty.
Pulling himself to his feet, Ty dusted off the seat of his jeans and headed back toward the ranch. A smile curled his lips as a calm feeling began to spread through him. He’d just have to make things rough for Lorcan.
RIBBONS of the softest silk tickled against Quinn’s side and along his arm. The perfect weight pressed down on his side as gentle lips teased down his neck to his breastbone, bringing him out of his light sleep. Quinn wrapped his arms around Lorcan, moaning softly as his hands slid through the silky strands of his lover's hair and pulled him harder against his chest.
Blinking, he placed a kiss to the top of Lorcan’s head. “Mmm, it’s still dark, go back to sleep,” he murmured.
“Can’t,” Lorcan whispered against his chest, the warmth of his breath tickling Quinn’s skin. “I got to get home. I got chores to do.”
Quinn groaned and pulled Lorcan up and took a kiss, encouraging Lorcan to lie fully on top of him. “I hate that word,” he complained. He let his hands roam down Lorcan’s back to the firm globes of his ass and pulled him hard against his lengthening shaft.
Lorcan hissed at the contact but pushed harder against Quinn, rolling his hips. “What word—chores? You’re in the wrong business, then, cowboy,” Lorcan teased.
“No, when you refer to Jess’s ranch as home.”
Lorcan leaned back, the full moon shining in through the window lighting up the fierce look in the man’s eyes. “You’re not jealous of Jess, are you? We’ve—”
Quinn cupped the back of Lorcan’s head and pulled him down for a kiss, silencing him. “No, I’m not jealous,” he whispered against Lorcan’s lips when the kiss ended. He encouraged him to lie back down until Lorcan’s head was resting on his shoulder. “I just wish you’d move in here. Consider this ranch your home, our home.”
“Quinn,” Lorcan responded softly, “we’ve talked about this. It’s only been a few weeks, and besides, I told you, I have to keep Jess’s ranch going until he gets home.”
“We’ll hire someone to run the ranch. Hell, I’m sure we could get Collin to stay there at night.”
It was Lorcan’s turn to silence him with a kiss, his tongue teasing until Quinn opened up and welcomed him in. His lover kissed him deeply, pulling a moan from deep in his chest and effectively cutting off any further conversation. With the press of Lorcan’s naked body and his flavor exploding on his tongue, nothing else mattered. Lorcan kissed him so thoroughly that Quinn was dazed when it ended, and it took his brain a moment to catch up to what was happening. The next thing he knew, Lorcan was padding across the floor, his tight butt demanding Quinn follow. Who was he to disobey such a command?
“That wasn’t very nice,” Quinn complained as he stepped into the shower stall behind Lorcan. “No fair using this gorgeous body and that talented tongue to frazzle my brain.” He grabbed the body in question and tugged.
Lorcan chuckled and allowed Quinn to pull him against him. “It’s the only way I can get my way with you.”
“Mmm,” Quinn moaned, nuzzling the side of Lorcan’s neck. “You can have your way with me all you want, preferably your wicked way.”
God, the man felt amazing in Quinn’s arms. He still had a hard time believing that he had him back. The nightmares were nearly nonexistent these days, but there had been a few nights he’d woken in a panic. He didn’t remember the dream but had a damn good idea what it had been about. Funny thing—it only happened on the few nights he and Lorcan didn’t share a bed. He’d had to put his foot down on that subject. If Lorcan couldn’t sleep in his bed for whatever reason, Quinn went to Lorcan’s; it was as simple as that.
Quinn grabbed the soap and began to run the bar down Lorcan’s chest, causing a pleasurable sound to rumble from his lover. He washed Lorcan’s body quickly, lingering only a little longer than necessary on Lorcan’s more sensitive parts. He loved how Lorcan leaned into his touch, the sweet sounds that escaped him, and, even more, loved that he could do this. He added shampoo to Lorcan’s thick waves, working it in, enjoying the way the chestnut strands felt against his skin.
“Love you,” he murmured against the side of Lorcan’s neck. He licked at the water droplets and felt the man shudder.
“Love you too,” Lorcan replied, followed by a satisfied groan as Quinn moved his hands up and worked the shampoo deep into Lorcan’s scalp.
Stepping back, he pushed Lorcan toward the flow of warm water, running his fingers through the silky strands until the water ran clear. He then added a generous amount of conditioner and turned Lorcan in his arms. With the length and thickness of Lorcan’s hair, the conditioner worked better when it had time to set a bit, giving Quinn the perfect opportunity to play and have a little fun with his lover.
Quinn grabbed Lorcan’s ass and pulled him hard against him. “So what’s the plan for the day? Can I suggest my personal favorite pastime, stay in bed all day or… stay in bed all day?”
“Those are hard to choose between.” Lorcan chuckled. “As much as I’d love to stay in bed with you all day—” He kissed Quinn’s lips, pulling away slightly. “—I’ll have to go with plan C. You know how Bunny gets when he doesn’t get his breakfast in a timely manner.”
Quinn lifted his brow and tried for a pout. “I can’t believe you’re picking that hateful bull over me.” From the way Lorcan laughed, he was pretty sure his pout didn’t have the same effect as Lorcan’s did. Instead of getting what he wanted, he was handed a washcloth.
Lorcan rinsed his hair quickly. “I’d return the favor and wash you, but I know you too well. I’d be spending the afternoon repairing the damage a hungry bull caused in his starvation rampage.” Lorcan placed one last chaste kiss to Quinn’s lips and stepped out of the shower.
“Fine,” he said grudgingly as he began to wash his own body. By himself, with no help. Stupid bull! “I’m coming with you.”
“I would hope so,” Lorcan called out as he left the bathroom.
A thought occurred to him, and Quinn yelled out, “Don’t even think about touching that brush.”
He washed quickly, hearing Lorcan chuckle from the other room. Go ahead and laugh, he thought to himself. He was getting damn good at finding all of Lorcan’s weak spots, and a huge one was having his hair brushed. There was just something about having Lorcan between his spread legs and running his hands through those thick locks, turning his lover into a moaning, pliable pile of I’m-so-easy goo. Quinn turned off the taps and stepped out of the shower with a big smile on his face. Oh yeah, I’m so getting laid before Bunny gets his breakfast.
THE scowl that used to confuse and anger Lorcan now tickled him when Quinn tried using it on him. He’d known exactly what Quinn was up to when he’d yelled at him not to touch the brush. Quinn was still trying to learn his buttons. Funny that the man hadn’t figured that Lorcan’s weakness was Quinn. No matter how the man touched him or looked at him, Lorcan just melted, but today he’d held firm. He’d gotten dressed and started twisting his hair into a quick braid before Quinn could even make it out of the bathroom, hence the scowl on his face.
“Haven’t you ever heard the saying ‘If it’s good, it’s worth waiting for’?”
“Sure I have,” Quinn said gruffly. He stomped toward the closet and grabbed a pair of jeans, pulling them on with a wince before continuing. “I’m more of the ‘practice makes perfect’ school of thought.”
“Just imagine how much more fun we’ll have practicing later after a day of anticipation.” Lorcan couldn’t help but smile as Quinn huffed out a breath and finished dressing.
Quinn was still grumbling as he followed him into the kitchen, but Lorcan didn’t tease his cranky lover further, just led him to the back door and grabbed his boots. The quicker they got the chores done, the quicker they could get back. There wasn’t too much that could pull him away from Quinn, and he rarely ever told the man no—didn’t want to tell him no. His dominant lover was demanding, intense, and Lorcan loved every minute of it. Being the sole focus of a man like Quinn was beyond good, it was fucking mind-blowing. However, this morning Conner was more important than even Quinn’s needs.
Conner wasn’t sleeping well, and although he tried to deny it, Lorcan could see it in his bloodshot eyes and the dark circles under them. The man tried to act as if there was nothing wrong, but the way he carried himself, the light missing from his eyes, gave him away. Usually Conner was so full of life—hell, he was bigger than life, laughing, joking, and caring for those around him. Now he just seemed so exhausted, and John was the reason.
John’s back wasn’t getting any better. Lorcan heard the pain-filled moans as John made his way to the bathroom at night, yet the stubborn ol’ coot refused to take it easy. Worse still, John refused to go back to the doctor. Conner wasn’t the only one that was worried sick. John looked worn to the bone. Lorcan wasn’t an expert by any stretch, but even he knew the sickly pallor of John’s skin wasn’t right. There was something seriously wrong with John, and Lorcan was beside himself with anxiety. He was going to have himself a chat with the cranky ol’ thing, and hopefully he could make John see reason. He wasn’t above doing a little begging, pouting a little, if need be, and if all else failed, he would make John feel guilty for making Conner worry enough that he was missing meals and losing sleep. John just had to get better. There wasn’t any alternative. It would kill Conner if anything happened to him.
Shaking off the sickening feeling, Lorcan stomped into his boots, grabbed his hat from the hook, and headed out the back door.
“C’mon, Quinn, if we get back here before Conner gets up so I can help him make breakfast, we’ll take a long lunch and get some practicing in.”
Quinn whooped, a smile that Lorcan felt all the way to his toes blooming across his handsome face. Chuckling at his eager lover, he headed for his truck.
What the fuck?
Quinn nearly knocked him down when Lorcan came to an abrupt halt a few yards from his truck. His shock was so profound it scattered his brain for a moment, and he couldn’t make sense of what he was seeing. Then it hit him, and his gut twisted painfully. Written across the windshield in bold white letters was “DISLOYAL BASTARD.”
Quinn cursed under his breath, but Lorcan didn’t pay him any attention. He was moving toward his truck and reaching for the paper tucked under the windshield wiper. Even in the dim light of early dawn, he recognized the pamphlet. “Tulsa Rehabilitation Center” was printed neatly across the top.
“Get back in the house,” Quinn demanded.
Again, Lorcan ignored him. He stared down at the pamphlet from the rehab center where Jess was currently recovering from his accident, and he felt sick to his stomach. The implications were painfully clear. Someone obviously wasn’t too happy about the choices he had made. Jess still wasn’t talking to him, though Lorcan got regular updates from both Collin and Jack. Jess was standing firm in his declaration that he would walk again, and from what Jack had told him, Jess was sticking to it with a single-minded determination. Lorcan respected Jess’s insistence that they not have any contact. He didn’t like it, but he respected it.
Lorcan sent updates on Jess’s ranch with Collin and never failed to end his conversations with Collin by repeating, “Tell Jess I’m here for him if he needs me and I miss him.” He hated the fact that Jess wouldn’t talk to him and still wasn’t ready to see him. But what could he do? Maybe he should have waited until Jess was on his feet before he had run back to Quinn.
Lorcan crushed the pamphlet in his fist and closed his eyes, but he still saw the words behind closed lids. Disloyal bastard. He flinched when a strong arm wrapped around him and pulled him into a tight embrace.
“Don’t you dare even think about it,” Quinn said adamantly. “It’s not true.”
Too late. His head and heart at times still debated this very issue. He’d known since the first moment he’d laid eyes on Quinn that there was something special about the man. Was it love at first sight with Quinn? He wasn’t sure, but it was pretty damn close. Logically he knew it wasn’t as if he’d run out and looked for someone to replace Jess the moment things had gotten tough. He was with the man he’d always loved, the same man Jess knew Lorcan had always been in love with. That didn’t stop his heart from hurting from the loss of Jess. It still didn’t completely erase the guilt he sometimes felt that it should have been him who’d gone to the hardware store that day. At the end of the day, he had to believe that he was exactly where he was meant to be.
Taking a deep breath, Lorcan released the tight grip he had on the pamphlet and let it fall to the ground. “I’m okay,” he reassured Quinn, wrapping his arms around his lover and returning the hug. “Let’s get this shit washed off. I got critters to feed.”
Quinn squeezed him harder briefly before letting him go. “Damn right we do. You promised me a long lunch if I got you back here before Conner got up, and I aim to collect.” Quinn placed a tender kiss on his forehead. “Go grab something to get this off, and I’ll make sure there isn’t any other vandalism.”
Lorcan nodded, knowing it was pointless to argue. No way would Quinn leave him out here alone, and he wasn’t in the mood to argue his point that he was more than capable of taking care of himself. He had to learn to pick his battles and sometimes just let Quinn be his protective caveman self. Besides, he had shit to do, and right now wasn’t the time to be trying to figure out who in the hell was pissed off at him enough to pull this stunt. He had a sneaking suspicion and was pretty sure Quinn was thinking along the same lines, but Lorcan wasn’t about to blame Ty unless he had proof.