This week Amber and Lance go on their Valentine’s Day date. They are still feeling their way and learning a bit about one another. We take a look back at Amber’s sister Heather and her relationship with Patrick Bascom (Bear Sin).

I hope you will enjoy this week’s installment as much as you did last week’s. Keep those helpful comments and corrections coming. I really appreciate them.

<<<CHAPTER ONE

CHAPTER TWO

 

Amber could hardly wait to tell Heather that she had a date. She hadn’t felt much like dating since her sister had gotten pregnant and run off to Portland. Not that there were a lot of men for her to date in French Town where most of the men were her kin. But after rich, arrogant Patrick Bascom had knocked up Heather and then abandoned her, she had been totally off men. Of course those Neanderthals in French Town had assumed that because Heather Dupré had a bun in the oven, her sister was going to spread her legs for anyone who asked. As if.

But Lance Prescott was nothing like Patrick Bascom. Or like those guys in French Town. He was a working Joe—just as she was a working girl. He always spoke respectfully to the other hands no matter what he was asking them to do, or redo. And in her first few weeks, she had been asked redo plenty. It had taken her a good fortnight to find her feet in the stables. You could take the measure of a man by how he treated other people. And Lance had never made her feel foolish because she had done a foolish thing.

Not like Patrick who made her feel small every time he opened his mouth. Patrick and Heather might be married now. They might have a houseful of babies on the way. But Amber could not forget that Patrick Bascom thought the Dupré girls were gold diggers. Heather acted like she was happy. But Amber thought she was putting a good face on her marriage because of those babies. She herself had the gravest of doubts about the marriage and about Patrick. The less she took from her brother-in-law the happier she would be.

Once she had thought she could be happy on the Ridge, but since high school graduation she and Heather had wanted to leave French Town. But they had never been able to save up enough to do so. She had let Patrick organize this job on the Bascom ranch for her, but that was all she planned to accept from him. He could keep his damned money. She was not for sale.

This job paid better than working at Miller’s Hardware, but she did not want to spend money on special clothes for her date with Lance. The winter weather meant that she’d already had to buy some new clothes. The money had had to come out of her savings at first, and she hadn’t liked spending money that she had set aside for a rainy day. But it was better than taking charity from Patrick.

But her last two paychecks had been deposited straight into her bank account, and things were looking up. But just because she had a date, didn’t mean she planned to splurge. She already had a pair of good jeans. And she was sure she could find a blouse to go with it. Or maybe a sweater. February in Colorado was going to be colder than a well digger’s ass. Not that she had any intention of uttering any such unladylike description. But it got way colder in Colorado than it ever did in Washington State.

Her cousin Jenna, who was married to Patrick’s twin brother Zeke, had made her a red sweater a couple of Christmases back. Amber pulled it out and looked it over anxiously. There were no moth holes. The elbows hadn’t worn through. And it wasn’t pilled. If she didn’t put a turtleneck underneath it, it would do for Valentine’s Day. She found a quiet gray and white print neckerchief to tone it down a bit and fill in the neckline decently.

Last Christmas, Heather had insisted on giving her a pair of fancy ostrich skin boots. She and her sister had shared everything their whole lives. And she knew that Heather felt it was normal to gift her twin with beautiful new things. But it felt wrong to take Patrick’s money even indirectly.

She would wear those expensive, hand-tooled boots to the dance. But they were Heather’s and would go right back to her the next time she saw her twin. They were far too special to wear in the barn or the stables. But they would dress up her best jeans and that red sweater just fine.

* * *

He was such an idiot. He knew it the second he pulled up in front of her log cabin. Amber came out and stood hesitantly on the narrow porch in her puffy red parka. She smiled and waved. Her long legs were encased in dark blue jeans and she was wearing a pair of pale gray ostrich-skin boots that would have set him back three months’ pay.

He got out of his truck. “Hey. You ready to go?”

“Hello.” She eyed the snow banks warily. Probably wondering if those fancy boots would be ruined if they got wet. He had no qualms about those particular boots. She didn’t wear them to work. But it was a reminder that they were on different sides of the Bascom bucks.

“I can carry you and keep your boots dry.”

She looked relieved and he got to fill his arms with luscious Amber Dupré. She didn’t relax until she was sitting in his old blue truck. “Thank you.” Her words came out huskily and she coughed once. She didn’t look as eager as she had been when they parted in the tack room after evening stables.

He should have realized that the oil money Bascoms didn’t go and drink cheap beer and dance in a rundown bar. It was too late to change his mind. He just hoped she remembered to go home with the one that brung her.

“We should be there in about twenty minutes.”

“Good.” She sat quietly as he drove off the Double B land.

He wasn’t talkative man anymore. But he figured he shouldn’t be sitting silent beside Amber if he wanted her to enjoy herself. It was just that he couldn’t think of anything to say while his heart was beating a mile a minute and he was wondering if he was going to get to see her with her clothes off again. In the last few days, he had had some very pleasant fantasies all based around that glimpse he’d had of her lovely breasts and pretty thighs. Even so, he couldn’t think single thing to say.

But his foolish pecker didn’t seem to care. After spending five years doing a good imitation of a broken hose, it had decided that it would make up for lost time. He could only hope that he would be able to dance with a loaded pistol in his jeans.

“It still takes my breath away,” she said when they were on the county road. “How you can see down the road to the horizon. Back home, you’re lucky if you can see fifty feet. Does this road ever stop?”

Lance chuckled. “You’ll get used to the big open plains after a while. It’s what I like about Colorado. It always feels like there’s plenty of room to breathe.”

“I never had any trouble breathing back home. But I never saw so much sunshine and blue sky in the wintertime in my whole life. Now if only it wasn’t so blamed cold.”

“It is cold in Colorado.” Which was such an obvious thing to say that she would take him for a fool. He tried again. “I hope you like to dance. There’ll be a band, and everyone will get up.”

“I love to dance. We’re big on dancing in French town.” Her animation had returned and she turned her head towards him.

Thank goodness she had his unscarred right cheek to look at. “Is French Town where you’re from?”

“Yeah. There’s not a lot to do up in the mountains. We mostly make our own fun. Most weekends there’s a dance at the community center. There’s always something happening that we need to celebrate. Any excuse will do really.”

“It’s mostly line dancing here in Colorado.”

“I’ve never line danced,” she confessed. “You’ll have to take me by the hand and lead me.”

Now there was the best offer he’d had this century. Before too long he was parking outside the long, low building that was Hank’s Bar and Grill. The parking lot had been scraped clean, but there were still icy patches, and snow was starting to fall. Even though the lot was full of pickups he got a place right by the door.

Amber was looking out of her window. He didn’t think she was worried about the distance to the ground. Those legs of hers were so long they must’ve started around her armpits. He figured it was those boots again. Well, now, wasn’t that just what he wanted—another chance at a sweet armful of soft and fragrant Amber?

Her bare head smelled of woman. Of Amber. The dark curls tickled his nose. He was sorry when they reached the overhang and he had no more excuse to hold her in his arms. But he was careful not to slide her down past his woody. She came up to his chin which he had known already.

“Thank you,” she said. She reached for the door knob and held it for him grinning. An independent woman.

Hank’s was much the same as usual. The wooden bar was crowded with single fellers drinking beer. The area in front of the homemade stage had been cleared of tables. Someone had hung up a mirrored ball and shone red lights on it. It revolved slowly casting a pink glow on the little tables and the scarred wooden floor.

Hank had tried. He really had. There were four red hearts pasted on the walls, almost covering the ads for Coors and Budweiser. Red tissue paper streamers had been taped below the glitter ball. The decorations looked about the way lipstick on a mule would look. Odd, but showing a lot of spirit.

The bar was already full and noisy with everyone talking all at once. George Strait blared from the juke box. Later the band would arrive and there would be dancing. He found them a table off to one side and held Amber’s chair for her. Julie came over with a tray of empty glasses. Her smile was extra wide and he was afraid she would say something about him bringing a woman to the bar. But she only wiped their table.

“What’ll it be, Lance?”

He wasn’t drinking alcohol, of course. He had to drive home. Alcohol and motor vehicles didn’t mix. Especially not if there was going to be snow. “I’ll have a coke. Amber?”

“I’m a cheap date.” She was blushing again. “A coke will do me fine too. Thank you.”

“You’re new around here,” Julie said.

“I was hired on at the Stud, just after Christmas,” Amber said. When she could have claimed kinship with the oil rich Bascoms.

The Bascoms might mostly act like just folks—at least the boss and her daddy did—but Amber didn’t seem to want their reflected glory. He filed that fact away for later.

George finished crooning and the band straggled out from the back. Three banjos, a guitar and two singers. They weren’t bad, but neither were they good. But as soon as they finished tuning up, people got up and formed an eager line.

“We’ll go up to dance when you’ve finished your drink,” Lance said.

“Oh, I’ll nurse this one all night,” Amber replied. “I told you I was a cheap date.”

“I’ll buy you a new one after we’re finished. You should never drink from a glass you’ve left unattended in a strange bar.”

Her blue eyes rounded. “Whyever not?”

“I thought you spent some time in Portland?” he said.

She shook her head. Dark curls bounced against her red sweater. “Nope. What happens to your drink if you leave it for a few minutes. Besides the ice cubes melting?”

“Have you never heard of date rape drugs?”

“Roofies,” she gasped. Her blue eyes got even rounder. She looked around as if she had suddenly found herself in a den of iniquity.

“That’s right, among other things.” He made a note to himself not to leave Amber alone for a New York minute.

This is material not previously published. ©Isadora Montrose, 2017

CHAPTER THREE>>>