About Truth or Consequences
Author: BA Tortuga
Word Count: 68000
Page Count (pdf):
Genre: Western/Magical Realism
Date Published: 08252020
Publisher: Turtlehat Creatives
Heat Rating: 3
File Types available: pdf epub mobi
This title has been moved to Kindle Unlimited.
When Saint John “Sinjun” Livingston drove out of California in his vintage Caddy, he left behind the years of shame and fear instilled by his stalker ex. Sinjun’s new life as owner of the Rainbow Spa and Lodge in small town New Mexico is the perfect bandage for all his hurts. Finding this surreal place of peace is more than Sinjun dared to hope for, but what he doesn’t expect from Truth or Consequences is meeting a beautiful Texas cowboy on the side of the road… and wanting to get to know him.
From the first chance encounter, Rhys Davis knows he wants to see the free-spirited man with the weird name again. When Rhys offers to help renovate the lodge and spa to take the place from the 1970s to the modern age, he’s well aware he is falling for Sinjun. But the spa’s healing waters are needed more than ever when Rhys’s family interferes and Sinjun’s dangerous past comes back to haunt him.
Now Sinjun and Rhys must trust each other and the place that brought them together if they’re going to survive to build a future.
The sun beat down on Rhys Davis’s head, and he wished for the millionth time that he’d grabbed his hat from the truck. He’d only jumped out for a minute to check on a piece of fence that butted up to Highway 152, but then he found a damned break, and now he had a wire-bending situation on his hands. The heat could be fierce in early June in Southern New Mexico, and any idiot caught out working in the midday light without a hat deserved to fry his little brain to a crisp.
Bailey Barnes passed by in his big GMC, waving a gnarled hand at Rhys through the open window. Eighty years old if he was a day, Bailey had his sleeves rolled up and his windows down in the age-old manner of cowboy air-conditioning. Rhys waved back, glad to take a moment’s break from the damned barbed wire that seemed determined to rip into his hands like some kind of crazy dinosaur teeth.
He was about done with the job when he heard the rattle of an old car behind him, and Rhys was distracted long enough that he lost hold of the wire and it snapped up, hitting him in the face, only narrowly missing his right eye.
Rhys jumped back, hand clapped to his face. “Goddamn it all.”
“Oh my God!” A man ran up behind him, the sound of flip-flops slapping feet loud on the packed dirt of the shoulder. “Are you okay? Do you need a towel? I have some water.”
Eyes watering, Rhys turned to stare at the guy, his lips pulled back into a grimace. “No. I’m okay. Just stung me good.”
“No, you’re bleeding. I’m sorry if I did that. I saw your truck, and I needed to ask directions.”
He squinted at the man, noting shaggy blond hair and bright blue eyes in a tanned face. Looked like a surfer out of a movie about California, including baggy board shorts and crazy bare feet in flip-flops.
“It’s okay. Really. What are you looking for?”
“Cuchillo.” The guy smiled and spread his hands. “I’m staying in T or C, but my friend Angie runs a B and B in Cuchillo. It’s, like, a ghost town, right?”
“Population thirty-five, not including the ghosts,” Rhys said. “You missed the turn for the village is all. I can lead you back there, you give me ten minutes to finish this job.”
“That would rock!” The guy stuck out a hand. “I’m Sinjun. Spelled Saint John,” Sinjun spelled out the words.
“Rhys. With an h and a y.” He shook hands, grimacing again when blood smeared Sinjun’s hand. “Sorry. I don’t have any weird diseases to pass on, though.”
“No worry. I’ve got a towel, for real.” Sinjun pelted back to his Cadillac, which was vintage and what Rhys always thought of as candy-apple-red, complete with horns on the grille.
“That’s what? A ’58 Caddy?”
“Yeah! You know your shit, man.” Sinjun returned with a towel and a bottle of water. “Here, wash up. When was your last tetanus shot?”
“I’m up-to-date.” Rhys wasn’t about to go into how tetanus actually got passed on. Not his circus, not his monkeys. He did press the cool, wet cloth to his cheek, though, because it felt amazing. “Can you do me one more huge favor, though?”
“Sure. What do you need?”
“Can you get in my truck and get my hat?” That way his head wouldn’t burn up.
“You got it.” The slap-slap of those shoes sounded again, and Sinjun called out moments later. “Cowboy hat or ball cap?”
“The gimme cap, please. No sense dirtying up my good hat.”
“Gotcha.” Sinjun hustled back over to him and slapped the cap on his head so he didn’t need to let go of the fence. “What else can I do?”
“Hold the pliers here for me and watch your fingers so I don’t cut you.”
“I can do that.” Sinjun moved closer, near enough that Rhys smelled him—spicy and earthy with a hint of patchouli.
“Thanks,” Rhys said, trying hard not to get all distracted again. He quickly wound the wire around the nail he used for a height marker. Then he grabbed the stapler and punched in a few to hold the wire in place. “Okay, so back up and take the pliers away. I need to put a few more staples in.”
Sinjun backed away gently, easing the pliers off the wire. The man would make a good ranch hand if he could be convinced to wear real shoes. Flip-flops and ranch work would actually give you that tetanus, unlike a rusty nail.
“Better?” Sinjun asked after Rhys had stapled stuff into place.
“Much. Thanks. I don’t need cows out on the highway, you know?”
“That could be awkward.” Sinjun smiled for him, which lit up his whole face and made him even more attractive, if that was possible.
“Totally. All right, can you follow me okay?”
“I can! Hey, I owe you lunch or ice cream or something. For your help.” Sinjun bounced on his toes, looking hopeful.
“I like ice cream.” Rhys winked, feeling young and a little flirty, which made him blink.
“Me too! Is there a place in town?”
“Not in Cuchillo, but in T or C. Are you gonna be around for a few days?” Rhys asked casually, but his interest was ramping up by the moment.
“I am!” Sinjun gave him a bright smile. “I’m moving in. I bought the old Holden Hotel, the little rainbow one with the private hot springs pools.”
“Nice.” Damn, this guy had to be loaded. Rhys had looked into the Holden when it went up for sale. Too rich for his blood, but then he was a cattle rancher. Everything was out of his price range.
“It is. I really want to redo it, make it a retro haven, you know?”
“Are you going to keep it rainbow?” Rhys asked. The crazy, wildly painted building made Rhys smile. He’d hate for the town to lose such an icon.
“I am. I’m going to put a fresh coat of paint on it and rename it the Rainbow Lodge.”
“That’s awesome.” The whole rainbow deal also gave Rhys hope. Not everything rainbow had to be queer, but T or C was getting more friendly these days, so Rhys could sure wish Sinjun swung his way.
“So, anyway, I’ll be in town for a while.”
“Then I can take you for ice cream tomorrow.” Definitely date terminology there. He needed to back off, but this guy made him a little stupid already. Hell, Sinjun made him feel hopeful, and hope was the most dangerous emotion there was.