Ben De Santis
I manage a small Western art gallery, where I’ve flirted on and off for years with Devin, an Arizona ranch owner, and a scruffy sexy artist. I know he likes what he sees but is too shy and never says much to me. Not one soul here knows I’m a witch, but today things suddenly sparked into life, and now Grandpa is calling, and I have no clue what he wants.
I sell my Cowboy art at a small gallery in Carefree, that has a crazy handsome manager, and he is it for me. He’s always been friendly but seems quiet so I’ve left him alone. Now however, I need to make my move, since I’m going to start my own art gallery and want him to come along. When I finally approached him and shook his hand, I had the shock of my life, and soon his phone was ringing.
Nero De Santis
My grandson Bennie a good boy, respectful, and dense about his fated soulmate, but so is Devin. I felt them connect but they still had no clue what was going on, and I soon filled them in. I scanned Devin naturally, and something is way off with that cowboy. His deadbeat witch parents are a joke, so his immense power makes no sense. I need to consult Agnes as something is very wrong over there.
As a witch dealing with the Magnus coven, I received a concerning call from Nero, about his grandson’s fated soulmate Devin. I checked him out as a favor, and while quite powerful, he is unaware he is under a spell, and has no apparent pedigree to back up his dangerous power. I need Vito and Craig to help me sort this out, and do some sniffing around, sorry Craig, no pun intended.
Heat Level: 4
Romantic Content: 5
Ending: Click here to reveal
Character Identities: Gay
Protagonist 1 Age: 26-35
Protagonist 2 Age: 26-35
Tropes: Adopted Child, Amnesia, Death of Parent, Friends to Lovers, Lost Heir
Word Count: 55275
Setting: Arizona Ranch
Languages Available: English
Series Type: Continuous / Same Characters
Spoiler Alert: While this is a new series, it is intertwined with the Desert Vampire series and contains spoilers for that series.
Ever since I was a little boy and growing up Gay in the San Marcos California hills, I’ve been fascinated with hunky cowboys and tales the old west, the wilder the better. Okay, so yes, I’m busted on that one, I Ben (Benito) De Santis, have thought cowboys are sexy as hell and hot, using their ropes, chaps, or no chaps at all.
One summer my fantastic and understanding Dad Nino, took me to a rodeo out in Temecula. I was hooked from the start seeing real rugged cowboys in hot action, with glistening sweaty muscles all around.
Being totally honest here, I enjoyed it even more since we were sitting where they dismounted and headed for the showers, with a lot of guys pulling off their shirts before they got inside the door.
Pure heaven.READ MORE
This excursion was a personal fantasy land for me, while in my mid-teens, and something that hung with me for my serious jerking material. I especially drove my fantasies remembering how one hot cowboy peeled off his wet tee shirt from his muscular hairy body, wiped away some of his sweat, then smiled knowingly when he saw me watching him.
Without warning he tossed his used shirt to me while Dad was away getting us some sodas.
I could tell from his sly grin that he knew he had more than a casual fan, and I still have that old stained shirt as a souvenir of that hot fantasy come true.
In later years I ended up at NAU, or Northern Arizona University, and even though I was in cowboy territory, I however, never seemed to find that elusive something that I was looking for. On a few infrequent trips to Phoenix to party, cowboys in super expensive SUVs and pressed designer shirts never seemed to do the trick for me, looking and acting like contrived male models.
My only parent, my dad, followed my mom in death about a year before my graduation, and since I was already in Arizona, I decided to finish up my degree and make it my home. My Dad’s brother Dan helped me to get the estate things settled rapidly, and being an attorney, helped me to sell the large family house as well.
My late father had been a successful computer software sales director for an in-demand accounting software company. He apparently had done quite well for himself and had left me enough along with the house proceeds, to live comfortably if not extravagantly for the rest of my life, giving me the opportunity to pursue my dreams, with my Uncle Dan, Aunt Lucinda, and Grandpa Nero watching over me, and always there for me.
Following my graduation, I’d accepted a position if you could call it that at an art gallery in Carefree Arizona. My uncle had mentioned it to me, surprising me that he knew anything about Arizona, but then again, he had connections all over the world. For the next five years, I’d been a glorified clerk during the day, while in the evening and weekends, a rising supernatural Gay romance writer slowly picking up steam and a great following.
To be honest however, I’m not bad looking and had several guys hit on me from time to time, usually a lot older with this town being a famous retirement magnet. I wasn’t a virgin by any stretch thanks to my college years, and while I did go out with some, hook up with others during college, I never felt it with them. I kept coasting along waiting for my sweaty dream cowboy, losing all interest in hookups once I went to work.
I was thrilled however, as the small gallery I chose to work for handled all levels of many artists that devoted their talent to Western art, no surprise there, and it tended to feed my cowboy fantasy.
One day recently, when it was just about closing time, Devin Hunter, an artist that had been with the gallery since day one and much longer than me, stopped by to check on his sales and to say hello.
He is an older guy than I am, early thirties I’m guessing, reddish blond hair, nice and furry from what I could tell, and flashing true ice blue eyes.
He had always been more than nice to me, and every time I saw him, I often wondered about his persuasion since I was feeling a distinct pull to him, a change for me. However, whenever he happened to drop by, Sylvia the gallery owner was always there and snatched him right up into her office. When she did that the last time, he gave me a sly furtive and what I truly hoped was a suggestive wink.
“Hey Ben, long time no see, how’s it going?” he said, leaning on the counter near to where I was sitting.
“Nothing exciting here Devin, but I am pleased since it is just about closing time,” I laughed, and he smiled back.
“I hear ya, and I’ve been avoiding town lately considering all the pushy tourists that flood this small space. So, how’s the writing been going? You write under your own name, am I right?” he asked me, surprising me, since I’d never told him that.
He was the only person here that I worked with, that knew anything about my other and more interesting occupation.
“Starting to pick up some real steam and I’m actually now matching what I make in this place. And yep, I use my real name and I’m proud of it,” I answered, and even though it was small change, I was delighted with my efforts.
His face lit up and I could tell he was impressed and being from the art world, he knew how hard it can be to become noticed in a very crowded field.
“That is fantastic Ben! Being an indie writer is a whole lot of work and takes so much to get going. I’ve had some friends in the past that tried and finally had to quit and get a day job to survive. And I do have a confession to make to you however,” he began.
He moved a bit closer to me and smiled as he began to look around to make sure we were still alone.
“A confession huh, letting me in on those dark private secrets of yours?” I flirted and he grinned at me.
“I picked up one of your cowboy books the other day online for fun and didn’t put it down until I finished it. You have an amazing talent there my man, not to mention knowing how to get a guy all stirred up,” he chuckled, tilting his head to look at me, and I thought evaluating my response to his words.
I could see the hint of red filling his cheeks from his personal confession, and I was speechless for a moment.
“I love hot and sexy rugged cowboys, what can I say? I also love romance and mine always end up riding off into the sunset happily ever after, and not always on the horse,” I grinned with my suggestive statement.
So, after all these five years, it looks to me like the cat was finally out of the bag, long gone so to speak, and my suspicions were conclusively confirmed.
“Yeah, they seemed happy to me, several times in fact! Even made me happy a couple of times myself along the way,” he laughed suggestively, licking his sexy lips, and it was my turn to blush under his intense gaze.
“So, are you bringing in more paintings soon? Your inventory is getting low and we haven’t seen you in a while you know,” I asked.
I questioned him mainly because Sylvia, the gallery owner was on my back about it again yesterday, plus I wanted to change the subject, and get the main focus off me while I regrouped my thoughts about him.
He glanced at me then looked away, like he was kind of nervous about my questioning him.
“Uh, about that. I’d like to say yes, but I’m afraid the answer is going to be no. A while back I bought a small, what used to be a horse ranch a couple of miles off the Rio Verde road just where it begins near Dynamite at the top of the hill. I moved out there a few months ago. I am starting a private cowboy style guest ranch once the renovations are complete. I’m expecting that most of my cliental will be more members of the art community, especially with the reputation the place has had for years. It is a bit run down, tired mainly with good bones, but I’m working to fix it and opening my own gallery out there,” he told me.
Now this really got my interest going and of course he pushed my curiosity button with the cowboy thing.
“That sounds like a great opportunity for you, and I’ve always had a thing for sexy cowboys as you can guess from my books. I suppose now is the time when I should ask, what kind of a reputation does it have out there that you casually mentioned to draw me in,” I grinned, and he smiled back at me knowing that I’d take the bait he set out.
“It has been a guest ranch for ages, and over the last couple of decades or so, a hangout for artists as I said, and those people who honestly believe that the supernatural world does exist. In earlier years, a lot of people traveled long distances to share and promote their knowledge during the gatherings that have been held there, and the place has been quite popular with those people for a long time.”
Well this was a surprise for sure, as most people aren’t so upfront on that subject, and especially my own family. I wonder how he might figure that this subject would be of interest to me?
“Fascinating. I may have heard about it somewhere come to think about it, or from someone that I know. I certainly wish you a lot of luck and am sorry to see you go Devin. However, if it is the right thing for you, then by all means it is what you should do to follow a dream. I know Sylvia will have a bitch fit as she loves your work, and of course the profit from it too,” I kidded him, and he smiled at the insinuation I thought, but it was not really the case as I was about to find out.
“I know she will be upset since she’s been handling my work for the last ten years or so, and I’m not looking forward to that conversation in the least. Okay, now that we’ve got that on the table, there was another reason that I came in here at closing time Ben, I wanted to talk to you privately without Sylvia around to interrupt. Even though I do feel somewhat bad about this and make no mistake she is a personal friend of mine, but Sylvia is a very wealthy woman, and the gallery is more or less something she has fun with. It is a true fact that she has never even remotely needed the money from it,” he explained, still looking a bit sheepish.
Well I sure was surprised to find that out considering her somewhat miserly ways at times.
“Oh, I didn’t realize that about her.” Was all I managed since he simply took me by complete surprise with this one.
“Yes Ben, and I hope I’m not offending you by asking, but I have a proposition I’d like to run past you. I thought maybe we could go somewhere for a drink after you close up, and I can explain it to you, if you are free after work that is,” he offered, sounding a bit edgy.
Yet again, I was kind of amused at first, that I’d never even seen this coming and even more because I’m extremely glad it did.
I somehow got the impression there was more to his question that it first seemed, especially when he was checking if I was free after work. This could be me overthinking things as usual, but one way or another, I however, don’t believe that is the case, especially since he mentioned reading my book.
I must admit to myself that I was shocked, and hoped I wasn’t looking too confused, but I had no idea what on earth his proposition as he put, it could be, particularly since I really didn’t know him all that well, just casually.
In the past, I’d seen him checking me out several times before, but he was always relaxed about it, almost like any casual friend would check you out, and I appreciated it in spite of what I had to admit was mild disappointment.
Devin is a sexy guy.
Since my last fiasco right out of college ended in near disaster, I’d avoided any entanglements of the romantic kind, dropping all interest after I started here actually. I was more than content about being on my own and having my continuing peace of mind so I could sleep at night and not fuss over romantic entanglements.
“A proposition huh? Okay that sounds intriguing on many levels yet again, so I’ll bite and no I’m not busy. You seem to have your mysterious cap on today and you are teasing me with it,” I smiled, and began to close up the gallery.
Before too long we walked over to a small neighborhood bar and since the heat wasn’t so bad yet, we decided to take a table outside and watch the many busy tourists stroll by on their way to their next delight and discovery.
After we placed our orders for a liter of refreshing citrus filled Sangria, accompanied by crispy freshly made corn tortilla chips and spicy homemade tomato jalapeno salsa, we sat quietly and munching for a few moments, decompressing from the day.
We were both privately enjoying the view before Devin turned to me, and if I was judging him right, he for some reason, seemed a bit nervous.
“Okay Ben, here goes, and I feel like a real traitor, but I want to do this. As I told you I’m opening a guest ranch of sorts, although it will be several weeks before it is all ready to go. I also mentioned my new art gallery and I’d like you to come and work with me on this project, because I know of your great work, and expertise. Considering your knowledge about the business, and I’ve seen you in action with the customers, you’d be great to have working with me. The downside here is that I can’t pay you a whole lot just yet however I will match your salary, but the upside is you’d have your own private cabin at the ranch. Since we are kind of out of the way, I’d like you to set up an internet presence for my paintings and bring my art to the world along with the ranch accommodations,” he told me.
I took a careful sip of the refreshing Sangria, so as not be sitting there with my mouth hanging open in delighted shock.
“You have totally caught me off guard with this Devin, and I frankly don’t know what to say,” I fumbled, and felt my heart beat faster.
Without warning he reached over to cover my hand with his and jumped as a tiny spark went off.
He quickly glanced down at our hands in surprise, and then turned his full attention back to me.
“Say yes, pretty, pretty please?” he laughed, giving my hand a firm squeeze, but not letting go even for a brief moment.
“I’m going to try to be practical for once in my life and if you don’t mind, I’d like to check it out first before I can give you my decision. I’ve worked where I am for just over five years as you probably know, and even though it isn’t a mind blowing job, I like it and I’m comfortable there with some minor benefits.”
“Of course, you should see it first. I also will pay your medical and dental insurance so no worries there. The hours are flexible, utilities are paid for by mother nature, with the electrics being on solar and with a true backup system. I have a new swimming pool, spa, nice renovated gardens, and kitchen gardens for my small but excellent restaurant. I’ll pay for one meal a day, your choice. The entire staff are my close friends, and the working conditions are excellent, I promise,” he explained, then for some reason took a deep nervous swallow. “And to set your mind at ease, no one will mind for one second about you being quite the striking witch,” he told me nonchalantly, as if telling me the weather.
I could feel the color draining from my face at being unexpectedly exposed like this without warning.
“What, I mean how do you figure that?” I asked in shock at being outed without the slightest warning.
“I’m holding your hand to finally read you Ben, and you are blowing out incredible vibes that are stronger than anything I’ve felt before. What is your surname again? I don’t think I’ve ever heard it from you or from Sylvia, and like an idiot didn’t pay attention to your book cover,” he asked.
I knew the cat would be out of the bag on this one if he truly had any inkling about the supernatural world as he said he does.
“De Santis, my full name is Benito Nero De Santis,” I told him and saw his eyes grow wide in profound shock upon hearing my name.
“Forgive me for asking stupid questions Ben, but of the Nero De Santis witch family,” he asked, and suddenly looked a little unnerved himself.
“Yes, that is my Grandpa Nero, he’s a very sweet man, and I love him to pieces,” I told him.
I could see him swallow again quite hard in response, looking like he took the angry tiger by the tail.
“And to drive a point home are you related to or were related to the famous Nino De Santis?”
“Dear God. I had no idea Ben, so how does your family feel about you being gay and working for a living?”
From my experience with my family, I felt it was a weird question, at least from my perspective.
“Very supportive and we all work for a living, a mandate from on high, in other words Grandpa. They love me, and always have. Even Dad was good with it before he died in that car crash when I was in school. My Uncle Dan is super nice guy and helped me through those terrible hard times. He and my Aunt Lucinda, his sister, were so good to me, and helped me invest my inherited money and the proceeds from my dad’s house in San Marcos,” I told him carefully.
I saw him pale when I mentioned my aunt’s name.
“Well it looks like the gang’s all here, including Aunt Lucinda. Now I really feel odd about asking you to work with me, as I’m way out of my league here with you, and I apologize if I’ve insulted you,” he told me, looking down at the table.
He seemed kind of upset and I still can’t figure out why that would be the case.
“Odd how Devin? What is the matter here I don’t understand? Is there something that you might feel is wrong with my family that I am missing?” I asked him, still wondering what the fuck was his problem.COLLAPSE
Available at Amazon and Kindle Unlimited