Cowboy and the Crow

Ride Me CowboyRide Me Cowboy – Erotic Tales of the West (An anthology of gay erotica)
Publisher: STARBooks Press
ISBN-10: 1934187380
ISBN-13: 978-1934187388
Genre: LGBT (M/M);
Release Date: November 30, 2008

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Cowboy and ranch hand Patrick has been mourning the mysterious disappearance of his lover, Johnny Crowfeather. Every night he looks to the horizon, aching for Crowfeather to return. Which he does, one chilly night, reappearing just as mysteriously to warm Patrick’s bedroll and tell him the wondrous, unbelievable reason he vanished…

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Unedited. May differ slightly from final version.

Johnny Crowfeather, where the hell are you? The question echoed in Patrick’s mind for the millionth time since Johnny’s disappearance. Resting his brush against Snoopy’s side, he scanned the darkening landscape, as if somehow Johnny would walk out of the shadows, smiling at him.

Damnit. As usual, no Johnny. No one but him, Snoopy, and that crow on one of the fence posts Patrick had come out to the edge of the Double L to repair.

The bird had seemed to make a game of tagging along his fence-repair route, the one Johnny and he used to do together, that is, until a month ago. The bird now stared at him as dusk swallowed the last of the sunlight, its ebony head cocked to one side.

Patrick chuckled. “Yes, you’re pretty.” Not that he understood crow talk, but the bird seemed to like it.

The crow opened its beak and let out a shrill caw.

“All right,” Patrick said, “as soon as I rustle up my own supper, you can have some.” The bird cawed again and lifted its wings before settling down to watch Patrick brush Snoopy.

Patrick felt the bird’s gaze on him and each time he glanced at the ebony bird, it’s rounded eyes seemed to rest on him. A shiver ran down Patrick’s spine. “No,” he said out loud. For a second there, he’d allowed himself to entertain the whole skin-walker idea. If he started listening to Johnny’s grandfather, he was going to start believing that Johnny had become a skin-walker. The last time he’d spoken to Nathan Crowfeather, the elderly man had shaken his head. “I kept telling my grandson he must not stare so long at you each time. It is not bad that he loves you, Patrick, but he has made his soul vulnerable.” Apparently, in Navajo culture, staring at someone for a long time was a cultural taboo and sometimes when a person broke such taboos, they ran the risk of becoming a part-human, part-animal shapeshifter, or something like that.

He shook himself and turned his attention to running the brush along Snoopy’s chestnut side, especially over the damp portions left by the heat of saddle pad and saddle. The quarter horse lowered his head and snuffled at the grasses below his hooves. Patrick gave his horse an affectionate pat on his withers. “Time for my feeding and watering now, buddy” he murmured.

He sighed, glancing up at the full moon before getting his campfire going. Chilly October nights like this had been his and Johnny’s favorite, lying in their bedroll by the campfire after a day of mending fences, naked bodies entwined. Nothing felt better in the whole damn world than Johnny’s sleekly muscled body against his, his fingers wrapped in Johnny’s long smooth hair the inky black of a crow’s wing…

Johnny’s face haunted him the whole time he set up camp, heated his supper over the fire and sat down. Audrey, the ranch-owner’s wife had given him a healthy package of homemade cornbread. As soon as he unwrapped it, he heard the now-familiar caw and the crow landed on the grass next to him.

Patrick laughed. “Like cornbread, do ya? Like someone else I know.” He crumbled a chunk of cornbread and dropped it on the ground, watching the crow devour every crumb. And tried to ignore the dance of firelight off the bird’s wings because it also reminded him of someone else. Damn. He’d always had it bad for Crowfeather. And had since they were thirteen and in the same history class. Amazing he’d passed history seeing as he’d spent so much time staring at the ebony braid hanging down Johnny’s back. And amazing Johnny had gone for him too. There they’d been, two “two-spirited” souls as Johnny said his people called guys like them, enduring every kind of pressure to be together.

Then, a month ago, Johnny had disappeared. One minute, he’d been on his way back from teaching his social consciousness class at the community college on the Reservation, the next, the police had found Johnny’s pickup at the side of the road and no Johnny. Anywhere.

The ache stayed with Patrick while he shared his meal with the crow, washed his canteen and stripped down to his undershirt and boxer briefs. Though the fire was warm, his bedroll wasn’t quite as cozy with only his body heat to warm it up. But so be it. If Johnny had gone away somewhere, he knew in his very bones there was a damn good reason, and he was just going to wait for the guy to return.

On his back, Patrick stared up at the stars and studied the face on the full moon. All he could hear was Snoopy’s gentle snorts as he picked at the grass and the crackle of the fire. The crow had flown back to a fencepost after getting as much of Patrick’s food as he could and now sat quietly, preening its feathers.

Finally, Patrick closed his eyes. The sooner to sleep, the sooner he’d get a few hours’ relief from this ache…

Something woke him. Snoopy was whinnying and snorting. Patrick could hear the thud of the quarter’s hooves in the grass. The creature was sure agitated.