KatyBeth Reilly, horse-trainer extraordinaire, is capable, responsible and hard-working—she hates backing down in a fight. When she meets—completely by chance—Hollywood heartthrob, Asher Fitzpatrick, she decides she wants nothing to do with him. He’s arrogant, self-assured, and seemingly very assured of her. Asher doesn’t like taking no for an answer—he’s determined to get to know Katy—so he makes a couple of phone calls that set the stage for their second meeting. When Katy comes face to face with Asher again, she knows she’s going to need help this time—not because she feels out-maneuvered, but because for the first time in her life she knows she doesn’t want to fight.
There were three people in front of me when I stepped into the Palace — I didn’t think that was too bad — way less than I’d expected. I recognized Jeff, this morning’s barista, and gave him a half-hearted friendly wave as I stepped into line. Coconut and vanilla are my two favorite flavors. When I feel like behaving, I’ll order it sugar-free. I didn’t feel like behaving this morning. I was in a bad mood. I waited patiently, not really, for my turn, gently tapping my finger against my thigh to the rhythm of the music playing in the background. I listened to a couple songs play through while my patience slowly ebbed away. Just as I reached my limit, thinking the woman in front of me needed to make a final decision — she’d changed her mind now three times — I heard the door to the restroom open off to my right. Simultaneously, the woman ahead of me finally settled on her choice and stepped away from the counter. A new song began to play — an old 80’s classic, Bryan Adams’ Can’t Stop This Thing We Started. Jeff smiled at me as I stepped forward. And hit a brick wall. Or, more accurately, the brick wall hit me. I deal with large animals all the time so I’m used to being jostled by them. This one was huge — a virtual giant. He was male — undeniably, obscenely, irresistibly male. That was my first impression of him. I couldn’t rightly put my finger on just what it was about him that so appealed to me but, whatever it was, this fella had it in spades. Everything feminine and womanly in me suddenly woke up and stood at attention. Fireworks exploding inside the Café Palace couldn’t have given me a bigger jolt. This was more than just the simple acknowledgment of someone of the opposite sex, or even one who is exceptionally good-looking. I live in Wyoming for crying out loud, on a real working ranch, surrounded by cowboys. In Wranglers. So I’m used to men. I’m comfortable around them. Honestly, I find myself more comfortable with men than I do with women. With a man, I always know where I stand. Whether they’re angry, tired, hungry, frustrated, in pain — I can always tell. And then I act accordingly. A woman? Well, it’s been my experience that a woman can smile in the most inviting, friendly manner and hate my guts all at the same time. I’m confident around men. I don’t feel like I have to be guarded with them. Not so much, with women. Women can be so catty. Men aren’t. I feel freer to be myself around men. Gina, one of my two very best girlfriends, says women tend to be uncomfortable around me because they’re just jealous. I’ve given this idea some consideration and try to take it into account when I’m around other women. This is where the being guarded comes in. Of course, when I’m more reserved women then tend to think I’m being snobbish and unsociable. It’s really an unfair assumption on their parts. I mean, I get it, okay? I’m tall, blonde (mostly), and fit. I have a woman’s body. I have appropriately rounded parts where it’s appropriate to have rounded parts. So what? I still get PMS (like today), just like the rest of them. I get zits. I have bad hair days. Bad breath. I watch my weight (I try to) and nutrition. I have moody days. We’re really not that different. Which brings me back to my original statement. As I said before, I’m way more comfortable around men. Generally I don’t have to wonder if they like me or not. I can just tell. Either they like me and it’s obvious; or they don’t like me, and that, too is… obvious. Not so, with this one. He made me very uncomfortable. Bryan Adams kept singing about coming to get me and how I couldn’t stop him, which somehow made me feel hunted and prey-like. He was more than just masculine, my giant. He was like… I don’t know… an alpha male. The kind other men, tough men, give ground to. The kind they’d look up to, defer to, or even be envious of. Which brought about my second impression. Irritation. For the first time in a long time, maybe the first time ever, I felt a frisson of uncertainty and unease course through me. Something quivered in my stomach, curled, and writhed there. My pulse beat faster… I hoped I wasn’t coming down with the stomach flu. When a woman meets a man like this she doesn’t want to meet him under the circumstances I found myself in. She wants to be groomed and appealing, not dirty, sweaty, bleeding, and grumpy. So I hated him. Perhaps it was the circumstances I really was hating. I know it was probably completely irrational, but I just felt a flash of anger flood through me. I was mad clear through. I was mad at him for being so thoroughly male and attractive. I was mad that I was attracted to him. I was mad that I was mad. I’m tall — I think I mentioned that before. Or at least, it’s been my experience that I’m typically taller than most gals I meet — I’m five-foot-nine. This fella topped out well over six foot. Other than his size and possible weight — he’d stepped on my foot and even with my boots on, I could easily tell he weighed more than two hundred — I couldn’t tell a whole lot more about him. The breadth of his shoulders suggested strength and mass, but it was hard to determine the extent of it. He wore a black hooded sweatshirt with the hood up. His jeans were slung low on his hips; he wore some kind of utility boots in black leather. He carried a black leather jacket under one arm and a black motorcycle helmet under the other. He must like black. The helmet, I saw, had a white Mohawk — which I thought was kinda cool looking. Or at least I thought that later, after I’d gotten some sleep and was feeling more human. This quiet analysis on my part took place in just a few seconds. I shot a look of intense anger and disgust up at the hooded-head and found myself looking into the brightest blue eyes I’d ever seen. Bright. Brilliant. Blue. They were amazing; so amazing, in fact, that I forgot my pique for just a brief moment. It was like looking into the depths of a deep, cool mountain lake, or a rare gemstone; the color was incredible. I very briefly saw curiosity flare in those eyes as they quickly scanned over my face; they’d hesitated on the cut above my eye. “Excuse me,” the giant mumbled before turning away from me and back to the counter. Taking my spot at the counter. The blue eyes were forgotten; my irritation was rising again. “Don’t worry about it,” I clearly stated. “You go ahead — ladies first, right?” I replied. Two people stepped into line behind me. I saw his shoulders stiffen and felt another aggravating moment of unease. He slowly turned back around, his eyes easily seeking mine and holding them. “I’m sorry?” he asked, like he wasn’t sure he’d heard me correctly. Oh, you heard me, I thought to myself. I could feel my eyes narrowing a bit. “Are you really?” I asked, and then said, “You’re holding up the line.” I knew my smile was sarcastic, but I couldn’t seem to help myself. “You just said, ‘ladies first’, so please, you go first,” he said, indicating with a jerk of thumb that I precede him. I just mutely shook my head at him; I felt my right eyebrow rising. “I insist,” he said, his voice just a tad firmer than it had been before. “And to prove I’m a nice guy, I’ll even buy your coffee.” Like that made it all better, I grumbled to myself. “No thank you,” I said and then leaned around his shoulder, trying to ignore the tension that continued to build inside me. Jeff had my coffee ready; bless him. “Nice shiner.” Jeff nodded at my eye and then asked, “Coconut? Fully loaded?” He spared a quick glance at the large man before refocusing on me. “Yeah… you should see the other guy.” I jerked my chin toward the horse trailer and offered him a small grin. “Thanks, Jeff, see you later.” I paid him as I took my cup and without a further look at the giant or the other poor folks still standing in line, I left the Café Palace.
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A child of divorce and abuse, E L Irwin found escape in reading and writing, and through the school of hard-knocks, learned to be a fighter. She’s a self-described romantic-rebel who wears her heart on her sleeve and tends to shoot from the hip on subjects that matter. She enjoys riding horses, wearing heels, shooting her X D .40, tattoos, and of course, a good book and hot coffee.