“What do you mean you’re not coming home?” Her father sounded worried.
Summer tucked the phone against her shoulder and retreated further inside, watching two drenched cowboys move past her, heading toward the stalls through the pelting rain. No one had expected a storm like this at the National Finals Rodeo. “I know I promised Dad, but I also promised to be careful, and driving with the truck like this would be asking for trouble.”
“You sure you’re okay?”
“I’m fine. I’ll get the brakes checked out in the morning and call when I head out.” She disconnected the call and sighed. She may have told her father she was fine, but she still had to figure out where she was going to stay. Her hotel was already sold out for the third night of the National Finals and she wasn’t likely to find a room on such short notice. This was supposed to be a quick trip down and back from Vegas to watch a friend crowned Miss Rodeo America but, like most other spectators this year, she wasn’t prepared for the storm that blew in this morning. When her truck started with its God-awful grinding noises, she knew she had no chance of making it home. She pulled her hands into the cuffs of her sweatshirt and stuffed her fists into the front pocket. It was going to get really cold tonight if she had to sleep in her truck.
“Doc? Is that you?”
Summer narrowed her gaze and peered through the sheeting rain on the cowboy walking his horse in from the rain. “David?”
Her heart stopped for a moment before pounding against her ribs, and she felt a nervous flutter all the way into
her toes. Tall, broad-shouldered David Greenly ducked into the makeshift barn and headed toward her. He wore the typical cowboy uniform of Wranglers and a long-sleeved Western shirt, but soaked from the rain with his shirt clinging to his chest, he sure filled it out better than most men did. He tipped his dark hat back on his head and stopped his horse as he reached her.
“I thought that was you. It’s been a while.”
She smiled up at him and reached a hand out to pet his horse’s forehead. “So, you and Chris made it to the finals? How are you doing so far?”
David dipped his head, looking almost shy. “Pretty good, sitting third overall right now. ‘Course, that might have something to do with a pretty vet telling me to rest my horse a few months back.”
He shot her a playful grin and her heart doubled its breakneck speed. When she’d first met him at the West Hills Round Up, she’d treated his horse for a stone bruise. Hardly anything that would affect his roping times now. She tried to laugh it off. “Yeah, that’s why. It couldn’t have anything to do with the fact that you’re the best heeler in the nation, right?”
She saw color creeping over his neck and jaw. Was he blushing? David cleared his throat. “What brings you to Vegas?”
“I just came to see a friend in the queen competition. Now I have to get my truck fixed.” David’s brows pinched together over his eyes. “I think it’s the brakes,” she clarified. “I’ll get them checked out tomorrow and head back after.”
“Most of the hotels are booked. Do you have a place to stay?” David rubbed his hand over his jaw. The rasp of his palm against the stubble made a shiver tumble down her spine as she wondered what it would feel like against her fingers. His whiskey colored eyes met hers and she could read the concern in them.
She’d seen enough the last time to realize he was a player, like a lot of the cowboys on the circuit. She wasn’t about to be a notch on any cowboy’s belt. But that didn’t stop her from watching his lips and wondering how it would feel to have them against her own. Summer found herself drawn to him, almost like she’d been hypnotized, the same way she had been at the last rodeo. She didn’t want to like him, to feel this pull between them she couldn’t explain.
She shrugged. “I’ll figure something out.”
“Maybe your friend?” David knew he was asking for trouble as soon as he made his way toward the sexy veterinarian-in-training. Her pretty blue eyes had haunted him ever since West Hills when he’d tried to explain the situation she’d misconstrued. There’d been something about her then, something he hadn’t been able to forget since. He eyed her speculatively. He couldn’t just leave her stranded. There was no way she’d be able to find a room with the rodeo in town.
“No.” She frowned. “She’s got three girls staying with her and they have a ton of events still to do for the next week of the rodeo. Worst case scenario, I’ll just sleep in my truck.”
He tried not to register the surprise on his face. “Summer, this is Vegas — it’s a desert, remember? Do you realize how cold it can get?” She just shrugged again. “Come on,” he sighed. “I’ve got living quarters in my trailer. You can stay with me tonight and just get your car fixed in the morning.”
She crossed her arms and refused to move, kicking her hip to one side. “Excuse me? Do I look like one of your
buckle bunnies? You can’t just crook your finger and expect me to jump in the sack with you.”
Desire swirled hot and languid, settling below the belt buckle low on his hips, making his Wranglers a tad uncomfortable. If only. David realized he’d just proposed the exact scenario that had chased her away in West Hills. He’d rescued a damsel in distress for the evening and he still hadn’t been able to explain the situation to her. Here he was, doing it again.
David shook his head. “That’s not what I was doing. You can take the bed and I’ll sleep on the couch. I promise I’ll be a perfect gentleman.” She arched a dubious brow. If only she knew how wrong she was. He didn’t sleep around. Hell, he didn’t even date, at all. The last time he’d even tried, he’d lost the girl to his best friend. “I know you have this idea about me but, I swear, you’re completely off base.”
He saw the flicker of doubt in her cornflower blue eyes and she twisted her mouth to one side and poked a finger into his chest. “Okay, but if you so much as try to cop a feel, I get your prize check.” Her lips spread in a smile and her eyes darkened mischievously.
“That would be a damn expensive trip to second base.”
“I’m not cheap, cowboy.”
Summer shouldn’t have been considering her truck breaking down good luck, but how many times did a girl get to hang out behind the chutes at the National Finals with the best rodeo cowboys in the world? She knew several of them from other local rodeos, but it was a completely different atmosphere at the Finals. Anticipation was on overload and every ride was textbook perfect whether it was bronc riding or roping. She still wasn’t sure how David had finagled a pass for her but she wasn’t about to turn down the best Christmas gift she could have asked for. She watched him as he sat talking with his partner, Chris Thomas, before their event, grateful he was too focused on his ride to notice the way she was gawking at him.
The man wasn’t just good-looking, he was striking. Everything about him oozed sex appeal, from his dark, brooding eyes to his full lips. He was quiet and soft-spoken, but intensity hung around his shoulders like a coat. His hands slid absently over the rope, almost caressing it as he shifted in his saddle, adjusting his reins. She tried not to visualize how those fingers would feel against her skin, trailing over her-
“Hey, Summer.” Alicia Kanani, Chris’s fiancée, sidled up to the gate where Summer was admiring David. “I hear you had some brake trouble.” She gave Summer a grin that clearly said she was plotting something.
“I’m getting them fixed in the morning then heading home.” Summer jerked her chin toward the pair in the warm up arena. “They’re doing pretty well, huh?”
“Yep, and if things keep up this way, we may have to double book our clinics this year.”
“David said you three were starting a rodeo school together.” She smiled at the woman beside her. “And, that there’s a wedding being planned? Congratulations.”
“Thanks,” Alicia ducked her head, shyly, and leaned her forearms on the gate. “David said you’re staying in his trailer tonight. Why don’t the two of you come out with Chris and me. We can celebrate? Hopefully, we’ll be celebrating another good run, too.”
Summer looked at David as he set his loop, swinging it to warm up his shoulder. What would it really hurt to go out and have a good time? If she was going to be stuck in Vegas with David Greenly for the night, she might as well be where there were plenty of eyes and far less temptation. He said she had the wrong idea about him, but she wasn’t about to risk her heart on finding out the hard way. “If David’s game, I’ll go,” she agreed
Chris ordered another round of drinks for the three of them while David nursed the same warm beer he’d been drinking all night. He wasn’t overly thrilled with their fourth place finish, but they were celebrating Alicia’s second barrel racing go-round win and he wasn’t about to put a damper on her fun. He pretended not to notice Summer, twisting and twirling on the dance floor to the country music the deejay was blaring. Even in a bar filled with cowboys and wannabes, flocking to Sin City for the Finals, she stood out. Unlike most of the buckle bunnies who were grinding and thrusting against anyone wearing a buckle, Summer moved to the music with dignity and class. She didn’t need to broadcast her sex appeal with cleavage and too-small denim skirts, but that didn’t stop every cowboy from turning toward her as she made her way through the throng of people back to their table wearing a simple Western shirt and jeans. David worried he might have to fight one or two of the more adamant males off, so when she approached him, after a very drunk cowboy had just asked her to dance, he knew she wanted him to be her decoy.
She reached for his hand, her fingers barely brushing his, and he cursed the electric jolt it sent straight to his groin. “Dance with me?”
Chris laughed as he took another swig from his beer. “David, dance? Now that would be a Christmas miracle.”
Arching a brow at his best friend, David rose from his seat and twined his fingers through hers. He saw her breath catch and her eyes darken.
Probably just bad lighting in the bar, he convinced himself. He held a hand behind him and flipped Chris the bird as he edged Summer to the dance floor. Just then, the music slowed. As the ballad began, David felt a moment of panic, knowing he couldn’t very well back out now. Pulling her close, he kept one hand at her lower back and held the other against his chest, Summer’s fingers still twined in his. She fit against him perfectly, like two parts of a whole finally come together.. Her breath fanned against his shirt, tickling his neck and sending fire to his veins. Her long, blonde hair brushed his hand at her back, and his fingers ached to slip through the silken tresses.
He was dying to kiss her, to taste her, to touch her. David took a deep breath and his agony intensified as his hand splayed over her back, pulling her even closer, pressing her breasts into his chest. The sweet vanilla scent of her made him want to bury his face into her neck and breath her in. A soft sigh escaped her lips and he knew this was his only chance to pull away before she sucked him in completely. She had cast a spell over him from the moment she’d first helped him months ago.
David let go of her hand, letting his fingers brush back a stray lock of hair caught in her thick, dark lashes. She blinked up at him with blue eyes too innocent, too trusting. He shouldn’t do what he was about to, but when his head dipped and he touched his lips to hers, he wasn’t about to stop. Her lashes fanned over her cheeks as her eyes closed and she sucked in a breath, giving him the opportunity he’d been waiting six months for. David slid his tongue past her teeth to taste her. She was sweet like sunshine and honey.
Her fingers clenched against the wall of his chest before she slid her hand behind his neck, drawing him closer, standing on her toes and pressing her body into his. David fought the desire curling and twisting in him, heating his blood, making his head spin. His body throbbed against hers, their hearts racing in unison, as her tongue danced with his. He could almost forget the people dancing around them, almost forget the Finals. Hell, she almost made him forget his own name. He wanted her, had ever since he met her, but he knew once would never been enough.
What the hell am I thinking? Summer was the kind of woman men dreamed of finding to settle down with, the one they built dreams of kids, family, and forever on. He had far too many unresolved issues to even think about pursuing a relationship with someone: his still tumultuous partnership with Chris, the rodeo school they’d just begun and, most importantly, his father’s alcoholism. But knowing didn’t stop the need.
Summer looked up at him, her blue eyes shimmering like gems. “Let’s go,” she whispered.
“Back to the trailer.” Her lips were only a breath from his and he could feel them as she spoke, moist and so damn tender against his. He sucked on her lower lip.
“I thought you said-”
She looked up at him, her eyes hot with hunger as they met his. “Keep your damn check and don’t make me think twice
He wanted to fall back on logic, to trust his brain to get him out of this, but when images of making love to Summer filled his mind, reason went out the window. Forget it, she could have his prize check, his horse and his entire trailer. Spending the night with Summer might be a huge mistake, but he wasn’t going to waste any more time wondering what it felt like to hold her. Not when he had the real woman in his arms now, asking him for everything he wanted to give.
I hope you enjoyed this glimpse of how David and Summer begin! Be watching for their story (coming soon!)
This first appeared as part of a holiday collaboration with some other great authors. If you want to see their work, be sure to click the graphic!