By: Cynthia Eden


“You’re...leaving?” Scarlett Stone stared up at the man before her, aware that her heart was aching. Not aching...breaking.

“I have a new mission,” Grant McGuire told her, his deep voice strangely devoid of its usual warmth. “I head out tomorrow and I don’t know when I’ll be back.” The setting sun glinted off his blond hair. Grant... Tall, handsome, perfect Grant.

She’d graduated high school a few months ago. College awaited her. These days were supposed to be the start of a great new life. A new life she’d wanted to spend with him.

Grant was four years older than she was. Popular, confident, strong. He’d been in the army for the past few years, but he’d come to see her. Every time that he came home, he made certain he spent his days with her.

But he’s leaving again now.

His hand lifted and his calloused fingertips slid over her cheek. His touch chased some of the chill from her skin. Strange. An August evening in Texas shouldn’t have been why did she have goose bumps on her arms?

“You’ll enjoy college,” Grant told her in that low, rumbling voice that always made her stomach twist. “You’ll have the time of your life there.” His hand fell away from her. “But I need to head out again.”

He was always leaving. “Why?”

“The ranch...this place isn’t for me, Scarlett. I need more.”

The place wasn’t for him, but what about her? “Am I for you?” They’d started dating when she’d been a freshman in high school.

She’d been in love with him from the first moment she glanced up and saw him walking down the hallway. The senior...the quarterback...who’d shown interest in her.

When no one else ever had.

She was the nerd, the girl with her head always shoved in a book, too nervous to talk to boys. Someone most boys didn’t notice.

But Grant had been different. Grant was always...different.

He was also not answering her.

“Grant?” Her hands lifted and pressed against his chest. “You know...I love you.” It was the first time she’d ever confessed her true feelings to him, but surely he knew how she felt.

His muscles were hard beneath her palms. His green eyes stared down at her, but his gaze was shadowed, his emotions carefully hidden.

“I can wait for you to come back,” she told him, and she knew her voice sounded desperate. “I don’t mind waiting. I mean, my college break might happen right at the same time you get back, and I can wait—”



“I don’t know when I’ll be back.” He brushed back her hair, strands that the light breeze had shifted against her cheek. “And I don’t want you to wait for me.”

Pain knifed through her. “Grant?”

He leaned over her. His head bent, and his lips brushed against hers. She loved Grant’s kiss. Loved the way he tasted. The way he made her feel.

Desired. Special.

A low moan built in her throat as he kissed her.

“You deserve to be happy,” he whispered against her mouth. “I can’t...I can’t make you happy. I can’t be who you want me to be.”

What did that even mean? “I love you just as you are.” She didn’t want him to be anyone else.

But he shook his head. “Baby, you don’t even know who I really am.”

There had always been secrets in his eyes. A darkness that shadowed him. He’d been in the military for the past three years...and every time he’d come home, there had been a new hardness to him. A sharpening edge of danger.

“I can’t tell you where I’m going, and I don’t know when I’ll be back. I won’t ask you to wait for me.” His forehead leaned against hers. “I can’t.”

Tears stung her eyes. She’d been dreaming of a new life—so many plans and dreams for the two of them. She wanted a new life with Grant, but...

“You have your scholarship,” he continued, his voice sounding ragged, as emotion finally seemed to break through for him. “Take it. Take the life that’s waiting for you.”

Her hands lifted and curled around his shoulders. She knew a good-bye when she heard one. After all, she’d heard plenty of them in her life.