Under the Cowboy's Control

By: Lynda Chance

Chapter One


Travis Blake stood under the stream of hot water and let the heat seep into his tired muscles. Another long, hard week of riding fences and moving cattle on his ten-thousand acre spread was behind him. The sense of satisfaction he got from working the land and making money off the dry, south Texas soil pulsed through his veins.

He had never been afraid of hard work. It made a man strong. It made a man independent.

Fourteen years ago, at the age of eighteen, he had left the miserable life he knew with his drunken, snake-mean father. With a high school diploma and his clothes in a duffel bag, he had spent ten years travelling through Texas and the Western states, at first shoveling manure from one ranch to the next, until he drifted onto the rodeo circuit. He had found a home on the road, moving from one rodeo to the next.

And he was good at it. Damn good.

He had grown up, grown strong, and found out what really made a man.

He wasn't anything like his father; he rarely took a drink of alcohol, and never raised his hand to a woman or child.

Now, at thirty-two years old, he was king of the small empire his bull-riding money had purchased. A sense of well-being and achievement laced his soul, found from hard days working in the saddle. He had achieved a lot in the past years, as he worked to bring this place from the run-down, dried up patch of dirt he had purchased four years ago, to the pristine ranch it was today.

The only family he possessed was his horse, and the cowhands who had been here when he bought the ranch, and who had transferred their loyalty to him, when he put them on his payroll.

The only thing missing was a woman.

Every now and then, when his lusts raged and he couldn't stand it anymore, he travelled the road to Laredo, to one of the many bars there, and picked up a woman for the night. The short interludes were more from necessity than anything else.

The drive was always a pain, and his days were too long and hard to find the time to go very often.

The last four years had been difficult to adjust to in that respect. For ten years, when he had been on the rodeo circuit, there were always groupies. Women who followed the cowboys, from one rodeo to the next. He had been in great demand with them. They fought to sleep in the bed of the world champion. And he had held the title for several years. He had spent few nights alone, and only when he chose to.

And now that made it even more difficult to go without sex.

As the water sprayed over his sore body, he thought of the relief a woman would bring. There were no females within ten miles that he knew of, and certainly none on his ranch. An unmarried woman on the ranch would only bring dissension among the ranks, and that he could do without.



But the thought of a woman, waiting for him after a long, hot day busting his ass on the ranch, brought chills to his spine and a hardness to his groin. Soft hands running down his back, soothing over his tired muscles brought an ache of need.

He gritted his teeth.

He needed a woman. Needed one bad.

He felt like a ticking time bomb that was quickly counting down to zero.



****

Selena walked out of Nueva Laredo, Mexico and into Laredo, Texas through the American checkpoint with a sigh of relief. She had made the crossing back and forth many times in her life. But never to stay. Fear for her future assailed her.

Trepidation was a constant knot in her stomach these days.

Mexico was too dangerous now. She had to leave. She had no choice.

She tried to boost her sinking morale with positive thoughts.

She had a lot of things going for her. She was young, just turned twenty-three. She was healthy, and she was strong. But the thing that gave her the most hope, and the seductive sense of freedom she was experiencing, were the papers she was carrying. Her United States citizenship papers.

Even though she had never been farther than Laredo, she felt like an American today. She had planned and dressed for this day. To fit in, she had on low-rise jeans. She wore Converse on her feet and a Nike baseball cap on her head, her waist length black hair tied in a ponytail and stuffed inside. She had a lightweight American Eagle hoodie tied around her waist, and a change of clothing in the backpack that hung from her shoulder, as well as twenty-five American dollars.

There was nothing else she could do to prepare. She had to say goodbye to her old life and embrace the future.

Half Anglo, half Mexican, her entire life had been in Mexico, and she never thought she would leave her home. But now she was alone in the world. First one parent, then the other, and finally her older brother, all innocent bystanders, killed by the Mexican drug cartel. She was lucky to have made it out alive.

She was never going back.

Three days later, she was only thirty miles out of Laredo and almost out of money.

She was filthy from head to toe, and had a black eye and possibly a broken rib.

She sat and rested in the partial shade thrown off by a mesquite tree. She looked out over land as far as the eye could see, and except for crossing the Rio Grande, she couldn't tell any appreciable difference that she wasn't in Mexico anymore. It all looked exactly the same.

Her circumstances were almost the same as three days ago, but her attitude had turned a one-eighty. Before she left Mexico, she was at least optimistic, with a sketchy plan of finding her paternal grandparents in Houston. But now she was as down on her luck as she could be.

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