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Forever Hunted: Forever Bluegrass #9
Author:Kathleen Brooks

Forever Hunted: Forever Bluegrass #9

Kathleen Brooks


Sixteen months ago . . .

* * *

Carter Ashton tossed back a bourbon as his good friend and neighbor, Zain Ali Rahman, danced by with his new bride, Mila, wrapped in his arms. For a small town like Keeneston, weddings were a big deal regardless of the fact that Zain was a prince. It made no difference to the people of Keeneston that there were princes, kings, queens, presidents, or prime ministers in attendance that night. It was one of the things Carter loved about Keeneston. Folks only cared about their loved ones, not their status. Consequently, it was also the worst thing about Keeneston. They cared a little too much, which left privacy as a bad word.

Carter tapped his finger against the top of his empty glass and the bartender poured another finger of bourbon as Carter’s attention shifted to watch Cy Davies dance with his wife, Gemma. Carter had known the entire Davies family ever since he was born. They were like family to him, until now. Now Cy Davies was the unmovable boulder of overprotective father that stood between Carter and the only person he wanted to dance with—Cy’s daughter, Reagan.

True, he’d danced with her before . . . many times, in fact. It shouldn’t be a big deal, but it was. Because this time was different. This time he didn’t want to be friends anymore. This time he wanted to dance with the woman he found irresistible, not the girl he’d grown up riding horses with.

Carter shot back the bourbon as his eyes locked onto Reagan. Her long, copper-red hair, normally worn down, was pulled up tonight in an elaborate updo, leaving the long column of her neck and smooth skin of her back on full display from the draped fabric of her dress. Her gown was a deep emerald green, drawing attention to her hazel eyes. The front of the gown came up to her neck as it hung over her shoulders and draped down, revealing her bare back, shoulders, and all the way to the top of a rounded ass he desperately wanted to put his hands on.

Reagan wasn’t normally so dressed up, and this reminded him of what he already knew of the tomboy he grew up with—she’d turned into an athletic, beautiful woman. Her body was toned from riding horses, setting up her horse transport flights, and working on a farm. Yet her body still seemed soft with womanly curves, such as the curve of her butt, the flair of her hips, the swell of her breasts.

Carter tapped his glass to ask for another bourbon. Reagan and he were friends—good friends. But things had changed instantly six days earlier. Unfortunately, Carter worried it had only changed for him. They’d been riding at his farm. Carter had a new horse he was excited to show his father, Will. His father was turning over more and more control of the farm to him as Will had taken over running the new professional football team he co-owned in Lexington. Carter’s father had been a quarterback in the NFL until his Grandpa William had had a heart attack. Carter’s dad had come back to Kentucky, taken over the farm, and even produced a couple of Kentucky Derby winners. And now it was Carter’s turn to make his own mark in the horse racing industry. He had recently purchased a new horse and wanted Reagan’s opinion on him. All his life, it had been Reagan’s opinion he sought and respected. So it was just another day when she’d come over to check out his horse.

Dressed in jeans and a T-shirt he’d seen her in a thousand times, Reagan had put the horse through his paces. When she came to a halt in front of Carter, her red hair was wild from the ride, her hazel eyes flashed in the pleasure of a breakneck ride, her mouth tilted up laughingly, and her breasts rose in exhilaration. Carter had been struck hard and fast by a bolt of lightning, or lust. Whichever, it didn’t matter. What mattered was that right then he’d wanted to pull one of his best friends from the saddle and do things best friends don’t do with each other. Things that involved being naked and screaming each other’s names.

But Carter had never been the kind of man to just grab what he wanted, especially if what he wanted was a woman. His father and mother had instilled deep levels of gentlemanly manners in him. So instead of acting out of lust, Carter had held up his hands to her and smiled when she slipped from the horse and into his arms.

Instantly aroused, Carter’s hands had trailed down her back as he smiled at her, holding her a little longer than he’d ever done before. “He’s magnificent!” Reagan had laughed as she grabbed his biceps. Carter’s smile was known for turning women speechless with a flash of dimple and a whole lot of promise of what he could do with his lips. It was the same one that had the husband-hunting women’s group, the Keeneston Belles, putting him on the top of the Keeneston’s Most Eligible Bachelor list.

“I’m glad you like him,” he had said seductively, pulling her closer to him. But he hadn’t been blind or delirious. It hadn’t worked. It had worked before. In fact, it had never failed. But Reagan hadn’t picked up on the subtle signs he’d been giving her. Instead, she’d patted his arm and broken from his embrace to rub the horse’s neck.

“Are you going to race him?” she had asked instead.

Carter had approached her and placed his hand next to hers on the horse’s neck as he had looked down at her. “I believe I will. Reagan,” he’d said, his voice husky with desire as he’d reached out and taken her hand in his. He wasn’t even going to think about it. He was going to ask her out. No wondering about hurting their friendship. No second-guessing if they should date. He’d known it down to his core. In that split second, she was his and he was hers.

“Damn,” Reagan had cursed when her phone rang. She’d pulled her hand from his and answered with a sharp “What now, Dad?” She’d looked up at Carter and smiled before rolling her eyes. “Da-a-ad, give it up. I’m just with Carter.”

And right then his heart had plummeted. Just Carter? Just?

“Yeah, I’ll be there in ten. Okay. Love you too.” Reagan had grimaced with annoyance with her father as she tucked her phone into her back pocket. “What were you going to ask before my dad interrupted?”

Carter’s hopes had been dashed. “I was going to see if you were bringing a date to Zain and Mila’s wedding.”

Reagan had laughed and shook her head. “As if I’d put anyone through the torture of having to spend a day with my dad threatening to kill him. He’d ruin any fun I could have.”

“He doesn’t have to. Maybe if he liked the guy . . .” Carter had said, thinking of how he and Cy were on great terms.

Reagan had snorted. “Please. Any guy will turn into public enemy number one once they show an interest in me. That’s why I only date outside of the state. It’s handy being a pilot.” She’d winked.

“Are you dating someone now?” Carter had held his breath hoping she wasn’t. He’d broken up with his last girlfriend three months before and hadn’t thought twice about dating again until Reagan thundered toward him in all her wild glory. It had seemed the rest of his life balanced on the answer to this question.