YOU’RE THE ONE
The line between fate and free will is fluid. That’s what I discovered on my sojourn. Still today, I don’t know if it was fate or free will that nearly destroyed my family.
I’m equally torn when I think about the woman I killed. It was against everything I held sacred. It was the old woman, the Native American shaman, Sakani Nambe, who told me that it was a compassionate act to stop the woman before she did any more damage to her karma.
But I know the truth. It was hate, and it was revenge.
My name is Bill and this is my story.
“I do.” Sandra Holley was officially the wife of Bill Devane. When the Calebs came for her, and she knew they would, they’d have a big surprise waiting for them.
And Bill would be sure they’d never hurt her again, because Bill was a man who could and would protect his woman. Above all else. This she knew with every fiber of her being, every shred of her heart. And on top of all of that, she loved him desperately.
She was a slave to her feelings for him. He owned her heart. He owned her soul. He owned her desire. Tonight, he’d own the rest of her. And, God help her, she wanted to be owned by Bill Devane.
Bill made her feel like the only woman in the whole wide world… beautiful, smart, sexy, funny—all the things she’d never been before Bill came into her life.
No one had ever looked at her the way he did, like she was so delicious, he could eat her up right on the spot, and at the same time, like she was a queen and he her servant. She could see forever in his eyes, and he looked at her like she was a gift made just for him.
She knew he was made for her. Her worries were behind her, because she had Bill. Happiness would now replace the wariness in her life. No one screwed with Bill Devane.
Bill had everything. A nice guy on the outside, he was quick to kick ass as well. He was six foot of solid muscle with a wildcat attitude. His gait was carefree yet purposeful—Bill didn’t believe in backing up. His dark brown hair was always adorably messy, long enough to hang in his face and give him a rugged, shadowed look. His deep-set green eyes and his thick brows only lent to the depth the strong angles of his face created. Bill was perfect.
She had been safe when her brothers had lived at home. But without them and the shield they provided against her monsters, she’d… well, she hadn’t been free. And she couldn’t stand being alone. Now she would never, ever be alone again.
“I do.” If his heart swelled any bigger, Bill’s chest was going to burst wide open. He loved Sandra so damn much. He could feel a physical pull emanating from her heart, and it was a heart full of goodness. He didn’t know what he’d done to deserve her, but he thanked his lucky stars for her.
God, she was so beautiful. She stood beside him, a vision in white, her veil falling over her thick blonde hair. The bluest eyes he’d ever dreamed about looked at him, into his eyes and into his soul. He was the luckiest man in the whole wide world.
Sandra didn’t believe it, but she was a Holley through and through. She thought she needed his protection—it was written all over her. The first night he’d met the all-grown-up Sandra at, of all things, a keg party, he’d seen it then. She’d needed him. She’d seemed lost, somehow.
He, of course, knew about the whole Caleb/Holley feud. And there was a good reason for Sandra to want protection. Sandra was his now. From now on, the only way someone would get to her, hurt her in any way, would be if he were already dead.
He needed her too. Needed to belong to her. To be her man. To be a good man for her. And he wanted someone who would stick—who be with him forever. Be there for him when it was his turn to fail or fall. He saw that devotion in her. That strength.
She didn’t see it, but she was one hell of a woman. She had a lot of grit, despite her own self-doubts. He’d convince her how wonderful and strong and beautiful she was.
Sandra had saved him from the abyss of failure he’d fallen into when Angela threw him away. Angela couldn’t be tied down, smothered she’d said. She’d wanted fun. He’d just wanted her. He’d loved her for so long.
And, for Angela, he’d even given up the idea of having the children he so desperately wanted. He wanted the sweet and intimate belonging that was a mom, a dad, and a couple of kids.
He wanted someone who would love him for who he was on the inside, not the side of Bill Devane that everyone else knew.
Sandra was special, and now she was his. And he was going to make sure she was happy. And safe. And found, because she still looked a little bit lost. Nerves, he supposed. Hell, he was a bag of jelly himself.
Bill kissed Sandra. She was his. His enormous feelings for her swelled to heights that he hadn’t known existed. She stirred him way down deep in his core. His partner. His wife.
He’d thought he’d loved Angela, and he had. Just not like this. With Angela, he’d never felt the longing pull of the desire that now flooded his body. He could feel it radiate from his soul. The pure joy and expanse of it almost brought tears to his eyes.
He held Sandra’s face and kissed her lips softly. Then he smiled at her, and almost forgot they were surrounded. He was going to spend his life with this woman. He wanted to be perfect for her. Would be. He couldn’t believe he was standing here with her. Married.
He took a deep breath, breathing in her perfume and the roses in her bouquet. He could do anything now, with her by his side. He’d make himself worthy of her. He easily succeeded in a crowd. It was close, personal relationships where he failed miserably.
He felt like a kid again. Happy and carefeee. Everything was before him now. Before them. He was going to be a good husband and a great dad. He saw a beautiful future. And she felt incredible in his arms.
They were supposed to mingle and thank people, but he couldn’t let her go. He just wanted to hold her and dance. Feel all five and a half feet of her softness against his hardness. He wanted her impressed, he wanted her to want him as much as he wanted her, and he was going to make it happen.
Bill was so happy he could sing out loud. And while he loved the feel of her waist under his hands and her breasts pressed against his chest, he was thinking about later. Sandra hadn’t been with anyone else.
He’d almost fainted when she’d told him. He was shocked, but somehow pleased. He’d respected that, hard as it had been. He could’ve seduced her, overwhelmed her emotionally just telling her the truth about how he felt about her. How she filled a place in him that’d been lacking forever.
What he’d had with Angela didn’t even count as love anymore… not compared to his clinging attachment to Sandra. His wants with Angela had been so surface compared with his deep need of Sandra. Maybe it was age, but he thought it was Sandra—skittish, crazy, loveable Sandra, his brave little self-proclaimed coward. His wife.
He looked at the clock for the hundredth time. Finally, it was midnight. He whispered to his mom and dad, told the band to play their song, and pulled Sandra away from her friends and onto the dance floor.
When the dance ended, he held onto her hand pulled her up onto the stage. He grabbed the mike and said, “Thanks to all of you for coming and celebrating with us tonight. But now, I’m about to take the best thing that ever happened to me away. So if you’ve got goodbye’s, yell ‘em out now, because as of this minute, this woman is all mine.”
Everyone laughed, clapped, and yelled goodbye. Bill couldn’t wipe the smile off his face. He jumped off the stage and held his arms out for Sandra. She jumped immediately and he carried her out, pelted with birdseed all the way to the end of the walk.
Bill whistled, and his dad released his hold and snapped a hand against the rear of Bill’s horse. The crowd howled when they saw Bill’s horse gallop up, streamers flying, something he’d had to work hard on so as not to spook his horse.
His new brother-in-law, Jake, grabbed and held the reins, and Bill swooped Sandra up into the saddle. He put on his cowboy hat, courtesy of his mom, because Sandra didn’t think it went with his tux, and jumped up behind her. He turned the horse, waved his hat at the crowd, and trotted off with his bride.
Sandra couldn’t believe it. Her very own knight in shining tuxedo. With a horse! The feel of Bill holding her stirred places that’d never been stirred before. She was excited and not even a little bit afraid. Not with Bill, the fiercest and most gentle man she could ever dream up.
For half an hour she rode with Bill without speaking, leaning against his muscled chest, his strong arms around her guiding the horse. The night was enchanted, warm with a cool breeze, the smell of the forest combined with Bill’s aftershave. And that special smell that was him, the one she smelled at the base of his neck when she kissed him.
Bill pulled his horse to a gentle stop, jumped off, and led them the last few feet. He pulled a flashlight from his pocket. She’d seen his dad hand it to him just as they were leaving. She smiled to think about his dad helping him with his romantic gesture. Bill walked straight to a lantern and lit it.
In the glow of the lantern was the table it sat upon, champagne, glasses, strawberries bordered with croissants, all under glass. And there was a bouquet of wildflowers.
Bill returned, and she slid off the horse and into his arms. “This is the most romantic thing I’ve ever seen, Bill.”
“It’s not much, sounded more romantic than it’s seeming right now.”
It’s beautiful, Bill. I love it. And I love that you did this for me. I love the flowers. Wildflowers are my favorites—so delicate and yet so resilient.”
They sat at the table and toasted each other, talked about how lucky they felt, and how in love they were. After the second glass of champagne, Bill said, “Would you like to see inside the tent?”
“I would,” Sandra answered. She was nervous, shy even, and grateful for the alcohol, because she wasn’t as calm as she thought she appeared.
Bill led with the lantern, holding her hand and guiding her behind him. When she stepped inside the tent, she gasped and her hand flew to her heart.
“Oh my, Bill, this is incredible. I feel like I’m in a fairy tale.”
“You are in a fairy tale, Sandra. You’re the beautiful princess well on her way to becoming the most amazing queen there ever was. Kind, gentle, fair. Your world will be filled with love and happiness. I’ll love you always, Sandra.
“Is that a mattress under that beautiful quilt?”
“It is. Eight inches of solid foam. First class all the way.”
Sandra giggled. “I see that’s a fact. Did your mom make this quilt?
“She did. For you. She’s so happy to have a daughter.”
“It’s beautiful work. I love it.”
“All the pillows in here were her idea, too. And the slick, fancy sheets. Ground is good enough for me, but she and Dad said you deserved a sweet start to a sweet life.”
Her smile was instant. She held great affection for his mom and dad.
“Can I help you with that dress?” Bill asked.
The feel of his fingers unzipping her dress sent shivers down her spine. He kissed her neck and shoulders, then pushed the gown further down her arms. Then he turned her and pulled the sleeves off her arms.
His fingers slipped under the bodice, barely touching her breasts. He pulled the gown down just a couple of inches and then suddenly stopped.
His eyes got bigger and he’d breathed in but not out. As she watched, he got a dreamy I’m coming to get you gleam in his eyes when he saw her bustier.
“It was a gift from Mom.” She looked at the ground to hide her embarrassment. They were just boobs. All girls had them, and she knew, for a fact, that Bill had seen plenty of them. What she didn’t know was how she measured up.
“I’ll have to tell her thank-you when I see her.”
“Oh, Bill, you wouldn’t.”
“Oh, Sandra, I would, because I most definitely appreciate it.”
Her dress had covered up the mounds that the bustier had made of her normally unremarkable boobs. Bill released the bodice of her gown. His hands moved to her side and gathered both her breasts so gently, she was unsure of what to do. Then he kissed them, his fingers slowly feeling her through her dress as his thumbs snaking under them.
Nine exciting months later, Jesse was born. Two beautiful years after that, Paul was born.
Four happy years after that, Sandra began to find her way through the dark corridor of shame and regret she’d created with her vindictive and unforgiving judgment of her old friend, Willy Thompson.
The next year, Bill’s perfect life began unraveling. His good deeds, his hard work, his adored children, the love of his wife… none of these things could save him from himself.