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Sipping on a Coke, Hawk stood on the outer perimeter of the tables and benches spread across a large area. A country western band tuned up their guitars on the stage. Karly seemed intent on flirting with every single cowboy that sauntered into the beer garden, no matter what his age.
Hawk didn't know old she was. Younger than he was by several years. A twenty something cowboy he remembered from the saddle bronc competition was now putting the moves on her. An unexpected streak of jealousy slashed through him. Hawk gripped the Coca Cola can so tight he half expected it to burst inside his hand.
Last week, when Karly had drifted off into a deep sleep, he'd climbed out of her bed and dressed. He wasn't sure why he'd picked up her clothes and folded them for her. Driving away from the rodeo grounds that night, regret and guilt had collided together inside of his guts.
He saw Karly throw back her head and laugh at something the young stud whispered in her ear. Burning with unexpected and unwanted jealousy, he watched her flirt. When the husky cowboy wrapped his hand around Karly's neck and started kissing her, Hawk threw down the soda can and stormed through the crowd of partygoers.
As he approached them, he watched Karly shove at the cowboy's chest. Hawk grabbed the back of the young cowboy's collar, twisting him around to face him. "Keep your goddamn hands off the lady."
"Just who in the hell do you think you are?"
"None of your business." Hawk locked his gaze on Karly's.
"Hey, honey, you know this S.O.B?" The cowboy craned his neck to see Karly.
Eyes wide with surprise, she nodded, never taking her eyes from Hawk's.
The cowboy wrestledhimself from Hawk's grip and wheeled around to face her. "You told me you were footloose and fancy free."
She lifted her chin. "I am footloose and fancy free."
Anger charging through him, Hawk muscled the man aside and reached for Karly's wrist. He dragged her away from the cowboy.
"You coming back later, honey?" the guy yelled after her.
Karly glanced over her shoulder. "Maybe, sugar."
Hawk led her outside of the beer gardens, where she yanked free of his hold.
"Just what the hell were you doing in there? You don't have any claims on me." Karly poked him in the chest. "You disappeared in the middle of the night. Slam bam, and not even a thank you, ma'am."
While the anger steamed and hissed inside of his body, he watched her back up a couple of steps. Hawk fought back the urge to reach for her again.
Karly fisted her hands and planted them on her hips. "I don't like being left high and dry."
"It was for the best."
"Hah! You made the decision to leave without even a good-bye kiss."
"How do you know I didn't kiss you before I left?" Hawk had kissed her cheek, her forehead, and brushed his lips over hers before he'd run out on her.
She opened her mouth to say something but stopped. Karly glanced away for a moment before she brought her gaze back to him. "Whatever." Squaring her shoulders, she said, "I'm afraid you'll have to excuse me. There's a young, randy cowboy in there that has the hots for me."
She spun around, but Hawk caught her arm. His jealousy roaring to life again, he leaned close to her. "This isn't your style, Karly."
Wrenching her arm from his grip, she faced him. "You don't know what my style is, Mr. Rivers. You didn't take the time to find out."
Battling to keep his emotions under control, Hawk hated admitting she was right. His gut told him Karly didn't sleep around, but then he really didn't know her. The one sure thing was she had kept him awake every damn night for the last week. She'd dredged up emotions buried for years inside his heart.
"Don't sleep with the cowboy, Karly. You'll regret it."
Hawk burned her with a look before he pushed past her and strode away.