The Lonely Heart

The Lonely HeartTake two stubborn cowboys, add in one determined little boy, and toss in a snowstorm for good measure. Who knew building a family could be so hard?

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If you ask Isaiah Preston, he’s pretty lucky. He’s happy in his job as a ranch manager, admires his boss, Grady, in more ways than one, and if he doesn’t have everything he wants, well, that’s life, isn’t it?

Enter one little brother, and suddenly Isaiah’s comfortable world is turned upside down. Everything becomes complicated and he’s seeing people in ways he never has before – good and bad. Near perfect isn’t enough anymore. Isaiah wants it all – home, family and, most importantly, Grady, in both his life and bed.

To get what he wants, though, Isaiah is going to have to fight prejudice, misunderstanding, and even Grady himself.

Isaiah stepped onto the porch, zipping up his coat with gloved hands. The ranch was quiet today, the boys hunkering down inside around the wood stove. Isaiah didn’t blame them. The snowstorm that had whipped through the night before had left more than just a thick coating of white on everything. The temperature was down around ‘forget the thermometer, I’m freezing my balls off’ and any sane person was staying inside beside the nearest heat source.

So what did that say about Isaiah? Probably nothing good. But he was going stir-crazy inside, and if he had to put up with Grady’s crappy mood for one more minute, he was going to snap.

Isaiah’s sense of fair play took that moment to pop out and remind him that he hadn’t exactly been an angel to live with lately, either. He told his inner voice to shut up, but it didn’t erase that niggling sense of guilt.

Hell, maybe he just needed to get laid. When was the last time he’d used anything other than his own hand? Isaiah swore softly when he realised he couldn’t remember. No wonder he was so cranky.

Grady, on the other hand, was just being difficult.

The screen door squealed behind him and Isaiah’s jaw clenched. “Get back inside before you freeze to death,” he said around gritted teeth.

“Isaiah.”

Isaiah swung around. “What?”

Grady stood in front of the door, hands shoved in his jeans pockets, clad in nothing more than a thick AQHA sweatshirt. Isaiah rolled his eyes. The man really did plan on freezing to death.

“If you’re gonna bug me, at least put a coat on,” he ordered.

“You want to tell me what’s eating at you?” Grady pressed, making no move to go back inside. “Josh is worried.”

Isaiah snorted. “Oh, please. He’s so absorbed in that new video game you bought him we could blow up the couch and he wouldn’t notice.”

“What is with you?” Grady demanded. “I’ve never seen you in such a crappy mood.”

“You!” Isaiah whirled around. Everything welled up—the sudden responsibility of Josh, moving in with Grady, their constant arguments lately, the lack of sex. God, the list was endless, and Isaiah snapped.

He ignored the way Grady took a reflexive step back, ending up pressed against the side of the house. Isaiah’s temper was in control and it felt damned good. “For the last month you’ve been wandering around in a daze. You barely talk to me and practically run from the room when I’m around. You spend half your time hiding in your bedroom and last night you fell asleep at dinner. You won’t discuss the ranch with me, you won’t discuss business plans. I don’t know what’s going on with you, and you’re obviously not interested in sharing. You want to be an antisocial bastard? Fine, but at least have the decency to quit lying to me.”

“I’m fine—”

“What the hell did I just say?” Isaiah scowled, planting his clenched fists on his hips and struggling with the urge to throw a punch at that stubborn jaw. Talking to Grady could be like talking to a rock. The man only heard what he wanted to hear, and most of that he chose to misinterpret.

Josh and Isaiah had been living in the big house with Grady for nearly a month now. At first, it had been great. For the first time, Isaiah had felt like he was getting to know the real Grady—a big-hearted man whose laugh stirred equal parts lust and affection in Isaiah. He’d managed to shove back the lust, despite the looks he caught from Grady. They were building a comfortable little makeshift family here and he wasn’t about to mess it up by throwing sex into the mix. But just when they’d established a nice routine, Grady had withdrawn.

Grady sighed and shifted from one foot to the other, one toe poking out of a hole in the blue woollen sock. “Can we at least discuss this inside where it’s warm?”

“No.” Isaiah could be stubborn, too. All right, it would be more effective if he wasn’t spiting himself with it, but Isaiah wasn’t feeling very rational at the moment.

“Then—”

Josh banged outside, nearly sending Grady flying as the screen door whacked the big man in the ass. Isaiah snickered.

“Where do you think you’re going?” he yelled after the figure bundled up in a bright red coat. Josh, at least, had the sense to dress appropriately.

Josh’s hand flicked up in a quick gesture. Barn.

Isaiah shook his head. He should have known. He let Josh go. It was nearly as warm inside the stable as it was in the house. They kept it shut up tight and all those equine bodies put out enough heat to rival a furnace. It was nice and cosy and would keep Josh occupied for a while.

“Out to the stables?” Grady asked, lips twitching.

Isaiah nodded his head. He started to share a smile with Grady, then remembered that he was mad at the man and turned it into a scowl. Grady scowled back.

“I’m fine, it’s not a lie, and you’re being a jackass,” Grady said. “And I’m not going to stand out here while my toes go numb.”

Grady stormed back inside and Isaiah dogged his heels, slamming the door shut behind him. Isaiah instantly started to sweat in his multiple layers. Stripping off his gloves, he tossed them to the floor like an ice hockey player preparing for a fight. The coat dropped next.

“I don’t get you,” he snarled, still peeling off layers of outer wear and clothing. He hated the cold. Hated it. “You’re like that damn downstairs shower when somebody flushes the toilet, hot and cold and back again with no time to take a breath between. One minute I think I understand what’s going on inside your head, the next I’m floundering around like an idiot. If you’re having problems and you don’t want to share, fine.” And it doesn’t hurt. It doesn’t. “But you’re acting all secretive and odd and it’s starting to bug not just me, but Josh, too. He asked me the other day if you were getting tired of us hanging around all the time.”

Isaiah’s anger abruptly deflated when he looked up and saw the stricken expression on Grady’s face.

“He asked what?” Grady asked hoarsely. “No, that’s—of course I’m not getting tired of you. That’s ridiculous. I like having both of you in the house with me. You know that.”

“I don’t know a damn thing when you won’t talk to me!” Fuck, it felt good to yell. Probably counterproductive, but they said repression was bad for your heart, right?

“It’s stupid,” Grady muttered to his feet. “Really. I’ll talk to Josh, though. Let him know it’s nothing personal. Both of you, you belong here. I’m not thinking about kicking you out or anything, I swear, and I don’t want you guys even thinking something like that.”

Isaiah sighed, but the closed-off expression in Grady’s eyes told Isaiah he wasn’t going to get anything else out of Grady. Not now. If he knew anything for certain about the frustrating man, it was that Grady only shared so much at a time. Then he sealed up tighter than a brand-new pickle jar.

Isaiah shoved his snow-covered boots into the closet, where they could melt without leaving a big puddle that he’d have to clean up. Or, more likely, would slip in and end up on his ass in the hallway. It wouldn’t be the first time. Josh was usually pretty good about doing chores when asked, but the brat could never seem to remember to put his boots away.

“Josh will want some hot chocolate when he comes in,” Isaiah said. It was a peace offering of sorts, he figured. His anger was gone now and he just felt tired and defeated. Grady didn’t trust him and that hurt. A lot.

Grady’s face held a mixture of relief and regret as he agreed. Isaiah warmed up some milk while Grady stoked the wood stove in the living room.  Then they collapsed on the couch and popped in a movie while they waited for Josh to drag his frozen self back indoors. The silence stretching between them wasn’t uncomfortable, but it wasn’t pleasant, either. And Isaiah didn’t have the first idea how to change it. It seemed like the harder he worked to get close to Grady, the further Grady pulled away. It was by equal turns frustrating and heartbreaking.

I greatly enjoyed THE LONELY HEART for its emotional romance, strong characters and lovely secondary characters. Factor in that this MM romance is of two hot cowboys and I was in reading heaven…  ~The Romance Reviews

I’ve been won over by the emotion and exceptional story telling…If you love your romance with a lot of heart and some spice, then you need to read this…  ~Long And Short Reviews

 

 

 

 

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