Win or lose, a bull rider always ends up in the dirt. Sometimes he jumps off and sometimes he’s tossed, but either way he winds up scrambling around on all fours trying to save his own life.
For some reason, Lane Carrigan never got tired of it, despite the fact that the pay was mostly cuts, bruises, and broken bones. On this hot July night, he’d scored a paycheck along with a shot of adrenaline that hummed through his veins like a shot of strong whiskey.
Shoving his riding glove in his gear bag, he hoisted it to his shoulder and strode out from under the stands. A faint feeling of unease pricked the hairs at the back of his neck when he spotted a woman lounging against one of the makeshift pens that held the roping steers. She was dark-haired and shapely, dolled up like a bar-stool cowgirl in clean, pressed jeans and a sparkly shirt. Her pretty, practiced smile was fixed on his face, and she held her hands behind her back like she was hiding a surprise.
He hoped she wasn’t going to jump out with a bunch of flowers or something. He was more in the mood for beer than buckle bunnies tonight, and something about her expression made him feel more like a lamb being led to slaughter than a man who’d just bested a bull. His thigh ached from an old injury and he just wanted to hang out with the guys and maybe hit the hay early.
Besides, he was embarrassed by the way girls fawned over him. It would have been all right if he’d earned their adoration with his riding skills, but he knew his fame stemmed from two accidents of birth: the Carrigan name, and the square-jawed, laser-eyed Carrigan face. The Carrigan money didn’t hurt either, but the recent deal he’d struck with his brother left him land-rich and cash-poor, which wasn’t exactly bunny bait.
That was fine with him. His brother was the one who cared about money, riding an executive office chair and mahogany desk at Carrigan Oil with as much confidence as Lane brought to bull riding. Eric was carrying the company into the twenty-first century with grace and style, decked out in high-fashion suits and driving high-priced cars. Lane was only graceful when he was on the back of a bull. The rest of the time he was just another cowboy, a little beat up from hard landings, with a slight limp from a long-ago wreck that had broken his right leg and set short.
The mystery woman stepped forward, her hands still behind her back. When she flicked out her tongue to lick her glossy lips, Lane felt a tightening down below, but it was more reflex than anything. She wasn’t his type. Not many of them were these days.
“Lane Carrigan?” she asked.
She whipped out what she was hiding and shoved it in his face.
When a man emerged from under the stands balancing a television camera on his shoulder, Lane almost groaned aloud—but he smiled instead, flashing the famous Carrigan grin he’d inherited from his dad. He hadn’t done anything newsworthy today, not with that mediocre ride, but this babe was probably a rookie reporter with no rodeo knowledge looking for a story and figuring the rich guy would fill some airtime.
He cast her a sheepish sideways grin. “Wasn’t my best, but I made the buzzer.”
He spoke with the slow, easy drawl expected of a rodeo cowboy, though he’d spent most of his childhood in swanky boarding schools. He’d had just two weeks every summer at his grandfather’s ranch near