"I am going to tan your hide, boy."
Danny looked across the fence post, to the hard-faced cowboy stringing a line next to him, wire in one gloved hand, and his lips twitched. "I'd love to see you try, asshole."
It was a hundred and six degrees, there wasn't a fucking cloud in the sky, and it wasn't his fucking fault they'd pulled fence duty. Hell, they could be roofing the horse barn. Or trenching.
Just because he was the new guy. Just because he was city.
Christ, a guy went to Austin for college and came home after graduation to help Gramps get things back in the black...
If one more old fuck called him city-slicker...
"You think I can't do it, city-slicker?"
Okay, that was it. The fact that it came from Cary Carpenter's beautiful fucking mouth made it all the worse. Cary wasn't old, and he wasn't someone Danny could ignore. In fact, he was someone Danny fantasized about. Which made him see red once those words dropped between them like a turd in the punchbowl.
His body still believed it belonged to an eighteen year-old football player and he tackled the sorry, smug son of a bitch, taking the motherfucker down into the hard-packed dirt.
"Ooph." Cary might be five or ten years older than him, but the man was built like a rock. A lean, mean rock. There was no give there. Not even in the fist that cracked against his chin.
Fuck, that hurt. It was maddening.
He had the upper hand, though, driving one fist into Cary's bread basket.
"Ngh." The man curled around his hand before kicking away, rolling out from under him.
He scrambled to his feet, hoping to hell his hat didn't blow too far away, fists still balled up. "What is y'all's fucking issue with me, man?"
"What do you think? You're not one of us. You're fucking soft and you let your grandpa get in a bad way!"
That was so not how it had worked. Gramps had worked hard to put Danny through school so he could help with business end of things.
"Let my... Oh, Jesus fuck! You asshats! I came home as soon as I graduated. I worked on this ranch my whole life and all but one fucking summer..."
"Bullshit. I been here three years, I ain't never met you before this year." That lantern jaw could set like iron, and Danny was glad he'd gone for Cary's belly when he'd thrown his punch.
His fingers creaked, curling into fists again. "Are you calling me a liar?"
He'd spent his freshman year working with the cutting horses, his sophomore year driving Granny back and forth to fucking Houston for chemo, and his junior year designing the fucking irrigation system for the ranch.
He wasn't a fucking slacker.
"I'm just saying I been working my ass off, and I ain't seen you until now."
"And do all the supposed new guys get the same shit from you asshats? Christ, no wonder Gramps has a problem keeping hands." He went for his hat, growling under his breath. He had a shit load more fence to fix and no patience for assholes.
"No, sir. Just the ones like you."
"Like me, huh?" Christ, it always came down to name-calling. He pursed his lips, cursing the day that his fucking cousin, Matt, had caught him in the barn with Issac West. Gramps and Granny didn't give a shit that he was queer, but some days Danny thought they were the only two folks in east Texas that didn't. "Matt's been running his mouth again, huh?"
That hit a sore spot, he could tell. Cary shrugged, looking a little hang dog. "You sayin' it ain't true?"
"Nope. I ain't denying a thing."