Ava Kane has lost twelve months of her life—her memories of that time were stolen by a car crash. When she has a chance encounter with Devlin Calhoun, the local bad boy and all around trouble, visions taunt her—of being his lover, of being happy with him. She’s left with questions only he can answer and fears only he can allay. Determined to unravel her past, she travels to his ranch and encounters a fiery passion that redefines everything she believed of herself.
At first, it was the easy way the man strolled past her table in Jenny’s diner that drew Ava Kane’s eyes. It was so unlike her to be attracted to a man’s ass. But it was such a fine one, clad in washed-out jeans which looked a bit worse for wear. She smiled to herself, pleased to be thinking of something so normal. Since the partial loss of her memory almost a year ago, she had been preoccupied with everything but ordinary musings.
Without raising her eyes above the rim of her double mocha chocolate frappuccino, Ava watched that sexy bottom stroll over to the pie counter. He stopped and posed hips tilted, leaning on the counter, so his fine rear was thrust outwards, making the tight jeans cling to those firm curves even tighter, God, he had such a confident strut and a fine pair of legs. He probably had a sensual drawl to match. The soft din of laughter and chatter from the other customers faded as she waited to hear the man’s voice. She was dying to know if it matched his swagger. Cool, confident and definitely sexy.
“Two slices of pecan pie, Mel. A large bacon, chicken sandwich with all the trimmings. Coffee, black. To go.”
Rough yet smooth. Cultured yet gravelly. As sensual as she hoped it would be. Strange but it sounded so familiar.
Ava lifted her head, needing to see him, not caring if her mother noticed her checking out a man. A dark red shirt with rolled back sleeves, forearms roped with muscles and some attractive tattoos. She peered closer. Flowers. An odd choice for male ink, but they were intricate, beautiful, and haunting. She allowed her gaze to travel up, discreetly. He had a strong jaw and close-cut midnight-black hair, and a stunningly handsome profile. A warm fluttering sensation filled her belly, startling her.
She inhaled sharply, drawing her mother’s gaze to the object of her study. Her mother’s face whitened, causing a jolt of apprehension to travel though Ava.
“How about you add a couple of blueberry muffins to that order, Mel?” the man added, with a smile that twisted Ava’s stomach in knots.
His voice. She knew his voice. But how? Since when? Her mind sifted through the broken pieces, trying to make a connection. When it came, everything inside of her shut down.
She’d had sex with this man. A strangled moan of denial slowly hissed from her lips. A roaring began in her head, and she struggled to breathe through the rising panic.
‘Come for me, baby. Just like that, let me feel your tightness clenching on my cock.’
She heard his voice as clearly as if he had come up behind her and whispered against her neck, a slow, dark drawl roughened with arousal. Oh God, this must be a mistake.
Then images rammed into her head like a truck. They were in the open by a lake, she was splayed wide, impaled on a too-thick cock, crying out in pleasure, her nails raking at sweat-slicked, muscled shoulders and . . .
‘You are so beautiful. I love you, Ava.’
‘And I love you, Devlin.’
Her cup clattered onto the table, drawing the man’s attention, and piercing green eyes ensnared her. Every cell in Ava’s body screamed in recognition and surged to life, needy, desperate. A slow burst of heat spread from her stomach up to her suddenly aching breasts, and then back down to more intimate places.
Oh my God.
He surveyed her with disturbing intensity, his green eyes cool and measured. She knew those eyes. She could feel the touch of them, a living caress, deep and powerful. Need coiled inside and arousal surged through her, hot and heavy. His gaze was a searchlight as it caressed over her with exquisite thoroughness, as if he were searing her on his memory.
The need to approach him was as overwhelming as it was inexplicable. She pushed back her chair, and then he lowered his eyes and turned away. His apparent lack of interest sliced deep. Too damned deep for a man she did not know. She lowered herself back into her seat, her eyes glued to him.
“Ava,” her mother hissed. “Stop staring at that man!”
God, she was stuck in a chaotic dream. “Mom, who is he?” she demanded hoarsely.
Her mother drummed her fingers on the table in obvious annoyance. “No one. And you will stop staring this instant. You’re embarrassing us.”
She started to tremble, her head pounding, her heart drumming against her breastbone.
Who was he?
Memories rushed in, hard and brutal, uncaring of her fragile mind . . . snapshots.
Clinging to his waist behind him on a Harley, freedom blowing her hair back. Cooking together as if they had been doing it for years, tasting and kissing, then the food had seemed less important than his caresses. Showering together and lathering each others’ bodies with gel and once again being distracted by their mutual sensuality. Dancing together, sliding rhythmically close to his body, uncaring about the pouring rain. Heated kisses from those so skilled sensual lips. She saw his hard, smooth, sculpted body on top of hers, making slow love to her. His thick length was driving deep into her core, bringing her to pinnacles of pleasure, until she lay limp but smiling. Pure, unguarded happiness and love.
The ache of it almost crippled her.
“Who is he, Mom?” Her voice was a snarl as she unravelled just a bit more. She knew she had seen the flash of recognition in her mother’s gaze, the twist of distaste on her well painted lips.
Her mother clearly knew who he was.
“Take deep breaths, honey,” her mother crooned leaning over their small table and patting her hand “Deep breaths.”
Ava lurched back from the false lull of comfort. “Mom! Who is he?”
Her mother stiffened. “He is no one for you to be concerned with. Just one of those unruly no account Calhoun boys.”
Ava cried out as another image slammed into her mind.
She was running, laughing with abandon. Her side stitched but the outcome of the race was never in doubt. He caught her, flipped as they rolled to the ground so that she landed on his chest. ‘I cannot wait for you to be Mrs. Devlin Calhoun.’ Then he kissed her once more with such endearing passion.
The snapshots were coming too fast, too vivid. Bile rose in her throat scalding and bitter, and sweat beaded on her lips. She massaged her temple, a tortured moan slipping from her. The clawing blackness that normally surfaced when a memory broke through hovered.
“Let’s go, Ava. We need to get you to Doc Thompson right away.” Her mother’s voice was a distance buzz, and a hot tear splashed on Ava’s thin yellow camisole. Yet she couldn’t move.
‘You’re so incredibly tight and so fucking wet. So perfect for me, Ava.’
The words resonated in her mind and heart, and Ava wasn’t sure how she knew . . . but everything inside her, said that voice belonged to the man casually collecting his order and walking away, as if he didn’t notice her meteoric meltdown. She knew the fragmented memories were really of him—Devlin Calhoun.
But who was he to her?
One, two, three….
Devlin could make it. Just a few more steps and he would be out of the diner and into his van parked close to the rear of the building. He pushed open the door with his free hand, the other clutched his food in a crushing grip. The bell tinkled, and the bite of the late winter air bit sharply into his bones.
A knot tightened and grew into a painful lump inside his chest, then it exploded, and his heart damn near ripped out from his chest. Ava Kane. Forcing himself to keep walking without once looking back, without running inside to her, took super human strength. His hands trembled and his throat tightened. If he didn’t know better he would think he was about to damn well cry. A rough humorless laugh spilled unbidden from Devlin’s lips. He was a fucking pansy, tearing up over a girl who didn’t give a shit about him. He’d dreaded seeing Ava again, seeing her happy and contented with another guy while he was a fucking mess inside, broken into tiny pieces over her.
Why the hell had he chosen to return to Benton, (population nine hundred and twenty four in last year’s census), where his family was considered trash, an unwanted stain on their fair town? And why the hell had he come into town knowing there was a real possibility of seeing her again? Because he was an idiotic glutton for punishment. Fishing into his pockets he dug for his keys and opened the door to his van. After carefully arranging his food on the passenger seat to his right, he allowed his head to drop back against the headrest. Ava Kane. From the moment he’d seen her in the diner, she’d gotten him hard, so fast, it’d almost taken his breath and driven him to his knees.
Little about her had changed at all. Same tousled strawberry-blond hair, exquisite, delicate heart-shaped face, and the most soulful, light blue eyes he had ever stared into. She was still as beautiful as ever, even more so. She had cropped her shoulder length hair close to her scalp, and damn if it didn’t make her look pixie like, but even more sensual and just as heart achingly sweet. He wanted a taste, a bite. He wanted more than just a kiss; he wanted her every which way he could. His cock throbbed and he growled in disbelief at his weakness.
Scrubbing a hand over his face did not stop the memories flooding in, stirring feelings up in his heart that he had tried so hard to drive away. Despite everything he had missed her. Just then, he wanted more than anything to walk up to Ava, wrap an arm around her hips, and just hold her. What the hell was he thinking? He’d returned to Benton for one reason only, and that was because his brother, Matthias, was being released from Aberdeen Penitentiary in five weeks’ time, and the pain of being so close to his former lover or the ugly memories Benton cursed him with, wouldn’t prevent him from being there for his brother.
His cell phone buzzed and he fished it from his pocket. It was a call from the Penitentiary.
“Matt,” he answered pleasure riding above the bitter memories. They spoke at least once per week, and he was always grateful to hear from his brother. It helped just to know that at least for now, Matt was still alive and alright. It was one of the roughest jails in the state and his brother had been incarcerated for the past ten years. It had never been guaranteed that he would not meet with some fatal accident while he was doing his time. “How are you doing?”
A chuckle filled the line. “As good as can be expected. Hey man, you back in Benton?”
“Yeah,” he said grinning, although his heart still ached again for Ava’s loss. “The ranch is ready and waiting for you.”
A throat was cleared. “Have you seen her?”
A fist tightened across Devlin’s heart. Willow Sinclair, a blue eyed, black haired beauty, his brother’s own torment. “Yeah, she is doing good,” he said gruffly. “She graduated from Penn State last week, with honors. She back home in Benton for good.”
“I’m glad,” Matt said.
“I heard that she visited you again…and you turned her away…again.”
His brother went silent and Devlin clenched his jaws together tight. It made no sense for him to even give his big brother, older by three years, hell at this moment. Matt had always loved Willow. He had discovered her filthy uncle had been hurting instead of protecting her. And Matt had been swift and brutal in concluding his vengeance. Though he had only been sixteen at the time, he had always been a scrapper, hard headed, and determined. He had sliced the man’s balls opened and done enough damage there, that her uncle wouldn’t ever think about defiling Willow again. At his sentence hearing, when the court had waited for Matt to show remorse, he’d only expressed satisfaction of maiming Jack Sinclair.
“Are you going to see her when you’re out?”
“She deserves better.”
“I just wanted to know she was doing good. I’ll see you in a couple weeks, bro. Love you man.”
“Love you too, bro.”
A click signaled Matt had ended the call. Throwing his phone on the next seat, Devlin tugged on his seatbelt. “Forget Ava, you damn stupid fool,” he muttered as he stuck the keys into the ignition and allowed his van to purr to life. Pushing all thoughts of her sweetness and betrayal from his mind, he headed home, wishing his damn heart wasn’t still playing maracas in his chest, wishing his mind would stop reliving their times together.
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Copyright © 2016 by Stacy Reid. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce, distribute, or transmit in any form or by any means. For information regarding subsidiary rights, please contact the Publisher.