Authors: SJ McCoy
Tags: #Contemporary, #Romance, #Fiction, #Adult, #Erotic, #Western, #Cowboy, #Ranch, #Brothers, #Series, #Saga, #Montana, #Bachelor, #Single Woman, #Forever Love, #Remington Ranch, #Landscaping Business, #Gym Workouts, #Paradise Valley, #Country Singer, #Recuperate, #Voice Strength, #Singing Career
Remington Ranch Book Three
Carter and Summer
A Sweet n Steamy Romance
Published by XSHi Publications
Copyright © 2016 SJ McCoy
© SJ McCoy 2016
All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form, or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system without prior written consent of the author.
Published by XSHi Publications. First eBook edition, February 2016
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and events are figments of the author's imagination, fictitious, or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales or persons living or dead is coincidental.
Cover Design by Dana Lamothe of
Designs by Dana
Mitzi Pummer Carroll
Proof reader: Aileen Blomberg
For Sam. Sometimes, life really is too short. Few x
Carter made his way back to his truck. He was ready to head home. After putting in a long day to get Cassidy’s landscaping finished, he wanted to hit the shower and then go hit the gym. He should stop by Beau’s rental house before he headed back up the valley, but he couldn’t bring himself to do it. He’d been putting it off for a couple of days now. Whenever he stopped by that house, a sense of sadness crept over him. Summer Breese had stayed there for a little while. She was Cassidy’s friend. She’d become
friend—for a short time. Until that story about them had run in the paper. He sighed and unlocked his truck. It had all been lies, but that hadn’t mattered. It had been enough to upset Summer’s sister, Autumn. It had been enough to make her return to Nashville to straighten things out. Carter climbed into his truck and sat there for a moment. He knew he was a dumbass, but he’d truly believed that she would come back. She was supposed to, but she hadn’t. He shook his head. It was for the best.
He looked up at the sound of a truck approaching. Damn! He should’ve gotten himself moving while he could. Now Shane and Cassidy were home. He put a smile on his face as Shane’s red Tundra pulled up beside him.
“Hey, Big C,” called Shane. “Where do you think you’re going? You should stay and have dinner with us.”
“That’s okay, thanks. I’ll get out of your hair.”
“It’s no trouble,” said Cassidy with a smile as she came around the truck. “We’d love to have you.”
Carter smiled back. Cassidy was so good to him. She seemed to understand him pretty well. “Thanks, but I want to hit the gym.”
Shane laughed. “Surely you can skip it for one night?”
“I could, but I don’t want to.”
“You might want to skip it and stick around for dinner if you knew that Cassidy has some news for you.”
Carter’s heart began to hammer in his chest. It had to be news about Summer. What other news would Cassidy have to tell him? He gave her an inquiring look.
She nodded. “I talked to Summer this afternoon.”
Damn, if he couldn’t feel the heat in his cheeks! He was a grown-ass man and here he was blushing like a schoolgirl! At least neither of them teased him. “And?”
“And she’s coming back tomorrow.”
Cassidy nodded. “I’m going to pick her up from the airport. Do you want to come?”
He shook his head rapidly.
“Why not, bro?” asked Shane. “I’m sure she’d be thrilled to see you there waiting when she lands.”
He shook his head again. “No. It wouldn’t be right.”
“But…” began Cassidy.
“And besides, I’m working.” He watched Shane and Cassidy exchange a look he didn’t quite understand.
Cassidy shrugged. “Okay then, but I hope you’ll at least come over for dinner tomorrow night?”
He pursed his lips. “I don’t think that would be right either. I think the best thing I can do is stay out of her way. I don’t want to cause any more trouble for her.”
“You won’t!” insisted Cassidy. “You didn’t cause any in the first place. It was that Angie that went to the newspaper!”
Carter shrugged. “You already know what I think about all that. There wouldn’t have been any story or pictures for the newspaper to run, if it weren’t for me. I’m best staying out of her way.” He looked from Cassidy to Shane. “For
sake as well as hers.”
Shane nodded sadly. “If that’s how you feel.”
“It is.” Carter smiled. “Thanks, guys. I know you’re trying to look out for me, but I think it’s best this way. I’m not going to lie about how I feel, but we all know it can’t go anywhere.”
He shook his head at Cassidy. “But nothing. I’m going to head on home.”
“Okay,” said Shane, “but don’t be a stranger.”
He smiled at them as he pulled away. How could he not be a stranger if Summer was going to be here? Self-preservation dictated that he had to stay the hell out of her way!
~ ~ ~
Summer pulled the zipper closed on her bag and turned to face her sister. “Are you sure you don’t want to come with me for a couple of days? You know Cass would love to see you. I’d love you to see the place where I’m staying, get to know the people there.” She hesitated, but decided to say it. “I could introduce you to Carter?”
Autumn shook her head. “Perhaps I’ll get up there in a week or two, but I really can’t take the time right now.” Her face softened as she smiled. “Don’t worry, I’m okay with it. I’m over it, all right? I was mad at you because I thought you were going to throw away your career out of fear. I thought you were latching onto a guy and buying a house because you didn’t think you were going to get your voice back. If you actually care about him, that’s a different matter altogether, isn’t it?”
Summer nodded. It
a different matter. But it wasn’t as simple as Autumn believed it to be either. She
care about Carter. She cared about him way more than she should, considering the short time she’d known him. The trouble was, she cared way too much to get involved with him since she didn’t know where it could go. The last thing in the world she would want to do was hurt him. His life, his whole world was right there in Paradise Valley. If—and it was a big if—she got her voice back and continued with her singing career, it would mean she’d have to end anything the two of them started.
Autumn put a hand on her shoulder. “Don’t look so sad, everything will work out the way it’s supposed to. You’re not going to figure it all out today. Just relax. Take your three months up there in Montana and enjoy yourself. With any luck, by the end of that time, you’ll have your voice back, your career back, and maybe a Carter to bring back to Nashville with you.”
Summer gave her a weak smile. She knew that would never happen, though she didn’t know how to tell Autumn. She certainly didn’t know how to tell her that the way she felt right now, her voice and her career weren’t what she wanted most anyway.
Autumn shook her head. “Come on. You’re all packed and ready. Let’s go out for dinner, have a fun evening. We need to get you to the airport early, and I want to make the most of tonight, since it’ll be our last night together for a while.”
~ ~ ~
Carter pulled up outside the gym. He wanted to hit the weights hard tonight. It did him good when his mind was as frazzled as it was right now.
He waved when he saw his buddy Travis come out.
“Hey, Carter. You’re late tonight.”
He nodded. “Yeah, sorry I missed you.”
“No worries. I worked with Cody. I’ll catch you next time.”
“Sure thing.” Carter made his way inside. Once he’d dumped his bag in his locker, he went to the row of elliptical machines and chose the one at the very end for his warm-up. He shoved his earbuds in his ears, hoping to block the world out—and block out all the thoughts that were crowding his head. She was coming back. Tomorrow! Of course, the third song that came on his iPod was one of Summer’s. He always used to love this song. Before he met her, he envied the guy she was singing about. The guy who filled her every thought, the guy she couldn’t wait to see again. For the few weeks she’d been here, he’d allowed himself to imagine that he could be that guy. Since she’d left, he’d swung between wanting to believe that she was singing to him, and hating the guy who she
He hit the button to skip the song. He was supposed to be trying to take his mind off her. It was too late, though. Just the first few lines had filled his head with memories. He smiled as he thought about the very first time he’d met her in person. He’d managed to avoid her for her first few days in the valley, but then Shane had dragged him over to Cassidy’s to get it over with. Cassidy had opened her front door and all Carter had been able to do was smile. He’d shook hands with Summer and hadn’t been able to let go. She’d smiled back at him, and held onto his hand, too. She was even smaller and more beautiful in real life than she appeared on TV. And she was even sweeter. Cassidy and Shane had left them alone. Carter had felt completely lost and dumb at first, but Summer had asked him about himself, asked him what he did for a living. He told her about his landscaping and offered to show her what he was working on in Cassidy’s yard. Their connection had been instant and obvious—even to him. She smiled at everything he said—no matter how dumb it sounded to him. She looked up at him admiringly when he talked about his work. He’d felt like a jerk when he asked about her career—people must ask her that stuff all the time, but she was so sweet and so gracious. She’d answered all his dumb questions and made him feel as though she wanted him to know, to know her, to know how she felt and what she thought. He shook his head and hit the buttons to increase the resistance on the machine. He was here to work out, not to daydream!
He looked around the gym; it was quiet tonight. Just the usual crowd, working hard, minding their own business. Uh-oh. He dropped his head when he spotted Melanie Barlow. She was a regular, but she wasn’t one for working hard—or minding her own business! The last thing he needed was her chattering away at him. She was one of the crowd that hung out with Angie and that Katie. He didn’t like them and sure as hell didn’t trust them—especially not after the stunt Angie had pulled, going to the local rag with that pack of lies about him and Summer.
He kept his head down, but sighed at the sight of Melanie making her way toward the ellipticals. She climbed on the one beside him with a smile. He was going to have to cut short his warm-up if she tried to make conversation. Of course, she did.
“Hi, Carter. I bet you can’t wait to see Summer again.”
That brought his head up to look at her, even though he’d just decided to pretend not to hear her. He raised a questioning eyebrow.
She smiled. “Don’t look like that. The secret’s out that she’s coming back tomorrow.”
How the hell had the news gotten out? He knew full well that neither Shane nor Cassidy would have said anything to anyone. He shrugged and increased the resistance again.
Melanie looked disappointed, but at least she didn’t push for more. Even
could observe gym etiquette—to some extent.
When the program finished and his fifteen minutes were up, Carter was grateful that Melanie was slogging through an uphill cycle and couldn’t have talked if she wanted to, judging from the way she was sweating and huffing. He made good his escape and headed for the free weights. He knew he’d be safe over there.
He was wrong, though. She followed him.
“So are you two getting back together?” she asked.
“We never were together!” he blurted out, immediately wishing he hadn’t spoken at all.
She gave him a coy smile. “It’s all right. I’m not Angie. I’m not looking for a story for the papers. I’m just wondering if
have a chance.”
Carter was so surprised he literally took a step back. “Excuse me?”
She giggled. “Carter, you’re quite the catch. Everyone always knew you were off the market…until the whole thing with Summer. If you
back in the dating game, and you’re really not interested in her, well, I wondered if you and I might go out sometime?”
Carter was lost for words. “I…” He didn’t even know how to turn her down politely.
She smiled. “It’s okay. You don’t have to answer right now. Just think about it and let me know, okay?”
He nodded, which, judging by the smile that spread across her face, might have been the wrong thing to do.
“Great!” She walked away, turning back to give him a little wave before she disappeared into the ladies locker room.
Damn! Did she think he was interested? How the hell had that just happened? He wasn’t interested in the least. He
back in the dating game. He
want to go out with her sometime—or anytime! And he
interested in Summer! He sat down on the bench and tightened his gloves. What did it matter if he was interested in Summer? It couldn’t go anywhere between them. She had a life in Nashville and a career that took her all over the country. He had a career that was his life and his whole world, right here in the valley. Who was he kidding anyway? She was such a sweet person, she’d just been kind to him. She must have known how attracted he was to her; she’d been kind to the big bumbling idiot while she was here. Now she was coming back, she’d probably be relieved not to have to run into him!
~ ~ ~
Summer looked at her watch. The car should be here soon. She couldn’t wait to get back to Montana. She was dying to see Cassidy again. To get settled back into the lovely house where she’d been staying. She loved that place! Most of all, she couldn’t wait to see Carter. There had been so many times she’d wanted to call him. He was so easy to talk to. She’d wanted to let him know why she hadn’t come back yet. She’d wanted to hear his voice! Yet she hadn’t called. They were in a difficult situation. They’d developed such a friendship in the time she’d been in the valley. She wanted so much more than that. She believed he did, too. But they’d reached an unspoken agreement. They’d stuck with friendship, not wanting to risk that for the sake of something more, something that, in reality, they both knew they couldn’t have.