Authors: Stephanie Taylor
My One True Love
Published by Purple Sword Publications, LLC
Copyright © 2010 STEPHANIE TAYLOR
Cover Art Designed By Anastasia
Edited By Traci
This is a work of fiction. Names, places, characters, and events are fictitious in every regard. Any
similarities to actual events and persons, living or dead, is
purely coincidental. Any trademarks, service marks, product names, or named features are assumed to be the property of their respective owners, and are used only for reference. There is no implied endorsement if any of these terms are used. Except for review purposes, the reproduction of this book in whole or part, electronically or mechanically, constitutes a copyright violation.
, thank you for all of your hard work.
Jason Kenyon was poised with his axe to chop a tree for firewood at the base of the mountain behind his cabin. The ground beneath him started to tremble. A gunshot reverberated off the mountains and then a freight train-like sound immediately alerted his senses. He smelled the sharp, cold odor of snow.
Lots of snow.
Despite the near complete sunset, he could still see the white mass above him at the top of the mountain, moving. Quickly looking around, he found a tree, old and thick enough to withstand his weight and the avalanche. He used his axe as a handle to help him climb it. With great heaves and sweat breaking out on his forehead, he made it to the mid-way point and held on to the trunk
dear life. The avalanche rumbled past him, and the tree underneath his arms vibrated and creaked. His heart pounded, not only from the climb, but from fear.
Even though he was a trained park ranger for the small town of Oakley, he hadn’t been in this situation before. There was certainly enough snow to justify one, but in his memory, the area had never suffered from an avalanche.
Jason watched the snow mound higher and higher against the tree, and he found himself praying silently. As the avalanche slowed, the blanket of white was suddenly interrupted by a patch of dark blue and red. Without thinking twice, he jumped into the waist deep snow, his legs aching with the effort it took to move forward. Shards of ice tore at his jeans and his shin grazed something sharp. Gritting his teeth, he pushed through the pain and snow until he finally grasped the small hand, one that had to belong to a woman.
He was ashamed his first thought had been about his own safety and not a hiker or skier caught up in the snow. But his second thought reminded him that he still had a job to do, and getting this woman to safety was his first priority. Since he was close enough to his cabin, he’d take her there and radio in to the sheriff that she’d been found.
He tugged on the hand, which he noticed had red fingernails, and huffed when she didn’t budge. Kneeling as much as he could, he burrowed a path underneath her shoulders with his gloved hands and placed his arms around her middle. Using all of his strength, he pulled. He let out a sigh of relief when the limp body came up out of the icy snow. Brushing away the snow from her neck, he checked her vitals and found a strong pulse, thankful that he found one at all. He had never seen a dead body and never wanted to.
Jason didn’t take the time to brush all the dark curls away from her face to see if he might know her. Oakley was a small town, after all. But getting her warmed up was his main concern. He’d work on identification later. Without another thought, he bent, scooped her up into his arms, and headed for his cabin.
So much for getting that firewood he wanted.
* * * *
I’m so cold.
Liz Henley burrowed against Patrick’s heated body as a shiver slid down her spine. “Put your arms around me,” she whispered, wincing as sharp blades of pain scraped her throat.
“You’ll be fine, Lizzie.
Something inside of Liz grew even colder. That deep, smooth timbre, so unlike Patrick’s business-like tone, definitely didn’t belong to her fiancé. It was the voice of a million dreams that had haunted her for seven years.
Even though she knew he wasn’t real, she snuggled closer to his heat, reveling in the thrill of her dream. Oh, how she’d missed Jason. Missed him so much, it was a physical ache. But she was definitely dreaming. No way would Jason be holding her in his arms like this. Not after what she did to him.
Another shudder wracked her body, and she pulled his arms around her. Since this was her fantasy, she could allow herself to be taken away by the comforting feel of his embrace and the yearning of her body. She tried to open her eyes to see his handsome face, but they wouldn’t cooperate. Of course not, it was a dream.
Before she slipped back into unconsciousness, she said the words she’d wanted to say for so long. Maybe they would give her a measure of peace when her wedding day arrived. “I don’t love him the way I love you, Jason. I never will. I can’t marry him feeling like this.”
She felt his grip on her tighten. “Rest,” he whispered, and his lips brushed tenderly against hers.
And she did.
Liz dreamed she was in a different place. It was cold. For some reason, she heard the rolling thunder of logs being dumped into a wood stove, and the clank of the top lid.
She rolled, tossing off the quilt; it felt sticky and heavy against her sweaty skin. Why would Patrick be using a wood stove? She heard a door open and shut. A blast of frigid air made the sweat on her skin sting. She reached for the discarded quilt, tunneling under it, trying to go back to the quiet peace of her dreams, where her head no longer pounded from such a little fall, and Jason held her snug in his arms. But she couldn't. She was awake…and she wasn't dreaming anymore.
Her eyes opened and she saw that she was inside a log cabin. The décor was sparse with a few pictures hanging on the walls; the quilt on the bed matched the sheets. A small dresser sat in the corner next to a door she assumed was a closet.
As she registered her surroundings, a big lumberjack strolled into her room, dressed in a flannel shirt and worn jeans. A thick beard covered everything but his eyes, nose, and forehead.
Panic turned her blood icy, and by the time she thought to pretend sleep, he'd noticed she was awake. His blue eyes crinkled as he smiled underneath all the fuzz.
“Good morning,” he greeted and walked over to her.
He was huge. His arms bulged under sleeves rolled up to his elbows. Jeans hugged his thighs as he sat down on the edge of the bed. It dipped under his weight. Liz wasn’t sure what to do with this stranger. There was only one man she’d ever known that was this big in size. Her eyebrows furrowed.
“How are you feeling?” he asked softly.
She studied the man. His voice was kind and…so familiar. Her dreams came back to her, and she wondered if it could be…
“Who are you?” she croaked. Tugging at the sheets, she pulled them up to her chin. She felt naked even though she was clothed in flannel pajamas five sizes too big…
Wait, she hadn’t been wearing pajamas, especially ones this big. She touched the neck of the oversized pajamas and looked at the man. His knowing smirk meant only one thing.
changed her clothes!
“Where am I?” she demanded, forcing strength into her quivering voice.
“You’re in my cabin at the base of the mountain. You fell and I just happened to be there when you went sailing by.”
A lump formed in her throat. The more he spoke, the more memories hit her. The warmth, the dreams of being held skin to skin in a safe haven, was it all a dream or was it reality? She cringed. This man
“I said, ‘Who are you?’.”
His eyes crinkled again. “You don’t know?”
“Would I ask if I knew?” But, dear heavens, she feared she
His full lips pulled upward, but served to do nothing more than move a few hairs of his thick, brown beard. “Good point. I think you remember me as Jason Kenyon.
Liz’s eyes stung with unshed tears. It had been years since she looked into those eyes or been the subject of his smile. He had a beautiful smile when he wasn’t so furry.
“Lizzie…” he whispered when he saw her tears, and stretched out his hand to touch her face.
Appalled she had shown weakness, she flinched away. Then a new thought hit her. Her wedding!
What day is it?”
“February twelfth, why?”
“I’ve got to get back into town! I’m getting married in two days.” She struggled against the pain pulsing through her head and pushed at the covers to stand up.
Jason’s gentle, giant hands pushed her shoulders back against the headboard. His fingertips played with the ends of her hair before he smoothed it behind her ear. “We can’t get back to town.”
Horror filled her.
“The roads are impassable. Until the snow plows come through after Valentine’s Day, we’re stuck.”
“You’ve got to be kidding.”
“Do I look like I’m kidding?”
She looked at him but found the dark beard so distracting, her annoyance level rose. “You don’t look like anything but a hairy lumberjack. When was the last time you shaved?”
Jason rolled his eyes. “You never did care for facial hair.”
Liz focused on her anger and shot him a glare. The last thing she wanted was to remember their past together. She’d gone up to the mountain to think her wedding through and put the past behind her. That was the last thing she remembered. Unfortunately, she couldn’t remember if she’d come to a conclusion or not.
With a loud exhale, Jason stood and paced the room. “Getting married, huh?” he asked and ran his fingers through his wavy, dark hair. “Does he know you’re prone to running?”
“Shut up.” She’d always hated this about him, the smugness,
conceit. It was like he knew everything about her. Liz had news for him, she wasn’t the same girl he knew from high school!
His hands rose in defense as he sighed.
“Just asking a question.
I figure any man stupid enough to get involved with you gets what’s coming to him.”
Liz stood up and ignored the dizziness as it swamped her. “What’s
supposed to mean?”
“Exactly what I said, sweetheart, he’s stupid.”
Liz felt like a child as she stamped her foot, but she couldn’t think of anything else to do when she stood so close to his masculine smell, like pine needles and coffee.
“He’s a doctor. He’s not stupid.”
“Books smarts don’t equal common sense, honey.”
With narrowed eyes, she debated on whether to shove him or slap him. The predatory gleam in his eye told her both would earn some serious consequences, so she chose to do neither.
“You’re still hot for me,” he said with a knowing grin.
She flashed her diamond in his direction. “Does this look like I’m still hot for you, Kenyon? Who would have the
for a man who looks like Paul Bunyan?”
“Know what I’ve always hated?”
“That I’m always right?”
The tint of the room took on a red hue. He was always able to provoke this kind of reaction from her, and she refused to let him know he still did.
“Jason, I’m getting married in two days and I can promise you, I haven’t thought of you once in the seven years since I left you.” Seven years, eight months, three weeks and two days, to be exact.
Jason’s blue eyes cooled. “I should have left you in the snow.”
Liz gave him a sweet smile. “But you didn’t
“To my everlasting shame,” he said, with an equally saccharine smile.
Letting out a frustrated sigh, she sat on the edge of the bed, mainly to deflect the dizziness.
“Are you hungry?” he asked, coming around the end of the bed to stand in front of her. “Do you feel okay? You look like you’re about to pass out.”
Liz debated whether or not to tell him the truth. She didn’t want to owe him anything, but the truth was she could gnaw her own arm off. “Yes,” she muttered.
“I’ll bring you some food.”
The last thing she wanted was Jason serving her food in bed. “I can walk.”
His skeptical gaze upped her annoyance level. “Can you make it to the kitchen?”
“Of course I can.”
He tucked his hand gently underneath her arm and helped her stand. The dizziness caused her to sway, but she refused to lean into Jason. A whimper escaped her lips, and she grabbed the footboard of the bed to steady herself.
“You’re the most stubborn woman I’ve ever met,” he growled.
The next thing she knew, her world tilted. This time, Jason carried her.
“Put me down!” Liz cried at the sudden closeness.
“Stop wiggling like
or I’ll put you down right where I’m standing. I would love to watch you land on that sweet behind.”
Afraid he meant what he said, she stopped moving. Her whole body ached from the fall, and she was pretty sure she couldn’t withstand any more bruises. “I hate you.”
“No, you don’t.”
The smug tone of his words served to further infuriate her, but she didn’t say anything as he moved out of the bedroom and into the small kitchen area. He plopped her down in a chair.
“What’ll it be? Chicken noodle soup, chicken noodle soup, or chicken noodle soup?”
“So, I have to know why you came back to Oakley to get married. I thought this place was too backwoods for you. You needed to feel
She grimaced at his mockery of their last conversation. “I always loved the town, but not the people.”
He grunted. “Surely good ole Neva didn’t run you off. I know she’s annoying, but that’s just giving her too much power. So, what scared you the most, Lizzie? Being stuck here or being my wife?”
“Don’t,” Liz warned. A stab of longing hit her square in the gut. Some days she felt like leaving was the best thing she’d ever done, but most days? She regretted not becoming his wife, waking up next to him every morning, making love whenever the mood struck. They’d been so good together before she got spooked and high-tailed it out of Oakley.
“Oh, I think it’s about seven years too late
, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to hear what you have to say.”
“You know why I left you. Everything else is none of your business.”
He gave a careless shrug as he opened a can of soup. “Suit yourself.”
How did one man possess the ability to rile her so much? What was it about him that made her want to scream?
But she knew the answer. She’d known it for seven years now. She’d never gotten over Jason Kenyon. Even with a ring on her finger and a wedding to another man scheduled to happen in two days, she realized she
loved him. Sure, she’d tried to put her love for Jason behind her as best she could, but it obviously hadn’t been enough. She buried her face in her hands.
Of all the people to rescue her, why did it have to be the very person she’d gone to the mountain to put behind her? She would have been completely happy to go ahead and marry Patrick if Jason hadn’t continued popping up in her mind. Even if she didn’t love Patrick with the same intensity she’d once had for Jason, he was a good man and could provide her and any children they had with a stable home and a decent life. That wasn’t a bad thing to want, was it? But her feelings for Jason kept telling her, “yes.”
At first, she’d chalked it up to being back in town. On top of that, Valentine’s Day was always a little difficult because of the memories of her last one in Oakley. But putting the two together?
She let out a ragged sigh.
Jason placed a bowl under her nose. He nodded toward the soup and sat down next to her at the small table.
“I left because…”
An eyebrow raised in her direction. “Go on.”
“The night before I left, we talked about our future, remember? You said you wanted to become a policeman and couldn’t wait to spend the rest of our lives together.”