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Un-Hitched: A Camden Ranch Novel, page 1


Un-Hitched: A Camden Ranch Novel

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Un-Hitched: A Camden Ranch Novel


  A Camden Rance Novel

  Jillian Neal

  Edited by

  Chasity Jenkins-Patrick

  Cover Design by

  The Killion Group, Inc.


  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  Chapter 21

  Chapter 22

  Chapter 23

  Chapter 24

  Chapter 25

  Chapter 26

  Chapter 27

  Chapter 28

  Chapter 29

  Chapter 30

  Chapter 31

  Chapter 32

  Chapter 33

  Chapter 34

  Chapter 35

  Chapter 36

  Chapter 37

  Chapter 38

  Chapter 39

  Chapter 40

  Chapter 41


  Another Epilogue

  About the Author

  Also by Jillian Neal

  Copyright © 2017 by Jillian Neal

  All rights reserved.

  No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

  ISBN: 978-1-940174-40-2

  To Brandi -

  Thanks for always listening with your heart

  Chapter One

  Kaitlyn Sommerville should have been vibrating with fury as she stared down at her phone, but the only emotion she could locate at that moment was abject relief.

  Her eyes managed a few quick blinks, making certain she was reading the text correctly. But as her gaze lowered from the cell phone in her hands to the long flow of white satin and lace cascading down her body, the boulder in her throat expanded. What was going to happen to her parents? What was going to happen when she ran? Because she was finally going to give in to the desperate desire to fly that had been threatening to overwhelm her for the last three years.

  Another roll of ominous thunder shook the windows of the clubhouse. The storm outside was nothing compared to the maelstrom stirring in Kaitlyn’s stomach and the black hatred filling her hollow chest. How could he have done this to her parents?

  “Motherfucking asshole,” she spat the first curse words that had exited her lips in three long years, before she remembered she was not standing in the bridal room of Hillcrest Country Club alone.

  “Kaitlyn?” Her grandmother’s eyes goggled.

  “Sorry, Nana.” Every exit sign in that ridiculously extravagant room where she’d been sequestered glowed enticingly. The walk signal from the crosswalk outside the window gave blurry blinks through the deluge of rain.

  “What on earth?” Her grandmother’s perfectly manicured hands reached and took the phone from Kaitlyn’s grasp. Cringing, Kaitlyn wasn’t certain what her grandmother would say to this. It would be easier to escape if she’d been alone.

  ‘Darling, know that I wish it were you in white today, and nothing will change what happens between us. She’s nothing more than a business transaction. You are my everything.’

  “And to whom did he intend to send this since you are the one in white today?” Her grandmother sounded almost as disgusted as Kaitlyn felt.

  “Look at the top, Nana. He sent it to me and to Kelsey. It’s a group message, but her name is first. Bastard didn’t look closely enough at who he was sending that to. Seth’s always like that. He doesn’t give a damn about anyone but himself and never cares if he gets caught being the asshole he is.” For her foul mouth to have been so rusty, the words were flowing rather freely at the moment.

  “Kaitlyn, dear, I know you’re upset, but do mind your language.”

  “Nana, I’m standing in my wedding gown, in this stupid country club, and my fiancé has been cheating on me with a girl who has already walked down the aisle because she is one of my bridesmaids. Daddy’s going to be in here any minute.”

  Her grandmother’s beautiful face, a product of years of methodic Pond’s Cold Cream and Oil of Olay applications, twisted in thought. She stalked quickly to the vase of six perfect white roses, sent a few hours earlier from Seth, situated on the counter along with Kaitlyn’s makeup bags. Only someone as tight as Seth would send a half–dozen roses. Kaitlyn was surprised he’d sent her anything at all.

  Plucking the card from the florist, her grandmother touched a few buttons on the cell phone in her hand.

  “This is Katarina Sommerville. Yes, dear, that’s right, Chief of Police Sommerville’s mother. I was hoping you could help me.” Her grandmother smirked. “I had a feeling you’d be more than happy to. There was a delivery order today from Mr. Seth Christensen. I need to make certain it’s been received.” Kaitlyn had no idea what her grandmother was up to. The roses were sitting before them in all their stupid glory; obviously, they’d already been delivered. “Should have been sent to Kelsey Bennett. Ah, yes I see. Twelve dozen pink roses were signed for by Kelsey herself. How lovely.”

  So that was why he was always such a tightwad despite his parents’ money and his job at the D.A.’s office. He was spending all his spare cash on Kelsey.

  The opening chords of Pachelbel’s Canon in D were shattered by a lightning strike that split the darkening sky plenty loud enough for even Kaitlyn to hear.

  Acrid breath seized in her lungs. Oh, my God. Oh, my God. I’m supposed to get married. Now. The room tilted and spun. Her heart refused her another beat. Something inside of her snapped.

  What would people say when they found out she’d run away? Her parents paid a fortune for all three ballrooms in the club. The flowers alone were obscenely expensive, not that any of it had been Kaitlyn’s preference. It had all been her parents. And the gown. Dear God, the stupid, ridiculous gown she’d been shoved into had cost more than some people make in six months’ time.

  Some small voice she barely recognized became more audible with each passing moment and each vicious clap of thunder announcing an impending storm. Nowhere in her soul could she locate sadness that Seth didn’t love her. What the hell was she even doing standing there in a gown? How had this gone so far? The coma she’d forced herself to live in for the past three years began to unravel. She had no intention of mending it yet again.

  The rush of blood in her good ear muted the onslaught of rain as it assaulted the building. Mother Nature took up Kaitlyn’s cause as she pummeled the windows with angry fistfuls of water.

  An eruption of emotion streamed from her mouth. “Daddy will be here in just a minute to walk me down the aisle. The entire town is out there waiting on me. I have to get out of here.” The words bubbled up from Kaitlyn’s chest.

  “Then we only have a minute. You, my precious child, have always deserved better than Seth Christensen. All your parents have been through in the last few years has made a mockery of their good sense. You deserve more. You know it, and I know it. There is a great deal more to life than living it safely, or even worse, allowing someone else to dictate who you become. Safety can be a vicious bind, Kaitlyn, never forget that. You’ve never loved Seth, and it will be over my dead body that my granddaughter goes through life with a cheating b
astard, never knowing true passion. It is out there my girl, but you must go find it.

  “Now, run. I’ll explain everything to your parents. You go. Let Seth and Kelsey deal with the aftermath of this bomb they’ve detonated. You have the plane tickets for your honeymoon, right?”

  “Yes, ma’am. They’re in my bag.”

  “Good girl. Go on your trip. Find passion. Come back in a few weeks, and people will have better things to talk about.”

  “Nana, are you sure about this? Daddy’ll freak. And Mama, good grief, if I run away she might … come unglued … again.”

  “We are Sommervilles, darling. We do not run away. We run to things, things that are deserving of our spunk, our smarts, and our sass. You have spent the last three years of your life worrying over your mother and your father. You gave up everything you ever wanted to keep them from falling apart. It’s high time you go out and live a little. Just go. I hear Langston coming now.”

  Kaitlyn’s grandmother, an indomitable force, had been born unable to hear in one ear just like Kaitlyn, due to sensorineural deafness. After her brother’s death, however, the nerves in Kaitlyn’s left ear were deteriorating due to stress.

  It took her a moment more, but she did indeed hear, “My little girl’s getting ready to walk down the aisle. I do not have time for this today. The storm will have to wait.”

  “Go,” Nana urged.

  “I don’t know where I’m going.”

  “You’ll figure that out on the way.” Her grandmother tugged on her good ear. Kaitlyn did the same. Their good luck gesture. Kaitlyn hoped it worked this time.

  Standing on the precipice of a life of misery and no passion just as her grandmother had predicted, Kaitlyn prayed that her parents would understand this one indiscretion—her first since Keith’s death—and not dissolve into the abyss they were when she’d arrived home from culinary school that grey afternoon after the phone call.

  Gripping her suitcases, she brushed a kiss on Nana’s cheek and slipped out the back door just as her father entered the door on the opposite side of the room.

  “You ready, baby girl?” She could just barely make out her father’s voice.

  Kaitlyn slowly eased the door closed before she raced out through the sheets of water spilling over the gutters.

  The rain baptized her as she sprinted towards her car. The white dress became almost see-through as it sealed itself to her body. She didn’t care. She’d find a hotel somewhere out of town. Take a shower, change, toss the damn dress in an incinerator, and figure out what to do from there.

  Through the onslaught of cold rain plummeting from the sky, she could just make out Seth’s ridiculous candy apple red Audi R8 parked three spaces down from her Honda. Driven only by rage, both at Seth and herself, she set her bags down on the wet concrete and dug her car key into the hood of his car, leaving slashed scars back and forth. One after another, she cut herself free from every expectation heaped on her by everyone else.

  When she was soaked through, and the keys were too wet for her to grip effectively, she grabbed her bags and slogged to her car weighted down by the drenched gown, a vicious bind indeed.

  Slamming her suitcases into the backseat, Kaitlyn held her face to the rain letting it wash her clean. Black mascara pooled with the blush she’d applied. It marred her face and dripped onto the bodice of the dress. Good.

  Scrubbing her hands over her face, she leaped into the driver’s seat, passed the two dozen police squad cars in the parking lot of the country club and flew to the entrance gates.

  Nana was right. She’d lost herself when they’d buried her brother. She’d let her parents run her entire life and look at where it had gotten her.

  Grant Camden glared at the dark clouds surrounding his truck. Damn it all to hell and back; this was just what he’d needed. He’d left Pleasant Glen two hours ago to escape the leaded clouds there. The storm had chased him East, never letting him out of its clutches.

  He worked his jaw and narrowed his eyes trying to see through the deluge of water washing over his windshield. Flipping on his hazard lights, he knew better than to pull over. Some idiotic city-slicker would eat the back-end of his new truck, and that would not improve his mood.

  Lightning fierce enough to scar the very earth shattered the sky. Grant’s gut churned ominously. This wasn’t good. There was a green tinge to the clouds, and the air surrounding him was weighted with atmospheric tension. And there was the smell, the distinctive odor in the air every Midwesterner knew meant trouble.

  Fishing his phone out from his pocket, careful to keep his eyes on the car lights in front of him every time his windshield wipers flung enough water away for him to see, he touched his granddaddy’s number on his favorites list.

  “You ‘bout here, son? Gettin’ bad out there.”

  “Yeah, I’ll be there in ten minutes long as nothing gets worse. I can’t even hear my radio. What’s the weather report saying?”

  “I ain’t had power in an hour. Last I heard it was a tornado warning. I’d feel better if you were here.”

  Grant couldn’t help but smile. He was a grown man, owned a massive cattle ranch with his family, farmed enough corn to subset the cows should anything go wrong, and had been taking care of himself for the last decade, yet his parents and his grandparents worried about all the Camden kids like they were still knee-high to a cornstalk. “I’ll be there soon. You go get in the storm shelter though, you hear me?”

  “Don’t go ordering me around, Grant Camden. You ain’t out-ranched your granddaddy yet. I’m heading out there. I ‘spect to see you in there soon.”

  “That’s definitely the plan. We’ll go check on Gran tomorrow.”

  “I already called the home. They got ‘em all down in the auditorium. I told ‘em if anything happened to my baby I’d have plenty to say about it.”

  “She’ll be all right, and I’ll be there soon.”

  Taking a moment to feel the consuming loss that always managed to sucker punch him whenever his granddaddy talked about his grandmother, Grant slowed the truck again. They were crawling through the streets of Lincoln. Better than swimming, he supposed, which was the only other viable option.

  His grandparents had been married sixty-two years. They’d lived through the great depression, more wars than you could count on one hand, had raised up Grant’s daddy and his brother, then helped raise all six of the Camden grandkids, and ranched until his grandmother’s COPD needed constant treatment.

  According to his granddaddy, he’d known his grandma was the one from the moment he’d laid eyes on her. The way he still called her baby even though she was in her eighties certainly gave credence to the tale.

  The winds shifted hard against the truck. Grant gripped the wheel and felt his right front tire lose traction as he collided with a puddle deep enough to drown a good-sized dog. He couldn’t even give the country club a one finger salute as he normally did, lest he lose control of the truck and take out the minivan in front of him.

  This was yet another reason he despised coming to the city. Three-quarters of the population lost all ability to drive when it started storming.

  There was nothing like Nebraska in the spring. She was almost vicious in her beauty. One minute the sun would highlight all her best features, the next a storm would wash it all away. And when Mother Nature had enough, or when she had PMS or something, she’d release a twister meant to show mankind just who held all the power.

  From what Grant could see through the rain, the green clouds blended in with the horizon and another roll of thunder gnawed at the preceding lightning. Definitely not a good sign.

  Edging his way past the entrance to the ridiculous country club where city-slickers of every variety loved to show off their money, Grant’s heart seized in his chest when a tail of water spewed from the minivan’s back tires, covered his truck and robbed him of all visibility.

  He slammed on his brakes and gritted his teeth like that might prevent his truck from
inhaling the van.

  When the water finally freed his sight, he breathed a sigh of relief just before he was thrown forward into this steering wheel. Searching his rearview mirror he couldn’t see the car that had hit him, but the unmistakable thud and screech of folding metal over the thunder said he’d been hit hard.

  Chapter Two

  “Oh, my God!” Kaitlyn beat back the airbag that had slapped her firmly across the face. Her cough stirred white dust, only making it harder to breathe. What had she hit?

  Patting herself down through her soaking wet gown she tried to think of what to do next. For some ridiculous reason that had to have come from being the police chief’s daughter, her mind immediately conjured what to say to her dad about the accident. She’d rear-ended … something. All she could see through the rain was black metal and green sky. It was clearly her fault, but really it was the storm’s fault, and she wouldn’t have even been out in the storm if it weren’t for Seth, the asshole extraordinaire.

  Yes. This was all Seth’s fault. It took her less than two seconds to hate herself for trying to blame someone else for the accident. Allowing herself one moment to stare into the now-cracked rearview mirror, she wondered when exactly she’d lost all track of who she was.

  The fissured mirror split her face into three distinctive pieces. Her eyes were a divided hollow of confusion. She barely recognized the whole, much less the disjointed pieces. It took her three blinks and the throbbing ache in her neck and head to remember that she’d just hit someone. Terror took up residence in her soul. What if they were hurt?

  Fumbling for the handle, she managed to heave herself out of the car. A river of water swept down the street and sent her reeling. Her heels were soaked, and she fell forward, barely managing to grip the remains of her car to keep from falling.

  The hood now far more resembled an accordion instead of an Accord. And there in the center of what had just moments before been the front of her car was a massive trailer hitch, attached to the biggest truck she’d ever seen. From what she could tell, the black GMC didn’t even bear a scratch from their encounter. At least that meant whoever was inside probably wasn’t hurt.

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