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Scorpion: A Rough Romance by Piper Stone – Sample

Prologue

Brothers in arms.

Soldiers.

Cowboys and Marines.

We’d been called so many things.

Heroes. Monsters. Sinners and saints.

Above all we were men honoring our country even while our pasts continued to haunt us.

Some said we could never return, that we were damaged beyond redemption.

Others would stop at nothing to prevent us from doing so.

But we were determined to protect those we loved.

Six men determined to right the wrongs from our past.

Six men prepared to do what it took.

No matter the cost.

Then…

Chapter One

Scorpion

Raunchy Ride.

What. The. Fuck.

I got out of the beat-up Ford, the creak from the rusted hinges echoing in my ears. Huffing, the various sounds erupting from inside the bar already grated on my nerves. As I gazed around the parking lot, the number of drunk assholes with their arms firmly planted around some wayward and garishly dressed girls was amusing. From somewhere in the distance, I could hear what sounded like a rough brawl, the grunts and hollers a reminder that I was back in cowboy territory.

I was shoved more than once in my attempt to head toward the entrance, the bastards daring to enter my space unaware that I could snap their necks with one easy twist of my hand.

Only I held back, fighting my natural urges. I was only here to discover what the hell I was dealing with. Then it would be slapped onto the market, just like I’d told the damn attorney who’d called overseas. The joint wasn’t worth much anyway. Obviously. At least the high dollar attorney was supposed to provide a list of potential purchasers. He damn well better come through with it.

Exhaling, I stomped onto the platform leading to the entrance of the rowdy bar, glaring at the ridiculous massive pink neon sign taking up a huge portion of real estate on the front of the building. Who the fuck named a bar something so ridiculous? I knew the answer and it pissed me off.

My freaking uncle.

One I hadn’t talked to in ten years.

The very one my father had ignored for the majority of his life.

Now I owned the damn place.

I shifted my gaze toward the crowd remaining outside; rugged cowboys and pretty little women in tight tee shirts and short skirts, all vying to gain entrance. I had to shake my head. What a crock of shit. I powered past the crowd, moving toward the beat-up wooden door, snorting from the sound of the honky-tonk music blaring from the speakers.

“Hey! We were here first,” some guy shouted from the back of the crowd.

“Yeah, fuck you,” some chick hissed.

I glared at the crowd, even issuing a husky growl before shoving my way into the establishment, snarling at the two hulking masses standing guard. Great. Two bouncers were going to try to prevent me from going inside. The sudden sound of glass breaking did nothing to boost my desire to enter the joint.

“Who the fuck do you think you are? Wait your damn turn,” one of the burly men dared to challenge me.

“Just a man needing a drink,” I countered, giving him a hard onceover.

He snickered, getting the other jerk to do the same.

“Yeah? I don’t think so.”

His answer only further fueled my anger.

“And why is that?” I bothered to ask, shifting my gaze from one to the other.

“Cause we don’t like the looks of ya,” the second bouncer huffed.

The booming male voice was followed by a slam of his hand against my chest, the force pushing me against the wall. The bastard’s glare was highlighted by the flow of flashing lights shifting back and forth across the expansive space. The interior was huge, much larger than the rather dilapidated exterior indicated.

I wasn’t in the mood for games.

I gave the asshole a hard shove before reaching for my weapon, the very one I’d left at the damn house. It wasn’t nice to bring a gun into a club. Hell, I wasn’t nice. Why the fuck didn’t I insist on carrying my Beretta inside?

When the second bouncer grabbed me by the collar, my rage surfaced, the fucker having no idea who he was dealing with. I lowered my head slowly, allowing a smirk to cross my face. “I suggest you get your fucking hands off me or you’re going to lose the ability to do anything but suck out of a straw.”

My words seemed to resonate with the two of them.

Until one of them made the mistake of throwing a punch.

My reactions quicker than the fucker could think, I snapped my hand around his fist, immediately shoving him backward, slamming his massive body against the wall. The hard crack as the wood splintered seemed to shock the hell out of the customers in close proximity. I even heard the same shit I had for years.

“Who the hell is this guy?”

“Fucking asshole.”

I grinned as the bouncer’s eyes opened wide. After a savage howl, he attempted to drive his fist into my face, his other hand moving to grab me around the throat.

Big mistake.

I shoved the palm of my hand under his chin as I shifted closer, enjoying the asshole’s gagging sounds.

The second bouncer growled, prepared to throw a quick jab until I gave a solid punch into his gut, enjoying the crunching sound as my fist connected with his ribs.

“Fuck,” he railed, gasping for air.

“Now, you and your boy toy over there are going to allow me to come inside your fine establishment. If you do so without making an additional scene, I’ll be happy to allow you to live. If not, well… Let’s just say I enjoy crushing bones.”

“You’re a fucking asshole,” the second man stated with a deep growl in his voice. “I eat shitholes like you for breakfast.”

Chuckling, I gave him a hard glare. “Try me.”

There was another round of breaking glass, several grunts from rowdy assholes. How the fuck was this bar still operating?

“Boys. Why don’t you allow the man inside? He’s with me. My big hunk of a man doesn’t have any patience.”

I was shocked that the sound of the woman’s voice alone sent the kind of electricity shooting through me that scorched my veins. Sultry. Inviting.

Provocative.

She had the kind of twang in her lilt that could make any man’s cock become hard as a rock.

Hell, mine was no exception, my cock twitching. Yet, I refused to accept any kind of a distraction. I wasn’t here to play.

I snapped my head in her direction, narrowing my eyes as she moved from the hallway leading to the restrooms. She stood in all her glory, giving a wicked smile as she brushed her fingers down the side of her neck to her cleavage, even offering an intense moan over the din of the wretched music. She shifted her hips back and forth, her seductive scent wafting into the dense space.

The bouncers reacted as any Neanderthal would do, leering at her with an unscrupulous desire illuminated in their expressions. However, both bouncers seemed to back down, no longer prepared to fight to the death.

She offered a shimmering smile then held out her hand. The way the light cascaded across her face drew me into a savage level of desire. She was one beautiful woman, her long blonde hair accentuating her voluptuous body. However, I didn’t come here for some kind of hookup. I was here to figure out what the fuck to do with the place.

Selling was the best option.

While I’d always known after my stint in the military, including my contract as a government contractor, that I’d return to Missoula at least in the interim, owning a failing bar hadn’t been on my radar. And it still wasn’t.

“Come on, darlin’. I have a drink waiting for you. You’re late.” She allowed her southern drawl to drip with innuendos, even batting her eyelashes as she pursed her lips.

Whoever she was, she knew how to yank the bouncers’ chains.

She wrapped her arms around my neck, dragging me against the heat of her body. To say I was aroused was an understatement. When she pressed her voluptuous lips against mine, the angry beast dwelling inside longed to take over, consuming every drop of her sweet essence. The second she pushed her tongue just inside my mouth, my instincts shifted into those of a predator.

“Fuck this,” the first bouncer snorted.

“Let ‘em through,” the second bouncer hissed, although he attempted to deliver a solid punch to my kidney. “But don’t fuck with the customers,” he warned.

My hand stopped the action before the asshole managed to connect. Breaking her connection, I inched closer to the hulking mass of a man, staring him in the eyes. “You don’t want to mess with the lady’s hunger. Now, do you?”

While he glared at me, likely preparing retaliation in the future, he backed down. When I released my hold, he held up his arms, nodding to the other enforcer. “Yeah, go on. Just don’t show your face in this bar again.”

I chuckled under my breath. They had no idea who I was, and no one would at least for tonight. “We. Will. See.” I pushed her away, reining in my body’s reaction.

Refusing to be ignored, she reached out, snagging my hand. The response was the same as before, my entire body aching, my mind shifting to all the vile and filthy things I hungered to do to her. The electricity continued to soar between us as she tugged me through the crowd, her darting glances obvious that she was experiencing the same shooting electricity.

I held back from making any moves as she pushed her way through the raucous patrons, the majority of them already drunk off their asses. For some reason, I was shocked at the volume of people inside. While the majority appeared to be cowboys and wannabe cowgirls, there were still suits hovering on the outskirts, sucking down beer and liquor as if they were going out of style.

The blaring music became even more grating as she pulled me toward the impressive-looking bar, the wooden structure taking up an entire wall in the back of the place. There were several waitresses, all dressed in tight tee shirts and short shorts, men groping them with every chance they got.

When the mysterious woman let go of my hand, she placed it on her hip, shaking her head. “You don’t look like you belong, cowboy. Thought I’d help you out. It’s a rough crowd in here, so be careful. Even a beautiful hunk of a cowboy like yourself won’t survive.”

As if to reiterate her point, the sound of smashing glass echoed in my ears, the ugly noise combining with the hoots and hollers of those both enjoying and critiquing the music. I moved closer to the bar, turning to find the source of the music.

For the love of fuck.

The music wasn’t canned. It was live, the poor bastards who’d taken the gig protected behind a damn metal cage. I blinked twice as I stared in their direction, growling under my breath. This was a shithole of a bar, a rowdy place for all who ventured out for an evening.

“You’ve fucking got to be kidding me.” I hadn’t realized my words had been said out loud until I sensed another presence.

“Happens every night. Every fucking night.”

I slowly turned my head, lifting a single eyebrow as I glared at the bartender. His initial grin was quickly replaced with an expression of apprehension.

Even fear.

“Can I get you something to drink?” he asked, almost choking on the words.

“Budweiser and a side of whiskey. The best you have.” I didn’t bother engaging in a conversation, at least just yet. All I was wanted to do was find out what I was getting into the middle of.

“I think you can handle yourself from here,” the mysterious woman purred as she rubbed her hand down my arm.

I shifted my gaze to what she was doing, exhaling as my cock continued to throb. “Yeah, you’re right. I can,” I finally stated, giving her more than just a single onceover. Damn, the beautiful woman’s dazzling eyes alone tightened my balls.

“Mmmm… Yet, I wouldn’t mind helping you further. Let me know if you’re interested.” Her murmurs were almost lost in the noise.

But I’d heard them.

My thoughts drifted to her comment about not belonging here. She was right, especially given the clean-cut look I continued to wear, my days in the military a far cry from the unbridled cowboys in the crowd. I’d obviously been away from my hometown far too long. Then again, I’d never been the kind of guy who enjoyed getting blind stinking drunk.

Hell, maybe tonight was an exception. No, I’d maintain control if for no other reason than the last thing I needed was to get into a fight. It was likely my reputation had followed me all the way from Afghanistan.

My thoughts drifted briefly to the shit-ass attorney who’d called out of the blue, pretending to give a damn that my uncle had died in his sleep. When he’d mentioned an inheritance, I’d laughed out loud. My uncle couldn’t care less about our side of the family, plus, my father had mentioned the man was almost always penniless, coming to him for help more often than he could count.

Then a portion of the will had been faxed overseas.

The cancellation of my government contract had given me reasons to get the hell out of a war zone, especially given I wasn’t entirely certain I wouldn’t be charged with treason.

Or accessory to murder.

Another rush of anger washed into my system, the ugly memories still causing nightmares.

I didn’t bother answering the sexy filly, although I couldn’t seem to take my eyes off her as she walked with some difficulty toward to a barstool less than twenty feet away.

The girl was already intoxicated, and it was barely ten-thirty in the evening.

As I scanned the crowd, I cringed. This was going to be a shitstorm. There were dozens of tables, although the majority of people remained on their feet. The dingy atmosphere was accentuated by several neon-infused lights, the majority of them having seen better times. There were several pool tables and… “Fuck. Me.” A mechanical bull. I blinked twice to confirm what I was seeing. Hell, no. There was no way I was keeping the shithole.

Not for any reason.

Another smash of glass, the sound echoing as the crowd roared forced my attention toward the cage. Jesus Christ. Tossing beer bottles was obviously a sport, a portion of the crowd cheering the moment another bottle exploded.

“Happens all the time,” the bartender stated, laughing under his breath as he pushed the drinks in my direction. “Actually, this is a pretty tame night.” He looked at me curiously, a knowing smile crossing his face.

Inhaling, I glanced in his direction, keeping my eyes pinned on him as I grabbed the whiskey, swirling the glass. “Yeah? Well, that’s going to change.” I threw back the entire amount, my throat clenching from the burn sliding down the back of my throat. “And so will the rotgut shit you’re serving.”

“Right. If you think you’re going to be able to make changes, you’re dreaming, buddy.” The bartender laughed until he obviously noticed my harsh glare. “Unless you’re who I think you are,” he huffed, shifting his gaze away as if remembering some big news. “Yep, I’m right. I’ve seen your picture, heard about your reputation.”

Great. Just fucking great.

I was the big news, the attorney supposedly providing the likely unwanted update that a new owner was in town. And what picture was he talking about? Hissing, I studied the joint for another few seconds, shaking my head as the band continued to play as if nothing was going on around them even as shards of glass found their way through the cage.

This owner wasn’t going to put up with any shit. From anyone.

The mysterious woman’s laughter drew my attention away from the rowdy crowd. I grabbed my beer, pulling it forward. At least the damn beers were cold.

The blonde had a crowd surrounding her, the hungry cowboys eager to slide their hands under her way-too-short skirt. She had no issue egging them on, swiveling on the stool as she twirled her glass of red wine. If I had to guess by the rabid dogs hovering around her, she had no idea what kind of trouble she was about to get herself into.

In my opinion, the little filly needed a harsh lesson in learning how to behave. Maybe a hard spanking would do her some good.

The thought of her alone pushed my cock against my zipper, creating a growl deep in my throat. While it had been one hell of a long time since I’d tasted a woman, I certainly didn’t need the freaking complications. Still, even the way she smiled turned me on to the point my heart was pounding.

“Who the hell is she?” I barked out the question, expecting an answer.

“No one from around here, Mr. McKenzie. Although she came to check out the bar for a particular reason. You might want to be nice to her. If you need anything, just ask me. I sure do hope you clean up this joint. Been overrun with animals for almost a year.”

He made the statement as if the woman was some bigwig. I couldn’t care less. As far as cleaning up the bar, I doubted a torch and a fumigation system could handle what was needed.

A deep rumble drifted up from my chest as I glared at him. “You tell anyone who I am, you’re fired. You got it?”

The bartender swallowed before nodding, reaching under the bar and grabbing the bottle of whiskey. I allowed him to fill my glass before returning my attention to the hapless female. I wasn’t thrilled I could hear every word, the males’ ridiculous attempts at getting the little filly to allow them to rip away her panties disgusting. And the boys were getting far too aggressive, fueled by alcohol and testosterone.

“No, boys. I don’t think so,” she huffed, pushing her palm against one of the rugged cowboys’ chest. “I think we’re done here.”

“Wait a minute now,” one of them said as he crowded closer. “You can’t just tease us and expect we’ll leave you alone. We take what we want.”

I watched as he brushed his fingers across her cheek, only to have his face smacked hard by the frisky feline. I was beginning to like this girl, her chutzpa unusual in this kind of a setting.

Lifting my beer, I gave her a silent salute.

Until things got ugly fast.

“I don’t think so, bitch. You fucked with the wrong cowboys.” The gruff cowboy fisted her hair, yanking her off the stool.

Sighing, I took a long pull on my beer before slamming it onto the bar. I’d been back to the states all of twelve hours and I was about ready to get myself tossed into jail. What the fuck? At least the reason would be a beautiful woman.

I rounded the bar, moving within less than a foot from the four men.

“Get off me, you fuck!” she screeched, managing to punch the man holding her in the gut.

The asshole merely laughed before cupping her breast, yanking her onto her toes. “You like it rough? Trust me, you’re going to get it rough, bitch.”

Without hesitation, I snagged the asshole’s arm, using the kind of pressure that could snap his ulna bone.

“Fuck!” he screeched, trying to jerk away from me. Thankfully, he opened his hand. Good thing, because the next tactic would be to smash his fingers into crumbs.

“That ain’t any way to treat a lady,” I hissed as I yanked him closer.

“You need to let him go, asshole,” one of the other jerks dared to say.

I slowly turned my head in his direction, my nostrils flaring.

“Oh, this fucker thinks he’s somethin’ special,” another roared as he shoved up his long sleeves, obviously preparing for a fight.

“Like I said, you don’t treat a lady in that manner. Period,” I countered.

“Fuck you,” the abusive cowboy snarked, laughing until the others followed suit.

When I snapped my hand around his throat, digging my fingers into his skin and lifting him off his feet, he sputtered. I especially enjoyed the way his eyes bulged, his arms flailing even as I cut off his air supply. “Now, you boys can leave this bar right now and you’ll be able to do so in one piece.”

“You ain’t the manager here,” the gruff voice said from behind me.

“You ain’t nobody but a dead man,” another dared to say.

“You’re right. I’m not the manager, I’m your executioner.” By now, there was a small crowd surrounding us, the majority cheering on the cowboys. It would seem Missoula had changed a hell of a lot since I’d been gone these last few years.

“Fight. Fight. Fight. Fight.”

A deep exhale rushed from my gut because of the chants.

I noticed out of the corner of my eye the bartender lifting a bat. The second he cracked it against the well-worn bar, the crowd quieted to a dull roar. “There isn’t going to be a damn fight,” he stated with more authority than I would have thought him capable of.

“He’s right. You have five seconds to decide whether you’re leaving or soon to be roadkill.” The slight hesitation pissed me off. “Five. Four. Three. Two.”

“Fine,” the aggressive jerk hissed between clenched teeth.

I dropped him like a rock, wiping my hands on his shirt as he shifted his hand around his throat, rubbing while coughing. “Good choice.” I stepped back and closer to the female, folding my arms as I glared at them.

The cowboys started to shove their way through the crowd when the abusive jerk turned once again to face me, sticking out his finger. “This ain’t over by a long shot, tough guy. We will meet again.”

“Looking forward to it,” I stated, amusement in my tone. I refused to take my eyes off them until they’d walked out the door.

The explosion of applause quite frankly pissed me off even more. Even the bartender gave me props, immediately filling my glass to the rim.

“Who is he?” some girl purred.

“One hot hunk,” another mused.

I kept the stern expression, making certain the cowboys kept their end of the bargain.

“I’d be careful of those boys,” the bartender said half under his breath as he leaned over.

“And why the fuck is that?”

“They’ve got powerful friends.”

I shifted my gaze as the one who appeared to be the leader smashed his hands on the exit door, tossing it open, the others lifting their middle fingers before they left.

“Yeah, well, they have no idea that pissing me off isn’t in their best interest,” I said, half under my breath. “Now, it’s time to deal with the woman.”

“Boss, I wouldn’t do that.”

This time, I ignored the bartender’s comment, taking long strides in her direction.

“How dware you,” the little filly managed, slurring her words. “Dose boys were just…” She seemed to fade away for a few seconds before shaking her head and running her hand through her hair. “They were just… Just having some fun. You know, cause it’s a bar?”

Exhausted, I wasn’t in any kind of mood to deal with a prima donna who’d almost gotten herself into a situation she’d soon regret, let alone one smelling of tequila. I took one long stride in her direction, crowding her space to the point I was able to gather the scent of her perfume. Damn if the intoxicating fragrance didn’t sear every nerve ending, driving my hunger off the charts. For a split second, all I could envision was her gorgeous body writhing underneath mine, her soft purrs filling my eardrums. I was attracted to the girl, although I could see the glassiness increasing in her eyes. I doubted she was going to last very long.

“How dare I? Did you have any idea what those boys wanted to do to you? I’d venture a guess that tying you down and keeping you in a cage was one of the choices.”

“You’re an asshole,” she muttered.

When she tried to slap me, I caught her hand. “That wasn’t very nice of you. Good girls don’t do that kind of thing.”

“Yeah? Who said I was nice or a good girl?” she countered as she struggled in my hold. “As a matter of fact, I’m a brat.” She wrapped her arm around my neck, drawing me even closer, crushing her breasts against my chest.

Her breathing shallow, she dragged her tongue across her lips, trying her best to entice me.

“You know what happens to bad girls who don’t obey,” I huffed.

“No. Show me.”

Fuck, it was working. I was famished, my entire body aching. Unable to control myself, I jerked her hard for emphasis as I crushed my mouth over hers, immediately thrusting my tongue past her soft lips, gathering a taste of tequila and lime. This time, I was in control and she had no idea that she’d awakened the savage beast.

Wiggling, she moaned into the kiss, pushing her hands against me, yet her entire body was on fire, the electricity crackling like a live wire.

I felt a rush of adrenaline, her scent filling my nostrils. Everything was a blur, my desire soaring. I could take her right here, placing her beautiful body on the bar and fucking her like a wild man.

Then that would make me a savage.

Maybe that’s exactly what I was.

As I dominated her tongue, her body began to yield, her scattered moans becoming ones of longing. Every time she shifted her hips back and forth, I almost lost all control. I couldn’t get enough of her, savoring her taste as I explored the dark recesses of her mouth. Even the way she fit against me was perfect.

What the hell was I thinking?

When she pushed hard against me, only then did I break the kiss with a series of growls.

Damn, the woman was feisty as hell. “Yeah, you’re a brat all right. However, you’re going to do exactly as I say. Give me your keys,” I demanded.

“What?” she asked, completely breathless.

“You heard me, sweetheart. Give. Me. Your. Keys. You’re not driving anywhere.”

“Not a chance, buster. I’m just fine. And I’m not your sweetheart!” She gave me a hard shove with her other hand, just enough to break the connection even as I continued to give her a stern look. “I’ll drink water. Okay?”

“Uh-huh.”

Wham! Bam!

The raucous sounds were ones I would recognize anywhere. A bar fight. “Sit your pretty little ass down. We aren’t finished with our conversation. If you move from this seat, I will tan your hide.”

She obeyed me almost instantly, her lovely mouth pouting.

I shifted my gaze toward the bartender. “If she tries to move, lock her in the office.”

“Yes, sir,” the bartender saluted, his entire face beaming. “By the way, I’m Brant.”

“Yeah? Well, Brant, it’s about to get ugly.”

Jesus Christ. What the hell would I be forced to deal with?

Huffing, I turned my attention toward the fight breaking out, no longer shocked at anything I witnessed. Chairs were flying, at least one table smashed, and the crowd was still pitching beer bottles at the cage surrounding the band.

“Do you have a manager in this shithole?” I yelled the question over the roar at the bartender.

Brant snorted, once again pulling the bat into his hand. “I ain’t seen Billy in several days now. He comes and goes as he pleases, only when he needs cash and a free bottle of liquor. Hey, you don’t understand about that girl.”

Fury yanked at everything inside of me. Whoever Billy was, the first thing I was going to do was fire his sorry ass.

“No need to understand. I’ll handle this,” I stated before yanking a twenty from my pocket, shoving it across the bar. As I walked toward the ugly scene, I could swear I heard her voice behind me. What troubled me were her words.

“Be a hero, cowboy. We all need one.”

Hero. As if I’d ever be able to tolerate hearing that word again.

Shutting it down, I stormed in the direction of the fight. I might not like the shithole of a place, but no two-bit group of cowboys was going to destroy it. I might get a pretty penny on the market if I spent some time and money fixing it up.

Maybe.

At least the bouncers had made their way toward the melee, ceremoniously yanking first one then another smashed cowboy toward the door. However, they were outnumbered, the punches flying. When I noticed a glint of a blade under the garish lights, I reacted instantly, swinging around and kicking out, my foot smashing into the asshole’s wrist. As the blade flew out of his hand, several of the girls able to see what was going on screeched, tumbling backwards as additional furniture was turned into splinters.

“You fucking asshole,” the knife-wielding jerk roared, coming at me like a bull in a china shop.

I sidestepped him, adding a solid kick to his kidney, sneering as he went down with a hard thud. As two more ugly brutes jumped forward, acting as if they had a chance to take me, I threw one punch after another until both finally went down. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed another asshole ridiculous enough to come at me with a broken beer bottle. I rubbed my jaw then landed a kick to his neck, the force pummeling him backward.

As I turned away, the bouncers seemed in shock, although their eyes were filled with venom.

So much for simply observing.

Fortunately, within minutes, the fight quieted down, yet as I stood glaring at the outcome, I wanted to drag my uncle from his grave and beat the hell out of him.

“Who the fuck do you think you are?” One of the bouncers yanked me by the arm, his chest rising and falling as he struggled to catch his breath.

“I already told you.” That was the only answer they were going to get. I pushed my way through the admiring crowd, my eyes landing on the empty seat at the bar. When Brant threw up his arms and pointed to the opposite side of the bar, I hissed.

“Woo-hoo. Bull ride.”

The shout came from across the room. Exhaling, I counted to five before turning around and fighting my way through the crowd. Somehow, it didn’t shock me seeing the little brat straddling the massive fake bull, her skirt coming dangerously close to showing off her pretty pussy.

I was forced to shove my way through the leering group of men, unable to get to her before someone pulled the trigger on the mechanism. While she whooped and hollered as the bull tossed her around, within seconds, it was obvious she was losing control. “Damn it,” I snarled. The girl was losing her grip and given the speed of the bull, she was going to get herself hurt.

As soon as I made my way to within feet of her, it became obvious that I wasn’t going to be able to stop the damn thing before…

The second the bull jerked in the opposite direction, the brat lost what was left of her control, her grip slipping. As she was flipped into the air, I had a split second to react, catching her just before her body slammed into the floor.

“Let me go!” she squealed, pummeling her fists against me.

“Not a chance. You’re not going to act like a misbehaving brat inside this bar.”

I knew there was no controlling her, not as long as she had an entire bar rooting for her demise. So I did the only thing a decent cowboy could do.

I tossed her over my shoulder and left the bar.

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