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Millie Cross knows what it’s like to burn for someone. She was young and wild and he was fierce and even wilder-a Chaos biker who made her heart pound. They fell in love at first sight and life was good, until she learned she couldn’t be the woman he needed and made it so he had no choice but to walk away. Twenty years later, Millie’s chance run-in with her old flame sparks a desire she just can’t ignore. And this time, she won’t let him ride off . . .
Bad boy Logan “High” Judd has seen his share of troubles with the law. Yet it was a beautiful woman who broke him. After ending a loveless marriage, High is shocked when his true love walks back into his life. Millie is still gorgeous, but she’s just a ghost of her former self. High’s intrigued at the change, but her betrayal cut him deep-and he doesn’t want to get burned again. As High sinks into meting out vengeance for Millie’s betrayal, he’ll break all over again when he realizes just how Millie walked through fire for her man . . .
Table of Contents
A Preview of Own the Wind
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I Never Would
I SHOULD GET a salad.
I should have gone to Whole Foods and hit their salad bar (and thus been able to get a cookie from their bakery, a treat for being so good about getting a salad).
I didn't go to Whole Foods.
I went to Chipotle.
So, since I was at Chipotle, I should get a bowl, not a burrito.
I had no intention of getting a bowl.
I was going to get a burrito.
Therefore, I was standing in line at Chipotle, trying to decide on pinto or black beans for my burrito, telling myself I was going to have salad for dinner (this would not happen but I was telling myself that it would, something I did a lot).
And in the coming weeks, I would wish with all my heart that I'd gone to Whole Foods for the salad (and the cookie).
It was lunchtime. It was busy. There was noise.
But I heard it.
The deep, manly voice coming from ahead of me.
A voice that had matured. It was coarser, near to abrasive, but I knew that voice.
I'd never forget that voice.
"Yeah, I signed the papers. Sent 'em. Not a problem. That's done," the voice said.
I stood in line having trouble breathing, my body wanting to move, lean to the side, look forward, see the man attached to the voice, needing that, but I couldn't seem to make my body do what it was told.
"Not set up yet with a place, don't matter," the voice went on. "Got a condo in the mountains for the weekend. Takin' the girls up there. So I'll come get 'em like I said, four o'clock, Friday. I'll have 'em at school on Monday. I'll sort a place soon's I can."
I still couldn't move and now there was an even bigger reason why.
Takin' the girls up there.
I'll have 'em at school on Monday.
He had children.
Logan had kids.
I felt a prickle in my nose as my breaths went unsteady, my heart hammering, my fingers tingling in a painful way, like they'd gone to sleep and were just now waking up.
The voice kept going.
"Right. You'd do that, it'd be cool. Tell 'em their dad loves 'em. I'll call 'em tonight and see them Friday." Pause, then, "Okay. Thanks. Later."
The line moved and I forced myself to move with it, and just then, Logan turned and became visible in front of the food counter at Chipotle.
I saw him and my world imploded.
"Burrito. Beef," he grated out. "Pinto. To go."
I stared, unmoving.
He looked good.
God, God, he looked so damned good.
I knew it. I knew he'd mature like that. Go from the cute but rough young man with that edge—that dangerous edge that drew you to him no matter how badly you wanted to pull away—but you couldn't stop it, that pull was too strong.
I knew he'd go from that to the man who was standing in front of the tortilla lady at Chipotle wearing his leather Chaos jacket.
Tall. His dark hair silvered, too long and unkempt. Shoulders broad. Jaw squared. I could see even in profile the skin of his face was no longer smooth but craggy in a way that every line told a story that you knew was interesting. Strong nose. High cheekbones. Whiskers (also silvered) that said he hadn't shaved in days, or perhaps weeks.
And he once was mine.
Then I'd let him go.
No, I'd pushed him away.
I turned and moved swiftly back through the line, not making a sound, not saying a word.
I didn't want him to hear me.
Out, I needed out.
I got out. Practically ran to my car. Got in and slammed the door.
I sat there, hands hovering over the steering wheel, shaking.
Takin' the girls up there.
I'll have 'em at school on Monday.
He had kids.
That made me happy. Ecstatic. Beside myself with glee.
I signed the papers. Sent 'em.
What did that mean?
So I'll come get 'em… I'll sort a place soon's I can.
Come and get them?
He didn't have them.
Signed the papers.
Oh God, he was getting a divorce.
No. Maybe he'd just gotten one.
I'll come and get 'em…
He was a father.
But was he free?
I shook out my hands, taking a deep breath.
It didn't matter. It wasn't my business. Logan Judd was no longer my business. He'd stopped being my business twenty years ago. My choice. I'd let him go.
And clearly it didn't happen—where he was heading, where that Club was heading, what I expected would happen didn't.
He was in line at Chipotle, not incarcerated.
I didn't see him top to toe from all sides but from what I saw, he didn't have any scars. He had that scratchy voice, so obviously he hadn't quit smoking when he should have (or not at all). But he seemed strong, tall, fit.
Maybe he had a beer gut.
But with what he'd been getting into then, what Chaos was into back in the day, I expected twenty years later Logan would be a lot different and not just having-a-scratchy-voice, having-a-craggy-but-still-immensely-attractive-face, maybe-having-a-beer-gut different.
Worst case, I expected he'd be dead.
Almost as worst case, I expected he'd be in prison.
Still almost as worst case, I expected him to be committing felonies that would eventually land him either of those two. Not in a Chipotle getting a burrito, talking on the phone with someone about picking up his kids, taking them to a condo in the mountains and getting them to school on Monday.
What I'd expected was one thing.
What I saw was what I'd hoped.
I'd hoped he'd find his way to happiness.
It struck me on that thought that he'd said his order was to go.
Oh God, I needed to get out of there. It wouldn't do for me to escape him inside only for him to see me outside in my car, freaked out so bad I was shaking.
I pushed the button to start my car, carefully looked in all mirrors and checked my blind spots, reversed out, and headed home.
I had no food at home except for a bin of wilting baby spinach and some shredded carrots.
This was because I thought grocery shopping was akin to torture. I did it only when absolutely necessary, which was infrequently considering the number of options available for food in my neighborhood.
Conversely, I loved to cook.
I just didn't do it frequently because I hated to shop for food, and anyway, cooking for one always reminded me I was just that.
Singular. I had good intentions. Practically daily I thought I'd change in a variety of ways.
Say, go to the grocery store. Be one of those women who concocted delicious meals (even if they were only for me), doing this sipping wine in my fabulous kitchen while listening to Beethoven or something. There would be candles burning, of course. And I'd serve my meal on gorgeous china, treating myself like a princess (since there was no one else to do it).
After, I'd sip some fancy herbal tea, tucked up in my cuddle chair (candles still burning) reading Dostoyevsky. Or, if I was in the mood, watching something classy on TV, like Downton Abbey.
Not what I normally did, got fast food or nuked a ready-made meal, my expensive candles gathering dust because they'd been unlit for months and not bothering even to dirty a plate. I'd do this while I sat eating in front of Sister Wives or True Tori or some such, immersing myself in someone else's life because they were all a hell of a lot more interesting than mine.
Then I'd go to bed.
To wake up the next morning.
And spend the day thinking of all the ways I would change.
Like I'd start taking those walks I told myself I would take. Going to those Pilates classes at that studio just down the street that looked really cool and opened up two years ago (and yet, I had not stepped foot in it once). Driving up to the mountains and hiking a trail. Hitting the trendy shops on Broadway or in Highlands Square and spending a day roaming. Using that foot tub I bought but never took out of the box and giving myself a luxurious pedicure. Calling my friends to set up a girls' night out and putting on a little black dress (after I bought one, of course) and hitting the town to drink martinis or cosmopolitans or mojitos or whatever the cool drink was now.
Seeing a man looking at me and instead of looking away, smiling at him. Perhaps talking to him. Definitely speaking back if he spoke to me. Accepting a date if he asked. Going on that date.
Maybe not going to bed alone.
Every day I thought about it. I even journaled about it (on days when I'd talked myself into making a change and was together enough to journal).
But I never did it.
None of it.
I thought all this as I drove home, then into my driveway, down the side of my house, parked in the courtyard at the back, got out and went inside, stopping in my kitchen, realizing from all these thoughts something frightening in the extreme.
I was stuck in a rut.
Stuck in a rut that began twenty years ago on the front stoop of the row house I shared with Logan, watching him walk away because I'd sent him away.
Walk through fire.
The words assaulted me and the pain was too intense to bear. I had to move to my marble countertop, bend to it to rest my elbows on it and hold my head in my hands.
Then it all came and blasted through me in a way it felt my head was going to explode.
You love a man, Millie, you believe in him, you take him as he is. You go on his journey with him no matter what happens, even if that means you have to walk through fire.
His voice was not coarse back then. No abrasion to it. It was deep. It was manly. But it was smooth.
Except when he said those words to me. When he said them, they were rough. They were incredulous. They were infuriated.
They were hurt.
Walk through fire.
The tears came and damn it, damn it, they should have stopped years ago.
They came and came and came until I was choking on them.
I didn't make a salad with wilting spinach and the dregs of shredded carrots. I didn't hit my desk and get back to work.
I pulled my phone out of my bag, struggled to my couch, collapsed on it, and called my sister.
I couldn't even speak when she picked up.
But she heard the sobs.
"Millie, what on earth is happening?" she asked, sounding frantic.
"Dah-dah-Dottie," I stuttered between blubbers. "I sah-sah-sah-saw Logan at fu-fu-fucking Chipotle."
Not even a second elapsed before she replied, "I'll be over. Ten minutes."
Then she was over in ten minutes.
She took care of me, Dottie did.
Then again, my big sister always took care of me in a way I knew she always would.
The bad part about that was that I never did any of those things I said I was going to do.
I never pulled myself out of my rut.
I never fought my way to strong.
When I lost Logan, I lost any strength I might have had.
That being him.
He was my foundation. He was my backbone. He made me safe. He made life right.
Hell, he made life worth living.
Then he was gone, so I really had no life and commenced living half of one.
Or maybe a third.
Possibly a quarter.
Likely an eighth.
In other words, I was the kind of sister who would always need to be taken care of.
I knew I should wake up one day and change that.
I knew that just as I knew I never would.
At a party, in a house, twenty-three years earlier…
He started it. He'd been checking me out since he got there ten minutes ago and not hiding it. Then he'd come right to me and started it.
I liked that.
I also liked that he'd approached, not wasting a lot of time.
But mostly, I liked how incredibly cute he was.
Cute and edgy.
Holding my cup of beer in hand, I stared up at him.
God yes, he was cute. So cute.
But cute in a way that my mother would not curl up at night, safe in the knowledge her daughter had excellent taste in men. In other words, I wasn't talking to a well-dressed guy who I would soon learn had a life mission he'd decided on when he was a boy, this being astronaut or curer of cancer.
He was cute in a way my mother would despair, pray, live in terror and my father would consider committing murder (one of the various reasons my mother would be living in terror).
But looking into his warm, brown eyes, for once in my life, I didn't care what my mother and father thought.
I just cared about the fact that he was standing close to me at Kellie's party, he'd come right up to me and he'd said, "Hey."
"Name's Logan," he told me.
God, he even had a cool name.
"Millie," I replied.
I watched his eyes widen a bit before he burst out laughing.
That wasn't very nice.
I swayed a little away from him, feeling hurt.
He kept chuckling but he noticed my movement and focused intently on me, asking, "Where you goin'?"
"I need a fresh beer," I lied.
He looked into my full cup.
Then he looked at me, smiling.
Oh God, yes. He was so cute.
But he was kinda mean.
I mean, my name wasn't funny. It was old-fashioned but it was my great-grandmother's name. My mother had adored her and Granny had lived long enough for me to adore her too.
I liked my name.
"You got Millie written all over you," he stated.
What a weird thing to say.
And more weird, it was like he knew what I was thinking.
"What?" I asked.
"Darlin', all that hair that doesn't know whether it wants to be red or blonde. Those big brown eyes." His smooth, deep voice dipped in a way that I felt in my belly. "That." He lifted his beer cup with one finger extended and pointed close to my mouth so I knew he was indicating the little mole that was just in from the right corner of my top lip. "Cute. Sweet. No better name for a girl that's all that but Millie."
Okay, that was nice.
"Well, thanks, I think," I mumbled.
"Trust me, it's a compliment," he assured.
"What're you doin' tomorrow night?"
I felt my head give a small jerk.
Holy crap, was he asking me out on a date?
"I… nothing," I answered.
"Good, then we're goin' out. You got a number?"
He was asking me out on a date!
My heartbeat quickened and my legs started to feel all tingly.
"I… yes," I replied, then went on stupidly, "I have a number."
"Give it to me."
I stared at him, then looked down his wide chest to his trim waist, then to his hands. One hand was holding his beer, the other one had the thumb hooked in his cool-as-heck, beaten up, black leather belt.
I looked back to his face. "Do you have something to write it down?"
He gave a slight shake of his head and an even slighter (but definitely hot) lip twitch before he stated, "Millie, you give me your number, do you think I'm gonna forget a single digit?"
Okay, wow. That was really nice.
I gave him my number.
He repeated it instantly and accurately.
"That's it," I confirmed.
He didn't reply.
I started to feel uncomfortable.
I'd just made a date with a guy I didn't know at all except I knew my parents wouldn't approve of him and then I gave him my number.
Now what did we do?
"You come with someone?" he asked.
It was weird that he asked that now, after he'd asked me out.
After I thought it was weird, I thought that maybe he thought I was on a date and then made a date with him while I was on a date and then he'd think I was a bitch!
"No, just some girlfriends," I told him quickly.
He gave me another smile. "That's comin' with someone, darlin'."
I bit my lip.
"Who?" he asked.
"Justine," I answered, tipping my head toward the kitchen table where there were four guys and two girls sitting. When he turned his head to look, I expanded my answer, "The brunette."
And right then, Justine, my friend the pretty brunette, drunkenly bounced a quarter on the table toward a shot glass, missed, and grinned. Two of the guys and one of the girls immediately shouted, "Shot!" Thus, she unsteadily grabbed the glass and threw it back, some of the vodka in it dribbling down her chin.
She finished this still grinning.
"You ain't ridin' back with her," Logan growled, and my gaze shot back to him. "Fact, she ain't drivin' anywhere."
Oh man, I could love this guy.
That was crazy!
How could I possibly think I could love this guy just from him saying that?
"She isn't and I'm not," I shared. "We're staying the night here."
"Good," he muttered right before he got bumped by someone precariously making their way to the keg.
"You wanna get out of here?" I found myself asking, and got his swift attention. "I don't know. Sit out on the back deck or something?" I finished quickly so he didn't get any ideas.
"Fuck yeah," he whispered, his brown eyes locked to mine, and the way he said that, the way he was looking at me, I felt a shiver trail down my spine.
"Okay," I whispered back.
He leaned in and grabbed my hand. His was big and rough and felt warm and strong wrapped around mine.
It was true. It was crazy and totally freaking true.
I could fall in love with this guy.
And I knew that just from him wanting me to be safe and the feel of his hand around mine.
He led me out to the deck, straight to the steps that led to the yard and we sat on the top one.
I was nervous in a way I'd never felt before but it felt good as I stared out into Kellie's parents' dark yard.
"So, Millie, tell me what we're doin' tomorrow night," he ordered.
I turned my head to look at him. "What?"
"Whatever you wanna do, we're doin' it," he stated. "So tell me what you wanna do."
I tipped my head to the side, intrigued with this offer.
"How about we fly to Paris?" I suggested on an attempt at a joke.
"You got a passport?" he asked immediately, not smiling, sounding serious.
My heart skipped a beat.
Though, he couldn't be serious.
I mean, Paris?
"Do you?" I returned.
"Nope, but that's what you wanna do, I'll get one."
I grinned at him. "Not sure you can get a passport in a day, Logan."
"You wanna go to Paris, I'll find a way."
I shook my head, looking away.
He was good at this. A master at delivering lines.
I liked it. It showed confidence.
But they were still just lines.
"And he says all the right things," I told the yard.
"Babe, I'm not jokin'."
My eyes flew back to him because he still sounded serious.
And when they flew back to him, the lights from the house illuminating his handsome face, he looked serious.
"I don't wanna go to Paris," I whispered. "Well, I do," I hastened to add. "Just not tomorrow night. I don't think I have the right thing to wear on a date in Paris."
He grinned at me. "Well, that's a relief. Coulda swung it by the skin of my teeth but it'd set me up for a fail on our second date. Not sure how I'd top Paris."
He was already thinking of a second date.
I liked that too.
But I liked his words better because it was cool to know he could be funny.
I couldn't help it and didn't know why I would try.
He kept grinning while I did it and scooted closer to me so our knees were touching.
"So tell me, Millie, what d'you wanna do?" he asked when I quit laughing.
"I wanna see what you wanna do," I told him.
"Then that's what we'll do."
I looked into his eyes through the dark and felt something strange. Not a bad strange. A happy one.
Yes, both of those just looking into his eyes.
"So, do you wanna go to Paris?" I asked. "I mean, one day."
"Sure," he told me. "Though, not top on my list."
"What's top on your list?"
"Ridin' 'cross Australia."
"Riding?" I asked.
"On my bike."
I felt my eyes get big. "You mean, the motorcycle kind?"
He put pressure on my knee as he gave me another grin. "I'm the kinda guy, Millie, who doesn't acknowledge there is another kind of bike."
Absolutely for sure, my parents would not approve of this guy.
And absolutely for sure, I so totally did.
"So you have a bike?" I pushed.
"Harley," he told me.
"Do I get to ride on it tomorrow?" I went on, not bothering to filter the excitement out of my question.
He stared into my eyes.
"Absolutely," he answered.
I smiled at him and I knew it was big.
His gaze dropped to my mouth and when it did, my legs started tingling again. But this time, the tingles emanated from the insides of my thighs, out.
I looked away and took a sip of beer.
"Millie," he called.
I kept my gaze to the yard and replied with a, "Hmm?"
"Safe with me."
My attention cut back to him.
"Never won't be, babe," he went on softly. "Not ever. Hear?"
Again, it was like he read my thoughts.
And he knew. He knew he was exactly what he was. That guy parents would freak if their daughter ever said yes to a date with him.
But I knew something else, looking at him.
My parents were wrong.
"Hear?" he pushed when I just stared at him, not feeling tingly.
"Yeah," I answered.
He pressed his knee into mine again and looked to the yard.
"So, you wanna go to Paris," he noted. "What else you wanna do?"
I looked to the yard, too, and told him.
We stayed out there, sitting on the steps of the deck, our knees brushing, for what felt like minutes at the same time it felt like hours, talking about nothing that felt like everything before the guy he came to the party with stuck his head out the back door and called, "Low, ridin' out."
To that, he told me he had to go and we both got up.
He didn't kiss me.
He walked me into the house straight through to the front door.
There, he ordered somewhat severely, "Your girl is totally shitfaced, so you go nowhere with her and you let her go nowhere. Hear?"
I nodded. "Staying here, Logan."
Then he lifted a finger as his eyes dipped to my mouth and he touched my mole.
More thigh tingles.
He looked back at me. "Tomorrow, babe. Call you."
He grinned and walked away.
I watched him, feeling a crazy-giddy that had nothing to do with beer, strangely not disappointed he didn't kiss me.
He'd touched me in a way that felt way sweeter than a kiss.
And the next day, he called me.
Every Breath He Took
WHAT I WAS about to do was ridiculous.
And possibly insane.
But there I was, about to do it.
It had been a week since I saw Logan at Chipotle.
I still had that bin of spinach and bag of shriveled carrots in my fridge and they were still the only things there. Except that bin of spinach was now not wilted but instead spoiled.
I should throw them out.
I didn't throw them out.
I got fast food (or ready-mades, though no salads).
I watched TV.
And I thought about Logan.
I couldn't get him out of my head. I even dreamed about him.
And these were not good dreams. They were dreams of him walking away. They were dreams of him shouting at me that I was a coward. That I'd thrown my life away. They were dreams where he was pushing a faceless little girl on a swing, smiling at a faceless woman who, even if faceless, I knew she was beautiful and she was definitely not me.
In other words, bad dreams.
Dreams that haunted me even when I was awake.
So now I was here and it was ridiculous, stupid, insane.
Dottie would be pissed if she knew I was here. Twenty years she'd been struggling to pull me out of Logan's snare, a snare I was caught in even if he didn't want me there and wasn't even in my life.
She wanted me to move on. She'd even begged me to move on. At first she'd wanted me to go back to Logan (and she'd begged me to do that too). When she realized that wasn't going to happen, she'd wanted me to go on a date, to go see a shrink, to go get a life, any life without Logan.
None of this had worked.
Now I couldn't get him out of my head.
So I was there.
"Shit, damn, damn," I whispered, looking at the façade of the roadhouse.
It was run-down, near to ramshackle. The paint peeling on the outside. The sign up top that said SCRUFF'S was barely discernable considering it was night and only the neon u and the apostrophe worked.
Strangely, Scruff's looked much the same as it had twenty years ago when Logan and I used to come here all the time.
Except back then the c also worked, though it had flickered.
There were bikes outside, less of them now than back when this was Logan and my place because it was Chaos's place, but it was still clearly a biker bar.
I just had no idea if one of those bikes was Logan's.
I hoped one was.
And I was terrified of the same thing.
"You should go home," I told myself.
But home was where I'd been nearly every night since I'd bought my house and moved in eleven years ago. It had changed since I'd renovated every inch of it (I had not done this myself—I'd paid people to do it—but it was all my vision).
I loved home. I never got sick of looking at what I'd created (or someone else had, obviously, through my vision).
But I was there nearly every night. And the only times I wasn't were when I was at Dottie's or babysitting a friend's kid or at one of the events I'd planned.
The last, being my work, didn't count.
- "I have never cried so many times and so desperately as I did while reading this breathtaking story, every aspect of it touching everything that I am, everything that I dream of... Whether you're a fan of MC romances or not, it does not matter in this case-this is a story that first and foremost celebrates women for their resilience, for their selflessness, for their ability to love without limits, all the while underlining the meaning of true love."—Natasha is a Book Junkie
- "Ashley delivers a deeply emotional second installment of the Chaos contemporary romance series... Punctuated by blistering-hot sex scenes and fascinating glimpses into the tough world of motorcycle clubs, this romance also delivers true heart and emotion, and a story that will stay with the reader long after the final page is turned."—Publishers Weekly (starred review) on Fire Inside
- "Top Pick! This is a phenomenal read that I just couldn't put down. Kristen Ashley is the tops, bar none, and Breathe gets 5 stars from this grateful reader!"—Night Owl Reviews
- "4 1/2 Stars! Top Pick! Another Ashley winner!"—RT Book Reviews on Sweet Dreams
- "I adore Kristen Ashley's books!"—Maya Banks, New York Times bestselling author
- "Kristen Ashley's books are addicting!"—Jill Shalvis, New York Times bestselling author
- "[Kristen] Ashley captivates."—Publishers Weekly
- "There is something about them [Ashley's books] that I find crackalicious."—Kati Brown, Dear Author
- "I felt all of the rushes, the adrenaline surges, the anger spikes... my heart pumping in fury. My eyes tearing up when her my heart (I mean... her heart) would break."—Maryse's Book blog on Motorcycle Man
- On Sale
- Oct 27, 2015
- Page Count
- 624 pages