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Cowboy Up(4)

By:Harper Sloan



I nod mutely, wishing I had a drink to wash down the nervousness.

“How do you know Luke?” he continues.

“He and his sister are my best friends,” I tell him without hesitation.

“Not your boyfriend?” he drawls.

“I— No. He’s not my boyfriend,” I answer, confused by his questioning.

“So what’s a good girl like you doin’ in a place like this?”

“Maybe I’m sick of being a good girl,” I mumble, wishing I could see his eyes.

He continues to study me and I shift in my seat. Good heavens, what kind of pull does this stranger have over me? I can’t even look away, not that I want to, so I study him just as fiercely—even if I can’t see his face, I can still see him. And what a mighty fine sight he is.

Dressed in the typical uniform of most cowboys around here, he’s got his well-built frame in a navy-blue button-down shirt, tucked into jeans that I’m sure mold to his amazing-looking body perfectly when he’s standing. Even in the dim light, I can see the dirty boots propped up on the step under the bar that keeps short legs like mine from dangling in the air. His hand wrapped around the tumbler is tanned, making me think he must work outside, but it’s the long fingers that hold my focus as he uses them to slowly spin his glass against the bar top.

“Want to?”

Pulling my eyes from the strangely erotic sight of his hand, I look toward his shadowed face.

“Want to what?”

“Be bad, sugar.”

Heat hot as fire washes over me with his words. Holy cow. My jaw works, but words elude me. I don’t even know this man’s name, let alone anything about him, and if my rusty knowledge of flirting is right, he just propositioned me. Why I find that as hot as I do, I’ll never know, but before I even know what’s happening, my brain finally figures out how to get the words past my shocked jaw.

“I think I do.”

My eyes widen at the same time his hat dips, and then he turns and holds up two fingers toward Luke farther down the bar. Call it male intuition, whatever kind of magic men have to know when another member of their brotherhood needs a drink, but Luke looks up the second the dark cowboy’s fingers are in the air and nods. Not even a minute later, he’s placing two glasses much like the one my mysterious companion just finished in front of us. Luke walks away without a word, clearly trusting this man if he’s willing to let me drink with him and not give me a speech about drinking responsibly. When the chill of glass touches my knuckles, I look down.

“Somethin’ tells me your mind might be ready to be bad, sugar, but your nerves aren’t there yet. Goes down smooth, but sip it nonetheless.”

My brain, still clearly under the dark cowboy’s control, doesn’t have a problem working now. My hand curls around the glass and I bring it to my lips, letting him control me without fighting it. He’s not wrong—it goes down smooth as silk. At least, the first two sips do. Then I get a little confident and take a deep swallow, only to sputter my way through it.

“Sip,” he calmly demands, leaning into me enough that I feel the heat of his body against my bare arms. “Want you feelin’ calm when I show you how fun it is to be bad, not drunk.”

“Who says I want to be bad with you?” I ask, taking a very small sip this time.

“Babe, you wanna be bad with me.”

He’s right, I do. “You seem confident.” I look over the glass, trying to see through the shadows, but give up when I realize just how well he’s cloaked.

He doesn’t respond but instead takes a drink from his own glass.

“I don’t even know you.”

“Wouldn’t make a difference if you did.”

“You know, some people might actually think that you’re actually just cocky and not confident.”

“I’m old enough to go after what I want without playin’ games. There ain’t a thing cocky about that.” God, his voice is pure sex.

“And what’s that?”

“You’ll find out,” he promises darkly, playing the game despite his words.

“Cocky.”

His deep laugh is low and gritty, almost as if it’s a sound that normally doesn’t come from him. For whatever reason, it makes me want to know everything I can about this man—this stranger.

We fall into a comfortable silence, but one that carries so much promise I can feel it building inside of me. Luke comes over to talk to me when he can, but it isn’t often. My glass is never empty for long, but on Luke’s fifth pass with the bottle of top-shelf whiskey, the dark cowboy places his hand over the top of my glass. I look over at him instead of Luke, to see him shaking his head.

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