Sweetgrass Springs Stories
Texas Heroes, Book 23
He’s a country superstar; she’s a small town waitress. When the real world slams into their stolen dream, whose heart will be the one to break?
Jeanette Carson has been a fixture as a waitress in Ruby’s Cafe ever since high school. Walker Roundtree is country music’s brightest star, known by all for his laid-back charm and irresistible appeal to the opposite sex. Ever since his first visit to Sweetgrass Springs, there have been verbal fireworks between him and Jeanette as she proved to be the only woman immune to his charm.
Now their paths have crossed in the outside world, and they’re seeing each other in a new light. Fireworks of a very different sort are sparking the sky—but then Walker’s world is upended by a tragedy, and the only one who steps in to help him is the very woman who swore never to put herself at his mercy. For a few days, they have only each other to rely upon, and these two lonely hearts find refuge in each other.
But all too soon, the real world demands its due, and their refuge is no longer private. The days of dreaming, the nights of yearning and hope face the harsh light of reality, and the only question is:
Whose heart will be the one to break?
Includes an original song, Never Forever, written and performed especially for this story by Eric Dove and available on iTunes, CDbaby and Amazon, also performed on the audiobook.
Excerpt: Texas Charm
Jeanette glanced around the backstage area buzzing with excitement and anticipation, necks craning, attention whipping toward the door as each new person entered.
After each disappointment that it wasn’t Walker Roundtree, the noise level rose higher.
This was his world, and she so did not fit here.
She was wearing too many clothes, for one thing.
“I told you,” Hayley’s practiced glance skipped over the assembly. “Nobody is wearing anything like your outfit.” Hers was an evil grin. “And they’re jealous because they all look alike.”
“They’re not wearing much at all,” Jeanette reminded her. “And I look out of place. Don’t tell me that’s not true. I don’t belong here, Hayley.” Not only here backstage, but here in L.A. Here in Hayley’s world. That became more evident by the day.
“That’s only because you’re too nice to people.”
Jeanette goggled. No one in Sweetgrass would swallow that. “I’m not nice.”
Hayley snorted. “Hon, you may have a sharp tongue for Sweetgrass, but you’re a babe in the woods here.” She smiled, and it was a little scary to see. “But I’ll get you trained in no time.”
“Hayley, I don’t think—”
A shake of platinum hair and a sharp look halted her. “Don’t let Little Miss Anorexia bother you. You have a gift, Jeanette. The outfit you’re wearing is going to be in the trades tomorrow, just you wait and see. Then the sky will be the limit. I thought I’d have to send a kidnapping squad after you to get you out of South Nowhere.”
Today’s client had been the worst, but she was sadly typical of the pervasive anxiety and high-strung nature of the women Hayley wanted her to dress. “Just because you don’t appreciate Sweetgrass doesn’t mean it’s not special.”
Hayley’s head whipped up, a retort on her lips suddenly giving way to a thousand-watt smile aimed past Jeanette’s shoulder. The noise in the room died.
Jeanette turned around to see Walker framed in the doorway—only not the Walker she was used to. This man had on no tool belt, wore no faded jeans or t-shirt.
This was the star, in the flesh. The Love God of Country Music, as he’d been dubbed a few years ago. His shaggy brown hair with golden sun-streaks was hidden under a black cowboy hat, his broad shoulders and wickedly muscled chest and abs coated like a second skin by a tight black t-shirt, his black jeans belted with a big silver buckle, snakeskin boots on his feet.
She couldn’t have spoken if her life had depended on it.
Apparently Hayley could, though. “Walker…” she purred. Her too-white teeth gleamed, her hair swished as she preened for him, her tiny frame lifted by ankle-breaker stilettos.
He smiled at Hayley, a practiced smile he’d already given to others as he crossed the room.
His gaze slid to her. His eyes widened. “Slim?”
She cocked one eyebrow at his incredulous tone. Finally found her voice and remembered how they were together. “Yeah?”
“What are you doing here?” His eyes scanned her, and she felt it burn over her skin.
“It’s not a free country?”
Hayley restrained her with one hand on her arm. “What she means is thank you for the backstage passes.”
Wry amusement lit his mossy green gaze. “Yeah? That what you meant to say, Slim?” His eyes scanned her insolently, a slow, grazing kiss moving like molasses down her body, then just as lazily drifting back up. “Damn, girl. I’ve hardly ever seen you out of your waitress getup. That is one hell of an outfit.” He winked, flashing that ladykiller smile she’d seen too often in photos and news footage.
“You’d never believe she possesses so much style, living in that podunk town,” Hayley stated. “I’m getting her seen by all the right people to prove to her that she’s wasting her life back in Texas.”
Walker cocked his head. “Are you?” His gaze quickly shifted to Hayley. “Best I can tell, Ruby’s Cafe would fall apart without her.”
Hayley sniffed. “Anyone can be a waitress. Her talent with needle and thread is unique.”
“Not everyone can bury an insult in a compliment that well.” He locked his gaze on hers as he spoke to Hayley. “But no question she’s right. You’ve got style, Slim.”
She resisted the urge to cross her arms over her chest. She’d never worn half the garments she’d made for herself. There was nowhere in Sweetgrass that called for this fitted scarlet gown with its exaggerated pointed stand-up collar that rose several inches above her shoulders, its lines clinging to breast, waist and hip, then bias-cut to the knees, each step revealing a flash of leg and the red stiletto sandals that were currently killing her.
He grinned again, but this one felt…private. “That is some dress,” he said softly.
“Walker, it’s time,” a man in a headset said from his elbow.
“Duty calls,” he murmured, then leaned in to brush his lips over her jaw.
Jeanette froze. She was more comfortable with the sharp banter they usually exchanged when he was in town.
Warm breath wafted over her ear as he murmured. “Wait for me, Slim.” Then he straightened and spoke to an assistant hovering behind him. “Make sure these two lovely ladies are cleared for the after-party, Margie.”
A sharp frown from Margie scraped over Jeanette’s skin. “Sure thing, boss.” But in her eyes was warning.
No doubt he did this all the time. Walker Roundtree was the hottest star in country music and had been for several years. He had hot and cold running women, no doubt, and his assistant had just neatly dumped her into that company.
“We are so there,” Hayley said from beside her.
Jeanette shook her head. “I don’t think—”
“Shut it, girlfriend. You’re in my capable hands now, and I’m telling you that we’ll do some business at that party, just you wait and see.” Hayley scanned her as he had, but her look only got Jeanette’s back up. Walker’s, for some odd reason, made her breathless.
She didn’t do breathless. “You’re too bossy, Barbie. Maybe I don’t want to go.”
Hayley rolled her eyes. “Don’t even think about arguing with me.”
“Maybe Scarlett isn’t so wrong to dislike you.”
“Boo hoo. I’m all torn up.”
Then the roaring of the crowd at Walker’s entrance made conversation impossible.