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Authors: Cheyenne McCray

Tying You Down

Riding Tall:

Tying You Down

 

Cheyenne McCray

 

 

 Copyright © 2013

Tying You Down by Cheyenne McCray

All rights reserved. No part of this e-Book may be reproduced in whole or in part, scanned, photocopied, recorded, distributed in any printed or electronic form, or reproduced in any manner whatsoever, or by any information storage and retrieval system now known or hereafter invented, without express written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons living or dead is entirely coincidental.

E-book conversion by Bella Media Management.

Published by Pink Zebra Publishing.

13-Digit ISBN: 978-0-9858534-9-5

First Edition e-Book

Chapter 1

 

Rain and wind buffeted the plane bound for Phoenix from Las Vegas as it cut through the storm. Lightning flashed outside the small oval window.

Attempting to get more comfortable, Jo Burke shifted in the cramped middle seat and her elbow slid from the armrest and bumped into Tate McBride’s arm. An unexpected thrill, not unlike the lightning outside the plane, shot through her body at the contact and she met his gaze.

“If you want my attention, all you have to do is say so,” he said in a low drawl, a glint of amusement in his eyes.

She ignored the flip-flop that she felt in her belly as he looked at her. “I’m trying to keep from waking Jenny.”

Jo glanced at Tess Grady’s—now Tess McBride’s—daughter who was sound asleep on the other side of Jo in the window seat. They were just returning from Tess and Gage’s wedding in Las Vegas. Jo and Tate were taking Jenny to her aunt’s house to stay while her mother and new stepfather were on their honeymoon.

Jo looked back at Tate. The corner of his mouth had quirked into a sexy grin. “You always did like to be close to me,” he said.

Heat flushed through Jo and she frowned at him despite the warmth tingling through her body. “You’ve always been an arrogant S.O.B.”

He shrugged his broad shoulders. “Just telling it like it is.”

She shook her head. “Yeah. Right.”

His green eyes sparked with amusement. “You’ve sure grown up from that pretty little freckle-faced girl of eleven who used to follow me around, Jo-Jo.”

“I did
not
follow you around. And don’t call me that.” She took a deep breath then forced herself to calm down and act like the mature Jo she was now. She wasn’t the same Jo-Jo she’d been all those years ago, but Tate managed to bring out old behaviors and reactions from her and it frustrated her to no end. Not to mention the attraction she felt for him every time he was near. It was hard enough when he was dressed in his finest for the wedding, let alone now in his normal cowboy jeans and shirt.

Without really noticing what she was doing, she toyed with the bag of honey-roasted peanuts in her lap. She’d been fighting herself on whether or not to eat them. The rational part of her told her that one little bag of peanuts wasn’t going to hurt her. The part of her that struggled with her eating disorder didn’t want to add another calorie to her carefully controlled diet that she was forced to stick with so that she wouldn’t slide backward.

Damn it, Jo. You’ve got to keep it under control.

She brought her attention back to Tate and saw that he was studying her. With his muscular frame, dark hair, and light stubble on his jaws, she had to admit he was a sexy hunk of a cowboy—there was no denying that. But she didn’t do cowboys, and she certainly didn’t do Tate McBride—no matter how many little fantasies had come to mind since she’d returned from New York City and had first bumped into Tate.

With the exception of her sister, no one in Prescott knew that Jo had modeled during and after graduating from the private boarding school where her stepmother had sent her. Her stepmother hadn’t given her much money to live on—just enough for school, so Jo had been forced to do what she could to survive. Modeling had ended up being what she’d
had
to do. When that had dried up, she’d had to move in with five roommates to scrape out living and save for the future in other ways.

Jo had worked hard over the years, never feeling like she fit into what was considered to be a glamorous occupation. She hadn’t reveled in the party or nighttime lifestyle. To her it had ultimately been a means to an end.

Now that she was back in Prescott, she didn’t want anyone treating her differently just because she’d been a runway and magazine model. It wasn’t a particularly happy part of her life.

That period was when she’d developed her eating disorder to stay thin for the camera. An eating disorder that could have killed her if it hadn’t been for intervention on the part of people who cared about her.

Jo had returned to Prescott a year ago and had done her best to settle into life in a small town again.

And now, here she was, trapped between a cute six-year-old and an arrogant cowboy. A gorgeous, completely tantalizing cowboy.

She sighed and pushed strands of her long red hair over her shoulder, deciding that changing the subject was her best choice at the moment. “Jenny sure is worn out.”

Tate looked past her and a gentle smile softened his rough features. “She’s as pretty as her mama.”

“Tess made a beautiful bride,” Jo said and Tate gave a nod of agreement.

Jo and Tate had flown to Las Vegas with his brother, Gage, and Jo’s best friend, Tess, for their wedding in a little chapel off the strip. It was just Jo’s luck that Tate had been the McBride brother to go to Vegas for the small last-minute wedding. The other four McBride brothers were all attached now, so she didn’t have to worry about them flirting with her.

The real reason was that Tate had been the only brother she’d been drawn to. He’d treated her like she was special and she’d never forgotten that. Still, that was then, this was now. People grew up and changed, that was all there was to it.

Tate shifted his body. He was so big and tall, at least three inches taller than her five-eleven, and he clearly had a hard time getting comfortable in the narrow airline seat.

 

“Why did you leave Prescott all those years ago?”

Jo didn’t really like to talk about it, but there wasn’t much else to do on the flight. “Kathy decided that boarding school was the best place for me once Dad passed away.” Jo’s dear old stepmother hadn’t wanted Jo around and had shipped her off, not even allowing her to come home for the holidays during the seven years she’d been in school. Still grieving, Jo had abruptly lost her home, family, and friends, which had been painful and had scarred her deeply inside.

He studied her. “Where was the school you went to?”

“New York.” Her thoughts flitted to New York City. She had mixed feelings about leaving the city. It had become home after high school, a city she had grown to love. But the fast-paced lifestyle took a toll on a person, especially one who was a country girl at heart.

“So what were you doing all that time you were gone?” He appeared genuinely interested.

“This and that.” Jo kept her tone light.

He looked like he wanted to press her for more, but instead asked, “What made you decide to come back?”

“Charlee.” Jo pictured her pretty, younger half-sister. “After Kathy died, Charlee didn’t have anyone else. I tried to get her to move back East with me, but she wouldn’t leave Prescott. I decided I was done with life in the big city, anyway. I was ready to come home.”

“You’ve certainly changed.” He gave her an appreciative look. “You were always cute but you’ve grown to be a beautiful woman.”

Jo’s cheeks warmed. She never felt beautiful, had never gotten rid of old insecurities. Considering she’d been a fashion model, she’d been told she was beautiful throughout her career and she should have gained self-confidence on the inside. Still, hearing it from Tate made her feel almost shy. It was clear he was being honest and it wasn’t a come-on.

She looked away, through the small rain-spattered window, at the storm outside. The plane jostled from the wind buffeting it.

They couldn’t get to Phoenix fast enough as far as she was concerned. But then there was the long drive to Prescott from the city. The thought of being in a truck with Tate for the hour and a half long drive sent a strange feeling skittering through her belly. At least Jenny would be with them, and she’d probably be awake by then. That would likely keep Jo’s mind off the way being around Tate made her feel.

“What made you decide to open up Jo-Jo’s?” Tate drew her attention back to him.

“At the time, owning a bar sounded like fun.” She’d been a bartender, a waitress, and even a nightclub manager in New York City after her modeling tapered off, so it was something she’d had experience doing. The fact that she’d chosen to be in a field that had any association with food was a choice that she wasn’t sure was a good one. Sometimes being around food made her struggles all the more difficult.

“And now?” he asked. “Do you enjoy it?”

She cocked her head to the side. “It’s fun most of the time, but it’s a lot of work, too. Not that I expected it to be easy. Anything worthwhile takes some amount of work.”

Tate nodded, his gaze focused on her. “It certainly does.”

For a moment she had the strangest feeling he was talking about her. She mentally shook her head. That was some stretch of the imagination.

“What about you?” she asked. “What have you been doing to keep yourself busy?”

“I went to college after I graduated from high school, did a little rodeo, played some college baseball, and then returned to ranching.” He smiled. “Nothing as exciting as what you’re used to.”

The brilliant sight and teeming life of Times Square popped into her mind followed by an image of quiet downtown Prescott. “Things couldn’t be more different.”

“You’ve been gone fourteen years,” he said. “Do you miss New York?”

“Sometimes.” She looked away from him, in her mind’s eye seeing flashes of the life she used to live. She met his gaze again. “But I’ve made a life for myself in Prescott and I like it.”

The plane dropped suddenly and then steadied itself. Jo felt a pitch in her stomach but relaxed almost at once. She’d flown around the world and was used to experiencing bad weather on a plane.

When she looked at Tate again, she saw that he wore a grimace.

“I take it you don’t like flying,” she said.

He shook his head. “I prefer my boots on the ground. About as high as I like to be is on the back of a horse.”

“I thought you liked a little bouncing around.” She gave him a teasing look. “You were into junior rodeo when we were young. From what you mentioned earlier, I take it you continued as an adult?”

He nodded. “Spent a few years on the circuit and retired when I’d made enough to buy my own ranch.”

“Apparently you did well.” She smiled. “You always were good. I remember you winning a few championships even then.”

He shrugged. “I did all right.”

“I hear Creed is still riding bulls,” she said, referring to the youngest McBride brother.

“He’s been World Champion several times in his career,” Tate said with obvious pride for his younger brother. “I believe this is his last year and then he’s settling down with his wife, Danica.”

“What events did you compete in when you were in rodeo?” Jo asked.

“Bareback bronc riding, steer wrestling, and tie-down roping,” Tate said.

“The easy stuff.” She gave a little grin. “Did you ever get into bull riding like Creed?”

Tate shook his head. “I preferred the rodeo circuit over the bull riding circuit. Takes a special breed of man to ride a bull.”

“A crazy man.” Jo shook her head and Tate laughed.

The plane bounced and rattled, causing Jo to sway in her seat. It lasted a good two minutes and she gritted her teeth. Just because she was used to flying through storms didn’t mean she liked it.

Tate was frowning when she met his gaze again. It surprised her to see such a big alpha male unnerved by a jostling plane in a storm. But then he was the type of man who liked being in control. And traveling on a plane meant being totally out of control.

As she studied him, her heart skipped a beat. Damn it, why did he have to be so damned good looking? Not to mention he had a kind of charisma about him that made her feel the blossom of excitement deep in her abdomen.

Memories flickered through her mind. Like the time he’d climbed up into a tree to save her cat. Or when he’d asked her to dance at her very first school dance and she’d been somewhat of a wallflower. That whole night she hadn’t been able to forget his touch.

But it wasn’t a week later that her stepmother had sent Jo away.

Mentally she sighed. Now it was that cowboy charm that attracted her. But from experience she knew that no man could ever really be trusted. They used and discarded women. She’d been there and she didn’t want to go again, not emotionally. So she went out with men who she didn’t think would be a danger to her heart.

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