Dallas finished his steak, picked up
his beer, and took a long swallow. A glance at the picnic table where
Patience had been sitting told him she was no longer there. Neither
was Wes McCauley.
Hey, she was single and way over
twenty-one. She could go out with any man she wanted. But the
thought of her with Wes stirred a sick feeling in the pit of his
stomach. He glanced around to see if she might be somewhere else, all
the while telling himself to forget her, reminding himself she was
nothing but trouble.
In the distance, western music
pumped over the speakers at the edge of the picnic area, but he saw no
sign of Patience. He wandered toward a cluster of cottonwood trees
near the parking lot to see if Wes's truck was still there.
"If you're lookin' for that pretty
little gal I seen you starin' at, she left with Wes McCauley." Salty
Marvin sat in the shadows, his brown, weathered hands forming a
hand-rolled cigarette. "Heard someone say he was givin' her a ride
The knot in Dallas's stomach turned
into a ten-pound weight. "That so?"
"I was you, I'd make sure she got
Dallas glanced away. "She's Wes's
problem, not mine."
"Maybe so. But Wes was drinkin'
pretty hard tonight. He gets liquored-up, he donít always listen too
good when a lady says no."
Worry slipped along Dallas's spine.
He had heard stories about Wes, that sometimes the big steer wrestler
had been known to press a woman a little too hard for what he wanted.
Dallas didn't believe Wes would actually force a woman to have sex,
but he was big and sometimes he didn't know his own strength. He
didn't want Patience having problems with Wes.
"How long have they been gone?"
"Fifteen, twenty minutes."
Dallas started walking toward his
truck, climbed in and fired up the engine. It didn't take long to
reach the rodeo grounds. He spotted Patience's little white travel
trailer. Wes's Ford sat in the shadows not far away.
You do this, you're gonna make a
damned fool of yourself.
But the door of his truck cracked
open as if it had a mind of its own. Dallas climbed down and started
walking, cussing himself all the way. When he reached the trailer, he
heard voices inside. Then the lights went off and the trailer fell
Sonofabitch. He knew what was going
on in there. He knew and it and it royally pissed him off.
You probably think I'm old
fashioned, Patience had said.
Old fashioned? Ha! His hands
balled into fists. Fine, he told himself. She wants Wes she can have
him. He started to walk away, but something just wouldn't let him.
Calling himself ten kinds of a fool,
Dallas strode over and banged on the door. "Patience?"
Wes's deep voice answered. "Hey,
buddy, we're busy in here."
Dallas swore foully. He started to
turn away, even madder at himself that he was at her, when he heard
the sound of glass breaking inside the trailer. Combined with the
instincts screaming inside his head, he reached for the knob and
jerked open the door.
A Coke bottle whizzed past his ear,
smashing against the metal frame.
"Get out of here, Wes McCauley! And
don't you ever come near me again!"
Everything happened at once.
Wes dragged Patience against him and
tried to force a bruising kiss. Patience jabbed an elbow into his
ribs and kicked him hard in the shins. Wes swore a string of dirty
words, and a red haze of fury dropped over Dallas, unlike anything he
Growling low in his throat, he
grabbed the front of Wes's shirt and spun him around, dragged him
toward the door, and heaved him down the stairs. Wes landed in the
dirt and Dallas went after him, hauling him up and smashing him in the
face. Wes swung a fist at Dallas, who dodged the blow and punched Wes
in the stomach, doubling him over.
"What the hell are you doing?" Wes
slurred. He was a taller, heavier man, but he was drunk and
disoriented. He staggered to his feet and Dallas smashed a fist into
his jaw that sent him sprawling. He went down like a stone and this
time he didn't get up.
Adrenalin pumped through Dallas's
blood. His jaw was locked, his teeth clenched. He noticed the
knuckles on his hand were bleeding. He turned toward the trailer, saw
Patience standing at the bottom of the metal stairs.
"I-I needed a ride back to the
trailer," she explained as he walked toward her. "Wes volunteered. I
didn't...I didn't realize he had drunk so much until we were had
already left the picnic."
Dallas said nothing. He was still
so mad he couldn't speak.
Patience took a shaky breath. "Wes
started trying to kiss me and I couldn't make him stop."
He saw that she was trembling and a
band seemed to tighten around his chest. Dallas reached for her, drew
her into his arms. "It's all right, darlin'. It's over and you're
"I think I could have handled
him...he's just...he's just so darned big." She flicked a glance at
Wes, who now lay there snoring. "It probably wouldn't have been any
big deal if it weren't for this other thing that happened..."
"What other thing?"
"Before I left Boston, a man I
briefly dated became obsessed with me, a guy named Tyler Stanfield.
He started stalking me, wouldn't leave me alone.
Dallas drew her back into his
warmth, angry all over again. "He hasn't bothered you lately?"
She shook her head. "I don't think
he knows where I am. I guess Tyler's the reason Wes scared me so
"Wes is through scaring anyone. He
isn't going to bother you again." No, Wes McCauley wasn't going to
bother her. He'd beat the bastard senseless if he ever came near her
Patience leaned closer, stood there
in the darkness with her cheek next to his, her hair brushing his
temple. She felt so good in his arms. So good. He had tried not to
think of her, tried to satisfy himself with other women. But God, he
had missed her.
And missing a woman was the last
thing Dallas Kingman wanted.