The Cowboy Lassos a Bride (Page 2)

The Cowboy Lassos a Bride (Cowboys of Chance Creek #6)(2)
Author: Cora Seton

She wanted to be loved.

“Care to dance?”

She glanced up with a start to find Jake Matheson, Morgan’s brother-in-law, standing beside her table. “Um… sure.” Too surprised to say more, she stood up and took his hand. As he led her to the dance floor, she allowed her gaze to trail over him in a way she hadn’t looked at any man in a long, long time. Jake was one of the handsomest cowboys she knew and she was shocked he’d deigned to issue her this invitation. Like all the Matheson men, he was tall, broad-shouldered, with blond hair and blue eyes. He was the oldest of four, and everyone knew he’d run the Double-Bar-K when his father stepped down from that job. Any woman who married Jake would enter one of the oldest, proudest ranching families in the county. But Jake seemed to have no notion of settling down.

At thirty-three, he was seven years older than her, so he’d graduated before she’d even entered high school. Their crowds hadn’t ever converged until this past summer when she began to work at the Cruz ranch from time to time, helping Autumn with her guest ranch business. Ethan was good friends with Rob Matheson, Jake’s youngest brother and Morgan’s husband, and she’d gotten to know the rest of the Mathesons in the intervening months, especially at Ethan and Autumn’s weekly poker nights.

Still, it was strange to feel Jake’s large hand curve around her own as he led her through the crowded tables, and when he pulled her close on the dance floor and put his hands on her waist to sway next to her to the slow dance now playing over the speakers, her breath caught. She’d never been so near to Jake. His dress shirt was smooth under her cheek as she rested her head against his chest. His hands were warm through the thin fabric of her dress. He smelled of soap and man and outdoors, a scent that filled her with an unnamed longing. She hoped he couldn’t hear her heart racing in her chest. Jake was so masculine, so utterly out of her league, she’d never even pictured a moment like this.

As her body came alive under his touch, Hannah realized just how bad things between her and Cody had become. He never made her feel like this—her heart thrumming, her pulse racing, her breath caught in her throat. Jake, on the other hand, made her senses reel. She tingled all over from his proximity.

“Enjoying the wedding?” he murmured. If he wanted, she knew he could easily rest his chin on top of her head. He held her carefully but firmly, and she felt safe in his arms. Protected. Valued in a way she wanted to be valued. She could tell by the way he moved with her that he was very aware of her too. Knowing his thoughts were on her—not just his hands—was as intoxicating as any glass of champagne. The play of his muscles under his shirt delighted her. She wished she could touch him. Run a hand over his chest. She tilted her head down so he wouldn’t be able to read her thoughts in her face. This was a man who could warm her through any long, cold Montana night.

She bit her lip to keep from laughing out loud. The testosterone leaking out of this handsome cowboy must be playing havoc with her hormones. Jake wasn’t interested in her that way. He was dancing with her out of pity, just like the rest of them.

“It’s nice,” she managed to say finally.

“Where’s Cody tonight?”

Hannah leaned back to peer up at him. She was surprised he even remembered Cody. Had the two men even crossed paths? She wasn’t sure. “He didn’t feel like coming. He’s not much for weddings.” She suppressed a sigh.

“He ought to know better than to leave a pretty girl like you alone in a situation like this.”

“Why? What could possibly happen to me?” She smiled up at him as he smiled down. Flirting with Jake was the last thing she’d expected to happen when she arrived here tonight, but it felt as comfortable to do so as if she’d had years of practice. If only this dance could last more than a few minutes. She wanted it to go on forever.

“Who knows what kind of unsavory elements might get a hold of you.”

His fingers pressed into her skin and she leaned into his embrace, realized what she was doing and tried to pull back. He didn’t let her. His hands settled more tightly at her waist and kept her pressed up against the length of him. Suddenly Hannah could hardly breathe.

“I’m impervious to unsavory elements,” she made herself say, but her voice sounded weak. Unsure.

He stopped dancing for a moment. Started again. “Impervious?” He dipped his head lower so that his lips were near her ear. “Are you sure?”

Not when his breath tickled her neck like that. “Absolutely.”

One of his hands slipped down just a fraction of an inch on her waist, but it was enough to make its position almost indecorous. His other arm wrapped around her to make it entirely clear who was in charge here. Hannah was aware of every inch of his body that pressed against hers. Her heart was beating strong and fast. She clung to him, so off-balance as to be dizzy.

Jake swayed with her to the music and Hannah wondered if everyone could see the way desire was setting her nerves alight. She now knew just how intimate a simple dance could become when one partner was determined to seduce the other.

Because that’s what Jake was doing. Seducing her. Reeling her in until he was the only thing she could think about. It was working, too.

“Let’s test that theory, shall we?” Suddenly he was pulling her back through the tables, across the reception hall and out into a corridor. He traced its length, trying the handles of the doors they passed to storage rooms, smaller meeting rooms and the like. Hannah stumbled after him, not caring who saw them or what they thought. She just wanted to be with Jake. Anywhere he wanted to be.

Finally one opened. Hardly bigger than a closet, it appeared to be a break room for the staff. Jake spun her back into his arms, backed her up against a counter and kissed the daylights out of her.

Hannah only had a fleeting thought of Cody at home on his rundown couch, in his boxers and a T-shirt, a six-pack and a bag of chips on the coffee table, television remote in his hand. Then she could think of nothing else but Jake. The man’s mouth on hers, devouring her, kissing her until she had to gasp for breath, his hands smoothing over her waist, almost dipping down over her ass, but hesitating, not crossing that threshold.

Not yet.

Hannah knew this could go as far as she wanted to take it. Knew too that Jake was too much a gentleman to push for more than she was willing to give. How much was she willing to give? She wasn’t sure. Except with each passing moment she felt closer to wanting to give him everything. The champagne she had drunk lent a warm glow to the workaday room. Jake’s arms around her, his mouth on hers made her forget everything else.