Not Just a Cowboy (Texas Rescue) (7 page)

BOOK: Not Just a Cowboy (Texas Rescue)
11.79Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

How lucky could a man get?

* * *

Patricia knew he’d be here any moment.

She was sitting on a plastic chair at the entrance to the field showers, waiting with the female firefighter for the men to finish so the women could take their turn. Still, when Patricia saw Luke’s large frame emerging from the shadows, striding toward her with a towel slung over his shoulder, she felt a little flutter, like she wasn’t ready for something.

The shower facility was, of course, a specialized tent, with a locking wood door set into a wood frame at each end. Six vinyl shower stalls and a common area of tub sinks and benches were inside. Water from an external tank could be pumped in by hand, but lights and heated water were provided by generators. The showers were available to men and women in alternating hours during the day, but they closed every night at nine. There was a reason for that rule: in order to reduce noise when the majority of the staff and patients were sleeping, the mobile hospital ran only vital generators at this hour of the night.

Patricia hadn’t bothered consulting her supervisor for permission to break the nine o’clock rule tonight. These showers weren’t a luxury for the firefighters. They wouldn’t wake the sleeping staff as long as they didn’t run the generators, so Patricia had made the decision and retrieved the keys from the admin tent. Besides, Karen was already in bed. Why wake her up only to tell her what she was going to agree to?

Chief Rouhotas hurried ahead of Luke to greet her first. He was very appreciative. So much so, it confirmed Patricia’s earlier suspicion that he knew exactly who she was. The daughters of Texas millionaires were spoken to in a different way than non-profit personnel directors. Judging from his men’s antics while putting up the tent this morning, however, Luke and Zach and Murphy had no idea that Patricia Cargill was

Her eyes strayed to Luke. He was watching Rouhotas kowtow to her as if the chief had lost his mind. The chief was starting his second round of thanks. Patricia held up the keys in her hand and gave them a jangle. “I did nothing daring. The keys were already in my office. I’d appreciate it if you and your men keep it quiet, that’s all. No locker room antics, please.”

The chief chuckled, but that didn’t mean she’d actually said anything amusing, of course. It only meant she was a Cargill.

“Got that, guys?” the chief said, turning back toward Luke and the guys. “No towel snapping.”

If he said anything after that, Patricia paid no attention. The sudden image of a nude Luke having a towel snapped at what was undoubtedly a muscular backside made that fluttery feeling return in force.

Luke lingered as the rest of his crew entered the facility, but Patricia didn’t get out of her chair for a private word. It would be too obvious that she knew him better than the others. She stayed next to the woman from Houston, knowing—hoping—Luke wouldn’t say anything inappropriate in front of his peer.

“So we have you to thank for providing the cold shower,” he said.

“It is June, and this is Texas, so I don’t think the water will be that cold.” She tried to make her voice cold, though. He couldn’t expect her to fall to pieces like she had earlier.

“Cold is fine with me,” Luke said, sounding perfectly sincere. “After the heat we dealt with earlier, a cold shower is just what I need.”

As he walked away, he took the towel off his shoulder and started spinning it into a loose whip, which he cracked at the handle just before he opened the door and walked into the showers.

“Men,” said the woman beside her.

Patricia closed her eyes, willing herself not to envision Luke stark naked, just a few feet away.

“Men,” she agreed.

Chapter Eight

atricia was the first woman to finish her shower. She combed out her wet hair and twisted it up with a clam-shell clip. The Houston firefighter and the cook who’d made the late night run to the new pet-friendly shelter were still showering, as well as an ER nurse. How the cook and the nurse had found out the showers were open was a mystery, but Patricia knew from previous missions that word traveled fast when everyone worked together in a confined community like the mobile hospital.

The exit from the showers was at the opposite side of the facility from the entrance. Patricia gathered up her toiletries bag, her towel and her deck shoes. She’d wear her shower flip-flops back to the women’s sleeping quarters. Although she’d have to wait for the others to finish so that she could lock up, she’d rather wait in the open air. The forecasted rain was threatening, but Patricia knew she’d be able to hear the ocean in the quiet of the night. She could listen, and dream of something that had nothing to do with Texas Rescue and hospitals and firemen.

She could dream of sailboats. Large, oceanic ones. The kind that went somewhere. The kind she would own someday soon, when her money was her own.

The exit door had just shut behind her when a man’s voice quietly said, “First one out. I knew that high-maintenance look was just an act.”

Patricia squealed in surprise and whirled to face Luke.

“Shh,” he said, and he took her shoes out of her hand and pulled her deeper into the dark.

“What are you doing?” she hissed.

“Making sure no one sees you running off to kiss a boy, remember? You wanted to keep this a secret.”

Luke stopped when they reached a tree, a multi-branched oak that had survived the hurricane. There was enough light to see his smile. There was enough night to make it feel like they were alone.

Patricia kept her voice to a near-whisper as she set the record straight. “That’s not what I said. I said kissing you wasn’t going to be an ongoing thing.”

“Why not? It’s fun.” Luke dropped her shoes and looped his arms around her waist, then leaned back against the tree and pulled her to stand between his legs.

What does fun have to do with anything?”

He was wearing a T-shirt again, but his uniform slacks had been replaced by some kind of athletic track pants after his shower. They were probably what he slept in. Their nylon fabric slipped over her freshly-shaved legs when she shifted her weight, restless in the loose circle of his arms. Her own cotton T-shirt and drawstring shorts were meant for sleeping, too. They felt too flimsy for staying outdoors like this.

“You told me this wasn’t summer camp,” Luke said, “but you’re sure making it as fun as one. The one year I actually went to a summer camp, I didn’t have the courage to stand outside the showers to steal a girl. I wish I had. Right now, I need a little bit of courage again, because you are looking mad as a hornet, but I want to kiss you pretty badly. I don’t want to look back on this moment and say I wish I had.”

Patricia held her breath in the moonlight. The coming storm clouds sent a gust of wind through the branches above them. Luke’s grin faded, and the look in his eyes was intense as he pushed off the tree and stood over her. He moved his hands to hold her waist securely, one warm palm above each hip. She had all the time in the world to back away.

But she didn’t.

She held on to her towel and her toiletries, but she lifted her chin, making it easy for him to dip his, and for their mouths to meet. It was the sweetest thing, almost tentative, two kids learning how to kiss at summer camp.

Except, this was the man she’d been worried about all day. It was scary to be so concerned for one person. It was achingly good to have him here now.

Then his hands were sliding up her ribcage, and she recalled watching them tying knots, just for her. Hands so strong and sure then, hands so strong and sure now. She wanted those hands on her, everywhere, but he kept moving slowly.

And still, their lips touched lightly, closed and soft, the kiss almost chaste.

She let her arm relax, extending it toward the ground and dropping her towel and the zippered bag. Luke’s hands traveled just a little higher, and his thumbs grazed the sides of her breasts. She was wearing an athletic bra, the stretchy one-piece kind that pressed a woman’s breasts flat against her body. She felt suddenly self-conscious, like the teenager she’d once been, afraid she wouldn’t measure up to a boy’s expectations.

But Luke’s warm hands slid around to her back, not her front, and began a slow descent. He didn’t stop at the curve of her lower back, but slid farther down, warm palms smoothing over the curves of her backside, until he cupped her to him. With strength.

Summer camp was over. As one, their mouths opened hungrily and the kiss became adult. Patricia pressed against him, pushing him back against the tree. He took her with him, lifting her to her toes, her soft body sliding up his hard body. She raised her arms to circle his strong shoulders, burying one of her hands in his thick hair, which was clean and still damp from his shower.

She kissed him with abandon. It was just the two of them in the dark. There was no one to see, no one to judge her, no one to remind her of who she was and what she needed to do.

When the first pattering of rain came, she didn’t care. Neither did Luke. But when the first lightning strike cracked the sky, they let go of each other.

Everyone at summer camp knew not to stand under a tree in a lightning storm.

Luke bent to scoop her belongings up from the ground, then took her hand and ran with her through the rain, which was falling harder by the moment. They reached the exit door of the showers quickly. Patricia opened the door and leaned in. “Ladies? Are you dressed?”

The inside was dark.

She stepped inside and held the door open for Luke. “There’s no one here.”

He stepped inside and the door banged shut in its wooden frame just as the skies opened and the rain came down, full force. The sound of it was like a roar against the tent. She couldn’t see in the dark, so the sound was all she had to focus on. That, and Luke.

“It’s lucky you hadn’t locked the door yet,” Luke said. “If you’d spent one second finding the key, we’d be soaked through.”

It was unnerving, not being able to see to move away. The moment under the tree had passed, and she needed space. “If you’ll hand me my bag, I’ve got a flashlight in it.”

Immediately, a flashlight lit the night. Luke had it aimed at the floor so she wouldn’t be blinded, but now she could see his face. He looked friendly, not as hungry as she felt. She cleared her throat. She should be friendly, too.

“You had a flashlight in your pocket this whole time?” she asked. “I thought you were just happy to see me.”

The rain thundered down for a second more, and then Luke laughed. “Why, Miss Cargill, you find yourself ever so amusing, don’t you?”

Patricia took her shoes and towel from him, unable to stop her own smile. She’d just told what was quite possibly her first crude joke. Luke had laughed, and not because she was a wealthy benefactor. He just thought she was funny.

What does fun have to do with it?

She slid the deadbolt on the back door and walked away from him. The tent was only about twenty feet long, so the glow of his flashlight gave her enough light as she went to the front door and opened it an inch. There was nothing to see outside except a deluge of falling water.

“Looks like we’ll be here a while,” Luke said. “We might as well be comfortable.”

The light careened around the space as he moved to the long bench that ran the length of the common area. He rubbed the towel over his arms, then spread it on the double-wide bench.

Patricia shut the door and hung her towel on the hook by the nearest shower stall. “Maybe you should turn that light off. Anyone walking by will wonder why there are people in the shower at this time of night.”

Instantly, the tent was plunged into darkness. “Wouldn’t want the camp counselors to walk by and see us in here,” Luke said.

Patricia couldn’t take a step, the darkness was so absolute. “Okay, point taken. Turn it back on.”

He did, and then he reached to set it on the edge of one of the tub sinks, pointed away from the bench so it gave the space an ambient glow. “No one in their right mind is walking outside right now, Patricia. You aren’t about to get caught doing anything. In fact, you
doing anything. Come sit down.”

She did, sitting next to him on the wooden bench, knees together, facing forward, prepared to wait for the storm to die down.

After a moment, Luke leaned forward and stuck his face in her line of vision. “Seriously? You’re killing me. We might as well be comfortable. Come here.”

He kicked off his flip-flop and swung one leg onto the bench, sitting sideways, knee bent. With an arm around her waist, he slid her closer, turning her so that her backside securely fit in between his thighs and the warmth of his chest was at her back. Trying not to sigh at the futility of resisting him, Patricia kicked off her flip-flops and put her feet on the bench, then hugged her bent knees.

“You could lean back against me,” Luke said into the nape of her neck.

She reached forward to brush leaves off her feet. “It’s been a horribly long day. You must be exhausted by now.”

“The day that I’m so exhausted that I can’t stay upright when a beautiful woman leans against me is the day that I turn in my spurs and hat and walk off into the sunset without a horse.”

Patricia laughed a little. “You’re too much, Luke Waterson.”

“Am I?” He slipped his fingers under the short sleeve of her cotton sleep shirt. With agonizing patience, he slid his fingers and her sleeve up over her shoulder. He bent forward and kissed her bared shoulder. “Funny, but it seems to me that you can handle anything I dish out.”

As if they’d choreographed it, he released the clip in her hair, and she leaned back to rest her head on his shoulder. He set her clip on the bench, then smoothed his hand down her arm. He kissed her temple. The shell of her ear.

She drew her knees in a little closer, afraid of the spell he was casting, afraid she wouldn’t say no.

Afraid she wouldn’t say yes.

Afraid he wouldn’t ask her at all.

* * *

Luke was a patient man. Any good cowboy had to be. Horses weren’t trained in an hour. Grass didn’t grow overnight and steer didn’t fatten in a day.

But, like any good cowboy, Luke stayed alert for the signs that things were about to change. He looked for steer that drifted farther to forage. Trees that started to bud. Horses that twitched their ears in confusion before they got spooked and tried to bolt.

Patricia, who’d been open and bold outside in the rain, was on the verge of being spooked right now. Luke wasn’t sure what had caused the change. He was fairly certain she didn’t know, either, so he didn’t ask her. He just touched her, starting with another kiss on her bare, rounded shoulder.

She responded with a small shudder, reminding him of her reaction when he’d touched her for the first time, after she’d learned he was not the injured man leaving in a helicopter. Was that shudder a sign of relief? A release of tension?

She held a lot of tension in her body, her posture always perfect, her arm always flexed with a clipboard or handheld radio in her grip. She shouldered a lot of responsibility with Texas Rescue, just as he shouldered responsibility for the James Hill Ranch. He knew bosses were people, too. Patricia wasn’t just a director; she was a woman. He wanted to know what made this woman relax. What made her tension disappear. And, perhaps selfishly, what made her aroused.

Luke ran his hand down her arm again, going slowly, putting gentle pressure on her muscles even as he savored the perfection of her skin. Her hand was resting on her knee, curled up as she was in front of him. He passed his hand over hers, then slid his palm down her impossibly smooth shin to hold her ankle in his hand.

She leaned back, turning her face to cuddle into the area between his shoulder and neck, making herself more comfortable. Relaxing. She liked this slow, thorough touch.

Luke’s body was already hard as hell, but there was nothing he could do about that, and no way to hide it. He didn’t have to act on it, though, and he didn’t intend to, not with a woman who couldn’t decide whether to kiss him or sit a foot away from him. He was a patient man, he reminded himself. He enjoyed simply touching her.

“What are you doing?” she whispered after long moments of silent caresses.

“I’m learning you. You like this.” Luke ran his thumb down the front of her shin. “But you love this.”

He slid his cupped hand up the underside of her bent leg. She breathed in on a little moan of pleasure. It felt incredibly intimate to him. The curve of her calf and the bend of her knee were his to know.

“But I was very sincere,” she said, “that I didn’t want to date a fireman.”

He kissed her jaw near her ear. “Luckily for us, I’m just a cowboy.”

She shivered as she laughed. Laughter was good. Luke caressed her from her thigh to her waist to her breast, kissing her neck again as he kept his hand still on her breast, letting the heat from his skin penetrate her damp shirt.

“I’m wearing a sports bra.” Her words came out in a rush as she placed her hand over his. Luke thought she sounded almost defensive. She couldn’t be insecure about her gorgeous body. She just couldn’t be.

“I don’t want to boast or anything,” he said, “but I do know the difference between a sports bra and the other kind. I’m grateful this job calls for you to wear athletic gear and polo shirts. You’d kill me with cleavage.”

In the soft light, he saw her smile. She tilted her head so he could nuzzle her neck more easily. “I do have a little black dress that could possibly knock you out.”

“You could send me straight to my grave, I’m sure.”

Her leg was warm where it settled against him, her body heat reaching him through the thin nylon he wore. Relaxed by their nonsense talk, languid under his caresses, she let her other leg fall open to the side.

BOOK: Not Just a Cowboy (Texas Rescue)
11.79Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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