Turn and burn, p.35
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       Turn and Burn, p.35

         Part #5 of Blacktop Cowboys series by Lorelei James
 

  “Yes. Where did you learn to do this?”

  “Lainie. I had a massive girl crush on her whenever she gave me a massage. I insisted on a play-by-play, so I could learn all her tricks.”

  “It worked.” He released a deep groan when her thumbs pressed and rubbed his triceps. “If you decide against chasing cans for a living again, you could make a killing doing this.”

  Fletch never said too much about the snail’s pace of her recovery since she’d started running barrels again. When they were together it wasn’t about their careers. It was about being a man and a woman who enjoyed each other. Yet, their connection had gone beyond being strictly about sex.

  Tanna wasn’t sure if she’d ever been so completely herself around a guy. She didn’t have to pretend to be too wild or too tame. No curbing her raunchy sense of humor. No feigning interest in a subject that held zero appeal. She looked forward to sharing the stupid little stuff from her day. She looked forward to hearing about his day.

  She refocused on his massage. Paying special attention to his hands and forearms. Such strength in these sinewy muscles. Yet, such tenderness. The TV droned in the background—because he always left it on. He’d told her the noise made it seem like he wasn’t alone in his house. A mind-set she understood. During her years on the blacktop, she’d constantly had the radio on.

  When she finished the massage, she brushed the hair from the side of his face. “Better?”

  “Uh-huh. But I need to hit the bathroom.”

  “Oh.” She slid off his body, letting her hand linger on the curve of his butt.

  Then Fletch rolled over and his cock—his hard cock—was right there.

  She reached for it only to have him snatch her hand midair. “Hey. I just wanted to massage it too.”

  He snorted. “Hold that thought. Stretch out and make yourself comfortable.”

  Tanna lifted an eyebrow. “Is that a command?”

  “A request.” He disappeared into the bathroom.

  She’d just settled into that happy, almost smug place where she knew she was about to get laid, when the bed bounced and Fletch started to hike up her dress. “I can take it off.”

  “Maybe I wanted to help.” His fingers inched up the outside of her thigh and he rubbed his full, soft lips on the scar on her knee. “You have a problem with that?”

  “Yes.” She sat up to pull the dress over her head and tossed it on the carpet, leaving her in a skimpy bra and boy short panties. “You can help with the rest.”

  “Take off the bra.”

  Tanna let the tips of her fingers follow the plunging lace-edged cups. She watched Fletch’s avid gaze as she unhooked the front clasp, whipped the bra aside and stroked her breasts.

  “I love it when you touch yourself for me.”

  “I know. Do you want me to get myself off for you?”

  “Another time. Right now, I want you to lie back,” he said gruffly.

  As soon as her shoulders hit the mattress, his work-roughened hands skated up her belly. His hands covered the fleshy mounds of her breasts. He stroked and caressed, occasionally allowing his thumbs to rasp over her nipples. But he didn’t use his mouth.

  His hands followed the curves of her body, as he tugged her panties down her legs. His touches on her naked limbs and torso were featherlight. Then she swore she felt his nails scraping her flesh hard enough to leave marks. She tried not to squirm or rub her legs together because she suspected he’d go slower yet.

  She must’ve made a disgruntled sound because he chuckled and kissed the hollow dent above her navel. “Where do you want my mouth? Between your legs or on your tits?”

  “Tits, definitely.”

  “Good answer.” He feasted on her nipples with the perfect amount of hard rhythmic sucking, gentle licks and softly pressed kisses. And it was hot as hell the way he kept his big hand on her stomach and pushed her back to the mattress whenever she arched up.

  Fletch didn’t say another word. He just drove her out of her fucking mind with lust.

  Then he withdrew.

  Tanna opened her eyes to see him throwing the star quilt aside. Before she could ask what he was doing, he plucked her off the mattress. She shrieked, which made him laugh as he brought them to the floor.

  Then six feet five inches of man covered her body and his hungry mouth owned hers. Destroyed her with kisses so blistering-hot she swore she was melting. Fletch pinned her hands above her head and nestled his pelvis between her thighs. No need to use his hand to guide his cock in. He just rolled his hips and the tip prodded her entrance.

  Tanna surged up, anxious for that first hard thrust, gripping his waist with her legs and digging her heels into his ass.

  He broke the kiss.

  “What?” she murmured. “Did you forget a condom?”

  “No. I slipped one on in the bathroom.” He kissed the corners of her smile, then went back to watching her with those topaz-colored eyes.

  “Why’d you stop?”

  “Because I want to see your face when I do this.”

  He pushed inside her so slowly she swore she could feel every pulse of the vein running on the underside of his cock.

  She wiggled her wrists to get him to let go and he wouldn’t. The man wasn’t acting at all like she expected. “We have done this before, Fletch.”

  “I was rough earlier tonight.”

  He’d been so . . . desperate for her after not seeing her for a couple of days, he’d pinned her against the wall and fucked her as soon as she’d walked in the door. She’d loved seeing that side of him. “That’s what we both wanted.”

  “Well, I don’t want that now.”

  “What do you want?”

  “You.” His lips brushed hers with fleeting kisses. “This.”

  Tanna tried to chase his mouth for firmer contact, but he wouldn’t allow it.

  He smiled against her cheek. “Woman, you define impatient.”

  “I don’t like to wait. What’s the point? We both want to get off.”

  “I can stop.” He pulled out completely.

  “Don’t you dare stop,” she warned him.

  He gifted her with that sharklike grin and slammed home to the root.

  Tanna arched up, or rather she tried to, but Fletch’s big body kept hers in place. He barely moved his pelvis. He nuzzled her neck, nipping at the straining cords as she tried to force him to fuck her harder, faster, deeper—all to no avail.

  “You always smell like wildflowers and rain,” he murmured. “I want to lose myself in you. Just like this. Slow and sweet.”

  Maybe she needed a gentle touch tonight as much as he did. And she’d needed affirmation that she could give it to him.

  “Will you kiss me slow and sweet while you’re lovin’ on me that way?” she whispered. She felt him smile against her throat.

  “Be my pleasure.”

  Chapter Thirty-one

  “So on your day off, instead of hanging by the pool or shootin’ pool in some dark bar, you’re out here . . . doin’ what exactly?”

  Tanna rested her forearm across the pitchfork handle and looked at Sutton. “I wonder why I’m happy to see you when I remember that every time I do see you, you bust my balls.”

  Sutton laughed. “Missed your smart mouth, Tex-Mex. But really, what are you doin’?”

  “Helping out. Eli and Summer went to some big auction out of town. The girls were scheduled to come today and rather than disappointing them, I offered my services. After they left, I went for a ride. Now I’m cleaning up. What about you?”

  “I’m here overnight. There are a few rodeos within a day’s drive so Eli said I could crash here between events.”

  “Will you be training while you’re here?”

  “Doubtful. How about you?”

  Tanna shuffled her feet. “I’m riding, and training—if I can even call it that. It’s slow goin’.”

  His eyebrows drew together. “You’re slow goin’? Or the training is slow goin’?”
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  “Both. I mean, I’m no longer trotting around the barrels, which is progress, but I’m nowhere near normal speed.”

  “You’ve had no issues galloping and pushing the horse hard when you’re out joyriding?”

  She laughed. “Nope.”

  “So what horses have you been working with?”

  “Mostly Celia’s horse, Mickey. He’s a little high-strung, nowhere near Jezebel’s level. But at least he knows what to do on the dirt, which is more than I can say for the other horses I’ve tried. No offense to Eli. But slow and steady is probably all I can handle right now anyway.”

  “Bullshit. You run barrels yet today?”

  “No.”

  “Why not?” he demanded.

  Pathetic to admit, but she needed a cheerleader. Or at least a scorekeeper. Or someone around to help her in case she did get injured. “I’m not in the mood.”

  “Which is exactly why you should do it. Let’s kick dirt in the face of those speed demons—or lack of demons—doggin’ you, and chase some cans.”

  Tanna rolled her eyes. “You’re a real comedian.”

  Sutton playfully tapped her arm. “I ain’t joking. Getcha tack, Tex-Mex. We’re gonna have us a little rodeo.”

  “Sutton—”

  “I’m here, you’re here, we ain’t got nothin’ better to do, right? So catch your horse, get your tack and I’ll set up the barrels.”

  On one hand Tanna wanted to defy his bossy behavior; it annoyed the piss out of her. On the other hand, she needed this push. Hadn’t she wanted someone around to help her today? Besides, Sutton knew barrel racing and wouldn’t feed her full of shit about her performance and technique if she sucked.

  Oh, yeah, she was gonna suck it up bad. She just knew it.

  But there was a spring in her step as she headed to the fence. She tossed two handfuls of oats in a bucket and slipped into the horse pasture.

  Mickey’s ears perked up when Tanna called his name. She draped the lead rope over her shoulder and shook the oats.

  That did the trick. Mickey trotted over, expecting a treat. Tanna looped on the lead rope and Mickey gave a disgusted snort. “You oughta know by now that everything has a price.” She led him out of the pasture and tied him to the corral while she grabbed her brush, saddle pad, saddle and training bridle.

  When preparing him to ride, Mickey tried to bump her, she reacted instinctively, just like she used to—without fear. She shoved him back. “Dammit, Mickey. Behave.”

  He snorted and blew out a noseful of snot.

  “Thank you so much for that. Jerk.” Tanna brushed the dirt from his back and then smoothed her hand over the hide to make sure she hadn’t missed anything. She settled the saddle pad, positioned the saddle and fastened the cinch. She slipped the headstall over his head and inserted the snaffle bit into his mouth. Then she tied the reins around the saddle horn while she rechecked the cinch.

  Sutton yelled over the fence. “How long’s it take to warm him up?”

  “About ten minutes since I already rode him today.” She mounted up and Mickey went straight for the hay on the other side of the fence. “No way.” Tanna reined him back. “Work first. Then food.” Mickey continued to fight her; she continued to show him who was boss.

  As soon as they were out in the pasture, the other horses showed up to run alongside Mickey. Mostly to taunt him that they could scatter at will and he was tethered. Even though Mickey wasn’t permanently boarded here, he’d taken the role of pack leader when he was.

  Tanna urged him to a good clip. Bouncing along the rocky terrain, that niggling fear returned. One slip of his hooves at this speed and they could be on the ground, grinding to a halt in a mix of broken bones at the bottom of the ridge.

  “Whoa.” Mickey stopped with little reining effort.

  Then they loped.

  Trotted.

  Galloped.

  Looking over her shoulder, she saw that Sutton had opened the gate to the corral and sat on the inside ledge where the electronic timers were placed at an event. The barrels were set up. Knowing Sutton, even the dirt had been raked.

  You can do this.

  Run ’em fast, run ’em hard.

  Tanna blew out a breath and sat deep in her saddle.

  She used Celia’s starting command. “Run ’em, Mickey.”

  They were off like a shot and for once, she didn’t pull back.

  Mickey knew exactly what to do. At this speed his body quivered with excitement as she directed him to the left barrel first. The corral seemed too close and she had that split-second image of crashing headfirst into it. But when she pulled on the outside rein to direct Mickey’s body to come out of the turn, he kept his head up and cut around the barrel. While she kept a decent seat, her body wasn’t in tune with Mickey’s.

  Focus.

  Her heart thumped as they approached the second barrel. At this speed it took every bit of courage to keep her eyes open. She gritted her teeth so hard pain shot through her skull.

  Not gonna fall.

  Not gonna fail.

  Then they were in that breathless moment in the pocket where it seemed the horse was nearly on plane with the ground. Tanna kept her shoulders aligned with Mickey’s, not leaning too far in or too far out, switching the pressure on the rein from the inside to the outside.

  Heading toward the last barrel. Mickey went into his turn too fast, making it too wide and in that instant Tanna knew why Celia’d had no luck shaving time off her scores. Slicing was almost impossible to retrain in a barrel horse.

  Even as that thought raced through her mind, she kicked him into a gallop. Mickey tore down the dirt to the arena exit. “Whoa.” The horse could stop on a dime, she’d give him that much—and after he settled a bit, they loped to the outer side of the corral where Sutton sat.

  She squinted at him. “Well?”

  “Twenty-eight point three.”

  This time last year she would’ve been devastated with that time—even in practice runs. But now . . . she’d take it.

  Sutton held up his hand. “Slap me some skin, sista. That’s what I’m talking about. You did it! You cranked on the speed.”

  Tanna high-fived him. “Turn and burn, baby.”

  “Turn and burn,” he repeated with a grin. “You ready to go again?”

  “Yep. But first, what did you see, as far as mistakes?”

  “Until you do a few more runs, I can’t separate horse and rider.”

  “Gotcha.” Tanna turned Mickey to the right and they trotted to where the alleyway would begin if they were in an arena. She wanted to test his anticipation level.

  Mickey danced sideways, backed up, and tossed his head.

  Apparently he’d missed it too.

  Tanna signaled him to go.

  Her brain shifted the same time as her body and she was focused on getting back in the game.

  After the fifth run, Tanna climbed off and gave Mickey a well-deserved break. When she wandered over to where Sutton stood, he had an odd look on his face. “What? Was I really that horrible? Because I did shave four—”

  “No, that’s not it. You looked great. Better than great actually and that’s why I wanna talk to you about something.”

  She swigged from her bottle of water. “Shoot.”

  “There’s a breeder in Colorado who’d like to talk to you.”

  “About?”

  “About you considering using one of their horses for CRA competition.”

  Tanna stepped back. More like she stumbled back. “I’m not sure I’m gonna compete again.”

  Sutton stepped forward. “Don’t lie to me, but most of all, don’t lie to yourself. I saw you today. If you truly were walking away, then you wouldn’t have started running practice barrels. You’d be content that you’d just gotten back on a horse again. Am I right?”

  She blinked at him.

 
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