Yet Another Cowboy Romance

Jake let out a grunt as he dropped the last of half a dozen incredibly heavy boxes onto the floor of the main hallway. Flexing the soreness out of his hands, he proceeded to remove his hat and comb a hand through his slightly damp hair, sighing just slightly as he did so.

It was a balmy day in mid-July, 2014, a terrible day given the mid 90s weather to attempt to move house. But it was Lana Skye that was doing so, and he had been interested in her for quite some time without it going anyplace; when she'd asked him to help her carry some heavy boxes to her new location he'd of course seen it as a positive development and had agreed.

Unfortunately, she wasn't kidding about the heavy boxes. And, like everything else even remotely related to work, she had been painfully businesslike for the entirety of the morning.

As he rested there for a moment by the entrance, Lana walked in the propped open front doors and set down what she was carrying—some sort of fancy glass light stand—at the foot of the stairs. She didn't show any particular sympathy for his winded state, instead nodding at the boxes he'd just set down.

"Those go in the study—first room on the left, on the second floor."

He tried not to gape at her.

"What do you keep in these things, Bambina? Bricks?"

"Books," she replied, hefting up a box from another pile nearby and heading off towards the direction of the kitchen with it in her arms. Its weight didn't seem to give her any trouble, and Jake muttered a curse under his breath as he replaced his hat back onto his head and set to picking up one of his boxes back up again.

It took him some considerable effort to clamber up the stairs, box in hands, and to lug his cargo into what fortunately did turn out to be the study. The inside of the room was empty save for a single desk and some barren bookshelves, and not knowing what else to do he carried the box to the former, intent on setting it down without throwing out his back. Before he could drop it down, however, there was the terrible sound of ripping cardboard; the bottom flaps of the box gave way, and through the tear spilled an innumerable amount of books—large, small, all incredibly heavy—and he yelped as a few of them managed to land on his feet on the way to the ground.

Placing the box and what little amount of books had stayed inside onto the desk, Jake hurriedly squatted down to rearrange the mess. He hoped to goodness he wasn't going to catch hell for bending one of the covers, and he was lucky; most were heavy, hardcover legal tomes with long, dry names—all textbooks, by the look of it—and had made it through intact. A few in the pile, however, were paperback novels, and the last three or so of these caught his eyes as he picked them up:

Rode Hard Put Away Wet

Hearts Aflame

Lasso Her In

He let out a quiet whistle as he scanned the back of one them quickly. A grin soon lighted onto his face.

"Well, well--what do we have here, Miss Skye...?"

He carried the Harlequins—because surely, that was what they were—with him down the stairs, eagerly searching for their owner. She was still in the kitchen, removing glasses and bowls from a container, and sorting them neatly on a countertop. He approached her, and she turned her head slightly to look at him when he did.

"Mm?"

Stepping in close, Jake placed an arm around her waist, and leaned his mouth down to her right ear to murmur in his best voice.

"I have half a mind... to lasso you in, Bambina."

He felt her body tense up, and experienced a rush of his own when she didn't push him off. Chuckling quietly, he continued:

"Mayhaps you'd like me to set your heart... aflame?"

A look of confusion stole across Lana's face, but it quickly faded when he trailed his lips softly along the rim of her ear. Her light gasp when he bit down on her earlobe was almost too much—the way she tilted her head invitingly to the side too encouraging, but he couldn't keep himself from laughing and raising up his other hand to dangle the trio of romance novels in front of her face.

"Aw yeah, I'll ride you hard, and put you away wet."

"What are you—oh!" Lana's eyes flew open, and she flushed a rather brilliant shade of red he'd never seen her turn before.

"Oh, no," she managed to stammer out, "those were--for research."

"Research, huh."

She squirmed from within his grasp, finally putting her hands on his arm to coax him away.

"They were for a Women's Studies course back in college."

"'Studies. So that's what you call 'em?"

Lana frowned then, and he recognized its warning before she gave him a hard elbow and pushed him off. Apparently quite irritated—but quite flustered—she turned and reached for one of the books in his hand, flipped it around, and shoved it in his face.

"Here. Read the back out loud."

Still quite amused, he cleared his throat and did just as she asked, in as smarmy a falsetto voice he could muster.

"'A poignant, erotic romance packed with adventure and set in the harsh beauty of the Arizona countryside.' Hoo-eey."

Lana glared at him, folding her arms. "Go on."

Jake scanned the next few lines, then continued: "'Real estate guru Krista Wyler is soon at the mercy of the Arizona desert when she learns she has inherited her family's business, Wyler Ranch... Krista reluctantly moves in, but her plan is to sell the ranch as soon as possible. Rae Jarrett, the strong, stubborn vet who has cared for the ranch as well as the horses, objects to her selling and offers her aid. The journey leads to a life changing adventure..." He stopped short, his grin fading as he finished: "...neither woman could have foreseen and will never forget."

He turned the book around and studied the front. In tiny text under the title was the inscription: "Lesbian Cowboy Erotica." Surveying the other two books, he finally noticed the absence of any men on the covers.

"Cowgirl. Cowgirl," he managed to stammer out, though the embarrassment was heavily evident in his tone. "How's a fella to catch on when they use the wrong term?"

Lana continued to glare at him, and he felt the need to remove his hat and fan his reddening face with it.

"Boy howdy. Well, I beg your pardon."

"Apology accepted," she stated simply, and an awkwardness hung in the air between them as Jake fumbled for something to say.

"So, er, this was all just for a class of some sort or for some research paper, huh—"

But he didn't get much further than that; Lana stopped him short by placing a finger to his lips, and pulling him back in close by the front of his poncho. Finally, she pressed her mouth tightly to his, only letting up to murmur:

"Now, I never said I wasn't into cowboys..."

There were several things he wanted to ask then—such as whether she did also fancy Western folk of the female persuasion, and whether those traits were the only things that had attracted her to him—but he figured those could wait, and wrapped his arms tightly around her.