She used to love him. No, not just love. Somehow he'd become her world, her everything.
Then life had walked in and changed what had been beautiful.
Teeth clenched, Shyla Croft tried to push her soon-to-be ex-husband to the corner of her mind where she kept him most of the time. She hadn't thought of him in weeks—all right, in days, maybe—and wouldn't be now if she wasn't expecting him.
In the meantime she had to get some pictures of the Lake Serene area for the brochure she'd been commissioned to produce. She'd been here for the better part of an hour but other than bringing in what she'd need to stay for three days, she hadn't made good use of her time—unless communing with nature counted. It felt so good to get away from traffic and noise, to smell clean air and admire what man had had no hand in creating. To be one with her mountain surroundings. To imagine winter and the land buried under snow.
As she broke several carrots into pieces and tossed them about the cabin's exterior, she noticed a chipmunk watching from the shade of a Ponderosa pine.
"The carrots aren't for you," she informed the crazy-cute rodent. "So leave them alone. I bought a big bag of unsalted peanuts for you and your relatives. Let me finish here and I'll feed you."
Instead of agreeing, the lively brown creature with black and white stripes running down its back scurried to the closest carrot chunk. It picked up the piece in its front claws and started nibbling.
"You're killing me," Shyla whispered. "How can I be mad when you're so adorable?"
Mad. Angry. Pissed off.
She'd mulled those words and more for months before deciding that living in limbo would turn her into someone she didn't know and wouldn't like. She couldn't be separated forever. She had to get it over with. Friends and relatives had asked if she hated Jes for his role in the breakup but even when she'd wished she'd never met him it hadn't been like that.
Jes was who he was, just like she was.
She broke the last carrot into several pieces and tossed all but one as far from the chipmunk as she could. She bit into the last one.
"Not bad," she told her only companion. "Your teeth are better designed for this than mine. Thanks for joining me. I don't like to eat alone."
Truth was she'd eaten alone for much of the past year. Solitude had allowed her to get in touch with herself and subsequently make some vital decisions. I hadn't been for the protracted thinking time she might not be here today with the cameras she'd left on the cabin's front stoop—doing what made her feel complete.
All right, mostly complete.
Just a little ragged.
The sound she'd both been dreading and resigned to pulled her into reality, and she faced the narrow dirt road leading to the evergreen-scented, resort-owned cabin. Dust billowed up from the approaching tires. She'd wondered if Jes had bought a new vehicle. From what she'd heard he could. Instead he was still driving the big battered SUV.
What else hadn't changed since the last time she'd seen him?
Her palms started to sweat, prompting her to wipe them on her denim shorts. She wished she didn't care what Jes saw when he looked at her, but she did. Fortunately he probably wouldn't tell her. He seldom had.
"That was part of it," she muttered as her husband exited the vehicle. "You told me so little of a personal nature." He also was nearly ever around, but that was another story or rather another layer to what had gone wrong.
He started toward her, walking with long, solid strides, a man who can't find enough hours in each day for everything he needs or thinks he needs to do. His gait said so much about the way he approached life, his A personality, his drive. At the same time those steps reminded her of early in their relationship when that energy and commitment revolved around her. When the nights weren't long enough for all the lovemaking they needed.
Of course he was wearing jeans. She could count on the fingers of one hand the number of times she'd seen him in anything else. Like her he had on a T-shirt but where hers was pale yellow with a large multi-colored butterfly over her breasts, his blue one sported the logo for Silent Wheels.
He looked good. Strong and tall. Light brown hair overdue for a trim. Grey eyes steady. Large, tanned hands hanging at his sides. Wide shoulders and broad chest stretching the extra-large shirt. No belly. Thighs hard. Feet encased in dusty tennis shoes.
Not smiling at her. Not frowning either.
I used to love you, Jes.
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