Moira Callahan knows a thing or two about fresh starts. Second chances are a different story…
As an empath synced into the energies of spaces around her, Moira always understood what people needed, and tried to provide. But after escaping an abusive D/s relationship, she’s ready to make her own rules as the owner of the Cloudburst Coffee & Spa. Life is good. Until her first love shows up in town seeking his second chance.
Aiden Westmorland escaped Cloudburst to learn to control his sexual needs, but he left behind the one woman who calmed his statistical empathic abilities. Now he has a chance to rekindle the fire they’d shared as teenagers, with the flavor of BDSM. But earning the trust of an emotionally scarred woman after his long radio silence is easier said than done.
When Moira’s past comes to Cloudburst, threatening the life she’s fought to rebuild, Aiden insists she go to the police. But her former Dom has a past of his own, and he isn’t willing to let go so easily this time….
But as the trail of footprints continued higher up the mountain her curiosity turned to concern. Where is this guy going? She followed the tracks all the way to an old mine site against a wall of rhyolite rock. The pink stone was stained red under the wet snow and Oro Creek dropped in a spectacular fifteen foot waterfall beyond the old mine shed ruins. The water filled the small clearing with joyful sounds and spread in a rippling pond shimmering in the wan light. The sight always filled her with wonder, but today something else stopped her feet and her breath.
Beneath icy cascade of water stood a man, naked, scrubbing his body under the spray. A huge elaborate tattoo covered his back from the shoulders to waist, and a matching sleeve coated his right arm. Dark hair, nearly black in the wet morning light, slicked down to his muscular shoulders and more of the robust muscles framed his lithe body.
Holy Goddess of the Valley. Moira damn near swallowed her tongue. I want one.
The sentiment surprised her. She hadn’t wanted a man in a couple years, not like this visceral reaction. The man in the water turned and showed her his chest. Ridged muscles marched all the way down his torso, following a line of dark hair from his belly button into the water. Sweet Goddess, he has a happy trail. He wiped the water from his face and opened his eyes, his brilliant blue gaze locking on her.
Shock radiated straight through Moira and she swore her jaw hit the snowy ground. The gangly uncomfortable teenager had been replaced by an athletic man with strength and confidence in all of his moves. A half-smile curled his lips as he strode from the water, his nipples standing taut on his chest.
Moira could no more stop her gaze from dropping to his groin than she could stop the water in the falls. Dark hair led from his belly straight to his balls and despite the cold, she appreciated the size of his package. Hell, if that’s him cold…
Aiden sauntered to his clothes left on a boulder beside the creek and scrubbed his body down with a towel, giving her a lovely view of his taut ass and back. Moira swallowed hard as she took in the intricate back panel tattoo of a Celtic knotted raven. She wanted to trace the lines with her fingers. Hell, even with her tongue. There’s no revenge quite like a man showing off for you.
She realized she’d been staring when the view disappeared under his shirt and she’d already missed him pulling on his pants. Get a hold of yourself. Moira shook her head and squared her shoulders just as he turned around, shrugging into his jacket.
He met her eyes boldly, shocking her again. “Hello, Moira.”
“Aren’t you cold?” Not her brightest comeback, but his reappearance, naked, combined with his confidence threw her off balance.
“It definitely gives a whole new meaning to chilling out.” He chuckled. “What brings you out here to the old Durango Mine?”
“I found your truck.” Moira waved back the way she’d come. “Are you okay?”
“I’m fine. Are you? You seem a little flustered.”
Understatement of the year. “Uh, yeah, okay. Right. Okay.”
He laughed, a sound remarkably lighthearted and rich, and excited joy filled her chest. She had the unreasoning need to hear that sound more often. “Are you sure? You sound undecided.”
Moira shook her head. “What are you doing here?”
He raised his eyebrows as he sat to tie his boots. “Taking a bath. It’s been a long road to get here.”
Heat suffused her cheeks and she shrugged. “Sorry. That came out wrong. I’m just really surprised to see you. It’s been a while and I haven’t heard from you, and now you’re here.” She frowned. “Why is that?”
“That I’m here?”
“That I haven’t heard from you in all this time.”
He dropped his gaze to his laces. “I went to college.”
Moira snorted. “Where? In a remote village in the Amazon where they don’t have computers, cell phones, or telegraph machines?”
He huffed a laugh, but his shoulders tightened and he didn’t look up. “I’d forgotten your sarcasm. You’ve gotten better at it.”
“I have five brothers. It was self-defense.” But hurt and anger roiled in her gut. “Seriously, Aiden. Why didn’t you write or call or hell, even find me on some social media sites? It’s not like I got married and my name changed.”
She wanted a good explanation. He’d been Shanghaied to serve in a foreign military unit or joined a biker gang. Maybe he’d fallen into a religious cult or drafted into a secret assassin organization that didn’t allow for outside contact. Anything but he just didn’t think her worth the effort to connect.
Aiden sighed and stood, his expression fading into a stoic mask. “Your family made it pretty clear they didn’t want me to have anything to do with you. I thought it would be better if I left.”
“That’s it? That’s your explanation for never contacting me again? My family?” Moira scowled. “I understand why you didn’t try while I was in high school, but not for the entire time. I moved away and lived on my own. Why didn’t you try to contact me then?”
“Why didn’t you?” He threw the question back at her as he crossed his arms over his chest.
She’d searched every place she could think to look. All the online social networks yielded nothing and no one would tell her which college he’d attended. She’d considered paying a private investigator to find him, but in the end decided it wouldn’t be worth the expense. It appeared he’d wanted nothing to do with her.
She’d cried on her brother Kieran’s shoulder for months after Aiden left, and she continued to vent her frustration for the first few years after she moved away. Eventually, she let Aiden go. Now he stood before her in all his adult glory, and threw her world upside down.
“Did you?” His lips quirked into a sexy half smile. “I figured you wrote me off.”
I did, you jackass, after six years. “Why are you here, Aiden?”
“I came back to see family.”
Anger curled in her chest. Family. Not her. “Then I’ll leave you to it. Sorry to interrupt your bath.”
Moira spun and marched back the way she’d come. It’s your own damn fault, you know. If you’d just left his truck alone you wouldn’t have run into him at all. It wasn’t strictly true—Cloudburst wasn’t large enough to hide him long, but she wouldn’t have seen him today. At least her anger kept her warm as her boots marked a new trail in the snow. She should have just left painful enough alone.