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Willow Falls Book One
by Ravyn Salvador
Genre: Contemporary Mystery Romance
Page Count: 143
Add it to your Goodreads TBR!
Their past is the key to everything, but the move to the future has yet to be made.
Years ago, Detective Melisandre Watson made a decision to walk away from the love of her life, but she never stopped thinking about him. Now, embroiled in the biggest case of her life, she suddenly realizes how alone she really is and wonders about her life choices. It doesn’t matter, though. Vaughn Romano is gone, and no other man has ever made her feel the way he did.
When Mel’s case suddenly takes an interesting turn, she starts to doubt everything in her life. She can’t catch the perp, she has another mystery she can’t seem to solve, and her love life is non-existent. But then fate intervenes, making her face something that she never thought to confront again, and bringing up things and feelings from her past she thought long forgotten.
The onus is on her. The question is, will she make the right move and choose love?
Thirty minutes after class, Mel was headed down her favorite wooded trail. The air was crisp in her lungs, but not too cold, and she felt invigorated with her workout clothes and a medium-weight zip-up hoodie. The birdsong surrounding her felt like a private symphony. With the rustle of the trees, the rushing of the water in the distance, and the gentle tumble of the leaves in the breeze as they cascaded to the ground around her, Mel felt as if she were witnessing a show put on just for her. The smell of dirt and wet sand and subtle tree rot was like a perfume to her senses. Yeah, she loved it out here. Hence why she’d bought her house so close. This was her sanctuary, and she came here as often as she could before the snowmobilers took over the larger trails and ruined the serenity.
When she came upon the clearing that opened to the river and the waterfall, the mist in the air made her catch her breath, but not as much as the beauty surrounding her. The water rushed and frothed over the rocks, tumbling to the rapids below. The hills and trees on either side created the perfect frame for the gorgeous sight. Finding her favorite huge, flat rock, Mel jog-hopped over to it and set down the towel she’d brought with her. Sitting lotus-style on the flat, cold surface, she took a deep breath and took in the quiet of the moment. The serene energy of the environment and the bliss she’d already cultivated within herself mingled to make her feel wholly at ease. Her worries about her job and her disappointment in herself for her relationship failures faded away for a moment, making room for a calming buzz that utterly encapsulated her.
Deep into her meditation, she almost didn’t hear someone approach. She wasn’t in a secluded spot, it was actually well-traveled, but it was still earlier than most hikers were out and about. Opening her eyes, Mel looked up and turned around, and her heart dropped. Her stomach fluttered as if a kaleidoscope of butterflies had taken flight. There, standing about fifteen feet away from her, was none other than Vaughn Romano.
The one that got away.
definition. A flush of happiness rushed through Mel. Yeah, today would be just what she needed.
Glancing at the clock, she saw that she had about two hours before the vinyasa yoga class she liked at Zentangle on the strip. She’d have some breakfast, then change, grab her stuff, and head on over. If she planned it right, she could go straight to Willow River afterwards and enjoy the afternoon by the waterfall. It may get chilly, but if she bundled up, she’d be fine, and the brisk, fresh air and nature would do her some good. She’d been cooped up way too much lately.
As her tea steeped, she let her mind wander and couldn’t stop the guilt that suddenly swarmed her, making her stomach quiver. She should be in the office, trying to track down the psychopath wreaking havoc on her town and those beyond. But she was on call. She’d have her phone, and if anyone needed her, she could be available in a heartbeat. There were no new leads to run down, and they were waiting for information from several outside resources before they could take the next steps.
Next steps made her once again think of Vaughn. He didn’t seem far from her thoughts these days, and she wondered why. Maybe the stress of everything had lowered her guard and made her yearn for the happiness he’d brought her. Yet, in her heart of hearts, she still wasn’t sure that they could have worked. She had been entirely focused on her job and getting ahead as selfish as that may sound, and he was always traveling for work, following this story or that. Despite the inferno between them, and the true affection that came with it, Mel had never felt longevity there. Though, lately, she’d begun to wonder if it was just her self-doubt and assumptions of her shortcomings that had created that. Or maybe her need to overthink things and find fault where there really wasn’t any.
Mel shook her head to get herself out of her reverie. She obviously needed to get laid. Too bad that wasn’t who she was. She wished she were the type of person who could just use a guy for what they both needed and appreciate both it and him, but emotions came into play in a big way for her. Obviously too much, since it seemingly made her overthink everything. And then run.
Enough, Mel. Just stop and enjoy your day.
Dressed in a cute, gothic pair of leggings and a mesh tank and sports bra, Mel grabbed her stuff, petted Dorian goodbye as he ate, and headed out.
Just as she got into the Jeep, her cell rang. Her heart sank. No, no, no, not now! Rooting around in her purse, she found the phone at the bottom and lifted it out just as the ringing stopped. She glanced at the screen, her hands shaking a bit with apprehension and anger before she saw the readout. Kingsley. Mel let out a breath. Not work, then. Thank the stars.
Once situated in the car with her Bluetooth connected, Mel rang Kingsley back as she drove to Quarter and Main.
“Hey, Mel,” Kingsley said upon answering. “Did I disturb you? I know it’s early on a Saturday, but you’re usually up at the crack of dawn every day.”
“Not at all. I’m actually on my way to yoga. What’s up?” Mel checked her blind spot and merged onto the highway, thinking it’d be faster than taking back roads all the way to Zentangle.
“Nothing. Just missed you. Making sure we’re still on for tomorrow.”
“Aw, I miss you, too. We’re definitely on. As I told Rhynn, the only thing that will keep me away is if something happens with the case. But for now, we’re just waiting on things, so we’re good to go.”
Mel heard Kingsley giving her husky, Denali, some breakfast and opening and closing the fridge. “Um, hey, are you dating anyone right now?”
Mel raised an eyebrow, even though Kingsley couldn’t see it, and sucked in her lips before answering. “No-o-o-o, why do you ask?”
“So, here’s the thing,” Kingsley started, her high school teacher-voice in full effect, “Rhynn has this buddy from U of M. He’s a great guy. He hasn’t been around in years because he’s been off doing his thing, trying to become the next Edgar Award winner or something, but he’s back in town. I think you two might like each other. How do you feel about tomorrow kind of being a blind date of sorts?”
Mel sighed. She knew Kingsley was coming from a good place, a place where the woman cared about her friend and just wanted her to be happy, but Mel had no desire to be set up with anyone. It wasn’t that she didn’t trust Kingsley’s judgment, and if this guy and Rhynn were still friends after all of these years, he was probably a great dude, but that just wasn’t Mel’s thing.
“Kingsley, I love you. I really do. But I’m not looking for anything right now. I am thrilled to meet him. Rhynn couldn’t hide his happiness the other day about having his buddy back in town, but I’m not looking to date. Especially not right now. This case is taking up all of my time and energy.”
Kingsley sighed on the other end of the line. “I get it, Mel. But I had to try. We’ll still have a great time, and I really think you will like him. He’s awesome. Okay, I gotta run. Landry’s up, and I think Rhynn’s making cranberry-orange pancakes. See you tomorrow.”
“Bye, chica. Have a good one. I’ll be there just as soon as I can tomorrow after I take care of a couple of things.”
Just as she disconnected, Mel pulled into the Zentangle parking lot and headed in for the class she’d been looking forward to since yesterday morning.
Rayvn Salvador is a lifelong bibliophile who left her eighteen-year IT career in Software Quality Assurance to live her dream: getting paid to read as a full-time editor (done as her alter ego), and to write when the mood strikes. She lives in Florida with three crazy cats and her incredibly supportive beau, dreaming about the Midwest’s changing leaves as she perfects her yoga poses on the beach.
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