GOOD WITH HIS HANDS, BAD FOR HER HEART
Ever since her marriage went up in flames, Olivia Wilder hasn't had the desire for love. But one magical dance with Logan Travers might change all that. The blue-eyed hometown hunk is a bit younger and a whole lot sexier than any man she's ever dated before. This is one carpenter Olivia would like to get to know better, and not just because of his building skills
From his first dance with Olivia, Logan knows there's something special about the beautiful brunette. The more she's determined to keep him at arm's length, the more Logan wants her in his embrace. And the more Olivia says she's just passing through, the more resolved Logan is to make her his, forever.
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Olivia Wilder loved weddings, even if she no longer believed in marriage. At least not for herself.
She wasn't one to let her personal prejudice ruin someone else's happiness. Especially someone who deserved it as much as her friend Sara WellensSara Travers as of two hours ago.
But the champagne Olivia had drained during the toast was doing funny things to her brain. Her hand fluttered in front of her face as she blinked back tears.
"Tears of joy," she assured Sara, who looked at her with a mix of understanding and sympathy that made Olivia want to cry harder. "I'm thrilled for you and Josh."
"I know, sweetie." Sara gave her a gentle hug. They'd become close friends during the past six months. "And you're better off without that slimeball husband anyway."
Olivia nodded. "You're one of the lucky ones. Josh is a great guy. He loves you to the ends of the earth." She hiccupped. "Nothing like Craig."
"Craig was a loser." Olivia couldn't help but smile at Sara's blunt description.
"And a cheater." Olivia looked over Sara's shoulder to where their friend Natalie Holt sat perched at the edge of the couch in the ladies' lounge. The three of them had escaped into the private room for a few minutes to help Sara get ready to leave for her honeymoon. "He's going to be sorry he didn't do right by you. You were the best thing that ever happened to him."
Natalie was another friend Olivia had met in Crimson, Colorado, the town her soon-to-be ex-husband had become mayor of right after they'd married. That had been almost two years ago. From the start, Olivia had loved the small mountain town, felt at home there in a way she never had growing up in Saint Louis or at college on the East Coast. Craig had said it was only the first stop on his political career, although she would have been happy living in Crimson forever.
Now she knew she'd never get that chance.
"We shouldn't be wallowing in my sad story." Olivia made her voice light as she drew away from Sara. "This day is about you and that hot new husband of yours."
A dreamy smile lit up Sara's face. "He's pretty cute, huh?"
Natalie laughed. "Puppies and rainbows are cute. Josh Travers is one hundred proof stud. Even I'd brave the flight to Hawaii just to watch him on the beach for a week."
Olivia smiled, knowing Natalie was petrified of airplanes. "Are you ready to go? Bags all packed?" Olivia asked. Sara and Josh were driving to Denver after the reception and flying out in the morning.
Sara pointed to a mini suitcase in the corner. "I've got everything I need."
Olivia felt her eyes widen. "That's all you're taking for a week away?"
Craig had insisted on a fancy cruise for their honeymoon, and she'd had to bring two huge suitcases to accommodate all the clothes she'd needed for dinners, parties and the like.
"Sara won't need more than a bikini," Natalie said with a knowing smile. "And Josh will probably have her out of that most of the time anyway."
"I sure hope so." Sara winked then shook her head at Olivia's expression. "You're blushing, Olivia."
"I don't know yes well "
Natalie gave an indelicate snort. "Was Craig such a limp fish even on the honeymoon? It's not a surprise, but still "
Olivia shrugged. "It was fine." But nothing about her relationship with Craig had been fine, including their honeymoon. She knew she was to blame for that as well, or at least that's what he'd convinced her at the time.
She busied herself with folding Sara's bridal veil before carefully placing it in the box.
"You won't leave before I get back?" Sara's voice was so soft it made Olivia's eyes prick again.
"Why do you have to leave at all?" Natalie asked, rising to stand next to Sara. "You love it in Crimson. This town is great for you."
She smiled slightly at Natalie's indignant tone. It had been so longforever reallysince Olivia had felt like she had friends in her corner. "Craig ruined both our reputations. Even if I had the money to stay, I doubt I'd feel at home here anymore."
"He was the dirty, cheating scumbag. Not you."
"You know how things work in a small town."
Natalie's lips thinned into a frustrated line and she flipped a strand of soft caramel-colored hair behind her shoulder. She'd grown up in Crimson and knew better than any of them about life in a small town. "The best things about Crimson are also the hardest," she said. "Always have been. People here are ready to help someone in need at the drop of a hat, but they also want to learn all your business in the process."
"People in town mean well. You know they do." Sara wrapped an arm around Natalie's shoulder. "Even if your trust tree has very few branches. We all know you like to keep your secrets even closer than your friends."
"I don't have secrets, you brat," Natalie answered with a grin. She gave Sara a playful flick on her bare shoulder. "I'm an open book and everyone knows it."
As both women erupted into laughter, a subtle ache started in Olivia's chest. In her ivory gown, Sara, a blonde-haired, blue-eyed beauty, looked every bit as ready to walk the red carpet as when she actually would for a movie premier. The turquoise necklace bright against her fair skin and the cowboy boots she wore with her wedding dress were the only things that gave a hint to the work she did running the guest ranch nestled at the base of the mountains outside of town.
Natalie was a good six inches shorter than Olivia, her light brown hair and matching eyes warm and kind. But the faint shadows under her eyes proved that Natalie worked too hard balancing her jobs as a nurse at the local retirement home and a part-time private caretaker.
Along with Sara's long-time friend April, these two women had become the sisters Olivia had always longed to have. They'd accepted and supported her, pulled her out of her rigid shell and were teaching her how to enjoy life.
She'd almost been happy until Craig had walked out on her two months ago, taking her life savings and her self-respect along with him.
But that was too maudlin a topic for a night such as this. She plastered a bright smile on her face. "No more depressing Craig talk. Let's get back out there and join the party."
Sara pointed a finger at her. "You need a man," she said, ignoring Olivia's fake smile.
"Josh has two brothers," Natalie offered.
"I don't need a man," Olivia sputtered, feeling heat rise to her cheeks again. "I just got rid of one."
"Craig was a snake, not a man." Sara waved a dismissive hand. "He doesn't count. Josh's brothers aren't staying in town long enough to be useful. Plus, Jake said he's due back at the clinic by Tuesday morning. Logan is too much of a wild card to depend on."
"What about" Natalie started.
Olivia threw up her hands. "Stop!"
Both women turned to her. "I'm not looking for a man," she repeated.
"You're in a bad place," Natalie argued. "You need to let loose."
"My husband left, taking most of my money with him. Heck, yeah, I'm in a bad place." Olivia placed her hands on her hips and narrowed her gaze at Natalie. "I'm not the only one who needs to let loose. How about we find a man for you?"
Natalie's shoulders stiffened. "This isn't about me."
"We just want you to stay," Sara said softly.
"I know." The tension went out of Olivia's shoulders. She wanted the same thing. She just couldn't figure out how to make it happen. "I won't leave until you get back. I'm meeting with the new mayor this week. Maybe I'll have some great epiphany before then."
A knock sounded on the door and Josh Travers walked in. "Hello, husband," Sara said, her dreamy smile returning.
"Hello, wife," he answered and came forward to wrap her in his arms. "The guests are asking for you." He nodded at Natalie and Olivia. "Mind if I have a few moments with her, ladies?"
"Of course not," Olivia and Natalie answered in unison.
"Come on, Livvy," Natalie said with a smile. "Let's round up a couple more glasses of champagne."
Sara touched Olivia's arm as she walked past. "You deserve happiness, too," she whispered.
Olivia's throat clogged, but she nodded and then followed Natalie back to the reception.
Logan Travers tipped the beer bottle to his lips as he scanned the guests at the reception. They'd sent off Josh and Sara half an hour ago in a flurry of well wishes and whistles, but the absence of the bride and groom hadn't seemed to dampen the party atmosphere in the least. He was happy for Josh, and Sara seemed amazing, but that didn't mean he liked wedding receptions.
He curled two fingers into his collar and tried to stretch the starched fabric. This was the first time in his life he'd worn a tuxedo, and he hoped it would be the last. He was ready to head back to Josh's ranch and crawl into bed for the night. His brother Jake had left already, using the fact that he was driving Josh's daughter, Claire, home as an excuse. Logan figured it had more to do with Jake's need to get away from the boisterous crowd drinking and dancing in the private reception hall above one of Crimson's popular downtown restaurants.
Logan had been close to making his own escape, but his new sister-in-law had cornered him on her way out and made him promise to dance with one of her single friends before he left. He'd worked his butt off all night to avoid getting entangled with any of the women at the wedding, limiting his dancing to his thirteen-year-old niece. But he'd been unable to resist Sara's plea.
Now he surveyed the couples on the dance floor and the people scattered at tables around the room. His eye caught on a woman seated by herself to the side of the dance floor. She looked as uncomfortable as he felt. Her dress was pale pink and her hair was pulled back from her face in an almost severe knot at the back of her head. Sara had described her friend Olivia as a very pretty librarian type. Logan didn't know if he agreed with that, but decided she must be the woman.
As he approached her, the music changed to a slow ballad. Damn. He'd been hoping to make it through some hokey line dance with her and call it good. He thought about ducking away, but her gaze lifted to his so there was no turning back.
"Would you care to dance?" he asked, stretching out his hand, palm up.
She eyed his fingers as if they were spikes on a cactus. "Why are you asking?"
He hadn't expected her question. Logan couldn't remember the last timeif evera woman had offered any resistance to his interest in her. One side of his mouth lifted. "We're at a wedding. There's music." He took a step closer and brought his hand to his hip. "I'm Logan Travers, Josh's brother."
Her big gray eyes flicked to his before returning to the dance floor. "I know who you are, and I'm guessing Sara put you up to this."
He didn't bother to deny it. "I don't know her well, but she's pretty insistent when she wants something."
"They've left," the woman answered tonelessly. "You're off the hook."
That was exactly what he'd wanted mere minutes ago, but now he felt like he was getting the brush-off. "You don't think she'll be looking for a report after the honeymoon?"
"You seem to know Sara better than you think." Her mouth curved into a genuine smile. Logan lifted his hand to his collar again, unable to explain the heat that shot through his spine. The woman stood and he was surprised at her height, especially since her shoes had very little heel.
She was nowhere near as tall as he was, but at six-foot-three he was used to towering over most people. She was just a slip of a thing but only had to tip her head a bit to look him in the eye. Suddenly he wanted nothing more than to take her in his arms and discover if she'd fit there as well as he thought she would.
"I'm Olivia," she said and extended her hand.
He covered her fingers in his and tugged her toward the dance floor.
"You don't have to do this," she protested.
"I want to." He pulled her into his arms, maybe a bit closer than was necessary.
Automatically, her left hand came to rest on his shoulder as he kept her right one wrapped in his. He couldn't help but notice the enormous diamond on her ring finger. He was almost blinded as it caught the light. Sara had asked him to dance with her single friend, but the ring meant there was more to the story.
He tried to ignore his curiosity as his fingers brushed the gauzy fabric of her dress along her back. A few pieces of mahogany-colored hair fell loose against her neck and he reveled in their softness as the strands grazed his cheek. She smelled like flowers, and he resisted the urge to bury his face in the crook of her neck and breathe in the fragrance.
He gave himself a few moments to regain his control. Clearly he'd been too long without the company of a woman based on his body's reaction to Olivia. She wasn't his type in any way. She was too refined, too fragile, too reserved. Logan liked his female companions loud and fun. He was in it for a down-and-dirty good time. Everything about Olivia screamed out of your league. He was smart enough to believe it.
"Why don't you have a date?" he couldn't help asking.
He felt her body stiffen but her voice was calm when she answered. "My husband was a serial cheater who ran off with his secretary a few months ago."
His step almost faltered at her blunt honesty. He leaned back to look into her eyes. "Then he didn't deserve you in the first place," he told her quietly.
Her breath hitched as her mouth formed a perfect O. There was a bleakness in her gaze, a quiet desperation that Logan hadn't seen in a woman since he'd looked into his twin sister's eyes almost ten years ago. Olivia Wilder was broken, he realized. He didn't know her husband, but had the fierce desire to plow his fist into the other man's jaw.
"He wanted to discover his bliss," she said after a minute. "The life we had was stifling for him."
"Tell me you're not defending the jerk."
She shook her head but her eyes dropped to his bow tie. "It will be better in the long run."
"Is that what he told you?"
"It's what I tell myself to get through each day," she answered then blinked, her eyes filling with tears.
The music ended and she pulled away, but he held on to her hand. "Let's get a beer."
She shook her head as if realizing she'd revealed too much but followed as he led her off the dance floor toward the bar. He could feel the weight of the stares from the other guests. He hadn't stepped foot in Crimson in close to a decade and saw no point in making friends during this return trip. He planned to get the hell out of town as soon as Josh and Sara returned from Hawaii.
Without letting go of Olivia's hand, he grabbed two beers from the bartender and made a path toward the hallway that led to the stairs by the main restaurant. He wanted to head outside, but he knew it was too cold for her in that thin dress. It was late March and at the nine-thousand-foot altitude where Crimson sat nestled in a valley high in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, the temperature at night was still below freezing.
Instead, he took her to the back of the restaurant, which was empty so late on a Saturday night. He pulled out a chair and she sank down, cradling her head in her hands as her shoulders shook.
"Go away," she mumbled between her fingers.
Logan opened the beer bottles and sat one on the table in front of her. "Drink this."
He took a long pull on his, then ran a hand through his hair.
"I prefer white wine," she told him, her voice still shaky.
"I'm fresh out," he answered and she raised her head to glare at him, wiping the tips of her long fingers across her cheeks. Good. Anger he could deal with a lot easier than sorrow.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I honestly can't remember cheering for a couple to get their happy ending as much as I did for Olivia and Logan! The slow build of the characters gave me time to get to know them and learn to love them. Probably one of my favorite SE books in a long time! I hope we get to see more of them in future Crimson Ranch stories (especially if it's Natalie's story).