“Are you crazy?”
The door flies open, hitting the wall behind it with a loud thud, and every man in the locker room—myself included—looks up. My manager, Nikki Atwood, is a sight to behold: big tits, plump ass, and thighs made to squeeze a man’s head. And tonight she is dressed to the nines. Any other woman in that outfit would look out of place in a room full of bull riders, but she makes it work. I know every man in here is wondering what it would be like to dirty her prissy little ass up a bit.
Been there. Done that.
It’s not something I’m proud of, but I was young and dumb, and I refuse to dwell on mistakes of the past. And in my defense, when I slept with her, she wasn’t my manager. Not yet anyway, and I was nursing a broken heart. Had I known she would eventually slide into the role that had belonged to her father, I would’ve thought twice before getting my dick wet. But that doesn’t mean my decision to fuck her would’ve changed—because I was hurting, and she’s hot as hell, and any man would have a hard time turning her down—but maybe I would’ve given it more thought.
“I ride bulls for a living, darlin’,” I tell her. “I’d say crazy is part of the job description.”
“Don’t get cute with me, Rhett. You know damn well what I’m talking about. A bonus ride? On Lucifer no less.”
“I just walked out of that arena with a 92.2 score. Thought you’d be happier about that.”
“Oh, I am happy about that, and so are your sponsors.” She crosses her arms. “But imagine my surprise when I find out you signed up for a bonus ride. What were you thinking, and why didn’t you tell me?”
“I was thinking I could use the extra cash, and if I told you, you’d try to talk me out of it.”
Her brow creases, and for a split second I swear I see steam coming out of her ears.
“You’re damn right I would’ve talked you out of it.” Nikki stalks toward the middle of the room, plants her hands on her hips, and lifts an eyebrow at some of the other guys, a silent request that they get out.
Lincoln Bennett, my best friend in this business, is the first one to move. Pushing up from the floor, he shoots me a good luck look and taps some of the other guys on the shoulder. “Come on. Let’s give Rhett some privacy.” On his way out of the locker room, he tips his hat to Nikki. “Nicole.”
“Thank you, Linc,” she says.
She waits for the locker room to clear and then turns to me, eyebrows raised.
She’s not going to intimidate me. “What?”
“Don’t play dumb. You may be crazy as fuck, but no one ever called you dumb.”
“I don’t know what you want from me.” I shrug. “They offered a fifty-grand bonus if I stay on for eight seconds. I couldn’t pass that up.”
“They offered you fifty grand because no one has been able to stay on that damn bull for longer than four seconds.”
“Until me.” I shoot her a cocky smile, and she rolls her eyes.
“Until you. Riiiiiiiight,” she says. “Lucifer has been responsible for forty-seven injuries this year alone, and unless you’ve forgotten, you’ve got commitments outside of the arena, commitments that will earn you well over fifty grand.”
“I’m well aware of the risk, and as far as Wrangler and Powerade are con—”
“Whatever. The point is, bull riding is my job, and it comes first.”
Fifty grand is nothing to Nikki. She was born into money, and even though she works her ass off, she doesn’t really need her job.
She may come from cash, but I come from a ranch in Heaven, Texas. My parents—although they’re doing well now—have practically killed themselves for every dime they have, and even though I’ve got a decent cushion in my bank account, it’s not enough. It might never be enough. Being a bull rider is a precarious job, and it doesn’t always pay the best, which is why I’ve let her talk me in to a few modeling gigs and the occasional commercial.
Every time I get on one of those bulls, I’m putting my career and my life at risk. If something happens and I lose the ability to work, I need to know I’m going to be financially stable until I find something else to do. So, yes, whether she understands it or not, I need that fifty grand.
“Call it off.”
She’s smoking crack. “No way.”
As Nikki well knows, I don’t back down. If I say I’m going to do something, I do it, which is probably why she pinches her lips into a thin line and strides across the room. Her hand hits the door knob and she stops, but doesn’t look back.
“You better stay on that fucking bull, Rhett Allen, or so help me God, your ass is mine.”
“Not a problem, darlin’.”
The smell of dirt, sweat, and testosterone-fueled beast fill the air as I weave my way through the back pens. I hear the announcer reveal the final special event as I slip on my gloves, and when I come into view, I’m bathed in a bright light. The crowd roars to life. I raise my arm, encouraging their cheers, and I’m reminded why I love this sport.
It’s the thrill I get every time the gate opens, the adrenaline that rushes through me as I’m whipped through the air by a two-thousand-pound bull. It’s just me, that beast, a thunderous crowd, and eight seconds of pure fucking glory.
Most people think I’m crazy, and I don’t deny it. Any man who regularly mounts a one-ton bull has to have something wrong with him.
“You ready for this?” Dad asks, placing a hand on my arm.
It’s tough on my dad to leave the ranch, but he insists on being with me as much as he can. And although I feel guilty pulling him away from my mom and siblings, you won’t hear me complain. He’s my rock, my mentor, the person who keeps me tethered to the life I left behind to chase my dream, and I count on him more than he’ll ever know.
Smiling, I look up. “I was born ready.”
“We’re really proud of you, son. Your mom and I, your brothers and Adley—we’re real proud of you. The whole town is piled in at Dirty Dicks to watch you tonight, and Beau is streaming your ride on his phone.”
I picture the pub overflowing with patrons. Everyone packed in like sardines; beer sloshing from their mugs as they cheer me on. Dirty Dicks isn’t large enough to house everyone in town, but they’ll sure as hell try. With a population of 12,500, Heaven, Texas is big enough that not everyone knows your name, but small enough to have a Facebook page where you can catch up on who’s who. That town saw me grow up, learn to ride a bull, and break a few laws along with a few bones. Even though I don’t return very often, it’s still the place I call home.
“Well then, I better give them a good show, huh?” Hoisting myself up on a rung, I fling a leg over the rail and ease myself onto the bull. Lucifer looks at me over his shoulder as if he’s offering me one last chance to hop off and save myself. I’m ranked number one in the world, cowboy, with a buck-of percentage of 88.89. You don’t stand a chance.
I narrow my eyes. The odds are in his favor—even I’m not naïve enough to believe otherwise—but I’m too stubborn to back out now. “Bring it on,” I whisper.
Lucifer huffs and thrashes from side to side, slamming us against the chute. Three sets of hands reach for me, and when the bull finally settles, they release their grip and I’m able to adjust my hand until it’s secure in the rope.
And then, with the tip of my head, the chute opens. Lucifer flies through the gate with the wild fury only a bull on a mission can possess.