Branded as Trouble (Rough Riders 6) - Page 20

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Wrong. It didn’t work that way.

Colt saw India’s chest rising and falling as if she’d run a race.

He let his thumb drift over the back of her knuckles. “Breathe. Slow and steady.”

After a few minutes, she’d calmed down.


“Yeah. Thanks.”

“That’s what I’m here for.”

A soft laugh. “So the question of the day is…will you still be here after I make my confession?”

“Yep. I told you, Indy, I ain’t goin’ anywhere.”

She locked her gaze to his. “If we’re going through with this crazy dating idea of yours, then this is something you should hear.

You should also know I’ve never told this to anyone I care about.”

Rather than let loose a whoop because she admitted she cared about him, he said, “Skylar doesn’t know?”

“No. Just a couple of detox counselors in California and…the other people involved, but I doubt they remember and they were just as stoned out of their gourds as I was.”

Then Colt knew her impending confession would be ugly. He didn’t say a word. He just held her hand, and her gaze and hoped it’d be enough.

“During my using years, I traded sex for drugs. And a couple of times when we couldn’t make rent, I charged for sex.”

“Oh, sugar. That had to’ve been rough.”

The wariness didn’t leave her eyes. “It’s kind of a blur. I’ve never been sure if it’s because I blocked it out, or if it was because of the drugs and booze.”

“Probably some of both. How’d it happen?”

“The guy I was with at the time, Larry, a loser I’d hooked up with in art school, was a small time dealer. We’d get high on whatever product wasn’t selling. His boss would come around to collect the money, and usually we’d snorted or smoked or shot up more than Larry’s cut. So, the boss would take the difference out on trade. Since Larry didn’t have shit, I was the commodity.”

“How long did this go on?”

“A couple of months. Then I OD’d. I don’t really know how I made it to the hospital, but when I woke up, Skylar was there and Larry was long gone. She sent me to detox. By some miracle I hadn’t contracted AIDS or hepatitis or an STD during my blackout sexual hi-jinks. She took me in for a while. I stayed clean, but I got a job at a bar and started drinking. Heavily. And you pretty much know the rest of the story.”

In and out of jail. In and out of treatment programs. Another OD. When they’d met three years ago, she’d been clean and sober for five years.

It amazed him, how India turned her life around. She’d taken her passion for art and turned it into a career. After her mother died, she’d moved away and started over thousands of miles away.

Colt didn’t have the balls to do that. His life had taken a downward spiral for a year or two, but he’d never contemplated shucking it all and starting over out of Wyoming.

“You’re awful quiet, McKay.”

“Just thinkin’ about how brave you are.”

“For telling you my dirty little secret?”

“Maybe. But mostly because you haven’t let your past experiences paralyze you.” He studied her, wondering if he’d overstep his bounds if he voiced the issue on his mind.

“Just ask me the question I see in your eyes, sugar.”

Colt gave her half a head butt. “Smartass woman, makin’ fun of a poor, dumb cowboy like me.”

“Last thing you are, Colt, is dumb. So ask.”

“You are okay with sex now? No guilt, no—”

“—feelings of shame that make it impossible for me to enjoy sex? I love everything about sex. I’m just a lot choosier about who I have sex with. Why?”

“In the years I’ve known you, I don’t recall you ever talkin’ about a specific man, or a relationship, or sex and I wondered if this thing with your past might’ve affected it.”

“Only in that no one knows. After I first moved here, I kept a long distance, f**k buddy type thing with a guy from Denver for a while. But it didn’t last.”

Jealousy tightened his gut. “How come I never knew?”

She shrugged. “It’s easier all around if I keep my personal life out of the meetings. When we were together at A.A., especially in the beginning, I was focused on keeping you sober. It was important you saw me as a survivor, not as a woman.”

“I might’ve been a drunk, Indy, but I ain’t never been blind to the fact you’re all woman.”

“Sweet-talkin’ cowboy. There’s been no one since.”

“No one? Not even a one-nighter?”

“Nope. To be crude, I’ve been getting off with BOB, my battery operated boyfriend, or my own hand.” She gave him the same questioning look he’d given her. “What about you?”

“I’m well acquainted with my own hand.”

“Been dating Rosy Palm, have you?”

He laughed. “Exclusively.”

“But I’m talking about when it comes to sex with a person.

You’ve made no bones about the fact you were a serious horndog with a bad reputation before you had a drinking problem.”

“I was. I didn’t particularly care which woman I ended up f**king at the end of the night, just as long as I got laid. Just as long as I satisfied her to the point she’d tell every other chick in four counties what a stud Colt McKay was, so I wouldn’t have to work at all to coax any woman I wanted into my bed.”


“Yeah. And it worked. For years. Might sound cocky as shit, but I barely had to wink at a woman and I could have her on her knees or on her back in no time flat.”

“Didn’t the easy pickin’s get old?”

He grinned at her. “Are you kiddin’ me?”

India whapped him on the arm. “I’m serious.”

“Yeah, I guess it did. It all changed when my brothers started pairing off. I was jealous, but rather than try to settle down, I got wilder. In my way of thinkin’, if one woman was good, two would be even better. I’d make them jealous of my lifestyle. I’d be the Hugh Hefner of the notorious McKay clan, charming, sexy, with a rocket in my pocket ready to blow at the first spark and a legion of women lined up to light that match.”

“So what happened?”

“Besides getting hooked on all the booze I had to drink to maintain the illusion?”

Tags: Lorelei James Rough Riders Billionaire Romance