Callie Winters left Idaho seven years ago, shrouded in secrets and lies, and vowed to never look back. Walking away from the only boy she ever truly loved, Callie works hard to forge a new life for herself. Waking one day to find herself homeless and penniless, she returns to Idaho where she finds a man in place of the boy she loved so long ago.
Tate Corbin spends his days jumping fires, trying to forget the girl who obliterated his heart seven years ago. Happy at last, Tate is ready to move on with a new love, but doubt takes seed when a ghost from his past returns. He vowed to never let her in again, but the embers of the past begin to burn hotter than ever before.
As the friendship is rekindled, secrets are revealed and new threats surface. Second chances are meant to be a way to start over- but how far do you go to protect it?
Tapping the microphone, feedback blares out of the speakers and people quickly put their hands to their ears until it dulls out. “Sorry about that,” my dad says, as he tilts the microphone down so that it’s right next to his mouth. “Hello, everyone. For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Johnny Corbin, and this here as you may know is my son, Tate. Many of you know him as the smoke jumper who keeps our town from being engulfed by flames. But tonight, my son and his beautiful girlfriend gave me some amazing news, and I wanted to share it with you all. Tonight, I found out that my son is engaged to be married!”
Cheers and hooting erupts from the crowd while a few of the guys from the crew start drumming on the tables. Trista throws me a wink, and I feel my cheeks heat from the attention.
“Now, if you could all please stand so I can officially make a toast.” People stand and raise their beverages in the air. “To my son and my future daughter-in-law, I love you both and couldn’t be happier for you. To Tate and Julia!”
“Tate and Julia!” The call rings out from the crowd while everyone slings back their drinks.
“Tris, next round for everyone is on me!” my dad calls, which earns him roaring applause from the customers.
“I think you’ll probably regret paying for everyone’s round, Dad,” I raise the beer to my lips and look around at the packed room. “There’s at least fifty people in here.”
He grins as he steps off the stage. “It’s okay, you know Trista isn’t going to make me pay full price for it. Not if she wants our family gumbo recipe, that is.”
I shake my head and begin to laugh, but feel my throat constrict as people lower themselves back into their seats and my eye catches sight of the doorway. The acute tingle of apprehension prickles the hairs on the back of my neck and my hands turn cold and clammy as memories I’d long suppressed begin to slam into me.
The bottle slips from my fingers and I recognize the sound of shattering glass, followed by the familiar touch of Jules’ hand around my arm tugging me away from the broken bottle, but my mind is somewhere else entirely. My mind is back seven years ago, the last time I saw her.
“Tate, honey, are you okay?” Jules says lifting her hand and gently pressing the back of it against my forehead. “What’s going on? You look like you just saw a ghost.”
I want to answer her and tell her that I’m fine, but my entire body is in shock and the sight of those pale blue eyes is holding my brain hostage, making it impossible to speak. Her eyes lock with mine and a sharp pain pierces through my lungs as I suck in a sloppy breath.
I swallow and force myself to blink. “Callie,” I rasp out. “Callie’s back.”
C.J. McKella is a romance writer living beneath the hot Arizona sun with her husband and their cat, Kaylie. She devotes her days to working, and her nights writing, allowing the characters in her head to come to life. When not working or writing, she can be found reading, binge-watching Netflix, or playing video games. A romantic at heart, she has a love for stories, and all things ending in happily ever after.
C.J. McKella loves to meet new people. Stop by and say hello!