...“Sit,” Jamie said and took a seat himself on the sofa across from the doors. Bo and Patch settled on their bed in the far corner of the room, next to the dark, cold fireplace.
Rafe chose the armchair on the other side of the big maple coffee table and concentrated all his attention on the condensation forming on the bottle in his hand.
“Rafe, look at me.”
He glanced up and straight into that bright stare. “Jamie—”
“No. You listen now. You shut up and listen.” His words were short, his voice low and urgent. “I spent the past seven years tryin’ to figure out what the hell I did wrong. How I managed to fuck it all up and drive you away.”
“I’m talkin’ now, God damn it.” Louder, sharper. Like he didn’t care who heard. “At first I reckoned I’d get over it. Figured guys missed their best friends when they grew up and moved away.”
“Look, Jamie, I’m—”
“I swear to fuck, Rafe, if you don’t shut the hell up…”
Rafe nodded. “All right. Finish. But then it’s my turn.”
Jamie’s eyes narrowed, but he returned Rafe’s nod. “Here’s the thing…about Roseanna? She was sweet, and we might’ve made a go of it, but she wasn’t you. Seein’ her mouth wrapped ’round my dick—no matter how good it felt—didn’t make me miss watchin’ yours suckin’ on a sourball any less.” He paused to clear his throat, like the next part was somehow even harder to spit out. “Seven years, Rafe. Wishin’ you were here to see what I made of the ranch. Wishin’ you were here to ask ‘What should I do?’ about this or that. And jerkin’ off in the shower thinkin’ about you.”
Any sound Rafe might’ve made died on its way up out of his throat. All of a sudden the room felt small and close and stuffy, like it hadn’t ten seconds before. And Jamie, sitting there, looking at him. Waiting on him. Waiting on his answer.
After a good thirty seconds, he set his beer on the floor next to the chair and said, “That’s fine, Jamie, but that’s just sex. And I’m not willing to trade it for…” Rafe sighed, ran a damp hand over his face and started again. “I’ve had a lot of sex, Jamie. It’s good, but not worth losing a friend over.”
He watched Jamie lean forward and rest his elbows on his knees. He remembered Pop sitting just the same way when he had a point to make. “That’s why you walked out on me after what happened behind the Hotspot? Christ, Rafe, you’re an idiot.”
“Yeah, maybe. But I figured you were gonna hate me either way, and it was better you hated me for leaving than for staying.” There it was, laying him bare. All his fear, and how certain he’d been that once Jamie realized what they’d done—what Rafe had let them do—he’d turn away from him, disgusted.
“I don’t hate you, and I never would.”
“You say that now.”
“I’d have said it then, but you didn’t gimme a goddamn chance.” Loud again, and frustrated, and if he didn’t shut up they’d have Cindy down here asking what was wrong. He took a raspy breath Rafe could hear from ten feet away and said, “What about now?”
Rafe shrugged. “What about it? Things are pretty good. Like I said, I don’t toss away what I’ve got, unless I hear a better offer.”
Jamie slammed his bottle down on the coffee table and got up on his feet. “I’ve been offering. In the barn this afternoon—”
“That’s your dick. I can get that elsewhere.”
“Yeah. I noticed.” Four long strides and he ended up right in front of Rafe, glaring down at him with hot eyes.
“What the fuck does that even mean, Jamie?”
“You and Kris Killborn. Saw you two talkin’ between sets. Saw how he looked at you. You gonna tell me you didn’t see?”
Sweet baby Jesus, the man was crazy. “What difference does it make? I’m not in town with him. I came home.” Rafe pulled himself to his feet and met Jamie’s hard stare face-to-face.
“It makes a difference, Rafe. A big, fucking difference.”
Shit. He’s jealous. JT Crosby—well-liked, successful owner of the Lazy C and all-around respected member of their little corner of heaven—was jealous over Rafe McCaffrey, the charity case his Pop had taken on as cheap labor. It shouldn’t have brought back that tight, full feeling in his chest, or made him want to smile so big his face was likely to break off and drop on the floor. But it did.
“You think that’s funny? You son-of-a—” Jamie grabbed his shoulder in one huge hand and wrapped the other around the back of Rafe’s neck. When he spoke again, he used sharp, hard little kisses on Rafe’s mouth as periods between sharp, hard little words. “You. Belong. To me.”
“Shut up and let me fuck you, Rafe, before I lose my ever-lovin’ mind...”