For the past week he’d been finishing sculptures for his gallery showing. A series of interconnected Western pieces, different styles, including clay pieces slated to become bronze statues, and welded metal works using rusted sections of discarded farm equipment. So far the only concrete images on canvas were landscapes done with oil paints.
He needed inspiration, something new and different. The only way to find the passion that defined his quirky artistic style was to start at the source of all things Western: rodeo. The salt-of-the-earth people—spectators, families of the cowboys and cowgirls, and the iron will of the competitors themselves. The livestock—angry, slobbering bulls, high-strung broncs kicking at the metal chutes, the bellow of steers, the nervous tamping of hooves behind the gates. The low bellow of the steers and calves in the pens. The rich scents of sweat and leather, mud and manure, the choking heat and the constant buzz of insects, hay and linament, tobacco and beer. The excitement. If he could capture the hope and desperation, the heartache and the pride of these…things, all of which made up the true experience of rodeo, well, then, he’d truly accomplish something spectacular.
Carter chalked it up to karma when Gemma asked him to ride along to the one-day event in Buffalo, South Dakota. She’d been vague about her reasons for the impromptu road trip and he hadn’t pushed this issue. Their unspoken rule of, “mind your own business” was why he and Gemma hit it off.
Except the outing was proving to be a bust. He’d seen nothing that’d kicked his muse in the ass. He’d rather be locked away carving a wax mold of the image that had been haunting him. Not of a breakaway horse or a defeated cowboy, but of a young woman with long, flowing hair the color of mahogany.
In his mind’s eye her angular face captured the interesting juxtaposition of feminine ferocity. Her carriage was proud, yet hesitant. She was beautiful. Mysterious. Serene.
And he was fixated on creating her likeness down to the most minute detail. Tawny skin.
Delicate hands. A lush mouth with a confident, secretive smile.
Yeah, he needed to quit sniffing turpentine and get out more often if he was obsessed with a figment of his imagination.
The two fluffy blonde buckle bunnies approaching him with a single-minded purpose weren’t imaginary. He pasted on a good ol’ boy grin, wondering if it looked as fake as it felt. “Ladies. Nice afternoon.”
Blonde #1 giggled. “I’ll say. You done competing, cowboy?”
No reason not to cut to the chase when everyone knew the score. Or rather, when everyone wanted to score.
“Nah. I ain’t doin’ much rodeoin’ these days.”
Blonde #2 leaned in. “That’s too bad. Is it because you were hurt?”
“Busted up my knee bulldoggin’.” The incident with a breakaway calf happened during branding when he was ten years old. These women wouldn’t ask specifics and he didn’t offer. They wanted the illusion of a cowboy, not the reality. And he knew if any of his brothers were around, neither of these chicks would look at him twice.
Some of their admiration dimmed. Blonde #2 blatantly focused on the size and the engraving on his silver buckle. “Seems a shame. So, what’re you doin’ now?”
“I’m an artist.”
“Really?” came Blonde #2’s bored response. She tugged on Blonde #1’s arm. “Come on, Jen. Let’s keep lookin’.”
“Hang on. Even though he ain’t rodeoin’ no more, he’s still a hottie. I wouldn’t mind takin’ him for a test ride.” Blonde #1 winked at him. “You’ve got a great smile. I bet you know how to use that mouth, doncha?”
“You aimin’ to find out?”
Blonde #2 scowled. “Have at him. I’ll meetcha by the truck in an hour,” she said and disappeared.
“My name’s Jen,” Blonde #1 cooed and squeezed her curvy body between his widespread knees.
“So, Carter. You up for a wild, no-holds-barred rodeo?” Her hands slid up the inside of his legs. She found the bulge beneath his zipper and stroked until his dick sprang to life.
Whoa. It’d been a while since he’d played this game and apparently speed rules had been enacted in the interim.
Jen nestled her breasts against his chest, leaning on the tips of her high-heeled boots to whisper in his ear. “Mmm. You are a big one.”
Carter sucked in a harsh breath as she continued to work his cock through his jeans.
In public. He scooted back. “Uh. Thanks.”
“Bet I can figure out what you want. ’Course, it’ll take me more than eight seconds to make my guess.” She giggled, “But that’s okay. You’ll appreciate that I am very thorough.”
“Um, yeah, maybe we should—”
“This is fun, talkin’ about what makes you hot and bothered. What makes you horny.” She dragged her tongue up the side of his neck. “Ooh. You’re awful quiet. A shy one. Big and shy. My favorite kind.” She tsk tsked. “Now you know I’m just gonna have to talk dirty to loosen you up, Bashful. So…are you thinking about me blowing you?
Sliding this big cock in and out of my mouth?”
His tongue stuck to the back of his teeth. He got extremely hot under the collar. But the greedy part of his brain reminded him that he hadn’t been laid in months and conjured up the image of her on her knees unfastening his jeans. Watching her eager lips open and swallow his dick to the root. Seeing his cock smeared with bubblegum pink lipstick as it tunneled in and out of her swollen mouth until he exploded inside that hot, wet cavern, and pulling out to watch his come dripping down her chin.
“Ah, yeah. That’d be good.”
“You’d better believe it’d be very good.” Her tongue swirled around the shell of his ear like she was licking the head of his cock. “Me getting your cock good and wet. Your hands holding my hair as tightly as a bullrope. Your hips thrusting against my face like you was ridin’ a bronc. Arching your back, keeping the strokes steady. Can’t you see it?
Can’t you almost feel it?”
Carter couldn’t make himself leave. And he sure as shit couldn’t stop his sex from pulsing with eagerness. “Why don’t you—”
She nipped his earlobe hard enough to draw blood. “Ah-ah-ah. I wouldn’t let you come that fast, Bashful. I’d back off. Use my teeth as you pulled your cock out. Then I’d play with your balls. Suck them. Roll them over my tongue like hard candy. Mmm. I love candy. I’d use my hand to build you back up. Slowly.”
His cock throbbed as her fingernails repeatedly scraped the full length of it. He bit back a groan, not sure if it was one of dismay or encouragement.
“Then I’d bring your cock back into my mouth and finish you off. I’d swallow every hot drop until you had nothing left.”
“Sweet Jesus.” This chick—was beginning to scare him.
“Does that sound good?”
“I do believe I’ve left you tongue-tied, cowboy.” Jen stepped back and licked her lips suggestively. “So what do you say we put that idle tongue of yours to better use?”
He didn’t answer.
Annoyance crossed her face at his less than enthusiastic response. “I laid it all out for you. What do you want?”
To escape, he thought even when his dick had other ideas.
A flash of sunlight drew his awareness to a figure in front of the arena. A woman with long, shiny hair the color of burnished mahogany.
For a second the woman faltered. She seemed to sense him staring at her. She turned.
Their eyes met.
Everything inside him went tight and still.
It was her, the image that’d been haunting him. Right here. Flesh and bone. He could study her. Sketch her. God, he could touch her sun-warmed tawny skin. Mold her curvaceous body with his hands so he could immortalize her perfection in clay. In wood.
Then she vanished into the crowd like an apparition.
Carter leapt off the fence and readjusted the softening bulge behind his zipper.
“Hey! Where you goin’? I thought you were up for a rodeo?”
“Sorry. Gotta see a man about a horse.” He raced after the woman and didn’t look back.
Macie made it halfway across the rodeo grounds when the fine hair on the back of her neck stood up. She glanced over at the paddock and saw her brooding bad boy with one of the bimbos standing between his wide-spread thighs. But he wasn’t paying attention to sure-thing-blondie; he stared directly at her. Intensely. Intimately. Hungrily.
Something hot and elemental passed between them. When he started for her, she hustled through the throng of people. About thirty seconds later she was spun around and found herself gazing into the bluest eyes she’d ever seen.
Sexy, brooding man said, “It is you.” His rough hands framed her face. “My God.
Flustered, she knocked his mitts away. “You can’t just grab any woman—”
“You’re not any woman. I grabbed you because you’ve been in my head for the last damn month and it’s drivin’ me crazy. Who are you?”
Macie snorted. “That is the worst pick up line I’ve ever heard.”
Those blue, blue eyes narrowed. “That wasn’t a pick up line.”
“Good thing, because it sure as hell isn’t working.”
“Look. Let’s start over. I’m an artist. And I’d like—”
“—to show me your etchings?” She snickered.
“Har har. I really am an artist.”
“Yeah? So was the last guy I was involved with. Been there, done that, have the tie-dyed T-shirt and the roach clip to prove it. Move along, Picasso.”
“You always such a smartass?”
“Better than being a dumbass. Which is what you are if you think I’m gonna fall for your line of bullshit. Move.”