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       Corralled, p.7

         Part #1 of Blacktop Cowboys series by Lorelei James

  Maybe. Fuck. It shouldn’t be this hard to figure out where he’d made his sexual misstep. But then again, Hank hadn’t imagined he’d be lying by himself in a double bed in a hotel room while Kyle was five feet away sleeping with his woman.

  Your woman? Get your head in the game or Gilly will steal this prize right from underneath your nose.

  Hank turned on his side and watched Lainie sleeping. Her arm curled under her head. Her cheek nestled into the pillow.

  Damn. He wished it were him in bed next to her. It did little to curb his feelings of envy to know that it would be him next time.

  Something sweet and protective flowed through him at the humming sigh Lainie made in her sleep.

  He rolled over and stared at the opposite wall for a long time before he finally fell asleep.

  Chapter VI

  Lainie woke to the smell of coffee. She blinked at Hank sitting on the bed across from her, completely dressed. She sat up.

  “Mornin’,” he said with a smile.

  She smiled back. “Morning. You’re up early.”

  Hank shrugged. “Habit. I’m always up early at home. I brought you coffee. Didn’t know if you used sugar or cream so I got some of both.”

  “Thank you.” Lainie yawned and took the to- go cup. She scraped her tangled hair back. “Lord. Talk about extreme bedhead. I must look a mess.”

  “I think you look beautiful.”

  “How much sugar did you put in your coffee to turn your tongue so sweet?” she murmured.

  “None. I reckon you just bring out the sweet side in me.”

  Lainie rolled her eyes, but her belly swooped.

  “Didja bring me a cup, sweetheart?” Kyle grumbled sarcastically from beneath the covers.

  “Yep. I also bought a couple toothbrushes out of the vending machine. Yours is still in the package on the sink.”

  Still muttering, a naked Kyle scooted off the end of the bed, snatched a coffee, and shuffled to the bathroom.

  For some reason, Lainie was nervous about being alone with Hank. Maybe it was his unexpected sweetness. Maybe it was the contemplative look that darkened his eyes to a deep midnight blue.


  “This.” Hank leaned over and closed his mouth over hers. He tasted like coffee and mint.

  She pulled back. “Sorry, I haven’t brushed my teeth.”

  “I don’t care.” He dove back in for another kiss, keeping it lazy and gentle. “Mmm. I like kissing you first thing in the mornin’.”

  The bathroom door opened. Lainie almost jumped back guiltily, but then she remembered what they’d done last night, all three of them. “Umm. I’ll just hop in the shower.”

  Hank drawled, “Need help scrubbing anything in particular?”

  “No. Thanks. I’ll be fine.” She locked the bathroom door and stripped off the oversize, completely unsexy T-shirt she’d slipped on after last night’s fun and games.

  Whoo, yeah. Last night redefined wickedly naughty.

  When Kyle started fucking her from behind, she’d expected Hank to sit back quietly and watch the scene unfold with those brooding eyes. Then after Kyle finished with her, she expected Hank would swoop in, lay her on her back, and fuck her face- to-face, as he always did.

  So Hank’s dropping his pants and commanding her to suck his cock had blown her expectations all to hell.

  The forceful way he’d inserted himself into the situation was sexier than his command that she get him off. He’d never acted so aggressive. Never demanded she swallow, since he’d never let himself come in her mouth. And his grip on her hair had been just shy of painful. Seeing that side of Hank was a real eye-opener— and a serious turn-on.

  Between the dual sensations of Hank’s cock tunneling in and out of her mouth as Kyle rhythmically fucked her, Lainie had spiraled into a place where she existed as a conduit for their pleasure.

  A different kind of pleasure, laced with feminine power.

  The buzzing rush became dreamlike when Hank fingered her to another orgasm. She hadn’t remembered much after that, beyond collapsing onto the bed.

  After showering, Lainie brushed her teeth and smoothed on lotion. Leaving her hair wrapped turban- style and a second bath towel tucked around her torso, she exited the bathroom in a cloud of steam. When she glanced up after digging through her suitcase, she noticed both Kyle and Hank were staring at her. Namely, staring at her ass. “What?”

  “Darlin’, it’s a damn good thing that suitcase ain’t any lower on the floor. Or you’d be givin’ us a real good show,” Hank said.

  “Not that we’d mind,” Kyle added with a grin.

  Her cell phone rang. Flustered, she answered without checking the caller ID. “Hello?”


  Ugh. “Hi, Mom.”

  “How are you?”

  Pissed off that you called Dusty. Pissed off that you insist on calling me Melanie. Just pissed off at you all around.

  Not a good way to start the conversation, let alone the day.

  “I’m okay. How are you?”

  “Oh, we’re fine.”

  If Lainie didn’t cut to the chase her mother would drone on about the fabulous weather or the twins’ latest exploits, or her stupid dog. “So, to what do I owe the honor of this call?”

  “I can’t call my own daughter to chat? To see how she’s doing?”

  “I’m sure Dusty told you exactly how I was doing when you called him.”

  Dramatic pause.

  Lainie paced, waiting for Queen Sharlene to deign to speak.

  “You’re upset.”

  “Damn right I’m upset.”

  “I don’t see why. I’m the one who put myself on the line with Dusty, getting him to see reason about you needing a vacation. You should know he refused to talk to me at first.”

  “Pity it didn’t stick.”

  Sharlene laughed. “I can be very persuasive. I know you think you’ve got Dusty wrapped around your little finger, Melanie, but the truth is, he’s manipulating you like always.”

  Lainie froze even as anger raced through her veins like liquid fire. “Since you brought it up, Mother, let me be perfectly clear: You were out of line calling Dusty. He had a right to refuse to talk to you and I have a right to be pissed.”

  “That man is slaving you, for slave wages. This part- time obsession is holding you back from starting a real career or having a real life.”

  “It’s my life, Mom. This obsession is making me happy.”

  “Are you sure? Because it’s not making me happy, Melanie Jay.

  You haven’t been home in nearly two years!”

  “The road runs both ways from Colorado Springs to Belmont.

  You could’ve come to see me.”

  “So I could spend my time in a hotel while you flit off to another rodeo? No, thank you. But since Dusty is giving you a three week vacation, you have no excuse not to come to California. There are some things we need to talk about. Now that our schedules—”

  “Look, I’m sick of pretending we haven’t seen each other just because our schedules don’t mesh. So don’t waste your breath. We have nothing to talk about, and I will not spend a single minute of my vacation time in Belmont.”


  “This is the thanks I get for going out of my way to help you?”

  “You went out of your way to try to fuck up my personal relationship with Dusty, as well as my business relationship with him.

  So don’t wait for my gushing thanks. Jesus. Do you have any idea how goddamn mortifying it is that my mommy called and cried to my boss about my supposed unfair treatment?”

  “Don’t you use that foul language with me, Melanie.”

  “Don’t you talk down to me, Mom. I am not a child.”

  “Then stop acting like one,” Sharlene snapped back.

  Lainie exhaled in a rush, unaware she’d been holding her breath. “You’re right. This is completely
unproductive. I am not in the wrong. You are. Think about that for the next three weeks while I’m on vacation and you don’t hear from me.”

  “You’re serious. You’re really not coming home?”

  “No. And don’t call me until you’re ready to apologize.”

  “Why are you punishing me? That’s not—”

  “Good- bye.” Lainie hung up. She clutched the phone, half expecting it’d ring again. But it didn’t. Maybe she’d finally gotten her point across to her clueless mother.

  Not fair— she means well. She acts out of love, even when she has a piss- poor way of showing it.

  “Lainie. You okay?” Kyle asked.

  Crap. She’d totally forgotten Kyle and Hank were here. “No, I’m not okay. I’m never okay when I’m forced to deal with my mother. It pisses me off that she doesn’t think she did a thing wrong.” Lainie closed her eyes. “I’m just sorry you guys had to hear it.”

  “Did she really call Doc and demand he give you vacation time?”

  “Yes. But Dusty pulled one over on her, since he’d already planned on forcing me to take time off before she called.”

  “Does she do this often?”

  “Often enough, but never on this level. Since Dusty and my dad were best friends, she thinks nothing of playing Dusty. Then she accuses me of being manipulative, ungrateful, and having unresolved Daddy issues. Oh, and I’m wasting my life with the rodeo because of those issues. Then she usually starts in on how I should be furthering my education. God. It never ends.” She exhaled again. “Sorry about the drama. Probably not anything you guys wanna deal with.”

  “If it affects you, Lainie, it affects us,” Hank said.

  It was so kind she felt the urge to bawl.

  Hank’s big arms enclosed her from behind, urging her to lean into him. “Do you want to talk about it? Or forget about it?”

  “Forget about it.”

  “We can help you with that,” Hank murmured. “Of course, first you’ll have to lose the towel.”

  “I’m not in the mood for sex.”

  “Not everything is about sex. I reckon you could use some food.”

  “We definitely want you to keep up your strength,” Kyle said.

  “I could eat.”

  “Good. How about you get dressed and we take you out for breakfast? Then we can talk about how we’d like you to spend your vacation.”

  The Adobe Inn boasted greasy fare that typified diner food. Lainie tried not to eat at places like this too often, so when she did, she went whole- hog.

  Still, having breakfast with Kyle and Hank was almost more bizarre than having a threesome with them.

  From behind the menu, Kyle said, “What’re you guys havin’?”

  “Three eggs, bacon, sausage, biscuits, and gravy,” Hank answered.

  “Sounds good. Lainie?”

  “Looks like Hank and I are on the same page, because that’s what I’d decided on.”

  Kyle folded his menu. “Little slip of a thing like you? Where you gonna put all that food?”

  “Hey, I’m hungry.”

  “I like to see a woman with an appetite,” Hank said. “I’da been disappointed if you’d chosen dry wheat toast and a cup of herbal tea.”

  She snorted. “That’s what I eat when I’m sick. But I’ll confess I don’t eat like this every day.”

  “Me neither.” Kyle sipped his coffee and looked at Hank curiously. “I’ll bet Celia rolls outta bed at the crack of nothin’ and whips up something like this for you when you’re home, huh?”

  Lainie’s hand tightened around her coffee cup. Who was Celia, and why was she cooking Hank breakfast on a regular basis?

  “She can’t cook worth a shit, Kyle. Nice shot, putting me on the defensive first thing.” Hank faced Lainie in the booth. “Now’s as good a time as any to exchange family history. I don’t have to ask about yours, since it’s rodeo legend, but the Celia that Kyle was referring to is my baby sister.”

  “Baby.” Kyle sneered. “She’s what? Twenty- one?”

  Hank ignored Kyle’s interruption. “I have one older brother, Abe. Me ’n’ him run the family ranch outside of Muddy Gap. We raised Celia after our folks died ten years back.”

  Weird to think that in all the times she and Hank, or she and Kyle, had been together, they hadn’t talked about family. Lainie placed her hand over Hank’s on the table. “I’m sorry. Both your parents died at one time?”

  “Yeah. Dad was elk huntin’ and Ma went along because they did everything together. Some freaky malfunction happened with their hotel heater and they died of carbon monoxide poisoning.

  Anyway, Celia was only eleven, so she was stuck growin’ up with me and Abe. Which means she’s pretty much a tomboy clear through.”

  “That girl would rather be with her horses than with people,”

  Kyle said.

  “Probably why she has an eye for good horseflesh. Celia ain’t interested in datin’, thank God.”

  “Only because you and Abe chased off all the guys in the county that dared look at her.”

  “Lookin’ is one thing. Touchin’ is another.”

  The waitress returned to take their order. As Lainie was thinking about all she didn’t know about Hank, she realized Kyle was as much a mystery. “What about you, Kyle? You from a Wyoming ranching family?”

  Kyle shook his head. “Just me ’n’ my mom. My mom worked a lot, so I rode the bus home with Hank or our buddy Eli. I practically lived at the Lawson place.” Kyle gave Hank a conspiratorial smile. “Your mom was the greatest. She loved bein’ surrounded by rambunctious boys. And you finished chores three times as fast with me ’n’ Eli helping.”

  Lainie had no problem imagining Kyle and Hank as rough-and- tumble teenage boys. “So what’d you do after chores were done?”

  “Raised hell,” they said in unison, and laughed.

  “Raced horses, raced four- wheelers, taunted bulls, fished, worked some more, target shot, the usual stuff ranch kids do for fun.”

  “I had ranch envy,” Kyle admitted. “We lived in a two-bedroom apartment in low-income housing in the crappy section of Rawlins, close to where she cocktail waitressed. Whenever I was out at Hank’s place or Bran’s place I felt like I could breathe.”

  Another punch of guilt surfaced at hearing Hank and Kyle talk about their growing-up years. These guys had a connection stronger than any bond they’d started to form with her.

  “Hey.” Kyle leaned across the table and peered into her eyes. “You got an awful serious look all of a sudden. What’s wrong?”

  “I can’t do this.”

  “Can’t do what, sweetheart?” Hank asked.

  “Can’t come between you two.”

  “I’m hopin’ you come between us often.”

  Lainie glanced at Kyle after his smart- ass response. “This isn’t funny. I’m serious.”

  “So are we, Lainie. We’re big boys. We’ve talked about it.”

  “You have?”

  Hank nodded. “Actually, that’s why we think the sharing option works. Because we’ll both give this time with you our best shot. So if you do choose one of us over the other— which we all know might not even happen— it really is because the best man wins.”

  “Wins? I’m not the prize you think I am.”

  “Sugar, obviously that ain’t true, because Hank and I are both here.”

  Their reassurances didn’t bolster her confidence.

  “We know you had fun with us last night,” Hank said.

  “That’s an understatement,” she muttered in her coffee.

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