Authors: MK Harkins
Text copyright ©2014 MK Harkins
All Rights Reserved
Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise), without the prior written permission of the above author of this book.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of various products referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used without permission. The publication/use of these trademarks is not authorized by, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners.
For Nancy Bailey
May 6, 1953–March 29, 2013
I carry you with me every day. When I see an expression of love, I see you. Where there is kindness, I feel you. Whenever I feel sad, all I have to do is remember you. My life is better because I had the great fortune to know you. I miss your strength, courage, dedication and loyalty. You will forever be in my heart.
So many people have helped me on this crazy, fun journey! I wasn’t sure if I would (or could!) write a second book – but I couldn’t leave Cade dangling ☺
I’d like to thank my beta readers – your input and suggestions have proved to be invaluable. Thanks for questioning everything! I couldn’t have done this without you: Amy McGlone from Turn the Page, Kate Good from My Daily Romance, Jennifer LaFon from Reading and Reviewing, Nadene Reynolds from Totally Addicted to Reading, Sarah Marion, Kendra (Lola Kay) Sikorski, Francis Vanessa Valadares, Kellie Harrington, Vicki Southerland, LJ McEvoy, Anna Hubbard, Tanya Vought, Martine Walsh, Donna Feyon, Erren Gottlieb and Kerry Morgan. A little part of all (in some cases – a lot!) of you are between the pages.
One of the best decisions I’ve ever made was sending a Facebook message to a local writer asking a few newbie questions. I received a two page answer, and the rest is history. Nancy Saling Thompson – a dedicated and talented writer! (Check out her books – The Mistaken and Leverage) Nancy, you have helped me in too many ways to count. Your kindness and generosity are unsurpassed. You are one of the best people I know and I’m honored to call you a dear friend. Thank you so much for editing my book and changing all my awkward phrasing (and everything else). I promise, I will never use an adjective again.
Karen Harper from By the Book Editing- my other editor (Yes, I needed two) I am so proud of you and your accomplishments! Starting your own editing service and your own blog‘A Thousand Lives Book Blog‘in one year’s time! Your sense of humor and great advice has gotten me through so much (haha – I used the word gotten!) Sorry Karen, I had to do it! Seriously, I don’t know what I’d do without you! You are a dear and wonderful friend!
Julie Hartnett –My other dear and wonderful Aussie friend! You don’t know this, but you have saved me on multiple occasions with laughter. When all else fails – laugh. I always look forward to our daily chats to see what new and interesting things will pop up on my screen. DUDE! That’s all.
Becky Mullin – my sister-in-law and biggest cheerleader! Thanks so much for your excitement and support. You’ve made this entire experience more fun than I thought possible (I giggle every time I send you one of the reviews)
Thanks so much to Robin Harper from Wicked by Design for my beautiful cover. I love it! You have been so patient with all of my requests (can you move it, lighten it, reverse it, show more hair, show less shirt, etc. etc.)
To my best friend from 5
grade – Julianne (Jules) Marie Roberts. Just because.
Shirley Lewis (Miss Shirley) I couldn’t have found a better “grandma” for Mattie. You are the best! (I mean it – THE BEST!)
Cynthia (Jeannie) and Laurel (Elore) – Thanks for being great big sisters! When you found out about Intentional, you shared in the excitement. When I wanted to hide, you both said “No! Be proud of yourself!” Thanks for that!
It’s time for the husband praise! Doran – You are the best parts of Jeremy, Cade and Scott (Sensitive, Handsome and Funny) I would have never written this book if it weren’t for you ☺
To my children: Tiny Doran, Jean, Becca, Julianne and Mattie. You’ve put up with missed Sunday night dinners, and leftovers too numerous to count. Sorry about that! I really appreciate your excitement for “Mom’s New Adventure”. Thanks for always encouraging and supporting me.
Thanks to all the musical artists who’ve inspire powerful emotions all around the world. Here are a few that I love!
Imagine Dragons – Demons
The Beatles – I’m a Loser
Passenger – Let Her Go
Adele – Someone Like You
Gavin Degraw – Not Over You
The Lumineers – Ho Hey
Justin Timberlake – Not A Bad Thing
A Great Big World with Christina Agulera – “Say Something”
John Legend – All of Me
The music is the sole property of the copyright holder/artist represented.
You can find all of these songs on Youtube or Itunes. I suggest listening to them before or during the book to get into the mood☺
Cade, in part, was inspired by my nephew David Wellnitz. He’s the lead singer of Heels to the Hardwood. If you like soulful Americana rock and roll, check out his band – they’re great!
Table of Contents
I feel like I’ve been hit by a truck. My breath catches, and my body freezes up as I look down the sloping bank to the river.
What the hell?
Sitting on the sandy beach on the edge of the river is the most stunning woman I’ve ever seen. No, make that gorgeous. Never mind; she’s breathtaking. My mind is muddled with confusion. Without conscious thought, my head shakes back and forth. I don’t need this right now.
I came here to get away from this very thing. The last thing I need is a distraction from my real purpose. This cabin is a haven for me. Sam, my old friend from college, allows me to come here when life gets too crazy. The cozy A-frame sitting on the Stillaguamish River right outside the small town of Verlot, Washington is an ideal getaway. It’s away from all the distractions back home. Right now, I don’t need this complication. Or do I? I take a closer look. Yes, she’s beautiful all right. She’s sitting on the bank of the river about thirty yards away, face turned up to the sun, with the most peaceful look I’ve ever seen. I don’t want to disturb her, so I stand on the back deck, mesmerized, watching her.
Her hair is the color of midnight, flowing down her back in smooth waves. She has her hands around her knees, and she tilts her head back even farther, soaking in the last rays of the sun.
She doesn’t notice me, which is good, because she’d probably think I’m some freak, standing motionless, staring at her. What is she doing at Sam’s cabin? It occurs to me she might be one of the tourists from the campsite down the road. That would be a good thing, or would it? My indecision about her presence continues to confuse me. Why does she have to be so unbelievably beautiful?
That’s when I notice it – a suitcase next to the bedroom door. She’s staying here! Damn, I guess it means I’ll have to leave.
Disappointment sweeps through me. I really need this weekend alone to get my thoughts straight. I’ve been conflicted about my career choice, engineering or music. I’ve delayed making this decision for three long years.
I know it’s not healthy to be perched between two different jobs, unable to make a decision for so long. Whichever one I choose will mean living a totally different lifestyle.
With my engineering career, I’ll have stability with a mentally challenging job. If I choose music full time, it will engage the creative side of my brain. I like the thought of it, but I imagine there would also be craziness, travel, and upheaval. I chuckle. Here I go again. They both sound good in different ways.
I was counting on the peaceful solitude of the cabin to help me decide once and for all. Regretfully, it looks like I’ll have to put it off – again.
I heave a sigh as I grab my duffle and guitar then prepare to head out. I look back one last time at the mysterious woman sitting by the river.
She gets up suddenly and starts to make her way across the river, rock by rock. Oh no, I’ve tried that before. This will not end well. I need to stop her.
I drop my stuff and hurry down to the river’s edge as quickly as possible, but it’s too late. I can’t help laughing at the sight; she goes down on her backside right in the middle of the river. I approach her and hold out my hand.
Her clear blue, now frightened, eyes stare back at me. She looks me up and down, noticing my tattoos. I suddenly realize she’s scared of me. Hasn’t she ever seen tattoos before?
She looks like she’s going to start swimming down the river to get away from me. I need to stop her before she gets swept away by the current.
“Don’t move or you’ll make it worse!” I yell. “I’m a friend of Sam and Julianne’s. I didn’t know anyone would be up here today.”
That does the trick. Her expressive face relaxes into relief. Reaching over, I take hold of her hand to help her out of the water. She looks like a drowned rat. I find myself grinning at her. She’s a mess with her purple lips and drenched clothes. I’d better introduce myself right now, before she gets nervous again and runs away.
“Hey, I’m Cade. Sam lets me borrow the cabin when I need to get away.” I make a joke about interrupting her potential drowning, hoping to break the ice a little. I see her try to hide a laugh. She wobbles a bit on the uneven rocks, so I reach over to take her hand to steady her. Her smiling face turns wary in a matter of seconds. She pulls away suddenly and walks quickly to the back door. Hmmm. What that was all about?
As soon as we enter the cabin, I snatch one of my towels and toss it to her. “Here you go. Hop in the shower and get warm.”
Her eyes narrow with suspicion as she stares back at me. I feel warmth spreading throughout my body. I like this girl. I’m not even sure why. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who shows exactly how they feel the way this girl does. She hasn’t yet said a single word to me, but every time I look at her, I know exactly what she’s thinking. I wonder if she knows her face gives away every emotion that flickers across it. She’d be horrible at poker.
“The door has a lock you know. It’s not like I’m going to peek or anything.” I try to reassure her.
“Um, so, is it Cade?” Finally, she speaks.
“How do you know Sam and Julianne?” Her brow lifts slightly. She’s ready to gauge my response.
“I went to college with Sam. We’ve been friends ever since. I’ve known Julianne for two years, right before she and Sam were married. I was best man at their wedding.”
Her brow relaxes, and she grabs the towel, disappearing into the bathroom quickly. As soon as she closes the door, I hear the click of the lock.
I shake my head and decide to take the opportunity to find something to warm her up. I rifle through the contents in the kitchen cupboards, locating some hot chocolate mix. I mentally thank Sam and Julianne for always having the basics on hand. I’m mixing the hot water with the cocoa when she comes out of the bathroom.
She’s wearing black form-fitting pants and a white t-shirt. Her hair is pulled back, and her face is without makeup. Good God, she’s exquisite. I stand staring for a moment, unable to form words.
She smiles at me and asks, “Is that for me?”
I quickly hand her the cocoa and try to compose myself. We sit down at the dining room table that overlooks the river. My mind is still trying to process this, this girl sitting before me. Who is she?
“You haven’t told me your name yet.”
Her mouth forms an O as she realizes her lapse. “It’s Mattie. Sorry, I’m a little distracted.”
She slowly sips her drink, closing her eyes briefly. She has a piece of hair that’s come loose from her ponytail. I want to tuck it back into place. I can feel the warmth return as beads of sweat start to form on the back of my neck. Hoping she doesn’t notice my discomfort, I wipe them away.