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Flawless: Chapter 6

Summer

Willa: I miss your face already. Have fun playing Hell on Wheels?

Summer: What?

Willa: Your cowboy. I looked him up. He looks like the hot guy from Hell on Wheels. You know, the one with the long hair? Did you know they filmed that show out there?

Willa: You should bang him.

Summer: No.

Willa: Want me to print you a picture of him for your wall?

Summer: I don’t miss you at all.


Rhett and I drive in utter silence, which is fine. It gives me the opportunity to get acquainted with everything out the window.

“Turn here.” One small turn takes us to a dead-end side street, at the bottom of which sits The Railspur.

The pub is not what I was expecting from a small town. In fact, Chestnut Springs is not what I was expecting from a small town. I think my dad and I have watched a few too many old western movies, and I’m realizing that I am truly an oblivious city girl.

Because Chestnut Springs is beautiful. The main street has these adorable bricked-in sidewalks, ornate lamp posts with little town flags dangling from them, and the businesses down here have maintained the historic facades while modernizing or adding on to the rest. Old brick buildings with dramatic archways or charming colorful awnings line each side of Rosewood Street, the main thoroughfare in town.

And the pub is not some small-town dive either. It’s like . . . cowboy chic.

“Is this an old train station?” I ask as I roll into the parking lot that Rhett just silently pointed to.

“Yup.”

“I guess the name should have been clue enough,” I say, mostly to myself since Rhett seems limited to grunts and one-word answers, before pulling to a stop in a space not too far from the door.

He grunts.

And I turn to him as he flings off his seatbelt, like he can’t get away fast enough. “Are you always this monosyllabic? Or is this special just for me?”

“I don’t need this,” he mutters just before he slams the passenger door in my face and storms toward the bar.

I flop back against my seat and blow a raspberry out through my lips.

I ask myself what I always do.

If this were my last moment alive, how would I want it to be?

My eyes flutter shut, and I suck in a deep breath, like that might help me grow some extra patience to deal with the big asshole bull rider assigned to me. Because in my last moments, I’d want to feel happy. If I step out of this car and get run down, I want to go out feeling good, not pissed off at some long-haired, broad-shouldered, round-assed cowboy.

That is not how Summer Hamilton goes.

Not today, Satan.

Then my door is wrenched open. “Are you having a stroke?” Rhett peers down at me, lips curving toward the ground.

“What are you doing?” I ask, brows knitting in confusion. I thought he’d stormed into the bar.

“Opening your door for you. Now get out.”

My lips tug up and a silent giggle fills me as I realize he’s trying to be gentlemanlike while also being a grumpy dick. And with that, I step out of my SUV, patting the hood on the way past with a quiet, “Sorry.” Because that dick slammed her door way too hard.

We don’t look at each other as we walk, but he touches my shoulder gently and gestures me across his body. He moves me to the opposite side of him before taking up position by the road.

This man gives me whiplash.

He tugs the bar door open by grabbing one of the long brass pulls that stretches almost the full length of the wood frame. Once I pass through, Rhett is gone without a word, and I’m left admiring the interior of the pub.

Inside there’s a long bar that runs the full length of the left side of the building and high-top tables dot the main area. Further back, I can see a slightly raised section with a pool table, burgundy leather couches, and a fireplace.

Rhett clearly made a beeline for the bar, and a few locals have cornered him. There are back pats and handshakes exchanged between the men, but there’s also a tension to the greeting, and I can’t help but wonder what they’re saying to him.

Beau was stopping to pick up a friend and is a few minutes behind us, so I opt to do a walk-by behind Rhett and see if I can overhear anything before heading to the ladies’ room to burn some time before people who actually acknowledge my existence arrive.

I’m still wearing my favorite skin-tight skinny jeans and white eyelet blouse. I even paired the outfit with a pair of super-cute booties that seem a tad country to me. Minus the heel, but whatever.

You can take the girl out of the city and all that.

But it must be obvious to the locals that I’m not from around here, because I’m definitely garnering some looks as I weave my way through the tables. Rhett’s gaze darts to me as I ease myself in his direction, but aside from that one flick of the eyes, he doesn’t acknowledge my existence.

It’s an obvious hint that he’d rather not associate with me right now, so I trail past him, catching a whiff of whatever cologne he’s wearing. There’s a liquorice note to it I’ve never noticed before now, followed by leather. I don’t know if it’s his boots, or his belt, or just that a man that rugged is destined to smell like something equally masculine.

Either way, it’s a heady combination. One that has me taking a deep breath on my way past, creepy as that makes me.

It is what it is.

One man squeezes Rhett’s shoulder. “We know you, Rhett. We know your family. What the media tells us about you doesn’t matter. You’re a good boy.”

I almost snort. Boy. Maybe that’s the problem. Everyone still coddles him like he’s a little boy rather than telling him to take some responsibility for his actions. Should he be in trouble for what he said? No. But he doesn’t need a bunch of back pats over it either.

The bathrooms are straight off the end of the bar, and I push the door open to find far more women primping under the bright halogen lights than I was expecting on a Monday night.

I give them that weird closed-mouth smile I often give to strangers instead of just saying hi. I know it looks pained, forced—a little serial-killer-y—but I keep doing it anyway.

It’s a problem, and I can’t stop.

They eye me suspiciously as their conversation pauses, but as soon as I lock myself in the stall, they go on like I’m not even here.

“Did you see Rhett Eaton at the bar?” The girl’s question is met with a chorus of moans and “oohs” like he’s king crab and a bowl of butter or something.

Another one pipes up. “Nobody call Amber. She’ll march down here and freak out when she sees him go home with someone else.”

“She needs to get over him.”

“Yeah.” The first girl laughs. “Give the rest of us a turn.”

“You? No. Me. I don’t just want a turn though. I’d lock that shit down forever. Those Eaton boys take after their dad. And Harvey Eaton is a total DILF. GILF?”

“I guess we’ll see who he chooses tonight, then.” The girl who says it is trying to sound lighthearted, but I recognize the streak of venom in her voice.

They all dissolve into a fit of giggles that are dulled only by the sound of me peeing and rubbing my hands over my face.

Because it’s only Day One, and I’m already going to be called upon to help keep Little Rhett in his pants.


Back out in the bar, the flock of women have descended on Rhett and are ushering him over to a table.

I’m standing at the end of the bar, steeling myself to walk over there and make Rhett Eaton hate me more than he already does. I’ve racked my brain for something I can do that doesn’t involve me being an embarrassing wet blanket.

Kip would walk over there and dole out a firm but fair verbal spanking. But I’m not Kip. I’m a twenty-five-year-old woman who is brand new to the job and in way over her goddamn head.

What was my dad thinking?

“Summer!” I follow the sound of my name over the buzzing sea of tables toward the back couches. Beau is there, wearing a friendly smile and waving at me. The perfect out.

And I take it.

I opt to go sit there and plan rather than shoot from the hip. My heels clack against the wooden floor as I head in Beau’s direction. When I reach the couches, I see the shape of his friend sitting with him on the couch, facing away from the main floor of the bar. It isn’t until I get closer to the low-slung table between them that I get a good look at the other man. And even with a beard and cap pulled down over his face, I recognize him.

Everyone in this country probably does.

Jasper Gervais, professional hockey player. Goaltender extraordinaire. Canadian Olympic sensation. And another one of my dad’s clients, whose name I know from spending the last several summers of my life doing paperwork at Hamilton Elite.

“Summer, this is my buddy, Jasper.” Beau hikes a thumb in his friend’s direction and scootches down as I hit him with my stupid, awkward smile-greeting before I can reel it in. But I’m a little relieved when Jasper gives me a matching serial-killer smile back.

“Hi, Jasper,” I say before flopping down onto the couch next to Beau.

“Hey,” he huffs out. Clearly not chatty, which is fine by me.

“We ordered you a drink.” Beau pushes a small wine glass, full to the top, in my direction with a bit of a grimace on his face. “Thought you seemed like a white wine gal.”

Jasper chuckles and tips his beer back.

My eyes roll. These guys are having way too much fun with the city-girl jokes. The worst part is, they’re not even wrong. “Wine and tequila. But this doesn’t feel like a tequila night.”

They both laugh, and I reach for the glass of wine, praying I don’t spill it all over myself.

From here, I have a perfect view of Rhett, seated on a stool where two round tables have been pulled together. He’s smiling, talking with his hands, and my eyes trail along them, the veined tops of them, catching on the glint of silver on his finger. The ring that matches the silver cuff bracelet around his wrist.

Only Rhett Eaton could make jewelry look so goddamn manly.

Outwardly, he seems like he’s having a good time, but there’s something off about it. Something is not quite right. His face looks serene and in his element, but his shoulders are tight. There’s a set to his jaw and a pinch to the corners of his eyes. His smile doesn’t quite stretch all the way.

“You trying to cast some sort of curse on my little brother?” Beau asks, head swiveling between my face and where I’m staring.

I snort and take a big gulp of wine. It tastes terrible, but I don’t care. I need a little liquid courage. “No. I’m trying to figure out how to do my job without making him hate me more than he already does.”

“Fair. He does seem to hate you.”

“Rhett?” Jasper asks with a raised brow.

I nod absently just as Beau says, “Oh, hell yeah.”

The hockey player snorts. “Nah. That kid doesn’t have a mean bone in his body. He’s nice to everyone.”

But does he mean it? That’s the question bouncing around in my head as I watch him sit there rigidly as a woman rubs his shoulder while staring at him with hearts in her eyes.

“You think he’ll be nice to me when I walk over there and tell him he can’t take all those girls home tonight? Or drink too much?” I probably should have put my foot down on going out at all tonight. All the ways tonight could go wrong flash through my head.

Jasper scoffs and shakes his head. But it’s Beau who pipes up. “Rhett doesn’t care about taking those girls home. He’s just too nice to tell them to leave him alone.”

“Facts,” Jasper grumbles with a smirk before tipping the brown bottle back against his lips.

“If he was a prick like Jasper, he’d be fine.”

Jasper doesn’t even try to correct his friend’s assessment.

“I don’t know . . .” My nose wrinkles as I weigh my options.

It’s at that moment the server swings past. “Y’all doing okay? Can I grab you another round?”

And then Beau’s eyes light up like a kid on Christmas.

“Yeah.” He pulls a twenty-dollar bill out of his wallet and places it in the middle of the table. “I will give you another one of those for every ultra-girly milk-based beverage you take over to my brother.”

The server’s eyes widen. And so do mine.

Jasper holds a fist up over his lips and his shoulders shake. “Put an umbrella in it.”

Beau’s not done though. “And announce to the table that the drink is from his future wife and that she knows this is his favorite.”

My jaw drops as I stare at Beau. “What are you doing?”

“Pissing him off enough to drag him away from that table for you.”

I laugh. This is not the plan I had in mind. Boys.

The server nibbles at her lip, staring down at the cash as she hugs the brown plastic tray to her chest. “Is this a trick?”

“No, Bailey,” Beau answers, his voice softening. “This has nothing to do with you. All in good fun.”

She turns wide eyes on him, looking particularly young in this moment. Though I know to work in the bar, she has to be at least eighteen. “Okay. Fine.”

And with that, she swipes the cash off the table and scurries away.


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