Under the Cowboy's Control

By: Lynda Chance


Selena walked forward, noticing the shirt that now hung from his shoulders, but wasn't buttoned and hung open down his front. She averted her gaze. This was not proper. She swallowed and reminded herself that she had bigger problems than a man who wouldn't button his shirt.

Travis studied her as she picked up the coffee cup and softly blew on it. The right side of her face was a mess, but she had hidden most of it with her hair. The rest of her was stunning. With that gorgeous, dark hair hanging loose and down to her waist, she was a vision of loveliness. Accented by her hair, her face became exotic and vibrant. Her eyes were huge violet pools of color, slanted like a cat's. Her nose was perfectly feminine, straight but with a slight curve that pronounced her beauty.

Her mouth was luscious, provocatively so.

His heart beat faster.

Selena looked up from the coffee in her cup. He was staring at her, cataloging her features, one by one. She wondered what he saw. Her parents had thought her pretty, her father always teasing her about keeping her hidden away from all the boys who would want to marry her and steal her from them.

And the last three years, they had kept her hidden away. Nuevo Laredo was a highly dangerous place, with the drug cartel running loose and nothing to keep them in check. She was kept a virtual prisoner in her home, for her own safety. She had none of the usual experiences of girls her age. No boyfriends, no dates, no kisses. Her family wouldn't let her leave the house, not even for Mass or to buy groceries. She spent her time reading and chatting with friends on the internet. But that was it. She hadn't had any sort of a life for years. She had never known a truly safe time, not since she had left school.

And then, one by one, her family had been killed, and she had to leave when she ran out of food. The recent memory was horrendous. She pushed it from her mind.

And now here she was.



She wanted to work, to not be beholden to him for anything.

She cleared her throat. "M-Mister T-Travis--"

He cut off her efforts. "Travis. Just Travis. Not mister. Not boss. You understand?"

She nodded her head. " Si. Travis" She took a deep breath to begin. "Work." She paused and placed her hand on her chest and patted it lightly. "I work. For you?"

She looked away from him, at the kitchen that she knew she could handle. She was a good cook.

He glared at the young woman in front of him. Her fragility was obvious. God only knew what kind of trauma she had endured. "No. You don't work for me. You get well for me. You rest. You sleep. You play on the internet. But you don't lift a finger for me. You understand?" He barked the words at her and her spine stiffened and tears came to her eyes again.

Her mouth wobbled and she nodded her head. She looked down at her lap and a tear fell and hit her hand.

"Fuck." He growled the word.

She flinched when she recognized the basic American profanity she had heard her brother use when he was angry. She scrunched her eyes shut and more tears fell.

His chair scraped back, and he came over to her. He wrapped his hand around her chin and lifted it. Her eyes stayed screwed shut. "Open your eyes, Selena."

She let out a ragged breath and slowly opened her eyes. They glistened with tears and anxiety. She brought him into focus.

He knelt down in front of her. "I'm sorry." The apology was direct, straightforward.

His fingers bit into her chin as he tried to say more. He was no good at this sort of thing. He didn't have any experience dealing with the finer emotions. His thumb caressed her chin, back and forth. Her soft skin under his fingers was silky. He tightened his hand on her and felt her gasp. Her eyes flared.

Electricity arced between them.

He dropped his hand and stepped away from her. "Why don't you go back to your room and rest? I'll bring you a tray after while." He needed her away from him for now. His emotions were too raw, jumping all over the place.

She nodded her head and stood up to leave the room.

He stopped her at the door. "Selena." His voice was deep, direct. "Don't leave the house today. Stay in your room. Nothing has changed out there. They still think you're a boy."

He left her no chance for debate. The order was irrefutable. "Y-yes, Travis."

She slipped away.



****

An hour later, Selena sat in the middle of the made up bed with her Bible in front of her. It was opened to her favorite Psalm twenty-three, and mementos from her early years lay in front of her.

Travis tapped on her door and swung it open. He walked over to the desk and laid a tray of food there. "Here you go." He looked over at what she was doing. "Do you need anything else?"

She shook her head.

He turned and walked back out.

The next two days followed the same pattern. Selena slept and rested. Each morning, she washed out the clothes she wore, and put on her clean set. Travis brought her food. He barely spoke.

She didn't leave her room, or go back to the kitchen. She hunkered down in the bedroom and tried to stay as inconspicuous as she could. She read her Bible, and tried to plan what work she could do when she got back to Laredo. If she could improve her English, she would be fully bilingual, and that would help. She could type close to a hundred words a minute, and she had dual citizenship. Surely she could find something better than the fast food industry. She tried to figure out how much money she would need to get to Houston. Or if she even needed to get to Houston. She had no proof her grandparents were even still alive, let alone wanted to see her.