Successful, workaholic author Carrie Bennett lives through her writing, but can’t succeed at writing a man into her life. Furthermore, her equally successful but cynical daughter, Paige, proves inconsolable after the death of her fiancé.
Hard-drinking rancher Ray Ryder can find humor in just about anything—except the loss of his oldest son. His younger son, Jake, recently returned from Iraq, now keeps a secret that could shatter his deceased brother’s good name.
On one sultry night in Texas, relationships blossom when the four meet, starting a series of events that move from the dancehalls of Hill Country to the beach parties of East Hampton, and from the penthouses of New York to the backstreets of a Mexican border town. But the hurts of the past are hard to leave behind, especially when old adversaries threaten the fragile ties that bind family to family…and lover to lover.
Ray took notice of his fast-disappearing drink; Carrie wondered if he normally drank whiskey as if it were water.
“So, when did you start writing?”
“The day he walked out the door.” She took a sip of her margarita. “It was good therapy.”
His dark, piercing eyes penetrated her in a way that made her feel violated. Then, gently, he reached forward, took her drink to put on the windowsill along with his own and extended his hand.
“What? What are you doing?”
“You know how to Texas Two-Step?” he asked.
“No,” she said, laughter just below the surface.
“Well, sweetheart, you have come to the right place. Or at least got yourself the right man. By the time I finish with you, you’ll be the best dang stepper on the floor.”
Carrie looked around. “There isn’t anyone else on the floor at the moment, Ray.”
“Well, heck, I know that. That’s perfect for learning.”
As soon as his hand closed around hers, the leather of his palm a strange glove over her own fingers, a sudden frisson of connection ran through her she hadn’t known in a very long while. He moved her to face him squarely on, a small smile tipping the edges of his mouth, the dark, impenetrable eyes shining with his captured prize.
“Just follow me,” he said as his right hand went to her back. A cover of a Vince Gill ballad started, the mournful tune setting a moderate tempo. “Perfect.” He held her right hand high and applied slight pressure to move her backwards. “Fast fast slow slow, fast fast slow slow.”
Carrie felt a light bulb go on. She got it. It was good. It was fun. And she relaxed in his embrace. He was an excellent teacher, a fabulous leader on the dance floor. Would wonders never cease?
“You’re doing well. You’re doing fine,” he assured her. “We’re gonna try a little promenade now, and then a twirl, so get ready.”
Carrie couldn’t stop herself from smiling, anticipation bubbling for just a second. And then out of the corner of her eye she caught Ty watching them, beer half-raised in salute and a smirk plastered on his face. A moment’s hesitation and she missed the step.
“What happened there?” asked Ray, oblivious to the effect the onlooker had on her.
Other couples were finally joining them on the dance floor, but despite the company, Carrie’s discomfort increased. “That boy, that Ty,” she told him. “He was watching us. It made me feel…uneasy.”
Ray scanned the sidelines, but Ty had gone, nowhere to be seen. “Oh, don’t pay him any mind. He’s harmless enough.”
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