A LOVING HART
Heart of the Mountain 2
Coming May 22, 2010!
For seven years, Jasper Elliot felt betrayed and all alone when his brother left their home. When an unexpected visitor shows up and voices the truth as to why his brother left, Jasper was faced with a decision that would change the course of his life. Arriving at The Mountain Hart Ranch not only didn't things go the way he expected them too but he also found something he thought he never would.
Seth Hart had a secret, one that had scars of its own. To keep his secret safe he never dated and always made sure to not get his heart involved. With the arrival of Jasper, Seth's resolutions flew right out the window. The instant attraction Seth felt for Jasper was exhilarating but also scared him. Just as things started going better than Seth ever expected, their past catches up to them.
Will their past tear them apart or will Seth's secret bring them closer together?
Seth Hart sat behind his desk, going over the ranch's books. He hated paperwork, but knew it had to be done. Simply a necessary trade off to owning the Wyoming cattle ranch he loved so much. It was the one place where he felt at peace. He knew the prior owner who accepted him without questions or assumptions played a large role in the love for his home. He wanted others to feel the same peace, the same level of acceptance of 'family' regardless of their life choice or situation.
Once he inherited the ranch, he immediately converted it into a gay-friendly haven for others like him. Although each of their circumstances may differ, they all shared the same peace offered at the Mountain Hart Ranch. And he was damn proud to be a part of that.
A knock at the front door startled him. "Come in. I'm in the office."
He wondered who it could be at this time of night. Knowing their usual schedules, he knew the ranch hands were busy, either in the stables or pen.
He saw Greg, his foreman and best friend, walk towards him with a young man following close behind.
"This is my brother, Jasper. He just arrived in town." Greg nudged the young man, who moved up to stand next to him.
Seth's eyes widened when he finally saw Jasper. It was obvious he was the younger brother. Although he shared the same golden skin color, green eyes and dark hair as his brother, Jasper's hair was short and spiky, his frame slightly leaner and just a tad bit smaller than Greg's muscular six-foot size. To Seth, the subtle differences were striking. He was just breathtaking.
Seth quickly tried to pull himself together.
"I was hoping you wouldn't mind if he stayed in one of the rooms in the bunkhouse with the ranch hands." Greg looked at him curiously, with a glint in his eye.
Busted. "Umm...no, not at all." Seth stood and extended his hand in greeting. His breath caught when their hands touched. "It's nice to meet you. I'm Seth Hart, as your brother here seems to have forgotten to introduce me."
"It's nice to meet you, too." Jasper smiled, a row of perfectly white teeth making an appearance.
"Oh, damn. I forgot my manners there for a minute."
Seth was mesmerized by Jasper's green eyes and the warmth of his hand. Nothing else existed. When Greg cleared his throat, Seth pulled back his hand as a warm flush crept up his neck and flooded his cheeks. Double-busted.
"I take it you'll be staying around for awhile, then?" Seth asked the younger brother as he sat back down, trying to ignore Greg.
"Yeah, I'd like to be close to my brother," Jasper wistfully replied as he glanced over at Greg. There was a shimmer in Greg's eyes for a moment before he rapidly blinked it away.
Seth knew the story behind Greg's arrival to the ranch. He knew Greg's father went totally ballistic the day he found out Greg was gay and threw him out of the family ranch at gunpoint forcing him to leave without a word of goodbye or any belonging other than the clothes on his back and his pickup truck. He knew Greg left everything behind, including his brother. Seth wasn't sure if having Jasper at the ranch was a good idea, but he desperately hoped his best friend's brother would stick around for a while. He didn't know the details behind Jasper's arrival, but he sure as hell wanted to take the time to find out.
"Do you have a place to work yet? Your brother told me years ago he grew up on a ranch." Seth was so nervous his hands became clammy.
"No, actually. Greg was hoping there'd be some work here for me."
Seth heard the hope and uncertainty in Jasper's voice which called to his protective nature.
Greg interrupted before Jasper could continue talking. "We do need another hand around. Things have been picking up around here." Greg slapped his brother on the back. "There's plenty of work for him here."
"Yeah, that's perfect. Go get settled in and show your brother around. We can sort out the rest later." Seth pulled himself together and tried to act indifferent as he dismissed the brothers with a wave goodbye and resumed his struggle with the paperwork.
Seth waited until he heard the front door close behind them before he walked to the kitchen and looked out from the edge of the window. He watched them as they walked over to the bunkhouse, his gaze focused on Jasper's firm butt in his well-fitted jeans. Seth tried to fight the instant attraction he felt. He knew it would end badly if he allowed himself to get involved with Jasper. It could create all kinds of complications and that was something he didn't want to deal with. He had entirely too many secrets to keep and was scared to take a chance. Been there, done that.
He watched them until they entered the bunkhouse, then turned away from the window and walked back into his office. Sitting behind his desk, Seth resolutely turned his attention back to the paperwork, trying to dispel the thoughts of the sexy new ranch hand from his mind.
As they walked to the bunkhouse, Jasper felt he was being watched. He could feel someone's gaze burning into his back. Just as he entered, Jasper turned and looked back to the main house. He could have sworn he saw Seth watching them from the kitchen window. While Greg led the way to a room at the far end of the passage, Jasper's mind went back to his encounter with the sexy ranch owner.
When he had approached Seth's desk, he was startled by the blue-green piercing eyes that had locked onto his, almost as if they could see inside him. The image made his body shiver. When Seth stood up from behind the desk, the man had towered over him. At 5 foot 11, he figured Seth was well over 6 feet tall. Seth's muscular build and thick arms had his heart banging hard against his chest. He remembered the electric shock that had gone straight to his groin when their hands touched.
Jasper was pulled out of his daydreaming when they stopped at an open door and Greg touched his arm. "This is your room. Just put your stuff down for now. I'll show you around the ranch and introduce you to some of the other hands."
"Thanks." Jasper walked into the sparsely furnished room and put his bag on the bed. It had a single bed that stood against one wall with a dresser against the other and a built-in closet in one corner.
"Come on, let me show you around." Greg pulled him out of the room and threw his arm around Jasper's shoulders, giving him a quick hug before pulling away.
Greg led him around the ranch, taking him to the stables and then to the pastures where a few horses were grazing. Jasper loved the fresh smell of the air mixed with the scent of the horses. During the tour, Greg explained what his work entailed and what was expected of him. Just knowing he would help train the horses made Jasper feel comfortable in this new place.
They leaned against the railing and watched the horses gallop around the field. He remembered when he and his brother used to do this same thing at the family ranch many years ago. Jasper turned to look at Greg. He looked peaceful. Happy. He knew his brother's partner, Devon, played a big part in that. After all, he was now at the Mountain Hart Ranch because Devon sought him out to tell him the truth behind Greg's departure from the family ranch. Jasper couldn't understand how his own father could disown Greg simply because he was gay. He couldn't believe it at first. He just couldn't imagine his father forcing Greg to leave at gunpoint. That is, until Devon told him the truth. Jasper learned firsthand the truth about his father when he too revealed he was gay. He loved his father and tried to hate his brother for leaving - and all of it was based on lies.
Now looking over at Greg, he was grateful his brother had someone who loved him so much. He deserved it. He had always been a great brother and he should have trusted his heart rather than the lies his father told him for the last seven years. Thanks to Devon, he not only stood up to his father, but was reunited with Greg who never stopped loving him. He knew that now, thanks to Devon. He still couldn't believe it. He now he had his brother back in his life.
When Greg looked over at him, Jasper couldn't swallow past the knot in his throat. Jasper hugged Greg again. "I'm happy I have you back."
Greg cleared his throat, "I'm glad you're here. I missed you."
They pulled away from each other just as two guys rode up to the fence and dismounted. "Hey, guys. This here is my brother, Jasper. He'll be working with you guys." Greg turned to him and pointed at each of the men. "This is Jeremy and Miles. Don't listen to everything they tell you. They love talking shit half of the time," Greg said with a mischievous smile.
"Watch it, old man!" Miles playfully punched Greg on the arm before shaking Jasper's hand. The sprinkling of grey hair made Miles look a few years older than Greg. "Welcome to the Mountain Hart Ranch." Miles smiled. "I'm sure you'll love it here. Just don't forget to bring the horses out to graze again at midnight."
Jasper wasn't sure if Miles was joking or if he was serious but when he looked over at Greg and saw his expression, they all burst out laughing.
Jeremy, who was both young and very good-looking, came over and shook his hand. "Welcome. It sure is going to be a lot of fun around here now," he said, grinning as he visually surveyed him from head to toe.
Greg snuck up behind Jeremy and tipped his hat forward. Jeremy quickly turned around to try and grab Greg but he wasn't quick enough. He watched as Greg jumped the fence and Jeremy took off running, his laughter ringing through the air.
Jasper watched as they playfully wrestled on the ground. "Those two are like teenagers at times," Miles said as he crossed his arms and chuckled.
"I remember when Greg and I..." Jaspers voice trailed off as an acute sadness came over him, like a stabbing pain to the heart. He watched as Greg got up from the ground, dusted off his jeans and walked towards them. They'd lost so much time together these last few years. At least they were part of each other's lives again.
Greg jumped back over the fence and grabbed Jasper around the neck. "Come on. Let's get you settled in. You gotta get up early in the morning and tomorrow's your first day."
"See you in the morning, guys." Jasper mock saluted them before turning around and following Greg back to the bunkhouse. "They seem like nice guys."
Greg chuckled, a smile played on his lips. "Yeah, they're great guys. Once you get to know them, they'll do anything for you. We look after each other here. It's the one place you're always safe and where you don't have to pretend to be someone you're not."
Jasper stopped. Pretend? Jasper glanced over at the kitchen door as they passed the main house. "Is Seth also...gay?" When Greg stopped and looked at him, Jasper diverted his eyes and looked down at the ground before looking back up at Greg.
"Yes, he is." Greg frowned and looked over at the main house. "All the guys on the ranch are gay."
Hesitantly, Jasper asked, "Is he...is he with someone?"
"No." Greg looked at Jasper with a wicked smile. "Come on."
Jasper followed Greg to the bunkhouse. "Well, I guess I'll see you first thing in the morning?"
"Yeah, you know it." They hugged and held on tight to each other for a while.
"It's really great to have you here. I'm very happy you're back in my life again, Jasper." Greg's voice was rough with emotion. Jasper pulled away and looked at Greg smiling at him.
"It's great to be here," he said, giving his brother another hug before turning around and going into the bunkhouse. "See you in the morning."
Jasper walked into his new room and started unpacking the few things he had been able to pack in hurry before leaving his father's ranch. After talking to Devon by the lake at the ranch and learning the truth, he knew he couldn't stay there. Luckily, he thought about packing a few things in his duffel bag before confronting his father. When he faced him, his dad spewed profanities of gay's going to hell and his brother must have turned him into a fag. Those words cut Jasper deeply and further cemented everything Devon had told him about his father and Greg.
He shook himself out of the memory and looked around. The bedroom was sparsely furnished but he didn't care. It was a roof over his head and a place to work and sleep. Nothing else mattered, now that he had his brother back in his life.
He grabbed his toiletries and some clothes and went to the communal bathrooms the ranch hands shared. There were fresh towels hanging over the towel rails, three hand basins and three closed-in showers. The bathroom was immaculately clean for a bunch of ranch hands-even the inside of the showers sparkled. It looked like a bathroom cleaner commercial. Jasper remembered Greg telling him that they had a woman come in every day to clean up the bunkhouse and cook.
Jasper reached into one of the showers and turned the water on to the right temperature. He jumped in the shower and let the hot water wash away the tension from his shoulders. He heard the other ranch hands walk into the bunkhouse as he dried himself off. Quickly slipping into his boxers and t-shirt, Jasper walked out of the bathroom. On the way to his room, he ran into Jeremy.
"I'll see you in the morning," Jeremy said with a wicked smile as they crossed.
Jasper looked over his shoulder and noticed Jeremy blatantly checking him out.
Jasper smiled as he closed his bedroom door and slipped into bed.
Seth sat in the darkness at the kitchen table with a glass of juice in his hand. The earlier conversation he had overheard between Greg and Jasper replayed in his mind. He could still hear Jasper's breathy voice echoing in his mind. "Is he...is he with someone?"
Closing his eyes, Seth took a deep breath as he tried to will Jasper's voice from his mind. He was sexually attracted to Jasper but Seth knew that nothing could happen between them, regardless of how much he wanted it. He couldn't take the chance of his secret being exposed or of the consequences that came with it. He just couldn't relive the same situation from his past. It was just too painful. And now, he had too much to lose with the ranch and too many people counting on him.
Seth finished his juice and left the kitchen. He walked past his office to the end of the hall where the back door opened up to the wooded area behind the main house. Seth discarded his clothes and walked out into the woods. As the moonlight cast a faint glow in the darkness, his naked body disappeared amongst the trees into the night.
A Loving Hart Excerpt © 2010 Leiland Dale - All rights reserved.