As one of the premier dancers in the hottest all male strip show in Vegas, William 'Moby' Haines had it all, men, money and freedom. When he was called home to Sheridan, Wyoming to care for his ailing mother, Moby's life drastically changed. Gone were the nights of screaming fans and eager to please one night stands. His life became a series of low-paying jobs and escalating medical bills.
Moby's luck turned the day he read an ad in the morning paper for a waiter and barback at O'Brien's Pub. Although a forty-five minute commute to Cattle Valley would mean spending less time with his mother, Moby decided it was his one and only shot at a tolerable life in Wyoming.
Burned once by the love bug, Sean O'Brien had no interest in traveling down that road anytime soon. Although the customers seemed to love his newest hire, Sean was quickly on the verge of firing the sexy stud. The way Moby allowed customers to treat him was disrespectful. If his newest hire wouldn't do anything about it Sean would, even if that meant claiming Moby for himself.
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William 'Moby' Haines pulled on a faded sleeveless Bruce Dickinson T-shirt and his tightest low-rise jeans. It was a work night and there seemed to be a direct correlation between how sexy he dressed and the amount of tips he received. It didn't surprise him. He'd worked in Vegas for a number of years, dancing and stripping in the hottest strip show in town, right smack in the middle of the famous Vegas strip. It had been a hell of a life, full of money and a different man every night, but one phone call from the Sheridan Wyoming Police Department had changed everything.
Moby adjusted his cock inside his tight jeans and turned off the bedroom light. He found his mother, Virginia, still sitting at the kitchen table. "I'm getting ready to leave."
He looked at his mom's dinner plate. "Aren't you hungry?"
"I don't like being left alone," she said with a pout.
Moby bent over and kissed her cheek. "I know, but I have to work. Daddy left you with a lot of bills and it's up to me to take care of them."
"Don't you talk about Bill," Virginia reprimanded.
Moby bit his tongue and picked up his mom's plate. It wouldn't do any good to remind her of the years they'd been forced to be away from each other. The day he'd come out had been the last day he'd seen his mom until he'd been called home to Sheridan to make funeral arrangements.
"Mrs. Baines will be by around seven. She's looking forward to watching that television show you two enjoy."
"Glee," his mom reminded him. "It has a queer boy in it. You'd probably like it."
Moby rolled his eyes. "Gay."
"Huh?" Virginia asked, looking up at Moby.
"Gay boy, not queer." Moby grabbed his winter coat off the back of the kitchen chair and pulled it on.
"Sorry. I didn't mean anything by it," she said, the pout returning.
"I know you didn't." It had been one of the nicer words his dad had used to describe his son. Moby gave his mom one last kiss on the cheek. "I'll try not to wake you when I get home."
"I don't usually sleep well until I know you're home safely. I don't like you driving to that town every day. The weather's getting bad. What if you slide off the road or something?"
"I'm a good driver," he reminded her, slipping his feet into his snow boots.
"That's what Bill used to say, too, but do you remember that time he ran into the fire hydrant?"
Moby didn't bother reminding his mom that his dad was also ticketed and taken to jail for drunk driving. He decided to bring up a subject he'd been thinking about lately. "Have you ever thought of getting a dog or a cat?" "Bill doesn't allow animals in the house," she reminded him.
"I know, but Dad's not here anymore, and I think it'd be nice to have a pet." He hoped it would give his mom the company she seemed to need. "Please, Mom. I've always wanted a dog."
Virginia tapped her fingers on the table for several seconds. "You'll have to clean up after it."
"I will," Moby agreed.
"And I won't have it on the furniture."
"Okay." Moby tried not to smile. He picked his keys up off the counter. "Maybe we can go tomorrow to the local shelter?"
"Tomorrow's grocery day," she reminded him.
"I know, but I think we can do both," he said on his way out of the door. Moby scraped the windshield and side windows as the rusty pickup did its best to heat up. Before pulling out, he grabbed the shovel out of the back of the truck and added a few more pounds of snow to the bed. He wished he'd had the money to get something with fourwheel drive, but the bulk of his savings had gone to his dad's funeral expenses and a few of the debts he'd left behind. Weight added to the truck, Moby pulled out of the driveway into the near-blinding storm.
He glanced at the watch taped to his dash and cringed. With the current weather conditions, he'd be lucky to make it to work on time. If he wanted to keep his job, Moby would have to adjust his schedule, not an easy task with a mother who needed him.
* * *
Sean looked at the clock when Moby rushed into the bar. "You're late."
"Sorry. There was a wreck on the three-thirty-six." Moby took off his gloves, stuffing them into the pocket of his coat. "I'll leave earlier from now on. I've forgotten what Wyoming winters are like."
"Yeah, not much snow in Vegas." Sean's gaze went to Moby's body as he took off his coat. He was thankful the bar was between them to hide the effect Moby had on him. "Even though I have the heat turned up, it can still get cold in here with customers coming through the door all the time. You might think about wearing more clothes."
Moby ran a hand across his chest. "The tighter the clothes, the higher the tips, boss."
Bingo. It was the reason Sean wouldn't let himself be sucked in by Moby's sex appeal. "You can also earn tips by being a good waiter. You don't have to let these guys paw you to get them. And if I see it happening, I'll shut it down."
"It's not like I let them pull my cock out of my jeans or anything. If I don't have a problem with the occasional pat on the ass, I guess I'm not sure why you would."
"It's demeaning. Why can't you see that?" Sean questioned.
"Dude, I paraded around in nothing but a G-string for a living. Do you think I care that people look at me like a sex object?" Moby gestured to his body. "This is all I've got." He tapped his temple with his finger. "No one's ever wanted to pay me for what's up here, not that there's all that much."
Sean leaned his forearms on the top of the bar. Getting involved on a personal level wasn't something he had any intention of doing, but Moby's statement broke his heart. "You're more than your body, but until you realise that, no one will treat you differently."
The front door opened and a group of men came inside, all brushing snow from their arms and shoulders. "Hey," Wyn greeted with a wave.
Moby glanced over and stepped towards the kitchen. "I need to time in."
Sean gave an inward sigh. He'd run across men like Moby before. Sean might not know Moby's full story, but he suspected the man had never learned self-worth. Moby came out of the kitchen and went to work. Sean continued to watch Moby as he interacted with the men. There was a definite difference in Moby when waiting on couples. It was the single men who came into the pub Sean was concerned with.
Sean shook his head. Why he was worried at all was bothersome. He'd finally got over his failed attempt at a relationship with Ryan Bronwyn. The last thing he needed was to start caring about a man like Moby Haines.
* * *
Moby wasn't as upbeat as he thought he'd be while walking down the line of available dogs at the shelter. He'd hoped his mom would be at his side, helping to choose the newest member of the household. Unfortunately, she seemed indifferent to the idea of a pet.
As he walked down the aisle, Moby noticed the towels and blankets in the individual kennels. He'd never taken the time to think about it, but now he wondered how many towels the shelter went through on a given day. He thought of the packed boxes of blankets and towels in the attic. When he'd moved back home, Moby had replaced his mom's old and faded towels with the thick ones he'd brought from Vegas. His mom had a fit when he started to throw them away so he'd agreed to box them up.
He turned to the shelter volunteer who walked beside him. "Do you take donations of old towels and stuff?" "Yeah," Cheryl said. "We'll take just about anything we can get. We're non-profit so we depend on donations."
Moby noticed a red tag on one of the kennels. "What's that mean?"
Cheryl's expression changed to one of concern. She squatted and did her best to pet the black Rottweiler mix through the cage. "Unfortunately, Jilly's time's up. We have a policy of euthanasia after six months. I know it seems cruel, but it's really not fair to the dog to be confined if they're not adopted by then."
Moby sank down in front of the kennel. He stuck his fingers through the cage and was surprised by the dog's friendly nature. "She seems sweet. Why hasn't she been adopted?"
Cheryl shrugged. "Her size. Her breed. Her age. They're all strikes against her. Most people who come in want a small dog or a puppy. Most of the time these older dogs get over-looked." She smiled at Moby. "Are you interested in her?"
Moby nodded. His mom would probably kill him, but he couldn't sit by while such a sweet dog was put to sleep. "Why's she here?"
"From what I understand, she grew up. Once she grew to seventy pounds, they moved her outside and refused to take care of her properly."
Moby stared into Jilly's dark brown eyes. They had a lot in common. Within those few seconds, a bond was formed, and Moby knew he couldn't walk away without her. "I'd like to adopt her."
Cheryl nodded. "Well, you've already filled out an application but there are a few more steps before we can allow you to take her."
"Okay, but starting the process will be enough to save her, right?"
"Yeah." Cheryl stood and retrieved a leash from a hook on the wall. "Why don't you take her for a walk in the back yard while I gather everything we'll need to get the process started."
"May I?" Moby asked, holding his hand out for the leash.
With a nod, Cheryl opened the kennel and passed the leash to Moby. She pointed towards the door at the end of the aisle. "Just take her through there. The yard is fenced, but it would be best to keep her on-leash until she's more comfortable with you."
After securing the leash to Jilly's collar, Moby opened the kennel fully, getting an even better look at his new pet. "You're a beauty."
Jilly stood on her hind legs and began bathing Moby's face with her tongue. "She likes you," Cheryl said.
Moby rubbed Jilly's face and neck for several seconds. "Down," he commanded. Jilly continued to lick Moby's face.
"Sit," Cheryl said.
Jilly released her hold on Moby and sat. "Cool. I was afraid we might have a few problems there for a second."
"She's house and leash trained and can understand basic commands. The only thing she still has to work on is her confidence. She tends to curl into a ball at loud noises."
Moby reached down and petted Jilly's side. "Ready to go for a walk?"
Jilly's stubby tail began to wag back and forth. Moby led her towards the yard, feeling better than he had in a long time. He hoped his mom would adjust to such a large dog because he already knew he wouldn't get rid of her.
After walking Jilly for several minutes, he found a bench and sat down. The large Rottweiler climbed up on the bench and laid her head in Moby's lap. "Such a sweet girl," Moby crooned, scratching the area around her ears.
"All you need is love, isn't it?" He realised he had more in common with Jilly than just being kicked out of the house. How was it possible that he could bond with a dog so fast while making that kind of a connection with another man had always eluded him?
"Mr. Haines? I have the paperwork ready if you are?" Moby smiled at Cheryl. "More than ready."
* * *
"Hey, Sean, do you know a good vet?" Moby asked, taking a seat at the bar during a break.
"I didn't think you were taking that dog home until Friday." Moby had talked about little else since the day before.
"I'm not, but I have to give the shelter the name and number of the vet I'm planning to use as a condition of the adoption."
Garza's a good man, but he's here In CattleValley. You need to find someone in Sheridan," Sean explained.
"But I can't trust her to just anyone. It won't be a big deal to bring her here for shots and stuff."
Sean stared at the handsome man. There was a sparkle in Moby's eyes that hadn't been present before. "That's true, but what if Jilly gets sick in the middle of the night or something? You'll want to find someone you trust close to your house in case of an emergency."
Moby's dark eyebrows rose. "I hadn't even thought of that." He rubbed the back of his neck. "There's a lot more to this than just loving her, isn't there?"
Sean nodded. "I used to have a bulldog back in Boston, but I eventually realised I didn't have enough time for him. It wasn't that I didn't love him or want to take care of him, but I simply wasn't home enough. Giving attention to a pet is as important as feeding it."
"So you just gave him away?" Moby asked.
Sean pushed back and went to the large bulletin board beside the bar. He pulled a thumbtack out of a Christmas card and handed it to Moby. "That's Duke. I gave him to my best friend and his family. They send me a picture of him every year."
Moby smiled as he stared at the picture of the large bulldog in the Santa hat. "Cute."
Sean agreed. "Like I said, it wasn't that I didn't love Duke, but sometimes the nicest thing you can do is give someone else a chance to give an animal what you can't." He gestured to the picture. "I made the right choice."
Moby handed the card back. "Are you trying to tell me I shouldn't bring Jilly home?"
"Not at all. I think it's great that you have the time and desire to give Jilly the love she deserves. I was just telling you why I had to give my dog away. I didn't mean to make you feel like I disapproved in any way."
Sean could tell he hadn't convinced Moby that he'd meant no harm. "Maybe on one of your days off, you could bring Jilly down so I could meet her?" A grin appeared on Moby's gorgeous mouth. "I'd like that."
"Maybe you could bring your mother, too," Sean suggested.
Moby's face fell. "Nah. She seems okay with me now that Dad's gone, but Mom's not accepting of my lifestyle. I doubt I'd be able to get her inside CattleValley city limits."
At last Sean got a peek into Moby's home life. He wondered how bad it had got at Moby's house while he was growing up. Sean decided to share a piece of his past. "My dad and brothers don't understand me either. I never thought of myself as feminine, but they've always treated me like I didn't belong in the family."
"There's nothing feminine about you."
"Good to hear," Sean said with a chuckle. He carried the Christmas card back to the bulletin board and secured it with the push pin. The door opened and several men who worked at the EZ Does It ranch came in, slapping snow from their coats.
Sean was grateful for the customers. Talking with Moby was too easy and sooner or later, Sean knew the good-looking guy would begin to work himself under his skin.
* * *
"Hey, boss, you feel okay?" Jay asked.
Sean rubbed his forehead and shook his head. He'd hoped all morning his stomach would settle before he opened the pub, but if anything, he was getting sicker. "I feel like shit."
"Go back upstairs. I'm sure we can handle things for one night."
Sean shook his head. "There's no one to tend the bar."
Jay tried to urge Sean towards the door to his apartment. "I'll call one of Erico's back-up bartenders. Go on. The last thing you want is to spread something nasty to one of your customers."
Since relocating to CattleValley, Sean had only missed three days of work, the day of the grandstand collapse, one for the community-wide memorial service and the day after Ryan Bronwyn picked up and left town when things between them started getting serious. Maybe he was due. Sean wondered what the rest of the O'Brien clan would think of him for giving in to his body's demands for rest on a work day. Do I care?
"See if you can get someone to fill in for me. Until then, I'll stick it out," Sean told Jay.
Jay pulled out his phone and walked into the kitchen. He was back several moments later with a smile on his face. "Go on to bed. Smitty's on his way."
"Smitty? I thought he was still working at The Gym?" "He is, but since he graduated from college, he's been moonlighting at The Canoe as a bartender." Jay grinned. "He's a good-looking guy."
"Yeah," Sean agreed. Why that bothered him, he couldn't say.
"I'll keep him away from Moby," Jay added with a chuckle.
Sean absently rubbed his stomach. The statement struck too close to home and he didn't like it. "Why would I care?"
Although Jay grinned, he shook his head. "No reason."
"Don't go getting ideas in your head about me and Moby. It's notgonna happen. I've learned my lesson about falling for screwed up men."
"Ryan was a mess. There's no denying that, but you did everything you could to help him deal with his issues."
"Issues? Ryan had more than issues. He had a mother who brow-beat him to the point the man couldn't make a single decision on his own." Sean glanced up as Moby walked into the pub. It didn't matter how attracted to the man he was, Sean was finished with momma's boys.
Sean gestured towards the door of his apartment above the pub. "I'm going to go on upstairs. Let me know if you need me."
"Will do. I'll make up a batch of my special chicken noodle soup for you," Jay told Sean.
"Don't go to any trouble. You'll probably have your hands full down here."
"It's Wednesday. I'll have time," Jay countered.
"What's going on?" Moby asked, shedding his coat and hat.
"Sean's sick. I finally managed to convince him to go upstairs and sleep," Jay said.
Moby's dark eyebrows drew together. "Is there anything I can do for you?"(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The O'Brien Way"
Copyright © 2010 Carol Lynne.
Excerpted by permission of Totally Entwined Group Limited.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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