The Sons of Dusty Walker Series, Book 6
Jackson Walker is anxious about spending a whole week in Red Creek, Kansas, with his newly discovered brothers. Will they be able to work as a team at the company they inherited from their dad? Can they even be in the same room together without getting into a dust-up?
What he has no concerns about, however, is the woman he’s fallen crazy in love with: sexy, quirky computer engineer Rori Hughes. But that changes when her family comes to town with an offer she can’t refuse. Jackson is more confused than he’s ever been in his life, including the day when he’d been just fifteen and learned his father had a wife—who was not Jackson’s mother.
Rori has major decisions to make, and she can feel Jackson backing away from her as he finds too many commitments that keep him away from town and out of her arms. His frequent nightmares concern her, but even more disturbing is the strange woman in town who has been talking with Jackson and going out of her way to avoid Rori.
As fall turns into winter, will Jackson and Rori find a way around their suspicions and insecurities, or will they find that their flash-fire romance has burned itself out?
Check out the other books in The Sons of Dusty Walker Series
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Jackson Walker knew he was dreaming, but with his sweetheart, Rori Hughes, snuggled tightly in his arms, and the two of them cradled warm and cozy in her bed, he couldn’t wake himself.
“You’re just like your father.” Rori stood in the middle of Main Street, Red Creek, Kansas, her fists on her hips. “You can’t change DNA, Jackson. You’ll break my heart, and you’ll just rationalize it away with the fact that you’re Dusty Walker’s son.”
Jackson reached over his head to attach his rodeo number on his back, turned away from Rori, and instantly found himself behind the wheel of his pickup, flooring the accelerator, squealing tires as he raced away from her.
He woke with a gasp and opened his eyes. Light from the streetlamps filtered in around the curtains, casting stripes on the ceiling.
Rori’s sweet patchouli scent drifted up his nostrils, but she didn’t move. Exhausted? They’d made love half the night in their hideaway apartment on the second floor of her computer store on Main Street, and she’d fallen deeply asleep just a few hours ago.
Easing his arm from under her, Jackson slid out of bed, pulled on his briefs, and padded out of the room and across the wood floor to the small kitchen. As he drew a glass of water from the tap, he stared out the window. Down the street a ways, the D. Walker Mineral building stood half in shadow as if hiding itself from him.
His dad. The man had been dead and buried for over a month, but his legacy lived on. Especially the part where he’d conceived four sons from four different women—none of them his wife—and had kept the four brothers from each other.
Now that all four of them had each spent a separate week in this boringly quiet little town, somehow they’d each decided to stay, at least most of the time. Some of them had kept interests back home that had to be dealt with. “Stupid spawn of a deceitful asshole.” Jackson shook his head, catching himself. No, he had forgiven his father, had sat down and spoken with his mother, who still loved ol’ dead-and-gone Dusty as if he were her main reason for breathing.
Drinking his water, he let it cool his anger. That dream, though. So real, it had to mean something. Jackson wandered into the living room and checked the time on one of Rori’s many gaming consoles. Nearly four in the morning. Was he subliminally picking up uncertainty from Rori? Hell, he could barely keep track of his own thought processes, much less sense anything from anyone else.
He sat on the arm of a heavy recliner and stared at the blank TV. The rodeo reference in the dream disturbed him. Rori had been okay with his travel schedule when he’d told her he wanted to hit a few hot rodeos this fall. How come, in his dream, it felt like he was abandoning her?
Hell, the whole concept confused him. This was the first time in his life he’d even considered settling down. How did he know if it was real love or if Rori just happened to come into his world when he needed someone? The thought of walking away from her, though, nearly broke him.
“Hey, cowboy.” Her sexy, low voice preceded the padding of her bare feet across the floor. “Are you looking for a rematch?” She stepped in front of him, and her functional blue cotton robe flapped open as she reached for the game controller, revealing her curvy, nude beauty.
Jackson set down his glass and pulled Rori onto his lap, dropping them both into the big chair. “You know I’m a lover, not a paid assassin fighter.”
Rori giggled, her shoulder-length black hair swinging wildly as she settled in, her blue eyes glowing. “I appreciate that you tried it, though. For me.”
“Anything.” Something choked the word in his throat a bit as he stared at his amazing woman. “Anything for you, darlin’.” His fingers found the tight, red bud at the tip of her breast that gave them both so damn much pleasure.
As she sighed, the memory of his dream assaulted him again. He had to get his shit together. Rori was the best thing that’d ever happened in his life, and he would make this work if it took every last ounce of his strength to do it.
The week the four brothers agreed to spend together in Red Creek had already begun to scrape heavily on Jackson’s nerves by noon the first day. They sat in the company’s small conference room with their attorney, Stanley Benner, Esquire, and jawed on about each little detail of the company. Everyone had his own idea of how to distribute Dusty Walker’s duties as owner and CEO, but none of the brothers was interested in the traveling portion. Not when they each had a honey living and loving right here in town.
Traveling had been their dad’s thing. Hopping from one family to the next around the four compass points of the US. Now, here the four of them were, settled down like they’d been born and raised in Red Creek, Kansas, and had never wanted to set foot outside it.
After some arguing that required mediation from the attorney, to make everything fair, they distributed the crucial trips between the four of them and handed off the others to the company’s very qualified employees.
A couple of days in, Jackson looked at the clock for the seventieth time. Only five past ten, and the lawyer had only gotten through a tenth of the files stacked in front of him. This might just kill Jackson, and his brothers, too. They’d been on edge, squabbling some, and were not feeling that brotherly love at all.
Dylan stared at a spot on the wall behind Jackson. His baby brother had to be experiencing the same exhaustion he was. Killian drew small squares on a paper in front of him as if he was feeling boxed in, and Rogue just stared down at his lap. Was the guy texting or—more likely—playing poker at some online site?
Jackson waited until Benner finished speaking and closed the folder he’d been reading from. When the man reached for another file, Jackson stood.
Four heads swiveled to look up at him, three of them nearly mirror images of Jackson, except for hair and eye color.
“Mr. Benner, I think me and my brothers here have gotten enough information for the time being.”
A slow grin spread across Dylan’s face.
Jackson hitched his thumbs in his front pockets. “I’m feeling like it’s time we four had a sit-down to discuss everything before we try to take in any more.”
Killian clicked his pen closed and set it down. “For the first time all day, I think I agree with Jackson.”
Across the table, Rogue glanced at each of his brothers, then stood. “I’m in favor of a break.”
“But, gentlemen.” The attorney set his pudgy hand on the stack of files he hadn’t gone over yet. “We only have a week, and there’s at least—”
“All in favor?” Dylan got to his feet.
“Damned right,” Rogue stepped to the door and pulled it open, gesturing for his siblings to precede him. “Gentlemen.” He said the word with more than a little sarcasm.
With Benner’s voice echoing a question about when they would return, the four of them made it out onto the sidewalk in front of the building in seconds.
The sun warmed Jackson as they strode through the company parking lot, splitting off into different directions toward their vehicles. Warm but not too hot, with a soft breeze blowing a few puffy clouds around, he got a vision of exactly what they needed to do. “Fishing.”
“Huh?” Dylan pulled car keys from his pocket as Rogue and Killian stopped and looked at Jackson.
“Let’s go fishing.” Jackson warmed to the idea. “Meet at the dock in front of Dad’s house in half an hour, and we’ll take the boat out. Wet a line.” It’d give them a chance to get to know each other outside of the office. With each of them staying with their woman at night, the only time the brothers were together was at D. Walker Mineral Co. And things weren’t going well there at the moment.
Dylan spun back to face them. “Yeah, why the hell not? We can talk about all this crap there as well as anywhere.”
Killian narrowed his gaze. “You know what you’re doin’ out on a boat? I mean, for any of these boys who don’t have the skills to land a fish?”
With a loud laugh, Rogue shook his head. “Which means our brother Killian is gonna need you to bait his hook.”
Killian pointed a finger at his brother. “Rogue, it sounds like we’re gonna have to have us a contest. Biggest fish wins.”
Dylan stepped forward. “I’m in. But it’ll be hot out on the lake today, supposed to get up into the 90s.” He looked down at his jeans and boots. “I don’t have swimming trunks and shit.”
Jackson looked down the line of buildings set like railroad cars along the street. “I’ve never been in the clothes store.” He’d walked by it a dozen times, but clothes shopping for him took place at a boot and saddle shop. “We can try there, see what they have.”
Rogue shrugged. “Better than sweating to death in denim.”
The brothers crossed the street and headed for Plinees Fashions. Jackson opened the glass door, setting a tinny bell ringing overhead and blasting him with cool air. The term fashions was probably a mislabel. Racks of serviceable T-shirts, polyester pants, and a few women’s blouses filled the area.
“Ah…” Killian stopped and looked around. “You sure this isn’t a chick store?”
A petite blonde who had to still be in high school came from the back room carrying a handful of hangers. She stopped and looked at the brothers, her eyes opening wide as her cheeks turned bright red. “Hi.”
“Hi.” Dylan poured more charm into that one word than Jackson could muster with a paragraph. “Y’all have men’s clothes here?”
Her gaze shot back and forth between all four of them for a few seconds. Red Creek was a small town, and everybody made everybody else’s business their own. She had to know who they were. Was she startled speechless to have all four of them right in front of her?
Rogue chuckled and pointed left. “I think I see a sign back there.”
She glanced that way, then back at them. “Yes. Yes, menswear. It’s that way.” She clutched the hangers to her chest and looked down.
Jackson leaned closer to Killian. “You figure she’d faint if we asked her to help with sizes?”
The brothers marched toward the sign and found a surprising selection of shorts and swim trunks. They each quickly chose one, grabbed rubbery sandals from a display rack, and headed to the checkout counter.
The young employee stood texting manically, then set the phone down at their approach. “Did you find what you were looking for?” She managed a smile.
“We sure did.” Killian set his items on the counter. “My treat, boys.” He pulled out his wallet and chose a credit card.
“I’ll take you up on that.” Jackson set his plaid trunks and blue flip-flops on the counter.
Dylan set down his, too. “Bet that’s the first time that wallet has been opened in a long time.”
“Watch your manners, young gun.” Killian gave the kid a glare, followed by a smile.
Jackson was starting to like having brothers. Even the teasing was growing on him, the almost mystical bro connection that seemed to put them all of a same mind at times.
Halfway through the ringing-up process, the bell on the front door tinkled, and two young women came in, looked at the brothers, then giggled as they ducked behind a rack of dresses.
Rogue caught Jackson’s eye and winked. “Looks like the place is doing pretty well.” He glanced at their cashier. “Is it always this busy?”
The girl’s gaze shifted to where the two newcomers giggled and held up their cameras, evidently taking pictures of the Walker boys. “Sorry.” She said the words to the men as she shook her head for the benefit of her friends.
“We’re used to it.” Jackson took the bag from her. “New in town, I suppose it always raises a little interest.”
She blushed again and gave him a sweet smile. “This town is dull as dirt most days. It’s good to have a few new faces to…um….” She glanced at her friends.
“Stalk?” Killian signed the credit card receipt, gave their cashier a killer smile, and followed as his brothers wandered out.
Not used to being stalked by anyone other than fanatic groupies, Dylan led the way back to their company’s building.
“Gonna be like that for a while.” Killian slid his sunglasses on.
Jackson slowed and looked into Rori’s storefront. She was in there but had customers. When he caught her glance, he winked.
Looking down at her phone, she typed.
His phone bonged as a text came in. He pulled it from his pocket and opened her message.
You four shouldn’t run in a pack. You’re going to get all the single ladies stirred up.
Jackson laughed, and his brothers glanced at him.
“Rori. She says we’re a pack now. Out stirrin’ up the females.”
His three brothers grinned and puffed out their chests, changing their fast walks to manly swaggers. Jackson joined the fun, and they strolled across the street. True to Rori’s warning, people—mostly women—stopped to stare.
“Watch out, Red Creek.” Jackson grabbed his truck keys from his pocket. “The Walker boys are here to stay.”
His brothers laughed, but Jackson turned somber. He hoped like hell that was true.