by Erika Reed
from Evernight Publishing
Four years after running away from the man she loved, Peyton Montgomery is coming home.
With nowhere to live, no money in the bank, and still stinging from being served her divorce papers, Peyton is returning to help her mother care for her father after a heart attack. Being back means eventually she’ll run into the man that broke her heart and ruined her for anyone else. When they do cross paths, Peyton soon discovers she wasn’t the only one that lost so much after she left.
Because of one drunken mistake, Jackson Holt lost the woman he loved. Now he has a second chance at mending the relationship he once had with Peyton, but he has a confession he needs to get off his chest before they both can move forward and claim the life and the love they lost the night Peyton left.
“How is your father doing today, Peyton?”
Jackson Holt felt a slight ache in his chest as he stared at her. She had finally come back. His Peyton had returned home. She was still beautiful after all these years.
“Jackson,” she whispered his name.
He always did love hearing his name coming from her pink, pouty lips. God, he wanted to pull her into his arms and kiss those luscious lips that begged to touch his.
He walked closer to her and gave her a lingering hug that sent a jolt straight to his crotch. He took a deep breath of her scent and noticed she still used the same shampoo he loved smelling on her, mixed with her soft fragrant odor that smelled like sweet fruits and melons. The scent of her skin seemed to drive him mad whenever he held and kissed her.
Peyton released him sooner than he wanted. “How are you, Jackson? My father told me you have a coffee place a few doors down. I’m happy for you.” She gave him a sincere smile.
He didn’t want to talk about his shop right then and there. All he wanted to do was carry her off and take her home so he could make love to her like he dreamed for so long.
“How’s living in the big city and working for that animal hospital of yours working out? Your parents tell me that you like living there.”
Peyton gave him one of her dazzling smiles, as she stood tall before answering him. “I loved working at the veterinary clinic. It’s been my dream job I have always wanted.”
She obviously wasn’t about to tell him the truth about her job and marriage. He didn’t blame her one bit. She needed to learn to trust him again. Jackson gazed into her eyes and could see the pain that still hid behind those gorgeous brown eyes. She was trying to put up a façade. Even after all these years she still hated him and had trouble looking him in the eye.
“So I guess you’ll be leaving as soon as your dad is feeling better and out of the hospital?” he asked her.
Peyton gave him a nod. “Yes. I just want to make sure Dad is okay and back on his feet before I have to return home. I’m just here long enough to help Mom out. I shouldn’t be here longer than a week.”
A week, huh? Jackson had a week to spend getting to know Peyton again. There was so much he wanted to say … so many things that needed to be said between the two of them. He never got the chance to say good-bye to her like he’d planned after the night he last saw her by the lake.
The next day when he’d tried to call her cell phone, he couldn’t reach her, so he had gone to her house, only to be told by her parents that she had woken up early and had already headed to school. He could see the pain in her parents’ eyes as they mentioned to him that Peyton had told them everything he said the night before.
For years, Jackson felt hollow inside. He knew Peyton had married for the wrong reasons, just to get back at him. The Peyton he knew would never have married so hastily. She was a planner. She had always plotted and planned her future to a tee. They had spent countless hours by the lake discussing their plans for the future. She wanted to finish school, find a job in town, buy a home, and then wait a year before they married. She didn’t want to rush into marriage. Peyton wanted to make sure they were stable in their jobs and lives before they planned on spending the rest of their lives together. She would never up and marry someone she barely knew. Jackson had a feeling she married for her own personal reasons when she’d agreed to marry her ex within the short time they courted.
“Tell your Dad hi for me and I hope he recovers soon.” He smiled at Peyton and then waved good-bye as he left the bakery. As he looked inside the window from the sidewalk, he noticed Peyton staring at him. She gave him a smile and then turned away.
Knowing his time with Peyton was short, he knew he’d better think fast. Peyton could get spooked very easily, and they had so many unanswered questions that needed to be resolved before she up and left. He needed to be alone with her to share all the things in life that she didn’t know happened. Since she had said she never wanted to see him again, he’d respected her wishes and stayed away from her. But now that she is here, there was so much to talk about. She needed to know the truth about the life between them when she ran off. Jackson needed her to listen, really wanted Peyton to hear the things he lost along the way when she left without even a word. He missed her, and now that she was here and life was staring to get back to normal for him, he wasn’t about to let anything stand in the way of proving to Peyton that they were meant to be together.
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