How does a man get over a cheating woman? Sweet revenge...
Lone Star Lovers, Book 2
For Cutter Standifer, the pretty little redhead who opened a caf? in Two Mule, Texas, was "the one". Until he caught her in a compromising position with the town's worst womanizer. To further strain his rigid code, his little sister just married the same damn bastard who shattered his world and she's living in sin with him and another man.
A year later, he still can't forgive his ex-girlfriend. And forget? Forget, hell. He's ready to kick his code into the nearest manure pile and take what he never had from her--full satisfaction.
That fateful morning, all Katie Grissom meant to do was use the bad boy's reputation to force Cutter to piss or get off the pot where their own relationship was concerned. But she went too far--deliciously too far--giving Cutter an eyeful she lived to regret.
When Cutter offers her a no-strings affair she jumps at the chance, hoping to either break through the rigid wall he's built around his heart...or get him out of her system for good.
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January 12, 2010
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Excerpt from Unforgiven by Delilah Devlin
Cutter Standifer stuck his finger inside the collar of his dress shirt and tugged. Damn thing felt tight. And every time he glanced at the bride and grooms, it just got tighter.
His little sister had wanted to be married in the sunshine, so they'd chosen the lawn on the south side of the house in front of his mother's rose garden. He'd had landscapers working around the clock to clean up the overgrown flower beds. No one would find fault with the yard, the house or with the celebration he'd paid for. However, if they didn't finish up quick, everyone's Sunday-best clothing would be drenched in perspiration.
June in West Texas was hot as hell even though they'd scheduled the ceremony for just before noon.
If his mother had been here, she'd have approved his preparations. He'd done his duty. Dani looked prettier than the pink and yellow roses blooming in the background. She wore their mother's white wedding dress, which had only needed a few tucks around the waist to fit and left too much of her tanned shoulders and chest bare for his liking. She'd twisted her long blonde hair up into some kind of knot that made her neck and shoulders look feminine, fragile and innocent. No one looking at her now, with her green eyes soft and bright with unshed tears and her lips curved into a wide smile, would know she was anything but fragile. And she damned sure wasn't innocent.
Cutter jerked when the people seated around him erupted in a loud cheer.
The official groom bent Dani over his arm and kissed her like he wasn't going to stop until her stays popped and he had her naked and under him. The crowd enjoyed his enthusiasm.
Cutter's stomach clenched and he looked away. Not until the bridal couple had trailed down the aisle toward the house and the reception did he stir.
And then he moved like an old man, taking his time following the wedding guests inside, listening as music poured out the door onto the wrap-around porch.
Reluctantly, he reminded himself his duty wasn't done quite yet. He had a party to oversee. Just a couple more hours and he could close the doors on the last guest and settle down to getting stinking drunk.
He wondered if anyone else who'd been watching had caught on to the fact the best man had looked every bit as happy as the bastard who'd placed the ring on his kid sister's finger. Rowe Ayers, the best man, had beamed every time he looked at Dani--and at Justin Cruz.
As Cutter stepped into the ballroom, he caught sight of the threesome again and his stomach churned with disgust. Rowe was with the bridal couple, still smiling. First at Dani, and then at Justin.
What the hell did that mean? Cutter didn't really want to know. The thought of his sister, sandwiched between those two cowboys was bad enough. The thought that maybe there was something happening between the two men... Well, it just wasn't something he could let himself think about and not lose his breakfast.
Add to the facts that Justin Cruz looked like the cat that swallowed the canary and Cutter felt like his head was ready to explode.
The pulse at his temple hammered. His face was hot. His muscles tensed for a fight. Just one little word from the wrong person...
"Well, will you lookie there," Wade Luckadoo muttered next to him, holding a Shiner Bock beer in one large fist. "They sure look cozy. Wonder if they plan to dance the first waltz in a goddamn conga line."
Cutter clamped his jaw tight. So maybe he'd been thinking the exact damn thing, but Wade wasn't going to get away with slandering his sister. "You wanna step outside?"
Wade's eyebrows shot up. His hands lifted, holding the beer high. "Cutter, dammit, I didn't mean a thing by it. You know me'n my mouth."
Cutter sighed. He'd really hoped Wade would oblige him with a fight. They were evenly matched and Wade never held a grudge after every time Cutter had tried to kick his ass.
"Still, they did make quite a commotion at the saloon, cozying up together on the dance floor. Didn't seem to mind what anyone was seein'."
"Wade..." Cutter let his tone slide into a sharp-edged warning.
Wade shrugged. "Just sayin' they look happy. Wish't I was that goddamn happy."
Cutter saw red. He reached over for the beer in Wade's hand, and Wade surrendered it cheerfully and began rolling up his shirt sleeves. "Just remember, I'm doin' you a favor. Saw the way you looked at Cruz all thru the ceremony. If that horny bastard had married my little sis, I'd be ready to spit nails too."
Cutter set down the Shiner on the reception table and shrugged out of his tuxedo jacket, then slowly rolled up the sleeves of his pristine white shirt. The tux was only pennies on top of the cash he'd laid out for his sister's sham of a wedding. Dirtying it up a bit would give him some satisfaction. Wiping the growing grin off of Wade's face would give him even more.
"Outside?" Wade offered.
Cutter cut a quick glance around the room and saw Justin leading Dani out on the dance floor. "Act casual. Don't want her to know." But with the number of glances swinging between the couple cozying up for their wedding dance and the two men stalking toward the door, there wasn't much of a chance all hell wasn't about to break loose.
Texans liked a little drama at a wedding. The fact Dani was marrying the town's biggest bad boy had been enough to ensure every invitation she'd mailed had been RSVPed with an enthusiastic yes.
Now Cutter was going to give them another spectacle to keep them talking for years.
Maybe if he hadn't chugged one beer after the other before the ceremony, trying to cool his temper, he wouldn't be so eager to make sure everyone knew he wasn't all right with things. More importantly, from his point of view, he didn't want anyone paying too close attention to the fact the best man was just as touchy-feely with the bride as the groom.
He was doing this for Dani's sake, he told himself.
Wade pushed through the back door, his booted heels pounding on the planked porch. Before he took the first step down toward the dirt, he turned.
Cutter didn't give him any warning. His fist clipped the other man's jaw, sending him backward.
Wade missed every step on his way down. He sat in the dust, shaking his head, and then worked his jaw side to side. "You're madder than I thought," he murmured.
"It's not entirely you," Cutter ground out.
"Didn't think it was." Wade grinned and came to his knees, then ungracefully stood. He swayed only once, before bringing up his fists. "You see Katie?"
Cutter narrowed his eyes to angry slits and swung again.
This time, Wade ducked under the fist, bobbing up with a wide grin. "Sure looks pretty in that little blue dress. Wonder if she's even wearin' any underwear."
Cutter growled and ducked his shoulders, raising his fists higher and aiming at the spot on Wade's jaw he knew would end his chattering. Speculating about his sister's marriage was one thing. Mentioning Katie Grissom's name in his presence was the last straw. She hadn't been invited to the wedding. She was the last person in Texas who should be there. Wade knew it too.
His friend must have read the tightening fury in his expression, because his grin faded and his gaze narrowed like he was finally going to take the fight seriously. They both had similar builds which made them frequent sparring partners, neither liking to pick on a man less able to stand up to him.
Now that Wade seemed ready to get serious about his ass-whooping, Cutter took deep, even breaths and settled into a fighter's stance, letting his knees relax a bit as he bobbed side to side, looking for an opening to punch Wade with a wicked right hook.
But Wade ducked, coming up under Cutter's arms, and slammed both sides of his ribs with bone-crunching digs.
Cutter backed up and wheezed, shaking his head to clear it of some of the anger. He'd never win if he went at Wade like an angry bull.
Behind them, footsteps creaked on the wooden porch as more and more of the wedding guests pushed outside to see what all the fuss was about. Whispers and soft laughter, punctuated by groans every time a punch landed, grew behind them until bets began to be shouted over the crowd.
Cutter realized he didn't care whether he won or lost, just that Wade keep hammering away at him, because each blow distracted him from the pain he felt inside.
He'd failed his parents. Failed to keep Dani safe. Failed to protect her honor. She'd let Justin seduce her pants off, and then let Rowe convince her that their nasty little threesome could work. And no matter how many times he'd tried to broach the conversation, tell her all the reasons it could never work, shouldn't work, he hadn't been able to convince her.
This was a lesson she'd have to learn on her own. But he'd had to lay out consequences that had hurt them both. He withheld her portion of her inheritance, as was his right according to their parents' will.
They'd envisioned her being vulnerable to fortune-hunters like Cruz, but thank God, they'd never worried about her messing around with two men. Living with both in sin. Sullying their family name.
For the first time, Cutter was fiercely glad his parents weren't there to see her wedding day. He'd done his best, tried to talk sense to her. But when she'd remained stubborn, he'd given her the wedding their mother would have wanted.
Dani had been a vision in white. Tiny sprigs of pink flowers formed a crown on her head, and the pink roses she'd carried in her arms had matched the soft, happy color in her cheeks.
All the while he'd walked her up the aisle, his heart pounding hard against his chest, his stomach churning, he hadn't missed the looks the two men at the end of the aisle had given her--like they couldn't wait to muss up every inch of her body.
"Don't look now," Wade mumbled. "Your old girlfriend stepped outside. And I'm a hunerd percent sure she's not wearin' any bra."
Cutter balled his fists and lunged, swinging wide.
Wade stepped out of the way and laughed, then landed another one-two flurry against Cutter's ribs.
Cutter felt Wade's knuckles slam hard and took another wheezing breath, but couldn't resist darting a glance toward the crowd lining up along the rails of the veranda.
He saw a glimpse of royal blue silk, a slender figure standing on tip-toe to see over the shoulder of another spectator. She'd dared show up today of all days?
Hell, he already had good reasons to vent a little fury, but now he wanted blood. He ignored the slam against his jaw and spread his arms wide, launching himself at Wade with a loud roar and taking him to the dirt where they rolled, digging fists into each other's sides.
One punch clipped his chin, and Cutter blinked, feeling dizzy.
Wade rolled him to his back.
Cutter dug his booted heels into the ground and bucked, turning them both again. This time, his fist connected with Wade's glass jaw and the man deflated underneath him, his arms falling to his sides.
"Uncle?" Wade slurred.
Cutter grabbed his collar in one hand and lifted Wade's head and shoulders, drawing back his arm to land a final blow and wipe the tired smirk off his friend's face.
But strong fingers wrapped around his wrist and held him. He glanced over his shoulder, ready to tear into whoever had the nerve to interfere, and found Justin Cruz glaring down.
"Dani's pissed," Justin said under his breath. "You startin' a fight at her wedding."
"Dani'll just have to get over it. I have."
Justin dropped his wrist and shrugged. "All I promised to do was try."
Cutter turned his attention back to Wade, but didn't see the broad fist arcing his way until it landed on his cheek. He slid off Wade's waist and lay on his back in the dust, shaking his head and cupping his tenderized face.
Wade leaned up on an elbow. "We through?"
Cutter gave him a grimace. "You sucker-punched me."
"So what? Call it a draw?"
Cutter growled but nodded, then slowly sat up.
Again, his glance cut toward the crowd beginning to fall away now that the excitement had ended. He caught a glimpse of Katie's little backside twitching as she hurried away.
What the hell was she doing here? And why stay to watch the fight?
Had she been worried about him? Did she even give a shit anymore what happened to him? Or was she here because of Justin?
The thought that she might still be carrying a torch for his brother-in-law ate a hole in his gut.
"Better get cleaned up before Dani sees us," Wade said, crawling to his knees.
Cutter snorted then dragged himself up, pushing up from Wade's shoulder and offering the other man a hand. With their arms slung over each other's shoulders they stumbled toward the steps.
Katie hurried back toward the ballroom to get lost in the crowd, knowing Cutter would come crashing through the door at any moment now the fight was over. And what had that been about?
That he wasn't happy about Dani's choice in men was apparent to anyone with eyes, but fighting still seemed an excessive reaction. Even for Cutter.
The fact she'd caught his glare a couple of times when he'd panned the people gathering at the rails hadn't meant a thing. He hadn't been looking for her unless it was to wonder what she was doing here.
She'd crashed the wedding. Not because of Justin. They were long over. And she was happy for him, the bastard. Justin had used her like he had every girl who'd ever had the misfortune to stroll across his path.
Not that she could hold a grudge against the man. She'd fallen for the sultry heat in his eyes and had wanted to use him to force Cutter to piss or get off the pot so far as their own casual relationship was concerned. She hadn't planned to let things go that far, but she'd been drawn by the unexpected heat and undeniable aura of command that Justin had turned on her.
Never had a man gotten to her so quickly, not even Cutter, whom she'd loved.
She'd never forget the morning after she'd succumbed. The doorbell had rung, and she'd opened it, still bleary-eyed and aching from Justin's loving, to find Cutter on her stoop, a smile on his face and his cowboy hat in his hand. His eyes had raked her once, and a frown settled between his dark brown eyes. His gaze had lifted, going to the footsteps padding her way.
He'd turned quickly on his heels and stomped off the porch. She'd glanced back to find Justin behind her, buttoning his jeans.
"Friend of yours?" he'd drawled.
But he'd known about her and Cutter and the fact they'd been dating for months. Everyone knew.
And everyone had quickly discovered why Cutter had dropped her like a rock after that day because someone saw her leave Justin at his truck, which he'd left parked the previous night at the saloon.
She'd been ruined, marked as just another of Justin's easy lays. After he'd stopped calling her, other men had tried to fill in his shoes, but she'd been burned already and her heart hadn't survived the aftermath of her mistake.
To this day, she kept to herself, didn't date. Speculation had died down when everyone began to wonder who Justin's next conquest would be.
Not until she'd seen the announcement of Justin's wedding and the fact it would be held at the Standifer ranch had she let herself think about everything she'd lost. The impulse had been too irresistible to slip into the house, to see how Justin and Dani--and and apparently Rowe--were doing, but especially for a chance to watch Cutter.
She'd arrived late and sat to the side behind tall urns filled with lilies during the ceremony. She'd run to the bathroom when the band struck the first note in the ballroom in the old house. Not until she was sure everyone was deep into their drinks had she started to mingle, always with an eye for where Cutter was.
When she'd seen him and Wade head out the door, glowering at each other and rolling up their sleeves, she hadn't been able to resist joining the throng pushing through the doors to watch the fight.
She'd kept behind everyone, standing on tiptoe to catch a glimpse.
Cutter's back had been to her for most of the fight and she'd drunk in the sight of his broad shoulders and thick arms and thighs as his muscles tensed. Watching the two men go at it like latter-day gladiators had sent a thrill of heat through her body unlike anything she'd felt in a long, long time.
When Cutter's glance had panned the porch and honed in on her, she'd taken a step back, hoping he didn't know it was her because she didn't want to leave just yet.
Weddings were always roller coasters. Happy, tense times for the participants; poignant reminders to observers. She'd clutched a tissue in her hand throughout the ceremony, envying the smiles the bride and groom and best man had shared.
All the while she couldn't help thinking that she might have been the one up there, standing exactly where Dani stood, gazing into Cutter's eyes as he slipped a ring on her finger--if only she hadn't strayed.
Infidelity wasn't something Cutter would ever forgive. She couldn't forgive herself. So she'd been a little tipsy. She'd been more than a little frustrated with how slowly Cutter had taken his courtship. Grown angrier the more she drank that fateful night with the fact he held the reins in their relationship and didn't seem to notice she wasn't happy with the pace.
Justin hadn't had to work all that hard to get into her bed. But even before he'd rolled off her, she'd known she'd just made the biggest mistake of her life.
Katie slipped from the ballroom, and headed down the hallway toward the living room and the front door. She'd tortured herself long enough with regrets. It was time to go home.
Just as she stepped into the living room, an arm reached around the corner, fingers closed around her wrist and whipped her toward a massive chest. The scent of spicy cologne, dust and male sweat assailed her, and she knew who held her inside his tight grip even before she raised her eyes.
Cutter tsked. "Katie Grissom. Funny, I know you weren't on the list of invitees."