Roped In_ A Blacktop Cowboys(r) Novella (1001 Dark Nights)

By: Lorelei James


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.

“What’s the occasion? You here to borrow money?” he asked.

“Good one. Glad to see they didn’t remove all of your funny bone after surgery,” Wyn said dryly.

“Hilarious.” Sutton quirked an eyebrow at Cres. “Got something smart to say?”

“Yeah. You know you ain’t supposed to be doin’ anything that’ll further injure you. When we hadn’t heard from you all week, we figured you were up to no good. And I see we were right.”

“It wasn’t like I was bulldoggin’.”

“This’d be a different conversation if we’d seen you doin’ that.” Wyn handed him a beer. “We ain’t trying to bust your balls, but goddammit, Sutton. You almost fucking died.”

“Again,” Cres added.

“Well, I ain’t dead. But don’t feel like I’m alive, either.” He sipped the cold brew. Nothing tasted better on a hot summer day.

“Should we be on suicide watch?” Wyn said hesitantly.

Sutton had a mental break the last time he’d been injured, so his family kept an eye on him, and he knew how lucky he was to have that support. “Nah. It’s just this sitting around, healing up stuff is driving me bugshit crazy.”

“The way to deal with your boredom ain’t to get in the cage with your demon and go another round.”

Sutton squinted at Cres. “You callin’ my horse a demon?”

Cres rolled his eyes. “No, dipshit. Your demon is the need to prove yourself. Regardless of the cost.”

His gaze met his youngest brother’s. Growing up, Wyn and Cres joked about Sutton being the mailman’s kid because he was the only one of the three boys with blue-green eyes. Both his brothers and his parents had brown eyes. Sometimes he wondered if that outsider status is what lured him into the world of professional rodeo and away from working on the family ranch.

He sighed. “I appreciate your concern, I really do. I’m just frustrated. Makes it worse when I hafta deal with Dial. He’s a temperamental motherfucker on his best days. I don’t trust anyone to work with him after that last go around with the so-called ‘expert,’ which means he ain’t getting the proper workout for a horse of his caliber.”

“A few months cooling his hooves shouldn’t have changed his previous training that much. Breeders take mares out of bucking contention, as well as barrel racing, when they’re bred. Sometimes that’d be up to two years.”

“I know that. But Dial? He ain’t like other horses. Gelding him didn’t dampen that fire; if anything, it increased his orneriness.”

“I’d be ornery too if some dude sliced off my balls,” Wyn said with a shudder. Then he looked at Sutton. “So that other bulldogger, the guy with the weird name...what happened the weekend he borrowed him?”

“Weird name.” Sutton snorted. “That’s rich coming from a guy named Wynton.”

“Fuck off, Sutton,” he shot back. “I think Mom was high on child birthin’ painkillers when she picked our names.”

“Probably. You talkin’ about Breck Christianson? He tried to help me out during the Western Livestock Show in January while I was still laid up.”

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