Ava’s eyes widened. “I’ve never… I don’t even know…”
Chase burst out laughing. “You oughta see your face, Hollywood. It’s too bad you didn’t give me the camera so I capture your look of horror.”
“Making a city girl feel like an idiot at first opportunity?” She sent him an accusatory glance. “Do you treat all your friends this way?”
“Then I don’t want to be your friend.”
Same goes, honey pie. “We’re only about ten miles out of Moorcroft.”
“Great because now I’m hungry too.”
Chase parked up front at the C-Store and Ava jumped out. It occurred to him when he saw the familiar dark-haired woman lingering by the front door that he should’ve chosen the back lot.
When Ava slid back into the seat, Chase wrapped an arm around her shoulders, hauling her close, nestling his face into the base of her throat.
“What the hell?”
“Don’t look, but my cousin Keely is standing by the door and she’s awful damn interested in us. Just stay like this for a sec, okay? Looks like were making out and hopefully she’ll trot her snoopy self into the store.”
Ava angled her head until her lips brushed his cheek. “Don’t know if you’re aware, but I’m a method actor. Which means I prefer we make out for real so I can get into character.”
Chase groaned. “You are the devil, you know that, right?”
Her low, sexy chuckle vibrated against his jaw. “That’s me, Ava the evil temptress.”
“Talk about tempting.” Against his better judgment, he let his nose follow the sweetly scented arch of her neck. “Damn, woman, do you smell great right here.”
“Thanks. I actually smell like that all over.”
Before he stupidly demanded she prove it and strip down to skin, he kissed the hollow of her throat. Then he peered over her shoulder. “Coast is clear. Let’s go while we can.” He threw it in reverse and they were back on the road.
Ava waved a piece of red licorice at him. “Want some?”
“Not really a fan of licorice.”
“What’s your favorite sweet besides a Heath bar?”
Chase settled in now that Moorcroft was in the rearview mirror. “Actually, I’m not a big sweets eater.”
She jammed a piece of licorice in her mouth and reached for her camera. “So, friend, can I ask you a question?”
“On who you plan on showing the answer to.”
“Spoken like a man who’s been burned by camera-phone video capabilities.”
“Did you see that clip on YouTube?”
“Which one? The one where the blonde chick is riding you like a jockey while her friend is giving commentary and taping? Or the one where you’re on the receiving end of serious oral worship?” She cleared her throat. “Not that I gave either clip more than a brief glance.”
Chase scowled. “That’s why I make sure no one’s cell phone is within reach anymore.”
“Ah. So it didn’t change your behavior with the ladies, just changed your behavior with technology?”
Shrewd woman. “Getting off track here, Hollywood. My question was who gets to view this?”
Ava lowered the camera, but Chase knew it was running. “Me. It’s a personal video diary of how I spent my summer vacation.”
He grudgingly said, “Okay, but if any part of this video diary is made public, I will hire Ginger—or worse—to sue you.”
“Ooh, that’s mean. But understood.” She fiddled with the camera. “My first question is, what’s the best thing that ever happened to you? On a personal level or on a professional level.”
“One and the same for me.” Did that make him sound one-dimensional? “The best thing was when I won the Man of Steel competition last year.”
“What about the worst thing that ever happened to you?”
“Getting kicked off the PBR Tour.”
“I thought you’d pick something else. Something tragic.”
“Not everyone has tragedy in their lives that defines them.” And even if he did, he’d never share it. “Same questions back atcha.”
“Best thing was landing a role on Miller’s Ridge. Worst thing? When my Grandpa Cooper died. All people talked about was my inheritance. Like I was so greedy and entitled I’d blow every penny he’d worked so hard for on stupid shit.”
“What kind of stupid shit?” Chase asked.
A beat passed. “I didn’t realize my battery is low. Enough for today.” She yawned. “I think I might take a nap when we get back.”
Interesting how quickly she shut down his questions. He let it slide. This time. “Sounds good. I’m dragging a bit myself.”
The remainder of the drive was quiet. At the trailer, Ava grabbed her laptop and retreated to the bedroom.
Chase was restless. He’d left his phone and saw he’d missed a call from Elroy. And from his former traveling partner, Justin Donohue. And from his brother Ben. None left messages.
Probably because they know you won’t call them back.
With nothing else to do, he brought up the search engine on his phone and typed in Ava Cooper, just to see what shook loose.
Ava downloaded her footage to her computer. Groggy from the heat in the trailer, she stripped, stretched out on the bed and fell sound asleep.
She woke at eleven o’clock at night feeling refreshed. After slipping on her clothes, she wandered into the kitchen.
Oh, looky there. The delicious dish known as Chase McKay sat on the counter, looking good enough to eat.
Why yes. I’d love to be your appetizer, entrée and dessert. One serving of hot, hunky cowboy coming right up.
“I figured you’d gone to bed,” Chase said.
“I’ll admit I did crash for a while. Before that I had some things to catch up on. Takes a boatload of time to download everything from my cameras into the right folders on my laptop. Then I transferred the notes I jotted down so I don’t forget things.”
“Sounds tedious. Why are you doin’ this again?”
“I’m trying my hand at having a hobby,” she said sardonically. “And no, I’m not getting paid. Don’t you ever do something just because you’ve always wanted to?”
“Can’t say as I have. In fact, it’s just the opposite. I find myself doin’ stuff I don’t wanna do all the damn time.”
Ava’s smile vanished. “You could’ve said no if you didn’t want to squire me around today.” She turned and walked away.
A thump sounded and then strong hands circled her waist, spinning her around. He got in her face, as much as he could despite her height advantage. “Will you let me finish? I wasn’t talking about you. Or today. Today was great, Ava. I had a blast.”
“No buts. Seems I never do things like that. At least I don’t take the time to do them because I’m so busy doin’ other things I don’t wanna do. These last two weeks off have shown me I’m not really living my life. I’m just killing time between bull ridin’ events. And I don’t make the best decisions on what to do with that free time.”
Mollified and surprised by his honesty, Ava forced her hands to remain at her sides. She freely gave casual affection to friends and lovers alike, but something about Chase’s body language cautioned her to hold back, afraid he’d misread her friendliness as a sexual come-on. Didn’t mean she wouldn’t flirt her ass off with him, but touching without invitation was a definite no-no. “Don’t you have buddies you hang out with when you’re not rodeoing?”
“Sometimes. Truth is, I’m a little low on friends. So, thanks for today.”
Did Chase show anyone this sweet side? Probably not. Why that filled her with warmth was stupidly juvenile. “You are welcome. I’m a little low on friends myself, so I’m glad I didn’t kill you with a karate chop to the head last night.”
He laughed. “Death by nekkid ninja don’t sound so bad.”
Do not give me false hope you’ve been imagining me naked. “What have you been doing?”
“Nothin’. I sat outside and watched the sunset. You really oughta tape it tomorrow night. I was rummaging in the cupboards for food and found this.” He reached around her and waggled a bottle of Maker’s Mark whisky.
“Ooh. Liquid dinner? I’m all over that.”
“Good. ’Cause there’s really no food, but I did find a six-pack in the vegetable drawer.”
Ava stood on tiptoe to reach two shot glasses from the top shelf. She spun around and Chase didn’t bother to pretend he hadn’t been ogling her ass. After they sat at the table, she said, “Let’s have a toast.”
To the sexy way your hat shadows your face. To your full lower lip that looks so succulent I wanna take a bite out of it. To your hands, big and scarred, and how that rough flesh would feel dancing across on my skin.
She swallowed her escalating lust. “Oh, I dunno. We could toast to Kane and Ginger for allowing us to hide out here.”
Ava poured them each a shot. They held the shot glasses aloft. “To Kane and Ginger.”
He chinked his glass to hers and threw back his whisky.
She followed suit. The alcohol disappeared down the hatch, leaving a trail of fire, and she sputtered.
“The second one will be better.” Chase refilled their glasses and passed out two bottles of Coors Light.
“Come on. I thought you were a wild party girl, Hollywood. Least, that’s what the tabloids say about you.”