Cover of the new book "Dare to be Dirty "

Dare to be Dirty

 

Warning: This excerpt contains adult content. 18 and over only, please.

Excerpt from “Dare to be Dirty”

[The book club’s next selection is cowboy erotica. City girl artist Kim Chang doesn’t think the words “cowboy” and “erotic” belong in the same sentence—until the club takes a field trip to the rodeo. There, she’s surprised to find herself fascinated by the events and ambiance—and particularly by sexy cowboy Ty Ronan. Club member Marielle is equally attracted to another cowboy, Blake, and formulates a plan to meet him at a country and western bar. She persuades the other club members to come along.]

Ty Ronan’s back felt prickly, which threw off his concentration. When he aimed for a tough bank shot, the ball was a good inch short of the pocket, nicely set up for his opponent to sink it. “Oh hell,” he said good-naturedly as he straightened.

Blake Longfeather said, “Hah,” and bent to the table. Blake was a rodeo buddy from way back, still a full-time pro, unlike Ty, who’d cut way down on rodeo since he bought the new Ronan Ranch three years ago. Now, whenever they competed at the same rodeo, they got together for a couple of beers and a game or two of pool.

Blake slid Ty’s ball neatly into the pocket, then moved around the table, figuring how best to sink the one remaining ball. It was a tough shot, but he was a good player.

Guessing this game was over, Ty stretched his back, achy from the bone-jarring ride on Dirt Devil. Luck of the draw had been with him. He’d pulled a truly rank mare and he was happy with his ride. He’d make it into the finals tomorrow, for both events he’d competed in.

He still felt that prickly sensation, like someone was watching him. Lifting his beer bottle, he turned. Four women clustered by the door staring at him and Blake.

One, a lush, dark-skinned babe in figure-hugging western clothing, looked almost like she belonged in The Rusty Spur. Almost. Her hat was brand-new and perched at the wrong angle atop masses of wavy dark brown hair. A wannabe cowgirl or a buckle bunny, one of those rodeo groupies who wanted to get it on with a cowboy?

Two others, a pretty blonde and a striking redhead in tailored capris and pretty tops, looked like professional women from the city who’d strayed off course and ended up in the wrong place.

As for the fourth . . . He didn’t have a clue what to think about her, except that she took his breath away. Like when Dirt Devil jammed her forefeet into the ground and corkscrewed her hindquarters toward the sky.

The woman was sexy; the arousal tugging at his groin told him that. Sexier than the one with all the curves, even though this one was tiny and less curvy. She was Asian, probably Chinese, and she looked—he shook his head, baffled and turned on—well, she defied labels, that was for sure. She was kind of exotic and kind of punky, in a cute way, with short, spiky black hair streaked in the same turquoise as the stone in one of his favorite rodeo buckle belts.

The streaks matched one of the colors in the unusual top she wore over a skinny black skirt. The top looked silky and floaty; the design, as well as the blue pattern made him think of wings. She reminded him of a dragonfly, like she might lift off and fly around the room.

Sexy and intriguing, but not his type of woman. No way. None of the four were. He wanted a woman who’d fit in at the ranch, get along with his parents, enjoy raising kids and animals, and help him heal horses. His mom was right when she said it was time he got serious about a woman. He just hadn’t found the right one.

Hell, he hadn’t had much time to look in the three years since he’d quit the full-time rodeo circuit and bought Ronan Ranch. There’d been so much work in getting the ranch on its feet, with his dad’s purebred Angus cattle, his mom’s llamas, alpacas, and angora goats, his own horse training business.

And why was he thinking about a wife now, looking at these four attractive but out of place females, and particularly the sexy dragonfly one who was the most out of place of all?

Behind him, he heard the snick of Blake’s cue against a ball, the smooth slide of the ball, a resonant clunk as it fell into the pocket, and a satisfied, “My game. Pay up.” Then, “What are you starin’ at, man?” And then, as Blake came up beside him, “Ah now, would you look at them. Figure someone’s GPS sent them on a wild-goose chase?”

“I would, except for the one in the hat. Buckle bunny?”

“Bunnies usually know how to wear a hat.”

“True.” In their younger days, he and Blake used to welcome the female attention, but that lifestyle got old. That was why Ty, who lived not too far away, had suggested this bar, a haunt for locals. A cowboy could have a few beers with a buddy, undisturbed, then walk across the road to the Wagon Wheel Motel.

The gal in the hat herded the other three toward the pool table and flashed a vivid smile. “We saw you ride this afternoon. You were awesome.” She focused on Blake. “Blake Longfeather, right?”

Oh yeah, she was a bunny, and she’d set her sights on Ty’s buddy.

“At your service, ladies.” Blake made a kind of bow. “And this is my pal—”

Before he could introduce Ty, the dragonfly one blurted, “Ty Ronan.”

“You were at the rodeo?” Ty stared at her in disbelief. “You don’t look like the rodeo type.” And man, she was even cuter and sexier up close, with those pixie features and big, sparkly dark eyes fringed with black lashes. Behind his fly, his cock pulsed and thickened.

“Oh, I’m not.” A sudden grin flashed, lighting her face. “Or I wasn’t, until this afternoon. I had no idea how exciting it could be.”

When she said the word “exciting,” something zinged in his blood. Yeah, lust, but something more. It was like that adrenaline-rush moment in the chute when he perched atop a thousand pounds of unpredictable, energy-charged horseflesh, locked his hand in the handhold, then took a steadying breath, leaned back, and nodded to open the gate. Anticipation, challenge, joy, a touch of fear.

“Can we buy you a drink?” the one in the hat asked. “A celebratory drink?”

“Neither of us ranked first, ma’am,” Blake drawled in his low, husky voice, a touch of humor threading it. The fact that he hadn’t just said, “No thanks,” told Ty he was interested in the brunette.

As Ty was in the Asian woman. She knew his name. Today she’d watched him; tonight she’d recognized him. She had to be into him too. Right?

“No, but we met you, and that’s cause for celebration,” the ringleader responded cheekily. “Besides, you both rode really well.”

“At least we stayed on our broncs.” Blake turned to Ty. “Though I still say I should’ve scored higher than you.” The tiny lift of his brows asked Ty if he was into having a drink with these women.

Tonight, Ty wasn’t looking for a wife, so why not spend some time with a sexy female? He’d burned out on buckle bunnies long ago, but dragonfly girl was different. It had been awhile since he’d felt that tug of attraction, and he had a feeling it might be mutual. Giving his friend the slightest of nods, he told him, “You were on a carousel horse. Pathetic thing couldn’t buck its way out of a paper bag.” Blake had given the best ride he could, but his horse was having an off day.

“Yeah, you got the luck today,” Blake said. “Dirt Devil’s rank.”

“Rank is good?” the dragonfly one asked.

Ty gave her his best smile, and her eyes widened slightly. “Rank’s what we hope for. The score’s made up of two parts, one for the horse and one for the rider. Best rider in the world—not that Longfeather’s anywhere near that,” he added with a teasing glance at his friend, “can’t score high if his horse doesn’t do its part.”

Her eyes were dark, almost black, and sparkled with interest. He hoped that interest had to do with him. “The horse gets a higher score if it bucks a lot, and twists around?”

“Yeah, and—”

“Why don’t we have this conversation over a drink?” the ringleader said impatiently.

The blonde spoke for the first time, a slight smile touching the corners of her mouth. “We would be delighted to buy you a drink, gentlemen, but feel free to say no if you have other plans.”

The redhead nodded. “And congratulations on how well you both rode. It was really impressive.”

“Flattery,” Ty said, slanting a glance at Blake.

“Way to a man’s heart,” Blake responded.

“You’ve been friends for a while,” dragonfly woman said, and it wasn’t a question.

“Friends?” Ty gazed at the other man. “Me and him? What’s your name again, cowboy?”

They all laughed, then Ty noticed a group leaving a big table. “There.” He strode over to claim it and they all followed. Ty made sure, when he took one end of the table, that dragonfly girl was beside him. The blonde sat on his other side. Blake, at the opposite end of the table, had cowboy hat girl and the redhead on either side.

A pretty young waitress in jeans, red cowboy boots, and a tight red tee with the bar’s logo came over. “Hey there, I’m Judy. What can I get y’all?”

“Beers all around?” Blake asked.

Ty was going to suggest they get a pitcher, but dragonfly girl asked Judy, “What kind of lagers and ales do you have?”

The waitress started to list them, and dragonfly girl said, “Dead Frog? Cool name. And does honey lager mean it’s made with honey?”

“You got it. It’s good.”

“I’ll try it.”

So she liked to experiment. Was he—a rodeo cowboy—an experiment? Did he care? He was more curious whether her mouth would taste like honey after drinking the beer—and whether he’d find out. The thought had him shifting to ease the pressure behind his fly.

“GranvilleIsland amber ale,” the redhead said.

“George, I didn’t know you drank beer,” the blonde said.

“Woody introduced me to it.”

George and Woody? Unusual names. He guessed the guy was her fiancé. She had a ring on her engagement finger: little diamonds surrounding a big, sparkly goldish-colored stone. The blonde had a wedding ring that was a band of small diamonds. The two brunettes both wore rings, but not on the “I’m taken” finger.

Dragonfly girl had small, slender hands, delicate and feminine. Her short fingernails were the same color as the streaks in her hair. He tried to imagine one of those blue-tipped hands gripping reins, and stifled a grin. Then he imagined one of them stroking across his thigh, heading upward, fanning out over the front of his rapidly swelling fly. This time, it was a sound of arousal he held back.

The blonde ordered a martini. He would’ve predicted beer for the one in the hat, but she said, “Something fruity. Sweet, but not too sweet. Any suggestions?”

“You like strawberries?” Judy asked. “The little wild ones?”

“I don’t know the wild ones, but I like strawberries.”

Ty knew the wild ones. They were one of the best things in the world, coming close behind horses and sex. Though maybe horses and sex should rank in the other order. No, that depended on the sex. Some was spectacular; some just mediocre. It had been awhile—maybe six months?—since he’d had either kind. That was way too long a dry spell. What would sex be like with dragonfly girl? Would he find out tonight?

He realized the waitress had turned to him and was asking what he wanted. And she didn’t mean sex. Or maybe she did, from the glint in her blue eyes. She was pretty, curvy, might be his type. But he didn’t feel that tug of sexual chemistry like he did with the woman sitting beside him. He gave Judy an easy smile. “Can I have a Moosehead?”

“Sugar,” she drawled, “you can have any little thing you want.”

Yup, she meant sex.

When the waitress left, they all stared at each other for an awkward moment. “You have the advantage, ladies,” Ty said. “You know our names.”

“I’m Marielle,” the hat girl said, “and she’s George.” She pointed to the redhead. “Georgia, really, but everyone calls her George. She’s Lily”—she indicated the blonde—“and that’s Kim.”

Kim. It suited her.

“You go to the rodeo often?” Ty asked, figuring it would be rude to say he took them for rodeo virgins.

Kim chuckled, perfect white teeth flashing in a lightly tanned face. “Do we look like it?”

What she looked like was kissable. He smiled at her. “I was being polite. Did you enjoy it?”

“Way more than I expected to. I’m not a country girl—”

“Could’ve fooled me,” he drawled, tongue in cheek, winning another laugh.

“And I can’t ever imagine being one, I’m a city girl to the core, but—” She broke off as Judy arrived with a tray of drinks.

The waitress served them expertly then asked Marielle how she liked her drink. The brunette raved, then the waitress turned to Kim. “What do you think of your Dead Frog?”

She lifted her beer, the glass looking like it didn’t belong in a delicate, turquoise-tipped hand. Unlike his cock, which was quite willing to feel her grip. She inhaled, then sipped, her lips moving like she was rolling the beer around in her mouth.

He wanted to part those lips with his tongue, steal a kiss.

“Nice,” she said approvingly. “Balanced. Not too bitter, not too sweet. I can taste that hint of honey.”

Lager with honey, flavored by her own sweet mouth. Oh yeah, he could go for that. He’d kiss her deep and long, and show her that he tasted as good as lager and could make her a hell of a lot happier.

Testing, he moved his leg under the table, so his knee touched hers.

She jerked and her long lashes flicked down then up—God, she had big, pretty, sparkly eyes—but she didn’t move her leg away.

Judy spoke to Ty. “Y’all let me know if you want something more than beer.”

“No, that’ll do me just fine. Thanks anyhow, Judy.”

“Can’t blame a girl for trying,” she said cheerfully, and headed over to the next table.

Marielle said, “Have to admire a girl who goes after what she wants.”

“Ty has some experience with those,” Blake said.

“Like you don’t,” he rejoined.

Across the room, the band trooped back on stage and took up their instruments, launching into a Taylor Swift number.

“Where were we?” Ty nudged Kim’s leg under the table. “You can’t imagine being a country girl, but you enjoyed the rodeo?”

“Right.” Her eyes went slightly out of focus, like she was seeing images inside her head. “There was something so physical and . . . raw about it. It’s exciting and dramatic. And scary.” A shiver twitched her shoulders, and her wingy top fluttered.

So she liked physical and raw. He could give her that. He ached to give her that.

“It’s all of that,” Lily said. “I’m a doctor, and I’m trying to understand why a—pardon me for phrasing it this way, Ty and Blake—why a reasonably sane man would do it.”

Kim nodded vigorously. “I wondered that too.”

Ty exchanged glances with his buddy, who shrugged. How could you explain rodeo to women from a totally different world?

He was still pondering that when George—a crazy nickname for a feminine woman with sweet curves, curly red hair, and amber eyes that matched her engagement ring—spoke up. “I thought people were crazy to play hockey until my fiancé enlightened me.”

Ty put her fiancé’s unusual name together with the mention of hockey, and there was only one conclusion. “Woody Hanrahan? The Vancouver Beavers’ captain?”

She gave a proud smile. “Yes. You watch hockey?”

“Mostly just the finals.” That sparked a memory. “Hell, you were the one on the JumboTron when the Beavers took the Stanley Cup.” She and Hanrahan had yelled “I love you” to each other, and the giant screen had captured it.

“Wasn’t that fantastic?” Marielle gushed.

Ty wasn’t a romantic, but the moment had made him smile. “It was nice.” He took a long swallow of Moosehead. “Anyhow, nothing against hockey, but I’m not much on spectator sports.” He liked to do rather than watch—and doing was exactly what he wanted with Kim.

He felt the warmth of her skin through the thin fabric of her long skirt. Though he generally liked women in jeans or short skirts, the skimpy cotton made him think dirty thoughts. What lay beneath it?

“Anyhow,” George said, “if you two are like Woody, I’m guessing you’ve been riding for a long time.”

Her words distracted him from imagining running his hand up the inside of Kim’s naked thigh, and he focused on the redhead.

“And it’s not just a challenge and exciting,” she went on, “but it’s in your blood. It’s a place where things feel right, like you’re where you’re supposed to be.”

His mouth fell open. He’d thought only another cowboy would get that.

“Yeah,” Blake said, “that’s it,” and Ty nodded.

“It’s a passion,” Kim said with a tone of revelation. “It’s the thing you were born to do.”

When he turned to her, the glow on her face told him she knew what she was talking about. In a minute, he’d ask what she’d been born to do.

But first, for some reason he wanted her to understand his passion. “Yeah, it is. For me, it’s not just rodeo, but horses, the country, ranching. That’s what I was born to do. Mostly, it’s a lot of hard work, but rodeo spices it up. Rodeo’s demanding, challenging, exciting.” He grinned. “An adrenaline high. Addictive. So yeah, maybe folks like Blake and me are a little insane.”

“Insane to follow your passion?” She shook her head, those streaky spikes of hair flicking. “No way.”

Marielle asked Blake how he got into rodeo, but Ty’s gaze stayed on Kim’s expressive face. From the moment he’d laid eyes on her, she’d fascinated and gut-level attracted him more than any woman he’d met in a very long time. He wanted her. Bad. Did she feel the same?

“You talk like you know about passion, Kim.” He put deliberate emphasis on that word, letting her know he intended a double meaning.

Color tinted Kim’s cheeks. “I know about passion.” Her flush deepened. He couldn’t tell if she was flirting back or was just embarrassed. “Though mine’s about as different from yours as you could imagine. It’s art.”

“Oh, yeah?” Yeah, that sure as hell was different. “That’s pretty cool. I don’t know any artists.”

“Well, now you do.” It was the blond doctor, Lily. He’d forgotten she and the others were there. “Kim’s very talented. Her blouse is one of her creations.”

He smiled. “It’s pretty. Makes me think of a dragonfly.”

Kim’s face lit. “Thanks. It’s actually based on the Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly, but I’m glad the idea came across.”

“When I saw you, I thought you might lift off and fly around the room.” He hoped she didn’t. He wanted her right here beside him, their knees rubbing. And then, before long, he wanted more. A slow dance, vertical to start with, then with any luck a horizontal one.

[continued at top of right column]

 

 

 

 

[con't from bottom left column]

She beamed. “Perfect!”

He gulped. No, she hadn’t read his thoughts and agreed, she was responding to what he’d said. “So that’s what you do? Design clothes?”

“No, though I’m thinking about it. I’m a student right now.”

“An art student?”

“Yes, at Emily Carr in Vancouver. Before that, I got a business degree in Hong Kong.”

Vaguely, he was aware of the others talking, but he was interested only in Kim. “You went away to school in Hong Kong, or you’re from there?”

“From there.”

“You sure are a city girl. Vancouver and Hong Kong?”

“Oh yes! I love cities. All the bustle, color, excitement. The stimulation, the galleries, the restaurants, the—” She broke off. “Sorry, I’m gushing.”

“It’s okay. I mean, I don’t get it, the whole city thing, but whatever turns your crank.”

Odd that someone so different from him would turn his sexual crank, but she did. “So you came to Vancouver to study art?”

“Yes, I persuaded my parents to let me do it for two years.”

Let her? “Uh, sorry if this is rude, but how old are you?”

“Twenty-four. You?”

“Twenty-nine.” And he’d made his own decisions and supported himself since he graduated high school. But he shouldn’t judge; people had different family stories. His grandparents and parents had raised him to pull his weight around the ranch from the time he was a toddler. Now, the original Ronan Ranch in Alberta had fallen victim to social change, a poor economy, and the Mad Cow scare—things that, he always reminded himself, would have done it in even if he’d been around to help, rather than at college and getting his kicks on the rodeo circuit. And in the end, despite him and his dad butting heads all those years ago about Ty hitting the circuit, rodeo had provided the money to buy the new ranch in the FraserValley where he and his parents lived.

Judy came to ask if they’d like another round. Ty said, “Sure, thanks.” He glanced at Kim, but she’d turned to answer a question from Marielle. “For her too,” he told Judy.

The waitress said, good-naturedly, “Lucky girl,” and headed off.

Kim giggled at something Marielle said, then turned back to Ty. “Have you been riding in rodeos all your life?”

“I was up on a horse before I could walk. My dad’s a rancher but my grandpa was a pro rider for more than fifteen years, and my grandma too, a barrel racer, before they settled down and had my dad and his younger sister. My grandparents saved their rodeo winnings and bought a ranch. My aunt was never into ranching, but Dad loved it. When he grew up, he built a house for himself on the property and worked with them. That’s where I grew up.”

“Your grandparents got you interested in rodeo?” She leaned her elbows on the table and rested her chin on her clasped hands, staring at him like she was fascinated by his life story. Or, he hoped, like she was fascinated by him.

Judy put fresh drinks down, and he reached for his Moosehead, his hand brushing Kim’s arm accidentally on purpose. Her skin was soft, warm, and that one simple touch fired his blood. “You bet. Grandma’s name was Tammy Tyson, and I’m Tyson Ronan, named for the two of them. The house was full of pictures of them in action, belt buckles, trophies. Some kids grew up on fairy tales but for me it was rodeo stories. True ones, that got me hungry to do it myself.” To his dad’s chagrin. His dad and grandpa had butted heads just as much as Ty and his father used to. Let’s face it; Ronan males had strong opinions and didn’t bend easily.

“Belt buckles?” Kim cocked her head, sipped her beer. “What do you mean?”

“Winners get these big belt buckles.”

“Seems like a strange prize. Do you have any?”

He bit back a smile. “One or two.” As in, one or two trunkfuls. He was wearing an old favorite right now, the World Rodeo Champion buckle he’d earned for bareback riding when he was twenty-three. Some of the other special ones sat in a glass case in the office at Ronan Ranch, to impress clients.

He’d been turned to face Kim, keeping the pressure of his leg against hers. Now he realized that Lily, seated on his other side, was rising.

George stood too. “Time for us to head home.”

Damn. He wanted more time with Kim. She was into him. He wanted to dance with her, seduce her slow and easy, take her back to his cabin at the Wagon Wheel across the street.

“I’m going to hang out awhile longer,” Marielle said. “I brought my own car. Kim, how about you?”

She made an indecisive sound and absentmindedly took a long swallow of beer.

Marielle winked. “It’s book club research.”

Huh?

Kim’s lips twitched. “I suppose it is.” She flicked a glance at Ty from under partially lowered lashes. “What do you think, Tyson Ronan? Should I stay?”

“Please.”

His prompt reply turned her lip-twitch into a smile. “Then I will.”

After a chorus of good-byes, Marielle stripped off her shirt to reveal a pink tank top that hugged impressive curves. She rested her hand on Blake’s forearm. “I feel like dancing, but I’ve never danced to this kind of music. Want to be my teacher?” She put a sexy emphasis on the last word.

“Texas two-step,” he said, “and I’d be happy to teach you anything and everything, Marielle.”

“Bet there’s a thing or two I could teach you, cowboy,” she joked back.

Laughing, the two of them rose.

Seizing the opportunity, Ty turned to Kim. “Bet you don’t know the two-step.”

Her eyes sparkled. “Bet you can teach me.”

He rose and held out his right hand.

She took it, murmuring something under her breath that sounded like, “Bet that’s not all you can teach me.”

He must’ve been too eager, or underestimated his own strength when he pulled her to her feet, because she lost her balance. Quickly he caught her arm, steadying her. She was so tiny, a foot shorter than his six foot one, couldn’t weigh more than a hundred pounds. More careful now, he linked his fingers gently with her small, feminine ones.

Kim didn’t have Marielle’s abundant curves, but he found her even sexier. Marielle was vivacious and fun, but, like the waitress Judy, she was right in a guy’s face. Kim was more subtle, more fascinating. How could a guy feel both protective and aroused at the same time? He’d better work on that arousal thing, or dancing the two-step would be tough.

Ty led Kim to the edge of the dance floor. “Two-step’s a lot like fox-trot.”

“I don’t know any of those dances. I just go to clubs and, you know . . .” She gave a sexy shimmy that sent her top and skirt flying, making her look even more like she could fly.

He swallowed hard, imagining that slim, lithe body caught up in the rhythm of the music. “No one’s gonna care if we get it right.” All he wanted was to hold her close. With any luck, the band would play a slow number next. “Basic thing to remember with the two-step is quick, quick, slow, slow.” He flashed her a teasing grin. “And the guy leads. Always.”

She wrinkled her cute little nose. “How old-fashioned. But then, what else would I expect from a hero of the Wild West?”

“A what?” Had he heard right?

She shook her head. “It’s a book club thing.”

He was starting to catch on. “Your club’s reading about rodeo?”

Her eyes danced. “Not exactly.”

* * *

Kim couldn’t help grinning. She wasn’t on a cattle drive, but the whole day—the rodeo, the western bar, talking to cowboys, learning the Texas two-step—it could be called book club research.

It could also be called a major turn-on. Watching Ty in the rodeo ring had been arousing, and she’d happily anticipated him starring in her erotic fantasies. Now she was with the actual man, and could hardly believe it. He was a hundred times more potent in person. So potent, her head swam, her heart raced, and her panties were damp with arousal.

She couldn’t take her eyes off Ty, broad-shouldered, lean-hipped, and rock solid in worn jeans and a shirt with rolled sleeves and an open neck. Tonight his shirt was the creamy brown of a latte after you’d stirred the milk into the coffee. It was a perfect accent for his bronzed skin, hazel eyes that sometimes looked greenish and other times golden brown, and the sun-streaked hair she found so attractive. That hair, which she’d bet had never seen a stylist, was a million shades of blond and brown, mostly straight but with a few wayward strands curling around his ears and down his nape. His brows, his nose, his jaw, they all made a statement: pure man. His lips, though . . . They were softer, a touch sensual, and they easily quirked with humor.

His jeans were belted with leather and, now that he’d enlightened her, she realized the elaborate oversized buckle might well be a rodeo trophy. Cool that he was a winner, but she was more intrigued by the way the denim gently hugged his slim hips, muscled thighs, and long legs, and was strategically faded around what appeared to be an excellent package.

He wore cowboy boots, of course. Did he wear those things to bed?

She stifled a giggle at the thought.

A woman walking past jostled her and Kim lost her balance, almost tumbling headfirst into Ty’s powerful chest. The room swayed, and this time she did giggle. A big hand caught her shoulder. Ty no doubt intended to steady her but his touch instead made her pulse jerk, just the way the press of his knee under the table had.

He was rough and ready, not the least bit smooth or cosmopolitan, much less arty. Not her type, but oh man, he oozed good stuff: testosterone, pheromones, whatever all those yummy things were called. Oh man, the man was hot.

She held back another giggle. Oh man, the man was hot? That was cute.

And what was up with her? She wasn’t usually a giggler. Had the sexy cowboy and the unusual situation made her a little crazy? Or was that honey lager especially potent? Her friends teased that she was a cheap drunk, quick to lose her inhibitions. Like the night she’d had two appletinis at a karaoke bar and belted out “I Will Always Love You,” even though her singing voice was terrible. This was why she stuck to one drink—and tonight she was driving.

She was driving, wasn’t she?

No, she was dancing. Ty had guided her hands into position. Gripping one easily, his other arm circling her back, he steered her around the dance floor. Or tried to, because she was stumbling in her black ballet-style flats, cheap shoes she’d chosen because she didn’t care if they got ruined at the rodeo. “Wait, Ty. Tell me again how it goes.”

“You let me lead rather than thinking for yourself.”

She fluttered her eyelashes. “Yes, sir.” And how could a girl think when Ty Ronan had his hands on her? She was overwhelmed by his sheer physical presence, by the fact that they’d talked and shared their passions, and by the realization that, of all the women in this room, including that flirtatious waitress with the big boobs, he’d chosen Kim to be with.

He rolled his eyes. “Like this, Kim.” Firm hands guided her as he moved, saying, “Quick, quick, slow, slow. Quick, quick, slow, slow.”

She concentrated through a few repetitions of the pattern. Hey, it was easy, the rhythm matched the music. “Now I get it.” Now she could relax and enjoy the smooth way his powerful body moved, the heat he gave off, his fresh, woodsy scent. He was like a magnet, making her want to move closer and snug her body tight against his. Tight and intimate. Intimate and sexy.

Man, he was hot, and it wasn’t just his looks. He rode his tan horse like they were one being—was that called a centaur? She’d watched him rope a calf and toss it easily, yet not roughly. She’d white-knuckled it as he clung to the back of that rank Dirt Devil. He really had been a kind of hero out there in the arena, definitely larger than life.

“You’re a natural.” His grin flashed. “When you let me lead.”

“Yeah, yeah, cowboy. You couldn’t get that bronc to behave, so you’re picking on me.”

He chuckled. “Weren’t you listening when I said they’re supposed to buck? Spirit’s a good thing.” The hand that held hers tightened. “I’m not picking on you. I’m dancing with you.”

Next thing she knew, he’d swung her away so they were side by side, stepping forward together, then he reeled her back in. Her head spun again—was it the alcohol or Ty?—but she managed to follow.

“I think you’ve got it,” he said.

“This is fun.” Especially the part about being in the arms of a handsome rodeo star who made her whole body buzz. “I’m even getting used to country music.”

“Horses and women and heartache. That’s what life’s all about.” He winked.

“Your life, maybe.” Horses and women, she’d bet on. Heartache? That seemed a stretch. Ty Ronan struck her as a guy who got what he wanted. He had the looks and easy confidence.

What would it be like to be with a man like him? She’d never even known one before.

She knew what Marielle would do. What Marielle was probably doing right now with Blake Longfeather. Seduce him, or let him seduce her. But Kim wasn’t into flings.

She hadn’t slept with her ex, Henry, until they’d dated for six months. She’d thought she was in love with him, that they were heading toward a future together.

The band finished the number and the dancers stopped to clap and cheer.

Separated from Ty now, Kim felt off balance again. What was she doing? She glanced around, searching for Marielle. There she was, back at their table, laughing with Blake, their heads close together like nothing else in the world existed.

Feeling as if she was intruding, Kim looked away, back to the stage.

The singer took the mike off its stand and raised it to her lips. “Bet y’all are ready for a slow one, am I right?”

More cheers were her answer.

Ty took Kim’s hand, almost swallowing it up. His hand was so hard, with ridges of callus. What would it feel like on her body? Caressing her breasts, sweeping down her stomach, parting her thighs?

Rough. It had to feel rough. Even if he tried to be gentle—and would he?—those calluses would abrade, but in a good way. In a sexy way. She trembled, imagining it.

The singer said, “I’m gonna do my female version of a little number made famous by the great Garth Brooks. Y’all get ready to be a little . . . shameless.”

More cheers. When the audience settled down, Kim asked, “Shameless?”

“Name of the song.” Ty’s greenish gold eyes gleamed. “Good song.” Without asking if she wanted to keep dancing, he gathered her into his arms.

Without thinking whether this was a good idea, she went. And . . . Oh my God. Had anything ever felt this close to heaven?

He was so big, so physical, so totally male, yet she didn’t feel overwhelmed. Just . . . surrounded by wonderful sensations. The press of his firm thighs, the gentle strength of his hands, the heat rising through his clothing, the scent of warm, freshly showered man. Nothing exotic or complex, just a soap or shaving lotion that smelled deliciously like the great outdoors.

Her head was only a couple of inches from his chest. If she leaned forward, she could rest her cheek against the firm pecs that pressed against his well-washed shirt. But she wouldn’t. She didn’t even know this man. But she was in his arms, snuggled up against his wonderful body. She wasn’t used to slow dancing. Wasn’t used to being held like this on a dance floor.

This night was incredible. She might still be a fish out of water, yet she felt better than she could ever remember feeling. The man was magic. Even the music sounded great as the woman singer crooned in a low, husky voice. Sexy voice.

Sexy man holding her like she belonged in his arms. And she felt like she did. They were such different sizes and builds, she and Ty, yet they fit as if they were made for each other.

Against her belly, behind his fly, an erection was growing. He wasn’t the only one who was turned on. Until today, she’d only experienced arousal during sex or at least heavy foreplay. But ever since she’d first laid eyes on Ty, her body had been flushed and tingly. Now, she felt moisture on her inner thighs and had a bizarre craving to climb his strong frame and grind her sex against him, seeking relief.

How much of this was because of the book club novel, Ride Her, Cowboy? Was she channeling the journalist Marty’s attraction to Dirk Zamora? Kim had been aroused when she’d read the Lady Emma erotic novel the club had read previously, but that feeling hadn’t carried over when she was with Henry.

So maybe it wasn’t the book; it was Ty. Ty, and a day in the sun watching tough, strong guys and tough, strong animals. Ty, and that supremely male body of his. Ty, and the firm hard-on pressing against—

“Kim?” Ty’s voice broke into her thoughts.

She tilted her head up, knowing her cheeks were pink. “Yes?”

“Your friend’s trying to get your attention.”

Kim glanced over to their table, to see Marielle and Blake with their arms around each other. Marielle waved and winked.

Kim waved back, and watched the pair head for the door. It wasn’t the first time she’d been at a bar with Marielle and her friend had gone off with a guy she’d just met.

It made Kim aware of the time. The drive home was lengthy, it was past midnight, and she wasn’t even sure where she was. She’d driven here following Lily, who followed Marielle, who used the GPS on her phone.

Kim didn’t want to leave. This was a blissful kind of torture, dancing with Ty. Feeling turned on, special, completely unlike her normal self. She’d never had a moment like this, and she wanted it to go on forever. Reluctantly, she murmured, “I should go too.”

“Aw,” he said, giving her a seductive smile, “don’t do that. I don’t want you to go.”

“I don’t want to either,” she admitted, “but it’s late.”

“You’re okay to drive?”

“Sure, I only had one beer.” Even if it had packed a wallop. She gave in to temptation and leaned her cheek against his chest, that hot, hard vee at the open neck of his shirt.

He shook his head. “Two.”

“What?” Mmm, he smelled so good. If she licked him, would he taste woodsy too?

“Two beers. We got refills.”

“We did? I wasn’t paying attention.” She’d been so wrapped up in talking to him, in savoring the sexy way he made her feel. Two beers? No wonder she felt so strange: giggly, dreamy, lustful, off balance. “I should drink coffee, have something to eat.” The hot dog and mini donuts had been hours and hours ago.

If she had coffee and food, she’d be okay to drive, wouldn’t she? She socialized a fair bit, but always in the city where she could walk or take public transit. Drinking and driving had never been an issue.

“Or you could stay,” he said softly, his hips teasing hers.