Authors: Bernadette Marie
Tags: #bestseller, #Bernadette Marie, #romance, #5 Prince Publishing, #contemporary
Other great books by Bernadette Marie
The Bestselling Series
The Keller family
The Executive’s Decision
A Second Chance
Center Stage (2012)
Lost and Found (2013)
Love Songs (2013)
Home Run (2014)
Other bestselling titles
Cart Before the Horse
Aspen Creek Series
An Unexpected Admirer (2013)
5 Prince Publishing, Denver, CO
This is a fictional work. The names, characters, incidents, places, and locations are solely the concepts and products of the author’s imagination or are used to create a fictitious story and should not be construed as real.
5 PRINCE PUBLISHING AND BOOKS, LLC
PO Box 16507
Denver, CO 80216
ISBN 13: 978-1-939217-04-2 ISBN 10: 1939217040
Copyright Bernadette Marie 2012
Published by 5 Prince Publishing
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations, reviews, and articles. For any other permission please contact 5 Prince Publishing and Books, LLC.
5 PRINCE PUBLISHING AND BOOKS, LLC.
I’m glad you were my last first k
Stan, thank you for making this my reality by letting me spend all day doing what I love. T, N, G, S, and J you all amaze me with you love and support. You are all so creative and I can’t wait to see what you do with it. Mom, Dad, and Sissy thank you for you love and support of all the crazy things I do.
Viola thank you for taking my half-ideas and making them fabulous! Connie and Marie, thank you for keeping my life organized. Anne, thank you for your wisdom of words and their order. Amanda and Gloria, thank you for jumping in and throwing yourself on this project!
To each and every one of my readers who give me reason everyday to write the stories that fill my brain, I appreciate your love and support. There is nothing I enjoy more than bringing you new heros and heroines to love.
Welcome to Aspen Creek, Colorado. This small mountain town has many stories and Cade Carter and Olivia Baker’s story is just the first to be shared in my newest series Aspen Creek.
Cade Carter lived with his single father in this small town. He grew up next to Olivia Baker and his cousin Conner Carter, and this was where their story began.
But as every story of childhood friends, people grow up, move away, and become who they will become for life. However, sometimes those paths cross again, even if fate is engineered.
Please join me in Aspen Creek and meet all the inhabitants of this quaint little town, both currently and those who laid the foundation for the town generations ago.
There was a chill in the air, even in June. Cade Carter rolled the windows up on his Porsche as he began his decent into the valley. The mountains of Colorado could deliver any unprepared traveler an array of weather to cope with, and it could change without warning in a matter of moments.
Though the higher peaks still boasted snow, he’d found the entire, long and boring trip from Green Bay, Wisconsin, to be fairly dry. Cade had considered driving his Bronco to Aspen Creek, but he’d needed the speed of the sports car and Ashley had needed it to move.
He glanced at his Rolex for the sixth time in the past half hour. He was going to be late.
Who was he kidding. He’d had no intentions of getting to his own father’s funeral on time. Had it not been for Ashley, he’d have blown it off all together. But no. The words still rang in his ears. “You have to go. He was your father. He loved you.
You owe him…
Cade gripped the steering wheel tighter. He did owe him the decency to be at his funeral, because Cade Carter had been the worst son, and he knew it.
The first sign that would alert drivers to the small town of Aspen Creek was coming up on his right. A left would take him over the next hill to the elite ski resort town of Aspen Hills. The road he veered down would drop him into small town hell.
As the deep groves of Aspen trees thinned he could see the small town at the bottom of the valley. Each street was visible, the cars looked small, and the town stood there as if someone had taken a picture of it fifty years earlier, not one thing had changed. He did see a 7-11 sign peeking above the buildings. Corporate America had moved in. That was new. At least he’d know what the coffee tasted like.
He could see City Park in the center of town. The grass was green. Green’s Market had the most cars in the parking lot and Sloan’s Diner must have just finished with their lunch crowd.
Aspen Creek rolled along the sides of town and under the Rose Bridge. It was fast, unforgiving, and cold all year long. He’d had his share of dunks in that water, some on purpose, some not. Beyond the bridge and the white rapids of the river that rushed through town with its new melt off he could see the street where he’d grown up, where his father had lived, and where he’d fallen in love as a young boy.
Cade pulled the car to the shoulder of the narrow road and slammed it into park. He lifted his sunglasses from his eyes and rubbed them. He hadn’t been back to Aspen Creek in twelve years. Long had been forgotten the sentiments of home, like people knowing your name, and not because you were some famous football player, but because you were Austin Carter’s son. High school football games, swimming in Aspen Creek, and the girl next door were things a man forgot about when he was an M.V.P.
He blew out a long, ragged breath. The comforts of a sports car were limited to the power of the engine on a man Cade’s size. He tried to stretch his legs, but to no avail. If he didn’t get out and walk around soon he’d be paralyzed in the car seat. Just another thing he deserved he supposed. Career killing injuries were just another daily reminder that he was lucky to be alive, even if he now stood on the sidelines and basked in the glory of what used to be.
It was easy for the team to cut him loose when he was no longer able to perform. The position needed to be filled by someone younger and able to play. He was just a washed up has-been now who’d collected his payout.
Adjusting his sunglasses back on his face, he put the car back into drive. He had demons to face and he’d better just get it over with. Ashley was housesitting in Green Bay and Cade was expected back in three days. He couldn’t imagine closing out his father’s life could take longer than that.
Olivia Baker sat in the cemetery alone, next to the new grave and sobbed. The funeral had been small, but Austin had kept to himself for the past two years. She wasn’t sure everyone had even heard he’d passed. She wiped her eyes. No, they all knew he’d died. He’d died right in her arms and that had gotten the attention of the local gossips.
The casket had been lowered, the chairs had been collected, and now the only man she’d ever cherished lay beneath the mound of red Colorado soil with a spray of wilting flowers atop it. It didn’t seem dignified enough.
Her jaw clenched when she looked at the few bouquets and sprays that still lingered near the grave. Not one of them had Cade’s name on it.
Damn him anyway.
What kind of son didn’t even make it to the funeral of the man who raised him? The kind like Cade Carter.
The arrogant, self-centered bastard probably had some pressing football engagement and couldn’t be bothered with his father’s passing. Some dry-cleaners probably needed him to cut their big obnoxious grand-opening ribbon with an oversized pair of scissors, and to Cade that would have always been more important than respecting his father.
Olivia noticed she’d twisted the head off a carnation at her fingertips. She unclasped her hands and looked beyond the new grave to the one next to it.
Looking at the name written in stone sent chills up her spine. She looked away. She wondered if anyone at all had come to that funeral. She hadn’t. She’d been tucked away safely in Grand Junction, again, when Conner had died. She was sure Austin had paid to bury him and had splurged for the headstone too. And she couldn’t help but wonder if guilt over Conner’s death had in some way contributed to Austin’s death.
Just beyond the gate to the cemetery she could hear the sound of tires on the gravel. It didn’t phase her. Neither did her responsibilities at the bank. Her boss Parker Woods had told her to take her time and that was what she was doing. She was in no condition to head back to town and act professional.
Tears streaked down her face from under her dark sunglasses, and she let them fall.
The hole in her heart from Austin’s absence ached and she wondered if she’d get over her loss. Her son Gage would never remember the man she adored and loved. He’d never know how much Austin Carter cherished him and loved him.
Olivia squeezed her eyes shut tight. Would she miss Austin everyday when she looked into Gage’s eyes and saw the resemblance?
She wiped away the tears and then noticed that the driver of the car, which had parked in the lot had walked across the gravel and stood only a few feet from her. She did what she could to compose herself. After all, she owed it to Austin to be gracious and welcoming to his mourners.
Olivia pushed herself up from the ground, brushed off her black skirt, and turned toward the person standing behind her.
There was an uneasiness that settled in Cade’s gut when he saw the mound of dirt before him. Could guilt kill a man of his stature?
The woman who had been sitting at his father’s grave stood before him, her elegant black dress covered in dust, but she didn’t seem to mind.
He swallowed hard. “Is this Austin Carter’s grave?”
The woman shook her head more in an effort to convey disgust than to signal that he was in the wrong place. “Why did you even bother?”
“I beg your pardon.”
“Why show up now, Cade? You couldn’t even give him the decency of being here on time?”
“I…” he had no answers. Besides who was she to be criticizing him?
Cade examined the lean, yet curvy woman in the well-worn dress who stood before him. Her hair was pulled back and dark glasses covered her eyes. Little gold bands adorned each of her ring fingers, so she could have been someone’s wife. Hell, he’d grown up in the town, maybe he did know her. But still, what he did to get the funeral on time, or not, was not her concern.
“I guess you know me. Who might you be?”
The woman opened her mouth, and then shut it again. Instead of answering she picked her purse up off the ground and searched inside. She pulled out a business card and handed it to him. “I’m the one in charge of closing out your father’s estate.”
With that, she started off to the parking lot and he watched. Back in town five minutes and he was already pissing off the women there.
He ran his hand over the back of his neck and looked at the card as the woman sped away down the hill toward town.
Olivia Baker, Vice President Aspen Creek Bank.
His head shot back up and the air in his lungs escaped him.
A man could drive into town, and the girl next door, whom he’d fallen in love with as a child, could hand him a card with her name on it and he didn’t even recognize her.
Suddenly the aches and pains in his leg, from his brush with death, didn’t hurt as bad when he was faced with a woman scorned and a week in small town hell.
Olivia pulled open the bottom drawer of her desk and threw her purse inside. Its contents spilled.
She’d clean it up later she decided as she kicked the drawer shut.
“Everything okay?” Parker Woods stood in the doorway to her office.
“Just fine.” She fell into her chair and nearly missed the edge, sending it and her back into the wall. She gripped the armrests and steadied herself.