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.None of them would be Jed.Bitter, cold wind swept the nearly barren Wyoming landscape, rushing through Booker’s undershirt, flannel button-down, and fleece zip-up hoodie.He shivered, but as icy as the temperature was for a day early in April, the afternoon sun shone high and clear above, blistering in its brightness, and put an undercurrent of warmth in the chilly air.The day could not have been more beautiful if a Hollywood studio had created it; storm clouds remained in the distance, almost out of sight.Rather than lead Destiny into the corral, Jed guided the animal to a chute.Booker instantly stood up straighter; his heart started pumping out endorphins at a furious rate.He swung his head left and right, searching for Cliff or one of his two other part-time ranch employees.Nobody else was in sight.Booker’s breathing shifted lower, becoming a tangible thing, and for once it didn’t have anything to do with Jed’s proximity.Will he? Booker stood at attention, much like an eager animal himself, but didn’t dare hope Jed would call him over.Is it finally going to happen?Once the horse entered the chute, Jed closed the gate behind him.He climbed the metal rungs on the back of the enclosure.From across the paddock, he locked in on Booker.“Come on.” The wonderful, gravelly texture of Jed’s voice cut across the crisp air and sliced its way into Booker’s flesh.Jed didn’t grin, and nothing about his tone sounded welcoming, but God, he crooked his finger, and Booker jumped off the railing and started running as if tied to Jed’s digit by an invisible string.As Booker drew to Jed’s side, Jed muttered, “Climb on up,” and shifted a bit to the right.“If you’re gonna work these animals with me, you have to be willing to take a spill off their backs every once in a while too.”Booker leaped up on the chute so fast he was surprised he stayed in his boots.“Really?” Looking back and forth from the horse to Jed, both so damned alive with barely contained strength and energy, Booker clasped his hands around the top rung to stop himself from grabbing both.But hell, he couldn’t stop smiling.“You’ll seriously let me test him?”With a swift nod, Jed handed Booker a set of riding gloves.“You’re ready.The others all accept you on their backs for exercise.” He raised a brow in Booker’s direction, and his mouth lifted at the edge just a hair, making him look downright roguish.“I’ve stopped having nightmares that you’re gonna break your neck.More important, you’ve learned a lot, and you pay attention to what I tell you to do, so you’ve earned a chance to help me train.”With hearing that Jed dreamed about him—in any fashion—heat raced down the back of Booker’s neck.He looked down and busied himself with changing out his gloves before a burn covered his face.“I won’t let you down.”“Right now I just want to see how Destiny does with someone on his back.He was sold as a bareback bucker, but Cliff isn’t sure which division is right for him.” Cinching a regulation padded leather strap atop the animal’s withers, Jed prepped Destiny for a ride.“How good do you feel about your legs and core?” Jed straightened his upper half, and he looked Booker over from top to bottom.“You think you can hold on bareback for this first tryout?”Blush forgotten, Booker bristled and gritted his teeth.“I’m stronger than I look.I can handle this horse.Tim let me get on the backs of Crescendo and Time Bomb last week after the competition ended.I know what to do.”Jed cocked his eyebrow again, arching it higher this time.“Oh yeah?” He crossed his arms against his chest, looking like some rough-and-tumble God, standing high on his cowboy perch.“You kept that from me, huh? How’d you do?”Booker mimicked Jed’s exact stance and even jutted his chin.“Stayed on both for the full eight seconds.”In response, Jed jumped off the back of the chute and strode around it to get inside the corral.As he did, he chuckled and replied, “Well, how about that? I guess tomorrow I’ll hear that Cliff is putting you in charge.”Airy bubbles of giddiness popped and fizzed in Booker’s belly.“Could be.” He watched Jed from his now superior position on the rungs and drank in the man’s rare, lighthearted teasing.“Watch your back, Hastings.I’m coming for your job.”“I’ll be sure to sleep with one eye open from now on.” Jed didn’t grin, but damn it if an extra light didn’t twinkle in his eyes.From through the gate, he stroked Destiny’s flank, soothing the animal while glancing up at Booker.“Go ahead and put on that vest before you climb over the chute.”Nodding that he’d heard, Booker slipped on the Kevlar vest and snugly secured the Velcro fastenings.After double-checking the ties on his gloves too, Booker took a deep, calming breath.He then climbed over the railing and settled his weight high and forward on Destiny’s back.The horse shimmied, snorted, and threw back his head, but without pause Booker squeezed his thighs and adjusted his boots against the animal’s shoulders.He knew the weight of an animal between his thighs now, and he understood temperament enough to sense eagerness in Destiny rather than fear or anxiety.Once Booker had himself situated comfortably, with the leather strap wrapped around his hand, he looked up and met Jed’s uncompromising gaze.“He feels good.” Booker spoke in a hushed tone, in awe of the magnificent animal beneath him.“He’s tall and wide enough for the bigger riders.” Shifting forward a bit more, he gently squeezed his inner thighs high on the animal’s flank and finished, “But he still feels compact enough to have good bucking power and the speed needed for bareback work.”A gleam of light flashed in Jed’s eyes.“Nice.I agree.” Finally he gave Booker a fast but real smile.“We’re gonna turn you into a full-fledged cowboy and stock pro yet.”Booker ate up Jed’s attention and positive words like a starving beast.Unable to look away, he softly shared, “I want to be as good as you, Jed.”Instant hardness flattened Jed’s lips.“Dream bigger, Colt [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]