“Tierney?”

She turned toward Celia and was enveloped in a hug. “Hey!”

“I’m so glad you called me.” Celia signaled for Tierney to spin around. “Oh man, look at you. A couple of months in Wyoming and you’re rockin’ the Western wear.”

“I never would’ve picked this outfit for myself, but Harper has an eye for style.”

“With the exception of that hideous turquoise number she chose for me to wear for her wedding. Soon as I saw it I wondered what I’d done to piss her off. God. Talk about a Scarlett O’Hara meets the madam of a whorehouse bridesmaid’s dress.”

Tierney laughed.

Celia started down the long corridor, wall to wall with people. “I imagine Harper is still wearing that well-fucked look of a newlywed?”

“I guess that’s one way of putting it.”

She waved to someone before focusing on Tierney. “I’ll warn ya. I’m not in the finals so I’m feelin’ really rude and crude. If you have an aversion to raw language from your drinkin’ buddy, maybe we’d best say our good-byes here.”

“Bring it on, cowgirl. If I can go toe to toe with Garnet and her gang, I can handle you.”

“Hell yeah. That’s what I’m talkin’ about, letting loose the wild woman lurking beneath the classy business suit.”

Several different bars ringed the event center. They paid the cover charge to a makeshift honky-tonk with sawdust on the floor. Metal tubs filled with ice and beer stretched behind the long bar. Women clad in skimpy bikini tops and silver-fringed chaps passed out free samples of chewing tobacco and posed for pictures. A mix of country and pop music blared from all corners of the room. The cheesy setup seemed to be a caricature of a Western bar, and yet, entirely accurate.

The male bartender didn’t look comfortable in a plaid shirt and a straw hat. Funny how after only a few months in Wyoming, Tierney immediately separated real cowboys from poseurs.

“I’ll have a Bud Light. Tierney, what about you?”

“Same.”

Celia dug in her front jeans pocket and pulled out a roll of bills. “First round is on me. Let’s sit there.”

They grabbed barstools at a table between the main door and the bar by the dance floor. Celia chinked her bottle to Tierney’s. “To cold beer and hot men.”

“Amen.” Tierney drank and felt curious stares, not all of them aimed at Celia. She caught the eye of a lanky cowboy in a gray hat, boasting a gigantic gold and silver championship belt buckle. He flashed his pearly whites and lifted his bottle to her.

Whoa. Men rarely gifted her with a smoldering once over. Maybe her tight pink shirt had caught his notice.

Or maybe it’s your sexual confidence. You’re acting like a woman who knows how to please her man between the sheets.

Damn straight. She did please Renner in bed. She pleased him out of it too. And she really felt these last few months she’d come into her own. She finally was figuring out what she wanted, not trying to please everyone else.

“How long have you been in Denver?” Celia asked.

“Five days. I didn’t call you earlier because I figured you’d be busy.” Tierney sipped her beer and wondered how long before Celia asked the question.

The wait wasn’t long at all. “So you’re here with Renner Jackson? You guys double-teaming the slavering masses to pimp the Split Rock?”

“Not really. He had meetings scheduled with rodeo promoters. Since I’ve never been to a stock show, I was curious and tagged along.”

“Uh-huh. This is the man whose handsome face met the business end of your drink at Bran and Harper’s wedding reception a few months back?”

“One and the same.”

“How long you been screwing around with him?” Celia pointed her bottle. “Don’t deny it. I’d think less of you if you weren’t nailing him at every opportunity. Jesus. Renner is a fine specimen of manly goodness.”

“No argument from me. We’ve been . . . hooking up for a couple months.”

“Is that all it is? Hooking up? Someone to scratch the itch when you need it?”

Tierney sighed. “Honestly? I don’t know. At times it feels like more than sex. Most of the time actually. He’s just so . . . great. I feel great when I’m with him.”

“Does it feel like love?” Celia gently prompted.

“Yes. It does. But it feels one-sided.”

“On whose side?”

“Mine. And it doesn’t help that we’re keeping our involvement on the down low. No one who works at the Split Rock is aware we’re involved.”

Celia’s eyebrows rose. “Not even Janie or Harper?”

She shook her head. “We’ve been discreet.”

“Takin’ you to the National Western Stock Show and introducing you to his colleagues ain’t exactly discreet, T.”

“True. But I don’t know what it means.” She drained her beer. “I don’t have tons of experience with men or relationships so I’m sort of flying blind.”

“Before I hit the road, I’d been with one guy. And he didn’t even know that I was . . .” An embarrassed look crossed her face. “Needless to say, I was determined to sow my wild oats once I started running the circuit.”

“Have you been getting wild?”

“Some. Not as much as people think. Or maybe I oughta say, not as much as I’ve led people to believe.”

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