Authors: Jessie Evans
EIGHT SECOND ANGEL
The Ballad of Lily Grace
A Lonesome Point Novel
By Jessie Evans
All Rights Reserved
Eight Second Angel
© 2015 Jessie D. Evans
All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of the copyright owner. This contemporary western romance is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of various products referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used without permission. The publication/use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners. This e-book is licensed for your personal use only. This e-book may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each person you share it with, especially if you enjoy hot, sexy, emotional novels featuring alpha cowboys. If you are reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then you should return it and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the author’s work. Cover image by Rob Lang c. Rob Lang/Roblangimages.com 2014. Cover design by Bootstrap Designs. Edited by Robin Leone Editorial.
About the Book
Love is heaven that hurts like hell…
Rodeo cowboy Canyon O’Donnell is a champion with more national titles than any pro bull rider in history. He’s also one week away from ending his own life. Haunted by mistakes from his past, Canyon isn’t looking for redemption, let alone love. But when a beautiful girl with her own tragic past practically falls into his lap, he can’t resist taking her under his wing. He can’t promise her forever, but maybe he can help ease her pain.
A little over a year ago, Lily Lawson was murdered. Now she’s back on earth in a new body, sent to redeem a lost soul before it’s too late. But her first good will mission is complicated by a powerful attraction to the tortured cowboy she’s been sent to save. Soon she wishes she could promise Canyon forever, but she only has a few days and time is running out.
Lily’s willing to do whatever it takes to save Canyon’s life. But what if the one thing he needs—her love—is the one thing she can never give?
To all the Lonesome Point readers
who encouraged me to break the rules and write the
story of the woman who was lost.
Thank you so much for your
open minds and big hearts.
He was fine to drive. He’d only had two beers.
Canyon O’Donnell grabbed the truck keys from the hook near the door and headed out to pick Aaron up at school. He wasn’t worried about the joint he’d smoked during his lunch break—sweating in the shade of the tractor in the middle of the ryegrass field, wishing he were back on the road—or the two Adderall he’d downed with his first beer after quitting time.
Since he’d been riding the circuit, his body had grown accustomed to riding hard and partying harder. He could handle an upper mixed with a couple of Bud Lights and stay on a bull for eight seconds, let alone navigate the two-mile drive to his son’s elementary school and back.
And even if he’d been a little tipsy, he sure as hell wasn’t going to ask Reilly to pick Aaron up.
Reilly was the one who had wanted him home, insisting he needed to come back to the farm for a few weeks to help her and her dad bring in the hay. But from the moment he’d shown up on the porch last Friday, his wife had made it clear his name was at the top of her shit list. She wrinkled her nose at the championship belt buckle he’d won at the Wrangler National Finals like he was wearing a cow patty to hold up his jeans, criticized him for being too rough when he and Aaron played bucking bronco in the living room, and shied away every time he reached out to her in the darkness.
She’d redone the bedroom since he’d been home last time, filling it with lace, ten thousand fluffy pillows, and four tiny tables holding African violets he’d knocked over in the night when he got up to take a piss. Every doily and potted flower felt like an act of aggression, a reminder that his wife was doing everything she could to push him away.
It wasn’t just redecorating the bedroom to eliminate any sign that a man slept there, it was the way she rolled her eyes when he talked about his chances of qualifying for the NFR or the new training methods he and his buddies had been trying out. Reilly had no trouble spending the prize money he won, but she acted like he’d done something stupid and shameful to earn it.
She said she hated seeing him run his body into the ground riding bulls, but if she had her way, he’d still be running his body into the ground. He’d just be doing it at the farm, sweating his balls off in the sun for barely enough money to scrape by. He would live and die on the same two-hundred acres Reilly’s grandfather and great-grandfather had lived and died on and never see anything new.
He would never feel the rush of a monster coiled between his thighs about to leap out of the chute, or hear the roar of the crowd as he held on long enough to prove he has what it takes to be champion. And he needed that rush, craved it more than just about anything aside from the cold six-pack waiting in his cooler in the truck when the ride was through.
But did he need the rush more than he needed Reilly?
His wife was the most beautiful woman he’d ever known. Once upon a time, she’d also been his best friend. He remembered when they would stay up until midnight dreaming out loud and when Reilly could make him laugh like nobody else ever had. He’d fallen for his brown-eyed girl when they were sixteen and still loved her so much it made his chest ache like he’d taken a hoof to the ribs every time she rolled to the other side of the bed, getting as far away from him as she could without falling to the floor.
But he was beginning to think giving up rodeo was the only way to save their marriage and it felt like being forced to choose between his heart and his soul. One he needed to keep moving blood through his body, the other he needed to give his heart something worth beating for.
Just thinking about the impending decision was enough to make Canyon sick to his stomach. He couldn’t imagine life without Reilly, but life with her had become so damned hard.
He pulled into the pickup line at the school with his guts churning and by the time he reached the low brick wall where the kindergarten class sat in a row, waiting for their rides with their backpacks by their feet, he had broken out in a sweat beneath his dusty tee shirt and jeans.
“Hi, Daddy,” Aaron said, grinning up at him from the sidewalk as the monitor opened the door.
His son was the spitting image of Reilly, from his thick dark hair to his soft brown eyes and heart-shaped face. But unlike his mother, Aaron always had a smile for his dad. He made Canyon feel like a hero just for waking up in the morning and he’d die for his little man in a heartbeat. There was nothing complicated about his relationship with his son, it was just love between them, pure and simple.
“You want to see what I drew?” Aaron climbed up into his booster seat and buckled up, fumbling with the seat belt as he clung to the bulky poster board in his other hand. “It’s me as a superhero! I’ve got a mask and a jet pack and a super banana.”
“A super banana.” Despite the nausea spreading through his mid-section, making his palms sweat as he pulled back out onto the street, Canyon laughed. “What do you do with a super banana, buddy?”
“You shoot the bad guys with it,” Aaron said. “But it’s a banana so it doesn’t hurt them too bad. It just knocks ’em down and makes them dizzy long enough for the police to come put them in jail.”
“Well, that sounds pretty good,” Canyon said, his pulse beginning to thud unhealthily in his ears. “Don’t want to hurt people if you don’t have to. Even bad guys.”
“That’s what I said.” Aaron frowned as he let his poster slide down to the floorboard beside his backpack. “But Chris said I was a baby and that a super banana was stupid, even though I told him the banana was magic so it came right back to its peel every time you fired it and never got black or squishy.”
“You’re not a baby. You’ve got a good heart. That’s something…” He broke off, clenching his jaw as a wave of bile pushed up the back of his throat and fresh sweat broke out across his forehead and upper lip.
He swallowed hard, fighting to keep his distress from showing. “Something to be proud of.”
While Aaron chattered on about his classroom nemesis, Canyon silently cursed himself, realizing it wasn’t stress about his marriage that was making him sick. He was having a bad reaction to the Adderall. It had happened once before when he’d taken a pill on an empty stomach and ended up puking his guts out the night before the last go-round at the Houston finals.
The next afternoon, he’d barely managed to keep his seat for eight seconds and his dismount had been for shit. But he’d made it out of the ring with nothing worse than a few bruises and a strained shoulder muscle, nothing to keep him from competing at the Boulder Rodeo three days later.
He’d powered through that miserable day and he’d power through this, too.
Still, he’d be smart to empty his stomach before he got home. Reilly was already eyeballing the bottles in the recycling bin every morning with that tight-lipped look of hers, the look that made it clear he was being judged and found lacking. He didn’t need her listening to him vomit through the bathroom door and coming to all kinds of crazy conclusions.
Swallowing against the wave of nausea making his tongue curdle in his mouth, Canyon pulled to the side of the two-lane highway and shoved the truck into park.
“What’s wrong, Daddy?” Aaron asked. “You okay? Your face is sweaty.”
“Just feeling a little sick to my stomach, buddy,” Canyon said, forcing a weak smile. “I think I ate something bad for lunch. I’m going to step outside for a minute, okay? I’ll be right back.”
“Okay,” Aaron said, watching as Canyon slipped out of the cab and trotted around the front of the truck.
He barely made it to the tall weeds at the edge of the road before he was violently sick, heaving up the sandwich he’d eaten for lunch, warm beer, and something vile that could be the rotted lining of his stomach.
He hadn’t been eating right for months. It was too easy to eat junk on the road or to get to drinking and forget to eat altogether. He was going to have to step it up. He wasn’t going to be twenty-six forever. If he wanted a career into his thirties, he had to start taking better care of himself.
As Canyon’s gut convulsed with another wave of sickness, he started making promises. He promised to drink less, eat more vegetables, and give the pills a rest. The pills were a bad habit, and the only reason he’d taken one today was because he was a coward.
He’d wanted to get high, get above it all before he walked into the house to clean up for supper. He hadn’t wanted to face Reilly sober or to suffer the weight of her disapproval without something to numb the pain. But that was bullshit and so was this. He shouldn’t be puking his guts out in front of his son.