Can Two Wary Hearts Take Another Chance on Love?
ROUGH RIDER EXCERPT
He looked abashed. “We didn’t just have to leave the party, we got kicked out of the hotel too.”
“Evicted from your room?”
“Yup. And there aren’t any others available in all of Casper.”
“I know,” she said. “It’s why I’m camped out here.” She paused to digest what he’d left unsaid. “So you and Rachel?”
He shook his head with a scowl “We’re done now. Quits.”
“Nope. History. Case closed.”
“It’ll blow over.”
“Don’t think so. It was her idea to boot us. Said she didn’t give a shit if I had a room tonight or not. Then I couldn’t even try finding anything outside of town because my asshole brother took my keys so I wouldn’t drive. My next move was to pilfer a blanket and pillow and camp out under the stars in my truck bed, but then it started pouring on me.”
“So you came here. How’d you do that with no wheels?”
“Three miles in the pouring rain? No wonder you look like something the cat dragged in.”
“Can I crash for a coupla hours? Maybe just camp out in the back seat of your dually? All I need is to get warm and dry again.”
Janice’s mouth went dry as sawdust. Dirk Knowlton. Cold. Wet. Here. Now. Wanting a bed? She’d give her right arm to warm him up. Heck yeah.
Misreading her silence he mumbled a curse. “Sorry, Janice. It’s my damned head. I’m not thinkin’ right. It’s still throbbing like hell. Haven’t been myself all night. M’pologies for being such a dumb-ass and imposing on you—” He turned to the door.
“No! Wait. It’s not that.” She grabbed his sleeve. “I was just thinking of your injuries. You don’t need to make matters worse by sleeping all cramped up in the truck.” She gnawed her lower lip and then blurted. “Y-you wanna just stay here instead?”
“Here? That’s mighty generous but there isn’t a whole lot of room for both of us.” He glanced up at the gooseneck with a frown. “If you’ll just gimme a blanket, I’ll take the floor.”
“You don’t need to do that,” she said. “The bench here flips down over the table and converts into a single. It’s really narrow and not very comfortable, but still better than the truck. Warmer anyway. Besides you need to get dry.”
“You sure about this?” he asked.
“Yeah.” She smiled. “What are friends for? I’m sure I’ve got a shirt for you too.”
“Thanks, Red. That would be great.”
Red? The single syllable rippled warm and tingly, all the way to her toes. He followed up with a lopsided grin that stopped her in her tracks. She turned to the small cabinet that served a dual function as dresser and closet and shut her eyes on a sigh—but the same air stuck in her throat the minute she turned back around.
He’d shed the denim jacket. And the black tee. His bare torso with well-developed pecs and a mouthwatering six pack greeted her. He was drying his face with his discarded shirt. Janice tore her gaze away and cleared her throat. “Here.” She thrust an extra-large Dixie Chicks T-shirt into his hands, a souvenir from their Top of the World Tour. “I—I can get you a towel too.”
He eyed the shirt skeptically. “No thanks.”
“What? You don’t like female musicians?”
“Don’t like their politics. Natalie should just shut up and sing.”
“Ah.” She nodded slowly. The shirt was from the tour that caused the “incident.” A lot of her friends had since thrown out their Dixie Chicks CDs, but Janice still loved their music. “I Can Love You Better” was her favorite. The lyrics, she’s got you wrapped up in her satin and lace. Tied around her little finger…but I can love you better, perfectly summed up all the heartbreak and frustrations of unrequited love; all her secret feelings for Dirk. She only wished she could show him now that he was here. In the flesh. A big strong, blue-lipped and teeth-chattering fantasy come true.