Authors: Kimberly Raye
Tags: #Fiction, #Romance, #General
That, or maybe they were after a story of their own.
A way to make a fast buck.
That’s what logic told him, but Jesse seemed so damned sure. And while Billy had a hard time putting his faith in Big Earl and Casey, he trusted his oldest brother.
“I’ll catch up to him eventually,” Curt promised. “You know that. And then I’ll ask him all the questions I’m asking you.”
“I know, but it won’t be tonight. He’s got a rodeo to win.”
Damn straight he did.
Billy pulled on his shirt and concentrated on snapping the buttons. But with every button, he thought of Sabrina and the way she’d popped off his shirt and slid it down his shoulders and—
Tonight was all about the ride, not the woman he’d left at home.
Unfortunately, he couldn’t help but wonder if she was still there, or if she’d gone back to her motel, or if she was actually sitting in the stands waiting for the bull riding to start.
“Sabrina’s here with me,” Eli told him when the old man called his cell to wish him good luck.
“And where exactly are you?”
“Picking up Melba. We’ve got a date for the Sweetheart Dance.”
“I thought you were going to be here at the arena?”
“I’ve taught you everything I know. You’re on your own, son. Now if you don’t mind, I’ve got a plate of potato salad calling my name.”
So much for Sabrina waiting in the stands, eager for a glimpse of him. She wasn’t here, and she wasn’t coming, and Billy needed to cowboy up and get on with it.
But damned if he could stifle the disappointment that rushed through him as he opened the door and joined Jesse for the short walk to the main arena.
after an evening spent spying on Queen Melba and Eli as they twirled around the dance floor at the Sweetheart Dance, Sabrina pulled up in front of the motel to find Billy’s pickup parked in her usual spot.
Her gaze swiveled to the man who leaned against her door, arms folded as he waited for her. Her heart jumped into her throat as she drank in the sight of him. He wore a sleeveless white T-shirt with Eight Seconds and Then Some emblazoned in liquid blue. Faded jeans hugged his thighs and calves. Worn brown cowboy boots completed the outfit. His muscular arms were folded, his expression serious as he waited for her. He looked hot and incredible sexy and...worried?
Her pulse quickened and heat uncurled low in her belly as she slid from the driver’s seat. Billy pushed away from the door as she started up the walk toward him.
“What are you—”
“You missed the finals,” he cut in. His brows knit together and his mouth pulled into a tight line. “You weren’t there.”
“I didn’t see the point. Our business is—” She meant to say
but he didn’t give her the chance.
He pulled her into his arms and hauled her up against his chest. His mouth covered hers. Strong hands pressed the small of her back, holding her close as he kissed her long and slow and deep. He smelled of soap and fresh air and a touch of wildness that teased her nostrils and made her breathe heavier, desperate to draw more of his essence into her lungs.
a voice prodded.
This is a bad idea.
A really bad idea.
The purpose of missing the finals was to avoid him. Kissing him is hardly an effective avoidance technique.
that, but he was so close and he smelled so good and she’d missed him so much.
“I can’t stop thinking about you,” he murmured when he finally tore his lips from hers. “I thought about you all afternoon and tonight. And I still won.” He seemed surprised by the fact. “I
“That’s really great.” She couldn’t help the rush of warmth or the smile that tugged at her lips.
“It is,” he said, the words more for himself than her. “But it doesn’t
great.” His gaze collided with hers. “Not half as great as this.” He kissed her again, fast and urgent, the way he’d done at the waterfall. “As you,” he murmured when he finally pulled away. “I want you so bad.”
That’s what his sudden appearance was all about.
He was here for one thing and one thing only. Because his body drove him. It didn’t go beyond sex as far as he was concerned. It never would. Even if he did seem different from the smooth-talking charmer who’d approached her that first night.
There’s no such thing for his kind.
That’s what she told herself, but she just couldn’t make herself believe it. Not with her lips tingling from his kiss and her body buzzing with desire and her heart aching from the fact that she really
missed him. Sure, it had only been a few hours, but it felt like more.
Like a lifetime.
Anxiety rushed through her, heightened by the truth that echoed in her head.
This was it.
Her last night in town. Their last night.
And while an encore wasn’t part of the agreement, ending things now before she’d had a chance to really say goodbye seemed like the worst idea ever.
She slid her arms around his neck, leaned up on her tiptoes and touched her mouth to his.
The kiss that followed was hot and wild and consuming. Her head started to spin and her heart pounded faster. He tasted of impulse and danger and a touch of desperation that made her chest tighten and her heart ache. As if he needed this as much as she did.
Her hands snaked around his neck and she leaned into him, relishing the feel of his body pressed flush against hers.
He pulled free long enough to sweep her up into his arms and carry her inside. A few minutes later, they were inside her motel room. He let her feel every inch of his hot, aroused body as he eased her to her feet.
They faced each other then, and she knew he was waiting for her to make the next move, to show him that she wanted this, too.
She unbuttoned her blouse and let it slide from her shoulders. Trembling fingers worked at the catch of her bra and freed her straining breasts. She unbuttoned her skirt and worked it down her legs. Her panties followed, until she was completely naked.
He didn’t reach out. He simply looked at her, yet it felt as if his hot hand traveled the length of her body along with his gaze. His violet eyes were dark and deep and smoldering as they touched on every hot spot—her neck, her nipples, the vee between her legs, the tender flesh of her thighs. Desire rushed through her, sharp and demanding, and she reached for him.
She gripped his T-shirt and urged it up and over his head. Her fingers went to the waistband of his jeans. She slid the button free and her knuckles grazed his bare stomach. He drew in a sharp breath, and then another, when she slid the zipper down and her thumb trailed over his hard length.
She hooked her fingers in the waistband of his briefs and tugged his jeans and underwear down with one motion. His massive erection sprang hot and greedy toward her.
She touched him, tracing the bulge of his veins and cupping his testicles. He throbbed at her touch and a surge of feminine power went through her—so opposite the crazy weakness she’d feared for so long.
She relished the feel of him for a few fast, furious heartbeats before he seemed to reach his limit. He drew her near and captured her mouth with his own. He drew the breath from her body with a hungry kiss that made her knees tremble and her hands shake and her head spin. A mix of desperation and desire fueled her response as she met him thrust for thrust, lick for lick, losing herself in the feel of him so close. A moment later, he pressed her back against the bed.
“Don’t close your eyes,” he murmured. “I want to know how much you like it when I touch you. How much you want me to touch you.” He settled beside her and trailed his hand down the side of her neck, the dip at her collarbone, the slope of one breast. “Do you like it when I touch you here?” With his fingertip, he traced the outline of her nipple and watched it tighten in response.
“Yes,” she breathed, the word catching on a gasp.
Her nerves came alive as he moved his hand down her abdomen to the strip of hair that bisected her sex. One rasping touch of his callused fingertip against her swollen flesh and she arched up off the bed. She caught her bottom lip and stifled a cry.
With a growl, he spread her wide with his thumb and forefinger and touched and rubbed as he dipped his head to draw on her nipple. Sensation speared her, and she had to fight to keep her eyes open. But she managed. She fixed her gaze on the blond head at her breast and trailed her hands over his shoulders, committing every ripple, every bulge to memory.
Desperate to keep him with her long after she left town.
When he slid a finger deep, deep inside, she moaned. Her fingertips tightened on his shoulders, digging into the hard, muscular flesh.
“You’re so wet,” he said, leaning back to stare down at her, into her. “So freakin’
“So are you.” She reached between them and touched the pearl of liquid that beaded on the head of his erection nestled against her thigh. She spread the liquid around the rock-hard shaft and watched his gaze darken.
“If you don’t stop touching me, this is going to go a hell of a lot faster than I anticipated.”
“I like it fast, and out of control.” The words tumbled out of her mouth before she could stop them. “I like
out of control.”
He shifted and reached for his jeans. His fingers dove into one of the pockets and he pulled out a condom.
Driven by her need for him, she took the latex and tore open the package. She eased the contents over the head of his smooth, pulsing shaft. He pulsed in her hands and hunger gripped her.
She spread her legs and waited as he settled between them. The head of his penis pushed a delicious fraction into her. Pleasure pierced her brain and hummed along every nerve ending. She lifted her legs and hooked them around his waist, opening her body even more. He answered her unspoken invitation with a deep, probing thrust.
Her muscles convulsed around him, clutching him as he gripped her bare bottom and tilted her so that he could slide a fraction deeper, until he filled her completely. He thrummed inside her for a long moment as he seemed to fight for his precious control.
But Sabrina had already lost her own and she wasn’t going to go over the edge without him. She lifted her hips, moved her pelvis, and rode him until he growled and gave in to the fierce heat that raged between them. He pumped into her, the pressure and the friction so sweet that it took her breath away.
She met his thrusts in a wild rhythm that urged him faster and deeper and... Yes.
Her lips parted and she screamed at the blinding force of the climax that crashed over her. Billy grasped her buttocks and held her tight as he plunged one last and final time. A groan ripped from his throat as he followed her over the edge.
* * *
top of Sabrina, his face buried in the crook of her neck, her muscles still clenched tightly around him. He felt every quiver of her body, every delicious shudder, every erratic breath. Her heart pounded against the palm of his hand and a wave of possessiveness swept through him. He had the sudden, desperate urge to tighten his hold on her and never let go. Because she was his.
She’d always been his.
He gathered her close and focused on the steady beat of her heart for several long moments, letting it lull him and ease the exhaustion in his muscles. He was tired. So damned tired. But he’d needed this in the worst way. He’d needed her. He still did.
The seconds ticked by, sleep pulling them both under. But he wasn’t ready to give in. Not yet. Not until...
“I love you,” he whispered the words that burned inside of him.
Her heart didn’t skip a beat as he held her close and he knew she was already asleep. It didn’t matter. He had tomorrow to get his point across. Then she would realize they had something special and change her mind about leaving. And all would be right with his world.
If only things were really that simple.
But Billy had been dealt a shitty hand too many times to think that the woman of his dreams would simply throw herself into his arms and life would be set. Instead, he knew good and well that he was in for the fight of his life.
He didn’t care.
Sabrina was worth it, and he intended to prove as much. He just hoped she didn’t run for the hills before he had the chance.
The words echoed through Sabrina’s head throughout Sunday morning, taunting her as she tried to concentrate on entering her last ten profiles. She had to get back on track and forget all about Billy and the fact that he loved her.
Just where did he get off loving her? He wasn’t supposed to love her and she wasn’t supposed to love him.
No matter how desperate and out of control he’d been at the river, or how he’d taught her to make pancakes, or how he’d held her and listened to her talk about her mother and her father and her past.
Her heart pounded double time and tears burned the backs of her eyes as she tried to concentrate on her computer keyboard and the stats of cowboy one hundred and sixty-one.
James Early Harwell. James liked the occasional glass of whiskey, old Westerns and dancing until dawn down at the local honky-tonk. He was a ranch foreman at a large spread about twenty miles outside of town. The salt-of-the-earth type and every bit as good-looking as Billy Chisholm.
The exact type that her mother had always had a weakness for.
Weak. That’s why she’d landed in bed with Billy. Not because he was different or because she sensed there was more beneath the surface. A man who was honest and loyal and all of the things her own father had never been.
Sure, he’d kept his word and handed her a neatly typed profile last night as promised once their deal was done. But that merely proved what she knew deep in her gut—he was a player like all the others, eager to move on to the next conquest.
That, or it means he’s a man who does what he says, who keeps his promises
One of the few she’d ever known. One of a kind. Special—
Stop. Forget him. Forget that he loves you and forget that you love him
She couldn’t. She wouldn’t.
She stared at Billy’s profile. Her very last one and the ticket to satisfying her investor and launching the website in a major way.
Her fingers went to the keyboard and she mentally commanded them to type. To enter the stats and get it over with. Then it would be really and truly done and Billy would be just another of the masses. Another sweet-talking, sexy-as-all-get-out cowboy with a sweet-as-molasses drawl and enough charm to make even a saint blush. He was perfect for the website. All the more reason to get him entered and get it over with.
But she couldn’t force her fingers to make contact. They wouldn’t move and, truthfully, she didn’t want them to move.
Because she cared about him. Because she loved him.
Denial rushed through her. No, she didn’t love him. She was close...dangerously so. That’s why she couldn’t make herself enter his stats and throw him to the masses who would be cruising their website in a matter of days, searching for the cowboy of their dreams.
But she wasn’t falling all the way, not head over heels, body, heart and soul, in love with Billy Chisholm. Love required trust, and as much as she wanted to, she just couldn’t trust a man like him. She wouldn’t.
She wouldn’t do something so self-destructive as fall in love with a cowboy like Billy Chisholm. She’d come too far, struggled too hard to escape her past to wind up living it once again. Only this time, she would be the one barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen, whipping up the pancakes and waiting for her man to come home.
If only that last image stirred the same distaste that it once had.
* * *
you can’t see me?” Billy demanded when he stomped into the diner at lunchtime, after a very heated phone conversation. He’d called to ask for a date, no doubt to discuss the bomb he’d dropped the night before. Of course, she’d turned him down.
And turned him down again when he’d called back the second time.
And the third time.
Now here was Billy himself, standing in front of her table, wearing a black T-shirt that read It’s All About the Ride and faded jeans and an intense look that made her pulse leap.
“Let me rephrase that—I don’t want to see you.” There. She’d said it, despite inhaling his all-too-familiar and terribly sexy scent of warm male and leather and him. Her nostrils flared and her lungs filled, and Sabrina damned herself for being so weak.
She wasn’t weak. She was holding her own, keeping up her defenses and getting the hell out of Dodge. Fast. Before any more of Melba Rose’s friends approached her to find them dates and she found herself agreeing to yet another day in Lost Gun and, more important, before she gave in to the hunger inside her and kissed Billy until her toes curled.
“We need to talk—”
“About last night,” she cut in, “I understand completely. You were worked up and so was I and you didn’t mean to say what you said.”
“Oh, I meant it, all right—”
“Oh, wow, would you look at that? I’ve got a meeting over at the senior center and I’m late,” she screeched, sliding out of the booth and scooting past him as if she’d been zapped by lightning. “Look, you just run along and don’t worry that I’m making more out of it than you meant. We all get a little crazed in the heat of the moment. Chemistry is a powerful thing. People mistake lust for love all the time. Just look at the divorce rate. Lust,” she rushed on before he could say anything to shake her determination. “Last night was just a bad case of lust, but now it’s sated and—”
“Is it?” he cut in, his gaze deep and searching, as if he struggled to see everything she was trying so hard to deny.
“Yes,” she declared with as much bravado as she could muster, considering he smelled so good and she had this insane urge to press her head to his chest just to hear if his heart was beating as fast as hers. “It’s definitely sated.”
He eyed her for a long, breathless moment, and she knew he was going to argue with her. That, or throw her over his shoulder and tote her back to his cabin and make love to her over and over until she developed such a craving for him that she couldn’t keep from loving him. And damned if a small part of her didn’t want him to do just that. To take the decision out of her hands so that she didn’t have to think, to worry, to be afraid of what she felt for him.
felt, she reminded herself. She wasn’t there yet. She wasn’t in love. Not with him. She
As if he sensed the turmoil inside her, his fierce expression eased into his usual charming grin that made her that much more wary.
“Listen, I didn’t want to tell you this, but I’ve been writing a story about you and your brothers and your dad. An exposé to launch my journalism career.” Okay, so she’d
about writing an exposé, but she hadn’t been able to make herself actually do it. Not after hearing the pain in his voice when he’d spoken about his past. Even more, she’d realized she wasn’t cut out to be a journalist if it meant stirring up a world of hurt for someone else. She’d always thought that being a big-time journalist would make her happy, but she’d come to realize that just being good at what she did—namely hooking up Melba—had brought her a sense of accomplishment unlike anything she’d ever felt. But Billy didn’t know that, and she didn’t intend to tell him. “That was the reason I agreed to your proposition. So that I could get close to you and get the real scoop.”
He eyed her for a long moment. “So did you?”
“Did I what?”
“Get the scoop?”
“Not exactly, but that’s beside the point. The point is I had an ulterior motive. It wasn’t just lust. I was using you.”
“Where’s the story?”
On its way to CNN.
That’s what she wanted to say, to prove to him that she didn’t really care about him. But there was something about the way he looked at her, as if she was
to disappointing him, that blew a hole in her entire facade. She shrugged. “I decided not to write it.” So much for pushing him away.
“Because it’s over and done with. Silas is dead. The money is gone. Might as well let sleeping dogs lie.”
“What if I told you it wasn’t? What if I said the money was still out there and there’s proof that Silas had a partner?”
She waited for the rush of excitement at the prospect, but the only thing she felt was the desperate urge to kiss him. “Someone else can write about it then.”
Something softened in his expression and she damned herself for bringing up the past in the first place. She’d meant to push him away with the news.
If only it didn’t feel as if she’d pulled him that much closer.
“Maybe I will write about it,” she blurted, gathering up her purse. “Right after I head over to the senior center.”
“If you’re no longer in lust with me, then I don’t have to worry about you jumping my bones while I walk you over.”
“I don’t need an escort.”
“But I do. It’s been forever since I’ve been there, so I thought you could lead the way. I promised Eli I would stop by and let Melba know that he’ll pick her up at eight tonight.” At her blank look, he added, “Her cell’s not working right now and he’s tied up at the training facility.” He shrugged. “You’re going and I’m going. We might as well walk together.”
“No.” She shook her head. “I can’t.” She put her purse back down beside her.
“So you’re not going?”
“Of course I am. Later. After lunch.” She eyed the half-eaten hamburger in front of her. “You just run along and do your business and I’ll stop by later. I think that would work much better. I mean, our time together
over. Business concluded. You really should get on with your life, and I’m already zooming right ahead with mine.”
“You’re still here,” he pointed out.
She thought of lying. Of telling him she was doing research to blow the roof off him and his family. But she knew he wouldn’t buy it any more than she could sell it. She shrugged instead. “I’m only sticking around for one more week, just until I find a decent prospect for Melba’s friend. The VFW has bingo on Friday nights. It’s also senior-discount night, which means every available man over sixty-five will be there. I should hit pay dirt there if all else fails this week.”
“So you’re here strictly for Melba Rose?”
“I made a promise.”
He eyed her for a long moment. “You’re stubborn, you know that?”
“I’m confident, not stubborn. I just know what I want out of life, that’s all.”
“Let’s hope.” He winked before turning toward the door. “I’ll see you around, sugar.”
“Not if I see you first,” she murmured to herself as he edged his way around a table and walked out of the diner.
It was all a matter of keeping her distance until she left town. Rationally, she knew that.
It was the irrational urge to run after him and throw herself into his arms that scared the crap out of her, and made her all the more determined
to love Billy Chisholm.
* * *
With any other woman, Billy might have had his doubts. After all, she’d ditched him last night and given him the brush-off just now. Talk about rejection.
But this was Sabrina.
Bold, sassy, sexy as hell and scared.
He might have believed her, except that he’d seen the wariness in her eyes, heard the desperation in her voice. There’d been none of the cool confidence of a woman completely uninvolved, none of the nonchalance of someone ready to turn her back and walk away because she didn’t feel anything for him.
Even more, she was still here.
While he had no doubt that she meant to keep her promise to Melba’s friend, he knew that was just an excuse to stick around. Because she wasn’t half as sure about leaving as she’d been the night they’d met.
Yep, she loved him, all right, and so Billy had backed off when he’d wanted nothing more than to pull her close and never let go. He didn’t want her to feel pressured or anxious or afraid.
He wanted her willing, sure, certain beyond a doubt.
That meant she had to come to terms with her feelings in her own time, and so he decided then and there that he wasn’t going to press or push.
Not too much, that is.
He certainly wasn’t going to hide away and bide his time and simply hope that she came to her senses. Billy had never been a patient man when it came to something he wanted, and he really wanted Sabrina Collins.
And she wanted him back.
Now and forever.
She just needed a little help admitting it.