All she has to do is bring him to Friday night dinner with her parents and siblings. On days w He wants Before she could come to terms with her broken heart, her life went off the tracks—li But their marriage is an arranged one, without hope of love.
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Dedication To Kelly, for an awesome title. Chapter One Keena, preening in her wedding dress, turned this way and that before the full-length mirror. How long had she been waiting for this moment? Maybe all her life, since she was a little girl of four. Aunt Delores moved up behind her and pressed a hand to her chest, eyes wet with unshed tears. Your mom would be so proud seeing you like this today. Her mother had asked her what she wanted to do when she grew up, and Keena had answered without hesitation—she wanted to marry a man like her poppa and be a good wife for him like her mother.
However, her loving mother had hugged her to encourage Keena to strive for all she desired, that she would find the right one, and after a series of failed relationships, she had. You were a handful by yourself. Keena had thought her world had come to an end, but Aunt Delores had showered so much love on her, being unable to have kids herself since the curse of cancer had affected her health as well many years before, leaving her barren.
Sometimes, Keena felt an overwhelming terror that she would develop the disease just as she was in the prime of her life and that it would snatch away the happiness she had waited so long for. The degree had landed her a teaching position at an online university, which did nothing to fulfill her. Only after she had been dating Steven for a while did contentment begin to grow within. Keena allowed her aunt to place her veil on her head.
The fact that I work at an online university allows me to have flexible time to spend with my babies, and Steven and I are going to start on those right away. You have an entire month off from work. To discuss sex with her aunt was out of the question. She was about to change the subject when the music began inside the sanctuary.
Aunt Delores clapped her hands. How can they start without the mother of the bride in place? Keena dragged in a deep breath, waited a moment to collect herself, and then walked out to the lobby.
Keena began to panic. Everything needed to go without a hitch today. She stopped in the middle of the lobby and waited, but no one was around. The music inside the main area continued to play. She held a cell phone, the one Steven had insisted she buy last year when he had trouble finding her after her car broke down. The woman stretched her arm toward Keena not saying a word.
Keena sensed impending doom, but took the offering. Where are you? I thought you were here at the church already. You see. Just before she came on, Keena placed the voice. That melody-smooth, made-to-bring-men-to-their-knees voice could not be mistaken, no matter how she might wish she had never heard it before. China, her half sister, came on the line. Steven and I just clicked.
She sank to the floor, disregarding her dress as she foolishly kept the phone pressed to her ear while desperate that, in another instant, one or the other of them would tell her this was some kind of cruel joke. This man-stealing behavior had been what China was all about, all her life. This was why. This heartbreak. China stole or attempted to steal every man who came sniffing around Keena.
Let me tell her. Keena wished she could have laughed. The lobby all of a sudden filled with people, and more strained to see and hear what was happening from their positions inside the sanctuary.
Keena wanted to sink through the floor to avoid all the drama. Dazed, with her heart cracking by the second, Keena wobbled to her feet and turned to walk straight out the front door. Horns honked, women yelled to their girlfriends in greeting, and men whistled at others in their too-short skirts as they sashayed along the sidewalk. That alone reminded her of how she had been betrayed.
Well, you get back to that church, sweetie. Seconds later, she snapped out of such train of thought and frowned. He should be the one killed, and that whore China! The single reason for that was so she could sell the dress because she would never have a need for it again.
That beautiful dream she had of marrying and having six children was just that—a dream. On some level, she was happy she had awakened from it. The fact that she had failed on her promise to her mother hurt, but she had to believe her mother would understand. Men were worthless and deserved to be castrated the minute they hit adulthood. She would get along just fine without them if it killed her.
Chapter Two Keena, curled into a tight ball, sobbed into her pillow while her aunt rubbed her back. Hope she satisfied him for the price he paid. He will have just an inch left. Darkness and pain crowded in. She loved Aunt Delores and Mr. They were all the family she had as far as she was concerned, but with Aunt Delores watching her like she thought Keena would break any second, she began to feel smothered.
Teaching required too much brain function. She needed to get away. We had the honeymoon suite at the hotel. Not a beach because that will remind me of, you know. They stayed there rocking while Keena scoured her mind for a place to hide away for the next three weeks. Despite her heavy heart, Keena felt a tingle of excitement ignite inside.
This was going to be an experience she had never dreamed of having, a city girl like her out here in the Rocky Mountains. However, it was too late now. She was here. The Luna Mountain Ranch nestled amid nine hundred acres of beautiful land, elevated at eighty-one hundred feet, the brochure had said. The amount of land belonging to the ranch allowed them to run their own hunts for elk without venturing over into public park land.
Apparently, women liked to participate. Not this woman. When the van came to a stop and let the passengers disembark, Keena followed everyone else and stretched her cramped muscles as she glanced around.
The layout of the ranch caught her breath and held it. Straight ahead of her was a large pond, where she knew the ranch offered fly fishing. To her left and right along a winding paved road were wooden structures of varying sizes. The biggest she guessed was the main lodge, where they would eat their inside meals, and the biggest of the housing areas. She had reserved a small cabin toward the back because she wanted the isolation, but seeing all the trees in that directi on, each rising higher and higher the farther they were away, made her nervous.
Her cell phone not getting a signal attested to the fact as well. Keena dragged in a deep breath and let it out a little at a time.
It will renew me. I promise you that. Luna Mountain Ranch is the best experience to be had anywhere. I came out here just to meet you since we spoke and you seemed so down. I knew I wanted to greet you myself. How nice. Thank you. They had taken a few steps when a couple vehicles rolled up and stopped alongside them. Several men jumped out with enthusiasm and began loading the luggage into the Jeeps.
Mirabelle excused herself a moment to talk to one of the men, and Keena stood waiting and hugging herself. The report on summer weather here had said temperatures ranged from seventies to the eighties in summer, with sudden changes upon occasion, but to Keena it felt more like sixty. Ranch hands was what Keena thought she had read they were called.
Books by Tressie Lockwood
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