Cowboy Boots and Combat Boots

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Chapter Thirteen

I’m just about done with my first day on the jobsite and I’m feeling content for the first time since I got back. Being able to concentrate on work, building things, and working with my hands is a welcome relief. I feel my phone vibrate in my pocket. I stop the power saw and check it out. There’s a text message from Rowan, asking me to pick him up from an address downtown in about an hour. I reply with a quick sure. I finish up my work for the day and check in with Jim—the foreman—before getting the details of the next day’s work.

He’s impressed with my enthusiasm, and the effort I’ve made today. This is a good bunch of guys on this crew. Most of them are retired and just looking to give back to the community and fight off the monotony of retired living. The site is about a half hour drive east of the city and it’s not a difficult commute. I feel good about myself, the way you feel after a hard day’s work. I hit a little traffic so I don’t have time to go home for a shower before going to pick up Rowan, he’ll just have to deal with it. I pull up on the street at the address he gave me.

It’s a little after five so the sun has dropped down over the city horizon. I start making my way up the driveway of the block of apartments and I stop dead at the most erotic sight I’ve ever seen. The gorgeous candy apple red Indian motorcycle catches the rays of the setting sun in the driveway. But the long tan legs in familiar boots lying beside the bike on the ground are what catches my eye. I move slowly around the other side of the bike and the sight just gets more erotic. The tan legs are hanging out of cut off shorts that are so short they should be illegal.

A faded black led zeppelin tank top is tied around her midriff exposing a taught stomach with a grease stain on it. I see tools on the ground next to her and I think I just got hard. Her hair is bundled up into a messy bun and she’s adjusting something with a wrench on the bike.

“Lexi?” I ask and her gaze seems to notice me. Her smile is beaming.

“What are you doing here?” She asks me as she stays on the ground. I hold my hands up in surrender as I realize this may appear like a staged run in.

“I got a text from Rowan to pick him up from this address. I swear I had no idea you’d be here.” I quickly explain. She laughs.

“Can you hand me the three quarter inch ratchet by your boot?” She asks as she holds her hand out letting her gaze fall back to her task. I squat down and pick up the ratchet and hand it to her. She takes it and tightens something else on her bike. I notice that she has I sump dish and a new oil container next to her on the ground.

“You do your own maintenance?” I ask unable to keep the shock from my voice.

“Army mechanic daddy, remember?” I hear her voice laugh from under the bike. She asks me to hand her another tool and I exhale as I try to think non sexy thoughts. I hand her the requested tool.

“Please Lexi.” I plead. “You can’t say things like that to me.” She looks up at me and bites her lip shyly. After another couple of minutes she pushes herself off the ground.

“Done.” She announces proudly wiping her hands on her shorts. There’s another grease stain on her bicep and before I know what I’m doing my fingers are caressing it. She smiles seductively at me. “Oil changes are always such a mess.” She says shaking her head and I lose my control and I grab her face in my hands and take her mouth in mine like a conquering hero.

She grabs me roughly by my shirt and pulls me towards the wall of the parking garage behind a set of stairs. I pin her against the wall kissing her roughly. Her arms wind tightly around my neck trying to pull her body against mine. I pick up her thighs and she wraps her legs tightly around my hips and I groan at the pleasure building in my body as I pin her to the wall harder and continue my assault on her mouth as I let my hands grip her underneath her ass.

Her breathing is ragged as we kiss, I break away and start kissing up the length of her neck hungrily. “Oh my God Link.” She breathes desperately as her nails run across the back of my shoulders through my shirt.

“You are so fucking beautiful Lexi.” I breathe the prayer into the side if her neck. She arches her back pushing herself against me. My lips travel back to claim hers and I devour this goddess in in my arms.

“Link.” She breathes, as she pushes against me. I stop instantly and lean back leaving my hips pinning her to the wall. I look into her eyes and I can see the war going on in her eyes. I lower her gently to the ground and she holds onto my shoulders for a moment waiting for the blood to return to her legs. I smile at her reassuringly and she returns a weak half smile. I lean forward and plant a soft kiss to her forehead. Her arms then wrap around my torso as she hugs me tightly.

I let my arms fall around her securely but not tight. She clearly has reservations about being that close with someone and I don’t want to frighten her. Damien’s words about her being more fragile than she looks reverberate through my head. Her head leans against my chest as she holds on tightly. I just hold her until she’s ready to let go. I feel her take a deep breath. Then hear her laugh lightly.

“Sorry, I must stink.” I apologize suddenly full of regret about not having time for a shower before coming here. She laughs again.

“No it’s good, you smell like saw dust and sweat and just a hint of your aftershave.” She whispers into my chest as she stays where she is. Our peaceful embrace is violently disturbed by footsteps crashing down the stairs above us.

“Great news kids.” Rowan calls out when he sees us. I shoot a look at him to let him know his timing is less than ideal.

“What’s that?” Lexi asks letting go of me to walk back to her bike and gather up her tools.

“Well.” Rowan says ignoring my glare. “Mama just called me to let me know that she and the old man are going out of town this weekend. So I thought we could all head to the farm house on Saturday, have a picnic by the water hole maybe stay the night and escape the city.” He announces and I fix him with a deathly glare. Which he ignores again.

“Damien’s already agreed to come, what about you sexy Lexi?” He asks her wiggling his eyebrows. “Her name rhymes with sexy?” He grins back at me. I roll my eyes at him.

“That hadn’t escaped me.” I tell him. Lexi looks at me for a moment with that same look of hesitation I saw before. “Hey, there’s no pressure. You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to.” I tell her assuredly. Rowan decides that is not an option.

“Aw come on Lexi, you’ll love the old farm house. There’s a swimming hole with a pontoon and a rope swing. The weather is supposed to be great this weekend and…” He says trailing off for suspense. “I’ll show you all the embarrassing photos from Link’s childhood.” She smiles at him then looks at me for moment with the same smile.

“Sure, I’m in.” She tells him.

“Yes.” He hisses with excitement. “I’ll be right back down then we can go.” He starts to tell me. “Jeez Link take a shower man.” He adds seemingly disgusted by my appearance. He starts running up the stairs again. After he leaves I walk over as Lexi pulls her bike into the garage.

“You really don’t have to come this weekend.” I try to reassure her and she looks at me and smiles.

“I’m a sucker for a rope swing.” She says with a wink. I laugh lightly.

“Well good, because I’d love to see what you make of it.” I challenge her and she gives me a look that makes me think I’ll be eating those words later.

“I better go up and change and shower. I have to be at rehearsals soon.” She tells me and then I watch her eyes as she look nervously towards the garage open door. I’m between her and it. Her eyes seem to search mine warily for a moment then she glances back towards the door. I take a few steps back before clearly demonstrating leaving the garage space before her. She meets me outside and seems to be relaxed again.

Her smile lights up her face as she looks up at me. “Your brother is in 3A, but I’m sure he’ll be down in a moment. I have to go.” She smiles before stepping up on to the bottom step. I smile after her. She turns around on the second step. “Link.” She calls and beckons me over to her. Obediently I take the few steps closing the distance between us. I remain on the ground giving her the security of the high ground. I don’t know what it is that troubles my goddess, but I refuse to add to her worries by being too aggressive with her.

She smiles at me as I stay put on the ground and she throws her arms around my neck and lets her body lean towards mine. We’re the same height right now and her captivating hazel eyes are holding mine prisoner. She taps her nose against mine as she smiles her heart stopping smile at me. I let her come to me, and she does. I feel her lips brush against mine and I part my lips to caress hers in a soft kiss. I feel her teeth against my tongue before she parts her lips further and massages my tongue affectionately with hers. I demonstrate restraint by pulling away first.

I smile at her as her arms retreat. I gently take one of her hands in mine and I bring it to my lips. She smiles her shy smile at me and I beam at her proudly before letting her hand go.

“I’ll see you tomorrow.” I remind her playfully. She beams back at me.

“Until then.” I watch her ascend the stairs before my glorious view is shattered by Rowan barreling down the stairs towards me. He pushes me aside then races me to the truck. The drive home is quick and I smile at not living that far away from Lexi. We make it back into the apartment before I launch at Rowan.

“What the hell were you thinking springing something like that on us before?” I demand and he looks at me confused.

“She said yes.” He says like that’s all there is to it.

“She wasn’t ready for something like that Ro.” I say frustrated. “I think she’s been hurt before. Every time we get too close she pulls away. I don’t want to push her away by moving too fast with her.” I accost him seriously. He looks shocked for a moment.

“Man I’m sorry, I had no idea. I can cancel the whole thing if you want?” He offers and I wave him off.

“It’s too late, I just don’t want to do anything that would risk her.” I try to explain. He smiles and his eyes soften.

“I get it Link. I never seen you like this before. You think I would ever do anything that would sabotage your happiness? I’m your wing man. You tell me what you need and I’ll make it happen.” He tells me and his words touch me. I wrap an arm around his shoulders.

“I know you would man, and you know I’d take a bullet for you right?” I tell him trying to recover from my blow up at him. He nods and smiles at him.

“I just figured it would be an ideal chance to get your trunk and the rest of your stuff from the house before the old man decides to have a bonfire. They’ll be in Florida visiting Pappy all weekend. It was Mama’s idea for you to grab anything you needed.” He explains and I nod.

“You’re right, there’s things I need. Especially before the old man does have that bonfire.” I agree. We relax and settle in for the night. I’m exhausted from my days work and the overwhelming feelings blowing through my mind whenever I think about Lexi.

I wake with a start in a cold sweat in the middle of the night. I look around the room to get my baring’s and I see Rowan standing in the doorway with his bare chest heaving like he’d been running his face was stricken with concern.

“Link. Are you okay?” He asks urgently and I nod once before letting my head fall back down to the pillow. I try to get my breathing under control. “Do you need anything?” He asks. I shake my head and turn over away from him. I hear the door close behind him as he leaves. My nightmares are my problem to deal with. However this one was so much worse. Lexi was in trouble, she was being hurt and I couldn’t get to her. I couldn’t save her in time. I held her in my arms as she died.

It was so real I could swear I watched the light fade from those stunning hazel eyes. I could feel the warm tears drop from her face onto my arms. Her skin went cold beneath my hands as her breathing stopped and the silence of it all was deafening. I stay awake watching the clock until the sun comes up too terrified to have to relive that nightmare. As soon as it’s a reasonable hour I’m in the shower and dressed ready to go.

Rowan meets me in the kitchen after my racket apparently woke him. I hurry him along and down to the truck. We tear along the city streets until we get to the diner car park. I breathe a small sigh of relief when I see her bike. We walk hurriedly into the diner. “Jeez man, where’s the fire?” He demands as I push him through the doors. We spot Damien who seems surprised to see us. He looks at his watch then at Rowan. “I know my brother is having some sort of episode.” He explains to Damien.

“Well you’re pretty early, I only arrived a few minutes ago.” Damien tells him. I nod a greeting at Damien who returns it, then he flashes a worried look at me. “I should warn you.” He starts to say but he’s interrupted by another sweeter voice.

“Good morning boys.” Lexi greets Rowan and I. I smile broadly at her as my entire body relaxes. I think I’ve been tensed up since that nightmare and now that I can see that beautiful smile again I can finally breathe. She leans over to pour my coffee and her knee rests on the seat next to me. I notice that she’s wearing long jeans, they’re painted on but long jeans none the less. She lets her hand rest against my shoulder and my whole world is right again at her touch.

She leaves us to think about our breakfast as she walks away. Then I notice it, her entire movement is too stiff, too slow for her. Panic shoots through me as I realize Damien was about to say something. I narrow my eyes at him waiting for an explanation.

“I know how protective you are of her, so I was trying to warn you before you saw her and lost your top.” He explains.

“Warn me about what?” I ask him urgently. He gives me a sympathetic look.

“I had to take her to the emergency room last night, she had a nasty fall during her rehearsal. She’s pretty banged up but otherwise she’s okay.” He says patiently.

“What do you mean she was in the emergency room but she’s okay?” I seethe. He holds his hands up in surrender and I take a calming breath before apologizing for snapping at him.

“She’s fine. I promise.” He assures me. “I made the doctors check everything, she’s still pissed at me about that.” He adds shaking his head.

“Thank you.” I say appreciatively. “She probably would’ve fought you about going to the hospital in the first place.” He nods and lets out a frustrated breath.

“So what happened?” I ask now more calm. He shrugs.

“She just said it was a bad fall, but she could barely pull herself up the stairs at the apartment building so I dragged her to the E.R.” He says matter-of-factly. I thank him again quietly before Lexi returns to take our order. She’s smiling and her eyes are lit up, but there is a falseness to it that I don’t like. As if she’s spent a lot of time convincing people in her life that she is more okay than she is. She still hasn’t said anything about her injuries, and I’m not sure how much right I have to pry.

After we’re all done eating I decide I’ve had enough. “So am I taking you dancing tonight?” I ask her sweetly. She flashes me an apologetic smile.

“Sorry I can’t I have rehearsals tonight.” She says the obvious lie and I feel proud that I now know her tell.

“Well what time do they let you out? Maybe we could meet up then.” I offer the alternative.

She smiles but I can tell she doesn’t like the pursuit. She flashes a quick glare at Damien who ignores her.

“They run pretty late sometimes.” She says evasively. “I’ll be here tomorrow.” She’s trying to be coy.

“Actually I can’t make it to breakfast tomorrow. I have to get to a worksite that’s pretty far away so I have to leave early.” I tell her the truth. I do have a long drive to tomorrow’s location.

“Oh.” Her face falls a little. She seems to be thinking and I can feel myself getting angry at the thought of her lying to me. I cut her off before she can lie to me anymore. I throw some money down onto the table before I stand up.

“I’ll catch you at home Ro. Damien have a good day.” I smile at them before turning my half smile on Lexi. “I’ll see you later.” I tell her vaguely. I turn and walk out of the diner trying to contain my rage. I rip the door of my truck open before her voice calls out to me. I slam it shut hard and turn to watch her approach. My gut twists when I see the tears on her face, as she can barely move but I don’t move.

She reaches my truck and puts her hand against the side to steady herself.

“Damien shouldn’t have said anything.” She starts to say.

“No you should’ve.” I tell her cutting her off. She looks stung.

“It’s not that bad.” She lies again. I slap the side of the truck in frustration.

“Jesus Lexi, you can barely move. You have tears of pain in your eyes and you’re telling me it’s not that bad.” I say in disbelief. I try to keep the anger in me contained but I know I didn’t succeed. She breathes deeply as her tears start to flow again.

“My tears aren’t from any physical pain Link, I thought you were going to leave and I’d never see you again.” She sobs and everything inside me shatters at her words. I let out a deep breath and I let my eyes fill with concern. I take a careful step towards her. I reach out and take a gentle hold of her face.

“You’ll have to do so much better than that to get rid of me.” I reassure her with absolute seriousness in my voice. I lock my eyes onto hers and hold them there until she understands that. She starts nodding and wipes her tears away before she folds herself against me and I let my arms come around her. I hear her wince in pain and I let up on the strength of my grip. I rest my head on top of hers.

“I’m sorry I got angry with you, but the thought of you hurt.” I trail off. “You have no idea what that does to me.” I explain.

I feel her nod against my chest. “I’m sorry I should’ve just explained it to you. I just didn’t want.” Her voice trails off.

“You didn’t want to show weakness.” I finish for her. I’m starting to figure her out. “You never have to hide anything from me, I promise you I can handle anything you throw at me.” I say with a playfulness to lighten the mood. I pull my phone from my pocket and hold it out to her. “Put your number in here.” I instruct her and she dares to look defiant. “Now.” I add and she takes the phone from me. After she’s done I text my number to hers.

“There. Now the next time you’re even remotely hurt you call me. I don’t care if you break an arm or a nail. Any sort of pain whatsoever you call me. Understand?” I ask her seriously. She smiles at me before giving me a salute. I laugh at her before I wrap her in my arms again.

“Are you really not going to be here tomorrow morning?” She asks my chest sadly.

“Yes, I have to leave the city at about four in the morning to get to where I need to go.” I tell her assuredly. “Do you really still have rehearsals tonight and tomorrow even with your injury?”

She nods. “I still have to go to make sure I don’t miss anything, but I can probably cut out early tomorrow night.” I smile wickedly at her.

“Okay, you do that. Text me where to pick you up, and I’ll be there.” I tell her. She looks at me regretfully.

“I can’t go dancing.” She reminds me and I laugh.

“I know I have something else planned.” I tell her seductively. She smiles.

“Okay deal.” She surrenders and she stand on her tip toes and I meet her lips. I watch her walk back into the diner before I tear out of the carpark.

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