Flawless: Chapter 32


Summer: Wanna go for brunch?

Willa: It’s Friday morning. Aren’t we both working?

Summer: I got fired.

Willa: That’s very unlike you! When did this happen?

Summer: A week ago.

Willa: Way to keep me in the loop. By the hot cowboy?

Summer: No. By my dad.

Willa: Well, shit. The Lark. 10:30. I’ll get the mimosas started.

I walk into mine and Willa’s favorite brunch location and spot her mane of red hair, poker straight around her shoulders, from the front door. Two mimosas sit in front of her . . . and two more parked across the table.

I guess it’s going to be one of those mornings. The kind I need after moping around all week.

“Hey! You’re here!” My best friend shoots out of her chair and wraps me in her arms. Willa gives the best hugs. She’s much taller than me, which puts my head at about chest height.

So, I do what I’ve been doing since we were teenagers. It’s a secret handshake at this point. I drop my head and jokingly motorboat her boobs. “I missed you,” I say, mostly to her tits.

We both laugh. “That’s what they all say.” She ruffles my hair, and we step apart, smiling at each other. Sometimes, I’m so focused on feeling like I don’t have any family that I forget about Willa. She might as well be my family.

“I was wondering why you’ve been radio silent,” she tells me as she makes her way back to her seat and spreads a napkin across her lap. “Just figured you were working out the atomic bomb that got dropped at the hospital. Or possibly just saving horses left and right. Too busy riding cowboy pole to talk to me.”

I roll my eyes, doing the same. “No. I’ve been moping.”

“Because Daddy Hamilton fired you?”

“Can we not call him that?” I reach for a mimosa and take a gulp.

Willa waggles her eyebrows at me. She always jokes about liking my dad. I don’t actually know how much she’s joking, though, because she’s constantly checking out older men.

“So, he fired you. Why?”

I drink again. “Because he says I don’t love working there like I should.”

She snorts. “No shit. Glad he slapped some sense into you.”

“Now, I have to figure out what I want to do with my life. Which is a hard question to answer. Basically, I’ve spent the past week in sweatpants mulling over the fact that all I’ve ever done is what I thought other people wanted me to do. I have no idea what I actually want.”

“Well, as the twenty-five-year-old who works at her brother’s bar full time with no other prospects to speak of, I’ll drink to that.”

“Well, you’re a manager, doing office work during the day. It’s not just bartending.”

Her head quirks, green eyes appraising me with a smirk. “Am I? Or am I getting morning drunk with my bestie?”

We clink our glasses and polish off our first mimosa, immediately reaching for the second.

“So, do you have any ideas?” Willa asks.

“No,” I say a little too quickly.

“Okay, if you don’t want to talk about that, can we talk about the hottie in the Wranglers?”

“Ugh.” I flop against the high back of the upholstered wing chair. This restaurant is eclectic to say the least. Mismatched chairs at each table. Antique chandeliers throughout. Floral wallpaper meets striped wallpaper, meets polka dot wallpaper. It makes me feel like I’m having a tea party at the Mad Hatter’s place. Except with mimosas. “We’re . . . I don’t know what we are. He marched into my office the day I got fired.”


“Because you were ignoring all his calls and texts?”



“What did he say?”

Drink. I swipe my fingers across my lips and glance out the big windows at the sunny downtown street, thinking of how it felt to have Rhett touch my lips.

“That he loves me.”

“Well, shit.” Willa flops back in her chair too. “What did you say to that?”

I worry my bottom lip between my teeth. “I asked him how his ribs felt. I didn’t know what to say. I had really dug in on being angry with him, so it took me by surprise. He said I was his priority. That he was always going to keep coming back.”

Willa sighs wistfully. “So fucking romantic.”

“Sure, and then he told me he was still going to ride in the finals, and I don’t know what to make of that.”

“What do you mean?”

Drink. Sigh. Look back at my best friend. “I mean, I don’t want to be the girl who tells someone to stop doing something they love. Everyone tells him to stop. Do you know his family doesn’t even come to watch him when the events are close? He’s there alone. And I hate that for him.”

I sigh again, thinking about how much that bothers me. All his close family, but still so alone.

“Between his shoulder and his rib injuries, he’s injured enough that he won’t be able to ride like he normally does. Not safely. I know it. He knows it. He knows it could end poorly—so damn poorly.” Ire creeps into my voice. “And he’s going to go out there and do it anyway. He’ll leave me in the aftermath if something terrible happens. I’ve already picked up the pieces of so much heavy shit in my life. I’m not sure I want to sign up for caring about someone more than they care about themselves.”

My friend sips elegantly while humming thoughtfully. I can see the wheels turning in her head as she mulls over my rant. “Maybe he doesn’t know what making you a priority looks like because no one has ever made him a priority.”

My mouth opens, but no sound comes out. I close it again, turning that thought around in my mind. Kip made sure I always knew I was his priority, no matter what else was going on in our lives. Winter, too.

But Rhett . . . he kind of got lost in the shuffle of life and tragedy and struggling to get by. Does he truly not know what it feels like to be someone’s priority?

“I see I’ve struck you dumb. Thank you for coming to my TED Talk. Now tell me, do you love this man?”

My heart rate ratchets up, and I swear I can feel the blood pumping through my veins. I’ve only confessed this to myself. In my head. Saying it out loud makes it feel astonishingly real.

But maybe that’s what Rhett needs from me.

I pull the mimosa up to my lips, throw a hand over my eyes, and mutter, “Yeah,” before chasing back the rest of the drink. They really do serve them in small glasses.

And then I sit with my hand over my face, trying to figure out what that means. I hear Willa call out to a server that we’ll have another round.

“Is she okay?” The guy sounds skeptical because I probably look hammered. I’m not, but two mimosas on an empty stomach isn’t a great recipe for sobriety either.

“Her? Oh, nah. She’s a mess. Get the lady a drink.”

The guy chuckles, and I hear him depart as I continue to hide under the cover of my palm.

I smile, opening my eyes to tell Willa that I don’t think I need another round, but she’s got her head tipped down staring at her phone, thumbs swiping furiously across the screen.

“Who are you texting?”

“No one. I’m booking us flights.”

I snort. She’s always making shit like this up to throw me off. “Oh, yeah? Pray tell, bestie. Where are we going? Mexico? Ooh. A weekend in Paris? We can drink wine by the Eiffel Tower.”

“You have expensive taste for an unemployed person.”

“Please don’t remind me of that.”

“We’re going to Vegas.”

I lean forward and place my glass on the table in front of me. “Pardon me?”

“Don’t play dumb. It’s unbecoming. You heard me.” She doesn’t even glance up at me.


A slow feline smile stretches across her lips. She looks far too satisfied with herself, something that immediately sets off alarm bells in my head.

“In a few hours. We’ll get there in time to grab dinner and hit the rodeo. Maybe I’ll ride a cowboy tonight too.” She winks, and I stare slack-jawed at her.

“You’re not even kidding, are you?”

“Why would I kid about this?” Her brows furrow.

“You’re insane.”

Willa laughs lightly, running a finger over the rim of her champagne glass. “Some people would say that’s a redhead thing.”

“I don’t know if this is a good idea.”

The server drops our drinks off and eyes me, probably checking to see if I’m swaying in my seat or something.

“It’s a great idea. It will be fun. And you’ll get your Prince Charming. You’re welcome.”

Silence stretches between us as I stare her down. The thing about Willa is that she can’t be stared down. Not really. She’s too ballsy. She just stares back, arching one shapely brow.

“If this we’re your last moment on earth, would you—”

I hold up a hand to stop her, shaking my head. “I really wish people would stop using that saying against me.” I let out a ragged sigh and drink. Because today I’m going to Vegas. Because in my last moments, I’d want to be with Rhett.

I’d want him to know I love him too. Every stupid, impulsive, broken bone in his body.


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