It’s interesting to sit back as an author and watch readers react to your characters. I’m finding that particularly so with Jace from the Oklahoma Nights series. He’s not perfect. I know. I wrote him that way. There are reasons for his flaws and for his behavior, but you, the readers don’t get to see all that until his book, Three Weeks with a Bull Rider. Some readers of Book 2 complained about Jace as a character. What I would hope is that readers realize that if I can make him bother you in Book 2, I have the skill to turn both your opinion and his character around in Book 3.
In real life no one should judge another person until they’ve walked a mile in their shoes because what we see of each other is only the tip of the iceberg of a complete world that makes up each of us. More than that, not one of us is perfect. George RR Martin, author of Game of Thrones, says his favorite characters to write are the ‘gray’ characters because they are the most true to life, and I think, more interesting. I want to throttle perfect characters. They are cardboard, two-dimensional beings. Real people make mistakes. Real people are capable of great deeds, and even greater mistakes and stupidity.
Jace, on the surface, is a fickle womanizer, a player and a fool. Dig deeper and you’ll find a man who’s tortured, wrestling with a past he can’t close the door on, as much as he tries to move forward.
Here’s a never before seen excerpt from Three Weeks with a Bull Rider. It’s a peek into a dark side of Jace’s life, his relationship with his ex-girlfriend. They dated for 7 years and even now, a year after their break-up, she’s still a drug he can’t resist. But just like an illicit drug, she’s toxic to him and he knows it. In this scene he’s given his best friend’s sister a ride home from a rodeo because her car broke down. READ THAT EXCERPT HERE But his ex-girlfriend, who likes to keep tabs on him even though they are broken up, is angry at him for being in the truck with another woman…
Jace drove to the next block, and then pulled to the side. Letting the truck idle, he picked up his cell phone and dialed Jacqueline. He was tired. Bone deep exhaustion began in his heart and had nothing to do with the competition tonight.
Jacqueline answered on the second ring. “It’s after eleven o’clock.”
“I told you I’d call when I got to Stillwater so I’m calling.”
“It doesn’t take that long to drive from Shawnee. What did you do? Pull over and fuck her?”
“Yeah, Jacqueline. I fucked her nine ways ’til Sunday, right here in the truck. Then I dumped her off with her brother—my best friend—and told him what a great lay she was.” Jace’s heart pounded as hard when he fought with Jacqueline as it did when his hand was strapped to the back of a ton of bucking bull. That kind of stress couldn’t be healthy.
“Then why did fifty miles take you over an hour? I know how fast you like to drive.”
“It’s closer to sixty miles and I was towing her car behind the truck. I had to drive slow. Then I had to take the time to unhitch it when I got to Tuck’s place.” Jace gripped the phone tight and tried to maintain calm.
Maybe she’d believe he was telling the truth. Maybe not. That was always up in the air when it came to Jacqueline. He heard the sniffle and the shaky intake of breath.
“There’s nothing to cry over.” He was safe, back in Stillwater and alone. What the hell more could he offer her? Still, the tears always did him in. It seemed more so now that they were broken up. “Hey, you know what else? I came in second. And even better, I didn’t get hurt.”
Jacqueline let out a snort. “Too bad.”
Jace smiled at that. She’d stopped with the accusations about other women and resorted to insulting him. He knew they were on the upward slope of the fight. “This should make you happy. A young kid riding injured beat me out of first.”
“That’s because you’re old.”
“Pfft. Those young guys don’t know shit. You know that. Now me, I’m old enough to know where everything is and how to use it.” Jace’s voice dipped down, low and suggestive.
“Do you have to work early in the morning?” Jacqueline’s tone had softened.
“No.” He never scheduled jobs for the morning after he rode. There were times he needed the recovery time, or a visit to the hospital. Either way, he didn’t want to leave a customer expecting him and then not show up.
“Can you come over?”
His cock heard the invitation in her voice and immediately rose to the occasion. The damn thing was like his parents’ dog when he was growing up. Buster could be at the other end of the house, hear the can opener and come running, thinking it was time to eat. Like a reflex reaction, Jace’s dick heard Jacqueline’s voice and figured it was time for some lovin’. Truth be told, he hadn’t taken it out for a spin since the last time he’d been with her.
He drew in a shaky breath. “All right. I’ll be there in five minutes.”
Jace had taken his time on the drive from Shawnee to Stillwater, but he didn’t on the way over to Jacqueline’s apartment. He risked a ticket and sped down the dark, deserted streets as the clock on the dash told him it was getting closer to midnight. He wouldn’t stay the night. It would be too painful. How could he hold Jacqueline all night, wake up next to her in the morning in the home they used to share, and then get up and leave to go back to his empty apartment?
This was self-destructive behavior, and yet he was pulling his truck into her driveway, throwing it in park, and heading for the door . . . and her bed. They needed to talk. He needed to stop this. She needed to stop inviting him over. They both had to get on with their lives.
But not tonight. He’d come over tomorrow in the light of day when he wasn’t so tired and needy. They’d talk like adults and agree to be friends.
Jace felt satisfied with his plan as she opened the front door. He was good with it right up until she grabbed his shirt and pulled him inside and her mouth crashed into his. Then all rational thought was lost. He thrust his hands beneath the silky fall of platinum blond waves that hung nearly to her ass. She’d been the local rodeo queen the year he’d met her, and he had no doubt she’d still be able to take the title all these years later.
Yanking her head back, Jace took possession of her mouth. Without breaking the kiss, he backed her inside, kicking the door closed behind him.
Jacqueline wiggled both hands between their bodies. Blindly, she unhooked the buckle on his belt. After seven years of being together and a year of having sex while broken up, it was no surprise she could maneuver his belt as well as he could. She went to work on the fly of his jeans as he anticipated what would be next—her hands on him. Them on the bed. Him inside her.
He tugged the bottom of the tank top out of her pajama bottoms. Sliding his hands beneath the elastic waistband, he felt the bare skin of her ass. He loved how she slept commando. No underwear. Nothing beneath those PJs but his warm, smooth woman . . . except that she wasn’t his. Not anymore.
But for tonight—for the next hour or two—she’d be his.
Jace hoisted her up and she wrapped her legs around his back as he carried her to the bedroom. As he cleared the doorway of the room so familiar to him, he noticed she’d gotten a new lamp and painted the walls. The changes were physical reminders, like a fist to the gut, that they weren’t together. He tossed her onto the bed where she landed with a bounce on the mattress. He followed her down and knew with certainty they shouldn’t be doing this.
Yanking his T-shirt off over his head, Jace tossed it to the floor, realizing it wouldn’t remain there long. He’d put it on after they were done and drive home. In the morning, he’d wake up alone in his own bed. Tomorrow, he’d go back to wondering when the next phone call or text would come from her. When she’d ask him to come over again. And he’d do it, knowing it would hurt like hell afterward.
He didn’t want to live like that anymore.
The knowledge tickled the back of his mind, but the words never made it out of his mouth. Maybe because his mouth was too busy biting her neck, marking her. She raked her nails down his back, likely leaving marks of her own.
Their sex always had been intense. Rough. Passionate. Almost violent, just like their relationship. The worse the fight, the harder the makeup sex. Today’s argument had been nothing compared to their usual, but Jace was too needy, too deprived for too frigging long to not take her hard and fast.
Two fingers thrust inside her told him she was wet and ready. The damn woman always had gotten off from arguing with him. Jacqueline threw her head back, eyes slammed shut from the feel of his invasion. He could bring her to orgasm fast enough. Just a thumb or his mouth on her would do it. He knew her so well, it would take no effort at all, but he was mad and he needed to be inside her. Needed to pound away the emotions.
Jace reached for the drawer next to the bed.
“There aren’t any more in there. You used the only one left last time you were here.”
There’d been plenty of times he had gone without protection with Jacqueline throughout the years, but not now that they were broken up. Especially not after Tuck’s revelation about Emma and Logan’s unplanned surprise. He sat up. “I have some in my gear bag. Be right back.”
“You what? You carry condoms in your gear bag?” Her eyes opened wide.
Crap. He realized his mistake too late. Jace knew that tone, knew that look. He sighed. “Yes, I have a box of condoms in the truck.”
“Why? Who are you fucking at the arena, Jace? Her? The one I heard on the phone tonight?”
“I’m not having sex with anyone besides you, Jacqueline.”
He should lie and tell her he’d picked up a new box because he’d remembered they’d used the stash he always kept in her drawer, but she’d see the box wasn’t new. Some were missing.
He could tell the truth, that he’d started carrying that box around with him shortly after they’d broken up. Since he hadn’t been with anyone else, he’d never used even one. The strip missing were the ones he’d given to Tuck the night he met Becca. But there was no winning a fight with Jacqueline when she got jealous and irrational.
“You’re a pig! You fuck your little tramp and then come here to my bed?” Jacqueline reinforced her accusation by grabbing the phone next to the bed and throwing it at him.
Only his quick reflexes blocked it from hitting him in the face. It bounced off his forearms as he held them in front of him. She threw a pillow next, which was fine. That couldn’t hurt, but when she reached for the lamp—the new wrought iron lamp he’d noticed when he’d walked in—he took a step back.
Jace couldn’t count how many times he’d walked away from a fight with Jacqueline, scratched and bruised. Being a bull rider, he was always hurt, so no one questioned or even noticed a few more injuries. The physical stuff healed. The hurt inside . . . not so much.
Yanking the plug from the wall, she hoisted the lamp over her head and his anger broke through. Jace had never once laid a hand on her. Even when she’d broken his nose, he’d done nothing but try to protect himself from the blows.
No more. He grabbed her forearm and held tight, hard enough to leave bruises from his fingers. The way he teetered on the edge of losing his temper and his control, if she hit him with that lamp, one or both of them would end up in the hospital.
“No, Jacqueline. No more.”
“Don’t you dare tell me what to—”
“No. No more berating me, or jealousy, or hitting me. No more sex. No more phone calls. Nothing. I have never once cheated on you. Never given you cause to feel or act the way you do. I can’t do this anymore. Don’t call me. Don’t text. Don’t come by my house or my work. I’m sorry, but we can’t even be friends. We sure as hell are no good at it.” He managed to keep his voice calm even as his heart thundered.
The hand that held her shook, but still he held tight. He stayed strong. He couldn’t do this anymore. Live in limbo. Hang on to a small thread of a relationship that he knew deep down was toxic to them both. She’d begun to act crazy months after they’d started dating, but he’d lived in hope she’d get over it, that she’d realize he wanted to be with her and only her. Obviously, that wasn’t going to happen.
Jace released his hold on her and remained braced to block a blow, but it didn’t come. She stood before him, wide-eyed and shaking, looking small and vulnerable and making him want to do the one thing he couldn’t let himself—wrap his arms around her and comfort her.
This woman drove him nuts. He’d survived two of the rankest bulls on the circuit tonight, but he’d be lucky to get out of her apartment without a concussion or a few broken bones from a hundred and twenty pound woman wielding a bedside lamp.
In the midst of it all, he felt sorry for her. How crazy was that?
Jacqueline was his drug, his addiction, his kryptonite, and because of that, the only thing to do was go cold turkey. Walk out that front door, drive away, and never look back. No matter how much it hurt both of them.
“Good-bye, Jacqueline.” He turned and headed for the bedroom door. Flinching at the sound of the lamp hitting the floor, he kept walking.
“Jace.” The sound of her footsteps followed him down the hallway. “Please, wait.”
He put one hand on the doorknob and turned it, ignoring her plea and the sob that followed it.
Outside, the cool night air hit his face as he strode for the truck.
“Fine. Never come back!” Her front door slammed behind him, hard and loud, the sound cutting through the quiet of the night. With the truck doors locked and the key in the ignition, he let himself glance at the house, half expecting to see her running at him with the lamp, or the baseball bat he knew all too well was in the hall closet. But the front door didn’t open again. He pulled away from the curb. Only then, did Jace let himself breathe freely again.
The first text came before he’d left her block.
I’m sorry. Please come back.
In the past, this would have been where he’d make a U-turn. Spin the truck around, go back, and bury the anger with makeup sex. Things would be fine until the next fight began. He couldn’t do it anymore. Drawing in a bracing breath, he stayed on course for his own apartment.
The second text followed before he’d driven five more miles.
Where are you? Going over to fuck her? Have fun!
Jace shook his head and swiped a palm over the moisture in his eyes.
This Jacqueline—the angry, irrational one—was a hell of a lot easier to resist than the soft, tear-filled one. He hit the button to power down his phone. He knew her. The texts and phone calls wouldn’t stop all night. In fact, there was a good chance she’d drive over, if not tonight, then by tomorrow at sunrise, and bang on his door until he let her in to prove he didn’t have a girl inside. In fact, given the mood she was in, it was almost a certainty.
Crap. He couldn’t go home. The battle would just continue there. Knowing that, he swung a sharp left and headed away from his apartment, toward the practice arena used by the Oklahoma State rodeo team he sometimes helped Tuck coach.
He’d slept in his truck before, and chances were he’d do it again. It was part of life on the rodeo circuit. Sometimes it was easier to pull over and sleep for a few hours rather than get a hotel room for the night. It was sure as hell cheaper. There’d been other times he’d spent the night in the truck in a parking lot, sleeping off a drunk. He didn’t drink and drive, but that didn’t mean he always took a taxi home. The truck was good enough for him for one night at times such as those, and it was good enough now.
Eventually, he’d have to turn on his phone again and go home. He’d figure out what to do about that later, after some sleep and distance.
Jace cut the engine and stared out into the night. Peace and quiet. Nothing but the stars and the empty practice arena. Easing the seat back as far as it would go, he tilted his hat lower, slumped down and closed his eyes. Tomorrow would be a better day. True or not, he had to believe it.
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