Home » Stories » LOVE ME TILL THE END – Episode 1



{He’s a bad guy,I’ll protect you}

Authoress Berry Julie 🖊️

Chapter 1.✨
“I didn’t approve her. I would never do that. She shouldn’t be here”. Cynthia Stoker,the cattleman Crime club’s event coordinator,paced in the kitchen.

Her fingers were a braided knot. She was responsible for the guest list at the spring fling, the annual end-of-spring fund-raiser hosted by the O’Brien family.

“I know”. Colin O’Brien folded his arms,hiding just how much the thought of seeing Melissa Roark__correction, Melissa Rancic__again twisted his gut. Being the fourth son of the wealthy O’Brien family and with good looks and charm to spare,he hadn’t seen a lot of rejection in his life. Until her. And she’d ripped his heart out. “How’d her name get past security?’

“She asked to come as Carolina Jordan’s plus one,and since she wasn’t listed as a threat they approved her”, Cynthia said,throwing her hands in the air, worry lines bracketing her mouth. She’d worked at the ranch for a little more than five years. She’d become closer with his family and knew that the subject of Melissa was off limits. “Honest. I thought she moved away a year ago. I had no idea she’d resurface”.

“She did”. The thought that she’d returned to Bluff, Texas,let alone be bond enough to show up at his family’s fund-raiser riding on someone else’s invitation,sat hot and heavy. The heels of his boots clicked on the file floor as he paced. The last time he’d seen her had been when she’d handed him the engagement ring she’d been wearing_ the one he’d given her_ and then married one if the biggest jerks to ever blow through town, Richard Rancic. The guy was all flash no substance, splashing local businesses with his money before taking what he wanted_Melissa_and breezing out of town. The newlyweds had disappeared after the quickie wedding. Apparently, Melissa couldn’t get away from Colin fast enough.

He’d moved on, dated plenty of interesting women since then. The thought of seeing her again shouldn’t hurt this much. And just to prove himself that it didn’t, he planned to March right into the ballroom and shoe her just how freakin’ fantastic he was doing since she’d told him that she didn’t love him the same anymore and then walked out of his life.

Cynthia stalked toward the kitchen table,where Colin had seen her cell phone.

“I’m calling security. Don’t worry about a thing. You don’t even have to look at her. I’ll have her escorted out. She shouldn’t be here and Carolina should’ve known better than to bring her. I’m putting them both on the never allow list”. Her voice had that shaming quality.

“No need. I’ll walk her out myself and then deal with Carolina personally”, Colin bit out in a low growl.

Cynthia tensed, reacting to his sharp words.

Well,he hadn’t meant to make her do that. He’d apologize later. Right now, he had an important matter to take care of. He didn’t want one of his brothers seeing Melissa first and ushering her out of the building before he got a chance to have his say. No,he wanted to handle this little problem on his own. Carolina might’ve been Melissa’s girlfriend but she’d become closer with his family. Colin considered Carolina a friend,too,until now.

Colin stalked out of the room and towards the great Hall. The place was decorated to the nines for the spring fling. Paper lanterns hung from the forty-foot tented ceiling. White candles contrasted against the dark oak beams and wood floors. Round tables with white linens covering them surrounded the dance floor. The place,fixed up,gave a nod to its heritage as an old horse barn and had rustic charm in spades.

Colin blood pressure spiked with each step inside the room as he searched for his target. George strait’s “Baby blue” filled the air as pairs of boots shuffled around the dance floor in a two-step.

And then he saw her. His gaze fixed. His heart fisted.

Melissa Rancic stood in front of the buffet table, nervously searching the faces in the crowd. At least she had enough sense to be worried even if she also had a whole helluva a lot of nerve showing up at his family home.

Colin didn’t want to acknowledge how damn good she looked. Her wavy Auburn hair just past her shoulders. She’d cut it since the last time he’d seen her when it fell mid back in large ringlets. She had on a cream-coloured sleeveless dress that smoothed along her soft curves of her frame and flared below the waist with two layers of ruffles.

The dress fell mid thigh, showing off those long legs of hers. Her fingers toyed with the necklace that hung in the middle of her chest,and the huge rock on her wedding finger sparkled in the dim light. She wore light brown boots with blue inlay. The fact that she still owned them at all made him believe she’d stayed somewhere in Texas. Although,she could live anywhere. He wouldn’t know. After the way she’d left things unfinished between them,he’d refused to talk about her again. She’d made her choice and he’d closed up inside telling himself that he needed to cowboy up and move on. Of course,he’d spent plenty of couch time licking his wounds before he’d had enough of the lovesick puppy routine.

Memories of her in his arms,her warm,naked skin against his,tried to break through his thoughts as he stared at her. The way she smelled like early morning on a sunny day in spring,all flowers and warmth. Her intelligence. The way she laughed…

Those thoughts had about as much place in his mind as she had in his house. To be clear,there was room for neither. It was about time she knew it.

As he stalked closer,he realized there was more than worry going on in her head. She was anxious,stressed and those weren’t the same thing. She had to know this was the last place on Earth she should be. Since it had been easy for her to walk away from him last year and shut him out of his life completely,he figured her apprehension had nothing to do with the possibility of running into him. Was she afraid Carolina had disappeared on her? She was looking for someone.or looking out for someone. Watching. Weary.

Her weight shifted from side to side like when she was nervous. She kept toying with that necklace,too. Was that a gift from him,from Richard?

Rather than sneak up on her or come from the side, Colin took a straight on approach,and he didn’t bother to hide the intensity in his glare. If she had the guts to come to his house,she could take it.

The second she saw him,her body language changed. Her posture tensed and she stood stiff and uncomfortable. A look of panic crossed her features as her gaze darted around, probably looking for an escape route. With a buffet table behind her and the only other exit to Colin’s back ,she was trapped in between.

As he neared,he could see that her pulse pounded at the the base of her neck__a neck he had no business looking at in the first place, especially not the exact spot that made her mewl with pleasure when his mouth covered it.

When he was close enough to see the Violet streaks in her brown eyes,she tried to duck right.

“Not so fast”, Colin ground out,catching her by the arm.

“Let go of me,Colin O’Brien”, she said,facing toward the east wall,refusing to look at him directly.

Colin wasn’t about to let her get away with that. It was high time she learned that sidestepping a problem didn’t make it go away. He spun her around to face him. They were almost nose-to-nose and the movement brought her scent washing over him, memories crashing into him. His heart double fisted .

“Why are you here?” He managed to bite out, clenching his back teeth.

“I shouldn’t have come”. Her eyes were pleading for him to let go now .

He couldn’t. He wanted_no, needed to understand what he’d done wrong to make her run out in him in the first place. His pride kept him from asking as she shook out of his grip,the diamond on her wedding ring scratching his arm as she jerked free.

“Hold on, Mel___”

Before he could finish,she was gone. She’d dashed across the dance floor,pushed open the double doors to the lawn and fled. All the lines he’d practiced in his head a million times over were a distant memory. He stood there,mute and stupid. Frozen. Just like before.

Dancing had stopped even though the music played on. All eyes were on him now. From his peripheral vision,he saw two of brothers making a beeline toward him.

Colin wasn’t in the mood for a family meeting,so he reversed course and then ditched them out the back door.

HEART POUNDING, MELISSA ran to her sedan. She should’ve known better than to show up at the O’Brien’s ranch. Yet, she’d had to see Colin one more time before disappearing into her new identity in witness protection. She glanced at the clock on her dashboard. She had little more than two hours left before saying goodbye to her past lifem at midnight, Melissa Rancic would no longer exist Richard Rancic ,her husband and a hardened criminal,had escaped custody and was on the loose according to her US Marshal Handler ,Tim Davis,Richard was last seen making a run for the Canadian border. That he was so far away had given her the confidence she’d needed to come back to Bluff and see Colin again. She’d expected it to hurt but also comfort her. To give her the strength she would need to do what had to be done in order to protect her daughter.

Hands shaking,she managed to retrieve her purse from the backseat and locate her keys. Getting the right one in the ignition proved a frustrating challenge. After several attempt,she had the engine putting and the great Hall I’m the rearview. Not long after that,the entire of O’Brien ranch disappeared.

Head spinning,she thought about the fact the Colin hadn’t changed one bit,unless it was possible to look even better. That old saying about absence making the heart grow fonder proved love. His jet-black hair and those intense dark eyes still had the power to make her weak-kneed with one look. There was a deeper emotion present in his eyes now,too,and it looked a lot like hurt.

The past year of living without him had been kind living in an Arctic cave…brutal,dark,cold. There’d been no sun. No laughter. No joy. And yet,day after day, she’d had to put on a brave face with her husband and pretend that she loved him.

Both her and her daughter’s survival had depended on delivering a good show. A shiver raced through her as she thought about what her life had turned into and the dangerous man she was running away from.

Life,like a spring weather in Texas,could change in a flash.

The gravity of just how big a mistake it had been to come back to Bluff,to see Colin ,had shifted the ground beneath her feet. This whole idea had been a stupid mistake no matter how badly her body had reacted at the thought of never seeing him again, and the panic attack had been almost crippling. Her chest had squeezed until she though it might Burst. When release finally came,her heart filled with an ache so deep she could scarcely breathe.

Even so,it had been rash of her to think that she could get away with slipping into the dimly lit greatly hall and catch one last glimpse of him before someone recognized her and kicked her out. Based on his expression,he would have known to thrown her out himself.

Memories of spending time at the ranch assaulted her. She and Colin had been happy,so carefree,so in love…


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