Today’s unique excerpt comes from my unpublished cowboy story called Ropeburn.
The stables were dark by the time I’d finished giving Cody his rubdown after dinner. A single bulb hanging from the rafters between the stalls threw a pool of pale yellow light. But even though I’d finished, I lingered, smelling the horses, listening to their soft whickering noises in the darkness, trailing a hand along Cody’s warm rump as I whispered good night in his ear. The aroma of horse flesh and leather drew me into the stables when I was a little girl; it was the same smell that kept me there now.
As I bolted the stall door, I heard a noise at the other end of the stable block. Something stung me on the shoulder making me yelp. It felt like, yes, I was sure, the bite of a whip, the very tip.
I stepped into the pool of light and the bite came again out of the dark, this time lower, snaking around my thigh, stinging through the thick denim of my jeans.
“Who is it?”
Anger and fear had risen together in my gullet; I hoped only the anger could be heard in my voice.
“It’s me,” said a man and I knew immediately who it was.
Ray Jackson, still dressed head to toe in black, emerged from the shadows. I breathed a sigh of relief. He might be someone I would rather avoid but, on the other hand, he wasn’t a drunk-out-of-his-mind buckaroo or a mad axe murderer. I could handle Ray Jackson. There was no way he was going to bully me into selling Cody.
“Go away, Jackson,” I said. “He’s not for sale.”
“I didn’t come here about the pony.”
By now the whip had slipped off my leg and I heard a clatter as Jackson let its handle drop to the floor. He stood at the other end of the stable block, at least six stalls away from me, so I turned my attention to Cody’s tack to see if it needed any fixing before morning.
I heard a swish through the air, something brushed against my hair and then a yank tightened his lasso around my torso and upper arms. Instinctively I struggled and pulled against the rope but Ray Jackson was an expert at reeling in calves at least two or three times my weight. He pulled me, stumbling and staggering, up the stable block towards him while I painted the air blue with my swearing and spluttering.
“Get your fucking rope off me, Jackson.”
“I knew from the moment I saw you, you’d be a wildcat,” he said, laughing. “I’ve been watching you ride all season, Cally, and week on week you interest me more and more.”
“And that gives you the right to rope me in?”
Only a couple of feet separated us now and, as I gazed up into his dark face, I lost my footing and tripped on the uneven stable floor. Without being able to use your arms to break your fall, the prospect of tumbling down onto stone paving becomes terrifying. I screamed. In a flash, he stepped forward and caught me in his arms, taking my full weight as my legs crumpled at the knees.
“Steady, girl,” he whispered, pulling me against his chest.
I was trapped by his arms and captivated by the smell of him. Horses. Leather. Bay rum and tobacco. Sweat. Despite myself, despite his unorthodox methods for getting the girl, I knew I wanted him. Wanted him bad. It was nothing to do with not having had a man for months; I often rode the whole season without screwing a man. No, this was something different. Ray Jackson, with his dark good looks and overbearing ways, had flicked a switch inside me. A need had materialized and an itch needed scratching. The sooner the better.
He staggered slightly himself as my weight put him off balance and he stuck out an arm to grab one of the wooden posts between the stalls. His breathing sounded labored; he desired me as much as I desired him. Why or how this heat had suddenly risen between us, I couldn’t begin to guess but I knew where it would lead.
“In here,” I said, jerking my head towards an empty stall used for storing hay.
He pushed me roughly ahead of him into the stall and, on seeing the pile of hay in the corner, he swept my feet out from under me with his boot and let me drop. If you ever worked in stables you would know hay is not as soft as it appears to be in the movies; it prickles and scratches, and it’s not particularly springy. I knocked one elbow hard on the stone floor, gasping as white hot pain shot up my arm in one direction and pins and needles rippled down in the other.
He knelt down beside me, pulled the lasso up over my head and cast it to one side. Just as quickly, not ceding control for a second, he straddled me and then his hands were on the snap fasteners of my shirt. He ripped them open and in one fluid move flipped me over onto my front. As the harsh ends of the straw scraped against my naked breasts he pulled my arms behind me and knotted my wrists together with my own shirt sleeves. His weight on me made it hard to breathe and then a mouthful of straw made it harder still.
With a deep-throated grunt, he rolled me back over and then, as he gazed down on me with his dark eyes, he let out a low sigh.
“Now we’re good,” he said, a rasp lowering his voice.
I spat hay from between my lips and straight away he reached down and cleared away the little snags of straw from around my mouth. His hands were large but his touch was precise and gentle as he brushed more from my chest.
“Mmm… Cally,” he said, changing position so he lay stretched out between my legs, his head level with where my dark nipples rose and fell. “You’re every bit as beautiful as I had hoped. More so.”
I found the weight of his torso slung across my hips reassuring; his breath warm on my bare skin like a caress. And despite its scratchiness, the straw did just enough to cushion my arms behind me.
Ray cupped my breasts in his hands and brought his mouth to them one at a time. I heard Cody whinnying in the next stall but all I could think about were the sensations he coaxed into being with his tongue and his teeth. He sucked and bit my nipples, making me bite my lip and brace my legs, causing me to writhe underneath him as desire flared up inside me. His hands were warm and firm, sliding across my shoulders and round my upper arms, gliding down my back and around the bottom of my rib cage to come once more to my breasts.