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       Roped In, p.7

         Part #6.5 of Blacktop Cowboys series by Lorelei James
 
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  “You wish. And you’re more than just a customer.” Ramsey paused. “Look, this might seem like it’s coming outta the blue but the truth is we both know that we’ve skirted this subject for months, so I’ll just say it straight out. You’re dealing with some heavy shit as far as getting back on track with your career. I recognize restless, man. So I’m not convinced that you want to return to that life on the road.”

  Sutton had no idea where this conversation was coming from. Wasn’t like he’d gotten shitfaced with Ramsey and spilled his guts.

  Maybe your lack of enthusiasm about returning to rodeo isn’t as disguised as you believe. Your brothers mentioned the same thing in passing. More than once. “Now you’ve got my attention.”

  “I appreciate every time you’ve pitched in and helped out at the gun range. I’ve hinted around that I could use you on a part-time basis. You’ve been polite but vague on whether you’d seriously consider it. So maybe you won’t give a damn, but I’ve run into a tricky situation, hence the early morning call.”

  “What situation?”

  “My full-time range master, Berube, got orders and he’s being deployed in a month. His deployment will last a year. That leaves me short a range master.”

  “Which makes me feel your pain as a customer and your friend, but why are you telling me?”

  “Because you’re an expert shot. You’re very knowledgeable about guns without being a know-it-all asshole or a reckless dick.”

  “But I’m not a range master.”

  “You’d be a shoo-in to pass the range master’s exam—the firearms range testing portion anyway. There’s also a written test, but since you’ve earned a college degree, I’m sure that won’t be a problem either.”

  Ramsey didn’t hand out praise lightly, and Sutton found himself feeling proud of something for the first time in months.

  “It’s short notice, I know, but I’d planned a boys’ night out for my instructors at my cabin to discuss the future growth of the gun range. Every guy who works for me will be there, so if you’re even remotely interested in the position, this’d be the ideal time to get answers directly from the ones who work with me.”

  “Just one night? Or an all weekend thing?” He couldn’t flake out on London. She expected him to play his part as her boyfriend.

  “Just one night. Weekends are our busiest time so we’ll be back at work tomorrow.”

  Two knocks sounded on the door. Then it opened and London walked in.

  More like she sashayed in, wearing a see-through flimsy black thing that left nothing to the imagination. He could make out every muscled inch of her toned legs, the slight flare of her hips. Her flat belly and defined abs. Strategically placed bows hid her nipples but not the sweet curve of her tits.

  “Sutton? I hope I’m not interrupting. I heard you talking in here so I assumed you were up. Look, I can’t figure out the coffee pot. It keeps beeping at me every time I hit start.”

  Mostly Sutton heard, blah blah blah which translated to, “Look at my perky tits,” followed by blah blah blah, “look at these naughty red panties that barely cover my pussy,” and then blah blah blah, “look at my sexy bedhead and imagine holding this tangled hair in your fists while I suck your cock.”

  Fuck me. Fuck me twice.

  “What the hell? Did you just tell me to fuck off?”

  His rational train of thought had hit a fucking brick wall named London Gradsky.

  “Sorry, no, I didn’t say that. Gimme five minutes and I’ll call you right back.” Sutton tossed the phone on his bed without checking to see if he’d actually ended the call. “What. In. The. Name. Of. All. That’s. Holy. Are. You. Doing. Half. Fucking. Naked. In. My. Bedroom?”

  “I told you! Were you even listening to me?”

  Not the words falling from your mouth when your body is speaking its own language loud and clear. He cleared his throat. “I was on the phone, so I missed most of what you’d said. What’s the problem?”

  “Your coffee pot hates me. I can’t figure it out.”

  “I’ll be right there after I slip some pants on.” And after he whacked off so she didn’t see how hopeful his dick was at seeing a hot, half-naked woman in his room first thing in the morning.

  “Fine.”

  She turned to flounce out and he noticed she wore a thong. So she treated him to a full look at that perfect ass of hers before the crabby, horny man inside him yelled out, “And you’d better put some damn pants on too!”

  Even with morning wood it only took him a minute to rub one out in the shower. He brushed his teeth and packed his overnight bag before he exited his room.

  In the kitchen, he was both relieved and annoyed to see London had donned a robe.

  “Took you long enough,” she groused. “You’ve had coffee ready for me every day this week, so I don’t think you understand the importance of coffee in my life. I’m a bitch on wheels without my morning caffeine fix.”

  “I saw the poor, unfortunate coffee maker that failed to do your bidding, so I’m aware of your demands. Watch and learn.” He dumped the beans in and set the lid on the filter basket. “Line up these arrows. This is a grind and brew model. If the arrows aren’t lined up, then it won’t work at all.”

  “Oh. Thanks. Now it makes sense.”

  He smothered a yawn. “You’re welcome.”

  “What time did you get home last night?”

  “Late. Dad likes to cut loose on poker night. Especially if he wins. If I’d gotten home earlier, I planned on...” His gaze swept over her, from bedhead to pink-tipped toes. “Never mind what I’d planned ’cause it’s a moot point now. That phone call earlier was a reminder that I have a prior commitment. So I’ll be gone all day and tonight.”

  “But you will be back by tomorrow? You’re coming to the Henry County Fair and Rodeo with me this weekend?”

  “Yes. But I’ll have to meet you there.”

  “Promise?”

  He scowled. “I’m a man of my word, London.”

  She scowled back at him. “You’d better be. And where are you going on such short notice anyway?”

  Away from temptation. At least for one night. While I figure out why in the hell I like you so much and I’ve only known you five days. And why that make-out session last night in my damn bathroom was more erotic than any sex I’ve had in years. “I’m headed out for a retreat.”

  “A spiritual retreat? Is that why they call you ‘The Saint?’”

  Sutton rolled his eyes. “I’m called ‘The Saint’ because I carried a Saint Christopher medallion my grandmother gave me when I first joined the pro tour. The guys saw it and ragged on me endlessly.”

  “Good to know. I’m assuming the name fit your lifestyle back then?”

  “At first they tried calling me ‘The Monk’ but it didn’t stick.”

  “Why not?”

  He pinned her with a look. “Because there’s a big difference between bein’ a saint and a monk. And newsflash, darlin’… I’m neither.”

  Flustered, London poured a cup of coffee while the pot still brewed.

  “How’s your arm today?”

  She faced him and shrugged. “Doesn’t feel too bad.”

  “So you’re working with Dial this morning?”

  “That’s what I get paid to do.”

  His cell phone rang again. He checked the caller ID. Ramsey. Impatient bastard. He tucked his phone in his pocket. “I’ve got to go. Do you need anything before I do?”

  “No.”

  “You’re sure? No issues locking up?”

  “I’ve been in a house in the country by myself before, Sutton.”

  If she’d shown any fear, he’d open up the locked door and assure her that she was far better protected than she could fathom.

  “Wait. There is one thing I want.”

  When Sutton’s eyes met the heat in hers, he knew exactly what she wanted. To avoid temptation, he curled his hands around the straps of his duffel bag and took two st
eps backward. “I can’t. Not now.”

  “Why not?”

  “Because the second I put my hands and mouth on you, we ain’t goin’ anywhere for the rest of the day. And night. We may even miss the entire Henry County Fair.”

  A sexy smirk curled her lips. “Then you’d better get going.”

  Chapter Seven

  After London had loaded up her camper and hit the road toward Henry County Fairgrounds, she’d had way too much time to think. And all her thoughts were focused on one super-hottie, Sutton Grant.

  Like...what did he do during the day? He wasn’t involved in his family’s ranching operation. Did he obsessively work out, trying to speed up his rehab and return to competition form? Because heaven knew, the bulldogger had the most banging body she’d ever seen up close and personal. Well, sort of up close and personal. Not that she’d gotten to do more than drool over his sculpted chest, arms and abs, even when the tempting man walked around his house half-naked.

  She pondered other things Sutton could be doing with his time. Doing pay-per-view porn in his bedroom? Yeah, she’d pay to see that. Or maybe he was just watching XXX Websites all day. Maybe he played video games. She’d met her fair share of guys who were addicted to their X-box or PlayStation.

  Why don’t you just ask him?

  Yeah, that’d go over well since he’d been so forthcoming about where he was going.

  London froze. Wait a damn minute. Had Sutton been purposely vague because he’d set up a bootie call and didn’t want her to know? Every time his cell phone rang this week, he’d excused himself to take the call in private.

  But hadn’t he told her that he hadn’t been with a woman since his accident?

  And you believed him? A harsh, sarcastic bark of laughter echoed in her head. Because no man has ever lied about sex.

  Dammit. Had he played her?

  Since Stitch had dumped her, she’d second-guessed everything about her attractiveness to the opposite sex, her personality, her sexual skills, and how she conducted herself on a professional level. In her twenty-seven years she’d never been the type of woman who needed validation from a man or a relationship to feel worthy of either.

  Sutton Grant had better fall in line. Because he needed her more than she needed him.

  * * * *

  London had arrived early enough to score a primo parking place in the area specifically marked for rodeo contestants, stock contractors, exhibitors, and vendors. Being part of “tent city” was one of her favorite things about summer rodeo season. Nothing like sitting in front of a bonfire, drinking beer, laughing and talking about horses, rodeo, and the western way of life with other likeminded souls.

  She tidied up the camper, deciding if Sutton showed, she’d let him sleep in the bed tonight since his big body wouldn’t fit on the convertible sleeping area up front. But she’d be lying if she wasn’t hoping they’d share that lumpy mattress sometime this weekend.

  Then she changed into an outfit that made her feel sexy and desirable—a sleeveless lavender shirt embellished with purple rhinestones, her beloved b.b. simon crystal encrusted belt, her Miss Me jeans with black studded leather angel wings on the back pockets, and a pair of floral stitched Old Gringo cowgirl boots. She fluffed her hair, letting it fall in loose waves around her shoulders. After applying heavier makeup and a spritz of tangerine and sage perfume, she exited the camper.

  The heat of the day hung in the air but the lack of humidity made it bearable. Still, an icy cold beer would make it better. London bought a bottle of Coors and wandered through tent city to see who was around.

  The second person she ran into was Mel. “Hey, girl. If I’d known you were already here I’da brought you a frosty beverage.”

  Mel smiled and kept brushing down her palomino. “It’s okay. I’ve gotta run Plato a bit so I’ll take a rain check.”

  “Deal.” London sipped her beer and looked around.

  “Please don’t tell me you’re here so you can spy on Stitch and Paige.”

  London snorted. “As if. I don’t give a hoot about them.”

  “Since when?”

  “Since you told me I needed to get laid. A new guy barged into my life and swept me off my feet last weekend.”

  Mel stopped brushing Plato’s back. “Are you kidding me?”

  “Nope. He’s hot, he’s sweet, and he’s crazy about me.” London said a little prayer: don’t you let me down Sutton Grant, or so help me God I will superglue your dick and balls together in your sleep.

  “Uh-huh,” Mel said skeptically. “But this guy that’s so hot for you isn’t from around here, is he? So I can’t meet him.”

  “Wrong. He’ll be here.” She hoped.

  Before Mel could demand more details, Stitch’s best friend Lee—nicknamed Lelo on the circuit because of his association with Stitch—meandered over. He still wore his back number from the slack competition. “Hey Mel.”

  “Lelo. How’s it hanging?”

  “They ain’t dangling low at all when I see you. They’re high and tight and raring to go.”

  Mel muttered something.

  When it became obvious to Lelo that Mel didn’t intend to banter with him, he looked at London. “Hey. What’s up?”

  “Not much. What’s up with you?”

  “Askin’ around, seein’ where the parties are tonight.”

  A challenge danced in Mel’s eyes. “Really, Lelo? Because I heard that Stitch and Paige were having a huge party at their campsite before the fireworks kicked off.”

  Lelo’s mouth opened. Then snapped shut.

  “I thought maybe you’d come by to invite me personally,” Mel continued.

  He looked between Mel and London. “Well, I, ah—”

  “And since London is here, it’d be rude of you not to include her in that invite, doncha think?”

  Jesus, Mel was a shit-stirrer sometimes. And precisely the reason they got along like gangbusters.

  “I don’t know if that’s such a good idea, Mel, bein’s they...dammit, you know why I can’t invite her,” Lelo blurted.

  “Because London and Stitch used to date?” Mel flashed her teeth at London. “Water under the bridge, Lelo, since my girl here has herself a new boyfriend.”

  Shut your face, Mel, shut it right fucking now.

  Lelo’s eyes went comically wide—as if he hadn’t considered that a possibility.

  Which pissed London off. Big time.

  “You don’t say?” he said to London. “I thought you were still—”

  “Hung up on Stitch?” Mel supplied. “Huh-uh. That’s some bullshit Stitch and Paige have been spreading around so people don’t hate him because he fucked London over.”

  “Mel,” London warned.

  “What? I’m sick of Opie and Dopie hinting around that you’re some broken-hearted chump. Girlfriend, you are hot as lava and you were always way, way above Stitch’s pay grade.”

  Lelo’s focus bounced between them like he was watching a volleyball match. Then he said, “So who is this fella you’re seein’? Anyone we know?”

  Just then someone shouted her name. Someone with a deep, sexy voice.

  London sidestepped Lelo and looked down the walkway between the horse trailers. There he was. The quintessential cowboy. And he stood less than fifty yards away. “Sutton?”

  “Whatcha waiting for, darlin’? C’mere and gimme some sugar.” He held his arms open.

  Grinning, she ran toward him. He caught her and spun her in a circle before settling his mouth over hers. She twined her arms around his neck and gave herself over to his kiss.

  And what an intoxicating kiss it was. His mouth teased, seduced, inflamed. By the time he eased back to brush tender kisses over her lips and jaw, her entire body shook.

  Sutton whispered, “Sorry I’m late.”

  She nuzzled his neck, wishing she could pop open the buttons on his shirt and get to more skin. “You’re here now.”

  “Did you think I wouldn’t show?”

>   “The thought had crossed my mind.”

  He forced her to look at him. And her knees went decidedly weak staring into those crystalline eyes of his. “I said I’d be here. I’m a man of my word, London.”

  Sliding her arms down, she flattened her palms on his chest. “But
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