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Colorado Mountain - 4

Kristen Ashley


To Carly Phillips,

Thank you for remembering what it’s like and doing your bit to pave my way.

You. Are. Awesome.


When I needed to understand how a small town library works, I did what I usually do. I phoned a friend. Or, in this instance, I emailed the fabulous Dixie Malone at Denver Public Library. Dixie has provided a lifeline often throughout the years of our friendship and she didn’t disappoint. She laid it all out for me and gave me little bits and pieces to make Faye’s experience as a small town librarian richer for my readers.

So, Miss Dix, you know I adore you. Now I adore you even more. I thought this was an impossible task but there it is.

And, as always and ever, thank you , Chas, for taking my back.

Author’s Note

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I encourage you to find the music I mention in this book and either listen to it while you read or later. Emma Mae Bowen’s “Holding Out for A Hero”, Dobie Gray’s “Drift Away” and all the rest will put you in the mood and place you right in the action. And I hope that’s a good place to be.

Thank you to KT for sending me the link to Emma Mae’s awesome, freaking song. And bonus, Angela Gray, my Pinklady reader/friend, turned out to be Emma Mae’s auntie. Now seriously, how is that for the sisterhood binding tighter?

Rock on!

Chapter One

Never to Be His

“Talk to me.”

Chace Keaton was whispering to no one, sitting alone in the very early morning February cold of Harker’s Wood.

The place where his wife was shot to death.

Harker’s Wood was an unusual spread of trees in the Colorado Mountains. Unusual because it wasn’t simply conifer and aspen. For some reason that was likely akin to the reasons Old Man Harker did all the crazy shit he did, he had cleared that space seventy years ago and planted hundreds of shoots of twenty different varieties of trees. Trees that shouldn’t take root in the Colorado Mountains. Trees that, by some miracle, not only took root but grew tall and remained strong.

It was late night. The snow was thick and deep. It was freezing cold. There were a few clouds but the full moon shone bright through the trees, gilding them silver.

Chace didn’t see the trees or the moon. He didn’t feel the cold seeping through his jeans that were resting on the snow covered log which his ass was on.

He saw nothing.

He heard nothing.

He waited for the wood to talk.

It wasn’t talking.

He’d been up there countless times since Misty was shot there. Her death was purposefully not investigated by strict, detailed police protocol.

Not by the Carnal Police Department.

Not then.

Not when it was infested.

Now it was no longer infested.

But that didn’t mean Chace didn’t come up there alone, without a tail and instigate his own detailed examination of the area.

He found nothing.

And the wood never talked to him. Not back then. Not now.

Misty’s blood had long since washed away or mingled with the dirt. Now that dirt was covered in snow.

But Chace saw in his mind’s eye the footprints.

And, Christ, the knee prints.

Two sets. A man’s, a woman’s. Both of them walking up the well-tended trail to the wood. Only the man’s walking back.

Misty was wearing high heels. She always wore high heels. Chace liked women in heels. That said, the ones his wife wore made her look like a whore.

He’d noted several times in the footprints that marked her enforced walk, after being beaten badly, probably at gunpoint, definitely scared out of her mind, where she’d stumbled. Other times where she’d fallen.

But he’d done her on her knees.

Chace closed his eyes.

Very few people knew that they’d found semen on her chin and in her stomach. He knew because he was a cop in that town and her husband.

And he knew that before she was shot to death, she’d been forced to her knees in order to give her killer a blowjob.

The bile rushed up his throat and in the months since his wife had been beaten, violated and murdered that had happened countless times too.

Kiss me, Chace.

Her voice came at him in a memory, brutalizing his brain as it had every day, so many fucking times a day, he couldn’t count.

Her last words to him.

She’d been begging.

Kiss me, Chace.

He hadn’t kissed her. They’d been married for years and except the kiss he had to give her at their wedding, he hadn’t kissed her once.

Not once.

Instead, he’d felt his lip curl, something he didn’t hide from her, and he’d walked away.

As he swallowed the bile down, his eyes flew open when he heard someone approaching.

Then he heard a stumble and a female hiss the bizarre word, “Frak.”

He came to his feet silently, instantly alert, and his gaze swung to the trail where the noise was coming from. His hand went to the gun in the holster clipped to the side of his belt. It was his service weapon. He wasn’t on duty but he always wore it. His mountain town of Carnal, Colorado might have recently emerged out from under a small town tyrant’s thumb but that didn’t mean it was safe.

He blinked when she came into view, her head down, the top of her hair covered in a knit cap the color he couldn’t tell in the moonlight. Her eyes were to her feet as she stomped through the snow to get to the clearing.

As if sensing him, her head shot up and when she saw him, she stopped so abruptly, her body rocked.

Chace stared at her.

He knew her.

Jesus fucking Christ. What the fuck?

He said not one word. It was fucking two in the fucking morning in the freezing cold in the middle of nowhere that just happened to be the scene of an ugly, bloody murder. And she was there. He didn’t know what to say because he didn’t know whether to be pissed or seriously fucking pissed.

She said not one word either. Then again, she was known for being quiet and not just because it was an occupational hazard, seeing as she was the town’s librarian.

Surprisingly, she broke their stare but she did it mumbling, “Uh…”

At that sound, Chace decided to be seriously fucking pissed.

“What the fuck?” he asked.

“Um… uh, Detective Keaton,” she replied then said not another word but her eyes were locked to him. Her long, sleek hair flowing out from under her cap was a midnight shadow against her light, puffy vest and the scarf wound around her neck. Her face was pale in the moonlight.

And, fuck him, he liked her voice. He’d heard it before, not often but he’d heard it. And he’d liked it the other times too. Quiet, melodious, like a fucking song.

Yeah, he liked it. A fuck of a lot.

Just not right then even if it was the first time she’d uttered his name. Or one of his names. The name he’d prefer she say was his first and he’d like to hear her say it when she was on her back, her rounded body under his, his cock inside her and he’d just made her come.

Something he’d never have.

This reminded him he was seriously fucking pissed.

So he repeated, “What the fuck?”

“I… uh –”

“Spit it out, Miz Goodknight. What the fuck are you doin’ in Harker’s Wood, at the scene of a murder at two in the fucking morning?”