Best friends can't be lovers…
That mantra ran through Chase Montana's mind as he watched Carly Winston carry a bale of hay into the barn in front of him. From her wavy dark hair which framed her sassy face to her boot-clad feet and everything in between, Chase would have given anything to run his callused hands all over her smooth body, preferably as she lay beneath him with her bare legs wrapped around his own as he rode her. Like the prize filly she had turned out to be when he hadn't been looking.
He shook that image out of his head and told himself he needed to put his tool kit down and rush over to the ranch house and take another cold shower and not just because the morning had all too quickly turned into a hot and steam drenched afternoon. The kind that gripped the region into its grasp until the late afternoon monsoons arrived, turning old Snake Creek into a raging torrent. To match that inside his body every time he looked at his best friend these days. The fierce nature of the monsoons were impressive but by nightfall, only a hint of rain remained coating the still air, beneath a pale shadow of moonlight and a carpet filled with twinkling stars. Chase only wished his libido faded so quickly when he crossed paths with her.
When did his body start responding to her like it did now, he couldn't remember the exact day that he had looked up at the shapely brunette constantly in his line of vision and started seeing her as something other than his old reliable best friend and partner in crime. Stifling a grin, he tried to focus on the day's worth of work ahead of him, dousing these forbidden thoughts about Carly before they got out of hand with his list of chores that he had to do before finishing up his work day. When the sun finally set on the valley, he would call it quitting time and then head off to the Wrangler for a cold brew and to shoot some pool, maybe pick up a willing woman and take her to the motel for some diversion between the sheets to take off the edge. His days of being his own boss were coming to an end soon enough so he didn't intend to waste any of his remaining free time before beginning his sentence in a few months in a lifestyle where he would be receiving orders instead of giving them.
Summer had been kinder than usual to this part of the state of Texas and the cattle that would be taken to market in the autumn would yield more profits to his family ranch to make up for the previous two years when drought had seized control of the valley in a death grip. Chase had a while yet before he would be heading off to the military to begin a two year stint working behind the scenes as a computer expert with a double bachelor's degree in business and in information technology. He had graduated from the university last spring after taking the baseball team to the collegiate version of the World Series. Major league teams had wanted to sign him up but he had turned away every scout that had approached him. His mind had been made up. He would do his stint in the military and then come back to get his MBA before running the family ranch full-time. That had been the plan made for him by his father and his uncles since he had lain in a cradle but lately he felt the tug of wanderlust pull him away from the daily grind of ranching. More and more he found himself dreaming of the adventures that would take him away from this life. He had the money to do whatever he chose to do, because his family didn't just own and operate a successful cattle and horse ranch, they also had enough time to start a conglomerate that had hit the Fortune 100 several years ago.
As he picked his tool bag and walked off to patch up some worn fencing, Chase knew that his father had expectations that his only son would take over both businesses some day and after he sown his oats, he would do just that, marry a woman probably a debutante from a prominent family and raise the next generation of Montana ranchers. He lined up a nail on some fresh wood and hammered it, thinking that would be exactly what he would do some years ahead. But for now, he made damn sure he kept himself busy with his chores. Anything to keep any pesky thoughts of a certain woman out of his head before he got himself into trouble, wanting to get his hands on what he shouldn't.
Carly sang gently to her favorite horse which happened to be a spirited dun stallion named Sun Devil who belonged to Chase's father. The perfectly chiseled stud closed his eyes beneath the caress of her fingertips and swayed slightly on his feet, enjoying himself. Few people could approach the temperamental horse filled with championship cutting talent running through his veins but not only did he tolerate her presence, he thrived on her attention. Chase often teased her about having a way with the male sex and that there wasn't a male creature out there who she couldn't tame with her soft words and gentle touch. She had just laughed out loud at that while inside she knew that at least one male critter existed who remained out of her reach. Her best friend since she had moved to the ranch with her uncle when he had been hired as its foreman when she was much younger. She had grown up alongside Chase and his cousins and had worked alongside them on the ranch as hard as the grown men. They had watched her grow from a skinny freckled girl who had been all arms and legs to a grown woman whose shapely figure that it had taken a while to develop often caused them to go weak in the knees. Not that she had noticed as it took a while to figure out that she wasn't that little girl anymore. The one her uncle still viewed her as during the times when he hadn't been working her as hard as his grown hands.
Carly looked in the mirror these days and didn't dislike the strong yet curvy woman who stared back at her with confident hazel eyes on a tanned face only marred by a scar just off of her eye from some barb wire that had broken the skin when she had been 14 and had been thrown by a horse. But sometimes she felt like she didn't really know the woman in front of her, the one that felt like a stranger she had just begun to see.
Of course Chase had grown up as well into an impressive male specimen who soon attracted the attentions of the local women and they flocked around him. The rumor mill buzzed about his escapades while he worked his way through the female population of Wild Fork, a small dusty town of 2000 souls, some of whom lived there year-round. After a high school senior had led him into the back of her pickup truck and initiated the teenager into some good loving, Chase had taken what he had learned on quite a few test drives since that auspicious day in every young man's life. A couple of his conquests had tried to hold onto the handsome young man but it proved easier to lasso a tornado than for one woman to keep him in her bed. Still a day didn't pass when a woman believed that with the right amount of attention, she could turn the confirmed bachelor around. In their dreams, Carly thought, they should be more than a little appreciative to get their little slice of heaven in his bed and not worry about keeping him roped for too long.
His latest fling, Scarlett had kept him occupied for a month, a record in these parts and still had hopes of diverting his wandering eye away from other women who were only too happy to take him off her hands. Carly rolled her eyes at the foolish notion held by Scarlett because she had just seen Delia step into his pickup truck after a few hours of shooting pool with him and she came back an hour later with her hair mussed up and a smile on her face as she waltzed right past Scarlett. A few minutes later, in walked Chase and Scarlett had looked at a couple misshapen buttons on his shirt and Delia's hair and had reached her own conclusions soon enough.
Just a split second after she had guessed the obvious, the two women had jumped at each other and had gotten in a catfight at the hot right in the middle of the bar over Chase. So much for their lifelong friendship that began when they started kindergarten. Carly just thought the two women were crazy because she would never let some guy not even Chase come between her and her lifelong buddies Alexis and Dianna. In their case, it was a lot easier because both her friends had steady boyfriends which kept them busy. Still, she couldn't say that she was immune to what Chase could bottle up and sell, adding several more millions to his name, what woman in a hundred mile radius could be? But she knew he didn't want her in his bed or in the back of his pickup truck either for that matter not when there were women in plentiful supply in Wild Fork.
Not when he had the crème of Laredo County's beauty pageant crowd to choose from and she had the shortest career on that circuit of anyone in the county's history. She had been sent packing by the judges in her only competition after getting in a fist fight during the talent competition after Beverly had snickered about her not having parents. She figured she missed that crowd as much as it missed her and she had figured fairly early on anyway that if she weren't the prettiest girl in Wild Fork, she could sure as damn well be its smartest. And she had accomplished that feat handily being the first female resident of the township to head off to law school, which she would be in a few weeks.
She had noticed Chase today when she had been carrying the bale of hay into the barn and her knees had nearly betrayed her, weakening at the sight of his lean but muscular build shaped nicely by his typical uniform of his field shirt, worn jeans and an even more weathered pair of boots. She had resisted the sudden urge to go to him, just walk up and run her hands underneath his shirt to feel his muscles tense beneath her fingers and to brush her fingers, lightly at first, against the hairs on his chest. But how would he react to her coming onto him like a cat in heat? He would probably joke about it, make light of her actions, before gently pushing her off of him and then walking away. Not even aware of how much his casual teasing would cut into her, causing her more pain than her calf, Bourbon, had caused when he had stepped on her thigh when she had been 15.
After all, even though they were best friends and thicker than thieves, he didn't, couldn't ever think of her that way, as a woman who could keep pace with his fast and hardened style of loving that always left a woman plenty satisfied until she came back for more and found him long gone. So several years ago, she had stopped waiting for him to come to his senses like some shrinking violet in one of those romantic books favored by her friends and she decided to take a pragmatic approach. She set out to find herself another lover fast. At least as quickly as an 18 year old girl fresh out of high school who had little to no experience with men could get one to focus his attention and libido on getting between her legs. Which meant it didn't take all that long at all to lure a man into her bed. After all, in a town like Wild Fork, there wasn't much else for anyone to do with their free time. She knew who her lover would be when she first set sight on him when he arrived on the ranch looking for seasonal work.
Six feet of raw muscle and a face that looked it had been cut from ice, framed with wavy dark hair and facial stubble which had scratched her face when he had possessed her mouth for the first time, his tongue inserting itself past her uncertain lips engaging in a mating dance with her own which left her wanting more, much more of what he had to give her. Anything he had been willing to give her which as it turned out had been plenty more than just that kiss. She had set her sights on him when he had first been hired by Chase's father and set out to seduce him into her bed and it hadn't taken much. Like most men who were away from their hometowns for long periods of time, he hadn't needed much coaxing to see her as something else but the foreman's niece.
She hadn't really been all that sure of what to do with a grown man who clearly wanted to get into her pants and in between her legs so she had gone to her friends for advice on that one lazy afternoon while they hung out at Alexis' house. And in typical fashion, they had thrown out a bunch of contradictory advice.
"Play hard to get," Dianna said, "Don't let him think you're easy…"
"That makes sense," she said, "Don't let him think I'll just jump into bed with him."
Alexis shook her head.
"You play too hard to get in this town," she said, "He'll find another willing woman to dip his wick in. In Wild Fork, it pays to be easy. Otherwise you spend a lot of nights alone diddling yourself."
"Dress down so he knows you're a nice girl," Dianna advised, "and don't do it on the first date. Guys hate women who put out right away."
"Guys hate teases and there's nothing wrong with getting your cherry busting with a guy behind you," she said and turned to Carly, "You've got a great body so I say flaunt it. Wear that blue number you bought in Abilene and he'll be unable to look anywhere else."
"He might tear it off getting down to business," Dianna said, "You just never know how long it's been for these hires. Maybe you should dress the way you normally do, like it's no big deal and he'll still strip you faster than he'd skin a pig."
Carly didn't much like that analogy but she realized what they meant and she wanted a man to want her that badly didn't she?
She just looked back and forth between them and then sat on the bed.
"Thanks guys," she said, "I'm sure I'll figure out."
Alexis sat down beside her, rubbing her back.
"You'll do great," she said, "Just relax and let it happen. I'm sure this guy will be more than happy to let you use him for a while. These summer ranch hands are known for their horniness on the road."
Carly bit her lip. She guessed she would find out what it would be like soon enough, feeling excited and nervous at the same time but mostly just wanting to get it over with so she could move on with her life.
"Anything else I should be thinking of," she asked them.
She hated feeling so unsure of herself about anything. Give her any horse to ride and she could have him performing under tack in no time at all and give her a pool cue and she would win a pile of money by the time the Wrangler closed. But a guy, she had a feeling that was a whole different kind of riding.
"Oh yeah," Alexis said, suddenly then went to rummage in her dresser drawer.
Carly felt a small object hit her back. She looked around and noticed the bed was littered with square packets. Condoms, she had forgotten all about them but she really shouldn't have with all she had heard about them and felt chagrined.
"Don't ever let a guy come near you without making sure he wears one of these," Alexis said, holding one of those packets up, "or you'll never get the hell out of here."
Carly went home that night with a head full of advice and a handful of condoms that she hid in her dresser drawer beneath her socks until she would need them. Not all of them, but she figured it was probably better to have too many than not enough. Not that her uncle ever snooped in her room, hell he never went inside there but If he found them... she'd be shipped off to the convent on the next bus even if it would leave the ranch short a working body.
She spent most of the rest of the night thinking about how to lure Slade into bed with her and how it would feel to have him inside her. She knew he looked at her and liked what he saw while they worked side by side each day. A few careful glances at her body while they worked together had told her that, not that he spoke all that much in conversation. But she figured some people communicated in words, while others did through actions and figured Slade fell in the latter group. At least that's what she hoped.