- Ought to be Outlawed

The first day of my freshman year in high school changed my life forever. It's the day I met him. Both my best friend, Sarah West, and I, were completely lost. Neither of us knew which way to go for our first period classes. So, me being me, asked the first person I saw for some help. No one has ever accused me of being shy. Not in a long time anyway.

When our rescuer turned around, I thought I would die. Not only was he one of the best looking guys I had ever laid eyes on, he was also one of the most annoyed looking guys I had ever seen. Despite feeling entirely cowed, I met his gaze squarely. His shoulders seemed to relax after that and his eyes lost some of their annoyance.

Before I lost my courage, I had asked him for directions to Sarah's class, since she was somewhat dumbstruck. In a voice with a deep, mellow timbre, he explained where she needed to go. As she hurried off, I asked if he could tell me where my class was.

Instead of giving me directions, he told me to walk with him. I didn't seem to have much of a choice, so I did as I was told. The crowd of people seemed to unknowingly make space for him to get by, I followed close on his tail so I wouldn't get lost. I was so close, in fact, that when he stopped, I nearly ran into him.

My classroom was right in front of me. I thanked him and gave him a genuine smile. My reward was a slight nod and a small smile before he went on his way. I sat down at my assigned seat, right in the middle of a bunch of preps. I was just going to have to, as my mom would say, grit my teeth and get through it.

Beside lunch, the rest of my day had gone fairly smooth. During my art class one of the sophomore girls had taken a liking to me and invited me to sit with her at lunch. I was a little hesitant until the invitation was extended to Sarah as well. Sarah was all too happy to accept, leaving me no choice. I liked Lisa though, so it didn't really matter.

He was sitting at the table that Lisa led us to. And he actually acknowledged me. When I sat down he gave me a teasing smile and asked if I had been able to find my way around alright without him. Not knowing what else to do, I nodded and laughed. After that, the introductions began. When Lisa reached him, she gave a dramatic pause and shot me a sly look, before introducing him. I didn't know what the drama and that look were for, so I ignored it. What I didn't ignore, was the fact that Lisa was his sister.

After day one we didn't do any more talking than was necessary. We sat at the same lunch table most of the time, so we did exchange some harmless banter, but that was about it. He always had girls trying to get his attention and things that were important to attend to. I did find out he was the resident badass cowboy. And that he had very little use for anyone except his family, his horses, and his truck. Never forget his truck. Ever last bit of it had been customized for him, by him.

Most of his interaction was at lunch. Which didn't bother me. Even though he always made time to tease me about something or another, we weren't really what you would call friends. It was a little unsettling when he would catch my eye in the halls. Which he did every time walked past him. It didn't matter how many of his groupies surrounded him. He always ignored them long enough to acknowledge my presence. And he always held my gaze just a millisecond too long for my comfort. The boy could be extremely unnerving when he wanted to be.

Despite all that, James Morgan wasn't really a huge fixture in my life. We teased back and forth and exchanged hellos. That's all. My day wasn't ruined if I didn't see him, nor was it made if I did. Every bit of my concentration went into making good grades so my mom would let me have some spending money. Any time not studying or outside was spent with Lisa and Sarah. We were inseparable.

Everything changed my sophomore year. James graduated and I didn't see him during the entire summer. No skin off my nose. As far as I was concerned, he had disappeared off the face of the Earth. In all honesty, only a few thoughts of him crossed my mind for the entire three months. And then he was suddenly thrust back into my life.

Since Lisa, Sarah, and I were so inseparable, they managed to talk me into going to a party with them. And not just any party, but one of Sashia Owens's parties. They were notorious for nasty dancing, lots of booze, and hot college guys. Some how they managed to, not only talk me into going, but also out of my normal jeans and loose t-shirts and right into a skirt and halter top.

I found myself standing in front of Lisa's full length mirror studying my appearance. We had gone shopping earlier in the day and gotten matching outfits. We all had relatively short, dark denim skirts on, different colored bandana print halter tops, and matching, honey colored, spike heeled cowboy boots. Sarah had done my long blonde hair in ringlets with just a few strands swept up in clips and Lisa had applied some extreme eye makeup that made me appear quite catlike.

If someone would have taken a picture of us at that point, we could have looked like triplets. All three of us were with in an inch of each other's heights with long blonde hair in varying shades. I had a red top on, Lisa's was baby blue, and Sarah's was black. We looked good and we knew it. But that didn't stop me from nearly chickening out. I was ready to make my exit when a knock sounded at the door.

Lisa squealed and bounced over to answer it. She only opened the door a crack, so I didn't realize who was there until the door was flung open. None other than James Morgan stood there. From the scowl on his face, he wasn't all that happy with his sister's outfit. I watched his eyes flit over Sarah and then land on me. Those eyes of his darkened and his jaw clenched. I was more than a little mystified by his reaction.

"Are you guys ready to go?" he asked tensely.

We all nodded.

"Are you going?" it slipped out of my mouth before I could stop it.

"No, he's just dropping us off," Lisa explained.

"I think I'll stay," his tone hadn't changed.

Lisa gave him a strange look. She glanced at me, giving me a once over before realization dawned in her eyes. Sarah and I were still confused. Nevertheless, we headed out to James's custom, extended cab Silverado. Lisa practically dragged Sarah into the back with her, and pretty much threatened me into sitting in the front seat. Sarah and I seemed to be the only ones that were confused.

I shrugged it off and glanced over at James. His grip on the steering wheel was just a tad too tight and his jaw was just a tad too tense. So I leaned over and turned the volume to the radio up. If nothing else, the boy had awesome taste in music. I started singing along with Tracey Byrd and just being stupid. Much to my amusement, James joined me. We goofed off to every song that was played until he parked his truck.

We could hear the music from a quarter of a mile away. Nervousness flooded my body and I felt all the blood drain from my face. Lisa and Sarah were practically quivering with excitement while I just wanted to turn tail and run. James gave me a reassuring smile and told me to stick close to him. I nodded and squared my shoulders. We headed to the large, three story house. This was not the kind of thing I liked and it showed. As we walked my dread only grew.

.-x-.

We were met by a crush of bodies. I don't know what I expected, but that wasn't close to it. Sarah and Lisa had long ago started moving to the beat of the music. My shy streak had shown up for the first time in years and kept a tight hold on my movement. And now my brain felt like it was going to explode from an information overload. When they stepped inside, I instinctively followed them.

When Sarah and Lisa were immediately snatched up by guys. I didn't know what to expect. I didn't, however, expect James to stick to me like glue. A few guys started to approach me, only to be chased off by death glares from James. After four were chased away, I turned and glared at James.

"Either quit scaring off my fun, or ask me to dance," I demanded

"In that case," he playfully tugged me closer to him, "dance with me!"

I laughed at his unexpected playfulness and let him lead in a fast paced, complicated dance. It was the most fun I'd had in a long time. Instead of just bumping and grinding, James actually knew how to dance and it forced me to follow his lead extremely closely. We were having fun, and it showed. People moved out of our way to form a tight circle. All the unnecessary attention was very unnerving to me, but James didn't falter at all, so I ignored my unease and willed myself to forget about all the eyes.

After two straight songs we made a break for the kitchen and water. Both of us were laughing and happy. We found Sarah and Lisa in the kitchen. I grabbed a water bottled and slipped over to talk to my friends. We exchanged some details from our separate experiences for a minute or two before I realized my shadow had disappeared. I turned to find him and was shocked to find him with Tommy Rannels pinned to the countertop and a furious glare on James' face. I hurried over to him and tentatively touched his arm. James looked down at me and his gaze noticeably softened.

"What's going on?" I asked.

"Just setting him straight," James replied coldly. I was taken aback. He never used that tone with me. I had heard it used on many a person that annoyed him, but it had never been directed toward me. It hurt.

"Oh," I said in a small voice.

I couldn't help the hurt in my voice and the hollow feeling in my gut. Everything had been going so well and then it changed. So I did what I always did when my naturally shy and easily intimidated side showed up – I ran and hid. I hurried to the front door and out of the house. I had made it a good hundred yards down the sidewalk before I heard heavy footsteps following me and was stopped by a lean chorded arm.

With quite a bit of determination I kept my gaze on the ground. James put one large hand under my chin and turned my face to his.

"What's wrong? Why'd you leave?" he asked. A multitude of emotions showed in his gaze; hurt, confusion, and apologetic were a few of those.

I didn't know what to do. I didn't know how to respond. My chin trembled slightly. James could be very intimidating without even realizing it. That and I was extremely aware of him as a man all of the sudden.

"This party thing isn't me. I'm extremely uncomfortable dressed like this. I thought I could handle it, but I was apparently wrong. I'd just like to go home and hide for a while if you don't mind," I said. It was halfway truthful. How was I supposed to tell a guy that I hadn't ever really been friends with and hadn't seen for three months that I was incredibly hurt by his uncharacteristic behavior toward me? He didn't seem to need to be told.

"I'm sorry for snapping at you. Tommy knows how to push my buttons," he said sheepishly.

I offered him a tentative smile. How else was I supposed to react? I wasn't the kind of girl that many guys paid much attention to. I had a very aggressive personality and it made most guys uneasy. Especially high school guys that weren't comfortable with themselves and were still trying to figure life out.

"I missed you this summer," he murmured distractedly.

"You could have stopped by or called. Lisa has my number and I only live five minutes away. Not mention the fact that I practically live at your house," I said slight reproachfully. He had never given me a phone number to reach him by, and even if he had I can't guarantee I would have called him. As I've said before, we weren't exactly great friends.

"Did you ever miss me?" he asked suddenly.

I peered up at him with a touch of concern. He was acting slightly bipolar.

"Of course I missed you. I had gotten quite used to you," I said with a slightly teasing tone.

He gave me an agonized look.

"You don't get it do you?" he asked softly.

Now I was really confused.

"Get what?" I asked slowly and carefully.

"You've got to be kidding me," he muttered with a nervous look.

And suddenly he was kissing me. I didn't react for a few seconds. It was completely random and I had no idea what to do. I relaxed and leaned slightly into his kiss. Being kissed wasn't at all the disgusting act I had imagined. It was actually quite nice. When he pulled back from me I found myself with my palms resting on his chest.

"Oh," was the only reply I could think of.

"You really have no idea do you?" he asked with a relieved look.

All I could do was watch his mouth work and wonder if I was dreaming. Our resident badass cowboy couldn't have just kissed me. Since I was still shocked speechless all I could do was shake my head dazedly.

"Why do you think I haven't dated anyone since I met you?" he asked rhetorically. "I've wanted to get to know you better for a year, but you're so confident I didn't know how to tell you."

I stared at him incredulously. I wasn't confident. I was a cowering blob of fear half the time! True, I did keep a cool aloof attitude most of the time, but that was simply for self preservation.

"You could have just said something. I tend to live in my own little world. I had no idea," I told him quietly.

He grinned suddenly and I was amazed at just how handsome he was when he smiled.

"So, what do you say, wanna go somewhere a little more fun?" he asked jovially.

"Please!" I replied just as happily. "Wait, what about Sarah and Lisa?"

"I told Lisa to call me when they want picked up. That's what took me so long," he said somewhat shyly.

I laughed. He grinned and cautiously laced his fingers through mine. I couldn't keep the goofy grin off my face. My mind was whirling. In my mind I had always been the girl no sane man would be interested in. I was loud and opinionated and sometimes unbending. Then a certain badass cowboy had to change my opinion.

The grin on my face spread further. I always knew he wasn't all there upstairs…

a/n

Well, here's the first of my Cowboy Chronicles. Every "chapter" is a different short story. I have a whole flash drive full of beginnings of stories that can only be short stories, so I'm compiling them here for your enjoyment. I would really love to have reviews on these stories. There should end up being about forty of them. So. Here goes nothing!

Western Princess