"I bet they wouldn't give you a second glance if they knew the truth," Jake sneered, spitting out his dip. He was tall with a lean, athletic build. His features were chiseled and cocky, his dark eyes gleamed with arrogance. He leaned against the chute looking as though he was posing for a sexy cowboys calendar, making his sister roll her eyes under the cage of her helmet.
Cambria was unzipping the protective leather vest from her ride. It had been the best of her short career, an 88.25 ride on a demon of a bull named Bad Luck. The crowd was still roaring. Removing her helmet, she shook her short, shaggy brown waves loose, and wiped the sweat gathering above her eyebrows on her sleeve. She was several inches shorter than her brother, standing at 5'10". Cambria was lanky and narrow, built more like a teenage boy than a girl. Her face was soft, despite razor cheekbones and a strong, straight nose. It gave her an androgynous appearance. Her chin tapered to a soft point, giving her face a heart shape. She shared her brother's dark eyes, but was tanner than he was.
Though they were twins, Cambria and Jake had little in common other than their present endeavors to become PBR World Champions. Jake was handsome but haughty. He had not quite matured past his teenage years, and still possessed an ego that reflected this. He was a gifted rider, but he took his talent for granted, not nearly putting in as many hours at the practice chutes as a cowboy in the running for World's ought to have. Everything came naturally to Jake, and he soaked up the spotlight. He was a crowd pleaser, and he often had a line of woman outside his trailer at any given event. Cambria was the opposite. While she was a naturally talented rider, it was years of hard work that got here where she was now. She did not bask in the limelight the way her brother did, instead preferred privacy when she was not competing. Privacy was the only thing saving her rodeo dreams from crashing and burning on the spot. She did not have the privilege to flaunt for the media as Jake did, but she was happy enough being able to compete. Even when she did get media coverage as had recently been a trend, she was modest and humble, speaking little about herself and more about her riding aspirations and training regimen.
Holding her helmet under her left arm, she took her black Stetson off the hook behind the chute and replaced it on her head. Taking a drink of water from a passing producer staff who traded congratulatory words, she fixed Jake with a hard gaze and lifted her chin defiantly. "I wouldn't go burnin' no bridges just yet, Brother. Or are you that scared you won't measure up?" Cambria challenged, giving her brother deadpan look. Her voice was low for a girl's, and the distinctive Texan drawl made her sound more like an old rancher than a lady.
Jake straightened away from the fence and hovered over his twin sister. "I'm just gonna say this once, Cam. You don't belong here. Go back to trick ridin' and barrel racin', but leave the bull ridin' to an actual cowboy." With a sneer, Jake adjusted his hat and bumped his way past his sister to climb the chute for the next ride. Cambria stood in disbelief, lips pursing as she drummed her fingertips over her helmet. In a few moments, she smiled ironically to herself as the announcer in the background joked about Jake's bucking at 4.6 seconds into his ride. Shaking her head, she loaded her belongings away then loitered on a railing beside the other cowboys, waiting for the buckle ceremony to commence. They joked with her, complimented her for a good ride, and teased Jake, who unbeknownst to them was her brother, about his big talk and short delivery.
" 'You don't belong here.' Well, you can kiss my bull riding ass, Jake. So much for lovin' family," Cambria muttered under her breath as she ambled over to her old Ford F250. She was hardly able to keep from smiling as she flipped the buckle case over in her hand. There was so much gold on it, it mesmerized her. It was not her first, but it was her best by far, a real milestone. The buckle bunnies loitering over by her truck were confirmation of that.
Upon seeing Cambria, the bleached blonde in the denim mini skirt tore away from the hood of the faded red truck and sauntered over to her. She was short but curvy, her buxom figure adored in a hot pink shirt with a rhinestone silhouette of a cowboy on a bucking bronco in the front. Twirling a curl of her hair, the blonde gave Cambria a promiscuous smile and batted her thick, mascara lashes. "What's a champion like you doing all alone, honey?" She asked, voice a sugary drawl.
Cambria tipped her hat at the blonde buckle bunny and offered a polite smile. "Goin' straight home, I tell ya what. What a night," she answered, adopting her most believably masculine voice. "Have a good evenin', Miss," she bade, trying to sidestep the blonde.
"How about you take me with you?" The blonde offered with a flirtatious giggle, clinging to Cambria's arm.
Cambria blushed and chuckled nervously, at a loss for words. "Well, I don't know about that, Miss. Sure wouldn't be very gentlemanly of me," Cambria answered after a beat, hoping to politely decline. It was not an option though as the blonde took her Stetson and put it on.
"Who said I was lookin' for a gentleman?" the blonde challenged, giving Cambria a look over and then demurely biting her lip. "I'll give you your hat back in the truck," she announced, winking at Cambria as she playfully tipped the hat on her head. Giving Cambria a triumphant smirk, she strutted pass her, back towards the truck, ample hips purposefully swaying. The other buckle bunnies huffed and mumbled as they dispersed. Hanging by the passenger side, the blonde beamed as Cambria opened the door for her. After Cambria closed her door and rounded the hood to get into the driver side, the buckle bunny smiled, her plump, pink lips thinning at the corners. "I'm Memphis by the way," the buckle bunny finally introduced, reaching up with her manicured hands to remove the hat on her head. With a smile, she smoothed back her curls with one hand then put the hat back on Cambria.
Cambria smiled back. She thought about introducing herself, but figured Memphis already knew. "Well, it's nice to meet ya, Miss Memphis," Cambria bade. Glancing up at the brim of the Stetson when it was placed on her head, she laughed. "Now I didn't think you'd actually give it back, Miss Memphis," she admitted, shooting Memphis a crooked smile as she started the truck. Her eyes lingered on the buxom blonde for a moment too long, tracing from her pale blue eyes down to her pouty lips and… Catching herself, Cambria cleared her throat and shifted her truck into reverse and backed out of the gravel lot. They were some ways down the highway when Cambria asked, over the sound of Garth Brooks on the radio, "Now I don't mean to be rude, Miss, but would I still be takin' ya home with me if I didn't win that sweet buckle tonight?"
Memphis was lounged back in the front seat. She twisted to give Cambria a feigned pensive look though it dissipated with her radiant smile. "No way! I don't go home with losers!" she protested with a cheeky laugh. The way Memphis was looking at her made Cambria laugh too, and an amused smile lingered on her lips as she shook her head in disbelief.
"I appreciate your honesty. You don't need to lie 'bout me bein' your favorite bull rider," Cambria considered, but she was quickly interrupted by Memphis's exaggerated scoff.
"I didn't say that! You are my favorite!" She corrected, rolling her eyes. "I'm just shallow," Memphis added, a playful gleam in her narrowed eyes. Cambria studied her with a narrowed gaze then chuckled and shook her head, amazed by Memphis's sass.
The two sang along to country songs on the radio, and Memphis surprised Cambria with her knowledge about rodeo when they talked. She recounted a series of bucking streaks from infamous bulls and even recounted rodeo history. How naturally at home Memphis made herself in Cambria's truck was both intriguing and alluring, but Cambria was scared for what would happen when the truck would stop. She wanted to stop several times as it was when Memphis would playfully put her hand on her knee, nibble on the side of her neck, or even whisper in her ear. It sent chills down Cambria's spine, but she could not help but wonder what she expected to happen when they got home. It was never her intention to bring a buckle bunny home. She had always avoided them, and rather successfully. But Memphis was different. She did not ask for permission, she took it, and there she was, sitting shotgun with her boots up on the dash, looking like she owned the place, like she owned her. Cambria did not know what to make of the buckle bunny. She seemed much more than that, despite her bimbo appearance. And more than Memphis, she did not know what to make of herself for actually wanting to take her home. But to do what?
Cambria's secrets were wrapped up in a pair of Wrangler jeans. It was the main reason she stayed away from buckle bunnies and women in general. They threatened to reveal her to the world, just as her brother did.
To the world, Tucker Cambria was a fine young man with promises of reaching Worlds one day. His career was full of possibilities and opportunities. His future in rodeo was bright, and he was a star on the rise. But Cambria Tucker was biologically female, and the world of professional bull riding was all but welcoming to a young lady. They were not ready for a woman to take the circuit by storm the way she did. It was closed gates and no vacancy signs after high school where she was competing with the boys. But most of those boys went on to continue their career where she had to turn to trick riding. She was brilliant and daring, but it was bull riding that was her one true love. And that was how Tucker Cambria came to be.
She could not stand the idea of her twin brother going from city to city, competing and winning while she was left back home on the ranch tending livestock. Not when Cambria had bested her brother on the high school circuit. She had beat out a lot of boys her age, but there was nowhere left to go. So many rodeos had turned down Cambria Tucker on account of her being female, but not anymore. She controlled her destiny now, even if it meant a secret identity. It was a burden that she took on without much second thought. Cambria had never thought of herself as a lady anyhow, and often prided herself for being tougher and more gentlemanly than her biological male counterparts.
A gentleman. It was the virtue that her rodeo persona had been based around. Tucker never brought home buckle bunnies. His love was for rodeo and God. Girls swooned over him for his romantic outlook on love and the sanctity of marriage as well as his status as unobtainable. But a girl could dream.
What was the virtuous Tucker Cambria doing driving home with the busty, blonde bunny? Her intentions were obviously bad. And he knew it. And it would be worse still when he disappoints her with the truth. Why was he willing to risk this? Why now? Why for her?
Because Cambria was captivated and smitten by the southern girl's charm. Her brazen behavior, the secret intelligence behind her ditzy demeanor, it was cute. Cambria spared a glance over to Memphis. Her short skirt was hiked up from the pose she had assumed, and her tight, low cut t-shirt was a fair exposition for the luscious bosom that heaved a content sigh when Memphis caught her eyes lingering on her. Memphis probably wanted to be sexy, alluring, irresistible, but despite the flawless make up and provocative wardrobe, Cambria found her adorable, sassy, and petulant, almost like a child.
She gave Memphis a thin smile as they pulled onto the dirt road that led to Turnpike Ranch. "We're here," she told Memphis as they drove up to the detached unit away from the main ranch house. The truck came to a stop on the gravel drive in front of the garage, crunching pebbles underneath its large tires. Reaching to turn off the engine, Cambria's heart raced as the distraction of the radio left her. She felt more nervous sitting there in the quiet cab of her truck with the southern beauty than she did preparing to mount a bull in the chute.
It was only after Memphis giggled at her that she realized she had been stalling. Cambria offered an apologetic smile then got out of the truck to open the door for Memphis. She took the cowboy's arm as they walked together towards the house.
Inside, the one-bedroom unit was minimally decorated. Tucker turned on the lights to reveal an open living room complete with craftsman style furniture. The shabby couch had a hunting camo print upholstery and throw pillows that looked like the Texas flag. On the walls were old tin signs promoting beers and whisky. Next to the television was a shelf full of trophies and buckles as well as several old photographs from youth and high school events.
Before Tucker could welcome her to his house, Memphis threw her arms around his neck and engaged him in an eager kiss. She tasted like cinnamon gum. Caught breathless, Tucker could not help but kiss her back, resting his hands on her hips. Her hips were full and round under his touch, and he had to cautiously tell himself not to follow the soft curve of her back. He fell back against the door as she stepped forward, leaning her entire weight on him. It was a pleasant weight and a pleasant warmth. His thoughts escaped his mind as they continued to kiss, happily distracted from reason and caution by the passionate interaction and the sweet smell of magnolia radiating from her pale locks. It was the first time he had caught it, the first time he was close enough to catch it, and the intimate subtlety peaked his curiosity.
With a little whine, Tucker gently guided Memphis back to break their kiss. In a breathless, husky voice, he meekly insisted, "We shouldn't."
Memphis's lips curled into a full pout against Tucker's and she huffed. "Sure, we should," she disagreed, catching him in a kiss again, which he reciprocated without protest. In another instant, Tucker grabbed Memphis under the thighs and picked her up. In a slow, clumsy stumble, he walked her over to the couch where he laid her down. He drew away just enough to look down at her and admire the unquestionable effort that had been put forth into her flawless appearance. That was never him. A woman like her intrigued him with her femininity and beauty. The way her cascading curls fell around her round, youthful face. Her pink lipstick had become smeared, and she was looking back up at him with curious, half-lidded eyes.
He laid a hand against her cheek, thumb grazing the warm, soft skin beneath. He bit his lip, torn between desire, virtue, and the harsh sting of reality. But his heart was stronger than his head in that instant, and he leaned down to kiss her neck. It drew a soft sigh from Memphis and she laced her fingers with his. The soft, brushing kisses sent chills down her spine, and she arched her back. This was so different. Was this what lovemaking meant?
Her skirt was bunched up around her hips as she wrapped her thick legs around Tucker's narrow hips. She crossed her ankles behind the small of his back and pulled him closer to her. As Tucker began to kiss her lips, Memphis moved her hips, grinding against his crotch. The motion drew a groan from Tucker, and absentmindedly, he returned the gesture. The tantalizing motion of Tucker's hips made Memphis squirm. She could feel what she imagined to be his excitement through the thin material of her lace, pink thong, and it made her moan against their kiss. As his hips fell into a rhythm, she gasped and threw her head back, breaking their kiss. The heaving of her chest, the desperate moans that rolled past her full, parted lips. He could not help but watch her. He wanted to feel her body against his, to be inside her. If only.
Her moans grew shorter, she reached up, knocking his hat off and entangling her fingers into his tawny mess of hair. Then with a silent gasp, she arched her back and went rigid. She was beautiful.
Tucker's heart was racing so hard, he felt like he could die. When Memphis opened her eyes, she looked completely surprised and amazed. She sat up with an embarrassed giggle, face flushed as she reached to fix her hair. "Wow. Our clothes didn't even come off," she commented, awestruck.
He gave her a bashful smile and lowered his eyes. "I'm sorry. I got carried away," Tucker quietly apologized, but Memphis interrupted him with a soft kiss. Then, shifting, she got on her knees and started to pull at his belt buckle with eager hands. "Whoa there, Missy! What are you doin' down there?" Tucker asked, amused but also startled.
"I'm gonna go down on you," Memphis announced, matter-of-fact, but she was surprised when Tucker gently pulled her away. She closed her eyes and accepted the gentle kiss he gave her, and she swooned when he broke the short kiss and their eyes met.
"I can't let ya do that," Tucker told her, "It wouldn't be right."
Memphis pouted and asked, "You don't like me, do you?"
With a chuckle and a shake of his head, Tucker smiled widely at her and fixed her with a genuine gaze. "No, I think I might like ya a good bit," he answered. He stood from the couch and bent to pick his hat up from the floor. Playfully, he dropped it on Memphis's head and headed towards the kitchen. "Can I get ya somethin' to drink? I can make us somethin' if yer hungry," he offered.
"How did you ruin Easy Mac? Didn't your mama teach ya anything?" Memphis asked, exasperated but amused as she picked up an over-cooked noodle from the strainer.
"Evidently not," Tucker answered, hands on his hips, amused at his own uselessness in the culinary arts. "C'mon, let's just go to Whataburger or somethin'," he bade, taking Memphis's hand and trying to lead her away from the stove.
"No, no," Memphis insisted, smirking as she snatched her hand away. "Let's stay here and eat this monstrosity you made," she laughed, mixing the cheese sauce into the soggy noodles. "This is the stuff champions are made of!"
Tucker gave Memphis a wry smile and playfully rolled his eyes. "Guess you found my secret," he laughed. He went over to the cabinet to retrieve two bowls for them and set it on the counter. He watched as Memphis scooped the mac and cheese into the bowls with a little grimace. It looked absolutely unappetizing, like mystery slop at a elementary school cafeteria. "Do we have to eat this?" Tucker whined when Memphis handed him his bowl. "We could just heat up some Hot Pockets instead."
"Nonsense! We gotta eat this gourmet masterpiece that you cooked up for us," Memphis smirked. She clinked the bowls together. "Bottoms up!"
"I think that's only when you're drinkin'," Tucker corrected.
"Well then, what am I doin' here without a drink in my hand, Mr. Cambria? I swear you're the worst host," Memphis playfully chided. She had to hold back giggles as she watched Tucker scramble about to find a bottle of whisky and some glasses. He sent them on the kitchen table, and she went over. Taking a seat when Tucker pulled out a chair for her, she smiled up at him and waited for him to sit down next to her. "Better start pourin', it's gonna be a long night," Memphis announced, giving Tucker a challenging look.
"Aw, but I'm so tired," he complained, though he opened the bottle of Crown Royale and poured out two glasses.
Memphis looked pleased as she picked up the glass and clinked it with Tucker's. "Here's to you and winnin'. You're gonna get places, Tucker Cambria," she toasted. Giving him a soft smile, she threw the drink back in a gulp and exhaled a pleasant sigh. "God, that goes down smooth!"
Tucker nursed the glass of whisky until the blonde urged him to catch up. She was already on her third glass. With some reluctance, he obliged. They occasionally picked at the Easy Mac, which was starting to grow cold, and Memphis laughingly told Tucker that she would need to be wasted to eat anymore of it.
It might have been a dozen drinks in when Memphis's fire burned out. She was slumped over in her seat when she exhaled a tired sigh and asked, "Do you know why I go chasin' cowboys?"
With a weary shake of his head, Tucker hesitantly answered, "No, Miss. I can't say that I do."
"It's because they always ride away, Tucker. Nothin' wagered, nothin' lost. And a heart don't break that way. It's a sport for us, too," Memphis explained, words slurring. Her mascara had started to run, and she looked deflated under the kitchen light.
A long silence fell between them, then Tucker gave Memphis a sad smile. "Well, sorry to break it to ya, but I ain't got no place to be. At least not for awhile. So you might be the one that's gotta ride on out, if that's what you want," he warned, although there was a lightness in his voice. When Memphis reached to take another sip of her whisky, he stopped her hand and gently extracted the glass from her. "I'm cutting you off for the night, 'less someone says I'm taking advantage of a poor drunk girl," he laughed, dumping the contents of the glass down the kitchen sink and setting the glass down.
She stared at him for a long time, then pouted indignantly. "You can't take advantage of me! I'm going take advantage of you!" She childishly retorted, standing up. She stumbled and almost fell, but Tucker caught her. She leaned against him like a drunken rag doll, unmoving. Her hands came up to clutch at his sleeves, and she exhaled a tearful sigh. She did not speak for a long time, only clung to him. She was still wearing his Stetson, which was pushed back on her head as she leaned her head against his chest. She might have been surprised to find how lean and lanky he was, but she was too intoxicated to notice. "I don't feel good," she whined, sniffling and wiping her face on his blue plaid chambray. It left a black mascara stain and the tears soaked through his shirt.
With a soft sigh, Tucker hesitantly wrapped his arms around her and gently patted her back. "I think this party girl should've been cut off a couple drinks back," he lightly teased. "C'mon. Go take a nice warm shower. I'll get ya some clean clothes to change into," he bade, drawing her away just enough to usher her out of the kitchen and down the hallway. She was slumped over against him and could hardly walk on her own. He stumbled with her down the narrow oak paneled hallway to his bedroom. Reaching to slap at the switch on the wall, Tucker turned on the lights.
The woman in his arms was as limp as his overcooked noodles, and she could barely stand on her own. He took back his hat and set it aside on the night stand. Gingerly, he walked her into the attached bathroom and put the toilet lid down. Sitting her down on top of it, Tucker went over to the shower and turned it on, waiting for the hot water to run. "Can you take a shower? You'll feel better," he told her, beckoning for her to come over to the tub shower. Memphis stood and staggered over to him, limply leaning against him when she reached him. "Okay. I'm gonna leave so you can clean up. Towels are clean, okay? Just holler if ya need anything," he told her before turning to leave the bathroom.
In the bedroom, he started to undress, but the process made him nervous. Under his western wear, the illusion was shattered. He stood in front of the mirrored sliding doors of his closet, frowning at his reflection.
Cambria's body was lean and muscular due to her rigid training for rodeo and a naturally thin build. She had wide but skinny shoulders, almost no breasts, and washboard abs. Her waist was small but straight, and her narrow hips were well defined with strong obliques and hip flexors. Inside the Calvin Klein boxer briefs she wore was a packer to give the male illusion in her jeans. She had gotten the initial idea from Hillary Swank's character in Boys Don't Cry, but the Internet provided better and more realistic alternatives than a balled up sock. The internet was to thank for much of her successful charade.
She almost looked male with her underwear still on. Almost.
Stealing glances over to the bathroom, she could hear the water still running. It set her mind at ease, and she finished changing out of her dirty western wear and into clean pajamas. She wore an old grey t-shirt she had gotten from a livestock competition several years ago and faded flannel pants. It felt so nice to finally take off her boots and socks, and she wiggled her toes against the shaggy rug by the foot of her bed. She exhaled a relieved sigh then looked down at her toes. Cambria groaned. They had been painted bright pink by her niece, her older sister's daughter. Cursing under her breath, she made to go find socks, but could not find the will to move. With a defeated sigh, Cambria laid with her lower half hanging off the side of the bed and closed her eyes. She heard the grandfather clock from the main house strike. It was three in the morning. Her body felt like lead, and her eyes burned from still being awake. The drives to and from Austin were not too long, but sitting had made her back stiff. Cambria spared another glance at the bathroom door, which sat ajar as she had left it. She relented and finally got up, worried that Memphis might have somehow managed to drown in the shower in her sloppy, drunken state.
Approaching the door, Cambria gave a loud knock then paused to listen. The water had turned off at some point. "Are ya decent, Miss Memphis? I'm comin' in," she announced before pushing the door open. Slipping in, Cambria ducked her head and kept her eyes affixed to the floor, afraid she might see more of her guest than she was meant to.
"Tucker, you don't gotta walk around like that. You're gonna run into somethin' and hurt yourself," Memphis told her, voice sounding brighter now than it was before she showered. It would appear that she had sobered up somewhat.
Cambria hesitantly looked up to meet Memphis's gaze. Her heart hitched in her throat. Memphis's hair was dripping wet and messy, framing her face like she had been caught in a summer rainstorm. All of her makeup had come off, leaving her fresh face youthful and radiant. She was even more beautiful underneath the superficial layer. Her skin was dewy, and her cheeks had a light natural flush to them. Without the heavy lashes and dark metallic eyeshadow, her blue eyes looked brighter and more alive. Her fresh face looked so innocent and sweet, so unlike the glamorous trailer trash beauty queen Memphis had made herself up to be. Memphis looked like a stray angel standing there wrapped in the white terry cloth towel, the soft glow of the vanity lights surrounding her like a holy aura. Cambria swallowed as she watched a bead of water run down Memphis's ample bosom. After a moment to gather her wits, she smiled and asked, "You feelin' better now?"
Memphis nodded and reached to sleepily rub her eyes with her forearm. "It's a little late for me to catch a cab home though," she lamented with a soft pout.
"Well, I wasn't gonna kick ya out," Tucker assured with a chuckle. "I'm glad you're not feelin' so bad anymore. C'mon, I'll get you somethin' to change into," he beckoned, turning to leave the bathroom. Memphis caught up to him and clung on to his arm. He opened a drawer of his dresser to take out a white t-shirt with the Coors Light logo on it and handed it to Memphis, but another shirt caught her attention instead. She reaches to take the blue button up shirt out from the drawer. It had the Wrangler logo and Ford logo in the front with Wrangler embroidered down the sleeves. It was one of Tucker's riding shirts.
Without ceremony, Memphis dropped her towel. She flashed him her cheeky smile and pulled the shirt on. She gave Tucker a long, purposeful look, standing there with the shirt unbuttoned. "I like this one better," she told him with a smile. It was obvious that his eyes were nearly falling out of his head, even for that split second, and she giggled as his face reddened. "Consider that my 'thank you'," Memphis teased, lips drawing up into a smirk as she leaned up to kiss Tucker. Buttoning the shirt, she showed herself to the bed while he was still regaining his wits, looking after her like a lovestruck fool.
Memphis had snuggled in underneath the sheets when Tucker turned off the lights and came to bed. It felt peculiar having another body in the full size bed. It was warm, and pleasantly crowded. Memphis was laying on her side, her head propped up in her hand, and her eyes fixed on him through the dim sliver of moonlight peeking in from the window. She opened her mouth to speak, but instead just smiled and bit her lip. The effortless gesture made his heart flutter, and he wanted to touch her. So bad.
It was hard to breathe. Tucker wished he had not brought her home. She was within reach, yet infinitely unobtainable. Where could he possibly go from here? Where could Cambria? He wished he did not have this pretense, that for a moment, he could lay bare the truth and still be accepted, desired, by Memphis.
Did it really matter? There was no room in his life for a woman, not when all his time and money went towards his rodeo dream. In another few months, he would be touring the country, going from town to town, from state to state, competing for the gold and the money and that spot on the top thirty. Where did a beautiful buckle bunny fit in all of that? She said it herself. Cowboys were only good for riding away, and soon enough, he would leave too. Why was he entertaining anything more than just tonight with Memphis? Tomorrow might be another championship buckle across state, another cowboy's hat she would be wearing, another shirt she would be stealing, another bed she would be burning up. He was just the lucky draw of the night.
How insignificant their meeting was. He wondered how many cowboys had been in his place before, and surely there would be many after he had gone. But looking at her there beside him now made him feel like he owned the world. It was almost like the feeling he got when he conquered a rank bull. Like nobody could do better, like he was king. Maybe he was, for a few more hours, at least until the sun comes up, and she runs out of his bed and out of his life like some redneck Cinderella, worried he would see her for what she really was once the glam and haze of the arena lights had gone.
Tucker barely knew the woman next to him. Not as she was now. How big of a loss could it be? But almost like she could read his mind and see his doubt, Memphis rolled over to straddle his hips. As if to remind him why he wanted her, how he wanted her. She stared down at him with burning eyes then leaned down to engage him in a passionate kiss. He tasted like whisky and Wintergreen Grizzly dip, and smelled like arena floor dirt. He was scrawnier than any cowboy she had come home with, but the change was strangely alluring. His pretty features intrigued her, and she wanted him more when he told her, "No." That was simply not a word she was accustomed to hearing. The self-control Tucker showed towards her was unlike anything she had ever experienced. The buckle bunny game was one of instant gratification. It was a wild game hunt, but Tucker felt like a mythical beast compared to the dime store cowboys she had were another notch in her lipstick case, an empty victory. They would be drunk stories for her girlfriends, something to spice up her small town memoirs. But she had never missed one when they skipped town for the next big ride, and she most definitely never saw anyone of them more than once. It was the one time thrill and the prospect of never seeing them again that drove her.
This was different somehow. She knew Tucker would not touch her, even though she desperately wanted him to ravish her. He had only slipped in his judgment minutely, and had been a perfect gentleman since. He was not the kind of man to have a one nightstand. He was too good for that, too good for her. What she thought he deserved was a girl that would settle down, and make breakfast in the morning. Someone to come home to after a grueling road trip, buckle or no, that would love him unconditionally. He deserved a woman that would stick by him, even when he did not make the clock, even when he gets tossed and gored. But she did not want to be that girl. Life and love were easier with an empty head and an empty heart, and at the end of the day, she was content returning home to an empty bed. She did not think she could ever be the warm heart someone could turn to when they were hurting. She could not console a grieving man, and she could not bear witness to loss. She was a sunshine lover, and she was glad of it. Why would she ever change that? Why would she ever give up that safety and freedom for Tucker or any other man?
Maybe it was the way her mind went blank when he kissed her, or how she felt like a real person with thoughts and feelings that mattered when she was with him. Maybe it was the way he made her nervous despite her blasé demeanor and casual attitude. Tucker made her feel something more than the temporary triumph she celebrated with other cowboys. He made her actually feel. And she felt safe, for once.
Her mind was hazy when Tucker finally broke the kiss. She could catch the trace of his wide smile in the light of the moon, and it made her melt. "Goodnight, Memphis," he bade, inclining his head to kiss her on the forehead. Memphis curled up against him, laid her head on his chest, and exhaled a content sigh. Everything about Tucker was so strangely wholesome. Perhaps his public persona was not just for show. And for the first time, Memphis thought that she might have found someone who had a stupidly genuine heart, hers for the breaking. Or had it been her heart that had gone dumb?