Betsy Flynn ran away to the city to avoid the boy who broke her heart, now JT Long has one last rodeo to bring his country girl home.
Betsy Flynn’s star is rising as she serves as the color sports reporter for the local CBS affiliate. Her focus, knowledge and high heels have become a staple along every sideline in Minneapolis, but a rodeo has come to Minnesota and this Texas transplant will have to go back to her roots.
Five years ago pick-up man JT Long chose his best friend’s rodeo career over the love of his life, Betsy.J As JT’s rodeo shows up in Northern Minnesota he quickly realizes his chances of winning Betsy back are getting slim as he learns he only has one last rodeo to win her heart.
*Break out the fireworks and get ready to kick off your summer with this HOT new collection of stories. One Last Rodeo is part of the Red Hot and BOOM multi-author series (stands alone for reading enjoyment)
JT needed to get his head on straight. It had been years since Betsy had seen him ride. Not being a competitor he liked that she rarely watched them. Betsy always focused on him and how he swooped in to save the cowboys getting tossed around.
“Hey cowboy,” the dark haired woman had called.
“Hey yourself.” Sunshine’s lips curled up as he leaned on the old wooden fence that surrounded the fairgrounds.
“Not you.” She smiled and looked directly at JT. “You.”
Her smile was magical, especially when her blue eyes sparkled in the afternoon sun.
“What’s your name? You didn’t tell me when we were talking earlier.”
“JT Long and you are?”
“Betsy.” She placed her hands on her hips and her index fingers locked around her belt loops. “Flynn, I’m gonna be covering this event for KTXT.”
“Then you’ll want my name,” Sunshine interjected, breaking her gaze from JT’s eyes.
“Why is that?”
“Because he’s just a pick-up man, I’m the show.”
“You a bull rider?”
“Bareback,” Sunshine growled and JT had to hold in a laugh.
“Never been interested. Seems dangerous for no real reward.”
“Then you’ve never known the enjoyment of nothing between you and something powerful.”
“I guess that’s why I’m interested in JT, cowboy, and not you.”
JT had been a pick-up man since he started with the rodeo. His mother had told him she didn’t mind him being on the circuit, but she couldn’t take the idea of him being in danger every day. Plus it had never been in his nature to be a risk taker; he liked to be the hero and pick-up men were just that. They rode up along side the bucking horses and gave the riders a place to safely dismount, then wrangled the bucking horses back into the chute. It still gave him the rush and a steady paycheck unlike the competitors that were at the mercy of an animal and their own skill set.
Curling his fingers around the reins the arthritis burned from every joint. He knew he had to stop riding hard. Caring for horses shouldn’t aggravate the early symptoms, but five more years gripping the reins as he tears around the tight turns was going to give him the body of a seventy-year-old.
The burning lessened as his adrenaline began to pump. Danny had worked up the crowd. With the first rider geeking himself up in this chute JT kept his eyes locked on the release of the latch.
His spine tingled. Every sound was blocked out except for that latch. With a click any pain in his joints disappeared as if he’d been given an injection of a miracle drug.
The seconds ticked away and the rider stayed on. The buzz of the eight second clock sent the signal straight to his heels that jabbed into Smash’s side. Tearing off across the area JT took the right while Clint took the left. The rider wrapped his arms around JT’s neck and JT wrapped his left arm around the rider’s waist. Slowing Smash down he angled for the edge of the arena and the rider slid to the ground and waved when his feet touched the earth.
JT’s heart rate slowed when the rider got to the gate by the chutes. He turned Smash to help corral the bronco that had stopped bucking. When Clint and he returned to their spot at the edge of the grounds he let out a sigh.
“You good now?” Clint asked.
“Yes.” JT scanned the holding area to see if Betsy was there. She wasn’t, but that didn’t change the fact he needed to be focused.
“Why is it?” Clint began. “That you have to pop your cherry every damn rodeo before you become calm?”
“Why is it you don’t,” JT retorted.
“Because stress isn’t going to help me get a rider.”
“I’m the opposite.”
Danny finished announcing the next rider, then JT pulled in again. His mind wandered the stadium seats until he saw her. Betsy was hanging half over the edge of the gate in the rear. Her dark hair was kissed by the sunset as it shone. With a glimmer she turned her head toward him and the buzzer went off.
He’d missed the whole ride and Clint was already along side the bronco that was still bucking as if it had just been released.
JT quickly kicked Smash and began circling his lasso at his side. The bronc kicked its back legs as it completed a three-quarter turn that ended in him facing down the animal. The rider still held on as he eyed Clint to figure out a way to jump off the beast. The bronc solved the problem and the rider flipped off its left haunch. With a thud the rider crashed to the dirt and JT lassoed the wild horse around the neck and reared back on Smash.
With a jerk the bronc tried to pull JT, but he pulled in tight as Clint threw a second lasso and pulled back again. The bull fighters had surrounded the thrown cowboy and helped him to his feet. Dusted off he walked to the gate and gave a wave to the crowd. Clint and JT led the bronc back to the chutes.
JT trotted over to the thrown rider and motioned him over, “You okay Ty?”
“Yeah JT, my hand got tangled in the rope.”
The smidge of guilt dissipated from JT. He’d never gotten distracted like that when he and Betsy had been dating. Then again back then he knew she was watching him. She’d worried about his safety and that he was okay. Now she probably worried about that damn baseball player of hers. JT was about to scan the crowd again when he heard Sunshine’s name.
“Sunshine Parker all the way from New Mexico,” Jerry the other MC called. “Let’s cheer him on as he rides Satan’s Sire.”
JT steeled himself again as the click alerted him to the release. Sunshine’s hat stayed on for three seconds before flying to the ground. The gray bronco’s legs kicked at least five feet in the air before it rocked back down. Sunshine’s body twisted and turned, but he kept his left arm up to balance. Fear tore through JT when Sunshine’s head came inches from the bronc’s haunches.
Righting himself, Sunshine was able to pull himself back up as the buzzer blew and JT tore off to help his friend. Coming up beside the horse, Clint helped in guiding as Sunshine jumped to JT and then slid when safely away from the horse.
“Thanks JT,” he said as JT helped lead the horse back in the chutes.
JT circled back around to Sunshine.
“Thanks for focusing on me and not Bets.”
“You caught that huh?”
Sunshine raised his eyebrow and refitted his hat to his head. Everyone working caught it. Now JT worried Betsy had seen too. She knew his job and what was involved. Shit! Shit! Shit!
JT stayed focused through the rest of the barebacks. The ten minutes of shuffling horses to move on to the next showing of saddled broncs found JT resting his forearms on the horn of his saddle.
“Is it because it’s your last rodeo?” Clint asked.
“Why you seem stressed?”
“Remember Betsy Flynn?”
“Oh hell yeah.” Clint licked his lips. “We need more reporters like her. I’d go back to riding if we had them.”
“Where?” Clint looked up and scanned the crowd.
“By the gate.”
“Damn, she’s gotten hotter? I thought I was all about the young ones, but damn—”
“You do remember that I love her.”
“Love? As in still love?”
“I meant loved.”
“Not what you said.”
“It’s what I meant.”
“Right…” Clint drew out the word, then chuckled. “Will you be able to stay on your horse tonight?”
“You gonna lasso her again?”
A smile curled across JT’s lips, it’d been years… hmm… could he?
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