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Authors: Becky McGraw

Tags: #Romance

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BOOK: Worth the Trouble
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"You wear
those to bed too?" he asked snidely, the thought sending his blood pressure shooting up as tingles started south of the border.

"
You should know the answer to that question," she told him snidely, folding her arms under her breasts, pushing the delicious mounds upward. 

"I don't remember anything except the hay rash I had the next day,
" he told her with a rude bark of laughter, as if their time together meant nothing to him.  If it took insulting the confounding woman to get her to leave him the hell alone, that's what he would do.  Her smile faded and guilt floated through him. 

"
Well, I hear head injuries can cause memory loss," she told him evenly, but her gray eyes glittered with hurt and anger.

"My memory is just fine
," he huffed then shoved the wheels of his chair harder.

"
Obviously not...I seem to recall you yelling my name pretty loudly when I rode you to the finish line."

Blood rushed to his groin and
even though both the timing and the cause sucked, Ethan felt the beginnings of a full fledged hard on coming on as memories of that particular time floated through his mind.  He couldn't be upset about it.  His equipment evidently still worked just fine, which was damned good to find out.

"
You were wrenching my dick off that's why I was yelling," he replied meanly, then added, "Just leave me the hell alone, Roxanne.  That night was a one off." 

He thought he heard her mumble, "There's nothing smooth talking about him now, you can handle this."

"So, what are you doing here, Roxanne?"

"I
don't know why, but I want to help you, Ethan," she told him. 

She wanted to help Terri, that's why
she was putting up with him, and she realized that Ethan was probably hurting and that was partly why he was being an asshole.  For a man like him, it also had to be embarrassing for him to have her see him this way, so she could understand to some degree. 

The other part was he was evidently just an asshole, and she had been a fool to think otherwise.  She could handle this Ethan.

"I don't want your help," he told her gruffly.  "I don't ride, hell I can't even walk right now."

"You
can ride if I teach you."

"Like you taught my sister?" he asked with a
sarcastic smirk.

"That was a joke and Terri wasn't
handi--um," Rocky stuttered with heat crawling up her neck.  Rocky had put Terri on Cason, the biggest and roughest ride on the ranch, when she was learning to ride.  It was just for fun, a rite of passage, an initiation into the fold of ranch employees.  His sister had passed with flying colors, and had paid her back in kind, which is how they wound up such good friends.

He stopped the wheelchair and pinned her with his eyes.

"Handicapped?" he finished for her gruffly with a raised brow and tight jaw. 

Even though he had been doing his damndest to insult her, t
he last thing she wanted to do was hurt or insult him.  He needed confidence, not insults, which would lead to even more reason for him to feel sorry himself. 

Sympathy
washed through her and Rocky stuck her thumbs in the back pocket of her jeans then rocked back on her heels searching her mind for the right words.

"
Get the hell out of here, Roxanne, I don't want your fucking pity, and I don't want your equine therapy.  Not doing it." Ethan grated then spun the wheelchair toward the door.

"I don't
need to pity you, Ethan, you're doing enough of that yourself!" Rocky said behind him, then held the door open for him when he couldn't manage.

With a growl
and a hot glare, he wheeled himself inside and went straight over to the hot tub.  Rocky walked in behind him and the strong scent of chlorine hit her in the face, then warm moist air wrapped itself around her like a wet blanket, as she let the door close behind her.  Across the room, the hot tub sat in a corner looking like a boiling pot with steam rising out if it in ghostly fingers.  Soft, intimate lighting made the room peaceful and calming.

She
had worked here since the ranch opened last year, but had never ventured into the spa before.  It wasn't her cup of tea, although her sister and mother took advantage of them often.  She thought she could definitely use some unwinding time in this place, though. 

Maybe when nobody was around, she would check it out closer.
 

Ethan
stopped at the steps of the hot tub, shoved the brakes of the chair forward angrily, then grabbed the hem of his t-shirt and pulled it over his head.  When he dropped it to the floor, Rocky sucked in a breath as her eyes drank in his smooth muscled flesh.

She saw the b
lack tribal flame tattoos which circled both of his biceps and her eyes traced them as hungrily as her tongue had the night they made love in the hayloft.

Looking at Ethan Cassidy was something she couldn't help doing
, even though she was never going to let herself have him again.  Like a thoroughbred horse she couldn't afford, she appreciated perfection, coveted him from a distance, but she knew looking was all she would ever do again...all she would let herself do.

When Ethan
grabbed the metal bar on the side of the hot tub and pulled himself up, his muscles flexed deliciously.  Leaning on the edge of the tub, he unlaced then removed a rigid white back brace she had no idea he had been wearing.  It dropped to the floor, and her jaw went with it when she noticed the long thick red scar along his spine.  Her fingers itched to run over it to smooth away the pain he must be having. 

Evidently u
nconcerned that she was still in the room, his hands went to the waistband of his shorts and he shoved them down to his hips.  All the moisture in her mouth dried up and headed south as the shorts slid down his long muscular legs to pool at his ankles, leaving his firm backside in plain view. 

It took a minute for Rocky to gain control of her facial muscles and tongue, but when she did,
she said, "Um, I think I'll head out now."

"
Come over here and help me get in," he ordered, grabbing a towel to wrap it around his waist.  When he turned around and sat on the top step, his smile made her feel like Little Red Riding Hood must've felt facing the wolf in that children's book.

"I'll go get Terri," Rocky ba
lked, taking a step back toward the door.

"Terri won't come back, she's pissed at me," he
told her folding his arms over his chest, which put his pectoral muscles on prime display.

They were alone, and Terri wasn't coming back
is what he was really saying. 

When she
hesitated and swayed back toward the door, his grin widened.  Rocky had no doubt he knew exactly what that smile did to women, what it was doing to her.  He was messing with her, trying to make her
want
to leave.

"I won't bite, darlin'...unless you want me to," he
drawled and one side of his grin kicked up cockily sending her heart dancing around in her chest.

She should just walk out, leave him to wallow in his self-pity, but Rocky wasn't
going to let him have the satisfaction of running her off, and she was determined to help him recover, for Terri's sake.  Whether he wanted to admit it or not, he
needed
her help and with more than getting in that hot tub. 

"I'll help you, but don't get fresh
," she warned and walked over to the hot tub.

He raised two fingers to his brow and said, "Scout's honor."

She snorted then asked, "You were a boy scout?"

"Troop leader," he replied
proudly and dropped his hand to his thigh.

"Of course
."  Ethan Cassidy would be a leader at everything he attempted.  The problem was that right now he wasn't attempting anything to help himself get better. 

This nursing thing was way out of Rocky's realm of expertise
, but she was going to try her best to help him.  The problem was going to be making Ethan
want
to get better.  Without that, there would be no hope of recovery.  Unfortunately, hope is exactly what he was lacking now, and what she was determined to give him back.

Horses were her specialty, not humans.  A degree in equine science made her a damned good horse trainer, but
it didn't qualify her to help this man.  She knew how to rehabilitate horses, not people.

But she was going to damn well try to help.

Of course, she had heard about those programs and their successes with disabled kids and adults, but she had never visited a facility or taken training in it.  To help Terri though, to help Ethan, she would learn and give it her best shot. 

The p
rintouts from the internet that Terri had given her explained a lot, and the therapy lesson plan she had another facility fax to her were definitely going to help.  With Ethan's cooperation and participation, Rocky felt certain she could do this, and that it would help him, but Terri had been on target when she said he was frustrated and depressed.

Rocky could definitely see why. 
If she was in his position, she would feel the same way, probably worse, and could only hope that someone would step up and help her.

When he was here
last year, he had been hanging out of a helicopter to save his sister from a flooded creek, and riding bad ass bulls in the bull riding adventure here at the ranch.  Seeing Ethan disabled and in a wheelchair now made her step back and appreciate how quickly life could change. 

Rocky knew men though,
she had worked with them long enough, and coddling him wasn't going to get him anywhere.  He needed a challenge and that was what she was going to give him.

"Well, if you had finished your reps in the gym she wouldn't be pissed at you,"
Rocky told him accusingly.

"What's the damned use?  I c
an't be a firefighter anymore, or work with the Texas Task Force either.  It doesn't really matter one way or another if I'm on my feet again, but she keeps pushing."  His tone was a conflicted mix of desperation and despair.

"She loves you, idiot,
and she's worried," Rocky told him then shook her head and finished, "I had no idea you gave up that easily.  The last time you were here you landed flat on your ass ten times, before you got a good ride on that bull.  Every time you got thrown, you got back up.  I was a little impressed."  A lot more than that had impressed her about the man, but she wasn't trying to make his head swell here, she was trying to get him to want to get better.

"I could
get up by myself then. I wasn't a washed up invalid," he grumbled then put his palms on the edge of the tub and pushed up.  His hand slipped, his legs slid sideways off of the steps, and he came down hard on his hip on the top step.  Just before he tumbled down the steps, he caught himself. 

"Fuck!"
he shouted struggling to find his balance.

Rocky ran to him and
put her arms around him to help steady him.  His heart was racing and his body trembled.  "Easy..." she said softly, soothing him like she would a skittish horse.  "Giving up is not the answer, Ethan."

"Neither is trying," he
replied then growled, "People pitying me just pisses me off.  Not being able to do shit pisses me off...I'm just pissed off."  The defeat in his voice about killed her. 

S
he helped him get upright then sat on the step below him.  "You have a right to be mad, this should never have happened to you.  All you were doing is trying to help someone.  That's who you are, what you do.  Now, you need to let me help you."

When h
is eyes met hers, they were filled with so much misery it took her breath away.  "I don't know who I am now," he admitted, his tight jaw telling her how much it took for him to admit that.

Rocky put her hand on his thigh and squeezed.  "You're not
Superman anymore, Ethan, but you are worth something.  You'll figure it out, but it's gonna take time.  Be patient and don't push yourself.  Take it one day at a time."

His lips twisted then he said,
"Since all I have is time now, I guess that won't be a problem."

"Instead of feeling sorry for yourself and walking around with a grudge against the world, focus that energy on getting back on your feet,
and doing what the doctor tells you to do. Accept help from the people who care about you."

"Needing help isn't something I'm familiar with.  Other people leaned on me, I didn't lean on them.  I'm not used to being...helpless."

"You're not helpless.  You are still that same strong guy you were before you got hurt, the only difference is the one you need to help now is yourself."

Ethan stared at her a moment then dropped his eyes to his hands. 
"I haven't talked to anyone about any of this, so don't share it with my sister, please."

BOOK: Worth the Trouble
7.04Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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