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Tyler Wilde moves to Black Widow, Texas, to join the Blue Guardians, a local biker club that helps abused women and children. He’s intent on starting his life over, but a small piece of his past collides with his present when he runs into the local waitress, Annie Carter.
Annie’s the girl of his boyhood dreams, and Tyler can’t wait to get reacquainted with her. Only problem is, Annie’s engaged. But what has Tyler more troubled than the diamond on her finger is the bruise that graces her arm. To make matters worse, Annie’s abuser and intended husband is also the town’s Chief of Police.
Tyler is determined to offer Annie a safe haven, but she refuses his help until her life is hanging by a thread.
The sun seared Tyler’s back, causing sweat to pour down the length of his spine and his T-shirt to stick to his skin. Nothing like the gulf coast humidity to make a man feel as if he was frying from the inside out.
Rose bushes around the town square bloomed giant Pepto-Bismol pink petals, while a gentleman in blue overalls tended to the flowers like they were his babies. Tossing a wave to the man, he rounded the corner on Holly Drive and parked his bike in front of Sandi’s, the local diner. The undercurrent scent of flowers, bacon, and fried donuts drifted in the air. Man heaven. Except for the flowery part. He’d driven by the diner everyday for two weeks but had yet to pop in. If the food tasted as good as it smelled he might have to make this place a regular hang out.
He pushed through the heavy wooden door as a bell rang overhead. Weaving around customers, all giving him a curious stare, he strolled up to the takeout cash register. Glass cases filled with donuts and the biggest kolaches he’d ever seen stared back at him. His stomach growled.
He eyed the case, his mouth watering, as he waited on a server to notice him.
“Be right there,” a tall, shapely blonde called out from across the restaurant as she handed another table their check. He’d been wrong. To hell with the donuts and bacon. She was man heaven.
A few escaped strands from her ponytail framed her face, and the closer she got to him the darker the black circles under her eyes appeared.
A spark of recognition fired in his brain while an equally hot spark ignited a red flag in his gut. It wasn’t her slightly unkempt hair or her pure look of exhaustion that rubbed him the wrong way. Despite all of that, she was still beautiful.
But her clothes. Her clothes had his head reeling.
She wore long sleeves.
“What can I get you?” The beauty stared up at him.
He shook off the strange feeling. A bead of sweat dripped down her forehead, fell onto her chest, and into her shirt. Her nametag was positioned right by the tantalizing skin of her chest. Annie.
He glanced down at the donut case. Stare at the food, big guy.
“I need two dozen glazed donuts, two dozen chocolate, and a dozen sausage kolaches.”
“Got a lot to feed?” Annie grabbed a box from the counter behind her and placed it on top of the glass case in front of him.
“Yeah, Donut Day, or so I was told. It’s my turn to bring breakfast, and there’s about a dozen mechanics over at Rakes expecting it.”
“Rakes? You must be new,” a redheaded waitress noted as she rounded the corner and filled a customer’s coffee cup. While she was cute, she had a wet-behind-the-ears look to her. He’d stick with Beauty.
He nodded. “I am.”
“I’ve got your table seven covered while you do this, Annie. No big deal.”
“Thanks, Gina.” The blonde smiled at the redhead before returning her attention back to him. “I’ve brought my car to Rakes a few times, and I’ve never seen you.” Beauty grabbed a towel from the counter to wipe the sweat off her forehead, then dabbed her chest near a gold locket that hugged her collarbone.
Her tasseled hair seemed sexier the more she dabbed. He’d never been as jealous of a towel in his whole life, the cotton fibers taunting him with their task.
He averted his gaze from the towel and her amazing chest before she labeled him a pervert. Not exactly the reputation he wanted for his new life.
“I’m sad I didn’t get to work on your car.”
God, what a horrible pick-up line. She probably thought he was a giant perv and a complete moron.
She flashed him a half-smile that burned his insides. The diamond on her finger nearly blinded him as she brushed a stray strand from her forehead. The fire inside of him fizzled out like baking soda to a grease fire.
He forced a grin then shot his gaze down to the pastry case.
“Though, I will say…” She tossed the towel aside and stared at him. “Something about your face looks oddly familiar.”
He glanced back up. “Yours does, too, but I don’t really see how.” The spark in his brain burned brighter the more he stared at her.
“Are you from here, or is your family from here?”
“I’m not, but my grandpa was. He lived in a cabin about ten miles outside of town.”
“By Virginia Creek, right? Mr. Wooly.” Her smile grew. “Yeah, you used to come visit him. You guys would go fishing.”
“How’d you know?” He’d never talked to anyone when he came to visit his grandpa. He’d stayed in the woods, hidden and safe. Or at least, that’s how he’d felt.
He stared at her a bit longer. The blue in her eyes reignited a small light of recognition.
Could it be?
“I remember you.” She grabbed a pair of tongs off the counter top. “I used to play out by the water, and I would see you across the creek casting your line. You taught me how to skip rocks one day.”
Moments of his past flashed across his mind. It was her.
The girl across the water.