Better Together - Signed Paperback
Better Together - Signed Paperback
- Order your signed paperback directly from the author
- Include your email at checkout to get shipping updates
- Books are shipped within three days of order unless otherwise indicated
She doesn’t believe in love, but a marriage of convenience with her best friend might change her mind.
Wolf Creek Ranch Book 4
- Friends to More
- Instant Family
She doesn’t believe in love, but a marriage of convenience with her best friend might change her mind.
Colt has been in love with Remi for years, but she friendzoned him a long time ago. When tragedy strikes, Remi comes up with a plan to help—she'll marry him so he can get custody of his niece and nephew. All the odds are stacked against him, but Remi’s crazy proposal just might work.
Remi wants nothing to do with relationships, but when she sees how determined Colt is to help his niece and nephew, she can't stand by while they're taken from him. Her painful childhood might be locked up in the past, but she has a chance to give these sweet kids the life she always wanted. Marriage doesn’t have to mean risking her heart, right?
Being married to Remi is Colt's dream come true, but the hurts of her past keep her at arm's length. Can he show her that love is the path to healing?
Better Together is a sweet friends to romance and the fourth book in the Wolf Creek Ranch series.
Read Chapter One
Read Chapter One
Dust and dirt settled over the rodeo arena as Colt closed the catch pen. That was the last of the bronc rides. Judging from the cheers, no one seemed to be bothered by the dropping temperature. Wyoming nights were about to hit the unforgiving freeze-your-nose-hairs-off stage.
Colt rolled his right shoulder and felt the pull on the other side. Before tonight, it had been a few years since he’d dislocated a shoulder, and apparently injuries hurt worse in your late twenties. He should have taken better care of his body in his teens.
Adjusting the strap on the shoulder sling, Colt scanned the crowd. He hadn’t caught a ride with Ridge this morning, but driving was going to be a killer if he had to use his left arm.
Colt spied a glimpse of his roommate through the crowd and made a beeline for him. Normally, Colt would work late on Friday nights after the rodeo, but he was useless thanks to the bronc that had bucked him earlier.
“Colt,” a woman called as he passed.
The Hamptons had been guests at the ranch all week, and Colt had made fast friends with their son.
Colt swung his good arm out for a side hug. “Did you see Nate’s ride?”
The kids practiced riding the horses with Jess and Remi all week and got the chance to show off their new skills for their parents on Friday nights. It was always the highlight of Colt’s week.
“I did!” the woman squealed as she wrapped an arm around Colt’s waist and squeezed. “He’s had a blast. I guarantee he’ll be talking about this place for months.”
“Good.” Wolf Creek Ranch was one of the last dude ranches in the west that hadn’t succumbed to the luxury industry. They kept things old-fashioned, just the way Colt liked.
Mrs. Hampton released the hug and stood on her tippy toes to scan the crowd. “Have you seen Jeff?”
Colt looked for Mr. Hampton. He spotted the dark-haired man near the catch pen and pointed. “There.”
Mrs. Hampton waved. “Thanks again!”
“Come back next year. We’ll get Nate on a trail ride.” The eight-year-old was a natural on a horse and loved the outdoors.
“We’ll see!” she yelled over her shoulder as she pushed through the crowd toward her husband.
Colt searched again for Ridge and found him not far from where he’d been before. Colt set a course again but stopped to chat with an older couple who hoped to bring their grandkids to the ranch next year.
Jameson Ford, the foreman at Wolf Creek Ranch, announced over the sound system that the show was over, but there were plenty of groups still hanging around chatting by the arena. Colt continued to weave his way through the crowd, trying his best not to bump into anyone with his left side.
Colt’s roommate–well, housemate–turned and tipped his chin. “Yeah?”
“Can I bum a ride home?” He jerked his head toward the throbbing shoulder.
Ridge rubbed his jaw and scanned the crowd. “Cheyenne’s mom is staying with her tonight, and she needs help getting settled in the cabin. You can ride with me, but it’ll be a while before I head home.”
Ridge and Cheyenne had recently decided to tie the knot, and her mom and sister had just moved here from Tennessee. With her mom still in a wheelchair after a brutal stroke, she needed all the help she could get.
Colt chanced a roll of his injured shoulder and got nothing but a stab of pain. “Man, I wish I could lend a hand, but I’m no help tonight.”
“Don’t worry about it. Maybe Paul could give you a ride.”
“I’ll do it.”
Colt’s skin tingled at the sound of the sweet feminine voice behind him. Remi had a way of kicking all five of his senses into overdrive whenever she was around.
Always Remi. Only Remi.
Remington Taylor bounded up beside him, and her long ponytail swung from side to side. The artificial lights around the arena lit up her face and fiery-red hair like a flame in the night. That was a good analogy for her role in his life–a light in the darkness.
She was his best friend. Well, she’d decided she was his best friend. He’d decided a long time ago that she was his soul mate, but she hadn’t gotten the same memo.
Why couldn't the love score be even, just this once?
She looked up at him with that bright smile that kicked him in the chest like a bucking bronc, and his mouth watered. He had no control whenever Remi came around.
“You sure?” Colt asked.
She grinned and narrowed her eyes at him. “I wouldn’t have said I would if I wasn’t sure.”
Truth. Remi was the quickest decision-maker he’d ever met, but once she made up her mind, she stuck to her guns. Every time.
Colt bumped Remi with his right shoulder and turned to Ridge. “Looks like I found a ride.”
Ridge tipped his hat. “See you at the house.”
Remi patted Colt’s arm. “How’s the shoulder?”
“Beat up, but I think I’ll survive just one more day.”
Remi rolled her eyes and jerked her head toward the path leading back to the hub of the ranch. “Come on. I parked at the stables.”
Colt fell into step beside her. “I’m injured. I expected curbside service.”
“Did you hit your head when you got bucked?” Remi asked. “You’ve got two legs.”
Colt smiled. “I do. They’re good-lookin’ legs too. I tried to get Jameson to add shorts to the dress code, but–”
“Have you seen your legs? They’re so pale, the moonlight reflecting on your skin might blind someone.”
“That’s offensive. You’d have more friends if you were nicer,” Colt said. Remi was one of the nicest people he’d ever met, but he knew how to look past her sarcasm and playful wit.
“Sorry. I’ve hit my friend quota. Submissions are closed.” Remi bounced a little with each step as the path sloped down toward the stables. The fallen leaves crunched beneath their boots as they walked. “Are you sure you’re okay?”
It wasn’t like Remi to worry about anything, especially not Colt. “Yeah,” he drawled. “Are you okay?”
“Of course. I didn’t have my shoulder dislocated tonight.” She paused for a second, and her whole body shivered. “Well, I think I got a little queasy when they did that thing to put your shoulder back in.”
Colt wrapped his good arm around her and pulled her closer to his side. “It’s a good thing you didn’t get your calling mixed up. You’d have been a terrible nurse passing out in front of the patients.”
Remi shoved his arm off her shoulders. “I didn’t say I almost passed out. I said… Never mind.”
Colt stopped beside the driver’s side of Remi’s SUV. “You’re worried about me.”
“I am not. You’re a big boy, and you can take care of yourself.”
Colt shifted to the side. “You care. You actually have a heart.”
Remi pointed the business end of her key at his face. “Colton Walker, move your skinny butt before I stab you.”
“Do you use that language around the kids?” Colt asked.
Remi gasped. She was the kids’ activities coordinator, and she took her job way too seriously for someone who chased tiny humans all day. “I am a good role model!”
Shaking his head slowly, he tsked. “The HR department would love to hear about your threats. I think that rusty key would be considered a dangerous weapon.”
“We don’t even have an HR department. And you’ve had your tetanus shot. I was with you when you got it last spring.”
Colt shivered at the memory of the time he got caught in the barbed wire fence while chasing a foal that was heading toward a ravine. “Why’d you have to bring that up?”
Remi pursed her lips together, and even in the faint light of the moon he could make out her warning expression. She pointed her key to the side, gesturing for him to move it or lose it.
He studied her one last time. Was she worried about him, or was there something else going on with her? “Fine, but I get to choose the radio station.” He grabbed the driver’s door handle and pulled, but the door didn’t budge.
“You have to pull up, then out,” Remi explained. “If you’re going to be chivalrous, at least do it with gusto.”
Colt did as instructed, and the door opened. He lifted a flimsy piece of tape that hung from the side-view mirror. “Is this duct tape? When are you going to get a vehicle that isn’t held together by a hope and a prayer?”
Remi slipped in and reached for the door. “Never.”
The metallic screech of her dramatic door slam was loud in the quiet night. Colt slipped into the passenger side and leaned the seat all the way back.
“Jess is going to be mad that you messed up her seat situation,” Remi said.
“This is my seat.”
“I don’t know. She’s my friend and roommate. I think she trumps you with your measly friend status.”
Wow. Words hurt.
“You should promote me then. I think we’ve been friends long enough that I deserve a raise or something.”
“I get mediocre friend benefits from you.”
The truth again. And another blatant reminder that Remi would never see him as anything more than a friend.
He’d tried. Given it his best shot. It had been three years and five months since she set the record straight. Friends without a hint of anything more. Bottom line. Write it in stone. Remi Taylor was off-limits.
There may have been laughing. At his expense. He wasn’t sure anymore because that horrible and embarrassing memory was almost one hundred percent suppressed.
The ride to Ridge’s house was short, but this was one of those times when Colt wished he still lived on the ranch.
The upside: Ridge used to be a professional football player, and he was ridiculously rich. Therefore, his house was a mega mansion, and Colt got to live there rent free.
The downside: He couldn’t walk to his cabin and crash after a long workday.
His shoulder throbbed, and the pain was radiating into his neck and up his jaw.
“Colt, do you want some medicine?” Remi’s voice was quiet in the dark cab.
“No. I’m fine.”
But even he could hear the bite in his voice. He wasn’t fine, but meds weren’t an option for him. He could thank his old man for that family curse. Addiction could turn the best man into a devil, and Colt wasn’t taking any chances.
Remi reached for the radio dial and skipped through a few stations until she found a Tammy Wynette song. Remi sang along, and her twang matched the country music legend’s. There was something about Remi’s voice that made his attention perk up like a dog on a trail.
Colt’s mom had been a singer. Well, she might be living that dream now for all he knew. She’d been gone for over twenty years, and he’d never gotten the urge to look for her. If she wanted him, she would have come back a long time ago.
Remi turned into the driveway and parked in her usual spot beside the garage. She killed the engine and jumped out. Colt reluctantly sat up and crawled out of the truck. It was going to be a long night, if the pain didn’t ease up.
Remi met him at the front of the SUV. “You look awful.”
Colt gritted his teeth against the throbbing pain in his arm. “You don’t. You always look good.”
Sometimes, he could get away with the truth. Only when Remi would assume he was joking. He didn’t need a professional to tell him his relationship with Remi was messed up.
“I’m serious, Colt. Are you okay?”
“I’m fine. I just need food and ice.”
“Mr. Pizza?” Remi asked.
“Yes. I need comfort food.” They were regulars, and Remi only needed to make the call and say hello before Willa at Mr. Pizza knew to put in their usual order.
“You want to add–”
Remi’s question was cut off as she gasped and tumbled off the paved walkway, falling face first into a puddle at the base of the gutter spout.
Clumsiness strikes again. The woman couldn’t pass a hole or a small body of water without tumbling into it. She had a gift.
Colt crouched beside her. “You could have just asked me if you wanted to know how cold the water was.”
Remi huffed and pushed up onto her hands and knees. “A hand would be nice,” she growled.
“You’ve got two legs.”
Remi raised up and lifted her arms. The whole front of her body was wet. “Seriously?”
Colt bent to wrap his good arm around her at the waist, positioning his good shoulder in front of her. Lifting with his legs, he stood with her cold, wet body draped over his shoulder.
“Colt! Put me down!”
“No, I don’t trust you to make it inside on your own. You’re a danger to yourself.”
Remi’s voice shook. “Colt, I’m serious.”
“You’re seriously freezing.”
She chuckled, but even that shuttered with cold. “Come on, caveman. I can walk.”
“I’m not convinced. I’m not putting you down so you can scar yourself up. It’s best if I take care of you.” He hefted her higher onto his good shoulder while the other screamed in protest.
“I’m supposed to be taking care of you! Don’t get things twisted around here.”
Colt stepped up onto the porch and crouched to turn the knob with Remi still dangling over his shoulder. The back door was always unlocked because Colt kept losing the key.
“Says the woman draped over my shoulder because she can’t walk inside without kissing the ground.”
Remi laughed. A full-belly, melodic laugh that was so contagious that Colt couldn’t help but grin at her happiness. That was one thing he loved about Remi: she wasn’t afraid to laugh at herself.
Still laughing, Remi sucked in a deep breath and said, “You’re going to hurt your shoulder.”
Colt stepped inside and kicked the door closed behind him. “It’s already hurt, and I only need one good shoulder to carry you around with.” The pain in his other shoulder was numbing. That was either a good thing or a bad thing. Joking with Remi was a natural pain reliever, but he’d probably pay for it later.
Which was more dangerous, pills or Remi?
If he had to have a weakness, he was glad it was Remi.
He bent to gently place her feet on the floor, and she immediately crossed her arms over her chest. His wet shoulder and back were thirty-degrees colder without her warmth.
“Freezing,” she said through chattering teeth.
“Let’s get you into dry clothes.” Colt led the way up the stairs to his room and tossed a flannel shirt and sweatpants with a drawstring to her. He pointed to the bathroom connected to the bedroom. “You can take a shower if you want.”
Remi turned the clothes over in her shaky hands. “What would I do without you?”
That wasn’t the joking thanks he’d expected. The slight sadness in her voice cut him like that rusty barbed wire fence. “You won’t ever have to find out.”
And just like that, Remi’s smile was back as she held up his shirt and pants. “Thanks for the new clothes.”
She darted toward the bathroom, but he caught her with his good arm, pulling her back to face him. When he had her full attention, he took the moment to stare into her eyes. They were hazel with dark-brown flecks, and he loved looking at them, dreaming about them, imagining those eyes were his to admire whenever he wanted.
Colt cleared his throat and whispered, “Those are not yours to keep. Stop stealing my clothes.”
Remi grinned. It was the same mischievous grin she’d had the time she volunteered him for Christmas caroling at the assisted living center last year. “I’ll bring them back…one day.”
Colt loosened his hold on her arm, and she skipped off toward the bathroom. That woman had no idea that she was his world. He’d be revolving around her like a satellite until his dying day, and she’d never be the wiser.
He fisted his left hand and winced. Loving Remi was a lot like an injury that never healed. She said his name, and a bolt of lightning shot through his chest. She smiled up at him, and the urge to wrap her in his arms and kiss her senseless was a fire in his veins.
She reminded him they were just friends, and he died a little inside.
Colt would never claim to know everything, but there was one thing he did know. Remi was going to bring him to his knees one day, and there wasn’t anything he could do to stop it.