Tour: Excerpt & Giveaway for Learning the Ropes by T.J. Kline

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Learning the Ropes
Rodeo #3
By: T.J. Kline

Releasing September 30th
Avon Impulse
Rule #1 - Don’t lose focus...

Barrel racer Alicia Kanani has had a long road to the top - and she’s not quite there yet. Finances have always been tight, and in the glitz and glam world of professional rodeo, that means that second best is probably the best she can hope for. With the National Finals coming up, she’s certainly not looking for a pair of cowboys to distract her.

Rule #2 - Don’t gamble what you can’t live without…

Playboy Chris Thomas is sure Alicia’s the perfect woman for his level-headed team roping partner, David Greenly. It seems like a match, until Chris realizes he wants Alicia for himself. The stakes have been raised; David and Chris are supposed to be a team, and this time, they’re on opposite sides.

Can Alicia rope this playboy’s heart, or will they find themselves too tangled up to let true love in?
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Chris shifted so they could lie down, letting her use his bicep as a pillow while Chris lay on his side, facing her, his hand at her waist. His brain rang out with warning bells—move away, don’t touch her, drive home, get himself out of this—but his body quit listening. His fingers burned where they lay against her skin but he didn't want to pull away. His gut twisted as need circled, spreading throughout him, taunting him, tormenting. It would be so easy to ignore his good sense right now, to bend his head and take those full pouting lips into a kiss that he was sure would be incredible, to watch her eyes darken with desire instead of worry. His fingers twitched against her satin skin and her fingers curled against his chest, clutching his t-shirt.

And then he saw the tears in her eyes. Concern filled him.

“Ali, what is it?” He forced himself to move his hand from her waist, from the glorious temptation offered him, to brush away a tear on her cheek. “Talk to me.”

“I don't know if it's what he wants. He always said he did but what if he changes his mind. And he's getting older. I see the toll it's taken for him to run the Diamond Bar. He can't do it forever.” She gulped air as the tears continued to fall unchecked. He’d never seen Ali cry in all the time he’d known her and it broke his heart to know she was this worried. “What will they do then? They won't have a place to stay if I can't get this ranch soon.”

“Honey, your dad is still doing just fine. He's got a lot of years ahead of him still. Bradley isn't going to let him go or kick him out.” Chris chuckled softly and brushed another tear away with his thumb as she hiccupped. “You're getting worked up over things that are a long way off.”

“But they aren't.” She shook her head in denial. “Do you know how long it's taken to save this money up to get this place? If I don't get it now. . . .”

“There are other places, other ranches,” he reassured her. “Relax. Everything will work out. I promise.”

Her eyes met his. “You can't promise that. You've got everything, Chris. The property, the money backing you, the family, the security. There’s nothing you want that you can’t have.”

Was that how she saw him? A spoiled, rich kid who didn’t know what it was to want something and not get it? She had no idea how badly he wanted her but was denying himself because he couldn’t sacrifice what they’d built over the years.

“You might be surprised,” he muttered, staring into her eyes. She looked up at him and he could read her confusion.

He couldn't help himself. He couldn’t hold back any longer. With her staring up at him, so trusting, so open, and so damn beautiful, how was he supposed to resist her? Chris dipped his head, barely touching his lips to hers. He shouldn't have done it. He should hate himself for taking advantage of the fact that she'd been drinking and wouldn’t even remember the kiss, let alone most of this night, but he couldn't stop himself. He didn’t want to.

He'd wanted to kiss her this way as long as he could remember and he wasn't disappointed. Her lips were soft and, when his lips brushed hers in a light caress, she gasped slightly. He knew he should pull away, send her inside, and pretend this never happened. That’s what a friend would do. Instead he tasted her, tentatively plucking at her lower lip with his mouth, breathing her in. Dear God, help him. Other than her surprise, she was open beneath him, her fingers curling against the hard wall of his chest as his hands found her waist again, desperate to touch the skin exposed by her shirt.

He had to stop this now. She was his friend, his sister's best friend, not some groupie he could leave behind in the morning. Hating their circumstances, he drew back with painstaking slowness, need throbbing in him, centering in his loins. “Ali, I'm sorry, I—”

He didn't get a chance to finish his thought as her hands found his jaw and pulled him back to her, curling her fingers around the nape of his neck, her tongue sneaking past the barrier of his lips. The touch sent white hot flames of desire licking at his resolve, destroying it with the simple touch. His hand slid up the back of her shirt, gliding over her smooth flesh, his thumb brushing the lace along the side of her bra as his tongue plunged into her mouth.

Ali was unlike anyone else, like candy with a kick. Even the taste of her was sweet. Soda and whiskey. Sweet and sultry. And it wrecked him completely. One kiss would never be enough. He dragged her closer to him, groaning as she arched against his chest, his thumb brushing the curve of her breast. His heart stopped beating as she sighed against his lips, her head dropping backward, exposing her neck to him. He couldn’t remember any of the reasons he should stop as he accepted all she offered, letting his lips find the sensitive curve at the hollow of her throat before nuzzling the soft shell of her ear. Her curves fit against him like a part of him he hadn't even realized was missing.

“Ali,” he growled, his hand moving to cover her breast, his thumb brushing over the tight peak through the thin material. She arched against him, her fingers digging into the corded muscles of his back, her nipple pressing against his palm through the lace, shocking his senses.

What in the hell are you doing?

This was Ali and she was as far from sober as he'd ever seen her. One of them had to keep their wits and, thanks to his stop at the liquor store, he'd made sure it wasn’t Ali. He couldn't betray her trust and take advantage of her this way, even if it caused him physical pain to stop kissing her perfect mouth. Chris eased away from her slowly, brushing back a strand of her hair that fell between them. The ache in him grew to gargantuan proportions as he separated himself from her with a hand on her upper arm. She whimpered softly against him, pressing her lips to his jaw. He was going to have to think fast if he wanted to repair the damage he'd done to their friendship, praying she was too far gone to remember anything come morning.

Chris smiled down at her, giving her his most rakish grin, and arched a brow. “Well, that was something we've never tried before.”

Author Info:

T. J. Kline was raised competing in rodeos and Rodeo Queen competitions since the age of 14 and has thorough knowledge of the sport as well as the culture involved. She has written several articles about rodeo for small periodicals, as well as a more recent how-to article for RevWriter, and has published a nonfiction health book and two inspirational fiction titles under the name Tina Klinesmith. She is also an avid reader and book reviewer for both Tyndale and Multnomah. In her spare time, she can be found laughing hysterically with her husband, children, and their menagerie of pets in Northern California.

Author Links:
Digital Set of RODEO QUEEN and THE COWBOY AND THE ANGEL and Second Winner for Print Copy of THE COWBOY AND THE ANGEL
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SAHM to four rowdy kids. Avid reader and blogger.

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