“I’m not like most women, Colby McKay. I like the raunchy side of you. I like the fact you don’t treat me like a china doll and want me to show you my wild side, too.”
He grinned shyly and smooched the tip of her nose. “You’re sweeter’n ten pounds of sugar. Get dressed or I won’t be responsible for what happens next. We’re already runnin’ late.” Whistling off-key, he disappeared into the bathroom.
Voices drifted out the back end of the horse trailer.
“No. There ain’t nothin’ wrong with this rope. Leave it be.”
“Come on, Edgard, it’s a frayed piece of crap. Either you toss it in the garbage or I will.”
“This rope is not what’s causing the problems, amigo.”
“What the f**k is that supposed to mean? You think it’s my fault that you can’t get a bead on anything that moves faster than my crippled-up grandma?”
“I’m going to make you pay for that, Trev. One way or another, easy or hard—”
Channing cleared her throat. “Knock knock.”
“I know you guys are in here, I heard you arguing. Hell, everyone in Limon heard you arguing. Am I interrupting something?”
“Yes,” Edgard said at the same time Trev said, “No.”
“Oh, well…I won’t be long. I just need to eat some breakfast and then I’ll get out of your hair and let you get back to it.”
The trailer shook as Trevor stomped out. Another round of heated words was exchanged outside, followed by harsh silence.
Edgard climbed into the living quarters and watched Channing dump Raisin Bran into a bowl and pour milk over it.
She looked up at him and smiled warily. Good god. He was magnificent even when he scowled. “Want some?”
“Sure. If it is no trouble.”
“Not at all.” She slid the bowl at him and motioned for him to sit at the dinette. And she sat across from him and dug in.
“I didn’t hear Trevor come back to the room last night. Were you guys beating the shit out of each other or something?”
Edgard’s spoon froze halfway to his mouth. “No. Why would you say that?”
“Seems like you guys are always fighting.”
He shrugged and resumed eating. “It goes with the territory.
Especially when things aren’t going well.”
“We’ve lost our rhythm and we’ve dropped in the standings in the last two weeks. No money. Tempers are short.”
Channing stirred her cereal, half-tempted to abandon it and this awkward conversation.
Edgard sighed. “What?”
She met his dark gaze. “You don’t want me here, do you?”
A heavy pause weighted the air as he considered his answer. “What makes you think that?”
“Besides the fact I’m a sure thing who’s supposed to fill your every forbidden fantasy and you haven’t so much as held my hand?”
He smiled but it didn’t reach his coal black eyes. “Not exactly the shy, retiring type, are you, chica?”
If he only knew she usually cowered in the corner. “Am I too forward?
Is that why you don’t like me?”
“Channing, I like you fine. I’ve just got a lot on my mind that has nothing to do with you, okay?”
“Okay. So I don’t disgust you?”
“I thought Colby said you three shared everything.”
“But even if I’m…not your type and you’re not attracted to me or whatever, I’d…oh forget it.”
He sighed again. “No. Spit it out.”
“I’d still like to be your friend, because like it or not, you’re stuck with me for the next week.”
A ghost of a gentle smile. “You clicked with Colby pretty fast, didn’t you?”
“Yes.” She wanted to ask him why he didn’t mention she’d also clicked with Trevor—with everyone besides him.
Edgard snagged her hand and gave her knuckles a quick kiss. “No wonder Colby calls you shug, you are very sweet.”
“Are you coming to the performances this afternoon?”
“I planned to. Why?”
“I’m hoping that now that you’re traveling with us, our luck will change.” He stood, went to the sink and rinsed his bowl and spoon. “I’ll see you later.”
Channing stared after him for the longest time, not entirely understanding what had happened, or if anything had changed.
The afternoon was scorching hot in the rodeo stands. Channing had coated her bare arms with sunscreen and was glad her lightweight and light-colored cowboy hat deflected the worst of the sun’s rays and allowed the slightest breeze through the finely woven straw to cool her head.
She sipped her iced tea and shifted, yanking down her yellow skirt.
Her legs stuck to the wool blanket she sat on, but it was better than the back of her thighs getting seared like raw steaks by the metal bleacher seats.
Edgard, Trevor and Colby had paid their entry fees, pinned their numbers to their backs and gone off to prepare to rodeo, leaving her free to explore the grounds before the action started. Since she didn’t know any of the wives or girlfriends on the circuit, she had no choice but to sit by herself.
The rodeo announcer’s voice boomed from the loudspeakers. “Next up in saddle bronc riding is Colby McKay, the Wyoming cowboy from Sundance. Colby is currently ranked eighth in saddle bronc riding competition in the Mountain and Plains Circuit, with 8,712 cumulative points. He’s also in the number two position this week in the All-Around standings. Ooh, and looky here, rodeo fans, Colby’s draw today is the three-year-old named Elway, a bronc from the Sutliff Rodeo Stock Company out of Livingston, Colorado.”
Channing focused the binoculars on the chutes across the arena. The gatekeeper waited in front of the metal gate, rope in hand, watching for Colby’s signal. From this distance the only thing she could see was the top of Colby’s brown cowboy hat. Then his free arm flew up, the gate opened and out he came, holding on for dear life as Elway tried like hell to buck him off.
But Colby was beautiful, sheer poetry in motion as he dipped and glided with every hop and bounce of the horse. His feet spurring, the red metallic fringe on his chaps fluttering. His counter movements were synchronized, almost as if he sensed what direction Elway planned to go before the horse himself even knew.