Roped In

By: Lorelei James

One Thousand and One Dark Nights


Once upon a time, in the future…



I was a student fascinated with stories and learning.

I studied philosophy, poetry, history, the occult, and

the art and science of love and magic. I had a vast

library at my father’s home and collected thousands

of volumes of fantastic tales.



I learned all about ancient races and bygone

times. About myths and legends and dreams of all

people through the millennium. And the more I read

the stronger my imagination grew until I discovered

that I was able to travel into the stories... to actually

become part of them.



I wish I could say that I listened to my teacher

and respected my gift, as I ought to have. If I had, I

would not be telling you this tale now.

But I was foolhardy and confused, showing off

with bravery.



One afternoon, curious about the myth of the

Arabian Nights, I traveled back to ancient Persia to

see for myself if it was true that every day Shahryar

(Persian: شهریار, “king”) married a new virgin, and then

sent yesterday's wife to be beheaded. It was written

and I had read, that by the time he met Scheherazade,

the vizier's daughter, he’d killed one thousand

women.



Something went wrong with my efforts. I arrived

in the midst of the story and somehow exchanged

places with Scheherazade – a phenomena that had

never occurred before and that still to this day, I

cannot explain.



Now I am trapped in that ancient past. I have

taken on Scheherazade’s life and the only way I can

protect myself and stay alive is to do what she did to

protect herself and stay alive.



Every night the King calls for me and listens as I spin tales.

And when the evening ends and dawn breaks, I stop at a

point that leaves him breathless and yearning for more.

And so the King spares my life for one more day, so that

he might hear the rest of my dark tale.



As soon as I finish a story... I begin a new

one... like the one that you, dear reader, have before

you now.





Prologue


Steer wrestler Sutton Grant knew the instant he threw himself off his horse he was in for a world of hurt.

He’d miscalculated the distance and his rate of rotation. The last thing he remembered before he hit the steer was he could kiss this year’s world championship title good-bye.

He woke up in the ambulance, his head pounding, unable to move any part of his body but his eyes.

Fuck.

Try and move.

I can’t.

Was he paralyzed?

He couldn’t be.

What if he was? He’d never hurt like this. Never.

But the fact he could feel pain had to be good, right?

Maybe the intense pain is your body shutting down.

If he was paralyzed, who would shoulder the burden of caring for him for the rest of his life? He didn’t have a wife or a girlfriend. Would responsibility fall to his family?

Oh, hell no. He’d put them through enough with his last rodeo mishap.

Mishap? Don’t you mean accident that kept you out of commission for a year? Do you remember living at home and seeing the worry on your parent’s faces?

That’d been worse than the months of physical and mental recovery. Then he’d had the added burden of seeing their happiness vanish after he’d healed and had informed them he planned to return to the sport.

His mother’s voice drifted into his memory. You’re still going to do this even if it hurts, maims, or kills you? He’d responded, Even then.

He still saw the tear tracks on her face, the subtle shake of her head. And he’d still gone off anyway, chasing the gold buckle, putting his body through hell.

I take it back! I didn’t mean it!

Right then and there, Sutton made a bargain with God:

Please Lord, if I survive this with my body intact, I swear I’ll give up bulldoggin’ forever. No lie. I’ll be done for good.

White lights blinded him and for a brief instant, he thought he’d died. A voice he’d never heard before whispered to him, promise accepted.

Then darkness descended again. The last thing Sutton remembered was wiggling his fingers and toes and whispering a prayer of thanks.





Chapter One


Eight months later...





“You ain’t supposed to be out there doin’ that,” Wynton shouted.

Sutton looked across the paddock at his older brother and scowled. He tugged on the reins but his horse Dial wouldn’t budge. Damn stubborn horse; he had to be part mule.

“I’ve got a ridin’ crop you can borrow,” his younger brother Creston yelled from atop the corral fence.

“I’m surrounded by smartasses,” Sutton informed Dial. “And apparently I’m a dumbass because I never learn with you, do I?”

Dial tossed his mane.

After he climbed off his horse, Sutton switched out the bit and bridle for a lead rope. Then he opened the gate between the paddock and the pasture, playfully patting Dial’s flank as the gray dun tore off.

Dial actually kicked up his hooves in glee as he galloped away.

“Yeah, I’ll miss our special time together too, asshole.”

Asshole. Man, he was punchier than he realized if he was calling his horse an asshole.

Sutton sauntered over to where his brothers waited for him, surprised that they’d both shown up in the middle of a Friday afternoon—with a six-pack. Wyn and Cres both ranched with their dad, although as the oldest, Wyn had inherited the bulk of the ranch work decisions. It appeared he’d changed the rule about working a full day—every day, rain, shine, snow, come hell, high water, or wild fire.

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