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       Corralled, p.16

         Part #1 of Blacktop Cowboys series by Lorelei James
 

  Lainie and Celia were the least likely types to become bosom buddies.

  No one spoke for a while. The radio was off. Lainie stared out the window. Hank kept his eyes on the road. Kyle let his head fall back and his thoughts drift.

  When he’d returned to Lawson’s ranch house with Abe last night, the lights were off in Hank’s bedroom. Somehow he’d tamped down his jealousy as he tramped downstairs.

  As he lay in the dark of his bedroom, he cooked up several scenarios of how his night alone with Lainie would play out. Part of him hated thinking up new sexual tricks to use on Lainie that’d give him a leg up on Hank. But another part of him loved the chance to unlock his kinkier fantasies. Who knew if the opportunity would ever appear again?

  Two hard bumps jarred him and his eyes flew open.

  “Sorry. Potholes I didn’t see until I was right up on ’em.”

  “Can’t believe I almost dozed off.” He stretched. Yawned.

  “It’s a damn boring drive.”

  “No, it’s not. The landscape is stunning. You can see forever,”

  Lainie murmured.

  “Says the woman who grew up by the ocean.”

  She whapped Hank on the arm.

  “What was that for?”

  “Because your tone annoyed me.”

  Kyle grinned. Lainie was no shrinking violet. She’d definitely keep them on their toes the next few weeks. He was looking forward to it.

  Hank navigated the inevitable road construction and pulled into the Campbell County Fairgrounds outside the CAM- PLEX.

  He offered to accompany Kyle to the contestant check- in area, but Kyle declined, as much as he hated leaving Hank and Lainie alone again.

  The stillness of the arena during the day spooked him. It smelled the same— hot dirt, manure, animal flesh, and popcorn—but the air lacked the vigor of the raucous crowd and the nervous energy of the contestants behind the chutes.

  The plump woman behind the window eyed him. “Lemme guess. Bareback rider.”

  “Nope. Bull rider.”

  She rattled off the entry fee. Kyle handed over the cash. The woman pushed a clipboard with the release- of- liability forms under the ticket window. “Sign here.” That done, she stamped a receipt, initialed it, and passed it back. She pointed to another ticket booth. “You’ll get your number over there. Good luck.”

  He mumbled thanks and moved over to the longer line.

  The guy in front of him looked familiar, but Kyle couldn’t place him. Luckily, the guy spoke first.

  “I feel like we’ve met before, but I’ll be damned if I can remember where.” He stuck out a hand. “Breck Christianson.”

  Kyle shook his hand. “Kyle Gilchrist.”

  Breck snapped his fingers. “Now I know where I know you from. The EBS. You finished in the top ten in the world finals a couple years back.”

  “Seems a lot longer ago than that.”

  “Didn’t you have some kind of injury?”

  “Blew out my knee and was out for a year after surgery. The EBS let me start this season, but after my piss- poor showing they dropped me from the main tour.”

  Breck frowned. “Why didn’t you stick with the EBS’s secondary circuit?”

  “Not enough venues. I need to get on as many bulls as I can to figure out what the hell I’m doin’ wrong.”

  “I hear ya. Cowboy Christmas is my favorite time of year because of the number of stock I get to test out.”

  “So what is your poison?”

  “Saddle bronc. If there ain’t many contestants I sometimes dabble in bareback. Plus tie- down roping and bulldogging.”

  Kyle whistled. “Glutton for punishment?”

  “It’s the price of reaching for that all- around title.” They shuffled forward in line. “How’s the CRA compare to the EBS?”

  It’d sound like pandering if he mentioned that the CRA people were nicer. “I’ve only done one CRA event, so it’s too soon to tell.”

  “Where’d you compete?”

  “Lamar.”

  “How’d you do?”

  Kyle grinned. “First.”

  “Nice.” After Breck picked up his contestant “back” number, he said, “Good meetin’ you. See ya tonight.”

  Kyle rolled up the square piece of paper listing his contestant number and jammed it in his back pocket. He wandered around, familiarizing himself with the grounds. Just as he was about to call Hank, he saw a flash of wild curls duck beneath the bleachers. Only one person had hair like that. He tracked her to a tiny room with a medical symbol on the door.

  Lainie was talking to a scrawny male kid who didn’t look old enough to shave, let alone to run a medical station.

  “I thought I’d offer,” Lainie finished. She spun around and her fake smile slipped when her gaze landed on Kyle.

  “Everything okay?” he asked outside the room.

  “Fine. They have plenty of ‘qualified medical professionals,’ so I’m free to be a spectator tonight.”

  He recognized her disappointment. “That’s not all bad. It’ll really feel like you’re on vacation. Did you guys get the camper set up?”

  “Yeah. Let’s head that way. I could use food.”

  They walked through the bustling campground to a fenced- in section outside the arena reserved for contestants and their families. Despite the steel horse trailers and campers, the area held the feel of an Old West town. Dust and tents and campfires. Whinnying horses, kids shouting, and barking dogs.

  “This your first trip through a campground on the CRA tour?” Kyle asked.

  “No. Sometimes Tanna and I hang out in her horse trailer.

  She usually takes off right after the event on the second night.”

  Lainie avoided a pile of beer cans. “Talk about a shock. I figured the inside of her horse trailer would be covered in hay. She’d have a couple of plastic buckets to sit on, a dorm- size fridge, and a cot.”

  “Were you surprised?”

  “Yes. My God. Her horse trailer is nicer than my apartment.

  Cleaner too.”

  “At Tanna’s level of competition she can afford creature comforts.” He shot her a grin. “And I do mean creature comforts, because I’ll bet she pampers her horse way more than she pampers herself.”

  “True.” She pointed. “We’re this way.”

  “Where’s Hank?”

  “Called in for some last- minute sponsor event at a Western clothing store. They picked him up at the front gate an hour ago.

  Then he has to meet with the head honcho afterward.”

  At the campsite, Lainie hopped up on the metal stair and twisted a key in the lock. She tilted her body sideways and swung the door open.

  Kyle followed her inside. The air conditioner worked well; the space was nice and cool.

  She cracked open the fridge. “I didn’t check to see what there is for food.” She rummaged and muttered, “Meat for sandwiches, but I don’t see bread. If I’d known that before we set up I would’ve insisted on a trip to the grocery store.”

  “Tell you what. I saw a store across the road. Make me a list of what’ll get us through tonight and tomorrow and I’ll head over there and pick it up.”

  “Really?” Her eyes lit up. “That’d be great. I planned on making the bed and taking care of general housekeeping stuff. I’ll do that while you’re gone and then I’ll fix us lunch when you get back.”

  Kyle snagged her wrist. “Neither me or Hank expects you to cook and clean for us, Lainie.”

  “I know. But it makes sense for me to keep track of it, since you guys will be busy. I’m sure we can work out some kind of beneficial trade.”

  He bussed her cheek. “Count on it. And for the record? I’m better at fetching and carrying than I am at cooking.”

  “Good to know.” Lainie jotted down a few items and passed him the paper with a breezy, “And anything else that strikes your fancy.”

  At the store, after he’d loaded what he could comfo
rtably carry across the busy road, Kyle saw a bunch of sunflowers. He immediately thought of Lainie’s sunshiny smile and added those to his basket before he checked out.

  Holding the flowers behind his back, Kyle knocked on the camper door.

  She peeked out the small window inset in the door before she opened it. “Why did you knock?”

  He whipped the flowers out and said, “Surprise.”

  “Kyle!” Lainie plucked them from his hands. “They’re beautiful. You are so sweet. Thank you.” She peppered his face with kisses. “I might have to send you to the store all the time.”

  As they shelved the groceries, Kyle watched Lainie covertly, surprised at how much he enjoyed doing simple domestic things with her. Usually he had the overwhelming urge to run when women set up housekeeping. But she was fascinating. The sexy way she bit her lip when she was thinking. The continual— but completely pointless— way she smoothed back the loose tendrils of hair.

  He wanted her with an all- consuming ache.

  Lainie gulped the last of her water. As soon as the bottle cleared her lips, Kyle’s mouth was on hers, taking the kiss he’d craved.

  Then he slowed the passion. Stroking her velvety wet tongue against his. Each pull into the soft depth of her mouth tightened his balls. Lengthened his cock.

  Lust and comfort were a potent combination.

  Kyle ended the kiss in playful increments. “Damn. I’ve been dying to do that all day.”

  “Don’t let me stop you.” She teased the hollow of his cheek with her lips. “You smell good. I could lick you up.”

  “Don’t let me stop you,” he murmured.

  She froze. “Wait. Are we supposed to stop? Can I just jump on you? Or are we supposed to ask Hank? Or do we tell him after?”

  Kyle cupped her jaw and tilted her head back. “Can’t we just go with the jumping- on- me part and figure the rest out later?”

  Lainie plastered her body to his and kissed him stupid.

  He worked the buttons on her blouse until she shimmied out of it and ditched her bra. His cock pressed painfully against his zipper when he bent to tug her jeans free from her legs. “Thank God you wore sandals and not boots.”

  “Who cares about my footwear; hurry up.”

  Was Lainie impatient to fuck him because it was so good between them? Or in a hurry to get off and get it over with before Hank came back?

  Does it really matter?

  No. Not really. Sometimes a quick fuck was a quick fuck and nothing else.

  Kyle pushed her against the ladder hanging from the bed platform. “Grab the top rung,” he urged between kisses.

  When Lainie grabbed the bars, the arch of her spine lifted her breasts exactly to his mouth level. He groaned and suckled the tips until she writhed, undulating her hips closer to his.

  “Condom,” she said, panting.

  “Got one right here.” Shit. No, he didn’t. “Do. Not. Move.”

  He dug through his duffel bag, found one, rolled it on, and was back between her thighs within thirty seconds. “Hold on.” Palming her soft ass cheeks, he canted her hips, impaling her in one fast, deep thrust.

  She moaned. “Yes. Like that.”

  Plunge and retreat. The creamy whiteness clinging to the latex was a fucking rush, proof that she wanted him as much as he wanted her.

  Her breasts bounced with his every thrust, nipples hard and begging for his mouth. But he was beyond focusing attention on her beautiful tits. He needed to come so fucking bad it was like a fever.

  “It’s . . . right . . . there.” She practically sobbed as she started to come.

  The intimate internal kiss of her cunt muscles spasming around his dick drove him over the edge. His hips flexed of their own accord as his balls drained.

  “Mmm.”

  Kyle lifted his head from where he’d buried it in Lainie’s neck.

  “I’ll have to buy you flowers more often.”

  Chapter XII

  "Hank. Good to see you.”

  Hank returned Lyle Barclay’s vigorous handshake. “Good to be here.”

  “Have a seat.”

  The Barclay Investment Group had been Hank’s biggest sponsor for the past five years. The group kept their fingers in quite a few rodeo pies, including fronting the money for stock contractors, sponsoring rodeo PA systems and electronic scoreboards, as well as supplying big- screen TVs and live entertainment.

  Hank usually met with a rep from Barclay informally under their signature white tent. But this time he was meeting the big boss. Out of the blue. Their annual discussion about sponsorship dollars normally took place at the corporate offices in Cheyenne.

  Not in a tent with kids hollering and rock music blaring from the Coors party tent.

  “Am I in trouble or something?” Hank said lightly.

  “No, son, not at all.”

  It amused Hank that Lyle always called him son, even when the man was barely ten years older.

  “I’ll admit I was surprised to see your name on the request sheets for various events over the next couple weeks.”

  Hank remained mum. Banker types loved to hear the sound of their own voices. Lyle would get to the point in his own sweet time. It wouldn’t do Hank a lick of good to try to press the issue.

  “Looks to me like you’re wanting to fill the bullfighter spots across the upper Western circuits. A different one every night, with a few exceptions of two- day events. Plus, you requested afternoon and evening performances at a couple of unrelated events back- to-back.” Lyle pushed his glasses back up his nose and set the sheaf of papers on the picnic table. “You develop itchy feet all of a sudden?”

  “Not me so much as my buddy Kyle Gilchrist.”

  Lyle frowned. “The bull rider? Isn’t he in the EBS?”

  “Formerly.” Hank gave him a brief rundown. “Since we’ve been buddies for years, I offered to travel with him. I’ve heard a lot about Cowboy Christmas, but never participated, so I figured now was as good a time as any to get the lowdown.”

  “So does Gilchrist plan on going back to the EBS?”

  Hank shrugged. “This is only his second event in the CRA, so I don’t think he knows. Why?”

  “Just wondered if he planned to return the favor. Getting you an introduction into the EBS.”

  “Well, Lyle, with all due respect, I don’t need Kyle Gilchrist to get me an introduction to the EBS. My reputation as a bullfighter speaks for itself.”

  “I take it you’ve been approached by the EBS staff?”

  It never crossed Hank’s mind to lie. “Yes. I talked to Bryson Westfield last weekend. He’s interested in me.”

  Lyle’s fingers did a rolling tap across the papers. “How interested?”

  “Interested enough to offer me a second audition in Tulsa.”

  Silence.

  “I appreciate your candor, Hank. I hope you’ll appreciate mine.

  If it’s only about the money, well, we can work on that part.” Lyle leaned across the table. “The EBS has their own way of doing things.”

  “Some say the same about the CRA,” Hank volleyed back.

  “True. But the difference is they’re trying to build an empire.

  We’re trying to sustain a way of life. A life you lead on your family ranch when you’re not facing off with a bull.”

  “Are you saying you don’t want me to audition for them, Lyle?”

 
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