Authors: Kimberly Raye
Tags: #Fiction, #Romance, #General
He had to do something. Even if it went against his good judgment.
“Where are you going?” Eli asked when Billy picked himself up off the ground, dusted off his jeans and started for the gate. “You’ve still got a few hours left of practice.”
“I’m tired of busting my ass. I need an insurance policy.” And then he headed for the fairgrounds next door and the woman with the Hello Kitty tattoo.
control the trembling in her hands as she headed down the aisle of booths and rounded the corner into the food section. The scent of sweet cotton candy called to her, but she was too determined to get as far away from Billy Chisholm as was humanly possible.
Sure, she’d been attracted to him last night. But that had been deprivation on her part and sexy mystique on his. But she’d explored that mystery in great detail. She’d climbed to the top of the mountain. She’d jumped off the ledge, and so it should have been downhill from there.
It was always downhill from there.
She shouldn’t be trembling. Or shaking. Or wanting.
Hunger yawned deep in the pit of her stomach and she found herself digging out a wad of change for an extra-large cotton candy. A few sugary-sweet wisps melted on her tongue and a rush of
went through her.
There. Hunger sated. Now she could think straight and remember the all-important fact that Billy Chisholm was off-limits. Cowboy non grata. The more distance she kept between them the better.
“Hey, Sabrina, wait up.” His deep voice rumbled behind her and she half turned to see him headed down the food aisle, his jeans molding to his body in all the right places.
“Gotta run.” She picked up her pace and headed straight for the sign that said Ladies’ Room up ahead.
“I want to talk to you.”
“There’s nothing to talk about. Just write it down on the sheet and I’ll get everything entered into the computer. You’ll be hooking up with women in no time.”
He stopped, but his voice followed her. “Why are you so freaking scared to talk to me?”
The question rang in her ears, pricking her ego and the self-worth she’d fought so hard to cultivate all those years she’d watched her mother hide out in her room every time Sabrina’s father had done her wrong. There’d been no confrontation. No standing up for herself. She’d taken it and retreated, and then she’d forgiven him and the pattern had started all over again.
She stopped dead in her tracks and turned on him. “Maybe I’m not scared. Maybe I just have nothing to say to you.”
“But I have something to say to you.”
“Maybe I’m not interested in talking to you.” She tried to sound nonchalant, but it was next to impossible when she caught a whiff of his scent. The enticing aroma of leather and male and that unnameable something that made her think of soft cotton sheets and the moonlight peeking past the curtains of his motel room... Forget it. Forget him. Forget the night before last.
She tried for a steadying breath. “Look, I realize that you’re very popular around here, but unlike the other females in this town—” she motioned to the group of women near the funnel cake stand, their gazes hooked on Billy “—I’m not interested in being one of your groupies.”
“You know what I think?”
“I couldn’t care less.”
“I think,” he said, stepping toward her, “you’re pushing me away on purpose because you really are scared.”
“There goes that word again.” She gathered her courage and focused every last ounce on holding her ground. Last night she hadn’t been prepared to resist him, hadn’t been armed against his sexy grin and his sparkling eyes and his honey-dripping drawl. But she was ready now.
Bring it on, cowboy
“Walking away doesn’t mean I’m scared,” she said. “It means I’m just not interested.”
“Is that so?” He stared at her, his eyes bright and mesmerizing. His lips hinted at the faintest of grins and his gaze dropped, peeling away her clothes and caressing every bare inch.
Her skin tingled and her heart stalled.
Okay, maybe she wasn’t prepared for this.
She feigned a smile. “They call it a one-night stand for a reason. It means one night and it’s over.”
“I know what it means.”
“Then stop stalking me.”
“You don’t have to be afraid.”
“For the last time, I’m not afraid of you.”
“Not me, sugar.” He took another step, closing the distance between them. “Us.” The word trembled in the air between them.
“There is no
or did you miss the whole one-night-stand explanation?”
“We’re good together.”
good together. That night. I was horny. You were horny. I’m no longer horny. So that’s the end of it. And if you’re looking for more, that’s great. I’ll get your profile entered into my system and I’m sure you’ll find a zillion girls to hook up with. You might even find Miss Right—”
“I’m not looking for a wife. Or a relationship.” He hesitated, as if suddenly unsure. Something tugged at her heart. “I slept for the first time in a long time, I actually slept for a few solid hours. Since sleep is imperative to a good ride, I was hoping we could work something out.”
“Wait a second.” She tried to process his words. “You want to have sex with me again because I put you to sleep?” Not because she’d rocked his world or did that little twist with her hips that had sent him to the moon and back. “
“I know it sounds crazy, but you don’t know how worked up I’ve been. I haven’t slept a solid three hours in weeks.” He ran a hand through his hair and she noted the weary light in his eyes. “I’ve got the semifinals this weekend. If I have a good showing, that’ll mean the finals.” His gaze locked with hers. “I had the best practice of my life yesterday.” He shrugged. “I figure the night before had something to do with it, so I want a repeat.”
“So go forth and hook up again.” She motioned to the group of women still gathered near the stand. “Take your pick.”
He grabbed her arm and hauled her around the corner behind one of the shopping booths.
“What are you doing—” she started, the words drowning in the lump in her throat as he invaded her space.
“Taking your advice.” He swung her around to face him. “I pick you.”
She stared up at him, wishing he wasn’t so tall, so handsome, so...close. “I’m not ripe for picking.”
His eyes darkened and she realized she’d said the wrong thing...or the right thing, depending on the part of her doing the thinking. From the heat pooling between her legs, she’d bet money it wasn’t her head.
“I’d say you’re plenty ripe, sugar.” His thumb grazed the nipple pressing against her blouse, and heat speared her. “Ripe
juicy, and damn near ready to burst.”
“That’s not what I meant.” She fought for an extra breath to send a much-needed jolt of oxygen to her brain. “From what I’ve seen, there are dozens of women around here eager for a chance to help you out. Why don’t you go make your offer to someone who might actually be interested?”
“Because they’ve all got one thing on the brain—a wedding ring. This is a small town, sugar. The local girls aren’t thinking about having a good time. They’re more worried about what time you’re going to call them tomorrow. And whether or not you’re going to ask them to the church picnic. And when you’re going to order the ring and pick out the crystal.”
“There’s nothing wrong with a nice piece of Waterford.”
“Except that I’m more a Dixie cup kind of guy.”
“I don’t want to lead anybody on. I’m busy and I’m not the least bit interested in an actual relationship.”
“So make that clear up front.”
“Been there and done that.”
“It lasted one week. The day before I was set to leave for a rodeo up in Montana, her daddy showed up with a shotgun and a preacher. He wanted me to make an honest woman of her.”
“What did you do?”
“I told him no and now I can’t fly without a strip search. I took two buckshot fragments in the ass.”
“You did not.”
“It was easier just to leave it in than let a surgeon dig it out.” He shook his head. “One-night stands don’t happen well in a small town. And since I don’t have time to drive up to Austin, I’m stuck here.”
“So you want to have sex with me again because I’m an outsider and I’m convenient.”
“And damn sexy.” He touched her then, skin to skin, the tip of one finger at her collarbone, and her heart jumped at the contact. “You’re something when you get all worked up.”
Before she could form a reply, he dipped his head and kissed her.
Billy Chisholm tasted even better than she remembered. Hotter. More potent.
His hand cupped her cheek, the other splayed along her rib cage just inches shy of her right breast, his fingers searing through the fabric of her blouse. His mouth nibbled at hers. His tongue slid wet and wicked along her bottom lip before dipping inside to stroke and tease and take her breath away.
Now, this...this was the reason she’d walked away from him a few minutes ago. Because she’d been a heartbeat shy of crawling over the table and pressing herself into his arms and begging for another kiss.
And Sabrina had no intention of begging any man for anything. Especially a too-big-for-his-britches cowboy with a sexy smile and purposeful lips. He was off-limits...
The thought faded as his fingers crept an inch higher, closer to her aching nipple, which bolted to attention, eager for a touch, a stroke, something—anything.
His fingers stopped, but his mouth kept moving, his tongue stroking, lips eating, hungry...so hungry. His intent was pure sin, and Sabrina couldn’t help herself; a moan vibrated up her throat.
He caught the sound, deepening the kiss for a delicious moment that made her stomach jump and her thighs quiver, and left no doubt as to the power of the chemistry between them.
“I’m sorry about your ass, but I really don’t think this is a good idea,” she murmured, dazed and trembling when he finally pulled away.
He leaned in, his breath warm against her ear. “Actually, sugar, I think it’s the best idea I’ve had in a hell of a long time.” His words made her shake and quiver all the more.
Shaking? Quivering? Over a cowboy?
cowboy, a voice whispered, that same voice that had warned her off him the minute she’d spotted him across the arena. The voice that had urged her to cut and run when he’d approached her table.
Because no way was Sabrina going to fall head over heels for a Stetson-wearing, Wrangler-rocking cowboy.
At the same time, it wasn’t as though Billy had moved in next door and she had to resist temptation day in and day out for God knew how long. It was two weeks, and that was only if he made it to the finals. Fourteen days at the most.
She could keep her head on straight and her heart intact for two weeks, DNA be damned.
Sure, her mother had a weakness for cowboys, but she’d been stuck in Sugar Creek, surrounded by them. There’d been no way out for her mother, who’d worked a minimum-wage job all her life and so, of course, she’d fallen victim to Sabrina’s father’s charms.
His conniving ways.
But Sabrina had a clear-cut exit plan with Billy. That, and she had obviously yet to make up for the past months of deprivation since her last relationship. It was the long, endless dry spell making her so hot for Billy Chisholm. She had no doubt. Once she made up for that deprivation, the attraction would fade and she would stop forgetting that he was the very type of man she
want. A little sex in this case would definitely do her good.
And a lot of sex would be even better.
“No strings attached, right? You’re not going to expect me to make pancakes or hold your hand at the Dairy Freeze or iron your shirts?”
“I’m in training. That means lots of protein for breakfast and no ice cream. And I get all my shirts dry-cleaned.” His gaze met and held hers. “We spend the nights together. That’s it.”
“And then you go your way and I go mine?”
“That’s the plan.”
“All right, then.” Her gaze locked with his and her heartbeat kicked up a notch. “I’m in.”
to welcome a special guest to the Lost Gun Senior Center. This is Sabrina Collins. She’s in town for the rodeo festivities,” said the petite blonde who read the pitch Sabrina had handed her when Sabrina had walked into the sprawling brick building and asked to pass out some free T-shirts and mugs to the residents. “Miss Collins is here all the way from Los Angeles, California. She’s here promoting her new website, FindMeACowboy.com.”
A murmur went through the group of women that filled the small recreation room.
“I’d like to find me a cowboy, that’s for sure,” murmured an elderly woman with brightly colored red hair. She wore a flower-print pantsuit and bright white tennis shoes.
“You’ll have to get in line behind me,” said yet another woman. She had white hair and wore enough blue eye shadow to make a Vegas showgirl envious. “I’ve been widowed the longest, so I get first dibs.”
“That’s a lie, Dolores Rankin. I’ve got you beat by at least three days on account of I lost my Joe on Good Friday and your Milton didn’t bite the dust until Easter.”
“Joe slipped into a coma on Good Friday.”
“Now, now,” said the blonde. “Let’s try to be on our best behavior, ladies. We’ve got company.” The woman, Susan Swanson, according to her badge, smiled and gave Sabrina an apologetic glance. Susan was the recreation coordinator for the center, as well as the head coach for the senior ladies’ softball team, Old Chix with Stix. The last bit of info came from the brightly colored pink T-shirt she wore. The front depicted a swinging bat and the phrase
You’re never too old to open up a can of whup ass,
while the back held the names and positions of the various team members.
“You just think your perm don’t stink,” said the redhead, “’cause you’re a pitcher. But I’m one fastball away from knocking you out for good.”
“You and what joint replacement?” Dolores arched one penciled-in eyebrow.
Red’s face crinkled into a thousand tiny lines as she frowned. “What is that supposed to mean?”
“That you creak more than the rusted-out barn door on my old farm.”
“I do not.”
“Ladies,” Susan chimed in again. “I’m sure Miss Collins didn’t come here to listen to a bunch of bickering. She’s got some freebies for us, isn’t that right?” Sabrina nodded and Susan glanced at her watch.
“And cupcakes, too.” Sabrina held up a bakery box, courtesy of Sarah and their newly formed alliance. “Chocolate and red velvet.”
Another excited murmur floated through the crowd, this one even bigger than the first.
Maybe the baker did know her stuff.
“Yum,” Susan murmured. “Can I have one of those?”
Sabrina nodded and handed over a Chocolate Ecstasy.
“I’ll leave you to it then,” the woman said around a mouthful. “I’ve got charades starting in the east wing in a few minutes.”
Sabrina eyed the roomful of women quickly closing in on her. “Any men in the east wing?” She gave Susan a hopeful glance, but the woman had already started for the door.
“Only the Morgan sisters,” Red chimed in as she came up to the card table where Sabrina had set up her display of goodies. “They’re not actually men, but they tell everybody that they’re bisexual.”
“They only do that because they think it makes them more interesting to the opposite sex,” Dolores chimed in, wedging in next to Red. “I’ll take a red velvet. And a shirt and a mug.” She pointed to the stand-up display depicting the shadow of a cowboy, hat tipped low, and the caption
Looking for a real man?
“And I’d like to fill out one of them profiles, too.”
“Sure thing.” Sabrina handed over the items, along with a clipboard with a questionnaire. While she’d promised Livi to turn down any more female profiles, she didn’t have the heart to turn away Dolores. Or the dozen or so other women who crowded around her. Not when they looked so eager. And lonely.
Still, her real objective was to find some eligible widowers for Melba and Sarah Jean.
That, and she was doing anything and everything to keep her mind off the coming evening and the fact that she’d agreed to meet Billy at the motel at ten for night one of their agreement.
Her nipples tightened at the notion and excitement zipped up her spine. Too much excitement, considering she’d already slept with him.
But that was the point entirely.
She was going back for seconds when she never allowed herself a second rendezvous. There were no seconds when it came to her weakness. Yes, she indulged because she couldn’t help the attraction, but she didn’t give it a chance to morph into more.
There were no follow-up dates. No phone calls or text messages or contact of any kind. She kept it simple and brief and safe.
He’d thrown a wrench into her entire system, not that she was going to let him throw her off track entirely. It was just a matter of keeping her perspective and remembering that this was a mutually beneficial arrangement.
That meant no primping for tonight or worrying over what she was going to wear or if he was going to be on time.
She’d done all three for all of a half hour after she’d parted ways with Livi. Her partner had gone back to her room to work, while Sabrina had spent thirty minutes feeling like a virgin before her first real date. She’d finished up at the fairgrounds an hour ago with a whopping thirty cowboys to add to their database. While she still needed to scan in the profiles and send them to Kat for entry, she knew that would only take a half hour at the most.
And so she’d come here, desperate to do anything and everything to keep her mind off the coming evening and off Billy and her crazy reaction to him, and do something productive.
a voice whispered as she accepted profile after profile. All the right age range, but the wrong sex.
“Is this an all-female home?” she asked after adding another profile to her growing stack. “No offense, but I was sort of hoping to find a few senior men.”
“Aren’t we all, sugar,” said the short, round eighty-something with tight silver curls and thick glasses who reached for a mug. “Aren’t we all.”
* * *
Sabrina gave herself a mental high five as she rounded the corner with a few leftovers in her bakery box, headed toward the dining hall, and ran smack-dab into a silver-haired man wearing a blue polyester golf shirt and plaid walking shorts.
“Watch where you’re going,” he growled. “Why, you damn near ran me down.”
“I’m so sorry.” Sabrina grabbed the magazine he’d been carrying, which had taken a nosedive during the collision. “Let me make it up to you.” She held up the box. “I’ve got cupcakes.”
“You know her?”
“She’s an actual person?” He shrugged his narrow shoulders. “I just know about the cupcakes. Thought they were a brand. Like Hostess or something.”
“She owns a bakery over on Main Street.”
He shrugged again. “I don’t get out much.”
Which meant they’d never met. Which meant that maybe, just maybe, she’d hit pay dirt.
“You like red velvet?” she asked.
“You trying to send me into a diabetic coma? I don’t eat sweets.”
“I like Cheetos,” he went on. “Now,
Sabrina glanced around and caught a glimpse of the vending machines down the hall. “Then let me buy you a snack.”
He eyed her, his pale blue eyes wary. “
want to buy
a snack? What’s this?” He glanced around. “One of those hidden-camera shows or something for that there YouTube my grandson is always carrying on about?”
“No hidden camera. I just want to make up for almost running you over. That, and I’d like to tell you about my website.”
“You selling something?” he asked after he let her steer him around the corner toward the vending machines.
“Not a thing.” She sat her bag on one of the round tables clustered next to the machines. “Puffy or crunchy?”
“The puffy ones on account of the crunchy hurt my dentures.”
She sent up a silent thank-you that Melba had agreed to be negotiable on the teeth issue.
“One bag of puffy Cheetos coming right up.” She unearthed some change from her purse and fed the quarters into the machine. A few seconds later, she set the bag of chips and a Diet Fresca in front of the man.
“My name’s Sabrina Collins.”
“Lyle Cornflower. So if you ain’t selling anything, why else would you have a website?” His expression grew serious. “You one of them bloggers?”
“ʼCause I know how it works. The government sends you people in to rant about all the stuff you think is wrong just to distract us from all the stuff that
wrong. Before you know it, the bigwigs swoop in and raise taxes and no one’s the wiser.”
Lyle hadn’t paid taxes in a few decades, but Sabrina didn’t point that out. He was on a roll, the color in his cheeks blazing, and she couldn’t help grinning.
“I can promise I’m not creating any diversions for the government.”
“Why else would you have a website?”
“My business partners and I created a meet-and-greet site called FindMeACowboy.com. I wrote the business model. I’m here in town to sign up single men for the website.”
“A matchmaking website?”
“Something like that. I’d like to add your profile to our growing list of men.”
“I ain’t no cowboy.”
“Not now—” she arched an eyebrow “—but maybe once upon a time?”
“I did ride a horse once. Damn near broke my neck.”
“Close enough.” At least for Sarah and Melba, and that’s who Sabrina was trying to match up at the moment. She pulled a pen and paper from her bag.
“You really want to find me a woman?”
“Hopefully, if your profile matches up with someone in particular. Then she can email you and you can email her, and see where it goes from there. Why, you might even have a date by next Saturday.”
“For the Senior Sweetheart dance?”
He shook his head. “Not no, but hell no. I already turned Melba Rose down for that and she still won’t stop bugging me. You know she hates Cheetos? She even petitioned the center to take them all out of the vending machines.”
“Maybe she doesn’t realize they’re your favorite.”
“She ought to. I’m eating a bag every night when she stops by my room to see if I want to watch late-night TV with her. I say no, but she keeps coming back. She’s just trying to get in my craw and catch me off guard. She has to get my signature on the petition or they won’t take them out. I’m the last holdout.”
Forget Melba. There was always Sarah Jean.
“Okay, we know you like Cheetos. How do you feel about cupcakes? Or pies? I’m a cream-puff girl myself.”
“I’m a diabetic.”
Hey, at least she’d tried.
“Say, is it seven already? My show is on.” He grabbed a mug and pushed up from the table, and then he hobbled off toward the main room and the sound of CNN blazing on television.
“I say we head for the bakery and snag a cream puff.” The deep voice sounded behind her and she whirled around into a rock-hard chest. Strong, familiar hands came up to steady her. Billy’s husky laughter rumbled in her ears. “Easy, sugar.”
“Don’t do that.”
“Sneak up on me like that.” Her gaze collided with his and her stomach bottomed out. “How long have you been standing there?”
“Long enough to know you’ll do anything for a cream puff.”
“I won’t do anything, although I have been known to drive an extra ten minutes to indulge myself. But not very often. What are you doing here?”
“Looking for you.” He glanced around. “What are you doing here?”
“I promised Sarah Jean and Melba Rose that I would find them cowboys. Melba, in particular, needs one by next Saturday night.”
“And you thought Lyle Cornflower fit the bill?”
“He’s the right age.”
“He plays golf every Sunday with the church golf team. Cowboys don’t play golf.”
“So what do you want?”
“This.” He leaned down and claimed her mouth for a deep, stirring kiss. “We have a deal, remember?”
“One that doesn’t start for another few hours,” she murmured, once she managed to drag some air into her lungs.
“I finished up early.”
She braced herself against the rush of excitement and ignored the urge to touch her hair to see if everything was in place. This wasn’t a date and she wasn’t a virgin.
“Let’s go. I thought we could get some dinner.”
“I can’t. I mean, you might have finished up early, but I still have a few things to do.” She gathered up her purse and her bag full of leftover freebies. “I still have a few stops to make.”
She nodded and then she turned on her heel and headed for the door as fast as her heels could carry her.
Because the last thing she intended to do was to have dinner with Billy Chisholm. This wasn’t about dinner.
It was sex. Nothing more.
At least that’s what she kept telling herself.
* * *
Sabrina clutched the edge of the sheet, her knuckles white, as she stared at the motel room ceiling a half hour later. Her nerves still buzzed. Her legs trembled. Her heart beat a frantic rhythm.
And all because of that brief, fleeting kiss at the senior center.
One measly, tired kiss.
Which meant she was even more deprived than she’d first thought.
And even more determined to work herself up so she didn’t blow like Old Faithful at the first instant of contact.
She let the images from their first night together replay in her head. The impression his fingertips had made against her heated skin. The rasp of his jaw against the tenderness of her breasts. The warm press of his lips against the side of her neck. The touching...