Branded as Trouble (Rough Riders 6) - Page 2

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Cam gave chase as well as a prosthetic-wearing cop could.

In the melee, Colt bent over to pick up the tools and India grabbed the big framing nail gun. As she was trying to avoid stepping on screws scattered like tacks, she tripped over the compressor hose and fell…right into Colt. More specifically, right into Colt’s butt. Upon contact with a solid surface, the nail gun’s triggering mechanism released a three-inch screw. Right through Colt’s Wranglers, penetrating the bottom of his left butt cheek.

Colt hadn’t screamed in agony. He’d just dropped to his hands and knees, asking her to put the nail gun on the counter.

By the time Cam returned, Colt’s wound was seeping blood.

Cam, being the levelheaded sort, tried to convince Colt to go to the hospital. Colt refused.

After a few minutes of fruitless arguing, Colt did the damndest thing. He pushed to his feet, snagged a pair of pliers from the jumbled tool pile and headed up the back staircase to India’s apartment, almost at a dead run.

Cam and India raced after Colt and wrangled him to the closest horizontal surface—the bed in the spare bedroom—and Cam called his good buddy Doctor Monroe. India wondered just how good of “friends” Cam and the doctor were because the doc showed up within ten minutes.

After Doctor Monroe pulled the nail out, she administered a local anesthetic and a tetanus shot, which appeared to cause Colt more discomfort than the injury.

India forced herself to watch him get stitched up even though it was only three stitches. Blood and needles were part of the tattoo business and had never bothered her. So why did the sight of Colt’s blood cause her stomach to heave?

You weren’t close to barfing. You sucked down too many Red Bulls, that’s all.

If that was true, why was she cowering outside the room?

Guilt? Fear he’d light into her now that they were alone?

Screw that. Colt couldn’t make her feel any worse than she already did.

She snuck back in and perched on the folding chair next to the bed Doc Monroe had vacated.

Colt’s hair was damp and disheveled. The muscles in his jaw were bunched tight. His chest rose and fell quickly with every shallow breath. His entire body rivaled the bedside table for rigidity.

India wished she could soothe his pain. Would it relax him if she smoothed the frown lines from his feverish brow? If she ruffled her fingers through his glossy black hair would his eyes close in bliss? If she rubbed his broad shoulders would he groan with satisfaction? If she placed her lips on his would he welcome her kiss?

Kissing him? Where the hell had that idea come from? Colt was her buddy, her best pal, her sounding board, her client. Not to mention her A.A. sponsoree. She shot him a quick glance.

Sometimes that fact was a damn crying shame.

No doubt Colt McKay was a fine-looking man. Too good looking to be honest. He had the face of an angel—a fallen angel to be sure—a sinful smile rivaling the devils for temptation, the muscled body of a disciplined athlete, and more charms than a damn jewelry store. He was, simply put, perfect.

Perfectly off limits, not that he’d ever given any indication he’d be interested in her beyond friendship.

There’s the real reason to cry.

Colt’s fiery blue eyes focused on her.

She had no earthly idea what raced through his brain when he looked at her like that, but she liked it. She set her hand on his shoulder, jerking it when he flinched. “Sorry.”

“Don’t be. It just surprised me, that’s all. You never touch me like that.”

Do you want me to touch you like that? “I’m…” India blew out a frustrated breath. “Dammit, Colt. I’m sorry. So freakin’ sorry. I’m such a klutz. I didn’t mean to shoot you in the butt.”

He merely stared at her.


“You could kiss it and make it better.”

“Funny. Does it hurt?”

“Like you wouldn’t believe.”

She winced. “I’m sorry.”

“If you’re not gonna pucker up, I’d be grateful for some Motrin.”

India leapt to her feet. “No problem.” She hustled to the nightstand for a glass of water and shook out two orange pills.


“Thanks.” Colt popped the pills and took a big drink. The second gulp left him sputtering and water droplets clung to the bristle on his cheeks.

Without thinking, she wicked the moisture away with her fingers.

“God. Your hands are so cold.”

“Sorry.” India moved her hand but Colt caught her wrist.

“Don’t stop. It feels good.”

“It does?”

“Yeah. My face is on fire.”

When she stroked his face, from his forehead to his chin, he expelled a long sigh. India couldn’t tear her eyes away from how Colt’s sharp facial features contrasted with his full lips. For the longest time she just touched him, studying him, sort of like she was seeing him for the first time.

Finally, he said, “You’re quiet.”

“You sound surprised.”

“I am. You’re never quiet.”


“So talk to me.”



“Think you’ll be better by meeting night?”

“Talk to me about anything but A.A.” He shifted his position.

“Tell me about the last tattoo you did.”

“Nothing too exciting. Another college girl bringing in a Chinese symbol her friend had found online that ‘means’ something significant.”

“In other words…”

“Complete and total bullshit. For all I know—and all she knows—I could’ve tattooed the Chinese symbol for outhouse above her butt.”

Colt laughed softly.

Encouraged by his laughter, she kept talking. “A couple days ago a big, burly biker came in and wanted a bumblebee done on each thigh above his kneecaps.”


“In an outburst of passion, some hot chick swore he was the

‘bees knees’ so he demanded the moment be forever immortalized on his hairy skin.”

“You’re kiddin’ me.”

“Of course I’m kidding. Damn, you’re gullible, McKay.”

He gave her a droll look. “Gullible ain’t a word that’s ever fit me, Indy.”

“I don’t imagine it has.” She placed her palm on his cheek.

During the three years Colt belonged to A.A., he’d told her some of the things he’d done while drunk or high or both. Granted, his past was tame compared to the shit she’d pulled, not that she’d shared the worst of it with anyone and she suspected he held secrets pretty close to his incredible chest too.

Tags: Lorelei James Rough Riders Billionaire Romance