Tate clapped his hat on his head and staggered out of Lulu's, cursing the damned wind and snow. Why any fool would build a bar at near eight thousand feet up a ten thousand foot pass was beyond him. Why any man would drive all the way up there for a beer was an even more stupid question.
The worst part about Lulu's was that the parking lot sat across the road. The road that was the only way across Organ Mountain pass between Las Cruces and White Sands. In a snowstorm like this a man could get hit crossing that damned road. Or worse. Hell, old man Neelan had stumbled off into an arroyo two years ago and froze himself to death.
That wasn't no way to go.
All Tate had to do was to get himself to his old bitch of a Dodge and get back down to his little house on the edge of Jackass Flats. Oh, they called it Tortilla Flats now, all them fancy folks who were building houses. Jesus, they had Saltillo tile and stained concrete floors, steel appliances and frilly curtains.
That wasn't his thing. Tate never had gotten that kind of life, and he was pretty unlikely to. He might just be the only cowboy left in his corner of southern New Mexico.
"Whoa, old timer." A big old pair of hands landed on his shoulders, a strong, solid body near knocking him down when it collided with his.
"I ain't old," Tate snarled, the beer making him just loose enough to welcome a fight. "Not that damned old, anyway."
"Sorry, man. You got that old cowboy look, is all."
Tate blinked snow off his eyelashes. "And you're regulation. Fort Bliss or White Sands?"
"Hmm? Oh. White Sands. You need some help finding your ride?"
What he could see of the kid was just big all over. Big old down jacket, big shoulders, eyes glinting some light color under the single street lamp outside the bar.
"I'm fine," Tate said, stepping back, and promptly stumbling over something. Goddamn it.
"Uh-huh. Come on, buddy. I'm a lot more solid against the wind. You're kinda lean."
Well, that was the nicest way anyone had ever told him he was a skinny ass. "I wouldn't mind a hand crossing the road." Hell, he wasn't above admitting that the wind felt fierce.
"Sure. Come on." Taking his arm, the Army kid hauled his butt across the wind and snow battered asphalt, helping him stay a lot more steady than he would have otherwise. They just missed a big SUV whizzing by, throwing up a wave of slush.
"Well, this is it," he said, waving at his truck. "Thanks, son."
The man peered down at him, craning to get a look under his hat. "You're right, man. You're not that old. Look, you gonna be okay to drive home?"
The beer and cold were making him stupid. That was Tate's only excuse. He fumbled for his keys, his creaky old fingers hurting something fierce. He dropped the goddamned keys, too, looking like an idiot.
"Shit. I don't know, kid. I might ought to just sleep it off in my truck."
"You'll freeze to death." He could almost see the wheels turning in the kid's head before a little cell phone came out. "Hey, Ram. Can you pick me up ... where do you live, man?"
"Jackass Flats. I'm out past the last housing development, right up near the spring."
"Shit, man, that's B.F. Nowhere. No, Ram, I wasn't talking to you. So, you know that ranch road before you start up to Organ? Pick me up there, will you? No, I'm driving someone home. Thanks."
"You don't have to drive me home," Tate said, wondering where he'd lost control of his day. Probably when he'd decided to go have a beer.
"I'd feel better."
They had a little stand off, but Tate finally handed over his keys, struggling around to the passenger side. They got in the cab, and the silence was jarring. Weird.
"You got a name?" Tate asked, finally breaking it right in two.
"Dave. So back down the mountain, huh?"
The big truck roared to life, pulling smoothly, even in the snow. The kid was all muscle, but the truck had a surprising finesse in his hands. Or maybe it was the other way around. The dash lights glowed, making eerie shadows on the guy's face, and Tate suddenly wondered if he'd just been abducted by an alien. In his truck.
He chuckled, the sound old and rusty.
"What?" Dave asked, glancing over, making him look even less like he had a neck.
"This ain't Roswell, you know. Even if it is New Mexico."