Welcome to Dulcet, Texas, home of the legendary Briscoe Ranch Resort, where one woman will discover that even love is bigger in the Lone Star State.
Celebrity wedding planner Remedy Lane is Hollywood royaltyuntil a scandal sends her packing to the wilds of Texas. She has a knack for leaving disaster in her wake, but she’s determined to reboot her career at Briscoe Ranch, a luxury resort known for extravagant weddings. Little does she know that weddings don’t happen at the resort without the approval of the town’s cowboy-swaggering, too-hot-for-his-own-good fire chief, Micah Garrity.
ONE HOT SUMMER
Micah knows trouble when he sees it, and all it takes is one glimpse of Remedy’s princess airs for him to know he’s met his match. Too bad he can’t stop thinking about hereven when she brings about one disaster after another at the resort. He and Remedy clash at every turn, but they can’t stop the sparks flying between them. They come from such different worldsdoes love stand a chance or will this fire burn too hot for either of them to handle?
Don't miss the first book in Melissa Cutler's One and Only Texas series!
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One Hot Summer
By Melissa Cutler
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2016 Melissa Cutler
All rights reserved.
What caught Remedy Lane's attention first was a nine iron waving like a brandished sword from the driver's side of a golf cart careening up the path. When the nine iron's owner, a sour-faced, blue-haired golfer, saw Remedy, her eyes narrowed. She speared the club in Remedy's direction and bellowed, "A golf course is no place for an elephant!"
On the word elephant, Remedy tripped over an invisible crack and caught herself on a golf-scoring platform. Little yellow pencils rained onto the ground along with a mishmash of safety pins, Band-Aids, compacts of concealer and powder, and mesh pouches of pastel butter mints from her blazer's pockets.
The golf cart slammed on its brakes a few feet in front of her. The blue-haired driver and her balding, watery-eyed passenger scowled at Remedy as she regained her footing. "Did you mean an actual elephant? Down there on the course?"
"No, it's a piñata," the driver said. "Of course it's an actual elephant, and I want to know what you're going to do about it. We have a game to finish. It's shaping up to be my best of the week."
Remedy took her time restuffing the wedding emergency supplies into her pockets, stalling. Only one elephant had been permitted onto the grounds of Briscoe Ranch Resort that day — and she wasn't supposed to be anywhere near the golf course. According to the schedule Remedy had been given, the elephant's handlers were supposed to be grooming her for a photo shoot near the gazebo with the bride and groom of that afternoon's Kumar/Srivastva wedding.
The driver clanged the nine iron against the roof of her golf cart. "Don't just stand there like a dunce. What's your plan?"
Aruba. Remedy's plan should've been to find a job as a wedding planner in Aruba. What the heck had prompted her to relocate to a resort in the middle of nowhere? Worse than nowhere — Texas, which was tantamount to a dirty word in Los Angeles, like wrinkle or Republican. Actually, she was only too aware of why she'd chosen Briscoe Ranch Resort, which was why she had to make the job work.
She scanned the rolling hills that surrounded them. The resort's roof was visible in the distance, but no other employees were in sight.
"Hang on." Remedy trudged up the short grassy rise for a view of the course, feeling the golfers' judgy, impatient eyes on her back. The rise afforded a sweeping view of the rambling hillsides and lush landscape of Texas Hill Country that still had the power to awe Remedy, though it'd been more than two weeks since she'd moved to Texas. In the valley immediately below, the neatly manicured grass of the golf course flowed out in all directions, punctuated by the occasional sand traps, water hazards, golfers ... and one very large elephant wearing a purple-and-gold headdress galloping over the grounds with unmistakable glee.
Swallowing a curse, Remedy did what any self-respecting new hire would. She prayed that no one would blame the disaster on her as she brought her cell phone to her ear and called her boss. "Alex, it's Remedy. Tell me I'm hallucinating that the elephant we rented for the Kumar/Srivastva wedding is careening across the golf course at top speed."
Alex was silent for a beat, then, "Damn it, he brought Gwyneth again. I thought we had an understanding after last time."
Remedy watched the elephant pluck up a flagpole and run with it in her trunk as if she were Victory incarnate. Only two thoughts broke through Remedy's shock as she watched a pair of golfers dive into the brush at the edge of the course, out of the elephant's path. One: who would name an elephant Gwyneth? Because, seriously, that was a ridiculous name for an animal. And two, "This has happened before? Why is it the first I'm hearing about it?"
Alex sighed. "Hector said he was bringing Petunia for the wedding, not Gwyneth, which would've been great, because Petunia usually only eats flowers. But that Gwyneth, she's crazy about golf. Well, the seventh green, specifically."
After a head shake, Remedy checked the time on her phone. "The wedding photographer is slated to arrive in less than ten minutes, and the mother-of-the-bride specifically requested that the elephant be in the wedding photos. Something about getting her money's worth. Where's Hector and how did he not notice that his elephant's missing?"
"No idea," Alex said. "I'll send someone to find Hector. You stop Gwyneth before she reaches the seventh hole's water hazard. And whatever you do, don't panic."
"Wait, what?" She could either not panic or stop a thundering elephant, but not both. The two commands were mutually exclusive. "I can't do that. I'm a wedding planner, not an elephant whisperer." But Alex didn't answer. "Alex, are you there?"
Nothing but silence. He'd already hung up.
She shoved the phone back in her messenger bag, her mind racing and her hand unsteady. What the heck was she supposed to do now? "Shit."
A gasp sounded behind her. "Language!"
Remedy turned to see the golfer and her companion. Of course. Because why wouldn't they stay to watch the spectacle? That was one thing Remedy had learned in Hollywood. Everyone loved a spectacle. The bigger the train wreck, the better the entertainment value.
Remedy whirled to face the resort guests, a placating smile on her lips. "My apologies for my language. That was uncalled for, but I'm a little anxious because it looks like it's my job to, um, wrangle that elephant."
The driver shook her head. "Well, get on with it. The day's not getting any younger."
Remedy walked their way. "Yeah. There's just one thing." She patted the roof of the golf cart. "I'm going to need to borrow this for a few minutes."
"Beg your pardon?"
Leaving the golfers in her dust, Remedy careened down the concrete path at the cart's top speed. On her phone, she dialed the resort's catering kitchen. One of the line cooks answered, a man whose voice Remedy didn't yet recognize. "This is Remedy over in Special Events. I need someone to meet me at the seventh green, stat. This is an emergency. And bring all the bananas and apples you have."
"No time to explain. Just bring me those bananas!" And Remedy had thought planning weddings in Hollywood had been a circus.
The golf cart's top speed was no match for Gwyneth's strides. Hoping to intercept the animal, Remedy cut across the fairway, waving spectators out of her path. She kept one eye on Gwyneth and the other on her phone as she activated the voice recognition search engine. "Look up 'how to stop an elephant.'"
The phone dinged, acknowledging the command; then moments later a computerized voice said, "I found 'how to stop a rampaging elephant.'"
Gwyneth was doing more frolicking than rampaging, but close enough. Remedy scrolled through the results, most of which were viral videos of vicious elephant attacks. Not cool. Maybe the cook with the bananas would show up soon. Or, better yet, Hector, the negligent keeper.
Without warning, the golf cart thumped off the grass and slammed to a hard stop. Remedy jerked forward, flailing to brace herself. As she caught her breath, she took a look around. She'd lodged the cart in a steep sand trap while Gwyneth galloped away.
Remedy banged her hands on the steering wheel. "Shit! Shit! Shit!"
The elephant ground to a halt and swung her attention to Remedy, ears pricked. Gwyneth dropped the flagpole and backtracked toward the golf cart.
Though her heart was racing, Remedy forced herself to smile. "Hiya, Gwyneth. Got your attention, did I? You like the curse words?"
Gwyneth's trunk rose. Her ears flapped.
Remedy slid to the passenger seat, her movements slow and deliberate. "Salty as a sailor, are you? Well, you're in luck because so am I. And I've got a lot more swearwords where those came from. How about this one: Damn it all to hell!"
Gwyneth's trunk lowered. Her head swung to face the water hazard and she raised a foot as though ready to run again.
Remedy sprung from the golf cart. "No, wait, don't do that. You'll ruin your pretty headdress. Was damn not a dirty enough word? Okay, um ... son of a bitch!"
Three steps into a trot, Gwyneth paused and took a second look at Remedy.
"Ass monkey!" Remedy said with gusto. Gwyneth seemed to like the term and trotted closer, but several of the gathering spectators laughed. Yeah, perhaps luring the elephant with foul language wasn't the most appropriate method.
From her bag Remedy withdrew a granola bar and unwrapped it. "The bananas aren't here yet, but how would you like a granola bar? It's organic and gluten-free. Mmm. I mean, bloody hell, it's gluten fucking free!"
Gwyneth snatched the bar right out of Remedy's palm. Remedy squeaked and stumbled back. That was one powerful trunk. Not a moment later, Gwyneth spit the granola bar onto the ground, then used her truck to sniff Remedy up and down as though on the hunt for a better goodie.
Remedy held still and tried not to cringe at the intimate inspection. "Yeah, I'm not crazy about that brand of granola bars, either. I'm definitely a gluten gal like you." She brought her fist up. "Gimme knuckles on that, sistah."
She'd meant it as a joke to help ease her own nerves, but Gwyneth curled the end of her trunk and bopped Remedy's fist.
"Okay, this is the weirdest job ever." She reached a tentative hand out and patted Gwyneth's trunk.
The chug of a maintenance truck engine sounded. A hundred feet or so away, it stopped. The young man in a navy blue maintenance shirt leapt from the driver's seat at the same time as his passenger, a short Mexican man who looked like he might be Hector. In the truck bed sat a bin full of bananas and apples.
"Oh, thank God," Remedy whispered.
Gwyneth spotted the treats, too, and lumbered in the other truck's direction, Remedy forgotten.
The passenger strode in the animal's direction, his arms spread wide. "Gwyneth, my baby. Why do you keep playing these games with me?"
Remedy staggered back to the stuck golf cart and sagged against it, catching her breath. Crisis averted, and not a moment too soon. She wasn't even going to contemplate the resort's liability if Gwyneth had accidentally hurt a guest or caused more than mild chaos.
Remedy was still resting against the cart, watching Gwyneth power eat the pile of fruit, when her phone rang. The caller ID showed the special events department secretary on the line. "Hey, Gloria, I just bumped knuckles with an elephant."
"Okay. I'm not going to ask. I called to let you know Emily's waiting for you in your office."
Remedy had to bite her tongue to keep another expletive from escaping her mouth. She'd rather wrangle elephants than meet with Emily Ford, the resort's surly executive catering chef, but there was no getting around it — today or any other day.
Ten minutes later, Remedy pasted a smile on her face and strode into her office. She might not be a famous actor like her parents were, but she'd long ago perfected a look of photo-ready red-carpet coolness. "Hello, Emily. What can I do for you?"
Emily was about the same age as Remedy's nearly thirty and, as far as Remedy had seen, never wore anything other than a white chef's jacket, black leggings, and bright green clogs, with her curly hair pulled into a tight ponytail and smiles limited to the sarcastic variety. By all accounts, she was a rock star of a chef. What she was not was easy to work with, which seemed to be a common fault among gifted artistic types, Remedy had learned from a very young age.
At Remedy's arrival, Emily shoved off the wall she'd been leaning against. "Two words: Baked Alaska."
Good grief. "We already discussed this. You can't serve Baked Alaska to firefighters. Just ... no."
Remedy may have only had one real job prior to being hired as Briscoe Ranch Resort's special events manager, but even she knew that the first rule of being a new hire was not to piss off your coworkers, at least for the first week or two. But it looked like the honeymoon was officially over for Remedy and Emily.
Emily's narrowed eyes shifted their focus to the stack of files balancing on the edge of Remedy's desk. Her fingers twitched as though she was giving serious consideration to knocking the files onto the floor as a cat might. "You and I are going to have to agree to disagree on this, because I'm serving it."
Remedy slid the stack of files away from the edge of the desk. "How about a nice crème brûlée instead? You'd still get to torch the desserts, but in the kitchen, safely beneath the fire sprinklers. I'm sure the fire marshal would appreciate that."
The suggestion only earned Remedy a hard laugh from Emily as she stomped out of Remedy's office and through the maze of resort offices, shouting for Alex, Remedy hot on her heels. They found him standing in the center of the main ballroom, his trim black suit, black hair, and lanky, pale body perfectly at ease in command of the ornately appointed room as he directed a crew in the installation of an elaborate pillared mandap stage piece for the Kumar/Srivastva wedding that included elaborate flower arrangements and intricately embroidered purple and gold drapery. The Kumar/Srivastva wedding's awe-inspiring design was yet another reminder of why Remedy had taken this job over a resort in Aruba. No other locale the world over could transform a wedding into a work of art like Briscoe Ranch Resort. Runaway elephants notwithstanding.
Emily outpaced Remedy and strode across the room, paying no mind to the fact that Alex was mid-instruction to the installation crew. "Baked Alaska for dessert at the Firefighters' Charity Ball. That's a brilliant idea, right?"
"It's not brilliant," Remedy called before Alex could respond.
Alex strummed his fingers on his purple tie as his attention shifted between Remedy and Emily. His gaze glimmered and his lips hinted at a smile, as though he found their bickering delightful. "I heard you got to meet Gwyneth before Hector arrived. I also heard you commandeered a golf cart from a resort guest and crashed it into a sand trap."
Remedy took the long way around the dance floor, knowing better than to take her chances on the slickly polished wood. "That was not my fault. I was trying to stop a rampaging elephant." More like frolicking, but whatever.
As Alex chuckled, Remedy's right wedge snagged on a vacuum cord she didn't see until it was too late. She pitched forward, yelping, her arms flailing and her legs scrambling for balance as she knocked into the empty cake display table. The table toppled with an earsplitting crash, but Remedy stayed standing. As two workers bustled to right the table, she smoothed a palm over her skirt and composed her expression. Easy there, Pink Panther.
She turned to face Alex and Emily, her hands on her hips. Alex might be her boss, but Remedy outranked Emily. This was Remedy's call, and if Alex was as good a manager as he seemed to be he'd give her this chance to set a precedent with one of the key members of her special events team. "Like I was saying, serving Baked Alaska to firefighters isn't brilliant. Not only is it a cliché of the worst kind, but it's a recipe for disaster."
"A recipe for disaster? Who's the one with the awful clichés now?" Emily said with an eye roll.
"Forget about clichés," Remedy said. "I'm worried about safety. I'm worried about getting approval from the fire marshal."
Alex huffed. "You should be worried about him, because Micah Garrity is a thorn in my side. But as far as safety goes, I'm thinking there's no safer time to serve flaming food than at a firefighter ball. We can almost guarantee that the resort won't burn down."
It was the almost guarantee that had Remedy worried. "It's not like the firefighters are arriving in their fire trucks, dressed for the ball in their uniforms, ready to fight fires should the opportunity present itself. We're talking tuxes and limos here. Have you ever seen a firefighter battling flames in a tuxedo?"
"No, but I'd pay to," Alex said.
Remedy actually had paid to see that once, complete with stage- effect flames, at an all-male revue while in Vegas with her girlfriends Cambelle and Maura, but that was beside the point.
Emily leaned against the nearest table, her gaze turning distant and dreamy. "It doesn't have to be food. For that picture you've painted me I'd be willing to set all kinds of things on fire."
Probably she was joking. God, let her be joking. Remedy decided to run with the hope. "Sure, that's a great idea. And while we're at it, how about I have decorative trees brought into the ballroom and arrange for some cats to be stuck in them."
Excerpted from One Hot Summer by Melissa Cutler. Copyright © 2016 Melissa Cutler. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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