Going For Eight
Part of the Blame it on Texas Series
Champion bull rider Gerry Dillon has everything a man could want. He’s got more money than he knows what to do with, the adoration of fans, and his pick of women. And it was almost enough… until he comes up close and personal with a killer bull. After almost dying, he decides to make a few changes in his life. First thing on the list: go after the one woman he has always loved.
Charlie Freemont doesn’t want anything to do with Gerry. When he left their little Texas town all those years ago, he broke her heart. She’s moved on…or she thought she had. Ignoring him when he is miles away was much easier than resisting him when he is front and center in her life. She might let him charm her into bed, but that doesn’t mean she has to give him her heart.
Convincing her he’s there to stay will take more than Gerry’s average riding skills but this is one cowboy determined to win the final round.
This book is a reissue and has been revised.
Going For Eight
Part of the Blame it on Texas Series
Going For Eight
“I’m telling you this is stupid, Gerry,” Frank Smith said as he followed Gerry down to the arena.
“And I told you that I wanted to do this. I signed the contract.”
“Since you did so without me around, I can claim the contract invalid. I’m your manager and they know you don’t sign anything with me around. They might fight it—“
Gerry stopped and started laughing. “Fight it? Frank, I’m supposed to already be in the arena. They made a fortune off the ticket sales alone, not to mention the concessions, shirts and what not. There’s no way Sunshine Entertainment is ever going to let me walk away from this. Besides, I don’t want to.”
“Did you talk to your sponsors?”
He barely kept himself from rolling his eyes. Frank was a worrier. They were about the same age but Frank looked older. Gerry had been beaten to hell by bulls for all of his adult life, but Frank worried about everything. Of course, that’s what Gerry paid him for.
“I did, and most of them are for it.”
“Ah, so that boot company isn’t happy with you.”
No, they weren’t. In fact, Ethan MacMillan, CEO of MacMillan Boots, had been pretty vocal in his disapproval. They were his biggest sponsor, but he knew they wouldn’t drop him.
Unless he was dead.
A chill swept through him at the though. He controlled his reaction to it. He couldn’t let the doubts get into his head, or he would end up dead.
People were yelling for him to come, screaming for him to hurry.
“Listen, Frank, I got this under control.”
He turned and started walking but he should have known his manager wasn’t going to let it go. Frank scurried behind him. Gerry tried to ignore him and let the familiar adrenaline pump through him. The sound of the crowd grew louder with each step he took toward the arena. He ignored the sliver of doubt he had about this. He could ride the killer bull and he would collect that money.
“No, you don’t. You’re letting your pride get in the way and dammit, Gerry, you’re going to end up dead.”
He reached the entranced and gave Frank a smile.
“You worry too much, my friend.”
Then he turned and headed out to ride.
Gerry Dillon glanced around at the people gathered at the VFW and took a swig of his beer. He made a face when he realized the brew wasn’t only warm, but flat as well. Nothing much changed at the VFW. The beer tasted like warmed over piss, the bands always sucked, and there was a good chance someone was going to end up with a black eye.
With a sigh, he tried to pick out people he knew in his life before the bull riding circuit had become his home. Dancers crowded the floor, while the band performed a horrendous cover of a Garth Brooks’ song. He winced when the lead singer hit a high, off-key note. But even as he hoped they would stop singing—and soon—Gerry enjoyed the atmosphere, the sense of completeness, he’d been feeling in the month since he’d returned.
Brander, Texas was celebrating its one hundred and twenty-fifth anniversary with an all-school reunion blast off, and Gerry was intent on savoring every last damn minute of it. Six months ago, if someone had told him this, he would have snorted and bet the idiot a thousand dollars that he was wrong. But lots of things change in six months—especially when he found himself up close and personal with death. Gerry had a plan, one he’d spent months perfecting, and now he had one particular person to hunt up. If she ever showed up. She’d been diligently avoiding him—even though he’d been staying at her ranch for much of the month.
The band finished their set and turned the music over to a DJ while they took a break. Gerry squinted at the amateur DJ and realized it was Chet Mankins, one of his best friends from high school. Gerry downed the last of his warm beer, set it down on the bar, and headed for the stage. It took him longer than he expected, though. Every few steps, someone stopped him, shook his hand, and inevitably asked him when he was getting back up on the bull.
When he finally reached the stage, he smiled at Chet. Six-four, two-eighty, all muscle. The only signs of his age were his thinning brown hair and the laugh lines around his brown eyes. When he noticed Gerry, he smiled and jumped down off the platform.
“Hey, Gerry.” He held his hand out for a shake. “I heard you might be back in town for this.”
After releasing Chet’s hand, Gerry said, “I’ve been back about a month. Wasn’t in any shape to go out until the last week.”
Chet’s expression sobered. “Alison and I were watching when Stampede took you down. For a few seconds, we didn’t know if you were dead or alive.”
“That makes two of us.” Uncomfortable with the direction their conversation was heading, Gerry looked over the crowd again. “So, have you seen Charlie Freemont tonight?”
When Chet didn’t respond, Gerry looked back at him. The knowing smile sent a wave of heated embarrassment to his face. Gerry just thanked the good Lord it was dark inside the VFW.
“She turned out to be a hot little filly, didn’t she?” Chet asked. “Charlie could always ride a horse like a queen. Makes a man wonder exactly what she’s like in bed.”
Yeah, it did, and Gerry had been thinking about it more and more during the past few weeks. Not that he hadn’t thought about Charlie long before he’d ran out of Brander, hoping to forget everything about his childhood. But he’d always known she was a hometown girl. She didn’t want to leave her father, or that damned ranch, so Gerry had avoided her. And that hadn’t been hard—after they’d both hit puberty, being in Charlie’s presence made him itch beneath the skin. He’d seen her only three times in the last four weeks, and he was staying on her damned ranch. Tonight, however, she wouldn’t get away.
Noticing that Chet was still grinning at him, Gerry asked, “Does Alison know about this infatuation?”
His old friend threw back his head and laughed. “Alison knows all about my many fantasies. Besides, she can’t say much when she’s been eyeing your ass for the past five minutes.”
Mortified, Gerry turned around and spotted Alison sitting on the other side of the dance floor with a group of women who looked vaguely familiar. Seeing how Alison graduated the same year as he and Chet had, there was a good chance he knew all of them. Chet laughed and clapped Gerry on the shoulder with one of his big hands.
“You look embarrassed. The Gerry Dillon I know would have been strutting over there to give them a better look.”
“Lots of things change.”
“You’re telling me.”
Chet nodded to the entrance of the room, and Gerry turned to face it. There, with the light of the hall highlighting her, stood Charlie Freemont. He couldn’t make out her face, but he could see her figure. And what a figure it was. Curvy in all the right places, with a world-class ass he knew would be highlighted in those painted-on black jeans. The sleeveless shirt matched the jeans, black and tight—the only hint of color in her outfit was the red ropers he knew she wore on her feet. Her golden locks tumbled over her shoulders, and she paused to take in the scene. He knew, even without being able to see them, that there was a hint of humor in her jade green eyes as she did so.
“Her daddy probably had a fit when he saw her leaving tonight.”
He glanced at Chet. “That’s if he saw her. Besides, she’s as old as we are. Why the hell would the old man be saying anything about how she dresses?”
“Gerry, please. You know what he’s like. He’s still pissed she didn’t marry up.”
“He wanted her to marry Sam Whitehorse ’cause it would have been beneficial to the ranch.”
Gerry thought of old Sam Whitehorse who lived next to the Freemont Ranch. His roots in the community went back further than anyone’s, seeing as his ancestors had inhabited the area before the whites stole the land. “Jesus, he’s as old as her father.”
Chet laughed. “Not the old man. His son. He’s a year or two younger than us, but from what I heard, she refused. Not that she didn’t see him for awhile. She has a list of conquests as long as yours, son.”
Chet shrugged. “Charlie’s a friend of Alison’s, so I hear about it. Besides, Charlie has said on more than one occasion that she doesn’t give a damn what people say about her. She’s perfectly happy with all aspects of her life, and if people have to pay attention to it, they must have nothing better to do. Aw, shit. Sam’s not going to let it go.”
Gerry turned to see what had caught Chet’s attention. A man had approached Charlie. Judging from the long, straight-black hair that reached the middle of his back, Gerry assumed he was Sam Whitehorse. The man stood in Charlie’s path until she reached him.
“I take it he didn’t take the rejection well?”
“Hell, no. And it has nothing to do with her and everything to do with the damned ranch.”
When Charlie tried to walk past him, Whitehorse latched onto her arm. She looked down at his hand, then back up at the man. Even without being close enough to see, Gerry knew the expression on Charlie’s face. Apparently, Chet read the signs too.
“Aw, damn. And I was having fun. Looks like I’m going—”
Gerry placed a hand on Chet’s arm. “I’ll take care of this.”
For a second, Chet didn’t say anything, just studied Gerry’s face. A satisfied gleam entered his gaze, and he nodded. Gerry released his friend’s arm and strode in the direction of Charlie and Whitehorse. Their raised voices were turning the heads of most people in the room. With each step, Gerry’s anger rose.
When he’d finally pushed his way through a few onlookers—who were doing nothing to help—Gerry stepped up behind Whitehorse and said, “I do believe the lady isn’t interested in talking to you, Whitehorse.”