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One night rodeo, p.9
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       One Night Rodeo, p.9

         Part #4 of Blacktop Cowboys series by Lorelei James
 

  at him almost shyly.

  Kyle reached for her hand. “I have an idea. Hear me out before you interrupt me.”

  “I don’t interrupt you.”

  He raised a brow and she hid her smile behind her beer bottle. “I know you want this marriage annulled. Maybe I was poking your buttons a little just to be contrary when I said I didn’t want an annulment.” Such a lie, Kyle. “But everything changed after that phone call from my mom.”

  Celia silently picked the label off her beer bottle.

  “You know everything about ranching and I know nothing. Less than nothing. I felt like a fucking idiot today. And you? You were absolutely in your element. Don’t deny it.”

  “I’m not.”

  Kyle gathered his courage to get the next part out, and hoped like hell she didn’t reject his suggestion. Reject him. “The truth is, I need you. Your ranching expertise. I need you to teach me. I need you to help me. I cannot do this by myself. I don’t want to do this by myself. And I’d be willing to offer you a deal. Stay and help me for the next six months. After that, if you still want an annulment or divorce or whatever it is at that point, we can call it quits. You mentioned going to trade school—I’ll pay for everything starting with the fall semester.”

  Celia’s jaw dropped. “Are you serious?”

  “Completely. Because if you don’t stay and help me, I’ll have no choice but to sell this place.”

  “You could always hire a ranch hand,” Celia pointed out.

  “I remember what Bran went through with that. He had no takers. Harper was a last resort. Although neither of them are complaining now.”

  “True.”

  Kyle sensed her withdrawal, so he laid it on the line. “You haven’t been happy on the circuit the last year. And it had nothin’ to do with your relationship with Breck goin’ south. You’ve been struggling for a while. I suspect everything you own is in your horse trailer. You rarely go home to Muddy Gap, a place you’ve always loved. You don’t spend time with your family. I want to know why.”

  Celia kept her gaze locked on his. “I stayed on the road because I didn’t have anywhere else to go.”

  Happy that she’d given him the truth, Kyle brought her fingertips to his lips for a kiss. “I’ve felt the same way. Havin’ a P.O. box in Rawlins as my home base. Crashing with my mom a couple times a year. Sleeping in my camper or a cheap motel.”

  “So you do understand.”

  “Yes. I’ve been working so fucking hard to make money so I could buy a place of my own and quit the CRA. Now that I’ve got what I always wanted? I don’t know what the hell to do with it.”

  Celia laughed softly.

  “So say you’ll help me. Please, Celia. Stay. I need you.”

  She tugged her hand away from his and drained her beer. “Give me some time to think about it.”

  “Now?”

  “Yeah.”

  Celia wandered to the living room and he followed her. He leaned against the doorjamb and watched her, a little disconcerted by her abrupt need for space. She pulled on her outerwear and slipped outside without a word or a backward glance.

  Then Kyle returned to the kitchen, beating a path in the cracked linoleum from the window to the doorway, watching for her return. Half worried that she would come inside, pack her paltry belongings, and leave for the rodeo in Big Bend.

  An hour later the front door slammed. He waited in the kitchen, trying not to look nervous and desperate. Although he was both and she probably knew it.

  He glanced up to see her leaning against the counter opposite him, mimicking his stance. “I’ve thought about it.”

  “And?”

  “And I’ll stay for six months. That’s it. Then we will have this marriage dissolved. In exchange for my ranching help during that time, I’ll take your offer of payment of full tuition for the entire course. Not just the first year. But I have a couple of other conditions.”

  “I figured you would.”

  Celia squared her shoulders. “First, you need to trust me with the ranch work. We tend to argue a lot, Kyle, but I need your word that you’ll really listen to me. You’ll understand that in this, I know what I’m doing.”

  “That won’t be a problem, trust me.”

  “Good. If we’re staying together as a couple, then I want everyone to believe we got married on the spur of the moment because we were wildly in love.”

  Another problem solved, being he was already wildly in love with her. “Why?”

  She looked away again. “I’ve never been the girl the guys pant after. Listening to Ronna today reminded me how shy I’ve always been. I never even had a date in high school. With the exception of Harper, I spent more time with my horses than with my classmates. I’ve come out of my shell the last few years, but that shell is always there, waiting for me to crawl back into it. I couldn’t stand for my family or my friends to know the only way a guy like you married a woman like me was because we were drunk.”

  “Hey.” Kyle curled his hands around her face. “Don’t say shit like that. You are a beautiful woman, Cele.”

  “You don’t have to say that,” she protested.

  “I wouldn’t say it if it wasn’t true.” His thumbs stroked her cheekbones before he let his hands fall because he sensed her pulling away.

  “So I told you my fear about people finding out the truth about our marriage. What’s yours?”

  “I’m afraid once people find out I inherited this ranch they’ll say you gave up a promising career as a barrel racer to become a rancher’s wife because you felt sorry for me.”

  “What? I don’t feel sorry for you. That never even crossed my mind.”

  They stared at each other for several long moments.

  Kyle spoke first. “Did Tanna tell Lainie we were ridin’ high on the tequila express on our way to the wedding chapel?”

  “I don’t think so. She claims our being hammered led us to finally expressing our true feelings for each other.”

  He couldn’t argue with that. “So no one ever has to know that the reason we stood at the altar was from too much free booze at a Devin McClain concert.”

  “And that I was buzzed on prescription painkillers.”

  They said, “Unless we tell them” at the same time. They both laughed.

  “I sure as hell don’t wanna tell anyone. It’ll be our secret. As will the fact that we haven’t consummated our marriage.” He grinned. “Yet.”

  She retreated and gave him a speculative look. “That leads me to my next stipulation. While we are married, I expect we’ll be husband and wife in name only.”

  “No.”

  Celia stilled. “No?”

  “No.” Kyle loomed over her. “Not only no, but hell no. Fuck no. That is my stipulation. We will be man and wife in every sense of the word.”

  “Meaning…we’ll be having sex?”

  “Oh, yes, little wifey mine, we’ll be having sex. Lots and lots of sex. Sweet sex, raunchy sex, shower sex, sex on the floor, sex against the wall, sex in bed, sex in the truck, sex in the barn, sex on the tractor, and sex on this table.” He smacked it hard.

  Her silver eyes went wide.

  “And in case that wasn’t clear, I’ll say it plain. I like sex. A lot of sex. Morning, noon, and night.” He leaned closer. “It about killed me, laying next to you the last couple nights, not touching you. Not even able to hold you, my wife, in my arms. I want you, Celia, want you like fucking crazy. Make no mistake that I’ve waited for you for a long damn time and I’ve held off. But now that you’re legally mine and we’ll be playing house for the next six months? I won’t hold back. We will be intimate on the most basic level. As often as possible.” Kyle was breathing hard by the time he finished.

  Celia didn’t appear to be breathing at all.

  “Say something.”

  “All right. If we’re having sex I expect you not to have sex with anyone else.”

  Kyle bit back a snarl. She really believed he’d ch
eat on her? Then it hit him. Breck had always played around on Celia. Why wouldn’t she expect that he’d do the same? Especially since he’d once had a reputation for being as much of a horn-dog as Breck was?

  But this was different. They were married. “Celia, I promise to be faithful to you. You’re my wife. Even if this marriage has an expiration date, I would never disrespect you that way. I promise to honor our wedding vows. I’m not like Breck.”

  “I know that. I just wanted to hear you say it.”

  He attempted to lighten the mood. “So you’re giving me the green light? I can seduce you at will, sexy wife of mine? I can put all my fantasies revolving around you into play?”

  “Yes. But I have one other condition.”

  Don’t groan. “Which is?”

  “I want a new bed,” she blurted out. “And all new bedding that is ours before we have any sex. Because a used bed is just nasty.”

  Kyle grinned. “Done.” He ran his knuckles down the side of her face. “I’m dyin’ to touch you. Dyin’ to show you how it can be between us. But I can tell every time you move how sore you are. So despite my earlier statement about being all over you, all the time, I won’t be exploring this heat with you tonight.”

  She licked her lips and granted him a come-hither look that made his dick hard. “So now you’re being a gentleman?”

  “Gentleman?” He kissed the line between her eyes, then her succulent mouth. He brushed his lips across her ear. “Not. Even. Fucking. Close.”

  She trembled.

  Oh hell yeah. Over the last two years, whenever he’d spoken in her ear, she’d trembled. He intended to have her trembling in his arms as often as possible. “Celia,” he whispered against the side of her neck, “tell me you want me too.”

  And rather than squirming away, she offered more of her neck to his exploring mouth. “I want you.”

  “You smell good. You taste good.” He nuzzled the base of her throat. “I could just eat you up, sweet wife. From head to toe and everywhere in between. Especially in between.”

  Celia stepped back. Her cheeks were such a pretty shade of red. “Stop teasing me.”

  “But I don’t wanna stop.”

  “Tough up, cowboy, because we can’t do anything about it tonight.” She crossed her arms over her chest, but not before he caught a glimpse of her hard nipples. “So to recap…as far as everyone knows, we’re married for real?”

  As far as I’m concerned we’ve been married for real since the second you put on that wedding ring.

  “Yep. We’ll be all lovey-dovey tomorrow when we talk to your brothers.” He crowded her again so his thumb could trace the outline of her full lips. “That won’t be hard to pull off. Me wearing the lustful look of a man who can’t wait to get his new bride back to bed.”

  “After that we’ll go get my truck and stuff. But I’m leaving my horse until I figure out a place to put him. And you should know that I have four other horses besides Mickey.”

  Kyle blinked at her. “You’re tellin’ me we have nine horses?”

  “Ten soon, ’cause my mare Blue will foal this spring. But don’t worry. I’ll deal with the horses.”

  He shook his head. “I have to learn how to do everything, so there won’t be a division of labor between us.”

  “Okay, if there’s no division of chores, that means we have to do a grocery store run in the next few days.” Celia smirked at him. “And it’s your night to cook supper.”

  Celia wasn’t in their bed when he’d gotten out of the shower, but he noticed she’d made the bed more user-friendly. More cozy.

  He dropped the towel and grabbed the remote before sliding beneath the covers. When Celia sauntered in, she stopped, picked up the wet towel, and pointedly held it out.

  “Here’s a news flash, bucko: I hate wet towels on the floor. And no, I won’t hang it up for you.”

  Forced to leave his warm nest, Kyle hung the towel in the small master bathroom. Celia didn’t avert her eyes from his groin and urge him to put on clothing. Which made his cock eager to prove how fast it could go from soft to hard. It pouted when she wasn’t impressed.

  Once Celia had settled, Kyle made his move. He gently held her chin and kissed her. Starting out slowly. Slicking his tongue across the seam of her lips and feeling her bottom teeth with the tip of it. His thumb made a lazy, sweeping caress of her cheek as he tasted her thoroughly. The kiss would heat up, then he’d turn it down to simmer, gifting her mouth with quick pecks and the soft glide of his lips.

  Her body unconsciously arched into his, urging him to take more than a kiss.

  Kyle murmured, “Night, sweet wife.”

  “Night, horny husband.”

  Just when he thought she’d gone to sleep, she jackknifed up, a wince distorting her face at the sudden pain. “Did you hear that?”

  “Hear what?”

  “Scratching sounds. Like a mouse. In the wall. Or in a dresser. Or under the bed.” She scooted closer to him. “What if there are mice in this mattress?”

  “Celia—”

  “Listen to me. Mice nest everywhere. They are vile fucking creatures that all deserve to die.”

  “How do you really feel?” he said dryly.

  “Like I cannot wait to get rid of this bed. And scour this house to make sure it’s rodent-proof.”

  “I’ll be glad to help you, but not tonight. You’re getting all riled up for no reason. Take a deep breath.”

  “It hurts to breathe.”

  “I know.” He placed his hand on her belly. “That’s why I want you to relax. I’d give you a back rub to distract you if it’d help.”

  “You just want to get me naked.”

  “That too.”

  Celia kissed his jaw. “I’ll take a rain check.”

  “Funny thing…I heard it was gonna rain tomorrow.”

  She laughed.

  Kyle could get very used to hearing that laughter every night before he fell asleep.

  Chapter Five

  There were warm, rough hands gently stroking her skin.

  Warm, soft lips dragging kisses across her ribs.

  Celia sighed and stretched, basking in the attention. Not wanting to wake up from such a vivid dream.

  Her pajama bottoms were tugged down her thighs. She kicked the covers free, allowing her dream lover to completely slide them off.

  A male chuckle vibrated against her belly. Those soft, nibbling lips sought a path down her stomach, over the rise of her mound. Then her thighs were pushed apart and a hot, wet tongue licked her from top to bottom.

  As she gasped and arched, her ribs sent a stinging reminder of her soreness.

  Wait. She shouldn’t feel pain in a dream. She shouldn’t feel those long, wet laps up and down her slit either. She really shouldn’t hear, “Goddamn, you taste sweet,” growled against her sex.

  Celia opened her eyes and looked down to see Kyle lying between her legs, his hands gripping her inner thighs while his mouth did such amazing things with his tongue. “What are you doing?”

  Keeping his gaze to hers, he locked his mouth to her clit and sucked.

  Her whole body twitched.

  He sucked again.

  She twitched again.

  Kyle lifted his mouth. “Lay back so you don’t hurt your ribs.”

  “But…?”

  He rapidly flicked his tongue over the skin covering her clit. “Are you really gonna tell me to stop?”

  “No.” She lowered herself back to the mattress.

  Another chuckle against her sensitive flesh.

  Then Kyle set out to make her lose her mind. He tilted her hips to burrow his tongue completely inside her. He pressed soft kisses to the crease of her thighs. He’d lick her clit and stop to blow a cool stream
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