Wrapped and strapped, p.39
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       Wrapped and Strapped, p.39
 

         Part #7 of Blacktop Cowboys series by Lorelei James

  Harlow watched him jog back toward his pickup. She wasn’t so busy staring at his fine Wrangler ass that she didn’t notice the boxes in the bed of his truck when he dropped the tailgate.

  Boxes?

  Her heart hammered. Her hopes soared. She hustled toward him.

  Hugh slammed the tailgate shut and seemed surprised when he turned around to find her right there. “What is it?”

  “What’s in the boxes?”

  He shrugged. “Dishes and other odds and ends. You mentioned you didn’t have much household stuff, so I brought what I have to get us by.”

  “Wait.” She planted her hands on his chest. “You’re not just here to visit me?”

  “Nope.”

  When she gaped at him, he framed her face in his big hands. “No half measures when it comes to you. Or us. Ever.”

  “Hugh,” she breathed his name like a benediction.

  “Tell me you want me here.”

  “I want you here more than anything in the world.”

  “Let’s start there.” He kissed her with sweet heat. “I’ll explain it all, I promise. I just don’t wanna do it in the damn parking lot.”

  “Okay.” She retreated and pointed to the boxes. “But you ain’t in Wyoming anymore. You leave that stuff out in the open like that, it won’t be there when you come back.”

  “Fine. You drag my suitcase and I’ll get these.”

  He loaded his boxes onto a handcart.

  Of course he had a handcart. He’d come prepared.

  Meanwhile nothing could’ve prepared her for this: Hugh moving in or at least planning on an extended stay.

  He followed her into her apartment building. An awkward silence fell between them in the elevator. A silence that continued as she led him down the hallway to her place, the last apartment on the third floor.

  Harlow unlocked her door and stood off to the side as Hugh wheeled in the boxes.

  As soon as the door shut, he had her pressed against it, kissing her like crazy, stopping only to drag his mouth down her neck and mutter, “Missed you so fucking much, Harlow. I thought I’d never get here.”

  “Ah. About that. How come I didn’t know you were coming?”

  Hugh pulled back. Frowned. “I left a message on your voice mail.”

  She shook her head. “My phone has been by my side twenty-four/seven since I left Wyoming. I’ve been waiting to hear from you. No word at all since your last text.”

  “Well, I used some pretty raunchy words in the voice mail.” He blushed. “I wonder who in the hell got the message about all the dirty things I planned to do to you as soon as I reached LA.”

  “No idea.” Harlow twined her arms around his neck. “Maybe you should show me what you were planning.”

  “With pleasure. Take me to our bedroom,” he murmured in the low-pitched husky tone that sent chills down to her core.

  Harlow ducked under his arm and clasped his hand. Her one-bedroom efficiency was big enough for her, but add Hugh to the mix? It wasn’t going to work for long. Especially when he saw . . .

  “A single bed,” he said with a laugh. “Well, darlin’, that’s gonna be cozy.” Then he sat on the edge of the bed and pulled her between his legs before he rolled them back onto the mattress. He grinned. “I could get used to you sleepin’ on top of me like this.”

  “My apartment is small. Barely big enough for one, let alone two.”

  “We did fine in the horse trailer. A smaller space just means we’re gonna be closer to each other all the time and that suits me fine.”

  While she could’ve basked forever in the way Hugh just kept staring at her, love shining in his eyes and that sexy half smile on his lips, she needed answers. “So you’re moving to California.”

  “Yep.”

  “Because of me.”

  “Yep.”

  She stared into those warm brown eyes. Almost immediately her eyes welled up.

  “Harlow. What’s wrong?”

  “Nothing. Everything is right. But it’s like a dream. I’ve never had this, a man who’s loved me enough to move halfway across the country to be with me. I don’t want to screw it up.” What if I’m not worth it?

  “You are worth everything to me, doll.”

  She hadn’t meant to say that last part out loud. Maybe she hadn’t. Maybe the man was just that good at reading her.

  “C’mere.” Hugh circled his arm around her shoulder, bringing her head down to rest on his chest. “We’ll figure it out together as we go. ’Cause this is all new to me too.”

  “So you just . . . quit working for Renner?”

  He chuckled. “Nope. Bought him out except for ten percent. The other ninety percent of Jackson Stock Contracting is split into a partnership between me’n Ike.”

  Harlow lifted her head and looked at him. “Seriously?”

  “Yep. I’m doin’ the business stuff, ’cause that can be done for the most part anywhere. Ike is doin’ the day-to-day stuff in Wyoming. The rodeo stock has always been kept in separate pastures from Renner’s cow and calf pairs operation, so basically we’re renting the land from Renner, keeping the animals there until we get dates on next year’s schedule. Since I won’t be around to help with that part, Ike has hired Riss as our first official employee.”

  “Riss? Really?”

  “Yeah. They came to some kind of truce. I didn’t ask the details and they’ve promised to keep their personal issues out of the business side. Which is a huge load off my mind, since I can factor in her hauling capabilities when I’m bidding rodeo contracts. Ike and I divided the list of previous rodeo venues. And I’ll be exploring other options in this part of the country, since the bottom half of California is in the southwest circuit.” He smiled at her at her look of confusion. “What? You thought I’d be the freeloading boyfriend? Sitting in this apartment all day playing video games? Or I’d be out learning to surf?”

  She put her hand over his mouth. “Never crossed my mind.”

  He kissed her fingers and she moved her hand to let him continue speaking. “I’ll be plenty busy getting this business back on track. It’ll entail some travel for me, but I’ll always come back to you just as soon as I can.”

  “Or I can come with you,” she offered.

  “I’m hoping that when school is out in the spring, you’ll be able to hit the road with me for at least part of rodeo season.”

  “So I’m a decent hired hand?”

  “You learned from the best. Got ya trained the way I want you.” His eyes narrowed. “But no more topless steer ridin’.”

  “Deal.” Harlow paused. “And after the summer ends?”

  “Who knows? We’ve got time to plan. Maybe they’ll want you to teach some more. Maybe you’ll wanna do something else.” He kissed her nose. “I’ll get my passport so I can tag along as your hand and learn about these causes that mean so much to you.”

  Her eyes were getting misty again. “You’d do that?”

  “Yep.”

  No long-winded explanations. Just his word. And that was more than enough for her. “You’ve got a big heart and a bit of a gypsy soul yourself, cowboy. I love that about you. I love you.”

  “You own me, Harlow. Heart and soul.”

  She nestled her head into the spot against his neck that was made for her and thanked the universe for bringing this man into her life.

 
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