Read Dead Heat Online

Authors: Kathleen Brooks

Tags: #Fiction, #Romance, #Suspense, #Contemporary, #General, #Romantic Comedy

Dead Heat (18 page)

BOOK: Dead Heat
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“Oh. Didn’t you see the decorations? Are your eyes okay? You may need to see someone about that. Cole helped me put them up. Didn’t you baby?” Paige mimicked Kandi and reached over to rub Cole’s much broader muscled chest. She ran her fingers slowly over his defined abs and then smiled at Kandi.

“Hello all! Oh, Paige, the place looks great!” Pam Gilford, in her pink polo shirt and knee length khaki shorts, walked in with her clipboard. “I’ll just check you off as ready to go for tomorrow.”

“But,” Kandi stammered, “there are hardly any decorations, and there are hardly any sale’s items. The display cases are empty!”

“Yes, and if you look right there, you can see that Cole just brought up four large boxes of what I am guessing are items for those display cases. Great job you two.”

“Pam, I am in charge of this Summer Festival and I will not tolerate mediocrity,” Kandi stamped her heeled foot and glared at Pam.

“Yes, well, I am the President of the PTA and what I say goes.” Pam paused and watched Chuck push open the partially open front door. “Well, look who is the mighty hunter!”

Chuck trotted in dragging a four foot black snake, his tail happily wagging. Kandi’s scream could have broken glass as she jumped behind Bill. The shriek was close enough to a dog whistle that Chuck thought Kandi was calling him. He wagged his big tail and headed straight for her. Kandi screamed again and jumped around Bill so Chuck couldn’t get to her, which only started a game for him. Paige stood with a smile daring to break free as she watched Chuck and Kandi treat Bill like a merry go-round.

“We should probably stop this,” Cole said, but didn’t move to stop Chuck.

“Yeah, probably.” Paige watched as Bill went to grab Chuck who then thought it was a keep away game that caused his tail to wag even more. He was having a great time. Pam put her fingers in her mouth and let loose a shrill whistle. Every one stopped where they were and stared at her.

“Chuck, come.” She stood staring at Chuck with her hands on her knee length khaki shorts. Chuck trotted over and sat down in front of her. She held out her hand, “Give.” Chuck dropped the snake into her hand and thumped his tail on the ground. “Good boy.”

“Eeew! That is a dead snake!” Kandi peeked out at the snake hanging from Pam’s hand.

“Yup. Better than the two live ones my boys have. Anyway, place looks good. See you tomorrow!” Pam waved with the snake-less hand and headed out the door with the snake dangling from one hand and the clipboard in the other as the group stared open-mouthed at her.

 

* * *

 

Paige cleared the dishes from another of Cole’s home cooked dinners while he walked Chuck. They had talked at the table for hours and she felt more confused than ever. Yes, they had talked for hours, but not about their relationship. They talked about growing up, their parents, high school, college, and her starting the shop. But not once did they talk about their future.

She placed the last dish in the dishwasher and closed the door. Cole came in through the back door with Chuck who immediately ran back to her bed to claim his spot. She turned off the lights after he locked the doors and checked the windows. She didn’t know why, but the revelation of knowing she was in love with him had her feeling awkward whenever he became intimate with her. She was worried he’d get her so worked up, which he had a tendency to do. And in that moment of ecstasy, she’d scream out her love for him and that was not the way to tell someone how you truly felt.

They walked back to her bedroom and she couldn’t help but fumble along. She needed to know what was going on between them before she got her heart broken. She stepped ahead of him and turned in the doorway.

“Well, um, thanks for dinner. It was great. Good night.” She leaned forward and gave him a quick kiss on the lips and closed the door.

“Um, Paige?”

“Oh, of course!” She grabbed a pillow and opened the door, “Here you go. There’s blankets on the couch. See you in the morning.” She closed the door again and for good measure locked it.

Chapter Thirteen

 

The Summer Festival was in full swing. Paige smiled at the kids bounding around the street and into the stores lining Main Street. The sky was blue with puffy white clouds. A breeze helped to keep the humidity at tolerable levels The balloons and laughter made it a perfect day. That morning she, Cole, and Betty Jo had moved tables out to the sidewalk. Paige chose the displays, Cole carried them to their destinations, and Betty Jo organized them.

Her summer hats were a big hit and she was selling enough to make room for the fall lineup she was working on. Paige scanned the crowd and stopped when a large red hat caught her attention. The crowd parted, either out of respect for the mistress of Wyatt Hall, or because Mrs. Wyatt smacked them with her cane.

“Mrs. Wyatt! It’s so good to see you. Your hat matches you lipstick perfectly.”

“Just like I wanted, thank you. This is my granddaughter, Katelyn Jacks.” Paige looked up and up again. Katelyn was tall and gorgeous. She had to be just under six feet, with amazing, long blonde hair and cornflower blue eyes. In the cute mini skirt she was wearing, Paige could see that her legs went on forever.

“It’s so nice to meet you. You look like a model!”
“Thanks. I get that a lot.” Katelyn held out her hand and shook Paige’s.
“You get that a lot, dear, because you are a model.” Mrs. Wyatt laughed.
“I was a model. I stopped modeling when I went to vet school.”

Paige took another look at the long blonde hair, pulled back into a sleek ponytail, the sharp cheek bones, and startling blue eyes. “Well, if you ever miss it, I would love to have you model my hats for the magazines that keep calling. The Town & Country spread has really taken off and I had calls from tons of magazines. I have meetings with them next month to look over my fall line and pick out the hats they want to use in their spreads.”

“Congratulations. What magazines have called you?”


Women’s Wear Daily
,
Cosmo
, and
Glamour
,” Paige said with pride.

“Wow! That is wonderful. I have shot for most of those before. I will probably know who you are working with. I would love to. I hated modeling, but it paid for college and grad school. But modeling for something like this would be great.” Katelyn laughed and put an arm around her grandmother. “Actually, my favorite memory from growing up was playing in Grandma’s hat room. The hats you have made for her these past four years are by far my favorites!”

“Thanks, Katelyn. I am so glad you have come to Keeneston. I know your grandparents love having you here and old Doc Truett is getting rather old. It will be good to have another vet here.” Paige pointed out Chuck, who was trying to steal a cupcake off one of the tables. “That’s my dog, Chuck. I will be sure to bring him by for his yearly when you get your practice up and running.”

“Thanks. Jacks Animal Hospital should be up and running by next month.” Katelyn smiled and Paige knew she had just made a new friend.

“Hey Sis, where do you want me to put these pies Mom had me bring over for the contest?” Marshall strode up, balancing pies in his arms. “Mrs. Wyatt, looking good as always.” He winked at her and gave her a quick kiss on the cheek.

“They go over there. But before you run off, let me introduce Katelyn Jacks. She’s Mrs. Wyatt’s granddaughter and a new Keeneston resident. She’s also agreed to model my hats!”

“Jacks? As in the hotel heiress?”

“My father runs the hotels. I am not an heiress to anything.”

Paige felt bad for Katelyn. It was obvious she was estranged from her very rich father and now her mother had run off with another husband. She’d worked hard to make something of herself and the first thing her idiot brother says is to identify her based on her father’s accomplishments. He definitely deserved the icy stare she was giving him.

“So, you’re a model. Figures. Welcome to Keeneston. See you later Mrs. W.” Marshall gave Mrs. Wyatt and wink and made his way to the pie table.

“I am sorry. My brothers don’t have much tact. They’re normally not assholes.”
“I’m used to it. I just hope I can make my own name here.”
Paige could kill her brother. The smile and relaxed attitude Katelyn had just a minute ago was replaced by a self-conscious girl.

“I am sure you will be able to. We may know your family history back twelve generations, but we usually let people make their own names,” Paige laughed.

“We’ll let you get back to work. I am going to take Katelyn to meet Daisy, Violet, and Lily.”

Paige gave Mrs. Wyatt a kiss and said her goodbyes to Katelyn before heading back into the shop.

 

“Hey sweetheart. How are the sales going out here?” Cole came up behind her and wrapped his arms around her waist.
“Good. Just watched my brother make a jackass of himself in front of Mrs. Wyatt’s granddaughter.”
“What we men do for women,” he chuckled. “I thought we could pack things up soon and then I would like to take you to the dance.”
“Is it safe?”

“Yes. I just got done scoping it out. They are having it in a tent this year and it would be very hard to get a shot where they placed it.”

“It sounds like fun. Just let me go change real quick.” Cole turned her in his arms and gave her a quick kiss.

“I’ll start moving things inside.”

 

“Did I tell you how great you looked tonight?” Cole whispered into her ear as he led her into the dance. She had taken one of her own cowboy hats to wear tonight. Being inspired by Katelyn’s miniskirt, Paige found a cute brown mini and matched it with an ivory lace trimmed tank top and cowboy boots.

“You have, but thank you.”

Paige looked up at the top of the tent where the twinkle lights cast a romantic glow about the tent. Couples were already on the dance floor dancing to the music of the local bluegrass band that was currently playing "Blue Moon of Kentucky".

“Come on, let’s go dance.” Cole tugged her towards the dance floor.

“You know how to dance like this?”

“I wouldn’t have asked you if I didn’t know. Remember, I am a Southern boy. If my geography is right, Tennessee is further South than Kentucky.”

Paige let herself be pulled to the dance floor with a smile on her face. She loved to dance, but rarely got to. The song ended as they reached the floor and a new song immediately started up. Cole grabbed her up and started dancing as the first twang of "I am A Man of Constant Sorrow" started. He whirled her past other couples as if they had danced together their whole lives.

She felt her pulse beating to the banjo as he led her around the floor, holding her tight against his hard body. The tent was alive with laughter and music. There were frequent shouts and yeehaws as partners flew by one another. Paige tossed her head back and laughed as Cole twirled her around.

The lively song ended and Alison Krauss’s "When You Say Nothing at All" slowed the crowd down. Couples stood and walked to the dance floor. Cole pulled her tighter and she laid her head against his shoulder. He took her hand and placed it over his heart as he rested his cheek against her head. Paige breathed him in and closed her eyes. The other couples disappeared and all she knew was how right they felt together. She lifted her head and looked up at him. His eyes were soft as he gazed down at her. She slid her arms around his neck as he leaned down and captured her lips with his. His tongue slowly slid into her mouth.

“May I cut in?” Paige’s eye snapped open. Cole didn’t loosen his hold on her, only looked for confirmation from Paige.

“Sure.” Cole let go of her then and gave Miles a slight nod of acknowledgment. “I’ll go get us some drinks.” Paige watched as Cole walked off the dance floor and then turned to her big brother.

“Do you all have to butt in constantly? Look. I love you all, but I am getting to a point where we’re going to have major issues if you don’t quit interfering in my personal life.”

Her brother infuriated her by only shrugging. “You look nice tonight, Sis.” Paige’s anger fell away as Miles danced the rest of the song with her. “Mom and Dad are here tonight too and just saw your make-out session on the dance floor. Dad was going to come, but Mom sent me. I am to invite the two of you to a family dinner tomorrow night.”

“Uh-oh.”
“Yup. He’s being called in for the formal interview.”
“But, we’re not even a couple. I mean, our relationship is fake.”
“It looked pretty real to me. See you tomorrow, Sis.” Miles kissed her on the forehead and headed to report back to their parents.
“Everything okay?” Cole asked as he brought her some lemonade.
“Yeah. We’ve been invited to dinner tomorrow night at my parents.”
“Great. Come on, this is one of my favorite songs.”
“The Devil Went Down to Georgia?”
“Sure is. I bet you’ll be having the time of your life dancing to this song!”
Boots stamped, hands clapped, and Paige did have the time of her life.

 

* * *

 

Cole pulled up to her parents’ farmhouse and turned off the engine. Alerted by the sound of the car door closing, her family came out to the wraparound porch to meet them. Everyone but Cy made it to family dinner, especially when summoned by Mom. The last man she had brought out for family dinner was Bill and it had been a disaster.

Bill had been shocked by her tomboy ways, insulted at the informal, loud, boisterous dinner, and not amused by her brothers' continuous questions. He had said a quick goodbye and headed home as soon as dessert was over. One week later he was boinking Kandi.

BOOK: Dead Heat
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