Rough, raw, and ready, p.6
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       Rough, Raw, and Ready, p.6

         Part #5 of Rough Riders series by Lorelei James
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Page 6

 

  Brandy’s natural blonde hair and big blue eyes were the ideal, whereas Chassie’s mixed ethnicity meant looks of pity rather than jealousy. As she matured, Chassie accepted her heritage both as an Indian and a rancher, while Brandy maintained her air of superiority for being born pretty, white, and privileged. Years later Brandy still relished putting Chassie in her place, since she considered Chassie far beneath her social status.

  A mental snort sounded in Chassie’s head. As if Wyoming was the pinnacle of high society. As if being a “nail technician specialist” meant something besides Brandy filed fake claws and gossiped all day while drinking Diet Coke.

  But she hated Brandy still had the power to make her feel like a dirty little rez reject.

  Chassie wasn’t paying attention as she shuffled down the darkened hallway. She glanced up from her seen-better-days turquoise ropers into her husband’s smiling face.

  “You all right, darlin’? You been gone a long time. I was gettin’ worried. ”

  She wrapped her arms around Trevor’s waist, melting into him. “I’m better now that you’re here. God, Trevor, I love you. Thank you for marrying me. ”

  Trevor tipped her head back so he could look in her eyes. “Baby? What’s really goin’ on?”

  Crisis of faith. Sometimes when faced with the type of woman Trevor used to date and could’ve married, she wondered why he’d chosen her. “Nothin’ that dancin’ with you won’t cure. ”

  “Be a pleasure to put a smile back on this pretty face I love so much. ” He guided her to the dance floor and held her closely through four songs. After the last note of the steel slide twanged, she stepped back. “Thanks, handsome. ”

  He kissed her square on the mouth. “You’re welcome. But you’re gonna hafta block my lower half until we get to the table, ’cause dirty dancin’ with you like that always gives me a hard-on. ”

  “I noticed. That’s sweet, Trev. ”

  “Sweet?” he growled. “I ain’t feelin’ sweet. Not. At. All. ”

  “You can show me your not-so-sweet side when we get home. But I am feelin’ guilty for abandoning Edgard. ”

  “He’s a big boy. He can take care of himself. ”

  Once the crowd parted, she caught a glimpse of Edgard. He wasn’t alone, but he didn’t appear too pleased about his visitor.

  Chassie’s eyes narrowed at a puffy blonde head atop a narrow set of shoulders.

  Brandy.

  She didn’t understand the sudden burst of jealousy nor her need to act on it. She spun around right into Trevor. “Do you trust me?”

  “Well, yeah, but—”

  “Good. ”

  Chassie skirted the table and snuck in behind Edgard, sliding her hands down his chest until their faces were side-by-side. “Hey, sugar pie. Didja miss me?” She feathered her lips over his neck and flattened her palms against that rock-hard abdomen.

  Edgard sucked in a quick breath. “I, ah, yeah, I did. ”

  “I thought so. Hope you weren’t too bored. ”

  “Baby, keep it PG in public, okay?” Trevor jerked the stool next to Edgard and parked himself, as if he didn’t mind his wife openly touching another man.

  Thank you for playing along, Trev.

  Trevor said, “Brandy. ” No hello, how are you, or inane small talk.

  In a fit of dating confessions, Chassie spilled her guts to him about how poorly Brandy treated her over the years. In a show of camaraderie, Trevor gave Brandy the cold shoulder whenever they crossed paths.

  Edgard picked up on the vibe. He plucked her hand from his stomach and kissed her knuckles one at a time, tossing off Portuguese phrases.

  The display was for show, but Chassie’s knees went weak anyway. Edgard might’ve been reciting a damn grocery list in that sexy-assed accent, but frankly, she didn’t care.

  She could listen to those honeyed masculine tones all damn night.

  Brandy stood abruptly and snapped, “I have to go,” before she flounced off.

  Trevor and Edgard exchanged a devilish look.

  When Chassie tried to snag a barstool, Trevor tugged her onto his lap. “Least you can do is show me a little affection after actin’ so shameless with my best buddy, you brazen hussy. ” He nipped her earlobe and chills raced down her neck.

  “I take it she wasn’t a friend of yours?” Edgard asked.

  “No. I know it was petty and third-gradish, but I’m so sick of her smarmy little comments that I wanted to prove…” Her gaze zoomed to Edgard and guilt punched a hole in her bubble of one-upsmanship. “Crap. I’m sorry. Were you seriously tryin’ to hook up with her?”

  A horrified expression distorted Edgard’s face. “No!”

  “She’s not your type?”

  Another strange look passed between her husband and his friend. “Not my type at all. ”

  “Good. Because she’s a total bitch. Do you know what she asked me in the bathroom? If Edgard and I were related because we looked so much alike. ”

  Trevor choked on his beer.

  She angled her head to look at him. “What?”

  “Ah. Nothin’. ”

  “Do you think we look alike?”

  “Besides the fact you’re a foot shorter than Ed, your hair is reddish brown where his is black? Not to mention your eyes are hazel, Edgard’s are gold? You’re part Indian, he’s Brazilian, you have tits and he has a big cock? Yeah. You two are so much alike you could almost be goddamn twins. ”

  Chassie laughed. “See? Brandy refused to believe that a man as hot lookin’ as Edgard could possibly be with me voluntarily. So I don’t care if she thinks we’re havin’ a threesome every damn night, it serves her nosy ass right. ”

  A sputtering sound came from Edgard, then from Trevor.

  Her gaze flicked between the two men. “What is up with you guys?”

  “Darlin’, didja ever think that Brandy is gonna take great pleasure in tellin’ everyone in the county that you’re bangin’ your husband and his friend? And it won’t be disputed because half the damn county is in this bar right now, watchin’ you feelin’ him up.

  Watchin’ me let you feel him up. ” Trevor took another drink of his beer.

  “I’m not lyin’ when I say I don’t care. Let ’em think what they want. ”

  “But, Chass, baby—”

  “God, Trevor, what is wrong with you? They’ll think what they want anyway, especially if we start denying it, claiming it was all a joke. Screw ’em. We might as well have fun with it. ” Chassie upended Trevor’s beer. “What say you, Edgard?”

  “I say I think it’s time to hit the road. ”

  “Good idea. ” Trevor removed Chassie from his lap and stood.

  “You guys are no fun, I swear. ” Her eyes twinkled. “Maybe the three of us should hold hands on the way to the truck. ”

  “Definitely time to go. ” Trevor dragged her out of the bar.

  Chapter Four

  A few days later, the three amigos, as Chassie secretly called them, stood outside, drinking mugs of coffee. The morning started out typically chilly for February but Chassie knew the forecast for afternoon predicted a balmy fifty degrees.

  Edgard hung back while Trevor and Chassie discussed the day’s schedule. Checking cattle was their priority, twice every day, rain, snow, sleet, or heat. Chassie took the early morning shift while Trevor tended the herd in the evening. Rarely did they do the check together; it was a waste of manpower in their small operation.

  Before he retreated to the barn, Trevor discouraged Edgard from helping with chores again—a reaction Chassie didn’t understand. Every damn day there was more work to be done around the ranch than time to do it. The fact Edgard had volunteered filled Chassie with relief. The fact Trevor discounted it filled Chassie with resentment.

  She frowned as she backed the truck underneath the feed hopper. Something was up with Trevor. But whenever she asked h
im what was wrong, he wouldn’t talk. Rationally, she knew most men were like that, especially cowboys, keeping concerns to themselves.

  But she’d believed Trevor was different. No, he had been different, which was why his about-face bugged her so much. Her husband was keeping secrets and she had a pretty decent idea what about.

  Money.

  The end of last summer they’d crunched numbers and figured out pretty quickly in order to stay competitive in the cattle market, they’d have to increase the size of their herd. Which they did. But it left them at absolute capacity for grazing areas. Land leases from the state or individual ranchers were few and far between. Bottom line: they needed more land.

  As luck would have it, their neighbor to the south, Gus Dutton, was kicking around the idea of selling his acreage. Gus gave them a heads-up—it was an unwritten rancher’s creed to offer neighbors with bordering ranches a shot at purchasing the land before offering it to strangers. Not only had Gus approved of Chassie and Trevor’s improvements to the West homeplace, he understood the struggle of trying to get ahead when developers and “hobby” ranchers were swallowing up land all around you.

  So, giddy at their apparent good fortune, Trevor and Chassie had scheduled an appointment with the family banker to discuss their options. But the banker’s news wasn’t good. Although Chassie owned the West ranch land outright, she had no credit history. Same went for Trevor because he’d spent years living hand-to-mouth on the rodeo circuit.

  The banker did present an option. Because they were otherwise debt free, if they could come up with ten percent of the purchase price as a cash down payment, the bank would be willing to lend them the remainder.

  Not the answer they’d hoped for, but one which showed the banker’s faith in their ability to procure the funds. A totally misplaced faith since the couple was strapped for cash and living on next to nothing as it was.

  If they didn’t assure Gus Dutton they could meet his price, Gus would offer the parcel to the other neighbors whose land bordered his on his south end—the McKays.
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