Walking calmed her, some, even though the midday sun shone hot on her shoulders. She took her camera out and snapped several shots on her long trek back to the house.
Try as she might, she couldn’t rid herself of Seth’s words. Logically she knew she shouldn’t let them get under her skin, but there wasn’t much logic in emotion.
She trudged on, wiping at the sweat on her brow. She’d missed lunch, and dinner wasn’t shaping up to be a very fun experience. She’d have to face Seth and Zane, both of whom were going to be uncomfortable around her for vastly different reasons.
So far she was making a mess of her intention to make them see that she was theirs. Always had been. It had all seemed so simple thousands of miles away in a foreign city. Go home, make them both love her as she loved them, convince them that a relationship between the three of them was possible.
What the living hell had she been thinking? How was she supposed to drop that kind of bomb on them and how would they react?
“You don’t tell them anything,” she muttered. “You show them. It’s up to you to show them it could work.”
She sighed and rubbed absently at her aching temples. No, dinner wasn’t something she really wanted to experience tonight. Carmen was a stickler for family gatherings. If you were home, you were present and accounted for in the dining room. No excuses.
Which only left one possibility. Not being home.
The idea of going into town for the evening cheered her up considerably. She hadn’t yet ventured into Barley. Tucker’s bar had always been a source of fun, even if Seth and Zane had hauled her out of it on more than one occasion. At least now she was of legal age.
She grinned. A little hell-raising did sound like an awful lot of fun. And if she dressed a little sexy and managed to capture the attention of a few local boys, then all the better. Her ego could use a little rebuilding after Seth’s putdown anyway.
She took her sweet time walking back to the ranch. It was late afternoon when she puttered up to the house, her shirt soaked with sweat and her hair clinging like limp noodles to her head.
When she walked through the patio door and into the kitchen, Carmen turned around and gasped. She immediately started rattling off a stream of Spanish, almost too fast for Jasmine to understand.
She smiled and held her hands up. “I’m fine, mamacita. English please. My head hurts too bad to keep up.”
“That boy,” Carmen sputtered. “Leaving my niña out God knows where. What was he thinking?” She threw her hands up in the air in exasperation. “I ask him when he comes in. ‘Where is Jasmine?’ He mumbles something about you walking back. Walking back! In this heat. Why did you not ride back with him, niña?”
“He made me angry,” Jasmine replied. “And no, I don’t want to talk about it. What I want is a cold shower and fresh clothes. Then I’m going into town for the evening, so don’t hold supper for me.”
Carmen opened her mouth to protest but Jasmine dropped a quick kiss on her cheek and headed for the stairs.
Seth was who knew where, and Zane’s truck hadn’t been here when she’d walked up. She didn’t exactly have permission to use Seth’s truck, but he had said in the past that she could use it when she needed it. If that was a year ago, oh well. She was annoyed enough with him not to care.
It took her half of the drive into town to get used to driving Seth’s big-ass truck. She had to lean forward in the seat so she could see over the hood. But she made it to the bar just as dusk fell, and she couldn’t wait to get inside and see who all was there.
She climbed out of the truck and ran her hands over her form-fitting jeans. Then she reached back into the cab and snagged her straw cowboy hat. She shoved it onto her head and glanced down to check her appearance.
Her cropped T-shirt hung just below her breasts, baring her belly ring and midriff. Her jeans rode low on her h*ps and clung to every curve on their way down. She smiled. She looked hot, damn it.
Any woman, my ass.
She walked into the bar and peered around the interior. Not much had changed. It was still smoky as hell, and the click clack of balls colliding on the pool table echoed from the back of the room.
A hard arm snaked around her waist and hauled her up against an equally hard chest.
“Jasmine, darlin’, what the hell are you doing here?”
She turned her face up to smile at him. He dropped a kiss on her forehead then gestured to a nearby table. “Come have a seat with me.”
She sighed and rolled her eyes. “Don’t you mean come where you can keep an eye on me?”
He grinned and ushered her over to the table. “My days of tossing your ass out of the bar are over. You’re legal now.”
“Not worried I’ll cause trouble?” she asked mischievously.
He winked as he sat down and held up two fingers at the passing waitress. “You and trouble are a given. It’s only a matter of how much and when.”
She shook her head and sat down across from him. “I wasn’t that bad.”
His green eyes twinkled at her. “Yes, you were. Kept me on my toes. Truth was, I looked forward to every weekend. I always wondered what scheme you’d concoct next.”
She rolled her eyes. “It got boring out at the ranch. Seth and Zane were having all the fun.”
“And now?” J.T. asked.
“Now, I left their sorry asses at home,” she grumbled.
“In that case, try not to have too much to drink. I don’t want to worry about your driving yourself home, and I damned sure don’t want to have to lock you up for a DUI.”
She chuckled at the concern in his voice. “Don’t worry, J.T. If I have too much to drink, I’ll crawl over to the hotel and stay over.”
“Or you could just call Seth or Zane to come get you,” he said pointedly.
“I’d prefer not.”
J.T.’s brow creased. They were interrupted as the waitress plunked down two cold bottles of beer in front of them. Jasmine gripped her beer and took a sip as she surveyed the rest of the room.
“What’s going on with you and those boys?” J.T. asked. “Not like you to want to avoid them when you’ve spent the last six years velcroed to them.”
Jasmine winced. “Am I that obvious?”
“Not sure what you’re getting on about, sweetheart. I just wondered if they’d done something to piss you off, and then I marveled at the idea of them being able to do something to make you angry.” He chuckled and shook his head.
She raised the bottle to her lips again and took a long drink. “I’m just here to have a good time. No other reason.”
He nodded and shrugged his shoulders. “Nothing wrong with that.”
She raised her hand as the waitress walked by again. When she stopped, Jasmine leaned forward so the woman could hear. “Two shots of tequila please.”
As she sat back, J.T. frowned disapprovingly.
“Now, J.T.,” she drawled. “I said I’d crash at the hotel if I got too intoxicated. Besides, I’m driving Seth’s truck, and I have no desire to find out what he’d do if I wrapped it around a telephone poll.”
“Does Seth know you’re driving his truck?”
“Well, he does now,” she said with a grin.
J.T. chuckled. “It’s going to be fun as hell to have you around again. I only wish I was there to see Seth shit a brick when he realizes you took off in his truck.”
“What’s the deal with his truck?”
“He loves that truck,” J.T. said.
She shrugged. “I didn’t see anything special about it.”
J.T. snorted. “You wouldn’t. It’s a guy thing. He bought it six months ago. Custom paint job, big tires, roll bar with lights—you know, guy stuff.”
She rolled her eyes. “A truck is a truck is a truck.”
“I’ll pretend I didn’t hear that.”
The waitress swung by and delivered Jasmine’s shots. Jasmine gripped one of the small shot glasses in her hand and raised it toward J.T. “To Barley, Texas and being back home.”
“I’ll drink to that,” J.T. said, raising his beer.
“What do you mean she went into town?” Seth demanded. “How the hell did she get there?”
Carmen frowned at his tone and tsked under her breath. “She drove. How else would she get into town unless you wanted her to walk like you made her do this afternoon?”
Seth sighed. “I didn’t make her walk, Carmen. You know once Jasmine’s made up her mind about something, there’s little you can do to change it.” And then another thought occurred to him, about the same time he realized that Zane wasn’t home and hadn’t been home all day. Which meant there was only one way Jasmine could have driven into town. He groaned even as he headed to the garage to see what he already suspected.
He stood in the doorway, bracing his hand on the frame as he stared at the empty space where his truck was usually parked. If she so much as put a scratch on it…
She’d be lucky if she didn’t put herself in a ditch somewhere. She hadn’t driven in the year she’d been in Paris, and before that, she’d always tooled around in Zane’s smaller truck, not that she’d driven a lot even then. She’d always been content to tag along with him or Zane wherever they happened to be going.
But she wasn’t a little girl anymore. Hell, she never had been. Even at sixteen she’d had more experience in her eyes than most women a dozen years older.
The memory of her mouth hot against his, her tongue bold and seeking, sent a bolt of awareness through his body. He closed his eyes, not wanting to relive the hurt in her eyes when he pushed her away.
“Seth, J.T. is on the phone for you,” Carmen called from the kitchen.
He shut the door to the garage and walked back to where Carmen stood, phone in hand.
“Hey, man, what’s up?” Seth asked as he put the phone to his ear.
“Not much. I’ve been down at the bar with your girl.”
“Jasmine?” Annoyance inched a slow crawl over his shoulders. The idea of Jasmine hanging out with J.T. irritated the shit out of him. Nearly as much as the idea of her going out with Brad.
“I got called out. Domestic disturbance. On my way to it now. But when I left, she was on her way to throwing one hell of a drunk.” J.T. hesitated for a moment. “It’s not that I don’t trust her. She said she’d get a hotel room if she wasn’t able to drive home. I just worry about her. Something seemed to be bothering her. I thought you’d want to know.”
Seth swore. “You did right. The last thing I want is for her to get hurt. I’m without wheels, but I’ll call Zane. He’s on his way home. I’ll have him stop in and pick her up. In the meantime, I’ll call Tucker and have him make sure Jasmine stays put until Zane gets there.”
The room was a little blurry. Okay, maybe a lot blurry. But she was having too much damn fun to worry about calling it a night.
Jasmine shook and shimmied, stomped her feet and clapped her hands in time with the country song the band was playing. More than one man was happy to dance with her. At least three skirted her periphery as she shook her head, hair flying.
One grasped her hand and spun her around where she collided with the chest of another. She smiled up as the second man put his hands on her shoulders and let them slide down her arms.
Yet another, too-tall, too-sexy cowboy pressed against her back, rotating his h*ps into her ass. Sweat beaded her forehead and her breath came heavier. How would it feel to be between Seth and Zane?
She closed her eyes and imagined for a moment that it was them who surrounded her body. She’d watched them one night. Saw them make love to the same woman. She’d been mesmerized by the sight and had been horribly jealous of the woman whose name she’d never even known. And then there was Mary Jo, town hairdresser. After seeing her between Seth and Zane, Jasmine had never been able to bring herself to go into Mary Jo’s salon.
She’d wanted it to be her. Already confused by her feelings for both brothers, those interludes had given her a taste of what it would be like to have them both.
But it wasn’t until she arrived in Paris and had met Cherisse that her secret fantasies had taken a serious flight into reality. Seeing her friend in a polyamorous relationship, a happy, loving situation, had given Jasmine hope that maybe she could love both men and that maybe they could love her in return.
When she’d told Cherisse about Seth and Zane, Cherisse had laughed and asked her why she was in Paris and not back in Texas.
As tempted as Jasmine had been to return, she also knew that the time away would do her—and them—good. She needed to spread her wings, prove her independence, and she also needed to return to them a woman. Not the needy, insecure girl they’d taken care of for so long.
And the truth was, as much as she’d missed home and Seth and Zane, Paris had been an amazing, wonderful experience. She wouldn’t trade that year for anything.
She felt a hand slide up the bare skin of her abdomen and lodge just underneath her breast. Her gaze dropped to see one of her cowboys had gotten up close and personal. His hands rested possessively on her body, and he was shouldering away from the other two men who had circled around her to dance.
If she didn’t nip this in the bud soon, he’d definitely get the wrong message.
She put her hand on his wrist, and his knuckles brushed the underside of her breast as she pried him away.
“Come on now, sugar,” he murmured close to her ear. “Why don’t you let me take you home and put you to bed? Preferably my home and my bed.”