Conner packed up the last of his stuff and threw it into the duffel bag. The first event of the new season was starting in a few days and he was flying out to New York City later tonight. He was looking forward to meeting up with his best friend Brady Parrish. His mind flashed back to the previous evening at Decadence. He wished he could tell Brady about the BDSM lifestyle he wanted. Brady was a great guy and wouldn’t judge him, so maybe he would some day, but how do you bring something like that up?
Hey dude, pass me the rosin. By the way, I like to tie women up, spank their asses red, and then have them suck my cock to thank me for it.
He rolled his eyes.
Yeah, right. No big deal.
He couldn’t tell anyone on the tour about his lifestyle preferences. The NBT wasn’t exactly the most liberal-minded sport around. After all, many of the riders, as well as the officials and executives were from the Bible-beltin’ South. It was bad enough evidently many of the riders had been aware he and Brady sometimes shared women—he didn’t need word of this getting out. It could ruin his career. The NBT was all about family and hardworking values, not Doms and whips and spreader bars.
His cell phone rang, jolting him back to the present. “Yeah?”
“Yeah? Nice greeting,” Brady replied.
“Sorry,” Conner answered. “My mind was a million miles away. What’s up, dude?”
“Just wanted to find out what time you’re getting in tomorrow. I’ve got a rental, so I can swing by and pick you up.”
“You don’t have to do that. I was gonna take a cab.”
“Not necessary. Besides, then you can buy me dinner. What time does your flight get in?”
“Hold on.” He rummaged through his stuff until he produced his ticket. “Nine fifteen. US Air, Kennedy.”
“Cool. See you then.”
* * * * *
Jessica loaded her computer into her messenger bag and headed out onto the event floor. She still had four stock contractors to find before she could relax and watch the competition. Her co-liaison had said the first event was always crazy and this one was certainly living up to its hype. Between the new contractors, new bulls, and the new her—well, not exactly new, but new to this “first event” stuff, she was about to blow a gasket.
Jessica had known when she’d taken the position she might encounter some old-fashioned attitudes regarding her ability to do her job, but she was still astounded at how often it happened. She knew bulls—her daddy was a cattle rancher. She knew all about the different breeds, and why one breed was preferred for one job over another. She understood which made a good bull-riding bull, and how to pick one in a draft based on what you needed to get out of the ride. But it didn’t matter. Some of these assholes saw her big boobs and figured she was here as eye candy.
Spotting Jack Tucker, she hurried after him. “Mr. Tucker,” she called. She was gaining on him but he appeared to be ignoring her. “Mr. Tucker. I’m Jessica, the liaison from the NBT. We met last season? I need to go over a couple of things with you.” She’d just caught up with him by this time and she glanced over to see if he was listening at all.
“I turned in my paperwork,” he replied as he kept walking. “Now get outta my way, girlie. I’ve got stuff to do.” He spit a stream of tobacco right in front of her and Jessica had to consciously try not to flinch. It wasn’t the first time she’d seen tobacco being spit, but to know he’d purposely done it right where she’d be walking—ick. He’d done a similar thing last year and was obviously trying to intimidate her, but was barking up the wrong tree if he thought she was going to slink away like some chastised dog.
“Mr. Tucker,” she began, trying to keep her voice down and even. “You left a few pieces of your paperwork blank and I need to have those parts filled in.”
“I’ve been doin’ paperwork for the tour for longer ’n you’ve been alive, girlie,” he said. “I’ve never had a problem.”
Jessica took a deep breath and tried again. “We’re putting the bulls into a database. Without information like year of birth, weight, etcetera, our database will be incomplete. If you just take a few moments of your time to look at your records I’ll leave you alone.”
He stopped and turned to her. “This tour’s gettin’ to be more of a pain in the ass every year.” He stabbed a finger in her general direction. “People like you comin’ in and tryin’ to change everything. Modernize, you say. Well, I say if the system ain’t broke, don’t fuck with it.” Jessica decided she’d had enough after she saw his pompous expression.
“Mr. Tucker, you have one hour to have this information to my colleague, Rick O’Meara, in the Official’s Room. If you don’t, I will disqualify your bulls.” Spinning on her heel, she began to walk away, forcing herself not to run. Before she got ten feet, though, a rough hand gripped her arm.
“What did you say, you little bitch?” He squeezed and she gasped from the pain.
Before she could process anything further Conner was there, prying the man’s fingers off her arm. “Get your fuckin’ hands off her.”
She looked up at him. His lips were set in a thin line and his eyes were as dark and stormy as one of the Texas tornadoes she’d seen dozens of times living on the Panhandle.
Tucker released her. “I’d suggest you go find the information the lady requested,” Conner growled, getting in the other man’s personal space. Since Conner had a good eight inches and at least seventy pounds on the man, he backed down immediately.
“This isn’t over,” he told her, then turned and stalked away.
Conner lifted her arm. “He hurt you.” It wasn’t a question.
“It’s not a big deal,” she answered. A profound sense of gratitude swept through her body and as she stared up at his eyes, which had darkened even further as he looked back at her, she felt as if she could drown in them. Normally she’d prefer to fight her own battles, but she didn’t know what Tucker would have done to her if Conner hadn’t intervened. She shivered.
Her skin felt searing hot where his fingers touched it, and whether from the leftover adrenaline of the situation or from her reaction to him she didn’t know, but her breath was coming fast and furious, making her look like a panting fool. His gaze flickered down to her breasts and then slowly returned to her face.
“I saw the whole thing. You have to report him. He can’t be treating you like that. You were just doing your job and he wasn’t doing his.”
She was mortified he’d witnessed such an embarrassing situation. Jessica was afraid he would go tell the tour she couldn’t handle herself and she’d be out of a job. Even with all the crap she had to take, she loved this job. If she could’ve been a bull rider she would’ve, but she’d been cursed with the wrong DNA, so she did what she could to be close to the sport. She looked down, sighing. “Don’t worry about it,” she mumbled, dropping her eyes.
He grabbed her chin and forced her to look at him again. Her pussy heated as she remembered how he’d done the same thing to his sub that night at Decadence. “I am worried about it, and you’re not gonna waylay me.”
“Conner, please.” She bit her lip to keep from saying anything else. She had a feeling saying ‘Conner, please kiss me, please make me yours, I want you’ wouldn’t go over very well.
He took a giant step back then and dropped his hand. “I apologize. I don’t even know your name and here I am touching you. I have no right.”
You can touch me all you want…
But since she couldn’t say that, instead she held out her hand. “Jessica Talbot.”
“Conner Raub, but I guess you know that,” he replied, grinning as he took her hand in his much larger, work-roughened one.
“Yes,” she confessed, her face flaming. She hoped her interest wasn’t written all over her face.
“I don’t think I’ve seen you around here. You new?”
“I came on board around the middle of last season when Steven had his heart attack.”
Conner nodded. “Steven worked too hard. It looks like you do too.” He studied her face and then his eyes narrowed. “Do you have the power to disqualify his bulls?”
“No, but if I told the officials to they would.”
“Just like that, without an explanation?”
“Of course not, but if I told them he withheld information I requested they would disqualify him. They’re cracking down on that stuff this season.”
“So you were ready to make an example outta him?”
Jessica shrugged. “I did what I had to do.” And now what she needed to do was get away from Conner Raub. “Anyway, I still need to find three other contractors. Thank you for coming to my rescue. I hope we can keep this between us—I don’t want people thinking I can’t handle myself around here.”
Conner’s jaw tightened. “I don’t like the idea of him getting away with mauling you.” He stepped closer and Jessica felt her nipples tighten against the lacy confines of her bra. Thankfully she needed a sturdy bra to give her large breasts the support they needed, so her arousal didn’t show. That would’ve been more than she could’ve handled. Yes, she wanted Conner, but not like this. She needed time to figure out how to seduce him in her own way, in her own time.
“I’ll let you go, on one condition,” he told her. “I wanna see your arm later tonight. If it’s bruised you’re gonna report him. I’ll come with you.” His tone brooked no argument and her sex flooded with more moisture. His nostrils flared and her face flamed. Could he smell her?
She turned away, calling over her shoulder, “Okay, thanks again,” as she fled as fast as her legs would take her.
Conner felt as if he’d been kicked in the chest by an ornery bull. He’d been walking back to the riders’ prep area after registering when he’d come upon Jessica and that guy. When she’d said she’d disqualify the asshole’s bulls he’d silently cheered, loving the way she’d stood up to him. He wanted a submissive in the bedroom, but a girl with spunk outside it was so much more entertaining.
But the guy had gone and grabbed her and Conner had seen red. After he’d sent the guy packing Jessica had looked up at him like some kind of hero and his dick had instantly gone rock hard. Trying to avoid her eyes he’d looked down, only to see her gorgeous, lush breasts heaving and he’d almost lost it. Only through sheer force of will he’d garnered through his years of being a Dom had he been able to drag his gaze back up to her face.
Then he’d touched her chin, and she’d said please and bitten her lip, and he’d moved away so fast he’d probably left skid marks with his boots lest he act on what his brain had started screaming at him. In that moment he’d seen what this woman was—a natural submissive. He’d automatically reverted to how a Dom would treat a sub. He’d apologized for touching her without permission. But all she’d done was stuck out her hand to shake his, so he’d ignored his still-screaming brain and introduced himself as if nothing out of the ordinary was happening.
And he thought he’d gotten away with his sanity until he’d told her he wanted to see her arm later. Even from a foot or more away he’d smelled the force of her arousal after he’d issued the command—another sign she was submissive. He’d very nearly lost his cool and then she was gone.
Rubbing his face, he continued toward the prep area. When he arrived, Brady was already there. “Dude, you okay? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”
“Fine,” Conner answered. He placed his gear bag on the table in front of him and began to pull out everything to inspect it.
“Yeah.” He figured that was the easiest explanation he could give for why he looked shaken up. He sure as hell felt shaken up, but he needed to get his head in the game fast or this event would be all over for him.
Brady left him alone while they finished their prep work. Then they took their stuff up to the area behind the chutes and settled in to watch. When Brady’s turn rolled around, Conner provided his usual assistance getting him situated on his bull and helping him loop his bull rope underneath the bull’s massive girth and bring it up the other side. He was pushing the bull away from the near fence when he felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand up. He ignored the feeling for the moment and concentrated on his friend. When Brady nodded he let go and Brady and the bull went careening out of the chute.
Brady held on for the full eight seconds and then scrambled off the back of the still-bucking bull, landing on his shoulder and rolling left, away from the pounding hooves. He sprang up and ran toward the rail. Conner reached his hand out and grabbed Brady’s biceps, ready to pull him over if need be. The bull fighters got the beast corralled, though, and both he and Brady directed their attention to the scoreboard.
“Ladies and gentlemen, that was last year’s winner, Brady Parrish, the King of Rodeo, ridin’ Extremist.” There was a pause. “Looks like Brady’s picking up where he left off last year. He scores an 89.5. That puts Brady in first place with five riders remaining.”
“Good for you,” Conner said, clapping his best friend on the back. “But I’m gonna beat your ass.” Finally he allowed himself to turn around. Standing not thirty feet from him, looking at him as if he were a dessert buffet and she was a starving chocoholic, was Jessica. She licked her lips and Conner barely stifled a groan. His dick took notice and he ruthlessly forced it back down. Riding with a hard-on was a bad idea for a whole bunch of reasons, not the least of which was the riders didn’t wear cups and getting bounced around on a bull while sporting a boner was bound to be a very unpleasant experience. He allowed himself to stare her down for a moment before touching the brim of his hat in a silent salute and turning back to the chutes.
When it was his turn to ride he was thankfully able to focus and stayed on for the full eight seconds, scoring a 90 and taking over first place. After completing his turn and picking up his bull rope from one of the bull fighters, he climbed over the rail. Now his ride was done, and he wanted to see Jessica’s arm. He had a feeling there would be a clear handprint visible on her pale skin. While that thought would have turned him on if it was his handprint on her ass and she was a willing participant, it made him want to kill if that bastard had hurt her. How often did she get manhandled? He intended to get some answers.
Looking around, though, he didn’t see her. Accepting congratulations from his fellow riders, he continued to scan the area around him. Where had she gone off to? Now he was pissed. She knew he wanted a look at her arm. Was she avoiding him? After the look she’d given him a few minutes ago, that possibility seemed unlikely, but maybe she’d run like a scared jackrabbit. Wouldn’t be the first time he’d scared off a woman when they got a peek at his dominant side. Maybe it was for the best. He damn well shouldn’t be opening that can of worms while he was on tour. But man, she made him want to.
Jessica hid behind a sponsor sign, her back pressed to the cool plastic. What was she doing? She knew Conner wanted to see her arm and instinctively he wouldn’t rest until he’d tracked her down, and yet here she was, hiding from him. Isn’t this what she wanted—him coming to her on his own? She wiped her damp palms on her jeans and raised her eyes to the roof of the arena. Was she strong enough to do this? Was she strong enough to go after what she wanted?
She knew the draft would be starting soon and she had no choice but to face him then. She had to be there to note which bulls got drawn so she could deal with the contractors tomorrow. Grabbing her bag, she peeked out from behind the sign and then darted into the corridor.
“Thought you could avoid me?” A silky Texas drawl wound its way around her ear and she jumped.
“C-Conner,” she whispered. Clearing her throat, she continued. “I was going to the draft area.”
“Me too. I’ll walk with you.” He fell into line with her, making his long-legged stride shorter to match hers. “How’s your arm?”
“Fine, truly. Thank you for asking.” She bit her lip and looked away.
“Don’t do that.”
Her head whipped around. “Do what?”
“Bite your lip. It gives a man ideas.”
“Ideas?” God, she was turning into a parroting idiot…
“Yeah, ideas. Ideas me and any other warm-blooded man around here would have after lookin’ at your mouth. I don’t like it.” He glanced at her. “Dammit! You’re still doing it.”
She did, and the thought only excited her more. Her sex clenched hard and she gasped at the onslaught of sensation.
He stopped and looked down at her. His eyes blazed with lust and something else—anger? Was he angry with her? And if so, why?
He took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “I’ve never,” he paused and took another breath, “ever met a woman like you, Jessica. I hardly know you but you make my blood boil.” He closed his eyes for a second, and when he opened them they had cleared. Her brow lowered in confusion. “But as much as I’d like to act on the attraction I feel for you, I can’t. I won’t. You work for the tour. I can’t get involved with someone who’s employed by the tour. If it went south my career could be ruined and I can’t abide that. Have a good night.” He turned and continued down the hall, his long legs creating distance between them quickly. What had just happened?
Jessica finished her work for the night and called her neighbor Viola to check on her apartment. Viola was watching it for her while she was on tour. Jessica’s daddy had pitched a fit when she’d decided to hold on to the place, saying it was stupid for her to spend money on an apartment she wasn’t even at eight months out of the year, but Jessica treasured her independence and had dug in her heels.
“Viola? You sound tired. Did I wake you?” Viola wasn’t old by any stretch of the imagination, but Jessica still felt a little guilty having her bringing in her mail and watering her plants for weeks at a time between the periods Jessica could be at home.
“No, I was just absorbed in my reading.”
Jessica smiled. Viola went through murder mysteries like most people went through oxygen. “All right then. How are things?”
“Oh, fine. But my life is boring, you know that. Tell me what’s going on in yours. Did you talk to that boy yet?”
Jessica had told Viola about Conner during her last visit with the woman before leaving for New York City. She’d been bursting at the seams wanting to talk about him, and since most of her friends from high school or community college were wrapped up in their own lives she hardly talked to them anymore. Of course, she didn’t tell Viola where she’d met him—she wasn’t ready to discuss her sexual proclivities with anybody, least of all her older friend.
“Yes, actually, I did. But it didn’t go quite like I expected.”
“What do you mean?”
Jessica winced as she recalled Conner’s face. “He happened along when I was trying to deal with an ornery subcontractor. They’re the guys from each farm who handle the bulls. Anyway, this guy is a real jerk. He wasn’t cooperating with me—giving me the information I need, so I threatened to disqualify his bulls. Well, he didn’t like that idea at all and grabbed my arm.”
“He did what?”
“It wasn’t that big a deal. Things like that happen sometimes.”
“Did you report him?”
“No. If I reported every guy who said or did something offensive I’d be reporting half the contractors on tour. It’s just part of life here.” She could feel Viola’s disapproval through the phone line, so she plowed ahead. “Anyway, Conner made me show him my arm. He got this look in his eye and I thought maybe he’d ask me out, but then he turned tail and ran. I don’t know what to think now. He seemed almost… I don’t know, angry or something.”
“That I can’t help you with. I never know what men are thinking. If I did maybe I’d be married right now.” Jessica made a dismissive noise and Voila laughed.
“Those men don’t know what they’re missing.”
“So what’re you gonna do now?”
“I don’t know. I guess wait and see how he reacts the next time I see him.”
“Probably as good a plan as any.”
“Listen, I should go. It’s late and I’m tired. The first event is always kind of crazy with everybody getting used to new rules, new staff…”
“You take care of yourself, you hear?”
Jessica ended the call and tossed the phone on the bed. Flopping down next to it, she blew out a loud breath. Why did Conner act so strangely around her? She resolved to find out.
Copyright 2012, Cassandra Carr
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