Gabriel Maverick grew up on the wrong side of the tracks and held absolutely no hope of ever climbing out of the box his parents and society shoved him into. When small town gossip labeled him a failure, he believed it. All that changed, though, when he met Kelsey Morganston.
Kelsey Morganston not only grew up on the right side of the tracks, his family owned the tracks. To anybody on the outside looking in, Kelsey had it all. Small town society gently placed him into his box and failure wasn’t an option. All that changed though, when he met Gabriel Maverick.
Young love was immediate and forever. Suddenly, Gabriel felt like he could conquer the universe and Kelsey found an inner strength he hadn’t realized existed. In their small corner of the world with their desires hidden from everyone except each other, they believed their love was indestructible. They were mistaken. In one night, lies and misunderstandings destroy their love and forces Gabriel to run away from the town and Kelsey.
Ten years later, Gabriel is back and determined to exact revenge on the boy he used to love. Will hate blind him to what his heart tries telling him…or will love have a second chance?
“What did you say?” he asked after turning around to face me again. “Tell me you didn’t just say you were going to close the doors.”
“It sounds like you understood me just fine, Kels,” I mocked, using the nickname I’d used when we were teenagers.
“Why?” He was frowning and one hand started twisting at the leather bracelets again. “Why would you buy a company and then shut the doors? Are you planning on selling to another buyer? How long will that take? Most of these people live from paycheck to paycheck, Gabriel. Even a few weeks without work could cause some of them to lose everything they’ve got.”
The fact that I hadn’t really considered that innocent folks would suffer because of Kelsey’s lies made me pause. My main objective, my only focus, had been ensuring Kelsey and his family paid the ultimate price for destroying my life. Sure, I guess in some part of my mind, I’d known all the Morganston employees would lose their jobs, but when I’d been making my plans, I hadn’t put faces or families with those nameless people. I’d been too focused on my revenge against the Morganston clan.
“Maybe you and your brothers should have thought about that before you raped the company until it was beyond repair,” I countered in frustration and anger. “Over the last three years, the four of you have stolen every dime of profit old man Morganston built up in the company and when that was gone, you leveraged every piece of equipment, property, and cube of cheese against loans that went directly into your personal funds instead of benefiting the company. When was the last fucking time any of your employees got a raise, Kelsey? Do you even know?” I snorted out a disgusted laugh. “No, I doubt you do. They haven’t gotten a raise since your daddy died three years ago, Kels. Nothing. Every damned dime has gone straight out the door to fund lavish lifestyles. Day after day, week after week, and year after year, this has happened but now you want to worry about the employees? Maybe you should have started fucking worrying before today! Don’t stand there, looking all self-righteous and blaming me for this shitshow. You and your family got Morganston Textiles where it is today. I only took advantage of your stupidity and greed.”
Kelsey closed his eyes for several brief seconds and when he opened them, I was once again forced to face the fact that I wasn’t completely over him yet. The pain that I saw there nearly crippled me. I wanted to jump across the table and tell him I would make everything all right if he just wouldn’t look that way anymore. Even as a teenager, I’d wanted to be his knight in shining armor, which was really ridiculous since I’d been just about as poor as humanly possible. I guess that urge hadn’t completely vanished just because he’d proven he wasn’t worth saving, and yet…
Of course, there wouldn’t be any leaping across the table to rescue him. I was the cause of his pain and it wasn’t a mistake on my part. I’d calculated, planned, and methodically set actions into place that would lead to this particular confrontation. I would never hold him again and listen to his whispers of love and devotion. He’d made me, a boy from the wrong side of the tracks, feel like I was worth something, like I had a chance to drag myself out of the hell I’d been born into and become someone worthy of him. Our relationship had been topsy-turvy from the beginning. He’d placed me on a pedestal and pretended to worship me when we’d both known it should have been the other way around.
Well, those days were behind us. Either he’d been lying from the beginning or he had finally woken up and realized I wasn’t worthy of him. One colossal lie and years to wallow in the aftermath of that betrayal led to rage being the only emotion drifting between us and apparently that emotion was reserved solely for me. He just stood there breaking my heart all over again.
“Okay, I get it,” he said. “Hurting me and my family appears to be the ultimate goal with this buy-out. I see that now. What I’m not understanding is why you would be willing to hurt all these other people just to hurt me.” His pale blue eyes tried to dig into my soul. “That isn’t you, Gabriel. You don’t sacrifice innocent people just so you can hurt others. You have to remember what it was like in this town. There aren’t many jobs available, and, in an area this small, kicking one hundred and twenty-seven people out of a job will devastate them. Devastate this town. Don’t do this, Gabriel. Please don’t hurt them just to hurt me.”
His voice still sounded perfect, husky, but not too much, just enough. Like rich honey slowly dripping over my body, enclosing me in the sticky sweetness that I’d once believed was pure goodness. His eyes still looked innocent and haunted. His lips were still kissable. His hair was still the perfect length for tugging on and still soft enough to resemble fine silk. It was longer, curlier. When we’d been younger, he’d fought a losing battle to try and keep those wayward curls under control. I may have teased him about them, but I’d fucking loved each and every curl. I could still remember how they felt wound around my fingertip as we’d lain under the stars, sharing dreams of the future. I’d told him how I was going to run away from this stupid town and never look back. I was going to make something of myself – be something better than the father and mother who spawned me. There were times when I’d fancied myself being an impressive business man like Kelsey’s dad. People would nod their heads in respect when I walked by. Other times I’d pictured myself as a rock star, performing on stage in front of screaming crowds, though my eyes would only see Kelsey.
Not that I could I could sing or play an instrument. Shit like that didn’t matter when you’re a dumb kid and dreaming of your future. Maybe I’d be a sports star, making millions by throwing a ball. Other times I’d be something creative like an artist. Never one time had I ever mentioned me being a soldier—a man trained to take the lives of others and then walk away and be expected to never give them another thought. That was the one dream that never passed through my mind, but it was the reality I ended up living.
Kelsey had lain next to me, staring at me while I stared at the stars above us, and listened to all my crazy dreams. Never one time had he laughed at my silly thoughts. Being smart, he’d found the right words to make my aspirations seem within reach, even when we’d both known they weren’t. Kelsey had never shared his hopes and dreams with me. He’d never told me he wanted to be an astronaut or a chef or even a fucking pie-taster. He had certainly never acted like he wanted to follow in the footsteps of his father and run the local textile plant. But whenever I told him about my plans to leave town, his response had always been the same.
Just please don’t leave without me.
I felt my upper lip snarl in fury…or an attempt to keep me from crying from the betrayal. The tears I had shed over the man sitting across from me would fill this room. The heartbreak. The betrayal. The fear. I’d almost gone to jail because of him, and yet, I still fought back tears when my head conjured up visions of those nights from so long ago. How messed up was that? How weak was I?
No, the question was how strong was he? How much power did he have over me…then and now?
Too damned much.