How long do you need before you know?
Duncan McLeish owns a ranch. Unlike most ranches, this one is in the Scottish Highlands. Having inherited a failing farm from his grandfather, he turns it into a successful business. He has friends and he loves his home, but he’s lonely, and not even infrequent trips to Glasgow and Edinburgh slake that thirst to find someone. Then Drew Sinclair walks into his life.
Drew Sinclair is tantalizingly close to getting his clothing brand noticed in the industry. He and his business partner, Joy, create individual dresses, while, on the side, Drew produces a line of men’s lingerie. He visits Scotland to design a bridal gown for his sister, Jenna, who is marrying Duncan’s best friend at Christmas.
Duncan and Drew have nothing except their Highland upbringing in common, but they say opposites attract, and the attraction is immediate. Is this simply a summer fling, or can two men who live such opposite lives miles away from each other find a way to love?
Publisher: Pride Publishing
Heat Level: 4
Romantic Content: 5
Ending: Click here to reveal
Character Identities: Bisexual, Gay
Protagonist 1 Age: 36-45
Protagonist 2 Age: 26-35
Tropes: Age Difference, Coming Out / Closeted, Coming Out Later in Life, Opposites Attract
Word Count: 68000
Setting: Scotland and London, United Kingdom
Languages Available: English
Late July—The Highlands of ScotlandREAD MORE
“You promised you’d tone it down.”
“What?” Drew exclaimed. “This is toned down.” He examined his skinny jeans and long T-shirt. All right, letting it hang off one shoulder might be considered provocative.
“I wouldn’t normally ask…”
“Yeah, yeah, I get the picture. At least I’m not wearing jeggings and this top is plain white—not a rainbow or motto in sight. I’m even wearing riding boots.”
“The shiniest ones I’ve ever seen. They’re brand new, aren’t they? You do realize you’re going to a real ranch with cows and horses. You might get a little dirty.”
Drew fixed his sister with a Paddington stare that men throughout London had retreated from. It had no effect whatsoever. “May I remind you, I was brought up in the same place as you? Just because I live in Civilization rather than this godforsaken part of the universe doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten what an animal looks and smells like, or what they produce in seemingly endless quantities. I simply choose not to spend time with my hand up their arses.”
Jenna’s mouth twitched. “No, little brother, I’m sure you’re used to dealing with arses a lot smaller.”
Drew grinned and nudged her. Finally, Jenna gave in and a hint of a smile reached her mouth. He stretched out his arms, turning them at the wrist. “Not usually with my whole hand. Though, with these slim long fingers, I’ve been asked.”
She laughed out loud this time. “Well, that conversation deteriorated quickly. I’m sorry. You know I don’t usually care.”
“I do, and that’s why I’m not taking offense.”
The car bumped along the dusty track. “Won’t be long now we’re off the main road. Remember, best behavior, please. For me. Duncan’s doing us both a favor.”
Drew checked himself in the mirror. Should he lose the glasses? He’d never got on with contact lenses and these provided him with a certain urban chic. “You make him sound like an ancient homophobic prick. I know he’s Craig’s best friend, but why on earth did you choose here for me to stay?”
“It’s convenient. And Duncan’s just old-fashioned. He isn’t homophobic. As a matter of fact…”
Drew sat up in his seat. “What?” She turned away too quickly and Drew’s senses tingled.
“Nothing—just he isn’t homophobic. I like him. Anyway, here we are.”
Drew reached to the back seat, pulled on a blue jacket then checked the view as they drove under the sign for McLeish’s Highland Experience into a huge gravel-strewn courtyard. To the right stood a large stone house, behind which several log cabins lay dotted along the riverside. To the left were several outbuildings, stables, paddocks and a view down the glen so glorious it took his breath away. Whenever he returned to this part of the world, Drew was reminded of its simple beauty, with its glens, mountains and lochs. Jenna parked the Land Rover in a space at the front of the house.
“Now, for the last time, please be nice. Duncan’s an old-school gentleman, always polite, using sir and ma’am. The visitors love it, but he doesn’t put it on just for them. It’s who he is. I don’t think I’ve ever heard him say anything rude about anyone, even when he’s sorely tried. He doesn’t cuss or swear, either.”
Drew couldn’t wait to meet this paragon of virtue. He didn’t believe people like that really existed outside American films from the fifties.
The door to the house flew open and an Adonis strode out, accompanied by a large dog that walked obediently to heel. Whoever Drew had expected, it wasn’t someone who’d seemingly stepped out of…The Magnificent Seven…he thought, searching his memory for a Western film reference.
Duncan stood tall, dark and impossibly handsome—Jenna hadn’t warned him about that—dressed in a gray and white plaid shirt tucked into jeans held up by a belt with a buckle which looked suspiciously like a Highland Cow. The outfit was finished off with real cowboy boots and he carried a Stetson in his huge and calloused hand.
“Fuck me.” The words escaped Drew’s mouth before he could stop them. He’d always had a soft spot for cowboys and he had no doubt he could give this one the ride of his life.
“Drew, put your tongue in. You’re staring.”
He adjusted his jeans, wishing for the first time he’d worn something with more room, then wafted his hand in front of his face like some Southern lady sitting on a porch in New Orleans.
“But you didn’t warn me. From what you said, I thought this Duncan would be some old guy, not…him. Why haven’t I had an introduction before? I mean, come on, sis, look at him. He’s beefcake on legs, and those thighs. Oh, my, a girl could swoon and fall into his arms.”
“No. Absolutely no swooning. Don’t even think about it. He’s being kind letting you stay. Maybe you should have visited me more often, rather than insist you were too busy and make me come to London.”
Drew fixed his expression into what he hoped was something neutral. Man, I could have a million fantasies based on that body and face. He attempted not to scan the gorgeous frame again. He willed his cock to behave, glad his T-shirt had a diagonal hem that covered his groin. Jenna had already exited the car.
Drew checked his face in the mirror once again. He’d arrived au naturel, but he still looked good. His cheekbones didn’t need blusher and his blue eyes were striking enough not to need liner or shadow, unless he felt so inclined. He nudged his black-framed glasses up his nose, pushed a hand through his hair, sweeping it to one side, and climbed out of the other side of the Land Rover.
Jenna hugged his host and stepped back. “Thank you so much for giving Drew a room. It’s kind of you.”
Drew didn’t sashay and instead ambled toward Duncan, hand outstretched. “Yes, thank you for giving me somewhere to lay my head. It’s good to meet you.”
Duncan gazed, wide-eyed, up Drew’s body until he reached his face. Drew shivered as the hair on his arms rose in response to such scrutiny.
Finally, Duncan spoke. “It’s no problem as long as you don’t mind being here among the visitors and the animals, although there’s only us in the main house. The cabins have their own facilities.” Duncan took Drew’s hand in a firm grip and shook it for a fraction longer than Drew expected.
Drew’s libido ratcheted up another level at the sound of Duncan’s voice. He was sure his insides had turned to mush. He wanted to wrap his body around the man and climb him like a sturdy oak tree. He had a thing for voices, particularly deep manly ones. Ol’ Man River, sung by a great bass, could have him squirming in his seat. He needed to pull himself together. They’d be sleeping—just them—in a house—together—alone. Oh, hell.
Duncan smiled. “I’ll get your bags, sir.”
Drew fanned his face with his hand once again until he noticed his sister’s death stare. Maybe being here is going to be fun after all.
Jenna opened the boot. Drew had left his sample cases at her house, so only his own bag remained. Duncan picked it up as if it weighed nothing and placed it on the floor. Jenna mouthed something, but he wasn’t paying enough attention while Duncan rolled back his sleeves, picked up the case once more and strode off.
“This way,” he called.
Drew followed up the couple of steps and into the hallway, unable to tear his gaze from Duncan’s arse until the man turned at the foot of a large wooden staircase. His dog sat patiently next to him.
“Do you want to see your room first? There’s a bathroom next door with a decent shower or bath if you want to get cleaned up from your trip.” Duncan dropped the suitcase at the bottom of the stairs. “Or perhaps you’d like some tea. Carrie made a lemon drizzle cake when she brought the supplies earlier. That’s if you eat cake.”
“He eats cake.” Jenna leaned over and patted the dog. “He has hollow legs and the appetite of a horse. Don’t let his slim frame fool you. He’s one of those annoying people who can eat anything.”
Drew raised his eyebrows. Oh, yes, I can eat all sorts, and I have eclectic tastes. “Tea and cake would be lovely. And do I get an introduction?” he said, nodding at the retriever.
“This is Misha,” Duncan said, rubbing the top of the dog’s head. “Don’t worry, she’s well-trained.”
“So I see,” Drew said, kneeling in front of the dog whose tongue lolled as she panted in the heat.
“You are beautiful, aren’t you? Don’t you turn those brown eyes on me, though.” He leaned in and lifted a floppy ear. “I’m a sucker for brown eyes.” At Jenna’s cough, he rose. “Lemon drizzle cake, then?”
Duncan led them into a large kitchen. Nothing matched, but that only increased its charm. A large red Aga stood to one side. At the other end of the room, double doors stood open, covered by a screen. Misha settled onto a bed in the corner, ever alert for any instruction her master might give.
“The midges get in if you’re not careful,” Duncan explained. “Especially when it’s warm like now. The summer has been good so far. Lots of visitors.” Duncan placed the kettle on the stove top and pulled three mugs from the shelf.
“Is there any chance you could have a quick look at Megs while you’re here, Jen? She threw a shoe this morning and seems out of sorts. You know how placid she usually is.”
“Sure, I’ll give her the once-over for you. Is Carrie over at the cabins?”
“Yes. She and the girls are cleaning before the new lot arrive this afternoon, although we’ve a German family who’ve been here a week already.”
Tea made, Duncan placed the mugs on the table in front of them. “I guess this is different from what you have back in London.”
Drew thought of the steel units which filled his tiny kitchen, and the many gadgets he’d used only once. His flat was in a great location, but small. Business was good, so perhaps he should consider a move. Then again, he didn’t spend a lot of time there, anyway.
“It suits the house,” he said. “There’s no point in having something out of character for a place like this. And you look exactly right in here, too. That shirt is perfect. Have you considered growing a beard? They’re all the rage now.” Drew picked up his mug with its Highland Cow logo.
Duncan stroked his face, as if giving the idea serious consideration. “It would be easier. I need to shave so often. You don’t even have a shadow.”
Drew ran a finger down his own cheek. He’d noticed. “No. Family trait. We don’t have much hair, except for Jenna. She’s the one who has to shave every day.”
Duncan stared at the vet.
“He’s kidding,” she said. “His so-called sense of humor is an acquired taste.”
Drew sipped his tea. “Jenna told me you’ve transformed this place. Who’d have thought you could have round-ups and learn rodeo skills in Scotland. It’s very City Slickers.”
“That’s where I got the idea from. I saw a gap in the market, bought in some more cattle, built a few cabins and people came. Now we get visitors from all over the world. We have over a hundred head of cattle—a mixture of Aberdeen Angus, Belted Galloways and Highland Cows. Every foreign visitor wants to see the coos. We also have horses trained to take all levels of ability, even disabled visitors, so whole families can visit. There are sheep and goats, as well as the dogs and cats and a couple of donkeys we rescued. We’re thinking of getting more alpacas, or maybe some llamas.”
“You have alpacas?”
“Yep, and wild deer roam the hills. It’s a bit of a menagerie. The other dogs help with the round-ups and are out with Lachlan and Lenny. Oscar and Grouch will be mooching around somewhere chasing mice, or more likely asleep in the sun. Luckily, we have Jenna to look after them all now Jock has semi-retired and just deals with the pets.”
Drew licked the cake crumbs from his lips. “And Jenna told me you didn’t talk much.”
A blush of red swept up Duncan’s face. “She’s right. I don’t.”
“I’ll consider myself honored then. I hope you’ll show me around.”
“Jock’s decided he’s going to fully retire.” Jenna interrupted their mutual gaze and both turned to look at her.
“We need to advertise for a new vet, or I’m never going to get a honeymoon. Talking of which, I’d better get going and check Megs over. You’re still okay for dinner later, aren’t you, Duncan?”
“Sure, I’ll be there. I believe they’ve live music tonight. I’ll take you up to your room, Drew, then leave you to it. I’m taking the Mullers out for a short trek this afternoon. You could join in if you want.”
Drew glanced at Jenna. “It’s been a while since I rode a horse. Maybe another time, though. I’ll be at Jenna’s tomorrow with my assistant, Joy. You’ll meet her tonight. Wedding and bridesmaid dresses don’t design and make themselves.”
“No, I suppose not.” Duncan stood up and collected the mugs.
Jenna handed over her plate on her way out. “I’ll get off to the stables and check on Megs. I’ll let one of the lads know if there’s anything to worry about, and leave you to it. Say hi to Carrie for me.”
“I’ll see you later, Jen. It’s been a while since I had a night out.” Duncan waited as Jenna left the room via the French doors.
“You’d better follow me then.”
Drew once more enjoyed the view as Duncan led him upstairs and along the landing. He opened a door to reveal a bright room with pale blue walls and polished wood flooring. In the center stood an old-fashioned metal-frame bed, covered with blue cotton bedding. Duncan placed Drew’s case next to a chest of drawers.
“There’s a wardrobe for anything you need to hang up,” Duncan said, opening the door, “and you’ve a great view down the glen. My room is opposite and the bathroom is next door. We’ll be sharing, if that’s all right. Carrie sometimes stays in the annex at the back of the house if the weather is bad, but she lives in the village the rest of the time with her husband, our local policeman.”
Drew bounced on the bed, which creaked under him. “It must get lonely here all by yourself.”
A patch of red expanded across Duncan’s throat once more and spread up his neck. “I’m used to it, and I’m not completely alone. Lachlan and Lenny have rooms over the stables and there are the guests.”
“Lachlan and Lenny work here?”
“They’re Carrie’s sons. They take care of the horses and help with the visitors all year round. We have other people to help during high season—often students from agricultural colleges looking for experience. So, I’m seldom by myself and I like quiet. I couldn’t live in a big city like you do with all those people and the noise and dirt. Here I can ride out and breath clean air.”
“Bit difficult to order pizza, though,” Drew said.
“I make them myself. I have an oven outside next to the barbecue. Carrie does some cooking when I’m busy, but I mostly manage on my own. Lachie and Lenny sometimes drag me into the village to eat. There’s a great inn where we’re having dinner tonight. It serves good food and they have music sometimes as well as karaoke and quizzes.” Duncan smiled and Drew’s cock stirred, or at least tried to, given its lack of room to grow.
“Everyone has to join in.”
“Is that so?” Drew said, grinning. “Maybe I’ll give you my special rendition of I Am What I Am. What’s your specialty? I’m guessing Rhinestone Cowboy. Do you have chaps and everything? I bet you look good in them.” Well, Jenna wasn’t there to tell him off.
Duncan shifted from foot to foot and dug his hands into his pockets. “I’ll leave you to it. There’s hot water if you want a bath. I’d better get over and see if Jenna’s had a look at the mare I mentioned. Lots to do.” Duncan turned and hurried out of the room.
Damn, I’ve scared him now. Drew couldn’t imagine why there weren’t women fighting over this man. But then maybe Duncan was a bachelor through lack of opportunity. It had to be difficult to find single women who were prepared to live out here. Being single at forty didn’t imply anything, but Drew certainly liked what he’d seen.
It had been a while since he’d split up with his last boyfriend, and he wasn’t getting any younger, either. He could have fun shocking the locals, if nothing else. He stood and picked up his case, pulled the zipper and began to unpack. He grinned at the leather kilt he’d designed himself, which he’d team with a black shirt. He did love to make an entrance.