“I know it’s tough, Rose, but we need you there.”
Rose Cutrer nibbled on her cuticle, then stopped herself and shook her head, even though she knew the man on the phone couldn’t see it, probably would ignore it if he could. No. No, she couldn’t. She didn’t want to go to Cheyenne. She didn’t want to go back to the rodeo life.
She hadn’t traveled much with Timmy when he’d ridden the circuit. She hadn’t been the buckle bunny, short shorts and tank tops that showed everything type. Timmy had liked her for who she was. He’d loved her and he’d taken every opportunity he’d ever had to let her know. Hell, they’d dated for so long before they got married, and when it had finally happened…
Well, they’d only just started playing house when things had gone to hell in a handbasket. She’d gone from girlfriend to fiancée to wife to widow in the blink of an eye.
She pulled her finger out of her mouth again. God, years to break the habit and one single phone call brought it back in spades.
God, what a mess.
“I can’t. I’m sorry, Ace. I just can’t.”
Presley jumped in her lap, her beautiful baby fuzzball yipping like he did whenever she got stressed out, then nuzzling her chin.
Ace Porter made a noncommittal noise. “Amy is really tore up, Rose. You could help her out a lot by supporting her. And there will be a real nice memorial for Timmy.”
She sighed again, shook her head again. “Ace, I don’t have the money. Traveling’s expensive, and I’d have to board Presley. I’m only working part-time at the library—I don’t get vacation time.” Or sick time. Or anything.
“Well, now, don’t get upset at me for suggesting it, Rose, but I’ll pay for your trip. Flight and hotel and a spending allowance. I know it’s a lot to ask, but I feel like I really need you there. You’re so levelheaded, so calm.”
Gracious, but Ace must be taking team-building lessons. Pep Talk 101.
“Y’all don’t have something awful planned, do you? ’Cause I can’t bear that.” No fix ups. No blow-up, life-size Timmys. Nothing weird that would make her run or cry or puke.
“No, ma’am. I wouldn’t do that to you.” No. No, Ace Porter had been good to her. The head of the league, and Timmy had just been a low-level rider…
“I don’t know. What would I say to her? I mean, I… It’s just hard. That’s it. It’s just hard when they’re gone.”
Her bright-eyed, goofy Timmy had been there one minute and literally, the next, he was gone.
One bull, one hoof, one broken neck.
Poof. His light had been extinguished.
“Can I be blunt, Rose?” Ace waited for her murmured, “Mmmhmm” before going on. “You know how it is to be the one no one knows how to talk to. The wives can be a damned superstitious lot. They’re afraid to talk to the one who’s lost her man. She’s so damned young, honey, and so scared.”
“Yeah.” Rose wasn’t, not anymore. Christ, she was gonna be twenty-six in a few weeks. Twenty-seven.
“Okay. Okay, Ace. If you’ll foot the bill, I’ll go. There’s nothing I can say to her, though, that will make it better.” Nothing. It hurt for a long time, every second, every breath, like hell. Then it got to be every few breaths. Nowadays it was this sneaky thing, like a sucker punch to the gut.
“I know that. It just means she won’t feel so isolated.” Ace heaved a sigh. “Did I ever tell you how sorry I am, Rose?”
“Yes, Ace. You did, and I appreciate it. Timmy… He would have done it anyway, even if he’d known. He loved riding bulls more than life.”
More than her.
“The game gets in the blood, honey.” Ace was grinning. She could just picture that lopsided dimple he had from a twice-broken jaw.
“That’s what I hear. What are the dates you need me there again?”
“The first week of Frontier Days.” They settled the rest of the business, Ace giving her the name and number of his assistant, who was going to call her about flights.
She said her goodbyes then hung up. Presley was right there, yipping and panting and worrying over her, just like he always did.
“I can’t believe I have to do this, Pres. I mean, Timmy’s gone. None of them want me around, not really, not without worrying…”
They all felt sorry for her. They all took care of her any way they could. But no one wanted the bull rider’s widow around. No one.
Not even her.
Texan to the bone and an unrepentant Daddy’s Girl, BA Tortuga spends her days with her basset hounds and her beloved wife, texting her buddies, and eating Mexican food. When she’s not doing that, she’s writing. She spends her days off watching rodeo, knitting and surfing Pinterest in the name of research. BA’s personal saviors include her wife, Julia Talbot, her best friends, and coffee. Lots of coffee. Really good coffee.
Having written everything from fist-fighting rednecks to hard-core cowboys to werewolves, BA does her damnedest to tell the stories of her heart, which was raised in Northeast Texas, but has heard the call of the high desert and lives in the Sandias. With books ranging from hard-hitting romance, to fiery menages, to the most traditional of love stories, BA refuses to be pigeon-holed by anyone but the voices in her head.
You can check out BA's website and blog, and follow her on Pinterest and Instagram.