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Corralled, p.1

Corralled, page 1

 part  #1 of  Blacktop Cowboys Series



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  To all the cowboys and cowgirls who follow the black roads and back roads in pursuit of that gold buckle, and along the way provide hours of entertainment for rodeo fans such as me

  Chapter I

  "Screwing two guys doesn’t make you a slut.”

  Lainie Capshaw darted a quick glance at the crowd in Bucky’s Tavern. Luckily none of her coworkers— her male coworkers—

  lurked about. “Maybe you could’ve said that a little louder, Tanna.

  I don’t think they heard you on the dance floor.”

  “Puh- lease. The men in this joint are too busy gawking at the cocktail waitress with the watermelon- size tits to be eavesdropping on us.” Tanna sucked down a healthy swig of beer. “Twenty bucks says ol’ monster jugs pops a strap in the next ten minutes.”

  “No dice. If I take that bet, you’ll sneak up behind her and slice the damn strap just so you can win.”

  “You’re no fun.” Tanna sighed dramatically. “I’m bored.”

  Lainie rolled her eyes. A bored Tanna was a dangerous Tanna.

  “So let’s talk about Lainie’s lewd love life.”

  “Let’s not.”

  Tanna wagged her finger. “Ah, ah, ah. Suck it up, chickie. You walk the walk, you gotta talk the talk. Besides, who cares if you’re boning two guys? Cowboys are notorious for having a different buckle bunny every night, in every podunk rodeo town on the circuit. It pisses me off there’s still a double standard for women.”

  “True. But . . .”

  “But what?” Tanna looked at her quizzically. “You aren’t feeling guilty, are you?”

  She shrugged. “Maybe. Wouldn’t you?”

  “Hell, no.”

  Bull. Lainie called Tanna’s bluff. “So if the buff babe in the yellow shirt sauntered over and said, ‘I wanna screw your brains out against my truck right now,’ you’d follow him out into the parking lot without question?”

  “Or hesitation. Well, besides checking my purse for condoms.”

  “Even when you’re already making time with that studly bulldogger from Austin?” Lainie challenged.

  Tanna planted her elbows on the table. “I’d do it in a heartbeat, Lainie. What would you do if both your men showed up here tonight?”

  Wet myself. “Umm . . . I’d probably run.”

  “Like a contest to see who wanted you more? Whoever catches you first wins?”

  Good Lord. Talk about an overactive sense of drama. “No.

  More like running from my problem.”

  “Doesn’t sound like a problem to me. Two sexy men angling to thrill you between the sheets.” Tanna smiled brazenly. “Or against the bathroom stall, in Kyle’s case.”

  Whoo- ee. Just thinking about the hot tryst with Kyle still fried Lainie’s circuits. Never in her life had she warranted an I- need-you- right- fucking- now bout of raunchy monkey sex. So yeah, it’d earned her bragging rights. Even been- there- done- that Tanna had been impressed by Lainie’s balls- to- the- wall behavior.

  Tanna’s cell phone vibrated on the tabletop. She squinted at the number and snapped, “ ’Bout time, you dumb bastard,” before she flounced out the side door, chewing the caller’s ass.

  Lainie hunched over the table to discourage any cowboys from asking her to dance. Probably an unnecessary precaution, since tantalizing Tanna usually garnered that type of male attention, not her.

  Which was why it was so twisted that Lainie had captured the interest of not one, but two men. Two very hot, very alpha men on two different circuits.

  Lainie liked working the rodeo circuits, even though the pay was crap. As a med tech for Lariat Sports Medicine, she split her time between the two largest rodeo organizations: the Cowboy Rodeo Association, known as the CRA, and the Extreme Bull Showcase, known as EBS.

  The CRA was comprised of rough stock events: bareback, saddle bronc, and bull riding; as well as timed events: calf roping, team roping, steer wrestling— also known as bulldoggin’— and barrel racing. The EBS had just one event— bull riding.

  The CRA bull riders didn’t compete in the EBS and vice versa.

  Which was how Lainie ended up with a hot cowboy hookup on both the CRA and the EBS.

  Fraternizing with cowboys could be career suicide for a woman in the male- dominated sport, especially when her job was to examine those glorious bodies. Lainie prided herself on avoiding the sexual temptation for damn near two years.

  Until she’d met Hank Lawson.

  She’d encountered the intense CRA bullfighter after he’d pulled his Achilles tendon during a CRA event and grudgingly limped into medical services. After she’d fixed him up, he asked her out on a date. Lainie refused— tempting as it’d been. Not only was Hank a hundred percent real Wyoming cowboy who handled bulls with ease and panache, but at six- three, with inky black hair and ruggedly masculine features, he embodied tall, dark, and handsome. She kept refusing until Hank invited her to dance at a sponsors’ dinner. A simple dance— what could it hurt?

  If she appreciated Hank’s moves in the arena, his moves on the dance floor were equally fine. Whenever hard- bodied Hank studied her with those eyes the color of new denim, she experienced a rush of adrenaline that must have been equal to spending eight seconds astride a two- thousand- pound bull.

  Two weeks later, Hank asked her to two- step at another rodeo event. Too much wine and too much Hank went straight to her head. One slow dance led them directly to Hank’s motel room for a little mattress dancing.

  Revisiting that romp with Hank caused Lainie’s thighs to clench with want. Intense concentration and instinctual reaction were the hallmarks of good bullfighters, and Hank had both in spades. No surprise his single- mindedness carried over into the bedroom.

  The man took his own sweet time making love; it was as maddening as it was arousing. Leisurely undressing her. Running his work- roughened fingers over every inch of her bare skin. Kissing everywhere his hands roamed. Wringing at least two explosive orgasms from her before he rode her hard and fast, or slow and sweet.

  As phenomenal as the sex was, Hank rarely deviated from missionary position. Even if Lainie started out on top showing off her excellent riding skills, she’d end up underneath Hank at the big finish. She’d shoved aside her niggling doubts about Hank’s lack of sexual spontaneity because he made her come so many times she saw stars.

  So why had she hooked up with bull rider Kyle Gilchrist from the EBS circuit? True, Kyle and Hank were opposites. Physically, Kyle was wiry rather than overly muscular. His green eyes sparkled with mischief, not intensity. With Kyle’s blond locks and golden facial hair, he resembled a Viking.

  After taking a year off due to knee surgery, Kyle returned to the EBS with a vengeance. He’d started dropping by the sports medicine room to chat, in the guise of having his previous knee injury reexamined. Very polite. Very much interested in showing her in explicit detail how a modern- day Viking would utterly ravish her.

  Her resistance lasted two months. The square- jawed, sloe- eyed sweet talker had literally charmed the pants right off her in a bathroom stall at Denny’s outside Chula Vista. That first weekend she’d had sex with Kyle six times— not once in missionary position.

  It’d been freeing. Fun. Hot as sin . . . until the weekend ended.

  Away from the temptation of Kyle’s consuming kisses, she questioned whether she’d become as loose and easy as the buckle bunnies trailing after the circuit cowboys.

  But mostly Lainie wondered whether she could juggle both men at the same time.

  She and Hank hadn’t discussed exclusivity. For all she knew, Hank could be sleeping with half the barrel racers on the CRA circuit. Kyle hadn’t demanded promises either. Given K
yle’s charm and good looks, she doubted he spent his nights alone watching Country Music Television.

  So it wasn’t the “cheating” factor that bothered her. It was the fact that she really liked both men and she didn’t know who she’d pick if she had to choose.

  Luckily, Lainie was in the catbird seat for a while. In the big world of professional rodeo, the EBS and CRA circuits rarely intersected geographically. Chances were slim she’d run into Hank if she was with Kyle or vice versa.

  Feeling a little cocky, she sipped her beer.

  Lainie’s smugness lasted all of thirty seconds before two roughskinned hands covered her eyes and a deep, sexy male voice murmured, “Guess who.”

  Kyle Gilchrist could not believe his luck. Mel was here. Right here.

  Her wild curls tickling his cheek. Her powdery scent teasing his nose. The sight of her lithe little body hardened his cock.

  And to think he’d dreaded spending the eve of his CRA debut in some dive bar in Lamar, Colorado.

  Cool fingers circled his wrists. “Kyle?”

  He removed his hands and spun the bar stool, forcing Mel to face him. “Hey, sugar. Surprise.”

  “Oh, my God. It is you. What are you doing here? This isn’t your circuit.”

  “Came in to have a beer and coerce a pretty woman into dancin’ with me. And look who I found first thing— the prettiest lady I know.” Kyle’s palms slid down her bare arms to grasp her fingers.

  “Come on.” Allowing her no chance to argue, he tugged her to the dance floor, right into the thick of the crowd.

  “Kyle, this isn’t a good idea. What if—”

  “It’s the best idea I’ve had in weeks. Come on. Admit it. You missed me.”

  “Maybe.” She smiled against his throat.

  He wasn’t much of a dancer, so he employed every seductive tactic he’d stockpiled over the years to draw her attention away from his two left feet. Brushing his thumb at the base of her neck.

  Gradually easing his thigh between hers. Swaying to the beat of the music while their bodies moved to a rhythm uniquely theirs.

  The final chord of the tune rang out. He spun them until her back was to the main part of the bar.

  She tried to push him away. “Kyle. Let go.”

  “Not until you give me a kiss.”

  “But I can’t. Not here where everyone can see—”

  Kyle settled his mouth over hers, treating her to the lazy kisses that always distracted her.

  A soft protest exited her mouth, which he swallowed in another kiss. She thought too much. Worried too much. The best way to turn off her overactive brain was to turn her on in a whole ’nother way.

  As luck would have it, that was one thing Kyle was very good at.

  Hank Lawson paced in the shadow of the sleazy honky- tonk. “No, sir. I understand. Yes.” He grinned at the phone. “I’m committed to the next three weeks. Uh- huh. Well, sir— all right, Bryson— it’s a good opportunity for me to work with some of the rankest bulls in the CRA. No. I’ll cut it short if I have to. Absolutely, I’ll be there. Tulsa. Looking forward to it.” He clicked the phone off and pumped his fist into the air.

  “Yes!” Hank couldn’t wait to tell . . . He stopped. Wait a second. He couldn’t tell anyone. Dammit. That sucked. Biggest news of his career and he had to keep a lid on it.

  Bullfighting. In the EBS. It was a callback from his pretryout test last month at a second- tier event.

  As much as Hank loved bullfighting in the CRA, for a bullfighter, the EBS was the big time. More money. TV coverage.

  More sponsorships. Fans. And he wasn’t supposed to tell anyone?

  Screw that. Hank scrolled through his contact list and hit Dial.

  “Hank?” she answered breathlessly. “What’s up?”

  “News, but promise me it’ll stay under your hat.”

  “Fine. Spill it fast because I’m short on time.”

  The noise in the background sounded like she was at a rodeo.

  “I scored another audition with the EBS.”

  She squealed. “Seriously? That’s awesome! When?”

  “A couple of weeks. Once I’m done with Cowboy Christmas.”

  “They couldn’t get you in sooner?”

  “Bryson asked if I’d be available for the Huntington Beach event next week, but I can’t. I’ve already committed to—”

  “God, Hank, why can’t you let Gilly navigate the CRA trail on his own? It ain’t like he’s a rookie.”

  He scowled. Would she ever get over her beef with his buddy?

  Probably not. The girl held a grudge like nobody’s business. “I’m not goin’ on the road as a favor to Gilly. Truth is, I’m doin’ this for me.”

  “For the money?”

  “Partially. But the more bulls I can get on the next three weeks, the better my chances in the EBS.”

  “Unless you get stomped by one and blow your goddamn big chance,” she retorted.

  “Thanks for the confidence, sis,” he groused.

  “I have the utmost confidence in you, bro. It’s the bulls I don’t trust. That said, I really am excited for you.”

  “I know you are. Remember, you can’t tell anyone.”

  “Not even Abe?”

  “I’ll tell him.”

  “You’d better. But I’m afraid he won’t be as thrilled. Come to think of it, if you do get picked, it’ll be more work for me at the ranch. Maybe I oughta be rooting for the bulls.”

  Hank laughed softly.

  “Glad I amuse you. Shit. I’m up. Later.”

  He said, “Up for what?” to the dial tone. He glanced at the time. Damn. He’d been outside for thirty minutes. Not only hadn’t he said hello to Lainie yet— and wouldn’t she be surprised to see him— but he’d left Gilly hanging. Too bad he hadn’t introduced them before he’d taken the call. He headed back inside.

  The flashing lights from the stage show inside the honky- tonk screwed with his eyes. Hank blinked a couple times, scanning the tables. The band wailed a decent cover of Billy Currington’s latest love song.

  He stopped at the bar and ordered three Coors Lights. Hank felt like a fish swimming upstream, juggling three bottles of beer as the people rushed off the dance floor after the tune ended. He’d made it to the table he’d spotted Lainie and her friend sitting at earlier, but there was no sign of her now.

  Huh. Hank looked around the bar. No sign of Gilly either.

  His gaze wandered to the dance floor. One couple hadn’t left yet, oblivious to the fact the music had stopped. They were twined together, mouths fused, body pressed to body.

  Hank squinted. Hey. Wait a minute. Was that . . . ?

  Holy fucking shit. That was Lainie— his Lainie— in a clinch with some happy- handed cowboy.

  Fury filled him. He’d fucking lay the bastard out cold. Come on, asshole— show me your face so I can figure out where I’m gonna put the first bruise.

  Then the loser in the cowboy hat kissing Hank’s goddamn woman lifted his head.

  Not just any cowboy had his hands and mouth on Lainie; Gilly had his hands and mouth on Lainie.

  Hank’s stomach dropped. And so did the bottles of beer.

  Lainie and Gilly looked at him at the same time the raucous crowd broke into applause at his clumsiness.

  The cocktail waitress snapped, “Maybe you oughta think about drinkin’ one at a time, buddy.”

  But he couldn’t tear his eyes off them. Tempting to punch his buddy in the kisser for kissing her. Equally tempting to pull Lainie outside and ask her what the hell was going on.

  The couple stopped right in front of him.

  Hank calmly said, “Lainie, sweetheart, I was gonna introduce you to my good buddy Gilly, but I see you two have already met.”

  Chapter II

  No way. This isn’t happening. Any second, my alarm will blare and I’ll wake up. Wake up and laugh hysterically.

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