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Flawless: Chapter 13

Summer

Dad: How’d the interviews go?

Summer: Good.

Dad: That’s all I get? Did he behave himself?

Summer: He gave excellent interviews. The picture of professionalism. Unlike the way you talk about him, Kip. He’s not a dog, you know.

Dad: Are you scolding your boss?

Summer: No. I’m scolding my dad. Unless you still haven’t figured out your new employee’s name. Then I might scold my boss.

Dad: Poor, poor Geronimo.


his is not a normal level of excitement for a person who is supposed to be doing a job. Watching Rhett ride a bull is a thrill I’ve never experienced. It’s like the ultimate show of masculinity. Crazy enough to climb up on an animal that wants to kill you. Strong enough to stay on. And accomplished enough to look good doing it.

Pretty sure the throbbing between my legs means I’m a buckle bunny now.

I laugh inwardly at the thought as I dart down the stands toward the back staging area, flashing my lanyard pass at security as I go.

Excitement over his ride mixes in my gut with concern that he’s making his injury worse by continuing to ride when what he needs is medical attention. But that’s not my job.

My job is helping Rhett maintain his image. Taking care of him.

Or at least that’s what I keep telling myself, even though I’m pretty sure Kip hasn’t taken a road trip with any of the athletes he represents or spent an evening rubbing their muscular shoulders.

“Hey, Doll.” Some Ken-Barbie looking cowboy is leaned up against the wall when I round the corner.

He reaches for my arm in a way that I don’t appreciate, but I slink past—avoiding his touch—and brush him off with a forced smile and, “The name is Summer.”

The guy smiles back, but it doesn’t touch his eyes. Which is right when a leather glove wraps around my elbow followed by a deep, raspy, “Hey.”

Rhett doesn’t have to pull me hard. My body moves toward him like butter melts onto hot toast.

I turn my back on the other guy and look up at Rhett’s stubbled, rugged face. Fuck. He really is hot. I’ve been trying so hard not to admit that to myself. But every now and then, just a glimpse of him hits me in the gut.

His hair is loose around his shoulders and he’s still wearing the vest covered in sponsor logos over a button-down shirt. A warm gray one this time, unbuttoned just enough for me to see the sprinkling of hair across what I already know is a perfectly toned chest.

I swallow, attempting to move my suddenly dry throat. “I don’t even know what your score was,” I blurt out stupidly. “But you were amazing.”

His whiskey eyes go from pinched in the other guy’s direction to warm and bright.

At me.

“Yeah?”

“Yeah.” I take a step back, needing to put a little space between us and the tempting heat of his body. “You . . .” My hands flap around awkwardly as I search for what is the appropriate thing to say to him. “You rode the fuck outta that bull.”

Rhett’s head tips back as a deep, whole-hearted laugh overtakes him. His Adam’s apple bobs, and his fingers give my elbow a familiar squeeze.

“You should get them to put that in an ad about him.” Theo Silva comes up from beside us, grinning. Handsome, but so damn baby-faced next to Rhett.

He holds his hands up and slides them out straight, like he’s imagining a newspaper headline. “Old as balls but can still ride the fuck out of a bull.”

“You little shit.” Rhett’s left hand shoots out and playfully punches at Theo’s vest. They laugh.

Until the blond guy adds, “And every buckle bunny on tour,” as he saunters away.

And that’s when I step out of Rhett’s hold. Because that guy may be a dick, but he’s not wrong. Rhett has a reputation, and I have a bad habit of letting men I should stay away from break my heart.


Our drive back to the hotel is quiet. Strained almost.

Back at the arena, things felt natural. I was laughing, he was laughing, his hands were on me, and his friend was poking fun at him. He seemed himself.

And then that one snarky comment brought it all crashing down into reality. Because I’m here working, and he’s the gig. It’s something I have to remind myself.

This time in the elevator, we don’t stare at each other. At least, I don’t stare at him. Instead, I fixate on my boots as I wiggle my toes inside of them.

I can feel him staring at me, but I don’t meet his gaze. Because when I gave him that thumbs up and he grinned back at me, my stomach flipped and then bottomed out. The same way it used to when Rob would wink at me, and I can’t do that again.

“Did they fix the heater in your room?”

I think the only thing accomplished by him flashing his smile at the woman at the front desk while inquiring about the heater in my room this morning was her sliding her number to him across the countertop. Any comprehension of what he was talking to her about was gone the minute she caught sight of him.

I’d been waiting until we were out of earshot to crack a joke about it. But as soon as we walked away, he casually dropped the piece of paper with her number on it into a garbage can in the lobby.

“I’m not sure. I haven’t been back to my room.”

When I chance a look up at him, his eyes dart away, and he nods his head.

“How’s your shoulder?” I ask, realizing I haven’t checked yet.

“Not worse.”

“Good.” I lick my lips and rub them together. “That’s good.”

“Listen. About what Emmett said. . .” He trails off and I hold up a hand.

“You don’t need to explain a thing.”

“I feel like I do. I’m not really like that anymore.” He sounds almost desperate.

“Truly, it’s fine.” Just talking about him with other women makes a gnawing sensation take root at the base of my throat. I shimmy my shoulders then, standing up taller, refusing to curl in on myself.

“I’ve sown my wild oats, but a large part of what you see in the media is grossly exaggerated. I’m not a pig.”

“Rhett.” I don’t know why he needs to keep talking about this. “I know. I know.”

“How do you know?”

“Because I’ve glued myself to you for days on end now, and you haven’t done a single thing to make me think you are. You’ve been a perfect gentleman.”

We stare at each other now, and my lips twitch. “A grumpy, stubborn gentleman.”

He huffs out a laugh and shakes his head. The elevator dings, and the moment evaporates. We wave and say our goodbyes before disappearing into our rooms.

Or, I should say, he disappears into his warm one, and I disappear into my cold one. Because they clearly didn’t fix shit.

I opt to have a hot shower, layer up, and crawl under my covers to dream about the cozy room I’ve been assigned at Wishing Well Ranch. The hot coffee in the kitchen every morning. The charming family dinners where all the men on the ranch file into the main house to make fun of each other while cooking a meal.

But first, my phone rings.

Rob’s name flashes across the screen. He calls now and then when the coast is clear. And I know I shouldn’t answer, but our connections are so tangled that it’s hard to tell right from wrong where he’s concerned.

“Hey, what’s up?” I shuck off my boots and flop into the armchair in the corner.

“Checking to see how you’re feeling.”

He always says that, and I don’t believe him anymore.

“I’m fine. What’s up?”

“I saw you on TV tonight.”

My brows knit together. “For what?”

“At a rodeo. Giving thumbs up to some bull rider.”

Ah. There it is. Anytime he sees me potentially moving on, he swoops in. I used to think it meant I had a chance to get him back. Now, I’m old enough to know it’s his power play, it’s how he keeps me in line. Under his thumb.

He sees my attention shift, and he dangles a carrot into my line of vision, thinking he’ll make me lose focus. The problem is, I’m not all that into carrots these days. I’m favoring whiskey and leather.

“Yup. Listen, is there something wrong? I get worried when you call me that something is wrong.”

“I just worry about you. You need to be careful. Specifically with guys like that.”

I almost scoff, but there’s still this pathetic part of me that purrs when he says things like that. Things that make me feel like he cares about me. Rob has groomed me almost beyond repair.

“I’m good, thanks. Don’t need you looking out for me.” My patience frays. I’m tired. I’m cold. And truth be told, I’m horny. This weekend has been jam-packed full of too much testosterone for one simple city girl to withstand.

I also have to confess I don’t appreciate him talking about Rhett the way he is.

“Listen . . .”

“Yup,” I cut him off. “It’s bedtime for me here. We’ll chat at my next appointment. Bye.” I hang up on him.

Agitated, but also cast back in time, I stay in the chair, lost in memories of Rob and my times with him, for I don’t know how long.

All I know is I can’t feel my toes when a knock at the door pulls me out of my jog down memory lane. I woodenly move toward the door, trying to shake my chilled limbs out as I go. When I tug the door open, Rhett is freshly showered, smelling delicious, and looking even better.

His arms are across his chest and his eyes peruse the full length of my body—cream-colored sweater dress and camel peacoat. When I pulled the coat on, it reminded me of Rhett’s chaps.

I wore it because it looked good, not because it’s all that warm. And now, with his eyes tracing my body, I shiver.

“So, you’re cold.” His jaw pops as his teeth grind together, and he pushes past me into the room. “Summer. It’s fucking freezing in here.” The bite in his voice makes me flinch. “I thought they were fixing this today.”

I lean against the wall, kind of enjoying watching him stalk around my room like a caveman. The only thing missing is a club in his hand. “I guess they didn’t.”

“You’re not sleeping in here.” His hands land on his hips when he turns and stares at me square in the eye.

“Oh, yes. I’ll just take my pillow and blanket out into the hallway and sleep there.” I smile at Rhett, but he doesn’t smile back.

“Don’t be ridiculous. You’ll sleep in my room.”

I blink slowly a few times, waiting for the punch line. And when it doesn’t come, I burst out laughing. “That”—I point at him—“is not happening.”

“I’ll sleep in the chair. You can have the bed.”

“That will be just great for your shoulder. No chance.”

“Then I’ll take my pillow and a blanket, and I’ll sleep on the floor.”

“Rhett,” I scold, heat burning over my chest at how pushy he’s being. “I’m not doing that. We’re not doing that.”

He smirks now, cocky prick he is. “Why? You worried you won’t be able to resist me?”

My jaw drops. “Rude. And no. I’m more worried I might accidentally hold a pillow over your smug, pretty face until you stop breathing. I have a sweatsuit. I’ll dress warm. I’ll be fine.”

He turns, and in a few strides he flips the top half of my suitcase closed, and I stand frowning at him as he zips my bag shut.

“What do you think you’re doing?”

“All I heard was that you think I have a pretty face,” he says as he marches past me, rolling my suitcase behind himself.

“Of course, you missed the part about me wanting to kill you.”

When he gets to the door, he waves a hand over his shoulder and pushes out into the hallway. “Keep up, Princess. Kill me, don’t kill me. At least you’ll be warm. You’re with me tonight.”


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