Gay Erotic Romance, Older/Younger, Western
IT ALL started on a rainy November morning. I would have said it was unusual, since any rain in Colorado feels a bit weird to guys like me who’ve lived here all our lives, but it really didn’t feel any different. I got up at four, same as any other day. Didn’t matter if it was a weekday or weekend or holiday or what. I was up at four. My downstairs neighbor tells me I’m one of those obnoxious morning people. I don’t let her light teasing get to me. She’s a good kid, barely out of high school and living with a guy she says she’s going to marry. I hope she’s right, but I don’t tell her the statistics are against her. When I hear them fighting below me while I’m getting ready for bed, I think she knows that.
But I’m getting off track. Like I said, normal day besides the rain. Which is weird because it’s Colorado and it’s so freaking dry here. I got dressed quickly, throwing on some jeans I figured were clean enough, and grabbed my backpack along with a couple carrots. They weren’t for me. I had a friend that liked them much more than I ever had, and I made sure to keep them on hand just for him.
I was out the door by four thirty and heading south on I-25 within five minutes. My apartment is right next to the on-ramp, which means the traffic noise and congestion can get a bit crazy since I live on the outskirts of what would be considered downtown Denver proper. People in my building could complain about it all they want, but most of us chose the location for the access to the highway they all loathed. Being on the road early meant I missed a lot of the traffic they complained about, which suited me just fine.
I keep to myself. Being labeled as the weird gay guy in 4B kind of did it for my social life where my neighbors were concerned, which was fine. I turned on KYGO and relaxed into the comfort of the familiar country music as I drove the short distance to the tech center. In a few hours, this place would be filled up and I-25 would be a pain in the ass to get back home on. Lucky for me, I wouldn’t be going back that way until sometime that afternoon. I didn’t get to see my best friend often, but when I did, I tried to stay with him most of the afternoon.
I pulled off the highway, taking the Belleview exit and slowing down to settle into street driving and the speed limits that came with it. Driving on an empty morning highway was liberating, and I’d gotten more than a few tickets by not paying attention to how fast I was going on my way down here.
Black Dog Stables, named for the owner’s childhood pet Lab, stood just off the road in an area only a few blocks west of the main business centers in the area. People there paid for the convenience of having their horses so close to work, and it reflected in my lease. I pulled my old truck in to one of the gravel spots alongside the luxury cars with their shiny paint jobs. There were only two people there with me, I knew by the number of cars, but not because of the weather. It was too early for most of them, and some didn’t come until the weekends anyway. Or so I’d been told. I didn’t have any assigned days with my horse then. I got out of my truck, grabbed the carrots off the passenger seat, and pulled the hood of my jacket up over my head to block out some of the cold and rain. There was an indoor arena, and it would probably be busy right about now, but if I wanted to ride this morning, I’d have to share. There was no way I’d be taking my best friend out on a trail in the rain. It wasn’t fair to him, and if he slipped on the mud and got hurt, I’d feel horrible and definitely couldn’t afford the kind of vet bills that would bring.
I shut and locked my truck and headed toward the barn. To get there, I had to walk past a long stretch of pasture lined with expensive vinyl fencing that the best of the stables were using now. Well, I shouldn’t say I had to walk past it. That was the only way to get to the barn, but since my guy was out there, I didn’t mind it so much.
General lifted his big gray head from the ground, a momentary break from his breakfast, and he looked up at me. Like a dog, he ran to greet me, and just like a begging dog, he started nuzzling my hand that held the carrots. Laughing, I gave them to him. He was drenched, his long mane and forelock sticking to his face and neck. I felt bad for him having to stand out there in the rain, and so I didn’t give him as much love as I usually do when he first greets me in the mornings as I hurried into the barn for his halter and lead.
The tack room was shared between everyone, and though plenty of people didn’t board in the barn, probably because it was so expensive, everyone kept their tack in it. Except one paranoid lady who hauled her saddle, bridle, brushes, and everything else to and from her home each time she came. Thankfully, I didn’t have to do that. Not that General’s tack was heavy, but there was a lot of it. But General’s owner was the same guy who owned the stables and so his tack was always right there and available for me. Leasing out his horses wasn’t unusual for Allen; in fact he had four of them available for lease right now and another three that, like General, were with long-term leasers.
It was my third straight year of leasing the big quarter horse gelding, and though I probably could have bought a horse for less than the price I’d been paying for the lease, I couldn’t afford the board on top of it. Not if I wanted to be anywhere near the city. Other people might be comfortable with their horses a good hour away where board was less than two hundred a month, but I’d want to see my horse more often than that. As it was, the weekends were hard enough knowing I couldn’t go see my guy. But that was when General was a lesson horse, like all the other horses Allen leased out. Only my guy was special because for the last year I’d been in a lease-to-own agreement with Allen, and I was four months away from being able to call General mine. He’d still be a lesson horse on the weekends, and then I wouldn’t have to pay for board, but he’d be mine. The official day to switch over his registration and ownership paperwork was on my birthday. I was counting down the days.
I entered the tack room, which was really an empty stall that had been converted, and grabbed General’s halter and lead from the spot with his name above it. Though the tack room was crowded, it was kept neat. Probably a reflection on the high prices these people paid and the kind of people who could actually afford at least four hundred a month to keep their horses close to the city. I went out the side door and walked the short, well-worn path, over to the pasture. It was one of four, each just a few acres, but the other three were empty right now. They were kept that way intentionally to allow them to recover from the horses gobbling up all the grass. It wasn’t a new or original system, but I hadn’t seen that many people use that type of system before. General hadn’t moved far from the spot near the fence, and though sometimes he played, trying to get me to chase him to get his halter on, today he stood quietly while I slipped it over his face. I figured he was too cold to do much arguing with me. It wouldn’t be raining all day, but this early, it wasn’t more than forty degrees, and the rain made it feel like it was much closer to freezing. I brought him inside the barn, closed the big aisleway doors behind us, and tied him to a nearby stall. A small bay mare inside ignored General, and so I usually picked her stall to hitch him to when we were inside. It had taken a good amount of trial and error to figure out which horses didn’t mind my guy in front of them.
I brushed him down quickly, getting as much of the water off his coat as I possibly could. He was big, even for a quarter horse, at nearly sixteen hands. With me just shy of six feet, I wasn’t exactly a small guy, but I felt like it next to him sometimes. It was hard not to when I was asking an animal that outweighed me by over a thousand pounds to do something for me simply because I’d asked him to.
“Weird weather, huh, Wyatt?”
I looked up at the sound of my name and smiled at the girl over General’s withers. “Hey, Lindsey. Yeah, it is.”
She was nice and had been much more so after figuring out I wasn’t going to hit on her every chance I got like some of the guys at the barn did. She looked like a typical career rider—all hard muscle and tanned skin. Her long blonde hair was kept in a neat braid down her back. Sometimes it was in a bun, other times in a ponytail. But I’d never actually seen it down. I figured it was because she showed so often that keeping her hair neat was second nature. She’d been boarding longer than I had, and I’d never seen her in anything but her tight riding pants and a shirt with a horse on it. Today’s T-shirt proclaimed horse people to be stable people. I chuckled.
“Going riding?” she asked, coming up to General’s head and offering him a sugar cube from the pouch she kept at her side. It was one of those pouches people used for training dogs, but I’d never seen her without it.
I shrugged. “Dunno yet. Maybe, depending on how he feels. I’d like to, though.”
She leaned back against the stall, removed her shiny black helmet and her leather gloves. She looked tired, her face showing some wear. I knew better than to tell her that, though. “The arena’s free. If you want it. I just got done exercising the last of them.”
I was impressed. Allen had her working off her board by exercising his horses a few times a week. It was a good arrangement but only for someone who had the extra time, which I knew Lindsey was short on.
“You must have been here for a while.”
She smirked and nodded at me. “Yeah. I doubt some of the horses liked being woke up and asked to trot at two in the morning. But with this school load, I had to get it in somewhere.”
“What are you going for again?” I asked, not remembering, though I was sure she’d told me.
Her face scrunched. “Changed my major.”
“Yeah. Third time since starting. I know. It’s horrible.” She looked upset, but even though I knew she felt bad about not sticking with something, at least she was going. I hadn’t been past my first semester in community college.
“So what is it now?”
She pushed off the side of the stall, brushed off her pants, and turned to face me. “Business management. We’ll see how long that lasts, though.” She didn’t sound happy about it. I didn’t blame her. Neither one of us was all that good at math. “Well, the lunge line is in the arena if you need it. Be careful riding alone in there if you decide to.”
She gave me a little wave, handed a sugar cube to a horse in a nearby stall, and headed out for the day. I finished grooming General, only stopping when he was as dry as I could possibly get him, and then led him through the gate into the arena. The barn was built first, I knew that much, but I didn’t know when the arena had been added onto it. I was glad it had been, though, since it allowed me to ride in the winter and whenever the weather was really crappy. And I didn’t even have to take General outside to do it.
The arena was empty, and I wondered where the other rider was. Maybe inside the house. Sometimes, Allen invited the boarders in for coffee or something. The barn used to have a lounge for us to hang out in, but it’d been converted into a wash stall last summer. I didn’t use it all that much, but some people were annoyed at first.
I clipped the lunge line onto General’s halter and dropped the lead rope onto the mounting block nearby. I didn’t use the lunge whip, not because it wasn’t a good tool, but because I didn’t think I needed it. As a lesson horse, General was well trained. He had to be. And so once I had him out in the middle of the arena, I stepped back a few feet and held my right arm out to my side, giving him the signal to walk on. He lumbered along, obviously not interested in working this morning as we both listened to the rain coming down on the tin roof.
“Come on, old man,” I called to him, followed by the clicking of my tongue. He perked up, even if it was just slightly and walked a bit faster as the lunge line ran out of my hand. When he was a good ten feet away from me I started to lead him along. I didn’t have any kind of plan, nothing concrete anyway. I just wanted to spend time with my horse and knew that lunging was a good way to get that without riding him. He went into a trot without me asking as thunder rolled through the sky above us. I wasn’t worried. He wasn’t a spooky horse. Still, the metal arena did amplify the sound and I could see how that might have startled him.
I had him switch directions, which he did easily. Like I said, he was well trained. And at sixteen, he was over his prime but still had years of riding left in him. Especially since he was in such good condition. After a few more minutes of having him trot around, he lowered his head and relaxed his movements. He’d had a variety of training, and though I only used him for trail rides, I knew he had some dressage training in him. He’d even been able to jump up to three feet easily and probably could have gone higher if Allen hadn’t minded the risk of him getting hurt.
That was before I’d started leasing him, but I’d seen the pictures in the photo album Allen kept online. I stopped him with a gently spoken, “whoa,” and pulled him in. After the short workout, he was supple, his head down, and I knew he’d be willing to take a bit without problem now. Not that he ever really was a problem, but there was a big difference between horses you could get a bit into their mouths and a horse that would simply open his mouth at the first touch of the metal against his front teeth like General would. I switched him from the lunge line to the lead rope again and turned to lead him back into the barn so I could take him up. But since I wasn’t going out on a trail ride, did I really need to have all that on him? Nah. I tied the end of the lead rope to his halter under his chin and put the loop over his head. I didn’t ride him bareback often, but since we were just going around the arena a few times, I didn’t think it would matter. I wouldn’t be taking him out for a long trail ride today, but I could easily grab a beach chair from inside the tack room and spend some time with him out of the rain after a few times around the arena.
With that set in my mind, I pulled him over to the mounting block and slid onto his back. I’d been riding since I was a tiny kid, and General was the first horse I’d ever met that had no problem being mounted. He didn’t step away, didn’t go forward, didn’t pull any of the stuff some other horses in the barn did. He was a good horse, which was probably why I was still leasing him after all these years. I settled my hands over his neck, adjusted my seat, and laid my legs over his sides. Without a saddle under me, I wasn’t especially comfortable. But General had a wide back, for a quarter horse at least, and no one was around to make fun of my lack of posture in the arena. I gave his belly a light tap with my heels, and we were off at a slow walk.
By the second lap, I was bored and I know he was too because his head was nearly as low as his knees. We weren’t arena kinds of guys. We were trail guys, crossing bridges and jumping over narrow streams. I tapped him again, and he went into a trot. It was better, faster at least, and I tried to post, but being bareback and posting wasn’t a good combination. Not for me, at least. And plus all the bouncing was making my balls hurt. I slowed him down, and we did some figure eights, and after that, together, we drew shapes in the sand until my stomach started growling for lunch. My backpack had some granola bars in it, and I figured breaking for food would be good for both of us. I knew where the grain was kept, and as long as we didn’t make a habit of feeding the horses grain, I knew Allen wouldn’t mind too much.
I was just about to have General stop so I could get off his back when a loud clap of thunder shook the arena around us. I didn’t think much of it, but General’s head came up and he sidestepped under me.
“Easy,” I called to him, my hands tightening on the reins. I almost had him calmed down enough I could get off him when another bout of thunder, even louder than before, broke through the sky above us. I didn’t even have time to think before General took off from under me. For a few seconds, I held on, forgetting everything I knew about getting a horse to stop. I fell off, but before that I must have hit something, because even though I’d fallen off plenty of times this didn’t feel like those times. The ground came up to meet my hand, and General was still galloping around the arena when I hit the dirt. The pain was new and not at all welcome.
“Shit, you okay?”
A new voice. One I didn’t know, followed by hands on my face. I groaned and turned onto my side. I was in pain but it’d been so long since I’d fallen off a horse, and I was more in shock than anything else. Falling off was part of riding. I knew that. My wrist was really hurting, though. I must have landed on it harder than I’d thought.
“No. Don’t move just yet. Hold still.”
I heard beeping. It sounded like a phone. “Gen… Gener….” My words weren’t coming out right, and I closed my eyes as a wave of pain brought nausea with it.
“Yeah, hi, I’m at Black Dog Stables just off Belleview, and a guy was thrown from his horse. He looks pretty bad.”
I squinted, wondering what looked so bad about me. Maybe this guy was a fashion snob and didn’t like my jeans and worn-out jacket. Well, screw him. I was perfectly fine. I opened my eyes and couldn’t figure out why my horse was blurry.
“Yeah, I’ll get him. You just relax. Help is on the way.”
The guy didn’t understand. General could step on the lead. He could hurt himself. Why weren’t my words working, and why was there still pain in my hand? I was pondering these questions until suddenly I wasn’t awake anymore.