Baby Stetson (Love and Music in Texas #1) (9 page)

BOOK: Baby Stetson (Love and Music in Texas #1)
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Rodney’s face went slack as his eyes widened. He drew in a sharp, shaky breath. “You were just left there- in a hat? Left here?” His nostrils flared, eyes darkening as he narrowed them.

Avery nodded. She felt Lucas slide his hand across the vinyl seat, reaching for hers. “It was the talk of the town forever. The newspapers dubbed me as Baby Stetson, and it kind of just stuck. As I grew up, I wanted to get away from the nickname, but my band mates thought it to be great for a band name, so I finally give in after awhile. So, there you have it.” And she still had that hat, too. Old, broken and worn out, that Stetson was a symbol of who she was. Could it have been Rodney’s hat?

“I wish I had known about you. I can’t believe-” Rodney shook his head. “But you had a good life, right? I mean, I see it. You look good. I just, sorry. That caught me off guard. I thought that at least you had a formal adoption or something, not just left- I’m dredging up memories now, aren’t I?”

“It’s okay,” Avery replied softly. “It’s going to be nice to open the door to my past. As good of an upbringing as I had, it’s good to know what kind of genes I have, you know? I’m glad to have met you, and even though there’s no concrete proof, I already feel connected to you. I want to know so much.” Tears threatened to fall. Avery wiped her face with a napkin. Now wasn’t the time for emotional craziness.

Lucas still held her hand. In fact, her hand cramped because he squeezed so hard. She moved to pull her hand away, and Lucas let go, startled. He had a troubled look in his eyes, too. His jaw tightened and a muscle ticked. What had him so angry? Was he so bothered by the way she was found? He’d already heard this story once! Oh, if only she knew more about him to know what made him react to things the way he did. The man was a mystery, a case Avery wanted nothing more than to crack.

Among other things.

As she rubbed her sore wrist, Lucas mouthed “Sorry” to her before looking away.

“I’ll tell you anything you want to know,” Rodney promised.

“Even about my mother?” She remembered the letter, and the secrecy behind her birth mother’s identity.

Rodney stiffened. “I want to-”

“But you can’t, right?” Avery asked bitterly. “What, she doesn’t want some child of hers, one she didn’t want to just show up on her doorstep and find her? She’s that ashamed of her past, of me?” Avery’s hands trembled. She clasped them together in her lap.

“I-”

“Forget it. I’m sorry. It’s not your fault. I just don’t understand the need for secrecy. But to each their own, right?” Avery tried to change the tone in her voice. Rodney was here, he hadn’t known about her, but he did now. If her birth mother didn’t give a shit, then fine. Why should Avery? Damn it if it still didn’t sting a little bit. All right, more than a little bit. A whole lot.

No one spoke for what seemed like forever. The too bubbly waitress brought their food over, making sure to smile and bend over in front of Lucas, exposing her ample breasts, probably hoping to score a phone number, or find a way to give him hers. She was too young, and a lot more eager. Avery coughed, hoping to send the girl a hint. Blue eyes met hers, and the girl frowned, then made a face at Avery before plopping down her basket, spilling a couple of fries on the table.

What a witch. How rude!

“Would you like anything else?” the waitress purred, batting her eyelashes at Lucas.

“That’ll be it for now, thanks,” Lucas said, backing away. Avery noticed he kept his gaze away from the exposed cleavage. Lucas sure got a lot of attention, yet, he didn’t bask in it like some men would.

First Alice, and now this girl.

Not that it was any of her business.

Not that she cared.

Liar!

Okay, so for whatever reason, maybe she did.

Just a little.

When Miss Flirtypants turned away, she strutted off with a swagger and another look back at Lucas. But he was already digging into his dinner and Avery hid her grin when the waitress turned back around, her lips already turned into a pout. Avery watched as she made her next move to some unsuspecting young man at another table. How do girls like her get hired? Oh, right. It was all about the business. Even it it meant showing too much and putting on the flirtation. Overdoing it, if you asked Avery. She shook her head, disgusted, and turned away from the girl. That’s just the kind of world it was now.

The only reason Avery focused even an ounce of attention to it was to keep off the subject at hand. The silence started to get to her. Someone had to say something soon. The tension needed to be broken. “So, um, hope y’all enjoy the food.” Lame attempt for small talk, but someone had to break the ice.

“You can’t go wrong with burgers and fries.” Lucas grinned, and bit into his cheeseburger.

“It’s been a long time since I had a hamburger. My wife is more of a gourmet cook. Not that I’m complaining, but it’s nice to have old fashioned grease every so often.” Rodney smiled at Avery.

“I actually don’t eat it all the time either,” Avery admitted.

“Well, I’m sure glad you suggested this tonight.” Rodney bit into a fry.

“I am, too.” Millions of thoughts swirled around in Avery’s mind. A nagging sensation in the pit of her stomach grew, spreading like wildfire. As happy and excited as she was about meeting Rodney, hurt bubbled inside her over the lack of interest from her birth mother. Why should Avery care, though, if the woman didn’t? How do you carry a child for nine months and not give a crap about them, yet the kindness of two strangers gave her all the love in the world? It didn’t make sense, and Avery hated to admit that it hurt.

“Hey, Lucas, if you don’t mind, can you scoot out? I need to run to the ladies room.” If it broke the tension for awhile for her, that would be a good thing. Lucas moved in an effort to let Avery out, and she hurried towards the back.

*****

What an interesting but intense night. Lucas felt out of place watching Avery and this man who could be her father. Why had he invited himself along? Why did every bone in his body also yearn for her when he knew he couldn’t have her? Yet he’d thrown caution to the wind and sent her an invitation to his room earlier, and actually thought she would act on it? Yeah, she went in for his kiss the other night, but what the hell would make him think she’d go for some casual sex with a guy she barely knew? Avery didn’t appear to be that kind of girl, let alone that she’d just broken up with someone and was obviously still torn about her feelings.

For once in his life, his feelings toward Avery were more than sexual. He’d actually found a connection with her on a deeper level.

That scared the hell out of him.

Lucas felt like an ass.

Now, as Avery disappeared, he focused his attention on Rodney.

“For someone that doesn’t know her well, you sure stick to Avery like glue.” Rodney’s glare hardened, matching Lucas’s feelings.

“Yeah, well there’s something about her I can’t resist,” Lucas said easily. That was true, but there was so much more to it and Rodney wasn’t the one he could share that with. He didn’t trust this man yet.

“You look like a player. Don’t hurt this woman.”

Wow, did Rodney ever sound like a father.

Or a world class jerk. What right did he have to sweep into her life like this and then pounce on Lucas like he was doing something wrong?

And he didn’t even know for sure Avery was his daughter. Lucas had to admit, there were many, many visual clues to their similar appearance.

“Me? I don’t think I’m the one Avery has to worry about. You came here to turn her world around, and she’s in distress over it.”

“All I came here to do was to get to know a woman that is my own flesh and blood!” Rodney slapped his hand on the table, eyes shooting invisible daggers at Lucas.

“Take it easy. I’m not your enemy.”

“So what are you? Obviously an out-of-towner. You’re staying at the inn. What’s your purpose here? You fixating on Avery for something? Targeting her?”

“Now wait a minute. Don’t go around throwing accusations at me. I’m here for work. Avery works for the inn, along with her adoptive parents. We struck up a friendship, and okay, yes, we’re both attracted to one another. Okay? I’m not some stalker, and I’m not here to hurt anybody.” Lucas held his hands up, releasing his frustration. Geez. This guy was in town for less than a day and already acting like Avery was someone he’d known for so long that he could start questioning Lucas regarding his intentions? What the hell kind of crap was that?

Give the guy a break. He’s making up for lost time.

Lucas tried again, this time with a kinder approach. “Look, we need to stop having such a heated argument. We’re both strangers to her, and in a short time have grown to care for her very much. You don’t want her hurt, and neither do I. But don’t start questioning my integrity or feelings when I frankly don’t know what I feel, or what I want to do with what I do feel.” This job only got worse as time went on. Lucas should have done something long ago, instead of being dragged into another mess. This time, he cared too much. Stupid heart, stupid feelings, and stupid, stupid penis.

Yeah, the big guy down there sure had a way of taking over what Lucas had a purpose for.

Fucker.

“I don’t think I trust you,” Rodney responded, his stare hard and cold.

“The feeling is mutual,” Lucas replied. “But it’s really not up to us what happens. It’s all on Avery.”

Speaking of which, she’d returned, moving gracefully through the tables. Lucas smiled at her, hoping to erase all signs of what he’d just been feeling. If this Rodney was her father, then Lucas would have to deal with it, do what he came here to do, and be gone. He just needed to stop letting Avery’s sweet face get in the way, and turn him into an idiot that wanted to take her to bed. And stay there.

“Is everything okay?” Avery glanced from Rodney to Lucas. Shit. So much for keeping it to himself. She sensed something wrong.

“Sure is,” Lucas said at the same time Rodney responded with “Of course.”

Lucas scooted out of the booth once again to let Avery slide in. Maybe he should finish up his dinner and bow out, before he did something stupid like touch Avery again, or get into another not so good conversation with Rodney. It wasn’t fair for him to intrude. And that’s just what he’d been doing. He just needed to be sure things were going good. Lucas sighed. “I’m going to have to go soon. I’ve got a few things to work on tonight.” He was torn. Stay, or go?

Avery looked over at him with questioning eyes, but the look flickered away in just a blink. “Okay. Well, I appreciate you joining us tonight.” She sounded like she really meant it. So maybe he hadn’t screwed things up after all. Time would tell.

“Yes, Lucas, thank you for escorting Avery tonight,” Rodney smirked. He would be glad to get rid of Lucas, that much was for sure. Lucas just hoped that things would go better for Avery after he left. He was hesitant to go, but it would be the best option.

“Okay, well ... have a good rest of the evening.” Lucas left two ten dollar bills on the table. “Tell the waitress to keep the change.”

Get out of there, now.

Without a last look, Lucas left. What a track record he’d had with Avery so far. He’d bolted more than once.

But it wasn’t about her. Lucas needed to clear his mind, keep the sexual, and even nonsexual thoughts about Avery away. Once he was outside, he checked his phone. Several text messages awaited him, inquiring about new events. Lucas sighed. Someone was going to get hurt in this mess if he didn’t find a graceful way out.

Chapter Eight

“I had a nice time talking with you tonight, Avery.” Rodney hugged her one last time as they stood in front of his door an hour after Lucas left. Avery couldn’t put a finger on it, but she gathered from the strange tension after she’d gone to the bathroom that Lucas and Rodney didn’t care for each other. Not like it mattered. She wasn’t dating Lucas, and she didn’t care about his feelings toward Rodney. She had no idea why Lucas insisted on bringing himself along. It had been a little relieving at first. It turned out to be awkward regardless, but it was nice to have another person along in case things went downhill. She’d have to remember to question Lucas about his odd mood later. Or maybe, she’d just let it go. Why should she care a lick at all about him, or his actions? She barely knew him. Just another passing stranger in town and then he’d be gone.

She wanted to know more. Wanted to understand the look in his eyes, find out more about what made him tick, made him smile. Just something! And then, maybe more of those hot, delicious kisses.

There had been a connection between the two of them from the start. More than physically. Avery didn’t understand it.

It didn’t change the fact that it was there.

This wasn’t the time to think about Lucas. There went her mind again. She straightened and focused her energy on Rodney. “It was great. Thank you for coming down here. I guess I’ll see you tomorrow for the, uh, test?”

Rodney nodded. “Yeah. I guess you will.”

“It’ll all turn out.”
It just has to.

Who was she trying to convince more? Herself or Rodney?

“And then, have a talk with your parents. I don’t want to come between you all. I’d love to meet them on a personal level, and thank them. It made me feel instantly better that you grew up so loved and taken care of. Had I known-” His voice trailed off.

“You’re here now,” Avery said softly. That was what mattered. He found her and took action to meet her.

Rodney frowned and nodded. “I know. I just- I have some feelings to sort through, do some forgiving, but it’s just hard. I didn’t get to hold you as a baby, see your milestones, and that hurts.”

Avery blinked back tears as she stared down at the floral pattern of the worn out carpeting. The colors blended together and twirled like a kaleidescope. She blinked the tears away.

“Oh, here I go, getting you all upset. I apologize. I’m going to go and get some rest now. Thank you again for meeting with me. Your reception of my being here turned out better than I expected.” With one more hug, Rodney closed himself in his room. Avery stood, facing the closed door for another minute before turning away.

BOOK: Baby Stetson (Love and Music in Texas #1)
3.99Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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