Authors: RJ Scott
The Texas series, book 7
Copyright ©2015 RJ Scott
Cover design by Meredith Russell
Edited by Sue Adams
Published by Love Lane Books Limited
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
This literary work may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, including electronic or photographic reproduction, in whole or in part, without express written permission. This book cannot be copied in any format, sold, or otherwise transferred from your computer to another through upload to a file sharing peer to peer program, for free or for a fee. Such action is illegal and in violation of Copyright Law.
All characters and events in this book are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead is strictly coincidental.
All trademarks are the property of their respective owners.
To every single Team!Riley, Team!Jack and Team!JackRiley reader out there.
A special thank you to my wonderful proofers. Dawn Mayhew, CM, Rick Mulholland, Hanne, BJ Williams, Stacia Hess, & Kathy Kemp. You all rock. And a particular mention to Tim Brehme for his help. Along with Sue, and Elin, they worked so hard and this is a better book for it. All mistakes are mine.
And always for my family.
Jack slid his arms around Riley from behind and pressed his cheek to the space between broad shoulders. He couldn’t stop himself from moving his hands under the soft T-shirt material and caressing the warm skin. Touching Riley was an addiction.
“You all done?” he asked.
Riley turned in Jack’s hold, the laundry in his hands crushing between them.
“It’s like these tiny T-shirts multiply,” Riley groused. “I turn my back for one minute and suddenly there’s another ten of the damn things.”
Jack smiled up at his husband, at the narrowing of his beautiful hazel eyes and the stubborn set of his mouth. Then he released his hold of his waist and instead cradled his face.
“It was your idea to sort out the twins’ old clothes,” he reminded Riley.
“I wanted to box it away….”
“We can do it together at the weekend.”
“I want to do it today—”
“It’s a Tuesday.” Jack interrupted Riley’s reasons why. “I thought you said you had that report to read from Tom?”
Riley huffed a little. “I can’t concentrate.”
“So, you’re sorting clothes?”
“Is that a bad thing?” Riley sounded so defensive.
Jack sighed. “What are you avoiding?”
Riley raised an eyebrow, and Jack couldn’t help but press a kiss to his lips. After all this time together, he had learned these weird domestic chores Riley undertook were usually a way of avoiding things he didn’t want to do. Whether it was Riley’s way of thinking about things, or pure procrastination, Jack didn’t know.
“I have a shareholder meeting the first week of February.” Riley finally said.
“I know. I got the same letter, but I wasn’t planning on going. Why will this be different from any other meeting?” Jack was confused. Hayes Oil meetings were dry and boring, and he’d survived the only two he’d attended by slouching back in a chair directly opposite Riley. He would eat as many of the complimentary mints as he could manage and gently disrupt the meeting by rustling the wrappers. This never failed to make Riley smile. Mostly Jack conned Josh into going, or gave Riley his proxy. Still, when he did go, he loved nothing better than insolently lazing around and being all cowboy in the room full of suits. Inevitably, this led to hot sex with Riley, who couldn’t keep his eyes off Jack throughout the entire meeting.
“I have something to admit,” Riley said with a sigh. He eased himself away from Jack and leaned back against the cabinet. “Dad has appointed this new manager to the team, and we have a history.”
Jack huffed a laugh. “Riley, you have a history with so many people, I lost count.”
Riley looked affronted for a second, but that emotion didn’t slip into a ready smile, so Jack realized this was serious. Jack stood next to Riley and waited for the man he loved, to admit what the hell was going on. In fact, Riley had been weird for a few days: less quick to smile, less easy to poke at, in a hurry to go find a quiet space away from everyone.
“Not like that,” Riley said. “The woman’s name is Charlotte Harrold, and her dad is Josiah.”
Jack nodded. He and Josiah had their own kind of history, one where Josiah had tried courting Donna and failed, where Josiah looked down at Jack, and where Jack refused to give a rat’s ass. The fucker had blocked Hayes Oil on several occasions and didn’t have a high opinion of Riley, nor of Riley and Jack. Add to that, Tom, Riley’s right-hand man at work, had unfortunately had a run-in with Josiah Jr., Charlotte’s brother. Too much history between the Hayes and Harrold families.
“Why would Jim hire her, then?” Jack paused to think about what he knew concerning Charlotte. “I remember her being a bitch with daddy issues.”
Riley shrugged. “I don’t know. I mean, I asked him, and he said she’s good at what she does, and that she’s changed, whatever that means. Oh, and I should give her as much of a chance as people gave me.”
“Cryptic. So you think she’s going to cause trouble.”
Riley looked at Jack sharply. “Hell no. I know her work, and she’ll be an asset. It’s only….”
Jack tensed. “You slept with her.”
“Jesus, Jack,” Riley said instantly. “No way. She was Jeff’s. I mean she and Jeff were having an affair. He called her Charlie, and I damn well walked in on them once. The wedding photos were still wet at the printer’s, and there he was, fucking around on Lisa.”
. And we’re going to be in the same room as her. All I can remember is that Jeff was balls-deep in Charlie, and he had his hands—” Riley demonstrated with his hands in front of him in a ring. “—around her neck.”
Jack immediately realized what the problem was. The joined families, whether Campbell or Hayes, had quietly consigned Jeff and everything he had done to something never to be talked about. Riley never shared cute childhood stories where he, Eden, and Jeff were friends; no tales of brotherly misadventures. To Jack’s mind, Jeff had been born a sadistic bastard, and likely there were a lot of stories Riley hadn’t told him about the kind of things Jeff had done to both Riley and Eden.
“Seeing her makes you face what he did,” Jack said. He reached over and held Riley’s hand, lacing their fingers together and squeezing. This was what he did best. He was there for Riley, supporting him, holding him up, knowing as much as he needed to know, and still being there for the man who was his other half.
Riley sighed and bumped shoulders with Jack. “Yeah,” he whispered.
“So your dad doesn’t know that Jeff and Charlie were…?”
“No. I’m sure I’m the only one.”
“Lisa didn’t know?”
Riley squeezed back. “She always knew he was unfaithful, but with Charlie, no, I don’t think so.”
For a second, Jack allowed the words to settle. Lisa was damaged by much more than physical pain. She had a world of hurt where her dead husband was concerned, not least of which was the end result of what he did to her. The secret she carried with her was too awful for Jack to contemplate knowing how she lived with it.
“We don’t see enough of Lisa and the kids,” he said.
That was true. Lisa hadn’t visited in a while. Although to be fair, whenever Jack and Riley organized a family gathering of any sort, they always invited her. She’d moved to San Antonio with her fiancé, Ed, and was building a place for herself and the kids well away from the life she’d had here. Luke was sixteen, Annabelle coming up for nineteen. They weren’t at the ranch as often as Josh’s kids. They had lives of their own, but still, Jack was all about family.
“We’ll get them over, or maybe we’ll go visit them,” Jack said. He wasn’t going to let Riley focus on this one thing to distract himself from the central issue. “Back to the meeting. When you sit there, it will be all business, and if she comes over to talk to you, you smile, nod, and put on the best goddamn Riley act you can.”
“You’re not planning on being there.”
“I hate them,” Jack said, then he felt guilty. Riley was clearly concerned about the meeting, and he should make the effort. “I can try.”
“Don’t say that.” Riley smiled at Jack. “As much as I like it when you do that ‘I don’t care, I’m a hot, dusty cowboy’ thing, I seriously think you should stay away.”
Riley looked at him again. This time, the shadows had disappeared from his eyes. “It’s like torture for you.”
“Tell me more about how you like the cowboy thing,” Jack growled.
Riley grinned. “When you push the chair back and you kind of sprawl there, with your thumbs in your belt. You smile and nod when you need to and all I want to do is crawl over the table and ride you right there in the meeting.”
Jack’s cock swelled and pressed against his jeans. Riley’s voice was husky and low and sent every molecule of blood south.
“Sometimes you unwrap those stupid little mints, and you press one to your lips, and then you suck it in.”
“I like the mints.”
“All I can imagine is my cock in your mouth, and I’m so freaking hard I can’t concentrate on the numbers.”
Jack wriggled to get comfortable, and he had to press his free hand to his zip to ease some of the pressure. “Like it’s easy for me,” he muttered. “You in your suit, and those ties you wear, and all I can imagine is ripping it all off, tying you down and fucking you into tomorrow. That’s the only reason I go.”
Riley moved so quickly Jack didn’t have time to draw breath. He straddled Jack and pushed him back on the bed.
“Carol.” Jack mentioned their nanny’s name with the last remaining moments of having the presence of mind. “People…,” he added as a warning, as Riley stole his words with the deepest, dirtiest, messiest kiss he’d had since the last time they’d been in the barn.
Riley pulled back enough so Jack could look into his eyes. “Barn,” Riley said. “Now.”
Riley scrambled up and away, unbuttoning his jeans and adjusting himself. “Now,” he repeated.
With determination, they made it out of the house. Hayley was at school, Max out with Robbie and the horses, the twins were happy with Carol, so they had nothing to stop them. It didn’t matter it was ten in the morning, this was happening.
“Hey, boss,” Robbie called as Jack stepped outside.
Jack stopped so suddenly that Riley had to do some nifty footwork to try not to walk into the back of him. He didn’t quite manage it, and instead they met in a slam of limbs.
“Fuck,” Riley muttered.
“Hi, Robbie,” Jack said. He needed to cover the fact that he was hard and thanked the heavens that Riley had tugged out his shirt.
“Starting on the porch today,” Robbie said. He was carrying a box full of tools. “Lumber got delivered at the ass crack of dawn.” He gestured toward Jack and Riley’s barn, at the wood piled in front of the door.
Fuck. Whose idea was it to get a porch added to the main house?
Yours, you idiot.
Liam was next to him, a saw in one hand and a bucket of nails in the other. Liam didn’t seem to want to stand still, restlessly moving his weight from one foot to the other. Liam still wasn’t
comfortable talking to Jack one-on-one, but Jack didn’t have time to think about that now. He’d forgotten that today the lumber was arriving.
“Good. Riley and I are… inspecting… stuff.” Way to go with the lack of the English language.
“Stuff,” Riley repeated.
Robbie tilted his head a little and damn it if there wasn’t a slight smile on his face. “Okay, boss,” he said, then he and Liam carried on to the old barn and the woodpile.
Jack thought for a moment, then grabbed Riley’s hand, and in the space of a few minutes, they were leaving the ranch house and heading out on horseback. People were around; people were here: visitors to the riding center, people working. Along with kids, nannies, moms, dads, siblings. Hoping to find peace, Jack deliberately turned Solo to the east and into the parts of the ranch he knew Riley hadn’t seen, the rougher parts of the acreage that were fenced off.
Riley followed. Alex was a little skittish this morning until they were in a smooth canter and heading up into the thick, lush grassland to the east of the ranch. Ten minutes of riding, with no talking, and they reached a stand of trees. A small tributary from the main water supply to the Double D house carved through the coppice.
It was a typically cool, fresh January day.
Jack dismounted and tied Solo off, grabbing Riley’s hand as soon as Riley had secured Alex. He tugged Riley into the trees, to the one place that Jack knew they would get privacy. In his pocket, his tight pocket, he had lube. He was stripping before they stopped walking, and by the time they reached the smooth grassed area in the shade, he was naked and a trail of clothes lay behind them. Jack hoped to hell there were no armadillos in hiding or snakes waiting to pounce.