Shoulda Been a Cowboy, Page 26Lorelei James
Just drop off the shirt and leave.
Cursing her flip-flopping behavior, she grabbed the plastic bag and headed for the front door.
Several minutes passed before a nearly bald man, wearing camo and a Vin Diesel scowl, loomed in the doorway. “Yes?”
“Is Cam here?”
“Oh. Well, I stopped by to drop off his shirt. ”
“Who are you?”
“Domini, umm Domini Katzinski. I’ll just leave it—”
“How do you know Cam, Domini, umm, Domini Katzinski?”
What was with the sarcasm and the third degree? Was this guy a cop? Too bad she didn’t have the guts to snap off, “I’m fucking Cam. What’s it to you, asshole?” Instead, she said, “We’re…friends. ”
“And your friend Cam just happened to leave a dress shirt at your house?”
“Does this happen often?”
“No. It was the first time. ”
His sharp gaze softened and those melted chocolate eyes widened. Then his mouth broke into an enormous grin that would’ve made her weak-kneed—if she hadn’t already succumbed to the power of Cam McKay’s smile. “Why don’t you come in?”
“That’s not nec—”
“I insist. ” The guy strong-armed her into the house. He flashed that devastating smile again. “I’m Brock Tennyson. Cam and I go back to basic training. ”
“Cam mentioned you’d planned to visit. ” This Brock guy was absolutely mouthwatering. Brown eyes and skin the color of rich coffee. He was built like a dream, deeply cut muscular arms, a contoured chest, trim hips and waist, yet he wasn’t as impossibly muscle bound as Cam.
“Funny, Cam didn’t mention you, sweet Domini. ”
“I’m not surprised. ” Since it’s just sex between us.
“Cam’ll be back any minute. Would you like a beer while you wait?”
Say no. “Maybe just one. ”
“That’s a girl. ”
Domini followed Brock and froze in the entryway into the kitchen. “Is Gracie here?”
“She’s sleeping on the deck out back. She did a lot of running today. Why? Did you want me to bring her in?”
“No! I mean, that’s good she’s outside. I don’t really…get along with dogs. ”
“But Gracie isn’t just any dog. ”
Where had she heard that before?
Brock popped the cap on a bottle of Corona and handed it over. “Didn’t Cam tell you how he ended up with Gracie?”
She shook her head.
“When Cam was rehabilitating in Cheyenne, this do-gooder group began showing up with ‘therapy animals’. At that time Cam was in his bitter stage and he didn’t want anything to do with anyone, let alone an animal. He refused the therapy, but one day Gracie escaped from her handler and cowered under his bed.
“He didn’t rat her out. He realized she didn’t want to be a therapy animal any more than he wanted one. Long story short, they bonded and the people were more than happy to pass Gracie off to Cam, because she’d broken the rules and attached herself to one person. ”
“I know how she feels,” Domini muttered.
Brock’s eyebrows drew together but he didn’t comment.
Domini stayed mum and swigged her beer.
“You an MMA fan?”
He sighed. “I’ll have to whip that white boy for your lack of education. Come into the living room and prepare to be enlightened on the ways of the ring warrior. ”
She perched on the edge of the couch and watched two guys beating the crap out of one another with punches, kicks and wrestling moves. Brock cheered them. Booed them. It wasn’t her thing, but she saw how it’d appeal to men with an abundance of testosterone. Like Brock. Like Cam.
“So how long have you known Cam?” he asked.
“He’s been coming into the restaurant I manage for a while. Only recently have we…started seeing each other outside of working hours. ”
“You’re very diplomatic, Domini. Where are you from? Switzerland?”
“No, the Ukraine. ” Her head snapped up. Blood tinged her cheeks. “I get it. Neutral. Switzerland. Funny. ”
Brock shrugged. “I’m guessing it wasn’t a picnic living in the Ukraine after the Chernobyl disaster and the fall of the Soviet Union. ”
“It was bad, which was why I left. ”
“Not as a mail-order Ukrainian bride, I hope. ”
“No. That was never an option for me. ”
I’m damaged goods. “The Evangelical Church of Hope got their hooks in me before the marriage brokers did and they offered me a better way out of the country. I eventually found a way to escape them too. ” She chugged her beer and boldly changed the subject. “You’ve known Cam for a long time. ”
“Can I ask you something about him?”
“Sure. Doesn’t mean I’ll answer. ”
That flip reply might’ve stung if she hadn’t suspected Brock’s passive aggressive responses were his way of protecting his friend. “Was Cam always…such a…” Domini struggled with the right word.
Brock’s eyes narrowed. “Such a what?”
“The type of guy who’s loyal. Polite. Thoughtful. Generous. He’d walk a little old lady across the street. He’d jump in front of a bus to save a baby in a runaway stroller. He’d give up his seat to a pregnant woman. He’d…”
“Throw himself on a grenade to save your life?” Brock supplied.
“Exactly. Has he always been that way? Or did he become that way after his injury?”
“What do you think?” he asked without guile.
“I think he’s always been the selfless guy who does the right thing. No matter what. No matter the personal cost. ”
“You’d be exactly right. And you’re the first person who’s picked up on that…except for me, of course. ”
“Of course. ”
“I owe him my life. He’ll tell you the reverse is true, but it’s not. He saved my dumb ass more times than I care to count. I will do anything for that man. Cam is one of a kind and he deserves the best—” his cool appraisal moved over her and he frowned, “—in everything. ”
Stung by his less than flattering perception that she wasn’t good enough for Cam, she stood. “I should go. Please give Cam the shirt. ”
“Chill out. Finish your beer. I didn’t mean to run you off. ”
She allowed him time to consider his statement, then challenged, “Didn’t you? Didn’t you really?”
Brock attempted to stare her down, but gave up and laughed. “Man, you ain’t a pushover at all, are you?”
“Some people confuse a quiet nature with timidity. There is a difference, Mr. Tennyson. ”
“I see that now. ” Brock snatched her hand and kissed her knuckles with exaggeration. “Call me Brock. I owe you an apology, delectable Domini. ”
“Apology accepted. ”
His right eyebrow winged up. “I’m forgiven that fast?”
“No point in holding a grudge. You were only looking out for Cam’s best interest and I can’t fault you for that. ”
“Hmm. Gorgeous, quiet and forgiving. Will you marry me?”
She laughed. “Let’s stick to being friends. ”
“Oh woman, I am so gonna try to change your mind. Let’s have a toast to celebrate our new friendship. ” He leapt to his feet. “Have any idea where Cam keeps the tequila?”
“No. But I hope his liquor cabinet is better stocked than his refrigerator. ”
“You and me are gonna get along just fine. ”
Cam was surprised to see Domini’s car parked in the drive. He was even more surprised to enter the kitchen and see Brock and Domini laughing over a row of empty shot glasses. <
A possessive roar filled his head.
“Cam! My man. I was just telling Domini about the time—”
“I kicked your butt for drinkin’ all my tequila?”
“No, about the time we got into that bar fight in—”
“I’m sure Domini ain’t interested in hearing our old war stories, Brock. ”
“Yes I am. ”
Damn she looked good. Color on her cheeks. A sparkle in her eyes. Amusement tilting the corners of her mouth.
He forced a smile. “Looks like I have some catching up to do. Pass me that bottle, will ya?”
“Sure thing. ” Brock poured three fingers of tequila and slid it across the bar.
“Why don’t you tell me one of your wild stories?” Domini asked him.
“I’ll pass because I don’t lie nearly as smoothly as Brock does. ”
“That’s true,” Brock said. “We called him George behind his back because of that ‘I cannot tell a lie’ bullshit. ”
Cam confided, “And we called him Pinocchio. ”
“Really? I’m stunned. All your stories have been an outrageous…lie?” she said with mock shock.
“Not all. Once I wrassled a bear with my bare hands. I have pictures. ” Brock peeped at her with those big, dark puppy dog eyes that always got him laid. “Wanna see them?”
“I assume you’re bare naked on the bear skin rug after you killed the beast with your bare hands?” Domini mused.
“Yep, but unlike the pictures of those white boys who ain’t smart enough to hunt bears the right color, like polar bears, my brown ass blends perfectly with the grizzly I slayed. ” Brock leaned closer. “Is this getting me anywhere with you, hot stuff?”
Domini and Brock continued to flirt like Cam wasn’t in the room. This playful side of Domini fascinated him. He’d seen her various sides, sweet and fiery and obedient and occasionally pushy, but never shamelessly charming. Or was it just shameless?