Authors: Em Petrova
“Come on. Joy and I are grabbing some margaritas before the events start.”
“But you can’t drink,” Kashley blurted before she caught herself.
Channing’s smile spread and she covered her lower belly with a protective palm. “Virgin margarita for me. Is it that obvious I’m pregnant?”
“No, but Ridge told me you were.”
“How the heck would he know?”
“Well it doesn’t matter. Everyone will know soon enough. I’m starting into my cravings phase, and I won’t be able to hide the hamburger wrappers. Come on.” She grabbed Kashley’s arm and steered her away from the Calhouns. There was a bar area with small tables big enough to only hold a drink or three and some high stools. Joy was already there, placing her order.
“Oh I didn’t know you were joining us,” she said as she spotted Kashley. She waved the waiter back and ordered one for her.
“Extra rum,” Kashley added. It was after five o’clock and she could use the liquid fortification. At some point she’d need to face Ridge and try to make up with him. But he couldn’t have been as cut open from learning about her one-night stand with Chip as he had from the corncob, could he?
The ladies were silent as they all waited for the margaritas to be placed before them. Kashley took a long sip and sighed as the fruity flavors mingled in her head.
“Sometimes you just need an adult beverage. I could use a break from sippy cups of milk and apple juice.” Joy sucked an inch of her drink down then sat back with a smile and a sigh.
When she looked to Kashley, her smile dropped. “Honey, are you okay?” She rested a hand on Kashley’s arm.
People whispered as they walked by their table, obviously recognizing the ladies from the TV show.
She whipped around at the sound of her name.
Channing gave a snort. “You’re one of us now. There’s no hiding.”
“It isn’t like that with me and Ridge.”
“No?” Channing lifted a perfect brow. Her pretty face wore a glow, and Kashley wondered if that was how Ridge had known about her expecting.
Kashley shook her head. “We’re just friends. I’m helping him out. Trying to keep him in line, but I’m not doing a good job.”
“Think of all the things he’d do if you hadn’t stopped him. Some are bound to slip through the cracks.”
“Did you have a fight?” Joy asked gently, taking another sip of margarita.
“He’s angry with me,” Kashley admitted, biting her lip.
“Excuse me, but could I get a photo with you?” a woman interrupted. Channing nodded and the three of them grouped together with the woman so her friend could snap a photo.
After she’d moved off, Kashley said, “I don’t know if I’m cut out for this. And I definitely need a makeover if I’m going to be in pictures.”
Both ladies stared at her.
“What?” Kashley asked, thinking they were seeing her with a new hair color and different clothes.
“Are you serious, Kashley? You’re stunning. All that thick hair and your eyes…” Channing shook her head. “They’re beautiful.”
Joy leaned forward to gaze more closely at her eyes. Kashley squirmed under the attention but didn’t look away. “You’re lucky. Every woman who sees you knows it. And every guy who looks your way wants you. If things don’t work out with Ridge, you could always go for West. He’s been eyeing you when you’re not looking.”
Channing nodded and drank half of her virgin margarita in one long pull.
West? Oh God, the last thing she needed was West showing her attention. She wouldn’t be responsible for a fight between brothers.
“Thank you,” she said to the ladies.
“So what is Ridge’s problem with you? You can confide to us—I can see you need to talk.” The kind tone of Joy’s voice brought instant tears to Kashley’s eyes.
Dipping her head, she busied herself with drinking before she answered. “Chip told him that we’d slept together.”
Both mouths fell open. “Chip the bull rider? That Chip?”
“Are there any other Chips here?”
“Yeah, there’s Chip Blakely, the bull
“It wasn’t him,” Kashley admitted.
They sat back and exchanged a glance.
Kashley rushed to say, “It was a one-time thing and we’d been drinking. I’m not proud of it, but I didn’t think I needed to give Ridge a history either.”
“You’re right. It’s none of his business. I could use some French fries. Anybody want some fries?” Channing waved down the waiter and placed a large order that she said they’d all share.
“Where are the little ones, anyway?” Kashley asked to avoid the topic of her past lovers.
“We had to hire a nanny. She’s a real sweetheart, a young girl fresh out of college and with a degree in early childhood development. She travels with us and takes care of all the kids, even Asher’s.”
“It was too difficult to be there for our husbands with kids who were ready for bed, and we’re with them nonstop anyway. It’s nice to have a few hours alone once in a while,” Joy said.
Kashley nodded. “I can imagine.” Kids and a family life seemed so far away that she couldn’t really imagine it at all.
“Okay, back to you.”
Joy set her elbows on the table and stared at Kashley, and Channing did the same. “So you had a dark secret that Ridge didn’t want to hear. He’ll get over it.”
“Yeah, but when? We have to spend time together until we pull out of Kansas. I don’t know how to smooth things over.” Kashley felt the alcohol slide through her and breathed a sigh. The talk was as good for her nerves as the adult beverage.
“Don’t you see that he likes you, Kashley?” Joy asked, her eyes held wide.
Yeah, he liked being buried in her. Calling her his little slave while he pounded his way to release. But he hadn’t shown her any reason to think he’d care who she’d slept with in the past.
“She doesn’t see, Joy,” Channing spoke up. “Kashley, that man is way into you.”
“He is?” Her voice came out like a squeak.
“Oh yeah,” they said in unison and then laughed.
“But he’s still hung up on Anna,” she argued. Just saying her name made Kashley wish she’d had more to drink.
“Are you sure about that?” Channing asked. The waiter delivered the fries, and she dug in, her short, rounded nails sinking into the basket.
No, Kashley wasn’t sure of anything anymore. Only her own feelings for Ridge hadn’t changed. If anything, she loved him more.
And now that she knew his kisses and the feel of his body moving inside her, she craved it all.
She wanted what these women had—the Calhoun name. But she couldn’t see that happening.
“Ridge doesn’t see me that way,” she said softly.
“I think you’re wrong, Kashley. The way to a Calhoun man’s heart is to show him that you’ll stick by him no matter what. Don’t walk away and you’ll see, I promise.” Channing popped a fry slathered in ketchup into her mouth.
Kashley mulled over her words, wondering how to stick by a man who probably wouldn’t speak to her again. Her heart did a somersault at the thought.
She had to find a way.
If Ridge wasn’t competing and was letting his knee recover for a few more days before the next event, then he didn’t know what to do with himself. Normally he’d stick around the arena and encourage his family to do their best and support them, but he needed to get the hell out of here.
He needed distance from Kashley.
It hurt that he’d learned about Chip from the man himself.
What did it matter? He wasn’t even over Anna yet, and he didn’t think of Kashley as real girlfriend material anyway.
He yanked out the hotel desk chair and plopped down before the complimentary computer. Then he logged onto his Twitter account. A few marriage proposals flitted across his screen, along with some dating advice from fans and one message from a guy who was obviously not a fan. He told Ridge to find a nice blow-up doll and see if he had better luck getting her to sit still for his proposal.
Pushing out a breath of frustration, Ridge signed out again and into his email account. He probably shouldn’t be looking at either in his present state of mind, but he needed to see if he could handle the marriage proposals better now. Then he could let Kashley go once they were finished here in Kansas. Send her back home and handle everything on his own.
After all, he had his brothers to haul him off fans who’d pissed him off.
Nobody can stop me from beating up Chip if he says another goddamn word, though.
He shifted his jaw to the side and glared at the screen. Emails from vendors wanting to sponsor him. A letter from his car insurance company hiking up premiums for the new term.
He almost bit off his tongue when he spotted AnnaJJ07.
Anna Jane Jantsky birthday April seventh.
His heart slammed his ribs as he hovered the cursor over the email and clicked. The minute the words popped up, he heard her speaking in his head.
Long time no speak, huh? I know you’re probably upset about what happened at the café. Truth is, I knew you were going to propose—a cameraman let it slip. And I was afraid. I wasn’t sure if was ready to hear the words you meant to say.
Since then, I’ve been thinking a lot about it, and it all comes down to one thing.
I miss you.
What do you say about getting together when I come through Tulsa in two weeks? I could swing by the ranch and we can talk.
His pulse hammered in his temples, resounding through his brain. He reread her email and then clicked it closed and signed out of his account. He stared at the blank screen for a long minute, pondering what this could mean to him.
He could reconcile with her. They could pick up where they’d left off, with happy smiles, feeling the love.
But did he really feel it anymore? It had been over four months. A lot had changed since then—
He got up and his knee threatened to give way beneath him. He steadied himself with a hand on the desk and looked around to see if he’d been caught on camera nearly falling on his ass.
Sure enough, a camera guy and the production manager were occupying a seating group in the lobby. Ridge almost gave them the finger and thought better of it. He started toward the elevators, but the pair overtook him.
“Can we speak with you alone, Ridge?” The production manager named Ethan hadn’t really done the Calhouns any favors, especially when it came to Wynonna. After breaking the no fraternization with the crew clause of her contract, he’d apparently slept with a Buckle Bunny—or Ridge suspected ten—before she’d dumped him. Then he’d made her life hell for a few months until she’d finally chosen to ignore him entirely.
Ridge groaned. “Guess you’re about to corner me in an elevator so I don’t have much choice.” He stepped into the open doors and the others followed. They didn’t get the buttons pushed for their floors before they pinned Ridge in their stares.
“We’re going to have to put you on probation, Ridge.”
Fuck all, this day was getting worse. Still, this was better news than what Chip had delivered.
He gave a nonchalant shrug. “For how long?”
“One chance, remember? It’s in your clause. You can be put on probation for ill conduct and we don’t have to take you off probation. Another misstep and your contract will be terminated.”
He stared at Ethan. The guy was too polished, too expensive and full of himself. He didn’t understand what Wynonna had seen in him, but she was young.
“Good thing my sister has wised up and dumped your ass. Did you even have the decency of putting on condoms when you slept with those other women?”
His face reddened, and he opened his mouth as if to fire him from the show. But Ridge had the guy by the balls. He could lose his job too, if it was discovered he’d messed around with Wynonna.
Ridge set a hand on Ethan’s shoulder, heavy and solid. A warning. He pinned him in his gaze as he said, “If I’m on probation, so are you, buddy. Guess we’ll see who makes it through, huh?”
Thank God for good timing, because the elevator doors opened and Ridge got off on his floor.
When he looked toward his room, he spotted a figure leaning against the wall, her shoulders slumped and her head bowed, her familiar cowgirl hat concealing her expression from him.
His heart gave a thump at the sight of Kashley’s despondent pose. His footsteps were strangely silent on the ugly patterned hotel carpet, so she didn’t look up at him until he was next to her.
When she gave him that blue-brown stare, all he could see was her looking at Chip while he slid his cock into her. Did she act the same with everyone she slept with? Had Chip seen that dirty side of her? Did he know about the nipple clamps and her need to be controlled?
He pushed by her and used his key on the door.
“I don’t want to talk, Kashley.” He tried to close the door behind him, but she jammed a boot in the crack and whipped it open.
He spun to face her just as an expression of fury crossed her beautiful features. She stood inches away, her breasts ripe and her curves begging for his touch. Her ass needed a spanking for keeping something like Chip from him. But Ridge wasn’t going to give her the satisfac—
The idea broke off when she stepped up to him, so close that her breasts rubbed his chest. Her eyes sparked with anger and she jabbed a finger toward his nose. “We’re going to talk this out, Ridge Calhoun.”
“Yeah? Or what?” he challenged, his cock lengthening and his senses rioting at her beachy scent.
“Or…or this.” She hooked her hand around his nape and yanked him down as she surged upward, her lips crashing over his.
* * * * *
Kashley could feel the fury simmering just below the surface of Ridge’s muscles. Steely tension beneath scorching flesh. She attacked the buttons of his shirt as he kneaded her ass with a strong, biting grasp. She cried out and latched onto his neck, sucking hard.
When she ripped his shirt off his shoulders, there was a sound of threads popping.
He growled against her breast and used his teeth to harden her nipple even as she worked over his pecs with small bites.
They grappled for a long minute and then pulled back, panting.
“I’m pissed off at you.”
“Channel it into punishing me then,” she responded.
His cock jerked against her belly, and she hurled herself into tearing off the rest of his clothes. He mangled her shirt removing it, the sleeve half off.
“I liked that shirt.” She bit his nipple for his actions.
He cupped her head and pushed her down harder, obviously liking the pain too. He worked his touch down her waist and plunged his hand into her panties. She cried out as rough fingers met her slick folds—made wetter by his bold touches.
Claiming her mouth, he thrust his tongue in and out, sweeping deeper with each pass as he finger-fucked her. Her cries grew louder and her body spiked. One hard throb of her pussy and he yanked his fingers free.
She glared at him. “You did that on purpose.”
When he smiled, she saw a real joy in his eyes. “Damn right. You come when I say you can come.”
A shudder of pleasure rippled through her. She ran her tongue along her swollen lower lip, and his gaze caught on her movement. The intensity in his gaze was undeniable. This wasn’t only about him being angry—it was him letting her know it mattered that she’d been with Chip. He didn’t like it.
Her heart gave a flip and she yanked open his belt. He stayed her hands before she could open his fly. “Take off my belt and put it in my hands.”
She blinked at him, white heat landing in her clit. She resisted the urge to slide her fingers into her panties and finish what he’d started. But she wanted to know how far he’d push her. She had a feeling he’d make her soar if she trusted him enough to give him the reins.
Swallowing her excitement, she pulled his belt free of the loops. The
noise prickled every hair on her body. The heavy buckle fell into her palm, and she doubled the leather and held it out to him.
There it was—that crooked grin and the smoldering stare. She bit her lips to hold back a cry of happiness.
“Drop your jeans and turn around.”
“Ridge…” She dipped her gaze to the belt. She’d never been spanked with anything but a man’s hand. Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea.
“Kashley,” he said quietly, “you’re going to be wearing my stripes on your ass when I’m done with you. And you’re going to know who you belong to.”
Her heart didn’t just flip this time—it did a double twist off the high dive into a pike followed by triple somersaults.
“Do it.” His dark tone slithered through her, and she was helpless against him. Holding his gaze, she wiggled her jeans down her hips, her panties caught in the fabric too. “Turn around. Brace your hands on the mattress.”
A shaky breath left her. She wanted him so bad, and the state of his bulge showed how much he wanted her too. The threads of his fly seemed about to explode.
As soon as she presented him with her ass, she felt his gaze on her bare, vulnerable cheeks. She threw a look over her shoulder. “Not hard, okay, Ridge?”
He didn’t look at her face when he answered, “Trust me, honey. I’ll never hurt you.”
Was it her imagination or did his words hold a double meaning? She gulped at the first touch against her ass—but it was only his fingers. Hot, rough as he fondled her full cheek and stroked to the under-curve. She gulped back a cry.
The next touch was leather to skin. He rubbed the belt over her ass, over and over, until she was pushing back for more, craving the bite and sting.
“Don’t move, honey. You’re going to take ten cracks for keeping the fact you slept with Chip from me.”
“I… It was before you.”
“I don’t care. I don’t like knowing he saw this sweet ass.”
“H-he didn’t. It was dark and—”
She barely had time to give a swift nod when he brought the leather across her cheek. Not hard but enough to make her gasp. Ohhh it was different from a hand. It stung more.
And aroused more.
The sound of the second slap heightened her senses, and she bit off a strangled cry.
He brushed her hair away from her ear and kissed the shell, speaking in a low rumble that unhinged her. “Who is touching you?”
“Say my name.”
A shiver ran up and down her spine. The belt moved over her other cheek and she prepared herself for a blow that didn’t come. His breath tickled her ear, and she couldn’t silence the need in her voice when she said, “Ridge.”
Five blows followed, raining down on one buttocks and then the next until she curled her toes into her boots and clenched her jaw to keep from screaming in pain and pleasure. The last thing they needed was a call to the police. Too easily she envisioned them showing up here and rumors of abuse flying around.
Expecting his belt, she jolted to feel his fingers. He brushed over the heated skin he’d just spanked. He hadn’t given her ten swats yet. Instead, he stroked her skin.
“So fucking pretty. All pink for me. I’ll think of this every time I put my belt on.”
She swallowed a noise that echoed deep in her soul. That he’d think of her at all thrilled her. It wasn’t that she didn’t value herself enough to believe he would. It was that he wasn’t ready—their deal didn’t come with strings. But maybe in time he’d find more with her than blistering-hot sex.
He ran his tongue around her earlobe, and her nipples puckered. Gasping, she hung forward. “Please, Ridge.”
Without warning, he plunged two fingers into her pussy. She nearly splintered, pulsating with one foot in reality and one in the air of bliss. “What are you asking for, Kashley? Tell me what you want.”
“Finish the ten,” she breathed out.
His cock pushed against her ass momentarily and then it was all belt. The final swats made her pussy contract. For the first time, she believed she could come to his countdown. He commanded her body entirely.