Authors: Daire St. Denis
RECKLESS FOR COWBOY
Daire St. Denis
Copyright 2012 Daire St. Denis
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
Cover Design: Steena Holmes - www.theauthorsredroom.com
To the Wild Women of Pigeon Lake. Next year I’ll read this one out loud.
To Steena Holmes, for inviting me to take part in another wonderful series.
From the inside flap…
“You ever play ‘dare’ with a cowboy before, sweetheart?”
When it comes to Stampede week, Brooke Hamilton has one piece of advice…stay away from cowboys!
Too bad she can’t follow it herself. You’d think it’d be easy, considering how badly she’s been burned. But the minute she meets Cooper Hays, saddle bronc rider and rodeo hotshot, her reckless heart falls hard and fast.
Brooke knows it’s all a game. Everything’s a game to Cooper. Risking his life on the back of a wild animal. Winning impossible dares. Whisking her off on the best dates ever. The man knows exactly how to shock and surprise her, taking her places she’s never been before and making her feel things she’s never felt before.
But Brooke’s counting down the days to the end of Stampede—to the moment when Cooper gets what he wants and walks out of her life. Proving to her, once again, her reckless heart should not be trusted.
tay away from cowboys.”
Sydney, the newest addition to the Cattlemen’s serving staff, looks around the crowded bar. “What are you talking about? I’d pretty much have to avoid every single guy here. Look at this place.” She indicates the Cattlemen’s Saloon with a sweep of her hand.
I shake my head while taking in the multitude of cowboy hats. “I’m not talking about the pseudo urban-cowboys, with their Levis, cheap hats and polished boots that only come out during Stampede week. I’m talking about the
deal.” I point to the men at the table she’s been ogling. “Wranglers, mother-of-pearl button-down shirts, expensive hats, and lines around their eyes from working outside.”
“Them?” She visibly swoons.
“Them.” I say, slinging my arm over her shoulder. “And those boys are the worst.”
“They’re the rodeo crowd.”
“How can you tell?”
Her eyes widen in proportion to the size of the men’s buckles.
“Championship buckles. Those men are championship riders. They’re tough. They’re strong. They’re charming and they know it. They’ve got hordes of weak-kneed women trailing them from town to town like groupies chasing rock stars.”
My advice only makes her smile grow. “Really?”
“They’re the Tiger Woods of the rodeo circuit.”
“Oh,” she sighs. “Thanks.” She walks off with her over-loaded tray, balancing it way above her head as she weaves her way through the crowd.
If I’m not mistaken, her hips sway more than usual. I shake my head. I don’t think I’ve gotten through to her at all.
“Aw, don’t ruin her first Calgary Stampede,” Denny says to me as he finishes up my drink order while I grab some beers from the fridge. “Let her find out for herself what cowboys are like. Maybe she’s like me and thinks they’re super delicious. There’s nothing like Stampede for drinking, dancing and debauchery. No commitments, no strings…just ropes. Yee haw!”
“You are such a man-whore,” I say, balancing my tray on my shoulder first before lifting it above my head.
I envision myself in a living videogame as I carry my loaded tray through the crowd—finding small paths through the ever-changing landscape of people. When someone steps in my way, I gently but firmly put my hand on their shoulder to move them out of the way. In the four years I’ve worked Stampede week at the Cattlemen’s, I’ve only had two major drink-related accidents, both in my first year.
As luck would have it, I finish up distributing the order at a table full of cowboys—real cowboys. One of them has his back to me and I touch him on the shoulder to let him know I’m there. He turns around and I wish to heaven he hadn’t. He’s wearing a black hat and a serious expression. Danger signals go off in my brain because he seems to notice me as much as I’m noticing him—his ruddy good-looks, wide shoulders, narrow waist, slow smile—and I shiver as his gaze makes a pass over my short jean skirt, my white boots and back up to my western-style halter top.
“Rye, Coke press, right?” I shout over the blaring strains of country music. I set the drink down on the table closest to him.
He gives me a half-nod and I turn around and get out of there fast.
Here’s the thing. As much as I try to stay away from cowboys, the truth is…I have a serious thing for them. I don’t want to, but I do. The minute I see one—God help me—I’m as moist as a snack cake. And this cowboy? With the black hat, the black eyes and the half-smile? He’s got me drooling out of every orifice.
Thankfully, the pitter-patter of my heart recedes the further I get from him. But I’m in for a nasty surprise because by the time I take another full drink order from the surrounding tables, I find the guy up at the bar talking to Denny.
Sweet Mary, his butt should be illegal. It’s much too fine inside that denim—round and trim, like he plays hockey when he’s not sitting on the back of a horse.
Don’t look at his butt, Brooke. C’mon girl, look away.
“Here she is,” Denny says with a smirk as I get closer. I love Denny. If he weren’t gay, I’d be all over him. Actually, I have been all over him. Just kissing and touching—his abs mostly. He’s got a six pack to die for. He’s my release for when I’m feeling particularly horny and in danger of doing something heinous like jumping a patron—like now. It’s amazing what a little ab action and the occasional kiss can do to cure of girl of bad man choices. Denny doesn’t mind being used as a sex toy. He likes it. The horn dog.
“Is there a problem?” I ask with my hand on my hip.
The dude turns around and I’m nearly bowled over by the intensity of his gaze. What is it about men wearing black cowboy hats that make their eyes give off sparks?
“This is the wrong drink,” he says in a voice that matches his looks. Deep, dark and dangerous.
“You’re the rye, Coke, press guy, right?” I say as if I don’t know.
“Yeah. Except I asked you to hold the rye.”
I catch Denny’s shrug as he makes very little effort to conceal the fact he’s totally checking the guy out.
“Who asks for a rye, Coke, press without the rye?”
“Why didn’t you just ask for a Coke?”
“Because I don’t want a coke. I want a rye, Coke, press without the booze. Ice. Water. And a splash of Coke.”
“Sorry about the mistake. Here.” Denny has a new drink filled and he slides it across the bar to the guy.”
“That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard,” I mumble to myself while grabbing a couple of Big Rock beers from the cooler. When I stand, I notice Denny making weird eyes at me.
“What?” I ask.
Before he can say anything, someone behind me speaks up. “It’s not stupid.”
I spin around.
Black hat dude is staring me down. “I don’t drink anymore, but I still like the taste, even without the whiskey.”
“Oh.” I’m pretty sure I’m up for the lame award of the year, but still I can’t let it go. “Wouldn’t it be easier to just ask for watered down Coke with ice? I can’t be the only one who’s gotten it wrong.”
“No, you’re not.” With his hot gaze raking over me, my body reacts with immediate unsettling warmth that spreads from my belly and drifts lower.
“Okay,” I say and I’m off to distribute my next load. I pray the guy’s gone when I get back.
Fifteen minutes and fifteen beers later, I’m back at the bar and black hat dude is still there, watching my every move. Clearly, I didn’t pray hard enough.
“What’s your name?” he asks.
“Brooke,” Denny answers for me. I shoot him the stink eye but he just smiles his little crap-smile that means he’s about to make my life difficult, just for fun, and there’s nothing I can do about it.”
“I’m Cooper.” He extends his hand and I ignore it, groaning because his name couldn’t be
Denny’s pouring four drinks simultaneously when he suddenly says, “Hey, you’re not Cooper Hays the saddle bronc rider, are you?”
The guy nods.
Denny is over the moon. “I’ve watched you the last couple of years. Holy shit. Last year was unbelievable. You should have won, dude.”
Cooper shrugs without smiling and finishes off the alcohol-less drink with a cringe like it actually has the whiskey in it.
Turning his attention to me, Denny explains. “It was the semi-finals and Cooper here was on a horse that rode straight for the fence, trying to rub him off. He got a re-ride and then his second horse fell. The third one wouldn’t buck. What was it four rides you had to do?”
“Five,” Cooper said. “The fourth wouldn’t leave the gate.”
“Didn’t you break your ankle too?”
“Just a bit.”
He broke his ankle
? What is that? Tough guy, cowboy talk? I leave before I have to listen to any more of this. It’s killing me. Denny knows it’s killing me. Cooper is everything I’ve worked so hard to avoid every Stampede week since Brandt Thompson ruined cowboys for me forever.
“Hey.” I feel a light touch on my arm. It’s Sydney and she uses her chin to point at the bar. “I thought you said to stay away from cowboys.”
“Oh,” I say, rolling my eyes. “It’s totally okay to flirt. They’re great tippers. Just don’t go home with one. Understand?”
“You planning on following your own advice?” she asks with a little twist of her lips. But she leaves me alone when someone tugs on her arm to take their order.
Somehow I manage to avoid Cooper, the
-too-hot-saddle-bronc-rider until a little after midnight. The bar is probably illegally packed and I’m beginning to have trouble carrying my drinks through the mass of people. There’s pushing and shoving all around me and suddenly someone crashes into me from behind. I go flying. My loaded tray clatters to the floor amidst spilled alcohol and broken glass. I dust myself off and start picking up the broken glass when two big guys stumble toward me, throwing punches.
The fist fight quickly gets out of control as they smash into everything within their radius, knocking over tables, chairs and more than one person. At one point, one of them picks up a broken beer bottle and wields it in front of him like a weapon. “Come on you fucking pussy,” he taunts his opponent with a drunken slur.
Cooper appears out of nowhere, twisting the guy’s arm behind his back, forcing him to drop the jagged glass. Unfortunately, no one restrains the other brawler and he moves in to take advantage of Cooper’s intervention. With Cooper in the fray, the fight takes on a more practiced form—like something out of the movies. The two guys come at him, slow and unsteady, and Cooper takes on both of them at once like some friggin’ super hero. Finally our bouncers arrive and break up the fight but not before the first guy retrieves the beer bottle and slashes Cooper, ripping his shirt sleeve and the skin of his forearm beneath.