Softhearted (Deep in the Heart Book 2)

By: Kim Law
Chapter One

“Love is precious, love is kind. But love can kick you in the behind.”

—Blu Johnson, life lesson #27

It had been forty-two days since Waylon Peterson moved to Red Oak Falls, and Heather Lindsay still hadn’t met the man. And she was quite proud of that fact.

She hadn’t been to the Buffalo Nickel—where he was apparently a weeknight regular. She hadn’t run into him at the ranch—even though she’d had to be out here several times in preparation for her friend Jill’s wedding. And she hadn’t so much as glanced around, hoping to catch sight of him while driving through town—even though the man was supposedly a dead ringer for Prince Harry. Which was exactly her type.

Nope. She’d been a bona fide Girl Scout when it came to avoiding the subject of the town’s buzzing rumor mill. Just as she’d promised her other friend Trenton she would be. But she feared her time of compliance would soon be coming to an end.

“More brisket?”

A tray of prime grilled beef appeared under Heather’s nose, and she closed her eyes and allowed herself one deep breath of the mouthwatering smell—and one tiny vision of helping herself to seconds. Then she popped open her eyes and shot their head foreman a droll look. “Really, Pete?” She pushed the platter away. “You know I have to be in a bridesmaid dress in seven weeks.”

And she knew any extra calories would land squarely on her hips.

Pete waggled his brows and inched the platter closer. “Not even for a special day?” he taunted.

Heather narrowed her eyes at him. “No day is special enough for yet another yoga session.” Some days she truly hated yoga. “Neither is your brisket. So, run along, evil man, and find another unsuspecting soul to fork calories into.”

Pete chuckled and moved on. It was Labor Day, and though Pete had been manning the smoker since it had been fired up, the group of construction workers, friends, and family were actually at Cal and Jill’s ranch. The couple had invited everyone over for a cookout, but more importantly, they’d invited the group to preview the extended-length trailer of the upcoming Texas Dream Home special.

Back in the spring, the popular home renovation show had chosen two companies from Red Oak Falls to compete against each other, and the entire town had immediately climbed on board. They’d cheered passionately, either rooting for Cal’s team—a company previously known as We Nail It Contractors—or Heather, Jill, and Trenton’s—Bluebonnet Construction. It had been a men vs. women showdown, and though arguments still occasionally erupted over whether the correct team had been declared the winner, the girls had graciously accepted defeat. Only, with their defeat, an opportunity had presented itself.

To be fair, the opportunity had been for Jill and Cal alone. Due to their contentious past, the two of them had sparked on-screen from day one, and the executive producer had jumped on their chemistry. He’d offered them their own show. However, there had been one small catch. The two companies would have to merge to make the new show work. The producer had wanted two hosts but only one company. Therefore, after wading through the hows and who-would-do-whats between all parties involved, Bluebonnet Construction and We Nail It Contractors had officially become known as Bluebonnets Nail It.

Heather almost laughed out loud at the thought. She still couldn’t believe she’d agreed to the name. But at the same time, she could admit that it was catchy. And people had been eating it up. Business was booming.

“Who’s up for cake?”

Heather audibly groaned as Blu Johnson appeared at the back door carrying her life-altering orange chiffon layer cake. Aunt Blu was foster mother to Heather, Jill, and Trenton—as well as to many other girls over the years—and her cake happened to be Heather’s favorite dessert of all time. But favorite dessert or not, she hadn’t been joking with Pete earlier. At five feet two, and with her late mother’s curves, it wasn’t easy keeping in shape.

“I’m in,” Trenton piped up from the other side of the covered patio. She rose from the rocker where she’d been slouched. “I never miss cake.”

Trenton never missed any food. And it never showed.

“Have a piece for me, will you?” Disgust dripped heavy from Heather’s voice. Life could be utterly unfair when it came to body types and metabolism, but she wasn’t about to give in now. If she could go six weeks without doing anything stupid to get the attention of the man who, according to every single female in town, was “the hottest male to ever grace the streets of Red Oak Falls,” then she could avoid a slab of heaven on a plate.

As Trenton and the others made their way over to where Aunt Blu was now serving up healthy slices of the decadent dessert, Heather looked beyond the patio to the horse barn that had been built over the summer. As part of the new show, Cal planned to turn the ranch into a working cattle farm, and one vital piece of a working ranch was having a ranch manager who oversaw daily operations.

Enter Waylon Peterson. Otherwise known as Red Oak Falls’ latest heartthrob . . . a.k.a. the man of many rumors. A.k.a. the last man she needed to fall for.

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