Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Cowboy Hotness- Vivian Arend's Rocky Mountain Haven has released
Welcome to the Six Pack Ranch, where learning to live again takes some sensual twists.
Beth Danube has escaped to a small Alberta town to make a new start for herself and her three little boys. Her emotionally abusive husband may be dead and buried, but so is her heart. What she doesn’t want is another man in her life—not now, maybe not ever. Yet when her libido reawakens after ten years of unsatisfactory sex in the missionary position is any woman strong enough to turn down sex-in-boots, Daniel Coleman?
The middle child of the rowdy Coleman boys, Daniel’s the quiet one who has always subdued his desires and acted as peacemaker. His powerful attraction to the young widow takes him by storm, and he’s willing to pursue her until they both find satisfaction—in and out of the bedroom.
Only Beth isn’t sure she’s ready to cross the line. Becoming friends with blazing hot benefits means she’s still the one in control. Letting her heart trust again? She isn’t that brave—or foolish. Daniel is going to have to be mighty convincing to help her overcome the past.
The porch boards squeaked softly and he looked up from where he’d settled on the porch swing.
“You’ve got awesome kids. I’m sorry again about the swimming hole thing. It really never crossed my mind you didn’t know.”
She waved it away. “I’m embarrassed I didn’t figure out where they were disappearing to. I should have kept much better tabs on them. I’m so grateful you had an eye on them.”
He stood and peeked in the window. “Will you need to go and get them into bed?”
She nodded. “They’ll start on their own, but they’ll get distracted soon.”
Daniel smiled. “I think my Mama used to say it was like trying to herd cats to get us all in bed on time. I won’t keep you long, but…” He reached for her hand, linking his fingers in hers. She swallowed hard. Oh lord, it felt so good and scared her mindless. She stood, as still as a statue in spite of her pounding heart.
“I’d like to see you, Beth.”
She bit her lip. “I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
He turned over her fingers, his thumb brushing the groove on her ring finger that was slowly disappearing. After ten years of wearing her wedding band, the sign was still there, even though the ring was not. “You’re not married.”
She shook her head. “He’s gone.” He raised a brow and she had to say it, knowing the confusion not speaking plainly would cause. “He’s dead. He died in the accident that injured my leg.” Her throat went tight. Images flashed through her mind, the icy road, the glaring lights. The pain.
His fingers stilled. “I’m sorry.”
He pulled away, and she caught at his hand. Damn her indecision.
“It’s…okay. We were having troubles when he died, and I’m not grieving for him. Not really. I just don’t think it’s a good idea for you and me…” She couldn’t speak anymore. What she wanted and what she should do–why was it so damn hard to know which was which?
He squeezed her hand softly then let go and paced away. “There’s a whole lot I think you’re not saying right now. That’s fine. I’m still the man you met one night while you were in a drunken state and you don’t really know me.”
“I wasn’t drunk.”
He chuckled and she felt her face heat. “We call that liquid courage around here, darling, and you had some. I just want you to know I was serious back then when I said I was interested in you. I’m even more interested now, knowing you’re not a city girl living in some high-rise apartment hours away from me.”
“Maybe I’m not staying.”
“And maybe I’ll have time over the next months to convince you staying is what you need. I’m a good man, Beth. I’m not talking about taking over your life. I’m saying you intrigue me and you make my body ache. I think our attraction is something worthwhile exploring together.”
He moved closer. Her pulse pounded and she tilted her head up involuntarily to keep their eyes in contact.
“I want to kiss you,” he growled. Their bodies were close enough their heat meshed and a little gasp of need escaped her throat. “Do you want to kiss me?”
Oh god. “I shouldn’t.”
“But do you want to?”
Desire and being responsible warred within her. Accepting his touch tonight would make it all that much harder to turn him down the next time.
He pressed still closer and their torsos connected, his erection rubbing her belly. Her back hit the wall as he caged her without using his hands. Their lips brushed together and she sucked in his air, the full body of his flavour rolling over her tongue like a fine wine. He kissed her tenderly, not the white-hot passion she’d replayed over and over in her mind from the bar scene, but a worshipful caress that started and finished with their lips.
When he pulled away his pupils were huge, his smile even wider.
And he walked away, down the path that led into the trees.
And now to wet you appetite Chapter One (from Vivan's website)
She nursed her drink, waving back at her little sister who was jammed together with a hundred other people on the dance floor. Beth tried not to peek at her watch again, instead checking out the myriad of faces under the cowboy hats around her. She’d never seen so many boots and buckles in her life. Another round of ‘Yahoo’s’ rose into the air from a few little-too-well lubricated throats.
While she appreciated Darleen’s attempt at cheering her up and–how had she put it?–”pulling her back to the land of the living”, the bar scene had never been her thing.
It certainly wasn’t tonight.
One song ended, melding into another ear shattering rendition of someone done somebody wrong and Beth held the cool glass of her drink against her temple in the hopes it would slow the throbbing.
“There she is. Hey, Beth, look what I found on the dance floor!” Dar approached the table like a runaway train, dragging not one, but two cowboys by the hand. “They’re identical twins!” she shouted with glee.
Beth raised a brow. They certainly were, from the tops of their Stetsons, past the mischievous grins and the tight faded jeans to the worn shitkickers. “Well done. Now you just need a wandering gypsy and the arctic explorer and you’ll win the scavenger hunt.” She held out a hand to the first of the gorgeous specimens. “Beth.”
A warm hand clasped her fingers and gave a firm shake while a pair of piercing blue eyes gazed into hers. “Jesse Coleman, that’s my brother Joel. I can’t help you with an arctic explorer but I might know where there’s a gypsy or two.”
Beth laughed. “Sorry, but Darleen is a little enthusiastic at times. I’m attempting to keep her centered in reality.”
He pulled out a chair and sat in it backward, his mouth-watering smile never leaving his face. She sipped her drink. He was hot and kind of cute, but too young for her. Way too young.
“You dancing tonight Beth, or just exercising your imagination?” Jesse asked. She saw admiration in his eyes as he looked her over and it felt good. Maybe it was time to try to spread her wings again. She forced herself to take a long slow perusal of his body before smiling at him. His eyes darkened with interest. That was the kind of response she needed to see.
“Beth doesn’t dance since the accident,” Darleen piped up before she could answer for herself. “Oops. Shit, sorry sis. Shut mouth, throw away key.”
Beth found both the boys staring at her. Crap. It’s not like she planned on keeping it a secret.
She leaned back in her chair and pulled out her leg with its thick supporting brace. “I dance fine, Darleen, I just take up more room than is available on the floor. You go ahead, I’ll watch.”
The other twin spoke, adjusting the chairs until there was enough space for them all. “I’m happy to sit for a while. It’s been a long day and the dancing’s pretty much worn me out.”
Darleen rested on the arm of Joel’s chair, her body leaning into him. Beth coughed softly. Her sister was grown up and could make her own decisions, but she didn’t want to be in the know about any specific sexual escapades. From the looks Joel was bestowing on Dar, the potential for something to happen was high.
Besides, she had her own agenda tonight, and perhaps the young hotshot seated next to her would be a willing volunteer in her little research project. She sipped her drink and checked inwardly to see if she’d had enough to alcohol yet to loosen up her final inhibitions.
“So, why’s it called Six Pack Ranch?” Darleen now sat firmly in Joel’s lap and Beth blinked at having missed the movement that put her there. “You said the ranch has been around for generations, but six-packs are fairly new.”
Jesse laughed. “The ranch is officially the SP Ranch, after the first initials of the original Coleman brothers who established her, but the smartasses in town decided it stood for Six Pack a few years ago and the new handle stuck.”
Beth raised a brow. “The smartasses? Why would they do that? Usually nicknames have some basis in reality.”
“You’re pretty fixated on reality, aren’t you, sweetheart?” Jesse leaned over and took her hand in his, stroking her fingers smoothly. If she weren’t so sure she might have taught him only a few years earlier in one of her high school math classes, it would have felt even better. Now she wondered if he was of legal age to be in the bar. “You’re right, there’s more. Picture six boys growing up on the ranch. That started the idea. Plus, there’s this…” He rotated smoothly to end up by her side, tugging her close. Yanking up the bottom of his shirt he slapped her hand onto his abdomen.
Rigid muscles flexed under her palm and she froze for a second, his hand trapping hers against his skin. Oh God, she’d never felt anything like it before. Beth involuntarily drew a finger along the well-defined ridges, mesmerized by the sensation of individual muscle strands under the skin. A soft laugh brought her back to realize she sat fondling a stranger’s stomach in public and she snatched her hand away to safety.
She wiggled her finger in his face. “Bad boy.”
He laughed and leaned in closer. “I think you like bad boys.”
Beth shook her head. He had no idea how much she wanted the exact opposite.
Darleen giggled as Joel nuzzled behind her ear and Beth knew it was time to make a decision. She looked up from under her lashes to spot Jesse watching the other two at the table jealously, his attention back on her younger sister, and that was all the wake up call she needed. He might have thought she was amusing to tease, but she was way too old for him. She glanced around the dance floor. Damn it. Weren’t there any guys over the age of twelve in the room?
“I need to powder my nose.” She grabbed her purse and hid her smile as Jesse leapt to his feet to help her up. He was a polite thing, wasn’t he? If she weren’t old enough to have babysat him it might have been perfect.
It took a little maneuvering to make it through the crowd to the back of the room with her leg. The pulsing beat of the music stirred something inside her, the liquor setting her blood pounding for the first time in forever. The bodies tangling together on the dance floor made her jealous. How long since she had someone wanting her that badly? Hands and mouths unable to resist touching, no matter how visible they were to the eyes watching around them.
Hell, she’d never had that kind of relationship. She cursed at herself and pressed the door to the washroom a little harder than she intended, the frame slamming into the wall with a crash. The girls at the sink touching up their lipstick eyed her cautiously and she shook her head in derision, stumbling her way to a stall.
Great, now she was freaking out the party animals. The whole bar trip had been a bad idea from the start. As for her underlying goal? Obviously getting hot and sweaty was not on the agenda for tonight. She had her answer.
She washed her hands and stared at herself in the mirror. Inside, she felt a million years old, especially after seeing Joel fawn over Dar. On the outside, the news was mixed. Her new short hairstyle suited her dark colouring, but the tension from the past years had drawn lines at the corners of her eyes and she clearly wasn’t twenty anymore. She’d managed to keep her weight stable, even with the bummed-up leg. She missed her daily runs and the physical high she used to get from them. Those times alone had been her only moments of escape from the hell her life had become. In the six months since the accident there had been no more of that freedom.
Although the worst part of her prison was gone. Hopefully the bastard enjoyed burning in hell like the devil he was.
She made her way back through the crowd, bodies brushing her, knocking her, pressing her to and fro until it was difficult to keep her balance. She swore softly and clung to the railing blocking the dance floor from the rest of the chaos. If she could just catch Dar’s eye. Asking for help stuck in her throat, but she’d prefer to beg than end up on her butt on the floor.
An additional body now sat at the table in the seat she’d abandoned and Beth prayed with three guys vying for her attention, her sister would remember not to leave her behind.
She waved, catching one of the twin’s eyes, which one she couldn’t tell. He nodded and rose, and she sighed in relief. The idea of fighting her way across the room left her aching. Then the newcomer stood as well and pivoted, his dark eyes seeking her out.
Her mouth went dry.
Oh my. If she’d thought the twins were good looking, this specimen was dazzling. He was still young, probably younger than her, but on him the tantalizing features of the other boys had matured, soft edges now harder, more pronounced. There was no doubt he was a member of the six-pack they’d spoken about. Whatever else the family raised out on that ranch of theirs, the men were certainly impressive.
She lifted her chin, her pulse quickening as the older cowboy waved his brother down and made his way to her side. People seemed to part before him and Beth got an eyeful of long, muscular limbs and smooth controlled motion as he approached. Suddenly her little side reason for the trip to the bar got pulled off the backburner and back into play.
She’d spent the past six months rebuilding her life. While there were still huge holes in her world, learning to retake control of her sexuality had finally made it toward the top of the to-do list. After years of dreading her husband’s touch, she needed to know if she could stand physical contact with a man. The cowboy she was drooling over looked like a fine volunteer to experiment with–if she could get past her fears and seduce him, or at least attempt to. If she had to call it off in mid-play, this was a safe site. He’d never be able to track her down, or figure out her real identity. She’d never have to see him again.
He landed at her side and dipped his head in greeting.
“Daniel Coleman. Can I give you a hand?” He offered his arm and she took it gratefully. The fragrance of his aftershave made her perk up. Her husband had never used any cologne. Claimed a real man didn’t need anything but soap and water, and the gift she’d given him was thrown in the garbage along with a bit of her heart. Now this stranger wore the very scent she’d chosen for Samuel back when she was still young and thought she knew what love was. It had to be a good omen. Damn it, she was going to take it as a good omen because she needed one right now.
Back at the table it was a tight fit. Darleen now sat on both the twin’s laps, their three bodies crowded close together. Beth found herself seated next to Daniel.
The noise level in the bar increased and Beth gave up trying to listen to a conversation three feet away from her. She’d have to shout to be heard. She turned to see Daniel frowning slightly as he watched his brothers.
He smiled wryly at her. “Just getting tired of babysitting. Your little sister?”
She nodded. “Dar doesn’t bite. Your boys are safe.”
He laughed. “Then I’ll relax. You live in Calgary?”
Did she really want to tell him anything about herself? No. Hell, she thought that at least she could handle some small talk after all this time. She threw back the last mouthfuls of her drink and changed the topic. The conversation needed to stick to what she wanted to discuss. Somehow she had to lead him into accepting her proposition.
“What’s your favourite part of the Calgary Stampede?”
He paused and took a long drink of his beer before turning to face her. “I take it you don’t want to answer my question.”
Damn right, she didn’t want to tell him any of her personal details. There was no way she would tell him the truth. But the best lies were made of a pinch of reality.
“I just want to enjoy myself and take a night to be whoever. Do whatever. I’m not into exchanging life stories. Sorry.”
He nodded. “Understood.”
She looked him over closer. A small scar marred the skin beside his right eye, and she touched it without thinking. “You were lucky.”
“I deserved it.”
Her involuntary reaction to his words was to stiffen in defense. Oh damn, there were still triggers that were beyond her control. She forced herself to relax. He didn’t mean anything by it. He wasn’t talking about her and scars, he was talking about himself.
They were crowded on either side as people forced their way past to reach their seats. His arm draped along the back of her chair, just touching her shoulders. It felt way better than she’d hoped–the riotous fear she had expected wonderfully absent. She deliberately made herself rest her hand on his thigh, trying to make it look casual, trying not to show how much effort it took to not flinch away. He moved slightly and the individual muscles shifted. Firm muscles pressed against the jean material and she sucked in a quick breath wondering what he was about to do. Heat radiated upward, and her core tightened. The twins took off, dragging her sister back to the dance floor.
She leaned closer under the pretense of speaking quietly. Her nose itched as it struck the short hairs behind his ear. The scent of his skin, so different from her husband’s, gave her courage. That wonderful mixture of man and aftershave, slightly rough, slightly wild. Damn. Her nipples tightened and between her legs her body ached.
Okay, that was a good sign. The whole libido thing wasn’t completely broken…
“Dar’s going to have a hard time picking which one of them she likes better, you know.”
His shoulder pressed against her body as he leaned back, twisting his head to the side to reach her ear. He sighed, the warm air tickling her skin. “Are you going to go ballistic if I tell you they’re going to try their best to get her to pick them both?”
She choked before pulling back to look him in the eye. “Hello?”
Daniel grimaced. “They won’t force anything, but they like having one girl between the two of them. I don’t get it, I don’t understand it. But they’ve always been like that and so far I haven’t heard any complaints.”
She sat shocked for a moment, turning to watch the slow-dance taking place on the floor. There were more than enough bodies to explain why the three of them had to be dancing so close, but sure enough, the younger Colemans had trapped Darleen on two sides. Beth debated for a moment, her heart pounding. What if…
No, she couldn’t start imaging what if her sister suddenly had to deal with two men who were overly aggressive. Not all men were like Samuel. If Dar wanted to cut loose tonight, hell if big sister was going to stop her. Life was short, and she should take what fun she could.
“More power to them.” She said it quietly, but she knew he’d heard. He relaxed, his arm brushing her again. Onto other important issues. It was now or never, because she was one second away from fleeing altogether. “What about you, Daniel?” She pressed her hand against his thigh, letting the weight of it slowly brush the surface of his jeans. If she had the courage she would have reached toward his crotch, but that was impossible. This was as deliberate as she could get.
She held her breath waiting for his reaction. Would he ridicule her? Brush her aside?
He stared at her for a full minute and heat crept up her neck. It was one thing to act the hussy, and another to pull it off. Fine. The whole plan had been rotten from the word go. She dropped her eyes and retreated. She would have withdrawn her hand when he grasped her wrist, locking it in place with a steely grip. She bit her lip to hide the gasp of fear that wanted to escape, but his grasp, while it held her immobile, was gentle on her skin.
With a slow but deliberate motion he tugged her hand over his lap. He opened her fingers, curling them around his length. His erection bulged, a solid ridge under the fabric. She felt him grow firmer beneath the zipper.
He leaned in. “I’m not usually the type for this kind of thing, but if you’re asking for a little something on the wild side, hell yeah, I can oblige you. I don’t know why someone like you isn’t getting well taken care of already. For tonight, if you want me to make you happy, I’ll do my damndest.”
She swallowed hard, his hand trapping her. No escape. Demanding. Her heart fluttered with fear and she closed her eyes to stop the shaking. Okay, this was why she was doing this, in public. It was safe. All she had to do was say stop and it would be over.
His grip loosened and he stroked his fingers over hers, a fleeting touch with the back of his hand caressing her skin. The coarse hair on his arm tickled her as he moved past her wrist, his body tight to hers, his lips hovering over her ear. The loud beat of music shook the room. The table. Her body. It had to be the music; it wasn’t her pulse making her shake so hard.
The warmth of his breath brushed her neck, sending a shiver through her. “You sure–completely sure–about this?” He drew back and cupped her chin in his hand, supporting her without locking her in place. “I’ve been around a lot of animals in my lifetime, and I know when one’s skittish. You may have the most come-hither attitude and sexy stare I’ve ever seen, but your body is telling me a different story.”
Beth wiggled uncomfortably but refused to drop her gaze. She had to bluff her way out of this. She was a grown woman, she was taking back control of her life. It was a step she wanted to take and she could handle it. Couldn’t she?
His gaze descended her body, an intimate caress without physical contact. “What’s it going to be? Do I grab my brothers and we pop you and your sister in cab so you get safely home? Or do you really want to have a little company tonight? Shoot straight with me. I won’t accept any lies.”
She licked her lips and his eyes darkened, his stare solid on her mouth. She stuttered for a second, then swallowed and took a deep breath. Part of the truth burst out.
“I need this. I need to know…” She couldn’t maintain eye contact anymore and buried her head in his shoulder. Shit. It had been a stupid idea to begin with, and there was no getting around it. Now she sounded desperate, which she was, but actually acknowledging it was brutally difficult.
He’d turned out to be exactly the kind of person she needed for a one-night stand, compassionate and caring. Something inside her cringed a little with disgust at herself. When she thought about the fact she was using him as an experiment she felt dirtier than when she’d first come up with the idea.
He stood and helped her to her feet.
“What are you doing?”
“I thought we could dance.” He moved slowly through the masses, leading her away from the crowded floor toward the bathrooms. There was a small landing kitty corner to the ladies room door, and he guided her there before pulling her into his arms and wrapping her close. She hid her face again, fear and rising desire fighting in her body. They were only steps away from the crowd. A constant stream of women passed by. If she got frightened she’d have help in an instant.
She relaxed, just a tiny bit and let her arms snake around his torso.
“Hmm, that’s better. You’re not going to bolt on me now, are you?”
She shook her head. “Feels nice.”
He swayed with her, every inch in contact. Her cheek rested on his collar, letting his fragrance fill her head. Why was it that the smell of the man turned her on so much?
His heartbeat–she felt it against her chest. He adjusted them, somehow bringing her closer until they were intimately lined up, his erection now nudging her belly. “I still need to hear what you want, Beth. If it’s a dance, I’m happy. If more…say the word.”
Oh God, he shifted his hands down her back, caressing, teasing. She sucked in air like it was courage. “I want something. I don’t know what to tell you.”
He lifted her face to his, their bodies still swaying, hips in intimate contract. Slowly, with lots of time for her to retreat, he lowered his head and brushed their lips together. A single touch. Chaste. When he pulled back, she followed him without intending to, wanting more.
A bright light shone in his dark eyes as he examined her face. “That was something. Was it enough?”
She took it as a good sign that she definitely wanted more. “No.”
“So tell me.”
She hissed in frustrated. “Please.”
He had a wicked smile. She’d noticed his good looks, but the smile turned his whole face into sin incarnate.
“You’re having trouble articulating, darling. How about I give you a multiple choice. You look like the type who enjoys options.”
He kissed her again. Light. Fleeting. The bathroom door opened and closed but Beth barely noticed. There could have been an audience standing around them and she wouldn’t have cared.
“You want a kiss?” He brushed a thumb over her lips and brought it back to his mouth, licking the moisture from the pad. “Hmm, you taste good. You want me to kiss you for real? Like a man kisses his woman? Or are you happy with more pecks like you give your neighbour at the church picnic?”
She swore she spoke aloud. She knew her lips moved, but the deafening buzzing in her ears outweighed the sound of her own voice. Daniel gave her another of his sexier-than-sin grins and came back for a third pass. She closed her eyes and hoped like hell she’d said door number one.
He gripped her body tighter and lifted her, heavy brace and all, and she gasped in surprise. Then he tore the rest of the air from her lungs as he consumed her. Crushing their lips together, he thrust his tongue into her mouth and took control. She waited for panic to descend, but all she felt was a heavy pulse between her legs and the urgent desire to drop to the floor and rip off his clothes. She opened to him, accepted his demands. Clung to his neck and writhed shamelessly against him. He held her up, cupping her by the ass and now the cold of the wall met her shoulders. He leaned into her, supporting her with his torso and hands, pulsing with small movement so the ridge of his erection ground against the apex of her mound where the blood beat with an insane tempo.
He tasted fantastic. Clean and fresh, the hint of hops on his tongue from the beer, but beyond that nothing but heat and passion. Tingles spread across her belly from the constant pressure on her clit. When he lowered her slowly to the floor she whimpered, suddenly fearful he’d leave her at this point, frustrated and all alone again with nothing but her own hand to bring her over the edge.
He caged her against the wall, his lips brushing her ear, the arm away from the bar sneaking between their bodies until he cupped her breast in his hand. “Option number two. You want me to touch you over your clothes, or put my fingers on your bare flesh?” He licked her earlobe and tugged at her blouse, pulling it loose from the waist of her skirt.
“Skin.” This was insane. She’d gone insane. This was no longer an exercise to discover if she could bear physical contact with a man again. It was a torture method to see how much her body could take before she exploded from the mere thought of a caress.
Whisper light, seductively slow. Inch by inch his hand crept up her waist, strumming the curve of her ribs gently like piano keys, lifting the bottom edge of her bra and forcing it out of his way. He cupped her, his palm calloused and rough but so tender and careful she shivered. He distracted her with strokes of his tongue against hers as his fingers plucked her nipple to a hard peak.
“God, you’re driving me mad.” He rolled her aching nipple between thumb and forefinger and a piercing flash shot straight between her legs.
“More.” Beth ached. It wasn’t enough to have confirmation she could be touched. She wanted to come and she wanted Daniel to be the one who brought her over the peak. It had been too long, and something in this man made her think he’d understand if she told him what she truly needed. Why.
“Get a room!”
Laughter burst out behind them. Daniel twisted, covering her with his body, protecting her from the giggling girls exiting the bathroom and traipsing back onto the dance floor.
A cold flush raced over her. What was she thinking? Groping in a hallway with a stranger. All the passion she’d felt, the sense of being truly alive, drained from her like air from a balloon. She struggled back and fumbled to put herself back in order–her bra, her blouse. He helped her, his hands far more careful and slow, redoing the buttons that had slipped open, tucking her hair behind her ear.
“Beth. Don’t. Don’t start thinking this was a mistake.”
She looked up at him in astonishment. “How did you–?”
He brushed a hand over her cheek and she stilled again, her skin burning hot. “The only mistake was thinking a short encounter in a back hall would be enough. I’m not that type.” He shook his head, his eyes fixed on hers. “I don’t think you’re that type either. Not really.”
She hesitated, then nodded reluctantly. He deserved at least that much honesty. It was all she was willing to give.
“Let me get to know you better. We know we’ve got the chemistry. I’d like to find out who you are when you’re not trying to be someone else.”
Every word drove another nail into her guilty conscious. “Sure. Let’s go back to the table. Darleen must be wondering where I am.”
He kissed her once more and she took it eagerly. Trying to store up the memory of his taste, the way he tugged his fingers through her hair just right. None of the fear she’d expected was there. When he pulled away she had to fight to keep tears from falling. He had no idea, but he’d help remind her she was free. Samuel had tied her in knots, and in one fell swoop, Daniel had cut some of the remaining cords that held her bound.
They headed to the table, but their previous space was filled with strangers. Beth spotted Darleen waiting by the door of the bar, a frown on her face.
“Shit. Looks like trouble in paradise.”
Daniel pointed to the far side of the room where Jesse and Joel tossed back beers at the long bar counter. “Double shit. Jackasses. I’ll whoop their butts if they–”
She shook her head. “Knowing Dar, it’s just as easily her fault. It’s only a night out on the town.”
He turned her in his arms. “It’s more than a night on the town for me. I like you, Beth. There’s something about you…” His eyes traced her hair and she flushed. Damn it, she hadn’t intended it to come to this.
Daniel pulled out his wallet and handed her a card. “It’s for the family business, but my contact numbers are on there. You can email me, or phone.” He handed her an extra card. “Write your number on the back for me.”
She nodded. He pulled her close and she used his chest as a solid base to scribble down her name. Beth Jackson. Jotted down a number. He took the card and tucked it away, his dark gaze burning a hole in her conscious. “I’ll call you a cab.”
She held up a hand, refusing his offer. “We have a car. We’re fine.”
Dar flounced out the door and Beth rolled her eyes. With all the other drama, dealing with her temperamental little sister was not something she had energy for. She took one last look at her cowboy wishing things could be different.
“Thanks, Daniel. It was great meeting you.”
He brushed her cheek with a kiss. “I’ll call you in the morning. I’d love to take you for coffee.”
She smiled and backed away, the relentless noise and the situation making her head and heart ache equally. “That would be great,” she lied.
The night air felt cool after the heat of the bar, and she sucked in a calming breath. Dar had already brought the car around and Beth maneuvered herself into the passenger seat, the leg brace frustrating and cumbersome.
“Where the hell were you?” Darleen griped. “I’ve been wanting to leave forever.”
Beth dropped her head back on the seat and groaned. She was sexually frustrated, her leg ached and she really didn’t want to listen to whining right now. “I thought you were busy. With two guys.”
Darleen had the grace to look embarrassed. “Yeah, well, they were nice enough. Then one of the Stampeders asked me to dance. I mean one of the linebackers from the professional football team. I had to say yes, and when I got back, the guys had left.”
Stupid child. “You went and danced with someone else and expected them to wait for you?” Darleen didn’t say anything. Beth rolled down her window and let the sounds of the city streets soothe her soul. “Can’t have it all, girl.”
Darleen flicked a hand in her direction. “Whatever. It was still fun, I guess. How about you? Their older brother was hot. Did you hit it off with him?”
A pulse still beat between her legs. Did they hit it off? Jesus. “Yes.”
“You going to see him again?”
Beth stared at the card he’d given her. She’d been clutching it like a lifeline. The dark look in Daniel’s eyes scared her, yet gave her hope, and for one moment she hesitated.
No. It was time for a total break. She tore the card into tiny little pieces so she wasn’t tempted to try and recover the numbers. “Nope. I’m leaving town with the boys in two weeks. Making a new start, and I don’t need any baggage in the shape of male stalkers, thanks very much. Been there, burnt the T-shirt.”
“Guys aren’t all like Samuel, you know. There are good ones out there.”
Like Daniel? She dropped the shards into the trash bag and adjusted her leg. “Enough. I want to go home. Mom’s bringing the boys by in the morning, so it’s not like we can sleep in.”
Beth stared out the window and wished more than anything Daniel were the one taking her home, and tucking her into bed.
copyright 2010 Vivian Arend
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