“Thank you for this,” I say, my voice small and quiet. “This was all you. You didn’t have to, and no one asked. But you did it. And for that, I’m grateful.”
Lake slides his hands into his pockets and takes a few slow steps toward me. His eyes drop to the ground at our feet. “You know, for a long time, I’ve felt like I didn’t really matter. If that makes any sense. Being in the Marines helped some. But you know that feeling of emptiness?” he looks up at me, his eyes opening up in a way that I can see. And I do know. “It was always there. But being here lately? It’s changed that. I love what we do here. I love working the ranch and the long days and the feeling that I’m doing something good. That I’m doing something important.”
He takes two more steps toward me. He’s close enough that I can smell him now. The sweat of the day. The scent of his shampoo from this morning. And something that is so Lake that it sends my head spinning.
“But it’s not just the ranch and the work, Riley,” he says quietly. His voice is low and warm, just like the day outside. “It’s you, too. When I’m around you, I feel like I matter.”
Something builds inside of me, something that resembles a thousand hooves beating across the fields at sunrise.
One slow, carefully thought out step at a time, he closes the space between us. He places a hand on the wall on either side of my head, boxing me in. His eyes study my face. My cheeks, my nose, my lips. His face is so close.
Something in my blood jumps to life, and I’m staring at his mouth.
“What’s holding you back, Riley?” he finally says. His voice is low and rough. And there’s a mountain of unspoken words behind it. “Why won’t you let yourself go?”
The McCain Reading Order
PLAYING IT KALE GOODREADS (JAN. 25, 2015)
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