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Cass Drake looked through the sheaf of diet material as he used his hip to shut the driver’s door of his truck. Shit, he really wanted some roasted potatoes with dinner tonight but he bet he couldn’t despite how hard he’d worked all day. Caring for the horses and doing chores around the Yellow Trail Ranch sure burned off the cals, though.
His diet advisor had told him again that he didn’t have a weight problem. She’d said he seemed healthy to her, with a thickly muscled body that weighed more than most folks but Cass thought she was just being nice. He remembered the humiliation of his first and only date. That had been two years ago and he hadn’t gone out with anyone since.
“Hey, Chubby,” Marty Drayton drawled. “Where you been, on a hot date?” The other cowboy laughed, as if it was obvious that six foot five Cass with his massive frame wouldn’t appeal to anyone.
Cass gritted his teeth but let it pass. Marty was an asshole but just one of many who had teased Cass over the years. High school had been hell because Cass was so shy, so aware of how he was different. Only being a valued and intimidating linebacker had kept the teasing from becoming more serious.
“I thought you were camping in the foothills this week,” Cass said. A tough springtime chore was searching for the cattle that had wandered off the ranchland during the winter. They tended to seek the bordering national park beyond the town of White Deer, Montana
Marty gave an exaggerated shiver. “April, man, too damn cold for me. I volunteered you and the new guy to go up and look for strays and the ramrod thought it was a great idea.”
The new guy.
Tom Black. The reason behind Cass’ latest attempt to diet. He flushed, dropping his head so Marty wouldn’t see this sign of weakness and ride him about it. So far he’d been able to keep his painful crush on Tom to himself. Cass planned to keep it that way.
He stepped onto the porch where Marty was loitering. The bench outside the bunkhouse was the only place the hands were permitted to smoke. Summertime grassfires were a danger and the boss wouldn’t tolerate carelessness. Marty had lit up. Relaxed, he’d set his boots resting on the opposite bench.
“Is Tom inside?” Cass asked.
“Your sweetie is in the horse barn with that baby mustang.”
“Cut out that shit!” Cass wanted to smack the other man but he remembered his father telling him over and over again, you’re bigger than most folks, Cass, so go easy, be gentle. You don’t know your own strength.
Marty’s brown eyes were sharp, and Cass told himself not to give himself away. Tom would probably laugh off Marty’s words, but then Tom wasn’t crushed on him.
“Not going over to Adrian and Cody’s for dinner?” Marty referred to Cass’ new friends, a veterinarian and his hired hand. Both were as passionate as Cass about helping preserve the small herd of wild horses that had returned to the foothills.
Cass shook his head.
“Oh. Guess it’s not on your diet, huh?”
“My diet?” But even as he tried to shrug it off, Cass knew there were no secrets in a bunkhouse.
“Kind of obvious.” Marty nodded to the bag with a diet slogan on it and Cass had to agree. Well, fuck it.