Taken, Not Spurred (Page 2)

Taken, Not Spurred (Lone Star Burn #1)(2)
Author: Ruth Cardello

This is what life is about: seeing new places, meeting new people, grabbing life by the balls and squeezing until it coughs up a story worth telling.

I should write that down.

She whipped out the purple spiral notebook she’d purchased specifically for this trip and stopped halfway through recording her thoughts, hesitating before writing a word she normally avoided: balls.

I’m twenty-five, not five. Writers are not afraid of words. On the very first page of her notebook, she wrote:

Balls. Balls. Balls.

And smiled with pride. With renewed enthusiasm, she wrote:

Big balls. Hairy balls. Bald balls?

Chewing on the end of her pen thoughtfully, Sarah decided to designate a section of her notebook to research topics. She drew a margin on the right side of the paper. In her finest penmanship she wrote:

Do some men shave their balls?

I should write: What woman my age doesn’t know that? But this is not about passing judgment. Positive energy brings positive results. Accepting yourself is the first step toward improvement.

God, I’ve been reading too many self-help books.

It’s time to stop thinking about why I’m not living the life I want and just live it.

Which was why she’d chosen to bring a notebook instead of her laptop. Real change sometimes requires a clean sweep. No more wasting time searching the Internet hoping a topic would end her writer’s block. No more reading countless articles on how to write. Just a pen, a notebook, and Texas. If I don’t write something this summer, I deserve to work for my parents for the rest of my life.

Time to color outside the lines.

No more settling for good enough.

Like Doug.

Her recent breakup with the man she’d dated chastely in high school, then slept with through college, had been as unexciting as any of the sex they’d ever had. Not that they’d had sex at all in months. Which should have mattered, but it hadn’t. Because I didn’t love him. Just like every other choice I’ve made up until now, he was safe, the type of man everyone expected me to be with. Smart, successful, and someone who fit into her parents’ social circle. He’d never said a single thing anyone objected to. Tapioca in a suit. Bland in and out of bed.

Why was I with him for so long?

The wrong-size shoe doesn’t fit just because you want it to.

She slammed her notebook shut and hugged it to her chest. She took another look around the room, then whispered, “The only one who can give me the life I want is me. Right now. Right here.”

Returning to her more immediate concerns, Sarah looked down at the damp cotton material of her shirt. Who knew how long Lucy would be gone? What if she comes home and she’s not alone? I can’t meet people looking like this.

Coming to a quick decision, Sarah rushed back to her SUV and hauled her luggage into the foyer. She rummaged for a change of clothes and, taking just her small bag with her, headed off in search of a place where she could freshen up.

The bleached-white downstairs bathroom was as Spartan as the rest of the house, but it revealed a beautiful . . . no, a heaven-sent shower. She closed her eyes for a moment and imagined washing off the dirt and sweat under the cool spray.

Would it be so wrong?

Tony considered taking the shotgun from the back of his truck when he saw the vehicle parked in his driveway, but quickly decided to toss this intruder off his land with his bare hands. Hell, it might even make my day.

A Rhode Island license plate? Someone had traveled a long way for a good old-fashioned Texas beating.

’Course, there was a slim chance that his ranch manager, David, had invited a buyer to pick up his horse directly from the ranch. No, David’s smarter than that.

Tony opened the door of his truck with more force than was necessary and took stock of the scene in his driveway. No one he knew would have driven this flashy gray two-horse trailer or matching silver Lexus SUV—both of which looked spanking new.

Upon closer inspection, the trailer looked more like a delivery truck than a pickup. The rear-loading ramp was still down. Clearly, someone had unloaded a horse and led it into the barn.

He checked the barn’s interior first. Nothing out of place. The stalls were secure. He scanned the paddocks. All his horses were accounted for.

What the hell? Whoever had driven that trailer had had the gall to put their small horse in one of his paddocks, smack-dab in the middle of his prized quarter horses.

A delicately boned bay horse, Paso Fino by breed. Tony’s eyes narrowed. Pampered, by the looks of it. Definitely not used to working. The sparkling painted black hooves and pink halter stopped him in his tracks.

The intruder is a woman. Cursing, Tony strode toward the house, the pace of his footsteps picking up speed as his anger grew.

He considered each of his past female companions, although none were recent. He chose partners with care—experienced women who understood that he had nothing more than a few hours of mutual pleasuring to offer them. He didn’t promise them anything, and they were too smart to think they could come to his ranch uninvited and receive anything but a cold escort back to the road. The only people who were welcome on his ranch were the ones who worked there, and even they knew to stay out of his way.

The pink-and-green checkered luggage that greeted him as he entered the house brought a rush of heat up his neck. He heard the downstairs shower running and a female voice mixed with the sound of the spray. Almost positive he must be hallucinating from the heat of the day, he walked toward the bathroom. With a bang he opened the door, stepped inside, and stopped dead when he saw the outline of a small woman dancing behind the fogged glass.

She must not have heard him, because she kept singing—some pop song, he figured. Not a tune he knew. The tone he chose was one that had caused many grown men to cower over the years. “What the hell are you doing in my shower?”

The water cut off and a hand shot out, grabbed a towel, and snatched it back behind the glass door. A second later, a wet blonde head poked out. “Hi, I’m Sarah,” she stated, as if that explained everything. “I didn’t think you’d mind if I took a quick shower while waiting for you. Sorry if I surprised you.”

Her face wore a warm, sheepish smile even while water dripped down from her hair across her forehead. He caught a glimpse of a bare arm as her hand came out to wipe the water away. His gut tightened in response.

Gorgeous.

Long, wet eyelashes framed two unguarded brown eyes. Small dimples made her classically beautiful features less intimidating. Here was a woman who seemed unaware that a man could have the air sucked right out of his lungs and be rendered speechless by just one look at her.