“I hope so,” I heard myself saying.
Her eyes lifted to mine and she pressed her lips in a tight line before replying, “Me too.”
I took another step back as a sudden urge to kiss her hit me from out of the blue. “I didn’t mean what I said about you not being my type. My brother was giving me a hard time, and it seemed like an easy way to make him stop.”
Her brows lifted in surprise. “So, I am your type?”
“Hell yes…I mean…you’re different.”
“Different?” she asked, one brow arched in confusion.
“Different good. Definitely good.”
She attempted to hide her chuckle. “Different good. Okay, then, good to know.”
I rubbed the back of my neck and tried to ignore the heat in my cheeks. “I’m gonna stop talking before I dig myself in deeper.”
“See you around then,” I said as I tipped my head and then quickly turned and walked down the hallway.
I barely heard her reply.
“See you around, Tanner.”
I told myself not to watch him walk away, but I could not pull my gaze from his retreating body. My heart raced in my chest, and the moment he reached the steps, I quickly stepped into the room and quietly shut the bedroom door.
My forehead dropped against the cool wood, and I took in a long, deep breath, then exhaled. “Oh dear,” I mumbled. “What in the world was that, Timberlynn Holden?”
I walked over to my phone and pulled it out. Candace was the last person I had texted, so I pulled up her message.
Candace: I miss you already. Let me know when you get there!
Maybe Candace was right. I needed to let my guard down some. But a guy like Tanner...handsome, an unbelievable body, someone who wasn’t looking to settle down...I couldn’t open myself up for that let down.
I quickly sent Candace a reply.
Me: Made it safely. It’s cold here, but just as beautiful as I remembered it.
Candace: And Tanner? Is he home?
I sighed as I replied.
Me: Yes. For at least a month.
Candace: Gurl…you better get on that!
Laughing, I almost called her but sent a text instead.
Me: Shut up! I’ll call later tonight or tomorrow.
A light knock at the door had me freezing in place as I placed my phone down. “Come in.”
Kaylee poked her head in and gave me a huge smile. I instantly felt a rush of happiness wash over me. “Is the room okay?” she asked as she stepped in and shut the door behind her.
“Is it okay? Look at that view!” I pointed out the window as Kaylee walked up to me.
She looked out the window and sighed. “Do you see why I left Georgia?”
I laughed. “I thought you left because Lincoln moved here.”
She wrapped her arm around mine. “That was one of the reasons, well, the biggest reason. By the way, I sort of let it slip your birthday was the other day. Stella wants to make you a cake to celebrate. Hope that’s okay.”
Smiling, I looked at her. “That is so sweet of her. And so kind of them to let me stay here.”
Kaylee waved her hand off like it was nothing. “Trust me, you’ll be more comfortable here, and I’m positive Stella loves having another woman in the house.”
“Plus, the newlyweds want their privacy still, I’m sure,” I added with a wink.
My cousin Kaylee never blushed, at least I had never seen her blush, but a light shade of pink splashed over her cheeks and she looked adorable. “I’m not going there. Back to you. Are you still considering Montana as a potential new home?”
With a shrug, I dropped her arm, turned, and picked up one of my suitcases. I tossed it onto the bed. “I am. It’s here or Utah.”
“Utah?” she asked with a shocked voice. “Why would you want to be there when you could be here with me? Has Utah gotten a second visit from you?”
I flashed her a snarky smile. “No, I’ve only been the one time. You do make a good argument, cuz.”
Kaylee let a smile play across her face that screamed she was hiding a secret. Maybe even two. I was dying to ask her if she was pregnant but decided to let her tell me when she was ready. One look at her, though, and I knew she was. She just had a look about her. And her eyes seemed different. Yes, she was madly in love, but there was something else in there. “I have something to show you tomorrow that I think will sway you to pick Hamilton.”
I laughed. “Is that right?”
“Yep. I know you have a job and all.”
I bit into my lip. “Well, actually, I don’t have a job. I sort of quit when they wouldn’t let me off for Christmas to come here.”
“What?!” Kaylee gasped as she sat on the bed and looked at me with a stunned expression. “Timberlynn, that is not like you to do something like that. You’ve always been such a planner. Are you able to simply quit like that?”
I hated when people told me I was a planner. Everyone assumed I had laid out my life when, in fact, everyone else had done it for me. And out of guilt, I had gone along with everything that had been asked of me. I was so tired of always living by a set of rules I never implemented for myself. “More like my life was planned for me.”
Kaylee frowned and looked down at her hands.
“I’m sorry, Kaylee. It’s just that for the first time in my life I’m totally free. No one is hanging anything over my head, and I feel like I’ve finally stepped out of the shadow of my mom.”
“You don’t have to tell me you’re sorry. If anyone deserves to do what in the hell they want, it’s you, Timberlynn. Have you, um, have you heard from your dad lately?”
I scoffed. “No. I’m pretty sure he’s forgotten that when I turned twenty-four I got my trust. Or he simply forgot my birthday.”
“I had forgotten you got your trust fund!”
I nodded. “Cory did an amazing job growing it, Kaylee. I can buy some land with a house on it. I’d even be happy with a fixer-upper.”
Her eyes widened as something struck her. “Wait, your dad didn’t call you on your birthday?
I shook my head and tried not to let the hurt feelings come rushing back. When I crawled into bed on the night of my birthday, I cried myself to sleep. It was the first time my father had totally forgotten my birthday. Sure, he’d missed countless parties, or showed up to them late. But he never forgot my birthday. Ever. “No, if he’d remembered, I’m sure he would have just lectured me on what he thought I should do with the money instead of actually saying happy birthday to me.”
“I’m sorry, Timberlynn.”
With a humorless laugh, I went on. “It’s okay. But, the good news is I can pay cash for a place and still have some money to start a breeding and rescue business. I’ve already looked into the area here and asked about the potential need for another trainer. There’s a demand for someone to train horses. Jumpers, dressage. Oh, and to breed more Dutch Warmbloods, Oldenburgs, breeds that are amazing for dressage competition.”
“You want to get into breeding as well?”
I shrugged. “I wouldn’t mind. My main focus will be the training and horse rescue, though.”
Kaylee smiled. “Is that not needed in Utah?”
“It is, but there are more trainers there than here. So, another point for Hamilton. To be honest, I wasn’t sure how many people competed in dressage, but there’s a large number in the area.”
Her smiled widened. “So, total freedom?”
I nodded. “Total freedom to finally do what I want.”
“And a chance to put the past behind you.”
“That too!” I said, trying to make my voice sound light, refusing to let the past creep into the now. It didn’t always work, though. I often had nightmares about my mother and the car accident. My father holding her in his lap. So much blood. The way he screamed her name. It was an image I knew I’d never forget.
; “Hey, are you okay?” Kaylee asked.