Wrapped and strapped, p.29
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       Wrapped and Strapped, p.29
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         Part #7 of Blacktop Cowboys series by Lorelei James

  Afterward they didn’t talk again for a while. He’d look over and see the amber glow of the dashboard lights reflecting in her hair and silently marvel at how beautiful she was in any light.

  Hard to believe it’d been only six weeks since she’d come back into his life. Because he was starting to realize he didn’t know what he would do without her.

  Chapter Nineteen

  ‡

  The first four days at the Phillipsburg Rodeo were awesome.

  She’d finally found her groove with the grind of moving, feeding, moving, feeding, loading, feeding, unloading, feeding the rodeo stock. She’d even chased the bulls into the trailer and hadn’t freaked out. Hugh had rewarded her very well for that.

  There wasn’t as much downtime as she’d expected, which made her happier than if she had hours to kill. While the living quarters in the horse trailer were nice, she preferred to be out among the people.

  Between Hugh and Ike it seemed they knew everyone, so they’d had four very social gatherings after the rodeo ended every night. Laughing, drinking, telling stories. She’d seen yet another side of Hugh. Laid-back and charming. And she’d been relieved that his charm hadn’t appeared only after he’d emptied a bottle, since he rarely drank more than two beers a night.

  Hugh also made sure they had plenty of one-on-one time. Lots of naked and sweaty one-on-one time. They’d christened nearly every vertical and horizontal surface in the living quarters—including an intense interlude in the horse trailer itself, where Hugh had demonstrated a creative use for an eye-hook and a flank strap. He’d tied her hands above her head to the eye-hook and used the flank strap around her lower back to swing her body into his as he slowly, methodically fucked her.

  And yet even after he’d blown her circuits on a nightly basis, he didn’t roll over and start snoring. He wanted to talk. They discussed everything under the sun and moon, well into the wee hours of the morning. Part of her worried they bared all so easily because they both understood their time together had an end date. If they didn’t share right then, they’d never get the chance to.

  Plus, he was always doing sweet little things for her. Showing up at the farmers’ market first thing in the morning to stock up on her favorite fresh vegetables. Taking the time to explain ag and rodeo things without making her feel like a greenhorn. Giving her a piggyback ride through the muck when she mistakenly wore flip-flops instead of boots.

  Telling her every day she was beautiful.

  Reminding her every day how much he appreciated her help.

  Asking her opinion and never assuming or arguing when it contradicted his.

  Proving he was a man of his word as well as a man of action.

  Showing her affection in public and lust in private.

  And pissing her the fuck off today.

  The day had started out well enough—hot shower sex. In the past ten days she’d become a huge fan of small showers, as there were so many more possibilities to get dirty and creative when you were in a confined space.

  Then Hugh had actually agreed to eat breakfast with her: granola and Greek yogurt with organic fruit and honey.

  When she’d asked their plans for the day . . . that’s when it’d gone downhill.

  “I have a cattleman’s thing. It’ll take all day.”

  “I’ll come with.”

  Hugh stared into his coffee cup.

  “What? Don’t you want me to come? Had enough of my company?” she teased.

  He squirmed. “Not exactly.”

  “Then what is it exactly?”

  “The cattlemen’s luncheon. It’s men only.”

  “You’re joking.”

  He looked at her. “No. It’s one of those things they’ve been doin’ this way for years.”

  “So cattlewomen—and I’ve met quite a few of them this week who’ve taken over the ranch after their husbands have passed on—are excluded because of gender?”

  “In this case, yes. Do I agree with it? No.”

  “Then don’t go. The only way to change things is to protest them.”

  A frown pulled his eyebrows together. “Not that simple, hippie-girl. This luncheon is by invite only. In all the years Renner and I worked this event, we were never invited. I have to go. I’ll make great contacts.”

  “With a bunch of sexist men,” she shot back.

  Hugh stood. “I figured you’d have this kinda reaction.” He put on his hat.

  When he paused by the door, she said, “What? You expecting a good-bye kiss?”

  “No, because that’d be reasonable and it’s clear that’s beyond you at the moment.”

  “You can kiss my ass, Hugh Pritchett!” she said to the slamming door.

  Damn him.

  She stewed for a while. Paced. After she saw her anger had cost her an hour, she decided to take a different tack. She took out the bottle of Fireball and poured a generous slug in her 7Up. She stirred and sipped.

  And coughed. Holy crap. Fireball was not for the faint of heart.

  Although the horse trailer was cool, she couldn’t stand the thought of remaining there by herself. She dumped more Fireball in her drink before she stepped outside.

  Still humid. Bugs buzzed around her face. She considered whether she should just kick back and sulk where it was cool and bug free.

  “Harlow!”

  She spun around at the sound of Riss’s voice.

  Riss jogged toward her. “Been wantin’ to talk to you.”

  “Why?”

  “Defensive much?”

  “Sorry. Hugh decided to vie for the ‘prick of the year’ award today, so I’m a little testy.”

  “He’s off at the Buckaroos’ thing?”

  “As far as I’m concerned, he can stay there all damn night,” Harlow said.

  “The men-only thing pisses you off too, huh?”

  “Yes! I’m just supposed to sit inside and wait for him? Maybe I should be cooking a four-course meal, darning his socks and listening for the click of the lock so I can bring him his pipe and slippers the minute he graces me with his magnificent male presence.”

  Riss laughed. “Oh, girl, you are gonna fit right in.”

  “Fit in where?”

  “See, while the guys take off for their daylong ‘men only’ retreat, some of the women put on a spa day.” Riss leaned in. “Don’t let the name ‘spa day’ fool you. These ladies use it to fool everyone who’s not invited.”

  “What’s it take to get an invite?”

  “I just happen to have two invites.” Riss snatched Harlow’s cup and knocked back a big gulp.

  Harlow felt less like a lightweight when Riss started coughing.

  “Jesus, woman. You are mad at him with that much Fireball in your drink.”

  “I hate sexist shit. Hate it.”

  “So you’re against objectifying hot, young cowboys?”

  “Don’t know. I’ve never tried it.”

  Riss looped her arm through Harlow’s. “Let’s give it a whirl.”

  Harlow let Riss lead her to the back of the arena where an enormous tent had been set up. A couple of cowboys sat outside the front entrance. The sign on the tent flap read:

  ~SPA DAY~

  by invitation only

  “Ladies. Something we can help you with?” the blond cowboy cutie on the right asked.

  Riss dug in her front pocket and pulled out two tickets.

  The dark-haired cowboy on the left grinned. “Excellent. Do either of you have a cell phone on you?”

  Shoot. Harlow had forgotten it on the counter. She shook her head and saw Riss shaking hers. Then Riss added, “But if you really want to be sure, bright eyes, maybe you’d better frisk me.”

  The blond cowboy stood and opened the tent flap. “You’re trouble, Red. So I’ll definitely be lookin’ for you later.”

  This was not a side of Riss she’d ever seen before, which caused her to wonder what she’d gotten herself into.

  The atmosphere inside the tent re
sembled a carnival. The areas were blocked off from the front entrance, but she could hear music, and smell something sweet.

  A woman, around sixty, manned a small table. She smiled. “Welcome to spa day. I’ll need you to sign a waiver.”

  Harlow automatically asked, “What for?”

  “First timer,” Riss said, grabbing a pen and signing.

  “Ah. The waiver is for protection of the spa day coordinators. This just states you won’t discuss anything that you see or participate in here, with anyone who wasn’t here.”

  “Like Fight Club,” Harlow said.

  “Exactly! The second part of the waiver states you won’t hold spa day coordinators responsible for any decisions or actions you may choose to participate in.”

  Harlow frowned.

  “Just sign the waiver,” Riss said.

  “Fine.” Harlow signed.

  “Great! There are two bars. One for girlie drinks and one for shots.”

  “Let’s go there first.” Riss started to drag her off.

  “Wait. I don’t have any cash.”

  “Don’t worry. It’s all paid for.”

  “By who?”

  “By the coordinators’ husbands. See, the women got tired of being excluded, so to keep the peace, and their wives happy, the original Buckaroos gave the women money to run the spa. It’s a mutual ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy.” Riss grinned. “But the ladies know the Buckaroos aren’t having nearly the wild time we are. The most risqué thing they get is hot young waitresses dressed up like cowgirl cheerleaders. And we get this.” She pointed to the first booth, which had an impressive selection of sex toys, lubes, body frosting and amateur BDSM gear. “Ask any question you want. Sheena is an expert in the pleasure business.”

  Don’t blush. “Let’s come back. I wanna do some shots first.”

  “Now we’re talkin’!”

  The bartender pouring shots was one of the hottest men Harlow had ever seen. On the top he was shirtless to show off all his gloriously cut muscles. On the bottom he wore jeans, fringed chaps and a rather large, well-placed belt buckle. He peered at her with startling blue eyes beneath the brim of a white hat. He grinned. Damn. That sexy-shy grin reminded her of Hugh.

  Do not think of that man right now.

  Sexy bartender said, “Hey darlin’, what’s your pleasure today?”

  Hey darlin’ reminded her of Hugh too.

  Dammit. Maybe booze would block him out.

  “I’ll have a tequila shooter and my shy friend will have the same,” Riss said.

  Shy? She wasn’t shy. Time she proved it. Harlow set her elbows on the bar. “Actually, darlin’, I’ll stick with a shot of Fireball.”

  “I figured you might be the fiery hot at first, but sweet and warm type,” he drawled.

  Oh. My. God.

  Riss whispered, “Told ya this is be fun.”

  They touched glasses and downed their shots.

  Harlow was proud she didn’t hack up a lung, but the trade-off was searing the lining of her throat.

  “Another round?” Mr. Sexy Smile asked. “Gotta limit you to two shots an hour, so most the ladies do ’em back-to-back.”

  “Sure, cowboy, hit us again.”

  By the time Harlow and Riss reached the next booth, recklessness had replaced wariness. “What’s this place?”

  “A makeover station,” the woman who looked like a drag queen inserted.

  “Oh, I don’t know . . .”

  “Honey, this is to teach you how to make over more than your face.”

  Intrigued, Harlow took a seat. For the next fifteen minutes she learned how to shave and wax hearts, flowers and even a kitty cat on her “love bump.” Dolores, the makeover artist, dusted sugar-flavored glitter across Harlow’s cleavage.

  “Trust me, honey. Your man gets a whiff of you smelling like cookies and his mouth is gonna be all over you.”

  Riss clasped Harlow’s hands and leaned closer, a somber look in her eyes. “We’ve been friends long enough that I feel I should come clean with you about something.”

  “Okay.” Friends long enough? Don’t point out you’ve only known each other for two weeks. “What is it?”

  “You ever heard that song ‘Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off’? That’s me. So you’ll probably see way more of my tits and ass today than you’d like. So fair warning to look away ’cause I’m trying all of the nipple rouges.”

  Sure enough, Riss pulled down her shirt and scooped her boobs out of her bra. Then she worked down the spectrum of colors to find the hue that’d make her nipples “pop.”

  “Ah, I’ll just get us a girlie drink while you’re browsing,” Harlow said. And fled.

  The girlie-drink bar was also manned by an amazing-looking cowboy with a to-die-for body. “Hey, sugar. What’s sweet enough for you today?”

  She squinted at the chalkboard to read the drink names and descriptions. “I’ll have a Lick My Clit and Spank Me Hard.”

  “Sounds like my kinda party.” He winked and mixed the drinks.

  By the time Harlow reached the makeover stand, Riss had moved on to the rope-tying demonstration. A dozen women formed a half circle around yet another smokin’ hot cowboy as he bound a volunteer’s wrists to a bedpost. Volunteer number two was tied to a chair.

  “I need one more volunteer before I take a quick break.”

  Harlow expected Riss’s hand to shoot up—not for Riss to grab her arm and throw her hand up in the air, shouting, “Over here!”

  The cowboy’s mesmerizing eyes moved over Harlow. “Come on down; don’t be shy.”

  “I’m not shy.” She handed Riss her drink.

  “So tell me, you got a man who knows his way around ropes?” cowboy hottie asked.

  “Yes.”

  “Lucky lady.” He bent Harlow over and tied her left wrist to her left ankle. “This’ll give you movement and he can maneuver you around however he likes.”

  Harlow waited for him to do something else, but that appeared to be it.

  He addressed the audience. “Please try this at home, ladies.”

  After he untied her, she wandered over to Riss.

  Riss said, “You’re welcome.”

  “For what?” Harlow swiped her drink back and drained it.

  Riss smirked. “For giving you something new for you and Hugh to try.”

  Harlow smirked back. “Hugh already has an active imagination and he’s much better rope-tying skills than that guy.”

  “Go, you!” Riss offered a fist bump.

  “What booths haven’t we been to yet?”

  “There’s the massage booth, but since it’s hotties with fast hands giving the massages, the line is long. Oh. There’s the Kama Sutra lounge, where you can see a cowboy host and his girlfriend act out positions from the book.”

  “Really?”

  Riss hip-checked her. “Thought Hugh had an active imagination.”

  “He does. I just wanna watch live porn.”

 
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