Fall for Me (Cowboys of Crested Butte Book 1) Page 10 Read online free

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Fall for Me (Cowboys of Crested Butte Book 1) Page 10

by Heather Slade


  “I’m ready for dessert,” he said as he lowered her until she rested on the granite. He stood in front of her and spread her legs.

  “Ben.”

  “Shh, the no talking rule is back in effect.” He kissed down her stomach, and then moved to the inside of her thighs. First one and then the other. She breathed in deeply, arching her back away from the coldness of the counter, bending into his warmth as he buried his mouth inside her.

  “It’s such a beautiful night. Should we go for a walk in the moonlight?” She and Ben were sitting in front of the fire in the family room.

  “Let’s stay right here…and talk.” He laughed to himself. When had he become such a big talker?

  “What do you want to talk about?”

  “I should head home tomorrow.”

  “Okay.”

  “Okay. That’s it?”

  “What do you want me to say?”

  “Ask me to stay. Tell me you want me to stay.”

  “Please stay. And, Ben, I do want you here with me.”

  Friday and Saturday were a blur. They had dinner with Dottie and Bill, but otherwise spent most of the two days getting to know each other better.

  Ben stopped asking her questions and started telling her more about him. He told her that while she was in Europe with Renie, he and the band would be on the road touring the majority of the time. Their new album was ready to release, and the record company had been pushing them to get out and promote it.

  He hadn’t said anything about when they might see each other again. When he jokingly told her to check the CB Rice website for the tour dates, dread settled in the pit of her stomach.

  When she woke up Sunday morning, for the first time since he arrived, Ben wasn’t in bed next to her. She got out of bed and went into the bathroom. There was no sign of him, his toiletry kit no longer sat on her counter. She walked back into the bedroom, his clothes and his duffel bag were gone too.

  She pulled on jeans and a sweatshirt, put her hair in a ponytail, put on a pair of socks, and went in search of her boots. There was no sign of him in the living room or the kitchen either.

  She put on her boots, and went out the back door, holding her breath, willing his truck to be in her driveway. It wasn’t.

  She wrapped her arms around her waist, putting one foot in front of the other, making herself walk in the direction of the barn. Halfway there she started to cry. By the time she reached Micah’s stall, she let it all out. All the pent-up emotion she’d been holding in the last few days worked its way to the surface, and she cried.

  Ben was gone, and he’d left without saying goodbye.

  10

  She cried so hard she didn’t hear the truck pull in the driveway, or the barn door open.

  “Liv! What’s wrong? Did something happen to Renie?”

  “Ben?” She wiped at her tears. “I thought you left.”

  He held her close, and stroked the back of her hair. “I’m right here. Shh now.” He leaned back and kissed each of her eyelids. “I wouldn’t just leave.”

  She hiccupped. “But your stuff. I woke up and you were gone, and your stuff was gone, and your truck was gone.”

  Ben held her tightly, stroking her hair, telling her again and again everything was okay. He tried to stop himself from…smiling. What kind of asshole did it make him that he wanted to smile? And not a little smile, he wanted to grin from ear to ear. She thought he’d left, and it wrecked her. And that made him happy. God, he was a sadistic bastard.

  “Liv, I wouldn’t have left without saying goodbye. When I woke up, you were sound asleep, sunshine. Your body took the rest it needed. So instead of waking you up, I came out and fed the horses. When I finished, you still weren’t awake, so I put gas in the truck.”

  “But the last couple of days…”

  “What? I haven’t pushed as much? Haven’t made you as crazy hanging on you, asking you to promise me your heart, and begging you to let me stay forever?”

  “Are you trying to be funny?”

  “Half-funny. Listen, it’s been what? A couple of weeks? Yeah, I realize I’ve been pushin’ you real hard, real fast. No matter what I say, you won’t believe that I’m not usually this way, ’cause for whatever reason, with you I am this way.” He laughed, but then got serious. “I’m not gonna lie to you, Liv. Leaving today won’t be easy. Every part of me wants to figure out a reason to stay, or beg you to come with me. And before you say anything, I know how crazy that sounds.”

  Liv’s head rested against his chest, but he wanted to see her face. “Look at me, baby. I’m not letting go of this. Not at all. But I am going home to give us both time to breathe, time to figure out what this means. It definitely means something to me. Does it mean something to you, Liv? I want you to be honest with me. If it doesn’t, I need to hear it.”

  “It does. Ben, I was sobbing because I thought you left.” She turned her head so her cheek rested on his chest. “I feel more than a little foolish,” she whispered.

  Ben put his hands on each side of her face, turning her to him again. “Don’t. Don’t be afraid to show me you care.”

  Liv closed her eyes and listened to his heartbeat. She was stunned by her reaction to thinking he was gone. This had been a whirlwind between them. She’d miss him. A lot. And instead of trying to play it off as if it didn’t matter, she should tell him that it did.

  “I’d rather have waited to rest after you left.”

  “I have a little time before I have to get on the road if you want me to wear you out again?”

  “I guess you’re packed. Would the condoms be hard to find?”

  “Not at all, darlin’, I left ’em in the drawer of your nightstand. And I counted ’em, there better be the same number left in there when I get back.”

  “You’re coming back?”

  “Soon as I can, baby. Soon as you’ll let me.”

  Ben wanted to go slow. He wanted every inch of her skin against his, to savor being with her. In the days to come, he’d remember this, every moment of it. But he couldn’t stop himself, his desire for her was all-consuming. His need to possess her overtook him. “Liv—”

  The words wouldn’t come, he longed to tell her that he loved her, but he didn’t. She’d never believe him. But he did, as he’d never loved before.

  “I need you,” he said.

  “I’m right here,” she answered, her eyes burning into his, questioning.

  “Come with me. Come home with me.” Give in to me, give yourself over to me, he wanted to demand.

  “Ben—”

  He brought his head closer, his lips hovering right above hers, her hair still twisted in his hands.

  “Come home with me, Liv,” he demanded again. “I need you,” he breathed. He’d never had such an overwhelming need for a woman. He brought his lips to hers again, kissing her gently. He broke the kiss, needing to take another moment, again, to look at her. When he closed his eyes he wanted to be able to see her face. He wanted the image seared in his memory.

  Her long hair fanned out around her, and she gripped the back of his head, pulling him closer as their lips met again.

  “Ben.” The way she said his name, every time, was as though she reached in and squeezed his heart.

  They’d gotten dressed, and Ben was out on the deck on his cell phone, the door between them closed. He paced as he spoke, his hand rubbing over the top of his head.

  She trusted Ben had handled the horses fine earlier, but she needed something to do with herself. The nervous energy was eating her alive. She longed to saddle Micah and take him out for a long, hard run, but she’d wait until Ben was gone. The thought filled her with an ache.

  She went out the back door, walked to the fence where Micah stood, expecting she’d have a treat for him. She reached in her jacket pocket and pulled out a strand of red licorice. She didn’t like it herself, red or black, but for her horses, there seemed to be no better treat. He nuzzled up against her, as though he realized she n
eeded his affection.

  She heard the back door close, and turned around to see Ben walking toward her. The way he looked at her, with such passion in his eyes, and when he smiled—Lord help her, her knees went weak. Did all women react to him this way? And was he aware of it?

  “Time to go?” She wanted to be the one who said it first.

  “Yeah, as much as I don’t want to. I’m already getting a late start. If I don’t get on the road, I’ll want to stay another night.” He pulled her hard against him, so hard it almost hurt. But even then the hurt inside overpowered it.

  “Come home with me.”

  “I’m already home, Ben. This is my home.”

  “Come for a few days. I’ll fly you back when you’re ready.”

  “You said it yourself yesterday, Ben. You’re going home to give us both time to breathe, time to figure out what this means.” She stroked the side of his face and reached up to brush her lips over his.

  He held her so tight she couldn’t breathe. When he kissed her again, he took the rest of the air out of her lungs. She was dizzy, but it didn’t have anything to do with breathing. It was him.

  Liv didn’t watch his truck leave the driveway. It might have been nicer of her to turn and wave him off, but she didn’t. Instead, she walked in the opposite direction.

  She brought Micah into the barn and saddled him. They went east, away from the sunset and rode and rode and rode.

  When they got back to the barn, she was ridden out. She got Micah settled and brought the other horses into the barn, swept it out, and walked around. She needed to keep busy. She pulled up a barn stool and read through the week-old newspaper someone had left behind.

  She ran out of things to occupy herself. She had to go inside the house, but it was the last place she wanted to be.

  Ben pulled up to his house a few minutes before ten. He thought about stopping at his parents’ place, but when he drove by all the lights were off, so he didn’t. He considered going back into town and swinging by The Goat, but it would be slow on a Sunday night this late in the ski season. Without a big crowd to distract him, being there would make him think of Liv. Everything did.

  He went inside and slung his bag on the floor of the laundry room. He walked into his kitchen, and was disappointed, in it and the loneliness of his house.

  Tomorrow his boys would be home, and he hoped their antics were enough to distract him. He was present with them, the same way his father had been with him. His boys were his world, the two most important humans on the planet to him. But now there was another human, a person, and he thought about her all the time.

  His arms felt empty. He longed to hold her. He’d gotten used to being able to hold her whenever he wanted.

  He went back into the laundry room and picked up his bag. He took it into his bedroom, threw it on the bed, and sat down next to it. He opened the zipper, pulling out the last thing he had packed. One of her scarves. He meant to tell her he took it before he left, but it slipped his mind. He wondered if she’d found his shirt, the one he left hanging on the knob on the back of her closet door. He’d left it for her on purpose.

  He brought the scarf up to his nose and inhaled deeply. He loved her smell. He closed his eyes and imagined her with him. Scent was the most powerful of the senses when it came to remembering. He rested his head back on the pillow, holding her scarf close to him, and drifted to sleep.

  Liv climbed into bed and slid under the sheets. They smelled of them, him and her together. She nestled into the pillow, breathing in the scent he left there.

  She rolled to where her cell phone sat on the nightstand, and for the first time in almost a week, she checked the various social media sites. Nothing. She scrolled through photos he’d posted before, many from months ago. There were several of him playing the guitar. In some, he smiled straight at the camera. Those were her favorite.

  She wondered if he made it home yet, or if he was still out on the road. She hadn’t heard from him since he left, but she hadn’t expected to. And she had no idea when she would again.

  11

  It had been three weeks since Ben left Liv’s house. They had now been apart longer than they’d been together. In his first few days home, he thought about calling or texting her at least once an hour. She answered when he sent her a text, but never sent one on her own, one that wasn’t in response to something he’d said. He called, she’d answer, and they’d talk. Sometimes when he called he got her voicemail. She’d call him back, but she never called him otherwise.

  He kept her scarf tucked under his pillow, and now it smelled more of him than it did of her. He still missed her as much as he had the first day he’d been home.

  The first week Ben kept busy with his boys. His mornings became about making breakfast, dropping them off at school, and coming home to try to get work done in the hours until he picked them up. At night, they worked on homework, ate dinner, and wrestled with bedtimes.

  A week later, when it came time to take the boys to their mom’s, Ben wanted nothing more than to pack a bag, and head over the mountain to Liv’s. But he didn’t.

  He spent the next few days thinking hard about whether his feelings for her were as strong as he believed them to be. Was it because she held herself back from him, did that only make him want her more? Was she a conquest he didn’t want to give up on until he won? Or was his need for her just a symptom of his loneliness?

  He’d been so lonely after he’d gotten divorced that often he sought the comfort of any warm, feminine body. He hated to think that Liv was nothing more than someone to soothe that kind of ache. He didn’t think she was, he believed it was more than that. But if she wasn’t feeling what he was, how hard could he push? He needed to back off and give himself as much time to think as he was giving her.

  In six weeks, he and the band would leave on tour. Next week all hell would break loose when the dates were announced. He had so much work to do between now and then, even if he wanted to go and see her, he wouldn’t be able to.

  The band was scheduled to play the Paramount in Denver at the beginning of June, but she’d be in Europe with Renie by then. He couldn’t imagine not seeing her before she left, but he didn’t know what to do about it.

  One of the other guys in the band took over their social media. The record company told them it should be less about Ben and more about CB Rice, so he’d stopped posting anything at all. He wondered if Liv had noticed.

  Since Ben left, Liv had been hibernating. She avoided everyone to the point that even Paige stopped dropping by. She still called and texted, but Liv rarely responded with more than a one or two word answer.

  Mark drove out to see if she needed anything. “Liv, there’s no music playing. I’ve never been here when you are, that there wasn’t music playing.”

  “Silence is my music these days,” she answered.

  When Liv reached the one month mark AB “after Ben” Paige showed up at the barn.

  She walked in, and took Liv by the shoulders. “Enough! You either go and see him or let him come here, but this has to stop. You’re behaving as though you’re in mourning, and, Liv—he isn’t dead. This isn’t you. You need to snap out of it.”

  “That’s where you’re wrong, this is me. I am a very solitary person, Paige, I have been for years. I don’t have any experience with this kind of relationship.”

  “Listen to me. Go and see him. Call him, right now, and go and see him.”

  “I…can’t…”

  “Why in the world not? Nothing is stopping you, other than your own stubbornness. He wants to see you.”

  Liv got up and walked to the front of the barn.

  “Liv, are you listening to me?”

  “Have you talked to him?”

  “No, I haven’t. It’s not my place to. But I don’t need to, I know you well enough to know exactly what’s happening.”

  “And what is that?

  “You’re living in limbo. You’re waiting for Renie to come hom
e so the two of you can leave for Europe. In the meantime, you’re waking up, and you’re sleeping, without much else in between. Remember when we came back from Las Vegas and I told you I thought you kept yourself on the outskirts of life?”

  Liv nodded.

  “It’s gotten worse, if that’s even possible. Call him, Liv. I’m not leaving until you do. Call him and tell him you want to see him.”

  “The horses.”

  “The horses will be fine. Mark will come out and take care of the damn horses. Call him, Liv, right now.”

  “What if-—”

  “Don’t. No ‘what ifs.’ Call him.”

  “Okay. I’ll call him.”

  “Now. I told you, I’m not leaving until you do.”

  Liv took her cell phone out of her back pocket and called.

  Ben jotted lyrics down and absentmindedly hit the talk button when his phone rang.

  “Yeah,” he answered.

  “Ben?”

  “Liv?

  “Hi, uh, are you in the middle of something?

  “Yes…no…I mean, I’m sorry I was so abrupt.”

  “Do you need to get back to it?”

  “No, of course I don’t. I’m so glad you called. How are you? What’s up?”

  “I wondered…” Ben heard another voice in the background, but didn’t catch what it said.

  “I was thinking…”

  She was killing him. What was she trying to say? “Liv? What is it?”

  “I wondered if you’d like some company.”

  Ben was in shock. “I would like company, very much, as long as you’re the company.”

  “I wouldn’t be intruding?”

  “Liv, you’re welcome here anytime.”

  “Your boys?”

 

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