Authors: Linda Kage
“I heard about five minutes ago that someone
had knocked up B.J. Gilmore.”
finally evoked the response he’d expected.
Her face drained of color and she dropped her bag of popcorn, spilling kernels around her bare feet.
“Who told you that?”
Grady folded his arms and stared hard. “I
overheard Gabe Watson telling Ulrick Pullson about it at Herb’s Quick Stop. Both of
?” she demanded, and then she shook her head furiously. “I...I just wasn’t sure
to say it,”
she answered quietly. “I mean, was there any way to break it to you easily?”
Grady opened his mouth, but B.J. hurried to
add, “One thing was sure, I definitely wasn’t going to tell anyone
until you knew.”
She stopped suddenly as if just realizing
something. Then she scowled and pressed her hands to her hips, snapping, “Wait a second. What even makes you think this is
She’d already given it away, but his answer was a quiet, heartfelt, “Because I’m not that lucky.”
B.J. looked like she was going to cry, and he felt like a heel for saying such a thing. He wasn’t typically a rude man. But B.J. wasn’t the type to break down and bawl when her feelings were hurt either. So why did the two of them together seem to bring out the worst in each other?
God, he wanted to scrub his face with his hands and mutter, “What a disaster,” but he didn’t want to hurt her any further. She already looked like she was on the edge and might crumble any second. He sighed then and really did scrub his face with his hands.
“I guess we’ll need to get married,” he
announced, sounding none too pleased.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales, is entirely coincidental.
The Trouble with Tomboys
COPYRIGHT © 2010 by Linda Grotheer
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission of the author or The Wild Rose Press except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.
Contact Information: [email protected] Cover Art by
The Wild Rose Press
PO Box 708
Adams Basin, NY 14410-0706
Visit us at www.thewildrosepress.com
First Champagne Rose Edition, 2010
Print ISBN 1-60154-790-0
Published in the United States of America
B.J. Gilmore clamped a fat cigar between her teeth and studied the hand of cards in front of her as she sat backward on a rusty kitchen chair.
God, she loved playing poker. Didn’t matter if she wagered with cash or matchsticks, five-card draw was one game where you could always count her in.
To her left, a slimy drool of sweat dripped off Ralphie Smardo’s face while he eyed his own cards, then glanced at the pile of cash in the center of the table. B.J. had to admit, she felt a little moist around the edges herself. Not a lot of air circulated to the back corner of her family’s airplane hangar, and a stale July heat hovered over the group, making the grease-scented air stick to every seam and collar.
However, the droplets gushing from Ralphie’s pores led her to believe he wasn’t just hot. He was damn nervous.
Across from her, Buck grumbled as he lifted his hip and pulled a billfold from his back pocket. B.J.
glanced at her oldest brother for any telltale signs, but Buck merely looked annoyed about having to dig up more cash for his bid.
“Hell, I’m out,” Leroy muttered next to him, tossing down his cards and sending a scowl to the other members of the game.
Well, praise the Almighty. B.J. didn’t much care to play against her second brother. Leroy had a penchant for cheating, and as stubborn as she was, she usually called him on it, which led to a lengthy 1
yelling match and meant her beloved poker game would come to an end.
Leroy was as mean as a rattlesnake and, out of her three brothers, B.J. liked him the least...mostly because of the time he’d taunted her with an actual rattler when she was ten and she’d spent the night in the hospital. Damn snakebite had left a scar just under her armpit.
Buck used to be as cruel as Leroy, chasing her around their homestead with all sorts of creepy crawlers, but he’d softened a lot in the last four years since he’d gotten hitched. He’d turned into even more of a pansy when his wife had their first baby two years later.
Out of her three brothers, Rudy—who was
probably still passed out from the night before or nursing a hangover at three in the afternoon—was her favorite. Maybe that was because the Buck-Leroy combo had picked on him as much as they had her. But she’d always been protective of him because, truth be told, the boy was more effeminate than B.J.
Not that she had a feminine bone in her body.
“I’m done in too,” Pete Smardo announced with a tired sigh.
The sigh matched his weathered features. Pete probably wasn’t a day over sixty, but he looked more like he was approaching eighty. His sun-ripened face was full of wrinkles and age spots from sitting outside in front of his junkyard on a rocking chair three hundred and sixty-five days a year.
His son, Ralphie, ran the yard with Pete, and Ralphie’s pale skin revealed how little he sat with his old man. His colorless cheeks also indicated how antsy he was when he glanced over to watch her meet the bid and raise it.
The four men surrounding her sat up in interest as the bill she flung out settled onto the rest of the 2
The Trouble with Tomboys
pocket change. Pausing at the sudden silence, B.J.
frowned and looked as well. She almost pissed her pants when she saw Alexander Hamilton grinning back. But damn, she’d only meant to throw out a single dollar, not ten.
“She’s bluffing,” Leroy said, eyeing her intently.
She lifted her gaze and shot him a challenging look. “That why
cut out so early?”
He glowered, and she dismissed him with a
snort, turning toward Ralphie to catch his next move.
Ralphie was two years her senior and, to her eternal shame, the last man she’d slept with. A few years earlier, they’d gotten tanked one night, snuck into a nearby watering hole and gone skinny-dipping. After the swim, he’d been frisky. B.J. hadn’t been with a guy in almost three years, so she’d given in to his pathetic seduction—and she was only calling it a seduction for lack of a better word.
It ended up being one of the most God-awful
experiences of her life.
Luckily, Ralphie hadn’t been that impressed
either, and they’d somehow remained friends. In fact, she’d pretty much roped in his current girlfriend for him. He and Nan Lundy were probably going to tie the knot one of these days, if the idiot ever got around to proposing. Ralphie continually told her how grateful he was for her matchmaking, and they remained tight.
B.J. took a swig from a Styrofoam cup of cooled coffee and thoughtfully eyed him as he threw down the cash to meet her bid.
Her attention swiveled to Buck. He growled,
“Fold,” and B.J. silently sighed in relief. That left only Ralphie to defeat.
“Okay,” she said, ready to wheel and deal as she turned fully toward the pale, sweaty man. “If I win, I get that set of ten-ply tires you snatched from Rick 3
Hopper’s wrecked truck.”
B.J. adored her souped-up four by four, three-quarter ton Dodge diesel, and the tires from Hopper’s old truck would look sweet on it. They were exactly what she wanted, but she couldn’t cough up the cash when her current set worked perfectly fine.
She was a real miser that way.
Ralphie glanced at his old man and winced as Pete scratched his gray-black beard stubble with a frown. Then Pete shrugged. “If you lose us those tires, boy, it’s coming out of your wallet.”
Ralphie didn’t look too reassured. He glanced at B.J. “And if I win?”
She lifted a brow. “Name your price.” When
Ralphie fell into intense contemplation, she sighed and rolled her eyes. “Sometime today, please. I got a job to do here pretty soon.”
“Speaking of which…” Buck motioned toward
the opened doors of the hangar.
B.J. turned and froze.
At first, all she saw was a silhouette. The lean, slim-hipped form entering carried an overnight bag slung over his shoulder. Tall and surprisingly graceful, he wore a cowboy hat, Wranglers, and some kind of tucked-in, long-sleeved shirt.
She could hear the echoing click of his boots against the concrete floor as he walked with a slightly bowl-legged stride. The whole scene screamed George Strait in that movie
...only ten times sexier, because this was real. The man made a mouthwatering picture, that was for sure, and she could only gape as he strolled into the place with the confidence of an alpha used to being in charge. The female inside her took immediate notice. Good God, he was gorgeous.
Grady Rawlings had always been great-looking, though. There had to be zero percent of body fat 4
The Trouble with Tomboys
covering him from head to toe. But while he had a lean build, he still appeared fully ripped. He was pure muscle, bone, and steel, and it looked damn fine on him. In high school, football and baseball kept him in shape. These days, he lifted heavy machinery daily, what with working in his oilfield.
When he stopped just inside the doors and
turned to the side as if seeking assistance, B.J.
hollered from her chair. “We’re back here.”
He turned at her call, and her girly organs leapt to attention, startling her with their enthusiasm.
Good Lord, she must need to get laid. Seeing a guy look her way should
have that kind of effect.
But as he started toward her voice with his sexy male stride, she felt the impact all the way to the tips of her steel-toed boots.
Forcing her attention back to the game, she
cleared her throat and told Ralphie, “Well, hurry up already. I gotta go.”
Grady approached, and she couldn’t help but
glance toward him one more time. When he was close enough for her to make out the features in his face, she drew in a quiet breath. Since his wife and unborn child had died two and a half years earlier, he’d become hardened and withdrawn.
He’d always been fairly serious, yet these days, nothing made him smile. He was a lot tanner and his clothes fit a little loose, yet he was still as hot as hell. That look in his eyes, though, like he didn’t have a friend left on earth, that was what hooked her the most.
B.J. hated to see people in pain, and Grady
Rawlings was in a great deal of agony.
Posttraumatic stress had leashed a collar around his neck, refusing to let go. He’d become so aloof, other people grew uncomfortable around him. They didn’t know what to say or do. B.J. had heard if someone tried to talk about his wife with him, he’d get nearly 5
violent with his irritation before storming off. With every step he drew closer, B.J. could actually feel the guys around her tense into awkward idiots.
Grady stopped ten feet from the table and
No one gave him any kind of greeting, so B.J.
cleared a couple more cobwebs from her throat. “I’ll be right with you. Just as soon as tortoise here makes his bid—and I wipe the floor with his face—
we can be on our way.”
He jerked his attention toward her like he was surprised by her declaration. “You’re flying today?”
Though his low voice shot an overdose of pure lust into her bloodstream, she frowned. “You got a problem with that?”
There’d been occasions when customers had