Authors: Randi Alexander
Tags: #rodeo, #holiday romance, #cowboy romance, #4th of july romance, #independence day romance, #red hot and boom, #black hills roundup
She hadn’t shared her last name. Was she
safety conscious? She’d have to be. A woman traveling alone. Or at
least, he assumed she was alone. “Are you here alone?” It kind of
blurted out of his mouth.
“I am.” She shivered and rubbed her arms.
“Oooh, this weather...”
“Ma’am, I wish I had a jacket to give you,
but...” He held his arm so it hovered over the back of her seat.
“If you don’t mind me getting in your personal space...”
Again, she paused for a few seconds, then
nodded. “Sure.” She leaned into him, her shoulder resting on his
Shaw’s heart thundered and his belly
shuddered. When he laid his arm around her and his hand landed on
her shoulder, he had to swallow back a groan. God, she was soft.
And she smelled like flowers and vanilla. His eyes narrowed and he
sucked in a breath, picturing her naked, up against the wall, his
body pressing hard along her lush curves, his hips jerking as he
slid his shaft into her tight, pink...
“Why do you have four seats, Shaw?” She
tipped her head back and looked into his eyes. Could she see the
fierce desire burning there? That would heat her up some.
She sucked in a breath and her cheeks pinked
He glanced away and took control of his lust.
“I only have one. My three buddies were here, but they decided to
sit up in the bleachers.” He grinned at her.
, huh?” Her brows
lifted and she smiled slightly.
He tucked her in a little tighter and leaned
down just a bit closer. “I had some say in their
She tipped her face up to his. Just inches
separated their lips. He inhaled as deeply as he could, taking in
as much of her as he could stand without going mad. “You’re
pretty.” Damn, had he really just said that? What was this, first
With a wink, she licked her lips. “You’re
kinda pretty too, cowboy.”
They laughed and talked about the differences
between today’s ranch rodeo and the PRCA rodeo they’d both see
tomorrow night. Hopefully together, if Shaw had his way. They
chatted about what they’d seen of the Black Hills and Badlands
areas. After he ran to get nachos and beer for them, they talked
about their favorite foods.
She steered the conversation away from
anything personal, though. When he asked where she was from, she
talked about her apartment in downtown Chicago, but she didn’t ask
him about his life. As if she didn’t want to know him. Hell, was
she just looking for a one-nighter?
During the wild cow milking, the rain let up.
By the time the bronc riding was nearly done, the clouds had blown
away and stars twinkled. The announcer informed them that the band
would play as planned, and the crowd cheered.
“Stay and listen to the band with me,
Harper?” He’d lead her outside the rodeo building, find a dark,
quiet spot, and take her in his arms with her back against his
chest. Her sweet, round ass would push and wiggle, tempting
unbearably, hardening his shaft. He shifted to ease the pressure
along his fly.
She turned to face him, her lips pressed
together tightly, her eyebrows lowered. “I’m afraid to ask you
this.” Her mouth turned down in a frown.
What was going on with her? Women usually
didn’t confuse him this much. “Ask.” He’d tell the truth, no matter
how bad it was.
“What do you do for a living?” Her fingers
laced together and she didn’t move. Was the answer that important
“I work in the oil fields in North Dakota.”
He should tell her about his ranch, too. About his plans for—
“Oh.” Her breath left her in a blast, and she
tipped her head down.
“Was that the wrong answer?” Was his job too
far below her standards? He fought to curb the anger flaring inside
him as his desire seeped away.
“No. Not at all.” She opened her mouth as if
she was going to say more, then closed it and shook her head. She
almost looked like she was going to cry.
The rodeo ended and the crowd surged to its
feet, heading up the aisles.
“Thank you for everything, Shaw. For the
nachos and beer, and for sharing your seat with me.” She reached
for her purse, but he took her wrist in his hand. “Tell me what’s
wrong with being an honest working man, Harper.” Was she hoping he
was wealthy and didn’t get his hands dirty every day?
She looked past him and her eyes opened
He released her and turned to find his three
friends standing behind him, grinning like morons. “I’ll meet you
at the truck.”
“Okay, Shaw. Don’t get lost, buddy.” They
chuckled as they left, and he turned back to see her about three
yards away, walking as fast as she could. She hadn’t even taken her
“Damn.” She hadn’t seemed like a snob. They’d
only talked for three hours, but he’d gotten a good sense of her
personality. Shit, maybe he was fine to buy her drinks and junk
food, and wrapping her in his arms to keep her warm, but not good
enough for anything beyond that.
The hell with her. He stood and took a couple
steps in the opposite direction.
He shook his head. He wasn’t that kind of a
man. She shouldn’t be walking alone to her car. He picked up the
stupid purple umbrella and joined the crowd, about five people
Once out of the stands, the crowd thinned and
he caught up to her. He walked beside her a few silent steps before
she spoke. “I didn’t mean to offend you. I’m just not ready
“To what? To settle for an oil worker?”
She stopped. He stopped next to her. People
flowed around them with a few grumbles. “Here.” He handed her the
umbrella. “At least let me walk you to your car.” He held his hands
up by his shoulders. “Promise not to touch you.” With my dirty
paws. He didn’t say those last words out loud, although it was damn
She heaved out a breath and started walking.
“Why is this so hard?”
He walked beside her for a minute. “What’s so
Shaking her head, she muttered something
about a promise to herself.
That couldn’t be good for any of his
When they reached her car, she tossed her
things in the back seat and closed the door. When she looked up at
him, the moonlight reflected in her eyes. Instinctively, he moved a
fraction closer before he caught himself. She’d walked out of the
arena without him. Couldn’t he take a hint?
“It was nice to meet you, ma’am.” He turned
Her hand brushed his arm. “Wait.”
The skin on Shaw’s arm warmed Harper’s palm.
She dropped her hand and stared up at him, and the busy parking lot
seemed to fade away as she realized her worst fear had come true.
She’d fallen for another cowless cowboy.
True, Shaw had all the cowboy traits she
adored: considerate, attentive, gentlemanly, in control of himself
and the situation around him. And hunky and smart and sexy and
funny. But she’d promised herself—she’d actually sworn aloud—that
she would not waste her time on another man unless he had a real
No, he didn’t need to own a ranch, just work
on one. He didn’t need to own horses, just wrangle them. He didn’t
need to breed and sell rodeo stock, just haul them. She’d vowed
that she would wait until she could find a guy with the same goal:
to find a plot of land where they could start their own ranch.
But she’d gone and fallen for a roughneck.
And she’d fallen fast. She should have asked him right away when
she agreed to sit next to him. Should have guarded her heart
against his charm. But she’d waited until the end of the rodeo.
When it was too late. “Crap.”
“You change your mind again? You want me to
go?” His voice was so low, she could barely stand thinking about
how she’d offended him.
“I just want to explain why we can’t be
anything but friends.”
He dropped his head and kicked dirt with his
boot. “Friends, huh?” When he looked at her again, his chocolate
eyes narrowed. “Okay, I can do that. Come and watch the parade with
me tomorrow morning.”
He’d given up too easily. He wasn’t taking
her seriously. “Let me get this said, then you can decide if I’m
even worth being friends with.”
His eyebrows shot up as he stepped closer.
Brushing his knuckles along her cheek, he tipped his head slightly.
“You’re worth it, Red.” Shaw’s gaze lingered on her mouth.
Her breath stalled as her lips opened,
waiting for his kiss. She lifted her chin as flares of heat raced
through her bloodstream.
“Yeah. Just friends.” He took a step away
from her. “I’ll be sitting in front of the bank on Main.” Shaw
turned and walked a few feet. He looked back at her. “I’ll save a
chair for you, Miss Harper.”
“Shaw, wait.” Her voice came out a soft
whisper and by the time she’d cleared her throat and caught her
breath, his long legs had carried him halfway across the parking
She could run after him, but she couldn’t see
chasing after a man she’d just turned down flat. “Crap.” As she
slid into the driver’s seat, her hands were shaking a little. He
was one potent man.
She started her car and got in line with the
rest of the departing crowd. There was no chance Shaw had believed
her when she said they’d only be friends. The best thing for both
of them was for her to cut it off cold. Avoid him. Nod in passing.
Let him know she was serious.
She sure didn’t want to, though.
Traffic had stopped. With a sigh, she pulled
out her schedule. Tomorrow was Thursday. She was free until the
afternoon rodeo, and the parade started at ten-thirty.
The car behind her honked.
She got rolling and took a left, heading
toward the inn. Where was Shaw staying? With her luck, he’d be in
the room next to hers. She parked near the back door and slunk
inside and up the stairs...just in case.
At one in the morning, Harper still flopped
around, sleepless. Shaw seemed like a great guy. They could be
friends, couldn’t they? She stuck a pillow between her legs and
rolled to her side. His touch had sent her spinning, breathless.
The look in his eyes told her he wanted more. She squeezed her legs
together, feeling the heat flooding there.
If he’d grabbed her while they were standing
by her car, pressed his big body against hers, backing her up
against her car, she would have let him. And wrapped her arms
around him. And kissed the breath from him.
He didn’t, though. He was a gentleman. Just
one more reason why she shouldn’t get close to him. She needed to
focus on finding a man to share her life with, not just stolen
weekends whenever they were in the same state.
She bit her lip. She sure was curious to see
what he had in store for her tomorrow. It’d be one heck of a
“Ahhhh!” She grabbed fistfuls of her hair.
“What do I do?”
The bad habit she’d acquired after so many
years traveling alone had her asking questions and answering
“Okay. If I’m awake by nine in the morning,
it means I should go to the parade. If I’m not, it’s karma telling
me to keep away from Shaw Donahue.” With a smirk, she closed her
eyes and drifted off, letting fate have its way with her.
Harper woke at eight-fifteen. “Okay, fate.
Have it your way.” She smiled as she jumped out of bed and started
the shower. If nothing else, she’d have someone to keep her company
for the next three days of rodeo.
she could resist
whatever seductions he threw her way.
The inn was only six blocks from downtown, so
she walked. Her white cowgirl hat, trimmed with shiny red, white,
and blue garland, kept the sun off her face. She’d forgotten
sunscreen, but if the drugstore was open, she’d slip in and pick up
As she drew closer to Main Street, the flow
of foot traffic surrounded her. Children held American flags on
sticks, parents wheeled coolers and carried folding chairs. Her
excitement ramped up. She’d never come to the Belle Fourche parade
in all the years she’d been working this circuit. Sitting in her
hotel room working seemed like a more industrious use of her time.
And who wanted to go to a parade alone?
She stopped in front of the
sign on the drugstore door. “Crap.” Maybe she could borrow a couple
squirts if she got to know the people sitting around them. First,
she had to find Shaw. The bank was across the street. Harper
stepped off the curb and glanced at the people sitting along the
curb, looking for... “Dear heavens.”
Shaw sat on a chair, leaning down to talk to
three little blonde girls who sat on a blanket on the curb next to
him. Their little Western hats had red, white, and blue jewels
attached to the crown in random patterns.
Harper swallowed and stepped into the
He laughed at something, and his deep, rich
voice sent an ache to the back of her heart.
“Zat her?” a tiny feminine voice asked.
Shaw looked up, his dark eyes fastening on
her. “That’s her.” He stood and walked to meet her at the solid
yellow line down the middle of the street.
He removed his hat, and in the sunlight, his
brown eyes glittered with gold highlights. Why hadn’t she noticed
that before? “Saved you a chair.” He took her hand and led her to
the chair next to his, one with three, star-shaped helium balloons
hovering over it in Old Glory’s colors.
He helped her to her chair, sat in his, then
pulled his hat back on his head, grinning at her like he’d won the
“You’re right. She’s pretty.” The oldest of
the girls who was maybe six, nodded to Shaw.
A woman walked to the girls from somewhere in
the shade behind them and handed them bottles of water. “Girls,
don’t bother these nice people.”
Shaw laughed. “They’re no bother, ma’am. You
go sit and cool down a bit more. We’ll keep an eye on your little