She dares to dream...
Summer Montgomery wants to be taken seriously almost as much as she wants her brother's best friend, Ethan. But with a long resume of seemingly random career choices and a protective brother on watch, those things are nothing more than pipe dreams...
Does he dare to try?
Ethan Reed would like nothing more than to live by his own rules. Not wanting to disappoint his best friend Zach, or any of the Montgomerys, Ethan's had to push his long-denied feelings for Summer aside. But it only takes one night away from watchful eyes to make impossible dreams come true...
Montgomery Brothers Series:
Wait for Me (Book 1)
Trust in Me (Book 2)
Stay with Me (Book 3)
More of Me (Book 4)
Return to You (Book 5)
Meant for You (Book 6)
I'll Be There (Book 7)
What readers say about the Montgomery Brothers series:
"The Montgomery brothers are perfect romance! Love it, love it, love it!
"Great storyline, strong characters-a great read."
"I laughed, cried, felt excitement and sadness, all in a good way."
"An adventure in reading. Can't wait to see what is in store for the other Montgomerys."
About the Author
Samantha Chase is a New York Times and USA Today bestseller of contemporary romance. She released her debut novel in 2011 and currently has more than forty titles under her belt! When she's not working on a new story, she spends her time reading romances, playing way too many games of Scrabble or Solitaire on Facebook, wearing a tiara while playing with her sassy pug Maylene...oh, and spending time with her husband of 27 years and their two sons in North Carolina.
Read an Excerpt
"It's quiet; it's too damn quiet."
"No, it's peaceful. For the first time in over a month, I can hear myself think."
Zach Montgomery looked over at his friend Ethan and grimaced. "That's the problem. When Summer is in town, no one should be able to hear themselves think. I'm telling you, something is up."
"Why are you looking for trouble?" Ethan asked wearily. "For weeks you've been practically begging for a little peace and quiet, and now that you have it, you're bitching about it. Just be thankful, and long may it last."
While Zach knew Ethan had a point, it just wasn't sitting right with him. When his father had warned him his little sister was coming to Oregon to try her hand at the family business, Zach had been less than enthusiastic. It wasn't that there was anything wrong with Summer, per se; it was just that she was like a force of nature.
And not in a good way.
"Why would she go silent now?" Zach said as he paced his office. "Besides trying to work in every department we have here at Montgomerys and making everyone her new best friend-she's baked cookies for every department she's interned with, when she was in accounting she organized Sheila's baby shower, in human resources she taught Margaret's daughter how to tap dance, and in legal she dog-sat for Mark-and in the midst of it all, she has been particularly vocal about this whole Denali thing. I leave in less than thirty-six hours and she goes missing? She's up to something." He looked to his best friend and company vice president and waited for his agreement. "Right? She has to be up to something."
Ethan shrugged. "Personally, I'm just enjoying the quiet." The truth, however, was that Ethan was worried about Summer's whereabouts, maybe even more so than Zach. Summer had been a distraction since she arrived on the West Coast. The first time he had seen her step off the elevator, Ethan was lost. When had Zach's little sister grown up into such a vibrant and sexy woman? It had been a shock for him to see that the girl he had grown up with wasn't a little girl anymore. She wasn't a nuisance anymore, and the more time he spent with her and got to know her, the more intrigued he became. He had come to expect to see her around, talk to her. Hear her laugh.
See her smile.
Oh, man; he had it bad. A quick glance at Zach and he was relieved his friend was too busy staring out at the city skyline to notice what was probably a goofy look on Ethan's face. He'd gotten pretty damn good at hiding his feelings for Summer; hell, he had to. If Zach or any of the multitude of Montgomery males found out Ethan had a serious thing for Summer, he'd be screwed.
And beaten to a bloody pulp for sure.
Not something he was looking to see happen.
So he hid his feelings, brushed her off, and generally tried to make her feel like she was just a friend, a coworker. She was far from it. Summer had a light about her, an energy that was impossible to ignore. Sometimes all she had to do was walk into a room for him to feel it. He wanted to embrace it and engage in conversation with her. Unfortunately, there was always one of her brothers or cousins or uncles around waiting with the stink eye whenever he let his guard down. It was pretty exhausting to keep up with them all.
So right now? Yeah, he was happy to have a little peace and quiet and a chance just to be himself without having to watch how he spoke or looked or hovered whenever Summer Montgomery was in the room. He'd take whatever he could get in that department until she moved on to whatever adventure she wanted to take on next.
"Why won't she answer her phone?" Zach snapped, effectively pulling Ethan out of his own introspection.
"Maybe you just finally succeeded in pissing her off." Ethan sighed. Honestly, dealing with this family was enough to make him thankful to be an only child. One minute Zach was complaining about having his sister around and the next he was complaining because she wasn't around.
"What's that supposed to mean?"
Ethan stood and walked toward the large picture window to stand beside Zach. "Listen," he began, placing a hand on his friend's shoulder. "You have been less than hospitable since your sister got here. You've let her know on a daily basis that you're not taking her interest in the company seriously because you think she's just going to move on whenever the mood strikes."
"Well?" Zach said with a hint of annoyance. "It's true! She's been...what? She's been a photographer, a yoga instructor, a New York City tour guide...then there was her whole dog-walking business. I mean, Summer has a short attention span, Ethan. She's wasting my time and the company's time by coming here and trying to play in the business world like some sort of corporate Barbie."
"That's just cold, Zach, even for you."
"Look, you've known my sister almost as long as you've known me. Am I exaggerating any of this?" Ethan shook his head. "Summer is a free spirit; hell, my mother must have known it at birth because she gave her the perfect name for her nature. She's an amazingly talented and creative woman; she just needs to channel her energy someplace else and leave me the hell alone."
"Isn't that what she's doing?" Ethan reminded.
"No. She's being a pain in my ass right now. I wouldn't listen to her constant harping on me about the climb and how I am being irresponsible and-"
"Well, she kind of has a point there."
Zach rolled his eyes. "Not you too," he said, sighing irritably. "We've been over this. I got the doctor's clearance."
"And that doesn't mean squat and you know it," Ethan replied. "I've known you for far too long, man. I know when you're not one hundred percent on your game, and you're not. You're still limping from the last trip."
"It was a broken leg, Ethan. It wasn't a big deal."
"It is when it's not fully healed. You need to be thinking a little more responsibly. This isn't an easy trip. You need to be in top physical condition, and you're not."
"It's a limp and it's not going to be a problem."
"Can we get back to the subject at hand? Summer and how she's off pouting somewhere and probably hoping I'll cancel my plans because I'll have to look for her. Well, it won't work; I'm not buying into it."
"You can't have it both ways," Ethan muttered as he turned to walk away.
"Excuse me?" Zach said, his gaze honing in on his friend.
Throwing up his hands in frustration, Ethan turned back around. "I can't keep saying it; you say you don't want her here, so she's not here and now you're ticked off. Make up your damn mind, Zach!"
Ethan was right; Zach knew it and yet it didn't help to put his mind at ease. Stepping away from the window, he went and sat back down at his desk, resting his head in his hands. "I swear she's like a miniature hurricane; she swoops in, wreaks havoc, and then moves on. I just wish she'd answer my damn calls so at least I'd know she's all right before I leave for Denali."
"Have you asked around the office? Maybe she mentioned to someone she was going someplace."
Zach looked up and considered Ethan's words. "I hadn't thought of that. She's so chatty that I'm sure she had to say something to someone." He immediately reached for his phone and called his assistant into the room. While he waited, he returned his attention to Ethan. "Gabriella knows everything that goes on in this building; if she doesn't know where Summer is, we're screwed."
"We?" Ethan said with a laugh. "Sorry, bro; your sister, your problem."
"Don't give me that," Zach said dismissively. "You and I both know you're practically family and I'm sure that, deep down, you're a little bit worried about her yourself.
More than you know.
Luckily he didn't have to respond because Zach's assistant came into the room. Gabriella Martine looked like she'd stepped right off the pages of Italian Vogue. She was tall and slim with just enough curves to grab a man's attention. Ethan had always admired her beauty, but not in a way that made him want to act on it. Gabriella had jet-black hair, crystal-blue eyes, and a cool, distant disposition.
Ethan seemed to prefer the type with blond hair, dark eyes, fair skin, and a chatty nature.
He was so screwed.
"You wanted to see me, Mr. Montgomery?" Gabriella said in her usual cool, clipped voice.
"Have you heard from Summer?" Zach asked, leaning forward at his desk.
His assistant looked at him oddly. "Is there something wrong?" she asked.
"I can't get her on the phone, and I wanted to talk to her before I leave tomorrow night."
"I last spoke with your sister yesterday before she left. She needed help with some travel arrangements." She looked curiously between Zach and Ethan. "It didn't seem like a big deal."
"Travel arrangements?" Zach yelled, coming to his feet. "What? Was she planning on going back to North Carolina without saying a damn word to me? Why didn't you tell me?" he demanded.
Gabriella seemed to shrink back momentarily at his outburst. Ethan was about to intervene, but Gabriella composed herself quickly. "She's not moving back to North Carolina; she was making plans to get away for the weekend with...a guest."
"A guest?" Zach repeated, completely stupefied. "Who the hell is this guest?" He turned to Ethan. "Did you know about this? Did you know that Summer was dating someone?"
Ethan was too stunned to speak. Summer was dating someone? When the hell had that happened? How did he not know? Wracking his brain, he tried to remember if he had seen Summer with anyone but came up empty. And pissed. And insanely jealous. Feeling Zach's intense scrutiny yet again, Ethan shook his head and turned away.
"Where are they going?" Zach asked his assistant, who was slowly walking backward to the office door. She stopped at her boss's question.
"She...she booked a weekend getaway-one of the hot springs resorts."
Zach cursed under his breath. "It's just like her; leave it to Summer to drop a bombshell like this right before I have to leave."
Gabriella took a step back toward the center of the room. "No disrespect, sir, but Summer didn't drop a bombshell; she simply did as you requested. She left. She knew the two of you were going to keep fighting if you left for that...that climb you're doing," she said with just a hint of disapproval and then cleared her throat at Zach's arched brow. "So she decided not to add to your stress before you left. If you ask me, she was trying to help you."
Coming around his desk, Zach stalked his assistant until she began to back away again. "Help me? Help me!" he barked. "How is going off for a weekend with some man none of us knows helping me? This little stunt hasn't decreased my stress; it's added to it! Get her on the phone! Now!"
Both Zach and Ethan froze in place at the one softly spoken word from Gabriella. "Excuse me?" Zach said with a hint of a snarl.
"I said no. This is not a business problem; it is obviously a family problem. In my opinion, Summer did the only thing she could. She didn't agree with what you're about to do and neither do..." She stopped. "If you want to argue with her or yell at her, you'll have to do it on your own." She looked at her watch. "I'm going to lunch." She spun on her ridiculously high stiletto heels and left the room, closing the door quietly behind her.
The two men stared at one another, completely dumbfounded. "What the hell just happened here?" Zach asked. "She has never spoken back to me like that! What is going on with all the women in this place?" He raked a hand through his hair. "This is all Summer's doing. Gabriella never gave me any trouble until now. Until Summer."
"Dude," Ethan interrupted, "you have got to stop blaming your sister for everything. You are clearly starting to lose it. I think you are officially done here. Go home, finish packing for the trip. I'll wrap things up around the office, and I'll meet you at the airport tomorrow night. Trust me; you're not going to get anything done here. Just...go home."
"Dammit, Ethan, how am I supposed to get ready to leave when Summer's out there with some...guy no one knows? I'm supposed to be looking out for her, and she totally took off with a stranger!"
"Okay, dramatic much?" Ethan said sarcastically, hoping to defuse the situation. "Just because you didn't know anything about this guy doesn't mean there's anything wrong with him."
"She's been here for a month, Ethan. The first week she was here she didn't leave my sight. So she's known this guy for a few weeks. Tops. I don't like it. Maybe I need to find that spa and talk to her." Turning and scanning the room for his keys, he spotted them and continued to think out loud. "What if it's that creep who ruined her life in New York? What if he's come here and is trying to win her back? Maybe she'll believe all of the crap he'll try to sell her about how sorry he is and how it will never happen again. Right. Like that would be the truth," he spat.
Ethan stopped him before he could walk out of the office. "Zach, get a grip. You are getting ready to do this climb. You need to focus." He knew he was going to regret his next words, but he couldn't stop them if he tried. "I'll go; I'll get the information from Gabriella and go try to talk some sense into Summer."
"You're climbing too, Ethan. You don't need to be chasing my sister up and down the coast."
"You got a better idea?"
Defeat washed over Zach. "No. But if anyone's going to go, it should be me. Summer's my responsibility."
"And this climb has been something you've been looking forward to for a year."
"And you haven't?"
Ethan shrugged. "It's going to be great, sure. But I'm just along for the ride. I don't have any illusions of making it to the top. That's all you, buddy. I'll be happy if I make it to the midway point."
Zach shook his head. "What's the point in that? You should be right there with me! How cool would it be to stand at the summit and look down at the world around us?" He grabbed Ethan by the shoulders. "Can't you just see it? This will be our best adventure yet!" When Ethan didn't respond, Zach removed his hands. "You used to want to do all the same things I did; what's happened to you?"
Taking a step bak, Ethan shrugged again. "Nothing's happened to me; I just don't get the rush out of it anymore the way you do. You wanted to do this and I think that's great. I'm going to be there with you just like always. If I make it to the top, great; if not, I'll live."
"Lame. Totally lame."
"Now you see why it's better for me to go after Summer; you need to get your head on straight. That's what's important. I'll take the drive, find her, and talk to her and make sure this guy's on the up-and-up, and I'll meet you tomorrow night. I promise."
Zach took a minute to think. "Just make sure you do, man. She could be anywhere in the damn state. Those resorts are scattered everywhere. I don't want to do this without you."
Ethan smiled. "I wouldn't miss it for the world."
* * *
It took every ounce of willpower Ethan possessed to be patient while Zach got his things together and left the office. He didn't let out a complete breath until the elevator doors closed, and even then, it was a full five minutes before he let himself relax. He checked his watch and noted that Gabriella should be back from lunch any minute. He'd always had an easy working relationship with her, so Ethan figured it wouldn't be hard to get the information he needed about where Summer had gone.
And with whom.
Could Zach be right? Could her creepy ex-boyfriend be here, trying to woo her back? Summer hadn't said much about what the guy was like other than how he had devastated her, and that was enough to make Ethan want to kill the bastard. While he wanted to believe Summer was stronger than that-that she wouldn't fall for this guy's excuses and promises-he couldn't be one hundred percent certain. For as long as Ethan had known her, he didn't really know her on that level. He'd hate like hell to have to kick this guy's ass and send him packing and risk Summer being angry with him because of it.
With his fists clenched at his side, he paced. Where the hell was Gabriella? Back and forth, back and forth, until he began to feel like an Edgar Allan Poe character, slowly going insane while listening to the clock ticking on the wall. There were dozens of things Ethan needed to do in order to be ready to head for Denali with Zach the following day; this little detour was certainly not going to help him in any way, shape, or form. Unfortunately, he was putting Zach's needs first, so his friend could have more time to focus.
Then he heard a desk drawer close and the sounds of Gabriella getting settled back in at her desk. With a fortifying breath, Ethan pasted his most relaxed and charming smile on his face and walked out to the reception area. At Gabriella's anxious expression and quick look around, Ethan knew exactly how to play this. "No worries, I sent him home."
She visibly relaxed. "Oh, okay."
Ethan walked over and sat himself down on the corner of her desk. "Between you and me, I couldn't stand him another minute longer. It's bad enough I'll have to travel with him and all. Hopefully he'll take the next twenty-four hours to chill out."
"One can only hope," she said coolly, organizing papers on her desk.
"He just has a lot on his mind and, you know Zach; he likes to control everything and everybody. I know he's just concerned about Summer, but he needs to realize how crazy he comes off sometimes."
"Try all the time."
Ethan hid a smirk. "Well, believe me, I've known them both for so long, this is nothing new. I don't think Zach can help feeling responsible for Summer. And Summer? She just likes to push his buttons. And she's good at it." Gabriella barely shrugged. "Still, you can't blame Zach for being upset. I mean, he has so much on his plate right now...the least she could have done is told him where she was going."
Gabriella sighed wearily. "I know what you're doing, Ethan," she finally said. "It's one thing for me to step in when you and Zach are snapping at one another; it's really quite different when it's Zach and Summer."
He was confused. "Why?"
"They're family. The two of you are the top executives here at Montgomerys; it is beneficial and sometimes necessary for me to step in and send you each to your own corners until things cool down. The way I see it, this is a private family matter. They need to work it out for themselves. It's none of my business."
He hated when people threw solid logic at him. "But it's going to affect Zach on this climb. Is that what you want? For him to be so distracted that he makes a stupid mistake and hurts himself or another member of his team? All I'm asking for is the name of the town she went to, Gabriella. That's it. Please. For Zach's safety."
She glared at him. "Low blow, Ethan."
Knowing he just about had her, he leaned in closer. "I'm going on the climb too. Zach's the leader. I need to know I've done everything humanly possible to make sure his head is on straight." He paused and gauged her reaction. "Please, Gabriella. If you won't do it for him, do it for me. I just want to make sure Summer's all right."
She sighed. "Fine. She's going to Burns. There's a resort there where you camp in a giant tepee not too far from the hot springs. She was supposed to leave today but I'm not sure what time."
"Thank you!" he said before jumping from her desk and heading to his office. Using the office phone, he tried calling Summer. It went right to voice mail. He did a quick mental checklist and realized he could delegate the rest of his work to the junior execs and be out of here within thirty minutes. First, he'd swing by Summer's place just in case she hadn't left yet. Then, if by chance he missed her, he'd stop by his own place and grab a few things before making the five-hour drive south. Tepee camping? Leave it to Summer to do something so outrageous. Most of her family wouldn't be caught dead in anything less than a five-star hotel.
This family was going to be the death of him.
With any luck he'd catch her before she left, and all of this could be cleared up before he had to meet this mystery guest and fight the urge to strangle him. This was so not what he needed today. Before Ethan could talk himself out of what he had clearly gotten himself into, he called an emergency meeting and did his best to wrap up all the loose ends around the office before packing up and heading over to Summer's.
He wasn't sure what he was hoping to accomplish with all of this. Obviously it was going to put Zach's mind at ease, but in the process Ethan was torturing himself. For the last month, Ethan had done his best to keep his distance from Summer and make sure he was never alone with her. By going after her like this, he was certainly tempting fate.
What would he actually do or say when he found her? What was he going to say to this mystery guest of hers that wasn't going to result in charges being pressed against him and missing the flight to Denali? Summer Montgomery had done nothing but tie him up in knots for the better part of twenty years; he should be used to it by now.
But somehow, the image of a teenage Summer and the woman she had grown into brought to mind two very different kinds of knots. Back then, it had been a fleeting feeling-more of a whimsical wish. Now? He was drawn to her as a man, with all of the feelings that went with it. If it weren't for his friendship with Zach and his closeness to the entire Montgomery family, Ethan would have acted on his feelings for Summer as soon as she became an adult.
He was too loyal.
He was too afraid to rock the boat.
He was totally screwed.