Bull rider Aaron Jordan is willing to do whatever it takes to support his chosen sport. Showing the owner of the pro-tour’s biggest sponsor around town during an event seems simple enough. Until he finds himself all tied up—literally—with a newly divorced, insanely rich cougar. Worse, once CeCe Cole gets her hooks into him, Aaron can’t even look at the woman he’s really attracted to—her media manager, Jill Malone—without getting the older woman’s panties in a wad.
Jill’s job at Cole Shock Absorbers got a lot harder when CeCe won the company in the divorce. But having to listen to the shenanigans going on between CeCe and Aaron in the next hotel room is a new low.
Aaron is relieved when the event is over and, presumably, his responsibility to CeCe. But extricating himself from her blood-red claws is far from easy, and surviving the wrath of hurricane CeCe could have career-ending implications for himself, the association and the lady he’d hoped to get to know better—Jill.
Garret James ran around to the other side of the truck. Jill waited for him to be settled behind the wheel, his keys in the ignition, the big engine rumbling beneath them before she broached topic of the elephant in the room—or in the cab of the truck, as the case may be. “Garret, we don’t have to pretend.”
He glanced at her from the driver’s seat. “Pretend about what?”
“I mean I know Aaron left with my boss.” In the limo, leaving Jill stranded with no ride in a land without taxis, apparently. Thank goodness for the kindness of strangers…and Aaron’s brother-in-law, Garret.
“Well, you know, he was supposed to play tour guide for her so they uh, probably went sightseeing.”
“I’m sure that’s it… If the sights are in her hotel room.” She mumbled the last part beneath her breath, but Garret’s burst of a laugh told her he’d heard.
Grinning, he glanced her direction before concentrating back on the road. “You said it, not me.”
“Me? I didn’t say a word.” Jill feigned ignorance.
Garret laughed. “Gotcha.”
Jill knew the deal. This wasn’t her first experience traveling with CeCe since the divorce had been finalized and the former Mrs. Cole was free to do what she pleased. She also knew better than to comment on it. That kind of curtailed the conversation in the cab of the truck for the drive to the bar.
“And we’re here.”
“Really? Already?” The trip was shorter than she’d expected, even with the awkward lack of conversation in the truck.
“Yup. There’s the bar. And that there next door is the riders’ hotel. Not quite as fancy as yours but we like to keep things close by. We travel so much to the events, once we’re in town, the less driving we have to do the better.”
Jill glanced at the hotel directly next to the bar. “I don’t want to make you drive me all the way to the Grande. Especially after you drink. I’ll just call a cab from here.”
Garret glanced at her as he put the truck into park and cut the ignition. “I might just let you. After that buck off I had, I was hoping to have a few to drown the pain, if you really would be okay in a taxi. We’re closer to town so there should be plenty of cabs who’ll come get you.”
“I’m sure the bartender has a list. I’ll be fine. I insist.”
“All right.” He reached for the door handle on his side. “I saw the stock trailer parked across the street, so Riley and Skeeter must be here already.”
“Okay.” Jill let herself out of the truck, hopping down from the high vehicle.
She had to admit that hanging with riders and stock contractors at a bar after the event sounded like it was going to be pretty cool. She’d never get this behind-the-scenes look elsewhere.
Speaking of looks—she was getting quite of few of them from the table that Garret led her to inside. “Hey, guys. This is Jill.”
The wide-eyed stares she and Garret were getting from his friends had Jill rushing to explain. “I work for Cole Shock Absorbers. I was waiting for a cab at the arena. It never came so Garret was nice enough to offer me a ride.”
“And now I’m going to go get us something to drink. Beer? Something else?” he asked.
“Beer is great. Thanks.”
Garret nodded and turned for the bar.
“I thought I recognized you. You were up in the chute seats with Aaron.” It was amazing the young blond rider had seen her at all, considering CeCe was there too. Jill tended to not get noticed when her boss was around.
“Since Garret didn’t introduce us…” The rider stood and extended his hand. “I’m Chase Reese. This is Skeeter Anderson and Riley Davis.”
Skeeter and Riley smiled and said hello and Jill had to think this could be the nicest group of people she’d met in a long time. Then again, that was no surprise considering she’d been hanging around CeCe. The difference between genuine, down to earth people and a self centered, rich, bitter divorcee was pretty glaring.
Garret arrived back with their two beers and she thanked him and gladly took a gulp.
“So where’d you leave Aaron?” Skeeter asked.
“I didn’t leave him anywhere. He and CeCe left me, actually.” Jill hadn’t even finished one whole beer and she was already speaking out of turn. She’d better bite her tongue.
Skeeter grinned. “Gotcha.”
Riley backhanded Skeeter’s leg. “Don’t gossip. You don’t know what they’re doing.”
Jill couldn’t help the snort that escaped her. When she glanced up, she noticed the group watching her. “Sorry. You’re right. We don’t know what they’re doing. So, I heard you guys are stock contractors?”
Skeeter nodded. “Riley owns the best bucking bulls in the country.”
Jill’s widened her eyes. “That’s impressive.” The girl didn’t look old enough to drink. Since she was sipping on a soda, maybe she wasn’t.
“And I wouldn’t be able to keep them if it wasn’t for your help.” Riley sent a puppy dog look in Skeeter’s direction.
Garret leaned in, as if to confide in Jill. “You have to forgive these two. They’re in love.”
Chase raised a brow at his fellow rider. “Don’t you tease them. You’re just as bad with Silver and that baby of yours—you’d hang the moon for that kid.”
“That I would.” Garret checked his phone. “Damn. They’re probably asleep already. And you should talk, Chase. When Leesa’s around you’re no better than the rest of us.”
“I know. Wait until I convince her to marry me.”
Jill watched the conversation. “So is Aaron the only one who’s single?”
Garret nodded. “Of us guys, yeah. As for the other riders, Slade is married. Mustang might as well be. The two Aussies are married. The Brazilians are mostly married too.”
“There are a couple of the really young ones who are single. But they’re like eighteen,” Skeeter said.
Chase blew out a breath. “One’s seventeen, I think. They started real young.”
“About as young as Skeeter here.” Garret shot his friend a grin.
“Jealous, old man?” Skeeter cocked a brow and teased, but Jill didn’t think Garret was even thirty yet. But in this sport, thirty was old.
“A little.” Garret laughed. “So anyway, yeah. Most of us are taken. You looking for boyfriend?”
Chase’s gaze joined Garret’s on her as he said, “I think there’s a new young Canadian rider who’s single if you want an introduction.”
Jill had to nip this in the bud. “Thanks, but no. I was just curious. I’m not looking for a bull rider boyfriend.”
“Smart girl.” Garret raised his beer to her in a toast.
It was interesting, though, how the head of the organization had specifically chosen Aaron, one of the few single riders at this event, to play host to CeCe. Very interesting indeed. Perhaps her boss’s reputation for liking young men had proceeded her?
Or perhaps Jill should stop worrying and enjoy a CeCe-free, not to mention a drama-free night. With that in mind, she downed a good portion of her beer.
Standing, she grabbed her purse, which contained her corporate credit card. She had very few perks at this job. An expense account for travel was one of them. Given the inconvenience of CeCe taking the limo and leaving Jill stranded, she figured the least she could do was pay back the kindness of the riders who were part of the association Cole’s Shocks gave so much money to sponsor.
“What’s everybody drinking? Next round is on Cole Shock Absorbers.”
Judging by the smiles of those around the table, that offer had scored her some brownie points. After working in CeCe’s shadow since the divorce, Jill would take all the goodwill she could get.
In eBOOK & PAPERBACK JUNE 30th