Leaving Shadow Creek nine years ago was the hardest thing Molly Mayberry’s ever had to do…except maybe returning. She’s never regretted her choice, but a chance of a lifetime position at the local hospital means going home and facing her past, including her shrew of an estranged mother and the fiancé she ran out on. Ben Matthews is still the sexy, sweet man she left behind…and apparently still her fiancé.
Ben has been doggedly pursuing the position of fire chief since he was a teenager. There’s just one problem—he has to show his boss he’s ready to settle down. No matter how silly the condition, Ben will make it happen. And apparently so will his brother when he opens his mouth and decides to tell everyone Ben and Molly are engaged. Now the one woman he never stopped loving is living with him in a fake relationship, driving him crazy. Pretending only reminds him how right they were once, but if Ben gives in to the heat building between them, heartache is sure to follow.
Each book in the Shadow Creek, Montana series is STANDALONE
Molly Mayberry knew she was living her best life.
She was twenty and had just completed her second year of med school. Some called her a genius, but she had always just thought of herself as a hard worker. She’d finished high school by the time she was fifteen and had completed her undergrad by eighteen. Not having a social life helped—except this summer, everything had changed for her. She had met a guy—no, a man—who saw her for more than just some weird, smart girl; he got her on every level.READ MORE
She was going to marry Ben Matthews. They were going to have two or three children. They were going to buy a ranch house with a view of the mountains. They would raise their family in Shadow Creek, Montana, because it was idyllic, filled with old-school, American values. People greeted each other on the sidewalk, helped a neighbor in need, and believed in community.
Ben and Molly were destined to live happily ever after.
She tucked an errant strand of hair behind her ear and waved to Ben when she spotted him entering the fairgrounds. He was pretty easy to spot, with his height and athletic build. He was one of the town sweethearts. Their small town did like to play favorites, and he and his brother, Finn, were amongst them. Their father was the local fire chief, and both boys were following in their father’s footsteps. That seemed to add to their appeal. She knew full well that half the single female population thought of Ben and Finn as the hottest catches for miles around. She had to agree. But for some reason, gorgeous, sweet, fearless, Ben had sought her out. Though they had only been dating for three months while she was home for the summer, she knew he was her soul mate.
“Hi beautiful,” he said, shooting her that grin that made her giddy and kept her smiling as she fell asleep at night. He leaned down to give her a kiss that was respectable enough for a public display, but hinted at what she knew would come later, in private.
“Hi,” she said, still holding on to him.
He took her hand and they started walking amongst the crowds where all the food vendors had lined up alongside booths with various craft items and local artisan products. They spent the day holding hands and walking and talking and eating. He shared his pumpkin pie, and she shared her fries and gravy. He won her a giant stuffed bear at the ring toss, and they kissed on the Ferris wheel as dusk settled and enveloped them, making everything surreal.
Molly had always wanted to go to the Harvest Festival Twilight Dance, and this would be her first time attending. After many wardrobe changes, with her sisters’ approval, she’d finally settled on a navy sundress with a cropped matching cardigan and sandals. She was pretty sure Ben, who was three years older than her, had attended the dance many times before, but she wasn’t worried or insecure. He made her feel like she was the only woman in the world. He pulled her close on the makeshift dancefloor, under the umbrella of twinkling white lights and starlit sky. He smelled crisp and clean with a hint of citrus. He led them to the corner where they were partially shielded by a grouping of aspen on the outskirts of the grounds.
The teasing sparkle that she was used to seeing in his eyes changed, and he looked serious as he raised his hands to frame her face. She tried not to audibly sigh out loud. She was vaguely aware that she was naive and inexperienced compared to him, but he never made her feel that way. He made her feel like they were both incredibly in awe of each other, of this special love they’d found.
“I knew the minute you spilled your coffee on the front of my shirt outside of the library that you were special. I knew by the end of our first date that I loved you. And I know now that I want to spend the rest of my life with you. I know you still have years left of school, and I’m not working full time yet, but I’m yours, if you’ll have me. I haven’t got a ring yet because I want to save enough to get you the one you deserve to have. So I guess what I’m asking is—”
She didn’t wait for him to finish. She jumped into his arms and said yes. She said yes to whatever he was offering because she felt the same way. They were young, and they had their whole lives ahead of them.
He spun her around, and they laughed and kissed.
She held on to him like they would have a thousand tomorrows.
She held on to him with the belief that life would play out exactly as they wanted, like their sheltered world could protect them from the gut-wrenching heartache that the real world could lash out, without any warning.
Molly held on to Ben that night, certain nothing could ever tear them apart, certain that love could conquer all, and that the good guys always won.