Thrown

Studs in Spurs: Skeeter

Book Cover: Thrown

Riley Davis lives and breathes bulls until tragedy strikes and, alone, she must find a way to hang on to the stock contracting business that was her father's life. When pro bull rider Skeeter Anderson hears he drives to her rescue, but business soon becomes pleasure when the attraction between them gets hotter than a Mississippi summer.

HEAT ADVISORY: Some like it hot and some don't. THROWN, sweetly sexy, should satisfy both kinds of readers. The standalone titles in the Studs in Spurs series span from smoking hot to just a bit sexy. Read the heat warning for each and decide which are for you!

Thrown was previously released by Samhain Publishing under the same title. This is a reissue, reedited and re-covered but with no substantial changes to the story.

Excerpt:

Riley Davis fingered the braid hanging over her right shoulder and watched Skeeter’s shoulders slump as he made his way to the back. The sound of the cowbell bouncing across the floor as he dragged his bull rope behind him echoed off the walls of the hallway. There was nothing sadder than watching a rider walk down that long hall after a buck off.

Poor guy. Usually, he always had a smile and a howdy for everyone. Skeeter was the sweetest, most outgoing and friendly guy Riley had ever met. Not today. Not after having been kicked off the tour.

She wasn’t too happy about that herself. She’d be lying if she didn’t admit she’d found herself looking for him during events. A few times, he’d glanced her way and those big blue eyes of his had met her gaze. Then she’d had to pretend it was an accident. That she hadn’t just been caught staring, even though she had been.

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Truth be told, once or twice she’d let herself think what it would feel like to run her hands through those sandy curls of his.

He’d never look twice at her. Not with all these other girls hanging around trying to get the riders’ attention at every single event. There were always a good amount of female fans who came to watch the cowboys behind the chutes, not the rides in the arena.

“Steer clear, baby girl.” Her father’s voice broke into her thoughts.

All of her ponderings about Skeeter and the sadness so evident in every dragged-out step he took toward the riders’ dressing room must have shown on her face, and her father had noticed. It still didn’t hurt to play dumb.

Innocent expression firmly in place, Riley raised her gaze to her father’s. “What do you mean?”

“That one’s not for you.” He thrust his chin in the direction she’d been watching. “No bull riders for my baby.”

His baby.

Riley drew her brows down low at that comment. She was far from a baby, given she was her father’s partner in the business that provided champion stock for the best bull-riding series in the whole dang country.

Stock contractor of the year for three years running, Butch Davis was an imposing man, well respected by everyone in this business, but he would always have a soft spot for her. She knew that. Since her mother had died years ago she was all her father had, but still, she was no baby.

“I feel bad for him getting kicked off the tour, is all. It’s not like I want to marry him or anything.” At least not right now . . .

“Good. Keep it that way.”

It wasn’t Skeeter specifically her father objected to. It was bull riders in general.

Riley didn’t know what he was worried about. No rider would even think of asking her out on a date. Hell, they barely talked to her. They were all too afraid of her father. She saw it in their expressions whenever he glared in the direction of any guy who dared look her way.

She, however, was not afraid of her father. His declaration made her want to go out and do the opposite of what he said. It would serve him right if she did end up married to a bull rider.

“Renegade looked good out there.” She changed the subject before she said something that would make the long ride home unbearable. There were close confines in the cab of that stock trailer and Mississippi was a long way away.

“Yup. Not that it would have taken much to buck that kid off.”

She frowned. “Skeeter is a good, consistent rider—”

“He sure is. He’s gotten consistently bucked off for nine straight now.” He grinned at his own little joke.

Defending Skeeter was no use. Her father would always side with the bulls against the riders. Whatever. She had more important things to worry about, such as if she’d get to at least say goodbye to Skeeter before he slunk off to the touring pro division.

With that goal in mind, Riley asked, “When are we heading home?”

“Right after the championship round. Soon as we can get ’em loaded.”

That was the answer she was expecting, though not necessarily the one she wanted. With them leaving right away she might not get to talk to Skeeter before then.

But she couldn’t argue with her father’s decision. It was easier to drive in the middle of the night when there was no traffic.

With two of them in the truck, they could take turns at the wheel if it became necessary, but usually she just chatted with her father to help keep him awake while he drove. And it would be cheaper than spending another night in a hotel.

Not to mention less stressful on the stock than another night in the temporary bull housing. The bulls loved to buck in competition. That was obvious from their enthusiasm in the arena. Some bulls even played to the crowd as if they knew these people were cheering for them. But the animals also liked being home in familiar surroundings once their job was done.

That they were leaving right after loading the truck meant Riley had to find Skeeter now or not at all. She hooked a thumb toward the back. “I’m gonna go hit the ladies’ room.”

“Fine.” Her father nodded and turned back to look toward the action happening in the arena.

A practical man, Butch could ignore his only child was a girl when she helped load the stock. He couldn’t when she talked about things such as ladies’ rooms or other, more feminine issues. Then, he either ignored her or changed the subject.

Riley didn’t abuse her knowledge of her father’s Achilles’ heel. Instead, she kept the trick in reserve, like a secret weapon. She only pulled it out when it was absolutely necessary. Such as now when she needed to slip away for five minutes.

If she’d wanted to shut him down for the remainder of the night, she would have told him she had to run out to the truck for a tampon. That would have had him red-faced and tongue-tied for a good few hours.

With a smirk over her own cleverness, she headed in the direction Skeeter had gone. She walked down the hallway of champions, barely glancing at the images hanging on the walls. The guy she was intent on seeing wasn’t a champion—yet—and he needed some cheering up.

The door of the rider room was open. Riley paused on the threshold. “Hey. Can I come in?”

Skeeter’s body language said it all. He sat slumped on the wooden bench, eyes downcast as he slowly unwrapped the tape around the wrist of his gloved riding hand. As his gaze moved to focus on the doorway and Riley, he looked surprised to see her.

“Hey.” He sat a little straighter and his voice wasn’t quite as sad as she’d anticipated. “Yeah, sure. Come on in.”

She took the few steps inside the room and perched on the bench opposite him. “It was a good ride.”

One corner of his mouth tipped up. “Until the end.”

“Until the end.” Riley nodded. There was no denying that, since he’d been bucked off. “So what are you gonna do now?”

“I’m heading home.” He shrugged. “Nothing else for me to do.”

She opened her eyes wider. “You quitting?”

“Nah, I can’t do that. There’s nothing else I know how to do. I’m gonna take a look at the touring pro schedule and see how many events I can get to. Try to get my point total up and get back on the tour as soon as I can.”

“That sounds like a good plan.” Riley figured that even as depressed as he seemed over getting kicked off, Skeeter wanting to work his way back was very good news. At least he hadn’t given up.

“I guess. Only plan I got so . . .” Skeeter shrugged again. “You heading home after this is over?”

She didn’t miss how he’d changed the subject. “Yeah. We’re leaving right after the short go. Dad wants to get the bulls back to the ranch.”

Skeeter treated her to a small but sad-looking smile. “It’s strange hearing Butch called Dad.”

“Yeah, I know.” She smiled in return at the truth of what he’d said.

Her father sure had built himself quite a reputation as a tough guy. Riley had a feeling he worked extra hard nowadays to reinforce that hard-as-nails image with the riders. Pretty much ever since she’d graduated high school and started traveling with him full time.

And it was all with the goal of keeping her from dating any of the guys. Even one as sweet at Skeeter, who attended cowboy church every Sunday and took a knee before every ride. He wasn’t like some of the other more infamous riders. She’d never heard of him hooking up with any of the buckle bunnies.

Of course, that didn’t mean he didn’t, just that she hadn’t seen or heard of it.

In front of her, he usually ignored the girls. Riley saw the looks the groupies along the rails gave Skeeter, so it wasn’t for lack of interest on the girls’ parts.

Riley figured it was because while he was in the arena, he was super focused. It seemed like he was there to do two things—ride bulls and win. That was all. One reason why his poor performance today had devastated him so much.

But the truth was that after the competition, when all the guys went out to the local bars and the girls followed them—that could be a different story altogether.

Riley wouldn’t know what happened then. She’d never be allowed to go out as long as her father was even in the same state she was. He’d somehow know if she snuck into a bar. She had no doubt. But maybe that’s what came from a man being both mother and father to a girl for all these years. Who knew?

She sighed. It was a shame he was so protective, and intimidating, because Skeeter Anderson really seemed to be an honest to goodness nice guy. Even so far as putting his own misery aside as he tried to hold a polite conversation with her now.

Maybe her father would like him better if he got to know him outside of this crazy circuit where every rider became a media celebrity and life seemed so surreal.

If only there was a way she and her father could see Skeeter away from this tour—

An idea struck her hard and fast from out of the blue. Maybe she and her father would see Skeeter outside of this tour. “Hey, you know how we’re heading into that long break?”

“Not we anymore since I’m out.” Skeeter snorted. “But yeah, I know the tour is going on a mid-season break. What about it?”

She regretted her word choice but it was too late to change it now, so Riley moved on. “I know. I’m sorry. But what I was thinking was, Dad likes to try out some of the younger bulls at the—” Riley stopped herself just in time from saying the words lower level events, “—um, local competitions. Maybe we’ll see you at one of the touring pro events.”

“That would be cool. It would be nice to see a familiar face since I’ll likely be traveling alone.” His sadness showed through his words, clear as day. She understood. He was not only leaving the tour, he was leaving his friends too.

“Why don’t I put my cell number in your phone? That way you can text me with where you’ll be riding and I can see if we’ll be there too.”

“All right.” He nodded and looked excited for the first time since getting on Renegade. It made her feel so much worse that it had been her father’s bull that had bucked him off, though he didn’t seem to blame her for that. And he looked a little happier now that she’d suggested they might see him at some of his events.

It was shameless, giving him her number. Her father would likely be angry if he ever found out, but too bad. Riley couldn’t help herself. She kind of had a little crush on this guy.

All right, not kind of and not little.

There was definitely something about him that drew her. She wanted to find out what that was. The thought of never seeing him again made her nearly as sad as Skeeter was about getting thrown off the tour. Of all the guys she knew from working here, of all the riders she wasn’t allowed to be friendly with, forget about date, Skeeter was the only one she felt any regret about.

It was as if she could see his spirits rise as he popped up from the bench. He stood and dug into his front jeans pocket like his life depended upon it. He finally wrestled the cell out and thrust it at her. Riley took it and punched in the digits. It was innocent enough, her giving him her number in case he was riding where they’d already be. Right?

Her father wouldn’t see it that way. But what he didn’t know wouldn’t hurt him.

Riley had just handed him back the phone when Aaron Jordan walked through the door. He came to a stop at the sight of her. “Oh, hey.” His gaze cut to Skeeter. “Just wanted to check on you.”

“I’m fine.” He did seem better. Lighter. Less depressed. His shoulders didn’t droop anymore as he stood a little straighter.

But now his traveling partner was here and her time alone with Skeeter was over. It was time for Riley to go anyway, before her father missed her and came looking. Then there’d be all kinds of questions about why she was in the riders’ dressing room where she had no reason to be.

“So, I’m gonna head back in. Gotta help Dad with the bulls.”

“All right. Safe trip home.” When Skeeter’s sky-blue eyes focused on her, so intense and sincere, it was all Riley could do to remember she’d been about to leave.

“Thanks. You too.”

He tipped his head. “Thank you.”

Drawing in a deep breath, Riley forced herself into action. Under the watchful eyes of both Aaron and Skeeter, she left.

Would he text or just forget all about her number in his phone?

It wasn’t lost on Riley that she wasn’t even down the hallway yet after leaving him, and she was already waiting, worrying if he’d text or call.

She sighed. It was going to be a long break.

Riley pocketed her insecurities along with her phone and prepared to face tonight’s drive.

COLLAPSE
Reviews:Jo on Romance Junkies wrote:

"The vividness of the rodeos with chutes, feisty bulls, ropes and dust made me feel I was there and part of the action... The characters were real with wants, needs, fears, happiness, camaraderie, friendships galore, family and friends... There was romance, hot and steamy scenes that burnt up the sheets, as well as love."