Harvard graduate Alfred Chan jumps at the chance to teach languages at the new University of California, eager to leave his life behind even if it means a dangerous cross-country journey. He knows there are bandits in the western mountains, but he never expects the most infamous of those bandits to stop his wagon train and steal him away into the night.
Sam and Shane Lyons are wanted for robbing stagecoaches and wagon trains across the western territories, and they don’t just take money. Sometimes, they kidnap educated men. A mysterious Chinese scroll holds the promise of a better life for the two brothers, if only they can find somebody able to read the strange marks on the page. They whisk Alfred to their hideout high in the ragged cliffs of the Uinta Mountains, and there, during a brutal winter, they warn him that his life will end if he fails to deliver a full translation.
Alfred knows he should fear for his life, but somehow, when he’s with Sam, he’s not afraid of anything...
Genres: Gay/Historical/The Old West
Heat Level: 2
Length: Extended Novella (31k words)
Read a short excerpt...
...“The kid doesn’t even know where he is,” Sam said. “Even if he left here and went directly to the nearest sheriff, he’s not going to be able to lead anybody back here.”
“You don’t know that,” Shane insisted. “He’s smart, right? What if he’s got a map in his head and knows exactly where he’s at?”
“You are being paranoid.”
“My paranoia has kept you alive through the years,” Shane countered. “And don’t you forget it.”
“What did you tell him?” Sam asked Mike.
“It’s a treasure map.” Mike looked over his shoulder. “They were talking about a big winter in Rhodes Valley. How are the supplies?”
“Good. We’re not going to be reduced to eating each other.”
Alfred pet Darwin on the nose, rubbing the fuzzy fur between his eyes before turning back to the house. Sam took a deep breath as he watched the younger man approach. He liked the looks of Alfred—and it was only a matter of time before Shane or Mike caught on—and he’d considered bunking down with him more than once. Especially as the nights got colder and longer. And it’d only get worse before it got better.
Sam had never had a woman in his life—besides the few years he had a mother. A whore named Priscilla who took him in after Sam’s mother—a whore herself—disappeared. Nobody knew if she run off or if she had an accident or got killed. Priscilla was also raising Shane, who’d been ten at the time, already a strapping boy and growing rapidly. But boys had their uses, too, in a whore house, and as long as they earned their keep, Priscilla kept them fed and warm and clothed.
By the time Shane was sixteen and Sam was ten, they were on their own. Cheyenne was a busy town, and everybody had a job to do. Shane was old enough to beat the cowboys and soldiers at cards, hustling them with a friendly grin, and Sam lurked in the alleys and stables, mostly looking for honest work. Shane didn’t care how Sam got the money as long as he brought something home, and Sam could usually find work in the stables. But if not, he’d wait for the cowboys who fell out of one saloon, only to stumble into another, and lift what was left of their wages before they could drink it all away.
One night, Shane cheated the wrong man. He’d only survived the encounter because John Hardin’s gun had misfired. Shane had taken advantage of the split second of surprise, punched Hardin with enough force to knock him out, and fled with Sam. After that, they didn’t have much use for towns. And when Sam got old enough for whorehouses, he had no interest. He never met a woman who wasn’t a whore, and doubted he ever would. When Mike fell in with them and took up with Shane, Sam hadn’t been surprised, hadn’t even been annoyed by the interloper in their lives. Mike was a good guy—the only friend either of them had ever had—and they lived a hard, lonely life. Shane deserved to have what happiness he could find.
Shane caught him staring at Alfred and snickered. “Just take him if you want him. Me and Mike can go for a walk, if it’s privacy you want.”
Sam knew that was an option, of course. But not every encounter in a whorehouse came about because of mutual agreement. Sometimes a cowboy showed up with no money but still wanted a poke. Normally, Priscilla could turn the cowboy out, but sometimes they would overpower her, and take what they couldn’t pay for. Priscilla had been a bright woman with a loud laugh, but she’d stop laughing for days, sometimes even weeks, after such encounters.
“It’s none of your concern, Shane,” Sam said harshly. More harshly than he ever spoke to his brother. Shane and Mike exchanged a look before Shane said, “That’s fine, Sammy.”
Alfred looked so small against the snow. After their time together, he knew a little of Alfred’s life. He knew Alfred had been born and raised in Boston, a city much larger than the frontier outpost of Cheyenne. He didn’t have a wife or a fiancée. In fact, it seemed that he had as much experience with women as Sam did, though Alfred’s isolation was entirely self-imposed. He preferred studying languages to socializing, and he’d admitted his mother had been worried because he wasn’t even considering marriage. He also knew Alfred had pretty eyes and nice teeth and the best part of their ride up to the ridge had been the way Alfred wrapped himself around Sam’s back...