The answer is a resounding “no.” I don’t want to be caught up in that. It’s the story of my life with men. I end up taking care of them, helping to figure out a way to battle their demons. I’m done being the fixer of broken men, and yet… I can’t lie… I’m still pulled toward this man.

I wish I could put my finger on what this is. Why am I feeling such a strong pull to someone who just spells bad news all the way around?

The most I can do is try to reassure Jorie and Walsh. “I’ll be careful, I promise. I just really want to make sure he’s okay.”

And once I discern whether he is, I’ll need some validation I wasn’t misreading the connection I thought we had. It’s fine if he wants to call it quits because he’s not emotionally ready, but I need to know I haven’t been imagining things.



It’s Father’s Day, and there’s nowhere for me to hide.

I started the day off by taking my boat out to the lake. It was swarming with families—kids everywhere—and I realized it was a horrible mistake right away. I never even bothered to put my boat in the water.

After I left there, I decided to go hiking, figuring I might get lucky enough for a rattlesnake to bite me—maybe put me out of my misery. I’d never noticed it before, but hiking was apparently a fun and popular family event. Again, more reminders of what I no longer have, so I hadn’t even bothered to get out of my car.

I’d driven off, then ended up at some strip club. So I sit here drinking as I watch the women dance. It does nothing to take my mind off my daughter. Copious amounts of alcohol, undulating tits, and shaking asses as far as the eye can see, and all I can think about is how terrified Cassidy must’ve been at the moment of impact. She wasn’t killed right away the way April mercifully was. Cassidy had suffered before she died. It’s unbearable to think about, and I need something different to occupy my mind.

I’m stinking drunk when I leave, but all I’ve lost still swarms through my mind. Regardless, the one thing I will never, ever do is drink and drive, so I ditch my car at the strip club and take an Uber to The Wicked Horse.

I park my ass on a barstool in The Silo, which is usually where the kinkiest shit happens. No one here sparks a desire in me, though. Nothing I’ve seen has inspired me at all. Not even managed to get a tiny thump from my dick.

At least I’m not thinking about Cassidy… much. I suspect it’s the combination of my inebriation, along with the wide array of sex acts going on all around me that is keeping my mind occupied.

A large hand comes down on my shoulder and I turn to see Jerico Jameson, the owner of The Wicked Horse, seating himself on a stool to my right. I lift my chin in acknowledgment before swiveling to hunch protectively over my drink, hoping my body language indicates I’m not in the mood to be social.

“If you’re looking for Elena, she doesn’t come in on Sundays. She spends it with her family,” Jerico says in a matter-of-fact tone.

I tip my head his way again, slightly surprised he would bring her up.

“You seem to know an awful lot about your customers,” I observe, noting my slurred speech since it gives away the extent of my inebriation. It’s the first time I’ve spoken to anyone tonight other than to order a drink from the bartender.

Jerico shrugs. “Not all of them. But Elena’s special.”

There is no stopping the glare I shoot his way. His tone was way too intimate when he speaks her name, and I don’t like it.

Jerico laughs, holding his hands up in mock surrender. “I only meant she’s best friends with the wife of one of my former customers who still remains a good friend of mine.”

“Walsh Brooks,” I mutter in acknowledgment.

Jerico nods and motions to the bartender, holding up two fingers and then pointing at himself and then me. He turns my way. “You know him?”

“We used to golf together,” I say curtly as I drain my drink in preparation for the one Jerico just ordered for me. “Anyway, I’m not here looking for Elena. It didn’t work out between us.”

Just uttering those words causes a wave of longing to hit me. I may have cut her out of my life, but it doesn’t mean I don’t still want her.

“That surprises me,” Jerico murmurs. “You two were the talk of the club. Your chemistry was off the charts. I’d even observed you two together a few times. You had something special there.”