By: Maisey Yates

A Silver Creek Romance

Chapter One

It wasn’t like she even wanted any of this for herself.

Lark Mitchell looked around the completely unconventional wedding being thrown in her yard and fought the urge to cry.

Which was dumb as rocks, because there was no reason to cry. Seriously, the bride was wearing a black wedding dress. It was ridiculous. And, okay, the bride was also marrying the man Lark had spent the better part of two years completely fixated on, but that was no reason to cry.

It wasn’t like she loved Tyler. And in the year since he’d started dating Alexa, his new wife, and moved to New York, Lark had completely gotten over him.

No, this wasn’t heartbreak. She was just in the throes of that left-behind kind of melancholy that she was more familiar with than she’d like to be.

She’d felt that way when most of her friends had gone off to college and she’d stayed in Silver Creek to help out on the ranch. She’d felt it all through high school when other girls had gotten dates and she’d gotten the chance to tutor cute boys in English.

Just this sort of achy feeling that other people were going somewhere while she stood in the same place.

Or, in this instance, sat in the same place. At one of the florid tables placed around the lawn. This little wedding had come to Elk Haven Stables because Tyler was once a ranch hand, and because the bride in black was best friends with Lark’s sister-in-law, Kelsey.

Lark adored Kelsey, but she could honestly do without Alexa.

Which might be sour grapes. Maybe.

But damn, woman, marry a dude your own age. Tyler was in her own demographic, and he hadn’t known her in high school, which helped, because as awkward as she was now . . . high school had been a beyotch.

“Hey, sweetie.”

Lark looked up and saw Kelsey, holding baby Maddy on her hip and looking down at her with overly sympathetic blue eyes. “Hi,” Lark said.

“Are you okay?”

“What? Yeah. I’m . . . so okay. Why wouldn’t I be okay? I had a crush on this guy for like two seconds, a year ago. I never even kissed him.”

“I remember how much you liked him.”

“Thanks, Kels, but I’m a grown-up, as much as Cole doesn’t like to acknowledge it. I’ve moved on. I have another man in my life now.”

Because she was sure three rounds of cybersex six months ago with a guy she’d never met counted as having someone in her life. And if not, it at least bolstered her lie. She needed the lie. It was so much better than admitting she was pathetic. And that she spent most days in her room doing tech support for various and sundry people while eating Pop-Tarts and streaming Doctor Who through an online subscription service.

Yeah. Saying she was involved was better than admitting that.

“Oh. Do you? Because Cole”—Kelsey narrowed her eyes—“Cole doesn’t know.”

“No. And it’s okay if it stays that way.” The idea of her brother finding the transcripts from those little chats she’d had with Aaron_234 was ever so slightly awful.

Almost as bad as admitting that the closest she’d ever come to sex was a heavy breathing conversation. Over the Net. Where you couldn’t even hear the heavy breathing.

The very thought made her cringe at her own lameness. It was advanced geekiness of the highest order.

At least she excelled at something.

“I’m not going to keep secrets from Cole,” Kelsey said, sitting down at the table. “I mean, I won’t lie to him if he asks.”

“He shouldn’t ask. It’s not his business.” Of course, Cole wouldn’t see it that way. To Cole, everything in her life was his business. Thankfully, Kelsey and Maddy had deflected some of that, but then there was Cade. Cade, who was the more wicked brother. The irresponsible one. The one who should be cool with her doing whatever and finding her way in life by making a few mistakes.

But Cade was even worse than Cole, in his way. The hypocrite. She always figured it was because, while Cole guessed at what debauchery was out there in life, Cade had been there, done that, and bought the souvenir shot glass.

She’d considered ordering the shot glass online. So to speak. But she’d never done a damn thing. So all her brothers’ overprotective posturing was for naught, the poor dears.

Although, Cole had nearly torn Tyler a new one when he’d suspected they might have slept together. Alas, no such luck.

She’d love to have a mistake that sexy in her past.

All she had was a greasy keyboard and a vague, stale sense of shame, which lingered a lot longer than a self-induced orgasm.

“Yes, well, you don’t want to keep your boyfriend from us, do you?”

“He’s not my boyfriend. He’s not. I exaggerated a little. It’s not like that.”

“Oh, so . . . is he someone in town, or . . . ?”

“He’s on the computer. He’s not . . . I haven’t talked to him in a while.” Like they’d ever really chatted about anything significant. It was more like a straight shot to “What are you wearing?”

“Oh . . . okay.”

“But the bottom line is that I’m fine. With this. Right now. Alexa and Tyler are welcome to their wedded bliss. I’m not in the space to pursue wedded bliss. I have other things to do.” Like sit on your ass and shoot zombies?

No. Real plans. To travel, someday. To have adventures. Maybe a meaningless fling here and there. In Paris? Paris seemed like a good place for a meaningless fling. Silver Creek certainly wasn’t. She knew all the idiots here.

Worse, they knew her. They knew her as a bucktoothed nerd who would do your calculus while you did the cheerleader. It was a poor set of assumptions with which to begin a relationship, so she just never tried.

It was better than doing the guy who was doing the cheerleader. Doing math was way less painful. Keeping it virtual was a lot less painful.

Otherwise you ended up watching the only guy you’d ever really thought you might have a shot with marrying another woman. Not that that was what was happening. Because she didn’t love Tyler, dammit.

But if she had married him, she wouldn’t have done it in a black dress. She was a gamer geek with limited social skills, but even she knew major life events were the time to drop your freak flag a little bit. Wear some lace. A pair of pumps. Ditch the Converse All Stars for a couple of hours.

Not that anyone had asked her, of course.

“I’m glad; I was a little worried about you.”

Worry for Lark’s well-being was apparently a virulent contagion at Elk Haven Stables. Cade and Cole had a bad case of it, and Cole had clearly infected his wife.

“No need to worry. I’m golden. I’m not in a picket-fence place right now.”

“Yeah, neither was I,” Kelsey said, shifting Maddy in her arms and looking pointedly at the little bundle of joy.

“Unless you can get knocked up driving by sperm banks now, I’m not going to be in your situation anytime soon.”

Kelsey laughed, the motion jiggling Maddy and making her giggle. “Yeah, steer clear of those clinics, or you might find yourself shackled to an obnoxious alpha cowboy for the rest of your life.”

“Already am, Kels. Two of them. We’re related, which means I can’t just ditch them. I’m not marrying a cowboy.” She looked back at Tyler. “I’m sick of cowboys, in fact. I’ll find someone metropolitan who knows that high fashion isn’t a bigger belt buckle and your Sunday go-to-meetin’ clothes.”