Page 7

“No. Don’t.” She placed her hand on his arm. “I think you’re the first person who’s been totally honest with me.”

He relaxed. Smiled again and she bit back another sigh. “So this is what sent you running from California?”

“I got tired of the paparazzi.” Something kicked from what he’d said about his family. “I got tired of the pity. Of the trade mags making such a big deal out of it. I needed to get away and prove…”

There was that amazing grin again. “Don’t clam up on me now, Hollywood.”

Ava laughed at his impromptu nickname for her.

“And if you’re afraid I’ll judge you? Think again.”

“You were dead-on with the sex question. One of the reasons I’m here? To find a guy I can get wild with. To prove I’m hot between the sheets. To prove I can keep a man sexually satisfied.”

“Is that right?” he drawled.

Her brain slipped into seductress mode as she channeled the femme fatale she’d played on TV for two seasons. “Maybe…you’re the man who can help me with that.”

Bad karma is coming back to bite you in the ass, McKay.

Of all the times to have sworn off sex, this had to happen? Now? When the hottest woman on the planet sat right across from him? Burning him alive with her smoldering eyes? Oh, and she wanted to prove—with him—that she was a tiger between the sheets.


He wondered why God hated him.

He wondered if it was too early in the day to start drinking.

He wondered if Ava had any condoms because he hadn’t brought any.

No, no, no. He would not break the vow he’d made to himself. He’d been making excuses for his behavior for far too long. This “break” was supposed to get him back on track, not drive him off the rails completely.

“Chase?” she asked softly.

He tore his mind from the image of her oh so curvaceous body twined around his as he fucked her blind. “Ah, well, that’s the thing. See, after the last…incident, I swore off women.”

She blinked with confusion. “Forever?”

“No. For a while.”

“How long?”

He started to say two months to remove all temptation to get down and dirty with her, but amended it to, “A month.”

“I take it that’s a big deal for you, going without sex for a month?”

Chase nodded. “Go ahead and call me a dog. I deserve it.”

“We’re in the no-judgment zone, remember? But I’ve gotta admit…”


“I’m disappointed.”

His dick decided to show disappointment at the lack of recent activity by instantly going rock hard.

“I am too, Ava. More than you can imagine. Any other time in my life I’d be stripping you to skin right where you stood.”

“That’s not helping, Chase.”

“Sorry. But we seem to be getting along. Can we be friends while we’re both hiding out here?”

Ava said, “Absolutely,” but her sneaky smile said, Wanna take bets on how long you can hold out on that ‘friends’ thing, cowboy?

His eyes narrowed. “I’m not kiddin’, Ava. I am not sleeping with you.”

“I understand.”

“Seriously. We won’t be getting nekkid together.”

“Totally your call.”

“I mean it. We will not be havin’ sex.”

“Fine. I get it. Hands off. No hugs, no kisses, no holding hands, no hot looks, no copping a feel. No chance for a hard, fast, sweaty, screaming, raunchy fuckfest against the wall, or on the floor, or in the shower, and definitely not on the bed.”

For fucking Christsake.

“But I am curious as to how long you’ve been on this abstinence kick.”

Tempting to lie. But he admitted, “I’m two weeks in.”

She smirked. And Chase swore she was marking off the remaining calendar days in her mind with big red X’s.

Change the subject. “Do you have plans for today?”

“Not really. Thought I might go for a walk. Take in the clean air and the big sky. Moo at any livestock I happened by during my nature stroll. Run from the bulls. They are easy to tell apart from cows, aren’t they?”

He laughed. She was funny in that offbeat way that appealed to him.

“What are your plans?” she asked.

“I hafta make a call this morning. I figured I’d hop on a four-wheeler and take a spin later.” He frowned. “But I’ll have to be careful where I go, so as not to run into any of my family.”

“Could I tag along? There’s room for two riders on most ATVs, isn’t there?”

New images unleashed in his brain. Ava’s slim thighs gripping the outside of his legs. Ava’s crotch nestled against his butt. Ava’s arms circling his waist as they descended a steep slope. Ava’s bountiful tits pressing into his back. Ava’s breath teasing his ear. Ava’s fragrant, windswept hair drifting across his face. Ava flat on her back in the mud as he hammered into her.

No way could they ride double. No way. So he was shocked to hear, “Absolutely,” tumbling from his traitorous mouth.

“Great! I’ll just get ready so we can go whenever you are.”

Chase ended up dressing in the living room and brushing his teeth in the kitchen. When the shower kicked on, flashes of Ava’s wet, naked body had him fleeing outside.

Chapter Four

He wandered behind the barn and gazed across the pasture. Heavy winter snow allowed for green grass, a boon in the cattle business. Even the sagebrush had lost the dusty silver shimmer and looked brighter. The scrub oaks lining the creek bed were leafed out with dark green foliage. A few patches of wildflowers dotted the landscape, hues ranging from brilliant yellow to soft purple.

Stop admiring the posies and make the call, chickenshit.

Chase blew out a breath and dialed. As he listened to the rings, he paced in front of the fence.


“Hey, Cash. It’s Chase McKay. Remember me?”

“Chase! ’Course I remember you. How you doin’? I heard you were on the PBR’s injured list.”

“Well, not really.” He forced a laugh. “It’s a long story. One we’re keeping on the down low, if you know what I mean.”

“So why you callin’ me, hey?”

“I need your help.”

A pause. Then, “Tell you what. You give me the truth about what’s really goin’ on with the PBR and I’ll let you know if I’m willin’ to help.”

“Sounds fair.” Chase let fly.

When he finished, Cash whistled. “Ain’t nothin’ the rest of us weren’t doin’ on the road, but things are different now. But I’m confused on how you think I can help you.”

“I need to get my ridin’ back on track. It seems I’m doin’ everything the same way I always have, but that ain’t the case or my scores would be better, or at least on par, not completely in the shitter like they are now. I wondered if you’re still holding a bull ridin’ school?

“Now and again. Why? You lookin’ to go back to school?”

“Yeah.” Chase slumped against the barn. “And before you get pissy and think this is a joke, I’ll tell you I’m dead-ass serious. I need an expert to look at my ridin’ objectively and help me figure out what the devil I’m doin’ wrong.”

“Expert.” Cash snorted. “But an old-timer like me ain’t immune to such smooth bullshit.”

Chase grinned. “You had a good run, what? Almost twenty years as a pro? With my buck-off average, I’ll be goddammed lucky if I make it another two.”

“So when you thinkin’ you wanna get started?”

“Bein’s I have time off and you’ve got a ranch to run, I’ll work around your schedule.”

“Sorry. I don’t have another training session scheduled until the end of next month. That probably don’t help you.”

Not only that, Chase didn’t want to train in front of rookies. Maybe it was an ego thing. A bratty thing. But he wanted one-on-one attention to his riding issues.

Before he could say thanks and hang up, Cash said, “But if you can get here in two days, I’ll put you on as many bulls as you can handle.”

“Really? That would be great. I wasn’t sure if you’d…ah, take offense to me offering to pay for a private session.”

Cash’s laughter boomed. “McKay, if I didn’t think you could afford it I wouldn’t’ve suggested it, because it ain’t gonna be cheap. But there’s one other thing.”

Seemed there always was a catch. “What?”

“I’m bringing your cousin Colby in on this. He’s been off the rodeo circuit for a while, but he’s still a pro to the core and I trust his judgment. Two sets of eyes would be better than one, doncha think?”

“Yeah. I guess.” Of all his cousins, Colby was the second least likely to blab to other family members, right behind his cousin Kane.

“Good. There’s a bunkhouse if you need a place to stay.”

“That’ll work. Thanks, Cash, I appreciate it more than you know. I’ll see you in a couple of days.”

Soon as he hung up, Chase let out a whoop and spun around.

Ava stood in the open space between the barn and the fence. Her hands jammed in the front pockets of her hoodie, sunshine glinting off her hair. Looking so drop-dead gorgeous he almost forgot to breathe.

“That was a pretty enthusiastic whoop,” she remarked.

“I got some good news for a change.”

Ava didn’t ask him to elaborate. “You ready to rip it up on the ATV?”

Chase shook his head. “I’ve gotta eat first. Is there any food in the house?”

“Just the basic stuff I brought. Coffee, creamer, grapes, salad, bread and a couple cans of soup.”