Jan Irving is with me today, introducing her very own wounded cowboy! Thanks for coming over, Jan – over to you!
Age: early twenties.
Appearance: Long black hair and feral green eyes. He’s pretty distinctive. If you tried to touch him in a supermarket, he’d probably run away.
Sexual orientation: gay
Temperament: Luka is a cross between afraid of his own shadow and naturally dominant, but only when he feels safe, with Charlie.
Distinguishing marks: Luka is scarred from years of sexual and emotional abuse as a captive.
Hunched at his place at Charlie’s battered maple dining table, Luka reached tentatively for a roll. When Charlie didn’t say or do anything, he snatched one and then began to stuff it down, eating with his eyes closed, totally absorbed in the food.
When he choked, Charlie reached out but dropped his hand before he made contact, afraid of spooking Luka. “Easy.”
Colour heated Luka’s cheeks and he averted his gaze. He stared at the bowl of stew and then at Charlie, who was eating with a spoon. Suddenly Charlie knew what was wrong. Fucked if he knew why, but he was certain that Luka was unused to using cutlery.
Charlie put down his spoon and raised his bowl to his lips. After a moment, Luka did the same, mimicking him.
“Not too much, Luka,” Charlie said.
Luka ignored him, gulping, his throat working hard as he downed the stew. He dropped the tin bowl a second later, splashing hot stew everywhere.
Luka dashed through the door and Charlie’s boots rang as he ran after him. Luka got as far as the tall grass by the woods before he vomited.
Charlie forced himself to stay where he was, fingers digging into a post by the door as Luka retched, over and over again. When had he last eaten anything?
Finally Charlie forced himself to return to the dining table and wiped up the mess. Luka would come back when he was ready. Charlie had worked with wary creatures before.
The creak of the door, a soft, “I’m sorry.”
“Nothing to be sorry for. You’re hungry.”
Luka came a little closer. “More like starving.”
Why was Luka in such bad shape? Charlie’s temper rose again. He sat on his questions, not wanting to make Luka feel any more miserably self-conscious.
“Sit. I’ll bring some bread and butter. And a glass of water.”
“It’s okay. We should have started with that. It was my mistake, Luka, not yours. Sit. I’ll get it.”
“You found me!” The stranger’s lips cracked and bled as a beautiful smile illuminated his face, like a warm candle in the midst of the frozen land.
Wounded Cowboy is available now from Total E Bound.