You can’t take back your sins. You can only hope for forgiveness.
Jimmy Downing traveled seven hundred sixty difficult and dangerous miles to bring Oscar Yates to Port Essington to find his uncle. When Jimmy saw the abandoned homestead Oscar had inherited, he envisioned a future for them there, as long as they could keep the true nature of their relationship a secret. But once the initial work is complete and they have a cozy living space and a stable for the livestock, Oscar and Jimmy face a long winter dealing with thoughts that have time and space to plague them.
Jimmy suffers nightmares of dark deeds committed in his past, while Oscar deals with trauma from his time in Dawson and his mistreatment at the hands of Spook. A new horse provides a distraction for Oscar and leads to new friendships and a break from their solitary existence, but a dangerous encounter exposes surprising truths about their nearest neighbors and a sense that their lives are being guided by forces outside their control.
Oscar was gone, and I couldn’t find him.The brush surrounding the new homestead—if that’s what you could even call it—grew dense and completely impenetrable in some spots. A fella could easily get lost, especially a city fella who couldn’t tell an oak from a birch and fell o’er his own outsized feet on occasion. There were wolves in these parts that could kill a man Oscar’s size in an instant—not to mention the bears, coyotes and panthers.I’d told him time and again not to go wandering around without me, to stay near the ramshackle rooms we were fixing up and not to go looking for whatever he thought he wanted to see.
The kid was trouble. Had been since I’d first laid eyes on him, back in Dawson City, and there wasn’t any way of taming him, much as I’d tried. I supposed, when it came down to it, I didn’t want to tame him any more than I’d wanted to smother the fire that kept us both warm at night and reared up inside me when he looked at me the way he did. He’d nigh burned me with a primal passion that I was still trying to control—or at least understand. It still didn’t make no sense how the two of us came together like we did. But there was no turning back now.
“Oscar!” I shouted into the trees, trying to see my way and take heed of any movement ahead of me. I’d searched all around the sorry excuse for a house that he’d inherited from his dead uncle, and he was nowhere to be found. So now, I headed into the brush toward the creek. I’d already checked the well and he wasn’t there, neither fallen into it nor trying to get water up for a drink. I didn’t know where he was, and I was beginning to panic.
“Oscar! D’you hear me? Get back here right now or I’m gonna tan your pretty hide so bad you won’t be going anywhere for a week!”
As I stepped past a big boulder, something caught my eye. T’was the peacock-blue frayed edge of a shawl, and I stopped in my tracks when I saw a familiar person standing there, looking off into the distance.
“Cal? Is that you?” I said.
But it couldn’t be Cal. Cal was back in Telegraph Creek, whispering scandalous things into the ears of men who paid for her time and attention. The person wearing the shawl turned with a languorous ease and smiled at me. T’was Cal sure enough, even though it couldn’t possibly be.
“Jimmy! My, I’d almost forgotten how handsome you were.”
I blushed, taking off my hat and giving her a puzzled look. “What’re you doing here? How did you get here?”
Cal simply smiled, the dimple in her cheek on the opposite side to Oscar’s. “Has that naughty boy wandered off again?”
She’d rouged and painted her face till there was no sign of the handsome boy underneath, the boy who was a girl for all intents and purposes, except for the tackle between her legs.
“Yes, he has,” I said. “And I’m gonna haul him o’er my knee when I find him.”
Cal laughed and pursed her lips. “Oh, I don’t think he minds that, do you?”
“He’ll mind it this time,” I promised. “And he’ll mind me.”
No matter what games we liked to play involving my hand on his behind, giving him a pretend walloping for being a brat, I’d give it to him this time—like I had once before when he’d wandered off and scared me half to death.
“You know which way he went?” I asked Cal, since I had nothing else to go by.
“There,” Cal said, pointing through the brush. “I heard a gunshot by the river.”
My blood went cold. Fuck. God only knew what he’d wandered into, and for a goddamn second, I almost fell to my knees.
In a moment I’d moved past Cal and I was running, tearing through the brush toward the river, terrified of what I’d find. The crack of a rifle pierced the silence, and it echoed for long minutes as my breaths ripped through my chest.
When I found him, if he hadn’t been shot or eaten by wolves, I was gonna kill him.
Just as I reached the edge of the brush, where it opened up onto the river, another shot echoed through the trees and I opened my eyes, gasping huge gulps of air and blinking at the darkness.
“Hey, hey, shhhh, it’s okay. It’s a nightmare. You’re dreamin’.”
Oscar’s shadow loomed above me in the darkness of the room that was barely a room—just a space with four walls and a fireplace, the fire banked now but the coals glowing red.
I grabbed him and pulled him down to me, hugging him so fierce that he squirmed and protested.
“Stop. You’re hurtin’ me. I can’t breathe.”
I loosened my hold a little so he wouldn’t try to get away, but t’was hard not to keep him in a death grip after that god-awful dream.
“What the hell’s wrong with you?” he said, clutching my shoulders.
“I couldn’t find you,” I whispered, my heart beating a drum in my chest. “I couldn’t find you.” I was breathless, even though I’d not left my bed.
“I was right here—right here in this bed beside you, all night long.”
I nodded against him, keeping him close to prove to myself he was here and he was all right—and so was I. His hair smelled of wood smoke and sweat, and I reckoned we could both use a wash.
“You need a bath,” I murmured, kissing him under his ear where it smelled of his own special musk that I loved.
He snorted. “So do you. I reckon we oughta change into fresh underwear, too, and wash these ones.”
I slid a hand under the blankets, popping the buttons of the flap of his union suit so’s I could skate my palm o’er the swell of his ass, making him squirm in a delicious way, his small, stiff cock pressing against me.
“Well, dammit, it sure is you, Oscar. No one else has a nubby so small and sweet what wants to pretend to be big enough to cause any mischief,” I said, teasing him the way he liked to be teased, so that he felt dainty and delicate and half the man I was. It had seemed strange at first and like he should be offended by that kind of talk. But he loved it, and that was a fact. And I didn’t question it at all no more.
Sure enough, he groaned and pressed his fingertips into my shoulders, rutting against me like a dog.
“Goddammit. What were you dreamin’ about? You were sayin’ my name then you said Cal. Was it scandalous?”
“No. T’was terrifyin’. You were lost, and I couldn’t find you.”
He pressed against me, his nubby rubbing against my thigh through the fabric of his union suit. We’d bought the sets of red flannel underwear when the weather turned right cold at the start of November. Guess we’d had enough of freezing our asses off on our journey and we wanted to be warm, even if it meant looking ridiculous. “Well, you did, didn’t you? You found me good, since I was right here all along.”
“That’s a fact. Thank the Lord,” I murmured, turning his face to mine and finding his lips in the darkness. He opened to me in that sweet way he had of assuring me there weren’t nothing I couldn’t do that he wouldn’t want, as far as any intimacy with his body went. We’d nigh explored every damned inch of each other by now, and I never could get enough of him. I wasn’t sure I ever would.
I pulled away from his mouth and nuzzled into his neck, just to sniff that scent of him I was so fond of. “I’m just so relieved you’re here and t’was all a dream.”
He relaxed into me and offered his long neck for my kisses and for me to run my nose along. The bit of stubble there did something to ignite me, and I lapped my tongue o’er his Adam’s apple, then bit it gently.
“Oh. Jimmy. Hell,” Oscar breathed. “It ain’t even dawn yet, and you wanna keep me awake?” He yawned.
“I’m sorry. Never mind. Just cuddle under these here covers with me. I need to know I got you.”
Oscar stifled another broad yawn. “You got me, all right, in every sense of that word. You prob’ly won’t want me after a few more months. I’m already a nuisance most of the time, ain’t I?”
I didn’t know if he was playing up being a brat or if he truly thought he was a nuisance.
“No, you’re just— My ma used to call it restlessness, when I couldn’t sit still. Said I’d grow out of it, and I guess I did.”
“Yeah? What if I never grow out of it, huh? What if I’ll always be like this?” Oscar said, snuggling into me, wiggling his ass, even though he’d just told me he wanted to sleep.
“Keep still. I’m tryin’ to go back to sleep, and you ain’t helpin’.”
“What if I’m always this restless?” he asked again in a whisper. “Will you still love me?”
I laughed. He was all that and more, this twenty-one-year-old man-child.
“I reckon I will. Can’t seem to help it,” I grumbled, as if me loving Oscar was an inconvenience rather than the miracle of a lifetime that had been wasted with broken men.
“Good,” he said, laying his head down on the feather pillow. “I reckon I’ll still love you, too.”
Jimmy is trying to make up for his past violent behavior. He hopes a new place to live and Oscar, his new love, will give him the repentance he seeks. Oscar is naive, sweet and in love with Jimmy too. Their new home may be small but it’s full of love.
Jimmy and Oscar are wonderful, well rounded characters. Their particular lifestyle means they are mostly on their own till they meet their new neighbors.
An interesting book. I enjoyed their adventures with the wildlife and their own animals. Their romance was a funny, learning process for each, which I enjoyed very much. Their give and take was sweet. The addition of Clarence and Irene really filled out the story nicely.
I loved this historical romance. Good characters, well written, and an entertaining story made it a keeper.
AE Lister/Elizabeth Lister is a Canadian non-binary author with a vivid imagination and a head full of unique and interesting characters. They have published 10 books, one of which received an Honorable Mention from the National Leather Association – International for excellence in SM/Leather/Fetish writing.
Find out more about AE Lister at their website and follow them on Instagram and Patreon.