The sound of leather hitting flesh was music to his ears.
He pulled his arm back and snapped his wrist, the movement fluid and familiar. The long leather tail of the bullwhip connected with her quivering flank and a sharp crack echoed back to him.
She released a low-pitched grunt but remained still, staring at him with defiant brown eyes.
Again he lifted his arm. He put more force behind the blow, hitting the same spot, but harder.
Her whole body quivered.
“For Christsake, quit fuckin’ around with her. Throw a goddamn rope around her neck and make her come.”
Ben McKay squinted at the lone cow, her hooves mired in the mud. He sighed, spurred his horse through the creek and stopped ten feet in front of the immovable cow. After switching out his whip for his rope, he twirled and let fly. The loop circled her neck and he tugged to tighten it. He’d done this so many times he didn’t have to spur his horse; Bongo just moved forward.
The cow—given the choice between choking or moving—stumbled forward.
Quinn’s horse danced impatiently at the top of the rise, as his rider watched Ben drag the cow up the incline. “Don’t know why in the hell she likes that damn creek,” Quinn remarked. “She’d stay there until it froze over.”
“Probably.” Bongo picked up the pace and Ben led the cow through the gate. As soon as Quinn closed off her only avenue of escape, Ben released the rope. He dismounted and approached the cow slowly. “Now don’t go getting any ideas about running off.” She stood still while he slipped the loop from her neck. Then he slapped her hard on the rump and she lumbered toward the rest of the herd.
Quinn waited while Ben mounted up. They poked along, soaking in the last rays of the sun’s warmth. Indian summer had stretched through the first week of October. They’d take temperate days while they could because winter in Wyoming seemed to last more than half the damn year.
“So what’re your plans for the weekend?” Quinn asked.
“Goin’ to Gillette. I’ll be back Sunday sometime.” He pushed up his hat and looked at Quinn. “Unless you and Libby need me back early for chores on Sunday morning?”
“Nah. We can handle it. Aren’t you gonna be around to watch the PBR Sunday afternoon? It’ll be the last time Chase rides in the regular season.”
He’d forgotten about that. His bull riding younger brother had pulled his head out of his ass and had made a good showing on the PBR tour the past few months. “Yeah. I’ll be back.”
“Good, because at the last poker game you volunteered your house as a place for us all to get together to watch.”
Ben stopped his horse. “Define all.”
“All…meaning all our McKay cousins.”
“Jesus. Was I drunk when I volunteered?”
Quinn laughed. “Nope. You were sober enough to exclude kids and wives in the invite. Besides, you own the biggest TV of any of us. And if you sweet talk Keely, she’ll bring food.”
His cousin Keely loved McKay events with the boys, since she was the only female McKay in their generation. “I’ll call her on my way out of town.”
When they reached Quinn’s place, Ben asked, “We usin’ the horses for anything early next week?”
“A couple things we need to check in the northwest corner that’s easier to get to on horseback than with the ATVs. Why?”
“I’d like to leave Bongo here until then.”
“Not a problem.”
Ben dismounted and unhooked the cinch strap.
“Is there a woman in Gillette you’ve been keeping secret?”
Ben tossed the saddle over the split rail fence. “Wouldn’t be a secret if I told you now, would it?”
Quinn dropped his saddle next to Ben’s. “Why do you drive to Gillette to get laid and get drunk when there are plenty of places around here to do that? And plenty of women who’d be happy to be in your bed for more than a weekend too.”
He snorted and removed the wet saddle blanket, draping it over the rail. “Who’d you hear that from? Tell? Or Dalton?”
Quinn pitched Ben a currycomb. “Neither. I heard that from my wife.”
Ben brushed Bongo with long strokes. “Trouble in paradise? Has Libby been hanging out at Ziggy’s bar again?”
“Fuck off. No, a couple of the new, single teachers have asked her about you.”
“Teachers? Definitely not my type.”
He patted Bongo’s withers. “I have a hard time believing a teacher would make a good student.”
“What the hell is that supposed to mean?”
Thinking out loud always got him in trouble. “Nothin’. I’m just touchy about all of our damn family members, including your wife, thinking I need to be paired up and married off now that Chase and Ava have tied the knot. Not everyone wants to be chained down with a wife and kids.” From the corner of his eye, he noticed Quinn bristle. “Sorry. Between our married relatives lookin’ at me like a loser terminal bachelor, and the single chicks at the local bars angling to tame one of the last wild McKays, I’m better off finding my hookups in Gillette.”
“I gotta be honest; it’s good to hear you’re hooking up with women.”
“Why’s that? You worried I’m secretly craving cock?”
Quinn shook his head. “I wouldn’t give a shit if you were. But it’s been so long since I’ve seen you with a date you can’t blame me for wondering what kind of woman is worth the drive.”
An obedient woman.
Not that Ben could explain that, either.