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turns eighteen, she expects a blue sky summer.
The Flirt Club is headed out west to Big Sky country. Join 11 of your favorite romance authors as we head to Paulson, Montana and wrangle up some of the steamiest stories yet. So, saddle up, hold onto your cowboy hats and join us for one wild ride.
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The moment I step out of Uncle Billy’s old red Chevy, I feel like I’m finally home. It’s been five years since I’ve been here at Cherry Lane Ranch, and that’s far too long. The cherry trees are in bloom and the air is sweet. The smile on my face is as wide and as big as the blue sky overhead.
“What do you think, CeeCee?” Uncle Billy asks. “Think you can handle such wide open spaces for the summer?”
I smile, following Uncle Billy to the big yellow farmhouse. The porch is as inviting as ever, with a porch swing pretty much begging someone to sit down with a cold glass of iced tea. But I do think a few flower baskets hanging from the rafters would help with the curb appeal, and I can’t help but notice the peeling paint and the general wear and tear to the house I have such fond memories of.
Still, it feels good to be back, and after all, that’s why I’m here. To offer this ranch a little TLC.
“I think it will be just fine,” I say, taking it all in. “It’s hard to believe I’m only a short plane ride away from L.A. I don’t miss it at all.” Not the city, or the guys.
In the far distance there are horses in the corral, and beyond that there are cattle. A mountain range sits behind a big red barn, creating a panorama so inviting there is nowhere I’d rather be right now.
“Well, Cherry Lane Ranch is your home so long as you want it to be, CeeCee. You always have a room here.” Uncle Billy’s words are soft, but I can tell he is worn down after a lifetime of working backbreaking labor on the land he loves so dearly. He looks tired, and I squeeze his hand, hoping that my being here might ease his load.
“Anyone else staying here right now?” I ask, following him inside. I know that sometimes he hires local ranch hands to help out in the summer months.
Uncle Billy sets down my suitcase in the foyer and I walk with him toward the kitchen. I hear several people talking and laughing and I’m curious to see who is so comfortable in my uncle’s house. After Aunt Peggy died five years ago, he spent a long time not wanting anyone to come around. It’s why I haven’t been here since.
“There are two guys living with me for the time being. Best kids I’ve ever had around.” He gives me a wink. “Well, except for you, of course.”
My shoulders immediately relax. Knowing that Uncle Billy hasn’t been here all by himself eases the tension I didn’t realize I’d been carrying.
“You never told me you had ranch hands.”
Uncle Billy waves me off as we walk down the hall. “I’m not going to worry my niece about some ranch hands. Not when you were busy being prom queen and valedictorian.”
I feel my cheeks burn; I hate to be reminded of high school. I graduated two months ago and I am more than ready to put it behind me. I may have been voted most likely to succeed, but when my mom died this winter, I realized things as superficial as popularity just don’t much matter to me.
“I’m just happy school is over, that the condo is sold, and that I could finally leave LA.”
Uncle Billy pats my back. “You know I wanted you to come this winter, but I think it was for the best for you finish out school before you moved out here.”
“Me too,” I say, taking in the framed photos on the wall: pictures of Aunt Peggy and Uncle Billy, both so happy, young and in love. The love they had is the kind I want to find one day. A love that can last forever.
“And here are the boys I told you about,” Billy says as we round the corner into the kitchen. I frown because he didn’t really tell me anything about these boys … and as I look them over, I realize they are most certainly not boys.
They are grown-ass cowboys, through and through.
Snug blue jeans. Wide-brimmed hats, and eyes that tell me a story I really want to hear.
“Hello there, Miss,” says the taller, blue-eyed one. He has wide shoulders, dimples in his cheeks, and offers me his hand. “I’m Levi.”
The other guy, with chocolate brown eyes that make my knees melt, hands me that glass of iced tea I’d been dreaming about when I stepped onto the porch. His accent is thick as molasses, and just as sweet. “And I’m Cody.”
“I’m CeeCee,” I tell them, trying to remain cool, calm, and collected—even though inside my stomach is twisted in a thousand knots. I’m going to live in this house with them?
“You okay, CeeCee?” Uncle Billy asks, helping himself to a glass of iced tea as well. “You look flushed.”