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Wild Card (North Ridge #1)
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What would you give up to have a second-chance at a once-in-a-lifetime love?
Wild Card is a STANDALONE SECOND-CHANCE ROMANCE from the NYT bestselling author of The Pact and Before I Ever Met You.
Rough, raw & rugged.
As the man in charge at Ravenswood Ranch, Shane Nelson has never been afraid to get his hands dirty. His sculpted physique isn’t the product of a gym, but of years of hard labor under a relentless sun. His straightforward, alpha tendencies come from a man who knows what he wants and goes after it.
And what he wants is Rachel Waters.
He’s never stopped wanting her.
They were childhood best friends, then teenage lovers who evolved into soulmates. But on one fateful night, Shane made a grave mistake, breaking both their hearts in the process.
Now, after six years, Rachel is back in the small, wild mountain town of North Ridge, BC.
Ready to face her past.
Ready to face Shane.
Ready to face his dark secret.
But is a second-chance at a one true love in the cards? Or will their wild hearts be broken once again?
WILD CARD is a complete standalone novel and the first book about the Nelson brothers of North Ridge.
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The word love never sounded so wild as it did when it came from the lips of Shane Nelson.
That one simple word that would set my heart loose, like a horse galloping across the plains, free and real and pure. And yet my heart would always return.
My heart would always return to him.
“I love you, Raven,” he’d say, and I wouldn’t just hear it. I’d feel it. I’d live it. The love he had for me, the love I had for him—it was in my every breath. It hitched the moon in my sky.
Raven was my nickname, partly because it sounded like Rachel, partly because he grew up on Ravenswood Ranch, partly because it was at that ranch, nestled at the foot of Cherry Peak where the forested slopes yield to rolling hills of yellow grass and sagebrush, that I fell in love with the clever birds.
It’s where I fell in love with him.
Shane and I would spend hours on horseback, riding side by side, pretending to help out his father and grandpa by checking on the cattle while the birds called to each other from the tops of the ponderosa pines. The reality is, we just wanted to spend every second we could together. We were nothing if not inseparable.
It’s like we knew that time was running out. Even as a teenager, there was a sense of urgency, like a ticking clock that was counting the long minutes until a bomb went off. I so desperately wanted to run away from North Ridge and never come back. I so desperately wanted, needed, Shane to come with me.
But even though he told me he would, I knew he wouldn’t. His home, his heart, was here. Not with me. And as time continued to wreak havoc on us, as we made wild love like we were dying, afraid of the distance when we weren’t skin to skin, the more Shane continued to pull away. I didn’t see it at the time but then again, you never do.
Loss of love is the most terrifying feeling in the world. It’s the feeling of your heart emptying, slowly being drained. Because that’s the thing about love. It’s free to give. It’s never free to receive. We all know the cost of loving someone, of being open-hearted, open-souled. We know that at any moment it could all end. The world is filled with worst-case scenarios. People die. People cheat. People fall out of love. People lose sight of who they are, or what they want. People…they grow apart.
I’m still not sure what happened on that fateful night—which of the above it was that made everything crash and burn around us. What led Shane to do the things he did, what made him smash my bleeding heart into smithereens.
All I knew was that the love we shared was over.
Years of being full.
Heartful, soulful, wonderful.
And he finally gave me the will, the drive, to leave North Ridge behind.
Never to look back.
Never to return.
“I heard that Rachel Waters is back in town.”
It takes a moment for the words to properly sink in. I slowly raise my head and look at Delilah as she cracks open a beer for another customer.
“Come again?” I ask her, ignoring the stillness in my chest.
A flash of something comes over her green eyes, maybe pity, maybe trepidation. I hadn’t heard Rachel’s name uttered in ages and yet Del’s treating it like we just broke up yesterday.
It wasn’t yesterday. It’s been six years since Rachel Waters left the town of North Ridge, British Columbia, six years since I last saw her. I haven’t even been able to stalk her on social media. She’s had that shit locked down since the day she left, as if she wanted to forget every single thing, every single person that had something to do with this little mountain town.
Most of all, she wanted to forget me.
So to hear that she’s back, well, it’s more than a surprise.
“She’s back,” Delilah says with a shrug, heading down the bar to slide the pale ales toward Jeremy and Finn, sitting where they’re always sitting.
“I heard that too,” Jer says, scratching at his scraggly grey beard. “Don’t know why, but I have a feeling it has to do with Vernalee. Beth down at the hospital says she’s been in a few times. Don’t know what for.”
Vernalee Waters is Rachel’s mother, and she’s tough as nails. She’s not the type to go to the hospital for anything, not if she can help it.
“I saw her today,” a voice from the corner booth says.
I turn on my stool to see Joe sitting there, palming a beer, cigarette smoke billowing from the corner of his mouth.
“What in God’s name do you think you’re you doing?” Delilah says, and in a flash she’s swinging herself over the bar instead of walking around it, stalking over to Joe’s table. She rips the cigarette from his mouth before stamping it out with the heel of her boot. “Damn it, Joe.”