Friday, November 21, 2008


Ride Back to Wayback with BLACKEST HEART, the latest story in the Wayback, TX series “Where A Cowboy Falls In Love Every Eight Seconds!”

Eight seconds. Judd had done it before. He was ready to do it again.

His black Stetson was pulled low, casting his eyes in shadow from the bright arena lights. His jaw clenched tight. He flexed his gloved hand, waiting for Jack to settle down long enough for him to hop on.

Jack gave a snort then calmed. Judd didn’t wait for Wade’s okay. He jumped onto Jack’s back. Wade worked quickly to strap his hand in place. Jack quivered underneath him and pawed the ground. He jerked forward, anticipating freedom. Judd squeezed his thighs tight around Jack’s wide flank. The animal was ready to rip loose. The bull’s ripe scent stung his nostrils.

“Here we go,” Wade slapped Judd’s arm.

Judd lifted his hand in the air.

Wade motioned the man holding the chute’s gate. He stepped back, the gate swung open, and the crowd roared as Judd and Jack came flying out of the chute.
Eight seconds seemed like forever. Jack was mad and proving it. His hind legs kicked up. Judd held on, trying to anticipate Jack’s wild movements. His arm was in the air, body bowing back and forth with Jack’s movements. The seconds stretched. As if sensing Judd’s victory, Jack began to whirl around, desperate to buck him off.

The clock buzzer went off, signaling eight seconds. The crowd came to its feet, clapping and hollering. Judd yanked his hand out of the leather strap, slid off Jack’s back, and backed away from the bull. Apparently, Jack wasn’t ready to give in to the humiliation. He charged after Judd, horns down, snorting.
The crowd screamed. Judd took off as fast as he could for the nearest wall. He heard Jack’s hooves pounding through the dirt after him. He dove for the wall, climbed up as fast as he could and grabbed the rail.

His gloved hand slipped off the rung. He felt himself falling back. A hand latched over the back of his, slim and white, but strong. He grabbed onto the rail as the rescuing hand tugged hard, helping him pull himself up just as Jack plowed into the wall below him. The crowd cheered as he came safely into view, barely escaping injury or worse. Glancing down, he saw the handlers chasing after Jack who was still in no mood to be tamed. He looked around to see who’d helped him out.

His adrenaline-pumped heart stammered to a halt. The pale face shadowed by the ball cap was a woman’s. As he stared into the familiar, muted green eyes and realization washed through him, his hand almost slipped on the rail again. His lungs seized, halting his panting breaths.

He’d seen her many times over the past fifteen years but only in movie theaters and on television.

God. She was back. Big as life. In the flesh. His mouth went dry when her lips turned up in a soft smile.

“Hey, Judd,” she said in the voice that had made her famous.

His eyes found the thin, pale scar by her mouth. It’d faded to pink since the highly-reported accident and subsequent emergency surgery. There was another scar by her eye, barely noticeable but there marking her perfect face all the same.

She must’ve seen where his eyes had gone. Smile fading, she took a half-step back and looked down. He watched her bend to pick up his Stetson. She dusted off the brim and handed it over the rail. “Lose this?” she asked.

He took it and set it on his head. Unsure of himself, he gave her a short nod then jumped back into the corral.

Walking away from her on numb legs, he looked up and saw Wade running toward him, mouth stretched wide to accommodate his eager grin. “Hell, kid, that was a sweet ride! You and Jack-boy put on a hell of a show. The crowd got their whole money’s worth out of that performance. You okay?”

Hell no.

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