Yes, I know, there have been a lot of these, lately, and I'm not done yet. We've been a busy bunch, I tell ya!!! It's Ariel's turn today, and I'm thrilled she's released this book, because I'm really eager to read it, and the first book in this series, Inherit the Sky. I waited for that one, because I knew this one was coming, and well, I just like to read them back to back. I'm odd that way. But I can't wait!!!!!!Plus, I love this cover. Maybe its the sheep, so peaceful and all. Some day, I'm going to visit Australia.
Twenty-year-old Chris Simms is barely keeping his head above water. After losing his mother and his home, he struggles to provide for himself and his brother. When homophobes attack him, he thinks his life is over, but then he’s rescued by jackaroos from a nearby sheep station. He's as stunned to be offered a job there as he is to discover both the station owner and foreman are gay.
For Chris, Lang Downs is a dream—one that only gets better when Chris realizes the jackaroo he's crushing on, Jesse Harris, is gay and amenable to a fling. Everything goes well until Chris realizes he’s falling for Jesse a lot harder than allowed by their deal.
Jesse is a drifter who moves from station to station, never looking for anything permanent. Convinced Chris is too young and fragile for a real relationship, he sets rules to keep things casual. Watching the station owner and his foreman together makes Jesse wonder if there are benefits to settling down, but when he realizes how Chris feels about him, he panics. He and Chris will have to decide if a try for happiness is worth the risk before the end of the season tears them apart.
“Help me, please. Oh God, somebody help me!”
The shouts of the kid who half ran, half fell into the Yass Hotel drew Caine’s attention away from what should have been a quiet lunch with his lover and partner of three months.
“They’re going to kill him. Please, he’s all I have.”
“Who?” Macklin asked, rising from the table.
“These thugs.” The boy was crying now. “They said he was a poofter and they’d kill him for it.”
Macklin’s expression, never soft to begin with, hardened to stone. Caine swore Macklin’s shoulders grew broader as he approached the boy.
“Where are they?”
The boy had barely finished his answer before Macklin was out the door.
“Yes, boss,” the jackaroo at the next table replied, already on his feet and following Macklin out the door before Caine finished speaking. Ian and Kyle, the other two hands who had come to Yass to help him hire new blood for Lang Downs, followed Neil without being prompted, bringing a smile to Caine’s face despite the seriousness of the situation. He still had trouble believing he had won their loyalty.
“I’m C-c-caine Neiheisel,” Caine said, approaching the boy slowly. His heart pounded in his chest so hard it felt like someone was squeezing his ribs tight, making it hard to breathe. He couldn’t go with Macklin. He was useless in a fight, but that didn’t stop his body’s fight-or-flight response. He took a deep breath, shaking his hands slightly to clear the tingling from the rush of adrenaline. “You w-want to have a s-seat?”
“Shouldn’t we go help them?”
Caine shook his head. “Macklin and the others will t-t-take care of it, don’t worry. Wh-what’s your name?”
“Seth. Are you sure?”
“I’m sure. Macklin won’t stand for that kind of nonsense,” Caine promised, his confidence so profound that he got that sentence out without a stutter, even as upset as he was at the thought of that kind of homophobia in what constituted his own backyard and the danger it presented to Macklin and himself. “Where are you from?”
“Nowhere anymore,” Seth replied, his voice so bitter Caine wanted to pull the kid into his arms and comfort him. He remembered what it had been like to be a teenager, though, and refrained, figuring the embrace wouldn’t be welcome from a total stranger.
“What about your parents?”
“Mum died six months ago, and the no-good bastard she married kicked us out the day after the funeral,” Seth said. “It’s just Chris and me now, if that scary dude can save him.”
“That ‘scary dude’ is Macklin,” Caine said, “or Mr. Armstrong to you since you can’t be more than fourteen.”
“I’m sixteen,” Seth retorted quickly.
He was way too small and skinny to be sixteen. Not that Caine thought he was lying. It was just proof of how hard his life had been.
Caine had already decided that was going to change. His great-uncle, Michael Lang, had made a habit of taking in strays at his station, much to Caine’s good fortune. He wouldn’t have Macklin now if Uncle Michael hadn’t taken the foreman in when he was the same age as this kid. Now Caine just had to convince Seth that coming to Lang Downs would be the right choice for him and his brother. “So where are you staying?”
“We’ve got a room,” Seth said defensively.
Probably some flop in a drug house so cheap they could afford it.
“Are you using?”
That was good. Caine was all for lending a helping hand, but he would not have drugs on his land. He had too much to lose. “Good. Your brother’s clean too?”
“What’s it to you?”
“I don’t hire men with drug problems.”
“If all you’ve got is ‘a room’ and no parents and no one but your brother, that pretty much means no future, at least from where I’m sitting. I run a sheep station north of Boorowa. I thought you might like a job.”
“You’re a Yank!”
“And you’re a brat who is about to lose the best chance to come his way,” Caine retorted. “Ask around if you don’t believe me. I’ve been here all week signing on jackaroos. I’ve got space for two more.”
They didn’t really. They’d hired the last of their crew this morning and planned to head back to Boorowa after lunch to pick up supplies and then drive back to Lang Downs tomorrow morning. Seth didn’t need to know that, though. Caine had already seen enough of the boy’s pride to know he wouldn’t take charity.
It wouldn’t be charity. Seth would work harder on Lang Downs than he had in his life. He’d earn every cent they paid him and his brother. He wouldn’t have many expenses, though, so he could put almost every penny away toward college, if he wanted, or into a savings account against the day he left Lang Downs and pursued a different path in life, and if he chose to stay, he’d have a family to replace the one he’d lost with his mother’s death.