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Authors: Ashley Johnson

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BOOK: Spurs & Stilettos
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They put me on the spot standing here in this mass of people. Amber smiles where only I can see her and I absolutely hate her right now.


“I, uh, I mean I guess I’ll go make sure you’re ok Amb. I know how bad your headaches get.” Ha, take that. Two can play this game.


“Hope, I’m fine I promise. I’m just going to take some Tylenol PM and go to sleep so I can drive us home tomorrow. I want you to have a good time. I don’t want you bogged down because I’m a Debbie Downer.” I’m so glad her idea of me moving on from Brad is completely selling me out to this cowboy we literally just met. What a best freaking friend.


“Where are ya’ll staying? I can bring you there Amber and if Hope will be kind enough to let me take her for a walk or to get a bite to eat, I promise to have her back by midnight at the latest.”


Midnight?! What is he thinking? I can’t breathe, oh no, I’m going to pass out right here. Amber sees me freaking out and leans in to where only I can hear. “Karlee would want you to, you know this right?”


Dammit, the Karlee card. I close my eyes and immediately picture Karlee next to me instead of Amber. The only difference is that Karlee and I never came down to actually meet the cowboys but there’s not a doubt in my mind she wouldn’t have done the same thing to me.


I open my eyes and find both of them watching me intently waiting for an answer. I draw in a deep breath as I reply, “Alright, have me back at my hotel by midnight. Not a minute later.”


Amber let out a squeal before grabbing her head again to play off her headache. She’s not fooling me and she knows it.


“Meet me out front in a few minutes.” He instructs, sending a wink my way. I think I’m in trouble tonight.


I give him a weak wave as we back away from the table making our way out front to meet him. “I’m so killing you in your sleep. I hope you know that you hussy.”


“What?” she asks all doe-eyed and innocent. “I’m only doing you a favor.”


“By pushing me on some guy I don’t even know? It’s only been two days since my break up with your cousin! And why do you keep playing the Karlee card?”


“Hope, look at me.” I don’t want to but I do. “Brad was a dick for too long and why you put up with it, I have no idea. He’s my cousin, I know you loved him and I really wanted to be happy for you but it’s been two freaking days! I just want you to have fun. I don’t mean to keep bringing up Karlee like that, I’m not trying to hurt you but you know she wouldn’t stand for any of this. She would want you out there having fun and living your life like you deserve to be and not under the controlling eye of Brad.”


“She liked Brad, Amber.”


“That’s what she wanted you to think because she loved you Hope. Open your eyes. Ok, here’s my speech and I’m done I swear. You can murder me in my sleep if you want. Have fun, don’t do something you obviously know you’ll regret but remember Wesley sought you out tonight. If worse comes to worse and he’s a total dickweed, you call me and I’ll be there as quick as I can ready to kick his tight Wrangler jean wearing ass, you hear me?”


“Yeah, yeah I hear you. You’re lucky I love you, I’ll let you live tonight.”


Amber smiles bigger when she realizes Wesley is approaching us. He’s in the same blue shirt and Wranglers from earlier. His light brown hair is a little messy from his hat but it suits him just fine. His grin is almost infectious but I’m trying so damn hard not to grin like a school girl. He leads us to a black jacked up Chevy 4x4. How stereotypical. I take several deep breaths before climbing into his truck. Within five minutes we are at the hotel and Amber is sighing again as she climbs out of the truck. “Try not to wake me when you come in, I really need this headache to go away.”


I roll my eyes in the backseat of the truck trying not to laugh at her. “Are you going to get in front with me sweetheart or what?” His smile is melting me quickly and I’m upset with myself for feeling this way this soon.


I slide out of the backseat looking at Amber before she walks inside. “Should I leave my phone with you in case you know who happens to call or text?”


“No, you need it if cowboy here turns out to be crazy.” My eyes practically bug out of my head, she’s lost her mind.


“Are you sure this is safe Amb? I’m scared.”


“Have fun; don’t do anything I wouldn’t do. And everything is going to be perfectly fine, don’t let this scare you ok?”


Oh I won’t. I won’t be doing anything but sitting in this truck and then sleeping in the hotel bed. “Bye Amber, hope you feel better.” Wesley calls out. I scowl at her as I shut the door leaving myself alone with a new guy for the first time in years.


Chapter 5


The only thing between Wesley and me is the center console of his truck. The smell of leather inside is intoxicating and as if my heart weren’t already pounding in my chest, the rumble of the truck is making it a thousand times worse. It has just hit me that I’m sitting here alone with a guy I have only met a few hours ago and I know nothing about him besides the fact he beat some record tonight riding a bareback bronco. I know he is quite daring calling me out the way he did when he has no idea who I even am. He doesn’t know my past and the demons I fight with on a daily basis. Those demons sometimes win the battle and bring me to my knees in defeat.


“Can I tell you something Hope?” Wesley asks breaking the awkward silence.


“Um, sure.”


“I’m really glad you said you’d come with me. To be honest, I’ve never been so bold in my entire life and I just thought you were going to shut me down.”


He pulls the truck into a small diner and runs to open my door before I can even think of opening it myself. Who said chivalry is dead? “To be honest with you, I didn’t plan on even going to this rodeo tonight or saying yes at all.”


“Well I’m glad you did.” He smile keep sending me into a frenzy. Our hands brush against each other and I quickly pull mine away so he doesn’t get the wrong idea even if it does feel amazing.


We sit at a booth by a window; his truck is right in view. A cheery waitress walks over with a couple of menus. “Can I get you two something to drink?”


“I’ll have a sweet tea please.” he says with that perfect drawl.


“I’ll have water with lemon please.” I have no idea why I’m terrified of my breath smelling but water seems to be the safest choice.


The lady comes back rather quickly with our drinks and I immediately put the straw in so I can take a sip. My throat feels drier than the Sahara desert. My nerves are getting the best of me making me more nervous than I was before.


“You said in the truck you almost didn’t come to the rodeo, why?” He’s quite persistent. He should be glad I’m here with him now.


“It was a last minute decision on my part. I’m not a big fan. Amber begged me to come with her.”


“I’ll have to be sure to thank her.” He winks as the waitress walks back up to take our order. Wesley orders a shrimp poboy while I order a blueberry muffin, I’m not that hungry and even if I was I’m too nervous to really eat in front of him.


“Well Hope, you know what I do for a living, what do you do?”


I swallow the piece of muffin in my mouth and take a sip of water before replying, “I’m a secretary for a divorce attorney in San Antonio.”


“Sounds fun.  Messy, but fun. I live in Kirby.” Yeah he has no idea. I wonder if Mr. Collins would have given me a discount when Brad and I ended up divorced. It sounds horrible that I could even think that way but I know I’m right.


My brain is trying to process what he just told me. Kirby is about fifteen minutes from me. I suddenly have ‘It’s A Small World After All’ playing over and over again in my head.


“Oh wow, so close.”


“Yeah, what a shame I’ve never seen you before. We’re going to have to change that after all this rodeo business.” He waves his hand around like it’s no big deal he owns two national titles and just broke some record a little bit ago.


I hate this because I have no idea what to say to him. It’s probably best no one speaks right now since we’re both eating. I’d be mortified if I spit muffin in his direction. He admitted he’d like to see me again once the rodeo was over but how long do these things last? Months? Can I wait months for someone I don’t even know? The biggest thing weighing in on my mind is if he would seriously wait for me or would he chat up some other female like he just did me. Hell, he could probably do it and I’d never know. Brad and I lived together and I had no idea he’d been screwing around until I unfortunately walked in on it. Once we finish the waitress pops back up. “Is this on one check or two?”


We answered at the same time, I say two and he says one. I scowl at him when he’s persistent on there being only one check.


“I can pay for my own muffin, Wesley Tyler.”


“This is a date Hope, what’s your last name? I’m a gentleman, so I’m paying for you.” His smile is killing me. He reaches for his leather wallet opening it to pay.


“This is not a date, you don’t know me. And it’s Trahan.” I deadpan hoping he can clearly see the half agitated look on my face.


“Whatever you say Hope.” He pops the ‘p’ in my name and hands the waitress forty dollars for a fifteen dollar meal and tells her to keep the change. No doubt we’re her favorite customers of the night. The diner only took about thirty minutes of our time and its only 9:30 pm.


He opens the truck door for me and I climb back in realizing I never thanked him for my muffin. He starts the truck and looks over at me smiling and I feel my phone vibrate sending me jumping off the seat. Of course it’s the one and only Brad sending a text that I quickly dismiss. I don’t even want to read it.


“Do you need to get that?” He asks as he backs out the parking lot.


“Oh, uh no. It’s not important. Just Amber making sure I’m still alive. Thank you for the muffin by the way although I could have paid for my own.”


“It’s my pleasure sweetheart.” He glances over smiling. I could stare at his smile all night long. “You’re stubborn aren’t you Hope?”


“What gave that away?” I laugh before turning my gaze out to the starry night sky.


“Geez, let’s see. How about the fact you were quite persistent on paying for your own muffin?”


I roll my eyes and just laugh. The tension has eased some more and I’m beginning to feel comfortable.


Wesley pulls back up at the arena and my heart sinks a little thinking the night is getting ready to end. We’ve done nothing but eat a little dinner and I don’t want it to end just yet. He pulls to the far back where there is nothing but trailers as far as the eye can see. As he parks, I can see the horse through the trailer thanks to his headlights. I tense as he turns the truck off. I saw this horse and how angry it was just earlier because of that strap thing Amber was telling me about. He opens my door and walks me out toward the horse.


“Is this the same horse from earlier?” My eyes widen watching the horse standing there. My eyes lock with the horse and I gasp trying to keep my fear hidden.


He smiles proudly as we stop in front of the horse, “Yep, this is Bandit. My partner in crime. Bandit, meet Hope.”


Bandit continues to watch me closely and no doubt can sense the fear inside me. I’ve never been this close to a horse before. Wesley stands behind me placing his hand on top of mine. A thousand volts of electricity shoot through me and I shudder trying to shake off the feeling. I try to move my hand but he leans into my ear and whispers, “Shhh, its ok. Just relax. He senses you’re nervous. Relax sweetheart. You want to pet him? He’s gentle, I promise.”


I’m done for, the butterflies have taken over my entire body and I’m completely swooning over this cowboy behind me. I can’t, I’m never going to see him again I know this, even if he does live just a few minutes from me. This is his life and I don’t fit in here. I never will. “Oh, are you sure I can?”


“Yes, just relax.” In one slow movement, he guides my hand towards Bandit and in the blink of an eye I’m stroking Bandit’s mane and he doesn’t even flinch.


“Wow,” I whisper. “Hi Bandit.” I stand there continuing to stroke his mane when I realize that Wesley moved his hand away and I was doing it all on my own.


I remove my hand slowly so I didn’t spook Bandit and turn around, “Hey, why’d you let go?”


“I didn’t know you wanted me to keep it there or I would have.”


“Oh, ok.” I’m disappointed I can’t lie, it was too comfortable having his hand right there. A familiarity that I missed way too much.


“You seem to be pretty relaxed for this being a place you said you aren’t a fan of.” He pries a little.


I take in a deep breath wondering how much is acceptable to say to Wesley. I’m afraid the smallest word will turn him away but what do I have to lose? “My uh, sister died a few years ago when we were coming home from a rodeo and I thought it would be too much for me. I wasn’t sure I could handle being here.”


His face drops as he takes in my every word. “I’m so sorry Hope.” It hurts to say it still. I hate the feelings that come with it. It hurts bringing this up but sometimes talking about it helps.


I smile at his sincerity. Something about it is completely selfless and I let out my breath. “Thank you. It’s just been a hard time but I’m learning to pick up the pieces again. All of them.”


“I can’t imagine going through that. For what it’s worth, I really am glad you are here.”


“Me too,” I answer quietly.


“I really admire you for being here tonight and overcoming this. You’re very strong.”


I’m about to respond when my phone vibrates again. I try to pull it out slowly but Brad’s name sticks out brightly into the night sky. I groan wondering why he just won’t stop. “Are you sure you don’t need to get that Hope?”


“I’m sure,” I reply before whispering, “Why won’t he quit?”


“Who? Is everything ok?”


I sigh wondering why it seems the universe is against me at this moment. “Everything is fine, it’s just my ex. We had a bad breakup a few days ago and he can’t take the hint. I uh, caught him in bed with another woman and I have no idea why I just told you that, so I’m going to shut up now.”


I want to face palm myself right now for practically blurting all that out but I don’t want to look any crazier than I already feel. “Damn, well sucks to be him. He’s missing out.” He winks at me pulling my hand into his. I don’t fight it, I let our fingers intertwine. My fingers feel tingly as he grips them making me feel safe for once.


“Yeah, try telling him that.” I roll my eyes before shoving the phone back into my pocket. I don’t want to talk about Brad. Talking about him is nothing but a buzzkill.


“You have no idea how refreshing that is. I have no idea how any of this is supposed to work especially right now but can I have your number and see you again?”


My heart sinks as the realization slams full force into me that I really may never see him again. Do I tell him no or should I say yes? Amber would punch me in the arm right now if I told him no, so I smile and reply, “Honestly Wesley, I had no idea who you even are. Amber will kill me if I say no so I’m going to say yes.” He hands me his phone and I punch my number in even calling my phone to show him I wasn’t making a number up.


I pet Bandit a few more times, he’s warming up to me and I decide he’s my favorite horse ever. He is the only horse I’ve ever come close to in my life but he doesn’t need to know that. His dark chocolate eyes look at me with nothing but kindness and I’ve already forgotten how he was earlier. Time flies by as we talk. Wesley asks about Karlee and I tell him stories that he doesn’t mind hearing. He laughs along with me as I tell him about the time we got caught trying to toilet paper our principal’s house. We ended up with detention for what seemed like an eternity after that. He threatened to not let Karlee walk for graduation but after several apologies, he budged and changed his mind. We laugh together and I pet Bandit more. Most of the time, I pet Bandit on my own but I secretly wait for the moments that Wesley places his hand strategically over mine. Something about these past few hours feels like I’ve known him longer. Soon it’s time to head back to the hotel. I don’t want to go back. I want to push back time and relive this night over and over again.


He starts his truck and turns the radio on low and I hear the low hum of a country song in the background. I have to smile and then try not to start cheesing it up when Wesley’s hand finds mine and I don’t stop him. This time, I notice the calluses his hands hold. They rub against my soft skin almost like they were made to do so.


“I’m sorry he hurt you.” He whispers.

BOOK: Spurs & Stilettos
6.61Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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