Authors: Em Petrova
The last time he’d been on the road, traveling to a rodeo, Anna had been at his side. Ridge gripped the steering wheel and stared at the flurry of activity in front of him as two of his brothers hitched up the horse trailer. Cameramen scurried between them as if the chore was the most fascinating thing ever.
Ridge straightened his leg, testing his knee. It seemed a little less angry this morning, and good thing. If he’d awakened with the usual swelling and pain, he never would have gotten out of bed and forfeited the event.
Then Kashley would have been on the phone, telling him off. She’d been like a drill sergeant for weeks. He’d never put anything past her again—when she gave her word, she kept it.
Ice and heat therapy, a supplement of turmeric for inflammation and stretching exercises. She’d tried to kill him with one where he was supposed to go into a handstand, resting against the wall for support, and the pained leg bent.
When he’d collapsed, she’d sat down hard too, laughing her ass off.
He still said she’d made that move up just to see him act like a fool, but she swore otherwise.
His mind returned to Anna like a dog worrying a bone. Would she be at this event? She followed the rodeo—it was how they’d met. And no, she wasn’t a Buckle Bunny, one of those girls who sought prestige by sleeping with the cowboys on the circuit. She was sweet, innocent.
When he thought of her against Kashley, though, Anna came up much more street smart. Anna had known the details of the competitors’ lives and hinted that she knew how to hit them low right before a ride. All it took was a little smack talk, she’d said, and of course he’d never done it. That wasn’t his style—or Anna’s either. She was too nice.
A heavy weight settled over him. Everything seemed so fucked up right now. He was in the middle of pushing out a big sigh when the truck door opened and Kashley bounced onto the seat, bringing her beachy scent with her.
She took one look at him and frowned. “Uh-oh.”
“I know that look. Is your knee hurting you?”
“You obviously don’t know my look, because the knee’s fine.”
“Really?” She jiggled up and down, causing her breasts to bounce too.
He glanced away. “Yeah, it’s looser today. Not as stiff.”
“Must be the turmeric working its magic.” She reached over and closed her fingers around his knee. Extreme heat rocketed up his thigh, and his cock stirred. He pushed her hand away gently, not wanting to cause a fight before they’d even pulled out of the driveway.
She opened her mouth to say something, but Buck appeared at the driver’s window with a shit-eating grin. “You ready, Ridge?”
“Ready as ever. Eager to get on the road. Why do we have to caravan anyway?”
“You know it’s for the cameras. So they can zoom in on your scowl before you flip them the finger.”
He did so now, his middle finger touching Buck’s nose. He slapped his hand away and tapped the side of the truck. “Safe journey. Don’t get any speeding tickets.” He looked past Ridge to Kashley and waggled his brows at her.
Before Buck had taken a step away from the truck, Ridge said, “What the hell was that?”
Buck gave him a crooked smile. “Nothing. Just a little code for Kashley.”
Ridge swung her direction, and she wore a pretty blush over her high cheekbones. Her blue and brown eyes sparkled, though. “Is this true?” he asked her.
“Dammit, you’re telling me everything before we even get out of Tulsa. Get your seatbelt on, because it’s gonna take us two-point-three minutes.” He turned the key, revved the engine and stepped on the gas.
She squeaked as the truck launched down the driveway. “Why don’t you have a holy shit handle, Ridge?” She flailed around to find something to grip.
“Got ripped off.”
“Wynonna. She didn’t like my driving, and you know she’s strong as a bull.” He reached over and yanked her seatbelt, tightening it across her chest. Kashley’s breasts bounced as they careened down the gravel driveway and made a right turn onto the highway.
“Slow down now,” she said.
“Not until you tell me what Buck was doing with that eyebrow code thing.” Shit, she was really bouncing around. Maybe he should slow down. Her breasts seemed ready to pop from her tank top.
His jeans shrank a little.
He’d done it—her top had worked down enough that he caught a hint of her bra.
He let off the gas and drifted for a long way before the truck hit a more normal speed.
“Good thing it’s flat here. Maniac.” She threw him a look that told him that she’d actually enjoyed his antics. Well he’d known that about her, hadn’t he? She was a thrill seeker, always in the most jacked-up trucks with the loudest engines and the biggest tires.
Was she a thrill seeker in bed too?
Hell, where had that come from?
“Spill it, toots.” He leveled his gaze at her.
“Would you…” She waved at the windshield, which he wasn’t looking out of. He was looking at her. When had she gotten so pretty? And that scent she wore—it reminded him of coconuts and warm sand beneath his feet, the taste of salty ocean on his lips as he walked out of the surf.
“Ridge!” She snapped her fingers in front of his face, and he turned back to the road. “Thank you.” She snuggled back against the seat and finally realized her top had worked down. He tried not to groan as she adjusted herself, tucking that hot red satin away.
“Kash, my boot is poised over this gas pedal. Tell me right now what you and Buck are up to.” His warning came out with more heat than he intended—but some of it was due to the blood accumulating in his groin. He had little control over his vocal cords.
“Buck’s worried about you,” she began.
He threw his head back and laughed. “Buck’s worried about the books for the ranch, the number of calves that will earn for us this season and supporting his next bun in the oven. He doesn’t care about me.”
“I— Wait, Buck and Channing are having another baby?”
“They haven’t told me yet, but I suspect they are. Now. Tell. Me.” He didn’t finish the sentence with a ‘before I stop this truck and turn you over my knee,’ because he was too addled by the idea of her plump ass high in the air, bearing his hand marks.
Fuck, now his kinky side was coming out. He hadn’t allowed this side of him to surface in a long time. Anna hadn’t liked rougher play, and he’d been fine with that. Actually, he’d believed his leanings to be a youthful whim, a phase. So what if he’d liked laying his hands on a woman and demanding her sexual pleasure? He didn’t need to go there now.
Except he was. Dammit, now that the fever had gripped him, all he could think about was holding a crop in his hand and paddling a sexy woman who was tied up as his sex slave.
He kept his gaze away from Kashley. That wouldn’t end well. Even if he did break his own rules and touch her—and she was into rougher play—he wasn’t a real Dom. He threw the word
around with casualness that would infuriate people in the community. But he didn’t have any desire to be amongst them either. He just liked the way the term slipped off his tongue when he was balls-deep in a woman.
“Buck wants to keep you out of trouble, and he told me that if he waggles his brows,” she demonstrated in a comical pantomime of Buck that almost made Ridge veer off the highway, “then I’m supposed to try to rein you in.”
“Rein me in,” he repeated softly.
“Umm…yeah.” She fidgeted.
“Kashley,” he said slowly, “do you really believe you can rein me in?”
His cock had stretched to its full length. Somehow his mind had confused her words with those erotic images bouncing around in his brain. Maybe he’d shaken something loose during his wild drive.
She folded her hands on her lap and crossed her long legs. “I’m gonna try. After all, you bad boy, isn’t that why I’m here?”
* * * * *
Shit, shit, shit! If she could bite back her words, she would. Hell, she’d lick them off the manure pile. Anything to take them back. Had she really called him
in that low, provocative voice she reserved for sex?
He eyeballed her, and he probably thought she’d flipped her wig instead. He definitely wasn’t ogling her—he didn’t see her as anything but the skinny, gawky girl next door.
She cut her attention from his face, and her gaze skidded out of control over bulging biceps to forearms roped with veins and long, blunt-tipped fingers.
That was worse.
She let her gaze sink to his thighs stretching the denim of his jeans oh so perfectly.
And the bulge at his crotch.
She went dead still. Was he… Could he be…turned on?
No, he probably had some sick adrenaline rush from driving like a maniac, and his hard-on was the effect of hormones.
When his hand came down on her leg, she gulped back a cry. “Hey, calm down. You’re here to help me relax, remember? I can’t do that if you’re all keyed up.”
So they were ignoring what she’d just said. Good. She dragged in a deep breath, filling her head with his scents of soap and man. “Could we listen to the radio?”
He shot her a sideways glance. “Depends on if you’re gonna sing.”
She slapped at him. “You know I can sing!”
“Just teasin’ ya.” He switched on the radio, and a country ballad swam through the cab.
The very tiny cab. She’d ridden with him countless times in the past, so why did this feel like a date? She stared at his elbow resting on the console between them, thinking how easy it would be to lay her arm over his and twine their fingers.
God, she had to get her thoughts under some sort of control before she made things worse for him. “So the knee’s better.”
He bobbed his head. His hat dipped low over his eyes, which were fixed on the road. “Seems to be. If it holds out for the ride.”
“It will,” she said with optimistic force.
The song ended and a more upbeat one began. She pointed at the radio where the artist’s name had popped up on the digital screen. “I hear he’s coming to Tulsa in two months.”
“Yeah? I don’t follow concerts much. Have you been to any lately?”
“Not since…” She cut off, not wanting to talk about when and who she’d gone with.
Ridge gave her the eye again. “You keeping more secrets from me?”
“No, but you know him, and I don’t want any weirdness between you.”
He gave a huff of a laugh. “Why would I get weird about who you dated in the past?”
“Okay, it’s Jake Rawlins.”
He gripped the wheel with both hands, his knuckles turning white, but he didn’t say anything.
“Ohhh, I knew this was going to make you tense. He’s your competition, for God’s sake.” So she’d been trying to fulfill her craving for a certain bronc rider by getting close to another, and he lived in Tulsa City, and well…
He still wasn’t speaking. She leaned forward to try to see under his hat. “Ridge?”
He exhaled and relaxed his grip. “I didn’t know. When were you seeing him?”
“Just before he was injured and quit the tour for the year.”
What did that noise mean? She was fluent in Ridge—interpreting most of his grunts and groans easily. But this was new.
“We lasted about nine months.”
“That’s a long time.” There was an edge to his voice, and she wondered if he was thinking of his own whirlwind relationship with Anna. What had they said on the
Rope ‘n Ride
show—he’d been with her four months before his intention to pop the question?
She lifted a shoulder in an awkward shrug, wishing to hell she’d never raised the topic of concerts. It was difficult finding a safe zone with Ridge when he was so volatile. She couldn’t even mention a puppy for fear he and Anna had planned to adopt one from the shelter, sending him into a stampede of destruction.
The song ended, and she prayed for something they could both sing to and ease the tension in the truck. But it was the country music news break, and they got started with—
“Jesus Christ, I can’t get away from this shit.” The female voice was giving the latest dish on rumors of Taylor Swift proposing marriage to reality TV and rodeo star Ridge Calhoun.
He groaned. Kashley gave a little snort of laughter. “I thought I let Tay-Tay down easy, but I guess not. I’ll have to log in to Twitter again and look for another Tweet about you.”
“This is getting ridiculous. The only reason we signed on with the show was to get enough money to buy the ranch out of my cousin’s hands after the fuck-up with the will.” He choked to a halt as his name was mentioned again.
“…rumored to be on probation with the hit TV show for
a fan after a preliminary run, where he was also reported to have fallen off his bronco after only two seconds.”