Wrangling for His Love by Hayden West
General Release Date: 7th March 2023
Word Count: 18,084
Book Length: NOVELLA
COWBOYS AND WESTERN
Ben “The Dusty Demon” Mooney is a steer wrestler—one of the best in the world—but that title comes at a price, and it’s one that has to do with the color of his skin as well as his preference in partners. An incident at an event is the start of something that quickly turns far more personal, but is he ready for this opportunity and all that comes with it?
Matthew Jigs is harboring a long-time crush on Ben Mooney. Theirs isn’t a world in which it’s acceptable to advertise sexual preference, and if friendship is all he can get, he’ll take it. For now. But Ben’s hesitation makes Matthew try to see things from another point of view. He wants so much, and it seems like Ben is just holding on.
It all blows up and Matthew’s standing alone to pick up the pieces—or is he? Perhaps when the dust settles, everything will be as it should be.
Reader advisory: This book contains scenes of racism, homophobia, child abuse, sexual harrassment, the threat of violence, and blackmail.
General Release Date: 7th March 2023
The cheers in the arena echoed down the hall to where Ben sat, alone, on a bench. Part of his ritual before he went for his ride. Generally he had his sister out there as his support, but she was out of the country teaching a seminar.
Ben hadn’t realized how much he counted on her to be there, especially after days like he’d had, full of hate-filled rhetoric and more. Most days he was able to shove it where that shit belonged, in the crapper. However, today hadn’t been one of them.
Slumping back against the wall behind him, he stretched out his legs with a groan. It fucking sucked when he wasn’t feeling his night. Didn’t matter. Everyone had a job to do and this was his.
He opened his eyes and listened to the crowd roar. They sure as hell knew how to gather them here in Calgary. He truly did love what he did and made a damn good living at it.
Two brothers who had competed in the team roping event walked up the hall. They both nodded at him.
“Good luck tonight, Ben.”
“Thanks, Tim, James.”
They were good men and he enjoyed seeing them at events. They’d never batted an eyelash that he wasn’t white like a good portion of competitors. He’d met their families and could consider them friends. But he didn’t hang out with them after.
He got up and ambled his way to where his mount waited. Ransom was a quarter horse and Appaloosa-mixed gelding. Ben had seen the horse at auction and had saved him from going to the glue factory. He hadn’t needed another horse at the time but there had been something in the gelding’s eyes that wouldn’t let him leave without him.
After months of getting weight put on him and working with him, Ben had given him a try at being his mount around cattle. The horse had taken to it like a fish to water. He barely needed to hold the reins with this equine, he knew his job so well. Ben was delivered to the same spot every time.
And on the rare occasion he would lend him to another rider—it wasn’t unheard of, just odd for others to ask him for help—Ransom did the same to that rider. Where he’d once been a dull dark color and his white blanket dingy with brown spots on his rump, now the animal shone. No one would think he’d had anything but a great life.
“Ready, boy?” he muttered to his horse as he rubbed his head.
“I think that horse likes anything to do with showing off for the crowd.”
“He does, that’s for sure.” He took an extra moment to get his facial muscles under control before he turned to the one who had just walked up. Bullfighter Matthew Jigs. “How are you doing, Jigs?”
The man stood just under six feet and had a thin, wiry body. He spent his days, or nights, running and distracting bulls during the bull riding when needed, to keep the riders safe. Throwing himself in front of the rider at a moment’s notice.
Right now he wasn’t made up in his makeup, but just in shirt and jeans, his dark brown hair falling forward over one eye.
“Didn’t think you were going to be up here. I hadn’t heard you were coming.” A grin. “I’m good. You?” He sobered. “I heard some of the shit people were saying. You know you’re good here, we’ve got your back.”
Ben wasn’t so sure about that. But the sentiment was almost nice. “Appreciate it. Hadn’t planned on coming until my sister had said she was going to be here, so I came and now she’s out of the country.”
“Love Lorna, always off helping people. What country this time?”
He rolled his eyes. Everyone loved her. “Spain. I think.” He scratched Ransom. “What are you doing over here? I didn’t think you were on this side.” Generally the bullfighters hung out a bit farther away from the steer wrestlers, more near the bull riders.
“He was bringing me!”
That voice was welcome and he turned, arms open, even as the petite bundle of energy shot into his arms. Well, small to him. A woman who was his sister’s best friend.
“Debra, what are you doing here? We’re a sight away from Kansas City.”
She hugged him tight and kissed his cheek. “Lorna said she bailed on you last minute.” Debra Williams, a woman he looked on as his own sister, leaned back and grinned. “So you get me.”
“You came alone?”
“Nope. I’m here.”
“Deacon,” he said with a grin as Debra’s brother stepped into his line of sight. “Good to see you, man. I take it you both met Jigs.”
There were some looks between them all before nodding commenced. Ben wasn’t sure what to make of the look on Jigs’ face as he stared at Deacon. He pushed his hands into his pockets. “Good luck tonight, Ben. I’ll see you later. Good to meet you both.”
Debra, who was still comfortably settled against his chest, waved at Jigs. “Bye! Thanks for bringing us down here.”
“Sure thing.” He ambled off down the hall, not looking back.
Didn’t stop Ben from watching him go until a small throat-clearing reminded him he wasn’t alone.
“Yes?” He looked down at Debra.
She batted her eyelashes. “Nothing. What do you need us to do for you? How can we help?”
“Nothing to do. I’m the fifth out tonight. I’ll get Ransom saddled and wait. Where are your seats?”
“Where Lorna would have sat. Right in the front, you know so everyone can hear me cheering.”
Deacon snagged his sister’s arm and tugged. “We’ll see you after. Knock ’em dead.” Pulling Debra with him, Deacon left Ben alone with Ransom.
Somehow he knew that little spitfire was up to something. But it was brilliant to see them both. Focusing on his upcoming ride, he got Ransom ready. Feeling the emotion in the air and the excitement, his horse had already worked up a lather by the time he was loaded in the chute.
Leaning forward, Ben smacked him on the neck. “No broken barriers tonight, Ransom. Let’s show these people why I’m referred to as The Dusty Demon.”
Ransom’s response was to shift as he gathered himself for his explosive exit. In his peripheral vision on the right, Ben saw the hazer over the barrier. It was one he knew. The man gave him a nod and Ben’s world narrowed onto himself, his horse and the cow he was about to wrestle to the ground.
About the Author
Hayden West lives in the Pacific Northwest, enjoys being outdoors, and hanging out with friends when not working on the next novella to be released.
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