I wasn’t supposed to fall for a sexy West Texas oilman. Reed Mullins, my steady beau, was working out just fine until Cash Dallas Bush walked into my life.
Cash Dallas Bush, favorite son of the oil-rich Midland, Texas Bush family, possessed enough looks and charm to guarantee himself a date with a different woman every weekend; he didn’t need me. He wanted me, though; he made that clear enough.
Torn between safe and steady Reed and the passionate, exciting Cash Dallas Bush, I made the hard decision to follow my heart and take a chance on the oilman. There was more to him than met the eye, though. He was a thrill-seeker, drawn to the blood sport of bull riding. The one thing I couldn’t roll with; the thing that kept my own father from me for years.
Can I take a leap of faith in the name of love?
Join me and my girl posse, Brinn Brooks, Ryder Gage and Lucy Claire Ravenel, in this heart-warning, swoon-worthy tale, as I navigate the inevitable pitfalls of my undeniable attraction to Cash Dallas Bush.
Excerpt #1 "Vice"
I watched Cash Dallas walk towards me, doing fine justice to a pair of Wranglers and a button-down shirt, his loose, sexy gait and piercing look clearly saying “I want you and I intend to have you” better than any words ever could. “Babe,” Cash Dallas said, his voice in my ear low and intimate, sending shivers down my arms. “Not thinking of running were you?”
“What do you want?” I whispered, though in my heart, I already knew.
“You and me, skin-to-skin, that’s what I want. I’ll give you plenty of flowers, gifts, and pretty words, but not tonight,” he said, as he curled a hand behind my neck and pulled me closer. “I want your savage little self tonight, Remy. Not the tame part you give to that pretty boy Reed Mullins.”
I should have pushed him away. I should have schooled him for his forwardness and his comment about Reed. I did none of those things. God help me, all thoughts of Reed, and everything else, left me as Cash Dallas gently pushed me against the wall, held my arms captive above my head, and touched his lips to mine. I finally put some distance between us, but there was NO coming back from that kiss.
“Ready, Darlin’?” he asked, holding out his hand to me.
How lost do you have to be to let the devil lead you home? I thought, and put my hand in his.
Excerpt #2 "Almost a Beat-Down"
I knew it was Becca the minute she walked into the room, I felt it immediately; a weight and importance in her presence that made me feel insignificant and out of place. Becca. Cash Dallas’s old flame; the girl everyone thought he’d marry. She made a beeline for us, her gorgeous gown, long, lush sable hair and perfect smile ensuring every eye in the room was on her, including Cash Dallas’s.
“Becca,” Cash Dallas said, arms outstretched. She walked into his embrace like it belonged only to her and a fist clenched around my heart. She’s in love with him, I thought, and she’s not going to let go. I should have stayed home. Now I was miserably stuck in this giant, overdone ballroom, my frozen social smile frozen making my jaws ache, while one foot away, Cash Dallas embraced his true match–a rich West Texas oil heiress whose dress cost more than my salon made in a month. I wanted to run, but I would not give this girl the satisfaction, so I remembered who I was, threw back my own impressive ash blonde tresses, proud in my $350 ice blue ball gown from Macy’s backstage that fit me like a glove, rocked my red lip smile courtesy of Revlon, and extended my hand toward the embracing couple. “I’m Remington Fordson-Kesson, Cash Dallas’s fiance,” I said in a voice just loud enough to break their “hug.”
Cash Dallas, to his credit, immediately dropped his arms from the woman, turned to me and drew me close to his side. “Remy, Darlin’, this is Becca Wagner, and old friend of mine.” Becca looked at me like a was a bug she needed to squash, but manners won out.
“Of course you are, dear,” she said, clasping my hand in both of hers. I’ve heard so much about you from Jim and Larinda. Welcome to Midland,” she finished, then dropped my hand and dismissing me, before turning to Cash Dallas and launching into the latest Midland gossip.
Battle lines clearly drawn, I softly touched Cash Dallas’s cheek. “Babe, I’d love another glass of champagne, and I don’t see a waiter. Would you mind?” I said.
“Sure thing, Darlin’. Be right back,” Cash Dallas said, taking my face in his hands and giving me a quick kiss, before going in search of a waiter and leaving me and Becca standing there, claws bared.
“You’re wasting your time,” she said, the social smile long gone. “Who do you think you are; some girl from some little redneck town who runs a beauty parlor.”
I gave her my best “bitch you’re about to get a beat down” look; the one I learned from my own mother, Maelyn Mercury Fordson, and my granny, Tin Lizzy. “I’m Cash Dallas’s FIANCÉ; that’s who I am,” I said, “and you’re just an old ‘has been’ girlfriend wasting my time,” I said, turning my back and dismissing HER.
She grabbed hold of my arm, but I’d had more than enough. I turned around to look at her, then down at her hand where it gripped my arm. I pried her fingers off my arm and started to squeeze, hard, causing her to flinch and try to pull out of my grip. I’d pulled a million triggers, wielded a blow dryer countless hours and I had a grip of iron.
“Excuse me, I see MY FIANCÉ coming with my drink.” I said, letting go of her fingers and leaving her standing there alone, rubbing the fingers I’d just squeezed the life out of. Round one to me, I thought, cause that’s how we roll in MY part of Texas.
Excerpt #3 "Southernmost Asset" (Chapter 1 of Remy)
One good tug should do it, I thought, as I checked my reflection in the mirrored wall and tried to focus on my mother’s words.
“It’s THE best PIN and I think we should try it first thing in the morning; it’ll be perfect… Be at the boutique at six o’clock tomorrow morning,” my mother ran on, leaving me no room to get a word in edgewise.
“MOTHER,” I said, when she paused to take a breath. “I’m sure it’s a great PIN and I’m happy to try it with you, but I need to go. I’m at a breast cancer benefit dance, in a ballroom at the elegant Adolphus Hotel and my Spanx is riding up. Pulling at my underwear with one hand and holding the phone to my ear with my other, even though I understand your Pinterest obsession, I surely do, is NOT a good look. Just text me pics; I’ll look at them when I go to the bathroom, but I gotta’ go now. Oh, and that six o’clock tomorrow morning thing? Not happenin’. Love you more,” I said, lowering my phone and doing one more quick mirror check.
My black mermaid-style evening gown clung to my waist and hips like a second skin before flaring out at my knees into graceful black and white pleated folds, leaving NO room for bunched up Spanx. There now, everything looks okay, I thought, as I admired the light reflection of glitter on my shoulders, courtesy of the shimmery powder I’d brushed on to compliment the off-the-shoulder cut of the dress.
I caught movement behind me, in the mirror’s reflection, and stilled. A guy. Looking my way.
“I just caught you looking at my ass,” I said, turning to the man I’d busted red-handed, definitely sneaking a look at my butt.
“Why, yes m’am, I was. Can’t fault a guy for admiring such a beautiful ass. I’m Cash Dallas Bush,” he said, offering his hand. “And you are?”
WTH, I thought. I was going to be pissed if I messed up the pristine red bottoms on my Louboutin stilettos kicking this creep’s ass. Except that he wasn’t; a creep, that is. At worst, a voyeur; at best, just a guy being a guy. But creepiness was definitely not what I saw when I got a good look at him. My love life with the safe and steady Reed Mullins usually kept me immune to the charms of pretty boys, but this guy—the over-long blond hair, a slightly crooked nose that looked as if had been broken once upon a time, black bespoke tuxedo stretched across broad shoulders, and a Sons of Anarchy’s Jax Teller smile made me pause for a good minute.
“I am… inclined to punch you in the throat, but I’m feeling generous, so I’m going to give you a pass,” I said.
“Ah, not ready to offer up your name, yet? Well then, Darlin’, apologies for my lack of manners for looking, and ‘my bad’ for getting busted, but NO apologies for my appreciation of the fine view,” he said, upping the wattage on an already mega-watt smile, and offering a slight bow as he turned to go. Was that a bow? I thought. Hmph. James Bond wannabe. But that voice; it was sexy West Texas drawl all the way.
“Remy,” I said, stopping him for no good reason I could think of. “My name is Remy.”
“Remy,” he repeated my name, brushed my hand with a light kiss, then disappeared into the crowd.
~ ~ ~
“SHUGGA, WHEAH ON EARTH have you been?” Lucy Claire said, as she approached me from behind and yanked hard on the back of my dress, quickly fixing the apparently still messed up Spanx. Women from the Deep South excel at that sort of thing—putting clothes to rights. Making embarrassing moments look charming. And, speaking sweet words in a melodious Southern accent while schooling the hell out of you at the same time. My friend, Lucy Claire Ravenel, true Charleston deb, was no exception.
Brinn Baylee, Ryder Madean and I had met Lucy Claire a couple of years ago during a girls weekend in Dallas, and none of us ever looked back. We knew a kindred spirit when we met one. Lucy Claire had done me the singular service of holding back my hair while I threw up in the beautifully-appointed bathroom at the bar in The W Hotel, the weekend SMU played Alabama. Normally, Brinn or Ryder would have done the honors, but when I’d made my way to the ladies room, I hadn’t known throw-up was in my immediate future.
~ ~ ~
MID-HEAVE, I FELT blessedly cool air on my neck, and post-heave, I glanced down to see a pair of gorgeous red Manolo Blahnik stilettos gracing small, delicate feet. How did someone get in the stall with me, and who the hell was it, I thought.
“Oh, Shugga, where’s your posse? This must’ve come on you all sudden-like. Heah, hold this,” she said, pulling my mass of ash blonde hair out of harms way so I could get a better grip on it myself. “I’m gonna get you a wet papuh towel; just hold your breath, Darlin’. I’m-a be quick-like.”
“Quick-like,” she was back, gently wiping my face with a cold, wet paper towel. “There, that’s better now, right, Shugga?”
“Oh God, thanks,” I muttered, and glanced up at my angel of mercy, a beautiful girl whose parts fit her perfectly — beachy waves of long chestnut hair, perfectly symmetrical features, a body made for the classic black tailored slacks and silk white tank she wore, and of course, those great shoes. “Who ARE you and HOW did you get in this stall with me?”
“Ah, gurlfriend, the door wasn’t shut all the way, and I came up on these skanky girls tryin’ to peer in on you and your troubles, so I shooed ’em away. I could hear you retchin’ something awful,” she shuddered, “and just knew you would need to wipe your face. I’m Lucy Claire Ravenel, and if it’s okay with you, we’ll do the hug thang after you’ve had a chance to brush your teeth,” she finished, holding out her beautifully manicured hand to help me up.
~ ~ ~
Brinn, Ryder and I formed a bond with Lucy Claire Ravenel that night. Gross that it was formed over some regurgitated top shelf margaritas, but it was a tight bond, and from that night on, our posse of three became a posse of four—three life-long friends from a small redneck town in the south, and one bon-a-fide Dixie chick.
~ ~ ~
“WE’VE BEEN LOOKIN’ everywheah for you,” she said. “I’ve got Brinn covering the North side of the ballroom, Ryder lookin’ on the South side, and I was workin’ the middle.
Being born way south of the Mason-Dixon Line, and having a great-great-great grand daddy who fought in the Civil War, Lucy Claire thought of most things in terms of north and south.
“Lucy Claire, I just stepped away for a minute to adjust my Spanx and take a call from Momma. Sorry y’all had to hunt for me, but great reconnaissance plan, by the way,” I said, paying homage to Lucy’s north-south ways.
“Oh gurl, I immediately spotted that awful ruch in your dress; just a good pull was all it needed. Maelyn Mercury find another fabulous PIN? Anyway, come on. I want you to meet Devon Almanteer. He’s the friend of the son of my mother’s cousin, or some such thing. I think you’ll like him,” she said, taking hold of my elbow and gracefully leading me where she wanted me to go.
“Lucy Claire, I don’t need a man; I have Reed,” I said, but knew this statement would fall on deaf ears.
“Oh, really,” she said. “Has the esteemed Mr. Mullins dropped to bended knee, with an appropriate-sized diamond, and proposed?” Lucy Claire’s view was that until you had a decent-sized rock on the third finger of your left hand, you remained, peripherally at least, “on the lookout.”
I grinned at her.
“That’s what I thought,” she said. “Now, let’s go meet the lovely Mr. Almanteer. Honey, Reed is charmin,’ I’ll give him that, but he lacks fire and passion, my sweet Remy, and you, my dear gurl, need fire and passion. Now, I’ll concede that Devon Almanteer may lack fire and passion, too—it’s too early yet to tell—but it nevah hurts to have a spare escort. If you don’t want him, he probably make a fine escort for Brinn Baylee. All that blondness between them, why it would be stunnin’,” she said, referring to Brinn’s white blonde hair and pale skin and what I assumed was the same for Mr. Almanteer.
“And for the record, Remington Louise,” Lucy Claire continued, not missing a step, “don’t think I didn’t see that divine man kissin’ your hand. We’re gonna’ discuss that later, you heah? Let’s hurry; I hope Mr. Almanteer stayed wheah I put him.”
AFTER AN INTRODUCTION to the white blonde Mr. Almanteer—Lucy Claire was right—Brinn’s “white blondness” would pair stunningly with Devon Almanteer—Ryder, Brinn and I found seats at the bar, leaving Lucy Claire waltzing to George Strait’s “Man in Love with You” with her male counterpart—a Rhett Butler look-a-like. Sipping on smooth Crown Royal bourbon, we surveyed the room. Brinn’s eyes following Mr. Almanteer, though she’d never admit it. Me subconsciously looking for the James Bond wannabe—what was up with that? And Ryder, well, being Ryder; her lazy, slightly dangerous gaze taking in every aspect of her surroundings. Tall, slim and strikingly beautiful in a turquoise halter gown with a mass of auburn curls falling around her shoulders, Ryder was a Gage, and they were all a little feral.
We drank our way through a couple of slow dances without partners and finally, the band launched into Shania Twain’s “Man! I Feel Like A Woman,” and we were on our feet. Let’s go, girls. We were in Texas, after all.
Fanning myself from my “Feel Like a Woman” sing-a-long, I felt a hand on my shoulder and turned to look into the deep blue eyes of my James Bond wannabe.
“Remy, they’re playing our song,” he said, holding his hand out to me, as the opening notes of Jason Aldean’s “Girl Like You” began. Without a second’s hesitation, I took his hand.
~ ~ ~
Moving around the dance floor in the arms of my James Bond wannabe’ was a treat. He was a smooth dancer, keeping the perfect distance between us, his hand warm on my back, my hand resting lightly in his. None of that bear hug, breath huffing in your ear, hand clutch, complete with the swinging arm thing that so many guys called dancing. This was floating. Floating with… What did he say his name was? Crap, it’d been three bourbons since he introduced himself. Oh, well, I thought, I’ll just go with the flow.
The song ended and “Bond, James Bond” took me back to my seat at the bar, amidst very curious looks from Ryder and Brinn, and a very knowing look from Lucy Claire.
“Thanks… Uh…” I started. Oh, snap, I shouldn’t have uttered that “Uh.” It sounded exactly like I’d forgotten his name, which I had.
Bond grinned at me. “You’ve forgotten my name, haven’t you? I’m wounded, Remy. See there, I remembered YOUR name.”
“Busted,” I said. “I’ve had a few since I first met you. So, what IS your name, anyway?”
“Let’s start over,” he said, with a cocky grin. “Pretend I never got caught admiring your southernmost asset. “I’m Cash Dallas Bush, and it would be my pleasure to buy you a drink.”
“Okay, I’ll go along,” I said, “though they’re giving these drinks away for free, doncha’ know. I’m Remington Kesson. ‘Remy’ for short.”
“Remington. Interesting name,” he said, “but I like ‘Remy.’ It suits you. And ‘Remy, Darlin’’ suits you even better. Where are you from?”
“I’m from Buckle; it’s a small town southeast of Dallas,” I said. “You?”
“I’m originally from Midland, but I live in Dallas now,” he said. “Are you about ready for a refill? What are you drinking?” he asked, eying my almost empty glass.
“Bourbon. Crown,” I said, moving over a little to let him get to the bar. Oh, Lord, he smelled good.”
“Crown. That’s my girl,” he said.
“To new friends,” he said, clinking his glass against mine. “To us.”
“To new friends,” I said, not sure about that “To us,” thing. Too much, too soon, maybe?
“You feel like taking another turn around the floor? Cole Swindell’s “Middle of a Memory” had just started.
“Let’s do it,” I said, setting my glass down on the bar and following him onto the dance floor.
Coming off the dance floor, we met Ryder and some short, rotund man. “Remy, you about ready to hit the door?” she said. “I think Brinn and Lucy Claire are ready.”
“Yep, I’m ready,” I said, and turned to offer my thanks and goodbye. “Thanks for the dance, but my friends are ready to leave, so…”
“Ah, Darlin’, I hate that you have to go,” he said, still holding onto my hand. “Im gonna’ look you up, soon, ‘Remy from Buckle, Texas.’ Count on it.” And with one good squeeze of my hand, he released me.
~ ~ ~
CROWDED INTO THE back seat of a black Town car that Lucy Claire’s design firm had provided along with the benefit tickets, we started a post-mortem of the evening.
“I’ll go first, Shuggas,” Lucy Claire said. “I had a wonderful time tonight. I didn’t meet MY prince charmin’, or any other prince charmin’, but I danced with quite a few lovely gentlemen.”
“What about that guy you danced with who looked like Rhett Butler?” I said. “He was handsome.”
“Yes, handsome, with a wife and three babies at home,” she said.
“I’ll go,” said Brinn. “I mostly danced with Devon Almanteer. He’s nice and he asked for my number.”
“I knew it,” Lucy Claire said, clapping her hands. “I just knew he’d be perfect for you. Y’all make a beautiful couple.”
“I liked Devon, Brinn,” I said. “I got to talk to him a little bit and he’s a sweet guy. And a history professor at SMU, no less. Y’all have a lot in common.”
“I’ve got nothing,” Ryder said. “Danced a few dances, had a few drinks. Enjoyed myself. Can’t meet Mr. Right every time, right? Besides, I’ve got a hot date at Dixie’s tomorrow night, so it’s all good.”
“My turn,” I said. “Ryder, who on earth was that short, no other way to say it, basketball shaped man you were dancing with and where did you find him?”
“Oh, him,” Ryder said, busy twisting up her hair in a ponytail holder she’d squirreled away somewhere (though I don’t know where, owing to her form fitting dress). “He found me. At the bar. He just appeared out of nowhere and said he’d give me fifty dollars if I’d dance with him; something about a bet with his friends. I liked that Cole Swindell song, so I went for it.”
“Ryder Madean Gage, that’s almost like prostitution,” Brinn said.
“No, sweet Brinn,” Ryder said. “That’s a quick fifty bucks.”
“Oh, Ryder, Honey, you nevah fail to amaze and impress me; no you don’t,” Lucy Claire said, laughing.
“And you, the po-leece. Some po-leece,” I said, joining in the laughter.
“You have anything else to report, Remy?” Lucy Claire said, with a sly look.
“Who, me?” I said. “No, nothing much for me. Like Ryder, danced a few dances, had some good bourbon. You know, just regular stuff.”
“That guy you danced with at the end. He didn’t look like regular stuff to me,” Brinn said.
“The same man who brushed an intimate kiss on your hand earlier in the evenin’, right, Shugga?” Lucy Claire said.
“Mountains out of molehills, y’all,” I said.“I met him earlier in the evening. Actually, I busted him checking out my butt. The hand kiss was an apology of sorts, I think, then I danced with him a few times. That’s it. End of story.”
“End of story, my foot,” Ryder said. “I heard him say, when we were leavin’ the dance floor, and I quote: ‘I’m gonna’ look you up soon ‘Remy from Buckle, Texas.’ Count on it.’”
“I bet he says that to all the girls,” I said dismissively. But, my love for and relationship with Reed Mullins not withstanding, I secretly thought I’d quite enjoy being “looked up” by James Bond/Cash Dallas Bush.