Grace Delaney could sense the excitement in the enormous coliseum building, the one where the rodeo vendors had set up right next to the huge rodeo arena. The air was filled with a raucous blend of shouts and laughter, the air heavy with the mingled scents of horses, cattle, manure and hay that drifted in through the massive open doors. Grace Delaney figured there were at least two thousand people jammed into a space where half that number could barely fit comfortably.
She stood in front of the makeshift mirror at the vendor’s booth, tilting the cowgirl hat she was trying on this way and that. Her western-style shirt and prewashed jeans felt like an outfit she’d borrowed from someone else and her new boots were pinching her toes. Torn between a suddenly emerging need for adventure and a lifetime of playing it safe, she’d let her closest friend, Melanie Keyes, drag her to a western store and outfit her, then agreed to come to the rodeo with her. Now the habits of more than twenty years were rearing their heads and misgivings were crowding in on her, nearly smothering her.
“I wish I knew how in the hell I let you talk me into this,” she muttered.
“Because you need to have some spice in your life.” Melanie Keyes lifted a hot-pink hat from the display stand and set it firmly on her tousled blonde curls then turned to Grace. “What do you think?”
“I think I should have stayed home,” Grace told her, removing the hat she wore on her own head. “I must be crazy. This isn’t me. Hanging out at rodeos and displaying myself for the cowboys just isn’t my style. You know that, Mel.”
Melanie grabbed her by the shoulders and gave her a stern look.
“Listen, Grace. We’ve been friends since fifth grade and you’ve never taken a chance in your life. I watched you dive into a ‘safe’ marriage, one that wouldn’t unlock the part of yourself I know you hide inside.”
“But I loved Joe,” she began.
“I know, I know. But it was a safe love, whether you want to admit it or not. I watched you pull yourself together when Joe died and build a life for yourself and your kids. I watched you choose a ‘safe’—make that dull—career in accounting so you could put numbers in squares just like you’ve done with every day of your life. And when, after eighteen years, you finally decided to date again, you picked men twenty years older than you. ‘Safe’ again. I’ll bet they can’t even get it up without a big supply of those little blue pills. Come on. ’Fess up. I’m right, aren’t I?”
Grace blew out a breath. Sometimes she didn’t know whether to hug Melanie or kill her. The problem was that, in this instance, she was completely right, and Grace hated that. So what if she was forty-four and boring? It was better than being divorced three times and running around with one gorgeous but unreliable man after another like Melanie did. Wasn’t it? Well, wasn’t it?
But even she had been smart enough to know her life needed something besides spreadsheets and men with clammy hands. Joe had died before they’d ever had a chance to fully explore their sexual relationship and for more than twenty years she’d been completely celibate. One day, when she’d been passing an adult entertainment store, her car had turned into the parking lot as if it had a life of its own. Shocking herself, she’d left with a collection of erotic books and movies that would have made a hooker blush.
Driven by her suddenly awakened curiosity, she’d huddled in her bedroom each night, reading until her eyes had blurred and watching the movies until her eyes had popped out and she’d found heat creeping up her cheeks. Like an addict seeking more drugs, she’d returned to the store again and again, her secret collection growing as her brain had struggled to absorb the things people did with and to each other in their sexual encounters.
The things the authors described hadn’t even been on her radar. She’d never be brave enough to try any of them in real life, but at least she was expanding her horizons. If she couldn’t do it, she could read about it. But as she’d lost herself in page after page and in scene after scene, she’d found herself aroused, turned on, squeezing her legs to still the throbbing between her thighs, so she’d invested in a couple of toys that she used to relieve the tension when she needed to.
“Glad to see you spicing up your life,” the clerk had told her the last time she’d rung up her purchases.
Grace had lowered her eyes and nearly run from the store. What was it with everyone wanting to ‘spice’ things up for her? Was she flashing a sign that said ‘boring’?
Now, however, she had quite a collection of books and movies, each one introducing her to new and exotic sexual pleasures. She kept the books and DVDs hidden in her closet, dragging them out at night with the bedroom door locked. Not that there was anyone left in the house to even pay attention. She’d been reading her latest, appropriately titled Ride Me, Cowboy, with a naked cowboy on the cover, when Melanie had called to talk her into this little excursion and she hadn’t been able to say no.
So here she was, decked out in her new threads, being pushed for the first time in her life into something daring and wondering what kind of fool she’d make of herself. Or if she even had the courage to try. Her mind and body were busy doing battle with each other. But…she guessed she had to start somewhere to step outside the lines, even it was only buying a new outfit.
“That hat is so you,” Melanie gushed. “I’m buying it for you. Put it on again.”
“But nothing. I’m still spending Langford Keyes’ more than generous divorce settlement. Take it while I’ve got it, honey.”
“I thought we were here to see the rodeo.” Grace hurried to keep up with her friend who was sashaying her way—that was the only word for it—through the crowds of people. “So far, all we’ve done is shop.”
“We will, sweetie. We will. But shopping’s half the fun. I want to stop at a little booth I hit every year. This woman sells the most fantastic jewelry, some of it very old. And she always has a story to tell about each piece.”
Grace shook her head but followed Melanie halfway around the barn until her friend found the vendor’s booth she was searching for. She and the woman greeted each other like long-lost friends, hugging and gushing. Grace sighed and distracted herself by examining the jewelry displayed on the table.
“Oh, miss.” The woman reached out and touched her arm. “Look. This is perfect for you. I feel a connection.”
She held out her other hand, palm open. An exquisite pin in the shape of a boot nestled there. A tiny silver rowel clung to the heel, which was scored to show the lines so commonly seen. The brilliance of newness had faded with age and now it glowed with a smooth patina that sparkled and warmed. As if pulled by a string, Grace reached out for it and at once felt a heat on her skin that raced through her body.
What the hell?
“It is for you,” the woman told her. “You must have it. I tell you, I feel the connection for you. This pin has a long history of bringing lovers together.”
“Oh, no,” Grace protested. “I’m not—”
“That’s true,” the woman said with a knowing look. “But there is a hidden longing, a sense of desire. This pin will unlock those doors you hide behind.”
Grace wanted to run away. How dare this woman talk to her in such a personal manner?
But the woman gripped her hand. “I will charge you very little, but if you pass it up, you will miss meeting the most extraordinary man ever.”
Grace stared at the pin, mesmerized by the feel of it, at the same time thinking, it will take more than a pin to do something about my pitiful sex life.
Not that the choice wasn’t hers. As it had been for the past twenty years. But her new taste in reading had made her do some uncomfortable thinking. Somewhere she’d lost her sexuality and searching for it was a task that would move her out of her comfort zone, a terrifying thought.
“Oh, buy it, Grace,” Melanie enthused, interrupting her reverie. “No. Wait. I want to buy it for you. You’re so practical you’ll walk away from it.”
“Sensible,” Grace corrected. “And I’m not looking for an ‘extraordinary’ man.”
I don’t even know what ‘extraordinary’ is anymore.
“And that’s the problem,” Melanie said. “It’s well past time you found one. There. Now we just need to follow its lead.” She fastened the pin onto Grace’s shirt, patting it.
The moment the pin touched her again, the same blaze of heat shot through her, stirring her pulses and making her weak-kneed. Grace had never believed in omens or good luck charms or anything so fanciful, but somehow, she couldn’t make herself remove the pin.
“Okay, let’s go.” Melanie tucked her purchase into her purse and took Grace by the arm. “Now, we hit the big barn where the guys eat. I promised a special honey that I’d pop by and give him a kiss.”
Grace tried to huff and walk at the same time. “I swear to God, Melanie. Is this another one of your boy-toy trophies? And what do I do while you and he make eyes at each other? Or whatever else you plan to do.”
Melanie laughed as she headed for an exit. “He’s an old acquaintance, honey, who I’ve enjoyed a lot of good times with. And while I’m reminiscing with him, you’ll be scoping the room for your own trophy. And it’s surely about time. Just remember the pin.”
How did I ever let Melanie talk me into this?
They were in a hallway leading to the next building, Melanie bouncing along in front of her, chattering a mile a minute, when Grace spotted a rodeo poster tacked on the wall and stopped dead. A dark-haired, dark-eyed cowboy in the classic pose on a bucking horse, arm extended in the air for balance, stared down at her. If he wasn’t the naked man on the cover of the book she’d been reading just last night, he was so close they could be twins.
The pin on her blouse seemed to blossom with heat and, in an instant, she was once more engrossed in the pages of the story, in the scene she’d read over and over again, wishing the heroine was her.
* * * *
“Sweetheart? You upstairs?”
His footsteps on the stairs made her pulse ratchet.
She was waiting for him at the door to their bedroom, wearing nothing but a big smile. His eyes widened as he spotted her and a huge, wicked grin split his face.
“This was definitely worth waiting for, sugar.” He lowered his head to lick her nipples and ran the fingers of one hand through her almost bare slit. “Mmm,” he moaned and licked his fingers clean. “Delicious, as always, but the first thing I have to do is wash away all the cow stink. I don’t know how I’m going to control myself long enough to do that.”
She reached out a hand to him. “Lucky for you, I’ve got that covered.”
She led him into the bedroom where she quickly stripped away his jacket and placed his hat on the dresser. While he toed off his boots, she unbuttoned his work shirt, taking her time to run her fingers through the fine pelt of dark hair on his chest and graze her fingernails over his nipples. He tried to reach for her hands, but she batted him away.
“Uh-uh. This is my show.” She stood on tiptoe to nip at his chin. “Happy anniversary, my love.”
When she had the shirt completely unbuttoned, she yanked it from his jeans and tossed it to the side with his jacket. As she went to work on his belt buckle, she bent her head and took first one then the other of his nipples into her mouth, nibbling at them then lapping at them with her tongue.
He gripped her shoulders hard. “You’re killing me, sugar. Please let me just get rid of these clothes and jump in the shower. I can’t stand not to touch all your sweet, naked flesh.”
“Be patient,” she teased, pulling the belt free of its loops. “There’ll be plenty of time for touching. And other things.”
The sound of his zipper being lowered was loud in the room. Kneeling down, she licked a line across the top of his waistband then pushed the denim fabric down his hips, taking his boxers with them. His hot erection sprang proud and free from its sheltering nest of curls, the broad head already deepening to a dark purple. A teasing smile curving her lips, she wrapped her small fingers around his cock, bent her head and swiped her tongue across the velvet surface, catching the drop of fluid that sat atop the slit. For good measure she probed the slit with the tip of her tongue then sucked the head into her mouth.
“Jesus!” He pulled her head away from him. “In a minute, I’ll forget myself and fuck you right here on the floor.”
She looked up and let his cock slip from the tight clasp of her lips. “Now that would spoil all the fun, cowboy.”
She stood, took his hand and led him into the huge bathroom, part of the new master suite they’d recently added on. Fat candles shimmered on every surface, filling the air with traces of vanilla and fragrant steam rose from the large hot tub they’d had built in.
“Every cowboy should have something fancy in his life,” she told him. “I thought this would be nice for our anniversary.”
“You’re all the fancy I need,” he replied. “No shower first?”
“Oh, yeah.” She winked at him. “You bet.”
She turned the handle in the big shower and jets misted water at them from a dozen directions. She held out her hand and drew him inside, licking her lips as she took in the sight of him. When she’d splashed water on every inch of his naked body, she grabbed the shower gel and squeezed a generous amount into the palm of one hand.
“You just relax, cowboy, and let me do the work.”
When she’d worked the gel into a thick lather, she began spreading it over his body. First his arms and the hollow spots beneath them. Then his chest, swirling the bubbles around his nipples, pinching them lightly. With careful strokes, she rubbed the gel into the line of hair arrowing down to his groin. When she closed her hands over his rigid cock, a low moan rumbled from his throat.
“Holy God, sweetheart. Careful, or this will be over before it starts.”
“Don’t you worry about a thing.” She grinned. “I’ve got it all in hand.”
He laughed. “I’d say so.”
She soaped his erection from root to tip and up again then massaged lather into the heavy sac between his thighs. She covered his legs from hip to ankle and nudged him to turn around and went to work on his back, beginning with his shoulders and working her way down.
When she reached the cleft of his buttocks and slid her soapy fingers into it, his muscles tightened in response.
“You know what that does to me,” he reminded her.
“Exactly.” And she continued massaging the gel into his flesh, probing the tight ring of his anus, penetrating it with just the tip of her finger.
By the time she’d finished lathering his entire body and rinsing him off, she knew he was hotter than a match and ready to flare. Just the way she wanted him.
She didn’t even dry them off, just stepped into the bubbling water of the hot tub and held out her hand to him. She wet her lips with the tip of her tongue as she swept her gaze over every powerful masculine inch of him. Tonight, she was in control and she would relish every minute of it.
When they were submerged to their shoulders, facing each other, she scooted between his wide-spread legs, running her hands over his muscular thighs. With a teasing touch, she caressed the soft skin between them, cupping his balls and rolling them in her fingers.
“Don’t move,” she told him. “This is my show.”
His muscles tightened with sexual tension and heat flared in his eyes. From the first day they’d met, the fire between them had never lessened. She hadn’t thought it was possible for their sexual activities to get better, but he was always inventive, always thinking of new ways to bring her to climax. Tonight, it was her turn to pleasure him.
She wrapped the fingers of her other hand around his stiff shaft and moved both hands in coordinated rhythm, feeling him pulse in her grip.
“Would you like to touch me?” she asked, an impish tone in her voice.
“You know damn well I would,” he growled.
“All right. You may play with my nipples.”
She hitched even closer to give him easier access to her, to pull and tug on her hardened tips, heat flashing in his eyes as she slid the hand toying with his balls even lower. With the water up to her chin, she eased her fingers into the crevice of his ass and searched for the puckered skin of his anus. She’d discovered how much he loved this, although he’d been embarrassed to admit it the first time they’d experimented. Now, sometimes, she even made him beg for it. But not tonight. Tonight, it was all about him.
The muscles of his buttocks clenched when she probed at him with a fingertip and his breath hissed between his teeth.
“Holy God,” he growled. “You’re driving me crazy.”
“That’s the idea.”
He rocked back and forth on the dual stimulation, the rapid movement of her hand on his cock and the sensation of the finger she eased slowly into his ass. He sucked in his breath when she rubbed the sensitive tissues, exploring deeper and deeper, adjusting her position to allow her the greatest access to his rectum. The water bubbled softly around them and the blend of aromas floated in the room, creating an erotic cocoon that stimulated their senses.
She increased the pace of her hand, up and down his shaft while she plowed his ass with her slender finger fucking in time to her movements. When he tightened his fingers on her nipples, squeezing them hard, she knew he was close. She pushed her finger deeper inside him to find that spot that drove him over the edge, his body tensing in response.
“Now,” she whispered.
His balls tightened against her thighs and his cock pulsed in her hand.
“Happy anniversary, sweetheart,” she murmured. “Let it go. Come for me now.”
He exploded, the muscles in his neck cording, his head thrown back, and beneath the scented bubbles his semen jetted over and over onto her stroking hand and fingers.
“Grace!” he yelled. “Grace… Grace… Grace!”
* * * *
“Grace. Damn it, Grace, do you hear me?”
Grace shook her head, hearing Melanie’s voice rather than her sexy cowboy’s. He wasn’t the one calling her name. Where had he gone?
“Can you hear me, Grace?” Melanie demanded. “Are you all right? You’ve been standing here staring into space as if you were in another world. What is the matter with you?”
Heat flooded Grace’s face. The poster had thrown her into an erotic daydream right there in broad daylight, blanking out everything else. How long had she been standing lost like this? What had people going back and forth in the hallway thought of her?
Without thinking, she lifted her hand and touched the pin, feeling it warm against her skin. Maybe that woman had been right about it. Was that a good thing or a bad one?
“Sorry.” She let out a breath. “I guess my mind just wandered for a minute.”
Melanie looked at the poster on the wall and once again at Grace. A slow smile tilted the corners of her mouth. “Well, no wonder. Want to meet him in person? Or at least the closest thing to him?”
Grace adjusted her hat and hitched her purse strap up on her shoulder. “I’m fine, Mel. Just fine. I don’t need to meet anyone. Let’s go.”
But Melanie just kept grinning at her. “Now, that’s where you’re wrong. We didn’t come here so you could hide in your usual corner. Let’s go see if we can get you laid somewhere except in your mind.”
“Wait. Wait. Are you crazy? I just—”
Melanie had a grip on Grace’s arm like a vise and was practically dragging her into the huge barn that had been converted into the modern version of a chuck wagon for the rodeo contestants and workers.
“Uh-huh. Right. Forget it. I know the right cowboy is just waiting in here for you.”
Oh, shit. I am in such big trouble.