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Series: The Arrowood Brothers #1
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One night, eight years ago, she gave me peace.
Just two broken people, desperate to quiet their pain and grief.
In the morning, she was gone and had taken my solace with her. I left for the military that day, vowing never to return to Pennsylvania.
When my father dies, I’m forced to go home to bury him. At least I’ll finally be rid of his farm, which is grown over and tangled with memories I’ve fought to forget.
And that’s when I find her. She’s even more beautiful than I remember and has the most adorable kid I’ve ever seen.
Years have passed, but my feelings are the same, and this time I refuse to let her go. They say you can’t bury the past, and they’re right. Because when long-ago secrets are exposed, rocking us both to the core, I have no choice but to watch her walk away again…
It can’t be.
This can’t be happening.
It’s been eight years since that night. Eight years of pretending that it was all a dream because it had to be.
I never saw him again. No matter how many days and nights I scanned crowds or looked at every driver—it was never him.
Partially, I was grateful because that night was one of the most heartbreaking and incredible nights of my life. I never should’ve given myself to him, but I was so unsure of where my life was going and if marrying Kevin was the right thing to do. I only knew that I needed to be loved and cherished, even if it was only for one night. I wanted to be held the way that this man held me when we danced.
The other part was the agony because I was getting married the next day, and God help me, I prayed that I would never see him again so I could find a way to forgive myself for the sins I committed.
I should’ve known that I couldn’t ever atone for my sins to be forgiven and him being here is proof of that.
“Mommy!” Hadley rushes over, her eyes filled with terror at the groceries on the ground.
Shit. I let them fall.
I hate that she worries so much. “It’s okay, baby. I’ll get them.”
Hadley turns to the man when she sees my eyes go back to him. “Connor, this is my mom.”
Connor. I’d given him so many names, but Connor is fitting. The name is strong, like the man.
Time has done nothing to lesson how attractive he is. His eyes are a deep emerald green that makes me feel like I’m drifting. His hair is longer up top, pushed over to the side, giving him a bit of a boyish look, but it only adds to his appeal. Then there’s his body. God, his body is sinful. His shirt is clinging to his arms, and there’s no denying the muscles beneath it.
His chest is broader than I remember.
And I remember everything.
His touch, his scent, the sound of his voice as he made love to me in a way I didn’t know existed.
I needed him and the memory of that night more than he can ever know. I’ve relived it so many times, clinging to those feelings that I was desperate for, loving how my world came alive and colors were brighter when I was with him. He was like a comet that set the sky on fire, and the tail has never faded for me.
But now, him being here? It threatens everything—including the life of the little girl he’s standing next to.
I look to both of them as I crouch to try to pick up the stuff I dropped. “And how do you two know each other?”
He heads over as well, bending to help gather the items that are out of my reach. “I found Hadley in a tree, and I think her arm is pretty messed up. I wanted to make sure she got home okay.”
Immediately, my attention shifts to her. I don’t know how she hurt it or if someone hurt her. “Are you okay? What happened?”
She looks to him and then back to me. “I fell.”
I close my eyes, willing that to be the truth. Kevin may hurt me, but he’s never raised his hand to Hadley. “Let me see.”
She tugs up her sleeve, and I touch the bruise marring her skin and hate that it looks swollen. “I need to get her checked out.”
Connor lifts the bag of food into his arms and hands it over. “Can I help?”
I shake my head quickly. “No, no. I’ve got it all. My husband is working on the farm. I’ll get this inside and then take her. Thank you.”
I can’t let Kevin see him. It will send him into a million questions about who he is, how I know him, why Hadley wasn’t in the house where she was supposed to be, and what happened to her arm. Right now, my emotions are too unsettled to deal with any of it.
“Are you sure?”
Connor gives a sad smile and then touches the top of Hadley’s head. “You be careful, all right?”
Hadley smiles up at him. “You too.”
He laughs. “I’m not the one who is hurt.”
“You should still be careful because you’re a soldier.”
That’s why I haven’t seen him. He’s been gone, but clearly, he’s back. Only, I don’t know what that means or if it means anything at all. I don’t even know why I care what that means. I have my life here with Kevin and Hadley.
We can’t leave, even if we wanted to. Kevin ensured that when he moved me here, away from anyone I might know.
Still, my lips part and I find myself asking, “You’re in the military?
“I am, for another few weeks, at least. Then I’ll be out.”
I nod, thankful that he’ll be leaving again. “Well, thank you for bringing Hadley home.”
He takes a step closer, making my pulse spike. It takes every ounce of strength I have to stand my ground. “You’re welcome . . .”
My insides battle over telling him my name. I don’t want to lie, but giving him this is like relinquishing all the false pretenses. But I owe him. I owe him so much, so I stop fighting myself and tell him the truth. “Ellie.”
Connor takes another step closer, his deep voice brushing over me as he says my name far more beautiful than I’ve ever heard it. “Ellie. You’re welcome, and it was nice to meet you.”
I smile tentatively. “Yes, same, Connor.”
Saying his name feels like a piece of the puzzle fitting together.
Hadley takes my open hand, and we walk up the steps that lead to the falling-down house we call home, leaving him standing there and watching us, and I wonder if he could see what I’ve been ignoring for the last seven years—that Hadley has his eyes.
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This book deals with domestic violence (not by the hero)