A Cowboy’s Heart

A Cowboy’s Heart by J.M. Snyder
Ranch hand Tommy Prout thinks he's in love ... with his boss, Hal Bolstrum. Problem is, Hal's engaged to be married to the ranch owner's daughter and, though he knows of Tommy's crush, he sees it as nothing more than harmless affection. When payday rolls around and the other cowboys want to ride into town to check out the girls at the Wildhorse saloon, Tommy tags along to throw off any suspicion anyone might have about his feelings for his boss. He sure as hell doesn't want to spend his money on any of the soiled doves the town has to offer.

At the bar he meets Lila, an enterprising young working girl who takes a liking to him. When Tommy says he wants to be left alone, Lila suggests he rest in her room -- with the promise they don't have to actually do anything. But Lila isn't like the others, and when she discovers Tommy is more scared of her than attracted to her feminine charms, she lets him in on a little secret.

Lila's real name is Stephen Marsh. He lives as a woman, moving from saloon to saloon, pleasing men for money. He loves men and enjoys his work, and what others don't know about what's under his skirt doesn't bother him. In all his years on the prairie, he's never met someone quite like Tommy. When he discovers Tommy is sweet on Hal, he suggests teaching the cowboy just how to please a man.

He doesn't mean to lose his heart to Tommy in the process.

With "Lila" in his life, Tommy begins to dream of someone softer than Hal, someone pretty when dolled up but still man enough where it counts. Someone like Lila. As his feelings deepen, can he use Lila's own teachings to win the heart he really loves?

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When Tommy signaled the bartender for another refill, he felt a strong hand ease across his shoulders, and a husky, smoked-out voice near his ear purred, “Make it a double, Ralph.”

Tommy turned; it seemed to take hours for his head to swivel around so he could see the newcomer beside him. Then his eyes wouldn’t quite focus right, because at first he saw a young man his own age, with almond eyes and thin lips, a strong, aquiline nose, a predominant Adam’s apple. There was a shyness in those eyes, as if he harbored a secret he wanted to share with Tommy but he was afraid of anyone else finding it out. The ghost of a smile flickered across his face, and Tommy surprised himself when he wondered what it’d taste like if he kissed it away.

Then he saw the ruddy cheeks, the liner framing the eyes, and the lipstick like war paint smeared across those lips. The man dissolved as Tommy took in the rest of the stranger -- it was the singer from the piano, in a flirtatious black frock that shone blue in the lamplight, all lace and rustling fabric, her hair piled up in chestnut curls above those masculine, kohl-ringed eyes. Tommy shook his head, but the man he thought he’d seen didn’t return. The woman standing beside him gave a sultry smile, her eyes half-shut, and the hand on his shoulder gave a playful squeeze. “Buy a lady a drink, cowboy?”

Tommy shrugged her off him. “Sorry,” he mumbled. “Not interested.”

She laughed, a low sound like thunder in the distance. Despite his earlier promise to himself, his libido piqued at that laughter. Short fingernails scratched at the sensitive spot between his shoulder blades and Tommy melted. “Your friends said you’re looking for a woman tonight. Let me be that girl.”

“I’m not ...” Tommy started.

But she was nothing if not persistent, and with expert hands, she spun his stool around to hop up on Tommy’s knee. His hand strayed to her hip to hold her in place. Maybe it was the drink, or maybe he’d been expecting…something else? He’d never touched a woman before, but he’d always heard they were soft and full of curves in which a man could hide. But the hip beneath Tommy’s palm was angular and hard. He ran his hand down a bit, experimenting, and felt a smooth thigh in his grip. No extra padding, nothing he’d associate with the word woman. The other way, and he found a firm buttock, meaty, pliant.

On his lap, she giggled as she grabbed his hand and planted it on her hip. “You have to pay for more than that.” Tipping back Tommy’s hat, she leaned in close and stared into his eyes. “What’s your name, cutie?”

Tommy didn’t want to answer, but there was something in her gaze that startled him into replying. “Tommy,” he whispered, his voice unusually gruff. “Look, honey --”

“Lila,” she told him. “Lila Burrell.”

“Lila.” Tommy gave her a disarming grin. “I don’t have a lot of money with me tonight, okay? I just want a few drinks, that’s it.”

She reached behind her and found his pocket, which jingled with change. “I’m not cheap,” she admitted, “but I bet there’s a thing or two I can do for you tonight.”

Tommy sighed. “I’m not really --”

“Interested?” Lila laughed. “So you said. But what’s all this?”

She cupped one hand around his crotch and squeezed. Tommy gasped in pleasure as her fingers closed over the budding erection he’d been trying so hard to ignore. He wanted to tell her no, thank you, go pick on someone else, but every nerve cried out for her touch, his cock throbbed in her hand, and all he could manage was a guttural moan that didn’t translate into a word at all. It was a long, drawn-out sigh, pure lust given a voice, and it left Tommy breathless with need.

Or maybe that was the hand now working at his crotch, the finger that had popped one of the buttons on his fly and now drew lazy circles into his cock with one fingernail. As much as he wanted to say no, his whole body ached for more.

When the bartender brought Tommy’s double whiskey, the woman drank half of it in one long draw. Through hooded eyes, Tommy watched her throat work around the drink -- the black choker she wore covered the bob of her Adam’s apple. Take that piece of velvet off, remove the rouge and lipstick, trim back the curls, and Tommy thought he’d see the man he’d noticed at first, the attractive young man with the shy eyes and faint smile. Had Lila said his friends sent her over? Was this some sort of joke?

With great difficulty, he pried her hand away from his crotch. Her strong fingers wrapped around his in a fierce grip he’d have never thought a woman could manage. A glance at the poker table where Slim and the others were playing showed his friends were too interested in their cards to pay much attention to him. This was wrong, he told himself -- he wasn’t attracted to women. He considered himself a man’s man, in every sense of the word.

But Lila’s persistence was intoxicating. Or maybe it was the touch of another, irregardless of gender, that had Tommy swooning. There was something very unfeminine about the woman in his lap, something that made him want to see the face beneath the makeup, something that hinted at a pleasure he’d never find on his own. Would it be so bad, to lose himself in another tonight? With the lights out, Lila could be anyone Tommy wanted, anyone at all.

Like Hal.