Jenn Baker’s Picture Choice: 2
Title: A Night at the Cactus Canyon
Pepper walked around the end of the pool table studying the balls. He took a long pull on his beer, set it aside, and grabbed his cue stick. He leaned over the table focusing on the series of events he needed to happen on the table. Pepper needed the cue ball to hit the orange 5 ball just right so when it hit the blue and white 10 ball, the blue 2 ball landed in the corner pocket. He leaned over to line up the shot when Tyler walked over with new beers.
“Hey, did you see that Chelsea is here?” Tyler asked as he placed a beer on the high top table. Pepper straightened, scowling at his best friend and roping partner.
“You know that is a dirty trick. Bringing up my ex-girlfriend just as I’m about to take the lead in our game.” Pepper reached over to the high top and grabbed his beer.
“I’m not trying to distract you. I just thought you should know that she was here.” Tyler took a drink of his beer and pointed at the pool table. “Are you taking that shot or not?” Shaking his head, Pepper put down his beer, leaned back over the table, and took the shot.
“Well, shit.” Tyler said when the blue ball landed in the corner pocket. “I don’t know why I ever play with you.”
“Because you like getting your ass kicked at pool.” Pepper lined up his next shot. The orange ball bounced off the side rail.
“While I was at the bar getting us refills, I found us the perfect pair for fun tonight." It was not uncommon for the roping partners to share female partners for a night of fun. But since Chelsea, Pepper wasn't interested. He was tired of the games. He was ready to settle down. The only reason he continued on the circuit was to make a little more money toward purchasing his own place.
"Have fun, Tyler. I'm just going to finish this game, have a couple of beers, and head back to the motel."
"Pepper, you need to snap out of this funk you are in." Tyler sulked, taking the cue stick from Pepper.
"I'm not in a funk. I'm just not interested in one night stands anymore."
"You are such a bore since Chelsea entered and exited our lives."
“Look Tyler, I’m not in the mood to go over all of this again. I’m going to take my beer and find a table. Once I finish it, I’m heading back to the motel.” Pepper grabbed his new beer and headed off into the crowd of the Cactus Canyon.
Unlike most honky tonks, the Cactus Canyon was a flashy bar. With a large bar that had seating on three sides at one end of the building, a dance floor that was edged with bar high tables, pool tables in a corner, and a mechanical bull in the other. Pepper moved through the crowd in search of a table. He found one near the dance floor entrance. While sipping his beer, Pepper watched couples move on and off the dance floor as the live band played.
Pepper looked up to the voice to see a rodeo buddy, Cody, sit across from him. "Hey, Cody."
“Are you ready for this week?” The guys were in Greeley, Colorado for the week long Greeley Stampede Rodeo. It was one of the big money and point rodeos on the circuit. Pepper needed the points and money to extend his and Tyler’s lead in the world standings.
“I am, but you know Tyler, he is busy with the girls.” Pepper took a drink of his beer.
“Isn’t that the best part of being a rodeo cowboy? Having your pick of girls at every show?” Cody smiled as he looked around the bar.
“It used to be, but I’m ready to settle down.”
“Does Tyler know?” Cody asked startled.
“Yeah, but he isn’t happy about it.” Pepper looked over to the dance floor and watched the dancers. They sat in silence for few moments before Cody cleared his throat a couple of times.
"Out with it Cody. I know you want to ask me something."
"Well, um. Did you know that Chelsea is here in Greeley?"
"Yeah. I saw her at check in. I don't know if she saw me, but I saw her."
"Are you okay that she is here?"
"I'm fine. With every rodeo I enter, I know there's the possibility of running in to her. This just happens to be one of the biggest rodeos I've entered this year."
"If she’s here tonight, would it be okay if I, um..." Cody's voice trailed off.
"Are you asking my permission to dance with my ex-fiance?"
"Well, yeah." Cody hunched his shoulders and leaned back in to his chair, as if he was afraid Pepper might hit him.
"If she's willing, go for it.” Pepper took another drink of his beer. “Tyler said that she was here somewhere.”
“Hey cowboy, you want to have some fun?” Pepper looked up to see a buckle bunny standing next to Cody. She was dressed in tight jeans that were tucked in to her bright pink boots. Her shirt was so low cut that he was surprised she didn't fall out of it.
“No thank you.” Pepper looked at Cody.
“I would love too.” Cody said as he stood. “I’ll catch you later, Pepper.” Shaking his head, Pepper turned back to the dancers as he finished off his beer.
Pepper frowned at his empty beer bottle and placed it on the table. Leaning forward on his elbows, he rolled the bottle back and forth between his hands watching the dancers. His attention quickly turned to a brunette swinging her hips during the line dance. Her legs were encased in tight jeans, accenting her tight ass. His eyes gradually traveled up her toned body. She faced away from him. He watched as she moved to the music, willing her to turn toward him. She lifted her arms over head, causing the edge of her shirt to ride up, exposing the smooth skin of her lower back. Pepper bit back a groan. He loved the feel of the warm skin of a woman's lower back beneath his lips.
She continued to dance, laughing when she missed a step. There was something familiar about her, but Pepper figured it was because she was like most buckle bunnies, tight jeans and little inhibitions. As the song ended, she twirled around and stopped facing him. Their eyes met. The brunette who shook her tight ass and made him hard was none other than Chelsea. His beer bottle crashed the floor, his focus completely on her. She bit her lower lip before turning to talk to the woman next to her. Pepper pushed back from the table and stalked back to the bar. He needed something stronger than a beer tonight.
Jenn lives in central Florida with her best friend and husband, Andy. When not reviewing books on her book blog, PonyTails Book Reviews, she writes her own Contemporary Western Romance and Scottish Historicals. Jenn is hoping to have her first novel, The Prodigal Cowboy, published in the fall of 2013.