Cowboy Burn

Smoke, Inc.

An unedited excerpt from Cowboy Burn(c) Gem Sivad December 2015

“Rough weather out there. You might be stuck here in town a little longer than you expected.”

Yes, yes it’s a fucking nightmare outside—likewise in here. I blinked at him, really looking this time at the person next to me. And? Exactly what was he getting at? My hand gripped the edge of the bar to steady myself and I searched for an appropriate answer, something more socially acceptable than the answer in my head.

“Yes, it’s very rough outside.” I ignored the noise of the customers, sound of emergency sirens and blaring television report, and concentrated on his features and how I would sketch them.

He kept talking, but I lost the thread of his conversation again. I wouldn’t be able to repeat a word of what he’d said later, but I’d remember every whisker, wrinkle, and shadow as I sketched Gable Matthews’ face.

The blue-black promise of new growth had begun to emerge at his jaw line. I wondered if he knew that there was salt among the pepper. My artist’s mind sprinkled it lightly through the brush of short hair on his well-shaped head.

“Janie. You all right?” His question pulled me from my mental sketching.

“Just looking at your face,” I mumbled before I realized how stupid that sounded.

He leaned too close and murmured, “Do I have mustard on my chin?”

I recognized his cologne—as I had when I’d slept earlier. I inhaled deeply, savoring the fragrance that was a mix of spice, sea air, heather, and man.

For a moment my body clenched, reaching hungrily for his. My nipples peaked and arousal stirred in my belly. Almost frantically, I gazed at him—before I slumped on my stool and turned away.

“What is it?”

“Hijacked by a smell.”

“What?” He leaned even closer and the aroma of his cologne overwhelmed my senses. I edged further into the corner away from him and reluctantly explained, “You’re cologne reminded me of someone.”

Irritated at myself, the night, the interruption of my mental caricature, and my stupid, stupid, body’s reaction to his scent, I changed the subject, turning my attention to a news bulletin. “I’m stranded in the city in the middle of a blizzard. What’s the good news?”

I regretted asking when he immediately grinned and said, “You’re stranded with me.”

Was that an attempt to flirt? Startled, I didn’t know whether to be pleased or alarmed.

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