A Cowboy for Christmas EXCERPTS (PG 17)
EXCERPT #1 :
“You ready to try one for yourself?” He cocked his head toward the cow checking operation before them.
Casey didn’t know if he was asking her to help shove them into the tight little railed enclosure, or pull on a glove and anally probe them. Not that it mattered. Both tasks were equally unpleasant and she didn’t know how to do either.
“Sure.” She mustered her courage and turned to face Bonner as he laughed and shook his head. “What, you weren’t serious? Was that just a test? Do I pass?”
“Yeah, you pass.” He grinned.
“Don’t let me stop you from doing your job though. If you need to slap on a glove and some lube, go for it. I’ll be fine here alone.” She waited for his reaction.
“Wouldn’t be the first time, Miss Casey. Believe me, I’ve checked the herd myself in past. The vet’s just a whole lot faster and usually a bit more accurate than I am.” He smirked.
Casey immediately got naughty thoughts regarding Bonner and the industrial-sized tube of lubricant she’d seen the vet with. She glanced sideways and found him watching her. “You know, if you’ve got any other tests for me, I’m up for just about anything.”
Bonner leaned close. “Don’t tease, Miss Casey.” His voice was low and dead serious.
Again he seemed to be able to read her, and all her naughty thoughts. Interesting. Bonner Blue may live by the cowboy code, but he sure wasn’t innocent in that department.
“There’s something you should know about me, Bonner.” Her eyes narrowed. “I never tease.”
He dropped his chin to his chest as he closed his eyes and stayed silent.
He opened his eyes. “Yup.”
“Feel like elaborating?”
Bonner stared right at her. “I’m thinking it might be best if I just give in, fucked you and got it over with. Then maybe both of us will have some hope of getting to any work or sleep over the next week.”
Once she recovered from the shock of hearing the last thing she’d ever expected to come out of Bonner’s mouth, Casey smiled. She laid a hand on the front of his shirt. “Well if you’re serious, make sure to grab that lube the vet’s using. You can demonstrate your examination techniques for me.”
His chest rose and fell beneath her touch as his breathing quickened.
“Yeah.” His gaze didn’t leave hers even as he answered Dakota.
“There’s a whole bunch of ’em open. I’ve never seen this many not bred in one year. What do ya want us to do? Are we supposed to cull them all? Or do you want to save some for breeding next year?”
He drew in a deep breath. Still looking a bit dazed from her suggestion, Bonner hooked a thumb in Dakota’s direction. “I gotta—“
“I understand. I’ll be here when you get back.”
Bonner turned on his heel and she heard him mumble, “That’s what I’m worried about.”
Yup. The best way to absorb the cowboy lifestyle was to just jump right into it…or on top of one. Casey smiled.
As she pulled up to her sister’s split level ranch in the suburbs and saw the door open and the two girls run out before she’d even gotten her car door open, Casey had to smile. Her nieces didn’t care that she wasn’t married and didn’t have kids. They didn’t give her the cold shoulder when she was traveling for business and had to miss a family event. To them, she was the coolest aunt on earth.
“Aunt Casey!” Jenna crashed into Casey’s stomach and wrapped both arms around her. Courtney followed seconds later. Luckily their eight and ten year old bodies weren’t heavy enough to knock Casey over with the full body tackle. She did hold the wine bottles a bit tighter before she dropped them and bathed the driveway in Beaujolais Nuveau. “Hey, you two. I missed you.”
“Me too. We want you to tell us all about the cowboy ranch.” Courtney practically bounced with excitement.
“It was a cattle ranch.” Casey laughed, though Courtney wasn’t exactly wrong. There sure had been one hell of a cowboy there. The familiar feeling of longing settled in her chest. She pushed it aside. “In fact, I think I have a few pictures in my cell phone.”
“Yay! I wanna see.” Courtney led the way to the house with something that looked like a half skip, half jog. Casey wished she had half the energy these girls did. Though she supposed back when she was eight, she didn’t just walk anywhere either.
Jody laughed in the doorway. “Glad you’re here. They haven’t stopped talking about Aunt Casey all day. I thought Kent was going to lose his mind if he had to tell them again how many more minutes until you arrived.”
Casey laughed and waved at Kent where he squatted in front of the fireplace, putting in a log. “Hey, Kent. Happy Thanksgiving.”
“You too, Aunt Casey.” He smiled. “Let’s pop that wine.”
Jody grabbed the bottles from Casey. “I’m on it. Turkey will be ready in a few minutes.”
“Sorry, I didn’t get here earlier. I tried to get some work done before I left and lost track of time.”
“Oh, don’t worry. The girls will make up for lost time, I’m sure.” Kent closed the fireplace’s screen and brushed his hands together. “So how was Colorado? You survived ranch life I see.”
“It was actually really great.” Did her cheeks look as red as they felt? Casey still couldn’t manage to think about the ranch without blushing, even a month later.
“Aunt Casey, sit next to me.” Jenna bounced onto the couch cushion.
Courtney frowned. “No, she has to sit between us. I wanna see pictures of the cowboys.”
Casey glanced at the girls. Courtney, at least, seemed to have inherited her cowboy fetish. Perhaps it was genetic. “You’ll both get to see. Don’t worry.”
“Well heck, if there’s pictures of cowboys, I wanna see them too.” Jody carried out three glasses of wine from the kitchen.
“Oh really? This is new. I seem to remember someone—Jody—trying to talk me out of asking Santa for the Cowboy Cody doll for Christmas.” Casey leaned close to Courtney. “Your mom wanted me to ask for a Barbie instead back when I was your age.”
“Who’d rather have a Barbie than a cowboy?” Courtney screwed up her mouth dramatically.
On the other side of Casey, Jenna shook her head. “No, Barbie’s way cooler. She’s got all those fun clothes.”
“Jenna’s definitely your daughter.” Casey shot Jody a look.
“If I hadn’t given birth to her, I’d wonder if Courtney is yours.” Jody cocked a brow. “So speaking of cowboys…did you meet anyone interesting on your business trip?”
“I met quite a few interesting people.” Casey concentrated on the wine glass in her hand.
“Oh my God. You met a man.”
“What?” Casey’s attention snapped to her sister. She tried to look innocent and rolled her eyes. “No. Why do you say that?”
“You’re blushing. And you can’t hold eye contact.”
Casey forced herself to look at Jody, and found her grinning from ear to ear.
“There’s nothing to talk about.” Casey shook her head, but she couldn’t help the smile that crept onto her lips just from the thought of Bonner.
“Oh, that’s it. You’re going to spill it all. Come into the kitchen with me. We’re going to talk.” Jody reached down and grabbed Casey’s hand, pulling her off the couch. Jenna and Courtney jumped up to follow. “You girls stay here and help your father watch the fire.”
Kent’s eyebrows rose. He glanced at the single log, barely burning. “Um, yeah. I could use the help.”
“But she’s going to show us pictures.” Courtney stamped her little foot and Casey couldn’t help but smile, knowing she’d done that at her age. Hell, she still did it sometimes.
“My phone is right here in my purse. You can look at the pictures while your mom and I go…check on the turkey.” Resigned now, Casey gave in. When Jody was after something, she could be relentless. She’d have to feed her sister some details about meeting Bonner, but definitely not all of them. No way. Her cheeks heated at the thought.
Casey located the pictures of the ranch on the phone. The first picture was of Bonner with Misty. She’d taken it the day before she left. Just looking at his picture, his blue eyes piercing under the brim of his hat, took Casey’s breath away.
She handed the phone to Courtney. “Here you go. Make sure to share with your sister.”
“I will.” Wide-eyed, she cradled the phone in both hands and stared at the screen.
Jody glanced over her daughter’s shoulder at the picture of the cowboy in the blue shirt with the black and white dog. “That him?”
Casey let out a laugh. It was no use trying to hide it. “Yeah.”
“Kitchen. Now.” Jody spun on one heel and strode to the doorway.
Kent stood to come look over the girls’ shoulders. He cocked one brow when he saw the picture. “You really do have a cowboy fetish, don’t you?”
As Casey watched Courtney become totally engrossed in the photo of Bonner, even zooming in on it to see him closer, Casey laughed. “I wouldn’t get so cocky if I were you. Apparently so does your daughter.”
“Daddy. Can we go to Colorado?” Courtney glanced up as Jenna tried to grab the phone.
“Yeah, I’m starting to see that.” He grimaced and then leaned down closer to his daughters. “We’ll talk about it later. Now what other pictures does Aunt Casey have on there? Are there any cows?”
Smiling, Casey made her exit, only to find Jody tapping her foot in the kitchen waiting for her. “So…”
“So his name is Bonner. He’s a former state rodeo champion and now he runs the Maverick ranch. He’s an honest to goodness cowboy, Jody. He straps on his spurs and chaps and hops on a horse to head to work in the morning the way most men grab their briefcases and get on the subway.” Now that Casey had started to talk about Bonner, it seemed she couldn’t stop.
“Single?” Jody was like a prosecutor and Casey was the hostile witness on the stand.
“Divorced ten years ago. He got married young. The bitch made him quit rodeo at the peak of his career and then left him.” Casey found it very easy to be jealous of the woman Bonner had given his name to, and she’d never been the jealous type. Interesting.
“Is he looking to get married again?”
That question gave Casey pause. “I don’t know.”
Jody studied Casey intently for a moment. “Are you interested in getting married?”
Casey opened her mouth to give her rote answer, the one she’d been giving friends, relatives and colleagues for most of her life, that she was focusing on her career. But it seemed she couldn’t say the words today.
“Oh my God. You are!” Jody had never looked happier.
Sputtering, Casey didn’t know what to say to undo the damage. Before she knew it, Jody would likely have their mother on the phone announcing her engagement to a man she’d had a week of incredible sex with but hadn’t spoken to since.
She took a steadying breath and gathered her thoughts. “Jody. First of all even considering a relationship with him would be nuts. He’s a real live cowboy. I’m a New Yorker.”
Jody pursed her lips while considering that. “I am having some trouble picturing you living on a ranch. And you’d probably die if you were away from the city for too long.”
The truth that she and Bonner were from two different worlds and because of that would never be together for more than casual sex a few times a year when she visited the ranch, hurt a little too much. Casey needed to lighten this conversation before Jody saw that she’d already started to fall for a man she had no future with.
“You don’t know the half of it. You should have seen me using the outhouse.”
Jody nearly spit her mouthful of wine out at that. “That I would pay to see. All right, so I see the difficulties. But tell me you at least had a little fun with him. I’m sure your cowboy, unlike that Cody doll you wanted, was anatomically correct. Right?”
“Jody!” Shocked, Casey still couldn’t stop the grin. “And yeah. He was. Very.”
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