As soon as he’d clasped her hand in his to start two-stepping, the band switched to the slow song “Make the World Go Away.”
“Where are you from?” he asked.
She tilted her head back and challenged, “How do you know I’m not a local?”
Carson’s gaze roved over her beautiful face, drinking in every feature. “A girl that looks like you ain’t ever gonna go unnoticed around here. Or anywhere else, for that matter. So if you lived anywhere nearby I’da heard about you, bein’s I’m local.”
Her cheeks bloomed pink and she looked away without comment.
“Carolyn?” he prompted.
“You’re pushy. And arrogant. And I should be pushing you away.”
“But yet…you’re not.”
“I know.” She paused. “It’s confusing. I never…”
“You didn’t even know what I planned to say, Carson.”
“Yes, I do. Because sugar, I feel it too. And I’ve never felt it before either.”
She muttered something about a silver tongue. Her soft body and sweet scent had him pulling her closer as they moved together to the music.
After a bit he said, “I’m still waitin’.”
“For you to tell me where you live.”
She studied the buttons on his shirt. “My family lives outside of Gillette.”
“The way you said that makes it sound like your family lives there but you don’t.”
“Very perceptive, cowboy.”
When she didn’t elaborate, he stopped dancing and said, “Look at me.”
Her gaze met his. “What?”
“Nothing. Really.” She briefly closed her eyes. “Okay, that’s… I know I’m being vague.”
“Why?” Damn, he hoped she wasn’t married.
“Because guys tend to run or make jokes when I tell them the truth.”
“You escape from prison or something?”
She laughed softly. “Sort of.”
Carson knew he’d do anything to hear that happy sound again. “Tell me.”
“I was born in Gillette. When I turned twelve my parents sent me to Catholic boarding school in Montana. I lived in the dorm during the school year. Then I spent half the summer with my aunt in Billings and the other half down here.”
“So you escaped from a convent?”
“That makes a better story than I graduated. Maybe that’s what I’ll start telling people.”
“Your folks sent you to Catholic school in hopes you’d become a nun?”
“Possibly. But it didn’t take.”
“Thank God for that.”
She offered him a sad smile. “Now they’re pinning their hopes on my little sister, who is still at St. Mary’s.”
Her tone was relieved and melancholy and embarrassed.
Carson wanted to press his lips to her forehead—so he did just that. Then he murmured, “I’m glad you’re here, Carolyn.”
She didn’t protest or try to pull away. If anything, she tucked herself more closely into him.
Before he got too comfortable holding her, the music stopped and the band announced it was taking a break.
“Let’s get some fresh air.” Then with a firm grip on her hand, he wove through the crowd and out the side door.
Those long legs of hers had no problem keeping up with his strides. He didn’t stop until they reached his pickup. “Hang on a second.” The driver’s side door squeaked when he opened it.
“Carson. I don’t know if I’m—”
“Just getting a blanket so you don’t get that pretty dress dirty.”
She crossed her arms over her chest and stood back, watching as he draped the wool blanket over the metal tailgate.
“Hop on up and take a load off.”
When she scooted up, he caught a glimpse of the pale flesh of her inner thigh before she tugged her skirt down.
His dick stirred.
Needing a distraction from the lust-filled thoughts running through his head, Carson pulled a flask out of his back pocket. “Want a snort of whiskey?”
She shook her head and started to swing her legs on the tailgate.
He swallowed a mouthful of booze and rested his backside against the corner of the box. “How’d you find out about this dance? Bein’s you’re not local?”
“My friend Beverly. She’s the only person I’ve stayed friends with after I changed schools. As soon as we arrived she took off with her boyfriend.”
“That wasn’t very nice.”
“I’m used to it.”
“Then why come here with her?”
“Because sitting alone at a dancehall is still better than sitting at home.”
“Alone. Right. I’ll bet as soon as you showed that beautiful face here the guys followed you like lovesick calves and wouldn’t leave you be.”
She shrugged. “A few did.”
“Bet I was the only one who proposed to you.”
“Bet I wasn’t the only woman who’s ever taken a swing at you.” Her blonde hair cascaded over her shoulder when she tilted her head to look at him. “I can’t believe I fell for that let’s get married line.”
“Like I said, sugar. That wasn’t a line.” Carson moved in front of her, creating space for himself between her knees.