Gentling the Cowboy (Page 24)

Gentling the Cowboy (Texan Nights Series #1)(24)
Author: Ruth Cardello

Figuratively and then, hopefully, literally.

She stood when Tony’s truck pulled into the driveway. She was at the top of the steps waiting for him. A perfect moment, marred only by the harsh lines of his guarded expression. Still, he walked up the steps toward her and came to a stop within inches of her. Her body vibrated with a welcoming shudder.

There was a hunger in him that ignited a spreading heat within her. They stood, eyes locked, neither moving nor reaching for the other, barely breathing.

“I’ve been thinking,” he said gruffly.

Hopefully about what has been on my mind all day.

“Yes?” Sarah replied, just above a whisper.

He opened his mouth to say something, then closed it. “It’s been a long day, but tomorrow we need to talk.”

“Okay.” Seriously? Talk? Isn’t that supposed to be the woman’s line?

“I have to speak to David, then I’m calling it an early night.”


He didn’t have to say the word—it was stated loud and clear in his tone.


Some of her irritation must have shown in her face because he asked, “Did you need anything?”

Salt to the wound, Texas? Between tight lips, she said, “Not a thing.”

He stepped back and tipped his hat at her. “Then good night.”

She watched him turn and walk down the steps and wanted to throw one of her sandals at his departing head. She fought against the temptation to stomp her feet in frustration.

Tony Carlton, you are the most irritating man I’ve ever met. I should take my notebook back, while I can. Now, before more happens and I toss my pride aside and just tackle you.

In the light of the barn doorway, he turned and looked back at her. Even from the distance, she felt the connection slam through her. She put a hand on the railing beside her to steady her suddenly weak knees.

He’ll change his mind when he reads my journal.

Sarah straightened as a thought occurred to her. What am I going to wear? This isn’t just any night, this is the one I’ll base all of my future naughty fantasies on. Our first time.

Sarah sprinted upstairs and stripped. She paced back and forth, buck naked, in front of her open luggage. Lingerie? Too eager. A T-shirt? Too casual. The cotton, virginal nightgown my parents had bought for this trip? She buried it beneath some shirts. Naked?

Definitely a time-saver.

She closed the luggage and moved it back to the floor, pushing it beneath the twin-size bed. She perched on the edge nervously then lay back against the coolness of the quilt.

Too scary.

She stood, then slid beneath the covers and pulled them up to her neck.

Too cliché.

In the quiet of the house she heard the front door open and close. She tensed with each footstep on the stairs.

He hasn’t read it yet.

I forgot about my hair.

I probably should have showered.

I want to look beautiful, but not too eager.

Then maybe I shouldn’t be naked.

In a panic, she slid out from under the covers, grabbed her luggage and rummaged quickly for a long nightshirt with a plunging neckline. While standing before the mirror on the back of the bathroom door, she heard Tony open the door to his bedroom.

This is it.

She heard the thuds as each of his boots hit the floor and grabbed her makeup bag. A dash of concealer and quickly applied eyeliner and mascara and Sarah felt a bit more confident. She ran a hand through her hair and touched up her lip gloss.

He can’t catch me waiting for him by the door like I’m desperate.

Sarah sat on the edge of her bed again and cursed Tony for not having even a television to distract her. The quiet did, however, allow her to hear him open and close the drawers of his bureau.

Maybe hunting for condoms?

Sarah smoothed the hem of her nightshirt. Who am I kidding? If he read my entry, he knows I want to be with him. Why hide in a tent of a nightgown? This trip is about finding myself. Being bold.

She dropped to her knees beside the bed and began to rummage for her lingerie. It was a pink satin baby-doll set, definitely sexier than what she was presently wearing.

Dressed again, Sarah perched on the edge of her bed and waited.

And waited.

Tony dropped his jeans and shirt to the floor beside his bed and slid tiredly beneath the cool sheets in just his boxers. If someone had told him that he’d end the day alone while the woman he wanted to f**k rustled around in a room just one door down the hall, he would have laughed.

But Dean was right.

Sarah deserved better than the way he’d treated her. She was innocent and she trusted him, two things that weighed heavily on his conscience. Earlier that day he’d put aside what he knew was right and found his own pleasure with her. The memory of her orgasm brought him painfully to rock hardness in his boxers.

He could still remember how sweetly she’d spread her legs for him. The taste of her. The scent of her. He’d withheld his own release to give her time to get to know her own. He had told himself he wouldn’t rush her, but when they’d kissed after finding her horse, he’d lost all control and would have forgotten his early resolve had they not been interrupted.

She could leave if she wanted. No one is making her stay here. I should take what she is so openly offering me and let her deal with the consequences.

He closed his eyes and images of her warm smile and trusting eyes twisted his gut. Guilt is available in abundance without inviting more. Before coming in the house, Tony had gone to see David regarding what Dean had said about Russell’s wife. “You should have told me,” he’d boomed at his manager.

David had shaken his head sadly. “A man hears only what he’s ready to hear. Russell’s troubles were no secret.”

“He got himself fired. He betrayed my trust,” Tony had growled.

“And paid a hefty price for it. You’re one of the few steady employers around. A man would have to be desperate to risk a job in this town.”

“That’s no excuse.”

“There’s not a person on the planet who hasn’t made a mistake, Tony. Some greater than others. But sometimes knowing why a person did it makes the forgiving a whole lot easier.”

Dammit to hell. David had a way of reasoning a man right out of a fit of anger. Tony pushed back his hat back from his forehead. “How sick is his wife?”

“She has cancer. Doc says she might have a chance if she goes into Dallas for treatment, but who can afford that?”

I can.

I don’t have much of anything else in my life, but money has always come easy.