Branded as Trouble (Rough Riders 6) - Page 30

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Looking as dazed as he was, he traced the outline of her bottom lip, while he stared into her eyes. When her saucy tongue darted out to lick the callused pad, his hand fell away.

She smirked.

“I know that look. You still think you can convince me to give in to your hot sexy body before the two weeks is up.”

“I’m an optimist.” She bestowed a smacking kiss square on his mouth. “See you tomorrow night at the basketball game.”

India arrived at the high school parking lot to find it jam-packed. Inside, she saw Bert pointing to the empty space beside him in the front row of the bleachers.

“Thanks for saving me a spot,” she said, squeezing the gnarled hand resting on his cane. “I had a late client. It hasn’t started, has it?”

“Not yet.”

India scanned the teams on opposite sides of the court. Her gaze zeroed in on the tall, dark-haired man, wearing an electric blue tank top and shorts. Talk about muscular legs. And arms. And chest.

How much weight had he been lifting with Cam?

Colt sensed her gawking at him. He trotted over, the warmth in his eyes made her tingly all over. “Glad you made it.”

Concentrate on his eyes and not his nearly nude body.

He grinned as if he’d read her thoughts.

The whistle blew and he scrambled toward his teammates.

India muttered, “I am in way over my head.”

“He is too, if it’s any consolation.”

She faced Bert. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

Bert clutched her hand on his cane. “I like you, India. That’s why I sent Colt to you in the first place. He wouldn’t open up to me the way he has with you. You were good for him.”

“Were?”

“Ladies and gentlemen, let’s get this event started!”

India half-listened to the opening remarks of the MC. After a precocious nine-year old girl warbled “The Star-Spangled Banner”

they sat down. She tried to watch the action unfold, but ignoring Bert’s curious stare proved impossible. “What?”

“As awkward as this might be, I’m recommending you terminate your role as Colt’s sponsor.”

“What?”

“Hear me out before your wicked glare singes what little hair I have left.”

“Does he know you’re doing this?”

“Yes, it was my idea after he called and told me you two were dating.”

So Colt had listened to her concerns last night.

Why are you surprised? Colt always listens to you.

“You’re important to the program, India. But you’re also important to him.”

She didn’t know what to say.

“It’d be easier all around. You’ve been so busy taking care of others I’m worried you’re not taking care of yourself.”

“I’m fine, Bert.”

“We’ve all said that, India. We’ve all been there, thinking we’re ‘cured’ and trying to hide the difficulties from our peers. No one ever is cured. You remember that. And if it gets to the point you need help…my door and my ears are always open to you.”

“Thanks.”

Bert slammed his cane into the floor and pointed. “Hey! Will you look at that? Number thirty-six fouled him!”

She shifted her attention to the court.

The match was a charity event and the men were supposed to be playing for fun, but the taunts and cheap shots screamed the aggressive nature of the game. Colt was out there in the thick of it, sweating, grappling for the ball. His competitive streak had him jabbing his elbow in his opponent’s ribs whenever the ref wasn’t watching.

During a lull in the game, India studied the local people filling the bleachers. Kids munched popcorn and sipped soft drinks from red wax cups. Mothers bounced babies, holding conversations with other mothers who did the same. Men, young and old, shouted approval or dismay at the official’s calls while teenagers ducked under the risers to steal a kiss away from prying parental eyes.

Odd, she didn’t see any of Colt’s family members in the stands.

Why weren’t they here rooting for him?

The third quarter ended. A pregnant woman waddled toward one of Colt’s teammates. The man’s face clouded with concern as he stroked her distended belly. Then he brushed her curls from her face and watched her holding the small of her back as she disappeared out the side door.

What would it be like to have a man look at her as if she hung the moon and stars? To have her belly round with his child? A burst of intense longing filled her.

“That’s Dr. Brewer and his wife, Susie,” Bert commented.

“Nice couple. They just moved back to Wyoming last year. He’s a veterinarian and she teaches at the reservation.”

“Do you know everything about everyone in town?”

“No, but Jay—Dr. Brewer—and Colt have been friends and rivals since high school. Why they haven’t killed each other is a mystery, because they both play rough and don’t know the meaning of the word quit.”

Like Bert needed to warn her about Colt’s tenacity.

The buzzer sounded and the teams took the floor for the last quarter. India automatically zeroed in on Colt.

God, he epitomized the perfect male animal, all sweaty, scowling and masculine.

It was a five-point ballgame. The level of aggression on the court increased. One player from the opposing team fouled out and a scuffle erupted.

With seven minutes left to play, the score tied, and the other team in control of the ball, Colt leapt into the air to block a pass.

The next thing happened in some kind of sick, slow motion.

An airborne Colt, still clutching the stolen ball, lost his footing and sailed toward the announcer’s stand. The back of his head clipped the corner of the long metal table and he slammed into the floor. He lay motionless as the entire gymnasium watched in horror.

The ball slowly rolled to the center of the floor. The referees blew the whistle, the time remaining on the scoreboard stopped ticking.

The crowd grew quiet.

Officials, teammates, and opposing players surrounded Colt.

The only thing visible from their seats were the soles of his tennis shoes.

“Why is Colt still lying on the floor?” Bert demanded, his concern echoing hers.

“I don’t know.” She hopped up on her chair for a better view.

“I can’t see anything.”

The man Bert pointed out as Jay Brewer trotted away from the team’s chairs and disappeared back inside the circle of people.


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