Authors: DeVito, Anita
Tags: #Entangled;Select suspense;suspense;romance;romantic suspense;Anita DeVito;country musician;musician;superstar;cowboy
Sometimes a man finds trouble...and sometimes it comes looking for him...
Heartache makes for good country music. It’s what country superstar Butch McCormick keeps telling himself. He’s done with women and can’t handle one more disappointment. He’s taking a few months off to work on the old house on his parents’ land to fix shutters, scrape paint, and figure out what he wants in life...
Then she appears out of nowhere, with red hair and a peaches-and-cream complexion...and just so damned lost.
Architect Kate Riley doesn’t have the luxury of getting lost, having a damaged car, or being smitten by a sexy-talkin’ cowboy with an irresistible smile. But the longer Kate stays at Elderberry Farm, the stranger things get. For one, there’s the crazy chemistry between her and Butch. For another, dead bodies are starting to turn up...and Kate might be the murderer’s next victim.
Table of Contents
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.
Copyright © 2015 by Anita DeVito. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce, distribute, or transmit in any form or by any means. For information regarding subsidiary rights, please contact the Publisher.
Entangled Publishing, LLC
2614 South Timberline Road
Fort Collins, CO 80525
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Select Suspense is an imprint of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
Edited by Laura Stone
Cover design by Sara Eirew
Cover art from iStock
Manufactured in the United States of America
First Edition October 2015
To my husband, for not cringing when I said, “I have an idea,” and for giving this Master of Science girl the chance to play on the liberal arts side of the road. I love you every bit as much today as I did when we started twenty-one years ago.
To Kyra Jacobs, for being the foot that kicked me, the ear I ranted to, and the shoulder I whined on. Wouldn’t have gotten here without you.
mooth as a baby’s bottom.” With his eyes closed, John McCormick, Jr. could have sworn his fingers ran over the sleek lines of his favorite Taylor guitar instead of his granddad’s old work bench. His granddad had always called him Butch, and to his family and friends, he was still just Butch, easy-going with fast hands and a killer smile. Here in his granddad’s workshop in the old barn, he was still a boy with big ideas and no responsibilities.
To the rest of Tennessee and the country-music-loving world, he was Butch McCormick, country music star. Last month, he released his third album since “hitting it big.” He’d already had a single reach number one on the charts, and two more were climbing like cats up a tree. He had to hand it to his manager and agent, Landon Finch. He could sell water to a drowning man. Finch demanded Butch grow his hair and use a trainer. Finch bullied Butch to make the latest video without a shirt. Finch transformed small-town Butch into a heart throb the ladies loved to download.
Butch looked up at the sound of shuffling boots on gravel. He’d know the sound of that stride anywhere. “Hey, Daddy,” Butch called through the open barn doors.
The senior John McCormick stepped onto the wooden floor. “Whatcha doing in here?”
Butch ran his hand over the worn wood again. The familiar shape and texture felt like home, something he hadn’t had for years. Just touching it soothed the part of him that craved reconnection with his family, his roots, his true self. “Thinking about fixing the place up a bit. Things seem to be inching their way toward hell. Even started a list.” Butch had come home to find a shutter on the house hanging cockeyed. Paint had flecked off the barn doors, weathered wood filling the gap. The downspout hung limply on the side of the house, pulled away from the gutter and doing nobody any good. The house seemed to need him as much as Butch needed the house.
“Well, I guess I have let things go a bit since your mama and I moved up to the big house. Don’t put yourself out. Fixing and tinkering were never your things. Play your guitar. Write your songs. I’ll get to the rest in good time.”
A faint smile brushed Butch’s lips. The first album he made after signing with Finch made money. Real money. Butch used a good chunk of it to build a new house for his parents on the corner of their three-hundred-twenty-acre farm. A nice house and well built. Not showy or ridiculous, but enough the king-sized bed he bought could fit with room to spare in the big house. That’s what his parents called it. The big house. His grandparents’ farmhouse, the one he grew up in, became the old house. Butch felt like a success the day he held his mama’s hand and led her into her new home. Was it really only four years ago?
Butch kept his hands busy taking stock of the tools spread over the bench. His fingers danced over a gap where wrenches lay in a row. No, he wasn’t the handiest man in the family. His hands were better suited to driving tractors instead of fixing them, but he pulled his own weight. Always had, always would. Now more than ever. “I’m not helpless, and I have time. I need to do something. You know, something that matters.”
“You’ve been home nearly two weeks now. We respect your privacy, but other than coming to the big house for dinner, you haven’t left the old house. Your mama notices things like that and she worries.” John laid a hand on Butch’s shoulder. “You all right?”
Butch felt the squeeze in his heart. He’d never been good at hiding things from his parents. While his father’s gesture might have seemed understated to some, that simple squeeze on his shoulder said Butch’s mama wasn’t the only one worried, and so he confessed. “I went into Nashville and filed the papers yesterday. I started the divorce proceedings.”
John’s grip tightened. “That’s it then? It’s over?”
“No, it’s just the start. Fawn isn’t going to make this easy.” Butch’s heart raced. Adrenaline gave it a nasty little punch when he thought how the college-educated actress would react to the fact that small-town Butch hadn’t played his role as the awe-struck husband. When it came to drama, Fawn Jordan was a natural.
“Maybe she wants to try again. You know, marriage isn’t supposed to be easy. I figure there are more days when your mother tolerates me than when she loves me.”
Butch couldn’t keep the teasing grin from shining through. “She wouldn’t get so riled at you if you would stop erasing her shows.” His mother had chirped in his ear for thirty minutes about how the best parts were missing from all her favorite programs.
John crossed his arms over his chest, leaning against the tractor that sat like dinosaur bones on a museum floor. “I can’t stand those damned gadgets. Why can’t she just watch the program when it’s on television?” He went quiet for a few moments. “You’ve only been married for two years. You’ve barely had a chance to get to know each other.”
The smile slid from Butch’s face. He’d wrestled with facts of his marriage over the year they had lived apart. Over the last two weeks, he’d come to accept those facts. Still, it humiliated him to say it aloud. “Fawn married me because she thought she could ride my coat tails into a career. And she was right; she did. The producer from one of the videos made introductions for her, and voila, another soap star is born. Fawn never cared about me, not really. She wanted the life, the fame, the money. I was just the price of admission. She was already giving me crap, because she didn’t want the separation to become public. With that good-girl character she plays, Fawn didn’t want a scandal to hurt her ratings. She’s not going to be happy when she’s served.”
“What comes next?”
“I’m going to stay here for a while, if you and Mom don’t mind. Just slow things down a bit. I’m thirty-three years old, I’ve been married three times, and I have nothing to show for it.” Butch ran a hand over his face, squeezing eyes that burned from sleepless nights. “I have the tour starting up in June. That gives me about three months to fix shutters, scrape paint, pound nails, and ponder life.”
Three months to figure out what I want out of life.