Authors: Maisey Yates
“Multifaceted characters, an unpredictable story line and a strong sense of family make
a truly unforgettable romance.”
Book Reviews & More by Kathy
“Funny, heart-wrenching and just downright swoon-worthyÂ .Â .Â . I highly recommend.”
Scorching Book Reviews
“A very compelling readÂ .Â .Â . I am thoroughly hooked on the Silver Creek series and the characters in the area.”
The Book Pushers
“The tension and the chemistryÂ .Â .Â . were off the chartsÂ .Â .Â . The plot was original and provided some strong emotional moments between hero and heroine.”
“A sensual, emotional storyÂ .Â .Â . Thoroughly enjoyable and satisfying.”
Ramblings From This Chick
“An enjoyable romanceÂ .Â .Â . I really appreciated the twists that Yates took with her particular tropes because her story stayed fresh while I was reading.”
The Book Pushers
“A great start to what I'm sure will be a wonderfully brilliant new series.”
“The humor and the secondary characters, along with the romance, helped to make this an entertaining read.”
The Book Binge
by Maisey Yates in a big wayÂ .Â .Â . I love a feisty heroine and a charismatic hero, especially when they clash. The scenes where they duked it out verbally, all the while undressing each other mentally, were so deliciousÂ .Â .Â . Lots of fun.”
Smart Bitches, Trashy Books
“A sexy, compelling readÂ .Â .Â . It's a great start to what looks to be a promising new small-town contemporary series and has introduced me to a new-to-me author who writes enjoyable characters with great emotional depth, witty dialogue and steamy love scenes.”
Ramblings From This Chick
“A lot of fun to readÂ .Â .Â . I look forward to reading the next installment. She provided humor, tension, smexy-times, twisted family dynamics and a re-enjoyment of life.”
The Book Pushers
“Maisey Yates is a very talented author and has created the perfect small-town romance about two people that found love once they learned to take a leap of faithÂ .Â .Â . I can't wait to see what is in store for the residents of Silver Creek.”
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A Berkley Sensation Book / published by arrangement with the author
Copyright Â© 2014 by Maisey Yates.
by Maisey Yates copyright Â© 2014 by Maisey Yates.
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eBook ISBN: 978-0-698-15306-6
Berkley Sensation mass-market edition / August 2014
Cover art by Anna Kmet.
Cover design by Diana Kolsky.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
To my husband, Haven.
The friend I couldn't help but fall in love with.
So many hands go into making my books what they are. And I have a whole lot of thank-yous to hand out. To my wonderful agent, Helen Breitwieser, for her endless support and all the hard work she does for me. My fabulous editor, Katherine Pelz, for believing in these characters, and letting me bring this town to life. My mom and dad, for taking care of me, even now that I'm an adult. My husband, for being the best man on the whole planet. My kids, for keeping me grounded by making sure I rarely leave the house without food on at least one item of clothing. Jackie Ashenden, critique partner extraordinaire, who never lets me get away with pulling my punches. And of course, coffee, the reason I wake up each morning. Seriously, without coffee, I would never wake up in the morning.
“It's bad form to get drunk at your sister's wedding, right?”
“Since when has that ever stopped you, Cade?”
Amber Jameson leaned back in the folding chair and then checked to make sure the little purple bow tied to the back hadn't fallen off and onto the grass. She'd spent too many damn hours tying those things on yesterday.
They were finicky. Finicky flipping ribbons. Almost as finicky as the bride, who, while cute as a button under normal circumstances, had had a bridezilla flare-up while they'd been decorating yesterday, turning Elk Haven Stables into a country-fairy-princess dream, and had gone around micromanaging said ribbon-tying.
She'd demanded ribbon curls in lengths that were impossible for mere mortals to achieve. If Lark weren't the little sister Amber had always wanted, she would never have gone along with all of it. Not without attacking her with the scissors she was using to curl ribbons, at least.
But then, Lark's life had been short on frills, being that she had been raised by two brothers and a dad. So Amber supposed she was entitled.
But then, Amber's life had been short on this kind of thing too, and she didn't feel at all yearny for it. Nope. Marriage and men and bleah. Not her thing. Not these days.
“It doesn't usually,” Cade said, leaning back in his chair so that they were sitting at the same angle. “But I thought, since this is for Lark, maybe I should behave.”
She looked at her friend's profile. Strong, handsome. Square jaw, roughened with dark stubble. Brown eyes that always had a glint of naughty in them. And today, he was wearing a suit jacket and a tie, along with a black cowboy hat.
he was fine. Sometimes it hit her, like a shit-ton of bricks, that her best friend was the best-looking guy in a five-hundred-mile radius. Or possibly the world. And it made her feelÂ .Â .Â . things she didn't want to feel.
Then he turned to face her head-on and offered her his very best smart-ass Cade smile, and the moment faded out as soon as it hit. Like driving on one of Silver Creek's fir-lined highways and seeing a sunbeam peek through the trees. A brilliant shaft of light that colored the world gold for just a moment before racing back behind the dark green branches. Just a glimpse; an impression of something she didn't want to explore.
“When did she grow up?” Amber asked, looking over at the dance floor, where Lark was currently holding on to her new husband, both of them swaying to the music without displaying any particular dancing skills. Quinn was a rough-and-tumble cowboy type, though he seemed to have a little more rhythm than his new bride. “It makes me feel old,” she continued. “Like an old clichÃ©. Sitting here at her reception looking at this grown-up woman in a wedding gown and thinkingÂ .Â .Â . how is she not eight years old still?”
“Imagine how I feel,” Cade said, his voice rough.
“Yeah, I know.”
The Mitchells were a part of Amber's cobbled-together family. She didn't have a lot in the way of people who loved her, so when she found people who were willing to accept her, she clung to them as best as she could.
In her younger years that clinging amounted to some very poor decisions, but she'd matured past that. Especially after she'd realized that her grandma and grandpa weren't going to just ship her straight back into the system. That they were going to let her stay in Silver Creek.
That she could stay, with them, in their home.
Since then, she'd built herself a solid foundation for her life. And Cade was the cornerstone. Had been since she was fourteen years old. She would never, ever do anything to jeopardize that.
Though, there was nothing wrong with infrequent, secret ogling.
“Are you having empty-nest syndrome, Mitchell?” she asked, nudging him with her elbow.
“Me? Oh, hell no. This nest isn't getting emptier. Maddy runs around like hell on pudgy feet. That little beast cut holes in one of my work shirts the other day with those little plastic-handled scissors. And now Cole and Kelsey have the other baby coming in January. Nope, it's just filling up over here.”
“But Lark's gone.”
“She's been gone. She's been shacking up with that asshole I now call a brother-in-law for a year.”
She patted his thigh and pretended not to notice how hard and hot and muscular it was beneath those thin dress pants. “I know. But now it's official.”
“Emotions don't bite, Cade. Don't run from your feels,” she said dryly.
“That's pretty rich coming from you, missy.”
She made a face at him and earned a smile. “I don't have to take advice to give it. I'm emotionally stunted and I know it.”
“That's why we get along so well.”
“I thought it was because I'm such a good pool player,” she said, lifting her beer up from the table and taking a long drink.
“That's not it. I'm a lot better than you are.”
“What do you think?” he asked. “Wanna dance?”
She eyed Cade. More specifically, his leg. The one she hadn't just patted. “UmÂ .Â .Â . really?”
He lifted a shoulder. “Okay, maybe not.” The grooves around his mouth deepened, and Amber felt an answering chasm deepen around her heart.
She hated that he couldn't dance anymore. Hated that the man she knew as being so totally vital and energetic was hobbled because of a rodeo accident four years ago.
For a long time they'd all blamed Quinn, Lark's husband, but they found out they'd been mistakenâwhich was hard for Cade to process, as evidenced by the fact that he frequently referred to his new brother-in-law as an asshole.
They were getting there, but they weren't exactly best friends yet.
The dude-bonding process was not yet complete.
Now they didn't quite know who to blame, except for a poor kid who'd been paid to sabotage the ride. The spike he'd put beneath Cade's horse's saddle had only been intended to end the ride faster, not send Cade to the hospital and cause life-changing, career-ending injuries. Getting hung up on your horse was never a good thing, but when the horse was that spooked? You didn't walk away. You got carted away on a stretcher.
Quinn got to move on from it all. His name was cleared. He was reinstated into competitions. And the question of who'd sabotaged Cade was left unanswered.
And Cade would never be fixed. Even if they did find out who was behind it, Cade wouldn't magically be healed, damage undone by justice. That hurt her. Always. Every day.
Because whenever she had a problem Cade was there. He was always trying to fix things for her. Had been since they were in high school. But there was no fixing this for him. And she'd give her own leg to do it, so he could go back to doing what he loved.
She only used her legs to wait tables and help around her grandparents' ranch.
She didn't do anything like Cade had been doing. Watching him ride? It had always sent a flash of light down her spine. A spark that lit her up everywhere and sent tingles to
It was art with him: athletic grace and sheer masculine willpower. Straining muscles, gritted teeth, dirt, sweat and mud flying in the air.
Yeah, that flipped her switches like whoa.
Cade Mitchell on the back of a bucking horse was a truly orgasmic experience.
When he was through with a ride, he always shook. From his hands down to his boots. Adrenaline, he said. She shook too though, and it wasn't always from adrenaline.
He scared the hell out of her. Watching his accident during the Vegas championships, on TV in her living room, had been the single most painful moment of her life.
Her best friend, her family, dragged around the arena like a rag doll, white as death and knocking on that door.
In those moments, she'd gotten a look at life without Cade. And it had been a yawning vacuum of empty cold. She'd always known he was important. Right then, she'd realized just how important.
Ironically, she would still give just about anything to get him back in the saddle, so to speak. Because he loved it. Even though she knew that after that accident she'd sweat off three pounds during those precious seconds he was on the back of one of those beasts.
Small price to pay for allowing him to have his passion. For giving him back the ability to dance, however badly, so they could go out on that wooden floor together on his sister's wedding day.
But there was no going out on the dance floor for Cade. So they'd sat at the table and drank beer until the sky turned purple and the candles, strung over the tables in mason jars, lit everything with a pale yellow glow.
“Last dance,” Amber said, knowing that Quinn and Lark would be leaving soon, off on their honeymoon. “Wanna get out of here?” she asked.
“Are you hitting on me?”
“Hay-ell yeah. What do people come to weddings for but to hook up? Certainly not to see their BFF's little sister tie the knot with a ridiculously handsome cowboy.”
“You think he's handsome?” Cade asked, eyes narrowed.
She looked back at Quinn and Lark, who were still twined around each other like vines. “Uh, yeah. Have you checked that tat he has on his shoulder? Me-
“Hey, he's my sister's husband,” he said, grimacing slightly when he said the words.
“Don't worry, I'm out of the game.”
“I thought we were gonna hook up.”
“Did I say hook up? I meant âLet's get out of here so I can whup your ass at pool.' How about that?”
“Sounds like more fun anyway.”
More fun than watching his little sister ride off into the sunset with a guy that Cade still had a tough time with in some ways. He didn't say that, but Amber could read Cade's subtext pretty well. Most often, said subtext was
. But every so often it was a real, deep emotion that he was never, ever going to show to the public.
Or even to himself.
Which was when she made sure she was on hand to help him out.
“Yep. I'll even buy you a beer because you look so damn purty,” she said, tweaking his hat.
“Well, shucks,” he said, that lopsided grin tilting to the left, tilting her stomach along with it. “Let's get on with itÂ .Â .Â . Can you play pool in that dress?” he asked, indicating her very abnormally feminine attire.
“If you can play in a tie.”
He reached up and grabbed the knot at the base of his throat and loosened it. “I think I can handle it.”
“But can you handle me?” she asked, quirking her brow.
“I guess we'll see.”
*Â Â Â *Â Â Â *
The Saloon, so named because it had been around since that
was the usual name for a place where drinking and carousing occurred, was packed. Not so much because it was a Sunday night, but because there was no other nightlife in Silver Creek. Nothing beyond a music festival that ran through the summer and attracted mainly the gray-hairs who only lived in town seasonally.
Not that Cade needed much of a nightlife. Not considering he hadn't done any real “going out” since his accident. Not considering that, even if he did, he couldn't dance.
He didn't know why he'd asked Amber to dance at Lark's wedding.
Ah, shit. Lark was married. That made him feelÂ .Â .Â . well, it made him feel. And that was just something he hadn't been prepared for.
But she was his baby sister, and dammit, no matter how unsentimental he wanted to be about it, he and Cole had practically raised her. Which really made Amber closer to the truth than he wanted to admit.
He had empty-nest syndrome. A thirty-two-year-old single man with commitment issuesÂ .Â .Â . and empty-nest syndrome. As if he wasn't enough of a dysfunctional gimp-bag already.
He wandered up to the bar behind Amber and settled in next to her, his forearms resting on the wooden surface, which was scarred from years of use and misuse. Bottles broken in brawls and Lord knew what else.
There was a story on the menus about a shoot-out between a sheriff and an outlaw that had resulted in the outlaw giving up the ghost on that very bar top.
The Saloon was filled with history. And Cade had spent too many nights in it over the past four years, just soaking in the alcohol haze and absorbing the hormones of those more up to the challenge of getting laid than he was.
He'd become pathetic. And he didn't have it in him to change it.
“Two Buds, please,” Amber said, leaning over the counter and catching the bartender's attention a lot quicker than Cade would have.
“I wanted a hard cider,” he said. In truth, he would really like to have something that would knock him on his ass, but he tried to save the pitiful drunk trick for the privacy of his own home. In case he got maudlin.
“Too bad,” she said.
He was glad she was here. Because there was nothing she hadn't been there for. Every hard thing he'd ever had to cope with. Finding out about his father's affair, his mother's death, his father's deathÂ .Â .Â . his accident. Lark's wedding.