Miss firecracker, p.10
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       Miss Firecracker, p.10

         Part #2 of Wild West Boys series by Lorelei James
 
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Page 10

  Author: Lorelei James

  That big jerk. Paul knew exactly when her father planned to return. “Tuesday. ”

  “Yeah, I believe you’re right. ” He nodded at Blake. “Good meeting you. Take care. You need anything, holler. ”

  “Thanks. ”

  She didn’t say a word until Paul’s truck was gone.

  “Interesting friend you have there,” Blake said. He shoved her duffel bag beneath the toolbox.

  “He’s not my friend; he’s my employee. ”

  “At any rate, word’s gonna get around town about you bein’ out with me. ”

  “Does that bother you?”

  “No. ” He paused. “But I’m pretty sure it bothers you. ”

  Before she could protest, he’d climbed into the truck and slammed the door.

  Halfway into town, Willow decided enough with the silence. “Look, Blake—”

  “No need to explain. In fact, I wish you wouldn’t. ” He directed his sigh out the window. “I understand. And believe it or not, I’m used to it. ”

  Darn it. She didn’t want his easy acceptance. She wanted his anger. Maybe even a hint of his possessiveness. She wanted to know where she stood with him.

  With the standoffish way he’s acting, you already know.

  Willow just didn’t know what to do about it.

  ***

  Another slow afternoon in the bar business.

  She and Blake hadn’t spoken much. If he wasn’t busy restocking or handling phone calls, he was in the office doing paperwork.

  Right. He was avoiding her.

  Do you blame him?

  No. But this was the perfect example of why she hadn’t had a steady boyfriend since she’d been away at Vo-tech. This male/female sex thing seemed harder as she got older, not easier.

  She spent her days surrounded by men, but she couldn’t get a date to save her life. Even if it weren’t against company rules for her to “fraternize” with the men who worked for her, Willow doubted they’d be lining up to ask her out anyway.

  First of all, any potential date would have to deal with her father.

  Second of all, very few of the men she knew actually saw her as a woman. She was “Will”, their buddy, their pal, their boss.

  Maybe that was another reason she hadn’t skipped out when Destiny had tossed her name in the Miss Firecracker ring. If guys around here heard she’d been in the running for the coveted title of “beauty queen” some man would buck up and take her out.

  Wrong. She couldn’t even land a date after winning the darn swimsuit competition.

  How sad: she’d hoped her title and crown would serve as a booty-call.

  And oh yeah, Blake West was the ultimate booty-call.

  But what did he see in her? He certainly could have his pick of the ladies with that remarkable body, sweet nature and charming smile.

  Was she an amusement? Was she just another out-of-town bar booty-call?

  The strange thing was, Blake seemed to like her. And he wanted her. They’d had sex three times in twelve hours. Three times. And she’d have sex with him three more times if he asked her.

  Yeah, chances were slim that was gonna happen after his assumption she was embarrassed to be seen with him.

  Aren’t you?

  No.

  Too bad she couldn’t fix things between them as easily as she fixed the wall. She crouched on the floor and used the trowel to work the mud into the right consistency, comforted by the familiar sound of steel scraping on steel.

  Then she applied the Sheetrock mud to the first hole. And the second. The splat, push, scrape, splat, push, scrape returned her to the part of herself she’d always felt confident in: her job. It’d probably only take two coats and some light sanding to repair the damage.

  She’d just wiped off an excess blob, when she heard Blake’s footsteps stop behind her. She felt him studying her handiwork and she fought against bristling up.

  Finally, he said, “That looks great, Willow. You definitely know your way around patching. ” He leaned closer. “Did you use mesh tape to shore it up?”

  “Nope. Just mud. It didn’t appear to be cracked. ”

  “You gonna do two coats?”

  “Yeah. I figure this’ll be dry by the time the bar closes and I can put another coat on before I go home tonight. ”

  “What would you charge for a patch job like that?”

  “Probably two hundred. ”

  “Then I’ll subtract that amount from your damages. ”

  “Even if I’m the one who caused them?”

  “Yep. ”

  Was Blake so eager to be rid of her that he’d speed up her repayments?

  Can you blame him?

  After setting aside her trowel and the trough, she pushed to her feet. When she looked at Blake, he wore the oddest expression. He reached out and gently touched her face. Heat flowed through her.

  But he merely wiped her cheek. “Got a little bit of Sheetrock mud right here. ”

  “Oh. Thanks. ”

  They stared at each other.

  “That’s not all. ”

  “What?”

  Blake let his gaze drop to her lips. “You’ve got something on your mouth. ”

  Her hand came up as if to wipe it away. “What?”

  “Mine. ” He pulled her close. The kiss was hot and hungry. And public. They were right in front of the windows.

  Blake jammed his hands in the back pockets of her jeans and ground the lower half of her body into his.

  He was hard. Really hard. Perfectly hard.

  The kiss went on and on, from ravenous to sweet back to greedy. When they kissed like this, the world fell away.

  Naturally the cowbell above the door clanked, wrecking the moment.

  “Geez you two. Get a room. ”

  Blake reluctantly let go of her.

  Willow composed herself and faced the customer.

  Figured she knew him. Don Dreyfuss, who owned the International Harvester dealership. “Mr. D. What brings you into LeRoy’s on this fine afternoon?”

  “The missus had to come into town to play Bunko. I thought I’d sneak in for a nip and a peek at the game before I head home. ” He frowned at the blank TV screen. “What is wrong with you people? Why isn’t the Rockies game on?”

  “Sorry. I forgot,” Blake said. “I had other things on my mind. ”

  Mr. D. sent Blake a sly look. “Well, I can see what kind of ‘things’ might’ve been distracting. I don’t much blame you. ”

  Blake grinned. “What’ll you have?”

  “Michelob Ultra. Gotta watch my damn carbs. The wife says I’m getting pudgy. ”

  She let Blake handle the order while she picked up her tools and set them in the storeroom. She’d barely unscrambled her brain when Blake spun her around and pinned her against the wall. “What was that kiss about, Will?”

  “Didn’t you like it?”

  “Of course I liked it. I just don’t…get you. One minute you’re banging my brains out in your shower. The next you’re standing twenty feet away from me practically shouting to your ‘employee’ that we’re just friends. Then you’re sucking my tonsils out of my throat in full view of anyone who’d happen to stroll by the bar. So, yeah, I’m a little confused. ”

  Join the club.

  “What’s going on between us?”

  “Do we have to put a name to it, Blake? Can’t we just…I don’t know, have a good time with each other while you’re here?”

  “And you’re fine with us just havin’ a good time?”

  It was cute how his cowboy accent became more pronounced when he was angry. “Yes. Aren’t you?”

  “I’m gonna hafta be, aren’t I?”

  What was that supposed to mean?

  Before she could ask him, he ducked out the door.

  Chapter Six

  Blake
dumped a bucket of ice in the bin, a little harder than necessary.

  Dammit. Didn’t it just figure?

  Can’t we just have a good time while you’re here?

  For the last couple years Blake had been that guy, searching for a good time with a woman who wasn’t looking for a permanent relationship. A woman who’d walk away with a smile.

  He’d sworn that’s what appealed to him, even when he’d never quite found it.

  But meeting Willow, the real Willow, not the drunken spitfire but the funny, honest, caring, and capable woman had turned him inside out. She was a woman who wanted to fit in as much as she wanted to set herself apart. She was a woman with spirit and loyalty. She was a woman who was tough as nails, yet as sweet as pie. She was a woman who owned her passionate nature without apology.

  Yet, she was also a woman who was looking for a good time. A woman who wasn’t looking for a permanent relationship. A woman who’d walk away with a smile.

  Didn’t it just figure he’d found what he thought he’d wanted…only to realize that wasn’t what he wanted at all?

  Blake slammed the metal cooler lid and swore again.

  Mr. D. blasted him with a stern look over the top of his beer bottle. “Son. That’s not helping your situation any. ”

  “What situation would that be, sir?”

  “The fact you’re nuts about that little gal back there. ” He lifted a hand, waving off Blake’s objection. “Don’t bother denying it. ”

  “I’m not. ”

  “That liplock sorta indicated to me she feels the same way about you. ”

  “Maybe she would if she didn’t believe I was just Good Time Charlie, the loafing bartender, about to skip outta town when my gig is done. ”

  “Aren’t you?”

  “No. ”

  “Then don’t you think you oughta be telling her that, not me?”

  He snorted. “Like it’d matter. ”

  “It might. Then again, it might not. ” Mr. D. finished his beer and shoved the empty bottle across the bar. “You met her dad yet?”

  Blake shook his head.

  “You will. If nothin’ else, that’ll cool your ardor for her right quick. Big Kenny Gregory is an ornery S. O. B. , especially when it comes to his baby girl—or should I say, when it comes to men and his baby girl. ”
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