The word means everything to Maita who trains horses and rides rodeo stock. A woman living in a man's world, unafraid, taking them on at their own game. But hard childhood lessons taught her that self-determination is the key to survival.
Then she meets Kade, a rodeo livestock contractor with lessons of his own. In his locked room designed for submission and dominance, her world changes.
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November 13, 2009
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Excerpt from Dangerous Ride by Vonna Harper
"You...haven't you heard of asking?" Despite her surprise, Maita didn't try to pull free.
"I've heard of it. But tonight there's no need."
He'd wrapped his arms around her and pressed her against his chest before she could make sense of what he'd just said. Instead of moving to the middle of the barn where several other couples now gyrated to a slow love song, he spread his legs slightly so hers fit within his stance and began rolling their bodies from side to side. Her long, single-braided hair stroked her back. His grip kept her arms against her side when she would have preferred to lay them on his shoulder. The part of her brain long accustomed to making decisions about her life and body demanded to know what the hell he thought he was doing.
The part ruled by her clit didn't give a damn.
As long as they remained where they were, they were nearly hidden from view. The song, sung by a female vocalist with a throaty voice, had long been a favorite of hers, but with her breasts flattened against Kade's strength, she heard nothing except a low percussion beat. The sound and more slid beneath her skin to quicken her blood flow and breath rate. Her feet remained in place. In fact, unless she was mistaken, only her hips were in motion. Perhaps she should look up and read his expression, but she'd already learned what she needed to know.
He had an erection. Maybe he became aroused by playing macho man. Maybe women who smelled of sweaty horses and leather turned him on.
Her arms felt leaden. Even if she'd been able to lift them, she wouldn't have tried. Her entire body became heavy, inert almost. Well, not all of her, she acknowledged. Everything from belly button to knees had heated. She felt feverish there, the greatest heat centered around her pussy. Hot and melting, she turned small and weak within his embrace. He guided her swaying movements in tune with the song's echoing rhythm. She heard laughter and loud talking, and yet she didn't.
Most of all there was him. Him everywhere. Commanding.
Working with horses had conditioned her to sizes greater than her own, and she'd stopped feeling small around any living thing--until now. Somehow this near stranger had sucked muscle and self-determination out of her, melted her down until she'd become more him than herself.
Beyond comprehension, she loved feeling like this, loved his arms encasing hers, his legs bracketing hers with his sex insistent between them and her back arched. He turned one way and then the other, taking her with him as surely and confidently as she guided well-trained mounts.
She'd become his animal, his compliant possession.
Before she could face the question, he ran his hands from her shoulders down over her arms, her elbows, biceps. Then he guided her arms behind her. More curious than alarmed, she didn't resist as he crossed one wrist over the other and held them in place against her buttocks with one large, work-conditioned hand.
"What are you doing?" she asked as he widened his stance and brought her legs, her hips even under his control.
"Experiment? What kind?"
"One designed to determine how far I can go tonight." As if reinforcing the barely-comprehended statement, he pressed his free hand against her right ass cheek.
Quit it! If you think I'm going to let you manhandle me, you're sadly mistaken! She thought the words. She just didn't say them.
"Tell me about yourself."
"What do you want out of life, Maita?" he asked. His breath chased hot over her face. "You're damn good at what you do. Rylan told me he's never seen better and from what I observed of your ride, you understand a horse's instinct."
"I'll take that as a compliment." Free yourself, damn it! Let him know what you think of being treated like a just-roped horse!
"It's acknowledging one kind of mastery by someone who understands the necessary skills and talents."
He hadn't just thrown out the words, she'd bet a month's pay on it. She just wished she understood what he was getting at.
But with her body under his control and her hot to learn what else he had in mind, how did he expect her to hold up her end of this double-sword conversation?
Maybe he didn't.
"Perhaps you're bored by my observations," he whispered in that silken whiskey tone of his. "Maybe you'd rather just dance."
He stopped probing her ass and transferred his attention to her throat, his fingertips an unsettling mix of fine sandpaper and satin. She lost herself in thoughts of those fingers roping a rogue horse or forcing a massive bull into a corral. Hands with that kind of strength would have no trouble getting a woman to comply with anything he wanted, and yet he exuded rough male sex. He'd never have to force a woman--unless he wanted to.
Was his hold on her about pleasing himself, she wondered. He knew nothing about her, couldn't possibly give a damn about anything except getting in her pants. Tomorrow it'd be another conquest--or maybe he'd go back to his wife.
"Are you married?" she demanded as the languid song ended.
"Do you want me to be?"
"What kind of question is that?" She put all her strength into yanking free. When she stood apart from him and rubbed her wrists, she had no doubt she was free because he'd relinquished control.
"If I had a wife, you could tell me to take it home and be rid of me. But if there's no one in my life, it complicates things."
Things were already more complicated than she felt like handling tonight. "What's the answer?"
His answer carried layers of complication. But before she could so much as ask herself if she wanted to wade through them, another song began. This one pounded the air with energy, with anger even. Smiling with just his mouth, Kade captured her right wrist and pulled her into the center of the barn. She didn't know how many other couples had already claimed the dance space, couldn't guess at the number of mostly men who clapped and whistled as they watched the dancers.
In an oddly disturbing way she knew they were garnering more attention than the other couples. As Kade spun her away from him, then quickly pulled her against him, she realized the onlookers' focus was on her and not her partner. She tried to tell herself it was understandable because she was the newcomer, Kade a fixture at the rodeo scene. Still, she couldn't shake the predatory atmosphere. What was she, a brood mare up for auction?
No matter! Couldn't think about that now, not with Kade spinning her this way and that, letting her out as if she was a wild horse testing its rope, then reeling her in tight and tethered. Her wrist throbbed from the tight hold. Yet, she loved the ceaseless movement, the mix of freedom and capture. Maybe he could sense the flesh under his strong fingers, because before discomfort could slide into pain, he deftly ran her in a circle behind him, and when she moved in front again, he switched to her left wrist.
He barely moved. Instead, she absorbed the song's energy and performed the dance for both of them, sweated and spent herself. She became dizzy. Her legs trembled. Sweat ran down her throat to join the wet heat between her breasts.
She loved being part of voice and instruments, of this masculine world. Most of all she loved dancing for Kade Severn. Being what he wanted.