Butt Riders on the Range is now available from Wilde City Press! This is the fourth in the Butt-thology series and the second in which I’ve taken part. In this one, the theme is cowboys/Westerns. Each of the authors approached the theme from a different angle, and the result is fun, fascinating, and fresh. I hope y’all enjoy it!
Do you imagine blazing gun battles, bandits, and saloons with watered-down drinks when you think of cowboys and the West? We don’t. Our minds go right to horse shifters, bull shifters, were-leopards, urban wannabes, an interrupted journey along Route 66, a man of mystery named Dr. Feel-Good, and high noon at the edge of the galaxy! The fourth time’s the charm as the Butt-Thology authors saddle up, ride their men hard, and put ‘em away wet.
Butt Riders on the Range…the bulls aren’t the only ones being grabbed by the horns!
Here’s an excerpt from my contribution to the anthology, “The Five Hells War.”
© Copyright 2015 Ally Blue
When the latest Cavendish minion arrived to try and buy out his ranch, Rocky was standing on top of a step stool with both hands inside a boomer cow.
“Tell him to fuck off,” Rocky instructed his foreman through clenched teeth. “I’m busy.” He turned the calf in his grip as gently as he could. The cow honked at him, shuffling her wide feet nervously. He leaned a shoulder against her broad, yellow and white speckled hindquarters. “Easy there, Jezabell. We’re almost there, sweetheart.”
In the barn door, the foreman, Jackson, cleared his throat. “I already told him that. He said he won’t leave till you talk to him.”
Great jumping jackalopes.
Rocky dipped his head and used his rolled-up sleeve to mop the sweat from his face. “What’s this asshole’s name?”
“Balthazar Shellenbarger.” Jackson’s boots shuffled on the barn floor. “He’s a lawyer, Rocky.”
Jez’s womb contracted. Rocky tugged with slow, steady pressure, and one of the calf’s long legs popped free. Only one more to go. Then came the tricky part—the head. He couldn’t afford to lose focus now. He didn’t have enough boomers to lose a calf to one of Jez’s breech births.
“You go tell Mister B.S. Lawyerman that I’m up to my elbows in a goddamn cow, so he can either fuck the hell off, or make himself useful and come help me deliver this calf.” He spared a quick glance at Jackson, who still hovered in the doorway looking uncertain. “Go on, now. Tell him.”
Jackson sighed. “Okay. But he’s not gonna like it.” He turned on his heel and marched off toward the big house Rocky owned but hardly ever used except for receiving visitors.
“He’s not supposed to fucking like it,” Rocky muttered to the boomer baby slowly emerging wrong end first from its mama.
He’d tried being polite when the Cavendish Family Farms governing board first started sending underlings out to Five Hells Ranch with their offers to buy him out. No thank you, he’d told them, matching fake smile for fake smile and glibness for glibness. Five Hells isn’t for sale. No thanks, no thanks, no thanks.
He’d started telling them to fuck off when the offers began to arrive accompanied with veiled threats and the minions’ smiles became hard and cold, and he realized they weren’t going to take no for an answer. Eventually, they were going to escalate.
This was the first time they’d sent a lawyer. Rocky figured that meant escalation had arrived.
“Bring it, bitches,” he declared to Jez, her partially born calf, and the couple of other pregnant cows in the barn. He might be surrounded by Cavendish boomer ranches, but he’d die before he sold the ranch his great-grandparents had built up from the dust of this fucking planet.
The ring of boot heels on banjo wood announced the arrival of the Cavendish lawyer in the barn. Rocky kept his attention on his work, easing the last gangly, gory leg free from Jez’s uterus. “Just in time, Lawyerman. I’m gonna need that bulb there any minute now.” He nodded at the rubber suction bulb the size of his forearm lying at the ready in a bucket of warm water at the foot of the stepladder. “Hand it up to me when I tell you.”
He heard the queasy gulp and couldn’t decide whether to laugh or curse. In the end, he did neither, because Jez’s body spit out the rest of the calf with one last mighty contraction and Rocky had his hands full—literally—making sure the baby didn’t arrive dead of a broken neck. Boomers were tough, hardy animals, damn near impossible to kill, but their relatively long necks made a breech birth particularly dangerous.
A quick glance showed Rocky that Jackson had gone back to his work and Lawyerman wasn’t going to be any help. In fact, he looked sick.
With a deep sigh, Rocky climbed off the stepstool, the slippery new calf cradled in his arms. “Never mind. I got it.” He scooped the bulb out of the bucket, squeezed it flat, shoved the business end into the baby’s throat, and let the bulb reinflate.
He did it twice more, slurping out about half a liter of amniotic fluid and shooting it into the bucket, before the baby’s ribs expanded and it let out a high-pitched squeal. Rocky grinned. “There you go, little guy.” He carried the calf to Jez, who’d stretched out on the straw to rest after her ordeal, and laid him at her teat to suckle. “I think I’ll name him Squeaky. What d’you think, Lawyerman?”
The silence behind him was absolute. He turned, raising his eyebrows at the human cog in the Cavendish machine. The man stood rooted to the floor, mouth hanging open beneath a thick black mustache shot through with silver, dark eyes wide. He blinked and focused a curious gaze on Rocky. “Do you name all of them?”
Rocky shrugged. “I used to. But there’s too many of ’em these days. Now I only name the ones I deliver myself.” He scratched Jezabell’s long nose when she lifted her head. “I’ve delivered all of hers. She almost always has breech babies. Don’t you, old girl?”
The lawyer studied Jez with intense interest for a second, then stared at Rocky like he’d done something fascinating. “Isn’t it dangerous to deliver them yourself? Why don’t you call the veterinarian to do it?”
Okay, that was a surprise. Cavendish minions had never shown any concern for Rocky’s boomers before, except as profit the company wasn’t getting. It intrigued him to the point where he almost didn’t notice the other thing wrong with what Shellenbarger had said.
“We don’t have a vet out here, mister.” Rocky pointed a still-bloody finger at the man. “You can thank your bosses for that.”
Shellenbarger shook his head. “I don’t understand.”
Peering into his eyes, Rocky saw honest puzzlement. “Wow, they don’t tell you people much, do they?” He strolled over to the sink, turned on the water with his elbow and scrubbed his hands under the lukewarm flow. “All the Cavendish ranches employ their own vets. I can’t afford one. So I’ve learned how to take care of my animals myself.”
Lawyerman’s eyebrows pulled together. “But I met the local veterinarian. He drove me from the train station into town.”
The light dawned then, and Rocky laughed so hard his stomach hurt, while Shellenbarger’s cheeks went red. “Sorry,” he gasped when he could breathe again. “But Dr. Kage isn’t a vet. He’s a retired proctologist. He likes to have a little fun with any new people who come around. The last newbie who showed up thought he was a famous brain surgeon for a whole fucking month. Oh, man.” He turned off the water and rubbed his wet hands over his face. The coolness felt good. “Okay, Shellenbarger. Let’s get to the point. If you’re here to make me an offer for the ranch, you can turn your fancy ass right around and go back to Danu, ’cause Five Hells is not now nor will it ever be, for sale.” He crossed his arms and aimed a your move, asshole look at the Cavendish man.
Shellenbarger sighed as if the whole thing was a terrible burden. He took off his wide-brimmed black hat and wiped sweat from his forehead with a linen cloth from his coat pocket. Strands of black hair escaped from his neat ponytail—the latest style for men in the Galactic Center, Rocky had heard—to curl around high cheekbones and a strong jaw. He was handsome, Rocky realized. Tall, wide-shouldered, narrow-hipped, big dark eyes and a lower lip Rocky kind of wanted to suck on like a hard candy.
Too bad he was a pampered Center fancy. Would probably cry like a baby if he got a damned splinter. Rocky had no patience with that sort.
Or maybe that was good. The last thing Rocky needed was to get sexually involved with one of Cavendish’s people.
“I’m not here to make you an offer,” Fancy Pants said, breaking the stretch of quiet and startling Rocky out of his musings.
“Okay. That’s new.” Rocky scratched his neck where the sweat ran down from his hairline into his collar. “What the hell’re you doing here, then?”
Fancy drew himself up straight and held his hat in front of his chest like a shield. The effect was strangely formal, and apprehension curled in Rocky’s stomach.
The man licked his lips and stared directly into Rocky’s eyes. “I’m truly sorry, Mr. Flint. But Cavendish isn’t asking this time. They’re taking you to court, and they’re taking Five Hells Ranch.”