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Flawless: Chapter 29

Summer

Summer: Winter, can we please talk? I’m coming back to the hospital today. I can meet you any place, any time. I don’t expect you to forgive me. I would just like to tell you my side of the story.

Winter: There’s nothing to forgive.

Summer: Okay. Can we please just still talk? I know things are strained between us, but I love you. I want to make sure you’re okay.

Winter: I’m not okay. I’m pregnant. And the father of my child has been lying to me for years. I’m not ready to talk. Please stop asking. I’ll contact you when I’m ready.


Rhett: How is Kip?

Summer: Apparently, fine.

Rhett: How are you?

Summer: Tired.

Rhett: What can I do to help? Just tell me.

Summer: Nothing.

Rhett: Have I mentioned how sorry I am?

Summer: Just be safe tonight, please.


“So, tell me about the cowboy.”

I decide not to turn around. Instead, I busy myself rearranging some of my dad’s flowers in their vase. “Hm?” I ask like I didn’t hear him.

“You know. Long hair. Punches people who’ve wronged you. Featured on your wall as a teenager.”

I groan, dropping my chin to my chest.

“Bet you thought I didn’t remember that.”

“Yup.” I stare at the white sneakers on my feet. I finally snuck back to our house this morning. As though it might make me feel better, I took a shower, blow dried my hair, and put on a pretty matching bra and thong set. I threw on some jeans and a soft, gray jersey pullover and came back to keep Dad company.

Feeling right as rain. If this were my last moment, I’d want to be happy with my dad. So, I’m forcing myself to feel that. To do that. To control what I can.

And I’m failing because I’m sick about Winter. I was literally sick over that last message she sent me. I have to keep busy somehow. Rhett rides tonight, and Willa’s bar is hosting some concert this weekend, so I’m here with Kip, who is now asking questions I don’t want to answer.

With a sigh, I turn and face my dad, who appears awfully pleased with himself. “You should look worse. You just had a heart attack.”

He waves me off. “A minor heart attack. And you know what would make me feel better?”

“What?” I perk up, eager for something to keep me busy and out of my head. Something other than arranging flowers that don’t need arranging.

“Tell me about what went down with Rhett.”

“Ugh.” I stomp across the room, feeling notably childish as I flop down into the chair beside him. “I don’t know what to tell you.”

“Do you like him?”

Fuck me, this is awkward. I can’t even look at Kip. He’s found out more about my sex life in the past twenty-four hours than I’d have liked him to know in my entire lifetime.

“Yeah, Dad. I like him. He’s not like he comes off. Nothing like everyone thinks.”

“I know.”

My head flips in his direction. “You do?”

“Of course, I know. Been helping that kid for over a decade now. He pisses me off because he’s a loose fucking cannon, but I like him. I knew you two would get along eventually.”

I blink, thinking back to the way Kip ranted and raved about him when this whole milk thing hit the fan. I saw it as frustration, but now, I’m thinking it might be affection. Frustration that things weren’t going right for him rather than frustration directed at him.

“Well, cool,” I say, slumping back in my chair. “Way to play weird matchmaker. It worked.”

I can feel my dad staring at me. His gaze is burning a hole in my resolve to not say more.

“I let him get in my pants, okay?” I finally blurt.

My dad laughs.

I bring my hands up to my forehead as I stare at the ceiling. “You told me not to let him get into my pants, and I brushed you off like that was insane. And then I let him get in my pants. So, when we get back to work, you can just fire me and let me know what an unprofessional disappointment I am. Also, can we please never talk about my sex life again after this?”

Once Kip’s laughter subsides, he looks over and gives my elbow a squeeze. “Right. Well, I don’t think I told you not to fall in love with him.”

“I don’t love him.”

He shrugs and gives me one of those sarcastic frowns that says, Okay, sure, but we both know you’re full of shit.

I cross my arms, determined not to give him any further intel to harass me with. I don’t want to talk about it. And I definitely don’t want to consider the fact that I might be in love with Rhett Eaton.

The current state of things hurt bad enough without throwing the L word around.

“Wanna stream his event and talk about how terrible he is?”

I snort. The leg I have crossed jiggles as I try to avoid making eye contact with my dad. He’s dangled a carrot I almost can’t resist.

On one hand, I want to watch because I already miss Rhett so badly that there’s a constant ache in my chest. On the other hand, I don’t want to watch because there’s a constant ache in my chest that will only worsen with the anxiety of watching him ride.

“Okay. Fine.” I’m weak. I’m so fucking weak. A masochist, really.

Kip grins and reaches for his iPad, patting the bed as he scootches over. I fold myself onto the bed beside him and see that he already has the live stream queued and ready to go.

Traitor.

I cross my arms and lean back, settling in to watch. The start involves a lot of fireworks, girls in leather pants holding signs, and the announcers giving a rundown of the standings leading into the World Championships, which are two weeks from now. All they talk about is that goddamn gold buckle. They sound like Rhett.

I recognize the names of plenty of the guys as they take their turns. I tell my dad all that I’ve learned about the sport. The scoring, what makes a bull a good one, how they rub at their bull ropes to soften the rosin and mold it to their hands.

He listens raptly, even though there’s a part of me that’s certain he knows a lot of what I’m telling him. I think I just need to fill the space with something that isn’t my sex life.

We hiss and groan in unison when guys fall or when the rodeo clown narrowly escapes. It’s a terrifying sport.

“Oh, that’s Theo.” I point at the screen. “He’s Rhett’s protégé. Like a little brother.”

“Oh, good. Another Rhett. Just what this world needs,” my dad jokes. I laugh, but it’s half-hearted, because the first thought that jumps into my head is, Rhett is irreplaceable.

The L word pops up again and I push it away, crossing my arms tighter across my ribs as though I can squeeze the thought right out of my body.

My lungs harden in my chest when I see Rhett climb up on the fence panels to help Theo. He’s not a tour coach, so he doesn’t need to be there. He just is. A flash of guilt hits me for saying what I said to him about not everything being about him.

It was a cruel thing to say.

I see the gate fly open and noise erupts from the tiny tablet screen. Theo’s legs swing, arm held up in perfect position. The splattered-looking bull is bucking, straight and not overly high, so Theo digs in with his spurs.

And that’s when it all goes to shit.

The bull turns hard and fast, and Theo isn’t ready. He’s chucked forward onto the bull’s neck. His hat flies in one direction and his limp body in the other. I gasp, my hand coming up to cover my mouth as I shoot forward. When he hits the ground, dust floats up around him as he lies motionless.

“Shit.” I hear Kip’s voice, but I’m hardly processing because the bull has abandoned the clown he was chasing, and now all 2000 pounds of him barrels down on a lifeless-looking Theo.

I barely register what’s happening outside the ring, which is why I hardly see it coming. Rhett runs out from the left of the screen and throws himself on Theo’s body like a shield.

Selfless and heroic and stupid.

And just in time to bear the brunt of the bull’s charge.

All I know is that I scream.


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