The charter I use suggests changing our flight plan to land in Reno as opposed to the small Truckee airport I previously requested, due to high winds. We make the switch, take the flight, and I rent an SUV at the airport there.
I know the area is expecting some flurries today, but by the time I cross into Truckee, the snow is coming down hard and heavy. ItÔÇÖs getting dark, the roads are slippery, and I find myself slowing down and taking each turn very carefully.
As I round a corner, I spot a car that has slid off the road. A gorgeous woman is standing outside the car with a phone to her ear, her collar turned up, shivering against the cold.
Even though she tried to called me late Halloween night, I havenÔÇÖt called her back. I wasnÔÇÖt sure what to say, and I didnÔÇÖt want to hear whatever dumb excuse she had for not showing up. My plan was to come up here and figure out what to do regarding her.
Part of me wishes I could drive right by and pretend I donÔÇÖt see her.
But, I canÔÇÖt.
When I saw the woman on the side of the road, my heart skipped a beat, recognizing her before I realized it was Palmer.
I put my flashers on, pull over, and roll down the passenger-side window. ÔÇ£Hey!ÔÇØ
ÔÇ£Cade, is that you?ÔÇØ she asks, her eyes wide with astonishment.
ÔÇ£Yeah, you need a lift?ÔÇØ
She glances at her car, then at me, like sheÔÇÖs trying to decide which may be the lesser evil.
After a few seconds, she nods her head. ÔÇ£Yes, thank you. That would be great. The tow truck canÔÇÖt be here for at least an hour. I guess itÔÇÖs worse just west of here.ÔÇØ
ÔÇ£You know, you shouldnÔÇÖt be out on roads like this all alone,ÔÇØ I say, chewing her out a little. ÔÇ£You should have put on chains.ÔÇØ
ÔÇ£I thought I could make it,ÔÇØ she replies, causing my mind to tumble back in time.
ÔÇ£I thought I could make it,ÔÇØ she says. SheÔÇÖs wearing a sundress, and the tip of her nose and her shoulders are a little pink from our day spent on the shores of Lake Tahoe. SheÔÇÖs just fifteen, and IÔÇÖll be turning twenty-one in a few days. SheÔÇÖs going home with her family tomorrow, and then all our college buddies are coming up for a weekend party. To celebrate my finally being drinking-age legal.
WhatÔÇÖs not legal is the girl standing in front of me. But youÔÇÖd never know it from looking at her. Palmer Montlake has been modeling. Already tall with the perfect body for hanging clothes from, sheÔÇÖs just back from a European modeling trip.
And, boy, has she ever grown up. In more ways than one. Most importantly, is the fact that IÔÇÖm sure sheÔÇÖs flirting with me.
I know I need to make her stop.
But IÔÇÖm a little drunk, and sheÔÇÖs way too pretty for her own good. Not to mention the fact that she was running around in a skimpy bikini all day long. But having her cover up doesnÔÇÖt mean IÔÇÖve forgotten about how she looked.
I chastise myself.
SheÔÇÖs just a kid. SheÔÇÖs fifteen. Not only that, sheÔÇÖs my best friendÔÇÖs kid sisterÔÇöthe holy grail of what you donÔÇÖt mess with.
She runs her hand down my arm, laughs, and says, ÔÇ£Will you put a Band-Aid on it for me?ÔÇØ
When she was trying to jump from the boat to the dock like her brother and I did, she caught her flip-flop on the edge and crashedÔÇöcutting her knee.
ÔÇ£ItÔÇÖs not that bad,ÔÇØ I hesitate, knowing that under no circumstances can I can allow myself to touch her. IÔÇÖm afraid if I do, I wonÔÇÖt be able to stop.
ÔÇ£Come on, Cade,ÔÇØ she pouts, puffing out her sexy bottom lip. ÔÇ£IÔÇÖve helped you before. Remember a couple years ago when you were bleeding after sliding into home plate? I fixed you all up.ÔÇØ
I remember it, alright. But she didnÔÇÖt look like this back then. She was gawky and awkward like a gelding, not the gorgeous gazelle she is today.
She jumps up onto the kitchen counter, immediately causing my mind to think about what naughty things IÔÇÖd do to her on this counter if she were as old as she looks.
I take a deep breath, calm myself down, and put the Band-Aid gently across her knee.
She kisses me on the cheek in return. What should be a quick thank-you peck is long and drawn out, and her scent lingers on me.
ÔÇ£Thank you, Cade,ÔÇØ she says, my name sounding like warm butter melting off her lips.
ÔÇ£The snow is coming down fast,ÔÇØ she says, bringing me back to the present.
ÔÇ£ThereÔÇÖs no way we can make it to your cabin,ÔÇØ I say. ÔÇ£I assume thatÔÇÖs where youÔÇÖre going?ÔÇØ
ÔÇ£Yeah, I was.ÔÇØ
ÔÇ£Are you supposed to meet anyone there?ÔÇØ I inquire. Please say no.
ÔÇ£No. I have some scripts to read, and Pike kind of wanted some time to himself.ÔÇØ
ÔÇ£My place is closer,ÔÇØ I say, thanking whatever divine intervention allowed her to go off the road. ÔÇ£You can stay there until the roads get better.ÔÇØ
ÔÇ£Okay,ÔÇØ she says with a shy smile. ÔÇ£Thanks for rescuing me, Cade.ÔÇØ
ÔÇ£YouÔÇÖre welcome, Palmer.ÔÇØ
She gets in the car and shakes the snow out of her hair. ÔÇ£IÔÇÖm sorry about the other night. Why didnÔÇÖt you call me back?ÔÇØ
ÔÇ£I donÔÇÖt know. I justÔÇöÔÇØ
ÔÇ£You were pissed I didnÔÇÖt show up, right?ÔÇØ
ÔÇ£I sort of explained what happened in the text. Did you read it?ÔÇØ
ÔÇ£I did. Look, you know your brother hates me. HeÔÇÖs staying at your house. It would be awkward, so I decided not to put you in that position.ÔÇØ
ÔÇ£I see,ÔÇØ she says, putting her head down.
Which makes me feel bad.
We drive in silence for a few miles then she says, ÔÇ£Can you even believe how gorgeous this snow is? DonÔÇÖt you just want to lay in it and make a bunch of snow angels?ÔÇØ
I grip my wheel tighter as the car fishtails on a patch of ice. ÔÇ£LetÔÇÖs hope we make it there first.ÔÇØ
ÔÇ£Where are we going?ÔÇØ she asks. ÔÇ£I didnÔÇÖt know you had a place up here.ÔÇØ
ÔÇ£IÔÇÖve been looking for the right place for a quite a while. Just closed a few weeks ago.ÔÇØ
ÔÇ£Is it furnished? Are we going to have any food?ÔÇØ
ÔÇ£I have some basic furnishings and linens. Not much yet. I wanted to get a feel for the place before I order any more. And groceries were delivered earlier today.ÔÇØ I turn and give her a wink. ÔÇ£Along with a few cases of wine.ÔÇØ
I drum my fingers on the steering wheel, excited about how she mentioned the weekend. Does she want to spend the weekend with me?
Could I get so lucky?
I look over at her. Her cheeks and nose are red from the cold, but her eyes are bright with excitement about the falling snow. SheÔÇÖs bouncing in the seat a little, like sheÔÇÖs excited about something.
Probably just glad not to be standing on the side of the road anymore.
After winding up the mountain into the ski resort area of Truckee, I pull into the driveway of my new home.
ÔÇ£Cade! ItÔÇÖs so pretty!ÔÇØ Palmer screeches. ÔÇ£You literally bought the house of my dreams. DonÔÇÖt you remember that time when I told you about it? That night when we laid under the stars in that hammock in Belize?ÔÇØ
I remember, alright. I remember everything about that trip. How soft her skin felt, the way her ass looked in a skimpy little bikini, the way she fit perfectly into my arms, and how amazing it felt when I was inside of her.
ÔÇ£We were happy then,ÔÇØ I say flatly, the memory both blissful and painful as I open the door and pull into the garage, knowing thatÔÇÖs why this house took years to find. When she passionately described it to me, it became my dream, too.
She jumps out of the car quickly, her face flush with excitement.
ÔÇ£Leave the bags, Cade. Give me a tour.ÔÇØ
Give me a tour. If I had my way, a tour would involve christening each room by making love in it.
Love. Not sex. ThatÔÇÖs how it always was with Palmer. Even when the sex was completely dirty in nature, it always felt different.
I shake my head, take her outstretched hand, and follow her into the house.
After giving her the tour of the place, I unload our luggage, putting hers in one of the guest bedrooms and praying sheÔÇÖll lock herself in and read her scripts, so I wonÔÇÖt have to keep looking at her.
Because if I have to keep looking at her, IÔÇÖm going to end up fucking her.
My mother says love is based on strong emotions and that strong emotions polarize us. ThatÔÇÖs why I can both love Palmer and hate her at the same time.
And right now, I hate that I still love her.
SheÔÇÖs standing next to one of the big picture windows, looking outside.
ÔÇ£The snow is really coming down now,ÔÇØ she says. ÔÇ£This is crazy beautiful.ÔÇØ
ÔÇ£YouÔÇÖre crazy beautiful,ÔÇØ I mutter.
ÔÇ£I said youÔÇÖre crazy beautiful, Palmer.ÔÇØ I say it flatly, with no emotion. IÔÇÖm afraid to say it any other way.
She blushes and self-consciously pushes back a strand of hair. I love that about her. How she isnÔÇÖt even aware of how truly stunning she is.
ÔÇ£I think we need some of that wine,ÔÇØ she says.
ÔÇ£Wine wonÔÇÖt help things between us.ÔÇØ
ÔÇ£No, it will probably make me want to sleep with you,ÔÇØ she says with a sigh. Like she thinks itÔÇÖs a really bad idea. She walks over to the cabinet under the television and starts rummaging through it. ÔÇ£Do you have any cards?ÔÇØ She laughs, pulling out a big box. ÔÇ£I should have known youÔÇÖd have Scrabble.ÔÇØ
ÔÇ£It is a Crawford family tradition.ÔÇØ
ÔÇ£Not our kind of Scrabble.ÔÇØ
ÔÇ£YouÔÇÖre right. I donÔÇÖt play dirty Scrabble with Mom and Dad. IÔÇÖve never played it with anyone but you, actually.ÔÇØ
ÔÇ£So,ÔÇØ she says, giving me a sexy grin, ÔÇ£shall we?ÔÇØ
I look out at the snow still falling heavily. ÔÇ£Sure, why not. YouÔÇÖre not going anywhere for a while. I thought you had a script to read or something?ÔÇØ
ÔÇ£Scrabble sounds more titillating.ÔÇØ
ÔÇ£IÔÇÖll be impressed if you can get that word on the board. Why donÔÇÖt you set up the game and open some wine. IÔÇÖll go get some wood and get a fire going.ÔÇØ
Although the wood I had delivered is stacked neatly next to the house, I wish it wasnÔÇÖt. Staying outside in the bristling cold wind for a few hours chopping wood might be the only thing that could keep me from kissing Palmer.
Hell, who am I kidding? IÔÇÖd do way more than kiss her. Visions of carrying her to my new four-poster bed cause me to immediately harden. I slam my hand against the wall. Stop thinking about that. You canÔÇÖt.
Why not? a voice inside my head wonders.
She hates you, for one. Only it doesnÔÇÖt really seem like she hates me anymore. Not like before when she wouldnÔÇÖt even talk to me.
I put the wood in a carrier, take it in the house, and get a roaring fire going.
ÔÇ£The fire is so pretty,ÔÇØ she says from the kitchen.
ÔÇ£Thanks,ÔÇØ I reply.
ÔÇ£I have an idea,ÔÇØ she says, sashaying her way toward me with a big smile on her face. PalmerÔÇÖs smile makes my knees weak. And I know that makes me sound like a fucking girl, but whatever, itÔÇÖs true.
ÔÇ£Pick the coffee table up for me,ÔÇØ she instructs. I pick it up while she pulls the grey shag rug out from under it and moves it right up to the fireplace. ÔÇ£Perfect!ÔÇØ she exclaims, then strips all the pillows off the couch, tossing them to the ground. She carefully places the Scrabble game on the center of the rug, bending over and giving me a great view of her incredible ass. Seriously, itÔÇÖs the perfect shape. If I could just strip her naked, get behind her, and grab those hips, weÔÇÖd have a lot more fun than playing a stupid board game.
ÔÇ£I thought you might be hungry,ÔÇØ she says, scooting the big wooden coffee table toward the rug then grabbing a tray from the kitchen and setting it down. ÔÇ£Cheese, crackers, smoked salmon, caviar, and caramel popcorn.ÔÇØ
ÔÇ£ThatÔÇÖs quite the combination,ÔÇØ I tease.
ÔÇ£I had to work with what you had. At least thereÔÇÖs plenty of wine. Will you grab it?ÔÇØ she asks as she sits her ass on my rug and doles out little square letters.
I set the bottle and the glasses on the coffee table, pour the wine, and sit down across from her.
The lights flicker, then go out, enveloping the house in darkness.
She nervously twists her hair. ItÔÇÖs an old habit, something sheÔÇÖs done since she was a kid. I remember so clearly her lying in bed after the first time we made love, twisting her hair and wondering out loud if our sleeping together was the right thing to do.
I didnÔÇÖt want her to second guess us then, and I donÔÇÖt want her to now.
I reach out and take her hand, just like I did then. ÔÇ£WeÔÇÖll figure something out,ÔÇØ I say, repeating the words I told her that night. Her eyes flicker with surprise at my touch, but then she softens.
ÔÇ£YouÔÇÖve always known how to make me feel better,ÔÇØ she says, gazing into my eyes and expressing more feelings than the words that came out of her mouth.
When she finally breaks eye contact, she smiles. ÔÇ£I donÔÇÖt think the lights are coming back on. I saw candles in the pantry.ÔÇØ
ÔÇ£IÔÇÖll grab them,ÔÇØ I say, quickly getting up. I have to fucking do something besides stare into her eyes, or IÔÇÖm going toÔÇöno. Get that out of your mind. ItÔÇÖs not going to happen. It canÔÇÖt happen. Her brother hates you. You canÔÇÖt do that to her.
Using my phone to light the way, I get candles and matches along with a couple flashlights.
ÔÇ£Here, let me help you,ÔÇØ she says, getting up and attempting to grab a couple candles from my full arms. But when her hands brush my chest, I stop and stiffenÔÇöeverywhere.
ÔÇ£Um, thatÔÇÖs okay, IÔÇÖve got them,ÔÇØ I say, attempting to unload the candles onto the table only to have half of them topple to the ground. ÔÇ£Shit.ÔÇØ
ÔÇ£ItÔÇÖs okay, Cade,ÔÇØ she says, dropping to her knees in front of meÔÇöher head now at dick-sucking level.
Fuck my life.
Why did I stop to pick her up again?
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After years of crushing and many failed seduction attempts, Palmer Montlake had finally scored the sexy Cade Crawford. Both a little drunk when they got back to her place, they were frantic with need, their desire intense.
But as the night progressed, the hot-mess hookup morphed to sweet lovemaking.
The kind neither had ever experienced.
But they were destined for heartbreak.
She was his best friendÔÇÖs little sister.
He was her talent agent.
And they were dating in secret.
When they got into a wicked fight and broke up, all hell broke loose.
The kind neither have recovered from.
Six years later, they still hate each other.
But the universe seems to keep throwing them together.
When they catch the bouquet and garter at a mutual friendÔÇÖs wedding, sparks fly between them ÔÇö their chemistry undeniable.
Will they get a second chance? Or will they be left with a broken love?
BROKEN LOVE is a STANDALONE, CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE NOVEL following Cade and Palmer from the USA Today Bestseller, Vegas Love.
The Love Series is a series of STANDALONE novels featuring a different Crawford sibling. They can be read by themselves. However if you do with to read them all, they are best enjoyed in order.