Embracing Her Heart

By: Melissa Foster

Sable reached the peak of the hill first. She turned on her booted heels, placed her hands on her hips, and grinned like a fool. “Hurry up! You’ll miss it!”

It was one thing to deal with family drama from afar, when all it took was a quick excuse to get off the phone, but three weeks? Grace couldn’t even blame her decision on being drunk, since she had been stone-cold sober when her sister Amber had asked her to help bolster her bookstore’s presence by hosting a playwriting course. You made it, Gracie! You’re such an inspiration to everyone here, Amber had pleaded. Besides, Brindle is leaving soon for Paris, and it’s the last time we’ll all be together for months. It’ll be like old times. Grace was living her dream, writing and producing off-Broadway plays, although lately, that’s all the living she was doing, and the diva attitudes of the industry were grating on her last nerve. Besides, how could she say no to Amber, the sweetest sister of them all?

Grace slipped on the hill and caught herself seconds before face-planting in the grass. “Damn it! This is the last thing I want to be doing right now.”

“Shh,” Brindle chided as she reached for Grace’s hand.

Sable ran down the hill annoyingly fast. Holding her black cowgirl hat in place atop her long dark hair with one hand, she reached for Grace with the other and said, “Get up, you big baby.”

“I can’t believe you dragged my ass out of bed for this. What are we? Twelve?” Grace asked in her own harsh whisper.

“Twelve-year-olds don’t sneak out to watch the hottest men in Oak Falls break in horses,” Brindle said as they reached the top of the hill.

“Liar. We’ve been doing it since you were twelve,” Sable reminded her.

“I can’t believe they’re still doing this at this ungodly hour.” They were the Jericho brothers, and they’d been breaking in horses before dawn since they were teenagers. They claimed it was the only time they had before the heat of the day hit, but Grace thought it had more to do with it feeling more exciting doing it in the dark.

The Jericho brothers were the hottest guys around. Well, at least since Reed Cross left town after high school graduation. Grace tried to tamp down thoughts of the guy who had taken her—and given her his—virginity, and turned her heart inside out. The man she’d turned away in pursuit of her production career, and the person she’d compared every single man to ever since. She refused to let herself go down memory lane.

“I’m exhausted,” Grace complained as they reached the peak of the hill overlooking the Jericho ranch. The Jerichos owned several hundred acres and were very active in the community, opening one of their barns once a month to the community for jam sessions, where anyone that played an instrument could take part. People of all ages came to enjoy the music, dance, and take part in various games like potato sack races, ring toss, and touch football. It was just another of the small-town events that Grace hadn’t regretted leaving behind.

“It’s not like I haven’t seen these guys a million times,” she pleaded. “Besides, Brindle, you’ve slept with Trace more times than you can probably count. It’s not like you haven’t seen him shirtless. Why are we even—”

“Shh!” Brindle and Sable said in unison as they pulled Grace down to her knees.

She followed their gazes to the illuminated riding ring below, where the four Jericho brothers, Trace, Justus, aka “JJ,” Shane, and Jeb, and a handful of other shirtless, jeans-clad guys were milling about. They were always shirtless, because what men weren’t when they were proving they were the manliest of the group?

“Trace and I are over,” Brindle whispered. “For real this time.” She and Trace had been in an on-again-off-again relationship forever. They were a hopeless case of rebellious guy and rebellious girl, up for anything risky. Two people who didn’t have a chance in hell of ever settling down but seemed to fill a need in each other’s lives—or at least in their beds.

“That’s not what Morgyn said.” Sable smirked. Morgyn was a year older than Brindle and just as outgoing.

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