“Because this matters, and I plan to show you how much.”
He said goodbye, and hung up. If he hadn’t, he might have resorted to begging to come see her. Ben’s boys were with him until Monday morning. He’d give her a couple of days, and call her again, if he was able to last that long. For the first time in several days, he wanted a drink.
Liv locked the back door and went into the bedroom. It was too early to sleep, if she did, she’d be wide awake at three a.m. But there wasn’t anything she wanted to do. She turned on the television, but nothing interested her. She picked up her tablet to read. She wasn’t interested in reading either. She swiped the music icon with her finger, and Ben’s voice sang to her.
You’ve had a rough day,
Why don’t I turn out the light.
Let down your hair,
It’s gonna be all right.
If you need me to dry your tears,
Baby I’ll be right here.
Goodnight blue eyes,
May your dreams come true.
Goodnight blue eyes,
I love you.
Oh God, what had she done? Why did she have sex with him? Why had she let herself get involved with him? Her ache of loneliness had been manageable―she’d gotten to the point where she hardly noticed it. Now it was all she noticed.
She’d been alone all these years by choice, because she couldn’t let herself risk falling in love again. When she loved people, they left her.
Ben might say he wanted to see her again, but he didn’t realize that it would matter more to her than it would to him when he was just another person who left her behind.
Instead of a CB Rice song, country music was playing when Paige walked into Liv’s barn Monday morning.
“Hell-o, Liv, are you in here?”
Liv came out of the stall at the end of the barn. “Hey, Paige, how are you? I’d hug you but…”
“Not necessary. What in the world are you doing? You’re filthy.”
“Cleaning the stall. A new horse is coming in at the end of the week. Might as well get ready now.”
“You didn’t call me back this weekend.”
“Are we okay?”
“We’re fine.” Liv walked closer to Paige and sat down on one of the barn stools. “I needed time to myself.”
“You have too much time to yourself. That’s the problem.”
Liv glared at Paige.
“I’m not intimidated by you. Other people are, but I’m not. I have things to say, and you need to listen.”
“When have I ever not listened to you? Jeez, Paige, you’re one of the few people I do listen to.”
“Have you talked to Ben?”
“We talked on Friday.”
“Did you make plans?”
“Paige, we just got home! It hasn’t been a week. No, we didn’t make plans.”
“Did he say he’d call again?”
“No. I mean, I thought he’d call again over the weekend. But he didn’t. You know how the saying goes, ‘be careful what you wish for’.”
“And what did you wish for?”
“To never see him again.”
Paige sat down on one of the other stools. “Oh, honey. Why not?”
When Liv’s eyes filled with tears, Paige walked over to hug her.
“I’m a mess. You don’t want to hug me.”
“I’m sure you have something I can change into when I decide I no longer want to smell like a horse. Come here.”
“This is stupid. I expected it. I shouldn’t be upset. What would a man like him want with a woman like me?”
“Isn’t it a little early in the game to call it?”
Liv pulled away, and Paige sat back down on her stool.
“I pushed him away hard, Paige.”
“Has that worked before?”
“Before? What before? We don’t have a before.”
“You tried to push him away in Vegas, and from what I remember, it didn’t work.”
“That was different.”
“All I’m saying is give it a few days.”
“And then what? What will be different? I’m still somebody he slept with while he was ‘on tour,’ or whatever he calls it. I’m sure he’s forgotten my name by now.”
Ben picked up the phone to call Liv at least a hundred times over the weekend, and each time he set it back down. He missed her so much his chest ached. He’d never missed anyone this much, besides his boys when they weren’t with him. When he dropped them off at their mom’s this morning, the ache multiplied.
He hated that he was divorced, and that his boys didn’t have the same family life he had. Ben and his brothers had been given the gift of a home in which his parents loved each other, and them, more than anything. There had never been a doubt in his mind that his parents would love each other and be together until the day one of them died. He failed in creating that for his boys.
Ben supposed he’d loved Christine at one point. If it had been up to him, they’d still be married. They’d be miserable, but they’d still be married. He was thankful she still lived in Crested Butte, that way the boys didn’t get shuffled back and forth too much.
Christine had remarried not long after their divorce was final. . He seemed like a nice guy, and always treated his boys well. Joe wasn’t from Colorado, they’d met skiing, and soon after, he moved to Crested Butte.
It didn’t matter what the courts said, Ben would continue to provide for her and his boys, whether she remarried or not. He wanted his sons to have a nice place to live, the same sense of security, whether they were at their mother’s house or his.
Christine was good about making sure the boys spent time with him when he was in town. When they were married, he played clubs every weekend of the month. Now that they were divorced, he steered away from booking gigs on weekends. He wanted to spend as much time at home with his boys as he could. It had been a tough balance to maintain.
The boys were leaving town today, and wouldn’t be back for a week. Christine and Joe were taking them to the Grand Canyon for spring break. The trip had been planned for six months. He didn’t want them to go. He’d be lonely without them, but the trip was for them, not him.
Ben had seven days with nowhere he needed to be and nothing he needed to do, and all he could think about was Liv. He liked her, a lot. He wanted to get to know her, spend time with her. The fact that she didn’t seem to want to see him made the urge to win her over even stronger.
An hour later he was on the road. He wasn’t sure where she lived, but he’d find out. If she didn’t want to see him—well, he wouldn’t accept that. He had no intention of giving up that easily. It was crazy, but he was doing it anyway.
Liv swung the gate open and led Micah into the pasture. They’d had a good ride, much more fun than her ride on Pooh had been. Pooh was getting older, and Liv didn’t ride her enough. She planned to give one of the neighbors a call this afternoon to ask if her grandkids would consider riding the horse for her. She’d even pay them. That way, Pooh would get the exercise she needed, with the kind of rider she was used to, someone more like Renie.
Two more months and Renie would be home for the summer, and Liv couldn’t wait. She’d planned to talk to her about an extended vacation over the weekend, but they’d missed each other’s calls.
Liv removed Micah’s saddle and other tack. She’d let him relax in the pasture for a while and brush him later. She opened the gate, walked around the corner, and slammed the saddle into Ben’s stomach.
“Ow! Shit, that hurt.”
“Oh! You scared me. I’m so sorry.” Liv dropped the saddle to the ground and was about to make sure Ben was okay when her tummy did a flip. “Wait. What are you doing here?”
Ben grabbed her and crushed his lips to hers. He didn’t try to hold back. He wanted her. He’d planned to be sensible, to be civilized, to have a rational conversation with her. But now that she
was in his arms, he wanted to mark her, possess her, consume her.
Liv’s hands fisted in his shirt, pulling him closer. Ben pulled back, and looked into her eyes. Her pupils were dilated, and her lips were red and full from his assault. “I couldn’t wait. I had to see you.”
“I’m glad.” She took his hand, leading him away from the barn and pasture.
“What about…” He pointed to the saddle, and then to the horse in the pasture.
“They’ll be fine.”
She led him in through the back door, and into the kitchen. “Can I get you anything?”
“No, thanks. Come here.” Ben wound his arm around her waist, and pulled her closer to him.
“I couldn’t stay away.”
“I see that.”
“You said you were glad I didn’t wait.”
Liv nodded, and he kissed her forehead.
“You’re giving me mixed messages, sweetheart.”
She pulled away from him and rested against the kitchen counter. “I don’t know how to do this, Ben. I mean, I haven’t.”
“I haven’t either, Liv.”
She raised her eyebrows, and he smiled.
“Not like this. I’ve never felt this way before. As hard as that might be to believe, I’m telling you the truth.”
“I don’t know what that means.”
“It means I think about you every minute of the day. It means that my arms ache with wanting you to be in them. Like now.” He walked over to where she stood, and put his arms around her.
“Shh.” He covered her mouth with his, and kissed her hard. He didn’t want to talk, he wanted her skin on his. Now that she was in front of him, he wanted to devour this woman that had been on his mind every waking hour, and when he slept, in his dreams.
His fingers trailed down the side of her neck, over her collarbone. He unfastened the top buttons on her shirt, the backs of his fingers brushed the curve of her breast.
Without words, Liv took his hand, and led him into the bedroom. His eyes took in the openness of her house as they walked through it. Big windows looked out at the prairie, and a massive two-sided stone fireplace separated the bedroom from the master bath. He put his arm around the back of her knees and back, lifting her, and setting her down on the fluffy, cream-colored, king-sized duvet. The bed looked enormous with Liv alone on it. He’d take care of that as quickly as he could.
He toed off his boots and lay next to her. She unfastened her buttons, finishing what he had started. He pushed the open shirt over her shoulders, and drew back to look into her eyes.
“So beautiful.” He kissed her mouth reverently.
Liv stared into his big, blue eyes, his long thick eyelashes. She ran her hand over the stubble of darkness on his strong chin. When Ben smiled, the corners of his eyes crinkled. His laugh lines were deep, because he smiled often. Her body tingled all the way from where his lips met hers to her toes. Ben’s powerful leg stretched over the top of hers, pressing his hardness into her hip and she reached for him.
His kisses grew stronger, making every nerve ending in her body hum. Heat rushed through her veins. “Ben,” she breathed.
They broke apart, each removing their own clothes. He wove his fingers through her hair, and kissed his way over her lips, to her chin, then throat, and then to her breasts. His breath was warm on her stomach as he continued working his way down her body.
Sensation sizzled across her skin, from the inferno building inside. She whimpered, and in a flash he was inside her. Once again she had no idea when he’d donned a condom.
“Don’t move,” he whispered. “Be still. Let me feel you.”
She ached to move against him, willing her muscles to still, and let Ben lead her where he wanted her to go. She arched to him and he moved faster and harder into her. Pleasure began to flow from her center out to her fingertips and toes, until the tension coiled inside her. He took her higher and higher until she burst, and cried out.
“That’s it,” Ben groaned as he came apart with her.
They stayed that way, slumped together in the softness of the duvet. Her head spun as his lips began to work their way back up the side of her neck. They continued beneath her ear, across her chin, and up to brush over her lips.
“Liv,” he breathed, as though it was a prayer. He kissed each of her eyelids, then back to her mouth, where he kissed each corner.
“How did you find my house?” She asked later.
“It’s a secret.”
“As long as you won’t be mad, yes, Paige.”
“How long can you stay?”
“All week. Or as long as you’ll have me.”
“We’ll see how it goes,” she said as she stretched out on top of him, skin on skin, body on body.
“As much as I don’t want to move, I need to take care of Micah. Can I interest you in a ride later? Around sunset?”
“Sounds like heaven.” As long as he was with her, anything she wanted to do sounded like heaven. He wanted her, and he intended to have her. He was into this deeper than she was, but by the end of the week, he’d change that.
When they rode over the crest, they could see Dottie and Bill by the campfire. Bill stood up and waved.
“You don’t mind, do you? They’re family to me.”
“Don’t mind at all. If they mean something to you, there isn’t anybody I’d rather meet.”
It took them ten minutes to make their way down the rocky terrain. It was almost dark, so if they stayed any length of time, it would be better to leave the horses in the Patterson’s barn overnight and ask Bill to give them a ride back to her house.
They tied the horses off, and walked over to the fire where Bill had chairs set up for them, and a bottle of wine open.
“Bill and Dottie, I’d like you to meet Ben Rice.”
“Pleasure to meet you.” Ben reached out and shook Bill’s hand. Dottie stood, and when Ben reached to shake her hand she pulled him into a hug.
“I don’t shake hands, Mr. Rice. Men will judge you by your handshake. I like to see what you young fellas have in the way of a good, strong hug. Tells you a lot about a man.”
“Nobody hugs the way Dottie does,” Liv sighed.
“You don’t do too bad yourself, sugar.” Ben kissed her forehead.
“I like him already,” Dottie proclaimed.
“Glass of wine, Liv? How about you, Ben?”
“Sure, I’d love a glass.”
“Dottie had me run in the house to get it when we saw you comin’. Livvie, here, loves Zinfandel. We keep it on hand for her. Before she taught us about wine we thought Zinfandel was the pink stuff. I thought she’d have a fit the first time we tried to serve it to her.”
Liv turned pink. “That’s me, always gracious.”
“We love you anyway, darlin’ girl.” Bill pulled her near him. “When Livvie lost her parents so close together, Dottie and I adopted her. She’s one of our own. Keep that in mind, young man.”
She’d lost her parents? Another thing he hadn’t known about her. He should start making a list of questions, so he didn’t feel like such a jerk when someone else pointed out something he should already know.
“How about you, Ben, can I get you a glass?”
“No, thank you. Don’t touch the stuff.”
“Can I get you a beer?”
“No, sorry. I’m not a drinker. If you’ve got a coke or a bottle of water, I’ll be fine.”
He turned toward Liv. There was a flash of confusion on her face she quickly masked away. This was something he hadn’t told her. Not that she’d asked. It hadn’t seemed as though it was a big deal when they were in Las Vegas. She had a drink now and then, and it hadn’t been necessary to point out he abstained.
“Have a seat, you two. Get comfortable.”
An hour into their campfire and several rounds of s’mores later, Bill asked Ben to help him with the horses. “They�
��re better off staying in our barn tonight, Livvie.”
She smiled and nodded in response.
Ben put his arm around her shoulders, and kissed her again. “Be right back, Livvie.”
“Dottie and Bill are the only people who call me Livvie. And Billy, their son.”
“I like it.”
“I’d be lost without them,” she sighed.
Ben nodded. “They’re good people.”
“The best,” Liv murmured, sounding as though she was talking to herself more than him.
“How’d you and Livvie meet?” Bill asked Ben while they settled the horses.
“Fate kept throwing us together, and we started paying attention.” Ben told Bill about meeting her at Red Rocks, and again at his family’s bar in Crested Butte. He told him about bumping into her at the pool in Las Vegas, but that’s as far as he took the story.
“You come back with her from Las Vegas, then?”
“Nope. I went home first, and spent a couple days with my boys, then drove over this afternoon. I surprised her.”
“I have two. Jake is twelve and Luke is nine. Their mom and I have been divorced for a few years.”
“I guess I’m transparent when it comes to my kids, and I consider Livvie one of ’em. She’s not an easy one to get a fix on. Plenty boys ’round here would tell you that. My own son had a mad crush on her for years. He gave up, not for lack of trying.” Bill chuckled. “Either she’s real good at playing like she doesn’t notice somethin’, or she was clueless all them years.”
He thought for a minute before he continued. “But don’t go thinkin’ she’s not smart as a whip. She’s one of the brightest women I’ve ever had the pleasure to know. Sad that she lost her husband so young. Renie wasn’t even born yet.”
Ben wanted to ask more, but how did he tell Bill that he was staying at Liv’s house, but didn’t know about her husband, her parents, or even where she grew up?
“Did Livvie tell you Scott was shot down in the war? They’d only been married a few months. Tragic. I gotta tell you, for a long while I thought that man held her heart for good. We figured that was why she didn’t pay any attention to men trying to catch her eye. Guess we were wrong.”
Fall for Me (Cowboys of Crested Butte Book 1) Page 7