Native American actress Alana Austin should have never run from her hometown cowboy. Now she’s back to right the wrong—if only Hayden would let her.
As Alana and Hayden struggle with the past and one man’s dark obsession, they find a second chance at love. Hayden is not an actor, but will he step into the role of daddy?
"I can’t believe you came back. Get the hell out!"
Sucking in her breath so hard it hurt, Alana spun to see what at first glance, appeared to be a stranger standing in the shadows. Her hand flew to her chest, the air twirling in her throat to rush painfully out her lungs. If it were not for his familiar voice, she would’ve turned and ran. But when Hayden stepped into the light, her heart squeezed as she struggled to recognize him. He only vaguely resembled the man she remembered.
"I’m sorry, the door was already open. I repeatedly called out your name. When you didn’t answer, I started to worry that something might’ve been wrong." His response was a soft, bitter laugh that birthed goose bumps down her spine. I’m too late… this was a mistake…
"A whole year has gone by and now you’re worried?"
She took a tiny step in his direction, accidentally hitting an empty bottle of beer with the toe of her boot. The bottle clinked as it rolled across the wooden floor, hitting the wall before it spun like a top.
"You never used to drink."
"Well, I do now. Leave."
Alana’s gaze followed the lines that traveled around his eyes and mouth. There was a hardness to his features that never used to be there. Dark facial hair grew in stubbles around his jaw-line. He tucked his chin toward his chest as if he was trying to hide his face. When he looked up to her again, his blue eyes frosted over.
"You didn’t answer my question. What are you doing here?"
A coldness swept through her. She wasn’t sure how to explain why she was standing in his kitchen. "I have a reason, if you give me a minute…"
"There’s no good reason for you to walk back inside this house. Haven’t you done enough?"
"I never meant…"
"Go," he repeated.
"I’m sorry, it’s just I…."
Desperate, her gaze darted around the kitchen, to the dishes that piled high to the ceiling, to the bottles on the floor. When her gaze finally landed on a small stack of magazines scattered and left untouched on the dinner table, she froze. She’d forgotten she’d ordered those before she left. A child’s face on the magazine’s cover struggled to smile at her through layers of dust.
A child. A child that by now would be three months old, filling this house with love instead of all this emptiness…and it was all her fault
It was as if someone flipped a switch, turning off the light and robbing her senses. The baby’s image blended into the darkness as her heart began to pound like a jack hammer against her ribs. It was starting again, another panic attack. She inhaled sharply but the air wouldn’t pass through the restricting walls of her throat. Please, dear Lord, don’t let me do this…not now…make this stop…
"Hayden…" she whispered, her own voice evaporating. Focus, Alana, try to focus… She reached a hand out for the counter but missed. The floor dropped beneath her. Hopeless and overwhelmed, she squeezed her eyes closed hoping for control.
"Alana!" Hayden’s deep voice called out her name the sound bouncing off kitchen walls. She braced herself against the impact of hitting the floor. Instead, large arms… arms her body recognized immediately, encircled her and lifted her. Hayden’s arms held her until she could steady herself. The warmth of his hands eased the sensation, and within moments, the shattered pieces of her mind fell back in place. A brief sense of fatigue traveled over her, but the overwhelming fear subsided.
Her face burned with embarrassment, but her voice sounded deceptively strong. "Thank you. Thank you for catching me. Hayden. I promise to leave, but first, I desperately need to talk to you." Hayden’s gaze bore into her, he seemed to consider something but then without warning, he abruptly released her and she almost buckled under her own weight. He stepped back to the same spot where he was before, the icy coldness returning to his features. Everything, everywhere hurt. She’d missed him so much. But, by the looks of him, she’d dare not say it. Not now, not yet, maybe not ever.
"There’s nothing to talk about. You made your decision."
She nodded. "I know what I did, and maybe…" Her hand went to her throat as she worked her mouth to return moisture to it. That’s when her eyes started to burn. Dammit, if she cried in front of him she’d hate herself. She didn’t want his pity, she wanted something more…maybe more than she was willing to admit when she made the drive down here.
He walked past her and opened the fridge, then grabbed a beer. "What you need is no longer my business. You’re choice, not mine. That ship sailed a long time ago. What I don’t understand is why you’re still standing here."
"Hayden, please will you hear what I have to say?"
He twisted the cap off the beer and flicked it across the room. The sound of the cap as it hit the kitchen window made her flinch. Hayden’s gaze roamed over her, taking her in as he took a deep pull off the bottle.
"What, are you sick? Why did you almost faint?" He asked, then paused to take another drink. "Never mind. It’s none of my business."
He finished the rest of his bottle in a long, deep swallow.
"I hate that you’ve started drinking." Is that because of me?
He didn’t respond, he just continued to look at her like he was seeing a damn ghost. For a moment, she couldn’t believe it herself that she was actually back home and talking with the man she divorced a year ago and vowed never to speak to again. But as the time passed, the truth came out slowly, the truth about everything that she thought she knew, and when it did, she could do nothing but think about him night and day. She just never imagined this.