And Then You Kiss (Crested Butte Cowboys Series Book 3) (7 page)

“We’ll see.”

Chapter 6

 

Dottie and Bill, Billy’s parents, kept Willow with them so Renie could go up to the stock show with Blythe. Ben and Liv were going too, but driving separately.

“It’s been a long time since we went to the rodeo,” Renie said on the way there.

“A very long time. Guess we won’t be checkin’ out the cowboys the way we used to.”

Blythe wondered if Renie had ever checked out other cowboys. From what she’d said in the last couple of months, she’d been in love with Billy Patterson long before she and Blythe went to their first rodeo.

“What about you? Are you and Jace…you know?”

“Are we what?”

“Seeing each other?”

“Yes. No. I’m not sure, to tell you the truth.”

“Billy wondered. He asked me this morning when Jace told him he’d decided to stay in Denver the rest of the week.”

“Well it
is
a long ride home every night.”

Blythe started to giggle and Renie joined her.

***

Tucker knew he was being an asshole when he up and left the dinner table on Thanksgiving. He hadn’t intended to leave necessarily. He went outside hoping to shake off the ghosts, but they wouldn’t let loose. What started out as a drive to clear his head, ended up taking him back over the pass and home. He hadn’t even taken the time to thank Ben and Liv for inviting him.

More importantly, he hadn’t said goodbye, or anything else, to Blythe. Sitting on the beach in San Sebastian, he had little recollection of how he got back to Spain, but the memory of Blythe Cochran remained crystal clear.

He’d been in the seaside community for a little over a month, painting. He had little to show for it in terms of the Basque landscape. Blythe, on the other hand, he could paint all day.

When he got the email from Jace saying he was competing in the National Western, saddle broncs of all things, he figured the next thing he’d read was that he was seeing Blythe. Sure enough, the next paragraph said he hadn’t seen or talked to her since the day after Thanksgiving, but he planned to while he was in Denver.

His gut twisted when he read it. Here he was, five thousand miles away, and he’d been the one who put himself here. Every night, he dreamt about her. When he was awake, all he had to do was close his eyes, and there she was. One ghost had been replaced by another, but this ghost he could talk to, wrap his arms around, sink his body into. And yet he wasn’t doing any of those things.

***

Blythe sent a text to Lyric when she and Renie got to the show complex.

“I can’t wait for you to meet her,” she told Renie. “She’s great, fun to talk to. She and I hit it off right away.”

Renie was quiet, sullen. And then suddenly, she wasn’t anymore.

“What just happened?”

“I have to get used to sharing,” she answered. “I’m not very good at it.”

Blythe started to laugh. That was one of the most honest things she’d ever heard her friend say. “Good job,” she finally was able to say between her giggles. “You are workin’ that say-what-you-think thing. I’m proud of you.”

Lyric texted back, and they arranged a place and time to meet. “Oh, I forgot to mention, she wants to interview Billy for RodeoChat.” Blythe hoped Jace had mentioned it to him. She’d forgotten all about it.

 

“Hey Blythe,” Lyric came bounding up to them and hugged her hello. Blythe hoped she didn’t look as startled as she felt.

“Sorry,” Lyric said. “Sometimes I’m a little over enthusiastic. Plus, I don’t know what it is Blythe, but I feel like I’ve known you forever.”

Renie was making that face again, the one where she looked like she’d take a bite of a lemon. Blythe elbowed her in the side.

“Lyric, this is my life-long best friend Renie. Renie, this is my new best friend, Lyric.”

The smile Renie recovered with her introduction quickly faded when she added Lyric’s.

“You’re the one who’s engaged to Billy Patterson, and you’re becoming a large animal vet.”

Lyric linked arms with Renie and from that moment on, the two had one another’s undivided attention. Blythe wondered if there would be any questions left to ask Billy, or if Renie had already answered them. The best part of it though, was that Renie had warmed up to Lyric and they seemed to be enjoying talking to each other.

Lyric had better seats than Blythe and Renie, and she had extras, so she invited them to sit with her.

“Oh, I meant to tell you, I think I saw your cowboy’s twin a few minutes ago. Looked just like him, but with longer hair.”

 

Blythe grabbed Renie’s arm and held on tight.

“Are you okay?” Lyric asked.

“She’s fine,” Renie answered for her. “Um, she hasn’t seen him in a while and I think you surprised her.”

“But wait, aren’t you datin’ the other one? The one I met you with the other night.”

Blythe didn’t know where to begin, and even if she did, she wasn’t sure she had regained the ability to speak. Had Jace known Tucker was going to be here and didn’t tell her? They’d talked about him last night. Why wouldn’t Jace have said something then?

She turned and looked around the arena, but instead of finding Tucker, she was looking directly at Jace. He squinted his eyes, his brow furrowed, and he mouthed, “What’s up?”

He was far enough away that he’d never hear her if she tried to tell him. He pulled out his cell phone and held it up.

Tucker,
she texted.

What about him?

He’s here.

Jace didn’t need to answer her text. The look on his face told her what she wanted to know. Jace hadn’t known Tucker was coming; he also didn’t know he was here.

***

Tucker was beginning to think he made a mistake by not telling Jace he was coming. He was able to get into the stock show, but the rodeo was sold out. He pulled out his phone to text him, and saw a text from Jace instead, and a missed call.

Where are you?

Here. Rodeo sold out. Can’t get in.

Meet me by back entrance near barns.

Without trying to read anything into the texts, Tucker had an overpowering feeling Jace was not happy he was here. As he walked toward the barns and caught sight of his brother’s face, his feeling was confirmed.

“What are you doing here?”

“That’s a nice greeting.”

“Answer me.”

“What’s your fuckin’ problem Jace? Jesus—I’m here to see you ride.”

“Bullshit. Try again. What are you doin’ here?”

There was no point in answering him. He was right. He wasn’t here to see Jace ride. Maybe in part, but it was a very small part. He was here to see Blythe. And Jace knew it.

“Where is she?”

Jace walked away without answering him. When Tucker didn’t follow, he turned around and waited.

“Did you wanna get into the rodeo or not?”

Jace flashed his credentials to the cowgirl sitting at the door. The look she gave the two of them let them know they could’ve gotten in fine, credentials or not.

“Where is she?” Tucker asked again.

“What makes you think she’s here?”

“She’s here.”

 

Jace wanted to tell him that if he thought he knew so much, he could damn well find her for himself. His anger wasn’t directed solely at Tuck. He’d been the dumb ass who’d told his brother he planned to see her. He might as well have waved a red cape in front of one of the bulls. Of course that got Tucker on the next plane.
Of course.
Why had he been so stupid?

Last night he’d practically begged Blythe to give him a chance. The chance he wanted was to make her forget about Tucker. Now the only chance he had was a fat one.

***

Blythe’s view was unobstructed when she saw Jace come through the door, with Tucker behind him. Tucker followed his brother’s gaze, and looked straight at her. And damn him, he smiled. She couldn’t help herself; she smiled back.

The crowded arena was loud enough that they’d had to raise their voices to hear one another speak, but Blythe no longer heard any of it. The din quelled to background noise.

“Holy shit,”
she heard someone say. It might’ve been Lyric. “Damn, those two are hot.”

“Mmm hmm,” Blythe murmured. It was precisely what she thought when the two climbed out of truck, the first time she saw them.

They looked so much alike, yet so different. Jace was all cowboy tonight. Tucker had on a dark turtleneck sweater, which from a distance looked rich and soft. His jeans were snug, yet he moved with perfect grace. She couldn’t tell from where she was, but she guessed he had on the same black boots he was wearing when she met him. His hair wasn’t that long, but it was much longer than Jace’s.

He looked like an artist, or maybe a writer, or a professor. At the same time, he fit in perfectly in the rodeo setting. He moved with the ease of a man accustomed to being around broncs and bulls.

Her gaze shifted to Jace, who looked as though he’d been able to read her thoughts, and knew they had nothing to do with him. Disappointment carved grooves in his brow; his eyes darkened, and lost their fire. The story his face told was that of a man defeated.

Blythe wanted to comfort him, tell him it would be okay, but the man standing next to him, his brother, made that impossible. Even from a hundred feet away, Blythe was willing to do whatever Tucker asked of her. There wasn’t any question in her mind. No one had ever affected her this way. Not even Jace.

***

There she was. Not close enough to touch, but almost. He wanted nothing more than to jump the fence and walk straight through the arena to her. The shortest distance between point one and two; the quickest way to her. But he couldn’t get his body to move.

It was as though a part of him was acutely aware that once he moved, once he walked to where she was, once he touched her, his life and hers would irrevocably change.

His face still held a smile. He couldn’t help himself. Seeing her made him happy. And she smiled back. How long had they been staring at each other from this distance? He couldn’t say. Not so long that her eyes began to question. They still held transfixed.

He turned, keeping his gaze on her while he weaved his way in and out of the crowd. She watched him, and began to walk in his direction. They would meet in the middle.

God, he liked that about her, that she wouldn’t simply stand and wait. She’d come to him too.

 

It was all she could do not to run. It was too crowded to run, but that’s what her body longed to do. Soon, seconds maybe, he’d wrap his arms around her. The walk to him seemed impossibly long.

He was still a few feet away when she stopped.
What was she doing?
This was not a long lost lover, or a dear friend. This was a man she had dinner with, once. And then, he left. He hadn’t said goodbye; she hadn’t heard a word from him. Why was she so happy to see him that seconds before she wanted to run to him? What was she thinking? She shook her head and turned away. She had to go back to her seat. She couldn’t do this.

 

She stopped. Why did she stop? And worse, she turned in the other direction. Had someone called her name? Tucker worked his way through the last of the crowd that separated them, and grabbed her arm, right above her elbow.

“Blythe?”

She jerked her arm away from him. “I can’t do this.”

A wall of people trying to move through the coliseum prevented her from getting any further away from him. There was nowhere for her to go. Tucker stood right behind her. He put his hand, softly, on her waist. “I’m sorry,” he whispered in her ear.

He felt her body tense, her breathing accelerated. “What for?” she asked.

“Everything,” he answered.

“Let go of me,” she demanded.

He did the opposite; he wrapped his arm further around her waist.

Blythe tried to push his arm away, but he held on tight. “Don’t,” he murmured.

“I’m here with Jace tonight. You can’t do this.”

“He knows why I’m here.”

Tucker maneuvered her out of the crowd and off to the side, out of the way of the mass of people, where it was quiet.

He spun her around and pushed her against the cold tile wall. His hand came up and caressed her face. He’d been dreaming about this too long. It was time to make his dreams a reality. He looked into her eyes that were darting back and forth between his, and his mouth.

“Blythe,” he said again before he covered her lips with his. His other arm wrapped itself back around her waist, and he held her as close to him as he could.

She wasn’t fighting against him; she wasn’t trying to stop their kiss. Slowly the hands that had been pushing against his chest held on tight instead. She gripped the front of his shirt, digging her fingers into him.

 

“Come on,” he said, pulling her toward the door leading outside the coliseum.

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