Release of “Ithani” by J. Scott Coatsworth

IthaniThe final MM sci fi book inJ. Scott Coatsworth’s “Oberon Cycle” trilogy is out – “Ithani”!

Time is running out.

After saving the world twice, Xander, Jameson and friends plunge headlong into a new crisis. The ithani–the aliens who broke the world–have reawakened from their hundred millennia-long slumber. When Xander and Jameson disappear in a flash, an already fractured world is thrown into chaos.

The ithani plans, laid a hundred thousand years before, are finally coming to pass, and they threaten all life on Erro. Venin and Alix go on a desperate search for their missing and find more than they bargained for. And Quince, Robin and Jessa discover a secret as old as the skythane themselves.

Will alien technology, unexpected help from the distant past, destiny and some good old-fashioned firepower be enough to defeat an enemy with the power to split a world? The final battle of the epic science fiction adventure that began in Skythane will decide the fate of lander and skythane alike. And in the north, the ithani riseâ ¦

Oberon Cycle Trilogy

Ithani Buy Links

Dreamspinner eBook | Dreamspinner Paperback | Amazon eBook | Amazon Paperback | iBooks | Barnes & Noble | Google Play | Kobo | QueeRomance Ink | Goodreads

Book 1: Skythane:

Dreamspinner eBook | Dreamspinner Paperback | Amazon Kindle | Amazon paperback | iBooks | Barnes & Noble | Google Play | Kobo | QueeRomanceInk | Goodreads

Book Two: Lander:

Dreamspinner eBook | Dreamspinner Paperback | Amazon Kindle | Amazon Paperback | iBooks | Barnes & Noble | Google Play | Kobo | QueeRomance Ink | Goodreads


Scott is giving away a $50 Amazon gift card and ten copies of “The Stark Divide,” the first book in his other trilogy, Â his other trilogy, “Liminal Sky,” with this tour. Enter via Rafflecopter:

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Venin stood under the dome of the chapel, the waters of the Orn rushing past the small island to crash overthe edge of the crater rim, where they fell a thousand meters to the broken cityof Errian below.

The Erriani chapel was different from what he was used to back home. The Gaelani chapel in Gaelan had sat at the top of a tall pillar of stone, open to the night sky, a wide space of grass and trees that intertwined in a natural dome through which moonlight filtered down to make dappled shadows on the ground.

This chapel, instead, was a wonder of streaming sunlight, the columns a polished eggshell marble with glimmering seams of gold. Red creeper vines climbed up the columns, festooned with clusters of yellow flowers that gave off a sweet scent.

Both were bright and airy, but the Erriani chapel lay under a dome supported by fluted marble columns, a painted arch of daytime sky and the rose-colored sun blazing overhead.

The last time heâ d gone to chapel had been with Tazim, before his untimely death.

Longbefore the troubles that roiled the world now.

Something drew him back. A need to reconnect with his past. To bridge the gap between then and now, betweenwho he was and who he had become. Taz would have liked this place.

The chapel here had survived the attack, while much of Errian had not. The city below was a jumble of broken corrinder, the multistory plants that were the mainbuilding stock for the city. They would grow again, but the sight of the cityâ s beautiful white towers laid low struck him to the core.

So had Gaelan looked, after the flood.

Venin turned back to the chapel and unlacedhis boots, baring his muscular calves before he approached the fountain that splashed at its center. The cool flagstone beneath his feet sent a shiver up hisspine, and green moss filled the gaps between the stones.

Some builder whose name was lost to time had tapped into the river itself to make the fountain run, and the water leapt into the air with a manic energy around the golden statue of Erro, before falling back down to the pool.

Venin knelt atthe fountainâ s edge on one of the well-worn pads, laid his hands in the shallow water, and let his wings rest over himself, making a private place to pray.

Erro and Gael, spare us from danger and lift us up into the sky with your powerful wings. He gave Erro deference, being that this was his chapel, but he hoped Gael would hear him too. The god of his own people had beenknown to intervene in mortal affairs before, and if what Quince had told them about these ithaniwas true, they would need all the help they could get.

Veninâ s wings warmed.

He looked up in astonishment to see the statue of Erro giving off an intense golden glow. His mouth dropped open, and hestood and stared at its beautiful male curves and muscles. Maybe the gods were answering him.

Venin reached up and touched the statueâ s outstretched hand. The shock knocked him backward onto his ass, and he hit the ground hard, slamming into one of the marble columns.

Venin groaned, stunned, and reached back to feel his wings and spine. He seemed to be in one piece.

Tazwould have laughed his ass off at the whole thing.

After a moment he sat upcautiously. He wrapped his arms around his legs and stared up at the statue, hischin on his knees.

The glow was gone.

Did I imagine it? He stood and felt the back of his head. A lump was already forming there. Thatâ s gonna leave a mark.

Something had changed. Venin 

Slapout: Chapter 16

Wednesday Briefs

Small time town with big time drama.

Chapter 16

Alec stared out the wide expanse of glass, enjoying the twinkling lights of the city spread before him. He’d always enjoyed stargazing since he could remember. At home, the manmade illumination was few and far between and he loved to camp in the more remote areas. Sprawled under the western sky he could enjoy the elements of nature with no interference. But what lay in front of him was remarkable too.

The multilane interstate highways reached intersections of motion and color that reminded Alec of arteries and veins which joined and meshed together before shooting into the cardinal directions, plus a few more.

“Cool isn’t it? I always try to get this room. The sunsets are phenomenal.”

Alec peered over his shoulder at his date and grinned. “This whole day has been mind-blowing but we’re too late for the sunset.”

“How about a glass of wine? We could cuddle on the couch and enjoy the fireplace?”

A ripple of attraction washed over him as he considered the proposal. But the thought of Pete’s touch had his body aroused. A second later his fantasy occurred, and Pete wrapped his masculine arms around Alec. The contact had him responding like a randy teenager. Pete traced his hand along the top of Alec’s jean. His breath came in gasps as Pete eased out Alec’s shirt and slipped across his now burning skin. They continued for several minutes with Alec’s ardor building.

Pete lifted his hands free with a tender kiss just under Alec’s earlobe. He whispered, “We’ve got all night. Let’s slow down a little.”

He nodded in agreement, letting Pete seat him on the couch. Once Alec settled into place, he turned to the refrigerator and pulled out a bottle of white wine and set it beside a platter of cheeses. Alec considered the varieties for a minute before trying one. The smooth buttery flavor spread through his taste buds. Alec liked food but realized almost his tastes were simpler than Pete.

He made a second selection and this time the cheese had a deeper taste. “That one’s good. Stronger, but still tasty. I’ve never had this many types,” Alec said.

“What kinds do you have?”

Alec had to chuckle. “Most of the cheese I eat comes in individually wrapped slices.”

This time it was Pete’s turn to laugh. “I loved that stuff when I was a kid. Grilled cheese sandwiches were my favorite lunch. It melts like nothing else.”

Alec blushed, feeling backwoods in his lack of sophistication. He stammered, afraid he’d shared too much of his rural living. The quiet stretched out with Alec trying to decide how to save the date. The silence thickened but as Alec moved to leave, Pete sat beside him, chose a chunk of white cheese and fed it to Alec.

Alec froze as the flavor filled his mouth. The almost sour tang was unique. He turned to Pete and cocked his eyebrows. Pete chuckled and fed him another bite. “It’s feta cheese. It’s made from sheep’s milk. But regardless, I love the stuff.” He held the platter out to Alec until he gathered up samples of everything. Then Pete focused on the video selection, found a comedy and curled against Alec.

It wrapped them in laughter before they had made it past the first scene.

The links listed below go directly to the individual stories.

Slapout: Chapter 15

Wednesday Briefs

Small time town with big time drama.

Chapter 15

Alec’s emotional equilibrium was screwed up after spending only a few hours with Pete. They were having a wonderful time at the midway and he loved the affection Pete showed him. He couldn’t seem to keep his hands off. If there were any of ‘those’ looks, Alec was too focused on his date. He glanced around and smiled to find they were at the gate for the ferris wheel. He shivered when he felt Pete wrap his arm around his waist.

Alec grinned. “Tonight has been fun. Thanks.”

Pete gave him a grin and kissed his cheek. Alec was oblivious to any mumbling from the people surrounding them. Pete played it better than Alec had seen before. He chose the biggest and most obvious of the rough crowd and blew him a kiss. The little mob let out a collective growl and turned on the pair.

“Button it up!”

It took Alec a second before he realized the command came from the carny running the ride. He held the thugs in a contemptuous glare. The baseball bat he held in his other hand made his intent clear.

Alec read the thugs developing around them. To his surprise, a number of other carnival workers were sprinkled through the crowd. The locals didn’t seem very happy about the bullies either. Alec waited to see how this would play out.

Some kind of self-preservation kicked in. They had already lost half their thugs when the ride operator made a threatening move toward them and spun the bat.

“It’s time for you boys to go home. We don’t want any more of your crap.”

Down to the ringleader and a few more, they backed away one slow step at a time. They’d reached the edge of the crowd and someone moved toward them. They left at a run. Once they disappeared into the fair goers, he turned to the crowd.

“Next round is free. We don’t want people like that to ruin the fair excitement. Line up! Don’t be shy,” he motioned the pair closer. Alec’s apprehension grew by the second, but he stayed beside Pete.

“I mean you two. Please. Front of the line,” the ride operator said.

Pete looked at Alec with a gleam in his eye. “I’m game if you are. I hate to miss a ferris wheel.”

Alec considered the proposition then grinned at Pete. “Me too. I don’t want to miss it either.”

In a few short minutes he found himself buckled into the seat as it lifted into the sky. It had been the better part of a decade since Alec had been on a ferris wheel. But tonight had been one of the best in recent memory. On the second revolution he pried apart the fortitude to crack his eyelids open a touch, just in time to see the ground rush past. He kept them open as the wheel climbed back to the top. The view was striking from the orange tint of the last sunlight disappeared while below them was the layers multitude of bulbs and tubes to light up every object on the fair grounds. The ride continued, and Alec relaxed. At least he’d gotten calm enough to loosen his grip on the metal bar holding them in.

As his nerves settled, the wheel slowed until they were perched at the top. Pete reached over and squeezed Alec’s thigh. A ripple of pleasure washed over him at the touch. Pete left his hand in place, leaned closer and pressed his lips against Alec’s cheek. The combination delighted him and a few seconds later he realized his shaft was stiffening. He took a stuttering breath and turned to Pete.

“What are you doing?” Alec asked.

“Do you like it?”

He struggled to keep himself controlled as Pete slid his hand higher up Alec’s thigh and nipped at his earlobe. “Stop,” Alec sighed out. “I don’t want to get in trouble.”

Pete gave Alec’s package a quick squeeze then cupped his face. Their eyes met, and Pete’s expression threaten to melt his resolve.

This time Pete’s voice turned raspy as his lips almost touched Alec’s ear. “Want to come to my hotel room? I have a great bottle of Kentucky whiskey I picked up.”

Alec swallowed hard and nodded in agreement as the ride lurched back into motion.

The links listed below go directly to the individual stories.

Slapout: Chapter 14

Wednesday Briefs

Small time town with big time drama.

Chapter 14

A bad case of guilt built inside Cullen. He hadn’t intended to set up Alec with a jerk, but now he wasn’t so sure he hadn’t done that even if it was accidental. 

After Alec’s early morning arrival at Eli’s ranch, and subsequent interruption of a booty call, they’d decided Alec needed someone to fill his time. Cullen had an accurate idea of what kind of man Alec would find attractive. Well, truth of the matter was he didn’t think Alec would be picky. Any guy with a cock and a set of balls would be his type. All the better If they were wrapped in a pair of tight jeans.

Cullen’s guilt built about how he’d manipulated Alec to get him together with a friend from college. Pete was about as easy as you are likely to find, at least in this part of the country. Cullen hadn’t talked with him in several years, which didn’t help with the regret. 

Maybe I should’ve let Alec doing his own fishing for some ass.

“Where are we supposed to meet Stephen?” Alec asked. 

Cullen scanned the area before responding to Alec’s question. “He said he would be in the beef barns. His family are big time into hereford cattle.”

“Kind of old school ain’t they?” Alec asked.

“Not really, we know what works best for our place. A bunch of those high dollar wagyu would put us into bankruptcy.”

Cullen flushed red at the sound of Pete’s deep bass. Just my luck. I shoot off my mouth and he’s close enough to hear me. 

He turned to see the grinning face of the man who’d been his roommate through college. “Sorry, Pete. I didn’t mean anything by it. You guys raise some of the best cattle in the region.” 

Pete folded his thick arms across his chest and let his gaze alternate between the two. A few seconds later he stopped and winked at Cullen.

“I’m guessing this is my blind date you were bringing.”

Cullen nodded in agreement. “Sorry. Yeah, Pete this is Alec. He’s the owner and chief cook and bottle washer for the only business in the nefarious hamlet of Slapout, Oklahoma.”

Alec chuckled, “In other words, I own the greasy spoon and do most of the cooking.” 

Pete shot Alec a warm smile that made Cullen remember why Pete seldom lacked for a date while he was in college. When he reached over and squeezed Alec should, Cullen saw him melt from the contact.

“Don’t worry about it,” Pete said. “I’m starved though. You wanna have one of the best grilled steaks in the state?”

Alec’s belly growled, and he returned Pete’s touch. “That sounds so good. It will make my stomach happy too. We can’t have my tummy be unhappy.”

Before Cullen could beat a hasty retreat, Alec turned to him. “You want to come too Cullen? It sounds like the kind of place you’d enjoy.”

Ah damn, Alec. This is why you have trouble getting dates. How in the hell can I save this mess…

But before Cullen could try to repair the situation, Pete took the situation in hand. “Don’t worry about Cullen. I’m sure you have to look at the new herd sire from Texas.”

Without waiting for a response, he twinned his arm around Alec’s and led him toward the steakhouse. As they disappeared into the dim night, he turned to Cullen.

“Don’t worry about getting Alec later. We’re going to the midway and raise a little hell.”

The links listed below go directly to the individual stories.

Slapout: Chapter 13

Wednesday Briefs

Small time town with big time drama.

Chapter 13

Sometimes Alec was almost too high maintenance. But today Cullen had to admit the punishment for Alec was too juicy not to share with his friends. He took the snapshot of Alec hoeing Eli’s garden. It wouldn’t be as spicy if the damn thing wasn’t the size of a lot of lawns in town. He was halfway down the first row when he stopped, leaned against the hoe, and mopped his brow as he surveyed the expanse of tilled soil with its rows of sprouting greenery. Alec fished a handkerchief from his back pocket and wiped the sweat from his face. After a few seconds, he turned to Cullen.

“You get this thing any bigger you’re going to need a tractor to till it up,” Alec said.

Cullen chuckled as his eyes swept the farm, he realized Eli used every inch of his land to keep himself in business. But he knew Alec would never understand that mentality, so he didn’t explain. He gave Alec a reply though.

“Eli doesn’t want to depend on anyone other than himself. Sometimes I’m surprised he spends the money at the cafe. But I think he sees it more as a news delivery app.”

They both chuckled again when they heard.

“Did I miss the joke—or am I the butt of it?”

Cullen made a motion of dismissal and his grin got even wider. “Don’t worry about it. There was nothing bad.” He motioned to the growing plants. “What do you think? I think it’s going pretty well.”

Eli nodded and walked out into the feather soft soil. He knelt down and brushed aside the small hammocks of green. A second later he turned back.

“They look amazing. This is the best garden I’ve ever had since moving out here to no-man’s-land.”

Cullen chuckled and motioned at Alec. “Have him uninterrupted morning make out and I’ll have the most weed free beds you’ve ever seen.”

Eli shook his head. “We really need to find Alec a boyfriend… or a girlfriend… hell, if we could find him a cooperative ewe, I’d be happy.”

“First, Eww about your last suggestion and poor sheep. But I’m completely counting out the other two. But have you got any ideas?”

Eli stared at Cullen for a minute then turned back to Alec. “You know, the Freedom Rodeo and street dance is coming up in a few weeks. It draws people from all over. It’s not like Alec has cooties or something. Surely we could get him hooked up. Don’t they say there’s someone for everybody?”

Cullen chuckled and shook his head. “I didn’t know anyone used the word cootie when they were older than ten.” He stood chuckling for a few seconds when Alec spotted them and made his way across the garden to them. When he saw they were looking at him, he gave them a lopsided grin and sped up to a trot.

Cullen muttered to Eli. “When is the rodeo?”

The links listed below go directly to the individual stories.

Slapout: Chapter 12

Wednesday Briefs

Small time town with big time drama.

Chapter 12

Cullen drifted awake slowly with the light of early morning filling the room. It took a few seconds for him to realize that he was not in his own bedroom, but instead had woke up in Eli’s bed. The thought startled him at first, but then he examined his thoughts about the older man. As he did, he realized he was in bed alone and naked. The last fact disturbed him more than anything else. He glanced around, becoming more frantic as he searched for clothing. If nothing else, at least some underwear.

Cheerful whistling drifted from the kitchen and Cullen knew Eli was the source of the tune. He realized it was a translation of one of the current hits being played constantly on the local country music station. It wasn’t a horrible interpretation. Eli’s version didn’t quite have the same details as the original. But regardless of his lack of musical ability, Eli was happy this morning.

The fridge door open and a few minutes later the aroma of bacon and sausage left him drooling like an old hound. But it didn’t change the fact he was naked in his boss’s king size bed and he needed to do about that issue. He hung over the mattress to see if his undies were lurking there when he heard.

“Want some coffee? It’s freshly brewed.”

Cullen lurched back into the bedding, wrapping the quilt around his body. From his hiding place he hollered into the next room. “Coffee would be great. Maybe with a little cream?”

“A little cream. Got it. I’ll have it to you in a minute.”

Cullen decided to relax and enjoy whatever Eli planned. He scooted up the bed to get more comfortable and finished shoving the pillows against the headboard.

Eli walked into the room with a steaming mug and held it out with a smile. “Morning sunshine. Here’s your coffee. Take a swig and let me know how it is.”

Cullen adjusted his position, took the drink lifted it to his lips. The hot fluid flowed through his system and warmed him like a new electric blanket. The cup was huge and hot enough to be almost too warm to hold.

As a second sip just, this side of boiling, worked it’s way through Cullen, Eli sat on the edge of the bed. He studied Cullen for a minute or two before saying anything further. But Cullen didn’t rise to the bait. He waited patiently to see what Eli wanted to discuss last night. He had enjoyed the newfound intimacy between the two of them but wasn’t certain what Eli’s thoughts were on the subject. He was more than willing to give Eli all the time he needed.

Eli took another sip of his coffee and shot Cullen a grin. “So, are you freaking out about being charmed by an old man?”

The tension drained from Cullen. He sat his coffee on the nightstand then crawled across the pristine white sheets to take Eli in his arms. He stared into Eli’s eyes before giving him a gentle kiss.

“You’re the perfect age and last night was amazing. How do you feel about being seduced by a college kid?”

About that time Cullen realized his morning woody had returned with a vengeance. Along with its appearance Cullen found he wanted to start his time with Eli from where they left it the night before. He drew his naked body from under the bedding, cupped Eli’s package and squeezed.

“Oh fuck. That feels amazing. But if you keep that up much longer everything will be burnt, and the smoke alarms get a testing.”

Cullen took the waistband of Eli’s underwear and started to lower them so he could get to the rock hard shaft. Halfway through his maneuver a furious pounding sounded from the back door.

“Hey! Anybody home? I smell breakfast.”

Eli sighed and pulled his briefs to his waist before hunting for clothing. He looked at Cullen with a frown.

“Alec seems to be looking for a free meal.”

The links listed below go directly to the individual stories.

Slapout: Chapter 11

Wednesday Briefs

Small time town with big time drama.

Chapter 11

Eli flipped on the bedroom light and realized Cullen had followed him. He sat on the bed, tugged off a boot and glanced to Cullen who leaned against the door frame. Eli pulled off his socks and tossed them into his boots as Cullen rub his package and grin.

Cullen’s cock hardened and slithered down the leg of his form fitting Wranglers. The sight of his intern giving Eli an exciting performance had its effect. Eli slipped off his shirt and teased his own nipples. The ripples of electricity traveled from his aching chest to his dick.

He relished the view of Cullen stroking himself and a growing pool of precum soaking his jeans. It didn’t take long before he pushed himself off the bed, moved in front and penned Cullen against the wall. He slipped his hands around Cullen’s scruffy face and move closer. As their pelvises ground against each other, Eli pressed his hot lips against the young man’s and twisted them into a heated exchange that went on for several minutes.

Once they broke the kiss, they breathed in gasps. Eli created a line soft bites that trailed down Cullen’s neck. As he reached its thick base, his nibbles shifted to feather soft kisses down his thick chest. With each button he released Eli became more entranced by the sight of his young lover.

He teased at the patch of blond thatch coating the space between Cullen’s muscular pectorals before pulling the last button free and letting the shirt drift into the shadows covering the dark wooden floor. Cullen sighed with pleasure as Eli explored the skin now open to his delight. He leaned close and flicked his tongue over Cullen’s hard nipple.

“Fuck. That feels amazing.”

Eli slid his hand inside the back of Cullen’s jeans and enjoyed the rough sensation of hair under his touch. He slipped a finger between the mounds of muscle that made up his ass. Slipping lower, he found Cullen’s hole and teased it with his finger. As he slid inside, Cullen moaned and dropped his head against Eli’s shoulder and lifted his ass.

Cullen groaned as Eli pierce him again his finger, becoming louder as he buried it deeper inside. It only took a few minutes for him to start rocking, fucking himself on Eli’s finger. They enjoyed their continued exploration of each other’s bodies until Eli became overcome with the need to take them to the next level.

He took a step back, cupped Cullen’s package and squeezed. Eli pressed further until Cullen lost himself in the pleasures. While he ground against Eli’s work-roughened hand, he pressed his head against the wall until Cullen’s cries told him that his climax loomed close. With a knowing smile, he stepped back and waited as Cullen writhed. He slipped a hand free and rolled his nipples.

“How’s that cowboy? You ready for more?”

Cullen moaned. “Fuck me. Oh hell, fuck me.”

He slipped his hand down Cullen’s jeans and tugged them lower before slipping his fingers through Cullen’s thick pubic hair. Eli teased the treasure he’d found for a spare minute before he tugged his hand out of Cullen’s jeans then led him to the bed. He pulled Cullen tight, kissing him hard before pushing him backward.

Eli tugged at the heel of each of Cullen’s boots and quickly had him reduced to jeans alone. His lust mounting, Eli worked off the pants and soon had his handsome man naked before him. He took a minute to look at the stud sprawled on the bed before him, cock stretching across his stomach. In the dim light of the bedroom, Eli ran his tongue over his lips as he relished the beautiful sight before him.

With his cock straining to escape, Eli stripped and tossed his clothes to one side. As soon as his final sock landed on the pile, he crawled up the bed between Cullen’s legs. He hovered for an instant before lowering himself onto Cullen’s thick thighs.

He wrapped his fingers around Cullen’s thick cock and squeezed. A sigh came from Cullen’s lips as a stream of clear gel oozed from the tip of his cock. Eli eased back the hood Cullen boasted and slid his tongue around the exposed crown.

“Oh fuck. Damn that feels good,” Cullen said.

Eli continued his oral exploration in silence until he could tell Cullen had reached the point where they were both had an overwhelming load. This time he didn’t let the pressure release, he was hungry for cum. As he sank deeper, Eli noticed a tremble dance through Cullen’s muscles. A second later his mouth filled with the masculine cream that had been building. Cullen’s expression contorted with pleasure until with a soft groan Eli sucked down the last of his juices.

Cullen collapsed against the bed, gasping for precious breath. Eli rose to his knees as he wedged himself between Cullen’s legs and curled his fingers around his aching dick. He knew he would release the torrent of sperm in a matter of seconds and was ready. With a handful of strokes, his balls hug against his shaft and a second later a thick strand of white jizz landed across Cullen’s torso.

Eli stroked himself with a hot passion and cuddled against Cullen. Enjoying the sights and smells of the aftermath of their lovemaking.


He put his finger over Cullen’s lips.

“Shh. Tomorrow is soon enough.”

The links listed below go directly to the individual stories.

Time away

Sorry to announce but I am taking a break from writing. The pressures of life are making it too demanding to continue. I hope after several months away the fun will return, with new stories to tell.

Thanks for your understanding.


Slapout: Chapter 10

Wednesday Briefs

Small time town with big time drama.

Chapter 10

Eli stood in the dim light of early morning watching Cullen prepare bottles for the latest residence in the lambing. The low tones of profanity drifted toward him and he started to step in to help. But a second later Cullen solved his problem and filled the bottle with warm milk for one lamb.

As he watched, a chilling predawn breeze slipped through the door. He pulled his denim jacket tighter around. His movement signaled Cullen to his presence.

Cullen grinned as he readied another bottle. “It doesn’t do you much good to have hot water installed in the equipment room if you get up and watch me mix the formula.”

Eli smirked and bumped his fist against Cullen’s shoulder. “I was already awake. I was going through the records to see where we could do better.”

He stopped what he’d been doing and locked his eyes on Eli. “What do you mean we need to do better? I thought the ranch was doing good.”

Eli chuckled as he relaxed against the doorframe and slipped his hands in his pockets. “Don’t get all twisted in knots. I said I was looking for ways to improve, not that we are about to go under. That’s why we have the sheep. They’d help maximize our forage use.”

Cullen studied him for a few seconds before he nodded and turned back to the task at hand. The dim light laminated the room as he heated the milk substitute. Once they were both warm, he grabbed the two bottles and headed for the door where Eli stopped him. Cullen looked up to find a smirk across Eli’s face.

“Give me a bottle. They’ve never nursed from it on their own and will fight you. It’ll be easier if I feed one of the little monsters.”

Cullen studied him but then sighed and held out the other bottle to Eli. “Okay, I give. It would make it simpler for each of us to take one.”

He took the warm formula from Cullen and grinned. “I’m glad you agree. I’m not the most reasonable person at ungodly hours.”

Cullen rolled his eyes but kept his comments to himself. They flipped on the lights in the barn and every animal housed inside cried for attention. Eli found the early morning cacophony deafening as they made their way to the small enclosure holding the ewe and her twins. As they moved closer, the mother gathered her offspring around her, faced Eli and Cullen and stomped her foot at them. When she repeated the action a second time, Cullen looked toward Eli.

“What’s up with her? I don’t remember a ewe getting so aggressive before,” Cullen said.

Eli shrugged, “Some of them get protective of their babies. Usually about all they’ll do is make threats though. Not like some cows I’ve had before who would try to crawl into the pickup to get you if you mess with their calf.”

“You’ll let me know which ones those are—right?”

Eli chuckled, “Those cows go to market in a heartbeat. But we’re getting off track. We need to get more food down these two.”

Cullen stepped into the pen, snagged one lamb and held it against him as he tried to coax her to nurse from the bottle. But all he accomplished was to irritate the lamb and have a squirming pile of tiny sheep in his arms. He had spent far too long when the distinctive sound of nursing filled the space.

Eli’s lamb was enthusiastically nursing at the bottle. Frustrated, he grunted toward Eli. “You want to share your secret? All this little shit does is clench its teeth and fight me.”

“You have to show it who’s boss. Shove that nipple into its mouth.”

Cullen shot him a sullen glance before refocusing on manhandling an eight pound lamb. But he was losing the battle. He’d struggled with the little sprite for several minutes to no avail. But he refused to quit, even when the other lamb finished its meal.  Eli knew it was time to step in before Cullen’s frustration ruled his good sense.

He stepped closer and laid his hand on Cullen’s shoulder. “Here, let me help. That little shit is a fighter like its mom.”

Cullen tensed, but then the tension disappeared. “Yes, before the knot-head hurts itself.”

Eli took the bottle and waited until Cullen had a tight hold on the trouble maker, then carefully pried its jaws open. After a brief struggle, Eli slipped the rubber nipple into its mouth.

The lamb fought before swallowing several squirts of milk. It frozen place, then suckled again for a second as if it were sampling the goods.

The animal looked up at Cullen for a long second, then nursed with all the ferocity of a piranha after raw meat. After a few seconds of furious nursing, Cullen turned to Eli.

“I think she’s got it now.”

Eli chuckled and squeezed Cullen’s shoulder before heading back to the house, his cozy bed and a few more hours of sleep.

The links listed below go directly to the individual stories.

Slapout: Chapter 09

Wednesday Briefs

Small time town with big time drama.

Chapter 09

Eli stopped what he was doing and leaned against the pitchfork to watch when he spotted Cullen topping the ridge. A second later an agitated ewe came into view, and he knew what had happened. They still had a few nursery jugs unoccupied in the barn. But if Cullen kept bringing back every newborn lamb from the pastures, they would need smaller pens, or more of them.

Once Cullen had rode close enough to hear him, Eli gave him a welcoming wave. “Find more babies who need your special touch?”

Cullen’s expression never changed and Eli braced himself for bad news. “What’s wrong?”

“Coyotes. A pair. They were after her lambs.”

Eli took a deep breath then let it out slowly. He considered how to deal with this, then met Cullen’s gaze. “Good job. They’d would have got both babies. You did the right thing bringing her to the house.”

Cullen relaxed. “I didn’t know what to else to do. I figured it would be safest to just bring ‘em out of the pasture.”

Eli lifted the lambs from the saddle and held them out to their mother. She had been running back and forth a few feet away. But when she spotted her offspring, the ewe came to a sudden stop, stepped closer and sniffed each lamb. Eli grinned when she bleated.

“That’s it girl. You follow along, and we’ll get you and your babies in somewhere safe. We’ll protect you from those nasty old coyotes.”

Cullen draped his leg around the saddle horn and laughed at Eli. “You know, baby talking to the sheep it’ll kill your whole macho man routine.”

“Oh shut up. It isn’t like you haven’t talked the same way to the animals. You’d think that horse and you have a thing going,” Eli said.

“Fuck you. Get the mother in the lambing pen before something else happens.”

Cullen snorted when Eli flipped him off before working the very excited ewe into one of the empty enclosures. She fell into the category of ewes who needed more help than he’d normally give. He stood on the edge of darkness marking the entrance to the cavernous barn. He held on to the lambs as the ewe made her displeasure known before plunging into the dark shadow.

Eli laid the twins on the bedding he’d strewn in a deep layer across a lambing crate after it’s last occupant returned to the flock. The ewe plunged past him and checked her offspring to figure out what Eli did to them.

Eli and Cullen waited to see how the reunion went. One of the lamb bounced back in seconds and looked for its food supply. They watched the other, hoping for a comparable response. But it lay sprawled across the bedding while it’s mother nudged it again and again while making sounds of concern. All of which had no effect. Eli motioned toward the tack room in a corner of the barn.

“Grab one of the plastic cups and a bottle. Let’s see if we can get milk into her.”

Cullen nodded and trotted for the equipment Eli’d asked for. A quick minute later, he returned with everything. He climbed over the fence then glanced over to see what instructions Eli had for him.

“Grab her and I’ll try to get a meal for the baby.”

Cullen cornered the ewe and held her tight. Eli knelt beside her and worked out the thick first milk into the cup. It wasn’t a fast done chore either, the ewes Eli ran were not built for hand-milking. But Eli persevered and milked what he thought would be a good amount to get down her.

As Eli moved to ready the bottle, he motioned toward Cullen. “Grab the lamb and lets try to get something into her.”

Cullen lifted the limp form while Eli tried to get the nipple in it’s mouth. They struggled with the lamb for several long minutes and Eli feared they were running out of options. He’d reached the point to consider tubing the newborn, when it swallowed.

“Damn,” Cullen said. “I thought this was going bad.”

As the lamb took a second drink, Eli couldn’t help but smiled. “I was right there with you. But she’s nursing.”

They broke into a soft chuckle as the sounds of furious sucking filled the air around them.

The links listed below go directly to the individual stories.