AJ hopped up and snagged her prize off the podium and hefted it in the air like she’d won the gold buckle at the rodeo.


A few women noticed and clapped.


Carolyn McKay floated her a thumbs up before she and her sister snuck out.


The deputy and male bar patrons stared in horror at the decorations and the leftover food. And Bebe and Toots were having a sword fight with two monstrously long and anatomically correct penis-shaped swords.


Which wasn’t nearly as much of an eyeful as the three women bouncing on a six-foot inflatable penis like it was a buckin’ bull. And two other women slow dancing with their life-size phallic partners.


Oh yeah. Keely would be absolutely pea green with envy.


Liza kept a silly grin on her face as Noah climbed up on the stage and helped her to her feet. “My Prince Charming.”


“My drunken bride.”


She giggled. “It was a grr-reat partay.”


“I see that. Ready to return to the castle, princess?”


“Yep.” Liza grinned at AJ as Noah scooped her into his arms and carried her out.


“They’ll be talkin’ about this one for years.”


“That they will.” When she turned back around she saw Cord, standing in the same place, staring at her coolly. Like he didn’t know every inch of her body. Like it hadn’t bothered him a bit to see her on stage with a male stripper.


Like he didn’t care about her at all.


Say something. Come up here and chew me out. Drag me out. Don’t stand there and pretend you don’t know me.


Of course, Cord didn’t do anything.


Disappointed, AJ spun around to regain control of her emotions. Stupid rum punch and bridal games always made her weepy. She stacked the chairs on the stage and carried them to the wall.


When she looked back Cord was gone.


Chapter Twenty-five


But he hadn’t gone far.


Cord fumed in the shadows of the parking lot as he leaned against his truck outside the bar.


AJ had had her lips on another man.


His woman had her mouth near some half-naked punk’s groin.


In public.


And she’d been enjoying it.


Had she been drunk?


Didn’t matter.


Women stumbled out of the bar for the next half hour under the watchful eye of the Crook County deputy. Husbands, boyfriends, in a couple of cases fathers, picked up the bachelorette party attendees. A couple of women walked arm in arm down the sidewalk singing, “Save A Horse (Ride A Cowboy)” but they’d changed the words to, “Save A Horse, Ride An Inflatable Penis” which wasn’t particularly funny, yet it sent them into gales of laughter.


Finally AJ came out. Alone. She nodded to Deputy Shortbull and headed for her Jeep.


Cord sauntered out of the shadows.


She jumped back. Then tried to start his goatee on fire with her glare. “Did you give your mom and aunt a ride home?”


“Nope.”


“Then why are you here?”


“You know.”


“No, actually I don’t, Mr. McKay.”


He scowled. “What’s with the Mr. McKay shit?”


AJ shot a look over her shoulder. “Are you sure you should be talking to me? Since we’re not supposed to know each and all? Someone might see. Spread rumors that you’re secretly diddling me and God knows we couldn’t have that.”


“Jesus. Are you drunk?”


“What does it matter if I am? Are you taking a poll?”


This was not going well.


“Wrong answer.”


“Do I get another prize for giving you the right response?”


“Knock it off, AJ.” He glanced at the box in her hand. “What’s that?”


“The prize I won.”


“What is it?”


She opened her mouth to snap off something smart, but changed her mind and smiled cagily. “A vibrator.”


“No fuckin’ way. What the hell do you need one of those—”


“—for? Comparison? That might be interesting.”


He stared at her steadily, wondering if the steam blowing out of his nostrils was the same color as the steam blowing out of his ears.


“Fun as this conversation has been, Mr. McKay, I need to be getting home. Might need to stop and pick up some double A batteries first.”


“Like hell. You ain’t goin’ no place until you tell me why you haven’t been around for the last three days.”


“Been busy.”


“Busy havin’ your mouth next to another guy’s dick?”


She looked at her watch. “Wow. It’s half-past I don’t give a shit what you think, Cord McKay.”


He growled.


“You don’t have the right to talk to me like that.”


“Yes, I do.”


“Why?”


Because you’re mine.


Where the hell had that come from?


“Because…Christ. It’s hard to have a serious conversation with you when you’re wearin’ lighted cocks on your head.”


AJ defiantly thrust out her chin and the penises bobbled. “We aren’t having a conversation. You’re giving me tough-guy attitude. If you won’t acknowledge me in public, you don’t have the right to chastise me for anything I do in public or in private.


And now you lost the right to do anything to me in private either, bucko.”


“Quit bein’ so goddamn childish.”


Her eyes narrowed to silver slits. “Quit bein’ such a goddamn dickhead.”


“You’re the one with dicks on your head, baby doll.”


“Yeah? I can take mine off any old time I please, but you wear your dickhead status like a second skin. Or should I say as a second foreskin?”


“You tryin’ to piss me off?”


“No, I’m trying to go home. So step aside.”


“Tough shit. You ain’t in no condition to drive.”


“I’m fine.”


“Says who?”


“Says Deputy Shortbull. He forced me and everyone else to take a Breathalyzer. I passed. So hah!”


Don’t let her go like this. Stall.


“If you walk away from me, AJ, I swear to God your penalty will double. Triple maybe. You already owed me for the last two nights. Don’t make it worse on yourself.”


“Bring it, cowboy. In fact, you’d better bring a rope and hogtie me because that’s the only way you’ll ever get me back in your bed. But we both know you won’t do it.”


“Wrong.”


“We’re done with the hot horny divorced cowboy and the virginal babysitter fantasy.


And no, I won’t cause a hysterical crying scene that’ll embarrass poor proper rancher Cord McKay. This will end like it began—as our dirty little secret. But it sure has been fun.”


AJ pivoted on her stiletto, her hips swinging, the penises on top of her head swaying with every step of her long, sexy legs as she promenaded away from him.


Oh yeah. Little Miss Baby Doll just earned herself one helluva punishment.


Chapter Twenty-six


The next morning Cord woke up an hour earlier than usual. He finished his chores, cleaned up and was at AJ’s house by eight a.m.


He called her cell phone. “I’m comin’ up the driveway to get you. Easy or hard, your choice. But you will be leavin’ with me, AJ. I suggest you be dressed and ready. Don’t make me hogtie you because contrary to your smart little remark, you know I will do it.


In public. In front of your family. With complete and utter joy.” He hung up.


He parked. Waited a minute. Hopped out and passed her Jeep. On the passenger’s seat was the flashing penis headband, a button proclaiming, “I sucked balls at Liza’s bachelorette party” and…the vibrator she’d won. Still in the box.


Heh. A little comparison might be interesting, huh? He’d see about that. He snagged it and put it in his truck under the seat. To be ornery, he draped a rope over his shoulder, just so Little Miss Smartypants knew he wasn’t kidding.


Cord knocked on the front door.


Jenn answered. “Cord McKay? What on earth are you doing here on a Saturday morning? Is everything all right?”


“Fine. I’m lookin’ for Amy Jo. Last week she offered her help and I’m here to take her up on it.”


“What kind of help?”


“Dealin’ with my horses. Since we’ve been cross breedin’ for a couple of years with your stock, I’d sure like her opinion on which ones I oughta sell when she sells yours.”


“Come on in and have a cuppa coffee. She’s a regular Dale Evans when it comes to horses. I’m sure she’d love to help.”


First thing Cord noticed were the boxes stacked everywhere. Second thing he noticed was AJ glaring at him.


“Mornin’, Amy Jo. I was just tellin’ Jenn about you helpin’ me out today with my horses. Doin’ a little ridin’.”


“But I can’t possibly help today. As you can see”—she gestured to the stack of flattened cartons—“my hands are full.”


Was she really challenging him? He mouthed, “That’s one.”


Her back snapped straight.


“Oh pooh, you don’t need to stick around here, Amy Jo. Take a break. Spend time outside. You deserve it. The kids and I have gotten really good at packing in the last week.” Her eyes zeroed in on his shoulder. “What’s the rope for?”


Cord kept his gaze on AJ’s. “I figured I might have to drag her out. She can be stubborn.”


A bit of unease flashed in AJ’s stormy gray eyes.


Jenn laughed. “Now that I’d like to see.”


He grinned, knew it looked predatory and didn’t care. “Comin’ along peacefully, Amy Jo? Or do I have to prove to you and your sister just how good I am with ropes?”


“I’m coming.” She stood and snatched her purse off the counter. “I’ll follow you in my car.”


Like hell. “I can bring you back, no problem.” He bestowed his best aw-shucks-I’m-a-good-ol’-boy grin on Jenn. “She’ll be gone all day. And to show that I ain’t a total ingrate, I’ll probably take her out for supper.”

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