“Eyes up here, buddy.”
He didn’t exactly hurry his gaze as it tracked her curvaceous body from the bottom up. Goddamn, the woman had it going on. “Do I know you?”
“Do I know you?” she shot back sarcastically.
“I’m serious. Were you in Playboy?”
“Is that your idea of flattery?”
“Yes, you’re sporting a helluva centerfold body, sugar t—” Shit. He was supposed to stop saying stuff like that.
Not bothered at all by her total nakedness, she pushed up the pink satin eye mask that kept slipping down. “I don’t remember seeing you at Ginger and Kane’s wedding. Which McKay are you again?”
“Chase. I wasn’t at the wedding. Mind tellin’ me your name?”
“Ava Cooper is my stage name. Ava Dumond is my real name.”
Stage name. With a body like hers and zero modesty she had to be a stripper. “Well, Ava, it appears we’re roomies, at least for tonight.”
Ava didn’t respond. Her gaze was glued to his belly. “What the hell happened to you?”
Chase glanced at his stomach and touched the bruise beneath his rib cage. “That’s what fifteen hundred pounds of pissed-off bull will do to ya.”
“Bull? As in a male cow? Were you doing ranch work or something?”
“No. I was trying to ride the damn thing, but he didn’t wanna be rode. Threw me on my ass and stomped on me for good measure.”
“You do that a lot? Ride bulls?”
“That’s my job.”
Her eyes widened. “Really? That’s an actual job? You get paid and everything?”
He scowled at her. “Really. And look, no offense, but I’m dead on my feet. I’ll take the couch tonight. We’ll talk about the rest of this in the mornin’.”
“How do I know you’re not a serial killer?”
“You don’t.” Chase offered a smug smile. “Sweet dreams.”
When Ava saw the half-naked cowboy sprawled on the couch, snoring softly, she knew last night hadn’t been a dream.
She rested her shoulder against the partition separating the hallway from the living room and looked her fill.
The man, quite simply, was stunning. And living in California, surrounded by the best-looking men in the world, she knew stunning. Sculpted cheekbones that emphasized the leanness of his cheeks. A broad, masculine jaw. Full, ripe lips. His nose was slightly crooked, but it worked centered among the rest of his perfect features. His dark eyebrows were drawn together in a frown, even as he slept. His hair, a striking shade of coal black, held a hint of curl.
Her gaze meandered south, over the flare of his thick neck, to his bare chest, packed with muscles. More dark hair highlighted his defined pectorals, trailing down to bisect his ripped abs. The damn blanket hid his lower half from his hip to his knee, but one bare calf and foot poked out.
Probably creepy to gawk at him when he was unaware, but he’d seen her naked body last night, so tit for tat.
He’d thrown his left arm above his head, which drew her eye to his—holy crap—mammoth biceps and meaty forearm. Her gaze dropped to his crotch. Chances were high he had a little dick. Beautiful men like him always had one physical flaw, and since she couldn’t see any others…
Her eyes narrowed and swept down the length of his body. His feet didn’t reach the end of the couch. Which made him short. At least three inches shorter than her. Not that it made a damn bit of difference in her mind. They’d still be eye to eye when they were having sex missionary style. And it wouldn’t matter at all when she was on top.
Stop gawking before he catches you, perv. You’re acting like you haven’t seen a half-naked man in years, not months.
She started a pot of coffee, lamenting the fact there weren’t any Starbucks within two hundred miles, and turned on her laptop, shooting a glance at the still-sleeping cowboy. Last night he’d claimed to be some kind of…rodeo riding guy.
Hello, Google search.
Ava was shocked by all the links that popped up when she typed in Chase McKay. This guy was a big deal in the Professional Bull Riders world. He had a website. He had a fan page on Facebook. She scrolled down. Hey. Chase McKay had more “Likes” than she did. But she noticed no new posts since the announcement he planned to take time off to heal a recurring injury.
He didn’t look injured.
She continued to cyber stalk him, fascinated by a world she knew nothing about. She found pictures of Chase McKay with mayors and governors. Other bull riders. Country singers. Stock contractors. PBR officials and sponsors. Close-up stills of his best rides and his worst wrecks.
But most of the pictures were of the hot cowboy with women. Lots of women—young, old, fat, skinny. Rodeo queens and other rhinestone-wearing women who weren’t queens but sure looked the part. The other odd thing? Not a single woman was taller than him.
Ava followed a link that directed her to articles about Chase. Happy as she was to hit pay dirt, the consensus in the last year of rodeo sports experts? Chase McKay was washed up. His riding percentage—whatever that meant—was rock bottom. Rumors abounded about the trail of broken hearts he left across the country. A couple of snarky reporters dubbed him “Chase’n Tail McKay” since his personal life overshadowed his professional career.
Welcome to the club, bub.
The next series of articles, dated the last three months, hinted at Chase settling into a relationship with Sheree Bishop, daughter of Lou Bishop, billionaire owner of Bishop’s Sporting Goods, the PBR’s new sponsor. During one interview, Sheree admitted she and Chase were “serious” but Chase neither confirmed nor denied Sheree’s claim. In fact, there were no pictures of Chase and Sheree together.
Were they keeping their relationship on the down low? Or was there nothing to report?
“Looks like you’ve found some interesting reading,” Chase drawled behind her.
Ava jumped. Heat rushed to her face and she fought the urge to slam her laptop shut. “Can you blame me for being curious? Since you were sleeping in the next room and wouldn’t confirm or deny you’re a serial killer?”
“I guess not. But you coulda just asked me.”
“You were asleep.” She watched him pour himself a cup of coffee. He wore athletic shorts, no shirt, apparently perfectly comfortable half-dressed with a woman he didn’t know.
Like you have room to judge. You were naked in front of him last night.
And wowza. With a slamming body like that? The man should waltz around naked all the time.
“So?” He pursed his lips and blew across his coffee. “Did you find proof I’m not a serial killer?”
“Yes. But it sounds like you’re some kind of lady killer.”
Chase rolled his eyes but didn’t deny it.
“I’ll plead total ignorance on what it means to be a bull rider, so I did some research. All the rest of this stuff popped up.” Ava bit back a girly sigh when his beautiful blue gaze connected with hers. “Are you really off the PBR tour because of an injury?”
Chase held her gaze long enough to make her heart speed up. Just when she thought he wouldn’t answer, he said, “Nope. I’m suspended indefinitely for inappropriate behavior.”
“What’d you do?” Another one of his intense eye locks. But he didn’t seem inclined to answer this time, so she tossed out, “I’m no stranger to PR nightmares. Regardless if I was the one at fault. If you’re looking for someone to commiserate with? That’d be me.”
He smiled. And holy fuck was it a smile that unlocked the gates of heaven.
Or the devil’s door. Which quite frankly, she preferred.
“Short version? Two weeks ago I was caught in a compromising position with a couple of ladies. I ain’t gonna make excuses, it was what it was, and I’m paying the price. I suddenly found myself with time off while I wait for the PBR to call me back. My folks and brothers live here, but I didn’t want to deal with their pity, so I asked Kane if I could hang out and make plans.”
“Sounds like you’re reading a page out of the story of my life.” Ava typed her name into the search engine and spun the laptop around. “Have a look.”
Chase scooted out the chair across from her and sat. His fingers clicked on the keyboard. His eyebrows went up a couple of times. But he didn’t speak for a few minutes.
She refilled their cups and braced herself when she sensed him staring at her.
“Your ex was gay?”
“Yes. It was quite a shock to me.”
“It wouldn’t have shocked me at all. He looks gay.”
Ava bristled. “You can’t tell that by looking at him.”
“Sure I can.” Chase spun the laptop around and enlarged the photo of Ava and Jake at an Emmy Awards after-party. He pointed at Jake’s feet enclosed in white patent leather clogs decorated with brightly colored polka dots. “No straight man ever wears shoes like them.”
“Shows what you know. Those are high-couture shoes.”
“Those are highly gay shoes.”
She wanted to laugh, she really did. It’d been ages since she’d met a man so willing to speak his mind. “Shoes are your gauge for determining sexual preference?”
“No, the best indicator is sex. How often did you have sex?”
“I don’t see how that’s relevant,” she snipped.
Chase leaned closer. “It’s the only thing that’s relevant. Because if he wasn’t dragging you to bed at least twice a day, the man was either a fuckin’ moron or totally gay. Probably both.”
That was kind of sweet…in a caveman sort of way. “Not everything has to do with sex.”
“Oh yeah? If that’s true, then this Jake guy wouldn’t have left you to have sex with a dude, would he?”
Ava’s mouth dropped open.
“Shit. Sorry. That came out wrong. What I meant—”