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Flawless: Chapter 8


Dad: Is he being a dick?

Summer: No.

Dad: Would you tell me if he was?

Summer: Also no.

Dad: Summer, if you need backup, just tell me. I can send Gabriel.

Summer: That’s not even his name. Plus, I grew up around you. I can handle dicks.

Summer: Fuck my life. Forget I said that.

Dad: Already deleted.

I sleep like shit. All the witty comebacks I wish I’d said to Rhett last night run through my head like the ticker on the bottom of a news channel.

He agitated me. I let him get under my skin, and I shouldn’t have. I walked away like the bigger person, even though what I wanted to do was kick him in the shins. Which would have hurt like hell because everything about Rhett Eaton is hard, and toned, and cut.

He’s not bulky, but he’s fit. A swimmer’s build. Strong enough to stay on, but not cumbersome.

And maybe that’s why I’m agitated. Staring at a magazine ad of Rhett in Wranglers with hearts in my eyes as a teenager is funny, but seeing him stripped down as an adult is not.

It’s frustrating. Something I need to work off, which is why I’m pulling on my favorite leggings, sports bra, and loose tee. A quick search on my phone brought up one option in town for a gym, and that’s where I’m headed.

I march down the hallway, ponytail swinging behind me as I strut into the kitchen with my head held high, trying not to remember the way the light played off every ridge on Rhett’s body last night—the shadows between every defined ab, the dip at the hollow of his throat, that perfect v heading toward the other head.

What a fucking dick.

And that dick’s dad is already sitting at the table, sipping a coffee, and reading the newspaper.

“Good morning.” Harvey smiles at me. “Early riser, huh?”

“Yeah.” I reach for a mug and pour myself a coffee, making myself at home because, right now, I desperately need some caffeine. “Always have been.”

“Me too,” he tells me.

As I pass the fridge with my coffee in hand, I catch sight of a photo there, held up by a magnet in the shape of a horse’s head. A petite blonde woman beams at the camera beside the shiniest black horse I’ve ever seen. She’s wearing black and gold jockey silks and the horse has a blanket of roses draped over him.

“Who’s this?” I ask Harvey curiously.

His responding smile is immediate. Deep and genuine. “That’s my little girl. Violet. She’s a championship racehorse jockey. Lives over near Vancouver with her husband and my other grandbabies.”

I pull the chair out across from him, returning his grin. “You must be very proud of her.”

A sad look flashes in his eyes, but he covers it quickly. “You have no idea.”

I swallow thickly, sensing that’s as far as I can go with this subject. So, I change the topic entirely. “I’m heading into town to try out the gym.”

The older man nods. “Good for you. I bet you’ll be back before Rhett even wakes up.”

“Well, great. If he gets up, give him a tranquilizer until I return.”

“He giving you trouble already?”

“No chance. He’s a doll.” I wink at Harvey, and we share a laugh before falling into an easy conversation.

I make Harvey and I each a piece of toast for breakfast, and he seems thoroughly amused by me making him breakfast. When we hit a natural lull in the conversation, I clean up and head out the front door to hop in my car.

For the hour that follows, I work out until sweat pours down my body. I swear it smells like cheap wine. But I don’t even care. My heart pumps blood out through my body, and I feel alive. I feel strong. The gym is quiet, and I monopolize a squat rack until my muscles burn and my legs shake.

And when I drive back through the front archway at Wishing Well Ranch, I feel substantially saner.

I breathe in the crisp morning air as I walk toward the sprawling house, admiring the way the frost on the dead grass has turned the landscape a sparkly white. Something that will melt away as soon as the bright prairie sun gets high enough in the bluebird sky.

When I head back into the kitchen to make another pot of coffee, Rhett is sitting at the table, looking as frosty as the grass.

“Good morning.” I smirk at him because he reminds me of a pouty teenager scrolling through his phone with a forced frown on his face.

He grunts. Eyes don’t even lift from his screen.

So, everything is going great.

“Who pissed in your Shreddies, Eaton?” I ask, unshaken by his sour attitude because there’s already coffee made, ready and waiting for me. It’s the little things in life.


I snort. “Sounds delicious.”

Rhett makes a growling noise and tosses his phone on the table hard enough that it slides almost down the full length. “Am I just a big joke to you? I just lost another sponsor. You think everything I’ve worked for these past ten years circling the toilet is funny?”

I turn and regard him. Obviously, we’re not doing the biting banter thing this morning. He’s truly downtrodden.

“I don’t find it remotely funny.”

He props his elbows on the table and drops his head into his hands, his mane of hair falling around his face like a curtain that hides whatever expression might be there right now.

A sigh shudders through my body, and I approach to pull out the chair next to him, rather than across from him. When I sit beside him, he still doesn’t look up. He’s clearly trying out some sort of deep breathing technique, based on the whoosh of air from his nostrils.

My clay mug clunks on the table as I reach out with my opposite hand toward the broad expanse of his back. I hesitate, my hand fluttering above his plain white t-shirt, because I seriously wonder if touching him is a good idea.

It’s a little like sticking your hand between the fence boards to pet a dog you don’t know. They might be a very good boy who loves attention. Or they might bite you.

But I’m an empath. A caretaker. I can see the disappointment emanating from him. A hug never fails to make me feel better, but I won’t hug him—mostly because I’d enjoy it far more than is professional. However, a gentle back pat never hurt anyone.

So, I drop my hand onto his shoulder. First, I give a squeeze, but he flinches and sucks in a deep breath, like he’s in pain.

I pull my hand away. But when his reaction ends there, and he doesn’t make any other moves to get away from me, I put my hand back, a little lower this time. Running it along the ridge of his shoulder blade through the fabric of his shirt.

I move my hand in a soft circle, the way my dad used to do to me when I was having a rough day. He’d sit in that chair beside my hospital bed and rub my back for hours. And he never complained.

“I was unwell as a teenager. I had a surgery that went wrong,” I say quietly, letting myself think back on that time. “I spent a lot of time in the hospital. I even spent some of that time thinking I’d never leave that hospital. So, I came up with a new way of looking at things. Are you interested in hearing the musings of an eternally optimistic teenager?”

“Sure.” His voice is tight as he pushes his palms harder into his forehead.

“If these were your last few moments on earth, would you go happy?”

His responding sigh is ragged. He clears his throat. “No.”

“But why? You have so much. You’ve achieved so much. No one’s life is perfect.”

He sits up straight now. Amber eyes regard me like I might not be the she-devil he took me for. “Have you googled my name? It’s all just,”—he huffs out a sad laugh—“stupid.”

“It is,” I agree, solemnly nodding my head and letting my hand fall away.

“I got an email from your dad suggesting we spin this as I was joking about hating milk.”

I lean back, turning slightly toward him as I sip my piping hot coffee, inhaling the caffeinated steam. If you could huff coffee, I would. I’m pretty sure I’m trying to right now. “You could.”

“But I don’t want to.”

My head tilts. “Why?”

His hands fly up in frustration. “Because it’s true! I fucking hate milk. And that shouldn’t be a crime.”

A breathy laugh escapes me, my cheeks twitching as I struggle to contain my smile.

“See? You’re laughing at me.” He scrubs a hand through the scruff on his chin before swinging his finger over my face in a U shape. “You have been since that first day in the office. That snarky little smirk.”

I sit up straight now as his gaze drops again. “Rhett.” His eyes roll, and he avoids making any eye contact with me, like a petulant child. I lean forward and nudge my knee against his. “Rhett.”

When he turns his full attention on me, my heart skitters in my chest. No man has any business looking as good as he does. The dark lashes, the square jaw.

With one shake of my head, I regain my focus. “I was not laughing at you. I was laughing at this situation. Because you know what I think?”

“Yeah. That I’m a dumb cowboy.”

I rear back, face scrunching. “No. I think they blew this so far out of proportion that I can’t help but laugh. Who the hell cares what you prefer as a beverage? I’m laughing, or smirking, or whatever you think, because this entire situation is so insulting and far-fetched that if I didn’t laugh about it, I’d straight up quit my job and become a personal trainer.”

He stares at me blankly, eyes darting over my face like he’s searching for proof I’m joking.

“If I think about it too much, it makes me angry on your behalf. And I don’t want to be angry.”

He gazes down at his hands and spins the silver ring on his finger before whispering, “Okay.”

God, he’s really got this wounded, insecure little boy routine down. I nudge his knee again. “Okay,” I repeat. “You gonna tell me why you hate milk so much?”

“Ever had raw farm milk?” he asks.


“Okay. Well, it’s thick, and yellow, and fatty, and we had a cow growing up, and my dad would make us drink a glass of it every day, and I’m pretty sure it was borderline child abuse. Now, the thought of sitting down and just slugging back an entire glass . . .” He shudders. “I’ve never been happier than I was the day that cow died.”

“That’s dark!” I burst out laughing. “It sounds terrible though. I’ll give you that.”

“I’m properly traumatized.” His cheek twitches, and he gives me a soft smile. A genuine one that makes butterflies swarm in my chest.

Did we just have some sort of breakthrough? It seems like it. But so far, this guy gives me whiplash. So maybe I’m wrong.

What I know for sure is that I smell like sweat and look like a mess. So, I push to standing, not realizing how close I am to him when I do. Our knees brush, and his eyes lock on that spot.

I suck in a sharp breath and walk away. I’m very due for a shower, but I stop at the doorway, mulling over the conversation we just had. When I glance over my shoulder, I catch his eyes lower on my body than they should be, but they snap up to my face instantly. My cheeks heat all the same. After all, Rhett Eaton just checked out my ass in gym tights.

Which must be why my voice comes out more husky than usual. “Don’t spin it if you don’t want to. And don’t let Kip bully you into it.”

His lips press together, and he nods at me. Then I’m gone. Heading toward a shower.

A cold one.


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