Reuben Nelms has worked hard all his life. First to escape the West Texas town where he grew up, then to negate the legacy of his family. One of his worst regrets was failing to protect a young woman from evil dealt by his blood brother. For years afterwards, he watched and protected her from the shadows, most comfortable in that faceless role.
Now known by his road name, Duck feels he’s finally found redemption in watching that woman blossom and grow, sheltered by her association with his brothers by choice, the Rebel Wayfarers motorcycle club. Things were settled, predictable, until a desperate call from home sets him scrambling and he is back front and center, home again in West Texas, finding himself confronted daily with reminders of his horrific family heritage.
Treading alongside the remembered fear and regret surrounding him walks a temptation, Brenda Calloway, the hometown woman he left behind. The efficient business manager of the cattle company he inherited from his father, his childhood friend is now a widow. More beautiful than ever, she’s a single parent with a secret, unaware of the power she still wields over Reuben’s heart.
Will their second chance love be able to take root and grow in the dry deserts of West Texas? Can Duck put aside the man he’s become, sloughing off the brotherhood and leaving that behind to become Reuben again, or will he be able to pick up the pieces of his teenage love and still continue his life in Chicago as a member of the Rebel Wayfarers MC?
“Everyone has three lives: a public life, a private life, and a secret life.” – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
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From Chapter 7: Hidden blessings
“I left because of family, stayed gone because of family, and now I’m back because I don’t have a family. Everything seems so big, Brenda. There. Here. Everywhere. So big it’s hard to describe how small it makes me.” There was heat and pressure on his leg and Reuben glanced down to find her small hand resting on his thigh, her attempt to comfort and reassure him.
Shaking his head, he pulled on the steering wheel to lean forward, taking his wallet out of the back pocket of his jeans. Paying for their tickets, he tossed the leather wallet onto the dashboard and drove to a nearly empty field of metal posts, their tethered speakers hanging tidily from a holder on either side of each pole.
Laughing, he reached down and covered her hand with his palm, readily wrapping his fingers around it. “So you want close to the front, in the middle, or back by the snack shack?” Glancing around, without waiting for a response, he picked a parking space near the back, telling her, “They’ll start the show just after sundown. Lean back and relax. We’ll make sure you’re home in plenty of time to tell Eli good night, yeah? Half a movie is good enough for me.” She nodded and smiled her thanks at him, then kicked off her shoes and leaned back in the seat.
When she put her bare feet on the dashboard, that damn skirt of hers slipped up her thighs and he groaned silently. Turning her head, she looked at him and smiled again, “This is nice, Reuben. Thanks.”
“Much better than Mitchell’s with Steve getting his drunk on.” He shook his head in disgust. “I don’t know what I was thinking, asking you to go with me.” When a look of hurt and uncertainty washed over her face, he mentally reviewed what he’d said, then shook his head.
“No, honey. I didn’t mean it that way. What I was trying to say is I should have taken you out for dinner and a real movie, not pretzels and beer in a rowdy bar, followed by half of a two-year-old drive-in show.” Gently squeezing her hand, softly he said, “I should have asked you on a real date. Wined and dined you. Done it up right. You’re worth it.” His throat tightened, dropping his voice to a whisper. “God. Sweeter and even more beautiful than I remembered. You take my breath away.”
“Oh.” The exclamation was soft, coming as she wrapped her fingers more tightly around his. Holding on.
Surprised at how his mouth was running on by itself tonight, he heard himself ask, “Do you ever think about that night, Bee?” His spontaneous question hung in the air for a moment while he waited, holding his breath in suspense. Then, when he saw her flush, bright pink embarrassment climbing into her face, he had his answer. Before she had a chance to respond, he told her, “I do, too. All the time. Never forgot a moment. Not a whisper…not a kiss.” He wondered suddenly, What would she do if I kissed her right now? Eyes locked on hers, he slowly shifted towards her on the bench seat of the truck, the weight of an eleven-year-old longing driving him on. “Took you with me everywhere I went, Bee. Everything I saw, I wanted to share with you.”
Finally close enough to touch her, he reached up and did just that, cupping his palm around her cheek, tilting her head towards his. Her skin’s every bit as silky as I remember. “Every word, every sound, all of you…branded in my brain,” he whispered, lowering his face. “Every touch, every taste, the feeling of your skin sliding against mine. Soft. Sweet. Beautiful.” Her blue eyes were bright, looking up at him, wide in what he prayed was wonder. “Is it wrong of me to want that again? Because I do, Bee. I want you. I never stopped.”
© MariaLisa deMora
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Raised in the south, MariaLisa learned about the magic of books at an early age. Every summer, she would spend hours in the local library, devouring books of every genre. Self-described as a book-a-holic, she says “I’ve always loved to read, but then I discovered writing, and found I adored that, too. For reading … if nothing else is available, I’ve been known to read the back of the cereal box.”Connect with MariaLisa
A hockey fan, hiker, gamer, and single mom of a special needs son, she embraces her inner geek and has been working in the tech field for a publishing company for a couple decades.
Music is a driving passion, and she says, “I love music of nearly any genre — jazz, country, rock, alt rock, metal, classical, bluegrass, rap, hip hop … you name it, I listen to it. I can often be seen dancing through the house in the early mornings. But I really, REALLY love live music. My favorite thing with music is seeing bands in small, dive bars [read: small, intimate venues]. If said bar [venue] has a good selection of premium tequila, then that’s a plus!”
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