Real Good Men of Oklahoma
Catching a Cowboy
An Older Man Younger BBW Romance
Catching a Cowboy
An Older Man Younger BBW Romance
Professor Bleeker smiles in a way that makes me feel just a little uncomfortable.
“Callie,” he says, “this is an incredible opportunity for an undergrad. I wouldn’t offer it to just anyone. Students like you don’t come around that often.”
I glance around the empty biology lab. How many students would give their right arm for a chance to work in the field for a summer? Professor B is right. I’d have to be a fool to walk away from his offer. Even if it means bunking up with him for two and a half months.
Professor Bleeker turns the wedding band on his finger. “I’ll need an answer by this afternoon.”
My eyes widen. “This afternoon?”
“I wouldn’t even be offering this to you, but Mark dropped out at the last minute. If you don’t want it—”
“No, I do,” I cut in. I have no idea how I’ll pay for classes next semester if I give up my summer job at the Beachside Snack Shack, but I’ll figure it out. I’ll have to. Assisting Professor B is basically an all-access pass into the entomology grad program at State. I couldn’t say no, even if I wanted to.
Professor Bleeker’s smile widens. “Good. We’re leaving Tuesday. We’ll spend the night in Georgia and Arkansas and hit Oklahoma on Thursday.”
The idea of spending three days in a van with Professor B turns my stomach into a knotty mess.
I don’t know why since you just agreed to spend the whole summer with him.
I shift on my feet. “If it’s okay, I might leave a day or two early. My lease runs out on Monday, and there’s no time like the present.”
Professor Bleeker’s eyes lock on my t-shirt, stretched tight at the front. I shouldn’t have worn this particular shirt knowing I’d see him, but it was a present from my little sister, Chloe, and it has Crazy Bug Lady written across the front in sparkly pink letters.
Bleeker the Creeper’s gaze travels down to my jeans, which are working pretty hard around my ample thighs and hips. I’ve always had curves, but college life has done nothing to shrink them. Which is fine. I love my body. Just not when Professor Bleeker is staring at it the way he is now.
“Indeed, there is not,” he says.
* * *
On Tuesday afternoon, I make yet another turn onto yet another unnamed road, offering my smartphone’s map app more devotion than I’d bestow any man in my life at present. It’s been at least ten miles since I’ve seen a house, and it seems cows, windmills, and red clay are all that exist in the Oklahoma panhandle. I’m shocked I even have cell service.
The new road isn’t paved, but it’s well-graded and smooth. Again, there’s just nothing out here. I glance down at my cell to check the map and see I’ve missed a text from Professor Bleeker, who has literally messaged me daily since I agreed to this trip.
I know it’s wrong to check while I’m driving, but the text preview reads CRITICAL UPDATE! My heart lodges in my throat. What if something horrible happened and the school canceled this project? What if he’s writing to tell me he decided they don’t need me after all? I’ve already given up my summer job, and it cost me an arm and a leg in gas money to drive out here.
I swipe the screen.
Prof B: Kidding. Everything is fine. We just crossed into Georgia.
I blink at the screen. “Sonnofa—”
A horn blares, and I look up in time to see a big old black truck coming straight at me. The grill is big enough to eat my little sub-compact for lunch. I shriek and yank the steering wheel to the right. My car flies off the road and into the ditch before slamming into a fence post. The airbag deploys in a burst of powder and chemical stink.
Before I can even register my bloody nose, I hear a man’s voice cursing a blue streak. A little dazed, I blink at the Queen Anne’s lace and rudbeckia flowers all over my car. They, and other weeds and small flowers, are so tall they reach my window.
There’s a stomping noise as whoever was driving the truck comes closer, and I steel myself for an altercation I don’t feel ready for.
“You all right?” The voice says, and I turn my head in its direction because—hot damn—I’ve never heard a voice like that before. It’s not just the baritone that surprises me, but the way it sounds rich as buttermint candy. Rich as caramel.
There are certain emotions you expect a girl to have right after a car accident.
Lust is not one of them, but I feel it all the same.
The man at my window has to be at least six foot tall. He’s got shoulders as wide as a barn door, and big hands balled up at his sides. And his face… have mercy. His nose has been broken a time or two, and a scar runs along his left cheek, but those things only make him hotter. Dark stubble peppers his chin, and his eyes match the sky, their color a light, angelic blue.
He registers my expression, and his full lips turn down at the corners. At first, I think it’s because he’s angry. And sure, that’s part of it, but he opens my door and pulls a bandana out of his back pocket which he uses to dab at my nose, and I realize he’s worried too.
“Talk to me, baby girl,” he says in that deep voice.
“I’m stuck,” I say and want to slap myself. I couldn’t say something clever or cute or apologetic… just I’m stuck. But I am, and I’m not sure if my fingers won’t work because I’m in shock or because my seatbelt is jammed.
He reaches across my body for the mechanism, his big hands making short work of the problem. My seatbelt relaxes, and I go limp. He tsks and slides one arm around my back, the other under my knees.
“Hold on.” The man lifts me out of the car like I weigh as little as a sprig of Queen Anne’s lace. He kicks the door closed and carries me to the big, black truck that nearly ate my lunch.
And, my word, it feels so good to let him carry me. His arms are safe and strong, and even though it might not be strictly proper, I sigh and lean into him like a cat.
“Where did you come from?” I ask a little dreamily, and he misunderstands and thinks I’m asking about the accident.
“My family’s ranch about two miles back. You mighta seen me if you hadn’t been looking at your phone.”
“How did you know that’s what I was doing?”
“I didn’t until you told me,” he teases.
A blush burns my cheeks, and he settles me into the passenger seat of his truck. I should protest. This man is a stranger, and I have no idea where he plans to take me. But it’s not as though I have a lot of options. Plus, my head and stomach hurt, and my hands won’t stop shaking.
When he gets in on the driver’s side, the gorgeous man observes me watching my hands tremble and cradles them in his giant paws. “You’re all right, baby girl. It’s just adrenaline. I don’t think you have a concussion or anything.”
Hot tears sting my eyes, adding another layer of embarrassment to the whole situation. “I’m sorry,” I squeak.
“You’re all right, honey.” He draws me across the bench seat and hugs me tight, whispering sweet things as he strokes my hair, and I’m suddenly so weary.
“What’s your name?” he asks after a few minutes, once I’ve settled into hiccups.
“Callie.” My voice sounds distant and small.
He smiles, and it’s breathtaking. “Well, Callie, I’m Elias Nash, but everyone just calls me Nash. I was heading into town for a few things. Got a city professor and his team coming to study some beetle on my land this summer, and I’m not used to company save for my brother. And he’s mostly content with deer, beef, and biscuits. How ’bout you come along and we’ll head over to the clinic? Let Doc give you a good once over?”
I nod and scoot back over to the far side of the bench and buckle my seatbelt. I yawn before I can stop myself. Nash frowns as he starts his truck again and we roll forward. “You didn’t hit your head, did you?”
I cover my gaping mouth with one of my hands. My fingers don’t shake the way they were, but that might be because of the wave of exhaustion that pummeled me just a moment or two earlier. “No, it’s just… been a long few days,” I admit. “I’m one of the professor’s students, but I had to leave early because the lease on my apartment ended. Driving alone from Florida to Oklahoma is not for sissies.”
He freezes. “You drove here alone from Florida? A little thing like you?”
I glance down at my thighs, which are decidedly not little. But then, Nash lifted me up like I weighed nothing at all.
“What are you?” he asks. “Nineteen?”
“Twenty-two,” I answer, a little defensive. “And I didn’t have much choice. It was that or ask to crash on Professor Creeper’s couch.”
I gasp when I realize I’ve divulged my secret name for Professor B.
Nash doesn’t seem to notice. Well, except for the little smile on his face. I continue, “I couldn’t afford to stay in hotels on the way, so I’ve just been catching naps at truck stops. Wears a girl out after a few days.”
Nash’s big hands grip the steering wheel so tight his knuckles turn white. “You did what now?”
“I said I took naps at—”
“No, I heard you. I just couldn’t believe you’d be that foolish.”
My face flushes again. “Listen, buddy. You don’t know a thing about me. Some of us didn’t grow up with family ranches and big, black bully trucks.”
My tears ramp back up. Partly because I know Nash is right. My actions had been incredibly dangerous. I just hadn’t been able to see a way around it.
Nash’s eyebrow skyrockets. “Black bully truck? Baby girl, you had your nose in your phone seconds before you nearly slammed into me. You coulda killed yourself, and now I have a whole stretch of fencing to fix tomorrow. On top of pulling your tin can out of the ditch.”
I bite my lip. “I can help,” I offer.
That little smile touches his lips again, and he reaches over to squeeze my hand. “Let’s see what the doctor says, okay? Then we’ll go from there.”
I yawn again, which he seems to take as an affirmation.
The cab goes silent for a few minutes, and I watch the windmills and cows. If I didn’t know better, I’d think we were on a circular track: cows, windmills, fence. Nash’s truck feels so safe and peaceful. The radio is playing—a country station turned down low.
I study my driver on the sly. He’s got one of those cowboy hats with silver on the band and a blue plaid shirt that matches his eyes. He’s old enough to have crow’s feet and smile lines, both of which look hella sexy. If I had to guess, I put him in his late thirties.
Even though it’s plaid, his shirt isn’t flannel, but thin cotton with pearl snaps. It fits him nice and snug, and his muscles move under the fabric and along his thick forearms where his tan skin is sprinkled with sun-bleached hair. His jeans are clean and tight on his thighs, and I can’t see his feet, but I’d bet about anything he’s wearing cowboy boots.
“Nash,” I say finally.
“Yes, Callie?” He answers.
It’s the first time he’s said my name, and it makes my skin tingle.
“Can I sit next to you again for a few minutes? I still feel shaky.”
“Sure thing, baby girl.”
I unbuckle long enough to slide over beside him, and while I’m putting my seatbelt on, he puts his arm around my shoulders. I didn’t expect it, but it feels so good my eyes roll back a smidge.
I tell myself I’ll just stay here a minute. I’ll just get my balance again and slide back over to the passenger’s seat. No harm. No foul.