Kiss My Boots(8)

By: Harper Sloan



“Tatum Montgomery,” a deep, seductive rasp answers. That sound, that tone, matured with age, awakens every single thing—feeling—I had forced myself to forget about him.

My eyes flash to Leighton in panic.

“You got this,” she whispers. “You’re a hell-raising badass.”

“I’m a hell-raising badass,” I murmur in confirmation, trying to make myself believe her.

“Excuse me?” the sexy-as-hell disembodied voice asks, now sounding more confused but equally sexy.

I clear my throat.

Close my eyes.

Then pray my heart remembers how to beat after this.

“Starch.”





3


TATE


“Vice” by Miranda Lambert

- -

That voice.

Even without hearing that stupid fuckin’ nickname come through the line, I would recognize that voice anywhere.

I push back from the restaurant table and give my dinner companion a wave of my hand to let her know I need a moment.

“Grease,” I respond, an involuntary smile lifting my lips as I step away, my voice sounding a lot stronger than it should after being knocked off-kilter by her.

“Been a long time, Tate.”

Moving through the busy restaurant, I step out into the rain-soaked Atlanta streets. “That it has, Quinn, that it has.”

“I’m sorry about your paw. He was a good man.”

“I appreciate that. I heard about your old man. I’m sorry for your loss.”

“In an effort to make this a little less awkward, save it, Tate. There isn’t a soul around who meant that a year ago and it hasn’t changed since. I made my peace with him and our lack of a lovin’ relationship before he passed so I don’t need your condolences.” Her sassy-as-hell temper sparks, and any trace of restraint or attempt at politeness that had previously been in her tone vanishes. “Why did you call the shop?”

I fiddle with some change in my dress pants pocket, look down Peachtree Street, and weigh my words. “Like I told the man I spoke with earlier, I need some work done on an old truck and was callin’ to make an appointment.”

She laughs, the sound bitter and vile, nothing like the Quinn I used to know. “Are you saying that you, Tatum Montgomery the Second, are actually driving something around that doesn’t still smell like the showroom floor?”

“It’s Paw’s old truck,” I tell her, ignoring her attempted insult.

I hear her breathing and some whispering in the background, but she doesn’t speak right away. I give her time, knowing that she has every right to turn my business away. Hell, she should turn my business away.

“Isn’t there someone wherever it is you landed that can take care of this for you?”

Wherever I landed. I deserve that, I know I do, but it doesn’t make the hurt in her voice sting any less.

“Doesn’t make much sense gettin’ his truck out here to Georgia only to turn around and drive it back. I don’t want those kind of miles on the old beast, and I’d be packin’ my bags to head out well before anyone here could finish the work that needs doin’.”

“Drive it back where? Head out where, Tate?” The sass is gone now, and, if I’m not mistaken, in its place is something that sounds a whole lot like fear.

Fuck me. I did that to her.

“To Pine Oak, Quinn,” I answer, calmly as I can.

“What?” she asks with a quiet gasp.

“Do you have time to work on it?” I ignore her question, hating what I hear in her voice. What my actions must have done to her to put that note of despair in her voice.

“Why would you come back here, Tate? Don’t ignore me. I know your grandparents’ old place is on the market now, so why would you even need to come back? If you can get all that done from a distance, I’m pretty dang sure you could get the truck done too.” She finally stops rambling, the panic in her tone overwhelming the hard-ass sharpness she had been trying for. After a moment of silence, she takes a deep breath. “There isn’t anything here for you anymore. You won’t find some hotshot medical practice in the middle of nowhere, Texas.”

There are so many things I want to say when she finishes speaking. She’s wrong—there is something in Pine Oak for me. Something I never should have let go to begin with, but I didn’t really have a choice. Not like she thinks I had. As much as I loved my paw, his death means that the last string that was held over my head is finally severed.

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