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He knew just how it would feel sliding in, the tight heat clamping around him so his eyes would shut. He’d dig his fingers into the man beneath him, buried so deep in Matt James, a shade of heaven as blinding as the noon day sun overhead.
Joshua Ryan’s eyes saucered at the forbidden thought and he nearly choked on his coffee, which was bitter and grainy in his tin cup, leaving a residue that his Grandmother Ruth could probably have read like tea leaves.
He rubbed his forehead, thinking maybe he was having a weird flashback to his summer job last year. It was just that he hadn’t had sex with anyone since then, it wasn’t that he was craving being with another man. Despite the stint as the ‘straight cowboy’ in gay amateur porn he’d done to make some quick cash, he wasn’t gay and no one knew, thank fuck, that he’d ever done them. They’d just shot his body and the back of his head during a few orgy scenes.
Who knew him well enough to identify him just from that?
“Josh, man… What’s with him?” Tupper nudged him so that Josh put his cards down. He hadn’t wanted to play poker with the hands of the Triple M, but when he and his guest had found them already ensconced at the watering hole, he figured it was best to be friendly while they had some lunch and gave their horses a break. “City boy too good to hang out with us?”
He looked over at Matt, a solitary figure leaning against a pine tree at the edge of the campsite, arms crossed as he looked down the ridge toward the waving tall grass in the prairie below. Matt was slender, about four inches shorter than Josh with glossy brown hair. His eyes were a chocolate almost the same colour as his pupils.
Josh dragged his gaze away from Matt and raised his eyebrows at Tupper, a man in his mid-forties with reddened green eyes and salt and pepper short hair who was in charge of the hands riding fences on the border between their land and the national park.
He debated for a second but then decided to just be honest. Matt hadn’t seemed the type of guy who was into bullshit. “He’s deaf, Tupper.”
Tupper blinked and more of his hands glanced over at Matt.
Matt’s expression hadn’t changed but there was a subtle tension to his posture now that Josh picked up on.
“Deaf? What the fuck is he doing out here then?” Tupper asked.
“He’s up here to photograph and write about the lost horses of Chaos Valley,” Josh said.
“Huh, those mustangs are a damned nuisance. Should shoot them all,” Tupper growled. “But I say again, why is he here? I mean, if he can’t hear anything…”
That wasn’t completely true since Matt had tersely informed Josh the morning they set out on their trail ride that he had an implant, but Josh wasn’t familiar enough with the technology to know how much Matt might pick up.
“He’s got me,” Josh said flatly.
A couple of the hands snickered and Josh threw in his cards, having had enough.
“So you’re his hearing loss dog or something, Josh? Geez, you boys down at Western Trail Rides must be hard up.”
“I’ll see you guys,” Josh muttered. He shoved his blond hair back off his forehead and replaced his dusty cowboy hat, thinking Tupper was right about one thing—Josh was hard up. He’d barely slept last night, restless in his bedroll. It made for one cranky cowboy come morning. Shit, when he finished this trip, he was going to visit Diana this time. She’d made it clear she was available.
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“What?” Josh stared at the weaving fingers, at the slap of palm impacting palm as Matt spoke in emphatic sign. “Wait. Would you wait?” Panting, colour high in his cheeks, Matt’s hands fell. He crossed his arms.
“You’re as bad as my kid brother sometimes, you know that?” Josh asked. “I didn’t get half of what you said to me. I can’t read sign that fast.”
Matt held his gaze, unblinking.
“Do you get that?” Josh repeated, first aloud and then in sign. He figured the second was unnecessary, since Matt obviously read lips, but he wanted to be bill-board clear. “Slow down, please.”
He gave Matt a moment to think it over and also to cool his temper while he checked Chrysanthemum’s saddle as his mare looked back toward him, a dark intelligent eye watching his movements. The saddle felt right under his hands, so he turned back to face his guest.
Matt’s hands slowed down, almost insultingly slow, but Josh waited him out, catching Matt’s words this time.
“I want to get moving. I don’t pay you to socialize with your friends.”
His friends. Uh huh. Josh was damned if he’d explain himself, would admit that he didn’t care for Tupper and his men anymore than Matt. Instead, he signed back a reply, equally slow so that a satiric light finally entered Matt’s dark eyes. “Okay, we leave.”