arieltachna (at) gmail (dot) com
Ariel Tachna lives outside of Houston with her husband, her daughter and son, and their cat. Before moving there, she traveled all over the world, having fallen in love with both France, where she found her husband, and India, where she dreams of retiring some day. She’s bilingual with snippets of four other languages to her credit, and is as in love with languages as she is with writing.
OUTLAST THE NIGHT
Sequel to Chase the Stars
Lang Downs: Book Three
Office manager Sam Emery is unemployed and out of luck. When his emotionally abusive wife demands a divorce, he contacts the one person he has left, his brother, Neil. He doesn’t expect Neil to reject him, but he also doesn’t expect the news of his divorce—and of his sexuality—to be met with such acceptance.
Neil takes Sam to Lang Downs, the sheep station Neil calls home. There, Sam learns that life as a gay man isn’t impossible. Caine and Macklin, the station owners, certainly seem to be making it work. When Caine offers Sam a job, it’s a dream come true.
“Bloody hell,” Neil spat. “What is he doing here?”
Before Sam could ask what that meant, Neil was striding across the room. The man who had caught Sam’s eye saw him coming and stood, hands at his side but clearly braced for a fight. A third man, one who looked as hard as the granite beneath their feet, interrupted Neil’s progress. “Don’t blame one man for his brother’s faults.”
“What’s he doing here?” Neil repeated.
“Working,” the older man said. “Caine hired him this morning, so unless you want to argue with him over it, back off.”
Sam tensed, knowing how badly Neil reacted to those kinds of orders when his temper was high. His jaw dropped when Neil shook himself and took a step back. “If Caine hired him, I won’t make trouble, but if he starts anything, I will finish it.”
“That’s fair, Macklin,” the other man said from his place against the wall. “You know I’m not going to start anything, so as long as he keeps his word, we’ll be square.”
“I keep my word, Taylor,” Neil ground out. “Unlike some people.”
“Neil, that’s enough.” Another man entered the conversation, a younger one, with short dark hair and an American accent. Sam figured that must be Caine. “Jeremy asked for a place to stay and a job after he left Taylor Peak. I’ve given him that. I’d appreciate it if you respect that.”
“Yes, boss. I’m sorry.”
“Introduce me to your brother.”
“Caine, this is my brother, Sam. Sam, my boss, Caine Neiheisel.”
“Nice to meet you, sir,” Sam said, even though Caine was probably Sam’s age. He owed the man the roof over his head and maybe a job. Sam planned to mind his manners.
“Please, call me Caine. We aren’t formal here. Welcome to Lang Downs.”
“Thank you. I appreciate you letting me stay for a while.”
Caine smiled, and Sam felt warmth bloom inside at the kindness he saw there. It wasn’t sexual. Sam knew Caine was with Macklin, and if Macklin was indeed the man who had kept Neil from attacking Taylor, Caine wouldn’t look twice at someone like Sam. It felt almost familial, like he’d been adopted and hadn’t known it. “Get something to eat and get settled in tonight. Tomorrow I’d like to talk to you. I have some questions, and Neil thought you might be able to help.”
“I’m happy to help,” Sam said. “I don’t know a lot about sheep, but other than industry-specific regulations, the laws don’t vary that much from one business to another. I should be able to help you out. And if I can’t, I might know someone who can get the information we need.”
“Good to hear,” Caine said. “We’ll talk about it after breakfast tomorrow. Did Neil warn you what time the day starts around here?”
“No,” Sam said.
“Early,” Neil replied. “Breakfast is at five. You don’t have to come down then, but if you don’t, you’ll only get cold cereal. Kami has no patience with people who don’t get their lazy arses out of bed.”
“I’ll be up,” Sam said. “I don’t want anyone to have to go out of their way for me.”
“I’m going to finish my dinner,” Caine said. “I’ll look for you both in the morning.”
Sam turned back to Neil as Caine walked back to where he had been sitting before Neil exploded. Sam would ask again later about Taylor and the reasons behind Neil’s animosity. For now, the food smelled delicious, and Sam was getting hungry.
“What’s for dinner?” he asked, smiling at the aborigine behind the counter when he approached.
“Wombat curry,” the man—Kami, Sam thought Neil had said—replied.
“I’ve never had wombat before,” Sam said, holding his plate while Kami ladled a thick stew onto his plate.
“You aren’t having it now either,” Neil said. “It’s either beef or mutton, probably mutton. Kami likes to take the piss with blow-ins.”
“And I fell for it.”
“You’re not the first, and you won’t be the last,” Kami said. “You want some naan with the curry?”
“Kami makes it fresh,” Neil said. “It’s as good as anything you ever got in town.”
“Sure, I’ll have a piece,” Sam said. It wouldn’t hurt to get on Kami’s good side. The man would be feeding him for the foreseeable future. Better that Kami like him.
They found a seat at a table with several other men and a pretty woman who smacked Neil on the back of the head as soon as he sat down. “What was that?” she demanded.
“Not here, Molly, please,” Neil said.
Sam hid his snicker behind a bite of curry. He had never imagined Neil looking quite so henpecked. “Fine,” Molly said, “but we will discuss this when we get home.”
Neil looked so mortified that Sam took pity on him. “Hi,” he said, “I’m Sam, Neil’s brother.”
Molly looked like she wanted to smack Neil again. “No manners,” she muttered. “Nice to meet you, Sam. I’m Molly. Welcome to Lang Downs.”
“Thank you. Everyone has been very kind.”
“It’s that kind of place,” Molly said, “which is why we’re going to discuss Neil’s outburst later. He’s second in line behind Macklin. He can’t go around acting stupid, or he’s going to lose his place.”
“It’s Jeremy Taylor,” Neil said. “What was I supposed to think?”
“That your bosses pay enough attention to who’s in their canteen to realize he was there and that if they know he’s there and don’t have a problem with it, you shouldn’t either?” Molly suggested.
“Taylor?” Sam repeated. “Like the neighboring station?”
“Yes, that Taylor,” Neil said. “Well, the younger brother, but that family. I said I wouldn’t start anything, and I won’t, but I don’t trust him. Devlin Taylor wouldn’t know good management if it bit him in the arse.”
Sam glanced at Taylor across the room, wondering what had led the other man to leave his home and come here instead. Taylor rose as Sam was looking that way, dumped his plate in the bin of dirty dishes, and headed outside. Sam couldn’t help but think the man looked lonely.