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BUCKED (A STUDS IN SPURS NOVEL)
“a wonderfully sexy and fun story” ~The Romance Studio
This cowboy is looking for more than an eight-second ride.
Mustang Jackson does two things well—ride bulls and love women, so the injury that takes him out of competition leaves him only one way to make a living. Unfortunately, getting paid to be a stud in front of the camera isn’t as fun as private conquests. But when he goes home broke and broken to heal and catches sight of Sage, the neighbor girl all grown up, recuperating at his parents’ house gets a lot more interesting and a whole lot more complicated.
Bucked was originally published by Samhain Publishing under the same title. This edition is a reissue, reedited and recovered but without any substantial additions or changes to the story.
Depressed by his own thoughts, Mustang headed down the highway, feeling jealous of everyone in the world. Slade, who was probably on his way back to the hotel room to have sweaty sex with Jenna. Chase, for being so young and starry eyed he might actually make things work with their one-night stand Marla. And every other bull rider on the circuit because they weren’t heading home to get a metal plate and screws put in their arm.
They’d all be riding in Baltimore next week while he was in hell, recovering from surgery at his parents’ house in Magnolia, Texas.
Life wasn’t fair.
As his drive stretched long, the feeling of dread lodged in Mustang’s chest increased steadily the nearer he got to the place of his birth.
The anxiety peaked as he saw the sign for Huntsville, Texas.
Tired of being on the road and driving faster than was wise past the city, he became very much aware he was following the same route his father—and his grandfather before him—took to Huntsville Prison. Every working day of their adult lives.
It was the same route Mustang would have taken if he had bowed to his father’s pressure years ago and followed in his footsteps.
Becoming a third-generation prison guard hadn’t exactly been Mustang’s lifelong ambition. Not that his father would ever understand Mustang having other plans, other dreams.
He never understood his son’s willingness to give up what was in his eyes a good, steady job with benefits to instead take a chance on making a living riding bulls, of all things.
Thank God he’d gotten that job at the ranch that summer and discovered he could sit a bull, even if his decision to ride pro hadn’t gone over real well at home.
His father’s prediction back then had been that Mustang would come crawling home either broke or broken.
The trailer hit a bump in the road and he felt the twinge as it jarred his arm in the sling. That served as a very real reminder that he was indeed coming home broken as well as a little broke.
He felt the hard bulk of his Rookie-of-the-Year belt buckle beneath his broken arm. No, his father hadn’t been right. He had made something of himself.
Mustang had the proof right there, pressed against his gut where his self-doubt lived.
Bones healed and he had no doubt that he’d be back on the circuit winning again in just a few months—if he could stay sane and survive living with his father for that long.
On that cheery thought, he pulled the trailer into the city limits of Magnolia and slowed to the local speed limit.
With the exception of the For Rent sign on what had been Hackett’s Hardware during his youth, Main Street looked pretty much the same as it had the last time he’d passed through for a quick, painful visit home.
As he wound his way out of the center of town and toward the country road that led to his parents’ house, Mustang saw other changes. A few large trees had fallen down. They’d uprooted actually. There’d been some nasty storms in Texas over the past year. High winds, tornados, flooding.
Stifling the guilt, he reminded himself he’d called home to check on his family after each and every bout of bad weather had passed through the area. What more could he do from the road when he had competitions nearly every week?
Occupied with justifying to himself that his long absences were unavoidable, not just his attempt to avoid his father, Mustang didn’t notice the strange car parked in front of the house. He didn’t see it until he’d pulled the trailer under the trees around the side and was headed on foot for the front door.
The unfamiliar white car was about the size of a toy. He couldn’t imagine either his six-foot-tall father or his generously proportioned mother picking it as their new vehicle. Mustang’s father, like his father before him, was a pickup-truck man and his mama was a four-door sedan with a trunk big enough to fit a body in kind of lady.
Still wondering about the car, Mustang raised his hand to open the front door while kicking the dust off his boots on the mat. He didn’t bother to knock. Doors in this house had never been locked and most likely never would be, even if they had known where the key was.
He didn’t have a chance to turn the knob before it was yanked from his hand and the door flung wide. He suddenly had an armful of his mother.
She wrapped herself around his neck while kissing his face.
“Watch the arm, Ma.” He hadn’t taken a pain pill in awhile. Good thing Jenna wasn’t there. She’d be shoving one down his throat before he could stop her.
His mother stepped back, focusing on his sling. “Oh my God. Michael, I’m so sorry. Does it hurt?”
“Not too bad.” Except for when he’d fallen asleep after his and Chase’s fun with Marla without taking a pill first and had woken up in agony. He didn’t mention that and instead shrugged. “I’ll be fine. Good as new as soon as the doc operates.”
“At least it’s your left arm since you’re right-handed. If your right arm had been out of commission I probably couldn’t have convinced them to hire you at work.”
At the sound of his father’s voice, Mustang swung his gaze to locate the man. He found him lurking in the shadows to the side of the door.
“What do you mean, hire me? You got me a job at the prison?”
Without asking him first. Mustang took note of that but didn’t mention it. Dear God, if he didn’t recover fully, if he couldn’t ride again, would he have to do the one thing he’d left this town to avoid? Would he be forced to follow his father and grandfather’s path whether he wanted to or not?
“As soon as your surgeon says you can work, you’ve got a position waiting on you. And let me tell you, it wasn’t easy to get either, with your arm broken and all. I had to call in some favors.”
Great, so now he was expected to owe his father for getting him a job he didn’t want in the first place.
“It’s nothing in the high-security areas, mind you,” his father continued. “It’s more like a glorified secretary, mostly watching monitors, filling out reports, but it’s a foot in the door. It’ll help when you finally come to your senses and decide it’s time to grow up and get a real job.”
And there it was, the expected verbal slam and it had been only two minutes or so since he’d walked through the front door.
There were clearly two options here. He could tell his father to take his job offer and his attitude and shove it right where the sun didn’t shine, after which he would have to get back on the road. He supposed he could recuperate in the trailer while parked in a lot somewhere.
Or he could do what he always did. Keep his mouth shut. Bury the anger, then go out and find a bar and a woman. Get drunk and get laid and take his mind off it all.
Mustang set his jaw. There was no way he could endure four months of this. Not even with all the booze and women in the world to help him.
“I’ll have to see what my plans are. I was hoping to take off as soon as the doc said it was okay for me to travel. You know, get back on the road. Join the guys on tour again.”
He’d have to take Slade up on his offer of money, but it would be worth it. Swallowing his pride with his best friend would be a lot easier than biting his tongue around his father for months. He’d likely bite his tongue damn near off by the time his bone healed.
His mother’s hand touched his right arm gently. “Oh, no, Michael. I was hoping to have you around for a while this time. I miss you.”
“That figures. God forbid he do something smart.” His father turned and walked out of the room, mumbling, “Don’t care about anyone but himself.”
Mustang tore his gaze from his father’s stiff back. Leaving his mother would be his only regret when he pulled out of this damn town. “Don’t worry, Ma. You’ll have me around long enough to get sick of me.” His father apparently already was. He drew in a deep sigh and decided to change the subject. “What’s for dinner? I’m so hungry my stomach’s eating my backbone.”
“I’ve got all your favorite food in the kitchen.”
“Great.” Mustang turned toward the doorway and stopped dead at the sight of the beautiful woman who stood there outlined by the afternoon sun slanting through the window behind her.
Her glossy dark brown hair hung to her shoulders and just begged for a man to tangle his hands in it. But what really caught his attention was her hotter-than-hell, girl-next-door body through the thin cotton of her dress.
His gaze traveled back up to her face and Mustang realized this was the girl next door. Or at least the girl who lived on the next street in a house where he’d spent a considerable amount of his youth.
Man oh man had she grown up.
He frowned, shocked. “Little Bit?”
A shy, innocent smile lit her fresh, sweet face. “It’s been a long time since I’ve been called that. Welcome home, Mustang.”
It sure as hell had been a long time. Long enough for Sage, the little sister of his high school girlfriend Rosemary, to be not so little anymore.
Trying to wrap his head around the changes in her, Mustang accepted her welcome. “Thanks. It’s good to be home.”
Good to be home?
What the hell? Had he actually just said that?
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