THE DEVIL INSIDE
by Kate Davies
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Release date: Jan., 2009
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It’ll take more than one go-round to win this rodeo of the heart…
Thirteen years after her father was killed in a rodeo accident, Samantha Quincannon is facing her worst nightmare. An EMT, she has avoided rodeo duty like the plague. Now her career depends on her ability to face down her fear.
Cody Shaw hasn’t seen Sam since the night of her father’s accident, and their reunion is anything but typical. So is her reaction when a bull ride gone wrong lands him, broke and bleeding, in her reluctant care. And, until he’s well enough to travel, in her bed. He knows he’s far from a model patient, but would it kill Sam not to act like she’d rather climb on a bull herself than have him underfoot?
One thing hasn’t changed—their off-the-charts sexual tension. They both put up a good fight, but soon the heat burns through their resistance.
Even as Sam fights to protect her heart from the one danger she didn’t see coming, something else becomes clear. Rodeo is in Cody’s blood, and nothing, not even Sam, can make him quit taking crazy risks.
It’s up to Sam to decide if she’s ready to put on her big-girl boots—and ride.
© 2009 Kate Davies
Sam Quincannon hunched down on the bleachers and tried to ignore the crowd. It wasn’t easy; the grandstands were filled to capacity and enthusiasm rolled off the gathered spectators like a huge, heated wave. A popular country-rock tune blared throughout the arena.
A brisk wind whipped strands of hair out of her French braid. Scowling, she shoved the offending hair behind her ear and turned slightly to block the wind.
“If it isn’t the Hunchback of Homely Dames,” an amused voice drawled. Bill dropped into the empty space next to her. “Jesus, Sam, you look like you’re on death row.”
“Bite this,” he countered, dropping a foil-wrapped object in her lap.
Sam unwrapped it carefully. Of course it was the traditional beef sandwich. She caught a drip of barbeque sauce before it could hit her khaki pants. “Thanks.”
“No problem.” A smear of sauce decorated his left cheek, but thanks to that Homely Dames crack, Sam decided to keep her mouth shut. Let him look foolish for a little while—served him right. “Best food at the fair.”
Sam nodded. Foursquare’s beef sandwiches were the best—or at least they had been, last time she’d been here. It had been thirteen years, but judging by the mouth-watering smell, it still deserved the praise.
She took a bite and chewed slowly, looking around for the first time since she’d taken her seat. There was a new Sponsor’s Club building at the far end of the arena, with a bar inside and a deck outside, depending on whether you wanted to actually watch the action or just get drunk. The grandstand where she was sitting used to be wooden, back in the day, but it had been replaced by a fancy new metal version some years back. Sam remembered reading something about it in the paper, but hadn’t paid much attention.
Her eyes flickered across the arena, taking in the dirt surface, the wooden fencing, the promoter’s banners flapping in the breeze. That hadn’t changed, either. And neither had her reaction to seeing it. Flinching a little, she tore her gaze away and took another bite.
“So what did you do to piss the chief off?”
“Excuse me?” She did her best I’m-six-years-older-than-you-so-don’t-mess-with-me look, but it just rolled right past him.
“Come on. You’re famous for getting out of this gig. Legendary, almost. So how come you didn’t get your vacation this year like always?”
Sam looked away, anger rising in her again. “Vacation during high-traffic times will no longer be guaranteed,” she parroted. “You know that, Billy.”
“I know the party line. But everyone knows it was directed at you.”
“Everyone?” She stared at him. “Everyone? Good to know I’ve got such a fine reputation with my fellow workers.”
“Get over yourself,” Billy said, rolling his eyes. “No one blames you for wanting to stay away. I mean, after…” His voice trailed off. “Anyway. I just… You’ve always gotten a pass from the chief. I was just wondering what changed this year.”
“Unofficially, I need to work on my quote-unquote irrational fear before I’ll be considered a good candidate for the new training program.”
“He held up your recommendation? Bastard.”
“Unofficially.” Sam grabbed his arm and stared at him, unsmiling. “And if you breathe a word of this to anyone, I’ll cut off your balls with a Swiss army knife and make earrings out of them.”
“Shit, Sam.” Billy crossed his legs. “I wouldn’t say anything.”
Sam pressed her lips together and looked down at her hands, inspecting the close-cut nails for barbeque sauce. She could trust Billy, she knew; otherwise she wouldn’t have said anything at all. But it didn’t hurt to have a little insurance.
“He could have a point, though,” Billy continued, and totally blew any warm fuzzies Sam had toward him to smithereens.
She shot him a withering glare, which he ignored. “What point?”
“When was the last time you were here, Sam?”
She said nothing. She didn’t have to.
“It’s been thirteen years, Sam. I know it was horrible, but…”
“Horrible doesn’t begin to cover it,” she said. “And you have no idea what I went through that day. So if I chose not to come back, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. And it certainly doesn’t mean I’m warped.”
“No one said you were.”
“No one had to say it,” she said. “I can see it in their eyes.”
Billy started to argue, but he was interrupted by a squeal from the bank of loudspeakers suspended by wires in the center of the arena. Shooting her a this-isn’t-over glare, he leaned back in his seat and focused his attention on the wide expanse of dirt in front of them.
Sam felt her muscles tense, the familiar strain overtaking her as the announcer warmed up the crowd. She’d been a basket case around the rodeo even before… She shook away the thought. Majestic music swelled, accompanied by the pounding cadence of horses’ hooves as riders entered the arena.
Oh, God. She was going to be sick.
Sam closed her eyes, sucking in a deep breath in an attempt to settle her roiling stomach. She silently cursed Billy for getting her that beef sandwich, and herself for eating the whole thing. Then a tap on her knee brought her eyes open again. Billy was looking at her with a mix of concern and support. “You okay?”
She nodded, once, although she wasn’t sure if that was really true. He removed his hand, and for a moment she missed the warmth and pressure. Not in a sexual way—she’d babysat him when he was a kid, for heaven’s sake—but just the companionship of longtime friends. And if she had to work this shift, there was nobody she’d want as her partner more than Billy. She knew, if everything went to hell, Billy would have her back.
The arena was half full by now, horses stamping the freshly-turned dirt as they jostled and jockeyed for position. Riders in matching outfits held multi-colored flags that whipped gaily in the breeze.
Sights and sounds and smells assaulted her from all sides, wrapping her up in all the bad memories she’d avoided for so many years now. It all came rushing back, the fear, the horror, the crushing anguish of watching her father die.
She should have told Chief Branson to fuck himself. No promotion was worth this hell.