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Authors: Mari Carr and Lexxie Couper

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BOOK: MisplacedCowboy
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“I’m sorry.” Phillip’s top lip curled. “But if you’re
speaking to me, I’m not
going
anywhere.”

Dylan gave the bloke his widest, goofiest grin. For good
measure, he even tipped his hat back on his head. “Ah, you’re a funny bugger,
are you?” He kept his hand out, letting it speak volumes. He may not be from
this neck of the woods, but he knew a handshake left hanging was a sign of
utter disdain. As far as Dylan was concerned, he was happy to push Phillip to
complete the social tradition whether the man wanted to or not.

Phillip’s top lip continued to curl, the kind of expression
Dylan expected to see on a city slicker who’d stepped in a pile of sheep shit.

“Phillip.” Monet moved to Dylan’s side and it was all he
could do to keep his doofus grin in place when she ran her hand up his arm. His
heart, however, leapt straight into his bloody throat. “This is Dylan Sullivan.
From Farpoint Creek in Australia.”

Phillip ran a slow inspection over Dylan, from the tip of
his kangaroo-leather boots to the battered peak of his wide-brimmed hat. “A
cowboy from Australia?” He flashed Dylan a toothy smirk, took Dylan’s hand and
gave it a crushing shake. Or tried to. Dylan spent his days dealing with unruly
Angus cattle, unruly jackaroos and—when Hunter was in a competitive mood—an
even unrulier twin brother hell-bent on beating him at arm wrestling. “Here to
throw a shrimp on the bar-bee, eh?”

The man’s voice dripped with mocking derision and the urge
to ball his fist rolled through Dylan again. He let his
I’m-a-clueless-country-hick grin turn into the same smile he gave drunken hired
hands who thought they’d take him on. The kind of smile that said, “go on, give
it your best shot, mate”.

“I’m a stockman, not a cowboy. Haven’t been a boy since my
balls dropped and I started shaving. And I’m just here to seduce the beautiful
women on your side of the pond. Show them what a
real
man is like.”

The shocked blanch that twisted Phillip’s face filled Dylan
with perverse satisfaction, just as Monet’s choking laugh sent tight ripples of
happiness through him.

“I think you had that one coming, Phillip,” she said, her
hand still resting on Dylan’s biceps. He liked the feel of it there. A lot. Too
much, given why he was here in New York to begin with. It wasn’t to fall head
over heels for a woman he’d only just met, that was for bloody sure. “And as
for the seducing,” she turned and gave him a wide smile, twinkling mirth in her
eyes, “the accent alone is enough to make a New York girl go all wobbly
inside.”

The statement was said in jest. Dylan didn’t doubt that at
all, but it had a bloody inconvenient effect on him. His balls throbbed, his
cock twitched and his throat grew tight.

“Is that all it takes nowadays?” The charming smirk was back
on Phillip’s lips, but Dylan couldn’t help notice his spine was straighter, his
shoulders squarer. “An accent and a hat? I should have gone to Urban Outfitters
months ago.” He turned back to Dylan. “Maybe you can teach me a few choice
Australian phrases? The kind to woo Monet into going all wobbly inside, eh?”

Wanker. How’s that for a choice Australian phrase?
The thought shot through Dylan’s head, dark and more than a tad aggressive.

Fighting to control the unexpected reaction to Phillip’s
obvious pissing contest, he drew a deep breath. “All right. How’s this sound?”
He turned to Monet, giving her a crooked smile. “G’day, love. Fancy getting
dolled up and joining me on a shindig to the local pub?”

The exaggerated Australianisms, so far removed from how
Dylan normally spoke, made Monet laugh, and as it had before, his body reacted
to the husky, warm sound. “Oh Dylan. You had me at ‘g’day’.”

He chuckled, his hand instinctually coming up to steady her
as she nudged him with her shoulder. The second his palm smoothed over the dip
of her slim waist, the second his fingers brushed the subtle curve of the top
of her backside, his breath caught in his throat and—completely indifferent to
the fact she
wasn’t
the woman he was here to meet—his cock grew thick in
his jeans.

Fuck a bloody duck, Sullivan. Get your hands off her,
now.

But he couldn’t. He stared down into Monet’s face, into eyes
the color of the Outback sky, and wanted more than life to kiss her.

To slide his arms around her waist, pull her to his body and
capture her lips with his. To delve into her mouth with his tongue. To taste
her sweetness…

She gazed up at him, her laughing smile slowly fading.
Fading until she stared at him, her lips parted, her breath ragged, her hands
smoothing over his chest, up to his shoulders—

“Ms. Carmichael?” a female voice shouted behind them. “The
caterer’s here.”

Monet all but jumped away from Dylan, as if he’d suddenly
started shooting live electricity from his body. She blinked, her teeth
catching her bottom lip before, with a glance at Phillip, she hurried across
the gallery.

Dylan watched her go, his heart not just thumping in his
throat but bloody well slamming around in there. Like a sledgehammer swung by a
maniac on steroids.

“Well, that was fun.”

He turned back to the man beside him, Phillip’s smirk once
again pissing him off. “Fun?”

Phillip slid his gaze to where Monet stood talking to the caterer.
“You know, the whole I’m-a-sexy-Aussie-cowboy seduction thing you got going.
Pity it’s wasted on Monet.”

“Stockman,” Dylan said. “And tell me, why’s it wasted?”

It was idiocy of course. There was no point to the
conversation. He wasn’t trying to seduce Monet. But for some bloody reason, his
brain—perhaps jet-lagged, perhaps still trying to deal with the fact Annie was
on the other side of the planet—decided the best course of action right now was
to poke at Phillip’s disdainful conceit the way he used to poke at red-belly
black snakes when he was a kid, just to see what they would do.

Phillip adjusted his cuffs. “Because Monet is a woman of
style, taste and class who needs a man of the same caliber to satisfy her.” He
smiled, apparently satisfied with his argument. “And you…are a cowboy.”

“Stockman,” Monet said as she slid between them, saving
Dylan from doing something he was bound to regret. Something stupid, like
knocking Phillip to the ground with a swift punch. “Now if you’ll excuse us,
Phillip, I think we all know this conversation is over.”

Phillip’s eyebrows shot up again. He stared at Monet and
then let out a snort. “Now I see why you wouldn’t let me get past first base.
You’re not frigid or a lesbo like I thought. You’re just into—”

Dylan smashed his fist into the bloke’s jaw.

He couldn’t help himself. One second he was standing there,
listening to the moron carry on and wondering if it was politically correct to
tell him he was a dick. The next, shocked hurt crossed Monet’s beautiful face
and Dylan was balling his hand into a fist and slamming it hard into Phillip’s
clean-shaven jaw.

There was a dull bone-hitting thud, a collective gasp from
the people setting up Monet’s exhibition and then Phillip dropped to the floor.

Holy shit, Sullivan. You’re in trouble now.

Chapter Three

 

Monet gaped at him. She’d never gaped at anyone before in
her life, but here she was, gaping at Dylan, eyes wide, hands frozen halfway to
her face, as if they didn’t know whether to clap together or cover her open
mouth.

Oh God, he’d punched the crap out of Phillip.

“Dylan,” she managed, shaking herself out of her stupor.
“You can’t just…” She shot a look at Phillip sprawled on the floor. Blood oozed
from a cut on his lip, his face a mix of stunned confusion and indignant
disbelief.

“I’m going to fucking sue!” he blustered, trying to scramble
to his feet. It seemed an exercise in futility, however, when his heels
slipped, his ass slapping back to the polished marble floor.

Monet ignored him, swinging her attention to Dylan. “You
can’t just…
hit
someone because you don’t like what they say about you.
Not in New York.”

The shadow cast over Dylan’s face from his hat couldn’t hide
his incredulous expression. “Hell, love.” He took a step back, shaking his
head. “I didn’t hit the bastard ’cause of what he said about
me
. I hit
him because of what he said to
you
.”

Monet shook her head. “That’s ridiculous. Why would you hit
him because of
me
?”

Dylan’s frown turned him into the poster boy for all things
rugged and manly. “I don’t care if this is New York, when a bloke insults a
woman like Phillip insulted you, a man steps in and shuts him up.”

Monet’s mouth fell open. Again.

He’d defended her honor. The Aussie cowboy just defended her
honor.

Is he for—

The thought didn’t even finish forming in her head. It
couldn’t. Not when her body took over and propelled her forward.

Straight into his arms. Her lips claiming his.

The kiss took her completely by surprise. As it did Dylan.
Monet could tell by the way every muscle in his body—his hard, firm, muscular
body—locked up. For a brief second, she thought he was going to push her away.
He should. He was here for Annie. Hell,
she
should pull away. But she
couldn’t. And he didn’t.

Instead, just as one-date-only Phillip sputtered, “What the
fuck
?”
from the floor, Dylan’s arms slid around Monet’s waist, his hands flattened on
her back and he hauled her closer to return the kiss.

Really
return her kiss.

His tongue delved past her lips, finding hers and stroking
it with possessive greed. He bunched his hands into fists, knotting the cotton
of her shirt as he subtly urged his hips forward. Monet moaned into his mouth,
the undeniable length of his thickening cock making her head swim. Or maybe it
was the sheer potency of his kiss. His teeth caught her bottom lip, nipping
gently before he sucked on the fleshy pad.

She whimpered, raking her nails over his back, drowning in
the waves of pleasure washing over her.

Monnie, stop…Annie…

With a growl, Dylan’s mouth laid claim again, his tongue
wild and hungry as it mated with hers. She rolled her hips, needing to feel his
cock rub against the curve of her sex.

Stop, Monnie…the gallery…people watching…

Dylan’s mouth dragged up to her ear, to the sensitive dip
beneath it. Monet’s gasp left her on a hitching breath, her belly flip-flopping
as his tongue darted over her flesh. She bowed her neck, the feel of his lips
exploring her skin too exquisite to deny.

He groaned against her throat, drawing her closer to his
body, his hands smoothing down her back to her ass. He cupped each cheek,
holding her as his lips returned to hers and his tongue fucked her mouth. It
was unlike any kiss she’d experienced before. It told her exactly what effect
she had on him, exactly what he wanted to do to her.

Oh Monnie, think about what you’re doing…

Somewhere at her feet, someone unimportant cursed again.
Somewhere to her left, someone made a
wooo!
noise. Other people clapped
enthusiastically. None of it mattered. How could it when she was being swept
away by a single kiss?

A kiss so right, so damn perfect she could feel her panties
grow damp. A kiss so fierce and demanding and impatient she wanted to strip
naked and ride Dylan’s face, his tongue. A kiss so carnal she wanted to impale
herself on his cock as his hands cupped and squeezed her breasts. Wanted to be
taken by him right here, right now, on the gallery floor as the whole of New
York witnessed her pleasure.

She dragged her nails over his broad back, around his narrow
hips until, wriggling one hand between their bodies, she found his belt buckle—

He jerked away, moving back a step. And another. Nostrils
flaring, chest heaving, he stared at her, his eyes hidden by the shadow of his
hat. “Fuck, what am I doing?” He scraped his hands down his face, shaking his
head as he did so. “What am I
doing
?”

The question was muffled by his hands but Monet heard it all
the same. It sliced into her like a hot blade, the truth of it painful. What
was
he
doing? What was
she
doing? She wasn’t Annie, and Annie,
her best friend, was who Dylan was here to see.

Guilt smashed into her. Hot. Cold. Stinging and damning. She
shut her eyes tight, her stomach rolling. What kind of friend was she?

“I’m sorry, Monet. I shouldn’t have done that.”

Dylan’s apology snapped her eyes open. He stood tense before
her, his Adam’s apple working in his throat. Around them, the gallery’s staff
watched, silent and rapt. More than one pair of feet shuffled.

“Fuckin’ right you shouldn’t have!”

Phillip’s indignant snarl made Monet flinch. Damn it, she’d
forgotten all about him. Belly rolling some more, she tore her stare from Dylan
and gave Phillip a wobbly smile. “Phillip, I—”

She stopped, unable to think of a single thing to say. What
the hell
did
she say?
I’m sorry Dylan hit you?
She wasn’t.
Phillip was a jerk. One date had been enough for her to recognize he was always
a jerk, and tonight he was in fine jerk form. Unfortunately, the guy had
delusions of grandeur, and he was one of New York’s most influential art
collectors. Pissing him off wouldn’t help her career at all.

“I’m…” Nothing followed, her mind still a blank.

“You know what?” Phillip raised a hand, his lip curling.
“Don’t bother. You’re not worth my time.” He slid a glare of contempt over
Dylan and then turned back to Monet, his suavely handsome face twisted in a
spiteful smile. “Just remember, when you’re fucking the Down Under Wonder
tonight,
that’s
not a cock.
This
,” he grabbed his groin and gave
it a squeeze, “is a—”

Dylan’s fist smashed against Phillip’s jaw. Again.

And again, Phillip slumped to the floor, this time bone-limp,
his eyes closed.

“Sorry.” Dylan tipped his hat back off his head, giving
Monet a very sheepish look. “But that joke was too bloody lame to let him
finish.”

Monet’s mouth fell open. “Shit, Dylan, you really know how
to make an impression, don’t you?”

He let out a sigh. “This is gonna come back and bite me on
the arse, isn’t it?”

Monet nodded. “Probably.”

With a soft chortle, he reached up, removed his hat and ran
a hand through the blond shaggy hair he’d revealed. Monet couldn’t stop herself
from staring at it. It was so glossy and sexy. How the hell was it possible to
have sexy hair? Not even Ryan Gosling had hair that sexy. Just who the hell
was
this stockman from Australia?

“Oh well.” Dylan returned his hat to his head, once again a
misplaced cowboy in New York. “I’m used to trouble.”

The grin he gave Monet said just that. The trouble for Monet
wasn’t that Phillip Montinari could try to destroy her successful art career;
rather, everything about Dylan Sullivan pushed every sexual button she had. And
then some. What the hell was she supposed to do about that?

Run. Run away. Call a cab, shove Dylan in it, pay the
driver a massive tip to take him to the airport and get away from him. Now!

“Kerrie?” The gallery curator’s name burst from Monet’s lips
before she even realized she was thinking it.

A whip-thin man with snow-white hair and candy-apple-red
horned rims hurried over to her from the whispering onlookers, his lips
twitching as he shot Dylan sideward glances. “Yes,
mon cher
?”

Monet shot her own glance at the unconscious Phillip and
then let out a short sigh. “I think I’d better get Dylan out of here. Can you
call the paramedics for Mr. Montinari and finish setting up for the opening?”

Kerrie nodded, his twitching lips not quite pulling into a
Cheshire Cat grin. “Of course I can, oh talented one. You run along now. And
don’t you worry about Mr. That’s-Not-A-Cock.” He leaned toward Monet, hiding
his twitching mouth from the rest of the gallery with a melodramatically placed
hand. “I know one or two things snugged away in Phi-Phi’s closet he surely
won’t want…coming out.” He dropped her a wink and then turned to Dylan. “And as
for Mr. Down-Under-Wonder…honey, you can come back
any
time.”

The dimples on either side of Dylan’s lips flashed. “Good on
ya, mate.”

Kerrie’s immaculately waxed eyebrows shot up. “Oh, I have no
idea what you just said but it gave me chills. Chills!” He turned back to
Monet. “
Mon cher
, if you don’t take this man home right now and ride him
silly, I will.”

Monet opened her mouth to tell Kerrie—one of her favorite
gallery curators, and one of New York’s most flamboyant—that she wasn’t riding
Dylan anywhere, but was stopped by the Australian’s deep, completely relaxed
laugh.

“I like that idea. Got any spurs? They wouldn’t let me bring
mine through Customs.”

Struggling to hide the unsettling affect Dylan and Kerrie’s
tête-à-tête
was having on her libido, Monet wrapped her fingers around Dylan’s biceps and
gave a little tug. “Come on, cowboy. Time to leave.”

Swinging his gaze to her face, he tapped his fingers to the
brim of his hat and, in a flawless American drawl, said, “Yes ma’am.”

She rolled her eyes. “I think I prefer the ‘g’day love’.”

He laughed and, with a wink at Kerrie, willingly let her
lead him from the gallery.

* * * * *

He should have flown straight back home. The second he made
eye-contact with Monet Carmichael—no, change that, the second he
saw
Monet Carmichael—in her snug black leather pants, with her wild tumble of dark
hair and her tiny waist, kissable lips, cheeky smile and full, round breasts,
he should have climbed into a taxi and got his arse back to Australia. Instead,
he’d let his dick do the thinking.

Stupid dick.

It had taken all of about five seconds of sitting in the
taxi beside Monet, the silence stretching between them as they headed for her
apartment, to know his trouble wasn’t Phillip “I’m a Wanker” Montinari. It was
his own libido.

Twenty minutes of chatting later, during which he answered
her casual questions about Australia and Farpoint and God knows what else—truth
be known his brain wasn’t really paying attention to anything except the memory
of their kiss back in the gallery—they finally pulled to a halt outside Monet’s
building.

Two minutes after that, with Tommy Taberknackle’s curious
stare following him through the door like a bush fly that wouldn’t leave him
alone, Dylan found himself riding the lift with Monet to her apartment.

Her apartment. The one right next to Annie’s. The apartment
he was
meant
to be sleeping in tonight.

Dylan fought the urge to shuffle his feet. Neither he nor
Monet had raised the issue of that kiss, as if by ignoring their shameful
behavior, it hadn’t happened. That was stupid, of course. It
had
happened. He still had the semi hard-on to prove it. His balls throbbed with
unmet need.

And yet here they were, pretending otherwise.

Pretending they were just acquaintances with a mutual
friend.

A tense silence stretched between them as the lift slowly
rose, tugging on Dylan’s churning stomach.

Bloody hell, he felt nervous. Like the time he and Hunter
got caught by their dad when they were ten, sneaking a peek at a
Playboy
owned by one of Farpoint Creek’s hired hands. Their father’s reaction had been
simple. He hadn’t said a word. Just stood there, studying them with those
piercing blue eyes of his before walking away. The next morning, Dylan and
Hunter found themselves with the task of rounding up all the breeding heifers
due to be serviced. On foot. Without the aid of any of Farpoint’s working dogs
or jackaroos.

It was a lesson both Dylan and Hunter got straight away. Sex
is a fact of life and comes with a whole lot of hard work. Both had remembered
that lesson and, while he and Hunter had certainly had their fair share of
sexual partners by the time they were in their thirties, they’d each taken
something different from the childhood lesson.

For Dylan, it was don’t get caught with your pants down
unless you’re prepared for sweat, shit and a whole lot of pain.

For Hunter, it was don’t get caught. Period.

Is that why you’re nervous now, Dylan? You’ve been caught
with your pants down? In the metaphorical sense? Here for one woman and kissing
another in front of a crowd?

No, he was nervous because he didn’t know what to say to
Monet. What to do when they crossed the threshold into her apartment and the
door closed behind them. Because try as he might, and for Annie’s sake, he was
trying bloody hard, he couldn’t forget how amazing Monet felt in his arms.

The soft chime of the lift told him they’d stopped, as did
the sudden clunk of the twin doors sliding apart.

Dylan’s heart smashed into his throat. He drove his nails
into his palms.

Walk into her flat, ask to use the phone and call home.
That’s what you’re going to do. Walk in, call Hunter, ask him about Annie, talk
to Annie and then take a shower. And once you’re under the water, take matters
into your own hands and flog the shit out of your dick until all these
traitorous, wrong thoughts about Monet are gone. That’s what you’re going to—

BOOK: MisplacedCowboy
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