Hang tough, p.23
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       Hang Tough, p.23

         Part #8 of Blacktop Cowboys series by Lorelei James
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  “That’s it?”

  Tobin smirked behind his coffee cup. “I might warn her to buy earplugs since you’re loud in bed.”


  “Well, babe. You are. And it’s hot as hell so I’d never tell you to pipe down.”

  “Great. Now I’ll never be able to have sex in GG’s house.”

  He raised an eyebrow.

  She didn’t buy that lame argument either. She changed the subject. “Do you have to go into the Split Rock today?”

  “Ike is filling in for me. So we’re goin’ grocery shopping before we head back to Muddy Gap.”

  Jade groaned. “I went shopping yesterday and just remembered I left a carton of yogurt in my car.”

  “We’ll have to swing by and pick up your car after the store.”

  “Why can’t you go to the store without me?”

  “I always go to the store by myself.” He tugged her against him. “It’s lonely, it sucks and if I have a chance for a hot woman to be strolling beside me? I’m takin’ it.”

  She studied his handsome face.


  “How is it that a man who looks like you is still single?”

  Tobin blushed. “Jade. You’re sweet. But I’m not exactly a guy that turns women’s heads.”

  “You turned mine.” She stood on tiptoe, letting the stubble on his chin abrade her lips because she loved how it felt. “So I’ll go to the store with you because I know how much it sucks to shop for one. But know what’s worse? Eating out by yourself every night.”

  His eyes softened. “You end up doin’ that a lot, sweetheart?”

  “Honestly? Yes. More than I liked. My roommate had a boyfriend and I never wanted to be one of those people that always tags along. I have other friends, but again, I felt weird calling up and saying ‘Hey, wanna hit the soba noodle joint on East Twenty-third because I’m tired of eating takeout in front of the TV?’”

  He pressed his lips to her forehead. “Loneliness is loneliness regardless if you’re in a city surrounded by millions of people or out in the middle of nowhere surrounded by tumbleweeds and cows.”

  So how did she explain she felt less lonely in the few weeks that she’d been here than in the past two years at home?

  “Can I say something totally sappy?” he murmured in her hair.


  “I like you even more now that I know you understand that.”

  Her arms snaked around his neck, allowing her to maneuver his head so she could get at his mouth.

  Tobin hadn’t soothed her with sweet and gentle kisses. No, the man utterly seduced her, feeding her long, deep soul kisses that stirred something inside her she hadn’t felt for a very long time.


  Being Tobin’s lover meant he treated her differently in public. He held her hand as they crossed the grocery store parking lot. He touched her frequently—not in an overtly sexual way, though. But she did catch him watching her with that dark look of desire in his eyes. Then he’d blink and that intensity would be gone. Clearly she’d merely scratched the surface with him in the weeks they’d known each other, and she couldn’t wait to dig a little deeper to see what else she’d discover about him.

  He pushed the cart and seemed to have a set path in his head.

  “Did GG give you a grocery list?” she finally asked him.

  “She doesn’t need to anymore.”

  “Why? It’s the same every week?”

  Tobin shook his head. “It rotates every three weeks. This is the list she gave me the first week I moved in.”

  “It’s on your phone or something?”

  “Nope. I memorized it.”

  Jade peered into the cart. There were already fifty items in there. “How many—”

  “One hundred and twelve items this week. Make that one hundred and thirteen if we buy lube here. But I’m leaning toward stopping at the drugstore so I can buy a case of condoms too.”

  Her head whipped around. “A case?”

  He crowded her against the shelves of crushed tomatoes. “A case to start with and we’ll go from there.”

  “Tobin, you’re intimidating me.”

  He bent down and placed an openmouthed kiss on the pulse point on her neck. “No I’m not. You’re as excited about our sex-fest as I am.”


  “Yep.” His lips traveled up to her ear. “Hot, sweaty, dirty, sweet, fast, slow, quiet, loud, raunchy, fun . . . I want to try it all with you. And when I look in your eyes, tiger, I see the same curiosity and longing I know you see in mine.”

  “It should annoy me that you read me so well.”

  He chuckled. “But you’re already compiling a list of things you wanna try, aren’t you?”

  “Here’s a dash of cold water. We’re living with my grandmother. It’d be embarrassing for all of us if she waltzed into the kitchen and found you on your knees licking—”


  He straightened up and offered her a devilish smile before turning around.

  “Celia! Lady, I haven’t seen you in forever.”

  Jade took two steps away and immediately Tobin’s arm came around her shoulder.

  The blond woman flicked a quick glance at them before spinning around to say, “Brianna Lawson. Get back here right now.”

  A pigtailed little girl of about five raced back, her shoes sending out bright pink flashes of light with every footstep.

  “Mama! Up!” a girl with curly, dark hair strapped into the shopping cart yelled, and lifted her arms into the air.

  “Nice try, but you’re locked in for a reason.” She pointed at the little girl. “Hands on the cart.”

  “Okay, Aunt Celia.”

  The woman looked at Tobin and stepped around her niece. “It has been a while. I don’t get out as much as I used to. Seems my husband’s goal in life is to keep me knocked up.”

  Tobin acknowledged her baby bump with a chin dip. “How you feelin’?”


  That answer surprised Jade. She’d only heard pregnant women complain.

  “Last week when I saw Kyle he mentioned . . . twins?”

  She smiled. “Oh yes. Two for the price of one this time. Holt is starting on the addition next week so it’s done before calving starts. What a zoo that’ll be.” Then she focused on Jade. “I’m sorry; I’m usually not so rude.” She offered her hand. “I’m Celia Gilchrist. This hooligan is my niece Brianna and this is my daughter, Ashlyn.”

  “Jade Evans. Nice to meet you.”

  Celia cocked her head and her long braid swung to the side. “Evans. Garnet’s granddaughter?”


  “I heard—”

  A loud stomp sounded out followed by an equally loud, “Hey!”

  Jade glanced down at the freckle-faced, pigtailed girl who studied her suspiciously. “Hello, there.”

  She said, “Hola.” When Jade didn’t respond right away, she sighed. “You look kinda like her but you don’t talk like her.”

  This ought to be interesting. “Who?”

  “Dora the Explorer. She’s on TV. She speaks Español.”

  “Sorry to disappoint you, Brianna, but even though I am Hispanic and Asian I don’t speak Spanish or Chinese. I was adopted as a baby so I just speak English.”

  “I could teach you Español,” she offered.

  “How kind of you to offer. Thank you.” Jade looked at the girl’s aunt, but her focus winged between Tobin and Jade.

  “So . . . what’s goin’ on with you two? Did I see PDA in the grocery store?”

  Tobin grinned. “Yes, you did. We’re new at this couple thing. In fact we haven’t told Miz G yet, so is there a chance you can keep it on the down low?”

  “I can, but Kyle gossips like the Mud Lilies and there’s no way I’m keeping something this juicy from him.” She smirked. “’Bout damn time you got a woman of your own, Tobin.”

  Jade saw Tobin blush again.

nbsp; “Just keep Kyle from telling Sherry, until me’n Jade get this squared away, okay?”

  “Okay. But you know Mr. Romantic will be grilling you at the Split Rock first thing Monday mornin’.”

  “I figured.”

  Just then the little girl let out a bloodcurdling scream and started kicking her legs against the shopping cart.

  “That’s my cue to go,” Celia said.

  “Can you handle all this by yourself?” Tobin asked. “Do you need help with loading the groceries or the kids in your truck?”

  “You’re thoughtful to offer, T, but I’ll be fine. Kyle can help me once I get home.” She smiled at Jade. “Nice to meet you.”

  “Same here.” Then Jade waved at Brianna. “Adios.”

  She grinned ear to ear. “Adios.”

  Tobin stole a kiss as soon as they’d walked away. “Let’s get this done so we don’t miss Miz G’s conference call.”

  Jade put her hand on his chest. “Back up. We got sidetracked.”


  “From you telling me how you know all the items on GG’s week one grocery list.”

  He lifted his cowboy hat and ran his hand over his hair. “Here’s a little-known fact about me. I have a photographic memory.”

  “For real?”

  He nodded. “It’s not something I talk about because people either think I’m lying or they act as if they have the right to test me. Like I’m some kind of lab monkey that should be happy to perform on demand.”

  Jade stared at him.


  “I don’t know if I’ve ever been so jealous of a person in my entire life. Do you know how handy that would’ve come in for me? When I had to memorize a Shostakovich piece and twenty pages of a Kabalevsky concerto in the same week?”

  Relief crossed his face. “It came in pretty handy for mapping genomes and DNA sequences. It still does for the genetics work I’m doin’ on the side.”

  She poked him in the sternum. “See? That’s another thing I didn’t know about you that Riss mentioned last night.”

  “I’ll make you a deal. I’ll bore you with my genetics research for a short time if you’ll play your violin for me.”

  “You sure we’ll even have time for that with this ‘sex-fest’ plan of yours?” she teased.

  “My research will make for great pillow talk after we’ve rocked the mattress because it’ll definitely put you to sleep.” He ran his knuckles down her jawline. “Your musical selection will be foreplay because I’ll want to jump you after you’re finished.”

  Jade smirked. She had a tango to play him that was pure sex on strings. “You have yourself a deal.”

  Since Tobin refused to let her pay for any groceries, she informed him she’d stop at the drugstore and stock up on sex-fest supplies. And it was really cute when he blushed and wrote down the brand of condoms that fit him.

  By the time she arrived at GG’s house, he’d already hauled everything inside.

  They were each lost in their own thoughts as they put away the groceries.

  Jade’s phone rang first at the appointed time. “Morning, GG.”

  “Hang on, sweetheart, I’ve gotta loop Tobin into the conference call. Dadgummit. If I remember how to do this.”

  “Tobin is right here. I’ll put you on speaker.” Jade pointed at him.

  “Mornin’, Miz G.”

  “Can you hear me now?”

  Jade rolled her eyes.

  “Yes, ma’am, I can hear you fine. Can you hear us?”

  “Jade,” GG said. “Say something. Something nice,” she warned. “None of that bickering crap. I don’t have time for it.”

  Nervous, with no clue what to say, she broke out into the chorus of “Wannabe” by the Spice Girls.

  “Stop!” GG said, way too loudly. “I get it. You can hear me.”

  Tobin scrawled out WAY TO BE DISCREET in Sharpie across the newspaper that had been lying on the table.

  Jade snatched it out of his hand and smacked him with it.

  His grin promised retaliation.

  “Okay, kiddos, listen up. Me’n Pearl are in Denver waiting to board a plane to take us to Fort Lauderdale.”

  “What? Why?”

  “She got one of them last-minute cruise deals. And we made a pact that if this one ever came up again, we’d drop everything and go.”

  “Go where?” Jade demanded.

  “The Panama Canal.”

  “When did this come up?” Tobin asked.

  “First part of the week. Pearl didn’t know if there’d be cancellations until yesterday. She found out last night. Since neither one of you two were home, I just packed my stuff and we left at five a.m.”

  “GG, are you sure this is safe? And it’s not a scam?”

  “Oh pooh, girlie. I’ve been around the block a time or two. This is a once-in-a-lifetime trip for two old-timers like me’n Pearl. Might be our only chance to do it.”

  “How long will you be gone?”

  “Three weeks. We’re both too cheap to spring for international phone service, so we’ll be out of touch until we’re back in Los Angeles.” She cleared her throat. “But my trip don’t change nothin’ for either of you, you hear me? Tobin, I don’t trust that son of mine not to see this as a golden opportunity to get me packed up and moved out, so I still need you there, keeping an eye on Jade so she’s not pulling any funny business while I’m gone.”

  Jade’s gaze connected with Tobin’s when he said, “Trust me, Miz G, I will keep a very close eye on your granddaughter.”

  “Thank you, sonny. Now, Jade doll, you still there?”

  “I don’t know, GG. Maybe I’m up to my elbows in all sorts of funny business.”

  “Now, sweetheart, don’t be like that. I know you’re only following your daddy’s orders. That’s why you cannot let on that I’m on vacation, okay? You just keep on keepin’ on like I was there. And with all the stuff in my garden getting ripe, well, I’ll need you to put up some beans, pickles and okra. Peppers too. Maybe some pear chutney.”

  She froze. “Put up? What do you mean? Like bag them up?”

  “No. I mean pick ’em, clean ’em, and can ’em.”

  “What? I don’t know how to do any of that stuff!”

  A pause. “You don’t?”


  “Well then, it’s past time that you learned, doncha think?”

  Jade’s jaw dropped.

  Tobin laughed.

  “I put the rest of the Mud Lilies on notice that they’re to come over and check on you once a day to make sure you haven’t killed each other. Blood is damn hard to get off the walls. You gotta paint over it to get rid of it.”

  Don’t ask how she knows that, just let it go.

  “Miz G, Jade and I are reasonable, responsible adults. We don’t need your retired friends to babysit us. In fact . . .” Tobin sauntered
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