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Description: Welcome to Burnt River, a new series of Contemporary Western Romance stories set in the fictional town of Burnt River, Montana. Brought to you by Shirleen Davies, Peggy L Henderson, Kay P. Dawson, Tristi Pinkston, and Kate Cambridge. Thorn’s Journey, Book Two, Burnt River Contemporary Western Romance Series, by Shirleen Davies. Thornton “Thorn” Macklin, ex-Special Forces sergeant, has returned home to focus on his future. Scorpion Custom Motorcycles is one of the two dreams he pushed aside when he left Burnt River. The second dream? Well, it died long ago. Grace Jackson works hard to be successful, trying to forget the one great mistake from her past. Returning to Burnt River to work for the family business forces her to confront her future—as well as the man who shattered her heart. Being close to his brothers, helping at the ranch, and working with lifelong friends is exactly what Thorn needs. The last person he expects to see is the woman who vanished from his life without a word. Now she sits in her plush office down the street, resurrecting emotions, as well as memories he’d buried long ago. Not only must he confront his feelings for Grace, he and his friends face another danger. Someone wants their new business to fail, and isn’t above putting people at risk to achieve this goal. Guarding against threats is what Thorn does best. Protecting his heart from the woman he’s never forgotten is another matter. Could coming home, and the hope of a second chance, be his ultimate journey? Thorn’s Journey, book two in the Burnt River Contemporary Western Romance Series, is a full-length novel with an HEA and no cliffhanger.
“Mind if I join you?”
She jumped, startled at the familiar voice. Twisting around, she saw Thorn a few feet away, a bag from Evie’s in his hand. Pushing aside the lump in her throat, she gestured to the other side of the table. “Go ahead.” Picking up her drink, Grace did her best to ignore him and the butterflies now lodged in her stomach.
Unwrapping his sandwich, Thorn couldn’t seem to move his gaze away from Grace, studying her features for signs of the girl he once loved. Taking a bite, he chewed slowly, making her squirm under his intense gaze.
“Did you follow me?” She took another bite, but the sandwich now tasted more like cardboard than chicken salad.
She looked around, expecting to see Josh and Tony walk up any minute. Grabbing her drink, she took a long sip, deciding the best way to deal with him being so close was to talk.
“I eat here all the time. Two or three times a week, in fact. Sometimes there are families with children, but most days, it’s quiet, like today. I’ve even brought my fishing rod a few times, although I’ve yet to catch anything. Seems the older I get, the less luck I have. I…” Her voice faded when she saw Thorn raise his hand.
“Do I make you nervous?” He wadded up the sandwich paper, easily tossing it into a can several feet away.
Grace crossed her arms, scowling at him. “Of course you don’t make me nervous.”
He mimicked her behavior, crossing his arms, although his lips turned up at the corners. “Then why are you babbling? I don’t remember you being so chatty.” Some perverse pleasure washed over him when he saw her face redden, her eyes going wide.
“It’s called small talk, Thorn. It’s what people do when they’re trying to break the ice, be sociable. You should try it sometime.”
He studied her a moment, his gaze hooded. “I’ve seen you naked, Grace. Several times. Do you really think small talk is necessary?”
Without an inkling of warning, she picked up her cup and threw the contents at him. Shock came in an instant, followed by disbelief, then a sputtering laugh as he stood, letting the liquid sluice off him.
Grabbing her trash, she tossed it into the can, then picked up her purse. “You’re such a jerk, Thorn. I don’t know how I ever loved you. Leaving here was the best decision I ever made.” Her stomach twisted when his smile disappeared, replaced with something she couldn’t quite define.
Standing, Thorn stepped beside her, leaning down to whisper in her ear. “You’re right. My love would never have been enough for you. I’m all the things your father thought—and worse.” Straightening, he adjusted his sunglasses and strode away, not bothering to check her reaction. If he had, he’d have seen the indignation of a moment before replaced with grief and regret, tears welling in her eyes at the love they’d lost and the pain that replaced it.
Shirleen Davies writes romance—historical, contemporary, and romantic suspense. She grew up in Southern California, attended Oregon State University, and has degrees from San Diego State University and the University of Maryland. During the day she provides consulting services to small and mid-sized businesses. But her real passion is writing emotionally charged stories of flawed people who find redemption through love and acceptance. She now lives with her husband in a beautiful town in northern Arizona.