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One night rodeo, p.29
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       One Night Rodeo, p.29

         Part #4 of Blacktop Cowboys series by Lorelei James
 

  He was asking her for direction? “Pick a room. Unless you’d rather do this while I do one of the other ten billion things that need done around here.”

  “It’s not my fault he was a packrat, Cele.”

  “I didn’t say it was, Kyle.”

  “Why’re you bein’ like this?”

  Celia looked at him. “Like what? Helpful?”

  “No, like you can’t stand to be around me unless I’m fucking you.”

  That did it. She rolled to her feet and wiped the dust from her hands. “Maybe because you’re an asshole when we aren’t fucking. And you can just forget about me fucking you anytime soon, buddy.”

  Kyle grabbed her arm as she sidestepped him. “Where you going?”

  “To get more garbage bags. Is that all right? Or do I need your permission?”

  His eyes narrowed. “Got a whole mouthful of attitude today, don’tcha?”

  “Like that’s a big shock.”

  The muscle in his jaw twitched and he stared at her with those stormy green eyes.

  “Did you need something? Or are you just pissing with me, lookin’ for a fight? ’Cause I’ll give you one.”

  “I know you will.” He jerked her against his body. “That’s one of my favorite things about you.” Then his mouth crashed down on hers with a brutal kiss. No buildup, just heat and hunger.

  Just to be ornery, Celia tried to shove him away.

  He let their mouths part long enough to release a mean little chuckle before he pulled both her wrists behind her back and pressed her against the wall, his mouth hungry on hers again.

  Dammit. He wasn’t supposed to have the power to do this. Make her so crazy with lust she’d lose her head the instant he touched her. Even when she was mad at him. How could he always have the upper hand?

  Because you give it to him. Because you like that he has a sharp edge beneath that easygoing facade.

  Kyle was relentless with his soul-stealing kisses. He would not relinquish his hold on her.

  Need and sexual greed rode her hard. She bucked and pushed against him, wanting him to stop teasing and get on with it.

  “Now,” he half growled. “Right fucking here, right fucking now.”

  “Fine. But no talking.”

  “Fine.”

  At least she hadn’t been a total pushover. Besides, she’d always heard that angry sex was on a whole other level of hotness. Might be sadistic, but she wanted to find out, and it wasn’t like she’d rather be cleaning out boxes instead of getting it on with her sexy husband.

  He released her hands. Then he was peeling her sweatpants down her legs. His mouth returned for more violently hot kisses.

  Somehow Kyle ditched his jeans. Somehow he lifted her and pinned her to the wall. He pushed her knees wide, burying his mouth in her throat.

  Celia hissed when the tip of his cock rubbed across her clit—three, four, five times before his cock sought entrance to her body.

  He paused for a moment, letting his hardness fill her.

  She clutched him, one arm wrapped around his neck, her other hand twisted in a fistful of his shirt. She squeezed her inner muscles around his cock as a signal she was in the moment with him.

  Then Kyle’s hands gripped her ass as he pulled her down to meet his forceful thrusts.

  Every time, she didn’t think it could be better than the last time and every time it was.

  Celia wanted to let her head fall back and feel his passion overtaking her, trusting that he would propel them to the point of detonation.

  But Kyle’s mouth didn’t leave hers. His kisses were packed with heat and passion and an almost desperate need.

  By the way his strokes quickened and his body tensed, Celia knew he was close. She broke the seal of their mouths to whisper, “Grind into me. You know how I like it.”

  “I thought you said no talking.”

  “I changed my mind.”

  He canted his pelvis to hit her clit on every up thrust and growled, “Say something dirty.”

  “The office closet.”

  He snorted a soft laugh and put his mouth on her ear, knowing that it drove her wild. “Give me real dirty talk. You know you want to.”

  “Fuck me harder. Fuck me through the goddamn wall.”

  Kyle reared back, rammed into her with enough force to knock a picture to the floor. He jackhammered his hips, grinding into her with the precise amount of friction that made her come undone.

  He plunged into her relentlessly through her orgasm. Then he stopped. His mouth was on her lips. The kiss was surprisingly tender for as hard as his body shuddered against hers.

  Celia moved her hands to cradle his head. She tried to soothe him. He seemed almost bereft as his climax faded. When he panted against her shoulder, she murmured, “You okay?”

  “No.”

  When she tried to force him to look at her, he wouldn’t allow it. “Kyle?”

  “I’ve been an ass the last couple days.”

  “Ya think?”

  “I came into the office hoping you could help me find the romantic streak in me that’s been missing the last week. I wanted to rewind at least to this morning before we got snippy with each other. I wanted to seduce you, give you the sweetness and the…damn devotion you deserve. But when I see you, Celia, all I can think about is burying myself in you so fast and hard that you don’t have a chance to think about anything but how much I want you.” His mouth skimmed her cheek. “How much I always fucking want you. Christ. It’s beyond scary how much you mean to me.”

  She froze.

  “Say something,” he demanded softly.

  “If you tell me you’re sorry…I will kick your ass.”

  Finally his eyes met hers.

  “That is the single best compliment I’ve ever gotten.” Celia traced his lips. “Don’t wreck it, okay?”

  “Okay.” He pulled out, let her down, and tossed her sweatpants over.

  She gave him her back as they got dressed.

  Before she could face him, Kyle wrapped his arms around her from behind. “I don’t want to wreck it either. But I do want to explain at least part of the reason for my lousy mood the last couple of days. I was feeling so lost when I was goin’ through stuff that belonged to him. In every room there’s more of his things and I realize I’m not gonna get to know him by keeping his ratty-ass shirts, or by reading his cash register receipts from thirty years ago. None of this feels like mine. But then I saw you…and you feel like mine.”

  Celia closed her eyes and let his words wash over her. He’d definitely reconnected with his sweet, romantic side. He’d definitely given her an opening to admit her feelings had changed. Did she have the guts to do it? Just as she opened her mouth, Kyle kissed the back of her head.

  “So, thank you. I’ll be outside.”

  Chapter Nineteen

  Kyle adjusted the scarf against the arctic wind seeping beneath his jacket collar. He slowed the ATV down and his eyes scanned the herd, huddled together against the cold.

  One cow stood off to the side. The little black blob on the ground beside her couldn’t be a calf. This group wasn’t set to calve yet. Unless…he’d somehow missed sorting this one into the group of “heavies.”

  Entirely possible, given the fact that he still needed advice when it came to separating the cattle into different groups.

  He’d managed to hide his surprise from Celia when she’d explained that cattle producers kept heifers—first-time mothers—away from the other pregnant cows. Evidently some heifers freaked out about the birthing process, either seeing other cows suffer though it or going through it themselves. And some were clueless about what to do with the calf after expelling it from their body. So pregnant heifers required extra attention during the birth process and after.

  Once a cow’s teats were full, earning the nickname heavies, they were culled from the herd and placed closer to the cow barn in preparation for birth. Then those pairs would be turned out and the next set brought in
, which meant plenty of trudging though the outlying pastures.

  Kyle climbed off the ATV, intending to approach the mama out of her line of vision. But her big head whipped around and she mooed a warning. That didn’t deter him. He needed to check to make sure the calf wasn’t dead, so he cut off to the side, as if he had business in the herd.

  Mama cow wasn’t buying it. She pawed the ground.

  He stared at her in disbelief. She pawed the ground? Like a pissed-off bull? Yeah, she wasn’t leaving that calf anytime soon. He pulled out his cell and called Celia, not turning his back on the protective mama.

  “Hey, I’m checking the herd in the southeast pasture and we’ve got a calf. Uh-huh. I can’t get close enough to see if it’s alive. It ain’t moved since I’ve been here and the mama is pissed off that I’m in the same pasture. I wasn’t aware I needed them. Are the ear tags in the ATV compartment?” Kyle held the phone away, wondering if she’d blister his ear for being such a damn greenhorn. But Celia’s tone didn’t change as she explained the necessity of checking that before taking off, as well as having a notebook to keep track of births and carrying antibiotics. She told him she’d pick up the necessary supplies and head in his direction.

  After she hung up, Kyle was grateful for cell phones. Granted, they didn’t get service everywhere on the ranch, but it was much better than the old way of tracking down your ranching partner on foot, horseback, or ATV.

  Kyle did a quick check of the rest of the herd, just in case he’d missed another calf. Then he settled on the ATV to wait, keeping a close eye on the unmoving calf. Hoping the thing wasn’t dead. Not only would it be a loss of income, he’d feel guilty and inadequate that it’d died on his watch.

  The mama mooed and began to lick the calf’s head and lo and behold, it moved. The little bugger struggled to stand. Mama continued lowing encouragement. Finally it stood, butting its head on the underside of the mama’s belly searching for food. That hungry mouth latched onto a teat, sucking almost violently.

  He heaved a sigh of relief.

  The drone of an ATV drifted to him and he turned to watch Celia’s approach. She parked alongside him, her gaze on the pair.

  “Did you assist in getting the calf up off the ground?”

  “Nope. Why?”

  “Just checking. It’s a good idea to keep notes on stuff like that.” She smiled at him and jumped off the ATV. “I’m gonna see if she’ll let me get close.”

  Kyle wanted to warn her to be careful, but the words stuck in his throat because unlike him, she knew what she was doing.

  She approached the mama head-on. He heard her talking, but not what she was saying. The cow mooed a warning and Celia froze when the mama started pawing at the ground again. His wife backed away slowly, much to Kyle’s relief.

  “That’s gonna be a fun one to tag tomorrow. No sense in trying to do it tonight. Mama ain’t gonna let us any closer and that calf ain’t letting loose of the feed bag anytime soon.”

  “So now what?”

  “You find any other ones?”

  “No. But I only looked from the outside.”

  “Let’s wander through the ladies and see what’s shaking. They’re all cold, so they probably ain’t gonna move a whole lot. And it’ll get them used to us, because we’re gonna be messing with their babies over the next few months. If they see us outside the tractor delivering feed, hopefully they’ll be less likely to charge us.”

  Kyle followed Celia’s lead. She rarely approached a cow from the rear, always from the side or head-on. She touched them. Talked to them. Getting close enough to check udders and the back end, without spooking a single cow.

  When she’d finished her check, she glanced up at the sky. “Damn low-pressure system. We’ll have another surprise birth before the night is over.” Celia nudged him with her shoulder. “Congrats, cattleman. We’re officially in calving season.”

  “And you sound giddy about that.”

  “I am. It’s a lot of work. A lot of fretting. A lot of lost sleep. But seeing those sweet baby faces? Seeing the mamas so protective of those babies? This is what ranchers live for. Defying the odds and delivering healthy calves.” She grinned at him. “We’ll stock up on strong coffee. And notebooks. Just because Marshall knew the ins and outs of his herd and didn’t feel the need to write anything down, doesn’t mean I’m gonna let you get away with that from the start.”

  “Do Abe and Hank keep notebooks?”

  “They keep records, but a lot of the info is in their heads, which didn’t help me when I was trying to sort through problems.”

  Fascinated by his wife’s take on things, Kyle asked, “What kind of problems?”

  Celia flipped her braid behind her back. “Not necessarily problems with the calves, but issues with the dam—otherwise known as the mama. Sometimes they’re just so mean after giving birth until the calf is weaned that it’s best to get rid of them. Summer stuff on the ranch means you get so busy that you’ll forget unless you can go back and look through the notes. It’ll especially become important if you increase the size of your herd.”

  “What did you want to change at the Lawson ranch?”

  “I wanted to keep a better eye on the sires, instead of just turning the bulls loose in the pasture and trying to figure out after the fact which bull sired which calf. They always said recording birth weights when we weren’t running purebreds was a waste of time, especially when they said they could see whether a calf was gaining weight. But I at least wanted to try it with a couple of the heifers and see if their calf weights went up every year.”

  “What would it take to do that here?”

  Her eyes turned shrewd. “You’re serious? So you’re really gonna listen to my ideas? And not just discount them?”

  “Yep. I wanna start everything out right.”

  “You’d need a portable scale.”

  “The thing with the sling in the barn is the regular scale, right?”

  “Yep.” She glanced at the sky again. “Let’s get the feed and then spread the straw. It’ll be damn close to dark by the time we get back here to spread it out.”

  Kyle rubbed his chin with a gloved finger. “Remind me again why we’re spreading out two bales?”

  “One to feed their bellies. The old, crappy stuff we’ll use to cover the ground. It’ll give ’em some warmth, especially important if we have any more surprise births tonight. And if they get really hungry, they’ll eat the crappy stuff. It’s hard to chew, and chewing and digesting is part of what keeps them warm.”

  He couldn’t help but kiss her. “I had no idea about any of this stuff. Every day you blow my mind with something new. You are so damn smart.”

  “It’s pretty much common knowledge.”

  “Not for me. You’ve done way more of this cattle-raising stuff than even I realized. You know what works and what doesn’t. I won’t argue with you just to argue.”

  “Oh.” She nearly blinded him with her beautiful smile. Then she nearly knocked him on his ass when she threw her arms around his neck. “Thank you for listening to me. It means more than you’ll ever know.”

  Kyle slapped her butt and kissed her again. “You’re welcome. But, kitten, I get to drive the tractor.”

  Over the next twenty-four hours, Kyle didn’t have a chance to talk to Celia about anything that didn’t concern calving. He helped her pull a calf. Leading the distressed mama into the birthing equipment and hobbling her legs. Talk about a new experience. As was donning a long obstetrical glove and inserting his arm up to his shoulder in a birth canal to reposition the large calf. Then watching as Celia expertly used the OB chains to pull and tug the calf a little at a time until it slid free.

  Even after ripping the amniotic sac away from the mouth, the calf still wasn’t breathing. Celia jerked it by the hind legs, hanging it upside down until fluid cleared the lungs in a wet gush and it breathed on its own. They placed the pair in one of the empty stalls in the cow barn and watched as mama and baby got a
cquainted.

  The next two days a blizzard raged. Kyle spent his time on the tractor, clearing pathways in the pasture. Clearing a path to the creek for the part of the herd that’d taken shelter from the storm in a low-lying copse of trees. Clearing a path from the cow barn to the house. Clearing a path from the house to the old barn where they’d brought the horses. After he’d spread feed and straw to the three separate sections of the herd, he plowed the road down to Josh’s place, in case an emergency arose and they needed Fletch’s veterinary assistance.

  Then he mucked the cow and horse stalls at night—that Celia had mucked that morning. They split up the every-three-hour cattle checks. They worked together to get the cattle fed twice a day in the snow. He and Celia took turns catching a catnap here and there. In this frigid weather they burned a lot of wood, which required constant tending.

  In the two weeks since that first calf dropped they’d added forty-seven calves to the herd. They had no choice but to move the mamas
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