Page 16

Yee-haw. No brainer which direction she headed.

George Strait blared from the speakers. Pitchers of beer were refilled almost as quickly as they’d emptied. The bar was elbow to elbow with cowboys of all ages, shapes, and sizes. Hats of all colors. The cowgirls weren’t as plentiful, so Channing had spent a goodly amount of time fending off advances. She began to question the wisdom in coming here alone.

She’d managed to choke down a burger—no fries—in between sips of a Fat Tire beer. The music was good, people were dancing up a storm and she probably would’ve been having a great time if she’d known a single soul. Instead, she was an outsider.

Alone again.

Channing crumpled her bar napkin and decided to call it a night. She spun her barstool around, right into Cash Big Crow.

His mouth creased into a grin that lit up his whole face. “Channing. I wondered if that was you. Where are the guys?”

“I don’t know. They dumped me off at the room. When I became bored waiting for them I went looking for food and fun.”

“Don’t imagine Colby’s gonna be too thrilled when he finds out you’ve been here alone.”

She leaned forward and whispered, “So don’t tell him.”

Cash chuckled. “No comment, but I ain’t got a death wish for keepin’

something from him that he’s got a right to know.”

A right to know. She scowled.

“Any contests going on so’s you can add to your trophy collection?”

“Nah. One trophy doesn’t a collection make, Cash. Unlike you guys always chasing after that next shiny buckle and payout, I’ll quit while I’m ahead.”

“Good plan. So, you wanna take a spin on the dance floor? I promise I don’t do none of that fancy footwork like you see at powwows.”

Playfully, she tugged his braid. “Sure.”

Cash was an excellent dancer and they laughed and two-stepped through four fast songs. Needing to catch her breath, Channing led him off the dance floor and he disappeared to answer his cell phone.

She rested against a wooden pillar and observed the action on the dance floor. One couple in matching Western shirts had to be in their eighties. She wondered how long they’d been together. If they had a big family, a ton of grandkids and great-grandkids. Or maybe they’d been high school sweethearts and after spending their lives married to other people they’d found each other again.

A scratchy male voice said, “You wanna dance?”

Channing didn’t turn around. “No. But thank you for asking.”

“Why not?”

The boozy breath got a whole lot closer.

“I just don’t.” Take a hint, buddy.

“Think you’re too good for me? You can dance with that dirty injun, but not with me?”

Don’t rise to his taunts. Just ignore him.

A gummy hand circled her upper arm and jerked her sideways.

Channing tried to pull away but didn’t have much leverage against his strength. Too bad she didn’t have her trophy, she could just clock him a good one.

“Maybe we oughta have our own private party. Outside. I got a big quad cab. The seats are plenty soft.”

She fought the rising panic. There were lots of people in here.

Someone would notice this beast strong-arming her out the door, wouldn’t they? Surely, Cash would be back soon. Channing forced herself to look at the asshole harassing her, rather than cowering.

The guy’s smile was as greasy as his hair. His eyes were as hard and mean as his grip. “Maybe I oughtn’t ask. Maybe I oughta just take what I want.” His grimy, crooked finger slid down the center of her body, between her breasts to her belly button. “I think you’d like that.”

She shuddered with revulsion.

“Or maybe you oughta get your goddamn hand offa her before I rip it clean off your body.”

The greasy guy tipped his head back and glared at Colby from beneath the rim of his filthy baseball cap. “I saw her first. Find your own bunny, sheep boy.”

“Get your fucking hand off her right now. I ain’t askin’, I’m tellin’ you and I won’t say it again.”

Recognizing the menace in Colby’s tone, the man’s hand dropped like a rock. “Have at her. We’ll see how damn tough you are when her injun boyfriend comes back and gut stabs you.” He sneered and staggered away.

Channing launched herself at Colby, hiding her face in the warm curve of his neck.

“Hey, now, darlin’, what’s this? You okay?”

She shook her head.

He sucked in a harsh breath. “Where did that slimy fucker touch you? I’ll kill him.”

Again she shook her head.

He cupped her face in his hands and tilted her face toward his. “What then?”

“Oh God, I’m so glad you’re here. It was stupid of me to come by myself but I was bored and lonely and hungry and you were mad at me and I know I’m supposed to be a tough and independent woman—”

Instantly, Colby’s mouth covered hers. His kiss was a mixture of comfort and sweetness and protection. When he broke away, Channing felt tears pooling in her eyes.

“I’m sorry for today. I just don’t know what I’m doing half the time.

I’m just not a very good cowgirl. I didn’t mean to make you mad.”

“Ssh. We’ll figure it out. Come on. Let me hold you until you calm down some.” He maneuvered her onto the dance floor, twined her body around his to his liking and they swayed to the strains of “Love Can Build a Bridge”.

“Better?” he murmured.

“Much. Thank you.”

“No problem. I’m sorry about today too, shug.”

She nodded and snuggled closer.

When the song ended he whispered, “Am I gonna have to kick someone else’s ass tonight?”

“No, why?”

“Mr. Grabby said something about your injun boyfriend.”

“Oh. He meant Cash. He was hanging out with me for awhile.”

“Remind me to buy him a beer to thank him for lookin’ out for my best girl.”

Channing slanted back and studied Colby’s face, hidden in the shadow of his cowboy hat and the dimness of the bar. “Am I really your best girl, Colby?”

“Goddamn right you are. You’re my only girl.”

“I don’t like fighting with you.”

“Same goes, darlin’.”

Relief made her reckless and she ground her pelvis against his and discovered he was already hard. “Mmm. Maybe I need a refresher on the responsibilities of being your best girl. You can leave out the ass whooping this time.”


“I hated the way you left me today, and we didn’t get anything resolved, especially after the way you put your mouth on me, I was so close to coming—”

Colby growled and clamped his hands on her gyrating hips. “Unless you want me to fuck you right here on the dance floor, knock it off, Chan. I’m not kiddin’.”

“I’m not either. I missed you. Let me show you how much.” She stretched to her tiptoes and brushed her lips across the pulse thrumming in his throat.

Tonight he was clean-shaven. A subtle piney scent teased her from beneath his starched shirt collar. She loved his smooth, square jaw and the way he considered her from beneath his ridiculously long dark eyelashes. She loved how his nostrils flared when he was aroused and the determined set to his mouth just before he kissed her. Everything about this sturdy, sexy, sweet man intoxicated her.

In between nibbling bites on his neck, she whispered, “I want to be with you, Colby. Running my hands over your skin as your rough flesh rubs against mine. Digging my heels into your tight little cowboy butt as you slide in and out of me. Looking in your gorgeous blue eyes as we’re barely a breath apart. Tasting your kisses. Seeing those dimples wink at me when I do something that turns you on. Your sweat mingling with mine, how it lets our bodies slide together perfectly—”

“Enough,” he said hoarsely. “Jesus, I only got so much willpower where you’re concerned.”

“And that’s bad because?”

“Because I gotta cool down or it’ll be over before it even starts. Damn, girl, I need a diversion.”

Rather than towing her from the dance floor like a man on a mission to get her naked, he sauntered to the back corner of the bar by the dartboards and introduced her to some of the other guys she’d recognized from the circuit.

Normally she wasn’t tongue-tied in social situations but tonight she felt shy. Especially when Colby plopped down and rather than finding her another chair, he pulled her on his lap. Her butt straddled his thigh, high, near his groin.

A beer bottle dangled from his fingers and if she wanted a drink, he held it up for her to sip. She swore the heat from his lips left an impression on the glass, and her own lips fit that dent perfectly.

His insistence on catering to her and showing every one of his pals they were together didn’t make her feel like a piece of property. It made her feel special. Like she belonged.

Colby and the guys talked specifics on their rides and times and pros and cons of certain rough stock. Channing paid close attention because it fascinated her. The other women didn’t seem to care. Because they’d heard the stories a million times? Or because the dirt on rodeoing full time was old hat to them?

Cash swung by to make sure she was all right before he bid the crew goodnight. The hardcore partiers—young, fresh-faced cowboys barely old enough to shave—gave Cash a rash of crap for being an old timer. Cash winked at her and took it in stride. Channing noticed Cash politely excused himself from the clutches of several buckle bunnies and left alone. What was up with that? Very few cowboys opted to say no to willing female flesh. Ever.

During the latter part of the conversation with a group of tie-down ropers, Colby started lightly stroking the exposed skin on her lower back where her shirt gapped from her skirt. An idle, fleeting touch, which should’ve been comforting but packed a powerful punch of sexual promise. Every lingering caress of his blunt, rough finger felt like he was stroking her pussy. Didn’t take long for her panties to become soaked through.