Thursday, August 20, 2015

Contest: Outcast Cowboys by Sarah Masters

I See Who You Are
There are times in life when we think we have our inner feelings hidden. No one knows who we are or what we’re thinking. Then there are times when we’re surprised because someone spots exactly who we are right from the word go—and we didn’t have a clue.
Ross, in Outcast Cowboys, was able to hide his sexuality back in London, UK. No one knew he was gay until he told them. It isn’t surprising, then, that when he moves to Texas, USA, he thinks he can hide himself there too. Wrong. A perceptive woman named Tessa calls him out, and he’s faced with whether to deny who he is or just go along with it. Never having been able to ‘just go along with it’ before, he has to make a quick decision. He decides to act as though what she’s said isn’t anything out of the ordinary and realizes he’s having a conversation where his sexuality isn’t an issue. At least not for Tessa. Other workers on the ranch, it seems, might not be so natural about it.

Although it might not be apparent in the following scene, I wanted to explore that thing in life where at last, you’re accepted, but it always seems to come at a price. Yes, you can be happy that someone has taken you for exactly who you are, but hey, here’s the kicker, some folks here don’t like who you are and they won’t be afraid to show it. Oftentimes, in almost any situation, there’s a flip side. Nothing is completely happy or calm or nice. I wanted to see how Ross dealt with that—one hand giveth while the other taketh away. We all grow each and every day, learning new things about ourselves, and we’re given lessons, I believe, in order to help us with bigger lessons or certain situations in the future. In Ross’ case, he wanted to go somewhere that ‘people like him’ were accepted. Yes, in London it isn’t unusual to see gay people holding hands or kissing in the street, but although he’s gay, he’s never felt able to be a part of the gay scene. And he can’t be part of the gay scene on the ranch in Texas either. He realizes he doesn’t belong on the ranch. So what should he do? Search the world over for a place where he can be himself, where he does belong? Or fight to be accepted right where he is—on a ranch in the middle of nowhere, where people don’t like ‘his kind’?

Being ‘lost’ in this manner isn’t a nice thing to have to go through. Anyone can feel as though they don’t belong, and I explored this in Outcast Cowboys. My main questions while writing the book were: Why can’t we all belong anywhere? Why can’t we all just get along? Why does there have to be limitations to our happiness, governed by other people and what they think? Why can’t love just be love?

Excerpt from Outcast Cowboys:
“This job,” he said. “Is it hard to learn how to look after horses?”
She dried his plate. “It might be to someone who isn’t used to the animals, but I’m the last person you should ask. Been around horses all my life, so it’s like breathing to me. If you need any tips, ask Limmy or Grenadier, okay? Or one of the other guys. Joe…” She sighed. “Joe is…difficult.”
“He your husband?” Ross hadn’t been able to stop the words blurting out.
She laughed, such a hearty, loud noise coming from a woman as slender as Tessa. “Hell no! Don’t intend to be either. I was married once but… I mean, me and Joe?” She laughed again while putting the plate away in a wall cupboard. “Not only is he surly and an asshole, he’s gay.”
Ross’ stomach churned. He’d never have thought it. Joe had seemed territorial over Tessa, to the point where he was making his interest in her known, to warn Ross off.
“I see.”
“Why, you got the hots for him?”
Her question threw Ross. He hadn’t been expecting that, for someone to ask outright. He’d heard Americans were forthright, and he supposed it was something he’d have to get used to.
“Er, no.” Ross cleared his throat. “I don’t think he’s my type. Too…moody. I’ve had enough of that sort to last a bloody lifetime.”
Tessa leaned a hip against the cabinets. “Bloody. I just love the way you guys say that. And yeah, he’s moody—and then some. Just be careful around him, okay?” She glanced at the kitchen door, went over to close it properly, then moved back to the counter. “Want coffee?”
“I’d better not. Joe said—”
“I don’t give a fuck what he said. I’m telling you the rules here—if he asks. Right?”
“Right. Thanks.”
She poured coffee then brought the cups to the table. Sitting opposite again, she leaned forward. “Joe’s a mean, spiteful son of a bitch. I’m telling you this because he has a habit of scaring off the new staff. Most don’t stick around because of him.”
“Oh.” Ross took a sip of coffee. “I don’t need that shit. I just want to work. I came here to— I came here to start again, to get away from that kind of thing.”
“Yeah, well, so long as you don’t look at anyone in any way other than as your work buddies, you’ll be fine. Joe seems to think he has first pickings on any gay man in these parts—not that there are many. And when Joe takes you to the trailer, speak as little as possible. The less he has on you, the better.”
“What do you mean?”
“He says people said stuff,” she whispered. “When they didn’t. Know what I mean?”
Ross was starting to see exactly what she meant. She was implying Joe was a tosser, simple as that, and the least Ross had to do with him the better.
“That scar?” he asked. Ross had a feeling her answer wouldn’t be pleasant.
“Fighting with Limmy apparently.” Tessa nodded in a knowing way. “With a knife.”
“Yeah, I thought it might have been a knife.” What the fuck have I stumbled into? “They seemed friendly enough to one another out there on the porch.”
“Of course they would be. They put things behind them pretty fast, but you just be careful. Joe now carries a knife. He’s been told not to but he doesn’t listen. Law unto himself.”
“Why doesn’t Grenadier get rid of him?”
Tessa eyed the door, biting her bottom lip. Then, “There are things best left unsaid. Just know that Joe isn’t going anywhere. He has to, uh, stay here.”
Ross resigned himself to having to share his workday with a pig. But that was all right, he’d worked with pigs before, and not mean men or animals reared for bacon either. He shut them out of his mind and concentrated on the here and now.

Blurb for Outcast Cowboys:
You can run but you can’t hide. Problems have a habit of following you, even if it’s only inside your head.
Ross decides to start a new life away from the grim belly of London, England, unable to stomach being a cop any longer. He tells himself he’s moving miles away to find himself a bed partner, but he’s lying. He has to. Facing up to the real reason he’s leaving isn’t something he can handle. His last undercover job proved too much—his life was at risk—and if he stays in London he’ll likely end up dead. Nightmares plague him, his subconscious unable to switch the past off. So he moves to a ranch in America, thinking the new surroundings and different lifestyle will help him to heal—and to forget. What he soon realizes is he’s jumping from the frying pan into the fire…
Joe’s passion—that of caring for the horses—is the only thing that keeps him sane. He’s a surly man, and for good reason—a reason he hasn’t told a soul. Folks think he’s mean and unapproachable and suspect him of committing murder. More than once. Locals assume that Joe got let off the hook. Nothing could be further from the truth, but Joe lets people think what they will. He’s done with their speculation and sly looks.
When Ross and Joe meet, tension is rife. The air between them prickles with animosity as well as sexual tension. Both have a past they can’t get over. Both have skeletons in their closets they wish would turn to dust. And both have to make a decision. Can they cast their fears aside and trust each other, or have the terrors they’ve experienced ruined them for love?
Reader Advisory: This book contains a scene of remembered non-consensual sex in a character’s past.
General Release Date: 18th August 2015

Like the sound of Outcast Cowboys? Buy it here.

About Sarah Masters:
Sarah Masters is a multi-published author in three pen names writing several genres. She lives with her husband, youngest daughter, and a cat in England. She writes at weekends and is a cover artist/head of art in her day job. In another life she was an editor. Her other pen names are Natalie Dae and Geraldine O’Hara.
Sarah also co-authors with Jaime Samms, and as Natalie Dae she co-authors with Lily Harlem under the name Harlem Dae.

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