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Series: Willow Creek Valley #3
I was totally over Joshua Parkerson.
Sure, I had a teenage crush on him way back when—and everyone knew it—but he never saw me as anything but his little brother’s friend, the girl who got tongue-tied any time he walked into a room.
I had long ago accepted the fact that his strong arms would never hold me, his lush lips would never claim mine, and his blue eyes would never see me as anything more than who I used to be.
But now he’s back in Willow Creek Valley, and there’s a brand-new spark between us—even he can’t fight it. Our chemistry is explosive, and every time we’re together, I swear I can feel the earth shake.
It doesn’t mean anything… how could it? I’m over him.
Until I see that little pink plus sign, and the earth stops turning completely.
Now I want it all again, a life with him. But Joshua built walls around his heart for a reason, and his secrets haunt him.
How can I show him that the ghosts of his past don’t have to define our new family’s future?
“Where to first? Your place or mine?” I ask as she sits in the passenger seat.
“Ugh.” She groans and then slaps her hand over her face.
Delia shakes her head. “Nothing. I don’t care. Not like this day can get any worse,” she mutters that last part under her breath.
“Okay, yours it is.”
I’ve had bad ideas, but this is probably rated the worst. I’ve done everything in my power to keep Delia Andrews from my life. I’ve pushed her away, pretended I see her as nothing but that doe-eyed girl who looked at me like I was a hero, all to no avail.
She’s not that girl. She’s a fucking warrior. That’s what she is. She never backs down and always leaves me guessing.
And now, I’m driving her to her home, where she will get naked, which is something I’ve fantasized about since being in Willow Creek.
Once the words were out of my mouth, it was too late to take them back. I’m nothing if not stubborn.
We drive through town, her staring out the window and me doing my best not to notice her. Not that I’ve ever been very good at doing that. I see her everywhere, and when she walks into a room, I feel like I can’t breathe.
Then I remember that I will never put myself through this again.
I won’t love another or let them love me, only to fail them when it matters most.
I’ve learned my lesson.
I just wish my dick would get the message.
“So, how’s work?”
She smiles. “It’s good.”
“I heard you got the promotion.”
“I did.” Delia’s voice is warm. “Ronyelle got the Operations Manager spot, and I got her old job. It’s a really good thing.”
“How is Ronyelle?”
I always loved her. She is sweet, has a sense of humor that you can’t help but laugh at, and always gives more than she asks for. I’m looking forward to seeing her.
“She’s great. She’s improved the factory so much as just a manager that it was no surprise she got the promotion. I have a feeling she’ll keep going higher too.”
“Good. I’ve missed her.”
“We’ll be at Jennie’s tomorrow. She has a breakfast with the managers each Sunday. You should come by.”
“Maybe I will,” I say with a grin.
“I’m sure she’ll like that. Even though you’re back in town, you’re not really around,” Delia adds.
It’s true. I stay away from town unless I’m visiting Amelia. I like my time away. After busting my ass for my father for years, I’m enjoying taking time to do nothing but hunt or hike.
“Since Kinsley has been here, Stella asked us to give them some time without fear of bumping into them,” I say as an excuse.
The other reason is her.
Delia stirs up too much. She’s been like a shooting star in my life. She’s bright and fleeting. Something you want to touch but always evade because it’s not meant to be held still.
I had one of those once, and I know what it feels like to lose it.
“Makes sense, but now Kinsley is around you guys more, so . . .” Delia replies with a smile.
“So maybe I’ll come around more.”
“Good. To answer your original question, the job thing is great, thank you for asking. The extra money doesn’t hurt either.”
“Did you get a nice raise?” I ask.
“A really nice one. It’s going to allow me to do some much needed improvements on my house. Gray was nice enough to get me in touch with someone who does renovations, and I’m going to have the floors redone first. After that, I think I can tackle the kitchen.”
She nods. “My cabin is great, but it needs a little love. You’ll see it when we get there.”
Yeah, and then I’ll dream of her and me on that floor, doing all kinds of things.
I clear my throat. “I can’t wait. You know I can help too?”
“Help renovate?” Delia asks with a hint of surprise.
I swear I just thought about how I avoided town because of her and now here I am, opening my big fucking mouth and volunteering to be around her more. “If you want.”
“Don’t you know that poor girls never turn away free labor?” Delia says with a grin.
“I didn’t say I was free.”
She laughs. “Like your sister-in-law would ever let you charge me.”
“Yeah, yeah.” That’s not the only reason I wouldn’t take her money. “Where to now?”
She tells me to make my next right and then directs me past the corner store.
It’s a nice place, small, and looks as if it had the outside stained recently, but the flower beds are overgrown and one of her gutters is hanging on by a thread. No matter what it looks like on the outside or the inside, it’s better than the RV I’m living in. I’m sure she at least has running water and electricity not provided by a generator.
“Like I said,” her voice is higher than before, “it needs work.”
“Everything worth a damn needs work.”
“Even you?” she asks and then her eyes widen. “Shit. Sorry. I didn’t mean that.”
I let out a chuckle, not wanting to make her feel bad. “You’re not wrong. I probably need more work than anyone.”
Her face falls slightly. “I’m going to overstep here, but if I don’t say this, I never will. You have people who love you and will do anything to help you, but you have to accept their offer to help.”
“I’m not good at accepting help,” I admit.
“No one is good at it, but we learn that humbling ourselves is needed at times. Try it, Josh. And while you’re at it, maybe work on not pushing people away. Love isn’t a punishment. It’s amazing and wonderful. It heals and allows us to move forward.”
“I don’t push love away. I love my family and my friends.”
“Right. I know you do.”
“That’s not what you’re talking about, is it?” I ask, but she bites her lip and looks away.
“I shouldn’t have said anything.”
“What do you want, Delia?”
Her lips part, and I can see the struggle warring within her. “It doesn’t matter. I’ve never had a chance to get what I want.”
“We don’t get what we want in life.”
She shakes her head and laughs. “No, we don’t. But at least I’ve had the courage to want more.” Delia exits the car without looking back, and I sit here, feeling like she punched me in the gut.
All these years, I don’t know that she’s ever been that bold. Sure, she says things, but it’s always been more subtle. This was not. Before I know it, I’m rushing after her. I have more courage than she can ever comprehend. Does she think it’s easy to want something and deny yourself?
I take her wrist, and she gasps, turning toward me. “What do you mean?”
I look down in her coffee-colored eyes, searching for the answers. “Yes, what courage don’t I have?”
I blink, my eyes instantly moving to her lips. “What?”
“You heard me, Josh. Kiss me. That’s what I want. It’s what I’ve always wanted. I have the courage to ask for it, do you have the balls to do it?”
Our breaths grow just a little deeper. I move my hand up her arm as the other snakes around her back, pulling her to me.
Warning bells go off in the back of my head, but I am too pissed, too challenged, to stop myself.
“You want me to kiss you?” I ask, needing to be sure I’m not dreaming.
“Is that what you want?”
Fuck yes, it is. I want to kiss her and do a hell of a lot more. The thing I don’t want is to hurt her or lie to her. I care too much about her to make her think there’s any chance of there being an us. All this can be is lust. I don’t have a heart to give her. “Yes, but you have to understand.”
The breath falls from her lips. “Understand what?”
“That this . . . this kiss, it doesn’t change anything. I can’t give you more.”
A soft laugh flows around us. “I never asked for more.”
I take a step forward, pushing her back against the door, and then I do what I’ve wanted to since I stepped foot back in Willow Creek Valley. Hell, since the last time I held her almost fifteen years ago.
I kiss her.
Partial loss of pregnancy