Cowboy Waltz

Cameron Dane

A horse stock manager on the rodeo tour, gruff cowboy Jed Hastings is in a bind. He needs a new assistant yesterday. Enter green-as-hell Booker West. Booker spent his childhood dreaming about being a part of the rodeo. He doesn’...
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A horse stock manager on the rodeo tour, gruff cowboy Jed Hastings is in a bind. He needs a new assistant yesterday. Enter green-as-hell Booker West. Booker spent his childhood dreaming about being a part of the rodeo. He doesn’t have any experience working with horses, but Jed doesn’t have options, and gives the newbie a chance.

Innocent about the world and secretly gay, Booker works like the devil to hide his attraction to Jed. He doesn’t just want to be a wannabe-cowboy with a crush; he wants to learn from Jed. Booker craves Jed’s respect, friendship, and trust. For Jed, he knows an eager young colt like Booker should work his last nerve, yet he finds he has endless patience with the guy. He’s possessive about Booker too. And while bunking together does create intimacy, that doesn’t explain away straight Jed’s explicit sexual fantasies and growing desire for another man.

When a life altering event sends Jed and Booker reeling, a night of raw passion between the men finally explodes. But in the light of day, can Booker help Jed accept their love? Or will this unearthed attraction send Jed to a dark place from which he can’t recover?

Son of a bitch.

Growling in a rough tone that caused a young cowboy to look up from a stall twenty feet away, Jed Hastings strode toward the exit of the makeshift stable as if hell itself swirled around his scuffed cowboy boots. The rodeo had ended, the time had come to take care of the stock and load them into the trailers, and that good-for-nothing fuck Blake was nowhere to be found. Not surprised one goddamned bit, Jed dug his cell phone out of his pocket and dialed his boss’s number. If the man once again refused to fire Blake, Jed swore to everything holy he would quit on the spot and look for new work. It’s not like the bastard pays me enough to do one man’s job, let alone two.

The moment a disinterested “Hello” reached Jed’s ear, Jed spewed like a drill hitting a reservoir of oil. “That asshole must be out fucking one of the leftover groupies the riders didn’t want, because he sure as hell isn’t here with me, and he won’t pick up my calls.” Jed paced in front of the stable’s wide doors, glaring at anyone who had the nerve to shoot him a disgruntled look. “If you don’t fire his ass this instant, you won’t have anyone to drive half your stock to the next event, because I will be gone.”

A sigh resonated through the phone. “Be reasonable,” Cliff replied. “I can’t get rid of him. Who the hell is going to drive the travel trailer while you and I drive the stock?”

“I don’t care.”

“You haven’t given me enough time to find a replacement.”

Fucking shit-eating bastard. Every molecule in Jed’s arm ached to take a swing at something. Employing supreme will, he tucked his fist against his side and paced a ditch into the dirt instead. “I’ve been telling you to get rid of this useless asshole for two months. Don’t give me that shit. You’ve had plenty of time to hire someone else.” Jed spoke freely with Cliff, knowing Cliff didn’t like him any more than he liked Cliff, but that until Cliff unloaded this rodeo stock operation, they needed each other—with Cliff needing Jed more than Jed needed Cliff. “You don’t even mention that you’re looking for someone new unless I bring it up.”

“Trust me,” Cliff replied. “Everyone who has dropped off an application makes Blake look like a winner.”

Jed snorted and rolled his eyes. “That’s bullshit. I could throw a fucking nickel and find someone better than Blake.”

“Feel free to try.” Cliff’s response, the first like this, made Jed jerk up straight. “If you find someone who will do this job for what I’m paying Blake, then he will be history.”

A picture of the young cowboy hanging around the stables flashed like a 3-D image in front of Jed’s eyes. He’d seen the kid trolling around all weekend, and he knew what that meant. Yes. Jed spun on his heels and headed back to the animals. Seriously, kid. Please don’t be an idiot.

“It’s already done,” Jed assured Cliff. “Pick up your phone in ten minutes and be ready to tell Blake he’s out of a job.”

Jed didn’t wait for Cliff to say good-bye. He reentered the temporary stock barn and immediately zeroed in on the young cowboy. The kid still mingled with the animals, this time stroking the flank of a speckled mare. Upon closer inspection, Jed cataloged dark hair sticking out from the edges of the young man’s pristine white Stetson, the length of the black stuff nearly dusting his shoulders. A blue shirt and dark denim covered a body taller and lankier than most cowboys looking to get into bull or bronc riding, and his boots looked brand-spanking-new too. He’s just a groupie.

Wellll, shit. As fast as Jed deflated, he perked back up. The mare the kid was looking at shimmied in her stall, but the guy crooned to her and calmed her as if he’d cared for horses all his life—and was damned good at the task. So maybe the kid was only a rodeo fanatic, but he had developed some skill somewhere or maybe just possessed a natural gift. Jed stepped closer, his senses now homed in even tighter on this young man. With a second look, Jed figured if the cowboy was a groupie, he was here for the animals and not the men and women riding them. And that’s exactly what I need.

Moving in next to the cowboy, Jed asked, “How bad do you want a job with these horses?”

The guy whirled, his hand plastered to his chest. “Shoot.” He slumped against the stall. “You scared me.”

Jed quirked a brow. “You saw me a few minutes ago. I cursed loud enough to get your attention.”

The young man glanced toward the open doors. When he brought his focus back to Jed, red crept up his face. “I also saw you leave. I didn’t hear you come back.”

“I wasn’t being especially quiet.” When the kid only grew redder, Jed figured he was shy, and so Jed dialed his grilling down to a murmur. “I guess you were just into the animals more than anything else around here and didn’t notice.”

The guy’s angular face softened, and a new light saturated the green in his eyes. “They’re beautiful.” He rubbed the mare’s nose once more, and she nickered at him as if he was no stranger to her at all.

Almost mesmerized, Jed studied the ease between this stranger and horse. “You ever worked with animals?”

The guy shook his head.

“You ever worked any job?”

“Fast food officially.” With a shrug, the wannabe cowboy shoved his hands into his pockets and rocked back on the heels of his boots. “But I’ve been walking dogs, mowing lawns, and stuff like that since I was twelve.”

“How long have you had your fast-food job?”

“Over two years. I started when I was sixteen.”

“So you’re reliable.” Jed could work with green but eager in a trainee. “Do you have family? A girlfriend?” Speed bumps and possible derailments flew fast and furious through Jed’s thoughts. “Anyone who would get up in arms if you weren’t around every day? Are you getting ready to start college?”

“I have a sister, but she’d be okay without me. Cherise—that’s my sister—she’s older than me.” The kid tucked his shoulders into an even deeper slouch and softly added, “I don’t have a girlfriend, and college isn’t happening for me right now.”

“Being on and off the road all the time, far from home, won’t make you homesick?” Jed pressed. Hell, he had to. He didn’t want the first employee of his choosing to crap out in a month and prove Cliff right. “You opposed to living in a cramped travel trailer with me, a guy you don’t know?”

“Why are you asking me all these questions?” The kid narrowed his stare, but he didn’t slink away. He even pushed up straighter, Jed noticed.

Jed let his gaze slide to the horse nudging at this young man’s shoulder as if they’d been friends for life and then looked back into the cowboy’s earnest eyes. “You’re hanging around because you want a job, aren’t you?” He cut right to the chase. “You want to be near the rodeo and the animals, and my guess is you don’t much care how. Do I have that about right?”

“Yeah.” Folding in on himself again, the guy added, “But I don’t have any experience with horses or bulls, so nobody will give me a shot. I want one, though. I want one more than anything.”

Excellent. Suddenly spiked full of new adrenaline, Jed whooped and stuck out his hand. “You just met your shot. The name is Jed Hastings.” Jed engulfed the kid’s hand in his and liked the hell out of the strong grip he received in return. “I’m in charge of eight of these horses, and you just got a job as my assistant.”

“Really?” Twin strands of excitement and disbelief came through the young man’s words, and his stare grew wider than any Jed had seen. “You’re serious?”

Jed chuckled. “The traveling schedule is relentless and the pay is for shit, but you get to be around the rodeo and help me take care of some of the best broncs on this tour.” Jed offered a rare, genuine smile. “How does that sit with you?”

“It’s so awesome.” The guy grabbed Jed’s hand with both of his and pumped it with vigor. “Thank you, sir.”

“I’m twenty-seven fucking years old.” Jed shot the kid an exaggerated brow. “Don’t call me sir. Save that for Cliff. He’s your official boss, and he eats up that kind of shit.”

“Sorry. Will do.” Nodding, the guy straightened and patted down the nonexistent wrinkles in his shirt. “Thank you again.”

“What’s your name?” Jed figured he ought to start thinking of him as something other than kid or wannabe cowboy or guy.

“Booker.” Young Booker had a grin a mile wide that tugged another smile out of Jed. “Booker West.”

“Well, all right, Booker. Call me Jed. Work this gig like you think I might fire you every day, and we’ll get along just fine.”

“I can do that.” After moving in a slow circle, clearly absorbing the aftermath of the rodeo in a whole new light, Booker finally looked to Jed once again. “What do you want me to do first?”

“First,” Jed shared with lightness in his tone, “I’m going to look for an application while I make a phone call. Meanwhile I want you to go home, tell your sister you’re moving on and likely won’t see her for a long while, and pack a bag with clothes you can get dirty in. And don’t forget to call your boss at the fast-food joint. Tell him you’re not gonna be able to flip burgers for him anymore.”

“Then you want me to come back here and help you with the horses?” Somehow Booker had a goddamned bounce in his voice, one that matched the way he lifted on the balls of his feet.

“Absolutely.” Jed gave Booker the words he wanted to hear—not to mention that Jed needed to say. “You start tonight.”

Booker grabbed Jed’s hand for a third time and shook with what looked like his whole body. “Thank you, Jed. Seriously. You’re not gonna regret this. I swear. I want this job more than anything.”

Reining in his expectations, Jed thought back to his first ranch and rodeo work and sobered. “Tell me that in a month when you feel like your back is never gonna stop hurting, and you can hardly get a half night of good sleep on what passes for a bed in a trailer, and you miss your sister more than you realize. Get past a thirty-day probation period, and then I’ll let myself believe you’re gonna work out.”

Booker still grinned so big it appeared as if it might crack his face open. “I’ll still be saying the same thing in a month. And in a year. I promise.”

“Your trial run starts tonight.” Jed jerked his head toward the building’s entrance. “Get going.”

Booker began walking backward toward the doors, his attention still locked on Jed. “I’ll be back in less than an hour! Don’t do anything without me. I want to learn everything.” Then he spun, took off at a sprint, and pumped his fist in the air before he disappeared.

Chuckling, unable to help it, Jed shook his head. Green. Green. Green. Jed could hardly remember when he’d last experienced such infectious enthusiasm for his job. He loved these animals, but Cliff had so frustrated him in the last year—and Blake had only compounded that feeling—that Jed couldn’t recall the last time he’d felt pure, unfettered joy in caring for and prepping these horses for their work.

Jed strolled to where his line of horses was housed and stopped in front of his sturdiest, most proficient bronc. “If he works out, maybe he’ll be good for all of us.” His soft murmurs carried to his favorite horse’s ears. “What do you think, Moses?” Jed rubbed the animal’s nose. “I’m sure young Mr. West has made his rounds and praised you once or twice this weekend. Do you think you’ll like having him around?”

Moses whinnied and pawed his hoof against the hay.

“Yeah.” Jed let his gaze drift to where he’d first noticed Booker in the makeshift stable two nights ago. “Me too.” Christ, Jed never could have known one moment of eye contact would have been enough to make him feel confident about offering a stranger—a kid—a job.

After one more firm pat to Moses’s flank, Jed set off for the horse trailers. He needed to find that application. If Booker West worked out—hell, he might not be a cowboy yet, but he already had the name in place—Jed wanted everything nice and official. There was no way Cliff would fuck him over with an asshole this time. If Booker passed his trial period, Jed wanted the kid around for a long, long time.

Copyright © Cameron Dane


Customer Reviews

Amazing Review by Michelle
This is one of my favorites by Dane. I own every novel by this author and this wasn't a disappointment. It's very intense and I loved every second of the wild ride. (Posted on 8/10/2014)
A bit too dark for me Review by gigi
Cameron Dane is one of my absolute favorite M/M romance authors. Anything by her is an auto-buy for me. Almost all of her books are on my favorites shelf, all but two have received 5 star rating from me (they both received 4 stars) and her fabulous Grey's Awakening is on my best-of-the-best, tippy top shelf. I think that gives you a pretty good idea of how much I enjoy and appreciate her work.

Cowboy Waltz surprised and disappointed me. The first section of the book concentrated on getting to know young Booker West, a closeted gay 19 year old looking to join a rodeo crew and travel around the United States in an effort to connect with his dead mother's love of the sport. He is hired by 27 year old Jed Hastings, who seems quite well adjusted and is hard working and teaches Booker well during their first 4 years together on the rodeo circuit. Then the story takes a dark turn and doesn't recover until the short epilogue at the end of the book. The epilogue? Awesome! Loved it to bits and pieces, as I usually do when the characters in the M/M romances I read get their well deserved HEA. But, uggg, getting through over 75% of this book's dark angst, over-the-top emotional, needy sex, sobbing exclamations of love and despair, running away and finding each other, over and over again, just to reach that sliver of epilogue happiness just wasn't worth it for me. I was exhausted after reading this book! And not in a good way. It wasn't what I expected or hoped for in a Cameron Dane novel. I'm probably not being fair to Ms. Dane because I am judging this book against her other works, but one of the reasons I mentioned how much of a fan I am of hers at the beginning of this review is because, if this had been written by anyone else, I would have stopped reading at about half way through. It would be on my DNF shelf. It was that gut wrenching, in my opinion.

I am very anxious to see what others think of this book! I can be a real softy, I know, and while I LOVE my angst, I need some balance. I eagerly await Ms. Dane's next book and will be the first in line to buy it.
(Posted on 8/5/2014)
An enjoyable cowboy story! Review by Nicstar
I needed a dose of cowboy and this book delivered in spades - two hot, but very different men, on the rodeo circuit. Oh, but the tension, too much and too drawn out! I enjoyed the story, I just wanted them to work things out and maybe talk and get things moving. But once they did - smoking!

Poor Booker, whom Jed calls "Colt", started working for Jed when he was nineteen, both of them looking after horses for their boss on the rodeo circuit. Booker knows he is gay and falls immediately in love/lust with Jed. Jed shows Booker the ropes and they build a strong friendship over the years but eventually living together in a small trailer becomes too much. Booker with his longing for Jed and Jed because he comes to have feelings for Booker that he didn't expect and can't deal with.

There is drama and tension and bad decisions and it took these guys a long time to work things out. But when they did, they did it properly with lots of emotion and romance.

The title is correct - this is a waltz - slowly, round-and-round - I liked it but think I would have loved it if it had been more of a jig!

3.5 stars
(Posted on 1/18/2014)
Light & Dark, Love & Hate, Happy & Sad. Topped with plenty of angst. Review by Jen
Jed Hastings needed some help and he found it in a kid named Booker West. All Booker’s ever dreamed about is becoming part of the rodeo circuit. He believes that becoming a part of something like the rodeo will make him feel closer to the mother he loved and lost, who made following the rodeo around her life.

Jed can’t believe what a prize he got when he picked up Booker to be his right hand man. He’s a damn good worker and quickly becoming Jed’s best friend. Booker has had a crush on Jed since the moment he saw him, but he knows Jed is a straight man and he needs to keep his thoughts to himself. Jed is not just his boss but his best friend and he never wants to jeopardize what they have.

After a few years Jed starts to fantasize about Booker and it scares the hell out of him. He should not be thinking the things he does and the more he fantasizes, the more he realizes he needs to move on. He needs to get as far away from Booker as he can. After four years working side-by-side and living in a trailer together, Booker’s crush on Jed has long since fled and turned into love. He just wishes Jed could love him in the same way.

The first half of the story was pretty much a get to know the characters. You get to know Booker and what I learned about him is that he’s a sweet and patient guy. So full of light as Jed would say. He’s all smiles and enthusiasm, he’s great at his job and everyone loves him. And then there’s Jed who I had a hard time liking. He’s good at his job but pretty much a hard ass, and I truly believe he cares about Booker but after reading this story, there were times where I wondered if the guy might not have had split personality disorder.

Once the story progresses a bit thing start to change. Booker’s having a hard time keeping his feelings in check and Jed’s starting to realize he’s feeling things he shouldn’t for his best friend but when Booker’s involved in an accident Jed can’t hold back, he cries and begs Booker not to die on him. I really thought that this would be the changing point in their relationship, but I was wrong. After Booker is released from the hospital he starts to see just how strained his friendship with Jed really is. Then they have a huge fight and things go from bad to worse to fantastic. Well, fantastic for Booker anyway, but after one helluva night with Jed, Booker wakes up alone realizing that Jed is gone, and gone for good.

I hate having to write this because I am a huge Cameron Dane fan but I had to skim a big portion of this book. Now, It’s one thing to have sex in books, most people like that but when a sex scene goes on for 12% of the book and all at one time it gets to be a bit much. This was one of the biggest downfalls of this book and maybe it’s just me but I really do believe that nobody wants to read over 50 pages of two people having sex. Especially when those 50 + pages are all one scene, and not to mention the other sex scenes just lasted way too long and it really started to ruin the story for me. So, yes, I skimmed because I was very tempted to put the book down and most likely I wouldn’t have picked it up again.

Cowboy Waltz was Light & Dark, Love & Hate, Happy & Sad. Topped with plenty of angst.

You can find my review here
(Posted on 11/28/2013)
Outstanding! Real Life Characters with Flaws. Loved it! Review by Wayne
Can't recommend this book enough. It was completely satisfying. Ms. Dane, does an incredible job making us connect to these characters, flaws and all.

I love stories that make us root for the couple but keep us feeling that it could all fall apart because of very human reasons. i.e. emotional baggage.

Thanks for a great story.
(Posted on 9/7/2013)
Boom! Review by Tina
I finished this at around 2:00 am this morning and went to bed feeling like I had been hit by a truck!

Let me say emphatically that I am a total and complete Cameron Dane fan-girl. Like buy the book on release day and do NOTHING but read until I am done. She is my gold standard when it comes to M/M romance and I don't think I've given one of her books less than 4-stars. In fact many if them I have read upwards of 4 times which is very, very unusual for me.

Cowboy Waltz started as a slow, long burn with a virgin, closeted Booker falling deeply in love with with straight man Jed. We saw the progression of trust and affection develop over four years.

Jed totally had no clue Booker was gay, let alone in love with him. The few fantasies he has had about Booker he brushed off as being because of lack of sex and living in such close proximity to him (they were roommates in a travel trailer).

When things reach a head they fucking EXPLODE. Like I don't even know how many pages of desperate, violent sex. And then the shit really hit the fan.

Things were desperate, tragic, emotionally draining. I cried, my heart skipped numerous beats, I got angry and frustrated.

While we did reach a HEA it was a serious uphill battle. The most desperate, intense battle I have ever seen in a Cameron Dane book. I enjoyed it but I didn't love it. The epilogue was fantastic, seeing both men settled and finally at peace but it hurt like hell getting there. One of Dane's great strengths is her strongly crafted characters. These characters pull you into the story so deeply, so realistically that the emotions you feel are more intense than the average book.

In the end I give this book a 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 because Cameron Dane really is the master of her craft. I recommend this book to people who have already read and loved Dane's work or those who love intense angst through most of their read. People who like sweet, heartwarming romances should steer clear.

As always, I'm looking forward to her next offering.
(Posted on 8/20/2013)
Finding love Review by Tammy
Cameron Dane gets better and better! I've read all of her books and I laugh and cry more with each book. I can't wait to read what's next. (Posted on 8/6/2013)
Friends with benefits Review by Lola
I could not wait for the next Cameron Dane book to come out. After checking her website (often), I was very pleased when this book became available. Booker is Ms.Dane's best character to date in my humble opinion. He is tenacious, a little shy, and goes after the man he loves (who happens to be his best friend), with such fierce loyalty. This book was really well written. I read it cover to cover in 2 days! (Posted on 7/28/2013)

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