Backpacking across Canada was turning out to be a lot of fun. Expensive as hell, sure, but Adam was meeting all sorts of people and getting to see everything.
This week had been the Calgary Stampede. Chuck-wagon races, bullriding, saddle bronc, barrel racing, the stock show, he'd taken it all in.
And now he was broker than a broke thing. He was going to have to find some work.
Which was why he was at the job center, looking to see if there was any seasonal work going. It wasn't the greatest time of year to be looking for farm work, but he'd bet there was lots of construction jobs going.
He dropped his day backpack on a chair and went over to sign in on the farm work sheet. There were already a half dozen guys waiting in line to sign up. Most of them didn't do anything for him, they were just the kind of guys you nodded and smiled at, the kind you recognized as traveling men in rough clothes and tanned skin. There was one, though.
Tall, not heavy, but broad through the shoulders and chest. Dark, dark eyes under a cowboy hat. The guy looked like he'd stepped right out of the rodeo Adam had just been to.
He was caught looking and he couldn't help but smile. The guy smiled back at him, bright teeth flashing in the tanned-leather face. The hat tipped, the man nodding him right over. Oh, cool. Maybe they'd find something together. If there was work going on a ranch, they often needed more than one.
He nodded back, still smiling, the silent exchange brightening his whole day.
They both stood in line and filled out forms, and he thought maybe he'd been forgotten when the man left, bow-legged cowboy walk all but making him drool.
He grabbed his backpack off the chair when he was done, trying to figure out if he should just stay where he was or go wait with the cowboy. The wait could be a few minutes, it could be a couple hours. Would he be too obvious if he moved to sit by the guy?
Did it matter?
No, it didn't. He'd kick himself forever if he didn't go sit close. So that's what he did, picking the chair next to the cowboy to settle in.
"Hey, there," the man said, those dark-dark eyes making nice with his whole body. "How goes?"
"Not bad, really. How about you?" He tried not to wriggle in his seat, but damn, that had been like a touch.
"Oh, living and breathing." Grinning, the man held out one scarred hand. "Ronnie Hernandez."
"Adam Beaulieu. Please to meet you, Ronnie." Ronnie had a nice shake, firm without taking his hand off.
"Same here. So, you're not from around here either, huh?" The voice wasn't quite a drawl, but it had a slow, deep richness to it, a deliberateness.
"No, I'm from Quebec. I'm backpacking across the country and came into Calgary for the Stampede, which was awesome! What about you?"
Those dark cheeks went even darker, a flush filling them right up. "Came up for the Stampede. Need to make some money to get home, you know?"
"Were you up to watch or to participate in?" The later he'd bet, this was a real cowboy, he could tell.
"I was here to ride." One eyebrow went up sardonically. "I didn't."