Out of the Storm (Buckhorn, Montana #1) - B.J. Daniels

CHAPTER ONE

THE GOLD WEDDING band came off more easily than she thought it would. It had worn thin over the years and so had she. But still it left an indentation in her flesh, a reminder of so many things, including the promise she’d made all those years ago. She quickly slipped it back on.

“Kate?”

She looked up, blinking at the handsome young man on one knee in front of her. She was thirty-nine, a whole year away from forty. She had the rest of her life in front of her.

“What’s going on, Kate?”

She swallowed and met his blue gaze. He was so different from Danny. Collin was younger, incredibly handsome, and he was alive and offering her a very different future. For almost twenty years, she’d been a widow, a single mother of two daughters and alone. She looked down at the ring he was holding out in the small velvet box. The diamond was big and beautiful.

She’d never had anything like it. When she and Danny had gotten married, they’d been teenagers and hadn’t even been able to afford rings. He’d had to borrow the money from her father to buy them.

“I thought you were ready for this,” Collin said as he brushed a lock of sunshine-golden hair back from his face. The disappointment in that face brought her out of her thoughts of the past. Danny was gone. Their daughters were now raised and on their own. It was time to think about the future.

She looked down at the wedding band on her ring finger, unable not to think of the day Danny had put it there. They’d been so young, so naive, so much in love. The ring had symbolized that amazing love all these years. She’d vowed never to take it off. For years, she’d held on to his memory like a life raft, needing what it meant to her to keep her head above water during the hard times and feeling safe during the lonely nights. But she knew it was time to let go. Danny wasn’t coming back.

Over the years, she’d dated, but no one felt right. Until Collin. She met his blue gaze and felt herself smile. Slowly, she slipped the ring off again, closing her fist around it.

Holding out her left hand, she let Collin slip the beautiful diamond engagement ring onto her finger. It felt heavy and a little loose.

“It’s official,” he said, grinning. “We’re engaged. And none too soon.” He laughed to take away some of the sting from his words as if he hadn’t meant to complain. She’d been putting him off for months. While she’d loved being with him, the thought of marriage had brought back thoughts of Danny. She and Collin had both wondered if she would ever agree to marry him.

Rising from his one knee, he pulled her up off the couch and into his arms. “We need to celebrate, and I have just the thing.” He drew back to meet her gaze. “No, I’m not going to tell you what it is. It’s a surprise. But you need to go pack because we are leaving first thing in the morning.”

“Leaving?” Kate looked at him in alarm. All of this was suddenly happening too fast. She felt as if she was on the washer’s spin cycle. “Wait—”

He put a finger to her lips. “No more waiting, Kate. It’s time you trusted me. I’m going to be your husband.”

She met his eyes again. She could feel the weight of the ring on her finger. This man was going to be her husband. She couldn’t speak around the lump that had formed in her throat, so she merely nodded. Collin hugged her even more tightly before releasing her.

“Go pack. Bring warm clothes. Leave everything to me. I’ll pick you up at six in the morning. It’s going to be fun, Kate. You’ll see. The adventure is about to begin.”

It wasn’t the first time he’d asked her to marry him. A few months ago, he’d tried only to see that she couldn’t take off her wedding band. Any other man would have headed for the door right then. But not Collin.

He’d given her a sad smile and said, “I think they’re playing our song.” Except there hadn’t been any music playing in the living room of her house, and yet he’d pulled her up from the couch and into his arms.

“I’m sorry,” she’d said as he drew her closer and began to move slowly to the nonexistent music.

“It’s all right,”

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