Leading The Blind, by BA Tortuga
General Release Date: 8th June 2021
Word Count: 53,445
Book Length: NOVEL
ACTION AND ADVENTURE
COWBOYS AND WESTERN
You don’t need the use of your eyes to see forever.
After his head injury leaves him blind, professional bull rider Jason Scott can only think of one thing. He desperately needs to win the title in the big leagues of bull riding so he can retire and start a new life—one he can live with his best friend and lover, Andy Baxter.
Andy—or Bax, as his friends call him—wants to keep Jason safe and alive, but he would never ask his man to be less than he is. With the help of their best friends, they start out on a path that will lead them back to the major events and to a deception that might lose them all their jobs.
There’s no way the league officials would let Jason ride if they knew he was blind, so Jason and Bax have to figure out how to get Jason back to the top of the leaderboard without any kind of advantage or cheating being called. Meanwhile, they have to figure out what their new life is going to look like and what they’ll be if they’re not bull riders any longer.
Will they get what they want? Or will the whole thing just be a case of the blind leading the blind?
Reader advisory: This book contains some bull riding-related injuries. There is a brief homophobic slur from a secondary character.
“Jesus fucking Christ! Open your goddamn eyes next time! That bull damn near rang your bell.” Bax shook his arm, and Jason swore that made the world swim before his useless fucking eyes again.
“Andy Baxter, you’d best back the fuck off. This ain’t the time.” He’d know Coke’s voice anywhere, the bullfighter as much a part of his family as anyone ever had been.
“Gramps, don’t.” Jason Scott leaned against the stall, breathing hard. The last thing he needed was Pa and Ma MacGillicuddy freaking out because he’d lost his cookies at a bull riding. Bull riding fans were a specific breed, and it didn’t matter one bit whether it was the big show or a tiny two-gate sheriff’s posse arena. They all talked.
“Well, someone has to,” Coke ground out. “He’s being an ass.”
“He needs to keep his eyes open.” But Bax lowered his voice, thank God.
“I know. I got dirt in ‘em. It’s not like I can wipe them, Bax.”
“For eight seconds, you can suck it up.”
“Right. ‘Cause you were always fucking perfect.”
Bax grabbed his shirtfront and shook him. “Every. Fucking. Ride.”
“Stop it,” Coke snapped, and they stopped. Gramps rarely spoke in that tone. When he did, well, they listened. “Y’all are being buttheads and I don’t need this shit, you comprende? Folks got phones.”
“Sorry,” Bax murmured, which made Jason snort.
“Don’t tease the bull, son. Tell Andy you’re sorry.”
Jason blew out a hard breath. “You know I am, butthead.”
“Good boys. Come on now. We got to get out of the public.” Coke tugged at his arm. Hell, Coke had to get back to work.
“Right. I’m going to get out of here, Gramps. I sure as shit ain’t making the short go.”
“Okay, son.” Coke clapped him on the back. “Be good.”
Bax laughed. “Right. He’ll be trying to drive off in the truck soon.”
“I’d do better than some.” His head was starting to pound like there was a damn mariachi band in there, playing away.
“You did okay last time,” Bax agreed, taking his arm and leading him out of the arena. “Until you didn’t.”
“Story of my life.” He rode like a champion, until he didn’t. He could see, until he couldn’t. He had a whole life, until it was over. Now? He was fixin’ to try and take some of it back.
“Hey, I just want you to be safe.”
“I know. I just want you to not have to babysit my ass forever.”
“I’m not your babysitter.” Bax lowered his voice. “I’m yours, and we’re in this together, Mini.”
Jason felt his fucking shoulders come down from around his ears. Okay. Yeah. ‘Together’ he could get behind. A burden? No, that he couldn’t do. “Right. Sorry. You want a beer?” An aspirin? Something to stop this pounding?
“Sure. Sounds good.” Bax led him out of the arena, the dirt changing to concrete.
He tried to make sure his face was thunderous, keeping anyone away who might want to talk. He was getting better at that part—the talking to fans—but not much. Right now he thought he might die if someone stopped them. Bax kept him moving fast, and soon enough he was in the cab of their truck, the sudden quiet shocking his senses.
“I’m taking you to the travel trailer, okay?” Bax sounded either pissed or scared. He wasn’t sure which.
“Okay.” Jason didn’t want to fight no more, so he folded his hands and sat quiet as a mouse.
They didn’t play music, they just drove, and when they got to the gravel road, Jason knew they were at the weird little campground.
The truck rocked a bit when Bax hit the brakes. The engine cut off, and they sat there.
“You okay?” Bax finally asked.
“My head hurts some,” he admitted. “I need some time to not worry about shit.”
“Well, come on. We’ll get you some pills and watch a movie.”
Listen to a movie, more like, but whatever. “Works for me.”
“You sure? I could put on one of those audiobooks.”
“I just want to be somewhere I”—can see—“know.”
“It’s cool and quiet in there.” Bax climbed out of the truck, then came around to help him out.
“Yeah.” He sighed. “I’m sorry, Bax.”
“What for, Mini?” They stepped up into the trailer, the smell oddly homey inside.
“Being blind?” Having you take care of me when all I want in all the world is to take care of you.
“Well, that’s stupid. Ain’t like you asked to be blind.”
“No.” No, not a bit. “Good thing we cleared that up.”
“You know it.” Bax snorted loud, then guided him to sit back on the bed thingy. “Let me get us a cold drink, then we can kinda float.”
“Thanks. I’ll get the next one.” He toed his boots off and stripped out of his sponsor shirt and his baggy, filthy work jeans.
“No problem.” Bax opened a couple of bottles, the bottle cap sound unmistakable.
He took the bottle when Bax offered it and drank deep, the lemon-lime bubbles suiting him to the bone.
“Mmm. It was dry as dirt out there, huh?”
“Yeah. Yeah, and I’m pretty sure my mouth was open when I hit the ground.” His molars were a little gritty.
“Ew. No cow shit, Mini.”
Jason snorted, tickled shitless. “No. Although God knows how much we’ve eaten accidentally over the years.”
“Stop.” Bax pinched his hip. “That’s nasty.”
“No pinching!” He rolled toward Bax, trying not to spill his drink. “You’re such a wuss.”
“I am not. I swim with you at your momma’s place. There’s snake poop in there.” Bax had a point there. Jason wasn’t real sure what the point was, but Bax had one.
“I don’t even want to think about what all is in that pond, Bax.”
They kinda…lounged. Just sat there and breathed like great big lazy gators. He laughed a little at that. Gators did okay blind, according to Beau Lafitte.
“What’s funny, Mini?”
“That ain’t funny. That’s a lot of teeth.”
“You’re just grumpy. Most days they’re funny.”
“Kinda, yeah.” Bax took his hand. “Sorry I yelled, Mini.”
“I’m trying. I swear to God. I’m trying hard to do this.” And God knew there were more than a few days when he just wanted to give up, to go home to Momma’s and admit defeat. Shit fire and save matches, what the fuck was he thinking, riding blind? He’d got his bell rung when he could see.
“I know. I know it.” Bax sighed. “I want— Shit, Mini, I want you to be happy, and you’re not.”
“I don’t want to ride the little events forever. I don’t want to be a has-been.” He didn’t want to be a burden.
“You’re not. You’re doing amazing.”
Now, Bax wasn’t one to blow smoke up anyone’s ass, so the words perked him up a little bit.
“You think so? I feel like a fuck-up.”
“That’s because we’re all always telling you what to do.”
He traced Bax’s fingers, one after another. Lord have mercy, those calluses felt like heaven when they touched him. The fact that they’d never touched him when he couldn’t see wasn’t lost on him. Bax had saved him. Completely. Fucker.
“You’re pouring smoke, Jason. Out of your brain.” Bax chuckled. “Thinkin’ ain’t what we do best.”
“Fuck no. We do stupid shit and drink beer.” It was the cowboy way, after all.
“See? I knew it.” Bax rolled to kiss his cheek.
“Knew what?” He could meet Bax halfway.
“That we’re better not thinking.” Bax laughed, poking his ribs.
He chuckled. “No shit on that, man.”
“Mmm.” Bax settled in right against his hip. “I got you, Jason. You just scared me, is all.”
“Scared me too. I hate being this way.”
“I know.” Those fingers moved over him, Bax stroking his belly.
Goosepimples climbed up his skin, heading from hips to nipples. “Mmm. I don’t hate this, though.”
“No, sir. I love this. Holding you. Touching you.”
Bax was breathing, steady and sure, and the rhythm liked to hypnotized him. “That is a good deal,” Bax agreed.
“We are. I mean, this is. Us. Christ.”
“It is what it is.” That was right down Zen of Bax.
He nodded and let his eyes close. It was the only way he could see colors. Sometimes he thought he could see Bax. Sometimes he knew he could.
“You’re smiling.” Bax rewarded him with a kiss.
He didn’t say why, and it didn’t matter. Nothing he did would change his world. No sense getting Bax’s hopes up.
Together, they’d get through today. Tomorrow too.
The day after that would just have to take care of itself.
About the Author
Texan to the bone and an unrepentant Daddy’s Girl, BA Tortuga spends her days with her basset hounds and her beloved wife, texting her buddies, and eating Mexican food. When she’s not doing that, she’s writing. She spends her days off watching rodeo, knitting and surfing Pinterest in the name of research. BA’s personal saviors include her wife, Julia Talbot, her best friends, and coffee. Lots of coffee. Really good coffee.
Having written everything from fist-fighting rednecks to hard-core cowboys to werewolves, BA does her damnedest to tell the stories of her heart, which was raised in Northeast Texas, but has heard the call of the high desert and lives in the Sandias. With books ranging from hard-hitting romance, to fiery menages, to the most traditional of love stories, BA refuses to be pigeon-holed by anyone but the voices in her head.
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