Releasing February 8, 2014
Will has a temper as wild as the bear he holds inside. Normally he’s an easy-going, caring guy, but if someone crosses him, he uses his claws and shifter strength to set them straight. His temper ruined his chance at the career he wanted, but now he’s working at Wild R Farm, enjoying the camaraderie and longing for more with one special man.
No one at the farm knows much about Ryan. He’s done time in prison, and he carries scars that tell of something horrible in his past. When he gifts Will with one of his rare smiles, Will decides to do whatever it takes to get him to smile more often. Will is used to being a protector, and even when he learns Ryan’s dark secrets, he refuses to turn away. What he doesn’t realize is that he needs Ryan’s quiet strength as much as Ryan needs someone to show they care. Ryan’s past threatens to send him running, but Will and the rest of the crew of Wild R prove that no matter the danger, they take care of their own.
Will followed the trail out of the woods and gave his horse her head. They raced across fields, and Will reveled in the freedom of a good hard ride. Despite Will’s size, his favorite mare carried him effortlessly, seeming to barely touch the ground. The beast didn’t even mind that he was as much bear as human. Animals understood him in a way no human or shifter ever had.
He could have made a damn good vet. Too bad he’d fucked that up. But that was his MO, wasn’t it? Get settled in a new place, start to make friends, lose his goddamn bear of a temper and scare the shit out of everyone, then move on and try again. He’d managed to take care of himself for most of his life, and he ought to be used to being alone, but lately his bed—hell, his whole life—felt colder and lonelier than ever.
He slowed the horse to a canter, then to a trot as he neared the main corral, but his heart rate didn’t come down as he slowed the pace of the ride. Ryan was in the corral putting Sandstorm, a feisty colt, through his paces, patiently waiting for him to settle down before trying over and over to get him to accelerate only at Ryan’s signal.
Ryan. The man could stir Will up with a mere glance.
Will dismounted and led his horse into the barn. He wanted to rush through untacking and grooming so he could watch Ryan work, but he forced himself to go slowly. His horse deserved a good brushing after making Will feel so free as they ate up the ground. He imagined he’d feel the same way thrusting into Ryan, riding him just as hard. Fuck. He really needed to stop thinking about that. As it was, he became a tongue-tied idiot every time he was around Ryan.
When Will walked out of the barn, Ryan was still there, as focused and calm as he’d been earlier despite Sandstorm’s reluctance to obey.
Will leaned against the corral and watched, fascinated by how in tune Ryan was with the colt he was training. If only Ryan would give him the same attention he gave the horses. It had been nearly a month since Will had laughed off his friend Tristan’s suggestion that he had a thing for Ryan. He’d known what he felt then, but he hadn’t been ready to talk about it. The infatuation hadn’t gone away though, and now he wished Tristan was here. When he took a minute to be serious, he gave good advice, and Will could use some.
Ryan was as elusive as a breeze in the August heat. When he caught Will staring—something that happened all too often—Ryan never looked offended. A few times he’d even smiled, and that smile felt like a gift. Will shook his head. How pathetic could he get, following Ryan around like a lost puppy, getting as turned on from a hint of a smile as he would from an in-your-face, pin-you-to-the-wall proposition from another man? He couldn’t keep this up. Ryan might be skittish like the colt he was training, but Will needed to make a move. He just hoped if he got more aggressive, he wouldn’t scare Ryan off.
At least if Ryan rejected him outright, he could move on, instead of watching every move the man made, every sexy twist of his body, every drop of sweat that rolled down his chest as he studied the colt, not even seeming to notice the heat, every scar on his back that told something of the hell he’d been through. Who the hell was he kidding? There wasn’t any moving on from something this powerful. Will wanted to kiss each of those scars, to hold Ryan and tell him he was safe, but he doubted Ryan would believe him. Ryan never let his guard down, and he was rarely still unless he was working with a horse that was more skittish than he was.
Several times he’d considered pressing Tristan for more information about Ryan. He was sure Tristan knew more about Ryan’s past than he’d told Will, but every time he was tempted, he stopped himself. It was Ryan’s story to tell, and Tristan had his own issues to deal with. Less than a month had passed since Tristan had left for Nashville with his boyfriend, Wes, so they could find out whether they’d kill each other living together. Every time he imagined putting up with Tristan day in and day out, he wasn’t sure whether to laugh or send Wes a sympathy card. He hoped they found happiness together. They sure as hell deserved it.
“Whoa,” Ryan called to Sandstorm. The horse slowed and finally stopped. Ryan held up a hand, indicating that the colt should stand still. Then he walked slowly toward the animal. He didn’t make a sound. How had he learned to move like that? Had it been out of necessity?
Sandstorm nuzzled Ryan when he reached his side. Ryan pulled a carrot from his pocket and fed the horse as he rubbed his neck and whispered something to him. Oh what Will would give for Ryan’s hand to move over him like that.
Ryan started leading the colt toward the gate, but he stopped when he saw Will standing there.
Say something. Something that won’t spook him.
“I’d be happy to brush him down for you.”
Ryan shook his head. “He’s not let anyone else groom him yet, but um…you could get his feed, I guess.”
Not a ringing endorsement for wanting Will around, but he’d seize any chance he could.
The more he watched Ryan, the worse he wanted him. The more the man hid, the more Will longed to bring him out of his shell.
What if he only likes girls?
Tristan had said no one had seen him with a man or a woman. Ryan rarely left the farm, not even to go into town for supplies. Will had offered to bring things back for him and he’d gotten a smile, a thank you, and a list in return. Ryan had been conspicuously absent when he’d returned. He’d set the things by the door of Ryan’s room, resisting the urge to use delivery as an excuse to go in and snoop.
Will entered the barn ahead of Ryan, not wanting to make Sandstorm—or Ryan—nervous by walking behind them. He headed to the feed bins and measured out the right amount for Sandstorm. Then he filled a bucket with water so he could fill the water trough in his stall. When he got to the stall, Ryan was busy working Sandstorm over with a brush. The flex of his muscles as he swept his arm over the horse’s back made Will suck in his breath. How the hell was he so far gone over this man when they’d never even had a real conversation?
“Will you have dinner with me?” The words were out before Will could stop them.
Ryan whirled around and dropped the brush. Sandstorm stomped and snorted, but Ryan didn’t seem to notice.