Release Date: March 26, 2019
Cover Image Copyright © Wander Aguiar Photography
Cover Model(s): Preston Thompson
Whether it was due to lack of funds, lack of desire, or one lame excuse after another, Rex Sharpe has managed to ignore the one and only dream he’s ever had: turning his family’s dilapidated old farmhouse into a bed and breakfast. Until now. When his cousin Travis Walker decides to invest in a venture that will help revitalize the small town of Coyote Ridge, Rex knows it’s time to put up or shut up.
They say third time’s a charm, right? Jack Cunningham learns that’s not always true. When his world is unexpectedly tipped on its axis, Jack does what he does best. He runs. Only this time, he doesn’t get far. A one-night encounter with a sexy cowboy has Jack’s already topsy-turvy world spinning even more, and he soon learns, it’s only the beginning.
Saturday, January 5, 2019
“I GET THE FUNNY FEELIN’ WE’RE NOT gonna meet the deadline, Duke,” Rex Sharpe told his dog as they stood in the living room and surveyed the space before them. “I mean, six months might be doable if I had a crew.”
But he didn’t.
He peered over at Duke, his three-year-old, floppy-eared retriever mix. “Perhaps you’d be willin’ to pitch in?”
Duke didn’t even have the decency to acknowledge him.
“Seriously?” Rex chuckled. “Maybe swingin’ a hammer’s not in your wheelhouse, but perhaps we could find somethin’.”
Duke cast a half-interested look his way.
“What? As much as I want to, I can’t do it all by myself.”
And if he tried, Rex was going to have to modify the timeline. Again. Never mind the fact that he had overhauled the entire plan at least a dozen times, usually pushing it out a year, then another and another, hoping, with significant optimism, one day he’d find the motivation and get his ass in gear.
At some point, optimism was going to take on an entirely new meaning.
And then a year ago it had hit him. He’d woken up one morning raring to go, ready to work. He’d done well for a while, putting in twelve-hour days to focus on the attic. Once that was done, in an effort to keep the momentum, Rex had given up the small apartment he’d been renting to move into the house. But as usual, he had found a few dozen excuses not to get started on the old farmhouse he was turning into a bed-and-breakfast. Most of those mitigating circumstances had been ridiculous, but hey, what could he say?
“I’m an optimistic procrastinator, Duke. That’s all there is to it.”
Duke let out that familiar doggy sigh. The one that said he’d heard it all before.
“What? There is such a thing,” Rex insisted, peering around the empty room. “And fine, maybe it’s a decade or so overdue, but still. A man can only do so much, right? I cleared it out. That’s a start.”
Duke didn’t seem to agree with him, but Rex knew he wouldn’t. His dog was nothing if not skeptical.
Despite the timeline being roughly thirteen years overdue, and the plan pretty much nonexistent at this point, Rex wasn’t ready to throw in the towel. He had faith that this place would come together. Eventually. Maybe not in the next six months like he wanted, but he was trying.
In fact, he finally had something to show for it. For the past eleven months, give or take a week or three, Rex had worked nonstop. And thanks to his dedication, he’d managed to remodel the third floor completely, turning what used to be a dark, musty attic into a functional living space for a future manager. Two bedrooms, one bath, a small eat-in kitchen, nice-sized den, lots of windows to let in light, even a couple of balconies. It was exactly how he’d planned it, and all that hard work had added an additional one thousand square feet of living space.
Not that he’d needed more. The eight-thousand-plus-square-foot farmhouse that sat dead center in the middle of downtown Coyote Ridge was big enough already. While the house resided on a decent five acres, Rex also owned the two thousand acres of farmland behind it that had once been considered part of the adjacent town. At some point, it had been annexed into their county, officially making it part of Coyote Ridge.
Needless to say, he had more space than he would ever need.
For himself, anyway. However, it was perfect for the dream he’d had since he was a boy. A dream that involved turning the dilapidated old house into something functional, utilizing every inch of space for what would be a phenomenal getaway.
Sooner or later.
And converting the attic into living space, as well as moving in, was just the beginning. The rest, starting with this–
“Son of a bitch!” Rex dropped the hammer, grabbed his hand, and growled through the pain.
Two hundred seventeen. No. Make that eighteen. Yep. That was the number of times he’d hit his damn thumb with that damn hammer since he started the ridiculous task of rebuilding the place.
He took a deep breath and stared at the wall. Or rather what would be a wall. Technically, right now it was only a few two-by-fours being put in place to hold up the floor above, so it didn’t quite qualify.
Considering Rex would have to rebuild and remodel thousands of square feet, you’d think one little wall wouldn’t give him so many problems.
He inhaled deeply, exhaled slowly. In. Out.
With the first phase—the third-floor conversion—completed, it was time for Rex to focus on the house. Tearing it down to the studs hadn’t been easy. Day in and day out, his ass had been ripping out and hauling more debris than he cared to think about, and truth be told, there were times Rex wanted to say to hell with it all. It would be easy to sell, move somewhere else, and forget the only dream he’d ever had.
“Easy’s for pussies,” he mumbled to himself.
He wasn’t going to give up now. No fucking way. He’d worked too damn hard for that.
“Do you think I should’ve sold it, Duke? Left this small town and started over somewhere else?”
Duke gave a light snort but didn’t lift his head up off the floor.
“If I’d done that, who would’ve picked you up at the pound, huh, buddy? Answer me that.”
There for a while, Rex had come damn close to selling off the family property, leaving the small town he and his younger brother, Rafe, had grown up in, and finding somewhere else to put down roots. A place they wouldn’t be the outcasts, the misfits, the kids whispered to have done the vilest of things. The rumors were endless.
While Rex and Rafe had been cleared of all crimes, people still weren’t quite sure they believed what had happened that fateful night fourteen years ago. Some even claimed it was premeditated. Rex would admit, he’d entertained the idea of his father dying a time or two, but never the way it went down. While he had hated the old man, Rex wasn’t that evil. And he knew Rafe wasn’t, either.
There were only a handful of people who knew the sordid details of what had happened that night. Rex would’ve preferred to keep it a secret, but telling the tale had meant keeping Rafe out of jail. So, after some encouragement from his aunts and uncles on his mother’s side, Rex had relayed the information. Then he’d had to do it again, filling in the holes for the sheriff. Of course, Sheriff Monroe—having been the lowlife that he was—had been more than happy to air their dirty laundry with anyone who asked.
Unfortunately, you couldn’t have secrets in a small town. And still, some had felt it necessary to pass judgment over the years. Not so much anymore. While the town had constantly questioned what was going to come of the vacant house that sat on Main Street, somewhere along the way, they’d gotten used to it.
Of course, there were still rumors. Some ridiculous, others insulting. And those damn rumors were the reason selling had seemed the logical thing to do. If, of course, Rex was the type to run from his problems.
Which he wasn’t.
Not by a long shot.
So, he’d stood his ground, dug in his boots. This had been his father’s childhood home, and his grandfather’s, and his great grandfather’s, and so on and so forth. While he had no desire to let Billy Don’s legacy live on, there was no reason to let one bad seed ruin the entire orchard. Before Billy Don, the Sharpes had built a well-respected reputation in town. They were upstanding citizens, hard workers, always willing to lend a hand when necessary. And with that same hard work and loyalty his ancestors had shown, Rex had proven he was part of the good bunch despite who his father was.
Unfortunately, procrastination was a trait he’d inherited right along with trustworthiness and dependability. So, no, his pet project wasn’t coming along quite the way he’d initially envisioned. Then again, he’d been a naive teenager when he originally thought it would be a piece of cake to transform this old run-down farmhouse into a bed-and-breakfast that would draw people from all over.
There was no denying that life had taken a series of twists and turns that had gotten him off track for a while. But he was right where he’d always dreamed he would be. Sure, the path to get here had been riddled with bumps and bruises and boatloads of disappointment, but his intentions were still the same. He would turn what was nothing more than a house haunted with bad memories into something worth staying in.
And he would do it alone if he had to.
Of course, that would take far longer than he wanted, but a man could only lure his friends to pitch in so many times. As it was, his family were his closest friends. Cousins, mostly. CJ, Jaxson. They’d been there for him through it all. While they rarely balked when he asked for their help, Rex knew it wasn’t fair to them. Payment in the form of a six-pack only went so far.
If only Rafe would come home.
Rex sighed. “Not gonna happen,” he reminded himself.
Truth was, Rex figured he would never see Rafe again. It was a fear that had the power to steal the air from his lungs. He missed his brother. Had since the asshole walked out of his life a decade ago.
Seemed no matter how often Rex asked his brother to come home, he was either met with silence or resistance. Clearly the man had no desire to move back to Coyote Ridge. Too many bad memories, perhaps? Or maybe Rafe simply blamed Rex for what had happened. That was his worst fear. He’d spent years wondering if that was the real reason Rafe had left.
Either way, Rex had to move forward. He had to prove he had what it took to do right by his family. And maybe Rafe would come back one day to see all that he’d done.
So here he was with the constant reminder looming before him. Desperate and eager to expel the demons from his childhood home and start new memories for himself, his brother, and anyone who wanted to venture to this small patch of Texas real estate Rex called home.
Getting this place up to par hadn’t been easy up to this point, and he expected no less in the days to come. Transforming the farmhouse into a bed-and-breakfast was, in theory, a brilliant idea. Or it had been.
Back before he had actually started working on the damn thing.
Back before he had truly understood just how much work it needed.
And fuck all, it needed some serious work.
New hardwood throughout would mean new trim. New trim would mean new paint. New paint would mean new fixtures. Not to mention the new AC units, new doors, and windows, all of which had to be replaced for energy efficiency.
Those were just the bones.
That didn’t include all the work that would go into each of the seven bedrooms—five upstairs, two down. And of course, remodeling the kitchen, dining room, living room, game room, the four existing bathrooms, plus the four Rex intended to add. The only thing he could check off were the approvals from the Coyote Ridge historical committee, the inspector’s go-ahead on the structural soundness, and the completion of the third floor.
And to think, he was only a year into it.
Some thought Rex was crazy for wanting to stay in Coyote Ridge, to live in the house with the ghost of his dead father. And sure, there were bad memories, but there were a lot of good ones, too. Ones Rex wasn’t ready to forget. Like the evenings when he and Rafe would sit with Mama and watch television. The days when Grandpa would take them out to the barn, let them muck out the stalls, then take them back inside for ice cream after a job well done.
Which meant Rex needed to get his ass in gear because excuses were no longer part of his vocabulary. He had to get the place open so he could start bringing in some money.
His thoughts drifted back to Rafe as he scratched the top of Duke’s head. “Where do you think he’s at, boy? Still in Corpus? Or maybe down in Houston?”
Truth was, Rex didn’t know where Rafe was because Rafe wanted it that way.
“I suspect he’ll come back when he’s ready.” At least that was what Rex continued to tell himself.
Year after year, he waited patiently for his brother to come back. Rafe had left Coyote Ridge the day he turned eighteen. Hightailed right it out of Dodge without so much as a note. It had taken Rex nearly a year to track him down after that, but he finally had. He would never forget the day Rafe told him that he didn’t want anything to do with him. Even the thought made his chest ache.
These days, Rex did his best to keep in touch, texting Rafe at least once a week. Most of those went unanswered, but every so often, Rafe would respond, letting Rex know he was fine.
“I miss the asshole,” Rex grumbled as he pulled his ball cap off his head and ran his fingers through his hair. “Definitely miss him.”
Hoping that one day he’d come home was what motivated Rex to pick up that damn hammer again.
~ Copyright 2018, Nicole Edwards Limited.