From the Blurb:
Is it time for a second chance at love?
When Lily left her hometown – and the love of her life Wade – eight years ago to start her acting career, she had big plans to make her dream a reality. However, a few dead-end jobs and one dead-end relationship later she is back to make a fresh start with the only good thing to come out of it all – her unborn baby.
Lily soon realizes however that the heart wants what the heart wants, and hers clearly still wants Wade Copeland! Can they overcome the hurt and pain of the past to allow themselves a future?
The third novel in the sizzlingly sexy Copeland Ranch romance trilogy from Kristina O’Grady
Lily Montgomery stared at the little white stick lying on the floor at her feet.
Please, please, please, please she silently begged as she watched a faint line appear. No, no, no, no, no, no, no. The line grew more distinct until there was no denying it was really there and not just her imagination.
She was pregnant.
How could this have happened? Okay, scrap that. Of course Lily knew how it happened, she was there, after all, and a willing participant. But she’d been careful. She’d used protection and made sure she was always up to date with her pills. She never missed one, not once. Ever.
But the stick didn’t seem to care, it still had two blue lines staring up at her.
“You going to be much longer in there Lily? Have you died or something? I need you out on the floor!” The cause of her problem banged on the bathroom door and shouted at her. Unfortunately he was also her boss and between the hours of two p.m. and midnight, he owned her. Or at least he thought he did.
“Coming Simon,” she called, wiping the tears from her face. She picked up the offending stick off the floor, buried it at the bottom of the garbage can under the sink and washed her hands. She took one last look in the mirror. She was too pale and her eyes too big and red from the crying. Her hands strayed to her flat belly. It seemed outrageous that such major changes could be taking place inside her while on the outside the only evidence of something out of the ordinary were the tear stains on her cheeks. She quickly splashed cold water on her face to erase those as well. She pinched her cheeks and smoothed the wrinkles from her ugly two-tone brown, polyester uniform before pulling open the staff bathroom door.
Simon leaned on the wall outside in the corridor, waiting for her. “What took you so long? I have customers waiting while you take your sweet ass time going to the loo. It’s not even your break.”
She raised an eyebrow at him. “Are you saying I’m not allowed to use the toilet?”
Simon straightened away from the wall. “You know I can’t tell you that,” he said, taking a step closer to her. “Just don’t take so long Lily, I’ve got people waiting. Just because you’re pissed at me, doesn’t mean you can take it out on my business. Think about the others who’d be out of a job if I had to close.”
She’d started walking while he was talking but now stopped, turned around and looked at him. “You’re not going to have to close just because I went to the toilet outside of my break time, Si. You and I both know that.” She sighed, “Look, I’m sorry okay, I have an upset tummy tonight.” She turned and continued on her way down the hall again.
His arm shot out, blocking her escape. For someone wanting her to get back to work, he was slowing her progress back to the front of the floor considerably.
“What do you want Simon?” She could hear the weariness in her voice. She was so over having to deal with this night after night.
He caressed the bare skin of her arm. A shiver ran through her body. Lily jerked away from his touch. It no longer sent thrills through her. Now, when he touched her, all she wanted to do was take a bath.
Hurt flashed in his eyes when she pulled away. It quickly turned to anger. He slapped the wall with his hand and leaned close to her, anger glinting in his eyes. “Don’t think you can spend all night back here. And don’t think for a minute about making anyone sick.” He slapped the wall again and then stormed away from her, back to the front of the dinner.
She couldn’t stop herself from trembling at his sudden change of emotion. It was time she got out of here. She had someone else to think about now. Someone much more important.
Lily put the last of her things inside her old red truck, the one her grandpa gave her when she moved, shut the door and looked back at her apartment for the last time. She’d packed her stuff as soon as she got back from work, before Simon got home. When they split a month ago she couldn’t afford to move somewhere else. She’d been sleeping on the couch ever since.
She climbed into the pickup truck and turned the key. It rumbled to life and she pulled away from the curb. It was time to go home.
The three days it’d take her to drive there would give her plenty of time to think about her next move. And the note she left Simon.
I’ve decided it’s finally time for me to leave. I’m off home and I’ll ring when I get there. Thanks for letting me crash at your place for a while and I’m sorry if I’ve left you in the lurch at the diner. I’ll call soon.
She’d considered just disappearing without a word, but that didn’t seem right. As much as they weren’t getting along at the moment, he deserved to know where she was at least. She’d call him in a few weeks and let him know about the baby. She just couldn’t bring herself to tell him just yet. Part of her wanted to keep it as her own little secret and part of her wanted to shout it out to everyone she met. Her hand stroked her belly. She still couldn’t believe there was a little tiny human growing in there. A soft smile touched her lips.
Lily brought her attention back to the road and maneuvered through the heavy traffic to the dreaded Highway 401. There was a reason she barely ever went home to Alberta, and the reason was the 401. Well, actually it wasn’t the only reason, but it was the worst highway in the world. Not that she’d travelled on every highway in the world or anything, but the traffic was horrendous and she hated it. But once she got past Detroit, she knew the traffic would be much better and it’d be a much better drive the rest of the way.
She reached beside her and opened a bag of Doritos with one hand and shoved a couple into her mouth. She might as well get comfortable, she had days of driving ahead of her.
As much as she tried, Lily couldn’t stop herself from remembering the way she’d left Bassville eight years ago. She’d always said it was because she wanted to chase her dream, her dream of becoming an actress. But that wasn’t the only reason.
She’d spent the last eight years trying to block it from her memory, but the incident that had occurred in her family just months before she left was the main reason she hadn’t returned. Not that she hadn’t gone home to visit, she quickly argued with herself. I didn’t just drop off the face of the planet. And who could blame me for not wanting to show my face around town? But whenever she did go home for Christmas or Easter, she made damn sure that the visit was short and sweet. She was in and out of there so fast she barely had to show her face in town, most often only staying for a couple of nights before heading back to Toronto, making some excuse about having to get back to work. Ha! What a joke. It wasn’t as though she had any great career or anything. Anybody could wait tables.
For those last few months of high school before she moved, eyes would follow her as she walked down the street and people would whisper behind their hands as she went past. Her skin prickled with the memory. She wondered if anything had changed or if she’d still break out in a cold sweat walking down the main street. How her parents could still live there was beyond her comprehension. But she had nowhere else to go, and after eight years, surely people would have forgotten.
She turned her mind to happier memories, she had enough negative in her life as it was without recalling all the horrid details of her childhood. Lily thought of the house she grew up in and the unique smell of sagebrush outside her window. She missed the ranch more than she cared to admit. Really, how could a piece of dirt mean more to her than her family? But somehow it did. She knew that if the ranch was still theirs she would have come home more often.
So much for happy memories, she thought, wiping away a tear gathering at the edge of her eye.
She was close to her dad. She’d always been his little girl and she missed him dreadfully every day of her self-imposed exile.
It was her mother she struggled to forgive, and she worried about how she’d feel having her back in her life full time again.
Three months before she’d graduated from high school her mother, Roberta, lost the ranch to the bank. It had always been her mother’s job to do the books for the ranch. Neither Lily nor her dad knew that Roberta was pilfering money out of the account to pay for her gambling habit. Lily and her dad hadn’t even known about the gambling. At least not until it was too late.
Lily had been at home by herself when the bank manager had called. Of course the man on the other end of the line wouldn’t give out any details to her, given that she wasn’t a director of the company, but Lily knew then that something horrible was about to happen. Luckily it was her dad who came home first. Lily told him about the angry banker on the phone and he went straight to his office to call the manager back. Apparently it wasn’t the first time that he’d called. It was just the first time her dad knew about it.
Her dad had stayed in there for a very long time. Lily remembered how she had waited outside the door long after she heard him hang up the phone. The muffled distress noises she heard had her reaching for the doorknob. Just as her hand grasped the handle though, her mother came home fresh from shopping.
Lily remembered that day as though it was a movie. For some reason, in her mind, everything moved in slow motion. Her memory was crystal clear, clearer than real life, and the colors were unnaturally bright. Her mother’s hair was tied up in an intricate style and she had on her favorite floral dress. Lily remembered thinking she looked absolutely beautiful.
Roberta had taken one look at her and asked what was wrong. When Lily told her about the phone call from the bank, the blood drained from her mother’s face. She slipped into the office and shut the door behind her. Lily could still hear the click of the lock as if it had just happened.
Her parents didn’t fight and she rarely ever heard her dad raise his voice in anger. But that day, locked together in the office, her parents raged at each other. It started off as muffled murmurs that Lily struggled to decipher through the door, but soon their voices rose until Lily had to back away to save her ears. Glass shattered and wood splintered inside that small closed-off room.
Her father yelled at her mother, demanding to know where all his money had gone, and her mother cried and shrieked, begging for forgiveness.
The house was quiet for weeks after the initial blow-up. Lily recalled all too clearly the wreckage of the room and the redness in both her parents’ eyes from crying. They didn’t speak to each other for a month and Dad moved into the spare room across the hall from Lily.
Finally, at least a week after the bank manager had called, Lily worked up enough courage to ask her dad what was wrong. It was the first time she ever saw her father cry.
“She lost it,” Lily remembered her dad saying softly, as though he still couldn’t quite believe it.
“Lost what?” she’d asked when he didn’t continue. “What has she lost?”
Her world fell away at his whispered reply, “The ranch.”
She had cried herself to sleep for days as her world collapsed around her and she quickly started making her plans to leave. She didn’t want to stay long enough to see the ranch pulled out from under them, but she knew if she had any hope of ever making anything of herself, she needed to finish high school. But she couldn’t handle the rumors that flew around town. She was never sure as to who had started them because she sure as shit never told anyone about what was going on. Not her boyfriend Wade, and not any of her friends.
As soon as the ‘Foreclosure’ signs went up, her life changed forever. Suddenly the ‘rumors’ were all true. She couldn’t stand to look anyone in the eye and she felt her long standing relationships fall apart. Some of her so-called friends dropped from her circle instantly, the rest were hurt that she didn’t confide in them. They couldn’t understand that she didn’t want to talk about losing the ranch or what it was like to live with a gambling mother. Worse, they felt betrayed that she couldn’t trust them. She couldn’t trust anyone. She still couldn’t.
The day after she graduated, the bank came and took away the only home she had ever known, by auction, and they moved into a small house on the edge of town. The ranch sold lock, stock and barrel to Donald Franklin, the greediest son-of-a-bitch around. Lily still felt sick whenever she thought of him anywhere near her beloved horses. His daughter, Jenna, had once told her that Lily’s favorite gelding was lovely to ride. Lily promptly burst into tears. Jenna, mortified, quickly apologized and never mentioned anything about the ranch to her again.
Lily shook off the bad memories and pulled into a rundown motel for the night. She rubbed her eyes, partly to try to erase the memories haunting her and partly to get them to focus. Spending twelve hours on the road made her eyelids feel as though they were made from sandpaper.
There was a small diner across the street from where she was staying and after checking in to her room, she wandered over for a bite to eat. The Doritos she was munching on all day just weren’t cutting it anymore. She needed real food.
The dirty glass door pulled open easily until Lily tried walking through it. It jammed halfway open and Lily ploughed into it with her hip, sending it flying open all the way back on its hinges and crashing into a table hiding behind it. Cutlery clanged to the floor and the plates and glasses rattled as the table wobbled from the impact.
“Oops,” she said, heat rising in her cheeks as everyone inside turned to stare at her. “Sorry,” she mumbled and slipped into the nearest empty booth.
The clientele turned back to their own meals and the din of the diner returned to the level it had been before Lily had made an absolute fool of herself. A short squat red-haired waitress came over with a plastic covered menu and a smile. “Don’t worry about your entrance,” she said as she filled Lily’s glass with water, snapping her gum between her teeth. “It happens all the time. Bertha really should move that table. None of the locals will sit at it of course; too much of a risk I suppose. Our special is the tuna melt. I’ll come back and take your order in a minute.” The waitress turned around and sashayed back towards the counter before Lily could do more than smile her thanks.
Lily opened her menu and took a few minutes to decide what her baby wanted to eat. She was starting to have weird cravings at times, but tonight all she wanted was a cheeseburger and French fries. With lots of ketchup. And an iced tea. And a slice of apple pie. Her stomach growled in response to the descriptions on the menu. The waitress couldn’t return fast enough.
Lily clutched her stomach as it let out another loud growl.
Several people at the tables closest to her turned to look her way. She gave them a weak smile and a small wave. It seemed like she was determined to completely embarrass herself tonight. Thank goodness she was only staying one night.
Finally, after what seemed like hours to her hungry stomach, the waitress returned to her table, her order pad at the ready.
“What shall I get you, hun? Did you want the special? This place does it crazy good and all these good people flock in on tuna night, don’t you Don?” She turned her attention to the old man sitting alone at the table next to Lily’s.
“Actually,” Lily smiled, hoping her stomach would cease its growling long enough for her to place her order, “can I get your cheeseburger with fries, a strawberry milkshake, an iced tea, a slice of apple pie and lots of ketchup?”
“On your pie?” The waitress asked, snapping her gum again.
“Huh?” Lily looked at her blankly.
“You want the ketchup on your pie?” The waitress asked without blinking an eyelid.
“Eww, no thanks. I want ketchup on my fries. But can I have it in a dish on the side please?”
“Sure thing hun. Would you like some gravy too?” she asked, slipping her order pad into the front pocket of her apron and sticking her pen behind her ear.
“Yes please,” Lily said as her stomach gave another low growl. She could feel the heat rise in her face again and silently cursed her pale skin.
The waitress patted her arm, “It won’t be long, I promise,” she said and wandered away, refilling coffee cups on her way back to the kitchen.
True to her word, the waitress brought over her dinner in less than ten minutes. The cheeseburger was giant and the fries overflowed her plate. Lily grabbed one and bit into the crispy crust to the fluffy center. Oh, they were perfect.
The aroma of the burger was too tempting. Lily had to use both hands to pick it up. She shoved as big of a bite into her mouth as possible. It was busting with flavor and the juices dripped down her chin. She groaned out loud, earning her more stares, but this time she didn’t care. She was too busy stuffing her face with the best burger she had ever tasted.
By the time she finished her apple pie, she could barely move. Lily patted her taut stomach. Good thing her baby was barely more than a few cells at the moment, because if it was any bigger it would be straining to get out from the cramped space. She paid for her meal and waddled across the street to her motel room. She wanted to get going early in the morning and make it to Bassville tomorrow night. When she’d left Toronto yesterday she’d had every intention of taking three days to get home. Not anymore. She didn’t think she could handle more than one day of bitter memories.
Unfortunately for her, Lily had plenty more just waiting to be revisited.
It was snowing when she reached the Canadian border. Giant flakes floated leisurely down from the sky as she waited in line to go through the gateway. They settled in mounds on the hood of her truck, making it look as though someone had opened a giant bag of mini-marshmallows and spilled them all over the red paint.
She turned up the heater and held her hands next to the vents. It was starting to get really cold. Even with the heater on high, her feet were freezing and she could see her breath. Lily hoped she could make it home before the storm really set in. She didn’t want to spend another night on the road. But even with clear skies it’d still be hours before she made it to Bassville.
She jerked her head up when there was a tap on her window. She’d been too busy concentrating on warming her hands to notice the rugged-up guard approach. She wound down her window. It creaked with each turn of the handle and reluctantly dropped a few centimeters at a time, as though it didn’t want to let the cold snowy air inside her warm cocoon.
“Hi,” she said to the man waiting outside, “cold out isn’t it?”
“Yes, ma’am, it sure is. You could freeze the devil’s balls off on a day like today.”
Lily snorted, “What?!” she asked, both shocked and delighted at the border guard’s comment.
“Well, it’s just damn cold. You have your passport on you, ma’am?” he asked, stamping his feet and beating his arms against his sides.
“Yes, it’s right here,” Lily dug around in her backpack on the floor. At last she pulled it out. “Sorry,” she said, passing it to him. She should have had it ready and waiting.
He flipped through it quickly, compared the grainy photo to the face peering up at him, then handed the passport back through her window. “Have a nice trip home ma’am,” he said, turning to the next vehicle in line.
The snow was starting to pile up on the road in little drifts but in the distance she could see blue sky beginning to break through the clouds. Lily hoped it wouldn’t be long before the sky cleared. She hated driving in falling snow.
It reminded her of Wade.
And Wade was someone she was still trying to forget.
All For You by Kristina O'Grady is a contemporary romance, released by Carina UK on March 4 2015.
About the Author:
Kristina O'Grady has always loved telling a good story. She took up writing at a young age and spent many hours (when she should have been doing her math homework) writing romance stories in a book she hid in her sock drawer. She still remembers the first romance book she ever read. She was without anything to read (oh no) while on vacation with her family and bought a book in the small shop in the hotel lobby. It involved an Earl, a horse and very bad fever and of course, a Lady. Since then she has been hooked on the Regency era.
Kristina grew up on a cattle ranch in Western Canada and although has been told many times she should be writing about cowboys, she can't seem to leave the fantasy of Dukes and Earls alone. She worked in the Oil and Gas Industry for several years first as a laborer, machine operator, crew foreman, technician and eventually as an environmental consultant. She loves getting out in the fresh air and enjoying the peace of nature. In mid 2000 Kristina met her own knight in shining armor/cowboy who swept her off her feet and across the world to New Zealand, where she now lives on a sheep and beef farm with her amazingly supportive husband, three gorgeous young kids, seven working dogs and one very needy cat.