“No need for bail. Her father said no charges and to let her go. It was an accident,” Shane Lowry said as he unlocked the bars in front of me.

“You locked her in a cell? Are you fucking kidding me, Shane? Did she look dangerous to you?” Bray’s tone went from incredulous to angry so quickly I almost missed it.

Shane shrugged. “Dude, it’s my job. She’s just in a holding cell. I picked her up wearing . . .” He pointed at me. “That! She had matches in her hands and the porch to her parent’s house was burning in front of her.”

In other words, he was sure I was insane. At the moment, I thought he might be correct. Who runs out of their house without clothing, their purse or phone drives until they run out of gas, walks the rest of the way, just to burn a house down?

I sounded mental.

But the sight of that house burning. The smoke. My mother’s hysterical screams. All of it. Every second was worth it. Somehow it had allowed me to let go. Free all the ugly I had kept buried inside. Toss it into the flames and watch the ashes float into the air.

Shane let me out, and Bray was grabbing me and pulling me into his arms faster than I could move toward him.

“Dallas,” I blurt out, worried that Bray was here and not there.

“Stable. He’s going to live.”

I sank into his arms pressing my head against his chest. Relieved that the youngest Sutton boy had another chance at life. He was my only alibi. Until Bray.

“As much as I like you wearing my shirt I am going to need you to wear clothes before I take you to the hospital.” His eyes were smiling, but he was pretending to be serious.

I lifted a shoulder. “So my dirty feet and messy hair are okay?”

He scanned me with his gaze. “Every inch of you is fucking perfect, Scarlet. But if I have to threaten one more man with my glare for taking in those legs and bouncing tits of yours under this shirt it’s going to be me in that cell.”

It wasn’t time to smile. We had to get to Dallas. I’d just committed a crime that my father . . . was letting me get away with. Was that his last parting gift? His peace offering?

Whatever it was didn’t matter. What did matter was that for the first time in my life I felt normal. I felt loved. I was enough. The dirty was gone. Burned with the ashes and memories.

“WHERE ARE WE?” I asked as Bray pulled into a driveway I don’t know in Moulton. We were supposed to come back here today and help Brent move his stuff out of the house and into his new place. I knew his apartment wasn’t a house. And this was most certainly a house.

“Moulton,” Bray said with a smile.

“I know that! But this isn’t your momma’s and this isn’t Brent’s apartment in town,” I pointed out.

Bray opened his car door and stepped out, then walked around and opened my car door. I sat there staring up at him. Waiting on some reasonable explanation for this. Where were we?

Finally, Bray sighed and reached in his pocket to pull out a key. One single key. “This should open the door.”

I stepped out of the car. Ever so slowly. Never taking my eyes off of Bray. My hand reached up and took the key he was holding. “Why do you have a key to this house?” I asked him, then turned to really look at the house.

It was a white brick house with an arched entry and a two-car garage. I fought back the sudden surge of want that came over me. Wanting a house like this was foolish. We were good with our camper trailer in Robertsdale. Although we had been talking about moving back to Moulton. My parents were divorced and neither lived here anymore. I had burned my memories—literally—and I was ready to start new. Begin a life that was happy. Change the way I saw this town.

Dallas had graduated high school and would be headed to college in the fall. Bray didn’t say a lot about it but I knew he wanted to come back home to help his momma. Brent and Steel had been at home while Dallas went through his physical therapy and slowly got back on his feet. He’d never walk like he once had. Sports weren’t in his future and the farm wasn’t ever going to be something he could work at full time. Every day was a battle for him but he was a fighter.

Now he was leaving, things were about to change for all of them.

“Because I bought it. That is pending you like it. If not, then the deals off.”

Those words stopped my train of thought. I blinked several times. I stared at him with my mouth agape. I even ran back through other things he could have just said and I could have misunderstood. None came to mind. How could he buy anything like this? But what other word could he have just said? It sure sounded like he had just said “bought” as if that wasn’t a big deal. Asher and Dixie had just bought their new house and they’d been married two years. We weren’t even engaged.

“You bought it?” I asked still unsure.

He grinned “If you like it I did.”

“How?” I asked, still not running to check out things. I could tell by his expression that was exactly what he wanted me to do. But I didn’t think my legs were properly working at the moment.

“With my stripper job I keep on the side,” he said sarcastically. I frowned confused then realized his little joke. I slapped his arm and he pulled me against him. “I saved for a down payment. I didn’t agree to living in the trailer all this time so I could drink my money away at a bar. I saved. Every damn penny I could.”

The smile on my face was so big it hurt my cheeks. I didn’t care. I was so excited about the house I had yet to go inside of that I grabbed his face, kissed it, then darted for the door with the key in my hand.

Quickly working the new lock, I walked inside, then gasped. It was beautiful. From the vaulted ceilings to the wooden floors. It was more than I could have imagined. More than he should have spent. I could feel him watching me. I waited a moment to soak it all in. Remember how perfect it was. That he had wanted me to have this. Then I turned to him. I smiled and shook my head.

“It’s too big.” I had meant to say something that sounded more negative but it was impossible. This house fit me. It was perfect.

Bray narrowed his eyes and moved in toward me. “Really?” he asked.

I nodded but didn’t trust my voice. My eyes wanted to take in the rest of the place, but I struggled to keep them focused on Bray. “What if I sweeten the deal?” he asked me in a low seductive whisper.

My thoughts instantly went to sex and I started to laugh when he lowered himself in front of me. I swallowed hard and tried to figure out what other reasons there were for Bray to be kneeling here in front of me. None came to mind.

“Scarlet North, I’ve loved you since the day you did your best to seduce me. Neither of us knew it yet, but you would change my life. Brighten my world. Show me how to be brave. And give me hope. I can’t make it a day without you by my side.” His mouth lowered to my hand and I stood there in the foyer of the home he’d bought for us. A life I never imagined could be mine. My eyes filled with tears.

“Will you marry me?” Those four words would be the moment my life changed forever.

The demons were finally gone. And love had won.

Tags: Abbi Glines South of the Mason Dixon Romance
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