An emotional new small town romance is releasing next week from author Catherine Cowles—the start of a whole new series—and I have a sneak peek from you.
I pushed open the back door of The Catch, the slam of it against the brick wall a satisfying sound. I strode across the patio, scattered with tables but thankfully empty of customers, and headed straight for the beach. I had to keep moving. It was the only thing I knew for certain. I had to keep my body in motion, or the energy crackling through my veins would explode out of my skin, and I would lose it.
Lose it on a level that would mean I would frighten everyone around me. I pushed my legs to walk faster, my boots kicking up stones along the rocky shore. The ocean had always given me a sense of peace, but even the crashing of the waves and the smell of the salty sea air couldn’t calm me now.
I pressed on, picking up my pace even more. I kicked at a piece of driftwood in my path, sending it flying back to the sea. If only I could drop-kick Ford back to Los Angeles as easily. A trickle of guilt slid through me at the thought, quickly morphing back to anger. I didn’t have anything to feel guilty about. He was the one who ran away. The person who knew better than anyone the pain of losing Violet. I’d never understand why he’d made the decision to leave instead of letting us lean on each other. But the why no longer mattered. Only his actions did.
Actions that had left me alone and grieving while my family fell apart around me. Alone to deal with surgeries and the hours upon hours of painful physical therapy. Alone to face the blame and pressure of my parents. Alone when they tried to twist me into some sort of Violet 2.0.
Sweat trickled down my back, and I ripped open the snaps on my flannel shirt, tearing it off. I balled it up, fingers digging into the fabric. I kept pressing on, feet moving even faster until I was almost running, memories assaulting me in a way they hadn’t in years. Crying in my hospital bed, my body shuddering with sobs and pain. My sister. Ford. I’d lost them both. Violet had no choice, her life had been ripped away from her in a single second. But Ford…he had chosen to leave. And that might’ve left the deepest wound of all.
My steps slowed and I pressed the balled-up flannel to my mouth, letting out a guttural scream. Pouring out every ounce of pain and grief, every last bit of dashed hopes and dreams left in ruins, every memory tainted by betrayal. I expelled it all and then collapsed to the ground.
Rocks bit into my backside, but it barely registered as sobs wracked my body. I’d made peace with Violet’s death, with the turn my life had taken, even with losing Ford. I’d worked so damn hard to find peace, and all it had taken was Ford striding through the door to smash it all to smithereens.
I hugged my knees tighter to my chest, rocking myself back and forth, not stopping until my tears had slowed and my sobs had quieted. I let my head fall to my knees, pressing my eyes against them, trying to relieve some of the pressure gathering there. I pressed harder. I wasn’t going to give in. Wasn’t going to let this man’s presence take me out. I’d overcome so much worse than him. I’d get through this, too.
I lifted my head, resting my chin on my knees as I stared out at the ocean. I wasn’t alone anymore. I’d built a family of my own choosing. They weren’t my blood, but they were mine. I had people at my back, who would see me through this season of storms.
A fissure of pain lanced my chest. Did Kara and Frank know that their son was back in town? Hunter had kept it from me, but I was shocked that Kara had done the same. She and Frank had become second parents to me in the years following the accident. People who understood me far better than my own family ever did. It was Frank who taught me how to refurbish furniture pieces, and Kara who helped me learn how to pick and choose which ones were worth salvaging. They never pushed, but always supported.
But Ford was a topic never raised when I was present in the Hardy household. I picked up snatches of updates here and there. I’d even given in to Googling him in college, coming across an article in the LA Times titled “The Nightlife King Spreads His Kingdom Across LA”. There’d been a photo of him with one of those ultimate fighters and a famous musician, with a bevy of beautiful women behind them. He didn’t seem to be suffering one bit. Meanwhile, I was reminded of that night every time my scar tissue pulled, or I was forced into an awkward encounter with my parents.
I pressed my hand against my ribs. I could feel the raised flesh through my tank top. The pain was gone now. My body had healed, as had my soul. So, why did it feel as if both were being ripped wide-open?