Long Hard Ride (Rough Riders 1) - Page 20

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The bulls shut out the first ten competitors. Colby was up and he’d drawn Black Bart, a nasty bull, who’d gone unridden in the last seventeen outs. Channing remembered Jared getting tossed on his head right out of the gate when he’d tried to ride Black Bart. She leaned closer, not realizing she was chewing her lip until she tasted blood.

She had to calm down. The rodeo season was long and injuries were plenty. She had to trust Colby knew what he was doing.

Trevor was behind the chute helping Colby get situated on the bull, holding the bullrope while Colby rosined up his glove. Trevor’s foot came over the barrier and he pressed down on the bull’s hind end in an effort to get him to stand up. It must’ve worked because Colby’s free arm gripped the metal bar. A couple of solid shifts on the bull’s back, he nodded his head rapidly at the gate man and the gate flew open.

Man and bull burst out in a cloud of dust. Black Bart spun hard to the left, then countered with a spin to the right. Colby bumped along, his free arm high above him, but on the last switchback, Black Bart’s hips canted to the right and Colby slid over sideways, catching air as he sailed from the bull’s back.

He hit the ground hard on his shoulder, spun around to his feet to see where the bull was, and raced pell-mell to the fence as Black Bart charged him, weaving around the bull fighters, horns down, aiming for Colby.

But realizing his prey was gone, Black Bart stopped abruptly. His balls and jowls shook with anger and long streams of white snot flew from his nose as he trotted over to the livestock pen.

Colby reached out for his bullrope and watched his ride on the big screen. The clock had stopped at 5.2 seconds. He climbed over the railing and disappeared.

She wondered if he was commiserating with other riders who’d eaten dirt? Was he having his shoulder checked out in the medical tent?

Now they just had to wait for the payouts. Then they’d be on the road headed to Greeley for the two-day event there.

Channing didn’t know if she was supposed to head back to the horse trailer or wait in the stands. Jared had never wanted her around his rodeo pals or sponsors, now she knew why.

But things were different with Colby and Trevor at least. Except the devil on her shoulder whispered maybe they’d prefer she’d stay in the background, too. After all, she was scarcely above buckle-bunny status.

As she debated, Cash Big Crow spotted her and lumbered up to where she stood.

“Hoka hey. How come you’re up here by yourself, pretty lady?”

She laughed. “Where else am I supposed to be? What are you doing?”

“Nothing much.”

“Nice ride, by the way. Did you finish in the money?”

He scratched his head. “I think so, that’s why I’m hangin’ around.”

He peered over her shoulder to the commotion in the parking lot behind her. “You know who Gemma Jansen is?” Channing nodded. “Have you seen her lately?”

“Yesterday. She was headed home.”

Cash’s eyes narrowed. “Home? Why?”

“She said something about her foreman not doing his job at her place. Then I think she planned on taking bucking horses to Cody before she headed to Valentine.”

“Alone? Goddamn her. That woman’s got no business travelin’ all over half the damn country by herself—”

“Unlike you. You’re perfectly entitled to do whatever the hell you want, right?”

He grinned guiltily. “Sorry. I really ain’t a chauvinist. It’s just she’s so damn stubborn she won’t ask for help from nobody.”

“Channing!”

She whirled around and saw Trevor hanging on the fence.

“Colby’s been lookin’ everywhere for you. Time to go, girl.”

“Be right there.” She smiled at Cash. “See you in Greeley.”

Colby paced back and forth. Grumbling to himself. Would it be too goddamn much for her to be around when he needed her?

“Colby? What’s wrong?”

He slowed his angry breathing as he stalked to where Channing had paused by the contestants’ entry gate.

“You have a pained look on your face. Are you hurt?”

“No. Where the hell have you been?”

She frowned. “In the stands watching the rodeo.”

“Just off enjoyin’ yourself?”

“Yes. Why? Isn’t that what I’m supposed to do?”

“No.”

“No? What’s the matter with you?”

Colby grabbed her arm and bent down until they were nose to nose.

“Why weren’t you in the spectator stands with the other wives and girlfriends enjoyin’ the rodeo from there?”

“What? Because I-I—”

“I searched for you after every goddammed event. You should’ve been there. That’s were I expect to see you from now on, do you understand?”

Channing threw off his hand. “Then maybe you should’ve given me a ticket, because I sat by myself on the other side of the arena like I always do.”

“Always?”

“Yeah, always. What’s the big deal?”

“The big deal is me wonderin’ why don’t you want to sit where you’re supposed—”

“Supposed to what?” She speared a finger into his chest. “You took off and left me the minute we hit the check-in booth. I’ve never been here. I’ve never been to any rodeo with you, remember? What was I supposed to do? Stand around like some floozy and wait for you to make up your mind on whether I was good enough—”

“Stop talkin’ right now.”

“No. You don’t get to order me around when you abandoned me. I don’t know why the hell I’m surprised that you don’t want people to know you’re with me.”

He was too pissed off to speak.

She blithely continued, “I’m used to being the cause of embarrassment. I am aware I rank well below the rest of the more knowledgeable buckle bunnies trailing after you like lovesick calves—”

“I’m warnin’ you, Channing, stop chatterin’ like a goddamn magpie and listen up right now. Didn’t Jared—”

“Jared was just as worried about what people might think of us being together as you are, cowboy. So, despite your claims to the contrary, you’re more alike than you know.”

Shit. Colby stepped back and squeezed his eyes shut. He’d forgotten Jared had kept Channing sequestered so no one blabbed to her about his wife. Therefore, Channing wouldn’t have known a certain amount of seats were set aside at every performance for family and friends. When he reopened his eyes, she was stomping off.


Tags: Lorelei James Rough Riders Billionaire Romance
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