"How much longer?" I whine, staring out the truck window at the passing countryside.
"Why, getting a little bored?" Carson replies with a knowing smile. We have been on the road since six this morning. And, to add to my displeasure, we haven't had breakfast either.
"Yes, and hungry too." I say, sticking my lower lip out in a pout and batting my eyes at him.
"Hey, don't look at me like that! It's not my fault we got stuck cleaning the trailers out...again!"He replies when he looks over at me. He was right...again. It wasn't either of our faults. We had been the last ones up, so we got stuck with the chore. Lucky, lucky us.
"I'm still hungry." I reply stubbornly.
"Well, don't complain to me. I'm not even completely sure where we are. Complain to Aaron. He's the one with the map." He says with a sigh.
"You know ya love me." I say with a grin which quickly turns into a frown when I don't find my cellphone.
"Sure do. Lookin' for something?" He asks with a chuckle as I begin to feel around the floor for my phone.
"Ye-"I make a grab for my phone that he is dangling in front of me. He finally hands it to me after I hopelessly grab for it for a total of five minutes.
"What, no thank you?" He asks with a cocky grin. I slap him hard on the arm, making him wince.
"How did you get it?" I ask, looking at him curiously. He shrugs.
"You let me borrow it earlier to call my parents. Remember?" Oh, yeah. I did let him use it earlier today.
"And, why didn't you tell me you had it before I drove myself crazy looking for it?" I demand, glaring at him.
"Um...more fun for me?" He answers with a smirk.
"I bet it was. Who are we riding for the Grand Entrance? Shadow is still limping." I inform him, changing the subject to avoid another smart-aleck reply.
"Either Lady or Copper. They're the only too not already being ridden." He answers logically. Ever since we were like four, we have been riding the Grand Entrance together, Back then we rode Buck, Carson's old pony. Now, poor old Buck probably couldn't carry both of us. Another thing that's change since then is that Carson's muscular arms feel better around my waist every year. I had developed a crush on him in the seventh grade. Now, I'm pretty sure I'm in love with him. He only loves me like a sister. Which, I guess in a way, is how we were raised. Our fathers pretty much own the Lone Star Rodeo Company. This year, my father is the only actually the only one in charge. Carson's sister, Elaina. just had a little girl about a month ago and his parents had decided to stay at home with her in case she needs help with Carmella.
"Salina, what are you thinking so deeply about?" He asks, startling me out of my thoughts and back to reality.
"Oh, nothing. What were you saying?" I answer, hopefully I haven't missed anything important.
"I said, we're here." He replies, laughing as I turn bright red. In fact, we are parked next to the other trucks and horse trailers in what looked to be a fairground. I get out, still slightly discolored, and stretch my legs before turning around and colliding into something extremely solid and oddly, familar. I stumble backwards a little before strong arms steady me. Carson had come around the truck and had been standing behind me. He laughs again, this time at my clumsiness. I slap him on the arm again and start running away before he can catch me and tickle me. I run around to the other side of the trailera after running in a circle around the truck for what felt like a dozen times. I lean back, breathing heavily, and wait for him to realize where I am. I shriek when he comes around the side of the trailer and then run and hide behind Aaron, who was standing there watching us with an amused smile.
"Hi, Aaron." I say breathlessly, still crouching behind him.
"Hi, to you too, Salina. What'd you do to him this time?" He replies, knowing how we tease one another. I don't even bother to deny anything.
"I really don't see what his problem is. All I did was slap him." I say with a shrug. Aaron just shakes his head in amusement. I shriek again as I'm picked up and slung over Carson's shoulder. I almost hit him again, but decide against it. Instead, I enjoy the view of his butt in his tight Wranglers as he carries me back to his truck.
"Do you mind stop staring at my ass?" He asks with a laugh.
"Actually I do mind. It's a nice view." I admit, grinning evilly as I reach down and pinch his bottom.
"Oww!" He complains as he removes me from his shoulder and places me back on the ground. I'm so close to his chest that I can feel his rapid heartbeat through his shirt and smell the faint aroma of cinnamon on his breath. There's something in his eyes that tells me he's not about to let me go. Without a second thought, I lean up to kiss him. Our lips are almost touching when we are interrupted by my father calling for us. I reluctantly push myself away from him and quickly turn my face away so he won't see the blush that has crept onto my face. Ignoring the urge to walk away from him and go see what my father wants, I turn back to him. To my surprise, he's not only blushing, but the disapointment and reluctance are more than evident in his ice blue eyes. He smiles sheepishly and I readily return the smile, relief filling my heart.
"Salina! Carson! I've been looking everywhere for you two. Aaron and Matt need your help unloading the calfs and steers. Lady and Copper are already saddled for you. And, we need you both to do roundup. The show starts at three, so be ready to ride the entrance at two-forty five." My dad says. If he notices our red faces, he doesn't show it. I walk over to where Aaron and Matt are standing each holding the reins of two horses. I take Lady's rein from Matt and mount the chesnut mare. Carson arrives soon after and mounts Copper, the copper colored gelding, without uttering a word. Is he angry, or just lost in thought? I wonder, desperately hoping that if he doesn't feel anything for me, we can at least remain friends. But I want, no, I need, him to be more than just my friend. I have no farther time to ponder my feelings though. Between the four of us we finally manage to get the cattle into pens, ready to be herded into the shoot and released into the ring. I check my watch after dismounting Lady and realize that the roundup had taken longer than it was supposed to. I jog back to Carson's truck and retrieve my suitcase, locating my "uniform" shirt and then put the suitcase back in and close the truck door back. The shirt is red with "Lone Star Rodeo" printed across the back in white letters. I walk behind the truck and quickly change shirts. I use the rearview mirror to fix my unruly brown curls somewhat more presentively and then make my way back to the ring to mount Lady for the entrance ride. Carson is already there, leaning lazily against one of the fence posts. He had also changed into his rodeo shirt and he had put his black stetson on, but other than that his appearance hadn't altered any. He waves me over and I reluctantly walk over to him. He looks at me thoughtfully for a minute and then takes a step closer. With a gentle smile, he places my matching hat on me and then takes a step back.
"There, that's better." He says softly, his blue eyes twinkling in a way that makes my knees weak. Leave it to him to remember my hat for me.
"Thanks." I murmur, too breathless to say anything else. We stare at each other for a couple more moments and then he clears his throat and glances down at his watch.
"We better get mounted. It's already five to three." He suggests and I nod, still too damned confused to do anything else. If he only thought of me as a sister, then why was he looking at me like that? Like he wants to grab me and never let go. I shake my head to clear my thoughts and watch as he effortlessly mounts the mare. He shifts around until he's comfortable and there's enough room for me in front of him. Holding a hand down to help me up, he smiles that innocent smile of his and I return it with a shy, but still sincere, smile of my own. I mount without any effort and then situate myself before before leaning back against his solid chest.
"That's my cowgirl." He whispers, his mouth so close to my ear that I can feel his breath tickling my neck. Before I can even begin to wonder if I'd heard him correctly, the way he tightens his arms around me vanishes all doubt. Before I can react, the announcer finishes his introduction and the signal for us to enter the ring is given. Carson pushes Lady into a slow trot and then a canter. Before I can stop myself, I turn slightly and capture his lips with mine. Although it only last for less than three seconds, the kiss was undoubtedly the best one I had ever experienced. Somehow, Carson manages to rein Lady to a perfect stop and we end up exactly where we're supposed to be. The crowd, apparently thinking the kiss was part of the show, cheer and applaud enthusiastically. I glance back and take a quick intake of breath at the astonishment written clearly on his face. Oh, God. What had I done?