Date Published: Dec 2020
Sawyer Dawson woke with a bad feeling that he’d done something he shouldn’t have. But he woke with this feeling most mornings, so he didn’t pay too much attention to it. He’d spent his life doing things he shouldn’t do. If something was forbidden, that usually meant it was a whole helluva lot of fun.
And Sawyer was all about having fun.
Sometimes he had to pay for it.
Like this morning.
His stomach felt queasy and his head felt like it had been stomped by a brahma bull. That’s what happens when you down an entire bottle of tequila all by yourself.
Or had he?
A weak memory of two pretty full lips on the rim of a shot glass fluttered through his mind. He tried to pull up the rest of the image, but his head hurt too much. When his cellphone rang, it felt like a toy monkey was inside his skull banging its cymbals. He moaned and blindly reached out for his phone on the nightstand. When it wasn’t there, he opened his eyes. The sunlight coming in through the tinted hotel window had him squinting. After a few blinks, he focused and spotted his cellphone lying on the floor next to his jeans. He leaned over the edge of the mattress and grabbed it.
“What?” he answered grouchily.
There was a chuckle on the other end of the phone. “Bad night, I take it.”
Even with a major hangover, he couldn’t help smiling when he recognized Lincoln Hayes’s voice. Lincoln had been his friend since they’d been pain-in-the-ass teenagers. Now Linc was a Texas Ranger who had gotten Sawyer out of more than a few jams over the years . . . all from doing things he shouldn’t have been doing.
He leaned back on the pillows and massaged his throbbing temples. “Hey, Linc. Is there a reason you’re calling me so early on a Saturday morning? I would’ve thought a newly married man like yourself would have better things to do. Of course, you’ve always been more work than play.”
“And you’ve always been more play than work. It’s not early. It’s after ten o’clock.”
“Shit.” Sawyer sat straight up and glanced at the clock on the nightstand. Sure enough it was ten sixteen. He never slept past nine. Especially when he was riding in a rodeo that day. His body and mind needed time to prepare. He liked to run a couple miles to get out the excess energy and focus his brain, then he always ate a healthy breakfast and did a good hour and a half of stretching exercises before he headed to the arena. And he never drank the night before a ride.
But last night he’d needed to numb his mind. Even now, he wished he had a bottle of tequila handy. But as he glanced around the room, he didn’t find a drop of alcohol. What he did find was a pair of red cowboy boots lying on the floor. Not the fancy designer kind that the rodeo groupies liked to wear. These were red ropers that looked well worn. As he stared at the boots, the toilet flushed in the bathroom and the shower turned on.
Obviously, his Tequila Girl hadn’t been part of his drunken imagination. He tried to remember a face and a name. But all he could remember was those pretty lips pressed against the shot glass and the drop of leftover tequila begging to be licked off. Had he licked it off? He must have if the woman ended up in his hotel room. And maybe he could do a little more licking this morning. Sex worked just as well as alcohol at erasing pain.
Suddenly, he felt much better.
“So what’s up, Linc?” he asked, hoping to get to the point of the conversation so he could slip into the shower before Tequila Girl finished.
“Dixie has been helping the town council here in Simple plan some activities that will bring in more tourists. She had the idea for a fall festival and rodeo. She wanted me to ask if you’d help her plan it.”
He didn’t even have to think about it. “No.”
“Come on now, Sawyer. It won’t take that long. All you have to do is meet with the town council and give some advice.”
“This isn’t about a rodeo, Linc, and you know it. This is just some scheme you and the other boys hatched up to get me to Simple and married off like the rest of you.”
The “other boys” Sawyer had met at the same time as Lincoln. All six boys had been troubled teens who were sentenced to one summer at the Double Diamond Ranch. But the ranch had turned out to be more a vacation than a punishment. The owners, Lucas and Chester, were two old rodeo cowboys with hearts as big as Texas. They had taught the boys everything they knew about cowboying and had given Sawyer the rodeo bug.
Lincoln laughed. “Well, I can’t deny that all the Double Diamond boys would love to have you settle here in Simple. But I think we’re all very aware of the fact that you aren’t the settling-down type, Sawyer. This really is all Dixie’s idea. Since becoming sheriff, she’s hell bent on putting Simple on the map.”
Since Simple, Texas, was only a grease spot on the highway that was a tall order. One Sawyer wasn’t about to get roped into. “I think the world of Dixie, Linc, but I’ll have to pass. Why doesn’t she ask Maisy Sweeney? She’s a damn good rodeo gal and I’m sure she’d love to help out since she and Dixie are close friends.”
“She already asked Maisy, but Maisy says she’s too busy.” There was a long pause. “I’m worried about Maisy, Sawyer.”
Lately, all Lincoln seemed to do was worry about the pint-sized saddle bronc rider. In the last few months, she had become like a little sister to him. And Sawyer got it. It was hard not to like the cute, feisty cowgirl. She was the type of woman most single men wanted as a friend—a straight shooter who wasn’t looking for a wedding band or a man to talk about her feelings with. She and Sawyer had been friends . . . until Lincoln took her under his wing.
“She’s working way too hard,” Lincoln continued. “When she’s not riding in some rodeo, she’s working a temp job to get money to pay for the fees to enter a rodeo.”
“That’s rodeo life for you. Unless you get a sponsor, you have to work other jobs to pay for your passion.” Sawyer would love to have a sponsor. To get one, he needed to win more rodeos and he’d been a little distracted lately. But this was his year. He could feel it. After the crappy year he’d just had, God owed him a good one.
“Maisy will be okay, Linc,” he said. “She’s tough.”
There was another long stretch of silence before Lincoln spoke. “You’re staying away from her, right?”
It hurt a little that Lincoln didn’t trust him, but Sawyer could understand why. In the last year, he’d run through his fair share of women. “I gave you my word, Linc. And I don’t break my word. I’ve only seen Maisy a few times since the wedding. And only in passing.”
About then, Tequila Girl started singing in the shower. She had the worst singing voice Sawyer had ever heard in his life. She was completely off-key and got the majority of words to the song wrong.
“I’ll go sky fly-in’! I’ll go rocky road driv-in’! I’ll go eight point seven seconds on a bull named Fool Man Two!”
Sawyer squinted at the door. Fool Man Two?
“Who’s that?” Lincoln asked.
“A friend. I better get going. I have a rodeo this afternoon.”
“When are you going to give this foolishness up, Sawyer? You’re getting too old to be tossed around on the back of a wild-assed horse.”
It was true. At almost thirty, he was getting too old for saddle bronc riding. But if he didn’t have rodeo, he had nothing. “You’re only as old as you feel,” he said. “And I’m not ready to become an old married man like you and spend my days holding my wife’s yarn while she knits.”
Lincoln laughed. “That’s not how Dixie and I spend our days, but I’ll let you keep your illusions.” He paused, and there was real concern in his voice when he spoke. “Be careful, Sawyer. I mean it.”
“I’m always careful, Linc. Give Dixie a kiss for me.”
“Hell, no. You kiss enough women. Dixie is all mine. Go kiss your . . . friend.”
Sawyer laughed as he hung up. But his laughter faded when he noticed the unopened message on the screen of his phone. The same message that had prompted the bottle of tequila. Even now, the words made his gut tighten and his chest ache. And if he’d had a bottle of tequila, he would’ve taken a deep swig—rodeo today or not.
The wedding is still set for September 15. Please forgive me.
Sawyer deleted the text before he tossed his cellphone to the nightstand and gingerly climbed out of bed.
Every bone in his body hurt and not just from his hangover. He woke up in pain every morning. All the abuse his body had taken over the years had started to catch up to him. If you were only as old as you felt, he was a hundred and ten.
“I’ll love cheat-ers. And I’ll talk sweet-er,” the woman’s off-key voice pulled him from his thoughts and made him smile. She was so bad that it was kinda cute. He cracked his neck and stretched out a few of his sore muscles before he headed to the bathroom. The door was locked, but luckily, his little Tequila Girl hadn’t closed it tightly and he was able to push it open. All he could see behind the white shower curtain was a shadow. He quickly stripped off his boxers and easing back the curtain.
His breath hitched at the sight that greeted him. With the way the woman sang, he’d been a little nervous about her looks. But she had one hot rockin’ body. She was a petite thing. Her head barely reached the top of his shoulders as he stepped into the tub. She was standing in the shower spray with her back to him, which was probably why she hadn’t realized he was there. That and she was still caterwauling. But he didn’t mind the singing so much when he had such a great view.
Water cascaded through hair the color of a sorrel mare. The river of hair hung all the way down to the curves of her ass. She had one fine ass. The two firm, rounded cheeks made Sawyer’s dick feel a lot younger than the rest of his body. The butt cheeks were attached to lean, muscled legs. Legs he intended to have wrapped around his waist as soon as possible. He picked up the bar of soap on the side of the tub and worked up a lather. When soap bubbles were dripping through his fingers, he moved closer and slid them over each sweet cheek.
A startled gasp was quickly followed by the sharp pain of an elbow to his stomach. Sawyer sucked in air and stumbled back. His feet slipped on soap bubbles and slid into the woman and they both fell into the bathtub in a tangle of legs and arms. He took the brunt of the fall, his shoulder bumping the edge of the tub. But with two soft breasts pressed against his chest and something even more tempting pressed against his semi-erection, he barely registered the pain.
“Well, I guess that will teach me to surprise a woman in the shower,” he said with amusement in his voice. “Although I can’t complain with an outcome like this.” He slid his hands over her nice butt and gave each cheek a gentle squeeze.
She released another gasp and lifted her head. All desire was completely obliterated by the familiar brown eyes the color of rich chocolate . . . and the little nose sprinkled with freckles . . . and the full bowed lips—the same lips he’d pictured taking a shot of tequila.
He slammed his eyes closed and hoped this was all just a bad dream brought on by his hangover and the conversation with Lincoln. But when he cracked them back open, she was still there.
“Maisy Sweeney.” The name came out of him on a puff of disbelief.
She flashed a bright smile that showed off the slight gap between her front teeth. “In the flesh. I’m guessing you thought someone else spent the night with you.”
Spent the night with him. Good God. This was the reason he’d woken up feeling like he had done something bad. He had. While he’d done a lot of bad deeds in his life, he’d prided himself on always keeping his word. Now he couldn’t even claim that.
“So you’re just going to lie there and cuss while you maul my butt?” she asked.
He quickly released her ass and held up his hands like a rodeo roper after tie-down roping a calf. “Sorry. Umm . . . do you think you could get off me?”
She sat up, straddling him like she straddled a bronc. When he saw her pretty teacup-sized breasts with the sweet raspberry nipples and felt the heat of her nestled against his stomach, he wanted to buck. He wanted to buck deep and hard. But he’d already made that mistake. He couldn’t make it again.
He closed his eyes and willed his cock to soften. It didn’t listen. It twitched behind her like a divining rod searching for water. And when she finally climbed off him, he sat up and grabbed the shower curtain to cover himself like some kind of goddamned shy virgin. He got one more glimpse of nice ass before she wrapped a towel around her body. When she was completely covered, he ran a hand over his face and tried to come to terms with what he’d done.
“What happened? How did I end up in bed with . . . you?” The words were filled with the disgust he felt at himself for breaking his word. But when he saw her shoulders tighten, he realized how it had sounded. He started to apologize, but she threw him an annoyed look and left the bathroom before he could.
He got up and grabbed a towel off the rack. After drying off, he wrapped it around his waist and walked into the bedroom. He wished he had moved a little slower. Maisy wore nothing but her bra and panties. Pretty black lace bra and panties that he never would’ve guessed the tough cowgirl would own . . . much less wear. They were sexy as hell.
He turned his back to her and shoved the image in the lockbox of his brain where he hoped to keep the other forbidden images of Maisy. “I’m sorry, Maze. I’m not upset at you. I’m upset at myself for getting drunk and making a bad decision.”
“So you consider sex with me a bad decision?”
Damn. He was really screwing this up. “I didn’t mean it like that. I just meant that we’re friends . . . and it’s weird to realize you slept with your friend.”
“Since when are we friends? You’ve barely talked to me since Linc and Dixie’s wedding. You’re not worried about ruining our friendship as much as you’re worried about people finding out Sawyer Dawson had sex with ‘Little Girl.’”
It was a nickname the male rodeo riders had given Maisy. They’d given him a nickname too. But “Saw” didn’t come close to being as demeaning as “Little Girl.” He knew it pissed her off, and he understood why. There was nothing childish about all the hard work Maisy had put in to get where she was. She was the top female saddle bronc rider in the country. She deserved respect for that. She also deserved some respect from him. He was freaked out about breaking his word to Lincoln, but that didn’t give him the right to be a complete asshole to Maisy.
“I’m sorry, Maze. It’s just that I don’t think of you like . . .”
“A woman. No man seems to. They either hate me for competing in what they consider their sport or think of me as their cute little tomboy sister. You can turn around now. I won’t gross you out with my childlike body.”
He turned around to find her dressed in a western shirt, jeans, and the red boots. She was completely covered and yet, his brain just kept bringing up images of her completely naked. There was nothing childlike about her body. He had to hold down the towel to keep his penis from making a tent it wanted Maisy to camp under.
“You can wipe the worried look off your face, Sawyer,” she said. “I won’t tell a soul about what happened last night.” She tugged on her hat and gave him a sassy look. “It wasn’t that great anyway.” She turned and walked out the door.
Sawyer stared at it long after she was gone. Not that great? For a man who worked hard to give women the best time they ever had in bed, Maisy words stung. But he only let his wounded pride hurt for a moment before he released his breath and headed back to the bathroom to shower. Unless he wanted his performance in the arena tonight to be as bad as his performance in bed last night, he needed to pull himself together.
The shower helped his aching head and sore muscles, but not his guilt. Now he didn’t just feel guilty about breaking his word to Lincoln, he also felt guilty about the way he’d treated Maisy. She had to be here for the rodeo. He’d find her tonight and apologize.
After his shower, he ordered room service and got dressed. He had just sat down on the bed to tug on his boots when he noticed his wallet lying on the ground. A thought struck him. A thought that caused his heart to freeze in his chest.
He prayed as he grabbed the wallet and flipped it open. “Please let it be gone. Please let it be gone.”
The condom was still there. (Taming a Texas Rascal Excerpt by Katie Lane)