Branded as trouble, p.17
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       Branded as Trouble, p.17

         Part #6 of Rough Riders series by Lorelei James
 
Page 17

 

  She was nervous. Interesting.

  Colt pulled up to the back of the building.

  India said, “Is this where you tell me you had a great time and you’ll call me?”

  “No. ”

  “You didn’t have a great time?”

  “I had a fantastic time. ” He curled his hand around her jaw and turned her face to his. “I’d like nothin’ better than to come in, but we both know it’s better if I say goodnight here. ”

  She kissed him with sweet regret. “I’ll see you at the meeting tomorrow night?”

  “Yep. And afterward, I want to do something with you. ”

  “Not do something to me?” she teased.

  “Hold that thought for another twelve days. How about if we go out for ice cream?”

  A devious smile lit up her face. “With the no sex rule, you seriously think you can handle watching me lick an ice cream cone for more than thirty seconds?”

  The reality of her pink tongue lapping. Her mouth sucking.

  Watching her throat muscles as she swallowed the creaminess. No way. “Point taken. How about a—”

  “How about if you leave it up to me?”

  Colt frowned.

  “Innocent fun. I promise. ”

  ***

  “No peeking, McKay. ”

  “I can’t see a damn thing. ”

  “Good. ”

  After the A. A. meeting, India had commandeered his truck and blindfolded him. She held his hands as she helped him out of the passenger side. She kept holding his hands as they walked up a small incline. They were outside, on grass, not gravel. He was trying like hell not to be freaked out. He was hoping like hell this wasn’t some bizarre game of trust she’d concocted because he hadn’t participated in the one at the meeting again.

  “Ready? Keep your eyes closed. ”

  The silken scarf slipped from his eyes, teasing him with the aroma of her perfume.

  “Okay. You can open them. ”

  His eyes blinked a couple times. He looked around. Two swing sets, a jungle gym, a sandbox and monkey bars. They were in City Park.

  “A playground. You brought me to a playground?”

  “Yep. Pull up a swing. ” India ran to the swing on the left and hopped on the rubber seat. She wrapped her hands around the chains and started to move, pumping her legs.

  He ambled over and plopped next to her, straddling the swing so the chain followed the line of his spine and he could look at her.

  “Aren’t you gonna swing?”

  “Nope. I’d rather watch you. ”

  “Suit yourself. ” Each pass took her swing higher. The metal bars bounced and the chains squeaked.

  India’s movements hypnotized Colt. The wind ruffling her coal black hair, the ends colored a vivid blue, which emphasized the paleness of her skin. The scarf fluttered behind her in a jaunty wave as she swung forward.

  His stomach fluttered. God. She was so beautiful. So happy in her own tattooed and pierced skin. So honest and thoughtful and crazy fun. So…India.

  So mine.

  She slowed and stopped by letting her combat boots drag in the shallow dent in the dirt, facing him in mirror position. “Don’t you like to swing?”

  “Been so long I don’t remember. ” He grinned at her.

  “So…come here often?”

  India returned his grin. “No. Sky won’t let me bring Eliza yet. ”

  “So you brought me instead?”

  “Do you mind?”

  “Nope, I just don’t understand why. ”

  “This might sound silly and sappy and stupid. ”

  “I doubt it. ”

  She poked her fingers through the chain links. “You know all those romantic comedies where the man and woman end up in a park having a heart to heart on the swings? Or the swing set is their special meeting place from their childhood and they reconnect there as adults? Or where they had their first kiss?”

  “I guess. ”

  “I’ve never done anything like that. ”

  Colt waited.

  “My memories of schoolyards are mostly bad. Hanging around, looking for drugs, getting into trouble. I’d like to have a good memory. Something romantic like in the movies. ” She finally looked at him so earnestly his heart melted. “With you. ”

  “Ah hell, sugar, c’mere,” he managed over the lump in his throat. He scooted forward and yanked her chain, bringing her swing closer to his. “I’m not really romantic leading man material. ”

  “You are to me,” she said softly.

  Colt touched the side of her face. “Know one of my favorite things about you? You live in the moment. Without apology. With gusto. It’s a helluva thing to see. ”

  She appeared poleaxed by his words.

  When he leaned forward to kiss her, he urged, “Close your eyes. ”

  Her dark lashes fanned her cheek.

  He brushed his lips over hers. “Your mouth is so soft. Such a perfect fit for mine. ” At first, Colt kissed her with passion and promise, then he gentled the kiss into something wholly different.

  Sweetness. Tenderness.

  India sighed in his mouth.

  His smile broke their lips free. “So in any of these romantic comedies, do they end up doin’ it on the swing?”

  “Umm. No. ”

  “Pity. That, I’d pay to see. ”

  “Maybe we oughta jot that down on our kinky sex fantasy list to try, once we actually start having sex. ”

  “You have a…list of that kinda stuff?”

  “Uh-huh. Don’t you?”

  “No, but you can bet your sweet behind I’m startin’ one right now. ”

  She laughed.

  They held hands as they walked back to the truck. “Thank you for tonight. ”

  “You’re welcome. What are we doin’ tomorrow night?”

  “Nothing. We can’t have a date every night of the week, Colt. ”

  “Why the hell not?”

  “Because I think I’m supposed to play coy, bat my lashes, and pretend to be ‘busy’ washing my hair for the next two nights to keep you interested. ”

  He snorted. “The datin’ handbook clearly states we spend as much time together as possible to keep me interested. ”

  “There’s a handbook?”

  “Yep. ”

  “Then you’ve got an advantage over me because I’m flying blind here, Colt. ” India gave him all-too brief a kiss before she hopped out of the cab.

  He was damn tired of saying goodbye to her from the driver’s seat of his truck. And it was only their second date.

  Colt put India out of his mind during the hours he spent working on the ranch. She’d kept her tattoo shop open late some nights, so she’d bailed on him for a third date.

  When he’d called after breakfast and asked her plans for the evening, she’d offered some half-assed excuse. He couldn’t imagine she’d actually attempt the “playing hard to get” angle.

  Instead of brooding and pacing in his empty house, he headed to the community center. He ran. Lifted weights. It helped if he focused on the pain of pushing himself to the limit and couldn’t flash back to the way India felt in his arms. The sweet, addictive taste of her mouth. The intoxicating scent of her hair and her skin.

  Her soft, breathy moans when he kissed her. The husky, sexy timbre of her voice in his ear.

  Think of something else or you’re going to get a hard-on in the gym.

  Workout complete, he looped a towel around his sweaty neck and cut through the main hallway to the men’s locker room for a cold shower.

  But it seemed as if those reminders were stuck on a continual mental loop. India’s taste. Her scent. Her laugh. Her voice. Her instructions for everyone to sit down and listen up or no one would get a cookie.

  Huh?

  Colt shook his head. Pathetic. Hearing her phanto
m voice.

  Except…he took another step and heard it again.

  “No, Ginny. Poke a hole in the cup first. Then put in the gravel. ”

  His heart kicked harder than when he’d been running flat out on the treadmill. India was here? He followed the sound of her voice, coming from inside a small room. He hesitated outside the door, in case he was delusional and hearing things.

  “Once you get the soil in the cup—Jeremy honey, only fill it halfway, no, don’t pack it so tight—we’ll put in the seeds. ”

  “Oh, no, I spilled—” a girlish voice wailed.

  “It’s okay, Becca, don’t cry. I’ve got lots more. ”

  “But I wanted to take it home to my mommy tonight!”

  “You still can. We have time, sweetie, don’t worry. Go grab another cup and start over. I’ll be right there to help you. ”

  “India? Ruger threw a rock at Anton. ”

  “Did not!”

  “Did too. ”

  “No throwing rocks, Ruger. ”

  Colt poked his head in and saw…total chaos.

  At least ten kids, a mix of boys and girls, around seven years old, were flinging dirt all over a long table. A few boys were throwing small marble-sized gravel at each other. One red-haired girl poured water on a pile of dirt while an Indian girl stirred it into mud. A bespectacled kid was methodically stacking empty Styrofoam cups in precise rows. Some youngsters were actually sitting still, awaiting additional instructions.

  But India wasn’t fazed. She stopped the rock fight, the mud-pie makers, and managed to get the cups back in the plastic bag, all while directing the kids in the next step of the project.

  Colt was absolutely stunned. This was the woman who’d called him in a panic? About three kids? And she was juggling…ten? A disconcerting thought on its own, but not as confounding as why hadn’t India just told him about this when he’d called her this morning?

  “Whose daddy are you?”

  India looked over at him and froze.

  “I’m not anybody’s daddy. ” He glanced down at the tow-headed boy. “I was just passing by and wondered what you guys were doin’. Looks like fun. ”
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