Running from pain--falling into love.
Letting Go of the Reins, Book 1
Weeks before Thanksgiving, Kally Jensen leaves her life in Michigan and her abusive fianc? behind. With her sister's money, a teddy bear and bruises she cannot hide, she tries to disappear. She almost does--permanently--when icy roads force her car into a ditch, leaving her stranded and injured on a cattle ranch in Hulett, Wyoming.
Fate answers ex-police officer Slade Carlson's unspoken need for change by delivering a hypothermic girl into his arms. Kally is like no call he's worked before; her abuse-related injuries and unconscious cries for mercy pierce his lonely heart. Nursing Kally back to health and helping her see life beyond the pain gives Slade the purpose he's been looking for.
Holding back his feelings until she can work through her own emotional pain will be the hardest thing he's ever done. Yet new love blossoms like a Christmas Lily in the Wyoming winter.
Still, Slade's love may not be enough to protect Kally when the shadows rise from her past...
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December 16, 2008
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Excerpt from Slade and Kally by A E Rought
Goose bumps coated my skin, my breath rose in thin plumes and my feet were numb in winter's grip. I kept looking for a house, a car, anything to show signs of life. I must have marched along the loneliest road in Wyoming, because my search proved to be more hollow than the new moon above me. Then, running on the inside of the fence and off into the property, I found a path. I took off my sweatshirt, threw it over the barbed wire and scrambled over the fence and face first into the snow.
The barbs released my shirt from their nettled grip, and I pulled the holey sweatshirt back on. The path was narrow, meandering over the uneven terrain and in-between stands of aspens and pines. Hillsides poured into little valleys dotted with scraggy bushes and full Christmas tree pines before climbing again. After the third of fourth incline and fast slide down the other side, I noticed my chills were gone. A detached feeling replaced them. I raised my hand to the cut on my head. It was dry. Either the cut had frozen, or the blood just wasn't getting there.
Even I knew in my frozen, muddled consciousness, decreased blood flow and no more chills were dangerous.
Drowsy weight settled in my limbs. My eyes drooped, then flew open wide at the sight of a light and a low roofline. It was a small building, maybe just a barn. At least it could provide shelter. I left the path I had followed and plowed through a flat field of pristine snow. Yards from a roofed cattle pen, my left foot slipped and sank. I didn't realize until icy water gushed over my calves and into my boots, that I'd floundered into a pond. Instinct ticked in my muscles, and I fell backward instead of face first into the frigid depths.
Mud seeped through my clothes, caked my scalp. Water dripped from my body when I crawled from the muck. I managed to collapse on the bank, where the damp mud held me in a wet embrace and fresh snow blanketed me. I panted, watching the plumes of my breath rise in the faint blue glow of the halogen lamp while the cold soaked into my bones, into my guts, which lay inert beneath my skin.
Irony struck me like an icy club. I'd left Matt because I was afraid he'd kill me. Now here I lay, dying. A sick, strangled laugh escaped me. Though a ray of light flashed across the pond, black fields encroached on my vision and a chilly invitation to a long cold sleep tempted.
"What in the world?"
A voice rang in the little snow filled dell. I lifted my head from my icy bed and saw a man in a low profile Stetson hat riding toward me on a white horse. The image of him sitting astride the horse framed in snowfall was etched like ice in my mind. He trained the beam of his flashlight on me and our gazes locked. "Gid-up!" He spurred the horse and it charged around the edge of the pond I'd stumbled into.
The man dropped from the saddle and pushed his hat from his head. He nestled his Maglite into the snow so that it shined on me. Steam rose from his dark hair, and his expression flared hope in me. His eyes were polar ice blue and angel robe soft. No matter how I wanted to look at his face forever, my eyelids sagged. His hands were clear in my hazy vision. Hands weren't always good. Matt had hit me with his hands. A little knot of fear tightened in my gut, but this man was gentle. "Come on, girl. Stay with me."
"Car crash." I muttered. I couldn't say more. Nothing came out but a shaky breath. He nodded, and a frown knit his brows together.
He pulled the gloves from his hand and patted my thighs and arms. "You're soaked to the bone and freezing."
I wanted to nod my head in agreement, but my fine motor skills were frozen too. His fleece-lined jacket smelled of Stetson cologne when he pulled it off, the scent of sweat sweetened with fabric softener rose from his long underwear shirt. "Let me help you."
I couldn't have fought him if I wanted to. I had no strength left. My field of vision narrowed when my eyelids drooped again. He wadded the shirt into a soft mass and patted my face dry. Despite the sting of his shirt against my cheek, I was grateful for his touch. My head lolled to the side while he wiped down my arms. I was less appreciative when he used the shirt to sop water from my shoulders and chest. Pain blazed from my shoulder socket and radiated through my arm and chest. A weak cry escaped my lips, but the onset of hypothermia had iced over my tear ducts.
"Hush now." He stopped, placing a warm hand on my cheek and shushing me. "We have to get you dry you before you freeze to death."
It might be too late.
He stood, more silhouette than man to my increasingly fuzzy vision. Putting his hat back on, he bent to wrap me in the clothing he'd removed. I couldn't feel him touching me. I was beyond feeling, slipping into the numb, quiet dark. The pain eased. The cold eased. My vision failed. There was only me and him. His chest was the last thing I saw when he wrapped his arm around my back. The last thing I felt was the warmth of his bare skin.
Me and him.