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March 2017

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ROPERS RULE

During the short drive to the back of the hotel where his room was located, the deep, sexy scent of Alex’s cologne filled the small car. I’d noticed it even in the restaurant. Something I couldn’t quite place mingled with the smell of leather and man. I slid the Mustang between two oversized pickup trucks and killed the engine, conscious of the heat and silence between us.

“Smells like y’all got in early enough to give the horses a workout.” I reached for my purse from the back floorboard, all the while leaning as close to Alex as I dared.

Guess I should have showered.” He slid out and grabbed my overnight bag from the back seat, ignoring—or totally missing—my overtures.

After growing up around horses, around rodeo, the smell of leather was a special kind of aphrodisiac that reminded me of lazy summers spent with my first boyfriend.

Inside, I collapsed on one of the queen-sized beds and quietly watched him. The hotel room was standard grade—maroon polyester bedspreads with huge ugly flowers, indoor/outdoor carpet in a coordinating shade of deep red, a mini-refrigerator and an oversized television. Alex tossed his hat on the table next to his rope and set my bag next to an oversized tote that was spilling an assortment of t-shirts.

“I’m gonna take a shower.”

“Okay.” Can I take one with you? I returned his easy smile, then shamelessly enjoyed watching his rolling gait as he headed for the bathroom, clean clothes and a razor in hand. Gluteus Maximus, indeed.

My mind bounced from Alex to Rick and back again as I hustled around getting ready for bed. I couldn’t believe Rick had been talking about me. What had he told Alex? Did it matter? Probably not.

Because, if I had my way, by the time the weekend was through, Alex Lucero would be mine.

Back in Steamboat Springs, I’d spent nearly an hour debating whether to bring sexy or non-sexy lingerie with me, only to bring both. Tonight, I opted for a non-sexy but cute pink tank and matching sleep pants. I spread my girly stuff all over the vanity, pulled my hair back in a scrunchie and quickly washed my face. On the other side of the door, the sound of the shower running and the visual of a naked Alex with only the hot water for company distracted me while I finished my nightly ritual.

So much for “no more cowboys.” I grinned to myself. That little vow had lasted all of…oh…four months. I dried my hands and picked up the bottle of cologne next to Alex’s shaving kit, spun the lid off and sniffed. Hugo Boss, huh?

The sudden silence from the bathroom had me fumbling with the lid, and the smell of aftershave filled the little vanity area as some splashed on my fingers. Great!

I was in the middle of washing my hands when Alex stepped out of the bathroom on a cloud of steam, dressed in only a pair of sweat pants that rode low on his hips.

“Nice ‘do,” I said, referring to his inky black hair standing on end. Washboard abs rippled as he turned and hung his towel up.

With a quick sniff of his own and a wiggle of his eyebrows, he briskly rubbed a hand across his damp head, making matters worse.

“Sorry.” I gave him an apologetic smile and shrugged. No sense ignoring the obvious. He’d know by the smell I’d snooped.

“Do you approve?” He stepped near enough I could feel the heat of his body and pick up the clean, soapy scent of his shaving cream.

“Very much so.” I felt myself warming at the interest in his gaze, and heat pooled low in my belly as I turned to face him while I discreetly squeezed my thighs together. It did little to relieve the ache brought on by our close proximity and Alex’s lack of clothing.  “Why’d you invite me here?”

“The hotel’s full.”

“That’s not what I meant,” I sang softly, tilting my head to the side.

“Rick talked about you so much, I couldn’t believe he and I were talking about the same girl—Joe’s little tag-a-long sister.” Grinning, he added, “I had to see for myself.”

The hands that had wanted to skim across the warm, damp planes of his chest were now curled into fists at my sides, short nails digging into my palms as I shook my head and sighed dramatically. “So what do you think of Joe’s little tag-a-long sister now?”

“I think Joe would kill me if he knew what I wanted to do to you.” Before his words fully sank in, he maneuvered his body so we were standing with only an inch to spare between us. The warm, knowing look in his eyes assured me the ball was in my court. If I wasn’t interested, I could say no and climb in that queen-sized bed all by my lonesome, and that would be that.

Or I could refuse to let my anger get the better of me. Step a little closer, press my lips to his, slide my hand inside those sweat pants, and give myself the treat I’d come here for in the first place.

I chose the latter.

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2004-2013 A. Celia Stuart

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