I looked at him and nearly lost it laughing when I saw his stunned expression. I focused on the road and tried to contain the laughter, but I lost the battle. Bill Clapper was one of the bull riders on the circuit. He also roped, but bull riding was his thing. He thought he was good. I knew good, and Bill was okay. Both of my brothers, Brock and Ty, were PBR World Champions. Bill Clapper wasn’t up to that level for a reason. He was cocky, mean as hell, and he didn’t like anyone making him look or feel bad.
“Tanner, this is not funny. This is…this is bad. If he finds out, he’ll kill me.”
I lifted my hand up and tried to control my laughter. “I’m sorry. Listen, I’m almost positive you’re not the first guy she’s slept with. I’ve seen her coming out of a few hotel rooms, so I’m going to guess she’s not that faithful. Maybe he knows his wife sleeps around. I mean, if she didn’t go back to their hotel room last night, where else would he think she was at?”
He paused for a moment and thought about it. “That’s true. God, the things that woman knew how to do with her tongue. Almost makes it worth sleeping with a married woman.”
I frowned and shook my head. “You really are a whoring bastard, do you know that?”
He cringed slightly then sighed. “I’ve been trying to get over a broken heart here, Tanner.”
“And now, apparently, you’ve got a broken dick, dumbass. Whatever, all I’m saying is if you sleep around like you have been, it’s going to catch up to you. One way or another. Take these next few weeks to get whatever it is out of your system. And when we get back out on the road, you have to stop thinking with your dick, before some crazy bastard decides to cut it off.”
I could feel his eyes on me. “Speaking of that. What’s going on with you?” he asked. “When was the last time you even hooked up with anyone? The brunette, I can’t even remember what her name was. Anyway, she said she went to your hotel room and you turned her away…said you were a dick to her.”
“She was right, on both counts.”
He snorted. “You’ve got something you want to tell me? Like a girl you’re seeing whom I don’t know about? Are you secretly gay? Which I’m completely okay with and all, just so you know.”
My head snapped to look at him as he raised his hands up and said, “Hey, I’m not one to judge if you’ve found yourself batting for the other team.”
“I’m not gay, asshole. I’m just tired of the meaningless sex. Tired of bedding women I’m not ever going to see again.”
Chance remained silent for a few minutes before he cleared his throat. “Dude, did you hit your head or something? You’re talking more like a forty-year-old than a guy who is twenty-five.”
“Are you…wait…are you saying you want to settle down? Who is she?”
“No, I’m not saying that. I’m just tired of it all. I mean, tired of everything.”
He laughed. “Tired of what? Sex with women who don’t want anything in return but a simple night with you? Dude, you’ve always had the women falling at your feet, that’s your problem. You’ve never had to work for their attention a day in your damn life.”
I rolled my eyes. “I want something different, but I don’t know what it is. Ever since Ty’s wedding, things have felt…different. I don’t know how to explain it.”
Chance diverted his attention out of the passenger side window before he said, “Dude, I get that. Both your brothers are settling down, getting married. You want that too. There’s nothing wrong with that. Hell, I wanted it with Jessica. I was ready to give up roping if she had asked me to.”
I nearly slammed on the brakes. “What!”
“I’m not saying I was going to give it up, I’m just saying I would have if she’d asked.”
“How is that any different, Chance? Were you actually going to tell me you were ready to give up roping? Like isn’t there some guy code…bros before hos or some shit like that? We’ve been friends and partners for a long ass time, man.”
“I’m just saying things change. People change and there isn’t anything wrong with that. I know someday I’m going to settle down. I thought Jessica was the one; she wasn’t. But she was the first woman who made me want something more. It’s okay to want something more. That’s all I’m saying.”
I turned and quickly shot him a look. “Are we talking about me or you? You’re the one who just said you would have given this all up for a woman, and you weren’t even going to bother to fucking tell me!”
“It’s a moot point now, T. No point in even talking about it.”
“But you were ready to walk away. Don’t you think that was something you should have shared with me? And what’s to stop you from walking away when the next Jessica comes around?”
Chance sighed. “All I’m saying is that someday I’m going to meet someone and I will be willing to give this up. You can’t fucking fault me for thinking she might have been the one.”
“I guess not, but when were you planning on telling me?”
He sighed. “For fuck’s sake, I wasn’t going to leave. I’m just saying, if I met someone who asked me to walk away from this, someone I loved and wanted to start a family with, I’d walk away. Don’t tell me that you wouldn’t…”
I gripped the steering wheel and felt my jaw tighten.
“You would and you know it, asshole.”
Chance drifted back to sleep for a few hours, and when he woke we remained silent for a bit. The radio played and we were both lost in our own thoughts until I broke the silence between us.
“Are you tired of doing this? Is this little holiday break, or whatever you want to call it, your way of telling me you’re done, Chance?”
“No. I don’t know, Tanner. Maybe?” He said with a sigh. “Is it too much for me to ask for a break? I’m tired. Exhausted. We don’t need to do all these smaller rodeos. Let’s just take a break until the beginning of the year. I’m not asking you to find a new partner. I’m simply saying things change. Right now I need a break.”
Chance rubbed the back of his neck, then dropped his hand in his lap. “I need to be home with my family. Get my head back on straight. You’re not the only one tired of all the meaningless women and being away from home.”
We both remained silent as I drove north. The emptiness that had been present since Ty’s wedding was beginning to grow more and more, to take root and form a solid foundation, and it was throwing me. I wanted to talk to Chance about it, but I knew he was going through his own crap. Plus, I had just given him hell for even mentioning the idea of giving up roping. The next few weeks would be good for us. We both needed t
he break—from roping and probably from one another. And I needed to also take this time to figure out why I kept dreaming about one woman and one woman only.
I had no idea where the road back to Montana would take us. And honestly, I was too damn tired to care right then.
I stared out the window of my small two-bedroom apartment in Atlanta as the rain came down in sheets. I had moved into this place two years ago with a fellow nursing student. It had been my first place on my own, and I had instantly fallen in love with it. Something that was earned completely by me, and that had meant a lot.
I grew up without needing a single thing. My father, who was a doctor, gave me everything I ever asked for, and then some. But this apartment was the first thing I paid for each month with the money I made working on my own. It had been one of the most freeing moments of my life when I walked in with my own key—it meant something, something huge. I didn’t need to use the money that my father had deposited into my bank account for monthly expenses all through college. I didn’t need to ask him for anything. I often couldn’t help but wonder if that was my father’s way of showing me he loved me. By dumping money into an account and telling me to buy whatever I wanted.
I closed my eyes and sighed. I had hardly talked to my father the last three months. Did he even realize how little we talked? Not that our conversations were anything great, even on a good day. It was mostly me calling to check in. He would ask how I was doing. How I liked the new job, and if I needed anything. I asked how he was doing, if he was working long hours, and when we might be able to get together for lunch or dinner. I always got the same reply on that last question.
“Soon, princess. When things calm down.”
Opening my eyes once more, I stared out the window. Daddy’s latest girlfriend, Sherry, was his main priority, second only to his job. Not his daughter.
The drops of rain that ran down the window blurred the view of outside, and a part of me was thankful for that. I closed my eyes once more and imagined the beautiful, snow-capped mountains of Montana and Utah. I had fallen in love with Utah after a college ski trip there a few years back. Park City had become my dream. The place where I would lay down my roots and start my life. Start the job I truly dreamed of doing. That was until my cousin Kaylee sent me pictures of Hamilton, Montana. When I went there for her wedding, I fell head over heels in love with it. The memory of me and Kaylee sitting on the swing while she told me about her life for the last few years made my chest ache slightly. God, how I had missed her. She had always been there for me. In both the good and bad times.