Cowboy take me away, p.8
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       Cowboy Take Me Away, p.8

         Part #16 of Rough Riders series by Lorelei James
 

  “What’s that sneaky smile for, cowboy?”

  “I realized I really liked havin’ a picnic with you.”

  She attempted to straighten her hair. “This isn’t a picnic. There’s no food.”

  Carson bent forward and stole a kiss. “Then I guess next time I’ll just have to make a feast of you.”

  Her cheeks flushed.

  They spent the next two hours tooling around the back roads. Listening to the radio. Laughing and talking. He kept the vehicle moving because he knew if they stopped, and she got close to him again, he couldn’t keep his hands to himself.

  “Before we get back to your car, I want to know when I can see you again.”

  “This date isn’t over and you already want another one?”

  “Of course. What’re you doin’ tomorrow night?”

  “I don’t have any plans. Why?”

  “You do now. Can you meet me at the rest area outside of Moorcroft at seven?”

  “Sure. What are we gonna do?”

  Carson kissed her nose. “It’s a surprise.”

  Chapter Five

  Carolyn

  The day had been a scorcher.

  By the time she’d hung all the clothes on the line, the first ones were already dry.

  Her father and Thomas came home together. They set their lunch pails on the counter and each grabbed a beer out of the refrigerator. Even if her dad couldn’t give her more than a grunt of acknowledgment, he did spend time with his wife every night.

  “So what’d you do all day?” Thomas asked. “Bake cookies?”

  “When it’s nearly a hundred degrees? No. Which also means we’re having cold-cut sandwiches for supper.” She faced her brother. “I need to borrow your car tonight.”

  “Where you going?”

  “Over to Beverly’s.”

  His eyes turned suspicious. “Why can’t she pick you up?”

  “Because she always picks me up.”

  “Why can’t you take Mom’s car?”

  “Because the left rear tire is almost flat.”

  He sighed. “I suppose you want me to fix that too?”

  “You or someone else. I can’t go to the store without a car, and if I don’t get to the store, no one eats,” she said sweetly.

  “Good point.” He swigged his beer. “Stu will be around tonight so we’ll get it handled.”

  “Thank you.”

  “Leave the keys on the hook when you’re done. I’m taking my car to work tomorrow instead of riding with Dad.”

  Carolyn sensed he wanted her to ask why, but Stuart wandered in. “I hope there’s a good game on TV tonight. I’m beat.”

  “We gotta fix the tire on Mom’s car first,” Thomas said.

  Stuart groaned.

  “Supper is ready and on the counter. And somebody please remember to put away the leftovers.” If there were any.

  “Where are you goin’?” Stuart asked with suspicion that equaled Thomas’s. “You’ve been gone a lot lately.”

  “As long as I feed you, wash your clothes and pick up after you, why does it matter?”

  He patted her on the shoulder. “Have fun.”

  She never fixed herself up to go to her friend’s house and doing so would cement her brothers’ suspicions. So she shoved her makeup and change of clothing into the bottom of her big purse. Butterflies flapped in her belly, making it impossible to eat. As casually as possible, she strolled out of the sun porch toward the front door.

  “Where do you think you’re goin’?” her father asked, or rather, more like he shouted as an accusation.

  “To Beverly’s.”

  Lying about meeting a man? Next you’ll be sneaking out of the house to meet him.

  If she had to. She wanted to be with him. She’d do anything to see him again. Luckily, after talking to Beverly today, she’d agreed to cover for Carolyn—even as she warned her to watch her step with the notorious Carson McKay.

  Her father said, “I don’t think you need to be out tearing around on a Monday night.”

  Carolyn slowly turned around. “What will I do if I stay here? I’ve already cooked, cleaned, done the laundry and looked after Mom.”

  “You don’t need to get smart with me, young lady.”

  “I’m not.” She started toward the door again.

  “Be home by ten. Not a minute later.”

  He’d be snoring away in his room by nine-thirty and wouldn’t know what time she rolled in anyway—but the smartest thing to do would be to smile and nod her head.

  But that rankled. She was an adult. Her brothers didn’t have a curfew.

  “Carolyn,” her father said sharply. “Did you hear me?”

  She started to retort but Thomas jumped in. “Geez, Dad, I don’t think you have to worry about Carolyn. Now if it was me…?” He laughed. “I’d most likely roll in just as we were hopping in the car to go to work.”

  Thank you, Thomas.

  It was hard to meander out the door when she wanted to run. When the wheels hit the pavement she let out a loud whoop—sweet freedom!—turned up the radio and rolled down the windows.

  The heat of the day lingered even as twilight approached.

  She pulled into a roadside rest area and dug her clothes from the bottom of her purse. Making sure the coast was clear, she switched her short-sleeved floral blouse for a sleeveless black western shirt with pink piping on the collar and placket, leaving the top two buttons undone. She ditched the drab gray skirt and slid a tight black knit skirt up her thighs and over her hips. She wished she could’ve stashed a pair of pink kitten heels in her bag, but she was stuck with the white canvas shoes she’d worn all day.

  Her hair was a wild tangle after having the windows down in the car, but it’d look messier yet when Carson got a hold of it. She’d nearly screamed in shock yesterday after catching sight of herself in the mirror following their picnic. She’d scraped her hair into a ponytail, praying her brothers and father wouldn’t notice her hairstyle change in the hours between when she left for church and when she’d returned home.

  They’d been glued to some sporting event on TV and she’d breezed by them, no problem.

  Lying and sneaking around didn’t sit well with her. She’d happily introduce Carson to her family, if it weren’t for the fact their families had bad blood. She’d try to remember to ask Carson specifics about it tonight.

  Sure. It’s a little hard to talk when his tongue is buried in your mouth, isn’t it?

  Yes. But good Lord could the man kiss. She could’ve happily kept her lips plastered to his all afternoon. And when he’d removed her stockings, his callused fingertips were a reminder that a man was touching her. A man who knew exactly how to elicit that shivery response from a woman.

  Part of her wondered how much farther they might’ve gone if a car hadn’t interrupted.

  Because you would’ve eagerly shed your clothes and given your virginity to the smoldering cowboy right there on that blanket.

  At the time she’d been too annoyed at the interruption to consider how it might’ve looked when Carson had swept her into his arms and carried her back to the truck, without stockings, or shoes, her hair a wreck, her mouth red from their intense kisses.

  Her stomach flipped when she heard the rumble of his truck enter the parking area. She grabbed her things, expecting he’d want her to hop in when he pulled up.

  But Carson threw the engine in park and jumped out, skirting the tailgate, making a beeline for her. He curled his hand behind her neck and yanked her against his body. His hat shadowed her face and then his mouth was on hers. Kissing her like it’d been weeks since he’d seen her, not just a single day.

  She dropped her bag to the ground and wrapped herself around him, letting his heat and urgency consume her.

  Just when she thought he’d break the seal of their mouths, he changed the angle and then tone of the kiss. Kissing her with such sweetness she ached. So many sides to this gruff cowboy. And he seemed determi
ned to show her every one.

  Lucky me.

  Carolyn kept her eyes closed when his mouth finally migrated to her ear.

  “I missed you, sugar.”

  That deep voice shot tingles down her arm, her spine, her neck. “The kiss proved that you missed me.” She turned her head and kissed his jaw. “But it’s nice to hear.”

  “Same goes.”

  She inhaled the soapy scent of his shaving cream and rubbed her lips across his jawbone. “I missed you too.”

  Carson stepped back. “Let’s go.”

  “Where are we going?”

  “I told you; it’s a surprise.” He helped her into the cab. His help meant his hands squeezing her butt as he hoisted her in. She arched an eyebrow at him. The man didn’t even pretend it’d been an oversight. He merely grinned.

  Before they took off, he said, “Why’re you sittin’ all the way by the door?” He patted the center seat. “Come here.”

  “You are so bossy, McKay.” But she scooted closer anyway.

  “Comes with bein’ the oldest. Though I’m only older than Cal by a couple of minutes.”

  “What’s it like having a twin?”

  He shrugged. “Normal for me. We look enough alike some folks think we’re identical, but we’re not.”

  Her gaze traveled over his handsome face and she fought the urge to sigh with pure feminine appreciation. Hard to imagine another man looking as fine as him, with that midnight black hair, those compelling blue eyes, chiseled jawline, dimples in his lean cheeks, and the slight divot in his strong chin.

  “Why you starin’ at me?”

  “Just trying to imagine if your twin is as good-looking as you. When will you introduce me to him?”

  He scowled.

  Laughing, she leaned over and kissed his cheek. “Honestly I was staring because I like looking at you. There’s a whole lot to like about the way you look, McKay.”

  His hand crept higher on her knee and squeezed.

  They turned off the highway into a pasture. Carolyn saw rutted tracks ahead of them, but it in no way resembled a real road. It was starting to get dark.

  “You tensed up. What’s wrong?”

  “Wondering if we’ll get shot for trespassing.”

  “Nah. Don’t worry about it.”

  “You telling me you wouldn’t be tearing after a trespasser on McKay land? Because that’s not what I heard.”

  Carson stopped the vehicle. “Who’s been talkin’ shit about us?”

  “No one.”

  “Bullshit, Carolyn. You wouldn’t have said it if you hadn’t heard something.”

  “Fine. Beverly and—” Darn. She snapped her mouth shut. She’d told him that her family didn’t know about them, but both her mother and Thomas knew. Now her friend knew too. Somehow she didn’t think that’d make him happy.

  “Who the hell you been talkin’ to?”

  “I told you. Beverly saw you kissing me outside the bar Saturday night and she told me all sorts of stories about your family. How you all keep adding land, turning your ranch into a McKay kingdom.” Then Beverly had detailed how many women Carson reportedly had on a string. Evidently the man had legendary moves between the sheets. Or in the barn. Or in his truck.

  He scowled again. “I hate gossip.”

  How much of a simpering fool did it make her that she thought he looked fierce and sexy, not mean when his dark eyebrows knitted together and his eyes got squinty?

  “You got questions about something, ask me.”

  “I did ask you. And you tossed off a smart aleck answer. I want to know why we’re driving across someone’s land.”

  “It’s my buddy Alan’s land. He gave me permission to take the shortcut to the lake.”

  “Lake?”

  “Yeah, we’re goin’ to Keyhole.”

  Panic set in.

  The truck stopped and then Carson’s hands were on her face. “Sugar. What’s wrong?”

  “I don’t swim.”

  “That’s—”

  “Ever. I don’t even get near the water.”

  “You’re afraid of water?”

  “Yes!”

  “Why?”

  “Because I don’t know how to swim!”

  Warm lips pressed into her forehead. “Hey now. It’s okay.”

  She closed her eyes. “I’m sorry to ruin your plans.”

  “They’re not ruined. Because we’re still goin’ to the lake.”

  “What? No.”

  “Look at me.” He stared into her eyes. “Caro, you’re safe with me. I promise. Let’s go down there and see how it goes.”

  “You won’t make me get in the water?”

  “We’ll see, okay?”

  She tried to shake free from him. “Doesn’t matter because I don’t have a bathing suit. There’s no way I’m swimming in my clothes because the skirt could get tangled around my legs and pull me to the bottom—”

  His mouth was on hers again.

  And of course his distraction worked. After he kissed her senseless she burrowed her face into his neck as his fingers drew circles in the middle of her back.

  “I’d never let anything happen to you,” he said softly. “You mean too much to me.”

  That shocked her. “What? We’ve known each other five days.”

  His intense blue gaze never wavered. “I knew five seconds after I saw you that you were someone special who’d change my life forever.” Then, seeming embarrassed by his answer, he retreated, put the truck in gear and they were on the move again.

  They started up a small incline. At the crest, she could see and smell the water. He parked and came around to help her out. Holding her hand, he led her down the embankment.

  She noticed the picnic table close to the water’s edge and a couple of cottonwood trees creating a canopy above it. The air was cooler this close to the water.

  “Careful. It’s a little muddy.”

  So much for her white shoes.

  After setting his hat brim side up on the table top, he dropped onto the bench and rested his forearms on the edge of the table behind him. She sat next to him, and took in their surroundings. This section seemed to be a small cove just off the main body of the lake.

  He exhaled. “After the scorcher of a day this breeze feels nice.”

  “Did you work outside all day?”

  “Pretty much. We shoulda fixed the section of fence last week, when it wasn’t a hundred degrees in the shade. But my brothers overruled me. So it was on the list today. Dirty, damn, miserable work.”

  “Then why do it?”

 
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