Title: Tamarillo Tart
Series: Southern Lights, Book 2
Author: Jay Hogan
Genre: MM Romance
Amazon Universal: https://readerlinks.com/l/1163675
CASSIDY MARTIN is a country boy through and through. He loves his horses, his Lord of
the Rings tourist business, and his isolated paradise at the foot of New Zealand’s Southern
Alps. Not that everyone appreciates the seclusion he craves. Take his ex-wife for example.
The sexy-as-hell guy on his latest tour might be whip-smart and push all of Cass’s buttons,
but he’s about as country as a pair of Louboutins, and Cass has been there and done that.
Broken heart with the T-shirt.
STEFAN HAMILTON doesn’t do ‘outdoorsy’, he’s a city boy, born and bred. The closest
Stef gets to the country is ‘Cowboy Night’ at his favourite Auckland gay bar even if the music
makes Stef want to rip his hair out by the roots.
But Stef is also a hardcore Lord of the Rings fanboy. So, when he gets the chance to go on a
horse trek to the iconic film locations in the Southern Alps, he sucks up his fear of the
gigantic animals and his allergy to camping for the chance to let his nerd flag fly. But when
his mate pulls out at the last minute, Stef is left to negotiate the horses, the wrath of mother
nature, and an inconvenient crush on the cowboy leading the tour.
City meets country and the sparks fly.
The van had finally finished its circuit of the car park and scored a potential win opposite Stef where a red Mazda was pulling out. The driver whipped in to steal it before anyone could beat him to it. Switching the engine off, he turned and gave Stef another yet another friendly wave.
Ugh. That much chirpiness wasn’t natural and Stefan distrusted the guy on principle. He was still suffering whiplash coming to terms with the fact that people in this small town actually said hello and smiled when they passed you on the street. It was enough to give a born and bred Auckland boy palpitations.
“Okay, okay, I’ll do it.” For Tanner and Ethan’s sake Stef would give this guy Cass the benefit of the doubt, but he wasn’t promising anything. And from ten meters away he couldn’t see much more than sunglasses and a wide brimmed cowboy hat. Stef didn’t swim in the rugged outdoorsy type pool, so it didn’t bode well. “Well, fuck me.”
“Ugh. No thanks.”
Stefan winced. “Yeah well, ditto. But the guy in the van’s dressed like a damn cowboy… in New Zealand, for fuck’s sake. Are you sure he’s not a complete tosser? And by the way, don’t ever mention my name and the word nerd in the same sentence again, you toad. I might be a fan of the books, but I am no fan of horses and you damn well know it. Colossal, unpredictable creatures with a mouth full of nasty-arse teeth. The closest thing to a horse that interests me in Lord of the Rings, is Aragorn’s leather breeches and the removal of same. Why on earth did you agree to this insanity?”
He only caught the beginning of Tanner’s answer because right then the van driver’s door opened and a pair of long… damn… very long, lean, shapely legs made an appearance followed by a tight well-rounded arse in a pair of soft as butter faded denims with a snug black T-shirt over top, and… fuck me sideways… cowboy boots. The guy pulled off his hat and banged it on his thigh, sending a cloud of dust skyward, as he ran his fingers through a mass of strawberry blond hair that hung in unruly waves past his ears. So, okay then, not a tosser, and maybe Stef could be persuaded to revisit the whole cowboy thing with a more open mind.
The guy reached to get something from inside the van and those denims stretched and the T-shirt rode up to expose a band of smooth tanned skin… and Stef was sold. The tour was starting to look up, although with Stef’s luck, this guy was likely just the driver and the tour guide would turn out to be some sixty-year-old dude with a comb-over and bandy legs.
“Stef, dammit, are you even listening to me?”
“Of course I am,” Stef lied, watching the driver re-emerge with a clipboard in his hand.
“He’s right there isn’t he?” Tanner chuckled. “And you’re drooling yourself into a frickin’ puddle. Ethan told me he was hot.”
“Mmm hmm, maybe. Still not happy with you.” But if this was in fact the supposedly, legendary Cass, then damn, he had to be six foot six at the minimum, and Stef was in fact feeling distinctly happier. A bit of eye candy to even out the inevitable horror of the next two days was more than welcome.
Turn around, turn around, and… ah, there he was. Swimmer’s shoulders, trim waist, all that wild hair falling around a sharpish jaw, and a pair of Aviator’s perched on a slightly crooked nose that looked like it may have seen at least one fist up close and personal in its thirty something years. So yeah, cowboys were apparently, trending. Stef swallowed hard and tried not to look like a complete gaping dork, while trying to pick up the thread of Tanner’s carping in his ear.
“… and I agreed to this insanity as you call it, because Ethan went out of his way to get us on this damn tour, you ungrateful sod. He was so damn excited. If you think I was gonna stamp all over that then you’re batshit. I love the guy. More importantly, I live with him. And I don’t care if you fall off the horse every ten minutes, and you come back with its teeth imprinted on your back, you will not say anything bad about it to him, understand?”
Shit. He was possibly being an arsehole. “Of course I bloody won’t. What do you take me for?”
Stef watched as Mr Hot and Handsome made his way to the back of the van, leaned casually against the rear door, and eyed him with one brow raised and a glance at his watch. Stefan held up a finger and the man locked onto the bright green nail at its end and bit back a smile.
Look Stef, Ethan promised the horses are nice—they’re not going to bite you. Cass will set you up on the beginner’s one. It’s only a few hours in the saddle the first day—”
“Oh. My. God. A saddle. I can already feel the chafing.”
“—then an overnight at some historic shepherd’s hut and back down the next day. And just think, you get to see the Lothlorien forest, the Ithilien camp site, Isengard, the Misty Mountains, the filming location for the refugees of Rohan, and loads more. Come on, you must be gagging for that.”
Stef’s raked his eyes over the mouth-watering man standing opposite. He was certainly gagging for something. “Maybe. Not that I’ll be able to enjoy any of it because I’ll have left half the skin of my arse on the fucking saddle.”
The sexy cowboy shook his head in amusement.
“You sure this Cass can be trusted?” Stef eyeballed the man in question, well aware he could hear everything Stef said.
Cass smirked and it looked good, too bloody good. “Standing right here,” he pointed out.
“Oh. My. God. Was that him?” Tanner asked in disbelief. “Please tell me you’re not having this conversation where he can hear you.”
“Every damn word and you still haven’t answered me. I want him to know you’ll sue his fine arse to hell and back if he tries to put me on anything that even remotely looks at me sideways.”
That earned him a rumbling belly laugh from Cass who then spun on his heel, and waved Stef to the passenger seat. “Get in princess, or we’ll be late. I won’t let any harm come to you from the nasty-wasty horses. Nice to know you like my arse, by the way.”
Cass made his way to the driver’s door and got in, leaving Stef’s jaw on the floor…again. What the hell?
Tanner choked back a laugh.
Stef narrowed his eyes and lowered his voice to Tanner. “Is this dude gay? Did you guys fucking set me up? If you think for one minute—”
“We’re not setting you up. And I have no idea if he’s gay or not. What the hell does it matter anyway? Hang on—”
Stefan could hear Ethan chattering in the background before Tanner came back on.
“Ethan says Cass isn’t gay. He was apparently married for a while, to a woman—”
Stef scowled and “Pffft. Like that means anything.”
“Just go on the damn tour for fuck’s sake, will you? Make my boyfriend happy. Make me happy. Have some fucking fun, if it fucking kills you. Fill your fan boy bucket with all things LOTR and then come home. I promise you won’t have to see another damn horse for the rest of your stay.”
“Says the man who promised me he hadn’t set me up and then handed my name to that hypnotist two years ago, in full violation of our specified no-humiliation bro code. I still can’t look at a donut without popping a boner. Completely ruined one of my all-time favourite foods.”
Tanner chuckled. “To be fair I didn’t know that Stephen had given the guy a heads-up about your birthday, when he suggested it. But you gotta admit it was fucking hilarious.”
“It was fucking mortifying.”
The van backed out putting the driver’s window right alongside Stef. Cass rolled the window down wearing his aviators and a shit-eating grin. He proffered his hand through the window. “I’m Cass, by the way. Get in.”
“Stefan or Stef, take your pick.” Stef’s hand was briefly enveloped in the other man’s warm, dry… huge clasp and he couldn’t help but stare down. “Big hands big…”
“Gloves,” Cass answered and released Stef’s hand.
Stef grinned at him. At least the man had a sense of humour.
“So—” Cass studied him with a gentler eye. “—are you gonna trust me and get in, or am I gonna have to break it to Arwen that you stood her up?”
“Are you kidding me?”
Cass arched a brow. “It’s theme, what can I say?”
Stef cranked his own brows even lower, into his patented this-guy’s-a-fucking-lunatic territory. “You know I should pull out on the basis of that horrifying tourist-trap decision alone, and yet somehow I’m oddly charmed and terrified in equal measure.”
He relayed the information down the phone. “I’m riding a horse called, Arwen, Tanner. Did you fucking hear that? That must qualify as cruelty under the SPCA rules, right?”
Cass bit back a smile. “Is there a problem with the name?”
Stef locked onto those sea green eyes and couldn’t hold back a grin. God, the man was gorgeous. “Nope. But she’ll be the first and only woman I’ll ever ride—” He cocked his head cheekily. “— just saying.”
I am a New Zealand author writing in m/m romance, and romantic suspense. I have traveled extensively and lived in the US, Canada, France, Australia and South Korea. In a past life I have been an Intensive Care Nurse, Counselor, and a Nursing Lecturer.
I’m a cat aficionado especially of Maine Coons, and an avid dog lover (but don’t tell the cat). I love to cook, pretty damn good, love to sing, pretty damn average, and as for loving full-time writing, absolutely… depending of course on the day, the word count, the deadline, how obliging my characters are, the ambient temperature in the Western Sahara, whether Jupiter is rising, the size of the ozone hole over New Zealand and how much coffee I’ve had.
Welcome to my world.
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