Passion and independence collide in the sultry Lake Tahoe summertime.
Aspen Mountain Press
Restless Wind Publications
Sierra Rawlings loves to work, ride, and play hard, but it’s her hidden desire for neighbor, Dalton Grant, that really keeps her on her toes. But she needs her independence more and his habit of bossing her around is too much to bear.
Three years ago, Dalton thought he’d roped and gentled Sierra. One night of passion under the stars had him thinking of forever, but even as he made his plans, she ran from him, and he’d never been able to comprehend why.
The annual summer rodeo brings them together and their hidden desires flare hot. But just as they are beginning to understand each other, a dangerous opportunity arises, forcing Sierra and Dalton to learn a painful lesson about trust. It’s time for these two stubborn people to cowboy up and admit their feelings, before anger and a bull named Body Bag steal their last chance away.
“Buy you a drink, little lady?”
Sierra Rawlings rolled her eyes and swore beneath her breath. If she had a nickel for every time some tourist used that line on her, she wouldn’t have to try for the grand prize at the Heritage Summer Rodeo. South Lake Tahoe always got its share of dudes and wanna-bes during the hot months. They split their time between playing at the casinos over the border and trying to play the small town girls this side of Stateline. But Sierra wasn’t your average small town girl. Holding onto her patience with both hands, she turned and glanced up at the tall man talking to her.
“No thanks. I have a beer already.”
Her curt refusal didn’t deter the inebriated man. “Now, honey,” he said in a fake drawl that made her teeth grind together. “That’s not very neighborly of you. I’m just looking for some fun and a little company. And you’re all alone. Seems like fate to me.”
“Seems like bad luck from where I’m standing.” She caught the bartender’s eye. “Frank, I’m outta here. Put this on my bill, will ya.”
The old man grinned, showing several empty spaces where teeth should have been. “You got it, Sierra.”
“Sierra, huh? Pretty name.” The dime store cowboy tempted fate and slid his arm around her slender waist. “Mine’s Tex. What say you and I go for a little ride? We don’t even need to bring a horse. I got something right here.”
Sierra’s temper flared when he grabbed her hand and pressed it to the crotch of his skin-tight blue jeans. If it was anything she hated, it was a man trying to impersonate a horse, and this guy wasn’t even a pony. Jerking her hand away, she took a deep cleansing breath. Frank would be really pissed if she started another bar fight. Better she try to reason with the jerk.
“Look, Tex...if that’s really your name. I don’t want to go for a ride, and I don’t like to be manhandled. Why don’t you just let me go before I do something you’re going to regret?”
His arm tightened as he gave a hoot of laughter. “Now, what’s a little bit like you gonna do to a big, strong man like me?”
“Hurt you?” she responded in a falsely sweet voice. The regular bar patrons went quiet. They all knew when Sierra used that voice things were going to get interesting.
Tex laughed harder and gave her ass a little squeeze. “Go ahead. Show me.”
Her eyes narrowed. “Happy to oblige.” With lightning speed, she reached down and grabbed the fingers of the hand that sat way too close to her crotch. Twisting them back until she heard the bones crack, she used her other arm to sharply elbow the guy in the ribs. Giving a gasping shout of pain, ol’ Tex was on the ground before he even realized what happened to him.
Sierra bent down close. “Next time,” she whispered in his ear, giving his bent and broken fingers another squeeze, “When a lady says no, listen.”
“You bitch! You busted my fingers,” the dude wheezed out as he tried to pull away. “I was just being friendly.”
“What you were being was pathetic,” she snapped, dropping his hand and stepping back. “Drop the phony accent, and don’t touch until you’re invited. Then you might have a better chance.”
Fury filled the drunk’s face. He staggered to his feet and grabbing Sierra’s empty bottle, smashed it on the bar. He held the jagged edge out as he swayed back and forth. “I’m gonna cut up that pretty face. Then you won’t be tempting no honest man.”
Behind him, Sierra saw Frank’s alarmed eyes. Shit. She couldn’t afford to pay for another broken table. Maybe she could diffuse the situation. “You’re only going to get yourself in trouble. Best you just walk out of here.”
Ignoring her, Tex attacked. Swearing, she whirled to the right, out of his way, but the bottle caught the sleeve of her T-shirt and she was jerked back against the bar. Tex gave a howl of glee and rushed forward, his bottle raised to slash at her, only to be caught up short when a man appeared out of the crowd and grabbed him by the shirt collar.
“I know she can drive a man to murder, but trust me, friend. It’s not worth it.”
***end of excerpt***