Baby Stetson (Love and Music in Texas #1) (5 page)

BOOK: Baby Stetson (Love and Music in Texas #1)
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“Yeah, I noticed that already. See, the first night I got here, I saw this amazing band ... I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of them, but Baby Stetson’s lead singer is phenomenal. And she’s hot!”

Avery pretended to think long and hard. He thought she was hot? And phenomenal? “You know, they sound vaguely familiar, though I’m not one to check out the female lead singer.”

No, she only checked out sexy strangers that paid her too much attention and she couldn’t decide whether she wanted it or not. Did she enjoy his attention? Hell yeah. But this wasn’t the time, and yet here she was, basking in the way he looked at her, the way her body heated up in pleasure when he shot her another one of those sexy grins.

It was just rebound feelings tugging at her. That’s all.

And that’s why she wasn’t going to act on them. Flirting with Lucas, fine. But it would go no further.

“So, care to keep me company this evening?” Lucas asked.

Avery’s gaze snapped back up at him. Had he just asked her to spend the evening with him? Why? Didn’t he have things to take care of or something? Surely he wasn’t here on vacation. There wasn’t much to see or do on vacation in Harmony’s Echo. So if he was here on some sort of business, why would he spend an evening with her? Why would he want to?

“There’s that stricken look again,” Lucas pointed out, wounded. Honestly wounded, too. He wasn’t fooling around this time. “I know I’ve been picking on you. I’m sorry if I’ve done something to bother you.”

Oh, he bothered her all right. Hot and bothered, which was something Avery didn’t want to feel. Didn’t want to think about. Didn’t want to act on. Well, she did, but she wasn’t going to tell him that. She still fought to tell herself no!

“No Lucas. You haven’t done anything wrong. It’s me. I-” Avery stopped. She wasn’t making any sense. “Okay, that sounds bad. I’ve just come out of a relationship, and while it should have ended awhile ago, I stayed in way too long. I’ve got some personal things to handle, and I’m a complete disaster right now. So, you haven’t offended me. You don’t bother me. I promise.”

“Promises don’t hold much for me.” Lucas lowered his voice. Something flashed in his eyes that Avery couldn’t decipher. As quickly as it came, the look faded. “I’m not asking for a relationship, Avery. I’m just looking for a friend tonight. Someone to spend a little time with, seeing the sights of this town or something fun nearby. That’s all. Nothing more.” He held up his hands, watching her, waiting.

A friend. That couldn’t hurt. Though her body sent signals about Lucas that were more than just friendly, it would be nice to get out of the inn, not have to go home for awhile, and enjoy someone’s company that didn’t know about her troubles. Why the hell not? Avery nodded. “You know what, Lucas, you’re right. I don’t know why I’m acting so cagey. You want a view of this town, though there’s not much of it, let’s do it.”

So much for being cautious. A night with Lucas, being near him, wouldn’t help the heat bubbling in her belly.

But it was too late to look back.

*****

Why Lucas made Avery so nervous, he’d never understand. When she accepted his request to spend an evening with him, he was more than surprised. But glad. He needed to get out a little, hopefully not think about the things he needed to do, and just let loose, even just a little bit. Avery was a young, attractive woman, and despite her jumpy attitude, Lucas liked her. He wanted to get to know her a little better. Even in a non-sexual way, for that matter. That didn’t mean he didn’t want to take her to bed and explore every inch of her body, but that wasn’t going to happen. She seemed too reserved. He wasn’t going to take advantage of her, especially since she’d just admitted she recently got out of a relationship. Avery seemed like the long term relationship person. Lucas wasn’t. He wished sometimes he could be, but the cold hard fact hit him like a ton of bricks a long time ago. He wasn’t relationship material. It turned out to be a good thing that Avery kept him at a distance, though Lucas couldn’t help but notice her sensual gazes she sent his way when she thought he wasn’t paying attention. She was attracted to him. And he’d bet she knew just as well as he did that it was best they didn’t act on it.

For more reasons than he could count.

But something about her drew out his curiosity.

If he could shut that part of his body down tonight, he would. But that was impossible. The desire grew bigger as time went on.

The grand tour of the heart of Harmony’s Echo took about an hour. There really wasn’t a thing here. Just your average small Texas town. So now what? End the night? Have dinner? Lucas stole a glance at Avery as they strolled along a paved path surrounded by flowers and plants. She stared straight ahead, not noticing he’d been watching her again. How was he ever going to accomplish what he needed to when Avery was a temptation to avoid? He fought hard to not grip her shoulders, turn her to face him and kiss her senseless. Any other time, he would. But with Avery, he couldn’t. Too complicated. Too messy. Since when had he been so overly cautious?

Since you have so much on the line right now, idiot.

If he knew he could stop at one little kiss, he could-

No.

A little foreplay action. Her hands on his cock-

Damn it. No!

Speaking of the devil, it began to surge to life.

Oh, good job. Now he could walk around the town square with a hard-on, while the woman next to him would only be oblivious for a little while.

As if on cue, Avery turned to him.

Whatever you do, woman, don’t look down. Don’t see what you’re doing to me. Just don’t!

“So now that you’ve pretty much seen all there is to see of downtown Harmony’s Echo, what now?” Avery asked.

Oh, he could think of a lot of things. None of them were actually going to happen. Lucas spotted a circular picnic table and quickly ambled toward it, sitting and positioning himself so that Avery had no chance in hell of looking down. She followed him, and sat next to him. “Are you all right?”

“Sorry. My ankle is kind of bothering me. Old injury.” The old injury part was true, but his ankle sure as hell wasn’t the problem tonight.

“Oh! I’m sorry. What happened, if I may ask?” Avery’s hair shone in the spotlight of the streetlight that was just about over the table area. She had an array of highlighted colors that made for an interesting combination.

“Just an old work injury.” He brushed off the questions as best he could. He didn’t want to talk about it. Thinking about that brought up old memories that had no business resurfacing.

Avery’s face fell, and she stared down for a moment. “I didn’t mean to pry.” She almost sounded hurt.

“It’s okay. Just something I don’t want to bring up. It was around a bad time in my life.” That couldn’t have been more understated if he tried, but it didn’t matter. “I appreciate you walking around with me tonight.”

Avery shrugged. “Even though there isn’t much to see? I love this town, and the people. I do, but...” Her voice trailed off.

“But what?” Lucas prompted, intrigued. She’d almost opened up. Avery was almost as reserved as he was. Their history was slightly the same. She’d been abandoned, as he had. But at least Avery had great people to take her in and love her.

He couldn’t say the same thing about himself.

“Oh, it’s nothing.” Avery sighed.

“Can’t be nothing, especially if you don’t want to talk about it,” Lucas pointed out, taking his hand and lifting her chin so he could look at her again. The gesture obviously startled her. She looked up at him, eyes wide.

Why did he do that? Why did he have to go and touch her, even just her face?

Bad move, way bad.

“Well, it’s not like you’ll tell anyone. I want to make a career out of my music. In Nashville.” Avery’s tone took on a wistful manner.

“So why don’t you?” Lucas asked. She did have dreams bigger than this town. A woman like Avery shouldn’t hold herself back. What did he know? He held himself back all time. What really stopped him from getting away from the life he disliked so much?

“My parents. They’re getting up there in age. They’ve already lost so much. If I left, what would they have?” Avery asked, clasping her hands together.

“What would they have? They’d have years of raising you. They’d have this inn, the town, and the good feeling of knowing they took someone in that didn’t have a home and gave them love. It’s only normal to move on, Avery. You can’t be bound to your hometown forever if you have dreams bigger than that. It’s what every parent wants. For their child to be happy and to achieve their goals, chase their dreams.”

If only his parents had cared enough to want that, instead of the drugs, the endless fights, and the empty bottles of liquor after drinking themselves into a stupor until their deaths. He’d give anything to have parents that gave a shit. If things were different in his past, maybe he wouldn’t be owing so much to someone that took advantage way too often.

Avery snapped her head up, her lips parted slightly and her eyes widened. “Well, it appears you have a lot to say on this subject. Wow. Umm, thank you.” She was definitely taken aback. Avery turned her head. What was she looking at? Maybe he’d gotten her thinking. She really did have an amazing talent. Lucas would almost bet that her adopted parents would support her one hundred percent if she chose to follow that dream. Was that all that really held her back? Or was it something more? Her personality off stage certainly differed greatly from her on stage presence. Last night, Avery took the stage with confidence, poise and style. Today, as the woman not putting on a show for a crowd, she seemed less confident, fearful, and unwilling to open her mind to possibilities.

“Avery?”

She met his glance again. “Yeah?”

“Tell me something.”

“I can tell you plenty of things. Are you asking for something specific?”

Hell yeah. Where to start? The more time Lucas spent with her, the more he wanted to know. He didn’t understand how she could have the same reserved attitude he had. While they both had been left by the people that were supposed to love, take care, and keep them safe, Avery found a home. Lucas sensed she wanted more, and yet, didn’t jump to find out more.

She hid herself in a shell. Lucas wished she’d come out of it.

Why did he suddenly have the drive and inclination to uncover all of her feelings? Lucas had never wanted to know so much about someone before, not like this.

She’s a lot like me.

If Lucas had to be honest with himself, that scared him. He’d never connected on such a level with a woman before. Only physically. While he found Avery attractive, suddenly there was much more to his interest in her.

Stop thinking about her. You’re not here to connect with her.

Look at this place. Harmony’s Echo, while beautiful, serene, and peaceful, was practically invisible. The downtown courtyard consisted of a few picnic benches, such as the one they were perched on now, a few three or four story high buildings. He’d guess the population to be less than ten thousand.

The muffled sound of a Carrie Underwood song broke the silence. Avery pulled her cell phone from her purse and answered it. Within seconds, her voice sounded distressed as she shot to her feet. “I hate to cut this short, Lucas, but I’ve got to go. My mom just fell.”

Chapter Five

Avery knew something was wrong all day. She should have pushed harder for Mom to rest. It was more than the dark circles under her eyes. It was more than the spaced out moments she’d been having. Damn it, why didn’t she listen to her gut a little more often?

Okay, it was a fall. Everyone falls.

But her mother was in her seventies. Things like this are always a little more escalated than just a simple fall. Or maybe she was overreacting, but if anything happened to Mom, Avery wouldn’t know what to do.

She stole a glance at Lucas, who walked right beside her as they made it back to the inn in record time. It had actually been nice to get out a little bit, and talk to him, even though she still knew nothing more about him than she had before. In fact, he was only more mysterious as he evaded questions about his life and past. Why was that?

Avery thought an ambulance would be here, or something. But there was no extra commotion. “Where’s my parents?” Avery asked Alice, the woman standing behind the guest services area.

“At the house.” Alice was calm, her gaze flickered to Lucas. Of course she was curious. Alice always looked at men the same. Who cared about that right now? All she wanted to do was check on her mom and see with her very own eyes that she was okay. Dad had told her she didn’t need to come back, but Avery wouldn’t feel better until she knew. “Thanks.” Avery pivoted and bolted. She didn’t even realize Lucas had followed her until he called out for her to wait up. She stopped, but only for a second, as she turned to him. “Thank you for the nice evening. It really was a pleasure to talk to you. I’ve got to make sure my mom is okay.”

“I’ll come with you. I don’t want to leave you alone like this,” Lucas protested, matching her stride. He was persistent. It was nice, that a stranger would care so much and take the time to accompany her, though she couldn’t help the strange suspicions of why.

She was going to protest, but decided against it. If he wanted to come, fine. It wouldn’t do any harm.

Two minutes later, they’d made it around the inn to the house. Avery pushed the door open and was surprised to find her parents sitting right there in the living room. Mom’s afghan covered her legs and she had them propped up on the ottoman. Surprise registered on Mom’s face as her gaze connected with Avery’s, then question filled them as Lucas came up behind her.

“I heard you fell. Mom, what happened?” Avery asked, rushing to her side. Avery knelt down next to her mother’s rocker.

“It was just a slip. Wet floor. I’m a little bruised and sore, but I’m fine. Don’t worry your sweet little mind over it, honey. Did you call her?” her mom turned to her father and asked.

His head bobbed up and down.

“Well hello, sir.” Avery looked up. Lucas stood in the doorway, looking unsure what to do.

BOOK: Baby Stetson (Love and Music in Texas #1)
10.83Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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