Author: Lynn Stevens
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Cover Designer: Southhampton Design
Publication Date: August 20th, 2018
The night before my wedding, I ran.
I needed a place to hide. A place to start over. A place to figure out how to move forward with my life.
When my cousin Lena offered me a rent free apartment in Chicago, it seemed like the perfect solution. And it was until the legal tenant, a Marine named Josh, returned early from his deployment overseas.
The little security I had shattered. I had no place left to go, and I couldnât live with a man I didnât know. But I had no choice. If he knew how badly I was damaged, he wouldnât want me around. After all, thatâs what he had told me over and over. Nobody would want me.
Maybe sometimes you have to run away to find yourself.
The night of my wedding, I ran, but I hadnât ran far enough.
Lynn Stevens flunked out of college writing her first novel. Yes, she still has it and no, you can't read it. Surprisingly, she graduated with honors at her third school. A former farm girl turned city slicker turned suburbanite, Lynn lives in the Midwest where she drinks coffee and sips tea when she's out of coffee. Sheâs the author of Full Count and Game On..
Lena and Ryderâs latest argument greeted me as I climbed the stairs to the second floor apartments. They didnât fight very often, but with their impending wedding, my cousin and her fiancÃ© didnât hold back their tempers or opinions. Of course, Lena liked it. She had to tell me how the make-up sex was worth his stubborn attitude. Information I didnât want or need to know. Wisely, I kept my mouth shut. If it werenât for them, I wouldnât have a place to live. Or worse, Iâd still be in Des Moines. I shook the thought out of my head. Des Moines was in the past and the people, including my mother, could stay there.
Theyâd quieted down by the time I reached the top of the steps. The shouting had toned into loud whispers. I smiled. Lena and Ryder were perfect for each other. I put my key in the door, pushing it opened. My heard froze. The door had opened without unlocking it. I couldnât move. A shadow darted from the living room toward the back bedroom, my room. My legs unfroze. I stepped away slowly, hoping not to make a single sound until I rapped on Lenaâs door. My back pressed against the white wood. I knocked again. The door gave way and I fell back into my cousinâs fiancÃ©.
âVal?â Ryder asked.
I pointed toward the open door across the hall. My stomach churned, threatening to clear the gallon of decaf Iâd sucked down in the last hour. This wasnât happening. Chicago was supposed to be my safe haven. Nobody knew I was here. Nobody was supposed to find me. I closed my eyes and prayed it was a robber, not somebody worse. I turned to move into Lenaâs apartment, to push Ryder back in and away from the danger, but strong hands squeezed my upper arms. Ryder moved me out of the way like I was a rag doll. Just the mere touch of his fingers made me want to curl up in a ball. I couldnât keep living like this.
Ryder pushed by me in his bare-chested glory, his sculpted muscles cut with scars from his days as a Marine. Iâd never seen a guy with a prosthetic leg move with so much grace. He rushed into my apartment. Well, not mine, not really. It was Ryderâs and his USMC buddy Joshâs place. Since Ryder spent most of his time at Lenaâs and Josh was deployed, theyâd let me move in until Josh returned in a couple of months. I hoped to be out of their way by then.
Why didnât he just call 911? Why didnât I?
I ran after him. Nightmares of Des Moines invaded by mind, but I shoved them back into their compartment. Ryder could get hurt. Iâd never forgive myself if that happened. Not that I had ever been able to forgive myself for much of anything. Lena deserved happiness, and I would make sure she had it even if I couldnât.
It was still dark inside the apartment when a loud âoomphâ sounded in the hallway. I flipped on the light, illuminating Ryder on top of the would-be robber. As I stared at the unfamiliar face, all I could think was thank God it wasnât Sam.
âJesus, Ryder, I know you missed me, but tackling hugs arenât necessary,â the robber said.
âJosh?â Ryder sat up, still straddling the guyâs lap.
It wouldâve been funny had the circumstances been any different. Or even slightly different. Suddenly I longed for the home invader and not the roommateâs return. Iâd have to move. There was no way I could stay here.
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