Wide open spaces, p.1
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       Wide Open Spaces, p.1

         Part #2 of Shooting Stars series by Aurora Rose Reynolds
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Wide Open Spaces


  Wide Open Spaces

  Aurora Rose Reynolds

  Copyright © 2016 ARR-INC.

  Cover design by Sara Eirew

  Cover photo Wander Aguiar

  Designs Formatted by BB eBooks

  All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing.

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used factiously, and any resemblance to any actual persons or living or dead, events or locals are entirely coincidental.

  The author acknowledges the trademark status and trademark owners of various products referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used without permission. The publication/ Use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owner.

  All rights reserved.

  Table of Contents

  Title Page

  Copyright Page

  About the Book

  Dedication

  Prologue

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Epilogue

  Sneak Peek of One Last Wish

  Excerpt from Fighting to Breathe

  Acknowledgment

  Other books by this Author

  About the Author

  Wide Open Spaces

  That moment your life changes.

  That moment that changes your life.

  That moment you love someone more than you love yourself.

  That was the moment we gave our son up for adoption, and the moment I was left bare. A wide-open space that would forever be empty.

  There are moments that define you as a person, moments that prove just how strong you are, moments you push yourself to keep going forward, when all you really want to do is give up. It was in one of those moments I reached out and found him waiting for me.

  When Shelby Calder left home fifteen years ago, she never planned on returning to the Alaskan town she left behind. But after the death of her grandfather and a bitter divorce, she hopes going home will be a fresh start for her and her ten-year-old son.

  Zach Watters has made a lot of mistakes in his life. But when he sees Shelby Calder looking more beautiful than ever, standing outside her childhood home, he promises himself letting her go won’t be a mistake he ever makes again.

  Some things never change, and love is one of them.

  Dedication

  To the two people who made one of the hardest decisions in their lives.

  Our hearts are full because of you.

  Our days are beautiful because of you.

  Adoption isn’t one sided, its not only about the couple who is adopting.

  It takes a very strong person to follow through with the placement of a child.

  How beautiful is it for someone to choose the gift of life, to follow through with something that is heartbreaking and a lot of times frowned upon.

  How much courage does someone need to have in order to say I love my baby so much I want to give him/her a better life than I can provide right now?

  That is love.

  That is the definition of love.

  Loving someone more than you love yourself.

  Wide Open Spaces

  Prologue

  “You have to let him go now.” Kathleen softly lays her hand on my shoulder. Shaking my head, I feel my throat close up and pain—excruciating pain—slice through me. “I know this is hard,” she says gently.

  “No, you don’t,” I choke out, feeling tears drip down my cheeks as I rest my lips against the smooth skin of my baby’s forehead.

  “Shel, baby,” Zach says, capturing my gaze as he walks around the bed toward me. “We agreed. This is the best thing for him.”

  Swallowing hard through the pain expanding inside of me, I pull in a deep shaky breath, closing my eyes.

  “I hate you,” I whisper, blinking my eyes open meeting his gaze once more. I have no idea how I can love and hate someone so much, but both of those emotions rock through me as I hold my son in my arms.

  “You don’t mean that.” The pain in his voice rips me apart a little more, and I lean my head back, closing my eyes, needing to block him out.

  “Shelby,” Kathleen prompts, and my eyes open.

  “Can I have a minute alone with him before you take him?” I plead, looking up at her.

  “Of course,” she agrees softly, wrapping her hand around my shoulder and squeezing gently before leaving the room.

  “I want to be alone with him, Zach,” I whisper, not even looking to the side of the bed, where he’s still standing.

  He’s silent for a moment. I wonder if he even heard me. “He’s my son, too,” he says, causing bitterness to well up inside of me.

  “Yeah, well, you can say goodbye when I’m done,” I tell him, hearing the indifference in my voice.

  “I love you, Shel.” The feel of his lips against the top of my head causes a fresh wave of tears before I hear his retreating footsteps, carrying him farther away from me. The door finally opens and shuts promptly, leaving us alone.

  Inhaling a ragged breath and releasing it slowly, I press my finger to my boy’s chin, where there is a dimple identical to his father’s. “If things were different, if I knew I could make it and give you the life you deserve, I would never give you up,” I whimper, pressing a kiss to his forehead. I bring his tiny body up to my chest and lean back, letting his weight settle against me until it’s time to let him go.

  I wake feeling warm, my arm and leg thrown over Zach, the steady beat of his heart playing in my ear like my favorite song. Sliding my hand from his abs, I rest it over my now flat stomach and swallow down the tears burning my throat.

  “It will be okay. I swear it will be okay,” Zach whispers to the top of my head, while I bury my face against his chest.

  I know he’s wrong. A piece of me is missing. A part of my soul is gone. I will never be okay again.

  Chapter 1

  Shelby

  Shutting off my car, I stare at the two-story house I used to call home. It looks the same as it did when I left. The deep blue is still vibrant, even more so now against the backdrop of the gray sky behind it. The white porch is still welcoming, with flowers hanging from the banister.

  My grandmother and I would spend hours planting flowers in those boxes during the summer. When she passed away during my sophomore year of high school, I made sure to keep up the tradition in her memory. It looks like, in my absence over these last fifteen years, someone else had taken over the job.

  Looking at the bright blooms growing wild, hanging over the sides of the boxes, I wonder if Granddad hired someone to plant them for him when he left to live in Florida. He never mentioned that he cared about the flowers we planted. Honesty, I don’t remember him mentioning them. Growing up, I didn’t even think he noticed, but now, looking at the blooming buds that are artfully arranged, I know they meant something to him after all.

  “Mom?” Turning my head, I look at my son Hunter and force a smile as aching pain and regret slice through my chest.

  “Sorry, honey. I spaced out. Do you want to unpack tonight, or do you want to wait until tomorrow, kiddo?”

  Looking over his shoulder, he eyes the boxes and suitcases piled in the back then looks at me. I hate the sadness I see in his eyes. I hate I’m the ca
use of his pain. I know he misses his father already, and I know that at ten years old, he doesn’t understand why we’re no longer together even if it’s been over two years since we separated and divorced.

  “Tomorrow,” he grumbles, and I feel that ache in my chest expand. He hates me for moving him across the country. Away from his friends, away from everything he knew. And I hate myself a little bit, too, for failing miserably at keeping my family together. I just hope this move will be a new start for us.

  “Tomorrow,” I agree softly, unhooking my belt and opening the door.

  Rounding the hood of the van, Hunter has already made it to the porch and is waiting at the top of the stairs, with his eyes pointed over my shoulder. Stopping, I look behind me as rain soaks through my clothes. I can’t believe how much the town has changed and grown. When I’d left home, you could see the sound from the front porch of my grandparents’ home. Now, the view is blocked by houses that have been built up side-by-side across the road.

  “Is it always raining?” Hunter’s voice breaks into my thoughts, and I turn back toward him and take the steps slowly, noticing they are rotting out in a few spots. Something I will have to fix soon.

  “Not always, but this is a rainforest, so I guess the answer in some ways is yes,” I tell him, when I make it up to the covered porch.

  His brows draw together over his blue eyes, making him look like his father, as he asks, “This is a rainforest?” While looking around.

  “It is.” I want so badly to reach out and run my finger down his cheek, but I keep my hand locked at my side. I don’t know exactly when it happened, but some time ago, he stopped wanting my affection. Stopped being my little boy.

  “Really?” he asks curiously, with wide eyes. “It doesn’t look like a rainforest,” he states, and he’s right; it doesn’t look like what you might imagine a rainforest would look like.

  “It doesn’t look like one, but it is all the same.” I smile, and his eyes move over my face then to the view, and his face loses the curiosity it held a moment ago.

  He turns, muttering, “Whatever.”

  Biting my lip, I take the key the lawyer mailed me out of the front pocket of my jeans, put it in the lock, and turn. The door opens with a loud creak and dust rises up from the floors. A loud alarm sounds, making us both jump. Running into the house, I look frantically for some kind of alarm system, finally finding the small white box off the door in the kitchen. Flipping the panel open, I stare at the numbers.

  “What’s the code?” Hunter yells over the siren, covering his ears.

  “I don’t know,” I yell back, pressing in every single number combination I can think of, but none of them work.

  “Is it in the papers in the car?”

  “Maybe,” I yell, then run for the door and down the stairs to the van. Swinging open the back door, I shove three boxes out of the way before finding the one I’m looking for. Ripping off the tape, I shuffle through the contents and scan the papers the lawyer sent, searching for the code, but stop and look over the hood of the van when the alarm goes quiet. “What was the code?” I ask Hunter, when he steps out onto the porch.

  “I don’t know.” He shrugs, looking over his shoulder into the house, like he’s waiting for someone to come out, making me frown.

  “Did it just stop?” I question, slamming the van door. His eyes come back to me and he shakes his head then starts to open his mouth to say something else, but is cut off by a deep voice.

  “I turned it off.”

  It takes one breath for me to realize who just stepped out of my grandparents’ house. One breath for every moment I spent with the man standing before me to flash through my head. Two seconds for me to feel my world come to a stop.

  The boy I once knew is gone. There’s nothing boyish about Zach Watters anymore. His jaw is now sharp, the stubble on it giving him a rugged look while accentuating his full lips. His dark hair has silvered around the edges, drawing attention to his expressive hazel eyes that look like they hold a thousand stories. His red and black plaid shirt is stretched tight across broad shoulders, giving a glimpse of the muscles it’s covering. He’s still every bit as beautiful as he once was, only more so now that time has aged him, taking him from a handsome boy to a gorgeous man.

  Swallowing, I look at my son then back again. “Thanks,” I whisper, and Zach’s eyebrows pull together as he sweeps his gaze over me. I have no doubt that I too have changed, but unlike him, time hasn’t been good to me. I’ve gained a few too many pound from eating my feelings over the last year. My skin has lost its youthful glow, and my hair has grown out at the roots without my bi-monthly maintenance appointments.

  “Shelby?” he asks, but all I can do is confirm with a nod, since my mouth has dried up and I can’t find my voice. “Jesus.” His eyes widen as he looks down at Hunter then back toward me. “What are you doing here?”

  “My… my son Hunter and I are moving in,” I stutter, caught off guard by his presence. I wasn’t stupid enough to believe I wouldn’t see him when I moved home, but I had convinced myself that seeing him would be on my terms, or sporadic at best.

  “What?” he whispers, leaning back on his boots, crossing his arms over his chest.

  Ignoring his question, I start to move back toward the stairs, asking, “Do you mind giving me the code for the alarm? I’m sure it’s somewhere in the papers the lawyer sent, but…” I stop and look to the left when Zach’s name is called. Standing on the porch of the house next door is a woman I know he got with a few months after I left. A woman he married soon after she gave birth to their twins. A woman I used to call my friend.

  A woman I now hate.

  I absently hear him say something to her, but the nausea turning my stomach and the sadness prickling my skin have me moving quickly up the steps, focusing on not falling over as I move past him. “Never mind about the code. I’m sure I’ll find it. Thanks for shutting off the alarm,” I mumble, as I walk through the door.

  “Mom.”

  “Come on, honey. Let’s have a look around, and then we need to get to the store.”

  “Mom,” Hunter repeats, sounding confused. I plaster a fake smile on my face.

  “The pizza place we drove past has the best pizza I’ve ever tasted. We could do that for dinner.”

  “Mom.”

  “Right here, honey.” I laugh, even though that laugh feels like glass edging down my windpipe.

  Studying me for a long moment, he finally mutters, “Pizza sounds good. I’m gonna call Dad before we go, and tell him we’re here.”

  “Sure,” I agree, watching him pull out his cell phone and walk toward the kitchen. I didn’t agree that he needed a cell phone at his age, but like all things with his dad, there was never any kind of conversation. He didn’t ask what I thought about it; he just did what he wanted to do.

  “You’re back?” Zach asks from behind me, making my shoulders slump forward and my eyes slide closed briefly.

  “Yeah.” I turn to face him and wrap my arms around my waist, feeling my stomach twist into knots. When I left town, we didn’t fight, didn’t yell at each other, didn’t say things we would end up regretting one day. I just knew there was too much pain between us to make what we had left work, and Zach, knowing the same, didn’t put up a fight when I told him my plans.

  “You’re staying here?” he asks, and I nod. Running a hand over his head as his eyes move to the right, where Tina had been moments ago, before bringing his gaze back to mine. “The code for the alarm is one, two, three, four. I told Pat to change it, but you know Pat,” he mutters, and I nod, knowing exactly how stubborn Gramps was. Shoving his hands into the front pocket of his jeans, his voice drops. “I’m really sorry about Pat.”

  “Thanks.” I hold myself a little tighter. His eyes drop to my arms around my middle and soften before moving up to meet mine once more.

  “If you need anything, I’m next door.” He lifts his chin in that direction, and my world stops again.

/>   “Pardon?” I breathe.

  “I live next door.”

  Okay, maybe I should have guessed that, since Tina was over there, but I didn’t, and this is not good… as in really not good. There is not one damn thing I can do about it, though, unless I want to load Hunter back into the van and live out of it for the next year or so, which I don’t think will win me any brownie points with my son.

  “Cool,” I whisper pathetically, with nothing else to say. Something familiar-looking and soft slides through his features, making my stomachache twist again, but this time in a way I haven’t felt in a long time.

  “Well…” I pause, needing this encounter to be over. “Thanks again for turning off the alarm. I wish we had time to catch up,” I lie. “But I need to get to the store before it closes, and then I need to get Hunter some food. Growing boys don’t do well without food,” I ramble, as I put my hand to the door, wanting so badly to shove it closed.

  “Sure.” He nods then looks over my shoulder, into the house. “Nice meeting you, Hunter.”

  “You too—” Hunter looks between Zach and me.

  “Mr. Watters, honey,” I mutter, answering his unspoken question, as he comes to stand at my side with his cell phone in his hand.

  “You too, Mr. Watters.”

  Zach’s eyes come to me and his face softens once more. “See you around, Shelby.”

  “Yeah, see you around,” I lie again, since I plan to pretend he doesn’t exist from this moment forward. I wait, even though I don’t want to, until he is walking away to close the door then stand there for a moment, trying to process what just happened.

  “How do you know him, Mom?” Hunter asks.

  “When I was younger,” I say, turning to face him, “we were friends.” I shrug, looking toward the stairs. “My room used to be in the attic—it’s the best room in the house—and if you make it there before me, I’ll let you have it.” I raise my brows before taking off in a sprint up the stairs, listening to my son, who I haven’t heard laugh in weeks, giggle as he runs up the stairs behind me.

 
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