Home > Stay Together

Stay Together
Author: Kaylee Ryan








I’m putting on my shoes to head out when my phone rings. When I see Sterling’s name on the screen, I laugh. “I’m on my way,” I answer.

“Can you stop and get some fishing line?”

“Are we going fishing and someone forgot to tell me?” I know that’s not why he needs it, but as his brother, it’s my job to fuck with him.

“It’s for the pictures, Rush.” He sighs. “Just hurry. I want everything done before she gets here.”

Since I can hear the stress in his voice, I cut him some slack. “I’m putting my shoes on now.” I glance down at said shoes.

“Thanks, man.”

“Anything else you need?”

“Nah. The twins are here, and everyone else is on their way.”

“Got it. Fishing line coming right up.” I end the call, not bothering to say goodbye. Not that Sterling notices. He’s so wrapped up in what he’s about to do later this evening and the surprise he has for his best friend turned live-in girlfriend to call me out on my lack of telephone etiquette.

I finish with my shoes, grab my phone from the cushion next to me, and head for the garage. My keys are on the hook next to the door, and in no time, I’m on the road, heading to Gunderson’s hardware for some fishing line.

Gunderson’s is the place in Willow River for anything you might need. From road trip snacks to small tools to bolts and zip ties. They even have homemade baked goods that a few locals drop off for sale. It truly is the place to be if you need something in this town.

The drive is short, and that’s with me taking my time. I know it will annoy Sterling. I can’t hide my smile when I think about his huff of irritation that I’m sure he’s going to direct my way. I get it. He’s making moves, big moves, and he wants his surprise to be perfect, but Alyssa is going to be occupied all day. The other Kincaid ladies will make sure of it. He needs to just relax. It’s not like she’s going to turn him down.

Pulling open the door to Gunderson’s, I’m hit with nostalgia. I don’t know how many trips we made here as kids with Dad. He was always tinkering with something or working on his honey-do list for our mom. Gunderson’s has been a staple not only in the town of Willow River but in my life as well.

“Rushton Kincaid,” George Gunderson announces as I step inside.

“George, good to see you.” I nod at him. George is a third-generation Gunderson, and it’s always his smiling face behind the counter with each visit. His son, George the fourth, is sure to take his place one day.

I’m glad our parents gave us our own names and identities. I couldn’t imagine any of us being Raymond Kincaid the second. Besides, with nine boys, they needed more options.

I know this place probably as well as George himself, so I turn left and head toward the back wall, where I’ll find a selection of a fishing line. When I reach the wall, I encounter something so much better than what I came here for.

A beautiful woman.

She’s got dark, straight shoulder-length hair, and from the looks of her ass in those jeans, a tight little body. She’s reaching for the top shelf, standing on her tiptoes, and making no headway.

“Need some help?” I ask, shoving my hands in my pockets to keep from reaching out for her. I’m nervous she’s going to topple over with the way she’s balancing on her toes and reaching over her head.

The beauty falls to her feet and turns to face me. She blows out a breath, causing her hair to fly out of her eyes. “Yes, please.” She smiles kindly.

Her smile is meant to be kind, but it hits me in the chest. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a more beautiful woman. I’ve seen many—my momma for one—and my brothers’ wives and girlfriends are all beautiful, but this woman, she’s breathtaking.

“What do you need?” There is a huskiness to my voice that surprises me.

“Fishing line.”

“You fish?” I ask, not making a move to grab the line.

She chuckles. “No, well, I mean, I have, but that’s not why I need it. I’m a teacher, and I plan to use it to hang my students’ crafts from the ceiling in my classroom.”

My mind is suddenly riddled with a naughty student-teacher scene that is definitely not safe for work.

“A teacher,” I repeat, because apparently, in the presence of this beauty, my mind stops working.

She nods, a smile lifting her lips. I know because I’m staring at them, imagining how they would feel wrapped around my cock. “Kindergarten.”

“Y’all need some help?” George’s voice breaks me out of my fantasy.

“Nah, we’re all set,” I call back to him. I turn to look, and he nods, heading back to his spot behind the counter. “Which one?” I ask the woman turning me into my teenage self. I point to the fishing line.

“Any of them.” She shrugs. “It’s just for decorations.”

“That’s why I’m here too,” I tell her. “My brother, well, one of them, is planning a surprise for his girlfriend and asked me to stop and pick some up.”

“That’s sweet.” I can tell by the tone of her voice she truly thinks so. I’m not sure if it’s me picking up the fishing line or Sterling’s surprise that she thinks is sweet, but I’m going to pretend it’s the former.

Reaching up, I grab us both what we need, handing one of the packages to her. She opens her palm to accept, but I pull it back. “I’m Rushton. Rush. My family and friends call me Rush,” I amend.

Again with that smile. “Crosby. It’s nice to meet you, Rush.”

Even her name is sexy. How is that possible? “You as well, Crosby,” I say, just to hear her name on my lips.

“Are you from here? Willow River?” she inquires.

“Born and raised. Where are you from?” I’m certain if she grew up here, I’d have already met her.

“How do you know I’m not from Willow River?” She tilts her head to the side, waiting for my reply, and it reminds me of a baby kitten.

“I know everyone in this town, or at least recognize them. I would have remembered you.” My eyes trail over her body.

“Small-town living.” She chuckles. “I’m from Atlanta. I just accepted a teaching position at Willow River Elementary.”

“My old stomping grounds.”

This gets a full-blown laugh out of her, and it causes a weird flutter in my chest. “Stomping grounds in elementary school?”

“I have eight brothers. Four older and four younger. We’re all close in age, so yeah.” I shrug.

“Nine boys?” Her eyes widen. “Your parents are rock stars.”

“That they are,” I agree. Carol and Raymond Kincaid are not only great parents but the best humans I know. I’m not just saying that because they’re my parents.

“Well, Rush, thank you for the assist.” She holds her hand out for the fishing line, and I place it in her palm.

“You’re welcome, Crosby.”

With a smile and a wave, she walks away. I force myself to stand still and watch her go. It’s not until I hear her tell George thank you, and the chime on the door, that I make my way to the front, placing my own fishing line onto the counter before pulling my wallet out of my back pocket.

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