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Always Mine (Love in Eden #1)
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I had one reason for never going back to the small town I once called home, but I never guessed it would be the same one that made me want to stay…
Until I met the one boy who changed all that.
When we were kids, Xavier Price understood horses, but somehow, he got me too. He’d made me feel like I wasn’t just the overdressed, too sensitive fifteen-year-old geek who loved math and didn’t always say the right thing. But all that changed the night he threw my trust back in my face and betrayed my family in the worst kind of way.
And while I’m back in Eden to make sure my uncle’s horse ranch is operating in the black, the one thing I know I won’t have to deal with is the man who’d been on the verge of stealing my heart ten years ago.
Because Xavier Price is still in prison for what he did and even if he weren’t, he wouldn’t be foolish enough to show his face in Eden ever again.
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“Son of a—”
That was all I got out as a huge blur of black darted out in front of the car and I automatically slammed on the brakes. A second black shape hit the front of the Range Rover just as I came to a stop, causing the car to bounce. My jaw rattled as I watched a third cow race across the road and disappear into the trees.
“Shit,” I growled as I tried to catch my breath. My heart was pounding erratically in my chest as I attempted to breathe normally while simultaneously driving the car to the narrow shoulder of the curvy highway.
“Welcome to Eden, Brooks,” I murmured to myself.
After getting the vehicle parked, I fumbled with shaky fingers to get my seatbelt unbuckled and stumbled out of the SUV. It occurred to me as I tried to steady myself that so far, coming back to Eden, Wyoming, was exactly what I’d thought it would be.
Dry, dusty, and frustratingly unpredictable.
My associates back in New York hadn’t believed my tales of what Eden was like. They’d been sure I was making up everything from the tiny number of people that lived in the one-stoplight town to the single saloon (and yes, they really did call it a saloon in Eden) to the fact that it wasn’t unusual to see the occasional stray cow ambling down Main Street. I’d received guffaws of laughter when I’d explained that while the single stoplight applied to cars and horses alike, cows always had the right-of-way.
See, cows in Eden are, and always have been, a big deal.
A really big deal.
But leave it to the members of my family tree to go against the grain and get into the horse business instead.
I dismissed thoughts of family because I wasn’t here to deal with the past or any of the nonsense the drama from my childhood had entailed. I was here to do a single job and that was it.
I walked around the front of my pricey rental car and automatically felt anxious upon seeing the dent and broken headlight. I knew it was ridiculous but seeing that damage was like a reminder that I didn’t belong here anymore, that maybe I never really had, and that I’d failed before I’d even started. It was like the universe was telling me it knew I was going to fuck up what I was here to do.
I shook out my hands to try and loosen the tension that was coursing throughout my entire body. As upset as I was about the damage to the car, I was more concerned about the cow I’d hit. No amount of time in midtown traffic would ever match that of having a fifteen-hundred-pound animal bounce off the front of your car and keep moving like it had done nothing more than give you a love tap.
I was about to head in the direction the cows had gone when I heard rustling from the side of the hill the animals had come up from. I was already stepping back to seek out the safety of the vehicle in case it was a mountain lion or bear, or my least personal favorite carnivore that called Wyoming home, a wolf. But the approaching animal was all too familiar when I realized the gait belonged to hooves, not paws.
I pulled myself together as I waited for the horse and rider to clear the trees. The last thing I wanted was for someone to see how ridiculously shaken up I was by the whole thing. At least they’d attribute it to just the physical encounter and wouldn’t have a clue what was going through my brain as I tried to interpret all the meanings behind the accident.
I prepared myself to graciously accept the forthcoming apology and laugh it off with a joke about cows and insurance that would be appropriate for the town’s residents’ unique sense of humor when it came to their livelihood, but I didn’t even get the chance to put on the proverbial “life’s great” mask because, like the cows, a blur of color was all I saw as it rushed past me. I was only able to make out a horse with a light coat and dark legs and a rider wearing dark clothing and a black cowboy hat. There was no apology, no checking to see if I was okay, no nothing.
“Asshole,” I muttered under my breath, though I wasn’t sure why I was even doing it quietly since the jerk was gone. I got back in the car and searched out the number on my rental contract so I could notify the agency about the damage right away.
I did that.
I played by the rules.
I tried not to dwell on the fact that I was breaking a couple of pretty big rules by even being out here in Eden. Not only would my father blow a gasket if he found out I was in Eden instead of working diligently on our investment firm’s next deal, but I’d promised myself a long time ago that I’d put Eden out of my mind for good.