Home > A Brand New Ending (Stay #2)

A Brand New Ending (Stay #2)
Author: Jennifer Probst

Prologue

The crickets screeched a symphony she ached to sing along with, but Ophelia kept quiet as she crept through the thicket of woods and searched for the pinprick of light. Her sneakers were soundless over the pine needles, and the full moon guided her way to the edge of the path.

Already, her heart pounded rapidly in her chest, and her palms were sweating.

Why did he always incite such a strong reaction? When had a tight childhood friendship turned so rapidly into something so exciting and lustful and . . . forbidden?

A beam of light swerved in a full circle, then flashed twice.

There.

She headed over. In moments, he was pulling her into his arms.

Her soul sighed. The clean scent of washed cotton and hay surrounded her. Kyle held her tight: chest to chest, legs tangled together, his breath warm against her cheek. Seconds dragged without either of them speaking. They shared a rare form of communication—the years spent together as children and then teenagers created an extra foundation allowing them to be comfortable with silence.

Finally, she lifted her chin and looked into his forest-green eyes that held the power to stun her with their intensity. “Did you tell your father about our plan?”

His face set to stone. “No. I tried, but he didn’t want to listen. I don’t care anymore, Ophelia. I don’t owe him shit.”

“You’re right. You don’t.” The relationship between Kyle and his father ripped at her heart, but she knew the emotional abuse Kyle had dealt with over the years had taken its toll.

“What about you?”

“I wish I could tell Ethan, but my brother’s been so pissed since he found out about us. I’m afraid he’ll tell Mom and Harper. They expect me to start college, and I know if they find out our plan they’ll try to stop me from going.”

Kyle and she had just graduated high school and experienced the most idyllic summer together. But things were about to explode. Instead of getting a college degree, helping her mother run the inn, and doing the stable thing, she’d be ditching college, leaving her entire family behind, and jumping into the unknown.

“They’ll understand. When we get there, we’ll call your family and explain that we made some important contacts in California and had to move out there for a while. It won’t be a lie because we’re going to make this happen. Once they see our success, they’ll forgive us.”

“What about Ethan?” she said, her fingers interlacing with his in a quest for strength.

God, she hated sounding so unsure.

She was eighteen years old and knew exactly who and what she wanted, but her older brother was Kyle’s best friend. He’d lost his mind when he found out they’d been secretly seeing each other in a romantic way. They’d been the three musketeers for so long, it’d never occurred to any of them there could be anything more than friendship.

Until it had.

Kyle stroked her hair back. “Ethan will forgive us, too. He’ll barely be able to breathe the next three months in basic training. By the time we’re married and settled in our careers, it won’t matter anymore. We’ve been working toward this forever, Ophelia, and we’re going to get it all. Between your singing and my writing, we’re both going to be famous. But none of it can happen if we stay here or suffer through four years of college for a meaningless degree. We have to make our opportunities—not wait.”

Excitement shivered down her spine.

Yes.

Everyone knew Kyle was meant to be a famous writer. He’d been writing forever, and even placed first in a national writing contest.

And hadn’t she been told by every music teacher that her voice was special?

Now that her sister, Harper, was helping out with the horse farm and her brother was entering the military, it was finally her time to focus on Kyle and their careers. She couldn’t imagine a world outside of their small town; though she was nervous, Kyle would be with her. And Kyle was meant for bigger things than working a farm with a father who despised him.

“You’re right.” She smiled up at his beloved face. She never got tired of studying him. From his shaggy, white-blond hair that covered his slightly crooked brows to his sharp blade of a nose and those lush lashes that should have been bestowed on a girl, he had always been good-looking—and the most sought-after boy in high school. His square chin and dimples were the knockout punch.

But he’d never been interested in anyone else. Just her. A buzz of satisfaction and joy shot through her veins like the fizz from a newly opened soda can. She had nothing to worry about. She just needed him.

He smiled back, lowered his head, and kissed her.

The sweet thrust of his tongue against hers weakened her knees in the biggest cliché of all. His lips moved over hers with a familiarity and expertise that had been practiced for endless months in secret—the thrill of getting caught only adding to the pleasure.

“I love you,” he whispered against her mouth.

Excitement shot through her at the raw emotion of his voice, the glint of savage intensity in his eyes.

“I love you, too.”

“We leave in the morning. I have enough money saved to hold us over for a while.”

His words spun around her and created a warm web of protection. She refused to show any doubt. Besides, he hadn’t convinced her to do anything she didn’t want. They were strong and they’d make it—together. She tilted her chin up.

“I can’t wait.”

He flashed a grin. “This road trip will be our first adventure together, with many more to come. Just you and me.”

His second kiss drove the promise home—a kiss filled with a burning lust that made her feel all woman. “Kyle . . .” she breathed, his name a symphony on her tongue.

“I can’t wait till you’re my wife,” he murmured, licking her lower lip, then biting it gently. “Can’t wait till you’re truly mine.”

“I already am.”

“Not in all ways. Not yet.”

Kyle wanted to wait until they were married in Vegas before making love. She’d begged him to change his mind, but he had a core honor about her first time and wouldn’t budge. The idea of finally not having to stop shot tingles down her spine. Soon. Very, very soon, she’d have everything she ever dreamed of.

They both would.

If only she’d known the road ahead that looked so bright and promising was really choked with weeds, thorns, and poison ivy. That it led not to happily ever after, but to a cliff dive over shallows filled with rocks.

If only she’d known how quickly the love of her life and new husband would betray her.

If only she’d known her dreams would shatter and leave her to return home with nothing but emptiness and regrets.

If only she’d known.

Ophelia kissed him back and believed.

Chapter One

Ten Years Later

Kyle Kimpton drove up the familiar curving driveway of the Robin’s Nest B & B. The trees swayed almost in welcome, branches bent under a thick coating of ice. But with every foot gained, his breath squeezed a bit tighter in his lungs.

He was back.

His gaze swept over the inn, noting the extensive renovations and the care taken with each detail. The bright-blue trim of the Victorian farmhouse shone clearly even in the January gloominess. Mounds of snow covered the landscaping, but he had a feeling come spring the flowers and plants would be as impeccably groomed as their owner. The wraparound porch was brand new, sporting an array of wicker furniture with bright cushions and plush afghans set around a mobile fireplace. Silvery lights wrapped around the porch railing, twinkling merrily. Beyond the inn, the endless blanket of white broke open to reveal the thrust of the mighty mountains in the distance, sitting arrogantly between the fat wisps of misty clouds. A perfect winter wonderland. A peek into what he’d always believed Narnia could be.

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