Soaring, p.1
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       Soaring, p.1

           Kristen Ashley
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  Kristen Ashley

  Published by Kristen Ashley

  Discover other titles by Kristen Ashley:

  Rock Chick Series:

  Rock Chick

  Rock Chick Rescue

  Rock Chick Redemption

  Rock Chick Renegade

  Rock Chick Revenge

  Rock Chick Reckoning

  Rock Chick Regret

  Rock Chick Revolution

  The ‘Burg Series:

  For You

  At Peace

  Golden Trail

  Games of the Heart

  The Promise

  The Chaos Series:

  Own the Wind

  Fire Inside

  The Colorado Mountain Series:

  The Gamble

  Sweet Dreams

  Lady Luck




  Dream Man Series:

  Mystery Man

  Wild Man

  Law Man

  Motorcycle Man

  The Fantasyland Series:

  Wildest Dreams

  The Golden Dynasty


  Broken Dove

  The Magdalene Series:

  The Will


  The Three Series:

  Until the Sun Falls from the Sky

  With Everything I Am

  Wild and Free

  The Unfinished Hero Series:





  Other Titles by Kristen Ashley:

  Fairytale Come Alive

  Heaven and Hell

  Lacybourne Manor

  Lucky Stars

  Mathilda, SuperWitch

  Penmort Castle

  Play It Safe

  Sommersgate House

  Three Wishes

  Smashwords Edition, License Notes

  All rights reserved. In accordance with the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, the scanning, uploading, and electronic sharing of any part of this book without the permission of the publisher is unlawful piracy and theft of the author’s intellectual property. Thank you for your support of the author’s rights.

  This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.

  Copyright © 2014 by Kristen Ashley

  First ebook edition: March 16, 2015

  First print edition: March 16, 2015


  Start Anew

  I stood in the middle of the huge room, the long, high wall of windows showing a grayed view of the Atlantic Ocean foaming against the cliff rock, my furniture (mostly) where I wanted it, the rest of the space was taken up with boxes stacked high.

  I’d brought too much stuff.

  I should have gone through it. Weeded things out. Dumped stuff.

  Started anew.

  That’s what I needed.

  That was why I was there.

  To start anew.

  The problem with that was, to do it, I needed to backtrack and rectify past mistakes.

  As if the biggest mistake of all could be conjured by my thoughts, I heard my doorbell ring.

  In buying the house long-distance without looking at anything but photos, I’d obviously not heard my doorbell. Hearing it then, I was surprised it was just as stunning and elegant as the rest of the house. Muted chimes that rang dulcetly through the space as if they were precisely what they were, carefully crafted to belong right there.

  I looked to the door with its curving slash of extraordinary stained glass just as a loud banging that was not dulcet in the slightest came on the heels of the bell.

  I couldn’t see anything but a shadow through the blues, purples and pinks of the stained glass, but I still knew that body shadowed through the glass. I’d know the lines of that body anywhere.

  “Amelia! Open the fuck up!”

  There it was.



  Actually, very angry.

  As he had been now for years.

  I hurried to the door for several reasons.

  One was that he was still banging and I liked my door. It was custom-made to fit the house. I didn’t want him damaging it. And I knew he was angry enough to keep banging and doing it that hard might cause harm to the door.

  Two was that I didn’t want him to wait. He was angry and I didn’t want him angrier. Though how that could be, I couldn’t imagine. I’d spent years plumbing the depths of his wrath. However, as I did, I found those depths were unending.

  And three was that he had a right to be angry and I didn’t want to do anything to give him more of a right.

  I arrived at the door, flipped the lock, opened it and looked up at my ex-husband.

  God, so beautiful. So…very…beautiful.

  My heart shriveled.

  “You fucking did it,” he snarled, his eyes slits, his fury so visible, so palpable, I could taste it.

  I was used to the taste. It was acrid, it burned my tongue. I hated it but somewhere along the way I had become addicted to it.

  “Con,” I whispered.

  “Couldn’t leave well enough alone,” he bit out.

  “Please, just—”

  “We’re fine. We’re good. We’re finally far from you and happy, and you…” He shook his head furiously, “Fuck, you…” He drew in a massive breath then shouted, “Gotta show and fuck everything up!”

  Oh yes. Very angry.

  “That’s not my intention, Con,” I replied soothingly. “I know that you won’t believe that, but—”

  “You know I won’t believe that?” he bellowed. “You know? Fuck yeah, you know, you bitch! Of course you fucking know!”

  I lifted my hands in a pacifying gesture. “Really. Give me time. I promise—”

  “You promise?” he thundered. “You? A promise from you? What a fucking joke!”

  “If you give me time, Con—” I tried again, softly.

  I stopped when he leaned into me, coming close.

  “Time? You stupid, fucking bitch! So full of shit! Time? I’m not giving you time. I’m not giving you fucking shit. Amelia, you fuck this up for me, for my wife, for my kids, again, I’ll make you fucking pay. You hear me? I’ll make you fucking pay!”

  I opened my mouth to say something. Something about the fact they weren’t his kids but our kids.

  However, before I got it out, I heard a deep voice demand, “Step back. Now.”

  Conrad jerked around.

  I looked beyond him and the world suspended.

  This was because, five feet away from Conrad, standing on my front walk, was a tall, muscular man with dark hair clipped short to his skull and the most beautiful blue eyes I’d ever seen in my life.

  Those eyes were on Conrad. They were irate.

  But I didn’t take that in.

  I took him in.

  His blue khakis hanging on narrow hips and covering long legs with noticeably meaty thighs. His matching blue t-shirt that fit snug at his wide chest and bulky biceps. A t-shirt that had a recognizable cross insignia over his heart with “MFD” in the middle and “fire” at the top, “rescue” at the bottom. His strong jaw covered in a dark five o’clock shadow that had hints of salt in it, those whiskers matching his thick, cropped hair.

  And those eyes. Those eyes that were angry now but I knew with one look they could be many different things. They could be warm. They could laugh. They could be frustrated. They could be impatient. They could be determined. They could be joyful.

  They could be heated.

>   And I knew with that one look I wanted to see those eyes every way they could be.

  Yes, I wanted that but I also wanted more.

  I wanted to make him feel all the things those eyes could communicate to me. I wanted to make him happy. I wanted to make him laugh. I even wanted to make him annoyed.

  But most of all, in that moment, I found myself wanting, in a myriad of ways, to make those beautiful blue eyes heated.

  Yes, standing in my brand new house facing off with the love of my life, my ex-husband, the man who I lost, a man I didn’t think I could get over but knew I had to find a way—for him but mostly for our children—that was what I thought.

  I wanted it all from this stranger.

  And I wanted it immediately.

  “Who the fuck are you?” Conrad asked irately, jolting me out of these thoughts.

  “I’m a man who doesn’t like it when another man shouts at, threatens and curses at a woman. Now, I said, step back,” the stranger replied.

  “This isn’t any of your business,” Conrad informed him.

  “Man sees another doin’ what I just saw you doin’, ’fraid you’re wrong. It is my business.” He delivered that and didn’t even pause before he said, “I’ll say it one more time, step back.”

  Conrad turned to me. “You know this asshole?”

  Before I could answer, Conrad was no longer standing at my front door.

  He was off the front walk, several steps into the yard, and I had the back of the stranger to me as he’d positioned himself in my door between Conrad and me.

  I’d seen him move, I had to. Yet it happened so fast, it almost seemed like I didn’t.

  But it happened and there he was, this stranger, unknowingly standing between me and my gravest mistake.

  Protecting me.

  I’d never had that. Not in my forty-seven years of life.

  I didn’t know if it was right to like it, I just knew I did.

  Okay, yes.

  Absolutely, one hundred percent yes.

  I didn’t know him but I knew I wanted it all from this man.

  “Go somewhere. Cool off,” the stranger ordered. “You know this woman and got somethin’ to say to her, you do it a lot more calm and with a fuckuva lot more respect. Am I understood?”

  I looked beyond his back (which was a difficult endeavor, the t-shirt clung to his shoulders and lats and it was a pleasant visual) to see Conrad was even more livid after the man had pushed him into the yard.

  However, Conrad wasn’t stupid. He was tall and lean, fit because he worked at it. But he was no match for this man and he knew it.

  “You obviously don’t know her,” he spat.

  “Don’t need to know her to know you never got call to treat a woman like that,” the stranger returned. He waited the barest of moments before he continued, “You’re still standin’ there.”

  Conrad scowled at him then turned that scowl to me. “This isn’t done.”

  The stranger moved, leaning forward an inch, and Conrad instantly (and wisely) turned his attention back to him. It was wise because I only got the back of it, but I still knew that inch was a significantly threatening inch.

  He glared at the stranger for a second before he turned and stalked to the drive where he’d parked his Yukon.

  I stood and watched.

  The stranger stood and watched.

  Only after Conrad got in, reversed out too quickly and took off even more quickly, did the stranger turn around to face me.

  I looked up into his eyes realizing that it hadn’t been a figment of my imagination just minutes before.

  They were the most beautiful eyes I’d ever seen.

  “You okay?” he asked.

  The honest answer to that was that I wasn’t. I hadn’t been for years. Decades. Perhaps my entire life.

  “Yes,” I answered.

  His eyes moved over my face. The sensation was pleasant at the same time disconcerting.

  Before I could get a lock on how both of these could be, he shoved a hand my way. “Mickey Donovan.”

  I looked at his hand and so as not to appear rude, I didn’t study it like I wanted to. The squared off fingers, the closely clipped nails, the roughness, the strength, the sureness.

  Instead, I took it, raised my eyes to his and said, “Amelia Moss…I mean, Hathaway.”

  His fingers remained warm and strong around mine in a way I liked before he let me go and asked as if to confirm, “Amelia Hathaway?”

  “Yes. I, well…I was Amelia Moss. I’ve recently changed it back to my maiden name. That was my ex-husband.” I tipped my head to the drive and went on hesitantly, “We have a…somewhat rocky history.”

  He nodded once, doing it shortly, taking that in as understood without making a big deal of it or asking anything further, something that brought me relief and made me like this Mickey Donovan even more.

  “I’m really sorry you had to step in on that,” I said.

  “No problem,” he replied, shaking his head and flipping out a hand. “Woulda done it just if I saw it but,” he grinned a highly attractive, somewhat roguish grin that made my stomach flip, “I’m your neighbor.”

  He twisted his torso and threw a long arm out toward the street to indicate an attractive, somewhat rambling, one-story, weathered, gray shingle-sided house with pristine white woodwork around the windows, eaves and front door.

  I stared at the house he occupied, a house that was right across the street, feeling a number of emotions. Elation and terror, however, reigned supreme.

  He turned back to me. “We have to look out for our neighbors.”

  Although I agreed, it was then I rather tardily became embarrassed by that scene. So much so, for the first time in years, I felt heat in my cheeks.

  I looked to his shoulder and murmured, “This is true. However, I’ll do my best to make certain you don’t have to do that again.”


  Startled by the gentle way the rough velvet of his deep voice enveloped my name, and my extreme reaction to it, my gaze darted to his.

  “I’m divorced,” he declared bluntly. “Shit happens. Sometimes it isn’t pretty. I get it. I hope I don’t have to do that again too, just because I don’t want it to happen to you again. But if it does, and you can’t handle it, I’m right across the way. That isn’t an offer I’m makin’ just to make it. I mean it. Whatever happened between you and that guy happened. Now this is your home and a home should be a safe place. Even if you weren’t at your home, he should respect you. You demand that, and he doesn’t agree, I’ll be there to make him agree or make it stop. And I mean that.”

  He wasn’t lying. He meant it. I could tell by looking in his eyes. He was a nice man. He was a good neighbor. He believed women should be shown respect. He was the kind of man who would step in and do what he could to make that so if need be.

  He also didn’t know me. If he did, if he knew what I’d done, he might no longer believe in that so thoroughly.

  And that was when I knew he wouldn’t know me.

  I’d be a nice neighbor. A good one. If he had a dog and went on vacation, I’d watch it. I’d do my best to keep my ex-husband from shouting obscenities at me in my front door, disturbing the neighborhood. I’d keep my yard nice. I’d put attractive, but not outlandish or overwhelming, holiday decorations out. I wouldn’t play loud music. I’d wave if I saw him driving by or mowing his lawn. And if he needed a cup of sugar, I would be his go-to girl.

  But other than that, he would not know me.

  He didn’t need me in his life.

  I didn’t even like me in my life.

  Alas, I couldn’t escape me.

  “I don’t know what to say,” I told him. “Except to thank you again.”

  He gave me another grin, which also gave me another stomach curl, then he looked beyond me into the house.

  “You need help with anything?” he offered.

  I did. Absolutely. I had hours of unpacking, cleaning, arr
anging, organizing, hanging, shoving furniture around. All of this and I was not handy in any way. I might be relatively adept with a screwdriver, but I’d had several go-arounds with a drill and not a one of them was pretty.

  Back in La Jolla, after Conrad left me, I’d had a handyman. I’d also had landscape and cleaning services. I’d even had a young woman who made extra cash for college by running errands for me, like getting my groceries and picking up dry cleaning. The only thing I did was pay my bills.

  Now I had none of that.

  This was me starting anew.

  This was me creating a new me.

  I didn’t think Mickey wanted to hear any of this and he’d already been kind enough to come over and intervene when Conrad was shouting at me, so I decided not to ask him to help me unpack boxes and hang pictures.

  “I’m good,” I told him.

  He clearly didn’t believe me and he didn’t hide the fact he didn’t. It was not only written on his face but right there in his eyes.

  He wasn’t wrong.

  I kept silent and didn’t amend my statement. That was part of me keeping myself to me. Being a nice guy who would intervene when a man was shouting at a woman, he didn’t need the mess I’d made of my life to touch his in any way. And I was going to see that didn’t happen.

  “You do, you know where I live,” he replied.

  I nodded. “Thanks. That’s very kind.”

  And again I got his grin. Seeing it, feeling it, I wondered how it would affect me if he actually smiled.

  “Welcome to the neighborhood, Amelia,” he said quietly.

  I forced my lips to smile. “Thanks, Mickey.”

  When I said that, he gave me more. His eyes warmed and that did things to me I’d never experienced. I wasn’t sure why. Perhaps it was the genuineness I saw there. The friendliness that was just real and nothing else.

  Whatever it was, it did a number on me and I wanted to crawl into it, into him, burrowing deep, wrapping myself in that warmth and doing it so tight it would seep into my bones and force out the cold that lay in my marrow since I was able to understand how to feel.

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