Slowly but surely Charlene got Luc to join her and the kids at her table at Lucky’s. She would pat the bench beside her and space would be made for him to sit beside her.
The boys in the group still eyed him warily and the girls in the group had stopped harassing him after a quick glance from Charlene. The conversations of the past months had led to new conversations and laughter and despite all protests to the contrary, Luc appeared to be enjoying himself.
On the first Friday in July, the entire mob showed up dressed like extras from Hee Haw.
The first of the Bedford twins yelled out, "Come on Charlene. Come Stampeding with us!"
Charlene leaned on Luc’s arm. "Hey cowboy, wanna go for a ride?"
Luc chuckled, "Well it has been a long time since I stepped in any real horseshit. All right, Lets go!"
The crew piled out of Lucky’s and into a half dozen cars and trucks. Luc went to open the door on the Challenger when Charlene got into her Mercedes. She lowered the passenger window and called out to him. "You’re riding with me today cowboy. Riding in style."
"Yes ma’am." Luc put his keys back in his jacket and slid into the passenger seat of the AMG.
An hour later, the hotel valets held the door open for them as they were ushered into a long limousine for a ride to the fair grounds. All the girls and a few lucky boys were already in the back, drinks in hand, with VIP badges on coloured lanyards and boxes of brand new Stetsons.
As Charlene and Luc were seated in the bucket seats at the back of the car as hats, boots and booze came their way. By the time they reached the stockowners entrance to the grounds, drunk girls in cowboy hats were hanging out the sunroofs and screaming out “Yahooooos!".
They flashed their passes at the entrance to a ringside suite and watched world class rodeo and drank cold lime margaritas. As the margaritas turned to straight tequila a knock on the door announced a very large pair of security staff. The two gorilla shaped men lead them through the velvet ropes and lines leading to Cowboy’s Saloon.
The summer heat had permeated the huge room amplifying the smell of straw, beer and hormones filling the spaces between plaid cowboy shirts and short denim shorts. Patrons were crowding like schools of fish at feeding time around scantily clad servers selling cold beer from ice-filled cattle troughs. Random screams of YeeHaw made it over the sound of the band pounding on stage.
Charlene smiled up at Luc and gave him a playful hip check. "Welcome to the Greatest Show on Earth baby..."
With that she caught the eye of the nearest server, laid herself backwards over a barrel covered in a horse blanket and waited for the woman to pour a shooter into her mouth from the shot glass held in her cleavage. Licking the sweet liquor from her lips, she turned to Luc.
"Okay lover. Your turn to get some."
Luc settled back on the curve of the barrel, waiting for his face full of hot flesh and liquor. It was going to be one of those nights.