Book 3: Thompson & Sons Series
Late June, Rocky Mountain House
Down where the wide bend of the river formed a swimming hole, Janey Watson had stripped to nothing but her skivvies. Len Thompson stood hidden in the trees between the gathering by the bonfire and the clearing at the water’s edge, and wondered what he’d done to deserve this kind of punishment.
Fading sunlight breached the leafy canopy, shining like a spotlight on Janey’s mostly unclothed flesh. Her strong limbs were covered with a nice layer of curves, and she raised her arms in the air, swinging her hips to the music carrying from the distant bonfire.
His body’s response was instant and brutal, but escaping his self-inflicted torture was impossible. Nope, it didn’t matter that his cock was rock hard. Maybe he could get some relief if he turned his back on the enticing sight of nearly naked Janey and walked away—but that was impossible. The second option was to yank out his dick and jack off right there and then.
Third option—wade in and take what you damn well want.
“I can dance forever.” Janey shouted to the heavens, twirling, arms extended like angel wings. Len’s gaze dropped involuntarily over every inch, soaking in the sight and cursing himself for being too weak to look away. Firm hips, ample breasts, her hair swinging as she continued to rotate. Between her legs, a dark patch showed through underwear that had gone see-through now that it was wet.
He pressed his hand over his cock. He refused to pull out his dick and simply give in to the need, but fuck if he didn’t want to.
Another grumble of objection rose in his gut as Shannon and Liz joined Janey, the three girls slipping into the water and splashing innocently. He was some kind of goddamn saint for having resisted temptation this fucking long.
When the girls had snuck away from the gathering around the bonfire, he’d followed. He’d kept to the background, but no way, no matter how lighthearted this get-together was supposed to be, no way were three young women gallivanting off by themselves in the growing darkness.
And by this point in his life, keeping an eye on Janey was more than a habit.
If he was honest, every time she barreled into his personal space with her wild, vibrant energy, he’d been waiting. Expecting her to be there, tormenting him with her sensual touches and unending flirtation. Even tonight, while she acted as if she didn’t know he was watching—her pale skin gone slick with handfuls of river water she laughingly tossed overhead—even tonight he bet anything she knew he was there.
She always knew where he was. He knew where to find her.
Like the world’s longest game of cat and mouse, he’d avoided taking what she’d willingly offered. Not because the idea didn’t make him so hard he had to deal with himself, but because he knew ultimately he couldn’t give her everything she needed.
This early in the summer the water was still running cold, and the air was brisk enough that her nipples were hard, clearly visible pressing the front of her wet bra. Len imagined wrapping his lips around them. Sucking. Or biting, giving her the edge of his teeth until she screamed his name.
From the bonfire side of the field, masculine laughter and voices grew in volume, a group of three men joking loudly amongst themselves. The guys had been all over Janey and her friends earlier, and now they left the music and the laughter behind as they moved away from the large gathering of young people and headed along the river.
Here was the reason Len was lurking in the shadows like a hooded vigilante. He’d caught two of their names—Frank and Jerry—but the names were less important than the type. Definitely trouble headed in his direction. The men all wore wide grins, pausing to drink from the long necks in their hands, laughing as they moved closer to where the girls were.
The out-of-towners who’d joined the party were brash to start with, cracking off-colour jokes as they flirted with the girls. The rodeo brought all sorts of people into town. Great for business, but if the wild sexual energy in the air was any indication, these guys were hoping for more than a few dances.
If the girls were interested, tying one on with the newcomers was their decision. All the girls except Janey…
His attitude screamed sheer hypocrisy, but Len didn’t give a shit. He’d never liked her flirting or fooling around with other guys, but as long as he didn’t have to watch, he didn’t have much right to voice an objection.
Tonight? He wasn’t letting anyone near her, and he didn’t care how fucked up that was.
Frank called toward the riverside, “Hey, darlin’, where’d you get to?”
If they kept walking, the men would run right into her. The other girls were nearly as unclothed, but Len found the idea of strangers staring at Janey intensely infuriating.
He pushed off the tree and took to his feet, setting a path to intercept before they made it to the clearing.
Singing burst out behind him as the girls started a very off-key rendition about friends in low places.
“Hear that, Dan? They’re looking for new friends. I think we can oblige.” One of the dark-haired intruders raised a hand and high-fived his nearest buddy as they sauntered along the grassy edge toward the swimming hole.
Len stepped onto the path at the bend in the river, the last point on the trail before the frolicking party could be seen in all their near-naked glory. He waited silently, arms folded over his chest, his legs spread wide as he lifted his chin and tried to look as imposing as possible. Still ready to react in an instant, because hell, it was three of them to one of him.
He was big, but he wasn’t that big.
The raunchy comments stalled as the leader of the group spotted Len for the first time. “Well, hey there. You lost?”
“Nope. Figured you must be.” Len tilted his head back towards the fire. “The action is that direction.”
“There’s going to be plenty of action down here soon too,” Dan said, bumping elbows with the man next to him as they exchanged dirty laughs.
“I wouldn’t bet on it,” Len snapped.
Suddenly all three of them were facing him in a line, like a wall with fists. Jerry checked him over more closely, tilting his cowboy hat back before he spat toward Len’s feet. “If you plan on keeping all the girls to yourself that wouldn’t be fair, now, would it?”
“How much pussy does one man need?” Frank asked, moving to one side as if to shoulder past Len.
Len adjusted his stance to the left, blocking the way. “This pussy isn’t up for grabs. Get the hell back to the campfire, and we won’t have any problems.”
“Oooh,” Frank exclaimed. “The ladies got themselves a protector, boys.”
“Too bad none of them said they weren’t interested.” Jerry leaned in and placed a hand on Len’s right shoulder. “Besides which, there’s only one of you. Just step—”
Len swept his arm up and around, breaking the contact between them. He caught hold of Jerry’s arm and jerked it behind his back, turning in a smooth circle to place the stranger between him and the man’s friends.
Jerry choked out a cry of pain as Len shoved higher and harder, using his other hand to clutch the man’s hair.
“Choose. Go back to the fire, or I package you up and you go home bleeding.” He didn’t mean to sound dramatic, but when it came to Janey, he didn’t have much tolerance.
The cowboys obviously weren’t used to fighting together. Their lack of experience was the only thing that saved him because when Frank swung, Len had plenty of time to jerk his human shield into place, the body-shaking blow smacking hard into Jerry’s gut.
Len got ready to make his point about leaving a whole lot clearer when nearby feminine laughter jerked him to a stop.
The two men opposite him retreated. Len let Jerry go, shoving the man into his friends.
Thank goodness they backed off, because a second later a wet body was pressed to his back, slim arms tangled around his waist. A far too familiar voice sounded as Janey playfully poked her head around his torso. “Who are your friends, Len? Introduce me?”
Jeez. She sounded shit-faced drunk, but he hadn’t seen her toss back that much alcohol. “Go back to the swimming hole, Janey. I’ll take care of these guys.”
“Uh-uh. I know them.”
Damn if she didn’t step forward, seeming oblivious that she was damn near naked.
Janey lifted a hand and pointed at Frank. “He brought me a drink.”
She smacked her lips and made a funny face before stumbling. Len caught her before she could fall, pulling her soft body against his and cursing silently.
The assholes in front of him continued to stare, checking her over with far too lecherous intent. “That’s right. I’m the nice guy you said you wanted to dance with.” Frank held his hand toward her even as his gaze snapped up to meet Len’s in challenge. “So, come and dance with me, darlin’.”
Fuck, no. “She’s not going anywhere with you. Get the hell out of here,” Len ordered.
Janey escaped from his arms, squirming away before he could stop her. “Slow down there, big-shot bossy-pants.” She tilted her chin higher and smirked, her eyes far too bright. “What if I want to dance?”
“You can dance with me,” Len offered.
A burst of amusement escaped her. “Right. That never ever happens. You and me on the dance floor? Never in a billion, million years.”
Frank reached for her fingers. “What? Never dances with you? He sounds like a terrible guy. I’m more than willing to take care of you, sugar.”
It took an incredible amount of self-control to not jerk Janey away from the other man. Even as he tried to reason with her, he kept an eye on Dan and Jerry, who were moving in dangerously close. “Janey. Get back to the girls now.”
She twirled and landed against his chest, every inch of her pressed up tight. She tilted her head back and stared into his eyes with a defiant expression. “Don’t boss me around. Nope, nope, nope. Ain’t gonna happen.”
Behind him, Janey’s friends continued to laugh, splashing sounds seeming to grow louder as dusk fell. Len didn’t give a damn anymore what she’d say about him taking charge. He hooked an arm around her, ready to scoop her up and beat a retreat. It took his full strength to hold her there, supporting her as she suddenly swayed hard.
“Len? I feel funny.”
Her hands slipped from around his neck, and he risked a quick peek just in time to see her lick her lips as she rocked against him.
His body rocked in response. Shit. Not the time or the place.
She started singing, dancing in place against his body. Len held on, gritting his teeth to resist the torment. He glanced up to check on the strangers.
In front of him was empty space, the backsides of the men growing smaller as they hightailed it toward the fire.
Good. At least one disaster was over before it got out of hand. The other, though? Was still driving him mad.
Len peeled Janey off his body, directing her back toward the swimming hole. She danced ahead of him, her butt wiggling as she picked her way over the uneven ground.
He was going to hell. That’s all there was to it. The thoughts racing through his mind were far too filthy, but he couldn’t seem to stop them.
He jerked off his jean jacket in an attempt to cover her. “Shannon, Liz. Get the hell over here,” he shouted.
Their laughter changed rapidly to shrieks as the other girls noticed he was approaching. Neither of them was as naked as Janey with their button-down shirts hanging to their thighs, but they still scrambled for their discarded clothing.
“You just wanted to see us in our birthday suits,” Janey teased. She turned in front of him, hiding her hands behind her back as he attempted to get her to put his coat on. “I’m not done. I’m going to swim some more,” she insisted.
Liz had made her way to their side. The moonlight shone off the water surface, lighting up the grove of trees. Dusk had fallen far enough it was too dark to see clearly, but Len thought her cheeks were flushed red. She looked as if she was going to make a smart comment to cover her embarrassment, but she must have caught a glimpse of his face.
“What’s wrong?” she demanded.
Janey gave him no time to answer. She caught hold of her friend’s hands and spun her in a wild circle. “Nothing’s wrong. We’re pixies in the moonlight. We’re dancing on clouds.” She let go of Liz and grabbed on to Shannon for a twirl before returning to Len.
Damn if she didn’t leap straight at him, throwing herself into his arms. Len barely caught his balance before they would have tumbled to the ground.
As it was, he grabbed hold of her butt, his fingers digging in as she wrapped her legs around his hips and cupped his face in her hands.
She stared into his eyes, all wildfire and passion. “You promised to dance with me. Or are you going to run away again?”
“Janey. Get off of him.” Shannon sounded scandalized. “Oh my God, what are you doing?”
“He promised. And a promise is a promise.” Janey shook off Liz’s hand. “Go away. I want to dance with Len.”
He caught Liz’s concerned expression a second before he had to scramble into action. Janey released both her arms and legs at the same time, and only his grip stopped her from hitting the ground. “Jeez, Janey. Careful.”
“Time to swim,” she shouted, twirling towards the water’s edge.
“What the hell is wrong with her?” Liz asked. “She’s like a manic on a high.”
Len didn’t have time to agree with her as he chased after Janey, cutting in front before she could make it into the water.
She smiled flirtatiously, swaying slightly from side to side as she crouched low into a football stance. “You want to play?”
Liz was right—Janey was not acting like herself. Her eyes were too bright and her gaze darted everywhere, as if she literally couldn’t stand still. Len stretched his hands to the side to block any attempts at a dash for the water. “It’s time for you to go home.”
Shannon was approaching from the back. She held up her hands questioningly, but all Len had were suspicions.
With a total lack of self-modesty, Janey closed the distance between them and caught hold of his belt. “You gonna take me home?”
Sweet mercy. Her words came out husky and low, scraping over his already tormented nerves. He glanced over her shoulder even as he wrapped his fingers around her wrists to stop her from playing with his belt buckle. “Shannon, did Janey have anything unusual to drink tonight?”
Liz joined them as well. “Not that I noticed, but…”
She leaned over and whispered in Shannon’s ear. The woman’s eyes grew wide, and she slipped between Len and Janey. “Let me take a peek at you, hon.”
Shannon somehow kept Janey in one spot for long enough to check her eyes, swearing softly as she wrapped her fingers around her friend’s wrist to take her pulse.
Len closed the distance to Liz’s side. “She’s not drunk, is she?”
A simple shake of the head. Liz whispered softly. “You think someone slipped her something?”
“Drugs?” Len glanced back toward the campfire. The cowboys’ behavior became crystal clear. “I wouldn’t be surprised at all. Only what did they give her?”
Shannon turned Janey to face them, her arm around her friend’s shoulders. “Liz, how about you and Janey go for a walk to the trees and back?”
Janey pouted. “I don’t want to walk. I want to dance.”
“We can skip. That’s kind of like dancing,” Liz offered.
Shannon waited until the two of them were out of earshot before she spoke. “It’s my guess someone is higher than a kite. It should wear off in a few hours, but until then, she’s going to be a handful.”
“She doesn’t seem drunk,” Len protested.
“Not alcohol, but a chemical high. If I had to guess, I’d think it was Ecstasy. It’s not that dangerous, but we do need to keep an eye on her.”
Len’s fists twitched to go rearrange a few faces. “I’m going after the bastards—”
“Don’t bother,” Shannon responded. “You have no proof, plus they’re probably miles away by now. Be thankful they didn’t slip her a roofie, then take off with her when she passed out.”
Even the thought of it made his blood boil. “We need to take her home.”
“And keep an eye on her,” Shannon insisted.
Janey had Liz over by the trees. She was jumping and trying to touch the leaves on the overhanging limbs. Every other leap ended with her on the ground, laughing uproariously.
Taking her home was a good idea before she broke something.
Only Janey was in the middle of a renovation project. “It can’t be to her house either. Who knows what mischief she’ll get up to in the place.”
“Len, it’s got to be you.” Shannon turned and pinned him with her gaze. “Liz is heading out early in the morning on holidays. I’ve got a shift at the hospital starting in a couple hours, so I can’t stay with her either.”
Leaving him as the uncontested babysitter. Heaven and hell. “Are you sure she’s okay?”
She nodded, tightening the ponytail holding her blonde hair back. “She’ll be fine. She doesn’t need to go to the hospital, and I bet she’d prefer not to be hauled in there like this.” Shannon made a face. “I could just imagine how people would react to hearing she was on drugs.”
Small-town rumour would suck. No way could Janey afford having dirt talked about her, not with her trying to officially make a go of starting her own business. “I’ll take care of her.”
Liz had scooped up Janey’s clothing on their return trip and handed the pile to Shannon. While Janey curled around Len like he was a May Pole, Liz glanced between their faces. “You figure out what’s up?” she whispered.
The situation was now unavoidable. Len cursed himself that he hadn’t stopped Janey from getting targeted in the first place, but right now was about making sure she was all right.
Nothing more would happen tonight, except him getting bluer balls than usual, but that was his choice. Had always been his choice. Bottom-line—she wasn’t going to get hurt any further, not if he could help it. Not by him or some unknown jackasses with an agenda, or by hard-nosed snoopy neighbours who would act as judge and jury and accuse her of wrongs she hadn’t committed.
He reached out his hand to Janey. “You’re coming home with me.”