Say You Won't Let Go (Page 1)

Chapter One

“Thank y’all for comin’ out tonight!” I step back from the microphone and smile. I love ending a show. It’s exhilarating, and as the clapping continues, I wave, basking in the thrill of entertaining.

I was meant to do this.

“Great show, Emily,” Matt, the guitarist for Luke, says as I step into the shadows.

“Thanks.” I grin. Coming from him, that’s a high compliment. “I’m really glad to be on this tour.”

Matt touches my arm and squeezes. “We’re happy you joined on.”

It’s been four months of traveling with Luke and his band. His last song went number one on the country music billboards. The fact that he asked me to be on his tour is baffling. I was so lucky he happened to be in the bar that night and heard me sing.

“And she’s much prettier to look at than the last guy we had.” Luke emerges and hands me a beer.

“Well, thank you.” I smile.

“Don’t play shy, Emily. You know all the guys around here are happy to have a pretty blonde around.”

I roll my eyes and chuckle. As if that matters to me. I’m not stupid enough to ever get involved with anyone from the tour. They call them horror stories for a reason. “Maybe I should dye my hair and get fat.”

“Don’t you dare.” Matt nudges me. “You’ll sell more records lookin’ like sex on a stick.”

I’m not sure if I should laugh or punch someone. “Good to know.”

“Don’t listen to him.” Luke slaps him on the back. “They’ll buy your records because of your voice.”

I’ll believe anything he tells me. My newest song “Don’t Call Me Darlin’” is starting to gain traction, which I owe all to Luke. He knows this business, and I couldn’t have asked for a better mentor.

Matt laughs. “Comin’ from Country Music’s Sexiest Man Alive.”

“Fuck off, Matt.” Luke turns his back to him. “You’ll sing the duet tonight?”

“Of course.” I smile and try to calm my fluttering nerves and rein in my inner fangirl, which is hard. Sure, he’s electric on stage, there is no denying that, but he’s also a good guy and never balks at helping his opening acts gain more exposure.

“Good. I’ll see you out there in a bit.”

The lights shift, and the stage is now set for the main event. Luke drains his beer and grabs his microphone. One day, that’ll be me.

I’ll be a headliner.

Shortly after I sing the duet and exit the stage, I hear my name being called. Can a woman get two seconds to decompress before the wolves descend?

“Emily?” my manager Ginny calls. “There’s a guy who says he knows you and wants to be let back here.”

“I don’t know anyone from Texas.”

She puts the phone up to her ear and grumbles. “He said he’s from Bell Buckle and his sister, Priestly, will kick your ass.”

“You mean Presley! Cooper is here? Let him back!”

I walk toward the side of the stage where the bouncers are keeping the crowd back. “Emily! Emily!” Two girls yell with their arms raised. I wave and walk over so I can sign the poster they’re holding out to me. “You were amazing!”

“Thanks, y’all.”

“I agree,” Cooper’s deep voice says as he comes closer.

“Cooper Townsend, you sly man, showin’ up here without callin’ me.” I wrap my arms around him and hold tight. I have to lift up on my tippy toes just to reach him. He has to be at least six-foot-two where I’m barely five-foot-five. His strong arms close around me, and he squeezes, pulling my feet off the ground for just a second.

He puts me down, and I take a second to look him over. My hands rest on thick muscular arms, his tall frame blocks out the sun that’s setting behind him, and I could melt right here. He’s always been sexy, but right now, he has that whole tall, dark, and handsome thing going on. The five o’clock shadow only adds to his appeal. The way his hair falls over the dark green eyes that are staring into mine makes it impossible to look away.

“You look great, Em. Really great.”

I feel the heat rush to my cheeks, and I duck my head. I’m blushing like a teenager. “Thanks, Coop. What are you doin’ all the way down here in Dallas?”

I loop my arm in his, leading him away from prying eyes. “I’m here for a cattle rancher event.”

“Ohhh, sounds like a ton of fun.” There is a grin on my lips as I tease him.

“They’re revealing a few new products and I thought I should be here.”

I nod and open the door to the tour bus. “Bein’ the sensible rancher you are.”

“Of course.”

“So, tell me what’s new?” We sit on the couch, and I rest my hand on his knee.

Cooper fills me in on all the gossip from back home. He tells me about Grace’s little girl, Hannah, and Wyatt and Angie’s baby, Felicity. Then he takes out his phone to show me pictures of the girls. Wyatt’s little girl is getting so big, and I hate that I haven’t met either of those precious babies yet. When he shows me a photo of Trent, Grace, and Hannah, I have to fight back tears. I didn’t realize how hard it would be to miss everything since I’m on tour.

“I miss y’all so much. Bein’ on the road is tough.”

“But you’re happy?” Cooper questions.

“I love it. I love singing for people, and Luke Berry is awesome to work with. It’s a great honor, and I’m so blessed. I just never thought it would go this far, you know? I thought I’d do like I promised my mama before she died and give it two full years of tryin’ to make it before returning back home.”

His hand rests on my shoulder. “You were always meant for more.” Then Coop leans back with his arm draped across the back. “I’m happy for you, Emmy. I really am. Everyone back home is, too.”

I love that he calls me Emmy. No one outside of Bell Buckle ever uses my nickname. It’s always Emily or Ms. Young. I just want to be Emmy or Em every now and then.

I lean back against Cooper and rest my head on his chest. “You’re such a good guy. I wish I could be back in Tennessee so I could meet Hannah and Felicity.”

Cooper’s fingers trace up and down my arm. “I wish you were back in Tennessee, too.”

“Yeah?” I ask, sitting back up with a smirk.

“Yeah, it’s hard not havin’ anyone to pick on now that they’re all married and havin’ babies.”

“That’s why you wish I was back?” I challenge.

“Well, that and I kind of like you…” Cooper’s green eyes turn liquid as he stares at me.

“Just kind of?”

He shrugs, and we both start laughing. “You know how Bell Buckle is. It’s the same even when everything changes.”

I nod. It really is that way. Some things are meant to be the same, but it’s been far too long since I’ve been home. I haven’t had time to visit Mama or anyone else. Grace and Angie both have babies and are always asleep when I finally get around to calling—it’s been hard adjusting.

“I can’t believe Grace is someone’s mama.” I laugh as I crisscross my legs.

“It’s scary, but she’s happy, which is all that matters.”

Cooper says the words with so much honesty that I hesitate before asking my next question. However, I’m not known for holding back. I know that he says he’s fine with her and Trent, but is he really? It seems crazy to me that after pining for her for years that he’d just be so easygoing about it all.

“And you’re okay with her and…him?”

He laughs. “Grace and I were never anything more than friends who shared an awkward kiss. I think I just really liked the idea of her.”

“What pretty girl do you have your eyes set on now?”

Cooper’s deep green eyes meet mine and they burn. Intensely. I see the heat pooling as his jaw tics just a little before he clears his throat. “The one that I’ve never quite been able to find.”

I’m not sure what that means, and I’m not about to make assumptions, but a bud of hope grows. I’ve always wondered if we could’ve been. He has a big heart and a rocking body. I think Grace is freaking insane for not holding on to him. Cooper Townsend is grade A prime meat. One I’d like to sink my teeth into.

“Well.” I sigh. “I’m glad you found me tonight.”

Cooper looks at the floor and then meets my eyes. “What if I told you I knew you’d be here?”

My teeth grip my bottom lip, and I tilt my head. “Is that what you’re tellin’ me?”

Our lives aren’t the same. He runs a ranch, raising cattle and mending fences, while I’m on the road, singing and following my dream. I have no plans to settle down in Bell Buckle. I’m definitely not a rancher’s wife. I’m the girl who was making out with the football players while her best friends were in the 4H club. Hell no. Cooper has never been the guy to end up with a wild child like me.

But we aren’t kids anymore.

He leans in closer, and my heart starts to race. “Maybe.”