We fell in love. Then our world fell apart.
I wished so hard for Cole Danforth. And one day, he came true. He was my first boyfriend, my first lover, my first and only love. He should also have been my last.
But in a split-second, we were ripped apart, our lives broken, my heart shattered. After ten years, I’ve returned to my hometown, the place of my greatest joy and darkest pain.
Cole is still here, but the beautiful boy I’d loved is gone. Now he’s a ruthless, unforgiving man determined to feed both my resentment and my lust.
Then our torturous past encroaches again, trapping us in a violent storm.
But this time, there is no escape.
“Sir?” The security guard phones in from downstairs. “There’s a woman here insisting she needs to speak with you.”
“Let her in.”
I turn off the intercom and unlock my office door. A few minutes pass before the door flies open. Josie barges in, her hands fisted and an angry light in her eyes.
“You are an asshole,” she snaps.
“I’ve been told.”
“How dare you pull that kind of stunt?”
“It’s the truth.”
“And we both know damned well you brought it up only because I’m involved.” She tosses her backpack and art portfolio onto a chair. She’s trembling with anger. “I don’t care what you think about me, but bringing the people of this town into our personal shit is low, even for you.”
My shoulders tense. “Even for me? What do you know about me?”
“Nothing anymore.” She slams her hands to her hips, her features twisting. “But I used to know everything about you. Do you remember that? Then you walked out on me right when I needed you the most, proving you were never the man I thought you were. Now I find out that you run this company like a dictator, you’re crushing independent businesses and putting people out of work, and you’re publicly trying to stop me from creating a mural that’s intended for both this town and my parents. What the hell happened to you?”
“You happened to me.”
The words fly out of my mouth before I can stop them. The pencil I’m holding breaks in two with the force of my grip.
Josie steps back, her eyes widening. Her dark hair is windblown, her cheeks flushed, her chest heaving under her old army jacket. I’d once had the right to comb her hair back from her forehead, slide my palm over her neck before edging my fingers into her V-necked T-shirt…
Anger crushes my chest. I shove away from my desk and stride toward her. Fear flashes in her green eyes, which pisses me off even more. When the fuck was she ever afraid of me?
I grab the lapels of her jacket, yanking her closer. Our lower bodies collide. She gasps, a little catching noise in the back of her throat that used to get me hot in a second.
It still does. My blood starts to boil. She tilts her head back, her eyes flashing. I lower my head to look at her, fighting to ignore her scent—goddamned summer leaves and cherry candy.
“I once would have done anything for you.” The words grate roughly from my throat. “And then I failed you in the worst possible way. I failed you, I failed Teddy, and I failed your parents.”
She stares at me, her eyes widening. “Cole, I—”
“When you left, I hoped with everything I was that you’d have a chance at a normal life.” I pull her closer, anger warring with the undeniable flare of lust. “That you could be happy again if you weren’t constantly surrounded by reminders of everything you lost. Everything I took from you.”
“Goddamn you, Cole Danforth.” Fire flames over her expression. She plants her hands on my chest and shoves herself away. “The only thing you took from me was you.”
What If duet PREQUEL
The conclusion to the What If Duet
New York Times & USA Today bestselling author Nina Lane writes hot, sexy romances about professors, bad boys, candy makers, and protective alpha males who find themselves consumed with love for one woman alone. Originally from California, Nina holds a PhD in Art History and an MA in Library and Information Studies, which means she loves both research and organization. She also enjoys traveling and thinks St. Petersburg, Russia is a city everyone should visit at least once. Although Nina would go back to college for another degree because she’s that much of a bookworm and a perpetual student, she now lives the happy life of a full-time writer.