Authors: Char Chaffin,Cheryl Yeko
CHAFFIN AND CHERYL YEKO
We’d like to dedicate Rodeo King to
all our readers, for their encouragement and support. We couldn’t do this
our BFF, Callie Hutton. We love you, girl. Write on!
Caleb carefully stood, trying not
to put too much pressure on his aching leg. He tipped his well-worn Stetson to
the young girl sitting with her grandmother in the seat across from him.
“It’s been a pleasure, ma’am,” he
The little cutie had talked his ear
off the entire way to Dustin, Wyoming; all seven hours. Her sweet chatter
helped keep him from dwelling on his potentially career-ending fall as a
professional bull rider, and the two months of rehabilitation afterward.
Now the memory pushed to the
forefront, and locking his jaw he stepped off the bus and shoved down the anger
that still roared hot and bright inside him.
Crawling home with my tail between
How the mighty had fallen. From
King of the Rodeo to washed up cowboy by the age of twenty-eight.
He glanced up and down Main Street,
lit only by streetlights and the signs from nearby businesses as night settled
in, and wondered if Rosemary still lived here. He hadn’t heard that she’d moved
or anything. His heart thudded hard against his ribs at the thought of seeing
He’d taken notice of her when she
was fourteen and budding into womanhood. She’d been a sweet little thing, with
a kind heart and a quick smile. And she’d had a crush on him. But being three
years younger, as well as his buddy’s little sister, and knowing Mason would
kick his ass if he touched her, Caleb had kept his distance.
Then, as her body filled out,
Rosemary Carmichael had every cowboy in town salivating for a taste. Jealousy
had eaten at him, but he’d been determined not to give in to his desire for
her, already knowing he’d be leaving town for bigger things.
At twenty, so cocksure of himself,
he’d headed out of town to find fame as a bull rider. And he’d been doing just
fine until three years later, during a break from the rodeo circuit, he’d come
home for a visit and ended up taking Rosemary to bed. He knew it wasn’t a smart
move on his part. But he’d wanted her like a starving man wanted a nice juicy
And like a bastard, he’d seduced
her, even knowing she wasn’t some buckle bunny he could just screw and walk
At least not with a clear
Images of Rosemary in his bed,
naked and trembling with desire as he’d introduced her to the pleasures of sex,
flashed across his mind. Barely nineteen, she’d been the hottest girl in town,
with a bold attitude for life and huge amber eyes that turned molten gold when
How in the hell was I supposed to
know she was a virgin?
Caleb’s body tightened even as
guilt filtered through him, like it always did when he thought about Rosemary,
and their short time together. He swallowed hard, remembering the way her fiery
red hair hung loose around her slender shoulders, the sexy sway of her perfect
breasts as she sat astride him. She’d been a quick study, and during the week
he’d held her in his arms, Caleb had been tempted to stay, whispering sweet
promises in her ear.
Then reality set in, and the fact
that he even wanted to stay and give up his dreams scared the mother lovin’
shit out of him. And like a thief in the night, he’d left without so much as a
Even now, six years later, guilt
burned through him with the destruction of a blowtorch.
And he still wanted her. Had wanted
her since the day he left, never able to completely shut her out of his mind.
“Caleb Johnson, is that you?” a
woman’s voice called out.
He turned to see Charlotte
MacDonald crossing the dusty street with her husband, Mac. Even in the dim
lighting, Caleb spotted the look of disapproval on the older woman’s face as
she and Mac headed his way.
He’d just gotten off the bus. What could have her panties in a bunch already?
Caleb set his suitcase down and tipped
his hat. “Hello, ma’am. Mac.”
“Hi, Caleb.” Mac was smiling as
they neared. “What’s brought you back our way?”
Charlotte waved a finger under his
nose before he could answer. “It’s about time, young man. You should be ashamed
of yourself, running off that way!”
brows arched. Had Rosemary told folks what happened between them? Yeah, it’d
been a crappy thing to do, but the Rosemary he remembered wasn’t the type to
blast her personal life to any of Dustin’s town gossips.
Before he could respond, Mac cut
in. “Now, Charlotte, leave the boy be.” He offered an apologetic shrug and took
his wife’s hand, tugging her away. “Glad you’re back, Caleb. I think you’ll
find some things have changed since you left.” Mac’s soft chuckle followed in
his wake as he swept his wife down the street. Charlotte managed to shoot Caleb
one more glare over her shoulder before they disappeared around the corner.
What the hell was that about?
He shook his head, reaching down to
rub his throbbing leg. The doctors told him he’d get full mobility back, but it
was too soon to tell if he’d ever be able to ride again. Caleb was still
mulling that over, wondering what he’d do if the worst happened and his career
was over before ever really getting started. He loved bull riding, and eight
years wasn’t nearly long enough. He wasn’t sure he could give it up.
Would I really have a choice?
Caleb flicked a glance toward the
Bronco Inn, two blocks down from the bus station. Since his folks had moved
away shortly after he’d graduated high school, a temporary place to stay was
first on his agenda. He’d grab some food, then get a room for the night and
start apartment hunting. He’d managed to save up a considerable nest egg,
enough to tide him over for a while.
Even though he was loath to admit
it, he knew the reason he’d chosen to come back to Dustin was because of Rosemary.
They had unfinished business. She was like a burr under his saddle he couldn’t
dislodge. Maybe if he had another taste or two of her, he could get her out of
his system and move on.
He just hoped she was still here.
As he walked down the mostly
deserted streets, everyone inside drinking, having dinner, or shopping, with a
few stragglers wandering about, he glanced at his watch. Six-thirty. There’d be
time to catch a bite and a beer before grabbing a room. He might look up Mason.
Word was his old buddy still lived here, and had the veterinary clinic he’d
always dreamed of.
Good for him.
A tight knot curled in Caleb’s gut.
He should have kept in contact with Mason, but he’d let their friendship fall
away after sleeping with the man’s sister. He raked his fingers through his
hair and blew out a strained breath.
When did I become such a bastard
But he knew. It was the moment he’d slipped from Rosemary’s bed and hightailed
it out of town.
Now in serious need of a drink,
Caleb hoofed it down the street, albeit at a slow pace, toward the local
brewpub. It was a warm, muggy evening and his shirt stuck to his back as he
approached the pub. He licked his dry lips, eager to taste the cold brew. As he
headed up the sidewalk, a door flew open a few buildings from the pub, and a
man stepped out, calling his name.
Caleb turned slightly and
recognized Mason standing just outside the door under a sign lettered with
‘Mason’s Veterinary Service.’
He set his suitcase down again. “Damn,
Carmichael,” he said, grinning, “how the hell are you, man?”
Mason’s expression darkened
ominously and Caleb lost his smile.
Well, I guess that answers that
When Mason came toward him with
murder in the tense lines of his body, Caleb didn’t even try to defend himself
as the man brought his fist back and swung at him. He deserved the beat-down he
was about to take. It wasn’t a glancing blow and pain radiated through his jaw
as he fell onto his ass. His Stetson flew off his head and landed on the
He stared up at his former friend
as he fingered his jaw, rotating it to see if it was broken. It wasn’t. Not
yet, anyway. “Feel better?”
Mason stormed toward him, reaching
down to grip the front of his shirt, and jerked him to his feet. The movement
sent fire shooting through Caleb’s leg and he gritted his teeth against the
“Not by a long shot, you son of a
bitch.” Mason reared back to punch him again.
Caleb narrowed his eyes, but didn’t
fight back, although anger bent the edges of his control. He’d let Mason get in
a few more punches before he defended himself. It was the least he could do
after sleeping with his pal’s baby sister.
But Caleb’s patience only went so
far . . .
“Mason. Stop!” The feminine voice
shot across the semi-darkness and both men froze.
Mason glared at him. “You have no
goddamn idea what you did, do you, asshole?”
Caleb couldn’t help it as images of
making love to Rosemary flooded his mind. He chuckled. “I’ve got a pretty good
Yep. He really did deserve the next
punch Mason threw his way, reconnecting with his aching jaw and sending him
back a few feet, though he managed to remain standing. The force of the blow
made him bite hard on the inside of his cheek.
“Mason, no!” Rosemary rushed toward
A different woman’s voice called from
the same direction. “Hit him harder next time, Mason.”
Caleb spat blood. “Are we done?”
“Not even close,” Mason growled.
Rosemary grabbed her brother’s arm
and tugged. “Mason, don’t, damn it.”
Caleb shifted his gaze to Rosemary,
and every muscle in his body seized along with his breath, as she flipped her
long, wavy hair over one shoulder. She was even more beautiful than he
remembered. He wanted to bury his hands in those thick red locks and take her
sweet mouth in a kiss. Her heart-shaped face held a healthy freshness, her lips
plump and rosy, but her figure now fully a woman’s, generously curved in all
the right places.
His body responded to her lush
beauty, just like it always had, and he was thankful for the dim light as he
shifted slightly to relieve the pressure under his button fly.
Another woman he recognized from
high school had come up behind her, but he couldn’t recall her name. A little
boy held her hand, his small frame tucked against her leg.
Regret filled him. They were
fighting in front of a kid. He turned back to Rosemary, ignoring her brother
completely. “Hi,” he said softly, his heart pounding fast.
Her mouth tightened. She didn’t act
happy to see him, and rather than return his greeting, she glanced up at her
brother. “Let’s just go.”
Go? Hell, no!
Caleb didn’t want her to leave, he just wanted to stare at her a little longer.
She was like candy to his soul and he was starving for her. By the hard expression
on her face, she didn’t want a damn thing to do with him.
And who could blame her?
had he been thinking, walking away from this woman?
Mason’s posture relaxed as he
glanced over to the woman and little boy.
Caleb hadn’t heard
about Rosemary’s brother getting hitched or anything.
“Mommy, can we go home now?” the
boy asked in a soft voice.
“In a moment, sweetheart,” Rosemary
Caleb’s world went black, and for a
moment he couldn’t breathe as his legs shook beneath him, the implication of
what just happened like a crowbar to the kneecaps.
He turned toward the little boy,
peeking out from behind the woman who still held his hand. Inhaling sharply,
Caleb stared into eyes that mirrored his own, a child wearing his face and shocking
red hair like his mother’s.