I’ve been wanting to post an excerpt, but I had other things I needed to do. Today, at last, I’m making real progress–so I get to share.
This is serious first draft material. That means some names and details might change, not that it’s unreadable.
Hope you like it.
On the third day after Ms. MacGregor’s surgery, Joseph was assigned to work with Cal once more. The damn man snapped at him twice before they even reached the paddock, and Joseph’s patience was already gone with everyone else’s–up in the smoke that hung in the air from brushfires started by dry lightning from the damn clouds that kept forming all huge and photogenic, looming about terrifyingly, sounding off with occasional lightning and thunder, but NOT RAINING.
As they rode out of the paddock the heat was already oppressive, the air thick and hazy, and Cal snapped something about “seat like a sack of potatoes.” Joseph decided that if Cal MacGregor didn’t straighten his ass up, he was going to forget about being in love with the man and show him that country boys weren’t the only ones that knew how to sock a jerk in the face when he totally deserved it.
Joseph didn’t even care that every line of Cal’s face and body showed his exhaustion, that he knew damn well the man had barely slept in four days. Who was it making the damn stupid choice to work all day, visit his mom evenings, then spend all goddamn night in her office doing whatever the frick took so much time? Cal could leave one of those things out to sleep once in a while. He was the damn boss, wasn’t like anyone was going to call him out for taking a fricking nap.
The job of the day apparently somehow involved a normal-looking truck tire, rim and all, tied on the back of a pack horse. Wobbie had said they needed to deal with a “pressure warning.” Joseph eyed the tire but he swallowed his questions. Cal was in a foul mood, and Joseph wasn’t going to go asking for the waspish remarks.
New to Texas Joseph might be, but he knew the feeling of a storm coming as they rode out of sight of human habitation. He hoped it came soon, hoped it rained like no tomorrow, because fires and tempers both around the Y Otra Cosa needed a good dousing.
The ride was long. Joseph spent it riding behind his boss, where he could stare unobserved at Cal’s butt.
Finally they came over a rise and Joseph saw big circles of green on a brown backdrop. Crop circles, for real. Each circle had a short tower in the middle, extending an arm to the edge of the field. Great metal arms, on wheels. Ah.
In the field Cal led the horses and Joseph to, one of the tires on the irrigator was nearly flat. The sensor gauge on the tire’s valve, Cal explained in short, sharp sentences, had sent a warning to the system’s hub, which had sent a warning to Wobbie’s cell phone. If it went flat, it might damage the whole expensive system, so Cal was sent out right away to deal with it.
Middle of the plains, nothing but grass and sky to see, and Cal and Joseph were changing a tire.
Helping Sefu with cars, Joseph had changed many a tire over the years, but Cal didn’t want to act like he knew anything at all, so Joseph let him change the damn tire and stood there watching as Cal fought with the lug nuts. Joseph knew the trick of standing on the lug wrench when the nuts wouldn’t budge, but he didn’t share it with Cal. He’d probably get snapped at for being right.
The clouds were stacking up again. Joseph watched them grow in puffs and swirls as the heat built and Cal’s temper deteriorated even farther. Come on, rain, Joseph silently urged. Riding home in the rain would probably feel good, and it might keep Cal home long enough that he’d take a damn nap.
When Cal got the tire off, he let Joseph help to set the new tire in place, but then he beat Joseph’s grab for the lug wrench. Joseph stepped back with a shrug. Maybe enough work would tire him out enough he’d sleep. And if he fell asleep on his horse, Cal the born cowboy certainly wouldn’t fall off. Joseph grinned at the thought of leading Chisholm in circles while Cal napped, since the moment the horse stopped he’d probably wake up and…
And how the hell was he now grinning fondly at Cal’s head, when he’d wanted to slug the man ten minutes ago? When he’d be done with the damn tire already if he were allowed, but instead Cal kept dropping lug nuts and even managing to let the lug wrench slip off because he was tired and uncoordinated?
Whatever. A cool breeze blew out of the huge looming cloud, and Joseph lifted his face into it.
Cal dropped the lug wrench and stood so fast he almost fell over, whirling around to stare at the horizon.
“What?” Joseph asked. “Rabid coyote? Invisible buffalo stampede? We’re actually standing in a dry river bed and God said build an ark?”
“Pick up the tools,” Cal ordered, looking around. Joseph shrugged and bent to finish the job.
“Leave it!” Cal snapped as Joseph gave each nut a last turn. “Let’s go!”
Joseph bundled the tools into the bag and clutched it to his chest as Cal grabbed him, twisting a hand in his shirt to haul him up. The old tire they left where Cal had dropped it, and that told Joseph this wasn’t just about Cal’s bad mood. He put some of his own power behind Cal dragging him out of the field. Cal took the tool-bag and shoved it into the pack-horse’s saddlebag. Joseph looked around as he swung up on his mare, and he saw the funnel dropping from the giant cloud.
“Oh holy fuck.”
“It’s between us and the house,” Cal said, turning Chisholm with a rein on his neck. “And it’s coming right at us.” He shoved his hat down on his head. “Don’t fall off,” he warned with a strained grin over his shoulder, then he prodded Chisholm and the horse took off. Joseph leaned low over his mare’s neck and urged her after.
It might be coming right at them, but that didn’t mean it would stay on that course. Why were they running perpendicular to its path? Why not just run away as fast and far as they could go?
Because canyons, maybe, blocking their escape route. Because wind patterns. Whatever. Cal knew Texas and Joseph didn’t, so he raced after Cal and prayed that lack of sleep hadn’t fatally screwed up Cal’s judgment.
Freed from the need for rational thought, Joseph’s mind turned to gibbering terror. He looked to his right and the funnel had almost dropped to the ground. He leaned lower and the saddle horn bit into his stomach but he thought the mare went a little faster so he stayed there. He looked again and the funnel had receded a little, but Cal was looking too and not slowing, so Joseph and his horse thundered on.
God, the ride would be so amazing if there weren’t a damn tornado coming!
Joseph’s hat lifted in the wind, he snatched it and his hair streamed in the wind. A cold wind, why—
“Hail!” Cal yelled. “Put your hat on!”
Joseph put his hat on, shoved it down but it didn’t–he took his hands off the reins and stuffed his hair under his hat then shoved the thing down, and it fit tighter and stayed on. He snatched up the reins.
Off to his right, the white funnel touched down, and in seconds it was dyed brown.
“That’s MY goddamn dirt!” Cal yelled at it.
Joseph’s mare was wet with sweat. The pack-horse was running in a jolting gait, the line between its halter and Cal’s saddle taut. The wind roared and the sun shone far off, but under the cloud—
Oh God. Two funnels.
Ahead of him, Cal cut the pack-horse loose. Chisholm leaped forward. Joseph put his arm on the saddle horn and leaned lower still and yelled to his mare, and she ran harder. The pack-horse fell farther behind with every step and Joseph spared a fleeting thought to hope it survived, but then he was back to hoping he and Cal survived.
They came thundering over a rise and Joseph saw the Nine-Tails tank, and the ghost-house beyond it. Frakking Cal, genius!
“Go right, look for the cellar door!” Cal shouted over the screaming wind. The first funnel was nearly on them, wider than before and black with debris. Chisholm went to the left across the yard. Joseph yanked his mare to the right. She didn’t want to leave Chisholm but he kicked her hard and she went. They hadn’t gone three running leaps before he spotted the slanted door opening down into the ground.
“Here!” he shouted, leaping off and dropping one rein. “Cal, it’s here!”
Locked! There was a fucking padlock on a chain! Son of a bitch, who abandoned his ranch forever but locked the goddamn cellar before he left?
This is another story for the M/M Romance group on Goodreads. Go join, so you can read everyone’s great stories while you (I hope!) wait eagerly for mine!