Home > Between a Rock and a Hard Cowboy

Between a Rock and a Hard Cowboy
Author: Cat Johnson



Chapter One



“Stop. You can’t force it in.” The intensity of his passionate words, spoken so near, sent a piece of hair that had fallen across her face fluttering.

Refusing to let his closeness rattle her, she countered, “I’m not forcing it.”

“You are. You’re gonna snap it right off.” For a man in his twenties he sure could whine like a child when he didn’t get his way.

“I’m not gonna break it.” Jeez. She was in her thirties. She knew what she was doing.

“Can’t you just let me do it? It is mine.”

Eva ignored his comment, since it was mostly true, but she didn’t see how it mattered who it belonged to.

Linc sighed. “Just give up. It doesn’t fit.”

Not moving back, not giving in, Eva shook her head. “You don’t know that. It might fit—”

Her words stopped dead when Linc’s hand covered hers. Rough. Big. Warm. She was so distracted she barely noticed he’d slowly uncurled her fingers and her hand was empty.

“Hey! I was using that.“

“And it wasn’t working, so stop.” He pulled it farther away and out of her reach.

“Does this sound like some sort of weird foreplay to anyone else, or just me?” Ethan asked in a low voice nearby, but not low enough.

Eva spun to send the tall cowboy a scathing glare, but only for a fraction of a moment before she turned back.

She had to keep an eye on what Linc was doing with the ornate antique key they’d been trying to wrestle into the lock of the secret compartment she’d found under the big old desk in the Wilder study.

“Don’t let her hear you say that or she’ll be forcing that key somewhere else that it doesn’t fit,” Poppy warned her boyfriend, who also happened to be Linc’s brother Ethan Wilder.

“I can hear you,” Eva said without turning, her gaze glued to Linc’s fingers as he flipped the key around and tried it upside down.

She’d already tried that and it hadn’t worked. But of course, being a man and a know-it-all, he had to try himself.

Ugh. Wilder men. They were all destined to drive her crazy.

Cocking a brow in victory, she said, “See? That didn’t work either.”

She didn’t give up, ever, but she knew when it was time to change tactics and move on. That time had come.

Sighing, she said, “Let’s just look for something else.”

There had to be two dozen rooms in the historic Tennessee mansion the Wilder family called a home. And even though the Wilder men had insisted they’d tried every lock in the house, she’d proven them wrong.

She, Eva Lucas from New York, had found the secret compartment that none of the rest of them had. And she’d done it while drinking their very expensive bourbon. Win-win.

“I only speak the truth, darlin’. Seriously, they should just fuck and get it over with.” Ethan’s comment ambled slow and smooth, just like the playboy cowboy he was—or had been before Poppy had locked down his heart.

But the fact he was dating one of her two best friends didn’t mean Eva had to put up with verbal abuse from the man.

She opened her mouth to deliver a zinger of a comeback, when Linc came to her defense with a barked reprimand of, “Ethan!”

“What?” Ethan played innocent, until he spotted Darcy, his five-year-old niece who’d come into the room with her father, Wyatt Wilder. Ethan cringed. “Sorry.”

Wyatt scowled before his gaze swept the room, pausing on Eva. “I take it from the unhappy faces, and the swearing, that the discovery you were so excited about didn’t pan out.”

“No,” Linc answered for her, which had her narrowing her eyes at him.

She could answer for herself. She didn’t need some man—and a younger man, to boot—doing it for her. She was about to tell him that when the AI device in the room chimed.

“What’s happening down there?” Olivia’s computer amplified voice filled the office and was echoed by the second device across the hallway in the kitchen.

“All right, who taught her how to use the Alexa like a whole house PA system?” Ethan asked.

Wyatt raised one finger to take the blame. “It was me. She was going so crazy at the thought of being on bed rest for the rest of the pregnancy, I had to do something to make her feel more connected.”

“Hello? Is this thing on?” Olivia asked as two out of three Wilder men groaned. Apparently, Linc was too busy protecting the key he’d finally gotten possession of again to be annoyed by Olivia.

Eva couldn’t help but smile. Seeing two-thirds of the Wilder men annoyed was good enough to cheer her up after the key had again defeated her. “I’ll go upstairs and report in.”

“I’ll come too,” Poppy offered.

She hooked her hand under Eva’s elbow, which was such a typical Poppy thing to do, Eva, who generally didn’t like touching another person unless she was fucking or fighting, allowed it.

They walked arm-in-arm, surrounded by a cloud of Poppy’s no-doubt insanely expensive perfume, all the way up the wide staircase where finally at the top they had to disengage to fit through Olivia and Wyatt’s bedroom door.

“So that was fun,” Poppy said, pointedly looking at Eva.

“What was fun? What’s happening? I hate being stuck up here.” Olivia pouted.

“That’s what you get for not using protection,” Eva pointed out.

Olivia’s brows drew low as she scowled. “Mean. I take it the key didn’t fit the secret compartment you found, judging by your fouler than usual mood.”

“True, but I’m not so sure if the foul mood is key related,” Poppy tipped her head to one side, sending her nauseatingly perfect long blonde hair cascading over one shoulder.

“I love you, but that doesn’t mean I won’t throttle you.” Eva’s warning did not have the desired effect as her friend’s smile flashed straight white teeth.

Olivia sighed. “I’m right here and I still don’t know what’s going on. How soon can I schedule a C-section? Somebody Google that.”

“Eva and Linc treated us all to a display of what sexual tension looks like when both people are too stubborn to admit they’re attracted to each other.”

Poppy relaying that completely inaccurate information had Eva knifing her hands through her cropped red hair. “Ugh. Not true. Don’t listen to her delusions.”

“Not delusions.” Poppy shook her head while looking gleeful.

“He’s a child,” Eva countered.

Linc was the baby of the Wilder family. The youngest of the three brothers, while she was the oldest of her two friends.

Just hanging out with Poppy, who was firmly a Gen Z, made Eva feel like the girl’s mommy. The last thing she wanted was to feel like that with a guy while having sex.

“Age is just a number.” Poppy delivered that wisdom gleaned from all of her two decades of life.

“Says the twenty-two-year-old.” Eva cocked a brow, thinking how her favorite boots were older than this girl.

“Linc is twenty-seven,” Olivia supplied.

“But he’s more like a forty-year-old in a twenty-seven-year old’s body. With all he’s been through, and how serious he is most of the time, it’s like he’s the oldest Wilder brother, not Wyatt,” Poppy argued. “Livvie, don’t you think so?”

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