Kiss My Boots(5)

By: Harper Sloan

I hate him for having this power over me.

I hate that I feel the pain of those memories sear through me as if they had happened mere seconds before and not nearly nine godforsaken years earlier.

I hate what he represents in my life.

And most of all, I hate that I care so much.

I’m used to letting those lost parts of my life define the person that I’ve become. I build a shield out of them, keeping everyone out except a select few, and in the end all it’s given me is a whole lotta nothing.

I’m alone.

The story of my life, it seems.

Not alone in the sense that I have no one. I do . . . have someones, that is, but I don’t have someone, and for a girl who’s only ever wanted to feel the love that the other half of your soul can give you—that means a whole lot more than I care to admit.

To be fair, not all the blame for my solitary life can be placed on Tate Montgomery’s shoulders, though a big ol’ heavy ton of it can. I guess, if I want to be technical about it, a large portion of the emptiness I feel stems from the woman who birthed me. Calling her a mother would be a title she doesn’t deserve, but until recently, I would have given anything to have her claim it.

I was too little when she left to have any real memories of her—only the fantasies that I’ve built around the idea of having a mother—but just because I can’t actually recall anything about her doesn’t mean that I don’t feel her rejection down to my bones. My brothers, God love them, did everything—still do everything—to show me I was loved, but growing up with the father we had. . . . His hate canceled out a lot of what Clay and Maverick tried to give me.

Aside from my brothers, the only other person who I know loves me unconditionally is my best friend, Leighton James. We’ve known each other our whole lives. Cheered each other on during every single step we took to become the women that we are today. There isn’t a single part of my life that her presence hasn’t imprinted upon. She is just as much a part of my family as my brothers are, especially now that she’s marrying one of them.

If I’m being completely honest with myself, her and Maverick coming together and finally finding their happily-ever-after is playing a big part in this self-pity stew I’m cooking up nice and powerful.

I’ve avoided finding mine.

I’ve dissuaded male attention and advancements because I know deep down my heart will only ever belong to one man. It just so happens that he wasn’t strong enough to fight for it.

Tate taught me to trust him. Every summer that he spent at his grandparents’ ranch only solidified his unrelenting pursuit of me, of us, of our future together. It took him almost four years to convince me of his adoration, his undying love and loyalty. He took a sixteen-year-old girl who had always feared trusting in the very thing he was offering and made her believe. For two years we survived on emails, phone calls, and only two months out of the year being spent physically in the same place. That was all it took though. The foundation we built was meant to be everlasting—even if his promises hadn’t been.

He taught me trust.

He showed me love.

Then he gave me pain.

So, no . . . all the blame might not be able to fall directly on him, but a large part of it does, and the rest of that dadgum blame only seems to be exacerbated with the unwelcome addition of his memory.

“For fuck’s sake,” I grumble, angrily swiping at the wetness leaking from my eyes. I look out my office window toward the brightly lit garage floor and contemplate my next move.

That’s a lie. I don’t think about a dang thing. I drain the last of my beer, grab my purse—a sweet black leather find I got at Coach the other weekend—and make quick work of turning off all the lights that the guys left on when they scattered. Gravel crunches and grinds under my steel-toed-cowboy-booted feet when I spin from the shop door and look down Main Street. It’s only seven at night on a Friday, but like clockwork, most of the businesses around are dark and closed for the night. There’s only one that I care about, though, and the bright-ass glow spilling from the front windows into the dusk around it makes me quicken my steps.

I hear my name right when I reach for the door to the PieHole, but I’m a woman on a mission. I burst into Leighton’s bakery with determination and look for her blond head behind the counter.

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