Rhonda Lee Carver
2015 Rhonda Lee Carver
Copyright 2015 Rhonda Lee Carver
All rights reserved
Published in the United States
Published by Rhonda Lee Carver
Cover art by
Rhonda Lee Carver
Secret Pressure (Book 4, Rhinestone Cowgirls)
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner without the written permission of the author except in the case of brief quotations used in articles and reviews.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and events are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual events, locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
This book contains material unsuitable for readers who are 17 and under.
To an amazing street team—Rhonda’s Rowdy Readers.
Table of Contents
Ruby Stone stepped out of the bathroom and forced a smile on her lips. No reason to overreact until she had good reason.
Don’t panic! Stay calm! Breathe easy!
She repeated the silent mantra.
“It’s about time. I thought you fell in.”
Ruby jumped at her cousin’s voice and looked across the room at Em Stone-Walters. Her arms were crossed, tapping her bare foot in restless energy. “You scared me.”
“It’s not nice to leave a girl waiting. I thought I’d bite my nails to the quick.”
“You’re nervous? How do you think I’m feeling? This isn’t a walk in the park for me.”
Em started tapping the other foot. “Did you pee on the stick the right way?”
“Is there a wrong way?” Ruby’s heart skipped a beat as she thought back to the process.
“I’ve never done it so I have no idea.”
“I followed the directions. Do not insert into vagina, obviously. Hold under the urine stream for five seconds. Wait five minutes. Where could I go wrong?” She twirled a strand of hair around her finger and sighed. “It’s not rocket science.”
Em shrugged and paced the floor. “I don’t understand why I’m all emotional.”
“I can’t either.” Ruby tucked her bottom lip between her teeth.
“How can you be so calm?” Em came to a sudden halt, one brow lifting.
“Does this look like a calm face?” Ruby bracketed her face with her open palms.
“No. You look like you could cry. Are you going to cry?” Em’s color paled.
Ruby wrapped her arms tight around her waist. “Of course not.” Her vision blurred and she fought the constriction building in her throat until she couldn’t fight the feeling any longer. A tear fell to her cheek and she quickly wiped it away. She had to be strong, either way…
Em walked over and hugged Ruby’s shoulders. “Okay, sweetie. It’ll all work out. This isn’t a bad thing.”
“You’re acting like you already know the answer,” Ruby said through a sob. “It’s a false alarm. I’m sure. Lots of women have these.”
“I’m sure it is too.” Em went to the table and picked up the open book she’d been reading that morning. She flipped through the pages. “Here it is. I thought I remembered seeing this. Answer these questions.”
“You’re not going to try and diagnose me, are you?” Ruby huffed, dropping her hands to her sides.
“Honey, you either are or you aren’t. Plain and simple.”
“Have you missed a period?”
Ruby nodded. “I’m six weeks late.”
“Are your breasts tender?” Again, Ruby nodded. “Nipples may show signs of color change.”
“Well…” Ruby pulled out the neckline of her shirt, peering in. She sighed, then let the material snap back into place. “Possibly.”
“Are you craving sex?”
“What does that have to do with this?” Ruby rolled her eyes.
“According to this book, those are some of the top symptoms when you’re pregnant. Something to do with overactive hormones and wanting sex all of the time.”
“Yes. I want it all of the time. But we’re talking about Jobe Walters. How could I not want sex with him morning, noon, and night? He has the most beautiful eyes and smile. And that body…oh
Em cleared her throat and laughed. “Yeah, I get the point.” She tossed the book back onto the table. “You’re right. It’s a Walters’ thing. I’m not pregnant and I can’t keep my hands off my husband. He brought me a chocolate bar yesterday and I laid it on his stomach, licking—”
“Stop right there. I don’t want to hear what you and Nash do in bed.”
“Sorry. I sometimes get carried away.”
“You two have only been married for a few weeks. Do you think the desire will change in a year? Five years? Ten years?”
“Remember we’re talking about Nash Walters. I can’t see myself ever getting tired of touching, kissing and fu—”
Ruby held up a hand. “I hear you. You’re in love with Nash. That’s obvious.” She plopped down onto the couch. “This isn’t good, Em. Not good at all.”
Em sat beside her. “It could be the best thing that’s ever happened to you.”
“I’m not married.”
“There are a lot single mothers. It’s not easy, but it can be done.”
“I told Jobe I didn’t want a relationship. I went into this with my heart guarded and now, well, I’m starting to feel things I shouldn’t.”
“If you’re pregnant, will it change your outlook?” Em asked.
Ruby tossed her cousin’s question around, wanting to give it careful consideration. “Jobe and I both have full plates. I’m dedicated to my career, and so is he.” Seeing Em’s pursed lips, Ruby laid her palms in her lap. “What?”
“That doesn’t quite answer my question.”
“Well, it’s the best answer I can give at this time.” The weight of the world rested on her shoulders, and her emotions were in an upheaval of the greatest kind. A trip to the Rhinestone Ranch for a wedding had landed her in a load of trouble. She met a hunky cowboy and ended up sleeping with him, not once as planned, but enough that she’d lost count the second night. From the time they’d met, they were drawn together. Sex had been a powerful force, leaving her wanting more and more like an endless, calorie-free buffet of dessert.
They’d made an agreement—or rather she demanded—sex only, no feelings.
Ruby should have known she wasn’t cut out for a fun-only relationship. She cared a little—or a lot, depending on which end of the spectrum she was looking.
Jobe seemed just fine with the situation, though. Never once had he complained when she snuck into his bedroom at midnight and was gone before breakfast, which left her at a cross between satisfaction and disappointment. A woman could start to wonder if something was wrong with her if a man didn’t have some presence of feelings.
Now here she landed, waiting to find out if their non-committal relationship was about to take on huge accountability. A baby hadn’t been part of her plan. Or Jobe’s. They’d taken precautions, but not everything came fail-proof. Even a protected heart.
She had to stay optimistic. “I’m not pregnant.”
“Sure. No possible way.” Em hid her smile behind her hand.
“You’re not making this any easier.” Ruby threw up her hands.
“I’m sorry, hun. I only want you to be happy.”
“Things just feel crazy right now.”
“Crazy isn’t always bad,” Em said. “Not too long ago I said the same thing about my feelings for Nash.”
“Until I talked sense into you.” Ruby laughed.
“I remember your lecture. I’m glad you knew me better than I did.”
“That’s what cousins are for.”
“I wanted no part of a relationship until I met Nash. Then everything turned topsy-turvy—crazy. I could have walked away from the best thing that I’ve ever known.” Em blinked and the moisture was gone from her gaze.
Ruby tucked her feet under her bottom. “Let me remind you, I was right. You two were made for each other.”
“There’s a possibility you’re confused about your feelings too.”
“You’re suggesting that I have feelings for Jobe? Like you have for Nash?” Ruby shook her head, not capable of believing their relationship had crossed that line. Sure, she cared for Jobe, but love? She hadn’t dug deep enough to figure out exactly what she was feeling.
“There could be worse things than falling for Jobe. He might be a bit distant at times, and tough as nails, but deep down, he’s a teddy bear.”
“Yes, he is, but—”
“I write romance novels. I don’t live them.” Ruby tucked a strand of misbehaving hair behind her ear. “He’s a good guy, a great guy, yet we have everything against us. Location being the biggest hurdle. I’ve been in a long-distance relationship before and it never works out the way we hope it will. It can be quite devastating when things end.”
“So, what you’re saying is, if you lived closer you’d be all for a long-term relationship with Jobe? That’s like saying you’ll skip the ride of your life because your hair will get messy.” Em lifted a thin eyebrow, her gaze full of question. They had always been close and if anyone knew Ruby, Em did.
“I’m saying that I haven’t allowed myself to think about a relationship with him, at least not beyond my stay here at Rhinestone.”
“I am not. Jobe and I went into this with eyes wide open. Neither of us want a relationship. Trust me, he feels the exact same way.” Ruby played with the frayed hem of her shorts, incapable of making eye contact with Em.
“Keep telling yourself those words and eventually you might believe them. I sense the doubt in your tone. I’ve also seen the way you look at him. You have been successful at keeping this relationship, or whatever you two are doing, from everyone else, but I see how things have developed.” Em hooked her bare feet on the coffee table. “You’re only afraid of the truth. You’ve made these silly, illogical rules for you and him and now you’re not sure you like them much. Sometimes it’s hard to admit you’ve made a mistake. Don’t be foolish, hun.”
“Okay, that’s totally unfair.”
“Is that right? Well, let me point out the facts. You were supposed to leave Rhinestone three weeks ago and you’ve pushed it off. I’m not complaining. I love having you here, but you aren’t homesick, besides missing your sisters. You wake up smiling and when you came here two months ago you wore the saddest frown I’d ever seen.”
Ruby thrummed her fingers against her thigh. “I stayed because I wanted to finish my book. And I did.”
“Yes, weeks ago. Have you started another?” Em lifted a shoulder and let it fall.
“Uhh, you say you want me here, but it sure sounds like you’re convincing me that I should leave.”
Em patted her shoulder. “What you have with Jobe is more than a one night stand, sweetie. You two text each other every chance you get. You’re at his house every night, even if you pretend you slept here. I hear you come in every morning. And the last get together we had, you didn’t think it was obvious that you two couldn’t keep your hands off each other and then you mysteriously disappeared for an hour?”