Embracing Her Heart

By: Melissa Foster

Fuck. Get a grip. There was only one way to do that. He needed to convince himself she wasn’t worth the risk.

“You always were good at leaving things behind,” he said coldly.

Her jaw fell open and a sound of disbelief escaped, sending a pang of regret to his gut. She stormed into the house, giving him an eyeful of her barely covered, and even-more-beautiful-than-before, ass—pushing that spear of regret in deeper.

GRACE PULLED THE door and the curtains closed and paced her bedroom, crossing and uncrossing her arms, trying to suck air into her lungs. What the hell was Reed doing back in town, and why was he working at her parents’ house? She hadn’t even realized her parents knew him. She stared at the swinging curtains, and much to her dismay, her body was still trembling and hot. She hated him for making her feel that way. But it wasn’t only Reed she was mad at. She had a bone to pick with Sable.

She threw open the bedroom door, heard Clayton jump from the bed and land gently on the floor with a soft meow, and headed down the hall toward the scent of freshly brewed coffee. Sable was staying at their parents’ house while her apartment over her auto shop was undergoing renovations. With the exception of their rock-star brother, Axsel, who traveled endlessly with his band, and Pepper, who worked as a research and development scientist outside of Oak Falls, her siblings stopped by often for meals at their parents’ house.

She found Sable and Amber standing by the kitchen sink, staring out the window at Reed. They were so busy gawking, they didn’t even notice she was there. Sable was dressed in cutoffs, cowgirl boots, and her favorite Stetson, while Amber wore a short flowery dress with her boots—typical Oak Falls attire. For some reason that annoyed Grace even more. Why did small town look so right and comfortable on her sisters, when it felt ill fitted on Grace? A streak of jealousy floated through her, and she tucked it away, reminding herself of how hard she’d worked to break out of that small-town mode.

“Take the damn shirt off already,” Sable said as she twisted the ends of her long dark hair. The three of them, along with Axsel, were brunette, like their mother, while Brindle and Morgyn were fair-haired, like their father, and Pepper was a beautiful mixture of both.

Her sister’s comment did nothing to calm Grace’s racing heart from the brief—and abrupt—encounter with the full-on torturous beast outside. His toffee-brown hair was thicker now. His kissable lips were fuller. Add in sun-kissed skin, honest eyes, a strong, square jaw, and a dusting of scruff, and holy cow. Reed Cross was still hotter than any man she knew, and Grace had met some seriously fine men.

“Grace knocked him off his game with her I’m-just-standoffish-enough-to-make-you-want-me act,” Amber said as she reached a hand down to pet the head of Reno, her golden retriever. Amber was epileptic, and Reno was her service dog. “But Gracie could knock anyone off his game.”

Grace softened at her sister’s words. She missed their unconditional love and friendships. It seemed to her that other than her childhood best friend, Sophie, who now also lived in New York, true friendships were hard to come by in the city. But she knew there was nothing like the love of younger siblings. Even when they were growing up and bickering over everything under the sun, her younger siblings still looked up to her like she held all the world’s answers. Little did they know that she looked up to them, too. Not that any of them, including her, ever had all the right answers. Decisions around the Montgomery home were often made late at night, with the seven of them huddled together and plenty of hot chocolate and laughter on hand. Sometimes there were tears, too, but no matter how sad one of them was over a breakup, bad grades, career woes, or anything else, they’d always had one another’s backs. Part of having one another’s backs was helping them find a bright spot in a dark moment.

And Sable was about to have a very dark moment for keeping news of Reed working on the house to herself.

Grace crossed her arms against her resurfacing anger. “Knock him off his game?” she said in response to Amber’s comment. “More like I annoyed the hell out of him.”

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