Copyright © Author Riley Simpson
A few days tick by that are full of business-as-usual, mundane tasks. Jason doesn’t see much of Cooper except at dinnertime – the ranch manager spends more time in his office than usual while he’s recovering from his bout with the cold. The weather stays calm, and spring is becoming ever more evident in the heat of the days and the verdant acres that surround them. The Caldwell Ranch is beautiful and alive, and Jason is beginning to truly believe that he’d found the right place for himself.
The veterinarian is in his workroom at one end of the big barn when he hears a commotion outside. As he’s going to his door, he hears Ben say, “Get Doc!”
Jason does an about-face so that he can collect his vet kit before going out into the main part of the barn. When he opens his door, he finds Cooper there about to knock.
“This gal’s not lookin’ so good. She’s gonna need help deliverin’,” he says.
“The little blond cow?” Jason asks.
Cooper nods his confirmation, and Jason turns back around one more time so that he can take a few of his larger implements. He follows Cooper to the other end of the barn where Ben and Molly are peering into one of the cattle stalls. One of the younger brood cows has gone into labor and while it’s a common occurrence on a cow-calf operation this large, this particular labor is going awry.
“Let’s clear out,” Cooper says to the other two. “Give Doc room to work.”
Jason thanks them and goes straight to work looking over the cow. Her breathing is labored and she’s having a hard time with the pain, but that’s not the worst of it. The calf is coming breech and when Jason tries to find vital signs for the babe, there are none.
He works for over an hour, knowing there’s little hope for the calf, but hoping he can spare the mother. Finally, painstakingly, the bull calf is born – stillborn. Jason swipes the back of his hand across his brow as his features crumple. But there’s no time to dwell on the loss of the calf. He tries like hell to save the cow . . . The bleeding is overwhelming. So lost in trying to preserve what little life she has left, Jason doesn’t notice that the barn is quickly becoming bathed in shadow. He never hears Cooper come quietly back inside to stand next to the stall.
With the light fading, the red sun burnishing every surface it can touch with its last rays of the day, Cooper reaches over to flick on the single bulb in the stall. He watches the cow’s sides heave with a few final, shuddering breathes. She stretches out her neck so that she can nuzzle her dead calf. A tentative lick, her rough tongue stroking the calf’s nose, and both are gone.
Jason rocks back on his heels, exhaustion and defeat taking him. He falls back into the fresh straw and tries very hard not to allow tears to fall after the poignant scene he’d just witnessed.
“Sometimes, we lose ’em.”
Cooper’s gruff, husky voice makes Jason look up at the manager. He manages a weak smile. “That’s my line,” he says.
A slight nod is his answer. Cooper doesn’t smile; he still hasn’t seen the man crack the slightest grin. Too bad, Jason thinks, he’d be even more handsome if he did smile.
Gathering his wits, he wipes his forehead with the back of his sleeve, and pushes to his feet. Cooper bends down to retrieve the few veterinarian tools sitting in the straw, and places them in a bucket of steaming hot water. He hands the bucket over to Jason.
“Thanks,” Jason says.
He takes his instruments and his leather bag, and goes to leave the stall. A heavy hand, strong and calloused grabs Jason’s shoulder, stilling his exit. His skin prickles with the heat of it.
“You did well, Doc. I’ll help you clean up,” Cooper offers.
It’s the first time in days he’s felt like Cooper wasn’t trying specifically to avoid him, and he fights back a grin. “I’d appreciate it.”
They walk quietly toward Jason’s workroom at the other end of the barn. Cooper’s hand is still on his shoulder and he catches himself wondering if it’s intentional, hoping that it is.
Jason steps first into the room, switching on the overhead lights. Moving to the large stainless steel tub, he places the bucket on the rough-hewn bench beside the sink. Cooper fills the doorway as he stands at the threshold. The uncertainty he feels in Jason’s space is clear on his face. His full lips tighten and furrows etch his forehead. He lifts his hat and runs his hand through his unkempt blond hair. Jason catches the movement from the corner of his eye as he turns on the faucet, letting the water heat.
“You can come in,” he says.
Nothing. No words. Cooper doesn’t move. Jason holds a slender, graceful hand beneath the running water. Hot, but not scorching. Turning, he motions to Cooper to come in. A breath fills Cooper’s lungs and puffs out his chest. He lets the breath out with a throat-clearing cough before stepping into Jason’s sanctuary from the dirty, hard life of a true ranch worker. He doesn’t belong here, Cooper thinks. It’s not the first time that thought has entered his mind.
Satisfied with the heat of the water, Jason turns back to the sink. Placing the stopper in the bottom, careful of the steaming water, he lets the large tub fill.
“Dump the bucket in that other sink, if you don’t mind, and bring the tools over here.”
Cooper is usually the one giving the orders on the ranch, and his immediate reaction to Jason’s request is stubbornness. But one look at Jason’s back and the way he moves to grasp a bottle of disinfectant on a high shelf has Cooper taking another deep breath. He walks over to the bucket and does as Jason asked.
“Thanks,” Jason says.
He takes the instruments and dips them into the water. His skin reddens almost instantly, and he grimaces. It’s all part of the job; every tool has to be cleaned properly. Swooshing them around in the diluted disinfectant, Jason stops and reaches for the cotton towel hanging on the bar beside Cooper.
Cooper stops him, taking the towel in his own hand. He reaches into the hot water and pulls the tools out himself.
“Your hands are too sensitive for that,” he comments.
Jason bites back a retort. How dare he? Cooper will hardly speak to him, and what comes out is an insult? The water is a little hot – big deal. It isn’t the first time he’s cleaned bloody instruments. And he’s getting sick and damn tired of everyone on the ranch treating him like he’s weak, or worse. He moves to face Cooper, and his fists bunch at his sides. He’s never hit a man before, but he’s debating the choice now.
Cooper spreads the towel on the countertop and places the tools on it. His gaze drops to take in Jason’s fists and his trembling frame.
“What—?” is all Cooper has time to say before Jason raises his left fist to strike Cooper. Stepping back instinctually – this isn’t Cooper’s first fight – he lifts his own large hand to grab Jason’s, effectively blocking the blow. “Settle down, boy.”
“You—” Jason’s eyes flash and connect with Cooper’s. Staring at each other, Cooper’s warm hand engulfing Jason’s graceful fingers, time freezes.
The moment passes and suddenly Jason finds himself embraced against Cooper’s broad chest. He lifts his face, his cheek scratching against Cooper’s rough stubble. The other man’s lips brush the cleft between his eyes, and Jason feels every last vestige of tension leave his body. He sighs. What the hell just happened?
“If you don’t want this, tell me now.” Cooper’s voice drops an octave and his usual huskiness intensifies. Jason’s cock stirs at the sound, and he shifts his weight to ease the pressure.
With his one hand still in Cooper’s grip and the other trapped between their bodies, Jason pauses. His thoughts flit from one incomprehensible idea to another. He’s wanted this, almost from the moment he’d met the gruff, unsmiling ranch manager. But now that the chance to live his fantasy was right in front of him, he was hesitating. Too many what-ifs and worries try to take hold, but Jason forces them away. He refuses to miss out on something incredible because he was too afraid. Decision made, Jason takes the initiative.
Sliding his hand down between their bodies, he cups Cooper’s cock, already semi-hard, in his palm. He can feel the warmth through the thick denim and his heart beat ratchets up. The man is big. Cooper doesn’t move at first, his breath catching in his throat. Relaxing his hold on the young vet, he shifts his hips back to give him room to explore. Taking full advantage, Jason uses his nimble fingers to unbutton Cooper’s jeans and ease down the zipper. A deep rumble, like the engine of a diesel truck resounds in the small room, and Jason is stunned to determine the source of the growl: Cooper.
Standing still, relaxed, his jeans undone and Jason’s hand moving inside, Cooper rests his weight against the wall. He changes his hold on Jason’s other hand to entwine their fingers together. The talented hands he’s yearned to feel on his skin seek out his cock and caress its length. Jason wonders at the length and width of him, alternating between exploring touches and soothing strokes. It’s not enough – Cooper needs more.
Wrapping his strong fingers around Jason’s wrist, he yanks his hand free. Jason lifts his eyes to meet Cooper’s. A smile, certain in its reason, yet uncertain from lack of practice, greets him. Cooper watches Jason’s dark eyes widen, and doesn’t let the shock pass. Dropping his lips to Jason’s, he savors their first kiss. Jason closes his eyes as the other man’s tongue delves between his lips, and he opens for more. At the same time, Cooper works his own magic on Jason’s jeans and slides his hand inside to draw Jason’s cock out.
With obvious practice, Cooper knows exactly how to get Jason to his full length and panting in moments. The younger man ruts shamelessly into his hand, and lets out a stifled moan. He kisses Jason with more intensity, keeping his vet off-kilter. Using the hand he’s still holding, he flips their positions and pushes Jason back against the wall. He releases his hold on Jason’s cock and frees his own from the confines of fabric.
Cock to cock, Cooper grinds against Jason. Jason, amazed and dazed at the need he can see in Cooper’s eyes and taste on his tongue just thrusts aimlessly. It’s Cooper who finally takes control of the chaos the two find themselves trapped in, both needing more contact, more focus. He urges Jason to his knees, and the other man doesn’t hesitate.
There’s no more uncertainty in Jason’s touch as he opens his mouth and takes Cooper deep. He sucks with abandon, his cheeks hollowing with every upward bob of his head. When he drags the flat of his tongue up the underside of Cooper’s full length and swirls it over the head, the sounds of the other man in passion drive him on. Cooper thrusts his hips, aware but uncaring of finesse or rhythm. Just need. When Jason hears him stutter with a sound not unlike a stalling engine, he knows he’s close to coming. He puts his hands on Cooper’s hips and squeezes gently, urging him to let go.Download Your Kindle Copy of - Stay With Me - A Gay Romance Novella
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