Shep's just your average all-American cowboy. He runs his own ranch and rides the occasional saddle bronc. Nothing special there. Unless you look too closely at his boyfriend.
Descended from a long line of Native American mustang shifters, Charlie "Hoss" Running Horse is anything but average.
When Coyote takes a shine to Shep, he decides that Hoss has got to go. With the theft of the medicine horseshoe that allows Hoss to shift from mustang to human, Coyote sets his evil plan to have his way with Shep in motion.
Will Shep be able to save Hoss before it's too late? Or will Coyote's plan come to fruition?
Publisher: Rocky Ridge Books
Heat Level: 4
Romantic Content: 4
Ending: Click here to reveal
Character Identities: Gay
Protagonist 1 Age: 26-35
Protagonist 2 Age: 26-35
Word Count: 45,218
Setting: Rural New Mexico
Languages Available: English
They turned west, riding into the sunset. Well, soon enough it would be a sunset. Right now it was just really bright sunlight boring into Charlie's eyes and obscuring his vision. He'd have to focus on the trail to avoid laming himself. Good thing he could rely on Shep to guide him around any real dangers.
Dust puffed under his feet and settled on his legs. That and his dried sweat made him itch. He couldn't wait to get in the shower.
A sharp pain on his rump startled him into bucking and kicking.
Shep shifted his weight forward and followed his every move. "Whoa, Hoss!"
Charlie stopped so suddenly, he felt the horseshoe shift again.
Just a deerfly. Now he felt like an idiot. Fortunately, horses couldn't blush; although, he'd heard that rabbits could.
He turned his head and met Shep's eye, hoping to convey his apology, earning him another pat on the shoulder.READ MORE
"I'm okay. But it was good practice for saddle bronc riding. Should I enter this year?"
He tossed his head and crow hopped, but didn't budge Shep. He could have tried a little harder, really bucked; after all, his partner had a good seat. The horseshoe thumped against his hoof and he stopped. This business with the shoe was getting worrisome.
A fly buzzed behind him again and this time he settled for swishing his tail. He hated the damn things. At least it wasn't a horsefly. Those things were vicious.
"Maybe you should use more of that fly repellant you call aftershave."
Haha... Charlie snorted and considered making Shep walk home.
Shep shifted his weight forward. Charlie took the hint and set off. Clip, clop, clip, clop... The trip home always seemed to take longer than reaching their goal.
Something dust-colored darted across his path. He threw his head up and reared, startling like some green-broke colt. His hooves struck the ground on either side of a quivering jackrabbit. The poor animal screamed and brushed against his fetlock as it made a dash for the scrub bordering the trail.
A fluffy little bunny. How flipping embarrassing.
He stood with legs braced, still snorting. His rib cage expanded and contracted spastically under the girth.
"That was close. You didn't hurt yourself, did you?" Shep slung a leg over and dismounted. He smoothed gentle fingers over Charlie's legs and examined his hooves. "Other than the horseshoe, I think you're fine."
Shep picked up a stone and tried to pound one of the nails back in. A partial success, but they both knew it would work its way back out again.
His breathing slowed, but he could still feel the adrenaline burning in his veins. Maybe a lope would take the edge off.
"Feeling better?" Shep scratched between his ears, calming them both.
He nodded and gave a breathy sigh, nuzzling against Shep's chest.
Shep uncapped the canteen and took a few swallows. Then he took his hat off and smacked it against his leg, sending up a puff of dust. He poured water into his sweat-stained Stetson and held it up for Charlie.
He drank the salty water in a few quick draws.
Clapping the hat back on his head, Shep mounted. Once he had settled, Charlie took off at a lope.
"In a rush to get home?"
Charlie snorted and stretched out. He still had some relatively smooth flatlands before he reached the outcroppings. When the last of the frantic energy began to ebb, he dropped down to a jog, and then a walk. He felt a little better.
More rocks littered the ground. Soon boulders took their place. He could see the stone outcroppings ahead. Shep's deft hands on the reins helped him make his way through the maze where a stone bruise could leave him lame.
Before they reached the outcroppings, a snake slithered out in front of him. The unmistakable buzz of a rattlesnake filled the air. Heat flushed his skin and then a chill filled his veins. What. The. Hell?
He didn't have room to jump the rattler. Once more he rose in the air, pivoted and came down outside the irate serpent's strike range.
"Back! Get away from it!" Shep shouted.
Charlie agreed with him whole-heartedly. He started backing, ears flicking forward and then to his rider, trusting Shep to guide him with little movements of the reins.
"Just like we practiced it for that reining class," Shep encouraged.
Yeah, they'd done this before. Nothing difficult, just tighter quarters and the risk of being lamed if he stepped wrong.
"I've got you. I won't let anything happen." Shep spoke slowly and evenly, soothing the disquiet in Charlie's soul.
When they finally left the boulders behind, Charlie stood trembling.
Shep dropped from his back and pulled his head into a hug. "I'm really starting to hate today." He glanced around. "We'll take the long way. I don't want to risk anything else jumping out at us at this point."
Charlie sighed, but Shep was right. If they stayed in the open, nothing else should happen. If something did while they were cutting through the rocks, they could get hurt. Good thing Shep was a bronc rider or they'd have been in trouble today.
"Thirsty?" When he nodded, Shep gave him the last of the water.
They walked for a while, side-by-side, until Charlie stopped and looked pointedly at the saddle.
"Are you saying I'm too slow?"
He nudged the stirrup with his nose. If they kept on at this rate, it would be dark before they reached the ranch.
Charlie hadn't gone two strides when a roadrunner darted in front of him with... a coyote on its tail. Seriously?! I thought that shit only happened in cartoons.
The coyote slowed and winked at him. Actually winked. Could this day get any weirder?
"You've got to be shitting me!"
The coyote circled Charlie and came up behind them, much closer than he liked. Coyotes usually left larger animals alone, but this one was acting strange. Could it be rabid?
The slinking shadow took another step closer and Charlie cow-kicked. His horseshoe went flying.
"Finally!" A voice he didn't recognize shouted in triumph. The coyote snatched the glittering curve of metal out of the air and ran away.
"Hey! We need that!" Shep tugged on the hackamore, whirling Charlie, and set heels to his flanks.
Charlie didn't even think about it, he jolted into a gallop. He had to have that horseshoe or he'd spend the rest of his life as a horse, slowly losing his humanity.
Burdened with a rider, he couldn't seem to catch up with the coyote. But stopping to offload Shep would only insure he wouldn't overtake the damn thing. At least, this way he could keep the mangy beast within sight and see what it did with his horseshoe.
He did manage to slowly gain on the coyote. If this went on long enough, he might catch up.
Ahead, he could see the cenote coming into view. Was the coyote headed toward the sinkhole?
He caught up with the coyote in time to watch his horseshoe arc into the air and splash into the water. The coyote grinned and disappeared into the brush with a flick of its tail.
Sara Winters on https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2223369288?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1 wrote:
Kayla Jameth’s new shifter story was an unexpected blending of Native America lore, and a classic m/m shifter love story given a hard twist. I loved the New Mexico setting, the characters were engaging, and while it took a little time for the plot to hook me, once it did I was swept up by the tale of love interfered with by a notorious trickster.
Nic Starr on https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2223498804?book_show_action=true&from_review_page=1 wrote:
While I normally don't read books about shifters, this one had me engaged for a number of reasons. First, that poor Charlie is stuck with only the simplest methods of communicating with his lover. I felt sympathy for him every time he wanted to say something and couldn't because he was trapped. Second, because Shep has to go through all manner of changes to help Charlie. It was easy to see how much Shep loved Charlie by the lengths he went to to save him. Third, I spent an unhealthy amount of time wishing for Coyote to have an unfortunate "accident" so he could stay out of their way.
All in all, it was a sweet story, at times dramatic, with just enough sexy tension between the couple to keep things interesting without detracting from the story. I'm glad it was told from multiple points of view because it gave me better insight into what was going on with everyone and made for a more vivid story.
Without giving it away in a spoiler, I have to add that what eventually happened to Coyote was particularly satisfying. He earned it. :-p
This was a surprising bit of fun! Different to my usual read and very refreshing. Fabulous characters and unique plot. It was made even more interesting to read given what I know about how the story came about. Check this post (on Nic's blog) from the author to find out more.