The salesperson knocked on my changing room, this time handing me a heap of dresses plus a bunch of jeans and shirts. I had to try on every single one of them. I loved the dresses and they loved me, caressing my curves and showcasing all my assets. Trisha would have been proud. Thinking of her, I grabbed a black skirt. I’d send it to her as a replacement, compliments of Declan. After all, he was the one who’d torn it in half.
The jeans and t-shirts were just like my old ones—if they spent a year in Paris as an exchange student, had a torrid love affair with an older man and then hit the lottery. The fabrics kissed my skin, silks and whisper-soft cottons. The jeans were clearly magic, making my legs look a mile long and my ass defy gravity.
I pouted in the mirror, striking a pose in a clingy silk dress. It was a dress for New York, for going out on the town. A dress Declan would enjoy taking off of me once we got back to the hotel. I shivered at the thought. We still had one last night together in Billings in his penthouse. What would he want to do to me tonight? And what would he have me wanting to do for him? Those handcuffs had felt so good, stretching my arms up overhead, displaying me for Declan’s pleasure. Why had I loved that feeling so much? Thinking about it made me want it again.
The blindfold had been better than I’d ever imagined, and I had imagined it in the past. One too many long nights with nothing but a sexy book on my Kindle and, sure, I’d thought about how it would feel to lie there blindfolded, Declan tormenting me with his fingers, his mouth. I’d felt ready to explode from the second he’d tied the silk around my eyes, so sensitive when I couldn’t see. I loved not knowing what he’d do next, the electrifying charge of submitting to his control. I didn’t know what he had in store for me, but my pulse raced to find out.
I made my selections, an embarrassing pile of clothes I couldn’t believe I was actually going to purchase. With Declan’s money. While the salesperson rang everything up, I avoided my eyes. I knew Declan had told me to spend a lot, but really this was ridiculous.
Funny thing was, when you looked away in a candy shop, there was nowhere to turn without spotting something else delicious. A pair of Jimmy Choos. Oh, the siren song of metallic gold platform sandals, all straps and shine and heels. I could see myself modeling those for Declan. Maybe not wearing anything else.
“You have to.” The salesperson grabbed the sandals for me and the entire transaction was over in a New York minute. Signed, sealed and arranged to be delivered to the penthouse.
Out on the sidewalk, a bit shocked at what I’d just done, I started walking my way back to The Stanyon. I’d just spent more than I guessed I ever had on myself. But not long after, a welcoming storefront stopped me in my tracks. Home and Hearth. I loved absolutely everything in the window. An antique bench draped with a star-pattern quilt. A rustic wooden cart, here with several potted plants but I could picture it positively overflowing with wildflowers.
A devious smile crept across my face. I knew someone whose home wasn’t exactly homey. Stark. Immaculate. A decorator had clearly been at work, calculating everything to cultivate the image of the masculine, powerful bachelor businessman.
In Declan’s penthouse, I hadn’t seen a single photo of family or friends. No kids’ artwork up on the fridge, which I had to say I found almost criminal. Even if you didn’t have your own, you had to have a neighbor, niece, cousin or friend with a little one. And, clearly, you had to proudly display their art. No home was complete without it. Also, Christmas Cards you kept up until July and cheesy calendars of puppies.
Declan’s penthouse could use a few touches here and there. He had told me to go shopping, after all. I was pretty sure his credit card still had some room on it.
My smile grew wider as I pulled open the door and went inside. He had warned me that he might discipline me tonight. I felt ready to cause some trouble.
It had to rain. Other than that night in the barn, the sun had been scorching down on our patch of land for weeks now, relentless and fierce. The earth looked as cracked and parched as a desert. The cattle lowed in their pens, restless and moody. I sure as hell got no rest, though that had to do with my own demons more than the weather. Demon in chief: Kara Brooks.
She was avoiding me, and doing a good job of it. I never caught more than a glimpse of her. A hint of a blue dress through the kitchen window, her singing drifting up into the hot, still air. Sometimes she’d shoot out from the house to her pickup as fast as a firecracker, scared I’d try to grab her or something. She was right about that. Grabbing her was exactly the kind of thing I had in mind.
I was supposed to leave next month, only a few more weeks at this ranch. Sometimes I thought of it as motivation. I could hold out. Other times it spurred me on like a drumbeat. Not much time left. Better act fast.
Since I’d had the flu, it had gotten worse. It was like the fever had gone straight to my brain. I’d been hot for women before, sure, from a young, randy age, but this was something different. This came close to stark, raving mad. I could feel her hands on my skin, hear my name moaned on her lips, smell her musky sweet scent. At night I’d dream so vivid I’d wake and swear it was real, her caressing my chest, trailing her fingers along my muscles.
I walked around with a raging hard-on and balls so blue I could barely see straight. The girls I typically partied with didn’t offer any relief. I had no interest in them anymore. My hand didn’t help, though I brought it to my cock often enough, calling out Kara’s name as I jerked myself off in the shower. It didn’t matter. Nothing gave me relief. There was one remedy and one remedy alone.
I wasn’t myself, that much was clear. There had been one time over the past few weeks I’d managed to see her alone, just her and me in the barn. And what had I done? Stood stock still like a dummy. I literally hadn’t been able to move. She’d looked so beautiful, delicate and perfect. I’d felt like the Hulk, big and dumb and only able to smash. That had never happened to me before. Bill had walked in soon enough, anyway.
But I knew it was just a matter of time. Like you knew one day it had to rain, I knew one day I would have her. It was all a question of when.
The rain came sudden one afternoon in mid-August. The morning started like all the rest, hot as hell and not a cloud in sight. I had to hand it to Bill, though. Old timers sometimes knew and he told me, first thing, it would rain that day. I had my doubts, but around 4 o’clock things got real dark real quick. The cattle started bucking and rearing up, their big eyes rolling in their heads. They knew a change was coming.
Rain after a drought was a good thing, of course. But too much rain too fast onto dirt that had dried as hard as cement? That meant flash flooding.
We had to get all the equipment and all the cattle up into the barn on high ground as fast as possible. All hands on deck. Every man dropped whatever he was doing and got to work, fast, focused, intense. I was down by the creek. Low and trickling just then, I knew it could be flooding its banks within hours. I’d seen it happen before. You didn’t grow up in Montana without a deep respect for the destructive powers of Mother Nature. No force could be as violent or vicious.
I lay down some sandbags at the most vulnerable point, where dirt and rocks had tumbled down into the creek creating kind of a funnel. That’s where the water would break through first, so I shored it up. Then I turned my attention to the cattle we had down in the low pasture, the ones in the most danger. The first few drops started to fall, both a blessed relief and a warning of what was to come. I could tell it would be a driving, relentless storm when it broke full force.
Fast as a whip, Kara rode in, w
ind thrashing her hair, rain starting to pound down hard. With more expertise than I knew she had in her, she prodded and coaxed, nudged and circled the cattle, moving them up to safer, higher ground. Up on my horse I joined her and together we worked as a team. I scared the shit out of them and got them moving along, quick. Kara kept them calm enough to help them head in the right direction.
We worked well together, reading each other’s signals without words. I knew when she needed me to circle on back. She knew when I needed her to slow down with a young, scared one. Helping each other, we got the cattle where they needed to go, safe and dry and locked into a covered pen up on the ridge in about a third of the time it would have taken me on my own.
Reins in her hand, Kara sat tall on her horse, exhilarated and proud of the work we’d accomplished. The rain fell fast and relentless now, plastering her hair to her head, her clothes to her body.
“Come on!” I called to her, spurring my horse around up toward the far ridge of their property. She followed, driving hard behind me in the rain.
Up at an enormous, old willow tree, I pulled up, jumped off, and led my horse under the shelter of the giant branches. I tied my horse to the trunk and she calmed quickly, sheltered underneath the leaves and branches of the ancient willow.
Kara led her horse underneath as well, following my lead, tying her horse to the trunk.
I didn’t wait to think, didn’t hesitate to wonder whether it was the right time or right thing to do. I went to her and wrapped my arms around her and kissed her like I’d never kissed anyone before in my life. Hands wrapped around her like I couldn’t even believe she was real, I crushed her to me and kissed her breathless, knotting my fists in her hair, heart pounding in my chest. I kissed her mouth, deep, kissed her face, her neck, her mouth again. She felt soft and luscious, moaning and sighing, her body melted into mine.