It’s Friday! I thought I’d try a flash fiction again. Romance happens anywhere, and I have a habit of jumping all over the time map when I’m writing. For this, I stepped backward into the dusty west. No paranormal element, just some light sensual fun. Hope you enjoy!
Colton Ricker ambled his horse down a trail to the lowlands surrounding Sable Creek. The weather was pleasant and sun-soaked after two days of torrential rains.
“Easy Reno,” he cautioned when the gray grew fidgety on the uneven ground. The terrain was rutted with random pockets where water and loose soil formed to create slurries of mud. He’d almost reached the creek when he spotted a buggy stuck dead center in a thick quagmire off the bank. A woman stood on the floorboards, her red-gold hair tumbled around her shoulders as she tried to urged the horse forward.
Colton continued down the path, intrigued and amused. “Trouble, Miss?”
The woman shot him an annoyed glance. Blue-green eyes flashed beneath a luxurious fringe of hair the color of toasted apples. “I didn’t think the bog would be so deep. Any horse in the east would have crossed it without blinking an eye. I don’t know why this mare is being so stubborn.”
“The east, huh?” He should have known from the cut of her clothing. Leave it to a highbrow uppity skirt to look down her haughty nose at western stock. “There’s nothing wrong with the horse. It’s the driver who’s green.”
A flush of color flooded the woman’s cheeks. “I’m perfectly capable of handling any horse created, Mister . . . .”
“Ricker.” He doffed his hat. “It’s my land you’re crossing . . . or trying to. We got hit by heavy rains the last two days. Any fool knows these lowlands bog down with mud after a string of wet weather. If I were you, I’d back that mare out the way you came.”
“Well, you’re not me.” The woman tugged down her short jacket, perturbed he had the gall to challenge her.
Colton had to admit she was a looker with all that cinnamon-colored hair and trim waist. He thought about climbing down and helping her, but that would involve muddying his boots and, hell, she obviously thought she could handle the fool horse by herself. Who was he to second guess some silk-stocking, bee-in-her-bonnet blueblood?
He drew his leg up, languidly hooking it over the saddle horn as he watched her snap the reins. “You keep eggin’ that mare forward, you best sit down. Sooner or later she’s gonna bolt and you’re gonna end on your pert derriere.”
She glared but didn’t rise to the bait. “I don’t think so.” Aother firm snap of the reins. “Giddup.”
“I might be inclined to help if you ask. Nice-like, that is.”
Her glance was withering. “I don’t need your help, Mr. Ricker.”
“That so? Well, I can’t leave you stuck here till sundown and, at the rate you’re going, I’ll be a fossil ’till you get that buggy outta there.” Colton swung down from the saddle and took two steps forward. “I hope you appreciate the fact I’m muddying my boots. I can’t abide prim eastern women who oughta know better than to venture out of their perfumed tea parlors.”
“Perfumed tea – -” The woman choked off the words in indignation. Venom and dragon-fire danced in her eyes. “You arrogant, insufferable toad! How dare you insinuate – -”
Colton jabbed a finger at the horse. “You best stop your caterwauling and pay attention to that mare. All your hissing and spitting is making her fidgety.” Even as he spoke, the mare tried to extradite her forelegs from the mud but the woman was too incensed to pay attention.
“I know perfectly well what I’m doing,” she spat, whirling to face him. She stepped to the edge of the running board, her features pinched and flushed. “I don’t need the interference of some long-haired rube cowboy – -” The mare gave a sudden lurch and the woman reeled sideways from the carriage.
Colton reacted instinctively, darting forward. As the mare bolted from the mud, wrenching the buggy behind it, Colton blundered into the quagmire and caught the woman in his arms. He felt the impact of her weight against him, all shapely curves and tempting softness. Her arm was around his neck, her mouth parted in a shocked “O” of surprise. In the passing of a single heartbeat her expression passed from enraged to embarrassed, then back to enraged. A wash of bright color seeped into her cheeks. “Put me down, Mr. Ricker.”
Colton wasn’t sure he wanted to comply. Uppity and all, there was something sensual about her. He wasn’t above holding her longer, tantalized by the close press of her body. He could feel the rounded swell of one breast lodged against his chest, a sensation that had him thinking with all the wrong parts of his anatomy. Proper women generally didn’t want anything to do with him. It was a novel experience to have such a prim thing pressed up against him. He grinned. “Guess you should have listened to me about the mare.”
She was growing agitated. “Put me down.”
“You sure about that?” Colton’s grin was pointed and brash. “You got your arm wrapped around my neck awfully tight. Seems to me, you’re the one hanging on.”
“How dare you!” Naked anger sparked in her eyes. She started to squirm, using her hand to push away from him. “I will not be manhandled like some, some . . . farm animal by a backwoods, countrified . . . hillbilly!”
“Hillbilly?” Colton’s mouth thinned on the word, his anger spiking. He was usually the one to slyly prod, remaining cool while others grew reckless, but even he had a breaking point. Something about people who thought they were better than others naturally rubbed him the wrong way. “You want down? Let me oblige – -“
Colton opened his arms, unceremoniously dumping the woman rear-end first into the mud. She landed with a plop, sending a splatter of muck across Colton’s pants. It was worth it to see the look on her face, a combination of shock and indignation.
Mud sucked at her heavy skirt, saturating the expensive material waist-deep in the rear. It left large dollops clinging to her face, chest and hair. Her arms, braced behind her were sunk to the elbows.
Looking at her, Colton felt his anger drain. He laughed out loud, unable to recall when he’d seen a more deserving sight. “Sure hope you got a good laundress.”
“You pig!” She lobbed a handful of mud at him.
“Hey, quit that.” He danced cat-quick out of the way. “That ain’t no way for a lady to talk. Or act.” He stretched out his hand. “I’ll help you up.”
“Stay away from me.” Defiantly, she clambered to her feet, trying to shake clumps of mud from her dress. Her hair hung in her eyes, the curling ends wilted and askew. A few steps away, the mare waited docilely, unaware it had been the catalyst of her humiliating predicament.
Colton watched as she tried to climb into the buggy, her saturated skirt making it difficult to move. He knew she’d scratch his eyes out given the chance, but found the situation comical. “Don’t be such a snippy prima donna. Sheath your claws and let me help you.”
“If you so much as breathe in my direction, Mr. Ricker, I won’t be responsible for my actions.” She settled into the seat, and collected the reins.
Colton had to admire the way she sat with her back ramrod straight, all highbrow and uppity despite the mud dripping from her clothing. He regretted he hadn’t kissed her when he’d had her in his arms, just because he’d never kissed an eastern-bred woman. Deciding she couldn’t hate him any worse than she already did, he stepped quickly to the side of the buggy, slid a hand behind her head, and covered her mouth with his.
He had one fleeting impression of warmth and sweet-honey, of crackling passion and wine-red heat before she wrenched away. Her open palm connected with his cheek in a stinging slap.
Grinning, Colton stepped back from the buggy. “You kiss better than you hiss-and-spit, Miss . . . ?”
Fire flamed in her eyes. “I wouldn’t lower myself to give you my name, Mr. Ricker. If there’s any justice in the world, we’ll never see each other again.”
Colton smiled faintly, watching as she collected the reins and sent the buggy on its way. Eastern-bred and blue-blooded.
He knew he hadn’t seen the last of her and rather liked the idea.