Summer Serenade, page 1part #19 of Quinn Valley Ranch Series
Table of Contents
About the Author
Other Books by Melissa McClone
Quinn Valley Ranch, Book Nineteen
Copyright © 2019 Melissa McClone
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work, in any form by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, is illegal and forbidden, without written permission of the author, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
This is a work of fiction. Characters, settings, names, and occurrences are products of the author’s imagination or used factiously and bear no resemblance to any actual person, living or dead, places or settings and/or occurrences. Any incidences of resemblance are purely coincidental.
Cover by EDH GRAPHICS
Cardinal Press, LLC
For Denise Stout.
Thanks for your support, your help, and most importantly, your friendship.
Special thanks to the authors in the Quinn Valley Ranch series: Kirsten Osbourne, Pamela Kelley, Amelia Adams, Caroline Lee, Liz Isaacson, and Kay P. Dawson.
Nash Bennett didn’t mind living out of a suitcase, but Quinn Valley had nothing on Nashville. Okay, the small town in Idaho with its quaint shops and restaurants was charming despite the loads of tourists visiting in June. Not that he blamed the vacationers. The setting of mountains as one backdrop and farmland as the other defined picturesque. And the famed hot springs were helping his torn muscle heal.
But he was tired with a capital T.
Not the exhaustion he’d suffered during the first leg of his world tour, which led to his leg injury during a concert in Seattle and his making unwise—okay, stupid—decisions the past few months. This time, hiding out and doing physical therapy had worn him out.
“You’re slowing down.” Travis Quinn, his physical therapist, AKA the punisher, loomed over Nash like a guard on death row. “Keep going.”
A sweat-soaked T-shirt clung to Nash. A pair of gym shorts, too. He’d been here for thirty minutes. Dying appeared to be the only option to keep from continuing at this point. His therapist would never allow Nash to quit. “I’m trying.”
“Don’t make me go all Jedi Master on you about do versus try.”
Nash gritted his teeth. “You wouldn’t.”
Travis kneeled. “I hope you’re not a betting man because you will lose.”
So much for being in top physical shape. But then again, Nash felt older than thirty-three. He hadn’t been taking care of himself. That had been part of his problem. Buying into the hype. Ignoring common sense. Proving his bad boy of country music moniker—as deemed by the media—had been well-deserved.
That was why he’d earned a one-way ticket to Quinn Valley, Idaho. His manager, R.J., claimed the record company wanted this, but the label executives blamed his manager. His producer had said shut up and go. So Nash had. Now all he wanted was out of this middle-of-nowhere town and especially out of this office.
Sweat dripped from his forehead. “How much longer?”
Travis studied him with an exasperated expression. “If you stop watching the clock, you’ll be happier.”
“I’ll be happier when I get released and can return to rehearsals.”
Nash blew out a breath. “So I’m done.”
“Not quite.” Travis handed him a foam roller. “Some quadriceps rolls, first.”
Another groan escaped. Par for the course when Travis added a new method of tormenting patients to his cache of treatments. At least this one wouldn’t take long.
“On your stomach,” Travis ordered. A drill sergeant would have been nicer.
Nash rolled over on the mat-covered floor. His hands supporting his weight, he lay on his stomach with his thighs on top of the foam roller.
“That’s the correct position.” Travis sounded like he might be smiling, but Nash didn’t glance up. He’d brought this on himself with his joking around and not paying attention some—okay, most—of the time. “Roll from the hip to the knee. If it hurts too much, stop. This should be a good pain.”
“No such thing.” Still, Nash did as instructed, but the therapist’s latest torture device sucked. “Do you sit around with your siblings thinking of ways to torment patients?”
“No, but that’s a great idea. Only Joel is a vet so his patients rarely talk back.”
“Unless they bite,” Nash joked.
“Please tell me that’s not part of your bad patient repertoire.”
“You’ll have to wait and see, but if it’s any consolation, I’m housebroken.”
Travis laughed. “How about you imagine pretty women at a concert screaming your name? That will keep you going.”
Yeah, right. Nash wasn’t supposed to date while he was here. Too much of a liability according to his team. Shea, his personal assistant who was taking care of everything while he was stuck here, had sided with everyone else. “You’re the worst.”
“Best compliment you could give me, because that makes me the best when it comes to patients like you who’ll take any shortcut they can.”
“That’s not… Okay, it’s true.” A groan ripped from Nash’s throat. “My motto used to be ‘only the strong survive,’ but this is killing me, man.”
“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” Travis recited. “That’s what my grams tells me.”
“You mean the little old gray-haired lady trying to marry off each of her grandchildren?” Nash’s arms shook. Pathetic. He should be stronger than this. “I can’t believe there are twenty-five of you Quinn cousins.”
“Must be something in the water,” Travis joked. “But given over half my cousins have said ‘I do’ or are planning their weddings, I’d say ‘the little old gray-haired lady’ knows something the rest of us don’t.”
“Or maybe she spikes your drinks or food with a magic love potion.” That sounded more likely a culprit.
“I wouldn’t put anything past Grams. She enjoys getting her way.” Travis picked up a white hand towel and a bottle of water. “Okay, that’s enough.”
Nash collapsed against the mat-covered floor. Only his face wasn’t touching. Though if his new scruffy beard was any longer, it would. His heart pounded so hard the office might be shaking. “You enjoy watching me suffer.”
“Heal. I enjoy watching you heal.” Travis tossed Nash the towel. “So you can be back on stage this fall and send me free tickets.”
“Pick a stop, and they’re yours.”
The second half of Nash’s tour had been postponed to give him time to recover from the injury, a tarnished reputation, and the exhaustion he’d been ignoring for months. Okay, maybe years.
But a guy didn’t get to the top of the charts by being a slacker or unsocial. Though here in Quinn Valley he was lying low so people wouldn’t leak his whereabouts. His PR firm wanted to keep him out of the media for as long as possible while they worked their magic to turn his image from a bad boy to a n
Nash wished his people would stop calling and asking if he was being good. He wasn’t twelve. But he was doing his best and would continue to do so, though…
Trying to be incognito wasn’t as easy as he thought it would be. The bushy beard helped—he sometimes didn’t recognize his reflection in the mirror—but he missed his clean-shaven face or wearing just enough stubble to drive the woman crazy. His new wardrobe consisted of vintage graphic tees, shorts, and skinny jeans—more gamer or computer programmer attire than country superstar. Add in different beanies and sunglasses, and he didn’t look like himself at all. He sure missed his cowboy hat, button-downs, Henley shirts, and bootcut jeans.
Here, Nash was a nobody, which was the whole point. But he missed the adoration. He loved his fans and the attention they showered upon him, but he was under strict orders—no contact with the public. With his contract coming up for negotiations, his manager, R.J., said he couldn’t mess up or there would be serious consequences, such as being dropped by the record label. That had made Nash straighten up. Well, as much as he could because trouble seemed to follow him. Okay, that was partly his fault. He enjoyed yanking on people’s chains. R.J.’s especially. Travis’s, too, and the physical therapist didn’t seem to mind.
“What are you thinking?” Travis asked.
Nash wiped the sweat from his face. “If I’ll survive until the new tour gets scheduled.”
Travis’s forehead wrinkled. He leaned closer. “Sore?”
“I can take your workouts. I meant being bored. Not a lot going on in Quinn Valley.”
That brought a laugh. “Recovering and resting should be your priorities.”
“They are, but I’m not used to living like a hermit.”
An entourage usually followed Nash wherever he went. The names and faces often changed, which meant not one person was a consistent part of his life other than his manager. Still, he was never alone. Just like when he’d grown up in a foster home where he shared a bedroom with three other boys. He hadn’t minded because his final set of foster parents were good people and living like that was all he knew. Besides, it beat the alternative—being on his own.
Which was what he’d been since arriving in Quinn Valley.
“I only talk to you and your uncle Bob, who schedules my food delivery and makes sure housekeeping cleans my room while I’m at your office.”
Though for some reason, the man, who owned the hotel, didn’t seem impressed by or to like Nash much.
“You’ve been here what? Two weeks?”
“Almost three.” Not that Nash was counting. Okay, he totally was. But pleading with R.J. hadn’t lessened his sentence here. “Nothing against this place. The taco truck food is tasty, especially the sopapillas, but I could recover as well or better in Nashville.”
Nash missed his house, his bed, and the way the birds warbled in the morning from the tree outside his window.
“You don’t have the hot springs,” Travis said without missing a beat. “The waters have minerals and healing properties. You’ve made huge improvements since you arrived.”
Nash had read the pamphlet describing the water composition. Sounded like a bunch of mumbo jumbo to him, but the tourists ate it up.
“The hot springs have helped. As has the PT.” He stretched his arms over his head. “I couldn’t walk without a limp or stop swearing like a sailor when I got here. The first week at the hotel was okay, but now cabin fever is setting in. I peek out my window and feel as if I’m stuck in a small-town theme park. Rides and characters in costumes are the only things missing.”
Travis handed him a bottle of water. “I can ask my cousins to dress up. I’m sure they’d be happy to oblige and entertain the mighty Nash Bennett.”
“Ha-ha. Except you and Bob can’t tell anyone I’m in town.”
The people Nash might or would come in contact with had signed nondisclosure agreements. If those were broken, his latest lawyer wouldn’t hesitate to sue.
“Oh, yeah.” Travis rubbed the back of his neck. “Forgot that part.”
“I doubt that.” Travis was too sharp to let anything slip by him. Nash gulped half of the water. The liquid refreshed him. “Seriously. Is there anything to do on a Friday night besides sit in my room and chill?”
“If you want to go out, my cousins Maggie and Ryder own Quinn’s Pub. It’s a family-style restaurant with a bar area. There’s live music on weekends.”
Nash hadn’t heard live music since his own tour. “A family place?”
Travis nodded. “The pub doesn’t get rowdy if that’s what you’re worried about.”
Nash was more concerned with fans recognizing him, but his stupid disguise should work. Yeah, a night out would be good for him. Even though his muscles ached, energy flowed through him.
He downed the rest of the water. “I’ll check it out.”
“No dancing,” Travis warned.
Nash rolled his eyes. “You’re no fun at all.”
“I have my moments. Just not in this office.” Travis checked his schedule. “I’ll see you bright and early Monday morning. Be sure to soak in the hot springs tomorrow and Sunday. And use the resistance bands each day until I see you again.”
Nash gave a mock salute. “Yes, sir.”
“Have a good time tonight, but please, don’t do anything bad-boy crazy.”
No way would Nash risk lengthening his sentence in Quinn Valley. He pointed to himself with feigned innocence. “Who, me? No one will know I’m there.”
Guitar case in hand, Ivy Quinn hurried through the kitchen of her family’s restaurant, Quinn’s Pub, to the small room containing employee lockers. She set the case against the wall, as she did whenever she filled in for the talent who cancelled. Tonight was for a band whose lead singer was sick. At least they weren’t booked for two nights.
Though, she’d never turn down the chance to sing.
Ivy grabbed her apron from a hook, put the top strap over her head, and went into the kitchen where the scents of spices and herbs filled the air. The temperature, however, was only slightly lower than outside. Typical for June in Quinn Valley, Idaho, but Ivy preferred the cooler air in the dining room.
She tied the apron strings around her waist.
Washing her hands, she glanced at her brother Ryder, who co-owned the restaurant with their sister, Maggie. He stood at the stove, looking more like one of their chefs. He was happy to step in as necessary.
She dried her hands. “I’ll close out a few tabs and clear tables before I go on.”
“No rush.” Ryder stirred whatever was inside a large pot. Most likely the creamy roasted red pepper soup his wife and the pub’s chef, Bethany, had made before she headed home for the evening. The soup du jour was a customer favorite tonight. “Just happy to have you as our backup entertainer. People expect live music on the weekends. With you on the staff, we never disappoint.”
“I’m happy to help.” Especially when doing so enabled her to perform.
Ryder removed the spoon from the pan. “Maggie and I appreciate it, but if you want to perform elsewhere—”
“All I have to do is ask,” Ivy finished for him before pulling a tray of glasses out of the dishwasher. Her brother and sister would give her time off, but Friday and Saturday nights brought in the biggest tips. She only accepted a gig when she would earn the same amount or more than she would make at Quinn’s. She was saving for a new guitar. “I’ll let you know if anything comes up.”
“Do.” He studied her the way only the oldest brother in the family could. “I can ask around to see if there are any dates open locally. Lewiston might have some, too.”
She held back a sigh. They’d had this conversation. She’d had a similar one with Maggie recently. With David and Carter, too.
Ivy filled pitchers with ice and water. “Thanks, but I’ve got the connections I need to find gigs in the area.”
Concern flashed in Ryder’s gaze. His eyes were the
“I have it covered,” she added, feeling self-conscious, even though people telling her to perform more often wasn’t new.
“You should pursue those connections and your music. Maggie agrees with me. You could be so much more than a server.”
Ivy raised her chin. “Hey, I enjoy being a server. What else would I do?”
A shiver raced along Ivy’s spine. She nearly dropped the water pitcher. Carefully, she returned it to the counter before she made a mess.
She’d taken her shot at stardom. Crashed and burned in a fiery explosion. Her dreams hadn’t been dashed, but they’d imploded in front of millions. Almost ten years had passed, so most didn’t remember what had happened. But Ivy hadn’t forgotten. She never would.
“You could make your living as a singer,” Ryder added in that oldest-brother-knows-best tone.
She forced a laugh, hoping she sounded lighthearted and amused. The silverware supply was low, so Ivy wrapped a knife and fork in a napkin. “Thanks for the suggestion, but I’m considering enrolling part time at the community college in the fall. I picked up a course catalog.”
Not a lie. Ivy had picked up one, more out of curiosity than interest, but she hadn’t opened it yet. As she worked on the silverware, she glanced at her brother.
Ryder’s features now appeared relaxed. Catching her gaze, his lips curved into a more natural smile. “That would be great. Especially if you took music classes.”
She nodded, biting her tongue to keep from saying more. Agreeing was the best—the only—option that would satisfy him and her entire family. No matter how many times she’d told them she had no regrets giving up on a music career, they still pushed.
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