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“Sorry. It’s just…” Chassie sipped her warm milk, scowling when she realized it’d gone cold. “Trev didn’t seem the same.”

“Trevor is different when he’s around them. Breaking free from his family was the best thing he ever did. I can’t imagine why he’d jump back in that cesspool when he’s created utopia here with you.”

Chassie offered a wan smile. “You’re so sweet.”

“I try.” He scrutinized her face and glanced at the clock. “You take your meds?”

“Yep.”

“You hungry? Want me to fix you some supper?”

Rough, Raw, and Ready. Chassie found her voice. “If I would’ve checked on her in the middle of the night like I was supposed to—” “Don’t matter. Nothin’ even the vet could’ve done.” “That don’t make me feel better.” “Don’t change the facts, Chass, regardless of how it makes you feel.” “No kiddin’.”. Download 470 Free photoshop overlays created by FixThePhoto. Add diverse effects to your photos with the help of our Photoshop overlays free. Photoshop free overlays are easy to use. You can create beautiful perfect image for a few minutes with our photoshop overlays collection.

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“No. I’m tired. I really just wanna lay down.”

“Let me help you upstairs.”

“No. Stop fussin’ at me, Ed. I’ll just crash on the couch.”

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“I like fussin’ at you, so tough up.” Edgard stood. “Will you at least let me tuck you in?”

“I’d like that.” Chassie pushed to her feet and grabbed the cordless receiver. “And if it’ll make you happy, I’ll tell Trevor about the rodeo tattoo Greta’s hoof left on my forehead if he calls back.”

“Good girl.” He kissed the area around the bandage and herded her into the living room. After covering her with a blanket, he headed upstairs to shower.

Twenty minutes later, the receiver nearly dropped from Chassie’s nerveless fingers.

Her whole body had gone numb and she blinked with disbelief, all thoughts of sleep forgotten.

“Chass? Who was that on the phone? Trevor?”

“No. It was Keely McKay.”

“What’s wrong?”

The words stuck in her throat.

“Sweetheart, you’re scaring me, what’s goin’ on?”

“My cousin Cameron McKay is missing.”

“What?”

Chassie swallowed. Her mouth still felt dry as dust. “The army sent notification to the family that Cam and two other guys were left behind on patrol in Iraq.”

“Shit.”

“Yeah. Remember when Kade mentioned it was as if that whole family had gone on vacation together? That’s why.”

“Jesus. How long ago?”

“A week.”


A week
? What happened?”

“They’re not sure. A bomb exploded, knocking out the first two vehicles in a caravan. Cam and his guys got out of their vehicle to help the injured when two more IEDs were detonated. People scattered and took cover. In the mass confusion of smoke, www.samhainpublishing.com 235

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casualties and gunfire, the vehicles remaining in the caravan were ordered to retreat. The brass didn’t realize they’d left Cam and the other guys behind until they’d returned to camp.”

Edgard didn’t say a word.

“The army sent search parties out. Found nothin’ so far.” She squeezed her eyes shut, but it didn’t block out the horrors filling her brain. “They may never find him or a trace of him. Or the others. How do you deal with that? At least with Dag…”

“Hey, now. Take a deep breath. I’m not gonna tell you everything is gonna be sunshiny rainbows, but sometimes no news is good news.”

Chassie folded her arms over her chest. “Know what I hate?”

“That your aunt and uncle and cousins kept this information to themselves?”

“How did you know?”

“Because it’s damn near impossible in a close-knit family to know where to draw the line. Carolyn and Carson elected to keep their immediate offspring in the loop. It is their right. I can’t imagine that was a painless decision with the way the McKays seem to live in each other’s back pockets.”

“You’re defending them?”

“No,
querida
, I’m trying to give you a different perspective on how different people deal with a difficult family situation.”

“What do you know about difficult family issues, Ed? Trevor told me your family was all
sunshiny rainbows
”—she tossed his words back at him—“about you bein’ gay.

That you had complete acceptance and their support of your lifestyle. How can you possibly understand—”

Without a word, Edgard stormed from the room.

Chassie was flabbergasted he’d taken off mid-sentence, so she followed him to give him a piece of her mind. “I’d appreciate it if you didn’t walk away as I’m talkin’ to you, Edgard. It’s rude.”

“Know what else is rude? To make assumptions when you don’t know what the hell you’re talking about. Only hearing what you wanna hear and tuning everything else out.

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My life ain’t ever been sunshiny rainbows, so don’t tell me…” Edgard rattled off a long phrase in Portuguese. “Fuck this. Forget it.”

A bad feeling persisted that had nothing to do with Cam. “What kind of assumptions have I made?”

He flapped his hand in the air, waving her off.

“What is it you’re not telling me?” She racked her brain, backtracking on conversations that might’ve held clues she missed. His deflection of answering questions about his ranch. He’d talked of his last relationship and how he’d taken the man to meet his mother. His mother. Whoa. Then she remembered. “What happened after your mother died, Edgard?”

Edgard whirled around and his face was as cold and hard as an icicle. “My family disowned me.”

Chassie automatically stepped back in the face of his rage. “How can they—”

“Evidently my mother was the only one who didn’t have an issue with my so-called
perversion
. Evidently she’d kept my stepfather and my brothers and sister in line. So I’d lived years with the lie of complete acceptance about my sexuality. The only reason my
family
”—he spit the word as if it tasted bad—“tolerated me was because of my mother’s threats.”

“What kind of threats?”

“Financial threats. See, my grandparents—my mother’s parents—were rich. She became their only child after my uncle Ramon was murdered when I was eighteen.”

“Oh, Ed, I’m so sorry.”

“Yeah, well, it gets worse. Turned into a big ugly political deal, no one knew if my uncle’s murder was a botched kidnapping and extortion attempt. My mother sent me to the U.S. to live with my real father’s parents for the summer in some misguided attempt at protection.”

And

“You knew them?”

“They’d kept in contact with me. Luckily my English was excellent. After I passed the Wyoming test as a real cowboy adept at ridin’ and ropin’, they took me to a rodeo. I www.samhainpublishing.com 237

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was hooked. Especially after I began to win.” A ghostly smile appeared. “I stuck around for three months.”

“Did they know you were gay?”

“No.”

“When did you…you know…figure it out?”

“First time with a girl was at sixteen. First time with a boy was at eighteen. When I turned nineteen I told my mother which I preferred. She saw no reason to keep it a dirty secret and blabbed to my entire family. Everyone acted supportive. Or so I thought,” he added bitterly.

Her thoughts drifted momentarily to Dag. No one in their family would’ve granted him that false sense of security, even temporarily.

“I returned to the States when I was twenty-two to make a name for myself in U.S.

rodeo. Figured out PDQ how ‘real’ cowboys feel about gays so I stayed in the closet. Had a few random encounters in bigger cities. Was lonely as hell but making enough money to buy my own place in Brazil. I stuck it out for two years before I thought about going home.

“Then I met Trevor. Instantly fell hard, but somehow managed to keep that from him. I was just goddamn happy to be around him all the time. We traveled together as partners, relied on each other for everything until one day he began to look at me differently. And I knew he’d picked up on how I felt about him. I also knew it fucked him up. By the end of the first year of our partnership we were lovers.

“And yeah, I harbored romantic delusions about him pulling up stakes and moving with me to Brazil. After another two years passed of us being together, but not really being together, I left him because I wanted his public acknowledgement of our relationship. Having it in private wasn’t good enough for me.”

Chassie bit her lip to keep from crying at the unfiltered anguish in his voice.

“Goddamn, I was so childish and needy about proving to everyone that he belonged to me. So stupidly self-righteous and so very, very wrong that I threw it away on a lie.”

“A lie?”

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“A total fucking lie.” Edgard punched the couch cushion, shocking Chassie and himself with his angry gesture. “Sorry. It’s just… About a year and a half after I returned home, my mother died in a car accident. In addition to losing the only person who’d understood me, my father—
stepfather
—told me his true feelings; he didn’t accept me as a gay man, never had, never would. I was perverted, an embarrassment to his name, his family, to God and the church. He expected me to leave and never return. Problem was, as the oldest male child I was set to inherit everything of my mother’s, which meant cutting out his children.”

“Your brothers and sister?”

“Yep. He bribed a government official and the verdict handed down decreed we had to sell the homestead that’d been in my family for seven generations.” He closed his eyes.

“I never once thought about cheating my siblings out of any money and they made me feel so…dirty for everything I was. Everything I thought they’d accepted about me. I lost my mother, my ancestral home, my family, and my…dignity.”

“Edgard—”

“The final cut was when my stepfather told everyone in my hometown selling had been my idea because I wanted to live in Sao Paulo with my male lover. I became a pariah. The church forbade me from even visiting my mother's grave.”

She couldn’t speak.

“So see. I know about difficult family issues. I’ve lost everything that ever mattered to me.”

Except Trevor.

Edgard didn’t say it; he didn’t have to.

Her heart seemed to shatter into a billion pieces. That’s why Edgard had come back.

Not to steal Trevor away, but to remind himself of something that’d been good in his life.

Or maybe he’d come back to cement his disillusionment that his time with Trevor hadn’t been the sunshiny rainbows he’d remembered?

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Poor Edgard. Still grasping at straws, even when he knew them to be hollow. God. It wasn’t fair. Why did everything have to be so damn hard? Chassie placed her hands over her face and sobbed.

Strong arms wrapped around her. It took a while for the warmth and heat to offer any solace and she felt guilty for taking from Edgard when she should’ve been giving to him.

“It’s not fair. It’s so not fair. Why does bad shit always seem to happen to good people?”

Breathy kisses dotted the crown of her head. “I’m sorry about Cam, sweetheart.”

She lifted her face from his wet shirtfront and blinked at him. “You think that’s why I’m cryin’?”

Leeriness entered his eyes. “Yes.”

“I’m not cryin’ about Cam, you big dummy. I’m cryin’ about you.”

“Me?” he repeated.

“My heart is busted clean apart after hearin’ what you’ve been through. Alone.

You’re hurtin’ so bad and I just wanna fix it. Goddammit, I’d hoped we’d gotten past these secrets and you’ve been keepin’ a big one from me and I’ll bet Trevor too, huh?

He nodded warily.

“I wanna punch you and I wanna hug you, you big stupid jerk.” Chassie mashed her face into Edgard’s chest as more tears poured out in hiccupping stutters.

She tried to squirm away after she’d calmed down. “Sorry about blubbering all over you and swearin’ at you.”

Edgard tipped her chin up. His eyes were wet and shone pure gold. “Do you realize you’re the first person who’s cried for me? It is very humbling. Very sweet, and so very…you, Chassie. You’ve a soft heart and an iron will. It is a potent combination.”

A funny tickle started low in her belly. “Ah. Thanks.”

Rough, Raw And Ready PDF Free Download

Edgard’s eyes zeroed in on her mouth. Their bodies were still locked together. “Can you smile for me? So I can taste the happiness on your lips when I kiss you?”

“You’re finally gonna kiss me?”

He frowned. “What do you mean?”

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Lorelei James

“With all the sexual gymnastics we’ve tried, the one thing you haven’t done is give me a real kiss.”

“Why do you think that is,
querida
?”

“Maybe because you prefer a mustache on the upper lip of the person you’re smooching?”

Edgard laughed softly. “Trevor doesn’t have a mustache.”

“Maybe you just prefer Trevor?”

“Could be. But how will I know I don’t prefer your kisses if I don’t give you a fair shot, hmm?”

“Sounds logical.” Chassie moistened her lips in expectation.

He bent his head, his gaze solely focused on her lips. Then a soft press of his mouth to hers. He retreated a fraction of an inch, letting his breath fan over hers, letting her anticipation build.

And build.

Her nervous habit of biting her lower lip had him growling. He nibbled the fleshy inside rim. His tongue dipped in, delicately tracing the seam, back and forth. Each wet stroke delved a little deeper. But never all the way.

A whimper escaped.

Then Edgard’s hands were on her head and he kissed her voraciously. Thrusting his tongue past her teeth, tasting every inch of her mouth as thoroughly as he pleased.

The change from exploratory to conquering made her wet and weak-kneed. She clung to him, lost, craving every single sensation this complex man could offer her.

He backed off to whisper across her lips, “No need to grow a mustache, darlin’. You kiss just fine. Much better than fine.”

She smiled against his mouth.

“Would you like to—”

“Yes.”

He chuckled. “You don’t know what I was gonna ask.”

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“You were gonna ask if you can pin me against the wall and fuck me, ’cause you’re feelin’ all close to me and stuff now that you’ve spilled your guts, and stopped bein’ the strong silent type of tough guy.”