Rancher Wade is struggling to hold his life together after his wife’s death leaves him with two small children as well as a ranch to run. In desperation, he puts a letter in a pulp magazine, announcing that he’s seeking a housekeeper and nanny to help him manage his home. The last thing he expects, however, is the young man who steps off the train in response to the ad.
Darnell is at the end of his rope. The war is over and jobs are hard to find, especially to one who has few skills other than cooking and keeping house, learned while he helped his abandoned mother keep their family intact. The letter he finds in a discarded magazine seems a godsend, so he jumps at the opportunity. It doesn’t take long to fall in love with young Ben and Winnie, but he also develops a huge crush on the rugged and manly Wade, who seems to be everything Darnell is not. Dare he dream that Wade might find him attractive, too?
In the 1940s, the vernacular used toward people such as Darnell are crude and insulting. Prejudice abounds, and he feels its keen cuts. Can he make himself a place in the lives of the family he has adopted, or will hate and suspicion send him fleeing?
Genres: Gay/Nostalgic Contemporary (1940s-Era)/Cowboys/Western
Heat Level: 2
Length: Novella (18k words)
Heat Level: 2
Length: Novella (18k words)
Read a short excerpt...
...The young man seemed perpetually calm and even-tempered. Wade had never heard him raise his voice to the kids, but they both treated him with respect and even some affection. As he watched, Winnie wiped up the last bit of egg with her biscuit and scrambled from her chair to help clear the dishes from the table. She handed them to Darnell while he stacked them in the sink, preparing to wash them. She said something about her new dress Wade could not quite make out, then smiled widely as she did a little pirouette.
A pang shot through him, something he could not quite label jealousy or even envy although he knew it was close. He was big and gruff and had no understanding of a small girl’s needs and wishes, like the importance of a pretty dress and having her hair neatly combed and braided every morning. Somehow, male or not, Darnell did. Wade figured he was a decent dad, but as a mom, he had none of the necessary attributes, none at all.
He got up to head back out to go on with his day’s work. Something made him pause. “Thank you, Darnell. You’re doing a great job as a housekeeper and I appreciate it.”
A wave of color washed over the other man’s face, and he looked down at the sink, now full of hot water and suds. “I do the best I can. Disappointing you is the last thing I want to do. Most of my effort is for the children, too. I know they miss their mother, especially Winnie.” He glanced down at the little girl, his expression almost tender. “I can’t take that place, but I can do some of the same things for them.”
“You do dang good,” Wade replied, perhaps in a gruffer tone than he intended. For an instant, he had the awkward and inappropriate urge to bend down and kiss Darnell good-bye as he’d always done to Winifred when he left the house to get on with his day. He gave himself a hard mental shake and then headed for the door, driven by the spur of urgency to escape that mad idea.
Heading out to the inner pasture, Wade caught his favorite cowpony, a rangy bay gelding he called Stormy. The horse had been wild as a colt and earned the name, but he’d settled down to be one of Wade’s most reliable mounts. The name no longer fit, but he wouldn’t change it. He cinched on his saddle, swung up, and headed out. There had been some rains finally, and he hoped the grass in the upper area of the ranch reflected some growth due to the moisture. If not, he’d have to look into supplemental feeding soon. That would take a bad bite out of his profit when he sold the yearlings come fall.
Despite his efforts to put the kiss that hadn’t happened out of his mind, it clung there like a hungry tick on his old dog, Blue. And when he managed to shove aside imagining what Darnell’s gentle-looking mouth would feel like under his, other things about his unorthodox housekeeper and nanny edged in. Like how neat he always was, how pretty his dark hair looked with the sun catching its surprising reddish highlights, and how fetching his rear end looked now that he was wearing proper Levi’s instead of those pleated slacks. Wade had caught him bent over at the door of the chicken coop reaching for an egg the other day and gone hard as a branding iron at the sight.
Damn it all. This was getting way out of hand. He should send Darnell back where he came from, but he knew that would break Winnie’s heart and probably upset Ben almost as badly. The kids both adored Darnell. Maybe he should go visit Lavina again—although that was about as appealing as chasing the old half-Jersey cow he kept in the horse pasture to supply milk for the kids. Flossy was a good cow, but he sure wasn’t into that!
Which led him right back to Darnell again. Well fuck! He didn’t use that word a lot and never in front of women or children, but it seemed to express his frustration. Maybe he could take the other man out on a ride someday soon and stop in a hidden meadow up on the side of the mountain. Then he’d get this crazy itch taken care of for once and for all...