Colby didn’t say anything.
Channing raised her head and looked at him. “What?”
“I didn’t ask you to come along for them, Channing. I asked you to come along for me. I want you here.”
“Because something about your fire and sweetness called out to me.
From the first time I saw you, Chan, I knew you were just as lonely as I was. Stubborn about it, too.” He closed his eyes. “Can we talk about this later, darlin’? I’m getting tired again.”
She wanted to demand they finish the conversation now. Instead, she waited until he was dozing and untangled from his embrace. No way could she go back to sleep after that.
Colby was still out by the time they reached Valentine. The motels were full, so it appeared they’d all be sleeping in the horse trailer at the rodeo grounds for at least a night.
While Trevor took care of the horses, Channing and Edgard made a run for food. They didn’t talk, letting the country music on the radio fill the void in the truck.
But Channing couldn’t stand it any longer. She’d keep the conversation neutral, but dammit, they were going to talk to each other and stop playing this avoidance game. She said, “Tell me how a Brazilian ended up team roping and tie-down roping on the American rodeo circuit.”
Edgard turned down Reba McIntyre’s “Fancy” . “My mother came to America as a foreign exchange student when she was in high school. She met my father at a rodeo when she was seventeen. She ended up pregnant and they got married. About a year after I was born, my birth father died in a car accident.
“My mother was only eighteen, a widow, a foreigner with a baby and no way to support herself. So she returned to her family in Brazil. A couple of years later she married the man I consider my real father. But she kept in touch with my birth father’s parents. After I graduated from high school, I came to the US for a few months to meet them. I’ve been coming here on and off for about ten years.”
“Where do they live?”
“Outside of Laramie, which is where I met Trevor. Anyway, because I was raised on a ranch in Brazil, I realized I could make big money here on the rodeo circuit.” Edgard shot her a dark look. “Here’s where you could point out I’m not making big money now, chica.”
She scowled. “But I’m not like that, Edgard. I’ve got enough things in my own life that need fixed before I’ll pass judgment on other people’s problems, financial or otherwise.”
“Sorry. That was a cheap shot.” He sighed. “At one time I did earn money through bull riding and bulldogging, enough that I bought a ranch in Brazil about an hour away from my parents. It is so beautiful.
Lush and green and secluded. I miss it.”
“So how come you’re not there?”
Edgard tapped his fingers on the steering wheel as he brooded out the window. “I’m beginning to wonder that, too.”
“Trevor doesn’t know what to do about you being in love with him, does he?”
He whipped toward her, his mouth open. “How did you know?”
“I guessed.” Channing held up a hand at his immediate protest. “It’s not obvious to other people. But because our circumstances—you know, the supposed free-for-all sex, and you not really being into it at all, and then seeing you guys together today…”
Edgard brooded some more. “Have you talked to Trevor?”
“No. I won’t either. You can trust me. But I want to ask you something.”
“Trevor doesn’t consider himself g*y. So there’s no way he’ll let you two be together, as a real couple, ‘out’ in a relationship, right?”
“So why are you still here in the US? Following him and the rodeo circuit instead of being at the ranch you love so much?”
“Because I love him more. Or at least I thought I did.” Edgard parked the truck and leaned his head back into the headrest. “At the beginning of the year, Trevor hinted around he might be interested in coming to Brazil. Permanently. Living with me. Helping me raise cattle on the ranch. And he made it sound like he wouldn’t keep pretending we were just roping partners. That maybe we could be partners in the truest sense of the word. No more hiding.”
“But first he wanted to spend another year trying to get to the NFR in the team roping. Trying to make his father proud. Trying to prove himself.”
“I sense another ‘but’ coming.”
“But as I’m here, spending another summer with him, chasing his dream, getting our asses beat on the circuit every damn day, I’ve begun to realize he is too afraid to be with me the way I need him to be. That my dreams don’t matter to him, maybe they never have.” He laughed bitterly.
“I don’t even mind the women. I’ve known since the first time we were together that he really is bisexual. I’m not. I never can be. I’ve never wanted to be.” Edgard gave her an embarrassed smile. “I’m sorry.”
“Don’t apologize for being who you are, Edgard.”
“Thank you for that. Trevor’s family is very traditional. He’d be disowned if his family knew about us.”
“And your family?”
“My family knows I’m g*y. They’ve accepted it and accepted me. So when I’m there, I have a hard time understanding why Trevor can’t just be what he is and not care what other people think. When I’m here, in the US, I have to pretend to be something I’m not. And Trevor can’t seem to make up his mind what he wants either way.”
“Is it worth it?”
“I don’t know. Being with him is like a drug. When we’re competing together, it’s like we’re really a team. When we’re f**king it’s like we’re really in love. Every other time it sucks, like coming down off a really great high. And lately, the highs have been few and far between.” His body went rigid for a second. “Shit. Sorry. Probably more than you wanted to know, eh?”
“No. Thanks for being honest with me. I’ve spent my whole life with people pretending to be who they’re not and expecting me to be the same shallow person. That’s why I ran away with the rodeo.”
“Are you finding people are more real here?”
“Some more than others.” Channing reached for his hand. “Like I told you the other day. I’d like for us to be friends, because the truth is, I could use one.”