The Maverick - By Jan Hudson

Chapter One

Amazed at how far she’d come in a few months, Cassidy Outlaw jogged along the path beside Austin’s Lady Bird Lake without even breaking a sweat. When she’d first started her exercise regimen, she couldn’t make half a block without being winded and dying from the burn in her legs. Now she could actually enjoy these early morning jogs.

Especially with the current view to hold her interest.

She trotted behind a very tight set of male buns attached to a terrific torso with a lovely expanse of shoulders. The shorts were black, the T-shirt gray and the hair short, a damp brown, and probably less curly when it was dry. A white towel was draped around his neck.

She liked his legs, too. Well-muscled thighs and calves. Was his front as good as his back? Some good-looking guys ran this trail—and some real dogs. Which was he?

Suddenly, Tight Buns stopped. Cass, being in midstride, didn’t, and she couldn’t get her footing quickly enough to keep from tripping over him and going down onto the decomposed granite path.

“Ouch! Dammit! Dammit!” She grabbed her knee.

“Oh, God, I’m sorry,” Tight Buns said.

“Idiot! What were you thinking, to stop like—” The words died on her lips when she looked up and saw the klutz was no putz. He was an Adonis.

“Are you hurt?” he asked.

Maybe he was a putz, after all. “I figure if there’s blood, I’m hurt for sure.”

He grabbed the towel from around his neck and dabbed the blood from the scrape on her knee.

“Is that sanitary?” she asked, glaring at him and trying to keep from being mesmerized by a pair of the bluest eyes she’d ever seen. Real baby blues, so pale they seemed to cut into her like lasers.

“Oh, hell! I didn’t even think of germs. Let’s get some proper first aid.” He flagged down a cab, which was a miracle in itself, since Austin didn’t have cabs cruising the streets like New York.

Before she could sputter more than, “What the hell do you—” he’d scooped her into his arms and slid her into the backseat.

“To the nearest E.R.,” he said to the driver.

“You’re nuts! I don’t need to go to an emergency room for a skinned knee. I just need some peroxide and a Band-Aid.”

“Are you sure?”

“Of course I’m sure.”

“Make that the nearest drugstore,” he told the driver.

The cab drove a couple of blocks and stopped. “Here we are.”

Tight Buns pulled out a twenty from a small zippered pocket and handed it to the driver. “Keep the change,” he said, flinging open the door. He reached inside and made to pick her up again, but Cass slapped his hands.

“Have you got any more money in your pocket?” she asked.

He felt inside. “Nope. That was it.”

“Keep a couple of bucks for yourself,” she told the driver, “and give us the change.”

The man didn’t look too thrilled, but he handed her a ten. She started to hold out for more, but gave it up and got out.

“Why did you do that?” Tight Buns asked.

“Because the only things in my fanny pack are my car keys and pepper spray.” She waved the bill. “This is for first aid supplies.”

“Good point. Can you walk?”

“Of course I can walk,” Cass said. With blood dribbling down her leg, she marched into the drugstore, Blue Eyes close behind.

Inside, he walked her to the pharmacy area and had her sit on the chair near the blood pressure cuff.

“Stay here and I’ll gather the supplies.”

In a couple of minutes he was back with a basketful of stuff: gauze pads, peroxide, first aid spray and ointment, tissues, and a big box of Band-Aids.

“Isn’t that overkill?” she asked.

He glanced down at the basket. “I don’t think so. I wasn’t sure what we’d need.”

“Have you paid for the items yet?”

“Not yet.”

“I didn’t think so,” Cass said. “You’ve got more than ten dollars worth there, I’m sure.”

“I have a credit card.”

“Well, why on earth didn’t you say so? I wouldn’t have arm wrestled the cab driver for change.”

He merely looked at her as if he were indulging a child, and squatted in front of her. After he assembled his supplies, he patted his thigh. “Put your foot up here.”

She didn’t argue for once.

Very gently, he flushed the area with peroxide, mopping up spillovers with gauze pads and tissues, squirted a line of ointment along the scrape and topped it with a large bandage. “There.”

She studied his handiwork. “Good job. Thanks. I’ll be running along now—sorry, I don’t even know your name.”

He grinned, flashing