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Flawless: Chapter 5

Summer

Dad: How’s it going?

Summer: It’s beautiful out here.

Dad: I meant the cowboy.

Summer: Oh, him? He hates me.

Dad: You’ll win him over. Just make sure he keeps his dick in his pants.

Summer: I’ll pass the message along. A sure way to win him over!


Men are so fragile.

I told Rhett to keep up, and I’m almost positive he stood in that field sulking just to prove a point. It’s kind of amusing. My lips twitch as I set up my files and laptop on the living room table.

We need to hammer out a schedule for the coming months, and I’m going to need Rodeo King here to do that.

Eventually, I hear the back door slam and heavy footfalls traveling in my direction. Out of the corner of my eye, I catch sight of his frame. His broad shoulders, his unruly hair, and dark scruff. You’d have to be dead to not appreciate a man like Rhett Eaton.

He’s not pretty and polished. He’s rugged and a little rough around the edges.

He’s all man.

One hundred percent different from any man I’ve met. Girls like me don’t usually mix with men like him. We don’t even mix in the same circles, but that doesn’t stop me from appreciating him. The way a pair of Wranglers fit him hasn’t changed since his early days on the circuit.

“I was worried a bear had attacked you,” I announce as I seat myself on one of the tufted leather club chairs.

“Black bears rarely attack people,” he husks as he strides into the living room, eyeing up my spread like it might be an explosive or something.

“Grizzlies?”

“Mostly stick to the mountains,” he grumbles.

“Okay. Cougar?”

He towers above me and quirks a brow.

“Yeah,” I sigh and lean back in the comfy chair, sensing the pressure of his honeyed stare on my body. “You definitely look like cougar bait.”

He shakes his head while I bite back a grin. “This is going to be a long two months.”

“You could always throw yourself down that well I saw on my way back to the house and put yourself right out of this misery.”

That comment sobers him and instead of responding with something flippant, he flops down on the couch across from me and runs his hands through his hair. The silence stretches between us as I regard him carefully. “My mom used to make wishes down that well with my brothers and me. Don’t remember it at all.”

Fuuucckkk. Talk about stepping in it, Summer. The sinking feeling in my chest has me clearing my throat noisily. “I’m sorry,” I say. Because I really am.

He just nods, and I opt to change the subject. Put the conversation back on the safe ground that is work. Our arrangement that he hates so much is preferable to where I just took things. “Tell me what the next two months looked like for you before I came onto the scene.”

“You mean before I got saddled with you? It looked pretty great.”

I just nod and say a quiet, “Yeehaw,” as I twirl my finger around beside my head like I’m swinging a lasso. Because it’s not like he’s making this fun. He’s acting like I’m some sort of enemy when I’m actually just here to make his life easier.

I reach for the day timer in front of me, grab my favorite silver pen, and proceed to stare at him until he talks. I listen and note specific dates as he reads them off his phone while completely avoiding eye contact with me.

We exchange phone numbers and email addresses, and I make clear that he’s to behave like a good little boy that no one can find fault in for the next eight weeks.

I don’t get too specific, because I’m hoping he’s picking up what I’m putting down as I speak in vague generalities about his behavior—that Little Rhett needs to stay in his pants. Because having to dictate a man’s sexual activities is just way beyond my pay grade. Kip can call him and break those details down himself. Rhett and I are going to need to maintain some semblance of dignity if we’re spending the next two months stuck together.

Rhett responds in grunts and stares up at the ceiling like he wishes it would open up and swallow him whole. And quite frankly, I can’t blame him.

“Okay.” I tap my fingers on the open page before me. “So, we have three qualifying events. Pine River is the first, then Blackwood Creek, then the one here in Calgary. That’s kind of nice. Has there always been a stop here on your tour?”

“Yup.”

“No rest for the wicked, huh? They bang these out back-to-back.”

He sighs and finally holds my gaze for a moment. “The World Bull Riding Federation, or WBRF, is as competitive as it gets. If I wasn’t sitting comfortably ahead and was chasing points instead, I’d probably be doing two more before Vegas. We usually go every weekend.”

“Right. World Finals in Vegas.” I stare down at the date on the calendar. That’s the day I’ll be free of this assignment and this grumpy cowboy.

“Championships, not finals. Do you even know anything about this sport?”

I draw a star on that calendar square and sigh wistfully before tipping my face back up to glare at Rhett, who is sitting across from me, taking up the maximum amount of space on the couch. Long arm draped over the back of it and jean-clad legs spread wide.

Man spreading.

“No. Just what I’ve searched on the internet. But I bet you’d love to tell me all about it.”

He glares back like he’s trying to figure out how his life turned into this, and then he asks, “Why do you need to go to law school to become an agent?”

“You don’t. Well, not really. But it’s a lot of contract work, so it definitely helps.”

“Huh,” is all he says while spinning the silver ring on his finger. “That’s a lot of school. You must love it.”

I give him a flat smile. I’m not sure I’d take it that far, but I’m not about to tell a client that. “Yeah. Can you explain the scoring? So I understand what I’m watching next weekend?”

He eyes me a suspiciously and then he starts. “So, you’ve got two judges. Each judge gives the rider a score out of twenty-five and the bull out of twenty-five. Add them up and you get an overall score out of one hundred.”

“And what are they judging on?” My hope is that if I can get him talking about something he likes, he’ll warm up a bit.

“Several things. Their agility, speed, whether they turn. You pull a bull that runs down the arena in a straight line and you aren’t going to get good style points. But you pull one that wants to kill you and will spin in a circle and toss his hooves to the roof? Then you’re talking.” Rhett is more animated than I’ve ever seen him as he explains the sport. His excitement is almost infectious.

“Now the rider is more about his form. His balance. His control.” He shows me how that looks by moving his hands into the position. “The way he covers the bull. If you can spur ‘em, they buck harder and there are extra points for that. And of course, you’ve gotta hang on for eight whole seconds.”

“And if you don’t?”

He clicks his tongue and tilts his head. “No score then.”

I blow out a breath and tap my pen against the table. “Do or die, huh? I can’t wait to see it live.”

He eyes me up and down now, like he can’t quite figure me out. “Yeah,”—his tongue pushes into his cheek—“that’ll really be something.”

I don’t know what the hell a comment like that is supposed to mean, so I just forge ahead. “I’ll book our flights and hotels for these dates. Fly in one day early and leave one day after?”

“Separate rooms.”

I roll my eyes.

And there goes all that positive momentum. This guy has some serious nerve. It makes all my professionalism fly out the window. “No shit.”

“Just trying to keep the line clear, Princess.” He’s mocking me, but I don’t bite. Even though I wish with every fiber of my being that Kip would stop calling me that—especially in front of other people. “Your dad made it seem like you were going to put me on a leash.”

“Only if you’re into that kind of thing.” The words are out before I even comprehend what I’m saying. My head snaps up to gauge his reaction. I’m so accustomed to my father’s biting commentary along with everyone else in the office that it’s a comfortable role to fall into—even with someone as un-fun as Rhett Eaton.

He’s glaring at me with his most unimpressed expression when the back door bangs open again, interrupting our exchange.

Luke flies into the house like a bat out of hell and launches himself into Rhett’s lap, followed by more heavy feet and deep voices. Cade steps into the kitchen first, followed by his dad, and then a man who has to be the third brother.

He’s a dead ringer for every other man in this family—except he smiles like his dad and his eyes are light.

“You must be Summer,” he says, grinning at me appreciatively as he leans up against the door frame. His hair is trimmed tight and there’s a polish about him that Rhett and Cade don’t have.

“This is Beau,” Harvey pipes up, pulling a seat out at the oversized table. “You caught him home between deployments.” I can’t help but smile back at the older man. His pride is spilling out of him all over the floor.

Harvey Eaton loves his boys with a fierceness I admire.

“Nice to meet you, Beau. I’m Summer Hamilton.” I smile softly, already loving the family atmosphere here in the cozy house. Even if it is testosterone overload.

“You all finished with your meeting?” Harvey asks as Cade starts digging through the fridge and pulling out ingredients for dinner.

“Yes,” Rhett announces before I can say anything.

I stand, feeling sufficiently dismissed by Rhett’s cool tone. “I’ll get out of your hair.”

“Where you going, lady?” Luke asks. “It’s dinner time. I thought you lived here now? I heard Grandpa say it.”

I suck in a deep breath and glance down at Rhett, whose eyes have dropped shut, a small smile playing across his features.

It looks good on him.

“You live here now?” Cade’s head snaps up, his face in what seems to be his favorite expression—bitchy.

“Um. Just for a while.” My gaze settles on Harvey, who shakes his head and looks down like he knows what’s coming.

“Hang on.” Beau’s head is swiveling between Rhett and me, amusement dancing on every feature. “Your agent is living with you? Why?”

“It’s very temporary—” I start.

“Is this because you punched that guy?” Beau continues, intelligent eyes working through things so plainly.

“You punched someone?” Cade asks, brows knitting together.

“Bro. You need to turn a TV on now and then. You live in the dark ages.” Beau laughs.

Cade turns to Rhett, who still hasn’t opened his eyes. “Did he deserve it?”

Rhett smiles now, a real big smile. “So fucking much.”

“Bad word, Uncle Rhett!” Luke’s hands slap down over his ears with a shit-eating little grin.

My eyes bounce between everyone in the room, living for the level of comfort here. It’s amusing. It’s charming. It’s so different from how my childhood home felt.

“He’s in a tight spot with his sponsors, that’s all,” I clarify.

Cade grunts as he chops carrots. “When is he not in trouble?”

“Wait.” Beau’s face brightens. “Did you get assigned a babysitter?”

Rhett groans and drops his head back against the couch.

“I don’t like my babysitter either, Uncle Rhett.” Luke pats him like a dog and a laugh bubbles up out of me. Because Rhett called this. Harvey called this. They knew exactly how it was going to go down, and that level of familiarity is heartwarming to me. It’s chaotic in here already, and I love it. I’m starry-eyed and giddy.

“Mind your manners, Lucas Eaton,” Cade says while pulling a pan out from under the stove. “Answer the question, Rhett.”

Rhett glances over at Beau and says, “You can contact my agent for a comment.”

Beau barks out a laugh and looks over at me, hands held up in prayer position. “Please, Summer. Make my day. Tell me he’s in time out. Tell me he’s a thirty-two-year-old man with a full-time nanny.”

I press my lips together, dedicated to not throwing Rhett under the bus—no matter how badly I’d like to. “I’m new at the firm. This job is so that I can get some experience under my belt outside of the office.”

“Yeah. She told me that too,” Cade interjects as he seasons a sizeable chunk of beef now. “I think Miss Hamilton might be full of shit though.”

“Mind your manners, Daddy!” Luke shouts, right as Harvey scolds him, “Cade!”

I rub a hand over my mouth to cover my smile. You grow up around Kip Hamilton and a few bad words aren’t going to phase you.

“I’ll go grab dinner in town, leave you all to it. I don’t want to be a nuisance.”

Beau holds up a hand to stop me. “Not a chance, Summer. You’re going to take a seat and tell us everything over Cade’s famous pot roast. Then I’m going to take us all for drinks in town at The Railspur so you can get a warm Chestnut Springs welcome and meet my buddy, Jasper.”

“Jasper is home?” Harvey’s head snaps up from where he was watching his grandson with an amused expression on his face.

And just like that, I’m sucked into a dinner of hearty home-cooked food, friendly taunting, and comfortable laughter.

Even Rhett lightens up now that it’s not just us, but he still avoids looking at me throughout the meal.


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