Authors: Candi Wall
Tags: #letting go;trust;Texas;Texan;western;big city
She’d barely finished the last word when he plopped down on the blanket. He pulled his pant leg up to reveal a prosthetic right leg. “I like to get this out of the way first. Lost my leg when I was four in a car accident. Some of the other kids laugh at me, but mostly they leave me alone.”
Shocked by his blatant comfort with his handicap, Chloe struggled for a response. “Well, I never would have bothered to ask. Seems to me that’s your business.”
“Most people get all uncomfortable, so I just stick it out there, let ’em have a look, then all’s well.” He shifted to fix his pant leg. “Ick said I wasn’t supposed to flirt with you, but I sure hope you’ll dance with me later.”
“I’d love to.”
He nodded—very seriously. “Awesome. You play marbles?”
“Never.” If she had, it’d been such a long time ago, she couldn’t recall.
“Well, I could teach you.” A pinkish tinge traced his cheeks. “If you’re bored and all.”
“That sounds wonderful.”
Henry chattered on as he gave his very detailed explanation of the game and how she should hold the marble for different shots. They’d played several practice rounds and he was explaining—in great detail—the benefits of different marbles when Nick’s voice broke into their lesson.
“Bested by a ten-year-old with a bag of marbles.” Engrossed in the youth’s interesting personality, she hadn’t heard him approach. “I told you no flirting, squirt.”
Henry hopped to his feet. “Well if you’re going to leave her all alone, then someone’s got to watch out for her.”
“I’ll take it from here.” He ruffled the boy’s hair and Henry beamed under his uncle’s smile. “How’d it go at the doc?”
Henry shrugged. “Bunch of the same doctor stuff, graphs and percentages stuff. You can ask Pa what it meant. Doc just told me to keep eating my broccoli.”
Boy and man made a disgusted face and Nick bopped him on the head. “What’d you do to get that kind of punishment?”
Henry shrugged again. “That’s what I asked.”
Nick’s laugh rumbled through her stomach and she met his gaze. Heat blossomed in her veins as his hooded gaze brushed her body. He gave Henry a little nudge. “You might want to find someone else to talk to for a while because Chloe needs a little kissing.”
Henry rolled his eyes. “See ya later, Chloe.”
She waved to the boy as he quickly made tracks toward the house. Before she could even speak, Nick grabbed her hand and drew her to her feet. Without a word, he pulled her along behind him, his long strides leading them to a large barn near the numerous cars and trucks now lining the field that bordered the main house.
She hurried to keep up, her eyes feasting on the smooth lines of his stomach still revealed by the shirt he’d thrown on but hadn’t buttoned. “Where are we going?”
He didn’t reply, merely pulled her inside, closed the door behind them and pinned her back to the wall. He braced a hand on either side of her head, his breaths harsh and ragged. The scent of his cologne mingled with hay, heated skin and grass, filling her senses. Several bruises marred his ribs and arms, his hair slick from sweat. Sex appeal oozed from every inch of his masculine frame as he continued to stare.
“Sweaty and sexy. Did you bring me in here for a roll in the hay?”
He shook his head, lowering his head to brush his lips over hers with such a brief touch she found herself leaning in for more. But he just teased, whispering the softest kisses along her lips and chin and jaw until a dizzy swirl started to pulse in her head. When his tongue darted out to run across her lower lip she forgot to breathe, making the dizziness spin out of control. One of his hands slid through her hair to tangle in the strands, holding her still as he deepened the onslaught.
Breaking away, she gulped in fresh air, but still his scent lingered. He gave no quarter, following her, tasting her lips over and over. Just when she was certain her body would burn to cinders, he pressed against her. The entire length of his frame crushed her to the hard wood. He kissed her again, deeper, his tongue meeting and teasing her own until she moaned into his mouth.
Heat seeped though her in sensual tendrils. She was wet, beyond wet, her pussy all but crying for a single touch, something to alleviate the ache. Tiny spasms created by excitement tightened her walls, drumming with need. “Nick, you’re driving me crazy.”
He nodded. “Just like you did. Fuck, I could barely concentrate on the game with your eyes on me.”
His hand clasped hard over her ass, pulling her against the rigid length of his cock. She moaned her approval and looped her finger through his belt. With a slight tug, it fell open. He didn’t even need the damn thing. It just rested there, for effect. It looked good on him, but there was no way he needed any help getting a woman’s eyes to focus on anything other than his body. Any part of it. “So what do you have in mind?”
Smooth lips moved across her chin with tiny, pleasure-laden nips. “You’re not allergic to hay, are you?”
The rush of blood in her ears muffled his words. Hay. Dirt. Mud. It didn’t matter in the least so long as he gave her what she wanted. “Not that I know of.”
The world tilted on that one hot, whispered word and when he scooped her into his arms to walk across the huge barn, she snuggled in closer. His long strides had them hidden behind a vacant stall in moments. Bales of hay lined the wooden enclosure higher than their heads, and she inhaled the dry, aromatic air.
He left her long enough to close the stall door, blocking out more of the limited light left from the early evening sunset. Then he turned, his gaze raking her with such heat that her legs shook. Each measured step brought him closer, spiking her heartbeat until he stood no more than a breath away.
One long finger caressed her bottom lip before trailing its heat down her throat and lower to hook in the slight vee of her tank top. “I want you. Now.”
He may have said it, but it certainly mirrored her own thoughts, and she melted into his fire.
There was no helping it. He’d tried to ignore her effect on him.
Hell, he loved football. But at every turn he’d found himself staring at her, to his physical detriment on several occasions. The hit he’d taken from Alvin was going to leave a mark, but it was nothing compared to the ache Chloe created in his body.
And he was tired of walking around with a hard-on just from thinking about her. He pulled her away from the wall of hay, willing his control to remain intact. Her sighs and moans fueled his already raging need and after slipping the button free on her tiny shorts, he shoved them down quickly.
Her hips wiggled and shifted as she helped remove the offending article, and when he looked down, a groan of sheer agony gripped his throat. Her tank top was scrunched up around her belly button, the tight material accentuating each rapid breath she drew into her lungs. Her long, bare legs led upwards to a tiny thong of see-through peach lace. Every intention of control vaporized, and he shoved one of the bales aside to give them more room.
He walked around her proud, heated body until he stood behind her, just close enough that the heat of her skin brushed his own. The long, trim curve of her neck begged for his touch, and he pressed a light kiss to her shoulder. Her head fell back, and he wound his hand around her neck with subtle pressure. He traced the curve of her hip around to her stomach with his other hand, pulling her back until her ass pressed against the length of his pulsing cock.
“Damn, doll. You have no idea what you do to me.”
A strained laugh whispered over her lips. “I think I can tell.”
“Somehow I doubt that.” If she could, she might run right the hell out of there.
“Then tell me.”
His fingers flexed at the tender skin of her throat. He didn’t want to hurt her. She was fragile and tiny, and he wanted rough. Like he’d never wanted it before. Biting lightly at her earlobe, he let his hand wander beneath the flimsy fabric of her thong. Dividing her slick folds, he ran his finger back and forth over her swollen clit. “I want to lick your pussy. I want to taste your come and fuck you until you scream.”
She shuddered, her response drenching his finger. “Then what are you waiting for? You didn’t—” her breath caught when he slipped another finger over her clit to trap the bundle of nerve endings between his fingers, then gasped out the remainder of her thought, “—think I’d object, did you?”
Adding slight pressure to the hold he had on her clit, he started an easy rhythm back and forth, just letting the tips of his fingers enter and caress the opening of her pussy. “I don’t feel a bit of objection. Damn, you’re so fucking hot.”
“So do something about it.” Her hand closed over his, adding more pressure, her fingers entering her wet center with his. “I’d rather not do it myself, but if you don’t have any idea how to use that cock of yours…”
Christ, he was so hard he was going to explode. He grasped the strap of her thong and ripped the flimsy material with a slight jerk. Unbuttoning his jeans, he held her hard against him as he slipped his cock free. Using the juices from her body he stroked himself several times in preparation. Sliding his hand from her throat, he tangled his hands in her hair and forced her to bend. She didn’t fight, and the eager shift of her legs drove him beyond the bounds of control.
“I got my green card today.” Bending close, he whispered in her ear. “Are you using any protection?”
A soft laugh rasped out, and she sighed. “I’m on the pill.”
Without the need for restraint, he thrust into her welcoming heat, barely processing the loud, pleasure-filled cry that left her throat. Every inch of his cock slipped into her hot depths, dragging over his sensitized skin, sucking at his swollen flesh, and he pressed deeper, holding there to fight for a modicum of discipline.
Chloe couldn’t process the sensations. He was so hard, so deep. He’d been the perfect size before; now he filled her to impossible lengths. Every rigid pulse of his cock echoed along the walls of her cunt. He held still, buried inside her. She wanted more and shifted, trying to ease the ache suffocating her insides.
Slowly, he withdrew, dragging out the pleasure only to thrust deep again. Her breath caught and held as the slow rhythm blocked out everything but the earthy scent of the hay and his sex. His breaths matched her own, harsh, laced with inaudible curses for the intensity and pleasure they shared. She cradled her head on her arms, balancing her weight on the bale, her legs shaking with weakness created by the heavy thrusts that built on the already raging need pulsing through her body.
The firm grip of his warm hands on her hips, holding her to his onslaught, sparked more lust to curl through her veins. He was harsh, almost too hard, too demanding, the increasing stab of each thrust almost violent. His low, muffled grunts and moans halted as he rammed hard, holding still as his fingers traced a path between her legs. His hot breath brushed over her ear, the sultry cadence of his finger over her clit driving her past the bounds of desperate need.
“You are fucking incredible,” he breathed. “Come for me.”
Her name could have christened a new musical instrument in that moment because she performed to his command, her body shattering around him. Pleasure-pain drew out the orgasm as he pumped almost brutally to find his own release.
Breathing heavily, he leaned into her, his body trembling. “Damn, doll. You could become an addiction.”
The sinfully lazy dregs of awareness bringing her back to reality vanished. Miya’s words came back to her.
I’d hate to see him get hurt
. Chloe righted her clothes, accepted his kisses, even murmured a few words about how incredible he’d been. All the while, she withdrew. Nick Westing had a feel-good vibe about him. She could feel the draw the moment he stepped away.
And that scared her more than his admission.
When he’d fixed his clothes as well, he pulled her close. She didn’t mean to turn away from his kiss and tried to cover the slight with an easy comment. “I can’t tell you how amazing that felt, but I should really get back to Miya. I’m here to visit her, not for sneaking off to take care of myself.”
She kept her comments deliberately rooted in the sexual realm. She didn’t want to think of how good he was with kids… With Miya… How he’d run over to help Dora-Lee with the heavier dishes… Damn it all. He was really a gentleman.
She blocked that all out, but that just opened the door for her to hear his whisper…
“You run all you want, doll. But we’re damn good together. We could have a lot of fun if you weren’t hell-bent on keeping things casual.”
“We drew that line together,” she accused.
He shrugged and waved her ahead of him as they made their way from the barn. “Can’t help it if I want more now. If you don’t, you don’t. Problem is, I think you do.”
Yes. She did.
She wanted more of him, what he did to her body, the way he made her feel safe and wanted…
Fuck. It was time to, as the locals would say,
Chloe spun around in her chair to glare at her assistant. “What do you mean she cancelled the shoot?”
Shawna stared at her black flats, and Chloe silently wished she’d show a little backbone. She was a brilliant assistant editor, but she wouldn’t ever be
material until she learned to stand up for herself. “She sent me an e-mail this morning. Something about the flu.”
“Well—” Chloe stood and set both hands flat on her desk, “—instead of standing there, you might want to try and find a replacement photographer.”
“I’ve got two,” Shawna offered with a scowl. “But you’re not going to like them. Since it’s last minute, our options were limited.”
A small pain erupted behind Chloe’s right eye. She dropped back in her soft chair and pressed a finger to her temple. “Tell me.”
“Carl Mason is free.”
Shawna cleared her throat. “And Lynn-Ella James.”
“Lynn-Ella—fucking—James.” Had Shawna lost her mind? “Did you actually just say her name in my office?”
“I know you hate her, but she’s one of the best.” Tentative steps took Shawna closer to the door; her red curls bobbed with her nervous nods. “We can’t put the shoot off with Cash coming in this morning. We don’t have time to screw around.”
Christ. This was just what she needed. Not only did the deadline loom for the next edition of
magazine, but Dot Crawford, her viper of a boss, had all but said the promotion she wanted hinged on this “special shoot”. Chloe wanted that promotion, and the new look Cash would give the magazine was sure to be a hit. Hiring Carl Mason for her photographer—even if she loved him dearly as a person—bordered idiocy. His work was too plain for
. She’d have to use Lynn-Ella. Crazy-ass bitch she might be, but her work was fucking brilliant.
“I know.” Searching her bag for something stronger than ibuprofen, Chloe sighed. “Call the bitch. And make me sound like I’m happy while you’re at it.”
The door clicked softly behind Shawna, and Chloe turned to stare out the massive window behind her desk. Early sunlight glittered off the numerous other windows of the buildings surrounding her. She couldn’t see the sky or even Central Park, which was less than a ten-minute walk down the street. There was nothing more than big buildings, traffic and smog. Save for the nightlife New York had to offer, most of this city had lost its appeal. More often than not, she’d found herself wandering through Texas and its amazing star-soaked sky in her daydreams.
Just shy of two weeks had passed since she’d returned from her vacation visiting Miya. Less than two weeks since she’d last had sex. Damn but Nick slipped into her mind on a staggeringly regular basis. Probably didn’t help that she’d hired Cash Dillon to come to New York for the photo shoot. Having found him in the same bar she’d met Nick kept her mind on her vacation fling. As soon as this shoot was done, she’d be able to forget him.
And his touch, his taste, his kiss, the feel of his cock buried deep inside her body…
Smiling, she swiveled her chair back to her desk. His image had served her well for the last two weeks. She’d gotten herself off numerous nights, not even bothering with a vibrator. Her body warmed and the thin line of her thong dampened at the thought. She’d had lovers—many, actually. But something about that cowboy had hit a sweet spot. There was something raw and exciting about him. And kind and—right.
Needing to get her mind off Nick, she pulled Cash’s file from the pile of papers littering her desk and flipped the folder open. Forcing herself to concentrate, she flipped through the personal photographs Shawna had asked Cash to email to them just for a starter portfolio. A sexy-as-hell smile gleamed back at her from the files. If there was a more perfectly made man, she’d yet to meet him. He was going to devour the camera. Not a woman around would be able to keep her eyes off him. Most of the men as well. Hell, maybe she’d see if all cowboys were as hot as Nick when it came to sex. If they were, she might have to relocate to
’s corporate office in Houston.
A girl could do worse than being surrounded by cowboys. And maybe a rousing fuck with Cash would get Nick out of her head.
She ran a finger over the photo of Cash’s handsome face. Not as defined as Nick’s, but close, and where Cash’s eyes were bright green, Nick’s were a dark, rich brown, full of promise for something just below his homegrown-boy surface. His almost black hair curved in sexy waves too, a sharp contrast to Cash’s lighter brown, neatly trimmed mane.
“Cash Dillon to see you, Ms. Garrison.”
Jolted when Shawna’s voice blared through the intercom, Chloe closed the folder and took a deep breath. How could Nick’s memory overshadow Cash’s picture? By all rights, Cash was the more handsome of the two. And still… Maybe the real thing would do the trick.
She pressed the intercom button. “Send him in.”
She stood and smoothed the lines of her silk dress. Checking the invisible bra straps beneath the fabric’s flimsy, low-cut top, she adjusted her cleavage. The dress dropped dramatically in the back just to the base of her spine so she turned to look out the window. Better to have the advantage with this gorgeous man.
Cash walked through the door a moment later, and the dimples on his cheeks deepened with his smile. “Hey, Chloe. Good to see you again.”
He walked over and scooped her into a hug that made her high heels leave the ground. “Hi. You can put me down now.”
At six-two, he towered over her. Nothing but handsome muscle and self-assuredness. He knew he looked good, and still, there was a down-to-earth easiness that radiated from him. New York would eat him alive if she made him stay too long.
“Sorry,” he muttered and put her back on her feet. “I had a taste of big-city nightlife last night, and that sexy little assistant of yours out there gave me a couple Tylenol and a tiny cup of coffee that tasted like shit. Whatever it was, it kicked my ass into gear.”
“Espresso,” Chloe supplied. Kudos to Shawna.
He let her slip down his delicious body—really slowly—then tipped his hat. “How ya been? You ready to come back yet?”
“Maybe sometime soon. I miss Miya.” She waved him into the chair opposite the desk.
“She sends her love.” He sat down and shifted in the chair before stretching his legs out in front of him. “What about Nick?”
That took her off guard. “Nick?”
“Yeah.” The rich, deep sound of Nick’s voice from the doorway made it impossible to breathe. “Or have you forgotten who I am already?”
Maybe she’d died, since her heart wasn’t beating either. And she’d gone cold. Yep, she must have seized up and died right there. But she’d never get that lucky. Her blood started pumping a crazy rhythm. Nick? Here? In New York?
Slowly, she raised her gaze to meet his. Nope, she hadn’t died. The heat and rate her heart tripped up to made that fact abundantly clear. “Nick?”
His smile grew just a bit, his sexy frame filling her door. “Chloe?”
“W-what are you doing here?”
“Good to see you too, doll.” He walked into the room and took the chair next to Cash, his arms hooked over his broad chest. “Thought I’d accompany my little brother to your big bad city.”
“Little brother?” She slipped into her own chair shakily, trying not to show how much his presence affected her. What the fuck was he doing here? Having him in Texas made him a dream. She could fantasize, wish and delude herself to her heart’s content.
Refocusing on something less—traumatic, she shuffled the papers on her desk. “I didn’t know you were brothers. Your last name is Westin—”
He shrugged. “Different pas.”
Pas? God, how she’d missed that southern drawl. So much she found it impossible to look away from the smooth line of his lips.
Cash leaned forward then. “I didn’t think you’d mind, Chloe.”
Nothing affected her. It never did. She needed to get ahold of herself. She faced some of the most intimidating presences in the magazine world on a daily basis, and didn’t flinch. She’d be damned if Nick—God, did he have to smell so good?—was going to faze her.
“I don’t mind, Cash. I was just surprised, is all. Why wouldn’t I want to have two handsome men in my office?” She smiled at them both, leaning on every trick she’d learned in her New-York-style crash course in fake-it-till-you-make-it. Nick’s brows furrowed but she ignored it. “Cash, you’ll need to go down one floor to where we’ll do the photo shoot. The girls in wardrobe will take care of you the second you step off the elevator.” As an aside, she added, “Feel free to go with him, Nick.”
Cash stood and walked over. The twinkle in his eyes gave her something besides Nick to concentrate on. “Am I gonna be naked for these pictures?”
Chloe laughed, fanning her face. She leaned back in her chair, letting her eyes feast on the entire length of his body before she shook her head. “Not for
magazine, but I might ask the photographer to take a couple for me to keep.”
She was certain she heard Nick growl, but when she glanced his way, he merely scowled. Cash’s laughter drew her back to him. “You got it, sweetheart. But my bucky-bare ass comes with one condition.”
“Well—” he leaned closer to whisper, “—I want you to take me out on the town tonight. Maybe to one o’ them sexy nightclubs with all the women that are almost as hot as you. The ones that people are screwing in the dark corners.”
“I could probably do that. If you’re very—” she shifted closer next to his ear, “—
bad for me at the photo shoot.”
He let out a huge whoop and tipped his hat. “You’ve got yourself a deal.”
Nick’s voice suddenly filled the office. “She can make a deal with you once she’s paid up on what she owes me.”
The air left her lungs. She turned away from Cash and eyed Nick. “Excuse me?”
He shrugged easily, ignoring Cash who slipped away with a wink. “I think you heard me. You owe me about—” he glanced at his watch, “—twenty hours.”
How she could be as pissed as she was and still react to the infuriating man standing in her office was beyond her, but warmth slicked her crotch just the same. She stood then, deliberately running a finger down the bare skin at her cleavage. “Twenty hours, huh?”
He nodded, taking a step closer until the heat of his body caressed her skin. “Yeah. At least. Though I think you owe me more for leaving without at least saying goodbye.”
“Why is it men can do the one-night-stand, or rather two-night-stand thing, in our case, when you’re the ones to walk away. But God forbid when the woman does the walking.”
“You don’t know my walk-away tactics, doll.” He growled low, the sound hotter than hell in her office with so many places to potentially get fucked. “I say goodbye. No woman leaves wondering.”
For some strange reason, she believed him, He’d been a straight shooter from day one, so why would she think otherwise? Which didn’t make her feel any better for having left without so much as a
thanks for a great time
. “Nick I told you—”
The soft touch of his finger on her lips stalled her words. “Yeah, I know. Nothing but sex.” The lines around his eyes softened. “Is it really that simple for you?”
No, and yes. She’d experienced regret when she left him. And she’d hated it. “I don’t do goodbyes.”
His brows furrowed. “You don’t kiss, don’t give any real feelings and you don’t have the decency to say goodbye? New York really has burned itself into you, hasn’t it?”
That hurt. A little. Somehow the way he said it made it sound awful. She’d never doubted her ways before. And she didn’t want to start now. Still, she wanted to ease the hurt she saw in his eyes. “I was going to call you.”
His I-can-smell-bullshit expression exacerbated the foolishness she suddenly felt for even having said it. He looked ready to say something but let out a heavy sigh instead. Then, he just walked out. Chloe dropped into her chair.
Shit. Could this day get any worse?