This story is rated PG13. It contains some adult language and situations.
by Nancy O’Berry
Standing beside her brother, Skye Tanner watched the tall cowboy move toward the wary quarter horse. She couldn’t hear the words he whispered, but he seemed to have the animal’s attention. A stomp of the mare’s foot brought him to a halt.
Skye felt her nails dig into the wood along the top of the rail.
“Easy little sis,” Tyler murmured.
How could she not, Skye was compelled to keep her eyes trained upon the events in the enclosure. She watched him inch closer. Jessup McDonald wasn’t your typical cowpoke. He spoke the language of horses and they listened.
His six foot four height cast a long shadow. She took in his frame hungrily. His worn jeans covered with dust cradled his legs like a second skin. Her eyes moved further up to rest upon the plaid shirt. Its material lay taunt over his broad shoulders and the sleeves were rolled up, exposing bronzed skin. Her knees went weak as the horse ducked and skittered to the other side of the pen. Turning to face her, their eyes met.
A current of electricity flashed between them. Skye’s heart skipped a beat, yet she didn’t look away. Beneath the shade of his worn Stetson, his tongue moistened his lips. She answered, wiping hers around her own mouth, and then pulling her bottom lip between her teeth, as if to taste him.
The mare squealed and with a shake of her head charged!
Jessup McDonald dove to the ground rolling away from the thundering hooves.
“HOOWEE!” Tyler Tanner cried out. “Better giver her a rest, Jess.”
She watched the downed cowboy pull his body off the ground. Whisking the hat from his head, he sent a cloud of dust to rise with one swoop of his hand. Letting go of the rail, she stepped back.
“Sorry, lost concentration,” he apologized.
His deep Texas drawl flowed over her like warm water. However, climbing beneath the rails, he barely gave her a second glance. Skye backed away allowing her brother to come between them as he always did. Watching them move toward the house, she felt a twinge of jealousy rise. Head hung low, she turned to the barn and her chores.
“Here.” He looked up as a cold longneck flew over the counter. Snagging it, he twisted the top off and took a long drink.
“That mare has more bristle than a prickled pear,” Tyler remarked opening his own cool one.
“She’ll come around,” Jess spoke with confidence.
“I hope so. Skye’s got her heart set on that horse for a barrel racer.”
Skye, his mind reverted to the dark haired beauty. At twenty-one, she was the Tanner baby. Still, she’d all ready developed the poise and keen sense to see horse flesh that was a Tanner trait. He shifted against the stool. There were other reasons she made him uncomfortable, but they were his own.
“I’ve never seen you lose concentration,” Tyler pressed. “Want to explain?”
Explain? Hell, it was as clear as the nose on her brother’s face if he botheredto look. Those damnable eyes, blue as a high mountain lake, took hold of him. Hypnotized him, he couldn’t look away.
“Don’t know,” he cringed.
The silence filled the void between them. Jess ventured a look toward his boss. Tyler concentrated on reading the label. He opened his mouth, and quickly thought better of it.
“There’s always been an attraction between you two.”
Jess heard the low voice tinged with protectiveness only a big brother might have.
Tyler let out a long deep breath. “I can’t tell you to stay away. She’s not sixteen,” the voice rumbled deep in his chest and to Jess it sounded more like a growl. “You hurt her, and there won’t be a day that goes by, you don’t regret it. Comprende, Amigo?”
With a slow concentrated effort, Jess looked up. He could see the glint of steel in his eyes. Tyler meant every word. His mouth was dry. “I don’t know what’s going on.”
The corner of Tyler’s mouth jerked upwards, “Most men don’t.” He pushed away finishing his drink. “She’ll be at the party tonight.” he stared in his direction. “I suggest you ask for the first dance and pray to heaven she accepts. Otherwise, you’re going to be miserable and I won’t get a single horse broken.”
Standing in the shadows, he watched her move across the patio tiles, the rich red shown bright under the thousands of tiny lights which hung overhead. Tyler’s wife stood near the punch bowl accepting praise on the bundle she held in her arms, a new generation of Tanners to inherit the Double T. A heavy hand on his shoulder caused Jess to jump.
“You gonna stand there, boy, or cut her from the herd?” Grandpa T’s sly grin lifted the heavy jowls toward the crinkle in his eyes.
“My granddaughter, you are sweet on her aren’t you?”
He gulped. Did everyone know? He nodded.
“She won’t know that till you make your move. His gnarled hands took the cup. “Go.” He ordered shoving Jess forward with his lion sized paw.
The two-step ended. Sky clapped enjoying herself despite his constant glare. She brushed her hand down the deep blue sundress. It had been her hope he might have noticed.
“Want some punch?”
“Sure,” she smiled at the young man grateful he hadn’t stomped her toes. Yet, for all his good intensions, he wasn’t Jess McDonald. He was the man of her dreams. As her dance partner moved away, she felt the hairs on the back of her neck begin to rise. Her breath hitched.
“Hello,” the Texas drawl she waited all night to hear, vibrated in her ear.
“Hello,” she replied. Lord, her knees felt weak.
“Johnny’s gone to get it,” she pointed to the cowboy elbowing his way across the floor.
Suddenly, the announcer spoke. “We’ve had a request for the Texas Waltz. Grab your partners.”
Skye looked at Jess whose eyes showed surprise as the band swung into a familiar melody.
“That’s the song my grandmother danced when Grandpa proposed,” she whispered.
Their gazes locked. Time faded as they stared into each other’s eyes. Somehow he managed to get his hand upon her waist. Her hand found his. She lavished a grin as they swung into the rhythm of the music. She was light on her feet, as graceful as a swan. He marveled at her affect on his body. Too soon it was over and yet, she was as breathless as he.
His hands slid to her cheeks and his thumbs caressed her skin. He was going to kiss her. Her heart hammered. Their lips met. The kiss was soft, warm, sensuous, making her toes curl. She leaned against him and breathed in his soul.
When the embrace dissolved, to their chagrin, no one else was on the dance floor but a thousand eyes stared at them. The only sound was the soft serenade of the crickets.
“Marry me,” Jess breathed the magic of his words.
She gazed deep into his eyes. The jade green turned dark, to the color of the trees in the high country as his desire raged. Skye felt his thumbs skim across her cheeks, stirring her passions. He was open, honest, and her heart filled with the sheer joy of being loved.
“Yes,” she whispered, “for all eternity, yes.”
As their lips joined, a shooting star blazed a trail across the deep Texas sky. Grandpa motioned to the band and the song began again, this time announcing a new chapter in Tanner history.