Fighting for Love
Fighting for Love
- Purchase the E-book Instantly
- Receive Download Link via Email
- Send to Preferred E-Reader and Enjoy!
- Second Chance Romance
- Return to Hometown
There's no love lost between former high school sweethearts Morris Winters and Amber Logan. When Morris returns to Willow Valley—for good—it shakes things up for Amber in a way she never expected. Morris was supposed to be a thing of the past, but feelings she thought were long buried soon rise to the surface.
Morris may have been gone for six years, but when he sees Amber again, it's as if no time has passed. But things have changed. He's a different man now, and he's not sure he can be what she needs.
Can these two find their way past the walls they've built around their hearts, or is a second chance too much to ask for after all they've been through?
Read Chapter One
Read Chapter One
More than anything in the world, Amber Logan needed a cup of coffee.
Stifling a yawn, she upped her pace to keep up with the Winters girls, her shoes clicking steadily on the cobbled path. From the other side of the town square, Cassie’s Confections seemed to beckon to her, and her stomach did a little dance.
More than just coffee, maybe she needed one of Cassie’s pastries as well. They were heaven in cupcake form, and half the town wouldn’t hesitate to call them an obsession. Amber belonged to that half of town—especially this morning, now that her stomach seemed to have woken up as well.
“Was that your stomach?” Maggie asked, eyebrow cocked as she eyed Amber suspiciously.
“Sounded more like a bear,” Lanie agreed with a bright laugh, one that made a few heads turn in their direction. Amber just smiled—she had grown used to all the extra attention she received whenever she was with any of the Winters girls. Quick to laugh, and even quicker to play matchmaker whenever there was a chance, every member of the Winters family played their part in brightening up the town’s history.
“Have you been eating?” Maggie charged again, but didn’t give Amber time for a reply. “You look tired too. Can’t sleep? What’s keeping you up?”
“The mattress is getting kinda old,” Amber lied, but from the corner of her eye she saw Lanie elbowing Maggie. Sighing, she just crossed the road and made her way toward the bakery. Neither Maggie or Lanie seemed to buy her excuse, but at least they didn’t press the subject.
“You’re up early,” Cassie greeted them from behind the counter as the three girls stepped inside the bakery. The sweet scent of freshly baked chocolate cookies and perfect loaves hit Amber right away, and her stomach roiled some more. These past few days her appetite had been failing her, but now it seemed to have returned in full force.
“We dragged Amber out of the house for breakfast. She’s having trouble sleeping. Says she needs a new mattress.” The moment Maggie finished speaking, Lanie elbowed her once more, trying to shut her sister up. Which was kind of ironic, since none of the Winters sisters knew the meaning of the word quiet.
“New mattress, huh?” Cassie’s smile was a knowing one, and that made Amber look away for a moment. She’d never been good at keeping secrets, and everyone seemed to know exactly why Amber was having trouble sleeping...and that, of course, had nothing to do with an old mattress.
As Cassie filled the girls’ orders, they made their way to their favorite table in the corner, near all the displays that housed towers of croissants, pastries, and cakes so perfect that Amber thought it a sin to eat them.
Thankfully, the coffee and croissants seemed to distract Maggie and Lanie from Amber’s latest bout of insomnia. At least for now, they seemed content enough to devour everything in sight instead of trying to make Amber talk about something she didn’t even want to think about.
“Coffee, black,” a voice said, and Amber sat so straight in her chair it seemed like her head was tied to a balloon floating over her. Even though the place was packed with regulars, and the usual chatter made it a nuisance to even hear what Maggie or Lanie were saying, that voice cut through everything.
Carefully, she glanced toward the opposite end of the room. And there he was.
Leaning against the counter, the sleeves of his shirt rolled up to his elbows, he smiled as Cassie handed him a cup of coffee, pushing it across the counter.
“You’re up early,” Cassie said to the man, mimicking exactly what she told Amber earlier. “Having trouble sleeping, Morris?”
“I’m an early riser.” Smiling at Cassie, Morris took the cup from her and brought it up to his lips, the steam still rising from the cup. For a second, Amber was completely mesmerized, looking at him as if she’d never seen him before.
As if he hadn’t broken her heart before.
“Earth to Amber.” Poking her in the cheek with one finger, Maggie laughed as Lanie waved one hand in front of Amber’s face. “Don’t space out on us. And what are you looking at, anyway?”
“I wasn’t—” Amber tried to say, but it was already too late.
“Oi, Morris!” Maggie shouted, loud enough to make everyone in the small bakery stare at the table they were in. “Come and join us! Don’t just stand there brooding. Come have breakfast with your sisters, will you?”
For a fraction of a second, Amber thought her heart had stopped. She locked eyes with Morris, clenched her jaw, and laid her hands on top of her knees, balling them into fists. The man was like an inescapable curse—no matter what she tried to do, or where she went, he always seemed to be there.
She should’ve been expecting it.
After being away for more than six years, with nothing but little stops in Willow Valley sprinkled here and there, it seemed that Morris Winters now craved being with his family more than anything else. And that was a problem, because Amber wanted nothing more than distance from those smart and unsettling eyes.
“G’morning.” Smiling at Maggie and Lanie, Morris pulled a chair from the adjoining table and only then smiled at Amber. She didn’t return his smile; instead, she narrowed her eyes at him and gritted her teeth. His smile faded in no time.
“Eat.” Without even asking, Maggie pushed a plate of croissants toward Morris. He tried to raise his hands apologetically, but there was no way he’d triumph over his sisters. In less than a few seconds, he had a croissant in one hand and his coffee in the other. After being deprived of their brother for so long, it was apparent Winters girls wanted nothing more than to spoil and pamper him. And knowing them, play the matchmaker as well. Of course.
“You know,” he said between bites, “if you girls keep feeding me like this, I might have to reenlist just to get in shape.”
“Don’t be an idiot,” Lanie chided him, swatting his arm. “You’re not going anywhere, you hear us?”
“No, I’m staying for good this time.” He smiled as he said it, looking into his sister’s eyes. But only his lips seemed to smile—his eyes didn’t, something that Amber would describe as sadness hiding behind them.
For a moment, she wondered about how hard it must’ve been for Morris. To be shipped halfway around the world, violence his calling, while having to give up on everything he loved. To miss all the weddings, the birth of his nephews, all the chaotic dinners in the Winters household.
But then again, wasn’t Morris the kind of man to give up on the things that mattered easily? He’d given up on her, after all. And shattered her heart into a million little pieces.
Nursing her coffee, she pulled the cup closer to her and grabbed it with both hands, almost as if it could somehow shield her from the conversation taking place at the table. Morris wasn’t looking at her, busy with trying to juggle the yammering of his sisters, but it almost seemed...forced.
And then their eyes locked.
Just for a fraction of a second, but enough to make Amber’s heart ache inside her chest. She looked down at the coffee, her throat suddenly growing dry, and felt her fingers tightening around the cup. It didn’t matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t escape the effect Morris had on her.
But how could she? Even after six years, she had never forgotten about the man that stepped all over her heart and then vanished. At times, that made her feel guilty—she did what was expected of a young woman, dating and going through a very modest share of boyfriends, but in the back of her head...Morris was always there.
Time will solve that, she tried to tell herself many times. For a brief period, she’d actually started believing that lie. And then, after being gone for God knew how many years, he showed up out of the blue.
Nine months ago, Amber was a woman on a mission. She’d finally set up her event planning business—God bless Lanie for all her help with that—and she’d been in charge of making Kate and Mack’s dream wedding a reality. Sure, she’d known it was a very real possibility that Morris would show up to his brother’s marriage. After all, hadn’t the date been chosen just so Morris would come?
But Morris had been away for so long, missing all the important events dotting the family history of the Winters, that Amber just brushed away that thought.
When she’d seen him at the wedding, it felt as if she’d traveled six years back in time.
But then, just as quickly as he’d appeared, he was gone. Back to what had slowly become his new family: the military.
And that had been that—until Morris shown up nine months later at his parents’ house, duffel bag slung over his shoulder and a bold proclamation: after being gone for six years, he was finally home to stay.
“Don’t you think so, Amber?” Maggie asked, smiling at her from the other side of the table. She blinked, wracking her brain to remember what exactly they were talking about.
“Yeah, no doubt, absolutely,” she replied, trying to read the expression on Maggie’s face to see if she answered right.
“See, Morris? Even Amber agrees with us. The kids love you.”
He looked across the table, straight at Amber, then offered her a thin smile. She just looked back at him with a blank expression, narrowing her eyes slightly. He might be all smiles with her now, but she would never forget about what happened between them. Oh, she had tried...but that was far beyond her abilities.
If Morris wanted to draw a smile out of her, she’d make him sweat for it.
“Yeah, Morris, you’re terrific with the kids,” she found herself saying, her eyes never leaving Morris. She didn’t intend to, but there was a tiny sarcastic sting hiding behind her words. She wanted to shut up, to control herself, but now that she’d started there was no stopping her. “After all, you’re just a kid at heart, right?”
She gritted her teeth, frustrated with his answer. He shouldn’t bother her this much, not after he chose to remain thousands of miles away from her and everyone that loved him...but, God, to be dismissed by him this completely! Some things never changed. Morris remained as frustrating of an ass as ever.
“Oh, shoot.” Amber faked a look of surprise as she glanced at her wristwatch. “I’m late. I still want to swing by the office this morning and take care of a few things.”
“On a Sunday?”
“Yeah, come on, Amber...you work too much.”
Amber hesitated for a moment, looking from one sister to the other, but then stood up anyway. “I’m sorry girls. Busy weekend...duty calls!” With that, she walked away from the table, a heavy sigh escaping her lips.
Amber Logan’s great escape, she thought sadly as she made a beeline toward the exit.
What a mess.
She went out for coffee and breakfast to clear her head, and in the end it just made it all worse. It didn’t seem to matter how hard she tried to escape him—now that Morris was back in town, they were destined to bump into each other over and over again.
“Amber?” She heard a man’s voice call after her as her feet hit the sidewalk, and she spun on her heels to meet Joey.
Great, she thought, this morning is going downhill fast.
“Wow, it’s been a while hasn’t it?” He smiled, taking one step toward her and flashing her a toothy grin. A grin she hoped she wouldn’t have to meet this morning. Joey wasn’t a bad guy at heart, and the three months during which they dated seemed to attest to that. But in the end, he just wasn’t the man Amber needed in her life.
Too needy, dependant, and overbearing, he was more like a grown child than an actual partner she could trust. He didn’t see it that way, though, and despite the amicable breakup, he still tried to get back in Amber’s good graces whenever they crossed paths.
“Yeah, been a while.” She smiled back at him, hesitantly shifting her weight from one foot to the other. “At least a week or so.”
“Right.” He nodded, almost as if he wanted to tell her he registered her words, and then took one more step toward her. “Listen, Amber, I was thinking...what do you think about grabbing lunch today? There’s a lot I want to talk to you about.”
“Oh, ah...thank you, Joey. I don’t think we should, though. And it’s not exactly a good time, you know? I’m pretty busy with work, and I don’t have much time to hang out.”
“Well, you had time for breakfast.” He pointed with his head at the Cassie’s Confections window panes, and his grin turned into a knowing smile. I know you’re lying, it seemed to say, and I don’t care.
“Well, uh...you know how Maggie and Lanie are. You can’t say no to them, can you?” She laughed nervously, placing her purse right between Joey and herself. With each second that passed, she was growing more and more uncomfortable. Maybe that was what drove her to break up with Joey—he just couldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer.
“C’mon, babe.” Placing a hand on her shoulder, he closed the distance between them. Amber backed away until she found the wall against her back. In the distance, she could hear the bakery door chiming as someone walked out. “It’s just lunch, I promise that I—”
“If I were you, I’d take your hands off her.”
Amber’s heart did a somersault as she heard Morris’s voice, and she barely registered it as Joey peeled his fingers off her shoulder.
“Yeah? And why should I?”
Morris simply stood his ground as Joey sauntered over to him, slowly turning his two hands into fists.
“Because she’s with me,” Morris replied, his voice flat but hiding a cold threat somewhere.
Even from where she was standing, Amber could see Joey clenching his jaw, rocking back and forth on his heels as he measured up Morris. Then, shaking his head, he threw one last glance at Amber and stalked away, muttering something as he stuffed his hands inside his pockets.
“She’s with me?” Amber whirled on Morris, hands on her hips as she stared him down. “Who the hell do you think you are, Morris Winters?”