Authors: Jill Sanders
She shook her head. “Wes,” she started, but he placed another soft kiss on her lips to stop her.
Then he looked her in the eyes and repeated, “Soon.”
As they rode back towards the house, she asked him questions about his travels. He was hesitant at first, but by the time they made it to the barn, he had opened up a little more and told her where he had been stationed and how long he’d been overseas. She knew a little about what he’d been doing over the years, as much as she could learn from his folks without sounding too desperate. But for the most part, no one in town knew what had happened to him, why he now had a limp and a sad look in his eyes.
Come to my place for dinner,” he asked as they cooled off the horses and brushed them down.
She shook her head. “I can’t. I have plans tonight.” She kept her eyes focused on her task and was surprised when his hands rested on her shoulders, turning her around.
“Haley…” His voice was rich and soft. “Are you and Tom an item?”
She laughed a little. “No, we were, but . . .” She shook her head. “I’m not ready for a relationship.”
“Why?” He rubbed his hands over her shoulders.
You.” She was pinned between Dash and Wes and felt like there wasn’t enough air in the large barn.
I didn’t mean . . .” He dropped his hands and stepped away. “I know I hurt you.” He ran his hands through his hair, something that would have sent his dark locks standing straight up years ago; now, however, his short hair stayed perfectly in place. She missed seeing him frazzled like before.
Walking up behind him, she put her hand on his arm. “Wes, we’ve been through a lot together.” He turned back to her.
“I’m sorry,” he blurted out. “I’m sorry for not telling you about signing up for the army. I’m sorry for leaving you after . . . after . . .” He cupped her face. “I should have never abandoned you like that.”
She didn’t realize there were tears falling down her face until he gently wiped one away. How could she have known that his apology would mean so much to her. That after all the years she’d been waiting to hear those words, they would still mean so much. She’d tried for so long to understand why he’d left her. They’d been so much more than lovers; they’d been best friends.
“Why?” Her voice squeaked, and she tried to cover the emotions.
Why?” He wiped another tear from her face.
Why did you leave? Was it because of . . . the scare?”
He looked at her. “I suppose so. I guess I was scared that I wouldn’t experience everything that was out there.” He shrugged his shoulders and stepped back. “I didn’t realize what I had.” He walked to the end of the stall and leaned against the post, looking off towards the doorway. She could see he was uncomfortable with the conversation.
“You don’t have to explain,” she started, but he broke in.
It’s not that. It’s just,” he looked around again. “This isn’t how I planned on talking to you.” He motioned around to the stall. “Break your plans tonight, come to dinner. Give me a chance to explain.”
She sighed and leaned back against Dash, then nodded.
His smile was instant. “I’ll see you at seven?”
She nodded again.
After he left, she went up to the loft, one of her favorite thinking spots, and wondered what she’d just agreed to. She sat there for a few hours before she heard someone come into the barn and shake her out of her thoughts. Walking into the house, she realized she had just over an hour to get ready for dinner.
There were still so many questions in her mind. Was she willing to take another chance with Wes? Did he deserve it? Why couldn’t she rid herself of his power?
She’d learned one thing in the last few years after seeing both of her sisters fall in love with great men—sometimes you just had to take a chance and hope everything worked out.
Deciding the best course of action was to make Wes suffer while she made up her mind, she took a little extra time picking out her outfit for dinner. She even went as far as applying some of the makeup and perfume that Alex had left in their joint bathroom.
By the time she started walking over to the ranch house, she was determined to make Wes work hard so she could get some answers.
Wes had a million things to do before Haley arrived at seven. First, he had to run into town to buy some food. Then he had to clean the entire place. Even though it was small, the construction had left the place looking like a tornado had gone through it.
He drove to the Grocery Stop with a list of items he needed. As he walked through the narrow aisles, Savannah walked over to him and grabbed his arm. He tried not to sigh in frustration.
Everyone in town knew Savannah was an attention seeker. And since he was getting a lot of attention around town for recently returning home, she had been hanging on him a lot.
Well, isn’t this a coincidence, running into you here.” She ran her hands up and down his biceps. “And just look,” she pointed to his cart, full of items from his list. “It looks like you’re getting ready to have a dinner party. I sure hope I’m invited,” she purred in his ear loudly enough for anyone else in the small store to hear.
Hi, Savannah.” He tried to move away from her, but she had too tight of a grip on his arm. “No, just getting some basics for the place.”
Oh, well.” She pouted a little. “I heard you’re living out at Saddleback in one of the hired hand places. Surely we can find you a better place to lay your head,” she said, running her hand over his chest now. He got her invitation clearly, but acted like he didn’t.
I enjoy staying out at there. I’m looking for a little solitude for a while. Well,” he tried to move forward, but she was having none of it. Looking around, he found out why. There were a few people standing around, acting like they were grocery shopping, but really they were listening to their conversation.
Well, the least I can do is bring you out one of my famous pecan pies tonight. After everything you’ve done for our country, someone should welcome you home properly.”
He smiled. “There’s no need. Besides, I have dinner plans. But”—he pulled her hands away from his arms—“I appreciate the offer.” He quickly pushed his cart down the aisle and disappeared into the frozen food section.
He could hear people talking, but didn’t pay any attention as he continued his shopping. He stopped by the flower shop on the outskirts of town and bought the largest bouquet of flowers they had, keeping Haley’s favorite colors and flowers in mind. The fact was, he knew everything there was to know about her, and yet he felt like he didn’t know enough.
It took him a few hours to clean the house after putting the groceries away in the recently painted kitchen. After showering, he started dinner, a meal he’d learned to cook from one of his best friends before they’d been deployed to different countries.
Eric had been deployed to Tangier, Morocco, to help with relief after a mudslide hit a small town, killing hundreds. Wes, of course had been deployed to the Middle East.
He was just finishing the final touches in the dining room when he heard the knock at the door. He couldn’t explain why he felt nervous, but as he opened the door, his fingers shook.
Then he saw her and his breath was knocked out of him. She wore a long flowing tan skirt and a white lacy tank top. Her hair was lose and she’d applied some make-up to her face, which highlighted her pink lips and green eyes. She looked beautiful.
Are you going to let me in?” She chuckled nervously.
He realized then that he’d been standing inside his door for the past minute, just staring at her.
“Oh.” He felt like banging his head against the door for his stupidity. “Sorry.” He moved aside as she walked by. Then the smell of her perfume hit him and he felt his knees go weak.
She stopped just inside his living room. “I’ve never been in this one before.” She looked around.
“Really?” He walked over to her. “I would have thought you would have been in all of these since you grew up less than a mile away, and they all belong to you.” He smiled.
She shook her head. “My dad never wanted us to bother the men on ‘their’ time.” She air quoted. “When Lauren took over, she wanted us to follow the rules. Of course, she’s been in all of them to see if they needed any upkeep.” She turned in a slow circle. “It’s a lot nicer than I imagined.”
“I can give you a tour, if you want?”
She blushed a little, and shook her head. “No, that’s okay. Something smells wonderful.”
He nodded and took her hand. “Food first. We still have a few minutes before it will be ready. Let’s head outside.”
The house was small, but it had a big deck off the back kitchen. He’d set the table, making sure to place a bunch of newly bought candles all over the railing and table. When they walked out, the place glowed with romantic light and soft music, which played from his iPhone speaker.
“This is nice,” she said, walking to the railing. The stream that ran behind the row of houses added to the romantic feel. The frogs and crickets were chirping their nightly tunes.
She leaned on the railing and looked out across the field towards the lights of the main house.
Walking up beside her, he moved closer. He turned his back to the view, choosing to look at her face instead of the scenery.
Yes, it’s a lovely spot.” He smiled when she looked up at him.
Why are you staying here?” She turned and leaned on the railing, facing him.
Because Chase and Lauren invited me to.” It was simple enough to him, but he saw her frown a little at his statement.
Why here? On my land?”
You know why.” He reached up and brushed a strand of hair away from her face. “You.”
She shook her head, dislodging the hair again. When she tried to take a step back, he took hold of her shoulders. “Haley, I know what happened in the past, how I hurt you. I’m not the same man I used to be. You’re not the same woman either.” He pulled her closer, until he felt her heart skip against his. Her hands had gone to his shoulders, but so far, she hadn’t tried to push him away.
When he looked into her green eyes, he felt something return that he thought had been long gone. Leaning down, he placed a soft kiss on her lips. Meaning to go slow, he felt a jolt when her hands went to his hair and pulled him down for a passionate kiss. Her hands roamed down his neck to his shoulders and arms. He felt himself start to shake and wrapped his arms around her more tightly. Her tongue explored his mouth until he moaned and felt himself stir. When it became almost painful, he slowly pulled back and smiled down at her.
I told you I would explain.” He ran his hands over her soft shoulders. “Let’s eat; I’m sure the food is ready.” He watched her green eyes clear a little. She nodded and leaned against the railing again.
es had made one of her favorite dishes. The Greek chicken was so juicy and spicy, she found it hard to concentrate on anything but eating every bite. When her plate was empty, she leaned back and smiled at him.
I’ve missed this.” She nodded to her plate.
I figured you’d like it.” He smiled as he finished the last bite of his plate. “I didn’t get to cook as much as I would have liked overseas.”
I tried making this once.” She shook her head. “I failed miserably.”
He laughed at her and she couldn’t help but smile. She’d miss the sound of his laughter as well as his cooking.
She waited until he took another sip of his beer, knowing that his mood had changed, that he would attempt to explain why he’d done what he had years ago. Why he had, in her mind, betrayed their friendship.
He looked up at her and, reaching across the table, took her hand in his. “Let’s walk for a while.”