For the Eric and Sookie: Cowboy Up! One-shot Contest

Story Title: La Villa Real

Subtitle: A Boy Named Sue

Disclaimer: Charlaine Harris owns the copyright for all of her characters.

This is an E/S love story, with a very mature lemon and language.

WARNING: Slash ahead! Explicit! Here is a story of two people finding each other told in alternating E/S POV. Sometimes you just have to have faith that you will find the perfect partner.

Is being a cowboy a state of mind, or is it the clothes on your back and the horse between your knees? This is a modern-day Western romance.

Don Pedro de Peralta, third governor of New Mexico, named the small town situated in a valley at the foot of the Sangre de Cristo mountains "La Villa Real de la Santa Fe de San Francisco de Asis" or "The Royal City of the Holy Faith of St. Francis of Assisi"

Part One October Rains in Santa Fe, New Mexico


If I was going to be on time for the interview, the early morning hours I'd wasted drinking coffee and mindlessly surfing the websites devoted to bios of Hollywood actors meant I now had an hour to transform from dowdy grad student to eager job applicant. I groaned, mentally ticking off the time-consuming steps in the routine. I'd enjoyed a temporary six weeks reprieve when I'd moved cross-country; now it was well past time to resume the daily grind.

At minimum, I'd need the complete makeup job, the hair extensions clipped securely in place, and several adjustments to fit into the new costume I'd sewn. After digging out my music and locating my purse, I'd still have to find time for one last run-through to make sure I could find and release the outfit's various snaps and hooks.

But I stood, tensed and ready to tackle the coming, long-familiar ordeal because I wanted this job. It paid a heck of a lot better than being a waitress in a bar, or selling tickets behind a counter, or playing part-time receptionist in a law office. And this girl was on her own; had been since I turned sixteen. Even my brother Jase had finally stopped talking to me, claiming he just didn't understand me anymore. Not that it mattered.

In my new hometown of Santa Fe, New Mexico, it was sad fact that there were not a lot of job opportunities for college students, especially women at that awkward, in-between age of twenty-four. I'd known it before I ever applied and been accepted at St. John's College to study for an M.A. in the Liberal Arts Program. But after growing up in San Diego, California, a giant, glorified navy depot that was also one of the most soulless cities in the U.S., I didn't care.

I'd moved to Santa Fe because I wanted to reinvent myself. Again.

St. John's, with its low-slung buildings nestled in the sagebrush on a glorious hillside at the edge of town, had effortlessly offered up its charms; guileless windows staring blankly back at me, walls in shadow to better blend into the natural surroundings, the place echoed my own chameleon tendencies.

Less than an hour later, after shutting down my Mac and setting the dirty mug in the sink for later scrubbing, or not, I surveyed the results of my hurried efforts. Having my boobs done before my third year at San Diego State had been a good investment. Getting the thirty-eight double 'D' implants had generated a two hundred percent surge in my tip money. I'd paid off my undergrad school loans and had some spare for enrollment fees and textbook purchases at St. John's without touching my savings. Staring again at his handiwork, I was confident that they looked as real as the plastic surgeon in LA could make them.

Grabbing my thin San Diegan rain coat to protect the new turquoise beaded costume I'd sewn, I repeated my age-old mantra. "I am a beautiful, desirable woman." These Indian boys and wealthy old farts with dried-up wives living in luxury in the hills would start coughing it up once they feasted their eyes on me. I was sure my main competition would be tubby, bored housewives earning a few bucks on the side. I was a professional dancer with years of ballet and jazz lessons to draw upon.

Get out your wallets, gentlemen.


Uncertain of my reception when I arrived home last night, found the house dark and no porch light left on for me, I'd been very quiet. Dropping my overnight satchel, easel and watercolors by the front door, I'd closed it as quietly as I could, tiptoeing into the adjacent kitchen for a bottle of spring water. The bungalow we lived in was three blocks from Canyon Road, the Artists' Row in Santa Fe. It was only a little after eleven, so it was early for Alcide to have headed to bed. I'd been hoping he wouldn't be angry at me, and we could have a short discussion about my latest failures, kiss, and then hit the sack for some long-denied screwing.

I'd only been gone two days to Taos. It was an assignment I'd been damn lucky to coax out of my former employer in New York. It was a cover illustration for a Western mystery series they were launching. The author was being promoted by the press as the newest of the 'new' Tony Hillermans. An old story, if ever there was one. However, if my illustration of Native American Kachinas helped propel readers in places like Barnes & Noble or Borders to choose the writer's book over hundreds of others on the shelves, we could have a decent-seller. It would all but guarantee me many more commissions for more series covers.

Thank God. The rent on the nine hundred square foot, two bedroom bungalow was twenty-six hundred per month. Alcide's project management job in construction paid well, and he'd been taking care of me for the last six months. But I wasn't accustomed to being a financial burden.

Some days I still regretted the impulsive move to Santa Fe where I knew my Western-themed art would be more saleable than in New York City. Other days, I reminded myself that Bill Compton had become obsessed with me. I'd had to leave New York, or he might have killed me. His tastes in younger men, myself included, had been very expensive, but with a generous trust fund, he'd never had to put the brakes on his preferences. When I'd moved in with him and begun living in his deceased grandmother's Park Avenue townhouse, I mistakenly thought I'd finally become a success.

Living with Bill had opened a window into a lifestyle I'd never known existed. I'd grown up the youngest son of a long-distance freight hauler from a small town in Southern Louisiana. I'd endured a lot of crap from my older brother, Appius, after my considerable artistic talents had become apparent at an early age. Unfortunately, he'd also been able to negatively influence my parents' opinions about me and my artwork. A painful wedge had been driven between me and Mother that endured to this day. I'd eventually left Shreveport to study at the Art Institute in Newark, New Jersey. Given my modest beginnings, it was the closest I could get to New York City.

After two years of barely surviving in a cold-water, five-story walk-up flat I shared with two other equally broke artists, I'd had a small student showing of my illustrations at a mid-town Manhattan gallery. The gallery owner was garnering a lot of publicity for his charitable work with the Art Institute, but behind the scenes, the reality was a lot seedier. Since I was the prettiest student showing work, I was the lucky candidate who got to give him several blowjobs both before the show was mounted and while it was being disassembled.

It was a high price to pay, but when I'd graduated early the following year, one of the gay editors at a small fiction press had remembered some determined flirting I'd done with him at the opening. Just as I'd been ready to return to Shreveport, broke and with my tail between my legs, Claude had called me in to interview for a position as a free-lance illustrator. I'd gotten the job and been able to leave Newark for a better flat in the Hell's Kitchen area on the West side of midtown Manhattan. The major benefit had turned out to be a shorter subway ride to the office. As a freelancer, I wasn't given any other benefits or health insurance, although I was working full-time.I didn't care. At least I was making money. And the gay editor turned out to be married, so he couldn't demand regular blowjobs from me, either. I was free to find my own lover.

In error, and in haste, I'd chosen Bill. Ten years my senior, I'd thought he was going to be both my security and the love of my life. Wrong.

Whenever I thought about giving up and returning to him, I shored up my resolve by pulling out the unpaid hospital bills from the last time he'd broken my arm. Screw Bill and the horse he rode in on. I was done with that prick. Realizing I still sounded bitter, I knew it was time for bed.

Making my way through the dark to the bedroom I shared with Alcide, I found the door and pushed. I twisted the handle, hoping it was only stuck. After working it for a minute, I acknowledged that he'd again locked me out. Picking up my satchel full of dirty clothes, a used paperback and some disposable toiletries, I slowly made my way once more to the futon in the guest bedroom.

So much for my dreams of getting laid.

Alcide was so fucking temperamental, I fumed. I'd no idea what I'd done to piss him off this time. Suddenly the strain of the late night drive, the reality of my dwindling funds, and the pressure of making my commission deadline in three days crashed down on me. Some changes were going to be made. I could no longer act as if Alcide's treatment didn't affect me. We'd either work it out, or I'd have to find a new lover.


Frugal as I was, the one area I refused to skimp on was my ride. To that end, I'd used a big chunk of my tips to purchase a used two-door Saab 9-3 Convertible from a sailor and his wife shipping out to a base in the Philippines. At the time I bought it, it had less than fifteen thousand miles on it. I'd like the subtle golden paint shade, the creamy leather interior and motorized top. It was the perfect car for Southern California.

But I was learning that more often than not, early October in Northern New Mexico meant rainy weather and cold temperatures, a combination that usually resulted in icy roads. My little convertible wasn't used to such treatment.

Nor was I. When I once again began earning my usual tips, I knew my first acquisition was going to be a stylish yet warm, three quarter-length leather coat and some chic wool skirts and sweaters. A panicky thought intruded as I drove the narrow, winding back roads from my apartment in La Cienega, south of Santa Fe, to my interview. Momentarily forgetting the road conditions, I flipped down the mirror visor to check my face. Irrationally, I was totally terrified that either I might have missed plucking an errant hair above my lip, or my very sparse mustache might have decided to return, unannounced, on the drive over.

It was a stupid thing to do, because few of the secluded houses in this older neighborhood had drives or garages sufficient to accommodate the owner's automobiles. Perhaps in frustration over the one amenity they'd been denied, the residents usually parked them on blind curves too far into the road. I looked up in time to narrowly avoid hitting a Porsche sitting with its tail end two feet into the roadway, instead swerving across the lane to land in a ditch in front of a modest bungalow, seemingly out of place on this more affluent street.

Surveying the damage, I cursed loudly. If I couldn't push my car back up on the road, I risked being late for the interview and probably wouldn't get the job.

Looking around for help, and seeing the older model Subaru Forrester in the driveway of the bungalow, I decided this was where I would first ask for assistance. It was only nine-thirty in the morning. I had forty-five minutes to get my car out of ditch, or call a taxi while I had a towing company retrieve it and leave it where I could pick it up later. Mr. and Mrs. Bungalow were going to be pressed into helping me, like it or not.

I was growing frustrated by the lack of response to my insistent knocking on the bungalow's precious painted yellow and black front door when I heard a sleepy voice asking me to step back from the front door. I wondered why, but soon saw the reason. The door swung out, the interior screen providing a small measure of security for the inhabitants.

Looking up, and up, I made ample eye contact with one of the most beautiful men I'd seen lately. Growing up in San Diego, where available men outnumbered women, I'd run across more than your average sample of male pulchritude. This one was wearing rumpled men's lounging pajamas I took to be Gucci knock-offs.

"Yes?" he intoned. Clearly having just recently awoken, he was wondering why I was on his front porch in full stripper gear. I'd noticed too late that my raincoat had fallen open in my agitation while trying to rescue my Saab from his ditch.

"Umm, I know this looks odd, but I need some help. I swear this is not a strip-o-gram, and I am not here seeking money or to recruit you for anything religious or illegal." I was watching his now bored expression as I delivered the bad news.

"And you are here because…?" His question was a little colder than I'd hoped. I still had not explained my purpose for being on his doorstep. His accent was apparent now. He was a Southerner. 'A boy just destined for good works,' I thought happily. In spite of his obvious lack of interest in me, I was certain I could persuade him to help me push my car out of the ditch.

I tried again. "I'm Sue, Sue Stackhouse, from San Diego." He quirked an eyebrow at me in disbelief. I hurried on.

"Ummm, my car is sorta stuck in your ditch and I'm late for a job interview. Can you help me remove it, please?" I smiled, a calculated effort on my part. I was freezing.

He didn't seem much moved by my smile. Just not horny or playing for the opposite team? I couldn't tell for sure.

A long moment of silence ensued. He blinked several times, and finally relented.

"You can come inside and call a tow truck if you don't have a cell." His expression still wasn't friendly, and it was not exactly the offer I was hoping he'd make. He looked muscular enough, and God knew I was no wimp after more than a decade of dance classes and regular workouts.

"Thanks. So, what's your name?" I asked, hoping to thaw out the unthinkable, a rude Southern male.

"Eric." A small smile ghosted over his lips and this time nearly reached his eyes. I noticed I was still standing outside, forced to crane my neck upward to make eye contact. Pretty boy had to be at least six-foot four.

"Well, Eric, if you won't help me remove my car from your ditch, I guess I need to use your phone for a tow and a taxi?" I left it as a question, still hoping he'd offer to get dressed and join me outside in the cold, rainy weather to move this stranger's car.

"Sure, phone's in the kitchen, Sue." His smile had finally become open and genuine. And I was gobsmacked by the results of the transformation. He'd gone from merely desirable to Hollywood star status. He'd hold his own against Jake, or Rob, or Brad, or Alex. Even Gabriel.

Not surprisingly, my attitude also did a complete about-face. So what if Precious didn't wish to risk getting his toes chilled in the inclement Santa Fe weather? I realized that the Universe did indeed have a divine purpose. The Creator, in his infinite wisdom, had invented big, burly, cursing, tow truck drivers for such wet work as rescuing cars from ditches. Guys like Eric were made for better things.

Unable to stop myself from acting the ingénue, I asked if his wife was home as well. "I'm not married," was his mumbled reply.

There was absolutely no reason that information should have made me feel better.

Following Eric in his pajamas to the land line in his kitchen, I had time to observe the place was decorated and maintained as only two men with time on their hands cared to do. Oh well. I felt deflated now. That settled it, then. His boyfriend must be working today, I thought, and Eric must be the sensitive artist. There were watercolors and an easel stacked by the front door. There were also several beautiful western scenes, reminiscent of Remington's cowboy series in oils, hung in elaborate handmade frames on most of the walls. Eric's work, I assumed. He was definitely talented and gorgeous.

After I'd made the call with Eric standing beside me, full of helpful directions for the truck dispatcher, he still showed no inclination to dress. Instead, he now offered me some tea, which I declined, and sat down with me, all cozy, to wait for the tow truck. I'd also called a taxi service, who'd confirmed they could be at the house in a few minutes if needed. To save the cash, I thought I'd take a chance that my Saab would still be drivable. If not, I'd relent and take a taxi to the interview.

"So, Sue, are you going to a job interview to waitress in a Southwestern restaurant?"

Had he never gone into a strip club, I wondered? While it was common to see lots of lesbian-type activities in the clubs, gay men were a rarity, I realized, somewhat belatedly.

"Eric, you are too kind. I am studying for an M.A. at St. John's. But to make extra money for expenses, I pay my way by stripping. Not everyone is a trust fund baby." Or had a decent home life, with two loving parents and siblings, extra money for vacations, and new clothes any time they needed them, I added, silently.

I'd paid for my years of dance lessons with money I'd earned starting on the Kids Dummy Roping circuit when I was nine and working my way up. The prizes weren't much at first, but I'd sold them for cash; combined with the money I'd earned from years of entering and winning 4H competitions and selling the animals, I'd developed an independent streak that made my emancipation at sixteen much less traumatic for all concerned. A year later, I'd stumbled upon the money to be made in stripping and never looked back. No doubt there were still plenty of photos of me in stiff jeans, boots, and cowboy hat in discarded programs and faded scrapbooks in children's bedrooms, holding up first place ribbons. Anyone caring to could find me in ancient advertisements tacked on the walls of barns scattered all over San Diego County. It seemed like a lifetime ago, now. Although I did still miss the horses.

We waited quietly, both lost in our thoughts, and in a few minutes, the tow truck operator could be heard, cursing, from the street. I jumped up, patted Eric on the shoulder, and after hitting my stride, was walking out the front door to argue and bargain with the truck operator before Eric had summoned the energy to leave his chair. Artists!

I returned ten minutes later, discouraged that the car had to be towed to be inspected after the minor accident. 'State law,' per the surly driver. I found Eric dressed, wearing straight-leg jeans, a cashmere sweater, and an expensive black leather jacket. He was making toast and politely offered a buttered slice to me.

Thanking him, I asked if I could use his phone to call a taxi, explaining my temporarily reduced circumstances. He interrupted me, graciously offering to drive me to the interview.

"I've never seen the inside of a strip club, Sue. Will it be open, or will I have to wait in the car for you?"

'Gentle man,' I thought, touched that he was going outside his comfort zone to help a stranger, and a woman at that.

"Hon, strip clubs never close. They are a twenty-four/seven sort of business. Sex, or the promise of it," I was careful to qualify, "always sells."

"You are a very beautiful woman, Sue." I dropped my eyes, modesty personified. "Will I be able to see your act?"

"Yes, I'm sure the manager will ask me to take the stage to see how well I attract tips." It was a broad hint. I was a saleswoman, smelling a customer, even if he was an unusual one.

"I don't have much money right now. I'm between jobs, but I can give you a five dollar tip, if that works?" Who was this new version of Eric, now Mr. Helpful to the extreme? Maybe he'd just been cranky from being awakened at nine-thirty on a Thursday morning.

We finished our toast and I helped straighten up the kitchen by loading the dishwasher. Eric then led the way to his car, the Forester I'd seen in the drive. We had to clear out his tools of the trade to make room for me, but we left in plenty of time for my appointment.

When we arrived, I asked Eric if he wanted to be acknowledged as a friend, but he said he'd just follow me in and wait. I knew there'd be a hefty cover charge, and feeling guilty about the money, I hesitantly offered to get him in as my boyfriend, which would exempt him from the expense. He nodded, smiling at my deception.

We followed my plan to the letter. The Cheeks Club manager, Quinn, was pleased to see I had brought my man. In his leather jacket, sweater, and jeans, Eric actually looked sufficiently straight to pass scrutiny. He was seated front and center to gauge his reaction to his girlfriend stripping. Since I knew he'd have no reaction, I ignored him and got down to business specifics with Quinn.

After discussing terms and hours, which worked well for my school schedule, I was sent to the back to wait my turn. Quinn had told me to be ready to go on stage in twenty minutes for my audition. I met the other ladies, my competition, in the dressing room while I was repairing my make-up and testing my hair for loose extensions. I'd given my music to the DJ along with my name and introductory script, so I had a few minutes to spare.

"Name's Sue, I'm starting tomorrow. Quinn seems like a decent Manager. Any trouble with him or the customers? Everything legal? Any issues with the po-leez?" I was speaking with a leggy blonde who was lounging on the room's one couch.

"Sue? Stage name, honey?"

"Sultry Suki, but I hate it. So conventional, ya know? Although it does match my voice. And you?"

"Well, Sultry, it'll be Sluty, by the time Quinn's wife gets finished with your employment application and W-9 on her Word processor. I'm Amber Angel to the customers, Pam to my friends." She reached over to give me a big hug and to check out the firmness of my tits. I hugged back, confident they bounced when they should and held steady when they shouldn't.

"Nice boob job, did you have it done in California?" She'd definitely noticed the thirty-eight double 'D' upgrades, but at least she been too polite to feel me up by pinching a nipple or grabbing a handful.

"Yes, a surgeon in El-Lay. I just moved here from San Diego." I started to give her some more history, but I heard the DJ start my music over the speakers piped into the dressing room. I kissed her check and ran for the stage entrance.

For some reason, I was pleased to see Eric sitting front and center, nursing what appeared to be a soft drink. I wasn't surprised that he was ignoring the circulating, mostly naked women who wanted the patrons to buy them drinks, or request private lap dances, or more.

I gave Eric a very big smile, noticing that he was quite the magnet in this room, and proceeded to give it my all, stripping off the turquoise outfit to finish my dance in nothing more than a furry packed g-string, elaborate necklace, and my ankle-breakers. It had been my usual routine, replete with several splits, a vigorous pole workout, and jiggled boobs, continuously working the crowd for tips; all done while never making full eye contact. It was an art, not a science.

When I left to good applause, Quinn met me at the dressing room door. If I'd pulled more than one hundred fifty at eleven in the morning, he told me, I was hired. We counted, and my tips totaled one hundred and eighty dollars. Elated, I was welcomed on board, handed my paperwork and was ready to leave with Eric twenty minutes later.

I rescued him from his table, and before getting in his car, gave him an enthusiastic hug, which I was pleased he returned, crushing me against him.

"Guess this means you got the job?" He gave me a lop-sided grin, inclining his head in my direction before he started the car.

"Yeah. And I'm giving you fifty dollars for all your trouble and gas."

"That's great. Want to grab some lunch? Keep your money, and you can buy, dollface."

"Deal." We headed for Wendy's, as he had a thing for the chocolate frosty and I wanted a chicken salad.

After we had ordered, and our initial run of conversation about the club, its patrons, my job, and my edited history in San Diego had sputtered out, we were silent for a bit, munching on our fries and staring out the windows. I was waiting for Eric to share something about himself, now. And feeling a little shy. He was so very beautiful, for a man. I'd noticed he pulled stares from both men and women everywhere we'd been today. It must have been difficult growing up, I reflected. We had that in common.

Eric finally spoke. "My boyfriend Alcide left me yesterday. I didn't find out until I got up this morning after being gone for a couple of days. I found the post-it note on our kitchen table." His voice was colorless, his expression blank. He must really be hurting.

"I'm so sorry. Had you been together a long time?" I was at a loss for what to say. 'Good to know even beautiful people get dumped' didn't seem appropriate.

"We moved in together two weeks after we met, six months ago." He shook his head, carefully, as if he had a headache now.

"Brain freeze?" I inquired knowingly.

"Yeah." He paused, gaze slightly unfocused. "Ready to go, Sue?"

"Eric, may I suggest we blow this popsicle stand?" I'd meant it as a joke, but Eric gave me a funny look. I was suddenly embarrassed and sorry I'd spoken.

As we were buckling up, I asked Eric if he would mind dropping me at the garage to collect my Saab.

He agreed, and in a few minutes, we were saying our goodbyes, promising to catch up at some future date. Truthfully, I doubted I'd ever see him again. I pressed two twenties into his hand for gas and his trouble, which he sheepishly accepted, and then watched as he drove slowly away. I had class that night, and was eager to get back to my apartment so I could finish the writing assignment and prepare my questions for the seminar leader.

I didn't think about Eric for the next eight months.

Part Two Summer Skies


My gallery shows in Santa Fe that June were timed to coincide with a major convention of horse fanciers and cattlemen. The eager owners knew these visitors with money to burn and sentimental feelings towards all things cowboy, cowgirl, heifer, bull, stallion, and mare would be all over my meticulous watercolors reminiscent of Frederic Remington. With pieces priced anywhere from four hundred fifty to five thousand dollars or more, the galleries combined were anticipating selling up to thirty thousand dollars worth of my work. That would work out to about fifteen thousand dollars for me after their sales commissions. Some of it was pre-sold, so I was assured of at least a partial payoff during the four days the buyers would be roaming Canyon Road.

In anticipation of my need to blend in, I'd carefully reviewed my paltry selection of Western wear for the receptions I'd be required to attend. Turned out I had just enough pairs of jeans, western shirts, and bolos to never wear the same outfit twice.

'Cowboy Eric, Yee-haw,' I thought, a little sourly.

One of the gallery owner's boyfriends was lending me a too-small fringed jacket that I could carry over my arm. To complete the look, I'd found a pair of used, scuffed boots at the Goodwill that my friend Andy felt certain looked cowboy authentic.

At the moment, Andy was my only friend in town. When Alcide had walked out on me after I'd returned from Taos in early October, I'd had to sublet the bungalow to a straight couple because I knew of no one else who could move in. Now, just in time for the Santa Fe-based events, my tenants had vacated the bungalow. If I had any reason to need it, my place was once again available for a rendezvous, impromptu cocktail party, or business meeting with the out-of-town art buyers. If my work sold as anticipated, maybe I could afford to move back.

The gallery owners were all fired-up about selling my existing work.

Not me. I was counting on pulling in some commission work from the Western aficionados, a much more lucrative payoff for this struggling artist. My finances had stabilized after Alcide left. Customer response over the holidays to my illustrated Kachinas book cover had been good. Grateful, my New York publishing contacts had once again begun sending mystery book illustration work my way. I was enjoying the steady income.

Stepping back from my life for a quick assessment, I decided anyone looking in would conclude that I was a mildly successful mid-level illustrator who worked with watercolors. I knew portraiture could be a secure income stream for me if I could establish myself. My preferred technique was producing pen and ink drawings. But portraiture usually required a studio for the subject to meet the artist. I wasn't in a position to pay for the space until I sold some more work.

Whistling loudly, always a dead-on clue to my mental state, I wondered if I was finally reaching a point in my life where I could begin looking seriously for another lover. I hadn't been with anyone since Alcide, and wasn't sure there was anyone I'd even remotely consider to be boyfriend material in this strange town. It seemed to pick up the two ends of the spectrum, awash in poor Latinos and rich Anglos, without much in-between. I'd met most of the gay artists like myself, and no one was in my league when it came to looks and talent.

What I wanted was an equal partner who could turn as many heads as I did; someone who enjoyed regular fucking and the occasional blowjob, and liked to cook and clean.

It didn't seem too much to ask, I'd reassured myself more than once. If he wanted to marry and have children, I would be open to the idea. But first I wanted to start with moving back into the bungalow and fixing up the yard. I also wanted a blue merle Border Collie. I'd started running in the parks in Santa Fe during the spring and everyone seemed to have a dog on a leash. It was a dog-friendly town, and I wanted to be more like my neighbors and fit it with my community.

For all these plans to come to fruition, I'd need to get through the next four days without any serious mishaps and collect my fifteen thousand dollars. 'Eyes on the prize,' I sing-songed, repeating the phrase to myself several times. The first party I'd be attending was a champagne buffet tomorrow at ten thirty at the Canyon Gaze Gallery.

I laid out all my outfits and resolved right then to use the bungalow to store my clothes, toiletries, and other items I'd need over the next four days. The sheets and towels that Alcide had left behind were still locked in the linen closet, so I could stay over at night and save the gas money I'd otherwise be spending driving back and forth to my monthly dirt cheap rental unit in La Cienega. I grabbed my sketch books, samples of my portraiture I wanted to promote, and some miscellaneous items I'd need to keep my muse sharp (books, camera, iPod, and sketch pad).

All packed and ready now, I realized I had several boxes to carry down three flights to my car. Shit. I hated useless manual labor, but I'd require all of it if I were to successfully resume my more glamorous life in downtown Santa Fe. I was more than ready to leave La Cienega and the sacrifices it represented far behind. ___________________________________________________________________


In six months, I'd be free of St. John's College, sheepskin in hand, and looking for an entry-level job in publishing on the East coast, most likely in Manhattan. I briefly entertained a fantasy of living in Greenwich Village, renting a million dollar townhouse for less than two thousand dollars a month, and finding a boyfriend.

'Never going to happen, Sue.'

Today, I was done with seminars, papers, exams, and grading undergrad papers for extra credit, and kissing professorial arse. Tomorrow, I'd be freelancing, working the four day Cowboys, Cowgirls, and Cattlemen's Western-stravaganza organized by the Friends of the Opera every year. Answering an ad in the school online paper, I'd been picked up by the Arizona Republic to report on local events for their society pages. Even better, I'd been guaranteed an invitation to virtually every event associated with the Opera organization. Most of them would be taking place on Canyon Road in the art galleries and at the Hotel La Fonda on the Santa Fe Plaza.

I didn't have a date for the events, but was hoping I'd meet someone who'd be interested in spending the summer with me. There were all sorts of adventurous couples' activities in the immediate area I wanted to try before I left for the East Coast. I was ready to go rafting on the Rio Grande, horseback riding in the historic mining town of Cerrillos outside Santa Fe, and hiking in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.

And I wanted a fit, rugged, outdoors type to enjoy all of these things with me. The Western events sounded like the perfect hunting grounds. With my wide blue eyes, long blond hair, and ample cleavage, I was confident I'd pull a man this week I could tolerate for a few months. I always had impeccable grooming, and with the tips I earned stripping, I could afford expensive clothing and make-up.

Of course, I'd also have to meet a very open-minded man who could understand my background and particular restrictions, but I wasn't too worried. Give a guy a blowjob, and most things had a way of falling into place. He'd also have to be very understanding about that side job of mine, stripping for dollars. A top earner, I was clearing about a hundred and twenty thousand a year from the work. Conservatively, I figured I had maybe four or five more years to pull that kind of money before the younger bodies would crowd me off the stage.

If the guy seemed like a long term prospect, I'd tell him about the specialist in LA who'd agreed to perform my final surgery whenever I was ready. I'd tentatively scheduled it for early August, still unsure it was even necessary. I'd have eight weeks to play with my boyfriend before I'd have to reveal the truth. Daydreaming, I could see myself meeting a guy who'd fall in love with me during that time.

The reality was that at some point, I wanted to adopt children, buy a nice house, marry a good husband, and own a loyal dog. I probably had the sequence of things screwed up, but I had never been accused of being a conventional girl. No reason to start now.

Although I was ready to blend in with the straight community, a truly straight man would never work for my situation. That meant I'd probably need to find a boyfriend in the arts who came with family money. Most artists were always broke, the men relentless in their search for wealthy wives who'd support their shiftless artistic habits. Through ruthless budgeting, I had managed to save a quarter of a million from my stripping tips over the last seven years, so perhaps a really pretty, totally busted artist might consider me a good catch. He'd have to have a big cock, though. No teeny weenies for me.

Fingers crossed that I'd meet the ideal man during the very first event, I checked the schedule. Perfect. A champagne brunch that didn't start until ten-thirty on Canyon Road. I'd arrive early to flash my press badge, look over the crowd to find the Republic's society ladies and stake out a good place for the freelance photographer to set-up. When the article was written, I'd email it and the photos off to the Paper's society editor. They ran a twice-weekly Western events section during the summer when newspaper sales slowed way down. The pay was piss-poor, but the line item would look good on my resume.


Gritting my teeth, and reminding myself that 'Art' was only a very small fraction of any successful artist's existence, I carefully draped Trey's leather jacket over my arm and pushed into the Canyon Gaze gallery crowd, looking like I had a purpose for being present. My art looked great and everyone seemed to be enjoying the event.

Failing to immediately spot anyone I knew, including Hoyt, the Gaze's owner, I headed over to the buffet table to load up a plate of shrimp, oysters, lobster, and crab, all cooked using Southwestern spices and mesquite grilling. I tried not to snort at the pretentious quality of these peoplewhile concentratingon not spilling any food on myself.

I'd dressed as carefully as if it was my wedding day, but being a gay man, having a wedding day was as likely as me moving to Massachusetts. None-the-less, I was in a state of mind to play both Artiste and Lothario. Often one-and-the-same. I'd happily woo every fat wallet I saw and any straight, single men; today I'd do whatever it took to have it all. In my mind, 'all' included both getting rich and finding a lover.

When I'd been younger, I'd tried to fall for girls, and had met and dated many. But when it came time to take off the panties, I couldn't overcome my disappointment about their missing cocks. In my opinion, it just wasn't a fuck if two dicks weren't involved, although I'd always been a fan of a nice rack.

Women were always so disappointed when they discovered my preferences; I eventually even gave up on being friends with them. It just wasn't worth the heartache or time spent dissuading them from their misguided thinking that I might still be salvageable, if only they could get my pants off. When the pants came off, the dick usually failed to come up without a twin companion to encourage him. Although I never turned down a freely offered blowjob, no strings attached.

While these dishearteningthoughts were running around in my head, I looked up to find a beautiful woman with wavy long blonde hair similar to mine staring at me, her expression indicating she was puzzled about something. I smiled and half-waved, wondering who she was and hoping she didn't try to pick me up. I really needed a boyfriend. Although even from across the room she had so much cleavage showing I could tell she had a great pair. Sort of a modern day version of Ursula Undress from Casino Royale.

I looked away, hoping to discourage her, when out of the corner of my eye I saw her approach, her lovely hand extended as she said my name "Eric." Eying my western wear and bolo tie with the healthy amount of skepticism they deserved, she continued, "I would never have figured you for a cowboy. Add a silver star and a six-shooter and you could be mistaken for the town's sheriff." Her smile was warm and friendly; definitely not a bitch.

When it was obvious I didn't know who she was, she laughed. "Car in your ditch, strip club over on Cerrillos, Wendy's chocolate frosty… Sound familiar?"

Ah, now I remembered. "Forty dollar tip? That was the biggest tip I ever earned, honey. But I still cannot recall your name, lovely lady." Sam, maybe? Or Eddy?

"Sue, my name is Sue, how do you do?" She was poking fun at the old Johnny Cash hit, delivering the lines in a country-western twang.

"Hey, girl, don't bite the hand that feeds us." I was semi-serious. She nodded in somber agreement.

"You are the talented Western artist whose work I see on these walls, Eric, aren't you?" It wasn't a question, although she made it sound like one.

"Yep. I channel Frederic real well these days." It was a self-deprecatory remark about my work, completely out of character for me. Why? Was I feeling a small stirring of interest in this woman? I didn't do girls anymore, I carefully reminded myself.

"Is that all you do?" Now that was a seriously coy remark. Since I had yet to see any boyfriend material I wanted to pursue at this affair, I decided to play along.

"You remember I do boys, right?" She nodded, smiling merrily. Well, alright.

"But on occasion, the exceptional lady has been known to entice," I told her. She might be that one in a million that could coax it out of me.

"In that case, Eric, I'm on you like white on rice for the rest of this reception." And to prove she was serious, she linked her arm through mine, making certain to rub her cleavage against my bicep. No question it felt good. I liked her perfume, too. It was very flowery and feminine. In some ways, she might have been the most feminine woman I'd ever encountered. I barely recalled the exotic dance she had performed that bleak day back in October when I'd been dumped, but I did remember feeling…what? Intrigued.

And yet, for all Sue's femininity, beneath the sweet perfume she had a very unusual, dark scent. I had always had a sensitive nose, and I picked up on it right away. I liked it, whatever it was.

In fact, as the morning progressed, Sue was usually pressed against my side; I liked both the feeling and her well enough to wonder if she could be persuaded to stop in at the bungalow with me that afternoon. I planned to suggest we use my place to relax and change before we were scheduled to attend a late night dinner benefit for the Arts at La Fonda. Yes, when we'd compared schedules, we'd discovered that we were both attending most of the same events over the next four days. For some reason, that made me very happy. Her too, I was pretty sure.

As it turned out, the champagne buffet was a success. I'd met some of Hoyt's clients who'd offered several commissions that were worth twice what I earned in one month from the publishing houses. Elated after the end of our impromptu business meeting to draw up the contracts, I searched for Sue to tell her my news. I eventually found her sitting alone in a corner leading to the outside.

"What are you doing, beautiful?" I felt very comfortable with the salutation and she seemed to relish it.

"Waiting for you. Do you still have that bungalow three blocks over?"

I gave her my best wolfish grin. "My thoughts exactly." If the kind of sex I thought I wanted with her didn't work out, I could tell that there'd be no hard feelings on her part. We'd still be buddies and enjoy the Western events.

But if by some miracle it did, I'd found a new bed partner until serious boyfriend material showed up. Suddenly, I was eager to leave, wondering if she'd mind driving so we wouldn't waste time walking.

"The garden is so fresh and romantic, Eric. Can we walk out to the path and look before we leave?" Her request was made in a soft, low tone, and I found I simply could not deny her. She really was absolutely exquisite, dressed in a form-fitting navy tailored suit with green piping. I admired it, and how well it fit over her very slender ass and hugged her generous tits. She was at once both themost tastefully dressedand the best showcased woman at the event. In fact, next to me, I mused she was probably the most admired and desired individual by those present.

Funny. Smart. Beautiful. Well-dressed. Unconventional. If she'd had a dick, she might have been perfect.

She took my hand, and I followed her scent and slender female shape into the manicured grounds behind the gallery. We were soon swallowed up by the towering ocotillo, outsized Mormon tea plants, Mexican firebush shrubbery, and Boojum trees. The garden was filled with birds and butterflies. I recognized the Canyon Wren, the Western Flicker and even several small Elf owls hidden in the saguaro spines. I knew some about birds and wondered at the eclectic grouping. I didn't believe these were all native to this climate. I snickered. Trust Santa Fe types to import plants and wildlife to simulate an environment that would only appear naturally several hundred miles to the south.

But these thoughts were completely swamped by the unexpected soft give of Sue's body as she stopped abruptly and I ran into her. I wanted to kiss her, and realized she had closed her eyes and twisted to turn her face to me; her slightly parted lips a delicious invitation for my tongue to enter and taste.

Kissing was a skill I had perfected early. I didn't hesitate to show my accomplishments in this department to the straight woman offering. I closed my eyes and had to agree with her. Kissing in the garden, hidden from sight and surrounded by the lush plants and soft bird song was romantic. I definitely felt a twitch in my cock now, especially as I wrapped my hands around her surprisingly broad shoulders, a trait I didn't recall noticing on her. It was one of my favorite body parts on a male partner.

Her lips were softer than a man's, and although her skin was perfect and glowing with good health, I'd felt softer skin. It seemed to be a little thicker than the skin of the women I'd kissed before I'd sworn off females, the texture a little rougher. I ran the tip of my tongue over the skin above her lip and noticed again it felt funny as well.

After we ended our kiss, I said, "Sue, I have a question for you." It was such a weird question, I wasn't sure I even knew how to frame it.

"Shoot, mi hombre," had been her reply; her eyes still closed, lips remaining parted as she waited for me to resume our make-out session. I almost skipped it and suggested instead we leave immediately for my bungalow, but something stopped me.

"Are you wearing a scarf around your neck for any particular reason?" If I was off-base, she'd wonder why I'd asked. If not, she'd know why I'd asked.

Her reply stunned me into silence. "Are you taking me to bed, Eric?" she asked as her hand roughly sought and found my cock through the fabric of my jeans. I totally forgot my question and dropped my lips back on hers, focused on learning every inch of her perfect mouth.

We continued on in the same manner, clearly reveling in each other and in the unexpected intimacy we'd found in the deserted garden. Whenever she would let me take lead, I trailed tongue over the slick pearly enamel on her teeth, greedily sucking down her taste as I thoroughly explored the dark canyon of her mouth. She was surprising aggressive for one so feminine, so we were evenly matched. In a short while, we were both moaning softly when I pulled away and told her we had to leave now, or I was going to fuck her behind one of the Boojum trees. The absurdity of the remark had us both laughing and broke the spell she'd bound me with.

We managed to sneak out of the garden through a partially open side door, and holding hands again, walked in a comfortable silence to the house. My new companion was making it into the sort of day I never wanted to end, which was an unusual reaction from me.


His bungalow was much as I remembered it, although not nearly as clean. Our three block stroll had been unhurried; Eric had occasionally pulled me into shaded areas to nuzzle my neck, run his fingers through my hair, and plant gentle kisses on my lips. I'd forgotten what this first blush of attraction felt like, hazily wondering if I could keep control of the situation and avoid wrecking what might turn into a decent friendship. I sheltered no illusions that Eric was the boyfriend I was seeking for the summer. That knowledge didn't dispel my interest in spending the afternoon in bed, him sucking on my tits, me sucking on his dick, kissing as the mood took us.

I knew I had nothing to fear from Eric, who wouldn't be interested in disrobing me. Indeed, some casual physical contact would greatly improve my mood. Then we'd skip out and hit tonight's more formal event. My dresses for the next several days were in the trunk of my car in plastic dry cleaning bags. At my request, I had been taken off the schedule at Cheeks for the remainder of the week. I was ready to play.

The moment of truth arrived the minute we entered the house. Eric pulled me to him, and began unbuttoning the front of my tailored suit-dress, his lips locked with mine before I could draw breath to suggest we start slowly.

I couldn't begrudge his enthusiasm and decided not to protest to his too eager display of lust. And, as I expected, he only wanted to free my breasts, pulling down my lacy brassiere as if it were no more interesting than a man's cotton t-shirt. Palming one, his warm fingers tweaking the nipple, he bent down to mouth the other, drawing the flesh between his lips, groaning in pleasure as he began teasing the dark brown areola into a small, sensitive peak. It was too much stimulation. I shifted, beginning to feel some pain. I'd have to excuse myself before we could continue.

"Eric, can a girl use the bathroom before…" I left the completion of the sentence to his imagination. Even after a few minutes, I could see in his eyes that he was far gone with desire. I might have more trouble controlling him than I'd anticipated, especially considering his size.

"Sue, you have very sensitive nipples. I like them very much." He smile was mischievous, his eyes smoldering. "Take your time. The bathroom is off the main bedroom. Come with me and I'll show you." He took my hand, nuzzling my ear while suggesting I might wish to take off my dress so it didn't wrinkle.

'Or I might not,' I thought.

Watching me, his response was more than a little odd. "Touch a nerve, Sue, with that last remark?" His hand drifted down to caress my ass as he walked me over to the bathroom door. I'd relaxed a bit after I saw his bed was a twisted mess of flannel sheets. At least he wasn't too perfect.

Turning to smile into his eyes, I gave his chin a brief brush of my lips, and then shut the bathroom door in his face.

"Are you shy, mi pequena flor?" He was teasing me now, standing outside the door and tapping on the frame. I leaned my face against the painted surface, and thought about what I was about to do. I hoped the lock on the door would hold. I really did not want him catching me unawares.

Stripping off the dress, bra, slip, scarf, shoes, pantyhose, and finally the cotton underwear I favored, I was able to make the necessary adjustments to ease my temporary torment. Ah, shit. If Eric was going to turn me on so much, I'd have to find looser bindings.

Just then, after I'd shucked the constricting gaff and begun to relax, I heard Eric jostle the handle of the bathroom door. I looked frantically around for a bath towel. Finding one, I only managed to turn my back to the door and tuck the thick material firmly around my waist before he was able to finesse the crappy lock and open the door.

"Am I being too forward, Sue? I didn't like to think of you being alone in here, me alone out there, and all the fun we're missing out on." He came up behind me and placed his hands on my shoulders, rubbing his palms slowly down my arms to my towel-covered hips. "Why do I find you so attractive, Sue? How did I miss the opportunity to spend more time with you back in October after I saw you strip, baby?" He began working his fingers into the skin above the towel. I could guess where this was headed.

It was time to gently put the brakes on my friend Eric; I didn't want to spoil whatever it was that seemed to be developing between us. "I'm thinking I need a shower, Eric. And I'm a little shy at first. Mind stepping outside the bathroom 'til I'm done?"

"Sue, are you a natural blonde?" He slid a finger under the top edge of the towel I was clutching to me. "Or is shaving mandatory for a stripper, beautiful? Let me see?"


Ah, my delicious female friend was shy. Hardly a news flash. I wondered how long she'd been living the life. I also wondered why she didn't seem to be sporting a woody for me.

But if she wouldn't let me touch her, I'd have to find some other means of checking. I knew I had to be right, had to be. I'd never felt this much genuine interest in a girl since I'd first discovered Mary Tyler Moore on Nick at Nite. I was a Mary all the way; hated Rhoda and Phyllis.

"Sue, turn around, please?"

"Can't just yet."

I slid my hands back up her arms, crossed arms over her boobs, and pulled her up tight against my chest. I'd already removed my cheap western shirt with all the metal buttons. Surely I'd get points for that consideration.

"Why are you hiding from me, Sue? You are so much what I want right now." If she'd let me, my arm was so going to slide down over her flat stomach and underneath the towel. "Want to take that shower with me? Send some of our party grime down the drain?"

"It's too soon for that, Eric. I'll shower alone, if you don't mind? Plus the champagne seems to have affected me more than I realized. I need to purge some of the effects of the alcohol."

"Ah, Sultry Suki, you showed me almost everything that first day we met. I'm ready to take the next step with you, girl."

Sue took a big breath, swallowed hard, and then shrugged a bit to let me know to release her. Reluctantly, I did. If she didn't want me then maybe I was making a mistake. Did she think I was trying to force her?

"I'd prefer some privacy, if that's okay with you?" She wasn't going to give it up, I could see that now.

"Okay, lovely lady, as you wish. Just one last kiss, please?"

She bent her head back to nestle in my shoulder and turned to give me a kiss. I mashed my hands over her breasts, a pretty good surgery job, and gave her the most passionate kiss I was capable of delivering. My groans were sincere. I desired her more than anyone I'd been with in years; I wanted to be in her, wanted her lips wrapped around the tip of my cock, giving me head in just the way only another man would know how to do.

As Sue began to express her satisfaction with my attention to her tits, I started grinding my cock into her back. I pushed her forward to mash us up against the glass shower door, the interior mirrored surface reflecting our images visible through the three-quarter height wavy glass.

"Drop the towel, please? Trust me, Sue?"


Maybe it was the lingering effects of too much champagne. Maybe it was the lack of any male companionship for more than year. Or maybe it was the near certainty that gay Eric wouldn't be shocked by the reveal of my anomaly, as I referred to it. It could even have been the strong pull I felt for the man. Yes, he was beautiful beyond reason and I could just tell, it being snuggled against my spine, that he'd have an impressive one. But I was also attracted by his talent, his wit, his gentleness, and my memories of his inept kindness when a stranger needed to get to an interview, hurting as he was that day.

And the truly dangerous part? I was almost certain I liked him, this Southern boy playing cowboy that I'd met so many months ago.

Whatever the heck my feelings were, I was going to drop the towel and see where it led. At least I felt certain I wouldn't be getting a punch in the mouth this time. But I'd still begin cautiously.

"Eric, I had you pegged all wrong. Guess my gaydar doesn't work anymore; must have been damaged by the change in altitude."

He stepped away from me, and I could hear the sound of his jeans zipper making a long, slow descent.

"Nah, radar is still A-OK. This shouldn't impair my near perfect record, though." I could hear the smile in his voice.

Whirling around, I was in time to see him bent down, stepping out of his jeans. As he straightened, I was shaken to see my assessment had fallen far shy of the reality. Eric, naked, long and lean, owned the perfect male physique, his dark blond hair a heavy cape caressing the ethereal beauty of his features and form.

"Baby, come here and give me the blowjob I've seen in your eyes all afternoon."

Unable to deny his assessment of my desires, I dropped to my knees and zoomed in on his moving flesh, it tightening in anticipation even as I opened my mouth to take all of him in. He was certainly swoon-worthy, and his groan of pleasure sent a shiver of bittersweet pain to the appendage I'd kept carefully hidden beneath the towel.

But Eric appeared to have forgotten all about the towel mystery. With his hands holding my head in place, he was encouraging me, his voice tipped with desire. My own juices surged, responding to Eric's subdued guttural pleading. I knew it well, the tone a man uses when he is too far gone to think about anything more than craving the feeling of your soft mouth taking in his length and the back of your throat hitting his sensitive flesh.

I'd been using my palms to roll his cock to that agony I'd experienced of screaming for release yet hating one's self for thrusting into bliss, but I was beyond eager for the salty taste of him now. I raised up to sweep my lips all the way down on his velvety member. My hand fisted his sac as he pushed the iron in his shaft further down my throat. I let him. He held it there, begging me to hold still and breathe. I did.

When I started involuntarily pulling back, gasping for air, Eric instantly relinquished his hold on me. He then reached under my shoulders and pulled me upright against his body, his golden chest hair soft and comforting against my bare skin. If I'd just drop the towel, we could be twining our selves; the heat exchange sufficient to overcome any inhibitions about revealing my secret. But I was still feeling very shy and uncertain.

"Sue," Eric murmured my name in between the rape he was performing on my mouth.

"Yes?" Would I like where this was headed?

"Are we going to fuck or not?" He paused. "Will you let me screw you? I'd like to bury my fingers in your ass, first…" The last sentence was delivered in a voice so dripping with sexual intent, my backside ached from just his suggestion.

At that, my hips made their own decision and pushed me forward against the front of his body. His cock was so long, the head came up higher than the top of my now undeniably listing towel. My belly button in danger of being fucked into changing sides and becoming an 'innie,' I admitted defeat.

"Yes, yes, Eric, I want you to fuck me." And I dropped the towel so I could feel his world-class appendage slide along my much smaller one. He staggered backward, eyes fevered, when my leaking dick stroked against the muscled flat 'V' of his abdomen.

"Oh, fuck me, Sue, that feels so damn sweet." And then he took my mouth again, his hips sliding up and down, back and forth against my own as I willingly let him take me, or break me. The choice was his.

Eric's fingers immediately found my naked ass, and began probing at my opening. His kissing became frenzied as he sought to fully possess me, beginning with my mouth, lips, and tongue. He was insisting I submit to him, the larger male, and I wasn't disagreeing. Feeling his finger push inside me, I let out a small huff at the discomfort.

"Oh baby," he breathed into my mouth, "bend over and let me eat you."

"Let's shower first and wash off some of that party grime." I somehow broke away from him and flung open the shower door, dizzy from the multitude of sensations. In seconds, I was standing inside under the pounding water, the soap beginning to foam in my hand.

Growling, Eric stepped in the shower with me, admonishing me with a sharp slap on my rear to ask first before I made a decision. I humbly agreed, and then Eric made a glorious stretching movement, and I was lost. Arching his back, he let the water stream through his hair and flow in rivulets down his back and over his stomach, tracing swiftly mutating patterns down his well-defined thighs. Lust or true love? Maybe both. Adonis must have wept when he saw Eric. I knew I did, if for different reasons.


I took my first and last girlfriend that afternoon in the shower of my former house. I called her my girlfriend, as I later came to learn Sue preferred. And she was beautiful, sweet, and hot. So tight I feared I would hurt her, I eased carefully inside as I pressed her palms against the reflective glass blocks, her thin wrists clamped between my fingers, me whispering her name, over-and-over. Before we'd both reached our climax, I'd dropped my hand to grasp her delicate, beautifully responsive cock, working the foreskin up and over the head in a rhythm to match my own movements, she pushing back to meet my thrusts. If I hadn't been wearing a condom I found in the drawer, it would have been over much too soon.

When we finally staggered from the shower, the water turned uncomfortably cool, the deal was sealed as far as I was concerned. Murmuring my pleasure into her shoulder, the tangy taste of her orgasm still on my tongue, I stopped as I heard a radio playing in the bedroom. I turned away from her and cautiously opened the door as the opening bars of The Verve's Bittersweet Symphony drifted into the bathroom. Relieved to discover it was only the radio's alarm feature misfiring, I turned to Sue and wrapped my arm around her slender waist. Her eyes were glowing. I was sure they matched the intensity and emotion in my own.

"Sue, I'm so ready to spend a lot of time with you, Lover?" It was a question and she picked up on it. A brilliant smile lit up her face as she gave me her answer.

"We have the entire summer. I have all sorts of activities planned, like horseback riding, and hiking, and…"

Horses? Was she kidding? "Let's just make it through the next four days." I joked, but I was thinking a lot longer term than that. I could already see getting that Border Collie pup for us right away. I'd name him Sam and we'd take him for walks in the park. As I began to flesh out a super-charged fantasy for us, the practical, exquisite, and naked woman in my arms voiced my own thoughts. Better than I could.

"Cowboy Eric, I'm gonna make you Mine."

I was counting on it.

A/N: I have had the enormous luck to have two very experienced and talented readers for this story.

First, S. Meadows very graciously gave this offering a thorough scrubbing and developmental edit. A side benefit was her emphasis on preserving character voice. She also encouraged me when I needed it most. In addition to her amazing fiction published on this site, she has given so much of her time to improving everyone's lot and experience in this fandom. Words are inadequate to express my thanks, M! (Don't forget that all virgin or near virgin writers still have time to enter the Popping Eric's Cherry contest with the extension of the submission deadline to December 13th!)

The talented writer MariaTerese provided another brush-up and once again shared her always thoughtful feedback on my questions about some of the more unique aspects of this fic. As you may know, she helped me with an earlier story as well and I remain in her debt for her many spot-on observations about human behavior.

If anything is screwed-up here, there's only one person at fault. I did make a few tweaks to the content after their edits.