Colton Kingston is set on rebuilding his ranch to what it once was before his livelihood was diminished to a pile of ashes from a revengeful dark act of arson. His brothers at heart are there with him every step of the way to help pick up the pieces of the old and replace them with the new.
Paige Summers finds her inner strength to battle through her burdens of taking another person’s life. Standing in her rightful place by Colton’s side, she’s finally holding her own and living her dream of training horses.
Together, Colton and Paige have endured their fair share of obstacles and tragedies, and it has only made them stronger. With Hank Ulrich out of their lives, Colton is determined to make Paige, the girl he’s loved since he was five years old, his wife—forever.
But as one door closes, another opens, and a new danger is lurking in the shadows, threatening to stand in their way.
Will Colton and Paige’s love be endless, the way it was always meant to be? Or will a new devastation fall upon them and ruin their fate?
Deep sobs raked through my body, recalling how I’d indeed watched the life seep out of Hank and the deep satisfaction it had given me to do so.
What kind of person does that?
I felt his proximity before I heard him, and in seconds, Colton’s hand came to the base of my shoulder blade where he spread his fingertips wide and glided them upward bit by bit.
“Jesus, Paige,” he murmured, barely above a choked whisper. “You’re shaking.”
I hated that I had been distancing myself from him, inadvertently hurting him, but I was powerless to stop it. My mind was my worst enemy.
I closed my eyes, overcome with shame. Colton had never witnessed one of my shower breakdowns before. I preferred to do them in private. I didn’t want anyone to see me fall apart. Especially not Colton. I wanted to be strong for him. I had my pride.
Seconds ticked by before I finally braved spinning around on my heel until I was facing him. Unable to look him in the eyes, I bowed my head and stared at his chest.
How do I explain to him that no matter how many times I shower, I still feel dirty because I have blood on my hands?
Eddie had made me feel weak when he pointed a gun to my head while kidnapping me before knocking me unconscious. Hank had done so by treating me like I was worthless and disposable, as if my life had no value. It was as though they’d stripped me bare, stolen my confidence and my pride…me. Then, I’d become a monster myself and killed without mercy.
So, which one of us is evil?
I shook my head, grief-stricken. Nothing made sense to me anymore.
Colton gently grasped my chin and lifted my gaze to meet his. A crease formed between his brows, and he frowned at me. Worry and regret clouded his normally bright baby-blue eyes.
“Tell me what to do.” Panic filled his voice. “Tell me how I can help you move past this. I will do anything to get rid of that look in those beautiful eyes that I love so much.”
The worst part was knowing that I had no answer for him. I felt robbed of my own mind to make the decision of what I needed to heal. My heart was vacant. I was an empty shell, lost and alone, stuck somewhere in my own private hell.
“Do you remember when you found out the barn fire was arson and you sent me away?” I broke off at the painful memory, recalling what it had felt like when he pushed me away. I was doing no better now, but I was incapable to stop it. I tried to collect my thoughts on where I was going with this.
He winced. “Yes.” His tone was low and full of remorse.
“Then, remember you later snuck in my window and asked me to let you hold me”—I swallowed, stifling the urge to cry—“without any questions or explanations?”
His shoulders rose and fell. Understanding filled his baby-blue eyes. His arms were already in motion, wrapping around my waist. “Yes,” he answered, pulling me close.
“That’s what I need right now. No questions, no judgment…” My voice cracked, and I placed my hands on the center of his chest. “I just need you to hold me.”
An overwhelming pain appeared in his features before he tightly hugged me. He nuzzled his nose into my neck, and I could feel his warm breath along my skin.
“No one’s judging you, Paige. Please, please don’t be so hard on yourself.”
His words sent my heart into a tailspin. I laid my head against his sternum and sobbed uncontrollably. I cried for the lives I’d affected by Hank’s death, mainly his wife and two college-aged children. I silently pleaded for forgiveness for my actions even though it had been self-defense. I prayed my mind would let me let go of this evil head-trip I was currently suffering through and allow me to move forward with my life. I dreamed my life with Colton would return to a normal, simple one.
Eventually, I ran out of tears, and my breathing began to level out until I could only hear the water running and the sounds of my and Colton’s breaths as he continued to comfort me. Somewhere along the way, Colton must have adjusted the nozzle because the water temperature had changed.
“The water’s warmer,” I stated quietly, wanting to break the silence. My lungs were scratchy and raw from all my crying.
“I didn’t want to brave hypothermia.” His lips seemed to curve into a smile, and his hands soothed up and down my sides. “Though, I fear our hot water tank will run empty any minute now, and we’ll be left shivering again.” He shifted fractionally and brought one hand to the base of my chin.
As his thumb started to stroke back and forth across my cheek, he gazed into my eyes. An endless array of emotions rippled out of him, matching the intense look in his baby-blue eyes. “You’ve lost your way before, and so have I.” The lonely ache in his voice seized my heart. “And that’s okay. Heartache has a powerful impact on the soul, and we all get lost now and then. But I need you to promise me that you’ll come back to me, Paige, because nothing will keep us apart. I won’t accept anything less than forever with you.”
I desperately clung to the feeling of hope he sparked somewhere deep within me, and a genuine small smile spread across my lips at his natural ability to make me swoon with his tender words.
“You promise?” For some unknown reason, I needed his reassurance in this moment.
He bent forward and kissed the tip of my nose. “I promise.”
Thank you to my dear sister, Kels, who showed me a few years ago how much I truly missed reading. And to my loving husband, for not throwing away my Nook, and planting the seed of writing in my mind. I am forever grateful. Xo
Readers, words cannot thank you enough for supporting me along this incredible journey. I hope you enjoy my novels as much as I do writing them. I thank each and every one of you.
Believe in yourself and follow your dreams…
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