Rough Ride Romeo

By: Lori King

Crawley Creek Ranch 2


Chapter 1




The sound of an engine shattered Roman Freemont’s peaceful snoring, and

he choked on an inhale fumbling awake. His mouth tasted like shit, and his

tongue felt like it had been sanded down with fine grit sandpaper. The haze in his

vision could have been his hangover, or a thick fog bank, but considering the

height of the sunshine beating down through the windshield, he was more apt to

assume the former.

Shoving a hand through his shoulder length brown hair, he encountered

something sticky matting the ends of several pieces, and grimaced. It wasn’t like

this was the first time he’d slept off an all-nighter in his truck, but this wasn’t even

the first time this week. He could already feel Drannon and Vin’s disapproval,

and he hadn’t even seen them yet this morning. Hell, the sensation was strong

enough that the hair on his neck prickled.

Rubbing at his nape with one hand, he searched the scattered contents of his

old Chevy pickup for his cell phone. As usual, its battery was completely dead,

but he figured there were a dozen messages from the ranch already filling his

inbox. He tossed the useless gadget into the glove compartment, and climbed out

of the truck, stretching his long, lean form as he went. Drinking and cavorting

were the only medicine for the aches in his soul, but he could use some aspirin for

the twinges in his back right about now.

A quick glance around the parking lot of Mick’s Watering Hole assured him

that there was no one watching his walk of shame. There were half a dozen

vehicles on the far side of the lot, but they al stood empty, their owners off doing

their business somewhere along the six block town of Montford, North Dakota.

With no one watching, he made his way across the empty lot to the

convenience store next door. His head was pounding, and he could still taste the

bitters from last night’s beer. The small bell attached to the glass door sounded

like an air raid siren, and he groaned softly.

“Morning Romeo.” Amelia Dewitt called out from her stool behind the

register.

“Roman Freemont, you look like shit.” Brandon Bowers rested his hip

against the countertop and crossed his arms over his chest. His eyes were hidden

behind a pair of mirrored sunglasses, but Roman knew they were taking in his

hangover and cataloguing it in detail. Lately it was Roman’s natural state.

“Well good morning to you, too, sunshine,” he retorted, heading straight for

the cold case at the back and snagging a large bottle of pop. Caffeine would help

him face the day while it was too early to drink.

Bran didn’t respond to his comment, but Roman could tell he had

something he wanted to say just by the way his jaw ticked. Ignoring his friend for

the moment, he placed a bottle of aspirin on the counter next to his soda and

gave Amelia his most charming smile. “And how are you this fine morning

Amelia?”

“Better than you are I s’pose,” she answered with a playful wink. Her

graying hair was wound in a tight bun atop her head, and her plastic framed

glasses perched on the end of her nose. She was a comforting staple in small town

Montford, and one of the nicest people Roman knew.

“I’l admit I’m feeling a bit low this morning, but it’s nothing a hard day of

work won’t cure.” Roman responded.

“Day’s half gone already, son. You’d better get a move on if you’re planning

on accomplishing anything before the sun goes down.” Handing him his change,

she planted herself back on her stool and rested her elbows on the counter.

Before Roman could respond, Bran laughed.

“No worries there, Amelia. Romeo here wouldn’t know hard work if it bit

him in the ass.” Still laughing at his own joke, Bran slapped Roman on the back

hard enough to bring a frown to his face.

“Kiss my grits, Officer,” he snapped, throwing back the aspirin and taking a

big swig of soda to wash it down.

“That’s Sheriff Bowers to you, Freemont.” Bran said sternly. To a stranger it

might have sounded like the two men were at odds, but that was the absolute

furthest thing from the truth. A couple of decades ago, Brandon was one of

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