Chompin' at the Bit (Horse Play #2)

Chompin’ at the Bit

 

Copyright © 2016 A.D. Ryan

 

 

 

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical terms, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the author, except by a reviewer, who may quote brief passages in a review.

 

 

 

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.

 

 

Ryan, A.D.

Chompin’ at the Bit / A.D. Ryan

 

 

(Horse Play Series ; 02)

 

 

ISBN 978-1533462794

 

 

 

Text and Cover design by Angela Schmuhl

Cover Image: Shutterstock, © Kiuikson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

While it probably doesn’t seem like it, this is always the hardest part of any book to write. Regardless, let’s get this party started …

I can never seem to thank my incredible family enough for being so freaking supportive of this hobby-turned-almost-career. You’re some of my biggest cheerleaders and are always there to listen to whatever bizarre idea my brain cooks up next. You’re all awesome, from my two tiny minions to my amazing husband, and my parents, who always encouraged me to follow my dreams—no matter how far out there and unattainable they might seem. I hope I am able to instill that same confidence and drive in my children that you so selflessly instilled in me. My siblings, you should know that you inspire me in so many ways.

Of course, I wouldn’t be here without people who actually want to read the weird ramblings that fall out of my head and wind up on my computer. So, readers, thank you all for being awesome and for hounding me continuously for new books immediately after reading the latest one. It’s that kind of pressure that drives me, and I love your enthusiasm!

Because my incredible street team and beta readers are given an exclusive first look into these books, you’re seeing them at their most raw. You see the mistakes, and you’re kind enough to mention them so I don’t look like a total knob once Marla and Tiff see them.. so thank you for being so thorough and unafraid to tell me when I’ve messed up. I’m not too good for that constructive critique, and I’m so grateful to have you all on my side!

This is now the second novel that Marla at
Proofingstyle
has worked on, and I’m so happy that she was able to  take me on. You’re an incredible person, always professional with a quick turnaround. The attention and critique you offer is appreciated. I hope the stars continue to align and we continue to work together in the future.

And, Tiff, who’s been here since the very beginning, first as a reader, then as a beta and editor: you’re awesome. I am so grateful that you always seem to have time for me when you’re not bogged down with work.

Again, thank you all so much for everything you do. I wouldn’t be doing this without you all. You make it all worthwhile. Until next time …

 

 

 

Chapter 1. Road Trippin’


O
kay,” I said aloud to myself, standing over the small suitcase on my bed. “I’ve got pants, shirts, underwear, socks…” Turning around, I spotted the white garment bag hanging on my door. “My dress. Shoes … I need shoes.”

Jensen’s sister’s wedding was this weekend, and I was a mess trying to make sure I didn’t forget anything. My nerves were even more rattled knowing I was going to meet the rest of his family for the first time. His father and I go way back, considering he’s been the ranch’s vet for the last couple decades, and I recently met his mother when Jensen started working on the ranch and he had to take me to the hospital after three subsequent falls from horseback. Not my finest moment.

Throwing open my closet door, I knelt to the floor and started leafing through the countless pairs of shoes that Willow had made me buy over the years. Some had lived a good life, while others were forced to suffer an eternity in the back of my closet due to the quarter-sized blisters they caused.
Evil shoes. 

“Hey,” I heard Jensen exclaim behind me. “Is this your dress?”

The minute I heard the soft
tick, tick, tick
of the garment bag’s zipper being lowered, I shot to my feet and launched myself across the room. “What exactly do you think you’re doing?” I cried out, throwing myself between him and my dress.

Pushing his bottom lip out and batting his lashes, he pouted. “You won’t show me?” His big blue eyes locked on mine, and I found myself captivated by him just as much as I had been when we’d met a few weeks ago. Had I not been exposed to this sort of mind-fuckery in the past, I might have easily been swayed and given him whatever he wanted. But I knew better.

“Nope.” I was very assertive in my answer, and that just made him try harder. Wrapping his arms around my waist, Jensen lowered his face to mine, kissing me softly. But I held firm in my position. I knew what he was doing. Usually, he was pretty damn good at it.

This time, though, I remained firm. I didn’t return his embrace (even though I wanted to), I didn’t kiss him back (even though it killed me not to), I didn’t respond to his seduction vocally (even though it took everything in me not to).

“It’ll be bad luck,” I said.

Apparently he thought that was pretty funny, because he lifted his face and smiled. “Madi, it’s bad luck for the
groom
to see the
bride’s
dress before the wedding,” he countered smugly. “I don’t recall there being anything against a man seeing his date’s dress.”

The left side of my mouth twitched with the desire to smile. Jensen and I weren’t officially a couple. We’d both agreed that this was just casual fun, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t hopeful that we could one day be more. Over the weeks, my feelings for him had developed, and there was no way I could rein them in. I was lost to him.

“Date?” I inquired, keeping the hope from my voice.

Jensen cleared his throat and furrowed his brows before shaking his head. “Right. Sorry. I just … felt like that might be the easiest way to describe our arrangement.”

My heart sank, but I didn’t let him see that. Instead, I changed the topic back to a lighter one. “Well, regardless, you can’t see the dress.”

His smile returned, and he leaned in close again. “You’ll have to give me a very good reason why not. And the bad luck thing is bullshit.”

Truthfully, the only reason I had was that I didn’t want him to see my dress until I was in it. It was something Willow and I had discussed earlier in the week when I called and told her we would be in town Friday night. Then, before she even got the chance to ask, I booked myself in for hair and makeup at the spa on Saturday morning. She was more than a little pleased—I was actually surprised I could hear anything afterward, given the decibel she managed to reach.

I shook my head adamantly, trying to get him to believe the absurdity of my claim. “Mmmm …” I hummed with mock-skepticism. “No, I’m pretty sure it applies to the best man’s plus-one, too.” I avoided the word “date” in hopes of bypassing another almost-breakdown from him. I was having way too much fun with him for it to end now.

Not surprisingly, Jensen wasn’t buying it. Suddenly, he picked me up, shifted to the side and moved me out of his way before snatching my dress.

“Jensen Davis,” I warned, holding my pointer finger at him as I stalked toward him. “Don’t make me kick your ass.”

The room was filled with his laughter as he took two steps back. “I’d like to see you try.”

Waiting until he looked as though he wasn’t expecting it, I lunged forward and threw myself against his chest, reaching over his shoulders for my dress. My attempts were futile, however as he was much taller and stronger than I was.

That
was when I realized that if he could play dirty and use his sexy smolder, then so could I.

“Fine,” I said softly, sliding down his body slowly, reveling in silent triumph when his body relaxed. Just a smidge. Smiling, I let my hand trail down his chest until it stopped at his abdomen and traced the line of his belt. His eyes locked on mine, and I looped my finger into his belt and started to release it.

Tilting my head up, we continued to stare at one another, and I moved minutely until our lips connected gently. Our kiss remained soft and tender as I slowly worked his belt free before moving onto the button on his jeans. It didn’t take long before I was acting on desire and not distraction.

“Mmmf,” Jensen mumbled, taking the hand that wasn’t holding my dress and wrapping it around my wrist to stop me.

I sighed in defeat; this wasn’t the first time he had denied us any major physical contact in the last five days. As the days went on, and the realization of him seeing his ex-fiancée again continued to weigh heavy on his mind, he withdrew. He assured me numerous times that nothing between us had changed, and he was always very open and honest about what he was feeling, but the truth of the matter was, I missed him—I missed
us
.

True, our relationship, if that’s what it was, didn’t start off like most. My dad had given him a job in an attempt to help him out after he’d fallen on hard times, and it made the most sense for him to live on the ranch, so he became my new roommate. The biggest problem with that was that I had recently gotten out of a particularly scary situation, and Jensen offered me a reprieve from that. He was a distraction, which was both good and bad.

Eventually, we couldn’t fight our attraction to one another anymore, and we allowed ourselves to just give in. We still hadn’t had sex, both of us agreeing that it would be best to take things slow and be responsible, but that didn’t mean we hadn’t been intimate in other ways. Our relationship had been progressing by leaps and bounds every day, but then it all came to a screeching halt.

On Monday, we fooled around a little, Tuesday a little less, and Wednesday and Thursday we snuggled on the couch and shared a few chaste kisses before retiring to bed. It felt as though the fire between us had begun to fizzle before it had even had a proper chance to ignite.

Biting my lip hard to keep my chin from quivering as rejection needled at me, I nodded in understanding having been through a couple days of this already. Jensen re-hung my dress on the door, his eyes registering nothing but his deepest apologies. “I’m sorry. It’s not you.”

His words were meant to comfort, but they didn’t. Offering him a smile I knew lacked the reassurance he sought, I cradled his face in my hand and tried to push my own insecurities aside. “I know. You don’t have to explain. I know seeing her is going to be hard on you.” I paused for a beat, taking in his pained expression. “I just … I want you to know that I’m here for you. No matter what.”

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