The Western wear shop designed like an old saloon wasn't yet open, but the flurry of activity made Brian smile. His dream was coming true, and in a couple weeks, the shop would open. Brian's cell rang, and he grabbed it off the hardwood counter.
"Hey, Mrs. Raider," he answered teasingly. His sister, Penny, had pulled off the biggest wedding in Texas history and jetted off to Hawaii with her bodyguard hubby, Grayson Raider.
"Stop it," she replied.
He could hear the smile. "How's that sex on the beach? Make sure you use sunscreen. You burn."
"Brian, it's my honeymoon. I'm not doing that on the beach. You're terrible. How's the shop?" she asked.
"Coming together. You didn't have to come up for air to check on me." Brian was so happy for his sister. The couple glowed with passion, and Penny marrying a Yankee had sent tidal waves through the family. The fact that it didn't bother Penny at all told Brian it was forever.
"We'll be back in time for the grand opening, but we're sending you an early present." Her voice was soft.
Brian knew it was more than a gift. "Present?"
"Dad mentioned you might have some issues. Protestors and stuff."
"Please. It's leather, boots and jackets. Pure Texas with a bit more class. They're only going to protest because I'm gay and a Beaumont. It's nothing. Ignoring it is best." Brian had heard it already, and nothing would stop him.
"But you are high profile because of Dad's money. Isn't that the excuse you used when I went to Italy?" she replied.
"Oh no, you don't. No, Penny, I'm not a sweet girl who needs a bodyguard." Brain knew being gay meant he might as well being wearing a dress to a lot of his family, but Penny didn't think that way. Brian worked out and could defend himself, but the gay label came first. Still he loved everything Texas, riding, roping and leather.
"Big tough movie stars use bodyguards. Grayson went to a lot of trouble to pick the right team."
"Team?" Brian leaned on one of the pillars in the store. The rope to wind around them was still in a box. He had so much to do. "I don't need men underfoot to get in the way."
"Think about your employees, Brian. All the workers and delivery people. It's not just you that could be hurt or scared. The bodyguards will keep things under control." Penny made it sound so sensible and easy.
"Is this what I did to you?" he asked.
"Pretty much. And you drooled over Grayson. I won't do that to Jones. Just take the help. Family perks from your new brother-in-law."
"Is this Jones a Raider?" Brian knew how attractive those men were. That was another type of distraction he didn't need.
"No, Jones is an employee from the L.A. branch. He's dealt with this stuff before--all that gay marriage back and forth. It'll be fine." Penny sounded confident.
"This is Texas, not California," Brian reminded her.
"Will you relax? He's a professional. And when Grayson and I get back in for the opening, he'll review the situation and decide what's best. Now, I've got to get changed for the luau. Promise me you'll play nice with Jones and let him do his job."
"When is he arriving?" Brian asked.
"Promise me," Penny pushed back.
The front door opened, and Brian looked up. A tall man with shoulders that took over the doorway stole Brian's focus. Black hair, dark eyes, and muscles for days. Jeans and a gray T-shirt were filled out to perfection, but the black boots were the hottest part. Those told Brian that this guy knew style. Brian's gaydar tingled.
"Fine, I promise to play nice. Gotta go. Work to do. You need to get back to making me a niece to spoil and style."
"Brian!" Penny replied.
"Aloha." Brian disconnected and turned to the new guy. "Can I help you?"
"Brian Beaumont?" His deep voice made Brian pray this was Jones.
"Guilty." Brian smiled. "You are?"
"Jones Preston from Raiders. You're expecting me?" He held out a hand.
"Just got the news from my sister." Brian took his hand, and the spark made his shake a little too long. He pulled back and wiped his palm before his turned into a giggling idiot. "I'm still putting the place together. Not much for you to do."
"Protection is all the time. My team is scouting the area. Interviewing other owners and making sure what we're dealing with. Seeing if anyone will be trouble." Jones looked around. "Nice set up."
"Thanks. But really, I picked a gay friendly area. I can't imagine there will be an issue. It's the conservatives. My Dad runs in those circles. So it could be an issue there. Texas can be weird about things like that. My Dad is big; so odds are they won't hurt me or anyone. It's just a big show."
"Let me worry about that." Jones walked closer. "For the next two weeks, you let me worry about your safety and you listen to me. I've got your back, and I'm not putting up with any arguments or games."
Brian could think of dozens of naughty games to play with a man so tightly wound. Jones oozed power and control. "I appreciate my brother-in-law's concern. I'll let you do your thing. But I'm not a damsel in distress. I grew up in Texas. I know what I'm dealing with. Not sure L.A. guys can handle it." Brian leaned in with his hands on the counter and tightened his muscles to show off.
A barely noticeable tug at the corner of Jones' mouth gave Brian a thrill. The man wasn't all gloom and business.
"I'm sure you can defend yourself. These situations can get heated and tense. Protestors can turn crazy. You need more than muscle for that. You need a neutral party to calm things down." Jones glanced at Brian's nice sculpted arms.
"I'm not looking for trouble. It's not like I opened a gay bar or dating service. Penny and I always loved fashion. I like leather and the Texas look. Being gay owned doesn't make this a gay business. It's not like my leather jackets are done in rainbow." Brian took a deep breath. Part of him believed he'd found his place in the world. He knew what he wanted, but still he felt so alone. Was the world against him?
"I understand. Once you're open and people are here for the merchandise, things will probably calm down. It's the grand opening and the prep time...this is when you're most vulnerable. Others are forming opinions without information. Anything can happen."
The urge to keep arguing with the sexy man kept Brian's mouth going. "But nothing has happened. No threats or protests."
He'd only been in the space for a couple days.
Jones nodded. "Fair enough. But you're barely started by the looks of it. Grayson said the lease began a day or so ago. Troublemakers take time to get followers. The classy ones are putting pressure on your dad to do something to stop you. Move you to L.A. or New York. It might be quiet. Or it could escalate. You have deliveries coming. Strangers will be in and out. Very vulnerable. One could slip in and plant a bomb."
"A bomb?" Brian shivered at the idea. "Come on. Get real."
"I am. With my guys watching, no one will get in and cause trouble. All strangers will be watched and names taken. It lets people know we're paying attention so if someone tries something, we know who was in the shop. Just asking for identification is a deterrent." Jones was confident and serious.
Brian relaxed. "That's where you come in. Protecting my employees is important to me. They shouldn't be in danger because of my personal life."
"So you'll let me do my job?" Jones asked.
"Not sure I ever had a choice."
"It's your shop. I can't protect you without your cooperation," Jones admitted.
"Met my sister?" Brian asked.
Jones shrugged. "No, got my orders from Grayson by phone."
"My sister is a force of nature. She gets her way. You report I'm resisting, and I'll never hear the end of it. But I'll cooperate." Brian studied Jones, wanting to flirt and cooperate naked, but the all business signals shut down Brian's boy cruising. Clearly, Jones was serious about his work. "So how do you think you're going to handle all the Texas stuff? I promise, this isn't L.A."
Jones smiled wide. "No, it sure isn't. But I'll manage." The soft Texas drawl rolled off Jones' tongue.
Dazzled, Brian wanted more of Jones and that magic tongue.
"You're from Texas?" Brian asked.
Jones smiled. Brian recovered quickly, but Jones had thrown him off balance. Jones seemed at ease.
"I lived here until I was eighteen. As soon as I could, I left for a safer place." Jones didn't talk about his sexuality much. At least not at work. "L.A. is much safer."
"Dallas isn't bad in the city. I escaped to New York for college, but this is home. I've accepted it; now, they'll accept me."
"Like it or not?" Jones admired Brian's courage and conviction.
That and his piercing green eyes. Brian's brown hair was short and would pass any manly inspection. The lean muscled form also met with Jones' approval. Brian could protect himself, but Jones knew his interest in Brian's body was not at all professional. He'd avoided involvement with a client thus far, but the day had arrived. Jones was attracted to a client. To deny it was pointless, but Jones had to push it away. His job was far more important than a fling.
"Texas is home. I'm not running. I like my Uncle Lubby's little ranch. I could ride and rope as well as any kid growing up. I bet you're good with a rope." Brian flirted.
"I do okay." Jones wanted to give in. Back in L.A., if they'd met in a bar, they'd be making out by now. Jones would take him home, and after a night of great sex, they'd be over. But Jones valued his job. No way would he ruin his reputation.
"So you went to L.A. and became a bodyguard?" Brian prompted.
It was normal for people to want to know something about the person they'd let into their life to protect them. This was less flirt and more sanity. "I started as a bartender and then found I preferred the bouncer role. I got hired by some minor celebrities who wanted security."
"The boy toy in a gay bar," Brian teased.
"It was a gay bar, but I was hired for muscle, nothing more. This celebrity liked the biker types. Anyway, it got me other work, and discretion goes a long way in this business. I ended up at Raider's." Jones looked Brian in the eye. "So I know something about Texas and about being gay. Trust me, I'll keep you safe."
Brian nodded. "Thanks."
Jones wanted to get closer. To feel the heat from Brian. He'd been single a long time. Random sex never gave Jones what he wanted, but most relationships never got as deep as the information he'd just shared with Brian.
Back to business, Jones had to do his job first. But Brian was easy to talk to. And even in jeans and cowboy boots, Brian came off educated and polished, accent or not. Brian was lucky. He had family that supported him and cared for his safety.
"Why don't you show me around the shop? I need to know all the little spots, any entry and exit points and who is authorized."
"Show off my shop? You don't have to twist my arm or even ask twice." Brian smiled and strutted in the open area.
"Hats and boots to the left. Jackets and clothing to the right. Buckles and accessories up front. Follow me." He led the way through to the back.
Jones admired the view. With Brian's shirt tucked in so neatly, Jones got a great look at Brian's tight ass.
"Inventory is back here. Beyond there, an employee break room. My office in here." Brian flipped on the lights.
Jones walked in. Cozy, no windows. Private. "So the back door is through the store room?"
"Yeah, deliveries will come in the back. Penny's friend Andrea is designing an excellent line of boots with high heels in the current fashion. Great crossover. Penny is having a lot of fun working with leather for the plus size ladies' selection."
"Exclusive? Very expensive stuff." Jones saw a man who had more money than he knew what to do with--a condition Jones never had. His parents probably still lived in the same trailer. His dad didn't promote any communication so Jones had stopped trying. But money had disadvantages, too. If Brian were a no one, not a Beaumont, the odds of anyone bothering his business or caring he was gay would be practically nothing. The world was strange. Brian had everything, and if he'd stayed in New York or moved to L.A., the gay thing could be an advantage.
"Why be here? Why not open your shop in New York or L.A.?" Jones asked frankly.
Brian frowned. "Texas is home. You can't run from your roots. You've got to face who you are and where you came from eventually. Nothing says I can't branch out coast-to-coast, but for some reason it has to start here."
"Keeps me working." Jones didn't know what else to say. The inner strength Brian had made Jones want to get closer, give in and enjoy. But Brian wasn't Jones' normal roll in the hay.
"And maybe you'll get to see your friends and family while you're here. Free trip home. I won't need you guarding me twenty-four hours a day and seven days a week." Brian stuffed his hands in his pockets.
Right. Brian probably already had a sex life, and Jones wouldn't be allowed to ruin it. "Of course, I won't intrude on your private life. If you plan on company, I can stay outside in the truck. But you will have a man watching your safety around the clock."
Brian moved close. "I don't have a steady boyfriend. If you want to see me naked, just ask."
Tense, Jones looked around. They were alone in the office. "No. I mean, I don't do that with clients. I'm professional. I meant we'll keep you protected, and you can live your life as normally as possible. Someone might try to intimidate you rather than protest."
"Right. No messing with the clients. Tell that to my sister who is on her honeymoon with her bodyguard. Or her friend, another Mrs. Raider. If they fire you for doing what they did, what we want to..." Brian laughed. "Won't happen. I'll have Penny nag Grayson to death." Brian inched closer.
"I'm not a Raider." Jones liked Brian's direct approach and wanted to give in, but was Brian really what Jones needed? On some level, Jones sensed a bit of the Dom side, but why was he leaving it all up to Jones.
"No, and I'm not your boss. You don't do what I want because I'm the client. You do it because you want to submit and please me." Brian's devilish green eyes sparkled with lust. "Or you don't do anything. You're my very hot bodyguard so we'll see if you can resist. But we're two grown men, in the gay scene long enough to know how to make it work or let it go. Either way, it's got nothing to do with your job." Brian slid a hand behind Jones' neck.
Jones had a few inches on Brian and twenty pounds of muscle, but Jones felt the flutter of anticipation. Brian had the power; Jones wanted to be taken. Maybe coming back to Texas wasn't so bad? He leaned down as Brian added pressure.
The kiss scorched Jones. Wrapping their arms around each other, Jones sunk into the kiss. He let Brian set the pace. Brian's fingers dug into Jones' hair, tugging him back as the front door opened and closed.
"My team." Jones couldn't let anyone know he was doing this.
As if Brian read the panic in Jones, Brian kissed Jones' chin and stepped back. "Go on. No one needs to know about our playtime. I really don't have a boyfriend so you'll have to guard me up close day and night."
Jones nodded and headed out to the front to meet with his team. Casual sex with a sexy Texan who liked to be the boss... Jones licked his lips. Brian tasted good. Jones would have to keep the creative and bossy man safe and happy.