|Feature # 8|
Hello, My Lovelies,
It's Rodeo Season
SEP 23 - SEP 26•
California Rodeo Salinas
Opening Chapter from my Rodeo Romance Series, Book 1, Lynx
Charlene hadn’t told Rachel that she’d fixed her up with a cowboy, much less Lynx Maddox, the “Wild Cat” of the rodeo circuit. Rachel sighed. She should have known. After all, Charlene only dated men who wore boots and Stetsons.
Rachel Scott cringed at the very thought even as her gaze took in the breadth of Lynx Maddox's chest, his broad shoulders, and dark green eyes that scanned her with blatant masculine approval.
Despite her stern efforts to control it, her heart pounded against her rib cage. She'd seen him sitting at the table with Charlene Davis and Dan Elder before he'd spotted her. Oh, she'd allowed herself to look when he'd walked her way--looking didn't hurt. And it was okay to dream--a little fantasy never harmed a woman. But that was it; that was where it ended. After watching her father die in the arena, Rachel had sworn she’d never have anything to do with another rodeo cowboy. She stopped her train of thoughts and managed to give the cowboy a smile.
"Nice to meet you," she said, accepting his extended hand. She felt the strength in his warm calloused fingers. Rachel tried to ignore a fluttering sensation low in her stomach. There was one thing she was certain of as she looked up at his piercing eyes and uncompromising jaw--men like him had trouble written all over them. And she doubted Lynx Maddox would prove to be an exception.
"Rachel, I'm glad you came tonight." His voice was soft as velvet and laced with a Texas drawl.
He smelled of woodsy masculine cologne and the sudden rise in her body temperature clued Rachel to the unexpected twist to this encounter--she was much too aware of this sexy cowboy. So aware, in fact, she had difficulty recalling her own name! She focused on the warmth of his hand against hers and she knew, although his grip was light, he was very strong. Nevertheless, his strength wasn't affecting her nearly as much as the power of his presence; it vibrated everywhere, even from the sawdust-covered floor beneath her feet. His slow, lingering smile seemed to unravel what remained of her composure. For several seconds she seemed incapable of speech, or even movement.
Good Lord, she was having heart palpitations!
Her reaction was so out of character, Rachel was at a loss as to what to do.
"I hope you didn't mind meetin’ us here," he said, easily, oblivious to her inner turmoil.
His question seemed to release her tongue from its state of paralysis.
"No. Not at all,” she replied, feeling somewhat less nervous.
"I'll see you home, of course," Lynx said, ushering her farther into the room.
I don't think so, she thought, eyeing the tall stranger. Meeting Lynx here at the honky-tonk was one thing; going home with him was entirely another. She didn't voice her decision, however, she knew Charlene would be horrified if she dared to offend him. So exercising her limited diplomatic skills, Rachel sidestepped the issue. "Is it always this crowded in here? And so loud?" she asked, suddenly feeling claustrophobic. The drummer seemed to have placed himself inside her head, his sticks pounding against her skull, and the raucous noise of the patrons made it almost impossible to hear herself think. The packed crowd made it difficult to breathe.
"Friday nights are always busy. Haven't you been here before?" he asked.
"No." She realized her comment was a bit sharp, but she couldn't help that. Honky-tonk bars were fine for other people, but not for her. If it weren't for her fast-talking best friend, Charlene Davis, she wouldn't be here--feeling so out of place and strangely vulnerable.
"What happened?" he asked, looking down at her. "Lose a bet?"
"Sort of," she mumbled so low he couldn't hear her. Forcing a smile, Rachel said, “I guess everyone should experience this once." More than her hearing was under assault. Somewhere low in her body, a riotous group of sensuous messages beats in rhythm to the band, the lyrics communicating thoughts about Lynx Maddox she shouldn't even be thinking.
Lynx arched one dark, sardonic eyebrow. "This place will grow on you. Trust me."
Rachel stopped and looked up at him warily. She knew better than to trust him—or anybody. At twenty-four, she'd been on her own for years. After a moment, she regained her composure. "Dan and Charlene have a table for us across the room, don't they?"
She peered through the smoke that diffused the colored lights revolving overhead, and swallowed as the bitter haze of tobacco coated the back of her throat. A cloud of it hovered near the ceiling, giving the mirrored wall behind the bar a bluish look. The air was stale and smelled of barley malt, tobacco, and hay. Rachel blinked, her eyes burning.
Lynx grinned. "Well, they did. It's kinda difficult to tell right now, though."
Rachel couldn't help but agree, especially since his white western shirt stretched across his impressive chest, which was more than wide enough to block her view. When he shifted, she couldn't tell how many people were standing beyond him. "How on earth are we going to get through that mob?" she asked.
"We don't have to," he said, easily.
"What do you mean?" Rachel asked, puzzled.
"We have another choice. We can sneak out the back door to some quiet, secluded spot where we could, ah, get better acquainted."
A hot flush of denial raced to her cheeks and Rachel knew she was about to tell a lie. "Thanks, but I think running the gauntlet is a better idea right now. I'm sure Charlene wants me to meet her date."
Not the least bit offended, Lynx winked at her.
"Okay, sweetheart. Stick with me, and I'll show you how a man makes a path."
Lynx placed his hand under her forearm to guide her toward the table. Rachel felt heat rise along the length of her spine, and a fine sweat gathered at the small of her back. Darn Charlene and her matchmaking. Ever since Rachel’s break-up with Steven two years ago, Charlene had hovered over her like a mother hen. Finally, after months of badgering, Rachel had given in and agreed to show up at the honky-tonk that night. Now, with Lynx so close, she could almost feel him breathe, Rachel wondered about the wisdom of her actions.
No man was worth the risk of losing her peace of mind. In her life, what men had offered her had turned out to be mirages. Rachel knew all about mirages, and she made sure she steered clear of them.
As they made their way toward the center of the dance floor, someone bumped her from the side. The man was wearing high-heeled, western boots designed for something far less physical than evasive maneuvers. Rachel felt thrown off balance and automatically reached for Lynx's arm.
His grasp tightened around her wrist, to steady her.
Embarrassed at being reduced to grappling with her date, Rachel quickly regained her footing. As soon as she succeeded, she moved to step away from him.
Assessing the situation, Lynx held her hand. His brows drew together in displeasure as he shot a warning glance toward the offender. "Justin," he growled. "Watch your step, cowboy." Though unsteady on his feet, the man still managed to back off in a hurry.
"Careful," he addressed her. His voice, though gruff, held a soothing tone. Grateful for it, and the fact that he seemed willing to ignore her embarrassment, Rachel breathed a soft sign of relief.
It was his next comment, which had her emotions zinging. "A woman can't be too careful in a place like this."
Rachel shook her head and chuckled to herself. Those were her thoughts, exactly.
Rachel tried to convince herself that the rush she felt upon making eye contact with Lynx had to do with their close proximity, not the dark-haired man's expression.
A muscle in Lynx's lean cheek jumped in response to her appraisal and exasperation lurked in the depths of his eyes, the greenest eyes she'd ever seen. It was at that moment Rachel realized she was in trouble. A warning bell clamored in her brain like the buzzer in a calf-roping contest, still Rachel chose to ignore it.
Lynx wrapped his arm around her shoulder, glancing at the crowd. "Don't worry Rachel--you'll get the knack of it," he said, pulling her to his side. "Relax and let me do all the work."
Somehow, she managed to tear her gaze away from his, to put one wobbly foot in front of the other.
Forcing herself not to stiffen at his nearness,
Rachel adjusted to the rock-hardness of his body. She knew that professional bull riders were strong--built heavy in the chest and shoulders; still, Lynx was a mountain of a man, topping six feet by two or three inches.
"Come on," he said, swinging her into his arms. "Looks like there's only one way to get to the table."
Rachel gave a gasp of surprise by the sudden turn of events. Finding herself pulled against him, she refused to crane her neck to look up, so she stared at the middle of his chest. She swallowed. Maybe it was the shock of being held in his arms or the topsy-turvy, surreal feel to the evening, but her insides wouldn't stop quaking, and the way his hand kept stroking her side didn't help. To make matters worse, strands of her hair were tumbling loose from its French twist. With those loose strands flowing down to her breasts, she knew she resembled a wide-eyed flower child far more than a capable, independent woman.
The way Lynx looked at her only confirmed her suspicions.
Lynx tucked her head against his chest. "I won't bite. You can relax a little."
Fat chance, she thought as she followed his graceful steps around the dance floor. Lynx was very good at taking control. He was brisk without being rude, and it was obvious he didn't know her. Not that she was unreasonable or difficult, Rachel assured herself; she simply had her principles—that was all.
As they neared the table, Charlene stood up and waved. Lynx grinned and guided Rachel into a complicated two-step that left her gasping for breath.
Charlene let out a whoop of delight when they reached the table. "You two sure dance well together," she said, glancing at them with a speculative gleam in her eye as she reached for her date's arm. "Rachel, honey, I want you to meet Dan Elder."
"Hello Dan," Rachel replied, and smiled at the lanky, red-haired man, trying not to act uncomfortable with Charlene's appraising look. Stepping away from Lynx, she returned the offered handshake. "Charlene's been looking forward to this evening for weeks. It's good to finally meet you."
"I'm sure glad you decided to join us, Rachel. Otherwise, I'd still be waiting for Charlene to get ready."
Charlene gave Dan a playful jab to the ribs with her elbow, and he grinned. "I didn't hear you complaining. As I recall, you were too busy pawing through my refrigerator--"
"Can I help it if you make the best meatloaf this side of the Mississippi?"
Charlene gave a snort of disbelief. "You're from Texas. What do you know about the Mississippi?"
Lynx chuckled. "She's got you there, cousin."
"I reckon so."
Lynx pulled out a chair and Rachel gave him a polite smile as he seated her.
Quarters were crowded, the chairs wedged closely together. Rachel tried not to notice the heat of Lynx's muscular thigh pressed against hers. Why hadn't she maneuvered closer to Charlene? This was crazy. She shouldn't be feeling this way. Thinking these thoughts.
She didn't mean to touch his arm when she reached for a napkin. Or bump his thigh with her leg, did she?
Immediately, Lynx put down his drink. His gaze began to roam over her face and Rachel caught her breath.
It was as if they were tangled in some web of emotion that was unbreakable. Suddenly everything before her seemed to shift into slow motion.
A smile was out of the question, she thought, as she stared at his lips. She knew if he lowered his head and touched his lips to hers, it would have triggered such heat it would have ignited a Fourth of July firecracker between them.
"What would you like to drink?" he asked, voice low as his gaze held hers captive.
I hope you enjoyed my teaser!
What woman doesn't love a cowboy?
Thank you for stopping by,