The new owner of the Faro Ranch was unlike anyone that Emily Wilder had ever met in her twenty-two years of life. Her world did not extend far beyond the slat fences of the Faro. Her father had managed the ranch for Mr. Donavon for twenty-six years. When the old man had died, his son had auctioned off the cattle and sold the property. Emily's poppa had worried that he might lose his job when the new owner took over the Faro, but Charley Quinn had recognized Ike Wilder for the expert rancher he was and kept the old man on as manager.
Quinn had turned the cattle ranch into a horse ranch. The animals she raised were Tennessee Walking Horses. The boys who worked for Ike called the magnificent creatures sissy animals because of their exaggerated trot and fragile nature. They would rather be working around a track or training jumpers. Emily thought the horses were a nice change from the smell and labor of cattle.
The stable had always been Emily's favorite place on the ranch. Her father's office was at the end of the stable and she had learned to walk on the straw covered floor. She'd played hide and seek in the stalls and lost her virginity in the loft. She could outride any of Ike's cowboys. Even as a child, she had a way with the horses. Even the roughest stallion obeyed her gentle voice.
"Who the hell are you?" a firm voice demanded, startling Emily from her memories of her childhood on Faro Ranch.
She finished pitching hay into the chestnut mare's stall before turning to the voice. "I'm Emily," she answered, but when her eyes fell on Quinn, her words faltered. Quinn was nearly six foot tall. She wore a black Stetson and a white button-up blouse. The top three buttons of the loose blouse were undone. Her fists were planted on her hips and Emily could see enough of the woman's breasts to know that Quinn did not have on a bra. She gripped a crop in her right hand as she waited for an answer from the girl. The immaculate black jeans looked like they had been painted onto her body. She wore snakeskin boots with silvertips.
"Wilder's girl, huh?" Quinn barked. "He's pretty damn proud of you. Everybody got a cigar on the day you graduated. Even me. Congratulations." At the sound of the voice, Emily forced her eyes back to Quinn's face. Eyes so brown they were almost black stared back at the girl. The tall woman took a half step forward. Emily resisted the urge to take a step back as she looked up into the angular face. When Quinn spoke, her voice had a different quality to it. It was soft and seductive and gave Emily a chill she didn't understand. "Go ahead, look all you want."
Emily's face flushed pink at being caught looking. The bright blush was also the result of Quinn's nearness. Emily was relieved when the woman stepped away and moved to Talia. She patted the horse's neck and allowed the animal to nuzzle her shoulder. "How's my girl today?"
Emily tried not to look at Quinn's firm butt encased in the tight denim. "They are beautiful animals. It's a nice change from cows."
"I hope you don't expect to get paid for mucking out my stables. I didn't hire you," Quinn stated, turning toward the girl again. She tapped the crop against the side of her thigh and Emily's eyes fell in that direction. The jeans revealed the muscles in the woman's legs. Emily's eyes lingered on a bulge directed toward the inside of the woman's right thigh. Her face flushed again. Quinn chuckled and stood with her feet slightly spread to allow Emily the best view.
Emily tore her gaze away and drove the pitchfork into the hay bale and threw some into another stall. "I'm only here for the summer," she said. Her mouth was dry and her tongue felt thick as she spoke. She concentrated on working so that she would not have to look at Quinn again.
"What will you do at the end of the summer?" Quinn asked as she led Talia from her stall. She ran her hands over the smooth flanks of the creature before slipping a harness over the animal's muzzle.
"I've been accepted to the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville."
"An animal lover like your father," Quinn mused. "I suppose we can use one more hand around here this summer. Do you know much about Walkers?"
"I grew up with cows and wrangler horses, but I'm a fast learner."
Quinn looked over her shoulder just before she exited the stable with Talia. The brim of the hat hid her dark eyes, but Emily could see the smile on her lips. "I bet you are," she said softly. A shiver raced down Emily's spine and she hoped that Quinn did not notice.
Very few things escaped Charley Quinn's notice and Emily Wilder was no exception. Quinn viewed women with the same detached, objective eye that she watched horses. She measured their qualities, enumerated their advantages and faults, and determined their value. Among those in her profession, Quinn was considered one of the best. Horse dealers respected her opinion. She was rarely wrong about women, either. She had decided that Emily Wilder was worth a high price.
Quinn leaned against the fence surrounding the exercise yard, her boot on the bottom slat as she watched Emily put Talia through her morning paces. The girl's boast of being a quick learner had proven to be true. Ike's cowboys had told her about Emily's gift with horses. Quinn had never seen animals respond to a human the way they did to the girl. Emily led Talia around the yard with patient precision. Quinn was pleased with the girl's progress. If she had to be away from the Faro Ranch for any length of time, Quinn was confident that the girl would see to the horses' proper training.
Quinn corrected herself mentally. Emily Wilder was no girl. The owner of the ranch had seen Ike's daughter's picture in his office and had expected a little girl. She had known that Emily had just finished her undergraduate schooling, but the picture from high school had been imprinted into Quinn's mind. Emily had grown into a woman at college. The girl in the picture was a tomboy. The woman talking to Talia had curves where none had existed previously, despite the fact that Emily still tried to hide them in flannel shirts and worn-out jeans.
Most girls Emily's age wore skin-tight hip huggers to make themselves appear sexy. Few of them actually had the figure for the latest fashion craze. Quinn doubted that Emily owned a pair of low rider jeans. As Emily turned Talia, Quinn imagined how Emily's tight ass would look in a pair of snug hip hugger jeans. The owner of Faro Ranch felt her mouth go dry at the thought. Emily had probably owned the jeans she wore around the ranch since high school. They were thin in all the right places. Quinn casually dropped her hand down to adjust the bulge in her pants.
She smiled as she recalled Emily's reaction to the visible outline of the thick strap-on she always wore. Emily had attended college at a small Christian school. Quinn assumed that most of the lesbians who attended that school kept their sexual identity a secret. They certainly didn't broadcast it by wearing the thickest package they could purchase. However, Quinn had no doubt that Emily knew exactly what she saw pressing against the seams of her new boss's pants. Quinn knew the message that it sent to the girl. She was pleased that Emily had not drawn away in face of the evidence of Quinn's orientation.
When viewing a horse for purchase, Quinn was accustomed to running her palms over the animal's flank and legs. Her palms itched to caress Emily in the same fashion. There was no fat on the girl's body. Her muscles were sinewy. Quinn knew that from watching Emily work with Ike's other cowboys. The employer knew that the tendons would be well-defined beneath her hands. The ligaments would ripple and relax as she glided her fingers over Emily's legs and arms and stomach and bottom.
She closed her hand into a fist, trying to push away the thoughts tormenting her. Very few women had the power to drive Quinn to the point of distraction, but Emily had been successful, even though she didn't know it. Quinn had dreamed of the sandy blond curls trailing across her naked skin. She imagined the contrast between her olive complexion and Emily's bronzed skin against the white sheets of her bed. She cleared her throat and tore her gaze away from the woman. She headed toward the barn, motioning for Emily to join her with Talia.
"Talia will be ready for competition this weekend," Quinn mused as Emily led the horse into her stall.
"She's a good horse," Emily answered. She didn't look at Quinn leaning casually against the stall door as she began running her hands over the animal's flanks. "She enjoys performing. I think she likes making people happy."
Had Emily turned to Quinn, she would have seen an odd expression on the woman's face. Watching Emily rub down Talia after her workout sent Quinn's mind into dangerous places. She watched the small hands moving in rhythm against the large creature and thought about those hands caressing her body. The temperature in Quinn's blood increased a little. As if reading her employer's thoughts, Emily stopped the rub down and unbuttoned her flannel shirt. Quinn's mouth felt dry and her tongue was cemented to the roof as Emily laid the shirt over the half door and resumed her work in a ribbed tank top.
The queer expression on Quinn's face turned to a leer as she admired the way the tank top revealed the muscles in Emily's upper arms and clung to her small breasts. Quinn reached down to shift the long rod in her pants. Emily caught the movement and turned to look. Her face flushed and Quinn grinned. She stroked the shaft through her jeans as Emily watched, delighted that the girl did not turn away, even as the blush crept into her chest. As Quinn's dark eyes continued their exploration of Emily's body, the outline of the girl's nipples appeared against the fabric.
The heavy silence that hung in the barn stretched from seconds into minutes. The horses snorted and shuffled but were ignored by the two women. Emily was the first to pull away and Quinn laughed as the girl picked up Talia's leg and began examining the creature's hoof. Quinn closed the distance, moving so that her hips were only a breath away from Emily's upturned rear. "Why don't you go with me to the competition this weekend?" she asked in a low voice. "You can help with the animals and learn how to show them. Next time, you can help me show."
Startled, Emily attempted to stand. As she stepped back, she collided with Quinn. Quinn thrust her hips forward, making certain that Emily felt the staff against the line of buttocks. She heard Emily gasp, so she rotated her hips a little to emphasize her presence. She felt Emily's hips push back and grinned, stepping away to relieve the pressure. "I'll leave Thursday afternoon at four."
Quinn swung the crop in her hand, letting it land with a sharp snap on Emily's bottom. She knew it would sting a little, but the sound would send more of a message than the pain. Emily jerked stiff and Quinn wished she could see the girl's face. Quinn had as much experience with women as she did training horses. She was certain of the response coursing through Emily's head and body. She didn't wait to confirm her suspicions. She didn't need to.
The sting of the crop still burned in Emily's memory. The blow had not even been hard enough to leave a red welt, but after three days she still felt a tingle across her butt cheeks where the leather had landed. She had spent the last three days avoiding Quinn as much as possible. Whenever she saw the rancher, the woman wore a knowing smile on her face. Emily was ashamed of the incident. She wished she could forget, but Quinn's presence made certain that it was never far from Emily's mind.
She had attempted to go riding in an effort to exhaust her body, but the steady drumming of the horse's hooves and the rocking of her body against the saddle only increased her awareness of the sensations that Quinn had aroused. The steady rub of the saddle against the sensitive spot between her legs had nearly sent the young woman over the edge. Emily was no stranger to sex. She had grown up on a ranch surrounded by men and had overheard their chatter since she was too young to understand. She'd given one of the younger cowboys her virginity the summer before she left for college. The experience had been pleasant, and she'd been with him several times since. She even expected him to propose to her before the end of the summer.
Nothing she'd ever shared with Gage Deerhorn matched the yearning that Quinn had aroused in Emily's body. Her breasts had felt heavy and sensitive. The friction of her nipples rubbing against her clothing sent fireworks shooting through her veins. The tingling at the juncture of her thighs could not be relieved no matter what she did. If Quinn was present, she did everything she could to hide her twisting. Her fidgeting only rubbed the rough denim against her sensitive lips. She'd tried masturbating in an effort to relieve her tension, but that only made her long for Quinn's touch. She and Gage had slipped off to the pond for skinny dipping, but his touch had left her cold. She'd made some excuse and left him alone.
Quinn occupied Emily's every thought, whether the dark haired woman was present or not. Emily felt obsessed with her employer. She wrestled with her body's desire for the stranger, her heart's fondness for Gage, and her father's expectations for her. Her first reaction to Quinn had been surprise. Emily had friends who were lesbians, but they tended to live in secret. The bulge in Quinn's pants had warmed Emily's blood. She'd spent a lot of time thinking about what was hidden behind the zipper of Quinn's fly. She wanted to know what it looked like hanging from the slender hips. She wandered what color it was it. She wanted to feel of it and taste it. She wanted to experience it parting her sensitive folds.
As the weeks had passed, Quinn's impact had expanded from Emily's body to her mind. Quinn's intelligence and insight intrigued Emily. She had enjoyed the time they spent together training Talia and the other horses. They didn't just talk about horses, but of world events, literature, and movies. Her opinions were well-founded. She'd even begun to sway some of Emily's long held beliefs. They never spoke of romance. They didn't discuss lovers or lifestyles, but the sexual tension was a constant undercurrent burning between them.
Emily had been hesitant to come to the horseshow with Quinn. The chemistry burning between them was too strong. Emily's mind wanted summer to end so that she could escape Faro Ranch and Quinn's intoxicating presence. Her body wanted to give in to the hypnotic gaze and teasing touches. She hadn't consulted her heart, but she had come to the horseshow anyway. She hated to admit that she couldn't get enough of Quinn, but her heart had beat in excitement at the prospect of being alone with Quinn. She had relished the time in the RV as they had driven to the fairgrounds. They had talked about everything other than the incident in the stable, but the sting of the crop had remained in Emily's mind.
She knelt in the sawdust of the horse trailer, carefully checking each of Talia's shoes. She did her actions by rote. She didn't have to think about how to accomplish her task, but that gave her time to think about other things. Other things for Emily meant thinking about Quinn. She was so lost in her thoughts that she didn't hear the footsteps in the trailer. She didn't know she wasn't alone till the toe of a boot rubbed lightly along the juncture of her thighs.
Emily gasped at the intimate touch, which instantly became firmer. The toe moved up and down through the denim, the point caressing her tender lips. Emily wanted to stand, but she didn't trust her legs to support the weight of her body. "Is my girl ready?" a soft, familiar voice asked.
The young student struggled for a moment to order her thoughts. She wasn't certain if the girl Quinn inquired about was the horse or her. Emily opened her mouth to answer and was surprised by the soft moan that escaped from her throat. The toe of the boot seemed to push into her, finding the most sensitive spot on her body. She felt a spasm rock through her and she closed her eyes, fighting the wave threatening to crash through her.
She was relieved when Quinn pulled away, but was unable to do anything but stay on her hands and knees and pant. The horsewoman took Talia's reins and walked the animal around Emily, leaving the girl alone in the dim trailer. The young woman felt every nerve in her body quivering and tingling with the electricity that Quinn had created. She could feel dampness spreading in the seat of her pants.
The overwhelming thought coursing through Emily's body asked if Quinn could take her that close to orgasm with the toe of her boot, then how much pleasure could Quinn bring inside the bedroom.
The big house seemed bigger since returning from the show. Donavon had shared the house with his wife and son, but Charley Quinn had no one to make the empty rooms seem full. Most of the doors she kept closed. They had no furniture in them and no people to give them personality. Quinn lived in the kitchen and the living room and the big master bedroom on the second level. Both of the downstairs rooms were Spartan in design. She needed very little furniture.
The bedroom was a stark contrast to the other two rooms. A king-sized bed with wrought iron head and foot boards dominated the room. An oak dresser and armoire lined the walls. One wall was devoted to her horses. She had pictures and ribbons hanging on the wall and trophies perched on bookshelves. Above the bed was a painting she had purchased from an Indian woman in New Mexico. It reminded Quinn of a lover she had once had.
A quilt her grandmother had made covered the bed. It had blue and red diamond designs. In the corner was an older rocking chair that her grandfather had made by hand when her mother was born. There was no lace or frills in the room. It was Quinn's room. It suited her personality perfectly. She loved the view of the ranch from the big windows lining the outside wall. She sat in the rocking chair and stared over the ranch she had owned for five months.
Quinn had enjoyed sharing the RV with Emily over the weekend. Emily's fragrance had filled the long trailer till it had driven Quinn insane. The girl had been so distant after the competition. Quinn feared that she had crossed over a boundary, but Emily on the ground, her thighs slightly spread, her bottom in the air, had been irresistible to Quinn. The girl had kept her distance from her boss, and Quinn had drank too much and then found an old friend.
A sad smile touched her lips. The old friend had always been a magnificent lover, but that hadn't stopped Quinn from using Emily's name at the moment of pleasure. Emily had driven home while Quinn had recovered from her hangover. Quinn had made sure to avoid Emily since they had returned. She was certain the girl wanted her and confident that Emily would come to her in time.
Her eyes swept over the sprawling acres of the Faro Ranch. She had goals for the ranch. She would keep Ike Wilder to manage the horses, but her future plans included animals of a different sort. Perhaps when she had that phase of business established, the house wouldn't seem so empty. Those plans hadn't included Emily Wilder, but suddenly, Quinn was trying to decide how the girl would work into that future.
Two riders galloping across the plains that had once been filled with cattle caught her attention and she turned her focus there. The long light colored mane flowing behind the smaller rider unmistakably belonged to Emily. Quinn sat up in the chair, leaning forward as she shifted her attention to the other rider. It took her a few minutes to place him, but she was certain it was the young man with the Indian name. She watched as Emily spurred her mount forward and Gage Deerhorn gave chase. Quinn silently cheered Emily on and was thrilled when the girl seemed to reach the goal first.