Rock-n-Roll Cowboy

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Shouldn't wouldn't
Shouldn't wouldn't

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1/8

EXCERPT:

Did this joint have a back door? The table Hunter still sat at had a clear view of the front door, so he’d see her if she went out that way.

Instead of heading past the bar toward the restrooms, she wound her way toward a back corner, looking for an exit.

Probably she should feel bad for wanting to ditch him, but geez. A girl had her limits. She’d claimed a headache when they left the restaurant, hoping he’d take her home, but he’d insisted they go to this bar, while he kept telling his stories of women who’d loved him (he claimed) and left him (she believed). When she’d tried to shut him up by dancing, he’d been all hands. And other parts…he’d practically dry-humped her on the dance floor in front of God and everybody.

Yuck.

No feeling quite as creepy as being touched when you didn’t want to be.

Ahh, there. Salvation. An Exit sign on a plain white door.

Didn’t look like any alarms were attached, just the usual sign saying the door must remain unlocked during business hours. Emergency escape. And if a creepy, grabby stranger wasn’t an emergency, what was?

She turned the knob and, yes, the bar adhered to the law—the door was unlocked.

Freedom.

Outside, the air was cool and clean. Now…walk home, or call someone for a ride?

Hmm. This didn’t seem like a back alley so much as a sort of closed-in private parking lot. A couple of cars, one big ranch-y looking pickup truck…a closed gate behind.

Well, she could open a gate as well as the next person.

Except…crud. This one had a locking latch.

Great. In case of fire, the bar patrons could get out of the building, but they’d be trapped in this little corral of sorts. Well, she’d have to make her escape a different way, because that gate didn’t quite look climb-able, especially in her skinny jeans, and with that barbed wire across the top…nope. Not risking it.

Back to the club door, and as she grabbed the knob, she guessed it. Crap. Locked from the outside.

Now what? It was a little weird out here. Good thing Hunter wasn’t with her. She’d never escape his sweaty paws with nowhere to run. Maybe if she could remember the name of the bar, she could call with her cell and ask them to let her in.

You’ve got some splainin’ to do.

True, that. What if they accused her of trying to steal one of the vehicles, or something from inside? What if they called the police to sort it out?

Now she understood how the poor small animals used to feel when her uncle would catch them in the live trap—just sitting and waiting until her captor showed up to do who-knew-what with her.

Ugh. There had to be somebody she could call, who she could ask to come down to the bar and hold the back door open for her to get back in. What was Amy up to tonight?

The doorknob rattled from the inside and she scurried to the other side of the big pickup. Like a trapped rodent.

She shouldn’t hide—anybody could’ve made the innocent mistake of going out that door.

But she might not want to be alone out there with the person coming through that door. Depending on who came out.

So she crouched, hoping the big tire hid her from view. Maybe if she listened and timed things right, when that person went back in, she could get to the door before it locked.

Maybe that person would prop the door open while doing whatever out here. Hmm. What could they be doing? Going to the Dumpster in the corner with a load of garbage?

Someone whistled, scuffed around and the door squeaked, settled, but didn’t latch.

Man, what an idiot she was. If she’d looked around first instead of bulldozing her way out the door and letting it slam shut behind her…

Sounded like a jukebox or sound system playing inside now. Probably break time for the band.

With a pop and a squeal, the truck door opened. Crap! Could her luck get any worse?

Still whistling, the guy—sounded like a guy anyway—rummaged through stuff on the front seat. Should she try to make a break for it while he was distracted with his search?

She edged toward the front of the truck, and something popped under her boot. A beer cap. Crap.

The whistling stopped.

She froze, held her breath.

More rummaging, then, “Aha.” Plastic crinkled and he let out a relieved sigh.

So maybe he hadn’t heard her there.

She edged forward a little more. If the guy was almost done, she needed to be ready to rush the door when he left. A tug at her back and she almost lost her balance. With a quick step back, she turned to see who’d grabbed her, and found her super-cute fringed tunic caught where the truck bumper attached to the front panel. She worked at freeing her absolute favorite piece of clothing, careful not to tear it. God. If it got messed up on a date with that asshat inside, that would be such a massive waste. The suede was wedged in there so tight. She moved back more, and Bong! conked her head on the side of the truck. Hell! She reeled and struggled to be still, keep her balance, and not make any more noise.

All movement inside the truck ceased.

“Who’s there?” the guy demanded. He didn’t sound as happy as he had a minute ago when he found his “aha.”

Afraid to breathe, she crouched, every muscle working to keep her balance.

No whistling as his feet hit the pavement on the other side of the vehicle, and dear God, did that sound like a gun cocking? The feet stepped around the front of the truck. Heavy, certain steps. Of course this dude wasn’t afraid. He was armed.

And dangerous?

He’d see her soon.

“Don’t…” She covered her head with her hands, tried not to put more pressure on her beloved Indian-style brown suede fringy pal. “…shoot!”

“What the blue hell?”

Probably not much point covering her head with her hands—a bullet would go right through her fingers anyway. So she raised her hands above her head and looked up at him.

Oh. The lead guy in the band. Chewing gum, with his head cocked to the side.

“Um. Hi?” She chewed her lip.

Dang. As band guys went, he wasn’t half bad. If she’d been into that type.

“Hi, yourself.” He tucked the pistol in his right hand into the back of his pants, or maybe a pocket. With a nod, he indicated her tunic. “Caught ya.” A dimple came with his grin, just on the left side of his mouth. “Tore the end of this bumper loose when I was backing through the cedars a couple months ago. But hey, it’s worth having the old man bitch at me for the dents and scratches, if it caught me a woman.”

She blinked at him. He had to be joking. Much as she’d been trapped in this insane locked alley, surely he was—

“Joking.” He knelt close to her. “Hang on, let me see if I can help.” With one hand on the leather and the other on the bumper, he went to work.

“Please, try not to tear it. If there’s any way. It’s…my favorite.”

“It should be.” He paused and looked over at her. Oh God. Blue eyes. And his hair was just long enough and wild enough to make them stand out. Those eyes had the power to make a woman swoon. Did he use them for good or evil? “…get it?”

“Huh?” Oh, what had he been saying? She was not losing coherence over some wannabe rock singer. No freaking way.

“I said.” He looked directly into her eyes, and her attention couldn’t wander this time. “It’s cool. Where’d you get it?”

“Oh. My…f—dad. He had it made for me.” No surprise this guy liked it too, since her dad was also a wannabe rock singer.

“Awesome dad.” With steady pressure on the bumper, he bent it out enough to slide the leather free.

“You’d think,” she muttered. Abe had turned out to be a cool adult to chum around with, but he’d been a piss-poor father.

Her rescuer raised one brow at her. Held out his right hand. “Logan Wilson.”

“Yeah, you’re the singer in the band tonight, right?” She shook his hand and sort of hoped he’d never let go.

“I’m the singer every night.” The dimple was back. “And you are?”

She blew out a raspberry. “Head of sales and writer of classifieds in the Sentry-Press.” Not quite the PR job she’d dreamed of in college. But maybe one day…

He ducked his head and his shoulders shook. “Sorry. I meant, what’s your name?”

“Oh.” Geez, what an idiot. First getting trapped, then tangled with his truck, and now this. “Melody.”

“Hmm. I do love me a catchy melody.”

God. Bad puns. But at least he enjoyed them, which meant he probably valued a sense of humor. A plus. Too bad about that major minus: the rock band thing.

He straightened and stood, then gave her a hand up.

And let go of her hand. Damn.

“Um. I guess I should probably…get back.” Maybe she’d be lucky and Hunter had left.

“To your date.”

“Um. Yeah.” She didn’t need to tell him she’d tried to ditch Hunter. “Sure.”

“Mind telling me what you were doing out here?”

She gave him her best dingy-blonde smile. “Uh. Wrong turn on the way to the ladies’ room?”

He focused those eyes on her.

Well, crap. He wasn’t buying it.

“Please don’t think I’m an awful bitch, but I was…well, running away from my date.”

“Humper.”

“Hunter,” she corrected. “Wait. What did you say?” God, he’d noticed?

“I’ve seen that guy at other gigs, and he always dances like that. Humps on his girl. So we named him. Getting familiar with the locals is a hazard when you play the same venues all the time.”

“Yeah, Hunter knew who your band was. That’s why he wanted to come tonight. You guys sound good.”

“Thanks.” He blushed a little, which was entirely too endearing so she pretended it didn’t happen.

“I like your original stuff too.” Usually when a small-time band played their own songs, she tuned them out. But she’d been really into a ballad he sang earlier. His voice was rich and—she shook her head—a wannabe rock singer’s.

“Thanks again.”

“Sure. So... I should probably get going.”

“He left.”

“Whew.” She sagged against the truck in relief.

“He wandered around the dance floor for a while, and then I saw him go out the front door.”

“Oh.” This had turned out much better than it could have. Maybe she should go buy a lottery ticket.

“So how are you getting home?” He stepped closer, wrapped one of the wildass curls at her temple around his finger.

“Um.” Sweet Jesus. He smelled good too, on top of everything else. This close, he stole her breath. Made her heart race. Was she supposed to be saying something? About getting home. Oh.

His lips. Full, near. Getting nearer. Crap. She couldn’t stop it, wouldn’t even if she could. Hot, firm lips, his hands at her lower back lifting her into him, minty taste, a little tingle, a zing really—God, she’d never had that happen. Her fingers tangled in that messy hair. Whoa, a lot of tingle in the mouth. What the—

“Shit.” He pulled away. “Shit. I’m sorry. Nicotine gum. That’s why I came out—shit.”

She wiped at her lips. That made sense. “Trying to get a girl addicted to kissing you, huh?”

His cheek dimpled. “Good one.” Ruffling his hand through his hair, he stepped back. “Sorry. I got a little carried away. I just… You… But seriously. You have a ride home?”

Much as she’d like spending her Friday night watching this uncommonly cute guy sing, there was no way she’d go home with a guy in a band. “Um. Yeah. I can call somebody.”

“Because I’d be happy to take you there.” He blinked. “Home, I mean.”

She bet he really could take her there. And it had been a while since she’d been there. He was hot as hell, and funny, too. But, how cliché. A million girls before her had gone home with a guitar-playing, singing stud. Even her mom had.

Gag.

She forced herself to take step back. “Nothing personal. It’s just this…” She motioned all around them. “I’m not the girl who goes home with a guy from the band.”

His face snapped back like she’d slapped him. “Oh. Sorry.”

Now she felt like a Grade A bitch. What could she say to soften the sentiment, though?

“Are you the girl who’d give her number to a guy in the band?”

Geez. Nice, sexy, persistent. She’d have to clarify, put them both out of this misery. “The whole lead-singer-and-groupie thing. It’s not for me.”

He rubbed his temples, thumb on one side, fingers on the other. “The band gets in the way sometimes.”

What? Didn’t being in a band attract chicks?

If she could put her personal prejudices aside—which she wouldn’t—he was a pretty attractive specimen. In fact, the guy probably had a girlfriend or two, or maybe even a wife, at home. This had to be some ploy to make her pity him and change her mind.

She turned and made for the back door of the bar.

“I’m more than just a guy in a band, you know.” His voice had lowered.

Turning, she stopped and looked back.

“I have a day job, work with my dad. Don’t tell anybody, because it’d strip away my rock cred.”

“I’m sure you’re a great guy with many facets, Logan.” She lifted her chin and looked him in the eye. “But at the core, you’re the cocky lead guy, the one who meets a girl and just grabs her and kisses her because he wants to. I’ve had a man like you in my life already, and I don’t want another.” It hurt too damn much when a guy like that moved on.