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One night rodeo, p.17
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       One Night Rodeo, p.17

         Part #4 of Blacktop Cowboys series by Lorelei James
 

  “And I accept that you feel that way. So I want to know how we can get past this.”

  “I don’t know if we can, Mom.”

  Sherry looked absolutely stricken.

  Celia felt her gut cinch up. She didn’t want him to be at odds with his family too.

  “There’s a reason I haven’t called you. I’ve got some stuff to sort out.”

  “So now that you’re married you don’t need me anymore?” Sherry demanded. “Is she helping you sort out your problems?”

  “Yes. Because she didn’t cause them.”

  “You don’t mean—”

  Kyle held up his hand. “This is not up for debate. I love you, okay? But if you really love me, then you’ll back the hell off for a while.” He drained his beer and set the empty can on the counter. Then he leaned over to peck her cheek. “I’ll be in touch.”

  “Where are you going?”

  “I have some shit to do in the barn.” He left the kitchen and the front door slammed.

  Sherry disappeared and Celia expected to hear the door slam as she chased after Kyle. But Celia found her in the living room, staring out the big picture window.

  Celia didn’t know what she was supposed to do.

  “He’s never been the type to storm off,” Sherry said offhandedly.

  “His competitive streak means he usually stays and fights back because he thinks he can win.”

  “With you too, huh?”

  “Things have changed in our relationship, but that is one thing that hasn’t changed.”

  Sherry half turned. “Does he talk to you?”

  “Some. Not as much as I’d like, to be honest. Has he always been able to talk to you?”

  “Kyle has never opened himself up to anyone. Not since he was a kid. I’ve tried to break down the walls, knowing I had a hand in putting them up. I hope you can be there for him and be what he needs.” Sherry’s face tightened. “But be warned. He is my son, my only child, and for a long time the only person who brought joy into my life. He deserves to be that joy in someone else’s life, because he has a lot to give.”

  “I know. He’s very sweet and romantic. He’s thoughtful. He makes me laugh. He also drives me crazy…but it’s a good kind of crazy now.”

  “I’m happy to hear that.”

  “What would’ve happened to Marshall if he’d rejected Kyle years ago?”

  Sherry flashed a feral smile. “Maybe I’d be in jail in Rawlins right now for attempted murder and Kyle would be visiting me.”

  Yikes. As much as Sherry frightened Celia, she had to respect the woman for her devotion to seeing to her son’s needs above everything else.

  “I should probably go.”

  At Sherry’s car, Celia watched Sherry’s gaze become fixed on the barn. “Hard to believe this is all his. I’ve never been able to give him much.”

  She’d given him so much more, but she wouldn’t see it or believe it now. “He’s trying to get a handle on all this, Sherry. He needs time.”

  “Thank you for not bullshitting me and saying he doesn’t blame me and that he’ll come around.”

  “Oh, I’ve no doubt he’ll come around. But Kyle has his own way of doin’ things. In his own time frame.” Celia put her hand on Sherry’s arm. “He loves you. You’ve been the one constant in his life, so you have to know he won’t ever turn his back on you. You raised him right, Sherry. He’s a good man. Don’t forget that’s your doing. Not Marshall’s.”

  “Damn straight.” Then oddly enough, Sherry hugged her. “Like you said, I’ve been the constant in his life, the only woman who lasted. Now I’m not. I didn’t want to like you, Celia, but it’s hard not to. As for Kyle seeming so laid-back…he’s not. I’m happy to see that you do know him so well. He needs a woman who understands that about him and loves him anyway.”

  Celia laughed.

  At least it was warm in the barn. In his anger he’d forgotten to grab a coat and it was fucking cold outside. So much for his intent to split wood until he couldn’t lift his arms.

  And then all the work would fall to Celia in the morning? How is that fair to her? How is it fair to her that you just left her with your mother anyway?

  It wasn’t.

  Fuck.

  But Kyle had known he would say something he’d regret if he stayed another minute. He knew he’d take out his frustration with Marshall Townsend on his mother. She didn’t deserve that.

  What had he expected from her anyway? To hear her confess that Marshall had forbidden her from telling him about his parentage? To see her wringing her hands with regret? Maybe he’d wanted a better story than that one night of hook-up sex with morning-after regrets had resulted in his existence.

  Jesus. Are you a fucking girl? You thought you’d hear a sob story about them being star-crossed lovers kept apart by circumstances out of their control?

  Kyle snorted. Right. He paced around the farm equipment. He had no idea what some of these pieces were even for. Now he had to show even more ignorance with his wife and ask her.

  Maybe that was what ate at him. He should’ve been learning how to do all this ranching stuff from Marshall. Marshall should’ve contacted him sooner, at least about his intent to leave him a working ranch. Or did he think that Kyle was a greedy bastard who planned to sell the thing outright?

  No way. He’d prove that bastard wrong. He wasn’t giving up. Not the first week, not the first month, not the first year. This was what he’d wanted his whole life. He could do this. He could make this work. With Celia by his side he could do this.

  To take his mind off his anger, he wandered through the barn, marveling at how damn clean it was. Marshall must’ve spent all his time out here and not in the house. That brought a smile. Bran’s barn used to be pretty clean too—he’d bet it wasn’t so much anymore. Bran wasn’t stupid enough to spend his time around machinery when he had a hot wife waiting inside for him.

  The door slammed and Kyle glanced across the shadowy space at Celia.

  Speaking of hot wife.

  Luckily for him she didn’t look too hot under the collar.

  Celia wandered over to where he sat on an ATV. “She’s gone.”

  “Sorry…I just…”

  “I know.” She hopped up, straddling his lap. Then her hands were in his hair. “Don’t think about that.” Her soft, warm mouth was gliding over his in a seductive tease. “Think about this.” She kissed him. “Just this.”

  Kyle groaned and held onto her hips, letting her take the lead. Loving that she liked being the aggressor sometimes. Loving that she was equally greedy in her physical need for him as he was in his need for her.

  But he knew the need wasn’t merely physical anymore. Being naked with her in body helped him trust that he could strip away some of his other defenses. So he lost himself in her, in the kiss that was so much more than just a kiss. His thoughts were of passion-slicked bodies writhing against each other. Of moans and sighs and heavy breathing. Of quenching his thirst for her by tasting the sweat beaded on her skin.

  “Brace your hands behind you,” she murmured against his tingling lips.

  As soon as he leaned back, Celia changed the angle of her pelvis. What a contradiction this was. The delicate, flirty kisses, interspersed with the porn-star way she was bumping and grinding against him.

  His heart rate quadrupled when she picked up the tempo. Sliding along his rigid shaft while her nails dug into his scalp and her mouth sucked every bit of reason right out of his head. The weight and pressure of her body, the urgency of her tongue, pushed him from I’ve-got-an-erection to I-need-to-come-right-fucking-now. And wasn’t that amazing? She could dry-hump him to orgasm in record time.

  He broke the kiss. “Celia. Stop.”

  “Why? Are you close?”

  “Yeah. Let’s go inside before I shoot in my jeans.”

  Celia added a pelvis roll and bit down on his lower lip while staring hotly into his eyes. “I’ll come in mine if you come in yours.”
<
br />   He sucked in a swift breath when she rode him faster.

  “Be my first,” she whispered.

  “First what?”

  “First guy to make me come with my clothes on.”

  “Seriously? You’ve never…?”

  “Nope. My panties are wet, Kyle. You did that. My clit is swollen and begging for that sweet throb. You did that too.” She blew in his ear while she continued to move on him. “Don’t deny me. Don’t deny yourself. Come on. It’ll be fun getting nasty in the barn.”

  Kyle turned his head, latching onto the tempting skin below her ear, sucking until she moaned. “Do it.”

  Celia tipped herself over the edge first. She tilted her head back and Kyle felt his gut clench at her beautiful abandon—lips parted, a flush on her cheeks, her hairline damp.

  Then her mouth was attacking his neck, sucking on the spot that made him shoot every fucking time. He squeezed his eyes shut and let go as her body pulled the orgasm out of his.

  Kyle opened his eyes when sweet kisses peppered his face.

  She smiled. Almost…shyly.

  He grinned at her. “You can follow me into the barn anytime.”

  As they headed to the house, Kyle realized it’d gotten to be a habit for them both to use sex as a distraction, as an amusement, as a substitute for conversation. As much as he craved that constant physical contact with Celia, he understood that to truly win her heart, he’d have to probe her mind, not just her body.

  “So are you up for a little cribbage tonight? I found an old bowling ball–shaped cribbage board in a box of Marshall’s stuff.”

  Celia stared at him as if he’d suddenly transformed into a unicorn.

  “What?”

  “You play cribbage?”

  “Yeah. Why?”

  “I didn’t know that about you.”

  Kyle swept a piece of hair behind her ear. “There’s a lot you don’t know about me. And I’d venture a guess to say I have plenty to learn about you. I can’t wait to get started.”

  “Well, it’d better be the speed version of getting to know me since you’ve only got six months.” She poked him in the ribs. “After I whip your butt at cribbage let’s see if we can find a Yahtzee game. Because I am the champion Yahtzee player of the Lawson family.”

  “Well, I’m the Gilchrist family champ.”

  She grinned. “Bring it, bull rider. You’re goin’ down.”

  Chapter Ten

  “Celia. Get back here.”

  “No. I’m done talking to you, Kyle.”

  “What did I say?”

  She whirled around. “Really? You have no freakin’ clue what’s so insulting about what you just said to me?”

  Kyle had a totally perplexed look on his face.

  “You don’t see how I could possibly be pissed off by you saying, ‘Seeing you from the back, dressed like that in men’s clothes, it’s hard to believe you’re even a woman.’”

  “But I’ve said that to you before and you didn’t get all bent out of shape.”

  “Then it’s past time I did, isn’t it?” She stripped off the overalls and threw them at him. Then she grabbed her coat and her purse, stormed out, slammed the truck door, and sped off.

  Jerk.

  Everything had gone so well the first week. No small tiffs, no bickering, no big blowups. No exchanges of harsh words in a moment of frustration. The second week? They’d spent every nonworking moment getting naked together. But this third week? They’d been frustrated with each other a lot.

  So Kyle’s comments, coupled with the fact that he’d been more interested in talking to her or playing board games with her than fucking her at every opportunity, made her wonder if his attraction for her had waned.

  Screw that. She’d show him she could look fantastic. She’d make him want her.

  But part of her wondered why she even cared about going all glam wife on his dumb ass. She was only going to be around a few months anyway, right?

  Didn’t matter. Because this was about now. She wanted to make Kyle eat his words and swallow his damn tongue.

  That’s what propelled her to walk into Wild West Clothiers.

  Harper appeared from the back when the chime dinged. “Celia! What brings you here?”

  “I needed a break and haven’t seen your store in months, so here I am.”

  Harper preened at Celia calling it her store. “We should have plenty of time to talk while you look around. Right after Christmas is typically the slowest time of year in retail. Been especially slow for us, because of the crappy February weather in Wyoming. I’ve been advertising online to try to clear my stock to make way for spring merchandise. EBay is awesome, so I’ve been packaging orders…. And you don’t care one whit about this. I saw your eyes glazing over.”

  Celia laughed. “I’m glad to hear everything is going well. You’ve expanded the store into the art gallery.”

  “It’s made a huge difference. We’ve increased art sales by rotating art in the lodge and guest rooms.”

  “I saw Braxton’s gigantic sculpture out front. That’s new too.”

  “The Split Rock shareholders commissioned that, since Braxton is making a name for himself in the world of western art and he’s a hometown boy. He cut us a good deal.”

  Celia started to wander through the clothes racks filled with beautiful fabrics and vibrant colors. The welcoming way Harper had set up the store tempted Celia to spend all day in here.

  She ran her fingers through the silky black fringe on the sleeves of a gray suede leather jacket. Black and silver conchas and multicolored beads added pizzazz but kept the coat simple.

  “I’ll give you a good deal on that since I’m marking down winter items,” Harper offered.

  “I’ll keep it in mind.”

  “Are you looking for something in particular?” Harper asked. “For you? For your house? For Kyle?”

  Celia scowled. “I’m looking for clothing for me. Been forever since I’ve bought anything new. Wow me with your expertise, Harper, because I need serious help. You know shopping has never been my thing.”

  Harper tapped her chin, inspecting Celia head to toe. Then she motioned for her to turn around. “You’re not wanting clothing to wear in the barn, right?”

  “That kinda stuff I can get at Runnings. Or Walmart. I need something”—that will make my husband’s jaw drop—“snazzy.”

  “Excellent. I tell you what. You wander through the store and find pieces that appeal to you. And I’ll choose ones I think work on you. Look for separates, not a whole outfit. Pieces you can mix and match. And be daring, Cele. Don’t be afraid to try on something out of your comfort zone.”

  Celia shed the long black duster she’d worn for the last six years and tried on the fringed coat. The flattering cut made her shoulders look bigger, nipping in at the waist and ending at her hips, giving the appearance of curves. With her blond hair and fair coloring she tended to stick with dark colors. With her boyish frame she chose baggy clothes. This jacket fit neither of those criteria.

  “You rock that coat,” Harper remarked. “I’m not just saying that as a salesperson. It’s feminine and western. Perfect. That goes in the yes pile.”

  “I didn’t even look at the price tag.”

  “I said I’d make you a deal. And wipe that look off your face, Mrs. Gilchrist. I’m not looking at you as a charity case. I know what it’s like to want something that’s out of the price range, which is why I won’t pick things you can’t afford.”

  She wanted to throw her arms around her friend and confess how much she loved that a well-put-together, fashionable beauty queen like Harper got Celia the tomboy cowgirl. “Thank you. But I’m not changing my name. I’m still Celia Lawson.”

  “Really? Why not?”

  “Seems like a hassle.” Especially since it wasn’t permanent. Celia flipped through a rack of long-sleeved shirts. A poppy red one with white piping and black roses caught her eye.

  Harper said, “That’s t
he wrong color for you.”

  Celia found several shirts, but couldn’t force herself to check out the skirts or dresses. Not her style. Plus, she didn’t have proper girl
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