Ever After
commanded.
    “Why does my head feel like a boulder fell on me?” My voice seemed to come from the other end of a long barrel.
    “We’re not far from the house. The cut is pretty bad.”
    “What happened?”
    “You don’t remember?” Cole angled his face away from me.
    A memory nagged me. “Did I do something wrong?”
    “Don’t talk. Rest. Just don’t sleep.”
    My heart twisted out of my chest. We’d been so close. I had to have done something stupid again. Now he was mad. I was never going to get him to like me.
    “We need to get you home.” Cole’s voice was hollow, emotionless.
    Had someone thrown my brain into a blender? Everything was foggy, blurred.
    “I should have known better.” Cole’s pained stare focused on the path ahead of us.
    Did he always have to act so unstable? All this because of a…
    Oh. My. God.
    He tried to kiss me.
    But we tumbled off the horse before it happened.
    Did I let on that I remembered or feign amnesia?
    “I’m okay, I think.” A throbbing knot at my hairline left crimson on my fingers. “Oh, no.”
    Cole gazed with focus on my fingers but tore his eyes away. His muscles shuddered beneath me.
    My muddled brain see-sawed between wishing he’d squeeze me tighter and hoping this wouldn’t put more space between us. The lingering sensation of his lips on mine brought my hand to my lips.
    He shook his head, his face twisting in some emotion I’d never be able to read because he’d never let me that close. His voice was hollow. “I should have known.”
    “It was an almost kiss,” I said.
    “I was out of line. I forgot my place. You’re my boss. I’m your employee.”
    “I seem to remember having some part in it too.” I hoped this whole guilty-employee persona wasn’t for my sake. “It wasn’t the worst thing that could happen to me. I said I’m okay.”
    “You’re. Not. Okay.” His voice sliced through me. “All because I was out for a little no strings attached fling.”
    Heat exploded under my cheeks as the shards of his icy words sliced through me. “You didn’t just say that.”
    His look of remorse grew into a cocky smirk.
    “I am a man, it’s almost dark, and we were alone. Put two and two together. The opportunity showed itself, and I mean, look at you. You can’t fault me for giving in to male urges.” His eyes didn’t match what he said, what he wanted to make me believe.
    I turned my head against the embarrassment.
    Cole’s voice raised an octave, and he shook me in his arms. “Allie? Allie?”
    I opened my eyes for his sake and flashed infuriation in his direction.
    “Do you feel dizzy? Nauseated?”
    “Nauseated isn’t quite the word I’d use.” My stomach lurched into my throat. He’d ruined it for me. It hadn’t been enough of a kiss for me to even call it one, but my first kiss had been a disaster.
    Trees going by my head at such an odd angle made me dizzy.
    I had to get away. Away from him, away from that house, away from everything. “Put me down.”
    He hesitated.
    “Put. Me. Down.”
    A growl rumbled in his chest, but he placed me gently on my feet. He held onto my arms to steady me, but I jerked away.
    I started to trek in the direction he’d been headed, but as my feet connected with the ground, the whole world tilted. Maybe having him put me down hadn’t been such a good idea.
    “I’m your only way back to that house, and it’s about a mile away.” Cole’s voice was beside my ear as the odd, radiating warmth of his hands steadied me.
    I hated and absolutely adored his touch at the same time. It wouldn’t be too hard to get addicted to, and I was so close to hating him that it would have been dangerous for my psyche. I tried to walk but wasn’t very successful.
    Cole’s grip tightened.
    I staggered, knees turning to sponge, but gained my strength back just in time.
    “You can’t walk. You’ll fall.” Cole’s voice caressed my ear.
    “Ah, and you care so much? We wouldn’t want your chances at a

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