Hang tough, p.26
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       Hang Tough, p.26

         Part #8 of Blacktop Cowboys series by Lorelei James
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  She thought about it. “I’ll try it. But since you were born with reins in your hand, that means you have to do something I’m good at. Which in this case is cooking. You have to learn to make one thing.”

  “Fine. There is one other point to mention. You’re in my bed every night.”

  “Like that’d be a hardship. But I’ll warn you . . . I’m a light sleeper with insomnia.”

  “How about . . .” He pinned her hands by her sides and used his teeth on the back of her neck. “I wear you out. We could go for a run every night. Then you’ll sleep.”

  “You have the best plans.” She rubbed her ass into his groin. “Or we could skip the couple activities and just fuck.”

  “That works for me.” Tobin scooped her up, tossed her over his shoulder and raced up the stairs.

  Two days later, Tobin sat at his desk at the Split Rock messing around with possible dam matchups for BB, the bucking bull from hell. He’d had good luck breeding him so far.

  His cell phone rang and he answered it absentmindedly. “Hello.”

  “May I please speak with Tobin Hale?”

  “Speaking. Who’s this?”

  “Chris Gowden. I own the LME Corporation in Casper. You sent in a resume and we’d like to meet with you in our offices, if you’re still interested in an interview?”

  Holy shit. “Yes, sir. I am.”

  “Excellent. When would be a convenient day and time next week?”

  “I can be in Casper after two o’clock any day.”

  “How about Monday?”

  “That would work. Thank you. I’m looking forward to it.”

  “We are as well. See you next week.”

  Tobin hung up and slumped back in his chair.

  Wow. He had an honest-to-god interview.

  He couldn’t wait to tell Jade.

  And what did that say? That she was the first person he thought of when it came to sharing good things and bad.

  The irony of the situation didn’t escape him—he’d finally bucked up and sent out resumes so maybe he’d have a shot at finding a woman he could settle down with . . . and the most beautiful, talented, amazing woman he’d ever met was currently living in the same house with him and sharing his bed.

  Since his computer was up he headed to the LME website to refamiliarize himself with the company.

  Started doing business last year. So, unproven. He kept reading. Not unproven. The owner had partnered with the guy who started the bovine IVF company in Powell. But that partnership had ended and he’d begun his own company.

  Interesting that LME had a different focus.

  But then again, dissenting opinions on how to move forward were usually what ended business partnerships.

  That issue had ended plenty of relationships too.

  The next evening Tobin was naked, sprawled on his belly, his mind drifting and his body sated after Jade had tried out her riding skills—which were excellent—but she was such a perfectionist that she kept asking for a do-over. Like he’d ever say no to that.

  This living together stuff was fucking awesome. Not just the sex part . . . but it was a serious rush to have Jade under him, or on top of him, or bent over the closest piece of furniture, anytime he wanted.

  His tiger was as obsessed with him as he was with her. They couldn’t be in the same room and stay on opposite sides for longer than five minutes. They held hands through supper. Her place was on his lap when they watched TV. He loved going upstairs with her every night. He loved watching her getting ready for bed. He loved the moment when she wrapped herself around him. He loved the sense of completeness when he woke in the middle of the night and Jade was still right there, holding on to him.

  She drew squiggles up and down his back. “I talked to my mom today.”

  Don’t panic. “Yeah? How’d that conversation go?”

  “It was . . . hard. I can’t really talk to her about you. So I listened as she chattered on.”

  “How many times did she ask you when you were coming back to New York?”

  Jade sighed. “Five. And since all my restaurant uniforms are in my closet at their house, I don’t know the best way to ask her to send them to me. I know you said Dodie doesn’t wear a uniform, but I want to be prepared in case I have to wear one.”

  “Does that mean you’re sticking around and not heading back to New York even to pick up your uniforms?”

  She stopped abruptly and jerked her hand free. “After all I’ve told you? After how incredible it’s been between us? You still think I have the ability to walk away from this? If your answer to any of those questions is yes . . . then why am I even looking for jobs?”

  “Whoa. Hold on. I’m looking for a job too. And whenever I bring this topic up, you distract me with hot sex and it gets shoved under the bed—which is about the only place we haven’t fucked.”

  “Is that a complaint?”


  Her eyes widened.

  Shit. “I mean no. But bein’s I have an interview in Casper next week, it is something we need to talk about.”

  “So talk.”

  “I am in a transitory position, Jade. I have five job applications that I haven’t heard back on. What happens if the place in Taos offers me a full-time job? Would you stay here or go with me?”

  “Would you want me to go with you?” she retorted.

  Tobin didn’t even hesitate. “Yes.”

  “There’s your answer. Yes, I’ll go with you. No matter where that might be. It’s not like I’m unemployable and you’d have to support me.”

  “Maybe I’d like to support you.”

  “There’s every man’s dream. To have a freeloading girlfriend.”

  He kept his temper in check. “I don’t give a shit about any man’s dreams but mine. Maybe it makes me a fucking throwback, but I’d be happy as hell to take care of you. I’d consider it a damn privilege.”

  “A privilege. Seriously?”

  Tobin slipped his arm beneath her and rolled until he was on top, with her arms pinned above her head. “Okay, we’ll do this a different way. I’ve waited a long damn time for you to come into my life. And it would make my dick hard and fill my chest with macho pride if every time I looked at you, I knew I was the guy you trusted to be everything you need. Not give. Not buy. Be. That’s what I consider taking care of you.”

  Jade snared his mouth in a hungry kiss. “Be what I need right now, Tobin. Take me to that place where it’s just us.”

  “I am so lost in you.” He buried his face in her throat, waiting for her to hook her legs around his hips, so he could drive inside her and take them both to the only sure thing, to the only place that really belonged to them.

  Chapter Twenty

  Jade had just ended her cell phone call when she heard a series of short horn blasts. She wandered onto the porch and saw a van in the driveway.

  The door opened and Riss jumped out, wearing a mechanic’s suit—a grease-smeared mechanics suit.

  She grinned at her crazy redheaded friend. “To what do I owe this visit?”

  “I need booze. Is there anyone else here?”

  “Just me.”

  “Good. Bring the hooch. I’ve waited long enough for you to share the down-and-dirty details about you and Tobin.”

  “Come up and snag a seat. Preferably not a cloth one because it looks as if you rolled in oil.”

  “Sat in it is more likely.” Riss plopped down.

  “How about some hard cider?”

  “Perfect. Got any cigars?”

  “Just Cubans.”

  Riss’s eyes went wide. “Are you fucking kidding me?”

  “Yes. Sorry. I couldn’t resist.”


  Jade brought out the bottles of cider, wondering if she should’ve grabbed snacks.

  “Relax, New York. Booze in bottles with no glasses is how we prefer to be served in the West.” She held her bottle out. “Cheers.”


  Maybe being nosy went with that mind-set too, because Riss immediately said, “We’re drinking buddies, shopping buddies and I baited the hook for your hookup with Tobin, so, sweet cheeks, you owe me some dirty deets.”

  “Baited the hook,” Jade repeated. “What did you do?”

  “Snapped a picture of your ass in your new cowgirl jeans and maybe a pic of men surrounding said ass in the bar and sent it to your man.”

  Jade laughed. “You are a good friend.”

  “Tell me one juicy thing.”

  She swigged from the bottle. She’d never been great at doing stuff like this.

  Here’s your chance to change and you don’t have to pretend you’re as tell-all as the Enquirer.

  “All right Riss, I’ll confess . . . I’ve always sucked at swapping confidences. Especially about sex. But you asked, so I’ll give it a shot. One juicy thing? But, gosh, there are so many.”

  “You suck.”

  She laughed. “There is one thing that sticks out in my mind and is so much more obvious than any others.” She set her elbows on the table. “Tobin is hung. Like, not a little hung, like ‘holy mother that is the big daddy of all dicks’ hung.”

  Riss spewed cider. “Shit, Jade. Warn me next time.” She blotted her face with her sleeve. “Okay. He’s hung. Does he know how to work the oversized equipment?”

  “Oh yeah.”

  “Damn. Now I’m wishing I would’ve gone out on a date with him.”

  “Too late.”

  “Staking your claim already?”


  “Good for you.” She held the bottle over for another toast. “How’s granny feel about the two of you doing the deed in her house?”

  “GG went on a last-minute cruise with her buddy Pearl. So she doesn’t know that Tobin and I got together. She’s under the impression that we don’t like each other.”

  “How long is she gone?”

  “Three weeks.”

  Riss whistled. “You two are gonna get used to playing house and then what happens when granny comes home and doesn’t like it?”

  “I don’t know.” Jade drummed her fingers on the table. “For the first time in my life? I’m living in the moment.”

  “Attagirl. That’s how I live every moment of my life.”

  “I don’t believe that.” When Riss’s brows drew together, she backtracked. “I didn’t mean for that to come out so harsh. I meant you’re part of a business, so you can’t just say, ‘I don’t feel like delivering these baby cows today. I’ll leave them in the semi while I go to the movies.’”

  “Baby cows are called calves, New York. I schedule runs, but they have to be worth my time. I know guys in this business who barely break even. That’s why I walked away for a few years.” Riss leaned back in her chair. “What about you?”

  “I did fill out an application for the prep cook job at the Split Rock.”

  “Tobin was okay with that?”

  “Very okay.”

  “Told ya. You’ll love it up there. Everyone who works there does. Multiple part-time jobs are the norm around here. Most people have more than one job.”

  “What else do you do besides drive stock transport and . . . ?” She gestured to Riss’s overalls.

  Riss grinned. “Why yes, I am a lube jockey. Thanks for asking.”

  “You work on cars?”

  “I’m not a mechanic. I change oil. It’s not a full-time job. Guys with families to feed get priority over me. I’m good with that.”

  “Maybe it’s clichéd to ask, but are you happy?”

  “It’s been a long time since anyone has asked me that. Most days? Yes. Would I be happier if I was twenty pounds thinner, if I could upgrade from my dumpy trailer? Thinner . . . eh. A better living environment is already on my list of improvements.”

  “Scenario one: lube jockey boss says, ‘Riss, I need you full-time. This is your salary. It’s enough that you can quit transporting stock completely.’ Scenario two: Ike says, ‘Riss, I need you full-time. This is your salary. It’s enough that you can quit your lube-jockey job.’”

  “Which do I pick? I’d work for Jackson Stock Contracting.” She scowled. “It means working with Ike all the freakin’ time, but I’d still take it.”


  “Although the job is the same, the people are different. I’m not in the same place. With the lube jockey job . . . it’s stable. That’s all some employees look for, so they’re a better fit, which is why I have no problem bein’ part-time.” Riss stretched her legs out. “So how’d we get on the hard-hitting life stuff and not the ‘how hard did you hit that’ sex stuff?”

  “You poking me about my future plans.” Jade smirked. “But it does have relevance. I had an interesting call right before you got here from the Casper Symphony director.”

  “No shit? What did he want?”

  “To know if I plan to be around for the season and if I’d be interested in auditioning.”

  “Would you?”

  “Maybe. Would it be worth it? The money is lousy in music performance in New York; I can’t imagine it’d be good here.”

  “But you have to look at it as an opportunity to make local contacts. If you meet other musicians you could end up in a quartet with them. That’s a paying gig. You meet someone else whose kid wants lessons? That’s a paying gig.”


  “Since so much shit is up in the air right now, I’ll throw in my two cents. I’d take you on as a roommate if everything with Tobin goes to the dogs.”

  “Thanks, Riss. That means a lot.”

  She finished her cider. “Now if you could learn to play that violin like a fiddle . . . you’d have your pick of gigs in Western bars across four states.”

  “You do know there’s no difference between instruments, right? They’re the same. Even Itzhak Perlman calls the Stradivarius he plays his fiddle.”

  Riss shrugged. “It’s something to keep in mind. Because it sounds like music is where your heart is.”

  “It’s where my skill is; I’ve been playing since I was four.”

  “What’s your college degree in again?”

  “History with concentration in medieval and Renaissance studies.”


  “I know, right?”

  “Well, it is unique. Maybe one of them online colleges are looking for someone to teach classes.” She snapped her fingers. “You know what I just remembered? Theresa, a chick in the book club? She works at the Casper Community College. She could totally put you in touch with someone in the right department. We’ll ask her about it at book club in two weeks.”

  “That sounds awesome.” She grinned at Riss. “Has anyone told you today that you’re brilliant? And generous?”

  “No. But the guy with the ’67 Chevy told me I had great tits.”

  The breakneck way Tobin’s truck barreled up the drive . . . Jade knew he had a one-track mind: getting her naked as soon as possible.

  He hopped out of the cab and headed toward her at a good clip. He only slowed slightly when he saw Riss. “If it’s not my favorite stock
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