Sometimes you have to lose everything to make room for what really matters…
Ten years ago, Cooper Holbrook was a player when it came to women, and he knew it. Well enough that he took one look at the hero worship in Hannah Anderson’s eyes, and nipped it in the bud. She was no buckle bunny, and he wasn’t the man for her or her young son.
The years have caught up with the former champion bull rider. At forty, he’s got nothing left but a broken-down ranch to go with the friendless, near penniless, broken man he’s become.
Hannah has carried a flame for Cooper since the moment the stubborn cowboy took her son on as a bull riding student. Way back then, she saw the good man beneath the bad- boy exterior.
Now she’s finally going to do something about her feelings. Cooper might think his life is over, but Hannah sees more for him—for them, together. And she’s not giving up until he sees it too.
Warning: Contains a decade’s worth of pent-up sexual tension that’ll be smoking up when it comes charging out of the chute!
Crap. He could think of nothing else but closing that distance and kissing this woman, even though she was the last person on earth he should be kissing. “Hannah.”
“Yeah?” She latched onto her lower lip with her teeth.
He tracked the movement with his eyes. “I can’t do this.”
He swallowed but his throat still felt dry. “Kiss you.”
“But you’re not kissing me.” Her voice was barely a whisper.
“No, but I want to.”
Her eyes narrowed. “And I want you to.”
“Christ.” Sanity lost, he crashed his mouth against hers.
She responded with an enthusiasm to match his own, reaching up and grabbing the back of his head with both hands. She slid her tongue between his lips and he groaned. After being with girls who were too young to know what the hell they wanted, it felt good being with a woman who not only knew, but was ready to take what she needed from him.
Hannah sat facing him in the seat with one knee bent. When Cooper reached out, he connected with the bare skin of her leg.
Her skirt and the position made it too damn easy for him. He slid his hand up the inside of her thigh. She dragged in a ragged breath through her nose. That only encouraged him to go where he knew he shouldn’t, all the way to the crotch of her underwear. She responded by leaning in and kissing him harder, tangling her tongue with his.
He rubbed a thumb over her through the soft cotton and a visible shudder ran through her. Christ almighty, she was sensitive. He repeated the action, and Hannah rewarded him with a tiny sound so raw and full of need it sent a shiver down his spine.
What he could do with some time, a little more space and her naked. Or hell, even if he just slid that finger beneath those underwear and into her. What would she do when he spread her wide and worked her in earnest?
His mind boggled at the thought—before the image of Skeeter’s goofy grin careened into his brain.
Cooper remembered how excited the kid had been when he’d agreed to take him on for lessons. How Skeeter had run to tell his mother, smiling from ear to ear. How concerned she’d looked when she’d no doubt began to calculate the many costs of having a son who wanted to learn to be a bull rider.
What kind of a man was he, taking advantage of a woman like Hannah?
The girl he’d picked up at the bar was inside, and he was just yards away with his hand up the dress of the mother of one of his students. He was one sick motherfucker. The accuracy of that particular term in this situation would have made him laugh, if he hadn’t been so disgusted with himself.
Cooper pulled his hand away and broke the kiss. “Hannah, I can’t do this.”
“I know. I’m not the kind of woman you’re used to. I’m not all doe-eyed and just out of school. I don’t own pretty clothes. I’m just plain and old and tired.” Pulling away, she dropped her arms from around his neck and let out a breath. “It’s okay. I understand. You’re not interested.”
“You shut the hell up.” He grabbed her face in his hands to force her to look at him. “You’re not any of that. You’re amazing. Any man would respect and admire you. Any woman should want to be like you.” Cooper dropped his hold on her. “And that’s why you need to steer as far away from me as you can. You deserve a man far better than me, Hannah. You and Skeeter both.”
“What do you mean?” A crease marred her brow as she shook her head. “Cooper, you’re the best man I know.”
“No, I’m not.” He let out a snort. How could she be so grounded in some respects and so naïve in others?
“You are. You took on teaching my son for free when you knew I couldn’t afford to pay you.”
He waved her gratitude away. “So what? That’s nothing but some time I would have wasted doing something else otherwise.”
“It’s not nothing. It’s absolutely everything to Skeeter.”
Cooper was in no position to be everything to anyone. Not to the kid or to her. “Let me tell you about me. I’m drunk most days. I spend far too much money. I don’t give a shit about anybody but myself and I’ll fuck any woman who’ll spread her legs for me.”
He’d been deliberately harsh. He had to be, because she was looking at him with hero worship he didn’t deserve and wasn’t sure he could resist.
Hannah shook her head. “Even if that’s all true, I don’t care about any of it.”
He let out a laugh. “You should care.”
“Maybe I’m tired of doing what I should.” Her tone told him he could have her right here, right now, if he wanted. This woman had been so trodden upon by life, and probably by Skeeter’s father too. Cooper could unzip his jeans, shove those plain cotton drawers of hers to one side and plunge his cock into her, no questions asked.
It would be very tempting to do exactly that. But for once in his life, he was going to do the right thing. Unlike the girl inside, who he had no intention of ever running across again, Hannah was someone he’d have to see. Soon too. The next time this sweet, hardworking, caring woman brought her son around.
Cooper knew exactly where his soul would be going when the time came to put him in the ground, and it wasn’t where this woman would end up when her time came. He wouldn’t be the one to tarnish her goodness.
“Go home, Hannah. It’s late.” He opened the door, grabbed the bag with the beer inside from the floorboard and climbed out of the car. “Thanks for the ride.”
“Wait. Should I still bring Skeeter over to work next week...or not?”
Her question, as well as the hesitation he heard in it, stopped Cooper dead in his tracks. When he turned back, he saw the uncertainty in her expression. All it did was make him angry. At her for not being stronger and threatening to kick his ass if he did back out of their deal over something like this. At himself for acting like a horny prick with his hand up her skirt in the front seat of her car.
“Of course, you bring him. Dammit, Hannah, don’t you see? Skeeter’s what’s keeping me from burying myself in you so deep neither one of us would come up for air for hours. Yes, I’ll still work with him, I’ll teach him, but you need a good man to be a father to him and a husband to you. That man sure as fuck ain’t me.” Cooper remembered the other thing that had yanked him away from Hannah’s tempting lips. “Now, ’scuse me. I need to get back inside because there’s a girl I barely know waiting on me to fuck her. And I’m gonna, then say goodbye and hope I never see her again. That’s the kind of guy I am, Hannah. You need to remember that.”
She pursed her lips and shook her head. “No. That’s the kind you think you are, but you’re not. Not really.”
Cooper let out a breath. “Woman, you need to believe a man when he tells you the truth.”
“When you do, I will.”
Now, she decided to grow a backbone.
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