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Flawless: Chapter 16


Dad: Can you come to the staff meeting this week?

Summer: Which day? What time?

Dad: Thursday at one.

Summer: Yeah, I might have to shuffle one of Rhett’s appointments that will conflict with it.

Dad: I’m sure he can manage an appointment on his own. Seems like you’ve got him on a pretty tight leash.

Summer: Again. He’s not a dog.

There’s a chinook rolling through today. You’d think the breeze would cool my cheeks, but the air is downright balmy. All the hard work I did in the waiting room to compose myself while Rhett had his scan went right down the toilet the minute he came striding back out with a knowing grin on his face.

Cocky motherfucker.

On our walk out the main doors of the hospital, I avoid his eyes. It’s awkward. Really fucking awkward. And it’s such a Winter move. She’s never outright mean to me. She’s passive aggressive, she’s calculated. Winter plays the long game. I can just see our dad mentioning what I’ve been up to and her filing that information away for the perfect moment to embarrass me with it.

I hate to call her conniving, because there’s this little part of me that truly loves her. Admires her. I wish we’d been given the opportunity to forge our own type of relationship. But the evil stepmother got her fingers in there and played us both like puppets, easily making me out to be the source of all family strife. Winter never got a chance to like me, and no matter how hard I try, she doesn’t seem interested. It’s something that keeps me up at night. I long for a relationship with her. Yearn to have one more person I can consider family, rather than just Kip.

Seeing Rhett and his family together—even pestering each other the way they do—makes my chest ache. I want that one day.

“Did you doodle our names with a heart around them in your binders?”

That’s how he breaks the silence.

I press my lips together into a firm line, willing myself not to smile. I don’t want to give him the satisfaction of laughing at his joke. Even if it’s funny.


“Did you. . .” He trails off, scrubbing at his beard. “Kiss the page you ripped out of a magazine?”

I scoff. “I didn’t rip it out. I cut it out very carefully. And now I’m looking forward to throwing darts at it.”

He barks out a laugh and grins down at me, looking altogether too handsome and pleased with himself. Which forces me to glance away and try to hide my smile. But when I do, my eyes land on the McLaren parked ahead of us, in a towaway zone with its hazards on. It’s the license plate that makes me stop in my tracks.


As a teenager, I thought it was witty. Now I think it’s lame beyond compare.

“You okay?” Rhett’s hand lands on my lower back as he looks down at me, concern etched across his features. “I’m just joking around. You should probably fire me for sexual harassment.”

“I . . .” I shake my head. “No. Just my ex.” I nod my head toward the vehicle parked about ten car lengths ahead of us.

His eyes follow mine and then roll when they catch sight of the expensive sports car. “Of course, it is.”

I just swallow in response.

“Do we like this ex?” His fingers pulse on my lower back, and I lean into him, not forgetting the way he stepped up to protect me when Winter’s claws came out.

“It’s complicated,” I breathe.

“Complicated how?” Rhett’s voice takes on an edge that has me looking up at him and away from Rob’s illegally parked car.

“Complicated like we’re very, very over. He’s moved on. But every time he catches wind of me doing the same, he crops back up in some capacity. Like, apparently, he saw a clip on TV of me giving you the thumbs up in Pine Lake and that was enough for him to start sniffing around.”

Rhett’s head drops down closer, erasing whatever little respectable space there was left between us. His eyes are trained on mine. Staring at me in that way he always does. With unmatched intensity. “That event wasn’t televised. Which means he’s going out of his way to figure out what you’re doing and probably searching the events on YouTube for footage.”

That night, when Rob told me he’d seen my gesture, I didn’t even question it. But Rhett is right. I know which events are televised—Kip has been very exacting about that—so there’s no way Rob just happened upon the footage. But Rhett is right, and I can’t believe I didn’t catch the lie.

“Shit. That’s . . . creepy.” I blink up at Rhett, who’s opposite hand cups my elbow now, turning me in toward him.

“Maybe we should give him something to creep on. Do you think he’s in that car?” The rugged man in front of me smirks in a way that has my entire body humming. “Rather than kissing your magazine pages, you can try out the real thing.”

“You’re an idiot,” I mumble, but I also don’t move away.

Would I do this? My heart races so hard that it drowns out the sounds around me. All I hear is that dull, rushing sound of my pulse in my ears.

“What if someone sees? What if this gets out?”

Rhett’s thigh presses against mine while the hand on my lower back slides down to the waistline of my jeans, his fingers tightening in a way that has the spot just behind my hip bones aching.

He moves in close, his scent surrounding me as his wild hair fans down around us. The air between us hums and I stare at his mouth, wondering what the roughness of his beard might feel like on my lips, on my body.

I’ve never kissed a man like Rhett.

“You know, Princess,” he rasps, and I should hate that goddamn nickname, borne of mocking me for being who I am, but suddenly it feels like a shot straight to my core. Like praise. Like worship. “I’m finding I don’t really care what people think where you’re concerned.”

That comment strikes me speechless, and I momentarily let myself imagine a world in which I didn’t care what people thought. Where I didn’t constantly work to keep everyone around me appeased. Where there wasn’t this ever-present need to make up for being born a burden. What might that kind of freedom feel like? To do something I want without worrying about every possible fallout.

And something about Rhett’s impulsive ways and rugged good looks makes me want to embrace it for one wild moment. I deserve a moment like that.

I swallow hard and nod once, getting lost in his glowing amber eyes. The hand on my elbow slides up, sending goosebumps out over my skin. The cool metal of his ring on my skin as that same hand glides over my shoulder, traces my collarbone, and slides up my throat.

And I’m on fire.

For all the times I imagined his hands on me, I never imagined my body reacting like this.

It’s when his lips come down, only a hairsbreadth apart, and his knuckles graze my cheekbone that I notice the driver’s side door of Rob’s car shoot open from the corner of my eye. And it’s then that I murmur, “Okay. But this means nothing.”

In response, Rhett growls and dusts his lips across mine. Tingles shoot out like electricity, like every bristled point that touches me sends a spark dancing, twirling across my skin. Singeing every nerve ending.

His hands are possessive on my body. Pulling me tight against him almost aggressively, while cradling my skull so delicately, and kissing me so carefully. He lights me up. He burns me down. And I bask in his heat.

The buzz of the hospital around us fades away when his lips come back and press down more firmly this time. The people, the sirens, Rob’s presence. It all blows away like dust on a dirt road as I kiss Rhett back.

I shouldn’t. I really shouldn’t be kissing this man. This client. I definitely should not be kissing him back. But sometimes being responsible is exhausting, especially in the face of someone as irresistible as Rhett Eaton.

It’s me who pushes my tongue into his mouth. It’s me who steps even closer, feeling his hand slide down to my ass as he crushes me against the steely bulge in his pants. It’s me who moans when he presses it against me even harder.

The knowledge that do that to him makes me wildIt seems unlikely. We seem unlikely.

And yet I’d have to be an idiot to deny there’s a connection here. The bickering. The jokes. The goddamn teenaged crush.

His thumb trails down the column of my throat as his silky tongue tangles with mine. He wields it so well. He makes me weak in the knees. Suddenly, I want him closer—I want more.

And as I squeeze my thighs together and feel my core clench, I realize my body wants that too. Which is a problem. Because I still need to spend several weeks with this man. Alone with this man. Which means this needs to stop.

I pull back, panting. My hands are clenched, fisting the front of his shirt, and our hips still line up in a way that is entirely inappropriate for the main entrance of the hospital.

Rhett is breathless too, back to staring at me.

His eyes flit past me, and I follow them, not wanting him to look away yet. We glance over just in time to see Rob’s coiffed head of golden hair slip into his fast car. The sound of his door slamming makes me jump. And then I’m staring back up at Rhett, whose jaw is clenched hard enough that it looks like the bone is trying to escape through his skin.

“Well . . . I think that worked.” My voice sounds breathy and soft as I step away from Rhett’s rock-hard body, the breeze whooshing in between us as though it’s carrying away all the feelings that came fluttering up when we kissed.

I wish it could carry away my confusion.

We walk again, and I’m just trying to stay upright after the most mind-blowing kiss of my life. Fake kiss.

I wonder if we’re going to talk about it, but Rhett just adjusts himself in his jeans and tries to steer the conversation back into safer territory. Mocking me.

“Did you plan our wedding while you were cooped up in the hospital? What about our wedding night? I’d love to hear about that.”

I glance down at his crotch with a smirk. Secretly getting off on seeing the bulge there. “Bet you would.”

His pinky finger wraps around mine tenderly before he moves his hand to the small of my back, guiding me safely across the road and making my chest flutter.

He’s joking. But I did imagine a wedding night with him. A long time ago.

I haven’t in years.

But I might be tonight.

“Tell me about him,” Rhett says from the passenger seat while I focus too hard on an empty road.

“What?” I eye him suspiciously now, pretending I don’t know what he’s talking about.

“Doctor Douche.”

I strangle a laugh in my throat as my tongue darts out over my lips and my knuckles turn white on the steering wheel. “He’s not a douche.”

“Get real. I saw his personalized license plate. His secret is officially out.”

I smile now. “Okay, that is bad.”

“Bad? It’s worse than bad. I bet he loves milk-based drinks, too.”

I huff out a laugh and shake my head.

“When did you break up?”

“I don’t know if you could call it a breakup. We weren’t together in the way you might be thinking.” My top teeth graze my bottom lip as I turn things over in my mind. I’ve only ever told Willa about this, and it’s scary to open up about it with Rhett.

“We . . . fuck. I don’t know. I’ve told no one except my best friend about this.”

“You mean Kip never met him?” The curiosity on his face is blatant.

“Well. No. He’s met him.”

“Summer, this isn’t a Christopher Nolan film. I don’t deserve to be this confused after giving you the best kiss of your—”

“He was my doctor,” I blurt out.

Rhett goes still, all the jokes sliding away. Probably crushed by the wheels beneath us. “Like your family doctor?”

“No. He’s a cardiothoracic surgeon. He performed the corrective heart procedures I had done as a teenager.”

His head flops back on the rest behind him. “Jesus Christ. So . . . did you just say teenager?”

“Nothing happened until I was legal. Whatever we did mostly consisted of sneaking around,” I add quickly, glancing over at him, because I can tell what he’s thinking.

“Summer.” He groans and throws a hand over his face. “That doesn’t make it any better.”

“I know,” I reply, quietly.

“Someone should report him. Doctors can’t go around dating their teenaged patients.” His tone is biting.

My eyes go wide. I don’t want to make this a thing. I want to leave it all in the past where it belongs. I don’t hate Rob; I just want to move on from him. “Please, please don’t say anything. I shouldn’t have said anything to you. I was just . . . explaining myself, I guess.”

Rhett sighs raggedly. “You don’t owe me an explanation. It’s him who should be explaining himself.” He gazes out the window, shaking his head before muttering, “Saw you on TV, my ass.”

I glance over again, almost nervously this time. My hands twist on the steering wheel. “I don’t know. People pleaser, I guess. Things with Rob and I were complicated. I guess they still are. It’s like, logically, I know that our relationship was fucked up. But he saved my life. Before him I was very sick, and he fixed me. And it’s impossible to reconcile those two things.”

Rhett grunts. I bet to him a lot of my family relationships seem awfully complicated.

“You deserve so much better, Summer. It’s like you’re so busy forcing yourself to smile and be happy all the time that you don’t even realize when you’re entitled to be pissed off.”

His statement strikes me silent while I desperately search for something adequate to reply with. “Thank you for standing up for me today. To my sister. And with the . . .” I remove one hand from the wheel and wave it around almost spastically.

“Kiss?” he supplies.

“Yeah, that. I’m so glad we can go back to a professional working relationship after that.”

Rhett quirks a brow in my direction, watching me lick my lips and swallow while avoiding his gaze.

“And thank you for keeping my secret about Rob.”

Rhett’s only reply is to grind his teeth.


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