Cover Design: Elizabeth Mackey
A scandal ended the careers of the Wilder Sisters, the chart topping country rock band. But Lexi Wilder is okay with that, thanks for asking. She’s been on the road since roughly forever, and even if the scandal has followed her home to Whistle Cove, California, Lexi is going to enjoy the break. After all, there’s quite nothing like the beautiful sandy beaches of Monterey Bay to calm a woman’s soul.
Luke Wyatt never asked to trade fame and fortune for the only woman he’s ever loved.
Now that he’s finished a punishing year-long national tour, all bets are off. He’s coming back to his hometown of Whistle Cove for the quiet, the beaches, the inspiration, and the girl. Not necessarily in that order. There’s pressure from Nashville to deliver more country gold like the #1 song he co-wrote with Lexi Wilder.
But Lexi can’t forgive Luke for choosing fame over her…
Kind of Rain by Tim
You Didn’t Know by
Miss Me by Sam Hunt
Happy Man by Thomas
Everything by Brad
Wanna by Thomas
She recognized the deep voice, the smooth sound of whiskey if it could speak. Lexi whipped around to face Luke Wyatt. Her heart hiccupped at the sight of his long and lean body braced against the side of her cottage. One corner of his mouth tipped up in a half smile and he studied her with those deep and fathomless dark eyes.
Her mouth was dry. Knees? Liquid. “W-what are you doing here?”
“Wasn’t going to give you the chance to say you don’t want to see me.” He moved away from the side of the house and took a step toward her. “Tour’s over. I’m home.”
Despite her churning gut, she found her voice. “We have no vacancy. You’ll have to stay somewhere else.”
He went brows up. “Just checked in.”
When she didn’t speak, but simply swallowed and blinked, trying like hell to regain her balance, he filled in the silence.
“Still mad at me. Still won’t talk to me.”
She was so not prepared to deal with this today. With him. “Why would I be mad? You mean because you wrote an entire album all about our private life? Every single private and personal thing about us. After everything I’ve been through with Sabrina. No, why would I be mad about that?”
“Baby,” he said, squaring his shoulders. “It’s what songwriters do. We write about our life, the pain and the joy.”
“I’d rather keep my private life private.”
“I’m sorry,” he said. “I was hurting. You wouldn’t take any of my calls. You wouldn’t come see me.”
“You didn’t seem to be hurting. You were all over my TV set, cozying up to gorgeous models and reality TV stars.”
She’d seen the woman practically on Luke’s lap at a televised awards show. And he was mad she hadn’t called him back? If he’d been hurt when she stopped taking his calls, he sure in the hell got over it quickly enough.
He took a step toward her making her take one back. No, no, no. Already she felt her body buzzing from being this close to him for the first time in a year.
“Give me a break, Lex. You know what this life is like. I didn’t even know that woman.”
Lexi did an internal face palm. No, no. It would not go this way. Check her out letting loose with all her pent up hurt and anger the minute he showed up, giving Luke every indication of how much she still cared about him. If she didn’t care at all, maybe the rumors of these women wouldn’t bother her so much. So she’d already blown her cover in the first twenty seconds of seeing him. Get a grip.
She’d expected to do much better than this if she ever ran into him again, say in Nashville while visiting Miranda Lambert to collaborate on some songs. Lexi would have another hit song by then. Maybe she’d be dating another handsome country singer not named Luke Wilder. She’d be over him by then.
Chalk it up to running into him so unexpectedly but this wasn’t how it was supposed to go. He shouldn’t still look so good to her, his beard making him look like a strong mountain man. Like a man who would take care of his woman.
For Luke, it turned out his career came first. Not her.
But the thing to do here was pretend it didn’t make a difference whether he stayed or left. Pretend he had that little effect on her. Maybe it wasn’t too late to salvage what little was left of her pride.
“I’m sorry.” She shook her head. “I’m being rude.”
He quirked a single brow. “Yeah?”
Score one for Lexi. She’d shocked him. Good.
“Of course. You’re a paying guest and I’m usually not so…so…”
“Pissy?” He gave her another smile, this one lifting both corners of his mouth and demonstrating he still had the power to render her speechless when he laid on the charm.
“Yeah. Pissy.” She let out a half-hearted fake laugh and waved hand in the air. “Rough day. You know how it is. Sisters.”
His brow furrowed. “And how’s Sabrina doing?”
Luke had a front row seat to the implosion of the Wilder Sisters. He’d been performing alongside them at the stadium in Oklahoma when Sabrina had her public mini-meltdown. Even though their demise as a band had meant his opportunity for stardom, Lexi didn’t doubt he’d been sorry about the way it had all happened.
When she’d been worried about Sabrina, whose entire life from the time she’d been ten had been the stage, Luke had held Lexi every night until she fell asleep, assuring her that Sabrina would survive this. They all would. And she’d fallen even deeper for the man. Luke reminded her there would be life after all the speculation and rumors. Because Luke Wyatt knew a lot about scandal. He understood what it was like to feel like you had to apologize just for being allowed to breathe the same air as everyone else.
“She’s okay. Still walks around with ear buds in all the time, singing and dancing. It’s in her blood. But I don’t think she wants to get back up on a stage anytime soon. None of us do.”
He nodded, as if he understood all too well. “And you. Are you still writing?”
Not with you.
Never again with you.
The wall was still up and there it would stay. If anything, she’d wallpaper it. But she was a Wilder first and foremost, and yes, they could put on a show.
She shrugged and got ready to lie. “Here and there.”
“I’m supposed to write a few more hit songs.” He held up finger quotes. “They want me back in the studio next week. So I thought I’d come here and relax. See if I can find some inspiration.”
His gaze took a slow slide down the length of her body and she almost felt…naked. She was so not going to be his inspiration. Not this time. He’d taken enough material from her already.
She took a breath and went for deep sincerity. “I hope you find what you’re looking for, Luke.”
And with that she opened the door to her cottage and closed it in his face.
She lives in northern California with her family.