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“You really blew it, turning me down. I could’ve rocked your world and made you see fireworks.”
As Cooper Abbott stared at Shannon, an attractive brunette, her face now contorted with irritation, all he thought was if she’d shown him fireworks it was a good thing he’d politely told her no thanks. With trying to see the SeizureReader, Olivia’s dream, become a reality and taking over a vet practice, he had enough on the line without fireworks.
Not that he’d want those in a relationship anyway. Fireworks were wild, unpredictable, and dangerous as hell if a body didn’t handle them right. Come on. Explosives. Who needed that? Certainly not a smart man.
As he watched the woman storm off, the bling on the back pockets of her skinny jeans sparkling under Fitzwilly’s florescent lights, his lack of desire and disappointment surprised him. After not having sex in almost two years, he should be raring to go when a woman showed interest. Maybe it wasn’t him as much as the women he’d attracted lately. For some unfathomable reason, he drew the neurotic types the way cows drew flies.
When Cooper slid onto his chair beside his college buddies who’d come to College Station for the Texas A&M football season opener, Zane shook his head. “There’s something very wrong with you if you let an obviously interested woman leave alone.”
“I need more than a pretty face and killer body for a relationship, starting with her being sane and reasonably calm,” Cooper replied.
At least no matter what other madness came into his life; he had these clowns. Cooper, Ty, AJ, and Zane had met during fish camp at A&M their freshmen year when they were in Squadron Twenty-One of the Corps of Cadets. Now here they were over ten years later and still friends a man counted on to prop him up during life’s rough patches, and damn, they’d gone through some doozies over the years.
Like him losing Olivia.
The ever-present ache in his chest deepened, and his hand tightened around his bottle of Shiner Bock as he fought to keep his pain at bay.
“What did this one do? Is she another one with a hyena in heat laugh?” Ty asked, pulling Cooper back to the conversation.
AJ dug his wallet out of his back pocket. “Nah, can’t be that. Not even Coop could find two of those. Ten bucks says this one talked too much.”
“I’m still here, guys, and I’d rather skip the psychoanalyzing session. If you’re interested, I think I can scrounge tickets to the Alabama game. If we can beat them, we’ve got a real shot at the national title,” Cooper said, hoping to channel the conversation onto football and off his love life, or lack thereof.
“I say Coop connected with this one on Facebook, and she posts pictures of her food all the time.” Ty tossed a ten on top of AJ’s, completely ignoring Cooper’s change of subject.
Damn. He was in trouble if tickets to the A&M Alabama game failed to divert his buddies.
Zane tossed a bill on the stack and rubbed his chin while he flashed a perfect white smile at the women two tables over who’d been giving him the eye.
When he glanced back at his friends, he said, “I peg her as the strong, assertive type who’s recently divorced and is still in her angry phase. I say she complained about her ex.”
His friends stared, waiting for him to declare the winner. Betting wasn’t much fun when he was the topic. While AJ and Ty weren’t correct now, in the past, he’d lost interest in women for both the reasons they predicted. Tonight, Zane came damn close. Too close. “Zane, sometimes you’re damn scary when it comes to women. How do you do it?”
“Years of extensive research.” Zane grinned as he scooped up the cash.
“Smart move writing her off, if Zane was right,” Ty said.
AJ nodded in agreement. “If she’s harping on the ex when you’re in the trying to impress stage, don’t walk away. Run.”
“That’s rich coming from you and Ty considering your rocky starts with Cassie and Grace,” Zane said, referring to Ty’s wife and AJ’s fiancée.
“Cassie and I had very different ideas about running the B&B and Ella’s finances,” Ty insisted.
“And Grace ran into the back end of my truck, and then insulted me,” AJ said. “Now out with it. What exactly did she do, Coop?”
Cooper studied the condensation running in rivulets down his beer bottle and resisted the urge to shudder in horror. “It was more than mentioning the ex. I got the relationship’s excruciating details including finding out he was cheating and how she burned his clothes in the fireplace.”
“She should’ve been arrested for destruction of private property,” AJ said in true-blue, law-enforcement fashion.
“That borders on Fatal Attraction crazy.” Ty glanced at Zane and AJ. “Maybe we should stay somewhere other than Coop’s place in case she comes looking for him.”
“Very funny,” Cooper joked despite his suspicion Shannon could be a slash-the-tires type.
“Despite this last chick, you need to loosen up, Coop,” Zane said. “A woman doesn’t have to be perfect to date. Quit thinking long-term. Have some fun, if you know what I mean. When it stops being a good time, cut bait.”
“Coop’s not the play-the-field type,” Ty said.
While Ty could be right, maybe it was time to quit looking for Mrs. Right and focus on work. “I think fate’s telling me not to date. With the SeizureReader at the crunch stage, dealing with investors, and taking over Doc King’s practice, I don’t have the energy to deal with women. They’re exhausting.”
“But the right one is worth the effort,” AJ said.
Unfortunately, Cooper lost the right woman two years ago, and every female he met since fell short in comparison. His and Olivia’s relationship had been a once in a lifetime. Despite that, shouldn’t he be able to find a sane, reasonably attractive, intelligent woman he could enjoy spending time with?
Forget about it and heed fate’s warning.
Once the SeizureReader hit the market, he could reassess and map out a new five-year plan, including the personal front. “Getting the SeizureReader into production, not my love life, is my top priority, and that won’t happen unless I get the situation with the investors under control,” Cooper said, his voice filled with frustration.
“They giving you a rough time?” Ty asked.
The investors, comprised of Texas A&M former students, possessed a wealth of business experience from various size companies, both privately and publicly owned. Unfortunately, with their impressive knowledge, great connections, and business experience came strong opinions. “The group was decent to work with until we brought Ron Parsons on board when we needed a cash infusion. I’m a cautious man, but he makes me look like I fly by the seat of my pants. Not only that, he’s stirring up everyone else.”
“Are you still needing funds?” AJ asked.
“Cassie and I could use a solid investment,” Ty added.
“Thanks, but we’re good. In fact, when Tucker and I get the investors back under control we’re ready for production.” Cooper rubbed his forehead, trying to ease the tension building there.
He wasn’t cut out to run a business. A vet practice, sure, but a project of this magnitude? No way. That had been Olivia’s dream, and she’d possessed the business background to pull it off. The SeizureReader was her way of making a difference and helping others whose seizures couldn’t be controlled with medicine. By alerting emergency responders if needed, she imagined the SeizureReader providing reassurance and a sense of control to seizure patients.
“Promise me if something goes wrong in surgery, you’ll make sure the SeizureReader becomes a reality.”
Olivia had clutched his hand waiting to be wheeled off to the operating room. The panic in her blue eyes sent off alarms in his head, but he’d ignored them. “You’ll be fine. There’s nothing to worry about.”
After all, Dr. Maxwell wouldn’t perform the surgery if the risk was too great.
Her nails dug into his hand. “You have to promise me. Don’t let me go into surgery worrying about this.”
The desperation in her voice reached inside him, squeezing his heart. He tried to chuckle, but the sound came out strained and edgy. “If it’ll put you at ease, of course I promise.”
Then he’d told her he loved her and would see her soon. Those were the last words he’d said to her.
And here he was two years later, still working to make her dream a reality. All he’d ever wanted was to be a vet. While concentrating on making her dream a reality, he’d pushed his aside, until the opportunity to buy Dr. King’s practice came along. But could he juggle dealing with the SeizureReader and running his own practice? If not, which one did he short-sheet? No, he wouldn’t think that way. If he could hold on until the SeizureReader went into production, he’d turn running the company over to Tucker. He’d move on with his life in Wishing with a clean conscience.
“Speaking of production, there are a couple places in Wishing that could work for facilities,” Ty said pulling Cooper back from his thoughts. “I can set up appointments with the building owners for you to check them out.”
“The consensus is we should locate in College Station because of the A&M resources,” Cooper said.
“Won’t that make it tough for you to manage the project?” Ty asked.
“Since Tucker’s the engineer, he’ll spearhead production, and we can video conference when needed,” Cooper said, hoping going into production would go as smoothly as what he said sounded.
“I still can’t believe you’re moving to Wishing,” AJ said with a big grin on his face.
“When Ty told me about the opportunity to buy Dr. King’s practice, it was too good to pass up.”
“We’re the lucky ones,” Ty said. “Who knows how long the town would’ve gone without a vet if not for Coop? Most vets with experience aren’t crazy about moving to a small town, and young vets lack the funds to buy the practice.”
Thankfully, Dr. King had been willing to negotiate. They’d settled on a down payment and a work-to-buy deal. It would take a while, but eventually Cooper would own the practice.
“Can’t say I blame ’em for not wanting to move to a town of ten thousand,” Zane said.
“We’re up to almost eleven thousand now,” AJ corrected.
“Wow! Watch out Dallas. Here comes Wishing,” Zane joked, his voice filled with sarcasm. “Ten restaurants in town, only two of which serve alcohol, most females under thirty married, and almost two hours from Dallas. It’s a great place for a weekend visit, but live there? Twenty bucks says Coop will be going crazy in less than a month. Anyone in?” Zane said as he nodded to Ty and AJ.
Cooper’s thoughts on Wishing couldn’t be further from Zane’s. He’d always loved the small town, its sense of community and family, the lake and all it offered for recreation, along with the slower pace. If that weren’t enough, Ty and AJ were there, too. Cooper smiled. After all these years they were more like family than friends. Hell, when he needed help, he went to them or Zane rather than his blood relations.
Yup, he could see himself building a life in Wishing.
“I don’t know,” Ty said. “Look at me and AJ. We’re living there and still have our faculties.”
Zane scoffed. “That’s debatable.”
“You’re on,” AJ said. “I say Cooper won’t have regrets.”
“I agree,” Ty said.
Cooper looked forward to the move. While he loved College Station, too much of the city reminded him of Olivia. They’d gone to college and made plans for their futures here. It was past time for him to move on and make his own life. He figured Wishing was a better place than most to start.
End of Excerpt