Texas Two Step: Texas Montgomery Mavericks, Book 1 (2 page)

BOOK: Texas Two Step: Texas Montgomery Mavericks, Book 1
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“You know I adored James too. I wish I could have been there. For your mom and dad…and your brother. And you too, of course.” Her nose began an irritating burn she always experienced with unshed tears. Her throat throbbed with pent-up emotion. She didn’t dare look at him now. She suspected her face would say more than she was willing to tell.

“Sure. I understand.”

They walked in silence for a couple of minutes. Nearby, a car alarm screamed. Planes leaving DFW roared overhead.

“I wasn’t lying earlier. You do look great. Are you working out?” he asked, pumping his eyebrows in exaggerated movements. “Walk in front of me so I can enjoy the view.”

Even though a thrill ran through her, she rolled her eyes. “You are so bad,” she said, then gave her hips a little wiggle. “But yeah. You could say I work out. Remember Jim’s Gym on West Highfield? I bought it.” She waved a hand at the logo on her shirt. “Decided not to change the name.”

“So you own Jim’s?” He looked at her, his eyes wide with surprise. “That’s great, babe. You like running a gym?”

Hearing him address her by his old pet name produced a jolt to her heart. She pasted on a smile. “It pays the bills.” When he chuckled, she added, “Yeah, I do. I like working with people, helping them reach their goals. Plus, I’ve expanded the place. Added a separate spa area for facials, manicures and such. I have an incredible staff I adore. All in all, it was a good business decision.”

“You don’t miss being on your parents’ ranch and your barrel racing?”

“Sometimes,” she admitted. “But most days I’m too busy to miss the ranch or the riding. Besides, they’re only an hour from us, so we…er…I can go out there anytime.”

She ventured a quick glance at his expression. Had he noticed her slight verbal stumble? His expression was unchanged, so apparently she’d dodged that bullet. She hoped he didn’t ask much more about her riding or the ranch. The why and when she quit riding wasn’t on the table for discussion. He didn’t seem to know about her accident and keeping him in the dark about the details suited her fine.

Neither spoke again during the remaining trek to the car. Olivia just wanted to focus on how good he looked. How much she still wanted him and missed him was there too, but she tried to ignore those messages. She honestly had no idea what was going on in his mind.

Scorching heat from the sun poured down. Tiny beads of perspiration popped on her head and itched as they trickled through her hair. What she wouldn’t give for the Stetson in her closet right now.

Pointing a remote, she popped the trunk of a black Mercedes Benz.

Mitch tossed in his bags as well as the one she carried. “A Benz, huh?” His gaze raked over the car. “Business must be good. Congrats.”

“Thanks.” Oven-degree heat rolled from the car when she opened the door. After waiting a minute to let out as much hot air as possible, she slid onto the toasty leather of the driver’s seat. “But this isn’t mine.” She started the car then lowered the temperature controls on the air conditioning. “Belongs to one of the trainers at the gym. My car was blocked in and Mark loaned me his.”

Mitch tossed his hat onto the back seat before sliding into the passenger side. He looked around and whistled. “Nice ride.”

“Yep. Nice guy too.” Moments later, she paid the toll at the south exit and turned east onto Highway 183. “Emily said to drop you at Grayson Mansion. Do you need to stop anywhere first?”

“Like where?”

“I don’t know. Armani store? Walmart? Williams Feed and Tack?”

To her relief, he chuckled at her joke. The deep sound vibrated around the car and straight into her heart.

“Nope. Got everything I’ll need this weekend.” He cleared his throat and angled his body toward her. “So Livie, are you really happy living here in the big D? Don’t you miss the ranch life? The riding? The early morning chores? The nosy small-town gossip?”

Her fingers tightened around the steering wheel and she kept her gaze glued on the traffic ahead. Every glance at him produced a sucker punch to her gut, and she didn’t want him to know how much seeing him physically pained her. “I’m as happy here as much as anywhere, I guess. My business does well. I have friends, so…” She shrugged, pulling the car’s shoulder strap tight across her chest.

“How’s the Lazy L doing?” she asked, referring to his family’s cattle ranch.

“Actually, pretty damn good. Had some bad years with drought and some freaky winter weather, but we kept her going. Now if beef prices would just get back up.”

The pride and enthusiasm in his voice left no doubt how much he loved being part of the family cattle business. With him way down in south Texas and her in Dallas, a big spread of Texas geography separated them.

“Glad it’s working out then.”

She looked at the back of his head as he stared out the side window, seeming to study the landscape as it whizzed by. The ends of his hair were distinctly lighter than the roots, visible now that he’d removed his hat. She suspected his hair had been lightened and his skin tanned from the daily sun exposure of working on his ranch. She’d seen him wear a cowboy hat so many times, and she could picture him on his horse, his hat saturated with sweat, the ends of his long hair soaking up the sun’s rays as he rode behind the cattle. Now that she thought about it, she couldn’t remember ever seeing his hair this long. He’d once told her he always kept his hair short to make the south Texas heat bearable. And while she liked his new look, she had to admit she missed the old one.

“Haven’t had time to keep up with the old crowd. You never did get married, right?” His gravelly voice jerked her mind from reminiscing.

“Wrong. I did.” His question surprised her, but if the shock on his face was any indication, her answer was an obvious bombshell. Her gaze snapped back to the road.

“You did? How come I didn’t know that?”

She shook her head while saying, “I don’t know. It wasn’t a state secret or anything.”

“So you’re not Olivia Montgomery?”

“Of course I’m Olivia Montgomery. I just added Gentry to the end. I married Drake Gentry. I don’t think you ever knew him.”

“I didn’t. Will he be here this weekend?”

“No.”

He gave her left hand a pointed stare. “Are you still married?”

She shook her head. “Divorced.” A pang of regret settled around her heart, regret about hurting Drake, a wonderful man who’d been her rock when she’d needed stability the most. He’d been there for her and she’d let him down so many times in so many ways.

“Hmm.”

“Hmm? What does that mean?” She glanced toward him, wondering why his opinion was suddenly so important. At almost thirty, she ran her own business while raising a wonderful son single handedly. Why did Mitch’s opinion still mean so much to her?

His fingers drummed on the arm console between them. “I’m just surprised. Your marriage caught me off-guard.”

“So I gathered. Why? Did you think no one would marry little old me?” she asked, lifting one eyebrow in a challenge.

He chuckled and placed his forearm on the back of her seat, letting his elbow dangle in the opening between the seats.

His deep-throated chuckle reverberated through her again. The muscles in her jaw clenched at the zap of energy tingling through every nerve.

“Don’t be a goose.” He tapped a knuckle on the side of her head. “Any man would be fortunate to have you as a wife and a fool to give you up. I…I’m just surprised no one told me, especially my mother. They talk, you know? My mother and yours.”

She nodded. “I know.” She also often talked to his mother but some secrets were best left alone.

“Since Caleb left for school, and without James to help, keeping up with all the ranch work means odd work hours. Up early, to bed early. Like I said, I haven’t really kept in touch with old friends.” He caressed her cheek again with a rough finger. “Like you.”

Her heart leapt into her throat at his touch. The muscles in her stomach seized. She turned her singed cheek away from his touch. “No problem. I’ve been busy myself.”

“What happened? To your marriage, I mean.”

Frowning, she exhaled loudly. “Nothing happened. Drake and I are still good friends. Better friends than lovers, I guess.”

Mitch had been stroking her neck with a finger. His finger stilled at the word lovers. “Is he in Dallas?”

The hair in her ponytail tugged at the roots when she shook her head. “No. He’s in Wyoming on an archeological dig. Something about dinosaurs.”

Definitely time to change the subject from marriage. She did not want to venture into Mitch’s marriage and divorce from Joanna St. Claire. The fact he’d married Joanna, or anyone else, a mere six months after their break-up still squeezed her heart almost to the point of breaking.

And she certainly didn’t want to talk about, or even remember, the phone call from Mitch explaining the marriage. The pain of his betrayal had almost killed her. It’d certainly driven her to make some questionable, if not outright bad decisions. But the choices he’d made about his life had affected the choices she made about hers, and now she had her own secrets to keep.

She ordered her mind not to think about that phone call years ago, but that worked as well as saying don’t think about pink elephants. In her mind, she was there again, sitting in stunned silence as his words tore her heart and her future to shreds. The anguish from that night scalded her eyes with tears she couldn’t shed…at least not right now. When she was alone, she would allow herself to remember. Then, and only then, she could cry.

Yes, the last thing she needed this weekend was deep, heartfelt talks. She blinked hard and lifted her chin.

“So,” he said, dragging out the word. “Are you seeing anyone now? This Mark person maybe?”

Laughter erupted, mostly in relief at the change in subject. “Well, I’ll admit, Mark is quite the stud, but Nancy—that’s his wife—frowns on him dating other women.”

As she’d hoped, Mitch laughed. “Who is this nice guy who would lend you his Mercedes?”

“One of my trainers. Ex-Dallas Cowboy linebacker.”

“Great. He must bring a nice clientele to your gym.”

“He does.” A smile spread on her lips at how the addition of Mark had boosted her bottom line.

“You didn’t answer my question though. Are you seeing someone?”

“No one right now. You?” When she glanced toward him and their gazes locked, Olivia felt as though she were drowning. She gasped in a breath, and then turned back to the road, switching lanes with a quick jerk of the wheel.

He shook his head. “Not much. As I said, most of my days start about five in the morning and end about seven at night. Sometimes as late as midnight.” He rested his hand on her headrest. “Hard to cram a social life in there.”

When she thought of Mitch with another woman her heart cleaved in half, but she had to be realistic. They’d had their shot at a relationship and failed. And with a marriage apiece, they’d apparently found other people to fill the void.

The front pocket of her shorts vibrated, startling her. As she dug out her cell phone, she swerved. Damn. If she put even a ping in the paint of Mark’s car, he was going to kill her. After steadying the car, she glanced at the number display. Jim’s Gym. She flipped open the phone. “Hello?”

“Momma?” a high-pitched voice asked.

Switching the phone to the ear farthest from Mitch, she said, “Hi, Adam. I asked you not to call me unless it was important.”

“But it is,” the tiny voice whined.

“Okay. What’s the problem?”

“Nancy’s making me take a nap. Tell her I’m too old for a nap.”

Mentally, Olivia shook her head in maternal frustration. They went through this almost every day at naptime. “You know the rules. When I’m not there, Nancy’s in charge. You do what she tells you. Got it? Now, let me talk to her.”

Each word was chosen with extreme care. Mitch would hear every word of her end of the conversation. It’d be impossible for him not to. But he didn’t need to know anything about Adam. In fact, she’d be happy if Mitch went home neither hearing of nor meeting her son.

“Nancy,” the little boy yelled.

Olivia flinched at the volume of her son’s voice.

“Momma wants to talk to you.”

Clicking and clacking sounds reverberated through the receiver as the phone passed from her son to the assistant manager at Jim’s Gym.

“Hi, Olivia. What do you need?”

Olivia paused, thought, and then chose her words carefully. “Adam called me about your plans for the afternoon.” She shot a furtive sideways glance toward Mitch, who was watching her. She stifled the urge to shiver under his intense gaze.

Nancy drew in a deep breath and let it out slowly. “
So
sorry, Olivia. I thought he was already asleep on the cot in your office. I’ll handle the little troublemaker.”

Olivia laughed softly. “Okay. I’ll see you both in a little while.” She clicked the phone shut and slid it back into her pocket.

“Problem at the gym?”

“What?” Guilt stilled her body. “Oh, no. Not really. Everything’s fine.”

She wheeled into the hotel’s drive and pulled the lever to open the trunk. Uniformed bellmen immediately opened both doors. A third bellman unloaded Mitch’s luggage onto a cart.

BOOK: Texas Two Step: Texas Montgomery Mavericks, Book 1
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