Corralled

Book 1 of the Blacktop Cowboys® Series

In the rodeo arena, all you have to worry about is surviving. But in the arena of love and ecstasy, things get much more complicated.

Sports therapist Lainie Capshaw has been rehabilitating injured cowboys long enough to know that a charming western drawl combined with a fine physical form doesn’t mean you fall for the man.

So no one is more surprised than Lainie when she finds herself involved with not one, but two different men: Hank Lawson, a bullfighter, and Kyle Gilchrist, a bull rider. Lainie feels guilty about her two-timing, but it doesn’t keep her from doubling her fun – that is until Hank catches her with Kyle.

She’s shocked that Hank isn’t mad. But she’s more shocked to learn Hank and Kyle are hometown buddies. But when the men offer to share her – in every way – she knows that she’s going to have to choose the one man who can give her the ride of her life.

Praise for Corralled »

  • Hang on to your cowboy hats because this book is scorching hot!

    Romance Junkies

  • Lorelei James’s sassy erotic romance gives new meaning to the term ‘Wild West.

    Lacey Alexander, author of What She Needs

  • Plenty of steamy love scenes that will have you reaching for your own hottie!

    Just Erotic Romance Reviews

Excerpt »

Chapter One

“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-sized 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 hook up 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 fixed him up, he asked her out on a date. Lainie refused–tempting as it’d been. Not only was Hank a 100% real Wyoming cowboy, who handled bulls with ease and panache, at 6’3”, 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 sponsor’s 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 2000-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.

Mercy. 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 bared 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 Gilcrist 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 blonde 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 if she’d become as loose and easy as the buckle bunnies trailing after the circuit cowboys.

But mostly Lainie wondered if 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 Kyle’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 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 rough-skinned 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 barstool, forcing Mel to face him. “Hey, sugar. Surprise.”

“Omigod. 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 pre-tryout 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.”

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 in front of 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—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 Light. 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 round 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 the same time the raucous crowd broke into applause at his clumsiness.

But he couldn’t tear his eyes off them. Tempting, to punch his buddy in the kisser for kissing her. Equally tempting to pull Laine 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 Two

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

“Hank, you know Mel?” Kyle asked.

Wake up, wake up, wake up.

“Intimately. Except I know her as Lainie, right darlin’?”

Any second now, the buzzing would jar her straight out of a dead sleep. And boy, wouldn’t she welcome that intrusion for a change.

Kyle frowned. “Why is that name familiar?”

“Because that’s her name, dumbass,” Hank snapped. “Lainie Capshaw. She’s a med tech with Lariat Sports. Is that ringing a bell?”

Comprehension dawned. Kyle’s head whipped toward her, his jaw nearly hanging to his championship belt buckle. “Your name isn’t Mel?”

Shit. Busted. She was so freakin’ busted.

Kyle faced Hank. “You’re with her too?”

“Too?” Hank repeated. He didn’t spare Lainie a glance. He shoved Kyle. “You better be fuckin’ kiddin’, Gilly.”

“Don’t fuckin’ push me, Lawson.” Kyle pushed Hank back.

Broken glass crunched beneath their booted feet.

“Back off,” Hank snarled.

“You back off first.”

“Not a fuckin’ chance.”

Kyle sneered, “Bring it, asshole.”

A crowd gathered, anticipating a fight.

Should she jump between them and put a stop to this?

“Who’s up for a wet T-shirt contest?”

All eyes zoomed to Tanna, standing on a table at the front of the bar. She’d stripped to an itty-bitty see-through white tank top, which showed the outline of her nipples in full detail, as well as the deep ‘V’ of her impressive cleavage.

Lainie’s gaze briefly connected with Tanna’s and her friend mouthed, “Go!” before she poured a bottle of beer on her chest.

Male whoops of appreciation echoed and she ran like the hounds of hell chased her. As Lainie cut out the side door, her brain ran rampant with questions. What were the odds that both her men had shown up here tonight? Or worse? That they’d know one another?

Stop thinking and run!

Bootsteps slapped the pavement behind her. A hand landed on her shoulder, jerking her to a stop.

“Mel. Please. Wait. Don’t run off. It won’t solve a damn thing.”

Breathing hard, she didn’t protest when Kyle whirled her around. No hint of amusement danced in his green eyes. His hands slid down to her shoulders and curled around her biceps, keeping her in place.

She braced herself for his recrimination. Angry words and accusations about her loose moral character would make it easier to walk away. Easier than admitting the truth: she wasn’t sorry for her hanky-panky with Hank or getting her kicks with Kyle. She was just sorry she’d gotten caught.

“What’s goin’ on? I’m confused as hell,” Kyle said.

“That makes two of us.”

“No. That makes three of us,” Hank said behind her.

Lainie tried to squirm out of Kyle’s gentle hold, but his fingers tightened.

“Let her go,” Hank said sharply.

Kyle’s eyes searched hers. “Is that what you want?”

She nodded and he immediately released her.

“Step away from her, Gilly,” Hank warned.

Kyle shoved him. “You first.”

Hank shoved him back. “Keep it up and I’ll hand you your ass.”

“Try it,” Kyle taunted.

“Stop it. Both of you.” She wrapped her arms around herself and stepped sideways so she could see both men.

They were pissed. Rightly so.

The brutal silence caused her to blurt, “I’d say I never meant this to happen, but I doubt you’ll believe me.”

“Try us,” Kyle said.

“Obviously I had no idea you guys were friends.” She paused and her gaze flicked between them. “How good of friends?”

“Why does it matter?” Hank asked brusquely.

“It just does.”

“Me’n Hank have been friends since junior high,” Kyle said.

Lainie bit back a groan. It figured. “For the record, I’ve never ever done anything like this in my entire life. So it’s no surprise…” A headache built behind her eyes, making the sockets ache and her temples pound.

Do not cry. You will not pull those goddamn crocodile tears like your mother would. Buck up and face the music.

Wrong. Run!

“I have to go. Right now.”

“Now wait just a damn minute. We’re all adults here—”

She focused on Hank. “Did you or did you not get into a shoving match with Kyle when you saw us together?”

He scowled. “It caught me off guard, okay?”

“Me too,” Kyle said. “You must know neither one of us is the type of man to back down.”

Lainie threw her hands up. “Which is precisely my point.”

“We aren’t gonna come to blows over you,” Hank scoffed.

****

“You’re right. You won’t. Because I’m backing down. I’m breaking if off with both of you.”

“Lainie. Come back here so we can talk about this,” Hank shouted.

Her wild curls bounced against her rigid back with every hurried bootstep. She never stopped. She never looked back.

When she climbed in her truck, Hank started after her.

A strong grip on his forearm and a curt, “Let her go,” stopped him.

Hank shifted to glare at Gilly. “What the fuck? Maybe you don’t want her, but I sure as hell do. I ain’t letting her go when she’s like this.”

Gilly got right in his face—a feat in itself since the man was six inches shorter. “Don’t think for a second I don’t want Mel as badly as you do. But goin’ after her when she has this stubborn mindset is a fool’s errand, and you damn well know it. I won’t have you fucking up my chance with her because you’re too damn dense to let her be.”

“Stop calling her Mel,” Hank snapped. “Her name is Lainie.”

“Stop bein’ such a dickhead,” Kyle shot back. “And for Christsake, if you’re gonna be such a picky bastard about names, how about if you get mine right? I ain’t been Gilly since I left Muddy Gap, Hank. The name is Kyle.”

“Fine, Kyle.”

The back door to the bar burst open, releasing a blast of slide steel guitar. Hank glanced in that direction, away from the dust plume as Lainie’s truck barreled off. A woman’s drunken whoop echoed, followed by a man’s laughter and the door banged shut again.

Hank scowled. This is how his evening played out? Standing in the parking lot of a honky-tonk? At ten o’clock at night? Completely sober, completely pissed, completely confused on how he and his buddy ended up fucking with the same woman?

Kyle sighed. “Look. I need a damn beer but the thought of heading back into the bar turns my stomach.”

“Yeah. Me too. There’s a package store around the corner.”

Five minutes later, laden with a six-pack, Hank climbed into his truck next to Kyle. He set the brown bag on the center seat, tempted to crack a bottle—to hell with the open container law. He needed a damn drink now.

The lights of Lamar zoomed past the truck windows. Hank had half a mind to whip a u-turn and drive out to the rodeo grounds. At least if they were getting drunk with a group of rowdy cowboys, they wouldn’t be commiserating about having the hots for the same sexy-assed sports med tech.

“You thinking about her?” Kyle asked.

“Always.”

Great. Hank knew Lainie starred in plenty of sexual fantasies of cowboys on the CRA circuit. He’d never expected she’d been part of his friend’s sexual reality, not just his fantasy.

“How long have you been seein’ her, Hank?”

“Roughly six months.” As much as Hank didn’t want to ask, he did. “How about you?”

“Two months.”

Hank couldn’t stop the smug feeling he’d been with Lainie longer than Kyle.

Yeah? If you’re in with her so damn good, then why’d she go looking for another man to knock boots with?

Damn.

“What’d she treat you for?” Kyle asked.

“Pulled my Achilles.”

It’d pissed him off too, pulling a muscle during a performance. Instead of the usual gruff med tech, Lainie stepped up. Hank had scoffed at the little slip of a woman. How was she supposed to fix him if she could barely assist him on to the exam table? But as Hank half-listened to her questions, he watched her. Her hair color was odd—somewhere between dark brown and rich red, a shade that reminded him of his Quarter horse’s glossy coat. Hank kept that observation to himself; few women found humor or flattery within workhorse comparisons.

Lainie had stretched him out on the padded exam table and dug her fingers into his sore calf. The strength and skill of her hands surprised him almost as much as the color of her eyes—the hue of burnished copper.

At an event the next week, Hank popped into the medical aid station, only to discover Lainie worked every other week with the EBS circuit. In the interim, he’d stumbled across information about Lainie’s heritage that’d shocked him. The curly haired cutie with the sparkling eyes and magical hands was the daughter of world famous bull rider, Jason Capshaw. An icon, a legend, a man who’d died way too young, way too publicly, gored by a bull in an arena filled with thousands of adoring fans. A man who’d left behind a young widow and a five-year-old daughter. A little girl christened Melanie—who’d been nicknamed Lainie by her adoring father.

When she’d checked out Hank’s sprained pinky the following week, Hank asked her about her famous father. Lainie’s sunny disposition vanished as fast as a Wyoming rainstorm. Yes, she was Jason Capshaw’s daughter. No, she didn’t want to talk about him. So Hank seized the opportunity to steer the conversation the direction he’d wanted all along: he’d asked her out.

Lainie’s response? A vehement no. She absolutely did not date rodeo cowboys. Ever. Period. End of discussion.

Normally, he’d move on. Yet, something about her called to him. Hank didn’t push, but he let her know he wasn’t giving up her either.

His luck turned the night of a sponsor’s dinner. The wine had relaxed her and he swooped her onto the dance floor during a sexy, suggestive Dierks Bentley tune.

Lust exploded between them the instant he hauled her into his arms. Hank had his share of sexual conquests in his years as a bullfighter and a cowboy. But nothing in his experience was as potent as slow dancing with Lainie Capshaw fully clothed.

They’d managed to keep their relationship platonic another twenty minutes. Sex between them rocked his world. He’d believed Lainie felt the same. So Hank hadn’t demanded exclusivity, fearing it’d spook her, given her “no dating cowboys” rule. Now he wished he had.

“Hank? Buddy, you okay?” Kyle asked, breaking him out of his reverie. “You’re awful damn quiet.”

Hank sighed. “I don’t know. Guess I’m more shocked than anything. Aren’t you?”

Kyle shrugged as Hank parked at the far back of the motel lot. He hopped out and lowered the tailgate with a loud clank while Hank snagged the six-pack.

They sat on the tailgate, gazing at the sky. The stars were bright, despite the light pollution from the town. He passed Kyle a bottle. A pop hiss sounded, followed by a metallic ping as he flicked the cap into the truck bed behind them.

Kyle spoke first. “You asked me if I was shocked. I’m not. She ain’t the type to play games, but I suspected she was seein’ someone else. I figured it’d be a guy who lived in her area.”

“Lainie don’t exactly seem like the ‘what happens on the road, stays on the road’ type, with a different fella in every town.”

“Exactly. I figured her deal with the other guy couldn’t be that serious if she was with me every so often.” Kyle sent him a sidelong glance. “Am I right?”

“She and I never made promises to each other. It’s been pretty casual.” Hank knew it wouldn’t help the situation if he admitted he’d wanted those promises from Lainie and had been prepared to offer them in return. Tonight in fact.

“You been with other women since you and Lainie hooked up?”

Hank shook his head. “You?”

“Nope.”

“That’s a fuckin’ surprise.”

“Why?”

“Cause I know you.”

Hank snorted. “Right.”

“Did you ask me about screwing other women so you could run and tell her that she was just another meaningless tumble for me, while she was special to you?”

Heat rose up Hank’s neck. Kyle had nailed his response and he knew it, which is what made this situation doubly hard.

Thick silence descended.

“Hell, Hank, maybe Mel—Lainie has the right idea. Maybe we all oughta walk away from this.”

He practically snarled, “I don’t wanna walk away from her.”

“Me neither.” Kyle drained his beer and rattled the paper sack reaching for another.

Hank finished his Bud and grabbed a second. “I’m open to suggestions as to what to do.”

“Beats me. Ain’t shit like this usually settled with fists?”

“You saw how she reacted when we got into a shoving match. Made it worse. That ain’t gonna work.” He sent Kyle a tight-lipped smile. “One of us could be a gentleman and bow out.”

****

“Go for it,” Kyle said, flashing his teeth at Hank in a non-smile.

Hank laughed. “Not a chance.”

“I ain’t bowing out; you ain’t bowing out. Then we’re back to square one.”

“Appears that way.”

Another bout of quiet stretched between them. Normally Kyle would fill the void with chatter, jokes and bullshit, but tonight he was unnerved. For the first time in a long time he’d found a woman who invoked real feelings in him. Lainie wasn’t his usual, she’s-hot-and-she-fucks-like-a dream type of woman, who he’d happily bang until he got sick of her. No, from the moment Kyle met her, he’d known she was different.

Immediately after rejoining the EBS, Kyle learned from the other fifty-nine guys on the tour that Mel did not fraternize with cowboys. Ever. Given her tragic family history, he understood her need to detach herself, especially from bull riders. Given the fact she was the only woman on the sports medicine team, he understood her need to keep a professional distance and reputation.

Kyle respected that…until he’d landed hard enough on his riding arm he feared he’d cracked his elbow, which sent him straight to the sports med room. She’d slapped a sling on him, never losing her good humor during the drive to the closest hospital for X-rays.

When he admitted to the attending doc he thought he might’ve cracked his tailbone too, her professional edge sharpened—as did her words. She asked if he’d neglected to tell him the full extent of his injuries because of her gender.

Kyle confessed he had a problem sticking his ass in the air for a woman. She’d snapped back if it bothered him, she’d scratch her crotch, refuse to shower and walk around with a ball-swaying swagger so he’d think of her as a guy.

From that point on, he’d become smitten with the oh-so-feminine, yet ballsy woman called by a man’s name. Kyle knew the attraction wasn’t one sided, no matter how many times she’d denied it. No matter how many times she told him she didn’t mess around with bull riders. Period. But he’d worn her down with a mixture of charm and luck.

They’d ended up fucking in a restaurant bathroom ten minutes into their first date. Sexually, they meshed. Kyle proved her fears of locker room stories were unfounded, as evidenced that no one on the EBS tour caught wind of their raunchy rendezvous.

Kyle wasn’t giving her up without a fight when he’d found a woman worth fighting for.

Even to the point you’ll lose a good friend?

Maybe.

“Think it’ll be hard with us both bein’ on this circuit?” Hank asked.

“Probably. It ain’t like I’m planning to get the shit kicked out of me just so she’ll put her hands on me.”

“Oh, I don’t know. I’ve had her hands on me. It might actually be worth getting stomped.”

Kyle punched Hank in the arm. “It’s a damn cryin’ shame we can’t just share her until she makes up her mind which one of us she likes better.”

Hank’s beer bottle stopped halfway to his mouth. “You know, that ain’t a half-bad idea.”

“I was kiddin’.”

“I’m not.”

“Seriously? Like I’d get her Friday night and you’d get her Saturday night? Hank. Buddy. You know that’d never work. Especially when we’d be in the same town, knowing exactly what’s goin’ on behind closed motel room doors. Maybe in the motel room right next door.”

“True. But what if…?”

Now he’d piqued Kyle’s curiosity. “What if?”

“What if we were both with her? At the same time. Think she’d go for that?” Hank asked.

Kyle froze. Maybe it was irony or fate or some such shit but he and Lainie had once discussed that very thing. “One time we were watching porn in a hotel room and she admitted girl on girl action didn’t appeal to her. But two guys taking care of her sexual needs? She said to sign her up.”

Hank faced him and grinned. “Well, there you go. I knew this was a good idea. Problem solved. We’ll pitch it to her first thing tomorrow.”

“Now hold on.” Kyle took a drink of beer. “I ain’t sure she wasn’t just all talk.”

“You trying to convince me? Or yourself?”

“Both, maybe. Hell, I don’t know. This just seems really fucking weird.”

“Was Lainie drunk during this conversation about being with two men?”

“No.”

“That tells me she’d be open to it.”

“That don’t mean that I’m on board.”

“For a threesome? Why the hell not? I’m totally on board.” Hank snickered. “You ain’t afraid Lainie will be comparing our dick sizes or something?”

“Fuck off, Lawson. That ain’t what concerns me. What if part of her deal is she wants us to be together, kissing and touching and shit like them women in porn threesomes are?”

That visual immediately caught Hank’s attention. His body went rigid before he shuddered. “No fuckin’ way am I sucking your dick, Gilly.”

They both went quiet.

Hank drained his beer and handed them each a fresh one. “But I’m gonna point out Lainie knows us both well enough she wouldn’t expect us to be doin’ each other when we’re doin’ her. And because she’s had sex with both of us, if anyone can talk her into a three-way relationship, it’d be us.”

“That’s true.”

“Best case scenario: she agrees to be with both of us when she’s working the CRA tour.”

“What about when we are together? Will it always be the three of us? Or will I get to spend time alone with her?”

“I don’t know the damn logistics,” Hank grumbled. “We can sit here and plan the whole goddamn thing out, how we want it, but we both know she’ll have ideas of her own. Knowing Lainie, she’ll probably bring up things we ain’t even considered.”

“You ain’t whistlin’ Dixie there.” Kyle listened to footsteps fading on the blacktop. An engine started. A Buick slowed as it drove past them. The occupant probably wondered why two cowboys were tailgating at the Broken Spur Motel at midnight.

“So we need to talk to her,” Hank said. “But we have to provide a united front. She either takes both of us or neither of us.” Hank turned and Kyle felt his quizzical gaze. “Right?”

Rather than respond, fuck no, you’re on your own, pal, Kyle muttered, “Right.”

“Good. You’n’ me will talk specifics on our way to her motel tomorrow morning.”

“Where’s she staying?”

“Cow Palace Inn.” Hank jumped off the tailgate and gathered the empty beer bottles, dropping them into the crumpled paper sack with a muffled chink. “Well, roomie, I’m whipped and goin’ to bed. You comin’?”

“Nah. I’ll be along in a while. Think I’ll sit out here and strategize covering my bulls tomorrow night.”

“I looked at the roster from the stock contractor. He’s brought some seriously rank bulls.”

“All the better.”

“Thought you might say that. Got your room key?”

Kyle nodded and aimed his face at the stars, hoping Hank would get the hint they were done talking.

Hank lumbered off without a word.

Somehow Kyle managed to put the bizarre conversation and situation out of his mind and focus on the reason he was here: to ride bulls.

For International Readers »

Signet
(October 1, 2013)
368 pages
ISBN: 978-0451466396

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