For Brielle Armstrong the pomp and circumstance of the days leading up to the Kentucky Derby are truly the most thrilling time of the year. Press junkets, designer gowns, everyone schmoozing her in hopes of getting in her daddy’s good graces. What’s not to love?
But this year, her heart is racing with anticipation to see Colby Hensley. As a former trainer of her family’s champion horses, his rugged sex appeal has always filled Brielle’s mind with naughty thoughts of a little barebacked fun.
Even though Colby walked away from their farm, her father Butch, would never approve of him. But what daddy doesn’t know can’t hurt him. If their secret comes out, it could cost Brielle everything. Still, what fun is life if you don’t ride it at a gallop?
Grab your riding crop, and place your bets. It’s Derby Day!
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“What happened with Colby, Brielle?”
Groaning, I close my eyes. “Everything. The man drives me insane.”
“But yet, you still love him.” The breath catches in my lungs and I can feel the burn behind my eyes. When I open them, William can see right through me. He cups my face in his hands. “You need to just tell him how you feel and get it over with. Keeping all this anger inside of you isn’t healthy.”
I scoff. “No, but it feels good to hate him. Makes him leaving not hurt as bad.”
He shakes his head. “That’s a lie and you know it. Where is he right now?”
There’s only one place I know he’ll be. “Probably at the stables.”
“Then go,” he says, nodding toward the door. “I’ll handle your father if he asks where you’re at.” He brushes off his shoulders. “He loves me.” Which is true, my father does like him and has told me plenty of times that he wants us together. William has a charisma about him that everyone seems to be attracted to. William pulls me over to the door. “Go. I got this.”
My heart beats uncontrollably and I know it’s now or never. “Thanks, Will. I love you for this.”
He winks. “I know. When you get back, I want to hear everything.”
There’s no way I can go to the stables in my dress, so I rush up the stairs while William sneaks back through the secret door. I quickly change into a pair of jeans, my boots, and a dark T-shirt. The last thing I want is someone recognizing me. There’s already a hat in my car I can use. Now all I have to do is get down to my car unnoticed. I sneak down the staircase and through the secret door. Once I’m out the back door of the kitchen, I sprint across the yard to my car.
Luckily, I get away without anyone seeing me. Over the years, I had to learn to be stealth, especially with keeping mine and Colby’s relationship a secret. It doesn’t take long to get to the stables, and when I pull into the parking lot, Colby’s truck is there. I knew it. I grab my baseball cap and slip it on.
It’s dark, but I can see the lights in the stables up ahead. My chest hurts from my heart pounding so achingly hard. Do I really want to confront him again? Yes and no. My goal was to make him think I didn’t give a shit that he left. I’m failing miserably. The more I keep things bottled up, the worse I feel. I can’t stand feeling like this anymore.
I storm into the stables and that’s when I see him with Maximus. He’s already changed out of his suit and into a pair of jeans and a snug T-shirt that hugs his perfectly sculpted biceps. I remember what it was like to be held in those arms. My gut clenches and I hide in one of the empty stalls. Colby rubs a hand down the midnight-colored stallion’s back with such tenderness. If only he knew how to treat women that way. I’m not a damsel in distress kind of woman, but dammit to hell, if he didn’t break my heart.
Groaning silently, I crouch down inside the stall. It was a mistake to come here. Now I only hope he didn’t see me. I peek through one of the cracks in the wood. Colby takes off his shirt and crams it into his back pocket.
“I know you’re there, Bri,” he calls out, running his hands down Maximus’ mane.
“Dammit,” I hiss, clenching my fists tight.
“Don’t you think it’s time we talked? You can’t hide from me forever.” His footsteps grow closer, and I freeze, hoping he’ll walk past. I slide down into the corner and hold my breath as he walks by. “I want to say I’m sorry. There’s so much I have to say.”
“Just drive the wedge in even harder, asshole,” I mumble to myself.
“I need you to come out and talk to me. I can make you if I have to, which might be kind of fun for me. You don’t want me to enjoy this, do you?” What I really want to do is smack him on the head. “Brielle?” His voice grows farther away until I hear his footsteps leave the stables. If I run out the other side, I might be able to get back to my car without him seeing me. Taking a deep breath, I slowly get to my feet and glance over the stall; the coast is clear.
The wooden door of the stall creaks and I freeze. Shit. I hold my breath and listen, but there are no footsteps approaching. As quietly as I can, I tiptoe my way to the back entrance of the stables and turn the corner, only to run right into him. He reaches for my hand, but I jerk away from him.
“You didn’t think you fooled me back there, did you?” He stares right into my eyes, but I refuse to give in.
“Screw you,” I hiss, turning on my heel. I march off but he follows close behind. “I have nothing to say to you.”
“Well, too bad. I have a shit-ton to say to you. Now stop being a brat and give me one minute.”
Sucking in a breath, I freeze. Did he really just call me a brat? Gritting my teeth, I face him head on. I half expect him to smirk, but there’s nothing but seriousness in his stormy electric blue gaze.
“All right, this ends now,” I snap, pushing on his chest. He steps back, his jaw clenched tight. “Call me a brat if you want, but I’m pissed and embarrassed. How the hell am I supposed to feel after I gave you my heart and you left? No explanations … nothing. All my father said was that you were done working with us.” Tears fill my eyes, and I hate myself for letting him see my pain. “You didn’t even have the decency to tell me you didn’t want to be with me anymore.” Huffing, I turn and march out of the stables. “Now I just feel like an idiot. So, by all means, make me sit down and hear all the reasons why you don’t want to be with me. Go ahead and call me childish, a brat, or whatever you like. I don’t care anymore,” I say, waving my arms in the air. “At least I wasn’t afraid to let you in.”
My heart thunders in my chest. It felt good to scream out my feelings, but now they are no longer mine. Never have I ever let anyone see the vulnerable side of me.
Out of nowhere, a lasso is thrown around my body. I scream when the rope bites into my skin, burning as Colby tightens it. I struggled to break free, but it’s so tight, even my hands start to tingle. I try to stand my ground, but the harder he pulls, the tighter it gets.
“Dammit, Colby. Let me go! I can’t feel my hands.” I have no choice but to willingly move my feet. If I don’t, he’ll drag me across the ground through the dirt. My dignity is more important.
“You shouldn’t have walked away,” he growls, his voice by my ear. He jerks me around and pushes me into one of the empty stalls. I turn my face away, but he grabs my chin. “I don’t think so, princess. You’re going to look at me when I say this. Do you want me to tie your hands and feet together too?”
I have no doubt he’ll do it. “Fine,” I huff, lifting my glare to his. “What do you want?”
His lips close over mine, hard and raw as he forces his tongue inside. I try to fight him off, but it’s a half-ass attempt. Who am I kidding? I don’t want him to stop. Not to mention, I can’t move. I’m at his mercy, and I like it. He pushes me into the wall, rubbing his arousal against me. Moaning, I bite his lip and he pulls away.
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AUTHOR BIOS & LINKS
Heidi McLaughlin is a New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today Bestselling author of The Beaumont Series, The Boys of Summer, and The Archers.
Originally, from the Pacific Northwest, she now lives in picturesque Vermont, with her husband, two daughters, and their three dogs.
In 2012, Heidi turned her passion for reading into a full-fledged literary career, writing over twenty novels, including the acclaimed Forever My Girl.
When writing isn’t occupying her time, you can find her sitting courtside at either of her daughters’ basketball games.
Heidi’s first novel, Forever My Girl, has been adapted into a motion picture with LD Entertainment and Roadside Attractions, starring Alex Roe and Jessica Rothe, and opened in theaters on January 19, 2018.
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author L. P. Dover is a southern belle living in North Carolina with her husband and two beautiful girls. Everything’s sweeter in the South has always been her mantra and she lives by it, whether it’s with her writing or in her everyday life. Maybe that’s why she’s seriously addicted to chocolate.
Dover has written countless novels in several different genres, including a children’s book with her daughter. Her favorite to write is romantic suspense, but she’s also found a passion in romantic comedy. She loves to make people laugh which is why you’ll never see her without a smile on her face.
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