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Preston's Honor
Author: Mia Sheridan

PROLOGUE

Annalia

I gripped the steering wheel tightly as I drove through Linmoor, a small farming town nestled in California’s Central Valley, and the place I still called home, even though I hadn’t lived here for almost six months.

Main Street was busy on a warm, springtime Friday night—couples walking hand in hand, laughing, some pushing strollers, and others calling to children who’d run too far ahead. Claymoor Jewelry on the right, Reid’s Variety Store on the left. It all looked so similar . . . and so . . . different. Linmoor—the town where I’d been born and raised, the town where a piece of my heart still resided. My chest squeezed, and I drew in a quick breath at the sudden wave of fear and anxiety that overcame me. But I did my best to contain it. I had made it this far. I could go a little farther.

A few minutes later, I parked my car in front of the small diner at the end of the street and turned off the ignition, taking several long breaths meant to calm my nerves before stepping out into the mild evening air. It smelled like dust and asphalt and the grease wafting from the building in front of me.

I walked purposefully to the door and pulled it open, my eyes doing a quick sweep of the restaurant and landing on Preston sitting at a table near the back. My blood seemed to thrum faster through my veins at the sight of his broad shoulders and golden-brown hair, and my hands suddenly felt cold and clammy. But I lifted my chin and walked straight toward him. I could do this. I had to do this.

I knew the minute he spotted me, not only by the raising of his head, but by the jolt of electricity that speared through my body. Apparently, neither time, nor distance, nor a whole boatload of baggage managed to do away with that. Damn. Damn. Damn. I couldn’t control the slight tremor that moved through me, causing a small misstep. I glanced at the floor, pretending something in my path had caused me to falter, though the tile was clean and dry and free of any debris.

The din of voices seemed to quiet as I moved through the space, heads turning, as nervous apprehension descended on the room. Or maybe I was only feeling my own jumpy emotions and assigning them to the customers at large. I’d never been comfortable in crowds and that was doubly true now. I heard my name said softly in a disbelieving tone and did my best to shut the whispers out. A few more steps and I was standing in front of him.

He sat back slowly, reclining one arm over the back of the booth, his eyes moving slowly down my body and back up to meet my eyes. His posture was negligent, his expression neatly blank, but I noticed the intensity simmering behind his blue, blue eyes. I’d never been very good at reading what went on behind Preston’s cool gaze, and I was too overwrought to attempt to do it now.

“Hi, Preston.”

“Lia.”

We stared at each other for what felt like far too long, two people in an emotional standoff. If he was shocked to see me, he didn’t show it. “I went to the house. Your mother said I’d find you here.”

If it was possible, he seemed to still even further. His gaze lingered on me for several more beats before he let out a small exhale. “I don’t imagine she was overly thrilled to see you.”

His frosty disdain chilled me, and I wrapped my arms around my middle as if I might warm myself that way. No, his mother had never liked me. I shifted on my feet, feeling the first tremor of the grief I’d thought I had a handle on at the reference to the past, of Camille Sawyer’s feelings for me, of everything we had gained, and all we had lost. Everything that had happened to bring us to this awful moment. I couldn’t feel sad right now. I could handle the twist of yearning that made my tummy clench at the mere sight of Preston—I’d lived with that feeling most of my life. But not grief. Please, not that.

“No. You know she wasn’t.” What about you, Preston? Are you going to ask where I’ve been? Does it matter to you or do you hate me so much you don’t care at all?

My eyes ran over Preston’s face, his strong jaw and chiseled cheekbones, the sensuous lips, and those serious blue eyes. There’d been two faces like that once . . . and I’d loved them both, though in different ways. But Preston had always been the one. It had always been him. Don’t let your mind go there, Lia. Don’t. Get to the point.

“I . . . I want to see him.”

His eyes flashed and his nostrils flared slightly but he didn’t say anything. He removed his arm from where it had rested on the booth and moved the salt and pepper around idly. “No.”

I took a shaky step closer to the booth, placing my hands on the table and leaning toward him. “I have a right to see my—”

“The hell you do,” he gritted out, meeting my gaze, the emotion I’d seen behind his eyes revealing itself as cold anger. “You gave up any rights the day you drove out of town without so much as a see you later .”

I removed my hands from the table and pulled myself straight again, biting my lip and glancing around. At least twenty pairs of eyes were focused solely on us. I looked back at Preston, my stomach clenching with grief and shame. I knew what they thought of me, had always thought of me. And I supposed I’d proven them all right. “Please, Preston. I . . . I wanted to talk to you first. To see what the best time would be, one that wouldn’t disrupt his schedule . . .”

“Big of you to consult me at all.”

I took a deep breath. “You’re his father.” The way he was looking at me. Oh God, I’d known to expect it. Even knew I deserved it. So why was it causing my heart to crumble with such anguish?

   
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