Fifteen years ago thirty men, women, and children, were found in a small California field. Twenty-three of them were dead of an unknown cause, seven survived. Now the seven survivors are dying one by one.
Rachel Alton returned to Whitten’s Grove for one reason and that was to prevent a massacre. Her attendance at the local wedding of two of her best friends was just for fun. She never expected her reaction to seeing Ben Mitchell again. Without warning, he awakens her dormant heart, giving her hope for the future and she struggles to turn away. The clock is ticking as Rachel alone fights against the inevitable, but when forces from beyond throw Ben into the middle of the fight, will she walk away, or sacrifice herself to prevent a tragedy from happening twice?
Sensing Ben’s approach, Rachel glanced back, looking for Emily, and found her preoccupied by Aisha and Ryan on the other side of the lake.
She took another deep cleansing breath, trying to calm the foreign butterflies in her stomach. Being near him had awakened a part of her she thought had disappeared long ago. The problem, her life, plain and simple. Over the years, she had convinced herself that her wants were unreasonable and now she wondered if she wanted more than a cup of Starbucks to look forward to in the wee hours of the morning.
“Mind if I join you?”
“Be my guest,” Rachel covered her eyes from the sun. “Is that for me?”
Ben handed her a sweating bottle of water before taking a seat next to her. “Yep.”
“Thanks, I was feeling a little parched. I forgot how beautiful it is here.” His focus was on the lake and she wondered what he was thinking.
“Yeah, so beautiful, that I could fall asleep.”
“That’s what happens when you relax, but I guess that might be a new concept, huh?”
“Yeah, when?” Rachel challenged with a grin. “When was the last time you were so relaxed that you fell asleep in a field?”
“Well, maybe not in a field.” His face lit up with a broad smile “But I go for jogs on the beach and the occasional midnight movie.”
“That’s not relaxing, that’s preoccupation. I mean when was the last time that you were able to let go of your day, your worries and your work. Sit back and relax.” His gaze settled on her and she shifted, feeling heat rising to her cheeks.
“I guess it’s been a while.
“Yeah, well, I am just as guilty. There just seems to be no time, everything else it too important.”
“That’s the point, isn’t it?” Ben gently pushed back. “Places like these are here to remind us what is important, right? There are always excuses for not taking time to take care and relax, to spend time with our friends and family, but when it’s all said and done, they are the only ones who are left behind. If we lose them now, we will have nothing in the end.”
Rachel stared at him for a long while, a small smile creeping upon her lips. “Wow, Mitchell, you got all deep and stuff. That was, like, amazing,” Rachel said in her best valley girl accent, making him laugh aloud.
“Are you laughing at me?”
She laughed harder and he grabbed her by the waist, pulling her down into the grass. He tickled her and she squealed. She squirmed in delight against him and quickly grabbed his hands, holding them above her chest.
“Still ticklish, I see.”
His hands intertwined effortlessly with hers. “You always were the only one who could tickle me.”
A small grin formed in the corners of his mouth, his mind obviously preoccupied as he lay against her. “What can I say, I have the magic touch.”
“Is that what it is? I never knew—” Rachel started in a whisper, but became caught up in his body against her. Solid and strong, his arms surrounding her felt like a cocoon of safety and warmth she wanted to lose herself in. Bending her arms slightly, he moved close enough to for her to feel his breath on her face. “I think you need to cool off, cowboy.”
Rachel shifted from beneath him and rose to her feet. She looked back before stripping out of her clothes, revealing her trim body and new blue bikini. There weren’t a lot of positives about her job, but her body was one of them. She looked back and found him staring at her, his mouth slightly gaping.
“Shut your mouth, Mitch, your girlfriend is watching.”
“What? I—” Before he could finish, she dove into the lake, leaving him behind.
Rachel broke the water with a grin. She shouldn’t be smiling, but it was nice to have someone look at her like that again. Like a desired woman.
She heard a shout and a splash behind her and turned to see the ripples of water. She continued to swim toward the rock wall of mountain ahead until she felt him beneath her legs. She dove under, out of Ben’s grasp, passing him underwater. He chased her to the wall until they finally broke the surface, panting for air.
“She’s not my girlfriend.”
“You dove in and chased me halfway across the lake to tell me that?” Rachel grabbed one of the outbreaks in the wall of stone and turned, finding that he had summarily cornered her.
His gaze locked with hers and she felt herself beginning to melt. God, I can’t do this…not with him… She moved to pass him and he stopped her with his arm.
“Where you running to, Alton?”
“I’m not running.”
“Yes you are.”
“No, I—” He silenced her with a kiss, powerful and yet tender, taking her breath away. When it broke, she felt dizzy and breathless.
“Don’t run from me.”
“Don’t lie to me either.” His eyes were intense and focused solely on hers. His strong heated arm wrapped around her waist, pulling her against him.
“Ben…” His breath played against her lips, sending spasms of need up her spine. She couldn’t resist him. Putty in his arms, she let go of control. His lips came down on hers, juicy soft, and his tongue teased the inside of her mouth. She sighed and pulled his tongue into her mouth, sucking on the tip. His smooth hands scorched lines down her body, the muscles quivering uncontrolled beneath his touch. She climbed up his body, needing to feel his strength against her hot skin.