A Love So Sweet

By: Addison Cole


“I hear you’re wiping Vera Wang off the map.” Treat was proud of his brother’s accomplishments.

He shook his head. “One day.”

“One day you’ll let that humble nonsense go and boast about your success. Got a girlfriend yet?” Josh had always been tight-lipped about his female conquests, even about the heart-quaking crush he’d had on their childhood friend Riley Banks when he was younger—the crush that everyone knew about but that Josh thought he’d hidden.

“Haven’t you read the gossip magazines? Apparently I’m going out with three different women.”

“Sounds like you’re having fun, then. Where’s Hugh?” Hugh was their youngest brother and the biggest risk taker of them all. He was supremely self-centered, which at times rubbed Treat the wrong way, and his career as a race-car driver was a testament to the way he lived his life, indulging in fast cars and even faster women.

Josh shrugged. “Race, maybe? Steaks are ready.”

Treat took off his jacket and carried the platter of steaks Josh handed him to the table. His father had one arm around Savannah and the other around Dane as they went to sit down. Man, he’d missed these guys. Treat spent most of his time traveling and living out of a suitcase. He didn’t usually mind his lifestyle. In fact, there had been a time when it was all he wanted. But lately he’d found himself contemplating a more settled life.

He set the platter of steaks in the center of the table alongside the salad, wine, beer, vegetables, and three types of sliced bread—typical Braden fare. Most family gatherings were centered around a barbecue of some sort.

“You started without me?” Hugh barged into the yard with his arms open and a grin on his face. His thick, wind-tossed hair gave him a youthful appearance. “Treat, you’ve graced us with your presence after all.”

“Good to see you too, Hugh.” Treat stood and wrapped an arm around him.

Hugh sat down and was the first to help himself to a steak from the platter, snagging the largest one.

Treat shook his head. “So, Dad, are you ever going to let me pay for that stone patio you keep talking about?”

“He doesn’t need your money, Treat,” Rex said roughly. “He needs my time.”

“I didn’t mean anything by it,” Treat said.

“We’ve been busy running the ranch,” Rex said with a hefty amount of attitude. “I haven’t had time to get started. But I’ll take care of it.”

“I could bring in a crew to help you out,” Treat offered.

“Are you the crew?” Rex asked pointedly.

Treat stared him down.

“Boys, settle down. I need a patio like I need a hole in my head,” their father snapped. “Tell me about your latest acquisitions, Treat. What did you decide about Thailand?”

Treat had been negotiating for a resort in Thailand when he’d first met Max. The justice of the peace who was supposed to preside over Blake’s wedding in Nassau had fallen ill, and Treat had canceled his trip to Thailand and stepped in to officiate. He’d put the acquisition on hold after that weekend. But two days ago he’d received an email from his long-time friend Bill Harkness, the owner of the resort, advising him they had received another offer and honoring their verbal agreement of first right of refusal. Treat was best when he had a challenge, and Thailand would be just that. Taking over the resort would consume all his time and energy for at least three months.

“It’s a solid resort and the numbers work,” he explained. “I told them I’d submit an offer within two weeks.” Unable to stop thinking about Max, he’d figured, after this trip home, three months away might be just what he needed. Now he wasn’t so sure.

“He’s in Max mode,” Savannah added.

Treat glared at her.

“Who’s Max?” Josh asked.

“Some hot girl who works at the festival and has Treat all googly-eyed,” Savannah said.

“Hm. Max is a woman?” Josh arched a brow and grinned.

“Yes, she’s a woman, and no, I’m not in Max mode.” Treat bit into a hunk of steak, wishing Savannah had never seen her. Max’s number had been burning a hole in his pocket ever since she’d given it to him, and it was all he could do not to get up and call her right that second.

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