Authors: Randi Alexander
Tags: #rodeo, #holiday romance, #cowboy romance, #4th of july romance, #independence day romance, #red hot and boom, #black hills roundup
Pete nodded. “You think she’s after your
“No.” Shaw stood. “Not at all. She’s probably
got ten times more than I have. I just want to do this my way, and
if it works out, then it’s meant to be.”
“Meant to be?” Dax narrowed his eyes at Shaw.
“You that deep into her already?”
Was he? Could it just be the thrill of the
chase that had him juiced and hot for her every second he was with
her? And every other second when he wasn’t? He wouldn’t make any
judgments until he had a few more days with her. And did a
“I’m goin’ back to the hotel.”
“We’re ordering hamburgers.” Huck pointed to
the menu written on the wall.
“I’ll get something on my way back.” He took
a step. “One of you the designated driver?”
Dax lifted his hand. “I’m nursing a half a
Shaw pulled Huck’s truck keys out of his
pocket and slid them across the table to Dax. “Later.” He left the
bar. As he walked the quiet streets toward the hotel, he gave in
and pulled out his phone. He’d wanted to do this since last night,
but talked himself out of it. Now, he needed more ammunition if he
was going to win this battle, win a chance with Miss Harper....
He pulled up her company’s website and found
her profile. Harper Johansen. The name fit her. Graduated with a
master’s degree, interned with the company, and was one of their
top sponsorship representatives.
He tucked his phone away and stopped at the
takeout place next to the hotel. Toting a bag with a couple burgers
and a large fry, he sat on the small patio outside his room and
popped open a can of beer.
Accessing a search engine on his phone, he
typed in her name and sent it looking. He didn’t feel too guilty.
After all, she’d probably done her research on him... “Hell.”
He stopped the search and plugged in his own
name. Nope, nothing came up about his owning land. Unless she hired
a company to look into his background, he was still just a
roughneck to her.
He dug into the bag, munching on fries as he
scrolled through a list of Harper’s activities. The next few days
were going to be a whole lot of fun.
Harper paced her room, biting her lip. Should
she or shouldn’t she? Her laptop sat open, all she had to do was
type in his name. “No.” She pressed her fingers over her eyes.
She’d already decided. She wasn’t going to pursue this.
Shaw was a great guy, she liked him, but
she’d taken a vow.
His idea of just being together for the next
few days had tempted her unmercifully. As interested in Shaw as she
was already, it was going to hurt to say goodbye to him Sunday. If
she weakened and they slept together, heck, even if they just
kissed, it’d just plain kill her to know she’d never see him
“Focus, Harper.” She had work to do. Research
on customers, planning for the next few rodeos, and shipments to
check on. But it was nearly one o’clock, the rodeo started at four
today, and there was a carnival going on in town. “You’re a weak
Shutting her laptop, she changed into walking
boots, jeans, and a cute floral shirt. She slathered on sunscreen,
plopped her cowgirl hat on her head, and left the building, heading
for the carnival.
At a few minutes before four, Harper walked
up the ramp into the rodeo arena. The place was packed with people
laughing and talking. And here she was, alone again.
She’d spoken to a few cowboys at the
carnival, was offered phone numbers from a few, but had only taken
one, because he wouldn’t leave her alone otherwise. A rancher.
Older, maybe forty-five, who seemed very polite, serious, not
But he wasn’t Shaw.
As if just thinking of her roughneck conjured
him, he stood with his three friends by their seats. She glanced
around. She’d walked right past her section. Was that a mental
slip, or what?
“Miss Harper.” Shaw tipped his straw hat. He
wore a white shirt with a black winged logo on the left chest and
shoulder. Always handsome, this shirt made him extra sexy, in a
kind of dangerous way.
“Hi. I just...wanted to stop by and say
hello.” The lie almost stuck on her tongue.
“Hi.” Shaw stared a few minutes before he
turned to his friends. “This is Harper Jo...” He cleared his
She frowned. Did he know her last name? It
probably wasn’t difficult to find, once someone knew the company
she worked for.
“Meet Dax, Pete, and Huck.” Shaw pointed to
the appropriate cowboy.
She smiled. “Glad to meet you.”
They each touched their hat brim and offered
Dax looked behind them. “I’ll go up in the
general seating, Miss Harper. You can have my seat.” Not as tall as
Shaw, he sported a whole lot of muscles. He winked one of his
gorgeous blue eyes at her.
“No, please, I don’t want to kick you out of
your spot again.” She held up her hand as if to stop him.
“Aw, no problem. I see some cuties up
The other two, Pete and Huck, who by their
looks must be brothers, turned to scan the crowd.
“You paid premium for these seats. Please
don’t let me chase you away.”
Huck grinned at her. “Ma’am, when Shaw is
with us, the ladies don’t see nobody but him. We’re better off as
far away from the chick magnet as possible.” He and his brother
were close to Shaw’s height but wiry and really very cute.
Shaw grunted. “Miss Harper has seats up
front. She doesn’t want to be back here where she can’t see.”
Shaw’s three friends started to walk
“Wait.” Harper’s voice came out too loud.
Shaw and his three friends froze, staring at
Harper. The rodeo crowd flowed around them, heading for their
She was being such a baby. Couldn’t she
handle sitting next to him for three hours? “My company provides
two seats, and I’m here alone. Will you sit with me, Shaw? Give
these guys a chance to meet some cuties down here in the reserved
Shaw’s brows rose. “I’d be honored.” He
picked up two cans of beer. “Would you like me to get you a drink?
Or something to eat?”
The rodeo would be starting any minute.
“Let’s wait until after the opening ceremonies.”
“You can have one of my beers.” He held up an
unopened can. “That’s what friends do.” Shaw got them walking.
“Friends? What the fuck?” One of the guys’
voices reached her.
Shaw guided her to their row and she pointed
to their spots. When they were seated, he opened the extra beer and
handed it to her.
She took a sip. Cold and full-flavored, it
tasted heavenly. She hadn’t realized how parched she was. “Thanks
for buying my brand.”
He laughed. “You know that’s all they sell
“But I’d buy it anyway, just ‘cause I know
you. And we’re friends.”
Glancing up into his eyes, she thought about
her options. She’d like nothing more than to haul him back to the
inn with her after the rodeo and spend the rest of the night with
him in her bed.
He lifted his beer halfway to his lips then
stopped. Cocking a brow at her, he gave her a half-smile. “What’s
on your mind right now, Miss Harper?” His voice rolled low and
She swallowed and felt heat rising to her
The music changed and a rider burst into the
ring holding a pole with the American flag flying from it.
They stood and held their cowboy hats over
their hearts. They both sang along with the national anthem, but
her voice barely peeped out.
The rodeo went by quickly, and Harper kept
her thoughts strictly on the action. Shaw gave her his program and
showed her how to record the scores. Big-name bull riders were
thrown from rank bulls, one after another.
“The company that breeds these bulls must
make a fortune.” She’d met the ranching family last year at an
event she’d sponsored.
“Do your future plans include breeding
stock?” His brown eyes glittered with gold highlights in the
“I haven’t thought that far ahead, but it’s a
possibility.” Talking about the reason she didn’t want to have a
relationship with him gave her a blast of guilt.
“You know.” He looked around. “I didn’t even
think of it when you offered, but were you hoping to attract the
attention of a rancher? Is that why you didn’t want me in this
He pointed to their left. “See that man
there? I bet he’s—”
She elbowed him. “That’s not why I didn’t
offer the seat. I just figured you’d want to sit with your friends
He frowned at her. “Why would I want to sit
with those ruffians when I can sit with you?”
“Stop being so gallant. You should be back in
your seat checking out cuties.”
He tipped his hat down. “Don’t want to be
anywhere but here, ma’am.” The way his eyes darkened sent flutters
down low in her belly. Such a nice guy. She didn’t want to be
anywhere but here, either. What the heck was happening to her?
This was a man she could easily spend her
life with, but could she be happy settling down in North Dakota
while he worked the oil fields? She looked away, fisting her hand.
She had to resist temptation. Had to hold out until she found a man
who could give her everything.
After the rodeo, he walked her out. They
stopped to listen to the band, but he didn’t ask her to dance, and
her disappointment ate at her.
Shaw checked his phone. “The guys are going
to the bar downtown. Want to go have a drink?”
They’d been so kind, offering to give up
their seats. The least she could do would be to buy them a few
His eyes opened wide. “Great. Where’s your
“At the inn. I walked over.”
“Well, it’ll be a tight squeeze, but we’ll
fit you into Huck’s truck.”
sounds like fun.” She didn’t
know why she said that, but he chuckled as he put his hand on her
lower back and guided her toward the parking lot.
His touch, even a slight brush of his
shoulder during the rodeo, set her heart skittering.
She squeezed in to the back seat between Shaw
and Dax, who was very careful not to touch her. Must be some guy
“What’s your favorite event, Dax?”
He turned his dark blue eyes on her. “Honest,
I’m not too interested in the rodeo except for giving me ideas for
“You’re a songwriter?”
“I’m tryin’ to be. Ain’t easy to find time
with the job on the Bakken taking up ten hours a day.” Dax
“Bakken?” Harper had heard the term a few
times since she’d rolled into town.
The guys explained that it was the name of
the oil deposits located in North Dakota, eastern Montana, and up
At the bar, they found a table for four and
stole a chair from a neighboring table.
“First round’s on me.” The cowboys all
refused until she told them it would go on her expense account.
Shaw’s friends were great guys. They talked
about her job, asked interesting questions, and shared the names of
their favorite beverage brands with her.
She asked Dax about his songs, and the man
impressed her with his knowledge of the music industry.
When Shaw stepped away for a few minutes,
they talked about him like he was the prime catch this season.
Seemed like the man was exceptional in the eyes of his friends.
Huck leaned toward her. “What’s the deal with
the ‘friend’ thing?”
“We’ve decided to just be friends. It works
better for both of us.”
The guys looked at each other then Dax
cleared his throat. “Ma’am, maybe you haven’t seen the way Shaw
looks at you, but there ain’t much friendship in that stare.”
Her face heated and she ducked her head,
sipping her beer to cover the color that always seemed to rush to
her cheeks when there was anything to do with Shaw.
When he returned, he looked around at their
faces, settling his gaze on her. “What?” He sat and tipped his head
down to hers. “Did they offend you?”
“No. Not at all. I’m just thinking about some
things I need to check on for the music showdown tomorrow.” She
pasted on a smile to cover her unease. “My company’s sponsoring it,
so I hope you all can make it.” She glanced at Shaw as she stood.
“I should probably be getting back to my room.”
All four guys got to their feet.
“Nice to meet you all.” Harper smiled at each
of Shaw’s friends. “And thanks for the advice.”
They promised to see her at the music
showdown the next day and Shaw walked out with her, his hand on her
She didn’t even try to talk him out of
accompanying her to the inn.
The warm night air hit her chilled skin like
a soft blanket. Shaw removed his hand and the loss of his touch
seemed almost painful.
“Thanks for buying the beer tonight.” He
shortened his stride to match hers.
“Your friends are nice people.”
did they give you
to make you blush that way?”
Harper sucked in a deep breath. “Just talking
you up.” She grinned at him. “You have a fan club.”
He gave a snort. “We’ve been buddies since
high school. Decided to head up to the oil fields together to seek
our fortunes before we...” He hefted out a long breath.
What was that about? After a few moments of
silence, she asked the first thing that came to her mind. “You’re
from around here, right?” She’d been so cowboy-awed the night
before, she’d barely remembered her own name, much less the details
of Shaw’s life.
“Yep. Lemmon, South Dakota. It’s a sweet
little town up by the North Dakota border.”
“Your family lives there?” She shouldn’t be
asking him personal questions, but didn’t friends know things like
this about each other?
“Yep.” That’s all he said.
“What do they do in Lemmon?”