She’s his best friend’s widow. Molly Boyd’s entire world unraveled when tragedy turned the man she loved into her greatest threat. Her ex-husband’s death has left her pregnant and alone, struggling to put her shattered life back together—and her confusing feelings for his best friend aren’t helping matters. For years Jase has been a solid, steady source of comfort and friendship. Now she can’t stop seeing him as something more. And just as she’s wrestling with her shifting feelings, a new danger from her ex’s past threatens everything—including her and her unborn child’s lives. But she’s always been the one. Jase Weaver is an expert at unrequited love. Years ago he stood by and watched his best friend marry the woman of his dreams, and he’s endured his suffering in silence ever since. But when Carter’s self-destructive tailspin threatened Molly, Jase stepped in to make her safe. And when Carter died, Jase stepped up to be her rock. Now he can’t stay silent any longer. He’s wanted Molly forever and it’s time she knows it. So when a new threat against her emerges, Jase will put his own life on the line to protect her, no matter the cost.
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Molly Boyd clamped her teeth together to keep them from chattering and hunched into a tighter ball in an effort to keep warm, but it didn’t help. She was cold all the way to her bones, her sodden clothes sticking to her skin. A summer rainstorm pounded down outside the shelter of the culvert she huddled in—hiding from her ex-husband.
Shock kept advancing and retreating, trapping her in an emotional fog. She’d never imagined she would end up like this. Not even after everything she and Carter had been through.
The left side of her face throbbed. Her cheek was bruised, her eye swelling slightly, and her lip burned where Carter had backhanded her. Her bare feet stung from the scratches she’d sustained in her flight to this lonely culvert at the side of the road.
All of it was eclipsed by the pain in her heart.
She closed her eyes, fought to hold off the memory of him breaking into the house and coming at her with that terrifying, predatory expression on his face. The memory of escaping the house, slamming that branch over his back and running for her life through the darkened woods.
Tears threatened. She shook them off, refusing to give in. If she started crying now, she might never stop, and she had to stay alert because she was still in danger with Carter looking for her.
What am I going to do?
She shivered harder, tucked her knees up tight to her chest and leaned her forehead on them as she fought to keep from spiraling into the black pit of despair yawning at the edge of her consciousness. Jase was coming. She’d called him and he was coming. He would find her, help her, and he’d alerted the cops. He would make sure she was safe—even if it was from his former best friend.
At the faint sound of an approaching vehicle, her insides tightened in fear. She lifted her head, her gaze darting toward the road, dreading the moment the familiar black pickup came into view again. Carter had driven up and down this road earlier, shouting her name through his open window for endless minutes. He would never stop looking for her.
Headlights cut through the gloom. She turned her face away and squeezed her eyes shut, willing Carter away. The divorce papers had set him off, even though he must have known they were coming.
She sat perfectly still, heart hammering against her ribs as she waited, hardly daring to breathe lest the slightest motion give her hiding spot away.
She flinched at the male voice all but drowned out by the thundering rain, her heart rocketing into her throat. Shit, she was trapped here. Carter was former Special Forces and the waterlogged ditch was too steep. She’d never be able to climb out and escape him if he found her this time.
“Moll. It’s Jase.”
Jase. The fear receded instantly, the cold inside her thawing under a tide of relief as she turned her head toward him. She trusted him. Trusted that he would protect her and keep her safe, no matter what.
He was wading toward her through the flooded ditch, a tall, strong silhouette, his jeans soaked to the knees. She couldn’t move, couldn’t call out. Her muscles were too weak and shaky to obey her.
Gathering her courage as he came nearer, she forced her gaze up to meet Jase’s. The instant their eyes connected, she almost lost the battle to keep the tears at bay.
Frowning in concern, he quickly climbed into the culvert and knelt down beside her. Before she could find her voice, he reached out and gently grasped her chin in his warm fingers. His jaw was tight, his aqua eyes burning with outrage. “Did he do this? Did he hit you?” he demanded, voice vibrating with horror and anger.
Molly’s fading composure crumbled. All the emotions she’d been holding back crashed over her like a dark wave, taking her under. She leaned toward him just as the dam broke.
Jase made a low sound and reached for her, wrapping his strong, warm arms around her as she laid her head on his shoulder. He ran a comforting hand up and down her back gently. “Are you hurt anywhere else?”
Just her heart, now shattered into a thousand jagged pieces.
She shook her head, her entire body trembling while she choked back the sobs trying to claw their way free of her throat, the humiliation all but strangling her. This was a nightmare. Only she wasn’t dreaming.
“All right, let’s get you out of here.” Jase slid one arm beneath her knees and lifted her, keeping her close to him as he carried her out of the culvert and through the water-filled ditch.
Molly ducked her head against the pelting rain and curled into him. She didn’t know what to say. Was ashamed to tell him what had happened.
“I’m gonna boost you up, then come right behind you.” He lifted her toward the steeply sloping side and helped her scramble over the edge before climbing up the side. Before she could even get to her feet, he scooped her up again, ignoring her mumbled protest as he strode for his truck, parked close by at the edge of the road.
Molly curled against him, still trying to come to terms with everything that had happened. As well as something…something that was still happening inside her right now.
Jase opened the front passenger door and carefully placed her on the leather seat. The interior was warm. Almost hot compared to outside.
“Hang tight.” He disappeared for a moment, opened the rear door to grab something and came back with a jacket. He tucked it around her, did up her seatbelt because her hands were still shaking and shut the door. Once he had climbed into the driver’s seat, he cranked the heat to high and reached over to aim the vents at her.
Molly sighed in relief as the warm air flowed over her. The numbness was retreating, leaving a sapping exhaustion in its wake.
Still leaning toward her, Jase reached up to stroke her wet hair away from her face, his eyes worried. “Moll, do you need to go to the hospital?”
“N-no. I’m okay.” You’re not. And you’ll never be okay again.
“What happened?” he asked, turning the truck in a tight circle and starting back up the road.
She huddled beneath his jacket and told him about Carter breaking into the house and attacking her in as few words as possible, her voice hitching due to the little gasps still jarring her lungs.
Jase was silent as she finished, his stubbled jaw clenched tight. He shook his golden-brown head, and a deep, terrible shame engulfed her, almost worse than the pain of Carter hitting her.
But there was more to her story. So much more. She didn’t want to hide the rest from him and had intended to tell everyone anyway. Just not like this.
“And it gets worse,” she added, her voice barely above a whisper.
He looked over at her sharply.
She didn’t speak for a long moment, staring out the windshield into the gloom. “I’m pregnant,” she finally said, her voice breaking.
NY Times and USA Today Bestselling author Kaylea Cross writes edge-of-your-seat military romantic suspense. Her work has won many awards, including the Daphne du Maurier Award of Excellence, and has been nominated multiple times for the National Readers’ Choice Awards. A Registered Massage Therapist by trade, Kaylea is also an avid gardener, artist, Civil War buff, Special Ops aficionado, belly dance enthusiast and former nationally-carded softball pitcher. She lives in Vancouver, BC with her husband and family.