He turned around and froze, losing any ability to finish buttoning his shirt at the unexpected sight.
A black hat shadowed the downturned face, but the shredded shirt exposed secret skin to his gaze, a jagged rip revealing the circle of one nipple, unusually large and dark on the tanned chest. The cowboy didn’t bother to undo his ruined shirt, he just tore it apart, sending the buttons flying as he tossed the garment over the stall door.
Doug felt his cock stir in his jeans and his mouth dropped open. He licked over his dry lips, feeling his pulse quicken and his breath come faster.
A sculpted collarbone angled up to a broad shoulder. Doug’s gaze moved lower to the flat planes of the muscled chest and was drawn inexorably back to that chocolate disc of a nipple.
He stepped back to take shelter within the shadow of his stall, completely forgetting about his own shirt. Watching the other man bend to fish another shirt from his saddlebag and shrug into it, leaving it hanging open while he searched for his lighter, Doug felt as if someone had stuck a knife into his gut and twisted.
He must have made some kind of a sound – although he was not aware of it – because the other cowboy looked up and found him in the gloom of the stable. He shook a cigarette from the pack and stuck it between his lips before holding out the pack to Doug, his mouth curled upward in a challenging smile. The cigarette bobbed as he spoke. “Want one?”
Looking at the taunting smile on the familiar face, Doug realized that Jamie Denson had caught him staring at his chest. No, even worse, staring at his nipple. Doug’s mouth worked soundlessly for an instant before he shook his head, and abruptly turned and practically ran from the stable, hastily buttoning his own shirt and shoving it into his jeans as he hurried away.
Yeah, he wanted one. There was nothing more he wanted than to dig his fingers into Jamie’s flesh and pull him closer, lick that enticing nipple, suck it, and nip at it until he made Jamie gasp and shiver with excitement. But that was never going to happen again.
His head was still spinning as he hung with the other bull riders outside the pens. He had to clear his mind if he was going to get a good ride, and he needed this next ride to be a good one.
“What?” Doug exclaimed in exasperation.
“Well fuck a duck, it’s alive,” Sam drawled. “I’ve been tryin’ to figure out if you were awake for the last five. See, fellas, he’s so confident he nods off before he rides.”
A few of the men chuckled, but Reuben smiled without humor.
“Thanks for waking me up, Sam.” Doug stretched ostentatiously, aware that he wasn’t fooling his friend at all. “Wouldn’t want to miss my ride. Did you want something?”
Sam waited for the other men to return to their conversations and jerked his head toward the ring. “You know Denson’s here?”
“Saw him earlier,” Doug said laconically, hoping that the pounding of his heart wasn’t making his shirt flutter over his chest. Just the sound of someone saying Jamie’s name….
“He’s havin’ a good year,” Sam said.
“Yeah, I heard.”
“Not interested, eh?”
Doug shrugged, and he kept his eyes carefully on the action in the ring rather than meeting Sam’s. A muscular blond fellow dressed in black leather chaps with pink sequin fringe down the sides was aboard a paint, raking hard with his blunted spurs, but the bronc only gave him a half-hearted effort. The horn sounded and the crowd applauded politely while the blond cowboy continued trying to get a better response from the horse.
The announcer urged the blond to bail and finally he slid from the horse’s back, landing on his feet. Three short rodeo clowns ducked and ran under the horse’s belly to the delight of the crowd, showcasing the paint’s lack of interest. The blond tried to kick one of them in the ass for showing him up and the clowns promptly abandoned the horse to chase the hapless cowboy out of the ring, taking turns kicking the seat of his pants and whooping with glee.
“Bad luck for Terrence,” Sam commented. “That pony’s heart wasn’t in it today.”
“He’s all flash. Sequin fringe?” Doug shrugged again. Even if Terrence had drawn the best horse in the competition, it wouldn’t have made much difference.
“Vegas cowboy,” Sam agreed.
The announcer was talking over the loudspeaker, whipping the crowd’s enthusiasm up for the next rider.
“Jamie Denson is having one hell of a year. He came in first in Calgary, Cheyenne, and now he’s trying to strike gold right here in Las Vegas. That boy is a wild one. Y’all will remember early in his career, he took a bad fall off Lucifer’s Roof, a mean horse out of Texas that broke his neck. No one thought he’d come back from that, but he walked out of the hospital. Some say he shoulda counted himself lucky at that and called it a day, but he’s one tough hombre. He’s back and tonight he’s riding the meanest, baddest, buckingest bronc in the show! Here’s Jamie Denson on top of Daredevil!”
The announcer’s frantic voice was drowned out by the roar of the crowd welcoming the young cowboy. Doug gripped the top rail so hard the edge of the wood bit into his fingers as he stared into the ring.
The door to the chute was flung open and a black stallion exploded into the ring as if propelled by a stick of dynamite, doing his best to rid himself of the rider on his back.
Doug bit sharply into his lower lip to keep himself from crying out.
“Fuck, he can ride,” Sam breathed, close by Doug’s ear.
“Always could,” Doug managed to say.
The sight of the lithe body atop the muscular horse was almost more than he could bear to watch. He wanted to turn away, but he was mesmerized. The way Jamie’s hips rolled with each jarring leap was poetry; it was like the most sublime sex. It was perfection.
Daredevil was all that any cowboy could hope to draw for a ride, strong and savvy. The bronc didn’t simply jump and arch his back, he spun like a demon, twisting with the agility of a cat. He kept mixing it up so his rider could never anticipate just what he’d do next, and he seemed to have energy to burn.
Jamie stuck to the stallion’s back like he was glued there, his knees high, spurs raking, one hand waving freely in the air, while he kept a firm grip on the hack rein with the other. Every supple movement served to balance his weight perfectly when he met the saddle. And he was smiling.
Doug knew that smile. It was one of his favorites, filled with exhilaration at the danger, excitement for the challenge and the joy of a man doing what he loved. “Come on, Jimmy, just a few more seconds,” he muttered, feeling the strain in his neck and shoulders as he pulled at the fence. Every muscle had tightened up as if he could help with the ride, willing Jamie not to fall, to make it to the end. He wasn’t even aware that his private nickname for Jamie had slipped out, the one he’d only ever used in bed.