Read an Excerpt
For Kylie Wilson, it should have been just another day in her hometown of Cedar Springs as she made her way to work at the Grizzly Paw, except it wasn’t. Not today. Something was different. And that something was the heavy, gold-lined envelope that weighed heavy in her purse. She’d found it on her front porch, propped up on her welcome mat like it was no big deal. Except it was a big deal. When she slipped her finger under the fold of paper, broke the seal and withdrew the heavy card stock, what she’d read had both taken her breath away and made her pulse speed up.
Please accept your invitation to Eden.
A one-week all-expenses paid trip to the tropical island of Eden, where reality is whatever you wish it to be.
Signed ~The one who’s always loved you.
It could only be from one person. Only one man had loved her, and only one she’d loved just as deeply in return. But why, after two years, was he finally reaching out? Why now?
Did it matter why?
She tugged her down-filled coat tight around her body to ward off the winter wind that blew off the mountains. Kylie sprinted the short distance from her car to the front door of the pub. She’d lived in the mountain town her whole life, and she loved everything about it, including the snow. It was the frigid cold she could do without.
Just inside, Kylie stopped to look at the signed picture of Marcus Stone, professional snowboarder, local hero, and the man who’d broken her heart in two. Without thinking about it, she reached in her purse, withdrew the envelope, and ran her fingers over the embossed seal of a tropical flower. It had to be from him; he’d been the only one who promised her one day he’d take her to a resort where the beaches were as white as the snow.
Kylie spun and instinctively tucked the envelope away at the sound of her friend and boss’s, Samantha, voice.
“Hey. It’s…I just…it’s nothing.”
“Doesn’t look like nothing.” Sam’s smile was warm, and Kylie knew as much as she wanted to, Sam wouldn’t pry. “You’re early.” Sam flipped a towel over her shoulder. “But that’s good because maybe you can help me convince Archer that if we have one more day where chili is the special of the day, our regulars are going to revolt.” Sam walked back to the bar and with a sigh of relief, Kylie followed. She couldn’t even process her own feelings, let alone share them with someone else. At least not yet.
After she’d convinced Archer, the headstrong, stubborn chef, to make his special baked potato soup instead of chili, and taking care of some of her regular customers, Kylie finally had a moment to think about the envelope in her purse. And Marcus. It had been just over two years since he left her to pursue a professional snowboarding career. She had no business pining after him after all the time that had passed. Especially considering she knew he hadn’t been thinking of her. At least according to updates from his twin brother, Malcolm, who she’d managed to remain close to.
They spoke at least once a week, and at first it had been Kylie’s only way to stay connected with Marcus. But for more than a year now, Malcolm spoke less about his brother and she didn’t ask, looking forward to their conversations about his life in the city as an important business developer, and updating him on things in town now that the exclusive resort, the Springs, had opened.
She pulled the invitation from her purse and put it on the polished wood bar in front of her. It had been months since she’d even spoken Marcus’s name.
“So why now?”
For the second time, Samantha had snuck up on her, but this time Kylie didn’t care. She couldn’t keep it inside any longer. “This.” She slid the envelope in front of her friend. “It was on my doorstep this morning.”
She didn’t bother watching while her friend examined the envelope; she chose instead to wipe down the already perfectly polished bar. She knew exactly when Sam had read the contents of the invitation. Her gasp and subsequent sharp intake of air was a dead giveaway.
“This is crazy.”
Kylie turned around and crunched up the rag in her hand. “I know. I can’t stop thinking about it.” That was an understatement.
Sam pulled herself up so she sat on her bar. Her legs swung from excitement. “Who sent it?”
“I don’t know.” Kylie grabbed the paper from her friend, suddenly needed to hold it and touch it once more. “But I think I know.” She grinned, and her stomach did a funny little flip when she thought about Marcus’s too long, dark hair, the way it curled up at the ends, and his eyes that were just as dark, when they stared into hers. It had to have been him who sent the invite.
Sam looked at her strangely, and Kylie knew exactly what she was thinking. And she didn’t want to hear it.
“I know what you’re going to say.” Kylie caught the eye of Slade Black, the famous guitar player who’d recently moved to town, and Beth Martin, his girlfriend and her longtime friend. She waved at the couple and gestured that she’d be over in a moment. They didn’t seem too concerned, and headed to a back corner booth, the way they always did. They liked to be alone. Kylie shook her head. All her friends were paired up. “And I don’t want to hear it,” she told Sam.
“You have no idea what I’m going to say.” Sam followed her with her eyes as she poured a few glasses of water for Slade and Beth. “But I don’t think you should assume it’s from Marcus.”
Kylie whirled around. “What makes you think I-” Her protest died on her lips. What was the point? She picked up the tray and delivered them to the corner table, and took her friends’ orders while she was there. Once she’d rung everything into the till, she turned to Sam, who still sat on the bar and waited patiently.
“Would it be so bad if it was Marcus? I mean, he…and I…we were…” She trailed off because there was no way she could complete that sentence.
Sam jumped off the counter and put a hand on her shoulder. “No,” she said softly. “But it might not be Marcus.”
Kylie’s head snapped up. “Who else could it be? There’s been no one else since…well, since he left.” She’d never been able to say out loud what it was that Marcus had done, which was basically run away in the middle of the night without so much as a backwards glance, only days after they’d planned their future together. He broke her heart. More than broke it; he completely shattered it.
“All I’m saying is, you never know.” Kylie looked up and saw her friend’s mischievous grin. “And really. Wouldn’t it be more fun if it was someone else? Someone you could have a wild adventure with on some tropical island?”
Kylie laughed and waved her away. “Yeah right. That’s not my style.”
“But it could be. I mean, why not?”
The bell from the kitchen alerted Kylie that the order was up and provided enough distraction that she didn’t have to answer Sam. But while she delivered two cups of baked potato soup to Slade and Beth, she allowed herself to entertain the idea for a second, but only for a second. Because the truth was, she couldn’t imagine being on a tropical island with anyone besides Marcus. After all, he was the one she’d planned a future with.
She made her rounds to the few customers in the pub and by the time she made her way back up to the bar, Sam had been joined by Archer, who had pulled up a stool.
“Do you guys even work?”
They ignored her, and Sam asked a question of her own. “Guess where Kylie’s going?” Sam pointed the question to Archer, but wiggled her eyebrows in Kylie’s direction. “Assuming I give her the time off, that is.”
“Somewhere good, I hope. And warm,” Archer added. “It’s way too cold here. I haven’t even been out hunting in-”
“Oh, it’s warm.” Sam interrupted him. “Some might even say it’s hot.”
Kylie tossed a coaster at her. “Stop it.” But she laughed and shook her head at her friend. Sam was getting ahead of herself. She didn’t even know whether she would accept the invitation.
“Okay. Tell me.”
Kylie waited while Sam filled Archer in on the details and showed him the invitation. “Have you ever heard of this place?” she asked him. “It sounds very mysterious and very much like some place I want to go.”
Archer rolled his eyes. “I’ll be sure to pass the message to Trent.” Sam and Trent had been serious ever since the Springs resort opened in town, and it was only one of the many relationships in town Kylie envied. “But yes, actually. I have heard about it. I thought it was just a rumor, though.”
“What?” Kylie instantly snapped to attention. “You’ve heard of it?”
He shrugged. “Yup. Something about fantasies.”
“Seriously? What kind of fantasies? Because I-”
“Are you going?”
Kylie swallowed hard at Archer’s question. She knew what she wanted the answer to be. But at the same time, her heart was finally starting to heal. Did she want to open it up to that kind of risk again? Could she handle the heartbreak if he walked away again? There was only so much a girl could take.
Archer’s smile was kind, and she knew he could see the conflict on her face. “It might not be a bad thing to check it out,” he said after a moment.
“But she doesn’t know who sent it.”
Kylie pulled her own stool around the back of the bar. She dropped onto it and rested her head in her hands.
She shook her head, but didn’t look up. “But it has to be Marcus. It couldn’t be anyone else.”
“Marcus Stone?” Archer made a noise that was somewhere between a laugh and a scoff. Kylie glared at him.
But it wasn’t nothing. Kylie could see it all over her friend’s face. “What aren’t you saying?”
Archer shrugged and helped himself to a beer from the tap. “Nothing really. I just think it’s strange that you’re still hung up on him. The two of you never seemed like a good fit. Besides, weren’t you always closer with Malcolm? What’s he up to these days?”
Malcolm was Marcus’s twin brother, and while they were alike in a lot of ways, they were also total opposites. Marcus had been the snowboarder: a little wild, totally carefree, and always looking for the easy way through life. Malcolm had spent his time growing up skiing the backcountry, focused on getting good grades and made a life for himself as a business developer. He wasn’t afraid of hard work, almost as if he had to make up for his brother’s shortcomings. But where Marcus had been easygoing and carefree, he also lived his life with passion and despite all her friends thinking that Malcolm would have been the better brother for her to fall for, she’d been drawn to Marcus initially and that wasn’t a flame that could be snuffed easily. Especially after they’d talked about the future together. Their shared hopes and dreams. Of course, that was right before he’d left her without so much as a note.
“I talk to Malcolm at least once a week.” Kylie forced herself to stop thinking of the negative.
Archer lifted his glass in an imaginary toast. “And Marcus?”
She looked down and picked at her nails so she wouldn’t have to make eye contact. “Never.”
“Sorry? I didn’t-”
“Never.” Kylie’s head flew up; challenge flared in her eyes. They didn’t understand. It didn’t matter that she hadn’t spoken to him since he’d left. The invitation had come from him, and there was no way she could ignore it. She knew deep down that this was Marcus’s way of reaching out. Of fixing the wrong he’d committed when he’d left her. She knew it in her gut because hadn’t they talked about going on a tropical island adventure together? It all made so much sense. “It doesn’t matter,” she said, more to herself than her friends.
“No,” Sam chimed in. “It doesn’t matter. Because whoever it is who sent the invitation, you’re going. You deserve the adventure and if you don’t go, I’ll personally kick your butt.”
Archer shook his head slightly but didn’t say anything as he took a deep swallow of his beer. Kylie ignored him. Sam was right. She would accept the invitation because it represented everything she’d always wanted. And as for Marcus Stone, she’d deal with him when she saw him.