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He ran a hand down her bare back. “You okay?” he asked as he sprawled in the chair next to her.

“Tired. Damn virile man,” she grumbled.

“Was that a complaint?”

“No. But when you said we should officially ‘break in’ the bed in this horse trailer, I didn’t think you meant literally break the damn bed. I think I have bruises on my back and butt from the mattress springs.”

“You bring out the beast in me, darlin’, what can I say?”

“Say you have a coffee maker hidden around here someplace.”

“Sorry. We don’t.”

Channing groaned.

“But I will let you have some of my coffee.” He grabbed a Styrofoam cup and poured half his lukewarm coffee into it. Then he slid it next to her cereal bowl.

“Thank you.” She downed it in one swallow. “The next time we pass a Wal-Mart I’m jumping out. I don’t care if we’ve got the horse trailer fully loaded and the governor aboard. I’m buying a coffee pot and a jumbo can of coffee. I’m not fit for human company without my daily infusion of vitamin caffeine.”

“Missin’ Starbucks, are you?”

She shot him a dirty look. “Are you serious? Their coffee tastes like strained dog shit. Plus, who’s dumb enough to pay four bucks for a cup of burned coffee?”

“Lots of folks, apparently. Them damn stores are everywhere. You’d think those people were drinkin’ liquid gold, they’re so obsessed with havin’ that same brand every morning.”

“Not me. They’re a bunch of sheep. Give me a plain old cup of joe—black—and I’m a happy camper.” Channing snickered. “Or I’d be happy if this camper had a Mr. Coffee.”

Colby smoothed a wayward curl behind her ear. “We’ll get you fixed up. I can’t have my best girl cranky at the crack of dawn, now can I? You comin’ to watch us today, Chan?”

“Of course. Provided you show me where I’m supposed to be sitting.”

A sneaky smile curled the corners of her mouth. “I’m not up for another round of punishment. My ass is still a little tender from that whippin’


“Too bad,” he muttered.

“Too bad what?”

“That your ass is tender.”


He stared at her from beneath lowered lashes. “You know what I’m talkin’ about.”

“Was that a hint?”

“A very broad one.” He stood, sorry he’d initiated the conversation so early. “Your ticket will be under my name at the box office. I’ve got to get goin’.”

“Aren’t you eating anything?”

“I never eat before I compete.”

Channing smiled again. “Pity.”

By the calculating look on her face, he knew she hadn’t been thinking about him eating food. “You are one naughty girl, ain’t ya?”

“You bring out the worst in me, but you don’t think I’m nearly naughty enough.”

An awkward moment filled the air.

“You wanna explain that, Chan?”


He growled. “You’re mighty close to earnin’ another punishment. I think you liked gettin’ your sweet butt whipped.”

“Wrong. Well, sort of. But I tell you what, cowboy, I’ll make you a real sweet deal.”

Colby had to remind himself that she was still pretty shy about telling him what she wanted in bed. “I’m listenin’.”

“I’ll forget all about my sore ass, and let you have your wicked way with it tonight…if I see a ninety-point bull ride out of you today.”

Holy shit. So much for her supposed shyness. “No foolin’?”

“Nope. But if you get anything less than a ninety, you have to trot your tight little cowboy behind right over to Wal-Mart, still wearing your sexy chaps, your back number and arena dirt, and buy me a coffee pot.

A nice one.”

“You got yourself a deal, darlin’.”

“One other thing.”

His gaze narrowed. It figured there’d be conditions.

“If this does come to pass tonight, for my first time, so to speak, I’d rather not bring in Trevor and Edgard. I’d rather this stayed…between us.”

“Why just us?”

“Because I feel safe with you.”

Colby cupped her face in his hands and kissed her soundly. The woman constantly surprised him. “Okay. But there’s one thing you need to do for me when I nail that ninety-point score.”

Her teasing smile froze. “What’s that?”

“Bring lots of lube. ‘Cause it probably ain’t gonna be no easy ride.” He grinned and scooted from the trailer before she smacked him.

Wouldn’t his mama be scandalized by his raunchy behavior and dirty talk?

Almost on cue, his cell phone rang. “Yeah?”

“Is that any way to greet your mother, Colby West McKay?”

“No. Hey, Ma, what’s up?”

“I just wanted to double-check on you since I never hear from you.

Make sure you weren’t lying in a ditch someplace in some godforsaken redneck state.”

He rolled his eyes, knowing he wouldn’t dare do that in front of her.

“Sorry. Don’t take it personal. I’m either too busy or too damn tired. I ain’t callin’ nobody lately.”

“Not a valid excuse and it makes me worry. Seems nobody’s calling me. I haven’t heard from Cam either.”

“Cut him a break, Ma. He is in Iraq,” Colby said dryly.

“Fine. I’ll cut him one, but not you. Got new injuries I should know about, son?”


She switched tactics and chatted about his baby sister Keely’s latest wild exploits. How his older brother Cord and his nephew Ky were faring in the wake of Cord’s recent divorce. Seems his brother Colton had purchased another couple thousand acres of grazing land directly west of their ranch. Then she admitted she hadn’t heard from his youngest brother Carter recently and she was feeling left out of her sons’ lives.

“Ma. You’re gonna see me in Cheyenne in a few days to see that I’m just fine.”

“I know. So, what happened in Limon?”

Colby told her the nitty-gritty details about the events he’d lost and placed in, how those wins and losses affected his overall standings. He touched on Trevor and Edgar’s professional troubles—but he didn’t mention Channing at all.

After he’d hung up he wondered why. Because this thing with Channing was new? Because it wasn’t permanent? Or because he was a chickenshit because it was special and he didn’t want to jinx it?

His mother knew him better than anyone. She was pretty much in the dark about his on-the-road, wild exploits and former sexual hi-jinks, but she’d always seemed to read between the lines. She had a better understanding that “boys will be boys” than his more traditional father did. The fact that he’d hooked up with a woman would be big news to his family. And at this point he didn’t want his mama zeroing in on what was happening between him and Channing.

Don’t you mean, between you and Channing, and Trevor and Channing, and Edgard and Channing?

He told that smarmy little voice to shut up.

Sure, he was sharing her with them, but when it came right down to it Channing preferred him. He knew it. She’d admitted it and neither Trevor nor Edgard would be surprised by it. But the bottom line didn’t change. They’ d part ways at Cheyenne.

Colby didn’t have time to dwell on future events. He had a competition to prepare for. Tonight, the reward would be sweet indeed.

He packed his gear bag, grabbed his saddle and hitched a ride with Cash to the rodeo grounds.

Trevor paced in front of the motel room, seething. How dare that know-it-all asshole continue to insist the problems dogging them in the arena were somehow his fault? So maybe he was a little tense, but who wouldn’t be after a losing streak that now reached into double digits? The fact Edgard continually pointed it out and suggested maybe it was time for them to consider other options, flat out pissed him off.

Trevor didn’t have any other options. Like Colby, this was his last shot at making the National Finals Rodeo. Trevor’s father, the infamous Tater Glanzer, was sorely disappointed in his son’s lack of a NFR title, despite the fact Trevor had won five circuit titles. And good old dad had been insistent that this be Trevor’s last year—mostly because Trevor’s younger brother, Tanner, had a much better shot at bringing home that all-important national tie-down roping title.

Then Trevor would be stuck working with the old man all the time.

The thought of continually hearing his father berate him, the expectation that Trevor would permanently give up the rodeo lifestyle and his freedom made Trevor sick to his stomach. His family had never paid much attention to him besides to instill the obsession with rodeo within another member of the Glanzer clan. They sure didn’t understand him.

There were things about him that would cause a rift between them that could never be repaired if they found out.

So even if he and Edgard were losing ground in the individual standings, he’d rather stay on the circuit, rather than head home and deal with the questions and comments from his family on his future plans.

Edgard didn’t understand his dilemma. Neither did Colby. They both had utter acceptance from their families. Once again, he felt completely alone. Scared that somehow the choices he’d made would come back to bite him on the ass.

The door to the room opened and Edgard glared at him from inside the doorway. “You ready to walk over to the arena?”

I don’t need you to hold my goddamn hand. Trevor smiled tightly.

“You go ahead. I’ve got to get something out of the horse trailer first.”

Without waiting for Edgard to protest, he stalked off across the motel parking lot.