Colters DaughterMaya Banks
The Mountain Pass Bar and Grill was hopping like frogs during mating season. It was early summer and past ski season, but the little town of Clyde still managed to pull tourists from the larger neighboring towns. Not to mention, Friday was local’s night when all the residents of Clyde decided to let their hair down and imbibe a little. Callie Colter slid another drink down the bar to a waiting customer then loaded up her waitress’s tray with a round of draft beers and sent her back into the crowd.
Taking advantage of the momentary lull in the action, Callie leaned back against the counter and surveyed the mass of people packed into The Mountain Pass. The live band pounded out a raucous country song that had the dance floor filled to capacity with people line dancing. A skill Callie had never felt it necessary to learn. Nor had she the ability. She had the rhythm of a slug.
And really, the whole line-dancing thing? She was still scarred from having to watch a really hokey George Strait movie—courtesy of her brothers.
Her mother swore Callie was the cosmopolitan one in the family. Callie had been all over the world, but the reality was she was a homebody at heart and there was no better place than the sanctuary of her family—as oddball as it was.
And so here she was, licking her wounds and brooding about asshole males. Quite amusing when you considered she had three—yes three—fathers and three brothers, and none of them fell under the asshole label, and no, she wasn’t being biased. It didn’t mean the rest of the male population didn’t suffer the disease though.
She reached down to wipe her hands on the towel hanging from her waist when the music stopped. She glanced up to see the drummer motion to her that they were taking five. She nodded and set about getting the band members a round of beer.
“Hello, Callie. ”
The husky voice whispered over her ears and sent chill bumps down her neck. She froze, her hand still on the tap.
It couldn’t be. No way Max was here in her little town, in Dillon’s bar.
She yanked her hand back and swore when beer foamed over the glass. Then she whipped her head up, sure she’d imagined that voice.
A pair of hunter green eyes fringed by a set of dark lashes that would make a female weep in envy stared penetratingly back at her. She stared, mouth open, at Max Wilder who stood arrogantly across the bar like he expected her to fall at his feet or squeal in delight to see him.
It would be a cold day in hell before she’d do either.
She narrowed her eyes, and he must have gotten some hint of the welcome he was about to receive because he held a hand up as if to ward her off.
“We need to talk, Callie. ”
His eyes widened in surprise. She leaned forward and crooked her finger for him to come closer. Eyeing her warily, he bent toward her and looked like he was about to speak again.
She balled her fist and swung as hard as she could. His head snapped back, and pain exploded in her fingers.
He grabbed at his jaw and staggered back. “Son of a bitch! Goddamn, Callie, give me a chance to explain. ”
“You’ve got two seconds to get the hell out of my bar or I’m calling the cops. And did I mention that my brother’s the sheriff?”
Carl, her bouncer, thrust his huge body between Max and the bar, blocking Callie’s view. “You heard the lady. Beat it. ”
Callie craned to see around Carl. Still rubbing his jaw, Max took a step back, his eyes glittering as he stared at Callie.
He glanced sideways at the mountain that was Carl then back to Callie and lifted one brow. “Do you honestly think that he’ll keep me from you?”
Callie frowned. Carl bristled and took a step in Max’s direction. Max didn’t look overly worried—a fact that worried Callie plenty.
Max was a badass. It wasn’t that he looked like one. He wasn’t overly muscled and didn’t have a tree trunk for a neck like Carl did. But he was fast and unafraid. He knew he was a badass, which made him even more of one in Callie’s eyes.
His jaw was set in a tight line that made him look stubborn. She’d seen that look often enough. She’d also tasted that strong jaw. She’d licked a path from his mouth to his ear and nibbled at all parts in between. She could still feel the faint rasp of his beard on her tongue, for God’s sake.
She’d also witnessed what happened when Max got pissed off.
“Don’t make me call my brother, Max. You can’t think it’s worth spending the night in jail. ”
His nostrils flared for a moment as his gaze bore into her. He ought to know that she didn’t make empty threats. She could be just as stubborn as he was. Lord knew they’d butted heads often enough, and she’d never backed down. Except in the bedroom. Always in the bedroom.
Heat flushed through her body, and she hoped to hell the neon lighting around the bar disguised her blush. The last thing she wanted to do was show any sign that he’d flustered her with his sudden appearance.
“This isn’t finished,” he bit out.
“The hell it’s not. I have nothing to say to you, Max. ”
For a minute she actually thought there was genuine pain in his eyes that had nothing to do with the fact she’d hit him in the face. Which was absurd given that he’d fucked her over, not the other way around.
She flexed her fingers and rubbed at her hand as Carl escorted Max out the front door.
“I’m beginning to think you have anger management issues, Callie,” Paul Woodrow drawled as he leaned against the bar next to her.
Callie scowled at the part-time bartender. Nice of him to show up now. If he’d been to work on time, she wouldn’t have been here when Max came in.
“I didn’t throw him through the window. ”
Paul chuckled. “Good thing. Dillon wouldn’t be happy if he had to replace more glass. ”
She shook her aching hand and turned to the side to collect herself. She was more shaken by Max’s appearance than she’d like to admit. Seeing him again after so long had been a complete shock. Why would he turn up now? He didn’t even grovel. He’d practically ordered her to talk to him. As if.
Max didn’t yell orders. He never raised his voice. He didn’t have to. She’d been more than happy to do anything he wanted. She cringed and squeezed her eyes shut. Yeah, she’d been more than happy to accommodate him, and all it had gotten her was a healthy dose of stupid.
She opened her eyes to see Paul eyeing her curiously as he made drinks. She frowned and turned away. A few months before, right after she’d slunk home to crawl under a rock, she’d thrown a smart-ass college kid through the front window of the bar.
The upside was that people were reluctant to start shit when she was tending bar. The downside was that now her family watched her even closer for signs she was going to start barking at the moon or frothing at the mouth.
“You okay, Callie?” Carl asked sharply.
She glanced up. “Yeah. No big deal. I took care of it. ”
“Want me to call Dillon?”
She shook her head and frowned. “I took care of it. No reason to bug Dillon. I’m perfectly capable of running the bar. The last thing I need is him or Seth hovering over me when I’m trying to work. ”
Carl grunted. “Having the sheriff around isn’t a bad thing. ”
“Oh come on. ” She snorted. “Nothing happens around here. Ever since Seth took over as sheriff, it’s been boring as hell. Tonight was as much excitement as Clyde’s seen since I threw the dude through the window. Everyone will thank me for breaking up the monotony. ”
“So who was he?”
Callie’s lips tightened. “No one important. ”
For several lon
g minutes, she stared at the door where Max had departed. Why had he come? Why now? She’d wasted far too much time moping over him. Chalk it up to age and lack of experience on her part, but it wasn’t a mistake she planned to make again.
Max Wilder could drag himself back off to Italy or Greece or wherever the hell it was he ditched her. She was embarrassed to remember just how long she waited for him to come back before she got a clue and realized he’d dumped her.
“You heading out now, Callie? I can take it from here,” Paul said.
“Yeah, I know you can,” she muttered. “It’s busy, though. I’ll hang around in case there are any more problems. ”
She didn’t particularly want to be here, but she didn’t want to walk out that door and chance Max being there, waiting for her. It was one thing to take him on inside a crowded bar. Face to face? Not that he would hurt her. But he wasn’t a man who took no for an answer when he wanted something. Callie wasn’t sure what he wanted, exactly, and she’d be an idiot to find out.
By the time she closed up at two a. m. , she was exhausted and didn’t have it in her to drive up the mountain to her parents’ cabin. Nor did she want to go crash on her brothers’ couch. They’d all be asleep.
Callie chuckled. It amazed her that her mother had managed to hook up with three men. Lily, her sister-in-law, had done the same with Callie’s brothers, and here Callie couldn’t even manage a relationship with one man.
She was sure the townspeople, and hell, maybe even her own family, wondered if she harbored the desire to marry more than one man. There was probably a betting pool somewhere on how many men she would end up with.
She loved her fathers and her brothers dearly, but she had no idea how her mom and Lily managed it. Having more than one man in the house would drive her out of her mind. Too much testosterone. Too many moody males to contend with. Too many egos. Too much posturing, bickering and all-around aggravation.
Her mom and Lily were happy though, so Callie was all for it. For them. As long as she wasn’t expected to keep with the bizarre tradition.
She trudged back to Dillon’s office after turning off the lights. He had a couch that he sometimes slept on—well, that was before Lily came into the picture. Nowadays he rushed home every afternoon to spend time with his new wife. One or two nights a week, he came in to work the bar to give Callie a night off, but the truth was, nights off just gave her more time to think stupid shit. If she stayed busy, she didn’t think up acceptable reasons why Max dumped her cold in a foreign country.
She fished a bottle of water out of the minifridge by Dillon’s desk and then settled on the couch. She didn’t even bother to undress. She propped her feet up on the end, drained the bottle of water and then leaned back to close her eyes.
And all she could see was that moment where she looked up and saw Max standing just across the bar from her looking as sexy as ever.
She’d been utterly fascinated by him from the day she met him. He was older, a bit stern, but he had just enough rough edges to his polished look to make her drool. He was strong and confident, and oh but confidence on a man was super sexy.
He liked things his way, and really, so did she. Now, looking back, she was mortified by just how much control she gave up around him. No one who knew her would ever believe the woman she’d become in his arms.
That’s what bothered her the most. He’d made her someone else, he’d made her need him, and then he’d walked away.
And now he thought they had something to talk about?
She growled under her breath. “Go to sleep, Callie. You’ll go see Lily tomorrow and you’ll feel better. ”
Unfortunately, she obeyed herself about as well as she obeyed everyone else.
Max Wilder examined his jaw in the mirror and shook his head. A chuckle escaped and then he winced. The little wench had caught his bottom lip in the punch.
He shouldn’t have expected any less from Callie. She was fiery, impulsive, she grabbed onto life with both hands, she loved fiercely, but she was also capable of holding a grudge forever.
With a sigh he trudged out of the bathroom with a towel around his hips. Accommodations were mediocre at best in Clyde. Hell, he was lucky to have gotten a room at all given the fact that there was only one hotel.
There were much nicer towns that had more appeal for tourists but then he wouldn’t be close to Callie. He had a lot of ground to cover with her, and judging by tonight, it was going to take some fast talking. The woman was lethal.
And she was so damn beautiful, she made his chest ache.
He’d missed her. Every damn day they’d been apart, he missed her until she was all that consumed his thoughts. Forgotten was the reason why he’d initially pursued her. That no longer mattered. It hadn’t mattered since the first time he’d made love to her and recognized his other half.
It was corny. Overwrought. And he didn’t give a damn. Callie was his. He’d made mistakes. Mistakes that had cost them both more than he could ever imagine. But she was his, and he had every intention of reasserting his claim on her.
It bordered on obsession. His need to possess her. To mark her. To stake his claim—again. This time… This time he wouldn’t let her go. Not ever again.
He simply wasn’t whole without her.