"Maybe you best take it easy on the rotgut," Skinner said as the man at the bar raised his empty glass again. "That's your third shot in less than ten minutes. The ass isn't gonna be ready for you any sooner than it is. It's a busy night. Friday nights are always busy at the Buckhead ranch, and this was a payday here abouts. At this rate you gonna be well past ready before your number comes up."

"Maybe you're right," Jess said, with a sigh. "Rustle me up a cup of coffee then, and you might as well fill the shot glass too for a chaser. How long do you think it will be?"

"You're waitin' for Ned, ain't you? At least two ahead of you. Now if it was one of the other three . . ." He left that open. He couldn't quite catch up to why the guy wanted Ned. He was a looker himself. Good condition, especially for his age. Didn't look like he'd hit forty yet. Closer to thirty-five, Skinner thought. The hair was blond or reddish depending on how you looked at it, and he'd cleaned up before coming in. What you'd call a downright handsome face. He looked more like a guy who controlled on top rather than one who wanted it. Clothes were pretty expensive for a cowpoke. Skinner saw him in here maybe twice a year. The timing was like stopping here coming and going to the stockyards in Omaha, Nebraska, from, maybe, an eastern Wyoming ranch. Cattle driver maybe. But probably the rancher himself, not just a cowpoke.

"No, it'll have to be Ned or nothin'. I'll wait some more, but I don't have all night."

"Comin' or going to the cattle yards in Omaha?" Skinner asked. He liked to know who was using his male bordello. It was getting so that folks couldn't do what they damn well pleased on the banks of the Platte anymore. Getting too civilized for him in Nebraska of late. People were starting to look around. Those Holy Rollers were beginning to get their noses in other people's business. He could take the Holy Rollers one on one-some of his best customers were Holy Rollers-but when they got together and decided to start telling others what to do . . .

"Goin'," Jess answered. But then he tightened up. He stopped here to keep his business off of other people's tongues in Sterling, Colorado, where his ranch was. He had a family and a reputation there. "But how did you-?"

"You have cattleman writ all over you, and you come here twice a year, not far apart. In the season of the cattle drives. I'm just curious. Don't mean much by it. You can let it down in here. That's what we're all about. Gettin' here what you can't be seen gettin' where you come from. Wyoming? Laramie area maybe?"

"Somewhere close to there, yes," Jess said, tossing off the shot glass, his coffee still unfinished.

This wasn't what he wanted. Not at all. He stopped here outside North Platte not only because he knew about the place but also because he wasn't known here. Nobody knew anything about him here. He had this itch. Couldn't do anything about that. But his business was his business.

"Maybe I don't have the time to wait," he said, standing up and pushing away from the bar. "Maybe it's best if you just take my marker off the board. Hadn't tried a Friday night before. I didn't realize how busy it would be."

"Not just a Friday night. A payday Friday night," Skinner reminded him, as he stared down at the glass he was drying. He'd been too nosy.

It was true that Jess didn't really have the time for this. He'd left James and John and the hired men out on the range, on the eastern side of North Platte, and had ridden back for the evening. He figured they knew what he was doing while they camped out with the herd. They just didn't have a clue where he was doing it and who he was doing it with. His sons, James and John, didn't seem to have a problem with it-at least in thinking it would be some woman. James, nineteen, and John, eighteen, would be doing something like this soon-if they weren't already sneaking off with girls from the neighboring ranches. He had been married and had both of them in the house before he was their ages. They were both fine, strapping young men. They respected their mama, but they knew what men were prone to do. They just didn't know exactly what it was that their father wanted. And he didn't want them to know either.

"Sorry. I didn't mean to pry. There's no harm from knowing where a man's from."

Skinner could have shot himself. The man's money was good and he never caused trouble when he was in here. And he was a good looker-something for the other men to look at and dream about while they were waiting for their turn upstairs. And that he took cock-which all knew as soon as he asked for Ned-rather than was looking for male pussy like nearly all the rest in here, made him good business interest while men waited. Skinner had half a notion to make an offer to him that he take up some of Ned's slack tonight, and then he'd be getting what he wanted for nothing.

"No, no. Nothin' to it. It's just getting' late and we need to push off early in the morning."

"Catch you when you're coming back through in a week or so?"

"Yeah, maybe. Yeah, sure. I'll try not to make it a Friday night."

"That'a be good. Ned's off Sundays and Mondays."

"Good to know, thanks." Jess pulled his hat down over his eyes and headed for the door. The barkeep had mentioned Ned in a pretty loud voice and it had started a buzz again in the room. Anybody talking about Ned knew that he gave cock; he didn't take it. The mention of his name in relationship to this good-looking, nicely dressed, blond guy with a good body caused many in the room to start sniffing the air. They all were waiting longer than usual for their turn upstairs on a Friday night.

One guy, standing at the other end of the bar from where Skinner and Jess were talking, had been listening in for some time. He was taller and more muscular than Jess was. He was maybe ten years younger and several rungs down the economic scale from Jess. His drinks were being husbanded. He'd barely come in with enough money for his turn up the stairs. His clothes, a plaid shirt and jeans, with cowboy boots, were worn and a bit tight on his muscular body. This only accentuated how muscular he was, though. At closer to seven feet than six feet tall, he towered over Jess. His hands and feet were huge. The hands were calloused from hard work-probably in the fields rather than on a ranch. He was dark and swarthy, but also sultry in a sensual way.

When Skinner had looked at him and assessed him, his first thought was to wonder why he was in here at all. He didn't look like he could spare the money, but he also looked like he didn't need to come in here at all-that he could get poontang of whatever variety he wanted just by walking down the center of the street. Although maybe, from the bulge at his crotch, he scared some men off.

As Jess walked out of the barroom, Skinner started to move down the bar, thinking it was time to push another drink on the tall, dark stranger. But the man was tipping his hat, pushing his glass away from him, and turned to leave in Jess' wake.

Jess was starting to unhitch his horse at the rail, when he heard the voice, a low, smooth bass.

"Hold up a minute."

He turned to see a tall, muscular, dark-haired man walking across the porch toward him. He shivered at the sensual look of the man-the hugeness of him. His eyes focused on the man's crotch. It might not have done so if he hadn't been thinking all day on the hot and dusty trail about his planned session with Ned tonight. But he was keyed up, and disappointed he wasn't going to be getting his rocks off from Ned fucking him.

"Yes?" he said, realizing that his voice was wavering a bit.

"You wanted Ned in there. Did I hear right?"

"Yes. So?"

"So, I got tired of waitin' too. Seems we could both get off without the wait or either of us spendin' the money. You're a good-lookin' guy. I could fuck you for nothin'. Could do you right good too, I imagine. And we wouldn't be on anyone clock. I'm a double-load kind'a guy."

"I . . . I don't . . ."

The man had reached his side, put an arm around him, grabbed Jess' other arm, and pressed Jess' hand into his crotch. "Feel what you could have? There's a nice cottonwood grove over there by the Platte. I can give you a real good ride, and neither of us would have to pay for it."

* * * *

"Hold steady there," the man commanded. Jess was on all fours on the soft ground next to the riverbank. The man was crouched over him, one booted foot on the ground next to Jess' knee and the other on top of a rock next to Jess' hip. Both men were still wearing their shirts, although they were unbuttoned and flapping open. Neither was wearing britches. The man had a heavily muscled arm under Jess' heaving belly, holding him steady and his other hand wrapped around Jess' throat, arching Jess' torso back. The bulb of the man's cock was already lodged inside the rim of Jess' hole.

"Here we go," the man growled. "Gonna ride you hard."

Jess whimpered. He'd been whimpering and apprehensive ever since he'd seen the size of the man's cock and had gotten the measure of it in his mouth. "Be good to me; go slow," he pleaded.

But though, in the long run, Jess had to agree that the man was good to him, he didn't go slow.

"Oh shit! Oh, fuck!" Jess cried out as the man plunged his cock into him and started to piston hard and fast.

Afterward, Jess lay on his back, on top of an encasing arm of the man stretched beside him, moaning and babbling on about his life and what a release this was for him from the Tharp ranch east of Sterling, while the man stroked his cock. When Jess had ejaculated again, for his second time that night, the big man rolled over on top of him, lifted one of Jess' ankles to his shoulder with one hand, covered Jess' mouth tightly with the other to cover any outcries-the two having heard the men starting to leave the Buckhead ranch bar over the past twenty minutes-and thrust his cock home again.

Lying on his back and looking up at the towering figure standing over him, legs spread, feet planted on either side of Jess' thighs, Jess' eyes were arrested by the size of the cock dangling down from the man's groin. He had had this in his throat. He had had a larger measure of it up inside his ass. The man was buttoning up his shirt. He saw Jess looking up at him and laughed.

"You have a sweet channel for a man your age," he said. "I could just about go again. You get what you came for? You feel fucked?"

"Yes." Jess was still panting from the second fucking. He raised a hand and placed it on the meat of the man's calf, above the boot top. He moaned. He was exhausted, but still . . .

"You'd like me to fuck you again?"

"Yes." It came out as a moan.

The man laughed. "Maybe someday. Maybe someday I'll get to that Tharp ranch you talked about. Where? Sterling, Colorado, was it? Yeah, maybe. You were a good lay. Better than they got upstairs there at Buckhead. Can you imagine what it would have cost both of us for the time we been at it?"

A chill went up Jess' spine. Had he really told this man-this magnificently built man-where he lived? And was what he said about maybe seeing him there sounding more like a threat than a fantasy? Danger signals were buzzing in his head.

"Couldn't fuck you again unless I was hard," the man said.

It was humiliating, but Jess couldn't help himself. He grabbed the man's other calf with his other hand, and, with a groan, raised his torso so that he could open his lips over the bulb of the man's cock and sucked.

Laughing, the man grabbed Jess by the forearms, pushed him away, and lowered his torso back to the grass. "I think you've had enough," he said. "Any more and you'd need to be paying me for it."

"I would. I will-pay you for it," Jess said, his voice coming out in a whine.

The man just laughed again, stepped away from Jess' body, scooped up his jeans, and faded into the blackness of the night.

* * * *

Jess didn't remember much from the rest of the cattle drive. His thinking was consumed with the man who had fucked him on the banks of the Platte. They did camp again near North Platte on the way back to Colorado, and Jess returned to the Buckhead ranch-this time on a Wednesday evening. The visit wasn't all that satisfying, however. The session with Ned this time seemed seedy and unfulfilling in relationship to the cocking he'd gotten from the tall, dark stranger. Jess wondered if a visit to the Buckhead ranch would ever be the same again.

So preoccupied was he with both the humiliation and glory of the night on the banks of the Platte that Jess almost missed what was happening in a field at the back of the ranch house, a field his wife had been after him for a couple of years to have planted to vegetables and fruit to augment their needs, as they approached their ranch. It was James who keyed him in.

"My god, who is that? Look at how big and muscular he is, father."

Jess looked up to see the field half plowed-by a tall, muscular man guiding a plow behind two horses. The man was stripped to the waist. His torso muscles rippled and bulged from the effort. He was dark-headed and his torso and forearms were matted with curly black hair. So hard-bodied was he and so much was the exertion of his work that the veins running through his torso and arms popped out on his tanned skin.

The man looked up; it was the man. The man who had fucked Jess on the banks of the Platte. He stopped plowing momentarily and turned and gave a nod to the owner of the ranch, his two sons, and the three cowboys returning from the Omaha stockyards. Then he returned to the plowing.

Jess hoped that his gasp wasn't audible.

James was just staring hard at him. John asked his father, "Who is he, Father?"

"I have no idea. He ain't from around here."

"Perhaps Mama will know," John said.

"Indeed, maybe she will," the father answered. But he had the sinking feeling that it was his own babbling in the postcoital cooling off from sex that had led the man here. Panic set in-but so did the reaction of Jess' body. His skin was crawling with the memory of the touch of the man's strong hands on him, and his ass was twitching-also with the memory of a special touch of another kind.

* * * *

"I told you we needed to get a field plowed to vegetables and fruit," Mary told Jess over final preparations in the kitchen for dinner. "I grew weary of telling you and the man showed up looking for work. And he obviously can do the work. He has most of the field plowed already. That's more than you've gotten done for us out there in the last three years."

"Careful woman," Jess said, "You forget yourself on who makes decisions around here. The man looks like trouble. I will not-"

"Shhh, he will hear you, Jess. And the man has a name. He is Damon. Damon Smith, he told me."

"How so will he hear me, Wife?"

"He is in the dining room with the children. He has come for dinner."

"Come for dinner? Eating with the family?"

"Yes, and I have given him our old homestead cabin to live in. He's a farmer, not a cowboy, Jess. He will not mix well with the other men. And just you wait, what he produces for us will be far more useful and valuable for the family than any one of your other hired men."

Jess bit his tongue from saying that there was only danger to the family unit from this man's presence here, but he said nothing. To say anything would be to say too much. And she had a point about the man. Putting him in the bunkhouse with the cowboys would be like putting a rooster in the hen coup. And beyond that, in the back of his mind, he was thinking that having him bunking alone in the old homestead cabin had possibilities. But then he shook his head. He couldn't possibly be thinking that. The man had to go.

Dinner was covered with a veneer of comfort and conviviality, but under that was a deep layer of tension-at least for Jess, although he fancied he could feel it in others as well, except, perhaps in the man, Damon, himself and the younger son, John, who obviously saw nothing wrong in another man than his father putting his feet under the family table. James seemed drawn to the man and asked him all sorts of questions about farming. It didn't help the level of tension in the room that James' interest in farming rather than cattle ranching had a history of battle lines drawn in the family-not just between father and son but also between husband and wife, as Mary supported James in his interest.

Perhaps, Jess thought, this was the source of the tension underneath the surface of the conversation at the dinner table. Perhaps, though, it was because he had told Mary that this would be the last dinner the man took in the family dining room.

He brought the subject up near the end of the meal, saying, "We asked you to dinner as a welcome, Damon. But henceforth you will be eating in your cabin-unless you wish to eat with the other men in the bunkhouse dining room. Your meals will be brought to you unless you have said you wanted to fix a meal for yourself."

Damon took the command well-in fact he was taking the subservient roll of a field hand well at the dining room table. This didn't lessen the tension inside Jess, though, and he only hoped that when he spoke he didn't reveal how nervous-and aroused he was.

Late that evening Jess closed the Bible on his lap and spoke up. "I forgot to put out the feed for the cattle in the north pasture, Mary. I will go do that now. I may be late in getting it done. You need not sit up for me."

She looked up from the stitching she was doing, looked over her glasses at her husband, and smiled. She said nothing-not even about the tremble Jess seemed to have acquired in his hands on the just-completed cattle drive.

The path to the north pasture passed by the old homestead cabin, which was beyond the line of sight from either the ranch house or the bunk house.

A light was glowing in the cabin, and Damon was standing in the doorway, naked to the waist, An arm flung up the frame of the doorway, and his opposite hip thrust out at a provocative angle. A smile was fixed on his face as he watched Jess approach on his way to the field. He had a stalk of wheat in his mouth that he was chewing on, all casual like.

It wasn't long at all before Jess was standing at the side of the bunk beds in the cabin's second room, grasping the side slat of the upper bunk, his buttocks rearing out into the room behind him, and his feet planted firmly on the worn wood floor. Damon stood behind him, an arm wrapped around Jess' waist with a broad hand palming Jess' naked belly and the other hand around Jess' throat, arching the older man's chest back, as Damon's cock pounded hard and deep up into Jess' channel.

Jess was whimpering and moaning. Damon was laughing. He was still chewing on the stalk of wheat.

* * * *

"We must move away from the kitchen window," Mary murmured. "If he returns from the north pasture early, he might be able to see your head beside mine if he goes into the barnyard."

"Whatever you say, sweet lady," Damon whispered. He lifted her with strong, calloused hands at the waist from where he was bent over her at the kitchen sink, turned her, and, taking two steps, bent her over the kitchen table. He managed all of this without dislodging his cock from her ass channel. He moved one hand back to covering a breast in her unbuttoned dress top and the other one from her crotch, where he had a thumb on her clit and fingers buried in her cunt. He was moving the fingers, but otherwise he was standing, steady, and letting her fuck her ass on his cock.

"Please, can we go to the bedroom and do it proper-like we did before Jess got home from the cattle drive?" she whispered through pants and moans. "Jess and the boys never come into the house this time of day."

"I wouldn't want-"

"Jess lies with me frequently. If it happens, I'll have yet another magnificent boy. Jess will never know."

Damon thought rather that Jess would know. There was a hell of a difference between a normal-stature blond and a tall, husky brunette. But this would be the woman's worry. He had done her originally to get the job and was doing her now mostly to keep her on his side. He picked her up and carried her into the bedroom, laid her down on her back, lowered himself between her spread legs, and thrust his cock up into her cunt. She arched her back and moaned and began to move with the stroking.

"You're so big," she moaned. "Bigger than he is." Damon thought Jess was plenty big enough, but it was still flattering to hear her say so.

He remained holding her, inside her, and was stroking her hair and kissing her on the nipples when they were finished.

"My dinner."

"I'm sorry about that, Damon. I think Jess would be suspicious if-"

"That is not it. I want James to deliver my dinners to me, if you please. I sense his father doesn't want him talking about farming, and it would give us some time to converse. I think, if I'm not wrong, that you support James in his wish to become a farmer."

"Yes, yes, of course," Mary answered. In the back of her mind there was a bit of question there, but his cock had regained its hardness, and his resumed stroking took all other thoughts from her mind.

Later that night, when Jess approached the old homestead cabin en route to putting out the cattle feed in the north pasture, the cabin door was open and lights were on, but Damon was not waiting for him at the door.

Jess heard the moaning as he entered the cabin and moved silently over to the door into the second room. He could see James' bare legs, bent, and the young man's heels caressing the backs of Damon's calves, and James' arms around Damon's neck. James was on his back on the lower bunk, and a naked Damon was lying between James' thighs. James was moaning and Damon's body was straight as a board, risen off of James' body, his long thick cock pounding James' ass in long, deep strokes that clearly showed several inches of cock coming out and then reentering James' channel with each thrust.

Jess turned and fled the cabin.

For the next several days, whenever Damon wasn't plowing the field, looking so sexy as he worked, Jess came upon him fucking James. On a haystack in the barn, behind a haystack in the field, twice more in the old homestead cabin bunk, and while they were cavorting naked in the creek. Damon didn't seem to making any effort to hide what he was doing with James from Jesse.

James took Damon on an overnight ride up into the mountains, looking for stray cattle. Jess followed them at a distance and watched Damon fuck James bent over a saddle next to the camp fire for an hour or more.

They were young and virile. Jess no longer was. But, after that first night, Damon hadn't come for Jess again. He spent his time fucking James-at least as far as Jess knew.

This couldn't continue. Jess knew he had to put a stop to it. The situation came to a head one Sunday morning when Jess and Mary had gone to church. Mary forgot the pies she'd made for the church picnic afterward, and Jess came back to the house for them-and found Damon fucking James in Jess and Mary's bed. Damon was lying flat on the bed, his beefy hands encasing James' waist, as James rode his cock.

Jess went crazy.

* * * *

"I keep telling you that it was an accident," Jess said wearily to the sheriff.

"I understand the grief of a man losing his son, Mr. Tharp," the sheriff said as the men sat in the ranch house parlor, Mary so taken with grief that she was in another room being consoled by women from neighboring ranches

"But you have readily admitted that it's your rifle and that you fired the shots."

"But it was an accident."

"A man doesn't get off three shots that hit home by accident, Mr. Tharp. It's not an accident when a man shoots his son dead with three shots in the back."

"Don't be afraid, Jess. We will manage."

Jess looked in the direction the voice came from. His eyes were having difficulty adjusting through his tears and the dull ache behind his eyes. He knew the voice, though. Damon had somehow managed to dress again and cover the blood that must be on his chest and thighs before any of the men in the bunkhouse had reached the house. No one had suggested that Damon was even in the house when James got shot. The dull ache moved-to more than one place. It moved to Jess' heart but also, in humiliation and frustration, it moved to his groin as well. Now, even now, he wanted Damon.

His eyes focused enough to see that his younger son, John, was sitting beside Damon. Damon's arm was around his shoulders and he had a hand on the young man's thigh.

"We'll manage," Damon answered, a look on his face that Jess couldn't understand escaped the scrutiny of the sheriff-although Jess didn't want the sheriff to suspect Damon of anything. There had to be a way, somehow a way, for he and Damon to be together again.

"I'll take good care of John," Damon said, "And Mary has already said it would comfort her if I moved into the house while you were away facing this trial."



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