Authors: Beverly Barton
Tags: #Contemporary, #Fiction, #Romance, #General
Table of Contents
"I can't believe I let you talk me into coming here." Donna Fields hissed the words under her breath as she glared at her friend, whose attention was focused on a group of rowdy cowboys at a nearby table.
"Admit the truth," Joanie Richardson said, her gaze riveted to one big, blond stud in particular. "You wanted to check this place out as much as I did. You've got to be tired of that lonely, boring existence you lead. I know I'm tired of being a Goody Two-shoes. Heck, gal, our vacation is almost over and I haven't had any fun yet. Let's live a little. Take a walk on the wild side, for a change."
Donna fumed as she glanced around the smoky interior of the Blue Bonnet Grill—a name highly inappropriate for the seedy establishment. Good sense had warned her not to give in to Joanie's fervent suggestion about spending their last night in New Mexico
out on the town.
For starters, there wasn't much of a town here in Plain City. In truth, it wasn't as large as their hometown of Marshallton, Tennessee.
"My life is neither lonely nor boring." Donna gasped when she noticed a couple in the far corner, their bodies pressed intimately together as the man devoured the woman's mouth. A warning shudder rippled over Donna's nerves. "Let's get out of this place. I feel uncomfortable in here."
Joanie glanced away from the blond roughneck, who was smiling at her, and followed Donna's line of vision to the couple in the dark corner. "Would you look at those two! I can't even remember what it feels like to be that passionate with a man."
"People shouldn't make public spectacles of themselves. It's disgusting!"
"You're just jealous."
"Those two are so caught up in the moment that everyone and everything has ceased to exist except the two of them." Joanie sighed dramatically. "I'd like some handsome guy to back me into a dark corner and—"
"Howdy, ma'am. My name's Big John." The blond giant stood beside their table, a wide smile on his face and a twinkle in his eyes. "Would you and your friend like to join me and a buddy of mine?"
"Yes, we'd love to," Joanie said.
"No!" Donna jerked on Joanie's arm. Leaning over, she whispered, "Have you lost your mind?"
"I'm just waiting around with some guys from the ranch until my buddy shows up. He should be here any minute. We could order us a round of beers and some big ole' steaks and have us a really good time."
"Sounds like a plan to me." Joanie scooted back her chair and stood. She laced her arm through the cowboy's. "I'm ready for a good time."
"What about you, ma'am? My friend's an all right guy. I think you'd like him." Big John bestowed his devastating smile on Donna as he surveyed her from head to toe. "I know J.B. sure would like you. You're a bit classier than his usual type, but you've got the kind of looks that would interest him." Big John's gaze lingered on Donna's breasts.
Donna crossed her arms over her chest. The man's blatant perusal of her size 36-D chest bothered her greatly. Men could be such pigs. The only thing most of them had on their minds was sex.
Joanie mouthed the word
as she stared straight at Donna. "My girlfriend is a little shy. You can tell she's not the barroom type." Joanie repeated her silent plea to Donna, then turned her attention to Big John. "We're schoolteachers—actually we teach at a junior college in western Tennessee and we've been out here in New Mexico on an archaeological tour. Tonight's our last night."
"Then we should show you girls a good time before you leave."
When Donna just sat there, unmoving and silent, Joanie sighed in disgust, then cuddled up to Big John's side. "You and I can dance while we wait for your friend." She glanced at Donna. "Why don't you think things over while Big John and I are dancing? Please, honey, let's stay and have a good time. Do it for me."
Donna wanted to strangle Joanie. The two of them were more friendly acquaintances than true friends. They had met two years ago when Joanie was hired as a physical education instructor at the college where Donna was a history teacher. She liked Joanie, but she had very little in common with the woman, a twenty-eight-year-old recent divorcee. On the archaeology tour, they had been roommates and teammates. Joanie was good-natured and easy to be around—most of the time.
When Joanie had suggested having a little fun tonight, Donna had felt she couldn't refuse one simple request, even though she herself wasn't the type who was always looking for a good time. But the minute they entered the Blue Bonnet Grill, Donna had known she should have stayed at the inn.
The music was loud country hits blaring from an old jukebox. Smoke from countless cigarettes and cigars soiled the air a hazy gray. Men and women—mostly cowboys and barflies—shared beers, laughter, dances and kisses in dark corners. This was the last place on earth Donna Fields wanted to be. If her family could see her right now, they'd be appalled. She was, after all, a lady. Born and bred a blue-blooded, genuine Southern belle.
She glanced at the couple groping each other in the corner and felt a flush of heat rise up her neck and into her face. She wasn't by nature, a voyeur, so why couldn't she stop watching the man and woman? While she was in the middle of giving herself a good talking to, the man wrapped his arm around the woman's shoulders, led her across the smoke-filled room and out the front door, which was only a few feet from the table where Donna sat. An uncontrollable shiver rippled along her nerve endings. Instinctively, she knew the man and woman were headed for a motel room somewhere nearby. A tingling ache radiated up from the feminine core of her body at the thought of what the twosome would soon be doing.
Get your mind out of the gutter! she chastised herself. Then the more benevolent side of her personality pointed out that it was only natural for a healthy woman in her prime to think about sex, especially when she hadn't had any in five years. It wasn't that there hadn't been opportunities. She had dated several nice men who were eager to have an affair with her. But for her, sex meant a commitment. And commitment meant love. And love meant taking a chance on being hurt again. After she'd lost Edward, she swore she'd never love anyone again. Losing her husband had devastated her. She couldn't bear the thought of going through that kind of agony again.
Donna's misty-eyed gaze traveled around the room and rested on Joanie and Big John, whose bodies were welded together as they slow-danced to an old Hank Williams tune.
Well, from the looks of that, she knew she'd be walking back to the Yellow Door Bed and Breakfast Inn by herself tonight. Joanie was definitely in heat. Tonight would be Big John's lucky night.
The outer door swung open and a gush of hot summertime air hit Donna full-force. She glanced up as several customers called out a greeting to the new arrival. Even the bartender threw up a hand, smiled and hollered a welcoming hello.
"Hey there, J.B.," the bartender said. "It's been mighty quiet around here without you."
Mighty quiet around here? Was the man kidding? If this place got any livelier, someone would have to call the police.
Suddenly Donna noticed the large, muscular man who had entered. The one called J.B. Big John's friend. This was the guy who was supposed to be her
for tonight? Not on your life. She had to get out of here—now!
Where Big John resembled a well-worn teddy bear and possessed a devastatingly sweet smile, J.B. resembled a black panther, his grin anything but sweet. There was an aura of danger around J.B. This man was no ordinary cowboy.
Big John stopped dancing long enough to wave at J.B. and call out to him from the small dance floor in front of the jukebox. "Hey there, man. About time you got here. Your girl's sitting right there at the table by the door. Buy her a beer, will you? Her name's—" He looked at Joanie.
"Her name's Donna," Joanie yelled. "Whatever you do, J.B., don't let her run out on you. She's a woman who needs to have a good time."
Donna wished the earth would open up and swallow her. Better yet, she wished the earth would open up and swallow everyone in the Blue Bonnet Grill, except her. She turned her back, hoping J.B. would take the hint and leave her alone.
The scrape of a chair being pulled out warned her that the rugged cowboy hadn't taken the hint. Maybe if she ignored him, he'd go away.
"Donna?" His voice had a hard, gravelly tone. Sandpaper rough. Baritone deep.
She nodded, then turned slowly and faced the most alarmingly attractive man she'd ever seen in her life. J.B. was a hunk. Pure and simple. But she was sure nothing about this man was either pure or simple.
He shoved the tan Stetson back on his head and a few strands of coal black hair fell down across his forehead. He stared at her with eyes so dark they appeared to be as black as his hair, but were actually a rich soil brown. His face, though handsome, was lean and hard. Not a pretty boy. And his dark, heavy beard stubble made him look as if he had a perpetual five o'clock shadow.
J.B. narrowed his gaze, focusing on her face, then he looked straight into her eyes.
Donna shivered involuntarily. The sexiest man alive was looking at her as if she were an item on the menu he was seriously considering ordering.
"Look, J.B., this date wasn't my idea," Donna told him. "My friend Joanie and your friend Big John—"
"What are you doing in a place like this, sugar? You're about as out of place here as I would be at the opera."
"I—I came with Joanie. This is our last night in New Mexico and she wanted to soak up some of the local nightlife." Donna folded her trembling hands together and held them in her lap.
J.B. glanced over at the dance floor. "Where are y'all from—you and Joanie?"
He smiled at her then, a smile she was sure had lured many a woman to her ruin. A man like that probably had never heard the word no from a woman's lips.
"Tennessee," she said.
"Really. I used to live in Tennessee."
She didn't believe him, of course. If she'd said Alabama or Texas or Virginia, he'd have told her he used to live there. "Is that so?"
"Yep. Years ago." J.B. let his gaze travel leisurely from her face to her neck and then let it rest on her large breasts that even the loose-fitting purple blouse couldn't disguise. "How about a dance?"
"I promise I don't bite."
She glared at him suspiciously. He burst into laughter, then slapped the top of the table with his big hand. Donna jumped from the unexpected action. Their gazes met and held for an infinite moment. Her breath caught in her throat.
"What's the matter, J.B.?" a young cowpoke sitting at the next table called to him. "Don't tell me you've finally met a gal you can't sweet talk into the sack."
All the men at the young man's table exchanged a few crude comments, then laughed heartily. J.B. scowled at the baby-faced cowpoke.
"Maybe you're not her type." The man rose from his chair and walked over to Donna's side. "Is that it, honey bunch? You like your men younger and sweeter than ole' J.B.? If that's the case, then I'm your man."
"Leave the lady alone, Woody," J.B. warned.
"I ain't going nowhere until the lady tells me to." Woody leaned over, right in Donna's face, and placed a sweaty hand on her shoulder. "Why don't you join me and my friends? J.B.'s got enough women already. He don't need one more."
"Please." Donna wanted to scream and run away. She'd never been so embarrassed in her life.
"Honey bunch, I'd be more than glad to please you," Woody said.
Donna looked to Jake for help, her eyes pleading with him. "Please, go away and leave me alone. I—I'm J.B.'s date."
The moment she spoke the words, she wished them back. Why on earth had she committed herself to J.B.? She could have gotten herself out of this awkward situation some other way.
"You heard the lady," J.B. said. "She's mine."
Woody hesitated for a moment, but when J.B. stood, his big body towering over the smaller man, Woody grinned and stepped away from Donna. "Sure thing. I know better than to try to take something you done put your brand on."
Woody disappeared. The only thing Donna saw was J.B.'s long, lean legs, his broad shoulders and his smoldering dark eyes devouring her. He held out his hand.
"Let's dance," he said.
Reacting purely on feminine instinct, Donna rose, put her hand in his and allowed him to lead her over to the dance floor. The moment he took her into his arms, she knew she was lost. Lost to the most overwhelming sexual attraction she had ever felt in her life. Lost to the seductive look in J.B.'s eyes, the alluring heat of his hard body and her own long-suppressed desire.
How was it possible that she could want a man she'd met only a few minutes ago? The thought was insane. She was insane! But crazy or not, she wanted J.B. Wanted him in a way she'd never wanted another man. It was as if some wanton woman had taken possession of her body.
He pulled her closer as they began to sway to the music's beat. His hold was undemanding and yet undeniably possessive. She didn't resist when he cupped her hip in one hand and slipped the fingers of his other hand around her neck.
"Lady, you're the sexiest thing I've ever seen." He mouthed the low, breathy words against her ear.