T he spinning of the carousel caused my mind to zone out. The round and round motion hypnotized me to the point where I let my mind be free of the chaos that hid in the darkness. Four years’ time had passed since I stepped foot in my hometown. Now, in a matter of hours, I’d be returning home where everything began.
I loved growing up in the small town of Breckenridge, Colorado. My childhood consisted of horses, meeting all kinds of people, loving parents, annoying siblings, and a family feud with the Parkhurst’s.
Life was grand.
Until it wasn’t.
That’s when I decided leaving was my one and only option. To save myself and my sanity, I got a late acceptance to Emory and Henry College in Virginia. Instead of going to Colorado State University, which was the obvious choice and one I received an early acceptance to, I decided to take my chances and flee across the country.
My parents weren’t happy to say the least. Out of state tuition costs were extreme, but I couldn’t stay here. Being here now caused my anxiety to soar, but I couldn’t stay away any longer. No more excuses would work. My mother wanted me home for my graduation party. Since obviously flying everyone to Virginia wasn’t an option, I complied.
They say home is where the heart is. What they forget to tell you is home is where the memories are, and sometimes they just aren’t worth reliving.
My bag finally came around on the conveyor belt. As I leaned forward to grab it, someone bumped me from behind, causing me to almost fall on the still moving metal in front of me. A hand wrapped around my waist seconds before I fell face first. My whole body tensed at the thought of some stranger touching me in this way.
Whoever it was righted my body and made sure I was steady before letting go. A hand reached around and grabbed the luggage that I’d reached for before it got too far out of sight. I brushed down my clothes with shaking hands before I gained the courage to turn around and face my savior.
A familiar voice called out, thick in a Southern drawl, causing my heart to speed up in a way it hadn’t since I left.
“Hey there, Ainsleigh.” Damn him for still sounding so damn good. The second he knew he still affected me all would be downhill, and he wouldn’t leave me alone.
I made sure that my facial expression remained neutral before I turned all the way around.
“Gentry,” was all I could manage to say as I looked up at the green eyes that I used to get lost in.
He’d changed so much, yet he remained the same.
His skin was still the color of honey from all the hours he spent outside in the sun. His green eyes still had flecks of gold around his pupils that most people wouldn’t notice. But I wasn’t just some random person. For someone who spent so many hours of my childhood hanging on to every word he spoke, I knew every inch of them. The most obvious change was the muscle he’d gained over the years. He was bulkier, but in all the right ways. I had to force my eyes to remain staring at his so he wouldn’t catch me giving him a onceover.
He looked good. Damn good. And that was dangerous.
“That’s all you have to say,” he spoke while he took the handle out of the case that I’d forgotten he’d retrieved. I tried but failed to grab the handle from his grasp. He was too damn polite for his own good. Instead of arguing, I crossed my arms over my chest and remained rooted to the spot. I didn’t need nor want him here. I especially didn’t want him helping me with my bags. The days of needing and wanting him were long gone.
What was my mother thinking sending him here?
“You used to be a woman with so much to say. I guess that’s changed over the years.”
He was wrong. I still had plenty to say. I just wasn’t saying it to him. There was nothing left to say. I’d said it all in the letter I left him. Yes, you read that right. I was too much of a coward to face him before I vanished without a trace. He would’ve tried his damnedest to get me to stay, and part of me was afraid he’d get me to change my mind.
He took my silence as a warning and started to walk away. With no other choice, I followed behind him. Trying so hard not to notice the way his ass looked in his blue jeans.
The revolving doors opened, and we stepped out into the Colorado sunshine. Taking a deep breath, I relished in how fresh the air smelled and how the sun felt against my skin. I missed the air here. Often times, I would close my eyes as I laid on the grass at the college and would imagine I was laying in one of the fields and taking in the smells and sounds of the quietness around me. Only, I wasn’t here and something would always break me free of the thoughts I longed to take part in.
Gentry led us over to where his beat up old truck sat parked in the middle of two, what appeared to be, brand new cars. It looked so far out of place, yet he didn’t seem to mind. I always asked him about trading it for something newer, but he always refused. Apparently, he still didn’t want to part with the old heap of metal.
I stood outside the passenger side door. Too afraid to be trapped in the vehicle with him for an extended amount of time. The door creaked and groaned as he opened it and tossed my luggage inside.
“Get in,” he demanded, breaking me from the thoughts of being alone with him.
I hated when he got bossy, which he’d done often enough when we were younger.
So much time had passed, yet he remained his bossy ass self.
Grumbling my reluctance under my breath, I pushed the button of the door handle and climbed inside. The worn leather of the seats had more cracks than the last time I’d been in here. However, it still smelled of fresh, clean laundry thanks to the air freshener he kept clipped to the vent.
The truck roared to life loudly causing me to jump as I took the backpack I’d used for a carry-on off my shoulders and sat it in the floor. Laying my head on the headrest, I turned toward the window of the door and stared out at the open highway we were about to enter. The next almost two hours needed to hurry and pass by. I wasn’t one to wish time away, since it was so precious, but getting away from the reason I’d left in the first place couldn’t happen fast enough.