Aaron Hawke is a successful engineer, an overachiever, a fiercely independent and cautious man. After eight years of being away, he comes home only to learn that his ex-fiancée, who stabbed his heart and left love’s bitter taste in his mouth, is living and working in his grandfather’s mansion. Aaron quickly decides she must leave. However, his grandfather’s will has made things complicated—Bronwyn can only leave when she has paid her debt.
Bronwyn Flaherty, a down-to-earth, honest and faithful chatelaine is utterly broke and miserable. Aaron wants her to pay her debt or start packing. With her hands tied behind her back, she comes up with a solution—sex.
Bronwyn’s bold offer shocks Aaron, but he accepts it. He will use her whenever he gets a chance. Payback time. But two weeks into their agreed one month contract, he’s become entangled in his own seductive game.
Gusty sheets of rain blurred everything around him. Exposed drops of rain quickly found its way inside the collar of his leather jacket. They really must get going. Leaning against the tree, he waited. Even if waiting meant he would grow roots, so be it. Bronwyn would be here. They dreamed and planned about this day. Of them being together forever. She supported his idea to leave and expressed vehemently her willingness to leave everything behind, including her dad.
“Where are you, hon?”
He tucked his hand inside his jean pocket where he kept the small box that contained the simple wedding bands he purchased a week ago. Plain white-gold rings. He bet Bronwyn would love them. She turned eighteen yesterday. A legal age to marry. The manager in Little Church in Las Vegas knew that they’d be coming. He had already saved a wedding date.
Aaron smiled. Finally, he’d be able to call Bron, Mrs. Bronwyn Hawke. What a beautiful name for a beautiful woman.
Soon, she’ll be my bride, my wife, and future mother of our children. My lover, my friend.
A gust of wind blew, sending debris into the air only to land on a sticky wet ground. Aaron looked up. Tree branches bowed from the heavy beating of cold rain. Even if Bronwyn carried an umbrella, she would be soaked by now. He looked ahead and waited. Aaron pushed off from the tree when a dark form broke free from the curtain of gray rain. His heart hammered against his chest. His excitement, however, was short lived.
A taller figure with a bigger hand waved at him.
“What the hell,” he mumbled.
“Aaron, you there?”
Something happened. Deep inside his cold bones, he knew whatever brought Simon here wasn’t good. “I’m here, Simon. What’s up?”
Hunched down and with his fingers holding the sides of his yellow hood, Simon’s black boots made big splashes as he stepped into a deep puddle of brown rainwater. “Looks like the end of the world, here, huh, son?”
“It’s just rain, Simon.”
“Only a kid born and raised from the Pacific Northwest would say such a thing. Just rain.” Simon clucked his tongue. “Can’t imagine how you could stand the cold.”
“You’re an Oregonian. Weather there is as cold as ours here. Besides, you’ve been living here for years. You should be used to the cold rain of the Pacific Northwest.” Aaron didn’t feel like chitchatting about the rain, but smiled anyway. Simon was born and raised in Oregon and moved here when he and his wife met in their twenties.
“Yeah. Born and raised there, but believe me, I’d rather muck the stalls where I can stay dry than walk in the rain. You shouldn’t expose yourself to this weather. You’re prone to catching pneumonia.”
“Even a strong horse gets beaten by a mere rain, son.”
“What are you doing here, Simon?”
“To tell you to come home.”
When realization finally penetrated his rain-soaked head to tap his brain, Aaron’s heart skipped a beat—no, it stopped beating at all. At least it felt that way. Simon didn’t just happen to find him here. He came looking. “I’m waiting for Bronwyn.”
Damn it. “Where is she? Have you seen her?”
“Yes, I saw her.”
“Son, she’s not coming.”