Dakota Heat 4
Elizabeth Reed returns to her hometown for a fresh start, but she wants to avoid the ranchers who broke her heart. Hayden and Chandler Scott regret turning Elizabeth away so many years ago, but she was too young. Now that she’s back in Dakota Springs, they want a second chance to prove how much they’ve always loved her.
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Elizabeth Reed gripped the receiver tightly, her gaze automatically flying to where her daughter played on the floor. “Hayden?”
“Of course it’s me! Your mother just told us that your divorce is final. Pack your things. I’m coming to get you.”
Holding the receiver away from her ear, she stared at it, dumbfounded.
After all these years, why the hell would Hayden call her now? Not wanting Angie to hear, she moved to the kitchen.
His icy tone finally broke through as she warily lifted the receiver again. “—get there I’m going to beat the hell out of him and beat your ass raw.”
With her heart beating frantically, her legs wobbled, forcing her to grip the kitchen counter for support. She kept her tone firm, not about to let him hear any kind of weakness. “This is none of your business, Hayden, and I certainly don’t need you to come and get me. I’ve grown up, just like you wanted, and I can get home all by myself.”
“Push me on this, Lizzy, and you’ll be sorry. You never should have married him. If I had known about it beforehand, I would have stopped you.”
Shock and anger rendered her nearly speechless. He’d always been arrogant, but she’d never really had it directed at her before. If he thought she would just take it like one of his ranch hands, he was in for a surprise. “Listen, you son of a bitch—”
“No! You listen! Get your shit packed. I’ll be there in the morning.”
“I won’t be here!” Elizabeth pushed the button to end the call and hurriedly tossed the phone onto the kitchen table as if it burned her. Backing away on legs that felt like jelly, she jolted when the phone rang again. And again. She took a step back with each ring, her heart racing. She had to get out of there. She couldn’t deal with him right now.
Why the hell had he called?
Each ring grated on her nerves until the answering machine finally picked up.
“Lizzy, honey, it’s Chandler. Pick up the phone and talk to me, baby. Come on.” After a few seconds of silence, his voice took on an edge. “I know you’re there. If you don’t pick up the phone right now, we’re getting the next flight and coming up there. And we won’t be happy. If you pick up and let me know you’re okay, we’ll wait for you to come home, if that’s what you want.”
“Mommy, the phone ringed. A man’s talkin’ in the ‘chine.”
Spinning, Elizabeth took a deep breath and forced a smile for her three-year-old daughter. “I know, sweetheart. I’m going to talk to him now. Go back to your dolls, darling.”
Watching her daughter walk back into the living room, Elizabeth picked up the phone, taking a deep breath before she pushed the button to talk. “Chandler, I have no idea why you and Hayden are calling, but I don’t want to talk to either one of you. We have absolutely nothing to say to each other. Promise me you won’t come here.”
“Calm down, darlin’. I don’t want you takin’ off. We just wanted to come up and help you.”
Elizabeth winced as Hayden yelled something in the background. “Chandler, I haven’t talked to either you or Hayden since…”
“Since we called you when we heard you got married.”
Elizabeth still wanted to cry every time she thought about that call and the defeat in their voices. But they’d already turned her away. “Look, I don’t know what’s gotten into either one of you. I’m coming home at the end of the week. I want to start over. I want Angie to be raised in the same small town that I was raised in. Don’t worry, I’m not coming back to bother either one of you again.”
Chandler sighed. “You’ve never been a bother to either one of us.”
“I remember it differently.”
There was a long silence, followed by a muffled sound as if Chandler had his hand over the receiver. When he came back on the phone, his frustration came through loud and clear. “We won’t come up there. But this isn’t over. We’ll talk to you when you get home.”
“We have nothing to talk about. You’ll really stay away? Both of you?”
Elizabeth had trouble believing that. “You’re lying.”
Chandler’s voice dropped so low she had to struggle to hear him. “I’ve only lied to you once in my life, Lizzy, and my life has been hell ever since. We’ll wait. But you’re supposed to come home this weekend. If you don’t, we’re coming to get you. By force, if necessary.”
Tears rolled down her face, but she fought to keep them out of her voice. “Goodbye, Chandler.” She hung up and reached for a tissue to wipe away her tears before Angie saw them.
Eight years ago, Hayden and Chandler had wanted her to leave them alone. What the hell did they want from her now?