The sound of leather hitting flesh was music to his ears.
He pulled his arm back and snapped his wrist, the movement fluid and familiar. The long leather tail of the bullwhip connected with her quivering flank and a sharp crack echoed back to him.
She released a low-pitched grunt but remained still, staring at him with defiant brown eyes.
Again he lifted his arm. He put more force behind the blow, hitting the same spot, but harder.
Her whole body quivered.
“For Christsake, quit fuckin’ around with her. Throw a goddamn rope around her neck and make her come.”
Ben McKay squinted at the lone cow, her hooves mired in the mud. He sighed, spurred his horse through the creek and stopped ten feet in front of the immovable cow. After switching out his whip for his rope, he twirled and let fly. The loop circled her neck and he tugged to tighten it. He’d done this so many times he didn’t have to spur his horse; Bongo just moved forward.
The cow, given the choice between choking or moving, stumbled forward.
Quinn’s horse danced impatiently at the top of the rise, as his rider watched Ben drag the cow up the incline. “Don’t know why in the hell she likes that damn creek,” Quinn remarked. “She’d stay there until it froze over.”
“Probably.” Bongo picked up the pace and Ben led the cow through the gate. As soon as Quinn closed off her only avenue of escape, Ben released the rope. He dismounted and approached the cow slowly. “Now don’t go getting any ideas about running off.” She stood still while he slipped the loop from her neck. Then he slapped her hard on the rump and she lumbered toward the rest of the herd.
Quinn waited while Ben mounted up. They poked along, soaking in the last rays of the sun’s warmth. Indian summer had stretched through the first week of October. They’d take temperate days while they could because winter in Wyoming seemed to last more than half the damn year.
“So what’re your plans for the weekend?” Quinn asked.
“Goin’ to Gillette. I’ll be back Sunday sometime.” He pushed up his hat and looked at Quinn. “Unless you and Libby need me back early for chores on Sunday morning?”
“Nah. We can handle it. Aren’t you gonna be around to watch the PBR Sunday afternoon? It’ll be the last time Chase rides in the regular season.”
He’d forgotten about that. His bull riding younger brother had pulled his head out of his ass and had made a good showing on the PBR tour the past few months. “Yeah. I’ll be back.”
“Good, because at the last poker game you volunteered your house as a place for us all to get together to watch.”
Ben stopped his horse. “Define all.”
“All…meaning all our McKay cousins.”
“Jesus. Was I drunk when I volunteered?”
Quinn laughed. “Nope. You were sober enough to exclude kids and wives in the invite. Besides, you own the biggest TV of any of us. And if you sweet talk Keely, she’ll bring food.”
His cousin Keely loved McKay events with the boys, since she was the only female McKay in their generation. “I’ll call her on my way out of town.”
When they reached Quinn’s place, Ben asked, “We usin’ the horses for anything early next week?”
“A couple things we need to check in the northwest corner that’s easier to get to on horseback than with the ATVs. Why?”
“I’d like to leave Bongo here until then.”
“Not a problem.”
Ben dismounted and unhooked the cinch strap.
“Is there a woman in Gillette you’ve been keeping secret?”
Ben tossed the saddle over the split rail fence. “Wouldn’t be a secret if I told you now, would it?”
Quinn dropped his saddle next to Ben’s. “Why do you drive to Gillette to get laid and get drunk when there are plenty of places around here? And plenty of women who’d be happy to be in your bed for more than a weekend.”
He snorted and removed the wet saddle blanket, draping it over the rail. “Who’d you hear that from? Tell? Or Dalton?”
Quinn pitched Ben a currycomb. “Neither. I heard that from my wife.”
Ben brushed Bongo with long strokes. “Trouble in paradise? Has Libby been hanging out at Ziggy’s bar again?”
“Fuck off. No, a couple of the new, single teachers have asked her about you.”
“Teachers? Definitely not my type.”
He patted Bongo’s withers. “I have a hard time believing a teacher would make a good student.”
“What the hell is that supposed to mean?”
Thinking out loud always got him in trouble. “Nothin’. I’m just touchy about all of our damn family members, including your wife, thinking I need to be paired up and married off now that Chase and Ava have tied the knot. Not everyone wants to be chained down with a wife and kids.” From the corner of his eye, he noticed Quinn bristle. “Sorry. Between our married relatives lookin’ at me like a loser terminal bachelor, and the single chicks at the local bars angling to tame one of the last wild McKays, I’m better off finding my hookups in Gillette.”
“I gotta be honest, it’s good to hear you’re hooking up with women.”
“Why’s that? You worried I’m secretly craving cock?”
Quinn shook his head. “I wouldn’t give a shit if you were. But it’s been so long since I’ve seen you with a date you can’t blame me for wondering what kind of woman is worth the drive.”
An obedient woman.
Not that Ben could explain that, either. He grinned. “A woman who doesn’t want more than a night or two.”
His brother laughed. “Daylight’s a’wastin’. Get a move on. I’ll finish up.”
“Thanks, bro. See you Sunday.”
Ben sped home. A shower and a change of clothes put him in a good mood and he whistled while he packed for the weekend. House secured, he headed to the barn to refill the dogs’ food and water bowls. Ace and Deuce leveled baleful looks at him. “You mutts are spoiled livin’ in the house.” He petted their heads. “Be good guard dogs, ’kay?”
An hour later, Ben cruised down Main Street in Gillette and parked in the back lot behind the Rawhide Bar. When he crossed the alley, the streetlight sizzled and popped before it flickered out, putting the doorway in shadow.
The left door was the back service entrance to the Rawhide Bar. But the slightly recessed door on the right was the entrance into the Rawhide Club—not that it was marked as such. A keycode was required to enter, a code that changed every weekend. Ben scrolled to the text from Cody and punched in the number, watching as the green light flashed.
A short set of stairs ended at a wide landing. The door was manned by security on Friday and Saturday nights. Because security and anonymity were paramount to club members, Ben was surprised the door was propped open with a barstool and he could wander in, unimpeded.
The large main room, decorated in gold and red, harkened back to brothels in the Wild West. An ornate horseshoe-shaped bar dominated the back corner. The floor to tin ceiling barback consisted of gilded mirrors and glass shelves. A sizeable brick and slate fireplace took center stage on the opposite wall. Several old-fashioned velvet, leather and brocade couches were placed in a semi-circle in front of it. Other chairs and loveseats separated the outer space into individual seating areas. Room dividers also created intimate, hidden spots. At the far back of the room was a hallway that split into two sides.
The high-pitched whine of the vacuum cleaner stopped and Sully strode into view. “Bennett!” He pulled him in for a one-armed man hug. “Good to see you.”
“You too. I was beginning to wonder if I was the only one here.”
“Nah. Cody’s cleaning up a mess in the hallway. Murphy is next door, counting the till. Want a beer?”
“Wouldn’t say no.”
Sully slipped behind the bar. “It’s been a while.”
“Sorry I haven’t been around.”
“No worries. Been slow in the club.” Sully popped the top on a bottle of Moose Drool.
Ben settled on the stool. “What about the bar?”
“The bar side always stays busy.”
“That’s gotta make Cody and Trace happy.” He took a pull off his beer. “What’s new with you?”
Sully shrugged and loosened his tie. “Not much. Keeping my head above water at the day job. I sling drinks one night a week at the bar to give Cody a break. I’ve been on overseer status at the club most Saturday nights.”
“You still makin’ time with that redhead from Sheridan?”
“The last two times I’ve seen her haven’t been on club nights. She comes into the bar side, tosses back a couple of appletinis, we shoot the breeze, and she’s gone before closing time.”
Ben frowned. “Think she wants to see you outside of the club?” Most female club members didn’t hang out in the Rawhide Bar. The reason they’d joined the club was to avoid random, disappointing hookups with half-drunk men after last call. Being a member of the Rawhide Club guaranteed they’d get laid since that was the club’s objective—providing a place for no-strings-attached, safe and consensual sex.
“I don’t know.” Sully rested his elbows on the bar. “I like her. The sex is great. She’s not heavy into the Dom/sub stuff, which is fine with me.”
Sully’s attitude surprised Ben. “Really?”
“In the last couple months I’ve realized that while I enjoy certain aspects of this club, it’s not a permanent lifestyle choice for me. I know Murphy and Layla are happy living the life twenty-four/seven. I suspect Cody and Trace will eventually find a permanent submissive. No judgment from me. But Christ, Ben, I don’t wanna put a damn slave collar on a woman. I don’t want her to kneel at my feet. All I want is a lover who’s sexually open-minded and lets me call the shots when we’re getting busy.”