EXCERPT: Forgiven by Carrie Aarons
In a split-second, a car crash killed almost everything between them. Ten years later, can one accidental ride fix tattered spirits, uncertain futures, and broken hearts? Lily Grantham has always done what she’s been told. The daughter of a senator, she grew up as the good girl of Fawn Hill, and carried that torch right on through to adulthood. Her only wild streak? Bowen Nash. She loved that boy since the day they laid eyes on each other, and it nearly ended them both. A decade later, and Lily still can’t move on. Even if Bowen has made it clear he doesn’t love her anymore. Bowen Nash never wanted the life he’s trapped in. Destined for baseball fame and the love of his high-school sweetheart, that existence vanished in the flip of an old pickup. Now, he’s stuck in the town that produced his worst nightmare. Pretending to hate Lily Grantham guts him day in and day out. But to protect her from the ultimate secret, it’s necessary to break his own heart each time they pass on the street. They’ve been fighting fate for as long as it’s been chasing them. And now, time is up.
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“Bowen?” The way she says my name, I know I’ve been sitting here staring at her like a damn fool.
Jeez, I need to get it together. “It’s uh, whiskey. But, there has been a hell of a lot of things mixed in there tonight.”
She chuckles. “Big guy’s night out, huh?”
“Something like that.” I smile back.
We stare at each other for a minute, and I can feel both of our heads moving closer. Almost unconsciously, as if there is a string tethering our mouths together.
“Are you having fun?” She breathes.
“More now than I was before.” It’s the truth.
Lily’s eyes dilate. “Why is that?”
“I think you know why.”
How easy it is to fall back into this. A decade has passed without a word. And now … we’ve been sliding slowly down this hill of attraction since my brother’s engagement. It’s slippery and dangerous, and I’m always grappling to climb my way back up. But sitting here with her, the woman I love most in the world, it’s too good to stop. I may break when I eventually hit the ground, but if it means staring at her, speaking words I’ve kept locked up in my heart for ten years, then so be it.
“Maybe …” Lily sighs, breaking the moment. “Listen, we’re going to be around each other a lot more now. With Presley and Keaton getting married, there will be more nights than there were in the last ten years where we’ll probably run into each other. You clearly don’t want to talk about us … and I can’t understand that, but I do know that I can’t keep cutting myself down over it. Even if we’re not friends, maybe we can just … be cordial. I don’t hate you, Bowen. Not even a little. And you’ve said as much about me. Maybe we can …”
She is going to say, be friends. But we can’t. And she has no idea why. Here she is, trying to appeal to my softer side, trying to bridge a gap that I’ve caused. God, Lily is the best kind of person. Even when someone has repeatedly cut her down, she’ll still try to shake their hand and call it a truce.
It’s a good thing, for both of us, that I’m the worst kind of person.
Because I was teetering on the edge of doing something disastrously stupid, something that could damage both of our reputations. I was willing to break just to have one moment of us. But now, I have to break for her, to protect her.
“No. We aren’t friends, Lily. We’ve never been friends. Just because we have to be in the same rooms doesn’t mean we need to talk. Or even look at each other.”
The look in her eyes … it’s as if I’ve slapped her. So much shame and hurt cloud those baby blues, and I feel the knife twisting deeper into the ventricles of my heart.
“God, when is enough going to be enough?” I slam the rest of my whiskey back, psyching myself up to destroy the love of the most amazing woman in the world. “Don’t you get it? This is desperate and sad. We were over a long time ago. I don’t want you. What is going to make you understand that?”
In the middle of my total annihilation of her, her phone buzzes. She picks it up, using anything to escape from this attack.
“It’s my parents. They want to make sure I got home, say it’s too late.”
I snort, the alcohol making me especially mean tonight. “Wouldn’t want to disappoint the senator and his wife. Oh, wait, I shouldn’t use the word disappoint. The word is disobey.”
Lily’s eyes grow cold, and that’s good. It’s what I want. “You’re despicable.”
“And you’re weak. You’ve never had one thought for yourself. One thought that wasn’t put there by them.”
This asshole comment has a different effect. Her entire face fills with upset, and I’m sure she’s about to crumble.
“I have to go.” A single tear falls.
“Yeah, go do whatever mommy and daddy tell you to. It’s what you do best.”
Lily sends me one last defeated, humiliated, heartbroken look as she grabs her purse and bolts from the bar.
My own soul may be cracked in half, but my mission is accomplished.
Hopefully, I’ve done enough damage that she’ll stay away, and never discover the secret that divides us.
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Presley McDaniel lives her life from moment to moment.
Making permanent decisions means obligation, and that would force her to stop being the family disappointment. Waitress, fitness instructor, dog walker … you name the hourly job and she’s probably held the position.
But when her grandmother can no longer run her book shop in Fawn Hill, a town so small it barely has its own zip code, Presley steps up to help.
The move from bustling city to green pastures may be exactly what she needs to sort out her life. But she didn’t ask for that happy ending to include a gorgeous veterinarian with an all-American smile and a penchant for snuggling puppies. The good doctor is reliable, responsible, and just the kind of man Presley has always avoided.
Love and commitment are predictable.
So why, the moment she lays eyes on him, are they all she wants?
Keaton Nash has never questioned his steady path.
His brothers may tease him about settling into his father’s passed-down role of small town veterinarian, but Keaton has never minded his rural roots. And after tragedy struck two years ago, he has a duty as the eldest Nash man to look after his family.
What he doesn’t need is the sexy, flighty stranger who shows up in town and gets his broken heart beating again. Presley McDaniel is a distraction, a red-headed temptation that is the definition of a bad idea.
He’s barely recovered from the love who left him to chase bigger dreams, and this woman is bound to do the same.
Except for the first time ever, he wants to abandon stability.
She makes him want to be reckless.
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About The Author: Carrie Aarons
Author of romance novels such as Red Card and Privileged, Carrie Aarons writes books that are just as swoon-worthy as they are sarcastic. A former journalist, she prefers the stories she dreams up, and the yoga pant dress code, much better.
When she isn't writing, Carrie is busy binging reality TV, having a love/hate relationship with cardio, and trying not to burn dinner. She lives in the suburbs of New Jersey with her husband, daughter and dog.