Penny: OMG, Puzzy, I am so excited!
Puzzy: Me too! This was sooo much fun!
Penny: Sure was!
Puzzy: Wonder how the readers will react to a western-slash fic?
Penny: I hope they like it :) I know I can't resist some 19th century cowboys ;)
Puzzy: IKR? They're just too good to pass up!
Penny: Right on, girl! Should we let them read it now?
Puzzy: RIght after we thank our pre-reader, Mkmmsm! So, people, enjoy!
Penny: Thank you, Mkmmsm! :) Oh, this ain't beta'ed, but we sure beta each other! HAHA Also, neither me nor Puzzy own Twilight.
"Nearer, my God, to Thee,
Nearer to Thee!"
As the hymn came to an end, I closed my hymnal and sat back down next to my brother, Emmett. His wife, Rosalie, sat on his other side, holding their son EJ on her lap and fanning herself with her hand. He was playing with a wooden chain that was made by our Pa for Emmett when he was little. It was a hot day, early June, and it reminded me that when we got back to the ranch, I had haystacks to tend. It was going to be a long, hot afternoon.
Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a flash of yellow and blue. Turning my head, I looked across the room at the object that caught my eye. It was a person, a man to be exact. A man I didn't recognize. He was wearing a sky blue shirt and black trousers, with his tie tied in a neat bow.
The yellow color that caught my eye was the man's hair. It hung down to his chin in curls and waves, bleached almost white blond in spots from the sun. His skin was tanned, but not too much, and as I studied his work worn hands, I noticed he wore no ring.
A jab in the ribs by Emmett brought me back to reality, and I trained my eyes forward, focusing on Reverend Newton. The church was hot, and I wished desperately for a breeze to drift in through the open windows.
I sat on the small, hard church pew among these strangers in a strange town, contemplating the events that had lead me here. A pang of hurt shot through me when the hymn started and we all rose; it was my Momma's favorite, my dear, sweet Momma, whom I would never see again. Not after all that went down on that fateful night this spring.
Goddamn James! The bigot cost me everything I held dear in this world and he could just continue with his life like nothing happened; go on to marry Victoria and have the white picket fence, the dog, the kids and the career he always wanted. I on the other hand, I had to flee or be killed.
Now I sat here, in Stillwater, Oklahoma - about as far away from my hometown in Texas as I could get with the money I had in my wallet on the night I had to run. It was a nice enough town, it seemed. Friendly people, peace and quiet, and with a couple of big horse ranches around where I could go look for work. The hotel owner kindly gave me the tip to attend service today in order to get in contact with the biggest rancher around these parts; Emmett McCarty Cullen. He was the proud owner of Double-C Ranch and bread the finest bluegrass horses outside of Tennessee. Plus, he was apparently a God-fearing man. Hence my attending service, since it would put me in his good graces up front.
As the hymn drew to a close, I saw a flash of bronze on my left. Apparently it belonged to the most unruly head of hair I'd ever seen, attached to a tall, lean man who stood across the isle with an open hymnal. He was singing the final notes of the hymn in a beautiful, tenor voice. As he closed the hymnal, he looked over to my side of the church. Instantly the air whooshed out of me, like someone punched me in the gut. He was gorgeous! He had sparkling, jade-green eyes set under heavy brows; chiseled features and a straight nose with a slight bump; pouty, pink lips and a sharp, clean-shaven jaw. I felt my gut tighten by the thought of licking that jaw.
NO, Jasper! Not again. Not this time. This is your second chance - don't throw it away. You might not get another one. You might even end up dead! Keep those urges under control and never think of it again. It won't do you no good anyhow. Fat chance in hell that this man should be interested - hell, he probably has a whole slew of beautiful women lining up for his attention.
Shaking my head, I tried to refocus on the sermon and get the images of the beautiful, bronze-haired god out of my mind.
Nervously, I straightened my tie. Was it suddenly warmer in the room? I could feel the beginnings of sweat gathering at my temples. Why was it so hard to keep my eyes to myself? I wanted to stare at that stranger without hindrance.
Needing just one more look, I glanced over at the open window. The curtains were still, but it gave me a wonderful view of the blond man's profile as he stared towards the pulpit.
Listening to the reverend drone on and on, I wished for time to speed up so I could get out of there. I didn't understand what made me have a reaction to the handsome stranger.
Did I say handsome?
What is wrong with me? Maybe I did need to try to find me a nice girl to settle down with, like Emmett suggested. But, my problem was, I didn't care about the girls in town. They were giggly and dainty, and liked to gossip. I just didn't like it. I felt huge and clumsy next to them.
Last year's Fall dance was held in our barn, as it was the biggest. The girls from the town tried to decorate it, with streamers and bows, and I hated it. Sheriff Swan tried to push his daughter, Bella, on me by shoving us together so we had to dance. It was honestly the worst few minutes of the night for me. As soon as I could escape from her incessant chatter and her wandering hands, I left the dance with a pint of the punch Rosalie made, and spent the rest of the dance in the other barn with the horses.
Before I knew it, Emmett was nudging me to stand and bow my head for the final prayer. I was never more grateful for the end of a church service.
Outside the church after the service, I introduced myself to the preacher, mentioning that I was looking for employment. He kindly pointed me in the direction of Mr. Cullen, remarking "He's the biggest man around these parts, very hard to miss. That's him over there, beside his wife, the blond lady; Mrs. Rosalie."
"Shit!" I inwardly cursed; 'cause right next to Mr. Cullen stood my bronze-haired nemesis, looking positively mouth-wateringly delicious in his black suit, white shirt and bolo tie with a silver double 'C' as the tie-knot. Obviously he had some kind of connection to the ranch, since he wore their branding mark around his neck.
Mustering all my charm and courage, I approached the small group that stood chatting in the sunshine, wringing my black stetson in my hands.
"Excuse me, Mr. Cullen?" Both the big guy and my gorgeous guy turned their heads and replied "Yes" in unison with friendly, open smiles on their faces. In spite of size and colouring there was resemblance in the kindness of their expressions, the set of the eyes and the shape of their jaws.
"My name is Jasper Whitlock. I'm new to these parts and looking for employment - I was told that you might have use of a pair of willing hands?"
"Well, , it's not unlikely that I could offer you something. Do you have any experience in horse ranching?" The larger of the two asked me.
" A little. I grew up in Midland, Texas, in horse country. As a young'un I helped out on my uncle's farm in the summers - he had around 100 brood mares." I replied, not without pride.
"Come see me in the morning - come early, as I tend to ride out mid-morning and oversee the work. We might have something for you to do. Just ride half an hour north of town - you can't miss it." He dismissed me kindly with a nod and a finger to the brim of his large stetson hat. My gorgeous guy shot me a blinding smile, once again taking my breath away without even knowing it. I nodded my head at them both, greeted the missus with a polite 'Ma'am' and put my hat on my head as I turned and left towards the hotel.
As we were standing out in the churchyard after the service, a flash of blond caught my eye again, and I felt my palms begin to sweat. I fumbled with the horse's reins, cursing myself for having this reaction. What was wrong with me? Then I heard his voice.
"Excuse me, Mr. Cullen?"
On instinct, I turned and said "Yes?" just as Emmett did, and my mind was suddenly stunned. Handsome wasn't the word to describe this man. He was beautiful, if there is such a word to describe a man. His hair was shiny and thick, a little rumpled by his hat, which he held in his large hands.
I couldn't help it; I looked straight into his eyes and was met with the most gorgeous cerulean shade of blue I think I had ever seen. Those blue pools were accented with thin brows, a straight nose, and a wide mouth with lines that indicated dimples. I wanted him to smile so I could see them.
Unable to help myself, I let my eyes trail over his full form. He had broad shoulders, was muscled and lean, and narrow hips that showed off his trousers well.
Oh my God. What was I doing? I was having inappropriate thoughts...about a man! And, it sounded like Emmett was going to give him a job! What would I do if he were at the ranch all day? I would be seeing him work, probably without a shirt, and he would sweat. The droplets would slide down his chest and stomach and-
Stop it right now, Cullen! You can't be thinking of a man like that! Discreetly, I moved my hat to cover the front of my trousers.
I listened to this man, Jasper, talk to Emmett, and let his smooth drawl wash over me. When Emmett ended their conversation, I smiled widely, hoping he would smile back, and he did, showing off those dimples that were previously in hiding. They looked as wonderful as I thought they would, making his whole face light up.
As he turned and walked away, I watched him walk every step to the hotel.
As I grabbed the door handle to step inside the hotel, I saw the gorgeous guy looking my way still. Hmm.. Wonder what caught his eye...
Early the next morning, I pulled on some worn-in jeans and a flannel shirt, before inhaling a hearty breakfast. Whistling through my teeth, I stepped in to the livery and saddled up the horse I'd bought a week ago. Not the prettiest of animals, but the gelding was a reliable, strong horse - and all I could afford at the moment. The stable hand kindly pointed me in the direction of Double C ranch, stating it was about a half hour ride from town.
As I approached, I noticed the road was well taken care of, the pot holes obviously filled with gravel and it being wide enough for a large wagon. In the distance, I could see a large, two story farm house, white and with green trim. At the entrance to the courtyard, there was an archway with a wooden sign. The same double 'C' that my gorgeous guy had at his bolo tie. Everything was pristine and well kept - even the chicken coop looked freshly painted.
I dismounted and tied my horse to a post at the edge of the yard, heading for the front door. Taking a deep breath, I raised my fist and knocked assertively. I didn't have to wait for long - in a matter of seconds, the now familiar bronze-haired head appeared before me with a wide smile on his face.
"Jasper, right? Welcome to the double C - I'm Edward Cullen, Emmett's younger brother. Come in. Did you eat? We're just finishing breakfast, if you'd like a bite?" His voice was warm, smooth and disarming - and just as the day before, I was breathless and tongue-tied around him.
"Morning... Yeah, I'm Jasper. Uhm.. Just a cup of coffee, if it's not too much? I already ate, thank you..." Dammit, way to be eloquent, Jasper...
He opened the door up wide, leading me inside. I could feel the tiny hairs on my neck rising, like when a thunderstorm was approaching - I could literally feel his eyes on me, as he guided me into the big, bright kitchen. The beautiful blond woman I saw yesterday was standing at the stove, holding a gigantic coffeepot and around the huge white washed table was around 10 men finishing up their breakfast. At the head of the table sat Emmett with a toddler on his knee, feeding the little boy spoonfuls of porridge - or attempting at least. Apparently, the boy wasn't interested in eating as much as playing tricks on his Pa, leaving Emmett more or less covered in the gooey substance.
"Jasper, welcome!" Emmett's loud voice boomed out, startling the toddler, resulting in another heaping spoon of porridge in his hair. "Sit down, grab a plate and some coffee - we'll talk in a minute when it's quieted down in here." His friendly face was lit up with a wide smile, in spite of his current state, and I got the distinct feel of this being the most warm and welcoming man I'd ever met. Underneath his friendliness though, I could detect a hint of steel - you did not cross this man without consequence. He had a warm heart, but you did not want to be his enemy, I could tell.
I sat down on the bench after grabbing the coffee that the missus held out to me. The table was set with a variety of foods, but I skipped it, since I'd already eaten. Edward sat down next to me with his own coffee, shooting me a sideways look and a small, crooked grin. I could feel the warmth emanating from his thigh next to mine and relished in it, even though it would lead me nowhere to act on my urges. On the contrary, they would bring nothing but heart ache.
Soon the table was cleared, the last of the men received their chores for the day, leaving only Emmett, Edward and I in the cozy kitchen. Rosalie had relieved Emmett of the toddler, stating that they both needed a clean-up and taking the little boy with her after kissing her husband's cheek and ruffling his sticky hair..
Was it possible that this man could be even better looking in work clothes? Oh yes, it was true. When I opened the door and invited him in, I mentally cursed myself for rambling. As we walked side by side to the kitchen, the air seemed thick, even though the morning was still cool. I kept giving him covert glances out of the corner of my eye, hoping he wasn't noticing. I couldn't help myself, and I didn't know why. I just felt a strange pull, or something, towards him.
We went into the kitchen and I stood at the back wall, watching Emmett and Jasper greet each other. Little EJ had porridge all over Emmett, but he didn't care. I admired that about my brother. He was always a family man. I guess that's why he kept me around after our parents passed on.
Our parents, Carlisle and Esme, passed away due to an illness they contracted while traveling. I was devastated, not even being twenty yet, and Emmett, being in his early twenties and married already, took over everything.
Of course, Ma and Pa left the ranch to us, and Emmett was hell bent on making them proud, even in death, by working hard and being prosperous. So far, it was working out well.
Trying to clear my mind of those memories, I waited until the other hands had cleared out then sat beside Jasper with my coffee. I honestly didn't think I would be affected, but when he raised his arm to drink his coffee, I was pummeled by his scent. He smelled clean, earthy, and warm. Like a man. I was shocked to realize that I liked the smell. It was certainly better than the flowery liquid that the girls used, including Rosalie. Maybe I just didn't care much for flowers.
Then, two things happened simultaneously that would leave me addled for days. Jasper's knee brushed mine, and at the same time, my cock twitched in my jeans.
Quickly excusing myself, I drained my coffee cup and got outside as quick as I could. I went into the nearest barn, which housed our pregnant mares, and stood against the cool wall, wondering what the hell had just happened.
While I sat there drinking my coffee and talking to Emmett about wages, hours and housing, Edward suddenly got up from his seat and practically ran out of the kitchen like his pants had caught fire. Startled, both Emmett and I looked after him. Emmett just shrugged and kept on the conversation, asking me a little more about my experience and offered me a tour of the nearby parts of the ranch. I accepted and we went outside in the bright, June sunlight.
Emmett saw my horse at the post, shook his head disapprovingly while tutting. "That won't do, Jasper. Not if you're working for me, it won't. You're gonna be a living advertisement for my horses, and that eyesore is barely good enough for grazing! Lemme go find Edward so he can hook you up with a decent mount while I get cleaned up a bit. The porridge is getting a bit sticky in the heat."
He turned towards the nearest barn, hollering 'Edward' in his booming voice, marching with long strides, closing the distance quickly. I petted my horse a bit on the nose. "Sorry, old timer, seems like you've earned a retirement." While I waited, I untacked him - the saddle being worth more than the horse - and led him to the nearby pen, taking the liberty to let him graze.
"Jasper, over here!" Edward was calling from a nearby stable, waving his arm over his head. When I reached him, he asked, "Ready for a real stud?"
I just froze. Completely. What the hell did he just ask me? I stood there, gaping like a fish, totally gob-smacked. And then I couldn't help myself - I snickered. The initial snicker couldn't be contained, and soon I was outright belly-laughing, wiping the stray tears from my eyes.
Edward looked confused, then he blushed bright red as the implications of his seemingly innocent question dawned on him. After a few seconds, he burst out laughing with me, clutching his stomach and holding himself upright by slinging his arm over my shoulder. At the contact, I felt a warmth travel through me, unlike anything I'd ever felt before. A buzzing, tingling sensation built in the pit of my stomach, causing my cock to stir. Dammit Jasper! NOT AGAIN.
Oh God. What did I do? I made that stupid remark, and it was funny as hell until I touched Jasper. When I touched him, even in just that casual manner, which I had done to plenty of times to other hands, the sensation I felt in my gut and groin were unlike anything I had ever felt before. It was a warm buzz, radiating from my arm throughout my whole body. And yes, there was the sweat again. Why did I feel this when I made the slightest contact with him?
Moving my arm quickly, I calmed my laughing, trying not to give my reaction to touching Jasper away to Emmett.
"Come on, Jasper," I said. "I'll show you the stallions."
Jasper only nodded, and followed me into the barn. There were ten stalls in the stallion barn, filled with horses of every size and color. We were lucky to have a wide range of breeds, and not only mustangs. That's part of what made our ranch so popular.
Walking down the center aisle, I studied all the horses, nodding to Seth, who was mucking stalls. Finally, I stopped in front of a big Palomino, at least sixteen hands, and in fine shape. He was the tamest stallion we had, and seemed to be the perfect choice for Jasper.
"Here you go," I said to Jasper and gestured to the horse. "This guy's name is Sunrise. He is pretty gentle, for a stallion, and has a good disposition. He rides good, too. Wanna try him out?"
"Alright," Jasper agreed, and I took the bridle that was hanging outside of his stall and slid it onto him. Then, I led him out of the stall and led him in a circle so Jasper could see him from all angles.
"He looks good," Jasper told me, and I smiled.
"Great! Let me get a saddle."
"Don't need one," Jasper drawled, took the reins from me, and swung up onto the horse's back. He rode a few passes in the barn, walking, trotting, and cantering, then pulled the horse to a halt in front of me and Emmett.
"How do you like him?" Emmett asked Jasper, and he nodded.
"He's good. Thank you."
"You're welcome," Emmett smiled at him. "He's yours as long as you work here, or until he croaks - whichever comes first."
Jasper smiled his big dimpled grin at Emmett, and at that moment, I was glad Emmett was in the barn with me. I couldn't form a sentence if I wanted to. Jasper looked magnificent on that horse, smiling like that.
The mood was interrupted by the barn door crashing open, followed by one of the hands, Jared, running in, breathless.
"Boss! Got a fence break in the South paddock, and the foals had already been turned out."
Emmett was immediately on alert. He knew as well as I did that if we lost any foals, we would be losing money. "Edward, give Jasper the tour," he barked at me. "Me and the boys can handle this."
"Okay, be careful," I called as he ran out of the barn with Jared. There could have been a number of reasons why the fence was broken, and we always had to be on alert for wranglers.
Jasper looked at me uncertainly, and I smiled at him. "Come on," I said. "They have it under control. Let me show you the rest of the ranch."
Inhaling deeply, I relished the scents in the air; of fresh hay, horse, wildflowers, and last but not least - the manly, musky scent of the man riding beside me on his black quarter horse which he told me was named Eclipse. The late afternoon sun played on his hair, making it glow in all the different red tones one could imagine. We rode in comfortable silence, just taking in the beautiful summer day.
It was getting quite hot; I could feel the sweat dripping down the back of my neck, soaking the collar of my shirt uncomfortably. Casting a sideways glance, I could tell Edward was plagued by the heat as well. The sweat was beading on his forehead, running in beads down his neck. How I would love to lick up that bead, following its trail down under his shirt... This gorgeous man brought up all of my suppressed urges and I couldn't help myself - I indulged in fantasies that he could never share.
"There's a little creek up ahead, under those trees. We'll have a rest there, quench our thirst and water the horses, if you don't mind?" Edward said. Oh Edward, If you only knew what kind of thirst I have...
"Sure, sounds great!" I replied, "It's getting kinda hot out here in the sun."
I watched him gracefully dismount his horse, enjoying the view of his tight ass stretching the worn fabric of his jeans as he swung his leg over the horseback. His muscled back, his long legs, strong arms - they all fueled my fantasies to a whole new level.
Quickly, I adjusted my straining cock, before jumping down and joining him by the stream. We knelt in silence, and I removed my kerchief, dunking it in the water to wash up a bit. My shirt was getting soaked by the water streaming down the front, and I thought 'Fuck it' to myself, ripping it open and discarding it, so I could wash my upper body properly. The cold water felt heavenly running down my chest and caused my nipples to tighten into pebbled nubs.
A stifled gasp caused me to look up, catching Edward's eyes. Their bright jade colour had darkened considerably and his gaze was trained stiffly on my chest - he licked his lips, before looking up, meeting my eyes and quickly looking away. I guess I'm not the only one affected here after all? Could it really be? Could he have the same urges as me?
I kept my eyes fixed on him, as he too began to unbutton his shirt, not meeting my eyes. Inch by tantalizing inch, his pale chest with a light dusting of bronze hair was revealed; teasing me; taunting me; begging for my touch. After he shook his shirt off, he dipped his large hands in the creek and splashed himself, the water running in droplets down his sculpted chest, enhancing every dip and crevice. Involuntarily, a moan escaped me, making him catch my eyes.
Without my permission , my hand shot out, gripping his wrist. "Edward," I whispered, looking in his eyes, searching for acceptance. An almost imperceptible nod granted me what I wanted and I leaned forward, never releasing his wrist from my grasp.
Closing in, I could feel his warm breath on my moist skin, my nostrils filling with his scent; clouding my mind. As I drew closer, I could count each freckle on his nose, each eyelash as they fluttered shut. I licked my lips, just before brushing them gently against his soft mouth. Gently, testing his reaction, I moved my lips against his, nibbling slightly on his lower lip. A little squeak came from him and I withdrew slightly. His warm hand grasped my neck, drawing me closer again; tangling in my hair, pressing my mouth against his. He was taking control now. I opened my mouth; gripping his lower lip between mine; licking it softly; tasting him. I would never get enough of his taste. Loosening my grip on his wrist, I let my hand slide down and grab his; intertwining my fingers with his long digits. He accepted willingly, clenching my fingers tightly between his.
With a final peck, I withdrew from the best kiss of my existence, opening my eyes to take in his expression. He smiled. The biggest, happiest, most heart-melting, boyish smile I'd ever seen. His jade eyes were alight with emotion, beaming into mine. He lifted our entwined hands and pressed a kiss to each of my knuckles, holding my gaze. Pressing his forehead against mine, he simply said, "Thank you," before he released my hand and stood up.
Puzzy: Thank you for reading! Review, and stay tuned for more! They ain't done yet!
Penny: Oh, no! There's lots more to come! *wink* Hey, Puzzy...wonder if they can tell who did which POV? *giggle*