Desiree Holt | USA Today & Award-Winning Author

Stark Naked

Naked Cowboys, Book 1

Reenie Davenport is making a fresh start, and her first stop is her old college friend Amy’s family ranch in Texas, where she bumps into Amy’s very sexy, very naked, and very drunk brother. She tries to keep her distance from him, especially after he shows up at her door the next morning wearing a killer smile and asking her not to let first impressions ruin what could be a whole lot of fun as they get to know each other.

Matt Stark quickly realizes none of his usual lines will work on Reenie, which only adds to his desire to get her to lower her defenses around him and let him convince her not all men are out to break hearts. Sweet talking her into lunch is only the beginning of what Matt has planned.

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Chapter One

“I’m really glad you came out to visit tonight,” Amy Stark said, carrying two margaritas into the family room of Stark Ranch. “And that you moved here. It’s been too long since we saw each other.

Reenie Davenport accepted the drink, took a tiny swallow of the icy liquid and stared out at the landscape, the rays of the dying sun pouring in through the big picture window. She’d spent a fair amount of time getting ready for this visit. She hadn’t seen either her friend Amy, or Amy’s very good-looking brother, since college graduation, so shoot her for wanting to look her very best. She caught her reflection in the glass of the window and eyed herself critically. Jeans and a simple sweater that made the most of her petite figure. Her naturally sun-streaked hair loose and swirling to her shoulders.

California girl comes to Texas. How did she look to Amy? And how would she look to her brother?

Not that I care. I’m done with men. Finished. Living a blessedly single life.

“I don’t like cows. I’m not even sure I like cowboys.” She threw her arms up in the air. “So how the hell did I end up in Texas?”

Amy Stark took a sip of her margarita. “Because you got a good job offer and it was a chance to wipe California Dude out of your mind?”

Reenie made a face. “California Dude? Well, yeah, I guess that’s a good way to describe him. But I think I like Asshole Aaron better.”

Amy laughed, and Reenie found herself smiling, realizing the pain in her heart over the jerk’s betrayal had finally dialed back to a dull ache. Her old college roommate had always had the ability to make her smile, even laugh at herself. Which was why Amy had been the first one she called when she made the leap to Texas and a new job. And why she’d jumped at the invitation to spend a weekend at Stark Ranch.

Moving to Texas was the most impulsive thing she’d ever done, but suddenly the state of California hadn’t seemed big enough to hold both her and Asshole Aaron. Especially since his betrayal had screwed up both her personal and professional lives. When an agency client had come calling just at the moment she needed an escape, she jumped. They were taking their graphics and marketing in-house and wanted her to be part of the new department. It had taken a few weeks to make it all happen, weeks of avoiding Aaron at work, of dodging her friends’ questions. And all she knew about Texas came from watching reruns of that old nighttime soap Dallas.

But Southfork Ranch had been almost in downtown Dallas and filled with beautiful people. Stark Ranch, on the other hand, was in the middle of no place. The sprawling ranch house had impressed her at once, with its vast open rooms and comfortable furniture that even in its simplicity still shrieked “expensive”. But although it was nestled in a copse of shade trees, there was nothing as far as she could see except rolling pasture. She felt completely out of place, like someone who’d gone to sleep and woken up in the wrong room. How did anyone live with this much open space? She needed walls, definitions.

“I just can’t believe you actually live out here so far from…from…civilization,” she went on. “With all these…these…cows.”

“Cattle,” Amy corrected her. “Beef on the hoof.”

“Cattle. Cows. It’s all the same to me,” Reenie said. “I can’t imagine being out here with nothing but animals.” She turned and winked at Amy. “I prefer the two-legged kind.”

“Oh, we’ve got those.” Amy grinned. “And believe me, they’re mouthwatering.” She pushed herself out of the big leather chair and came to stand by her friend. “Anyway, I’ve never thought of this place as isolated. I can be downtown in San Antonio in forty minutes. It took you less than that to drive out here tonight.”

“I guess it just feels like you’re a world away,” Reenie protested. She frowned. “Somehow in the movies ranches always looked…busier. With more people. Doing stuff.”

“We are during the day. Life on a ranch, especially one this size, gets pretty hectic. Which is why on Friday nights the hands all get a chance to cut loose. Something you should do my friend. You’ve been strung tighter than a bow since you came to Texas.”

“I know, I know.” Reenie sighed. “I just can’t seem to put the pieces of my life back together. Taking this job was an impulsive move. I just wanted to get away from Asshole Aaron and California didn’t seem big enough to hold both of us. And you’re here and we haven’t seen each other since college.” She sighed again. “A long time.”

“But now we’re making up for it. And I’ll do my best to get your mind off the Double A.”

“Double A?” Reenie couldn’t help grinning. How appropriate.

“Well, he is. Anyway, I thought we’d hit Charlie’s. It’s the end of the week so the place will be packed. All the ranch hands will be ready to raise hell.”

“Oh. Well.” Reenie let out a breath. “Actually, Amy, I don’t think I’m quite ready for the meet-and-greet scene yet. I need some distance from it.”

“Double A really did a number on you, didn’t he?”

Reenie hated the sympathy in her friend’s voice. “No more than I allowed him to. It just took me too long to see him for the self-centered, conceited jerk that he was.” The sex was so good I didn’t even look around to see he was banging half the women in the office and stealing my promotion out from under me. So, no, I don’t think I’m quite ready yet to jump back into that pool.”

“Maybe tomorrow night. See how you feel then. You’re here for the weekend, so tonight we could just pop in a DVD, watch a chick flick and get trashed on margaritas. Girl stuff.”

“That sounds pretty good. Thanks.”

Amy pushed herself out of the chair. “Okay, then. First let me at least give you a tour of the barns so you can say you know what happens on a ranch. You can’t visit a ranch without seeing what it’s really all about. And Stark Ranch is one of the best operations around. Then I’ll get us margarita refills and junk food.”

“Okay, okay.”

Amy opened the back door at almost the same moment a man on the porch raised his hand to knock on it. He had to be close to sixty. His dusty jeans and boots indicated he’d been outside working. He pulled his worn Stetson from his head and walked over to Amy.

“Everything’s bedded down,” he reported. “Night shift’s about to take over. I’ll just be heading into town if that’s okay.”

“Go ahead, Hank. I guess everyone else is already at Charlie’s.”

He looked at Reenie, then back at Amy. “You ladies planning to join us? Might give your friend a taste of Willow Creek.”

Amy shook her head. “No, thanks for the invite, but we thought we’d just hang here and get blitzed. Anyway, I don’t think my friend’s really into noisy cowboys and local bars.”

“Shame. She doesn’t know what she’s missing.”

“I tried to tell her.” Amy laughed.

“Well, whatever you do, don’t set her up with that brother of yours. I swear he’s written a whole new set of rules for male behavior. All right, ladies. Have a good night.”

“Isn’t he a little old to be a cowboy?” Reenie asked Amy after Hank left. “And to be out boozing it up?”

“Are you kidding? Hank’s tough as nails. He’s been doing this forever. He might miss a step now and then, but he can still take on the new hands anytime.”

“What did he mean about your brother?” Amy had never said much about Matt Stark, although Reenie knew the two were close. She vaguely remembered a picture of a young man with hair and eyes as dark as Renee’s at graduation, but that had been twelve years ago and a lot of water had rushed over the dam since then.

“Oh, just that Matt’s a player who goes through women the way the cattle go through feed. But my brother’s a hard worker. When our parents moved to New Mexico after Dad’s heart attack most of the responsibility for the ranch fell on Matt’s shoulders.”

“I guess that’s a lot to take care of.”

“Uh huh. It’s a big operation, Reenie, one that takes a lot of hard work. I might disagree with his social outlook but I don’t begrudge him. We’re two different people, that’s all.”

“Where is he tonight, anyway?”

“We signed a huge contract to supply beef today, so my guess is he’s out celebrating with the buyers. Or out with one of his women. Like I said, he plays as hard as he works. And he always does it with such style you can’t even be mad at him. So, if we aren’t going to Charlie’s let me at least give you the nickel tour. We’ll take a quick run through the barns and you can see what goes on there.”

“Oh, Hmm. The barns?”

Amy laughed. “Come on. If the cattle or horses try to bite you I’ll be your protector.”

She followed Amy who walked with a long-legged easy gait, her black pony tail swinging with the rhythm of her body. It was obvious she was completely at ease in this environment, and while Reenie stepped gingerly into the first barn, Amy walked as if she owned the place. Well, duh. She did indeed. She and the horny brother, Matt.

She looked around with a mixture of curiosity and distaste, wrinkling her nose at the mingled aromas of hay, sawdust and manure. What did people like about this, anyway? It all looked so different in the movies.

Give me the Malibu sand and the roar of the surf any day. Even the smell of fish is better than this. Why oh why did I think Texas would be a good place to live?

She did her best, however, to be polite as Amy rattled off details about the various horses in the stalls, toured her through something called the tack room, explained how the horses had to be trained to do specific jobs. But she balked at something called the breeding barn.

“If you’re going to show me cows fucking I’m going home,” she said and made a face. “Of course, they’re probably getting more action right now than I am.”

Amy smiled. “Actually, it’s pretty scientific, but I think we’ll skip that for now. Maybe tomorrow. It’s really Matt’s bailiwick. He can tell you about it better than I can.”

Reenie controlled a tiny shudder. Just what she needed. The horny cowboy telling her about horny cows. Outside Amy pointed to the pastures where the cattle were grazing, explained how they moved them around to allow the hay to grow back, how they separated the heifers, whatever they were, from the yearlings, whatever they were, and other details that blew past Reenie’s head.

“Okay, okay,” Amy laughed as they walked past the corral. “I can see you’re on overload and this isn’t exactly your thing. I’ll take pity on you and fix us more margaritas.”

“You really do have a great operation here,” Reenie said politely.

Amy laughed again. “And you’re a very good guest. Come on. The tequila’s calling.”

They were sprawled in the family room watching a chick flick, working on their third round of the citrusy drinks, when Reenie heard the roar of a truck engine, the squeal of brakes and the slamming of a vehicle door. She looked at Amy, raised an eyebrow.

“Probably Matt. He’s not exactly a quiet driver. Although that’s a little noisier than usual.”

The front door opened, slammed shut, and boots clacked on the hardwood floor.

“Well, well.” The low drawl sent a shiver dancing along Reenie’s spine. “Amy, you didn’t tell me we were having company. I’d have come home a lot sooner.”

His words were slurred just a little, but Amy seemed to pick up on it right away. “She’s my company, not yours, hotshot.” She frowned. “And exactly how much have you had to drink?”

Reenie stared, the man’s lopsided grin making her stomach do funny flips as it had years ago.

“Just a few shots to toast our good fortune.”

“I hope the others aren’t as toasted as you are. And that you got drunk after the papers were signed.”

“Of course.” He winked at her. “And our fortune is really, really good, kiddo.”

“I know, but holy crap, Matt. You look like the tail end of a Friday night at Charlie’s Bar.”

“Hey, give me a little break here.” He staggered into the family room, stumbled slightly and leaned against the wall for support.

“Please tell me you didn’t drive home this way.” Anxiety washed over Amy’s face.

“At least give me credit for some brains. I called the bunkhouse and Andy Givens came and fetched me.” He chuckled. “Think I cut into his night life a little. He sure took off out of here like a bat out of hell.”

“I’ll send someone to pick up your car first thing in the morning.” Amy’s voice was tight with disapproval.

“Already covered. Someone will bring it home later tonight.”

Amy sighed. “I can’t believe you got this blitzed, Matt. This just isn’t like you.”

Reenie stared at the man and the sight was a punch to the gut. Every hormone in her body raced full tilt. She’d remembered him as being cute, but this? God, this was beyond cute. A surge of lust rolled through her, making her pulse kick way up and an insistent throbbing pounded between her thighs. No wonder he was a player. He probably had to hand out numbers.

Even in his present state he was sex on the hoof. Tall and lean, his tanned face was framed with thick black hair that at the moment fell in disarray over his forehead. His long legs were encased in dark slacks that kissed every muscle and the plaid western-style shirt was open at the throat, sleeves rolled up, revealing dark hair curling on his chest and dusting his skin. The Stetson on his head was tilted to the side.

She could practically see the electricity crackle in the air between them. And even in his drunken state, she knew Matt Stark felt it too. Saw it in the darkening of those almost black eyes lit by a hot spark of interest.

Holy shit! Does he remember me the way I remember him?

“Matt, this is Reenie Davenport, We—”

“Roomed together in college,” he finished for her, giving her a wink. “I definitely remember.”

Reenie shivered. His voice was a caress, like a tongue licking at her skin.

“Yes, and we’ve got time for all the pleasantries in the morning.” Amy’s voice held an edge of annoyance. “You look like you’re about to fall down and I can smell the booze from here.”

“Hey.” He tried for indignation but in his condition couldn’t quite pull it off. “We just had a few to celebrate the deal and then… You know.” He pushed off the wall, stumbled, groped for the wall again.

Reenie watched him, transfixed. She knew she should probably excuse herself and let Amy handle the problem but she couldn’t tear her eyes away from the man. California had more than its share of good-looking men, but pound for pound this man had more of a sexual presence than any she’d ever met. There was just something so…earthy about him.

No, no, no. Hang out a sign on him that says Trouble. You’re off men, remember?

“Jesus, Matt.” Amy’s disgust was evident. “Come on. I’ll get you to your room, and hope Reenie won’t hold it against me that my brother’s a drunken mess.”

She set her drink aside, pushed herself out of the big leather chair and hurried to her brother’s side. Dragging his arm over her shoulder she leaned into him, maneuvering him away from the wall and into a short hallway.

“Hey,” he slurred, “how ’bout having Reenie put me to bed.” He turned his head. “Whaddaya say, Reenie?”

Reenie just stared, unable to tear her eyes away from him.

What the hell is wrong with me?

Amy had a firm grip on Matt now, dragging him down the hallway. “I’m sure Reenie would say if she’d known what a bum you are she might not have come out here to visit me.”

Reenie could hear the man muttering all the way to what she guessed was his bedroom. A door closed. After a long time it opened again—click, snick—then closed. Amy’s heels tapped on the hardwood as she hurried back to the family room.

“I don’t even know how to begin apologizing to you for this…this…fiasco,” she said, reaching for her drink and downing almost half of it. “Matt’s not usually like that. Or at least if he is I don’t see it.” She sighed. “I guess he’s entitled to blow off some steam now and then. I’m just embarrassed you had to see it.”

“Hey, no harm.” Reenie smiled. “Shit happens to all of us. Remember that night our junior year when we…”

And they were off on a trip down memory lane, laughing and giggling. Suddenly Amy’s eyes widened and her face turned white then red as she stared at something past Reenie’s shoulder. Reenie turned to look and nearly passed out. Leaning in the entryway to the short hall was Matt Stark. And he was completely, starkly naked.

She felt her jaw drop. It certainly wasn’t the first time she’d seen a man naked, but she’d never been greeted this way by a man she’d never been intimate with. To make it worse, he was the sexiest man she’d ever laid eyes on. Better than any memories. And just when she’d sworn off men altogether.

Her hands clenched and unclenched and her breath felt trapped in her throat. Reenie knew she should turn away, move away, something, but she was mesmerized by that very sexy body. The initial slam of physical attraction kicked up at least ten notches. Now she could see the definition of every muscle, his flat stomach, the thick pelt of hair on his chest arrowing down to a cluster of hair from which rose what had to be absolutely the most magnificent cock she’d ever seen. Even semi-erect it was long and thick, the head broad and flared and the color of a ripe plum. Below it hung the heavy sac of his testicles, brushing his thighs.

Icy heat flashed over her, the pulse in her cunt drummed harder and her panties were suddenly damp at the thought of that erection sliding into her waiting wet warmth.

Ohmigod!

Okay, what was she supposed to do? Pretend this was an everyday occurrence for her? Faint like a bodice-ripper heroine? Be shocked? Disgusted?

“Matt!”

Amy’s shout startled Reenie out of her trance, and wrenched her gaze away from the man. Seeing the embarrassment on Amy’s face, she politely covered her own with her hand. Still, she couldn’t stop herself from peeking between her fingers. Yup, he was still naked. The first thing she thought was what an ass. The second was what a hottie. Every one of her nerve endings sat up and begged. Great. Just what she needed. Not. And then the image of Asshole Aaron flashed across her mind, her stomach cramped and she thought, Not again. Please, God, not again.

“Hey, Reenie?” That warm as molasses drawl crawled over her, even in her stupefied state. “Reenie, Reenie, Reenie. I came out to see if you’d come keep me company.”

The voice drew nearer and Reenie squeezed her eyes tightly shut, forcing herself not to peek between her fingers. She should probably get up off the damn couch and get out of the room, give brother and sister some privacy, but her body didn’t want to move. What was wrong with her?

“Damn it, Matthew Stark.” Amy’s sharp voice cut through the air. “Get back to your room. Right now.”

“But—”

“I said right now and I mean it.”

“Okay, but…”

Reenie heard a thud, felt the vibration of something heavy hitting the floor.

“Oh, shit.” Amy’s voice sounded again. Angry and frustrated. “Damn it, Matt. I’m going to kick your ass from here to El Paso. Oof. Ouch.” There was a long pause. “Reenie, I’m so, so sorry but I’m afraid I need your help here.”

“Me?” she squeaked.

“I have a little problem here,” she huffed. “Matt, get up. Now.”

There was no answer from Matt. The only sound Reenie heard was a snore.

A snore?

Slowly she peeked out between her fingers and didn’t know whether to laugh, cry or run like hell. A very drunk, very naked Matt Stark was sprawled on the floor snoring loudly. And Amy, probably half his weight, had her hands under his arms trying to tug his inert body with little success.

“Please, Reenie.” Amy sounded ready to cry. “I need to get him to his room and he weighs a ton. I can’t move him by myself.”

“Um, Amy…” Automatically her eyes dropped to his very exposed groin and she tried very hard not to drool. “You’re kidding me, right? I mean…” She waved at his cock and balls, which were very obviously front and center. Not that she wouldn’t mind looking a little longer, but decency dictated she be more outraged than aroused.

Shit, shit, shit.

“Oh, um, yeah.” Amy followed her eyes. “Shit. Wait a minute.” She dropped Matt’s arm, raced to the kitchen and came back with a dish towel. She quickly draped it over his cock and balls. “Okay. Semi-decent. Now will you help me?”

“Okay, okay.” Reenie uncurled from the couch. “Just make sure the towel doesn’t move.”

This is the strangest overnight I’ve had in a long time. Oh, well.

“So, is this his usual way of doing things?” she asked as they dragged Matt out of the family room. “At least I can see why he’s such a big hit with the ladies.”

Big being the operative word.

“Please. I’m already mortified beyond words. I want you to know that.”

“It’s okay, really. Really.”

Pulling and tugging, they managed to get Matt to a huge room at the end of the hall, his naked ass bumping along on the hardwood floor. Every few feet the towel would shift and Amy would quickly jerk it back in place. Reenie alternated between trying to avert her eyes and stealing peeks at the gorgeous male body. If all cowboys looked like this, maybe…

Don’t go there. He’s obviously turned into a boozer and a pussy hound. Not my type at all. And I just got out of one bad relationship. I sure don’t need another. Not that he’d even be interested…

Reenie mentally shook herself. No way should she be having these kinds of thoughts.

The carpet slowed their progress but at last they finally managed to get him next to his bed.

“He’ll probably have rug burns on his butt,” Amy said, “but no more than he deserves.” She pulled back the comforter and sheet, but when they tried to lift him he was dead weight. And the towel kept slipping.

“We can’t do this,” Reenie puffed. “He’s just too much for us.”

“You’re right.” Grabbing two pillows off the bed, Amy then shoved them under Matt’s head then covered him with the comforter. “That’ll have to do. He deserves to sleep on the floor, anyway, the way he smells.”

“Nothing as fragrant as a sweaty drunk,” Reenie told her. She waved her hand in front of her face in an attempt to dispel the alcohol fumes. “Is this a special welcome you offer certain guests or does he do this for everyone?”

“Reenie, I can’t apologize enough for this. I promise you Matt’s not usually like this. Oh, he likes to party and all and he works hard enough to earn it. But I’ve never seen him like this before. You don’t know how mortified I am.” She shook her head. “All I can think is they got to celebrating and didn’t bother to eat dinner.”

“That’ll do it.”

Amy pulled the door closed as they backed out of the room. “I guess I’m lucky he made it home in one piece.”

“It’s okay,” Reenie assured her, but it really wasn’t. Nothing seemed to be turning out right for her these days. She knew she’d never be able to last the weekend here, never be able to sit across the breakfast table from Matt like a polite guest after tonight. But if she left this minute Amy would be very upset.

“Let me make us another batch of margaritas and get some crackers and cheese to go with it.”

“Listen, Amy, that sounds good but I think if I had another of those lethal concoctions I’d be in about the same condition as Matt. I’m really tired anyway. Would you mind terribly if I went to bed?”

She hated the look of disappointment tinged with humiliation on her friend’s face, but Amy dug up a smile.

“No, I understand. No problem. We’ll have a big cowboy breakfast in the morning and then I’ll get the four-wheeler and take you around the ranch.”

“That sounds good.” She gave Amy a hug. “Thanks for asking me out here, regardless of everything else. Being new in town can be a pain in the ass.”

“Hey, what are friends for? Anyway, it isn’t everyone I let haul my brother around naked.”

Reenie forced a laugh. “I’ll say this. You sure know how to show a friend a good time. See you in the morning.”

But when she was safely in her room, Reenie repacked everything she’d taken out of the little overnight bag and lay down on the bed to wait. The door was cracked open barely an inch, just enough for her to monitor the sounds in the house. She saw the lights go out in the family room, heard the tapping of heels as Amy moved around the kitchen then headed to her room and closed the door.

Reenie lay rigidly on top of the quilt, frequently checking the LED readout on her watch. She wondered again if she’d made a huge mistake tossing everything aside in California, moving here, taking this job. Of course, she’d only been here for a month. Not enough time to settle in. But she wouldn’t be hurrying back to Stark Ranch for any more visits any time soon, and that would just be another problem to deal with.

Not for a million dollars would she ever let Amy know how she’d reacted to Matt Stark. How conflicted she was at the sight of his naked body. How every pulse point in her body was throbbing with insistent demand. But she couldn’t get those come-fuck-me eyes, that voice filled with sexual heat, that body whose image still danced in her brain, out of her mind. No way could she spend the rest of the weekend doing her best to avoid him, dealing with Amy’s embarrassment and her own intense awareness.

Finally at four o’clock, when she was sure everyone was dead to the world, she took her little bag and tiptoed to the front of the house, sticking the note for Amy on the table where she’d be sure to see it. The front door was heavy but she managed to open and close it with only the softest clicks. Thank the Lord her car was parked on the opposite side of the house from the bedrooms because an engine turning over wasn’t the quietest sound in the world. Then she tromped on the accelerator and made tracks for the city and the safety of her townhouse. Amy would be hurt but she’d find a way to make it up to her. She didn’t turn on her headlights until she reached the two lane ranch-to-market road.

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