TEXAS HARD by Sara York
Texas Soul Series - Welcome to Texas where men are rough, hard and twisted!
Spurned by his heart’s desire, Riley’s aching for a fight, and he finds one with Connor, a sexy Texas lawman. Attraction fires between them, but Riley walks away, ignoring the lust between he and Connor...Until weeks later he’s caught trespassing on Connor’s new property--Naked.
Connor’s tempted to arrest the audacious naked man in his watering hole until he realizes it’s Riley. Lust muddles Connor’s logic and soon he finds himself on a path rife with temptations. Passion twists Connor inside out leading him to share one of his deepest secrets. Still Riley’s hiding something and the lack of mutual trust may end their relationship.
Then there’s the Lane factor. Riley’s ex leaves Connor feeling threatened. Riley swears it’s over, but something doesn’t sit right and Connor needs resolve. Coming to terms with their attraction means submitting to the fears haunting Connor and Riley before they can grasp the love that brought them together.
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Thick, black smoke bellowed over the rise, belching behind the trees like a dragon gone bad. Riley punched the accelerator as he crested the hill, then skidded around the curve. His senses were on high alert, his foot off the gas as the car finished out the turn. Passing the stand of trees, Riley slowed as he arrived on the scene. Two cars came into view—one rolled with flames leaping to the sky, the other in good condition. Riley took it all in as he pulled close and slammed to a stop. One man was on the ground, the other standing over him. Fuck, this looked bad.
He threw the car into park and popped the trunk to grab his doctor’s bag. When he’d first glimpsed the scene he’d thought the guy on his knees was rendering aid to the person on the ground, but now he saw the situation more clearly, heard the yelling plain as day. What the hell?
Riley went into ER mode, assessing the condition of the patient as he came around the front of his car. Burn victim on the ground. Body had to be fifty percent burned if not more, maybe sixty. Face a mess. Broken nose for sure. Breathing rapid and jagged. Some blood, no arterial flow. In downtown Houston the dude might live if the paramedics rushed, out here with the burns covering his body and his face—no way.
“Tell me, you bastard. Tell me where he is.” The guy hanging over the burn victim yelled. He wasn’t touching the man on the ground, but he was close to him, his face up close to the victim, yelling as if the guy on the ground wasn’t dying.
Raw anger flew through Riley. The injured man wasn’t answering, couldn’t answer because shock held him mute. The massive trauma from the burns covering his body shorted out the man’s brain, lack of oxygen shut down everything, including the victim’s ability to think. The guy’s lungs were probably fried.
“I’m a doctor, move out of the way,” Riley commanded, expecting to be obeyed immediately.
“Fuck you,” the stranger said and kept yelling at the victim on the ground.
“Hey, he needs medical attention.” Riley dropped to the dirt opposite the other guy, the heat from the fire scorched his backside, but he had no choice of where to work. The burn victim’s eyes were glassed over; the lights were on, but nobody was home. Soon the lights would be fading, and fast. His respiration rate was off the charts. Fuck, his lungs had been deep fried, Riley would bet money on it.
“Where is he?” The stranger yelled in the burn victim’s face.
Riley had had enough. He grasped the stranger by the shirtfront and yanked. They were nose-to-nose, fury boiled over the big black man’s face, his eyes blazed, and his mouth twisted in a sneer.
“You need to move so I can work. He will die if I can’t help him,” Riley said through gritted teeth, holding the worst of his anger back by sheer will.
“I don’t give a fuck if this piece of shit dies. He knows where Erick is.” The stranger ripped out of Riley’s grip and looked down at the burned body.
The sound coming from the victim was different, quieter. Riley glanced down and his heart squeezed. Fuck, the guy wouldn’t live for the next two minutes. There wasn’t much Riley could do. He had no oxygen tank and no IV bag. Plus, where would he stick the needle? The burn victim’s face had been crushed then crisped, his lips pulled back in a grimace. No way for Riley to get enough suction to perform CPR.
Riley pulled out his stethoscope and listened for a heartbeat. There was nothing. He sat back on his heals, depression winding through him. Helpless, his shoulders slumped. The guy across from him cursed and threw Riley an angry grimace. Riley scowled right back, his anger rising with each second.
“Why the fuck were you yelling at him?” Riley had to know. Normally he would have walked away, stood down and not gotten in the guy's face, but since this happened today of all days, he reacted badly, letting his anger build. Today sucked. Normally he wouldn’t be in this part of the county. He would be hanging out at home, working with his cows or maybe taking a dip in the pond. But seeing the familiar things made his heart ache for what he could never have.
The guy across from him stood stiffly, his jaw jutted out, his hands clenched at his sides. Riley didn’t like being on his knees with an angry man above him. It reminded him of a darker time in his past when he first started exploring his sexuality. He rose quickly, bracing himself for whatever this asshole threw at him. Since college he’d packed on fifty pounds of muscle. No fucking big bear would ever throw him around. He was the bear now.
“You, I ought to take you in,” the guy growled.
The stranger stepped around the victim on the ground. Now they were face-to-face, chest-to-chest. Same height and about the same weight, Riley judged. Rage ran through his veins. He could take this dude if he swung. Riley started plotting ways to give pain with minimal injury to himself. There were nerves, ligament attachments, and other places where the body proved weak and vulnerable. A good kick to the balls would drop this guy.
“You could have helped him more,” Riley yelled.
“He had the information,” the stranger roared.
“Maybe got out of his face. He was in shock.”
They yelled at each other, words rolled off Riley’s tongue, anger, rage and lust pumped through his veins. Why he was getting off from this argument baffled him. It had to be the anger and lack of sex, and the other thing--the thing that had him strung tight, ready to fly off the handle at the drop of a hat. And the fucking hat had dropped.
Any other day he would have backed off, apologized for the implied insult, and said sorry for his anger, that he lost his patients, blahblahblah—but not today. Today, right now in fact, Lane and Gresh were exchanging vows in a commitment ceremony that would bind them together in front of family and friends. Of course the state wouldn’t recognize their union as legal, but they did. He had no chance with Lane now, if he ever had.
The fight was brewing and it would be good. Blood pumped as he stood toe-to-toe with the big dude. His cock twitched with lust. What he really wanted to do was grab the guy’s shirt and kiss him until they both dropped to the ground, stripped off each other’s clothes and Riley topped him, claiming him like he should be claiming Lane.
The wail of sirens didn’t stop their argument, which had gone from specific complaints about the other to a general array of insults, curses and other wise negative statements.
“Who the fuck do you think you are?” the stranger yelled in his face.
“Who the fuck do you think you are?” Riley yelled right back. The situation was getting bad. They were about to start bumping chests when the volunteer fire brigade rolled in. The stranger had his finger touching Riley’s shoulder, yelling something about impeding an investigation. Riley seethed and clenched his fist, ready to throw a punch when two of the volunteer firemen grabbed them both and pulled them away from the burning car. Riley ripped his arm out of the fireman’s grip and bent down to retrieve his bag. He rushed away from the fire and the water spray, getting soaked from the mist as he moved to the other side of the fire truck.
The stranger was there, and his eyes flashed with anger when he saw Riley. They were at an impasse and it would probably be best if he ignored the dude, got in his car and left. Riley let his gaze travel over the stranger, lust making him want things he had no business wanting. Then he saw it. The burned shirt—the raw patch of skin underneath. He stalked forward and grabbed the stranger’s arm. The guy tried to rip it from Riley’s grasp but Riley held firm.
“Stop, you’ve got a bad burn.”
The guy looked down as though he had no idea he’d been hurt. Riley pushed him down so he was sitting on a low chrome platform on the fire truck. The man appeared shocked. Riley held the stranger’s arm, examining the raw spot. The burn was small, only three inches in diameter, but didn’t look good.
The cloth had been charred away at the injury site but the shirtsleeve would keep irritating the raw skin. Riley pulled out the trauma shears from his bag. The stranger shied away as Riley reached for his arm.
“I’m just cutting the shirt off.”
“Don’t, it’s my favorite one.”
Riley shook his head. “The shirt has burn holes in it.” He snipped the shirt at the elbow then in a line to the guy’s wrist. He stored the scissors in his pocket and concentrated on the burn. This needed attention. Riley could help a little bit out here on the side of the road, but the guy needed to go into the ER to get cleaned up and take some antibiotics.
Now that they weren’t about to rip each other’s throats out Riley took time to study the man. It was one of the things he did while working, study his patients. He’d taken a few drawing classes in college and had a good eye. He appreciated beauty, and this big hulk of a man had beauty enough to share. Dark, like mocha latte, his lips were full, though a bit pale, but that was probably shock setting in. His nose had been broken at least once, but the bump only added to the man’s appeal. The square jaw had a slight dusting of whiskers, like he’d shaved yesterday but not today. The stranger glanced up, and their gazes connected. The slight glassiness indicated shock, but Riley also saw desire in those eyes. They stared at each other far longer than was necessary. The stranger relaxed, his lips parted before Riley broke the connection and focused on the burn.
“You need to get this taken care of. I’ll call an ambulance for you,” Riley said.
“No, no I’m fine.”
“You’re about to go into shock. You’re eyes are glassy, your lips pale.”
“Not going to do it,” the stranger argued.
“What’s your name?”
“That’s good, Connor. So where are we?”
“Are you trying to be funny? I know exactly where we are.”
Riley wanted to keep the big guy talking, force him to think and use his mind. Focusing on the pain would be the worst thing for Connor. About three by two inches of skin looked badly burned. Riley was a bit surprised such a big guy was so affected by the small burn, but it could be deep too. Maybe he was in more pain than he was letting on. The man had been angry and his adrenaline elevated. Pumping a heavy dose of hormones through his veins would change the man’s reaction.
“Come on, we need to get you to a hospital.” Riley pulled Connor up, supporting him on his uninjured side.
“I can’t leave my car here.” Connor balked.
“I’ll get one of the firemen to drive it into town.”
“No.” Connor pulled out of Riley’s grasp and teetered, almost falling.
“Hey buddy, you’re about to go into shock. I can’t have you driving.”
Connor stepped close, his chest up against Riley’s, his lips next to Riley’s ear. Riley’s dick throbbed as lust washed over him.
“I have a full arsenal in the trunk. I can’t allow anyone else to drive my car.”
Riley took a step back, measuring the man and trying to figure out what type of trouble Connor was into. He was always attracted to the wrong guys. Lane, now this dude with the guns. What kind of freak drove around with an arsenal in his truck? Hell, this was Texas, but Connor might also be a psychopath.
“Don’t look at me that way. I’m a Ranger on assignment.”
Riley cocked his eyebrow and shrugged.
Connor blew out a sigh in exacerbation. “Texas Rangers, not the baseball team but law enforcement,” Connor said.
“Ah, okay. I’ll get one of the firemen drive my car to the hospital, and you get to be passenger in your car.”
Connor gritted his teeth, but his resolve wasn’t too strong. The guy was fading fast and would most likely hit the dirt the next time he had to stand on his own. Riley led Connor to the passenger side of his car and eased him into the backseat. Now that all the excitement was over Riley noticed the effects of shock progressing.
“Lie down,” Riley said.
Connor shook his head and refused to comply. “No.”
“Hey, listen.” Riley held Connor’s head so he was forced to look in his eyes. “I can’t have you going into shock, passing out and cutting off your airways. It’s either you lay down in the backseat of your car where you have all of your guns safe and secure, or I pull out your cuffs and restrain your for your own good and stuff you in an ambulance. Understand?”
Connor turned his head to the side as though he were trying to determine if Riley could physically subdue him. He must have thought so because Connor lay back on the bench seat without complaint. Riley closed the car door and grabbed the nearest fireman.
“I’m doctor Riley from over at Saint Joseph’s in Caldwell. I need to take this patient in, he’s about to go into shock. Could one of your guys drive my car to the hospital and leave the keys with the nurses' desk?”
“Sure, it will take a while, but I’ll send someone trustworthy.” The fireman took Riley’s keys and went back to pulling hose.
Riley got into Connor’s car and started the engine. “Here’s the deal. You get to talk to me the whole way there.”
“Why, you lonely?”
A pang of melancholy hit Riley. He pushed the sadness aside and focused on the medical needs of his patient. “I need to know that you haven’t passed out or worse, died.”
“It’s just a little burn.”
“It’s deep and like I said—”
“Yeah, yeah, I know. Shock.”
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