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Unbridled and Unclaimed [The Double Rider Men's Club 6]

By:Elle Saint James

Unbridled and Unclaimed [The Double Rider Men's Club 6]
Elle Saint James

The Double Rider Men's Club 6

Chapter One

Ryder, Colorado

Train Station

Valentina Petrova got a wretched feeling in the pit of her stomach the moment she stepped down from the train and onto the rustic wooden platform in Ryder, Colorado. The lonely, hollow feeling was likely due to the lack of breakfast this morning. Or possibly, it was the additional lack of dinner the night before.

After nearly two days on a train she was just so grateful to have reached her final destination. So she dismissed the ache in her belly as unimportant for the moment and took a few steps into the crowds, dragging her luggage. Her singular bag, sporting a seriously wobbly wheel, was filled with everything she had left in this world.

People, streaming off the train and dressed in light autumn coats and sweaters, bustled around her. She rubbed one of her arms with a palm, wishing she'd been able to pack a heavy coat. The travelers gathered luggage and greeted loved ones who'd come to fetch them with kisses, hugs, or friendly pats on the back. Valentina took a circuitous route around the small groups of static people. She pulled her battered, burgundy, gimpy rolling bag slowly behind her.

Several steps away from the loud humming engine of the train, she searched through the throngs of people milling around for her friend, Henry Foreman. He was her lifesaver. Her only link to a life in this country hopefully filled with new opportunities. He'd promised to help change her dismal former life in Russia for the better.

In only the quiet recesses of her mind did Valentina dare admit that she desperately needed better.

She looked to her left and saw only a square white post supporting the center of the overhang roof. She looked right and only saw dwindling people making their way to the parking lot and new destinations. She didn't see anyone who stood out or seemed to be looking for her.

Here she was, a stranger in a land that had obviously forgotten her. She hoped Henry had not, and searched the surrounding area once more. Did she look different from her college days? She had not thought so.

Her friend Henry was a doctor. And when she'd known him long ago, he'd always been late to everything. Back in college, his tardiness was likely forgiven due to the fact that he was from a very rich family and president of his fraternity. His overall popularity probably helped keep him out of a lot of different kinds of trouble.

For today's tardiness, it was not out of the realm of possibility that he'd be late due to his job as an ER doctor. She was, however, slightly surprised to not find him waiting. His few messages to her had been very enthusiastic about her pending arrival.

The last communication she'd had with Henry was a written one over two weeks ago. She'd had to give up her cell phone months ago as an extravagance she couldn't afford. Her computer went next. She used the public Internet at the library as her primary communication source. And seemingly old-fashioned handwritten letters, too.

Henry had graciously sent the money for her tickets to Colorado all the way from Russia. She'd cried in relief, swore she'd live only to pay the debt back, and then planned the most inexpensive trip she could find. The one which put her on this train instead of an airplane for the final leg of her journey so she would have a bit of money for food along her journey.

With nowhere to go and no one to see until Henry came to get her, Valentina inhaled a deep lungful of fresh mountain air and crossed to a bench seat facing the train tracks. She sat down and consulted her wristwatch, trying to estimate how long she'd have to wait and how best to broach the subject of lunch as soon as possible when he arrived.

The beauty of the mountains from her viewpoint already made this arduous journey worth the difficulties she'd endured.

She was no shrinking violet, but the air today had a particularly powerful chill. It reminded her a bit of Russia. She shook her head to dismiss her previous life. No need to go back there again, even in her mind. Ever.

After fifteen minutes, she noticed two very handsome men saunter onto the platform. They looked around a bit and walked over toward the train. The large conveyance still rested on the tracks. The two men looked exactly like what she expected to see in an American cowboy. Not that they had ten-gallon hats or rode in on horses. They didn't. But they wore well-fitted jeans and fleece-lined blue denim jackets and tooled leather cowboy boots.

Tall, rugged, and attractively masculine, these men made Valentina take notice. She could easily be impressed by their looks. But then mentally shook her head. She wasn't here to get a man. She was here to begin a new life. One that didn't include a healthy dose of fear each and every day. Or one that had a man dominating her every move or making daily choices for her. Ever again.

She did enjoy looking at attractive men, though. The two crossing the platform each had a very nice backside. This was her personal favorite attribute to study when watching men. Sure, she liked nice eyes and a good body, but there was something illicit in watching a man's ass as he walked that made a long neglected part of her libido stand up and sing.

The slightly shorter of the two men had burnished blond hair with light streaks, like he'd be better suited at the beach with a surfboard tucked under one arm. The other man, only an inch or two taller than his friend, had dark hair, dark eyes, and a rugged, square jaw with a hint of five o'clock shadow already showing at noon. Sexy. Both of them were so very easy to look at.

Valentina purposefully turned her gaze away so as not to be caught leering.

They walked with a purpose, scanned the area of the platform, which was now mostly empty, and finally stopped by the white post she'd passed.

"Where do you think she is?" the blond asked his friend. He turned his head left and right, but didn't seem to notice her.

"Hell if I know," the dark-haired cowboy replied. "But we need to find her if she's here." He also looked around the immediate area, but didn't see her watching them intently. They looked oddly familiar, but she certainly didn't know them, did she? Her already heightened level of anxiety increased a notch. No. She couldn't know them.

Valentina sat straighter in her seat. Her gaze was now riveted in their direction with the knowledge that they were looking for someone. As if they caught the motion of her body lengthening, they both instantly turned toward the bench she sat on to look in her direction at the exact same time.

A pair of powerful, very sexy gazes suddenly focused entirely on her face. She forced a smile to her lips that she didn't feel, and then made herself to turn away from their intense scrutiny. She wasn't looking for any complication with a man, let alone two of them. Hopefully they would not approach.

As if they had silent communication built into their heads negating her wishes, the two of them both took a step in her direction, and then another. One second later they were both headed toward her. As they got closer, Valentina stiffened. Her back went ramrod straight. She didn't want trouble. Didn't want to have to tell these two handsome men she didn't want their attention.

The blond one spoke first. "Is your name Valentina, by any chance?" He flashed a beautiful smile, but she was astonished by his question. How did he know her name?

She stood up suddenly and a wave of dizziness almost put her back on the bench. The muscles in her thighs were suddenly uncooperative, and she swayed to one side before catching herself. If her former military leaders had just seen her weak