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Flawless: Chapter 4


Rhett: Want your daughter back yet ? I promise I’ll be good.

Kip: She’s not even there yet.

Rhett: Think of all the time you’ll save her by calling her back now.

Kip: No.

Rhett: Please?

Kip: Don’t try to be polite. It doesn’t suit you.

Rhett: Suck a dick.

Kip: How do you think I’m keeping all your sponsors?

Summer Hamilton pulled up in her fancy SUV and ridiculous prissy outfit like she’s going out on the town rather than showing up on a cattle ranch.

So, I made myself scarce. I might be stuck with her, but I don’t have to like it.

And I don’t. I fucking hate being treated like a child, or like I’m stupid. Or worse, like I’m some sort of criminal. I had hoped that sleeping in my own bed and having some processing time to come to terms with my new arrangement might make it feel a little less stifling—less insulting.

But it still feels like trash.

Which is why I’m here pounding posts with my older brother. Setting new fence lines for some of his horses to be closer to his house, which is just over the crest of a big hill from where my dad and I live. Cade pulls a post out of the back of his pickup and hefts it over his shoulder with a grunt. He looks the most like our dad, wide shoulders and tightly cut hair. The only thing missing is a mustache. Something I love to harass him about, especially since he’s one growly motherfucker. It’s just too easy.

“When are you going to grow out the ‘stache and go full Old Man Eaton?”

He glares at me before he drops the post and lines up the pointed end with the spot he wants. “Dunno. When you cutting your hair, Rapunzel?”

This feels good. This feels familiar. Pissing Cade off is one of my favorite past-times. And he’s so fucking grumbly that it never stops being satisfying. He’s all bark and no bite, one of the nicest dudes I know.

If you can overlook what a prick he is.

I pull my cap off and flick my hair over my shoulder, trying not to wince at the shot of pain in my shoulder. Or the swelling in my knee. Or the ache in my back.

Never mind Rapunzel, I’m more like Humpty Dumpty.

“Never. How will I pull a princess through my window?”

He snorts and grabs the post pounder while I take over holding the post upright. “Just one princess, brother? Hardly seems like you.”

I roll my eyes. Cade is the monk in this family. I don’t think I’ve seen him with a single woman since his divorce.

“I’m just trying to have enough sex for the both of us,” I lie. That part of me has changed. It doesn’t hold the same appeal these last couple seasons. Not like it used to. It brings drama, and I’ve grown tired of having to spend time with people who only want something from me or who see me as some sort of trophy.

Cade reaches up and slaps the cap off my head. “Douche. You going to help do one or just stand there looking pretty?”

I step away and cross my arms. “I am pretty, aren’t I? People keep telling me that,” I deflect because I don’t want to confess that my body is feeling utterly run down. All that will get me is a lecture about how I need to retire, how I’ve stuck with it too long.

The problem is, I’m addicted.

Riding bulls is a high I can’t replace. A rush I can’t stop chasing.

“Uncle Rhett!” The small, sugary voice makes me smile, and I’m grateful for the distraction.

Cade glances over his shoulder, brows drawn together in concern.

“Luke! What’s up, little man? I thought you were with Mrs. Hill,” I say.

My nephew smiles at me, exposing his little Chiclet teeth, a mischievous expression overtaking his face. “I told her I wanted to play hide and seek.”

“Okay . . .”

Luke peeks at his dad from around my body, like he knows he’s about to get in trouble. And then he leans in close to me and holds a hand up next to his mouth. “And then I ran over here instead.”

His eyes go wide as he takes in my expression and then his dad’s, who is probably scowling behind me. I try not to laugh.

But I fail. This cracks me up, and I bark out a loud laugh. This kid runs my brother into the ground. He keeps him light—and God knows Cade needs that.

That said, we’re all a bunch of softies where Luke is concerned. Our little sister may have left the ranch, but we’ve got Luke to dote on now.

“Papa is looking for you,” the boy continues.

“Luke.” Cade walks up from behind me. “Are you telling me you ran away from your babysitter to help Papa find Rhett? Because that sounds an awful lot like not minding your business.”

Luke rolls his little lips together, and I swear I can see the gears turning in his head. Almost five, smart as hell, a full-on troublemaker. But still too young to realize when he’s blown it.

He side-steps that question, widening his eyes strategically. “Papa came looking for you at home. He’s with a lady.”

I groan because I know what this means. Lady. A more apt word has never been used to describe Summer Hamilton. My agent’s princess.

My brother’s eyes dart to my face. “Lady? Did you finally knock someone up?”

Cade is such a dick. “For fu—”

“What does knock someone up mean?” We both stare blankly down at the little boy, but before we can respond, my dad and Summer show up at the top of the hill.

“You making me a granddaddy again, Rhett?” My dad chuckles as he draws near. He has no business hearing this well for a man his age. It’s annoying that nothing gets past him.

I brace my hands on my hips and turn my face up at the blue sky, blowing out a hot breath and watching it turn to steam that dances up into the air.

“Sorry to disappoint,” I mutter as I turn back to them, trying to ignore the confused scowl on Cade’s face. That’s basically his range of looks: happy scowl, tired scowl . . . I imagine he even has some sort of horny scowl that he’s hidden away for the past several years.

“Summer is here, Rhett,” my dad starts, with a look that says I better behave myself. I’ve been seeing that look my entire life. “You didn’t mention how delightful she is. Did you know she just finished law school?”

My brows pop up. I’m not above admitting that’s a little bit impressive. But it’s also worse somehow. She’s prissy, smart, accomplished, and assigned to babysit me.

And also insanely beautiful. She’s changed into jeans, and I’m trying like hell not to eye the way they hug her pint-sized frame.

With a few sure strides, my brother closes the space between himself and Summer, stretching one long, muscled arm out in her direction. “Cade Eaton.” His voice is brusque, but I know he’s not shaking her hand as hard as he usually does. She has a delicate air about her, and Cade may be a grumpy asshole, but he’s also a gentleman.

“Summer Hamilton.” She smiles, and it still borders on a smirk. Like she’s amused by this whole thing. When she’s alone, I bet she has a nice, long, rich-girl laugh at my expense.

“And sorry, how do you know Rhett?” Cade’s scowl is now curious.

Here it is, the moment everyone has a big laugh at my expense. My dad already knows, but as much as he jokes around, I don’t think he’d throw me under the bus. We both know my dickhead brothers are going to get a real kick out of Baby Brother being in trouble. Again.

He’ll just sit back and enjoy watching it all unfold.

But Summer doesn’t miss a beat. “I’m a new junior agent with his firm. Just trying to learn the ropes with someone established.” Her smile is soft and demure—sincere.

And she’s lying through her goddamn teeth.

The girl is good. I’ll give her that.

My brother’s brows tug together, and my dad’s eyes twinkle as he watches the exchange. I hold my breath, hoping that’s all there is to it. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll get away with this without being completely embarrassed.

Cade’s head quirks. “But why are you he—”

“I’m hungry,” Luke announces.

“Bet you are,” Summer replies. “What’s your favorite snack?”

Instant redirection. My dad catches my eye and winks.

“Popcorn!” Why do kids always exclaim everything? Like they’re going to win some sort of prize for shouting it out first.

Summer quirks a hip and crosses her arms, like she’s weighing the child’s response. “With M&M’s mixed in?”

“Oooh!” Luke exclaims as the rest of us men wrinkle our noses. “I’ve never had that!”

“No?” Her eyes flare dramatically as she crouches down.

“What are emnems?” Luke asks, admitting he hasn’t got a fucking clue what she’s talking about. The exchange is cute, and my eyes snap to my brother, wondering if he’s falling in love with Summer Hamilton on the spot. But he just seems perplexed.

“They’re a candy. With chocolate. And peanuts. I saw stores on my way here that would have them for sure. I bet your dad would take you to get some.”

And just like that, Cade looks colossally annoyed.

“Can we, Dad?” Luke’s big blue eyes light up.

“After you ran away from poor old Mrs. Hill?” Cade’s jaw pops, and he shoots Summer a disapproving glare. Some women would shrink under that scowl, but not this one.

She shrugs and mouths, “Sorry,” looking a little chagrined as they turn toward their house to leave. But when she glances over her shoulder at me, that smug smirk touches her mouth.

And that’s the moment I realize she wasn’t chagrined at all. That entire exchange was a completely intentional way of cutting off my brother’s line of questioning.

To help me save face.

“I’ll go give Cade a hand with Luke,” my dad says, dropping his head down to hide what I know has to be a grin under the brim of his cowboy hat.

Which means Summer and I are here on the top of the dry, scrubby knoll, all alone for the very first time. But she doesn’t give me any attention. She just stands gazing out over the hills toward the peaks of the Rockies.

She’s so still that for a few moments I can’t help but watch her. The cool wind whistles through the bare branches of the sparse trees. There’s a solid nip in the air, and when it gusts, her shoulders come up tight under her ears, the puffy down coat rubbing against her earrings as the breeze tosses her silky brown hair around behind her.

And then she sighs, deep and heavy, and I watch her shoulders slowly drop, entranced by her reaction. When my eyes track lower, I shake my head. I have to remember that even if she throws me a bone, she and I are not friends.

We’re not even on the same team.

“Using a five-year-old boy to get your way. Is that a new low?”

She huffs out a laugh and shoves her hands into her back pockets before turning around to face me, all wide eyes. “I didn’t use him. I enlightened him. Mixing candy with your popcorn is a life experience that every child deserves.”

“Cade is going to hate you for that.”

Her lips press together, and she shrugs, seeming truly unaffected by the prospect. “I guess I’ll have to hope Brother Number Three likes me. Or maybe I’ll go for the trifecta? Get you all to hate me? That might be nice for me.”

The balls on this girl.

“You could have told the truth.”

“I did.”

My teeth grind. “Learning the ropes? We both know you’re here to babysit me.”

Her head tilts, and she stares at me in the most unnerving way. “I guess we all see things the way we want to. I am new at the firm. They only recently hired me as more than a summer intern. And you are established. And I’d be an idiot to think I’m not here to learn something. Or Kip would have sent someone with more experience, no?”

Then she walks back toward the main house.

“Why didn’t you just throw me under the bus then? They’re going to figure it out, eventually.”

“Because that’s not my job. Keep up, we need to go over some things.”

I hang back for a few minutes, because when Summer Hamilton tells me to jump, I refuse to respond with, How high?


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