Channing nursed a Bud Light in a corner booth. She picked at her second bowl of pretzels and listened to the jukebox wailing another sad song about love gone wrong. In her life even lust had gone wrong.
The cowbell on the front door clanked against the wood as the door opened again, then slammed shut. This was a busy place. Maybe if all else failed she could get hired to sling beer. Her focus strayed to the list of options she’d jotted in her journal, none of which appealed to her.
The bench seat across from her creaked. Thinking Moose had swung by to flirt, she smiled and looked up.
But Colby McKay grinned back at her. “Thought I might find you here, darlin’.”
Channing suppressed a feminine sigh. His dimples ought to be illegal. “I figured you’d already taken off.”
“I could say the same. I heard what happened last night.”
She reached for her pencil. “I’m sure everyone has heard by now.” Her gaze narrowed. “Why didn’t you tell me Jared was married?”
“Because you’d be pissed off at me thinkin’ I had some ulterior motive in tellin’ you the truth.” He spun her notebook around and studied it. “Which is entirely true. But it don’t matter now.”
“That ulterior motive why you’re here?”
Her heart thudded. She struggled to project an image of absolute calm. “As I’m short on options, I’m open to suggestions.”
“Fair enough. Tell me something first, before we get into those options.”
“What are you runnin’ from?”
It was tempting to hedge or flat out lie. She did neither. “My past. My future. Take your pick.”
“Maybe you oughta explain that confusin’ comment to this dumb ol’ country boy.”
She rolled her eyes. “Dumb, yeah right. You don’t fool me, Colby McKay.”
“And you don’t fool me, Channing Kinkaid.”
His meaning settled on her thick, sweet and sticky as wild honey.
“My story is not that interesting, actually. I’ve followed the rules—my parent’s rules—my whole life. Just like my older sister, I graduated from an Ivy League school of their choice. Got my Masters degree because that’s what offspring of the people in their social circle do. My dad lined up a teaching job for me at a prestigious private prep school starting in the fall.”
She gripped the wooden pencil so tightly it cracked. “And when Mom and Dad introduced me to a wimpy accountant who reeked of Old Spice and old money, and they encouraged me to accept his marriage proposal after one lousy date, I snapped. I realized I wasn’t living my life; I was living theirs. I needed a break and ran away with the rodeo.”
Colby smiled and gently removed the gnawed-on, broken pencil from her death grip. “Regrets about that?”
“Besides my poor choice of a traveling partner? Strangely enough, no.”
His thumb swept across the vein on the inside of her wrist, sending tingles up her forearm. “What are your plans now that Jared is gone?”
“That’s what I’m sitting here trying to figure out.”
“Do you want to go home?”
“Good.” Colby angled across the narrow table and repeatedly brushed the back of his knuckles over her cheek. “Run away with me, Channing. At least until we get to Cheyenne next week.”
He’d spoken the words she’d wanted to hear. Yet, her sole focus was how the continual rasp of his rough skin on hers caused her insides to quake. Her blood to burn. Her sex to moisten.
Her breathing grew ragged when he trailed those callused fingertips down the gentle curve of her neck. He traced her collarbone with a touch as fleeting as the flutter of butterfly wings. Then he drew circles progressively lower on her chest. All while watching her reaction with his electric blue eyes.
“Naturally, there’d be conditions if I take you on.”
Oh yeah. She’d agree to any conditions as long as they included hot, wet, raunchy, shaking-the-rafters sex with him every single night. “You can be damn sure I’ll know exactly what I’m getting into this time before I go anywhere with you or anyone else like Jared.”
“I ain’t like Jared at all,” he scoffed.
“I know. That’s why I didn’t smack you with my purse when you showed up.”
“I still scare you, though, don’t I?”
“I shouldn’t. We’re more alike than you know.”
“Hmm. You think that’s why I kinda like you, cowboy?”
“Yeah. And the feeling’s mutual, shut.”
She smiled. “First things first. I can pay my own way to Cheyenne.”
Annoyance flitted across his face. “We’ll see.”
“Is there a sweetie—wife or girlfriend—baking apple pies and waiting for you on the front porch back at home?”
He shook his head. “After this summer rodeo season ends, hopefully I’ll have enough points accumulated to qualify me for the NFR in Vegas come December. If not, I oughta have enough to compete in the Dodge Circuit Finals in Pocatello in March. I’ll keep up in the points standings by goin’ to events closer to home. In the meantime I’ll be back in Wyoming to help my dad and brothers run the ranch.”
“And more likely than not I’ll be teaching on the East Coast.”
Something dark shifted in his eyes.
“Then we understand each other?” she prompted.
She frowned, not understanding his cryptic answer. “So, about these conditions.”
Colby studied her carefully from beneath the brim of his hat. “You’ll be in my bed.”
Her pulse fluttered. “I figured that much.”
“As well as Trevor and Edgard’s.”
Channing’s jaw dropped. “I’d be sleeping with all three of you?”
“No. You’d be fucking all three of us, ain’t gonna be much sleepin’ involved.” Colby scooted forward, his handsome face serious, his blue eyes intent. “Forget about what other people might think, and consider what you want, Channing. What you’ve always wanted but have been denied because it’s been against those blasted rules you’ve followed.”
She swallowed hard. “I’m still listening.”
“I’m used to havin’ a different woman every night if I choose.”
“And these women you pick up have no problem being passed between the three of you?”
He grinned. “Shockin’, ain’t it? What America’s youth has come to?”