My Despicable Ex (Book 1)
said, recalling those times when he was so willing to listen to me ramble on and on for
hours and hours about everything under the sun. Even when I bored
him with talk of fabric and color schemes, he never told me to be
quiet. Jake had always hung on every word that came out of my
mouth, as if truly intrigued
    “ I
really miss that, Ashly. I miss…us.”
    “ It
was a long time ago,” I said, my words almost as cold as the beer I
was finishing. “You shouldn’t dwell on the past.” With that, I
stood and started to walk away.
    Jake suddenly
pulled me into his arms. “Ashly…” he said.
    My heart
pounded. “What?”
    He
softly touched my face. “I don’t want to
dwell on the past. I want to focus on the future.”
    There was something about
him that I found captivating. It wasn’t just his looks; he had a
magnetic personality, and he always made me smile, whether I wanted
to or not. No one had ever knocked me so off balance before, and I
was completely discombobulated. I wanted to blame it on the beer,
but I hadn’t had enough for that to be the case. I touched his
face, cupping it ever so softly with my hand. “I care about you deeply, Jake, but
nothing will ever happen between us again. You need to accept
that.”
    “ If
you’d just let down those thick gates you’ve built up around your
heart, Ashly, there could be hope for us.”
    “ I
met my best friend and soulmate once, but then he deserted me. It
took a long time to get over him because I’ve never loved someone
so deeply. But I moved on, and I vowed to never look back. I’m
finally happy, as happy as I can be. I wouldn’t be able to handle
my world being torn apart a second time, and I’m not willing to
risk that for you or anyone else.”
    “ I’m a grown man now, Ashly, and I know what I want. I swear I
would never abandon you again. This time, forever would be for
real.”
    Dwelling on
the subject was daunting and overwhelming all at once, and I had to
get away from him. “I’m gonna take a walk and check out the
scenery.”
    “ Can I go with you?”
    “ If
you don’t mind, I’d just like to be alone with my
thoughts.”
    He stared at
me for a minute. Finally he said, “I understand,” and then he
gently brushed my arm as he walked past me.
    I
opened my mouth to tell him not to leave, but the words would not
come out. I felt hundreds of butterflies dancing around in my
stomach. Part of me wanted to be held in his big, strong arms, to
feel his hot breath on my skin, his lips brushing across my
earlobe. I wanted him to pull me to his open, waiting mouth, but I
cursed myself under my breath for feeling that way. How could Jake have this
effect on me? I’m not some silly, naïve schoolgirl. I’m a grown
woman, with an impressive résumé and prestigious job—much too grown
for the likes of a despicable runaway groom. For a minute, I was frozen, held
captive by the words he’d spoken and by the look of sincerity and
hopefulness in his eyes when he’d spoken them. But in spite of the
beer and his undeniable charm, I soon came back to my senses and
knew I was doing the right thing by walking away.
    I
took my shoes off and waded in the creek for a while, then made my
way to Boat Beach, which wasn’t far at
all, located right along the banks of the Colorado River. Shrubs,
small, brushy trees, grass, and several types of cactus dotted the
shore. The little crooks in the red walls of the canyon were
filled with young cottonwoods. Truly, it was a breathtaking
experience to set foot in such a place, and I couldn’t stop staring
at the spectacular rusty, crimson, and marigold hues splashed
across the canyon walls, all that color blending into a perfect
mix, and the towering sandstone rock formations. The view was
incredible, and the sound and power of the water mesmerized me.
There’s no feeling on Earth like standing beside the Colorado River
with the dark, rough walls towering above you.
    As the sun began to pain the sky in a
pinkish

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