Lost in the
shadows of a tragedy that stripped Aurora June of everything she once loved,
she’s back in the small town of Balsam Grove, North Carolina, ready to face all
she’s kept locked away for seven years. Or so she thinks.
As one of
the victims of a string of mysterious disappearances in the small, picturesque
Appalachian Mountain town, darkness has become her home—her safe blanket when
the world reveals its true colors. But as the walls of darkness start to move
in on her, she knows the only way to free herself from her past is to face it,
head-on. She just needs to figure out how.
arrival, Aurora isn’t expecting her first collision to be with the boy she left
all those years ago. The boy who betrayed her trust with no regrets. The boy
who is no longer a boy, but a man with the same stormy eyes that swept her into
his current before she ever learned to swim.
thought he was safe. He’d thought their path was mapped out. Turns out neither
of them was ready for the crash at the bottom of the cascade.
As I approach the edge of the winding river less than a minute’s walk from my cottage, it’s like someone has injected me with life. With a lift of my chin, I close my eyes and inhale until I’m no longer dulled and disoriented. Everything becomes clear. In Balsam Grove, I breathe the air with new lungs, feel the breeze with new skin, and see the land through new eyes.
I don’t try to navigate my way. I hike beside the river, around every curve and bend, uphill and against the current. It’s a familiar path, but my focus isn’t on the destination. Every now and then I stop to take a drink from the stream, pluck a fiery pink flower, and tune into a wild animal scampering across fallen leaves. But it’s not until I reach a steeper incline that I take a moment to assess where I’m headed.
The river has significantly increased in speed since I began walking a few minutes ago. A steeper incline forces me to distance myself from the water’s edge, onto a more manageable path through the woods. My thighs burn from the steady climb, and my throat aches from dehydration. I never planned to journey this far, but I could have at least thought to bring water. I’m ready to turn back, find the river, and drink from it when I spot the top of a familiar red house peeking over the hill. Hummingbirds unleash in my chest as I inch forward.
Mere seconds later, I’m standing on flat land again, taking in the two-story home that overlooks a waterfall, an old millhouse beside it. It’s like it came out of nowhere, but this house—it’s home to some of my best memories, my biggest dreams, and the beginning of the horrible nightmare that ended life as I knew it.
“Ah, that’s my girl,” a voice booms in the distance. “Bring it here, Lacey.”
My eyes sweep left, to the source of the river. Two waterfalls coming from different directions spill into one body of water where Jaxon treads. He’s patting the water as Lacey paddles over with a stick in her mouth.
Jaxon takes the stick, then rubs her head before she continues paddling to the edge of the river. After she climbs out and does a full body shake to dry off, he tosses the stick to the side and turns back to the water, swimming lap after lap until I’ve lost count. Every powerful stroke reveals inches of well-cut muscle and betrays his familiarity with the water.
Jaxon always loved everything about the water. Diving, swimming, fishing…sex. I shiver at the memory of how well our slick bodies fit together. Of his delicate fingers stripping me of my bikini top so he could see all of me as he inched his way into my body, my heart. Of his hot mouth wrapping around my pebbled nipple just to hear my whispered cry. Of the way he watched me with hooded eyes as I came for him, my back pressed against a boulder and the plunging falls above us swallowing my cries.
He took everything good from me, but it was me that handed it over for the taking.
He’s still mesmerizing, and I can’t take my eyes off him now. With every stroke, I imagine him swimming away from me, away from our past and deeper into the rushing swell of the stream. How long has he been swimming? How far?
I swallow my anxiety as he finally breaks from his exercise to catch his breath. When he does, I’m as breathless as he is.
I’m not sure how long I’ve been staring when he uses the slick rocks to pull himself from the water, but I’m completely captivated by the droplets coursing down his naked back and arms. He’s all strength and agility, effortlessly pulling himself to his feet. I should turn away, but I don’t. Instead, I watch as water glides from his long hair, down his narrow waist, and then over the most beautiful ass I’ve ever seen.
I gasp, my hand clapping over my mouth. But it’s too late. One slip of my breath is all it takes for Lacey’s snout to jerk in my direction and sound off the first menacing growl.
is an award-winning author and Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences graduate
from the University of Washington who writes heartfelt and inspirational
Contemporary Romance stories mainly about “Capturing the Edge of Innocence.” K.K.
currently resides in central Florida, works full time as a Digital Producer for
a leading online educational institution, and is the mother to a ridiculously
handsome little dude who owns her heart.
K.K.’s publishing journey began in June 2014 with the YA Contemporary Fantasy
trilogy, The Summer Solstice. In 2016, K.K. published her first Contemporary
Romance, Up in the Treehouse, which went on to win the Romantic Times 2016
Reviewers’ Choice Award for Best New Adult Book of the Year. With K.K.’s love
for inspirational and coming of age stories involving heartfelt narratives and
honest emotions, you can be assured to always be surprised by what K.K.