“Where are you hurt?” Renner placed his mud-caked gloved hand on her right forearm.

“I’m not hurt.” She knocked his hand away. “I’m mad.” Mad and humiliated and the person who’d caused this distress was right in front of her, so she pushed him.

He staggered back a step before his eyes turned icy. “What the hell is wrong with you?”

“What is wrong with me?” Tierney pushed him again, but this time he didn’t budge. “What is wrong with you? Did you even know what you were doing, getting on a bull?”

“Yes, I knew what I was doin’. In case you forgot, I own a stock contracting company. I know how to load bulls in the chute and I sure as shit know how to ride them. So I don’t know where you get off—”

“Where I get off?” she repeated. “You got off right in front of me! Straight over the fence like some high jumper on meth. I thought you and the bull were going to trample me!” She did a sweeping gesture over her clothes. “Now you’ve ruined my suit, not to mention my shoes—”

“Which is your own goddamn fault.” He gave her feet a derisive look, sneering, “No woman in her right mind would ever wear a pair of shoes like that to the barn and corrals. You come out here in the real world you should expect to get dirty, understand?”

“I cannot believe I’m coated in mud and manure and God knows what else.” She removed her glasses, which were almost impossible to see through because of the splatters. She jerked her blouse out of the waistband of her skirt, using the clean corner to wipe her lenses. She shoved them back on her face and glared at him.

“Is there a reason you came down here? Or was it just to chew my ass in front of a bunch of guests?”

Tierney glanced over at the chutes. The bull was gone from the arena and the guys were waiting for something—Renner the bull-riding stud, probably. She dropped her voice. “Yes, I came down here looking for you.”

“What for?”

“To ask why you trashed my office. It did not look like that when I shut the lights off last night.”

He angled closer, keeping his voice low. “It’s my freakin’ office too.”

“Well, it’s not your bedroom and I don’t appreciate that you slept in there last night.” A new thought crossed her mind. “Oh. My. God. You didn’t bring a woman into my office and screw her on my couch, did you?”

“Fuck no. But if I had it would’ve been the first time that couch had seen any action, ’cause God knows you haven’t put it to good use since you’ve been here.”

She gasped, even when she hated that she’d gasped like some affronted maiden. Which she was. Holy buckets. Could he tell? Her face burned as red and hot as a pepper.

“Sorry. Shit. That was a low blow and totally out of line.” His sheepish eyes roamed over every inch of her flaming face. “I . . . I have stuff to do right now. Can we talk about this later?”

“As far as I’m concerned, we’re done talking now.” Tierney spun on the toe of her pump and started walking the plank.

“Tierney, wait.”

She faced him. “What?”

“You have a streak on your face that looks like . . . ah, hell, just c’mere.” Yanking off his glove, he reached out, exactly as he had the other night, curling his hand around the side of her neck, using his thumb to rub on her jawline. “Sorry if I’m pressing too hard.”

“What is it?” She shuddered, but she wasn’t entirely sure her response wasn’t from Renner’s tender touch. “Maybe I don’t want to know.”

“It sorta looks like brownie batter, but it don’t smell near as sweet.”


“I’m pretty sure it’s mud, but I wanted to make sure it wasn’t blood. Or a bruise.”

“Blood. Great.”

His thumb slowly arced over her jaw. “It’s not blood. If it had been I’da felt guiltier yet.”


“Uh-huh. However the level of guilt would’ve been dependent on if it was your blood or mine.”

That was a sweetly insightful, yet somewhat bizarre statement. “And if it would’ve been a bruise?” How had that come out sounding so breathless?

“Maybe I would’ve offered to kiss it and make it better.” He grinned. “More’s the pity it’s just a smudge of dirt.”

Damn you, Renner Jackson, don’t be nice to me now. Now that I’m publicly covered in shit and humiliation. Be an ass**le so I can stay mad at you.

Then he turned abruptly, scaled the fence and raced across the arena toward the chutes without looking back at her.

Jesus. Telling Tierney he’d like to kiss it and make it better. What kind of pu**y says shit like that?

Him, apparently.

His recriminations ended when the group of guys all started talking at once.

But Hank Lawson took him aside. “You all right?”

“Yeah. That bull is a mean son of a bitch, ain’t he?”

“No offense, but if you managed to stay on him eight seconds? He ain’t gonna be much of a challenge for the pros. Although he’s perfect for amateurs.” Hank knew his stuff. He’d walked away from the world of pro rodeo at the top of his game as a world-class bullfighter. As much as Hank loved being a rancher, he also loved going head to head with the rankest stock around, so Renner was glad Hank agreed to share his skills at the Split Rock and protect the guests who wanted to try their luck on the back of a bull.


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