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Beautiful distraction, p.18
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       Beautiful Distraction, p.18

           J. C. Reed
 

  I look at the way he plays with it, the way he chews it between his teeth, letting his tongue slide along the blade. The same tongue that tortured and teased me. The same teeth that tugged at my earlobe. The same mouth that aroused and turned my world from gray into an array of colors.

  It’s been a nice vacation so far, probably the best in years.

  Correction.

  It was the best I ever had.

  He’s been inside me so many times I’m not sure I can walk straight anymore. It’s surprising we managed to get as far as the lake.

  Taking in the scenery before my eyes, I realize the walk was worth it. The lake is vast; the water is silent and deep—much like Kellan. I dread the moment I’ll have to go. That one last moment together when it’ll be clear I’ll never see him again. Ever since Mandy left, I’ve been counting the days, the hours, the minutes.

  She’ll be back tomorrow.

  My vacation’s drawing to an end.

  “No,” I say slowly. “I don’t miss the city at all. I sure don’t miss the stress.”

  “Your job?”

  “What?” I laugh and shake my head. “No.”

  “What about your home?”

  “God, no. My bedroom’s as small as a closet. It’s seriously crammed. But if you’re talking about my family…” I shrug. “They’re constantly traveling, barely calling. I rarely see them. I think it’s safe to say that I’m closer to my neighbors. You?”

  “Me?” His lips twitch. “What about me?”

  “Do you miss the city?”

  “Nah.” He shakes his head, turning his eyes back to the lake. “Not at all.”

  “Not even your car?”

  He shrugs. “Money can’t buy you everything.”

  I nod and let out a small sigh. “Maybe, but money can make your life easier. A lot easier.”

  He remains silent for a while.

  “That’s true,” he says at last. “But it doesn’t buy you happiness, nor does it make your life less complicated, or less of a mess. It sure hasn’t made mine.”

  And here it is again—a hint of his past without revealing too much.

  But his tone is different, as though he wants to talk but just can’t. As though opening up to someone doesn’t come easily to him, but maybe, just maybe, he feels as though opening up to me may be a possibility in the future.

  The past few days, I’ve been wondering what’s happening to him. It’s hard to believe that Kellan Boyd is the same man I met three months ago. The arrogance is still here, and the confidence, and as before, he exudes raw sex, but something is missing.

  I cannot pinpoint what it is.

  It’s as if one part of him died. But what part?

  There is the cowboy, wild at heart, loving the country and his family.

  And there is the rich, superficial guy with the expensive car, who is more concerned with sex and appearance than with human relationships.

  Who is he?

  It’s the one question that keeps haunting me. Kellan keeps denying that he’s involved with Club 69. He’s adamant that he’s a silent shareholder and nothing more. I want to believe him, and yet I cannot. Because I have no idea what he really does.

  Sure, he seems to know how to take care of a farm, but I’m not stupid enough to believe that a bit of livestock can earn him enough money to buy a Lamborghini and wear tailored clothes.

  Just like the lake in front of me, Kellan is still as much of a mystery to me as the day I arrived, and I have no idea how to get to the truth without being pushy.

  I have tried to get him to open up by confiding things I would never have told a stranger, like about my parents and their expectations of me. I have tried to be patient—all to no avail.

  He is a closed book, revealing little, if anything, while asking questions about my life.

  “What are you thinking?” he asks.

  I grow silent as I pry my eyes away from his stunning lips. “Just life, you know. What you said about happiness.”

  “It’s the country,” he whispers. “That’s why I love it here. Everything is still. It’s as if time has stopped. Don’t you think?”

  I turn to him, eyeing him again. “Yeah. It’s probably the part I’ll miss the most.” I didn’t mean to be so honest, but the words are out before I can stop them.

  “Not me?” he asks, brows raised.

  “No, not you.” I scowl and slap his arm playfully. “Obviously, you’re a jerk.”

  “Still?”

  “Very much.” I nod. “Big time. I have yet to forgive you for embarrassing me in front of your brother.”

  He lets out a laugh. “Relax. Ryder told me you had a nice body. That’s good feedback.”

  “It’s still embarrassing.”

  “Not around here, it isn’t. We’re like one huge family.”

  Maybe that part’s true, but I still don’t want my family to walk in on me having the time of my life with a guy.

  “You know what I don’t get?” I say, changing the subject. “Back in NY, you were this huge pain in the ass, and here you’re this Texan cowboy.”

  “I’m a Montana cowboy. Don’t compare us.” He winks at me. It’s hard to say whether he’s joking or really taking something so trivial seriously.

  “Why not?”

  “Because we differ in too many ways. We talk differently. We fuck differently. The weather around here is different. Don’t even get me started on attitude and culture.”

  This is the longest he’s talked. I don’t even care what we’re talking about. I just like his sudden openness; the fact that he lets me glimpse into his soul.

  “Give me an example,” I say, eager to prolong our conversation for as long as I can.

  “Let me think.” Kellan pauses for a moment, thinking. “You can legally toke up in Montana, but if you try that in Texas, you’ll get your ass thrown in jail.”

  “That’s about the most useless piece of information I’ve ever heard.” I grin at him. “What else?”

  “People don’t seem to care about keeping up with the Joneses. They just keep to themselves. You’ll notice the pace here is slower. We’re a close-knit community. We stick together. People are more down to earth. In so many ways, I think Texas has lost what Montana still has.”

  “Is that the reason why you’re back?” I ask gently.

  He peers at me, brows raised. “What makes you think I ever lived elsewhere?”

  I shrug. “Your chick magnet sports car?”

  He stays silent for a few moments, then shrugs. “That doesn’t say anything.”

  He’s evading giving me an answer again.

  “This is where I was born; where I grew up. It’s hard to get the same feeling elsewhere,” Kellan says.

  “What feeling?” I follow his line of vision. He’s staring out at the lake now. It’s so serene and quiet. Except for the birds and the soft rustling of leaves, nothing stirs.

  “Home,” he says. “The vast space. The air. The people. My happiest memories are here.” He turns to regard me again, his green gaze dark and hooded, filled with a past I wish I experienced with him. “Fun fact about Montana: we have plenty of cowboys here, but most of them ride bikes instead of horses.”

  “Except you.” I smile.

  “I prefer the old-fashioned way in everything.”

  He’s drifting off again, expertly maneuvering my questions so he avoids answering any of them. But I’ve never been one to give up easily.

  “Because your family goes back generations?” I ask.

  “You might be onto something.” He pulls me to him, and I know in that moment that he’s done talking about himself. “Tell me, how are you feeling?”

  “Good,” I say, wondering where he’s heading.

  He frowns. “Just good?”

  “Yeah, good. I couldn’t be better.” I smile at him to convey that yes, I like both his home and his company. “You’ve been asking me this question every morning.”

  “Because I like to
know I’ve left my woman satisfied.”

  I laugh again. “You do. You’re a good host, but…”

  “But what?”

  “You promised to teach me to ride and you haven’t.”

  “As far as I remember, we did plenty of riding.”

  “Except horses.” In spite of the relaxed conversation, I can’t help but feel a little melancholy. “All in all, I’m happy and satisfied.”

  “Good.” Kellan moves his arm around me and pulls me to his chest. “I’ve turned you into a country girl, then?”

  “Fat chance. I still have a lot to learn.”

  “Yeah? Like what.”

  Like how to be what he wants and needs.

  I shrug, as though my thoughts don’t matter. As though it doesn’t matter that I wish we met under different circumstances, in a different lifetime, with both of us ready for more than just a fling. “You still haven’t shown me around,” I say, implementing my own change in subject.

  “I’d be happy to give you the tour.”

  Except I’m leaving tomorrow.

  That reminds me we have less than twenty-four hours left. We’ve barely spent a week together, and yet it feels like an eternity has passed between us. Mandy was right. It feels like we’re an old couple. There’s chemistry, and yet there’s no safety net.

  I’m falling with no safety net.

  I don’t know what’s worse. Falling in love with a beautiful cowboy I’ll never see again or falling in love with a jerk I know will break my heart.

  In the end, it doesn’t matter. Both outcomes suck big time.

  We stay silent for a few minutes.

  Kellan resumes the conversation first. “Why don’t you move here?”

  His question takes me by surprise. I look up to search his green eyes. He averts his gaze as though he doesn’t mind saying the words but he doesn’t want me to look into his soul while he says them.

  “We could escape the madness of the past. Leave everything behind,” he adds. “We’d have all the time in the world. I could teach you everything you want to know.”

  I straighten, my heart thumping harder in my chest. “Do you want me to stay?”

  He shrugs. “I don’t think it’s bad here. And frankly, I think there’s a country girl somewhere inside you. I think deep down you want to help me with the farm.”

  He must be joking.

  Stupid, crazy hope.

  For a moment, I really thought—

  I shake my head, my mood suddenly plummeting to a new low in my life. “You wouldn’t pay me for my hard work.”

  “Probably not. That’s because I already pay people to do most of the farm work.” He sighs. “But I’m a great cook, can offer you a warm bed, and let’s not forget, I’ll always make sure you come first.”

  “Wow.” I grin at him. “You’re extremely generous.”

  “Or a good host,” he says, his expression sober.

  I give him a little shove. He laughs and lies back, squeezing his hands beneath his head. For a moment, I consider snuggling against his chest, but decide against it.

  We stay silent.

  The sky above us is a clear blue. Not a single cloud. Lying back, I close my eyes and relax, soaking in the warm rays, the wind softly caressing my skin.

  “Will you miss me?”

  His question knocks all air out of my lungs.

  I turn my head to him and find that he’s pulled his cowboy hat over his face. The corner of his mouth tugs up. It’s only thing I can make out, the only thing that gives away this isn’t as serious to him as it is to me.

  “I guess so.” A hint of sadness seeps into my voice.

  “Good.” His lips twitch. “When you leave me, I want to be in your mind for a long time.”

  You’re already in my mind and I haven’t even left yet.

  There’s no way we can feel so much attraction and have worlds separate us, and yet it’s happening.

  Kellan draws his hat back. “You’re awfully silent.”

  I avoid his eyes as my glance turns back to the lake.

  “I’m just thinking how beautiful this place is. That’s all.”

  That isn’t even a lie. This place is beautiful, but it wouldn’t hold my heart if it weren’t for him.

  He props up on his elbow, towering over me and shielding my face from the sun. And then he leans into me to steal the kind of kiss that makes me rip off his clothes, the kind that makes me forget we’re not a couple.

  We’ll never be.

  CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR

  “Kellan,” I draw out the word as I drop the hayfork. “There’s something wrong with the horse. It looks sick.”

  “Which one?” his voice bellows a moment before he storms into the barn.

  “That one.” I point my finger to a huge, black animal with the most bloated tummy I’ve ever seen. The poor thing’s so bloated, I wouldn’t be surprised if people could smell it within a five-mile radius.

  Kellan’s hand brushes over the horse’s head soothingly. “That’s a she. The mare’s about to give birth.”

  I stare at the horse, completely dumbstruck.

  “What?” Kellan laughs. “You thought she was overweight, didn’t you?”

  “I don’t want to lie, but yes, I thought she was.” Which is a lie. But I’d rather let him think I thought the poor animal lacked physical activity than admit that I thought she was bloated. My hands fly to my throat, suddenly nervous and in fear of the animal’s wellbeing. “Shouldn’t you be calling the vet?”

  “We’re in Montana. She’ll be done before he arrives.” Laughing, Kellan shakes his head and plants a kiss on my cheek. “You’re adorable, you know that?”

  More like stupid.

  “I’m glad you think that because I definitely feel more like a fool,” I say dryly.

  “You’re a fool for thinking that.” His gaze shoots to the mare. “We’ll get started soon. I need you to stay here and help.”

  My eyes widen. I’ve never been a fan of blood or pain. I want to run and wait this one out, but instead find myself asking faintly, “How?”

  “Keep talking to her, sing to her. She likes that. If she can’t manage on her own, I’ll intervene, but that rarely happens.”

  I stare at him. “You’re not going to be here?”

  “I’ll be outside, finishing up.” He squeezes my hand at my horrified expression. “Don’t worry. Just tell her everything will be fine. Giving life is such a beautiful thing. I want you to be there for her.”

  ***

  He’s right. It is a beautiful thing. The whole birthing only lasts about fifteen minutes, but it feels like a whole new life experience. I expected it to be gross, but it isn’t. It’s everything but ugly.

  The mare doesn’t writhe in agony. As I keep stroking her head, she remains silent, graceful. I laugh as the tiny legs of the foal squeeze out of her, followed by the rest of its body. I’m crying as the baby slides to the floor, wrapped in a gleaming membrane.

  I’m crying buckets and I don’t even know why.

  Scratch that.

  I know exactly why. I’ve never been so happy in my life. I’ve never felt so much in awe. For a long time, I just stand there and watch the tiny creature struggle to get to its feet.

  “You okay?” Kellan asks from somewhere behind me. His voice is soft.

  I nod and sniff. My hands wipe at my face to get rid of the annoying tears, but let’s face it. What’s the point when I probably look like a puffy fish anyway? “I just had no idea it would be like this.”

  “After watching this my whole life, it still surprises me every single time.” His arms wrap around me, hugging my back to his strong chest. “It’s okay to cry. You did great. I’m really proud of you.” He kisses the top of my head, and then spins me around to look at me. His thumb brushes over my cheek to wipe away the moisture. “Come on, we need to celebrate.”

  Shaking my head, I peel myself away from him and head for the huge doors.

  Kellan foll
ows after me. “Where are you going?”

  “Home.” I cringe at the word. What is happening to me? I shouldn’t be taking his attention when two poor animals might be in need of his assistance. “I mean your home.”

  “As long as you’re my guest, my home is your home, and you haven’t seen a lot of it.” He points over our heads. “I promised to give you the tour. Well, now’s the right time. You haven’t yet seen my personal space.”

  I peer up at the high ceiling. “Your personal space?”

  “It’s up there. I hope you’re good at climbing up ladders.”

  I suck at climbing up ladders, but that’s irrelevant right now. I’d climb up a ladder to the moon and back for a chance to see his personal space.

  Peering back up, I realize I should have known. This place is so huge, there has to be a top floor. I saw the windows outside.

  Kellan leads us to a narrow staircase, which I didn’t even notice until now.

  He climbs up hastily, his enthusiasm palpable in his swift strides.

  I follow him through a trapdoor and let him help me to my feet. As my gaze sweeps over the space, I’m struck speechless.

  The top floor is huge. Like an entire apartment huge.

  And way more modern than I would have anticipated. There’s a leather couch, a television set, even a small kitchen, with modern appliances.

  “Wow,” I say stunned.

  “This is my tiny abode,” Kellan explains.

  “Tiny?” I laugh. “Kellan, this is huge. And I’m not even thinking by NYC standards.”

  “When I was fifteen, my father decided that it was time my brothers and I got our own space. I think he did it to get rid of us. We were quite the noisy bunch.”

  I spin in a slow circle, taking in the guitar and musical instruments set up in a corner. Even I know this isn’t the usual stuff you get in the shops. It’s way too polished and huge, and there’s other stuff, like amplifiers and other black boxes, I think are for recording, but I’m not sure.

  “Is one of your brothers a musician?”

  “All of us were,” Kellan says. “We had our very own band. We called ourselves The Boyd Brothers, until we grew too old and developed other interests as well.” He winks. “Think girls and panties.”

 
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