M/M Contemporary Cowboy Western
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Lessons learned from past betrayals can protect Colby Vincent’s heart or cost him a chance at happiness he never thought to have.
Colby thought he’d never let anyone close again after being betrayed by everyone he loved, but one closeted, stubborn oilfield worker with a penchant for dressing like a cowboy seems determined to out himself and win Colby’s heart. It’s as if Hunter Talamentez walked right out of Colby’s fantasies and into the convenience store where Colby works.
But Hunter is closeted, and he’s never considered changing that. He’s got his homophobic cousin with him, a family that he knows won’t support him if they know the truth about who he is and a job where being out could get him hurt. He resigned himself to spending his life alone until he gets to know Colby. Then he embarks on a journey with Colby that will change their lives if only they both find the strength to take a few chances.
Nothing comes easily, and learning to give from the heart when that heart has been shattered twice before might be more than Colby is capable of. He isn’t sure about having more than a fling with Hunter, yet he can’t seem to stay away from the man, either. What was meant to be one night together turns into more, and Colby loses his ability to keep Hunter at the safe distance he’d wanted.
Colby Vincent whistled as he stocked the shelf at the Valero store where he worked. He liked the late shift, working from midnight until six in the morning. He’d always been a night owl through and through, which had made school difficult more often than not. Maybe if he’d slept better, he’d have had the grades to get into college, but thinking along those lines didn’t do him any good now.
It was generally slow in regards to having customers, which was fine with him. Plastering on a smile and acting cheery was getting harder to do every day. Some people had a problem with him, and it was getting old. He supposed it came with being the only out gay man in town. Even so, he didn’t deserve to experience some of the things he did.
At least at his second job as a cook at Rio’s Mexican Café he didn’t have to worry about greeting customers. Plus, Rio and his nephew Berto were cool. Rio always gave Colby the old copies of American Cowboy and True Cowboy when the newer ones came in the mail. Maybe he should have been tired of cowboys, considering he lived in a town that had a bunch of them.
But they tended to be old, and not to be the sexy or unbigoted kind. The ones in the magazines were unknowns and he could fantasize about them if he wanted to without feeling disgusted for doing so. He’d be damned if he’d ever get off while thinking about any of the hateful people who’d crossed his path, cowboys or not. Colby did have his pride, after all.
He put the small packages of Oreo cookies in their place after having removed the outdated ones. Colby’s stomach rumbled. He pressed a fist to his belly until the dull ache backed off. When it was time for him to take a break, he’d see what his options were.
A few minutes later, a buzzer sounded and the door opened. Colby glanced over his shoulder, making sure it wasn’t some psycho wielding a weapon. Working at a convenience store, he always worried about becoming a victim of violent crime.
His co-worker, Christy, was working the counter—well, playing on her phone—and didn’t even give the customer a first glance, much less a second one. Colby stood up, having been hunched over to get the Oreos on the shelf just right. He turned and eyed the man who was now walking toward the fountain drinks.
“This coffee fresh?” the man asked loudly.
Christy popped her gum.
Colby rushed out of the aisle and over to the coffee container. “Yes, sir. I just made it about fifteen minutes ago.”
The customer, an older man with darkly tanned skin, smelled of oil and sweat. He had on a familiar one-piece blue coverall uniform that was filthy. The name Olivares was stitched on the right chest pocket. A quick check showed that he’d also tracked mud in all over Colby’s freshly cleaned floors. Colby just barely kept from cursing.
“Better not taste like shit,” the customer muttered. He raked Colby with a look, and Colby knew the instant he suspected Colby wasn’t as straight as he was. A sneer tugged his thin lips into an ugly expression. “You made it?”
Colby plastered on one of those bright smiles that felt so unnatural on his face. “I’m sorry, sir. I meant Christy made it. I’ve been stocking the aisles.”
He’d learned that people would believe what they wanted to believe, and if the jerk wanted his coffee bad enough, then said jerk would accept the obvious lie about who made the coffee—especially since he didn’t seem to want to drink any made by a queer boy.
“As long as you didn’t,” Olivares finally said in a hateful tone. “Wouldn’t wanna catch nothing.”
Colby waited until he turned around to roll his eyes. There was no point in correcting the idiot’s grammar, and besides, Colby liked thinking that maybe karma would take over. Let the obnoxious jerk catch something harder to treat than crabs.
While the customer fixed his coffee, Colby slipped over to Christy and managed to get her attention. “He thinks you made the coffee. Don’t tell him different or he’s liable to lose his shit.”
Christy had the same reaction he’d had, rolling her eyes. “One of those fuckheads, huh?” She snapped her gum. “Well, his coffee is gonna cost him.”
Colby didn’t ask. He suspected that Christy overcharged people, and at times kept their change—or some of it at least. There’d been a couple of customers who’d caught on that they hadn’t gotten the right amount of cash back, and Christy had always apologized and put on like she was an airhead who couldn’t count out the money right. Since she was a good actor, pretty and had a great smile, no one had challenged her on that. Colby really didn’t want to know if she was stealing, though. She was one of the few friends he had, and it’d be hard not to judge her if he knew for sure she was doing something illegal like that.
Blinders were good things to have on when it came to friends, at least he thought so. It wasn’t like he was perfect, either. He’d been known to chow down on a burrito that should have been tossed on more than one occasion.
Well, only once with the burrito. The after effects of that particular culinary adventure had not been good. But the fried chicken wasn’t bad when it was time to replace it, and neither were the potato wedges. The burgers were okay, too, unless they’d reached hockey puck levels of hardness.
He didn’t steal money from people, though, just the food that was being tossed anyway. If he hadn’t been so hungry, Colby wouldn’t have done that, either. At first his conscience had pricked at him. Now it didn’t, so who knew? Maybe he’d be fine with Christy robbing people blind.
Colby kept himself busy stocking the rest of his shift, and no more asshole customers came in, so that was good. He also managed to wolf down a piece of chicken and some cold potato wedges before leaving for his second job.
Rio’s was another six hour shift, and he got a hot meal at the end of it. Colby’s back ached like a mother when he was finally able to sit down to eat his beef chimichanga. He’d made it himself, filling the tortilla with beef, cheese and beans, then rolling the tortilla over the ingredients before deep-frying the whole thing. Topped with sour cream, lettuce, guacamole and the best hot sauce in the world, the chimichanga was an artery-clogging feast that he didn’t allow himself to have often.
Colby was in heaven as he slowly ate. He licked his fingers clean, uncaring of anyone who might be watching him. Hunger was something Colby hated but lived with far too often, so he savored every good meal he had.
The sweet tea cooled his burning tongue and throat. Colby felt someone watching him but ignored the sensation. People looked, gossiped—whatever—and he did his best to ignore them. They didn’t know him, and he wouldn’t ever let them.