Temptation's Kiss

By: Janice Sims

Chapter 1

Sweat trickled between Patrice Sutton’s brows. She wiped it off and dried her damp palm on the leg of her jeans. Her gaze was on the woman ahead of her in the calf-roping competition as she climbed onto her horse and prepared to race out of the box after the calf when it was released from the chute.

Suddenly someone yanked on her shirtsleeve. She peered underneath the brim of her cowboy hat to see that it was her younger sister, Keira. “Patty, no matter what you do, you’ve got to beat Lucy’s time,” Keira said urgently.

Patrice laughed. “This is a charity event, not an actual competition. I’m here to help raise money for the kids. Besides, it’s hot as Hades today. I doubt if I’ll beat her time.”

The rodeo, which was held every July in Albuquerque, New Mexico, benefited a local children’s hospital. The stadium was filled with kids who were out of school for the summer. Patrice was an up-and-coming film star due to a now-canceled sitcom of some acclaim and starring roles in two successful action films.

“Please, Patty,” Keira whined. “There’s no time to tell you why now, but it’s for a good reason.” Patrice smiled. Keira sounded the way she had when she was a little girl.

Looking at her petite sister, Patrice pursed her lips, thinking. “Lucy’s got the best time so far, at ten seconds. That’s pretty good seeing as how some professional ropers come in at seven. She competes in these events year-round. I haven’t competed since high school.”

Frustrated, Keira blew air between full lips. “Yeah, but you ride as often as you can fit it into your schedule, and I know you’ve been practicing like crazy since you’ve been home. Ma told me. You used to beat Lucy all the time when you were both on the local circuit.”

The announcer’s voice came over the loudspeaker. “Oops, that’s okay, Mary Jane, better luck next time. Folks, Mary Jane got a cowboy speeding ticket because her horse broke the barrier before his time. So that sets Mary Jane’s time at 21 seconds. Miss Lucy Lopez is still the rider to beat.”

The crowd of nearly twelve hundred spectators cheered for Lucy Lopez.

“If she wins,” hissed Keira, “I’ll never hear the end of it.”

“That’s your sister-in-law you’re talking about,” Patrice said teasingly.

A cowboy in a black hat, denim shirt, jeans, black boots and leather chaps motioned for Patrice to follow him. It was time for her to mount her horse. “Gotta go,” said Patrice to her still-fuming sister.

“You’ve got too much of a competitive spirit to lie down and take it,” Keira yelled at Patrice’s back.

Patrice mounted her favorite quarter horse, Billy One Star. He was named this because of the white mark under his forelock. He was a handsome, healthy three-year-old. Her parents had given him to her on her twenty-fifth birthday last year.

She patted his muscular neck as she envisioned the next few minutes, mentally preparing herself. Her heart thudded with excitement. Like she’d told Keira, she hadn’t competed in years. She was nervous. However, she stayed in shape, and she rode Billy One Star as often as she could get home between gigs. Life as an actress who was trying to limit her roles to films gave her quite a lot of downtime between projects.

Billy One Star was so well trained that he didn’t move a muscle after Patrice signaled to the chute operator that she was ready and the calf went running out of the chute. The rider was supposed to give the calf a running start before going after him, and Patrice waited the appropriate amount of time before signaling to Billy One Star to do his thing. Billy’s powerful body leaped forward, and soon they were racing after the calf at his top speed. Patrice concentrated, mouth boxed in determination, as she threw the lariat and looped it around the calf’s neck. She then signaled to Billy to stop, and the horse abruptly skidded to a stop. She leaped from his back, quickly laid the calf onto its side and snared three of its legs together in a wrap and a slap, or a half-hitch knot.

She threw her hands in the air denoting she was done. Billy slowly backed away from the calf in order to maintain the tautness of the rope until Patrice could climb onto his back again and move forward to relax the rope on the calf.

“Ooh, wee!” exclaimed the announcer. “That little filly knows her roping. Ms. Patrice Sutton, Albuquerque girl and TV-and-screen star, caught that ’lil doggie in nine seconds flat. It’s the new time to beat, buckaroos!”

The crowd roared. Patrice waved her hat in the air and signaled Billy One Star to take a bow as she’d taught him. Billy bowed by lowering his great head and bending his front legs slightly.

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