Circle Eight Book 6
A broken man. A woman who needs a hero. A love that should never have been.
Rebecca Graham always knew she was to marry a hero and leave home in blissful happiness. She chose that man when she was seventeen. Unfortunately, her family hated him. In a fury over being swindled by someone else, Tobias burned down the Circle Eight, her family's ranch. He spent four months rebuilding alongside her family in penance. When he accepts her help to nurse his grandfather, she has hopes he will become the hero she envisioned. She was wrong.
Tobias Gibson never expected happiness for himself. His brothers, adopted by their patriarch Pops, were all that matters. After Pops dies while under Rebecca Graham's care, he cannot forgive her failure to save his grandfather. He ignores his attraction to Rebecca. There is too much bad blood between them.
Life never rolls forward as expected however. Five years after he'd last seen her, Rebecca Graham reenters his life. Together they face the storm that sweeps across their lives. They have to rely on each other and ignore the growing love setting their souls and hearts on fire.
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Tobias swum through a haze of pain and blackness, pushing his way up over a seemingly endless path. He gulped for air, but couldn’t manage to pull any into his lungs. His head screamed as though a hammer slammed into it over and over again. He tried to open his eyes but only one of them moved.
Light roared through the slit in his eyelid, piercing his skull until he groaned and shut the lid again. “Fuck.”
He tried to remember where he was or why he felt like he’d been stomped by a horse. Images flashed through his brain, jumbled bits of riding a horse, drinking whiskey, his brothers, and hell, Rebecca Graham too.
“Are you truly awake or just cussing in your sleep?”
Her voice had the melodic tones he remembered in his dreams. He tried to raise his hand to shade his eye, but his shoulder protested the movement. Loudly.
“What the hell happened?” His words sounded right to his brain, but his ears told him he hadn’t managed to speak at all.
“I’m sorry, Tobias. I know you’re in pain.” She brushed hair from his forehead, and a sweet ache began in his chest. Her touch was tender, something he’d had very little of in his life. “After you wake up, I can give you something to help with it.”
He tried to make his mouth work again but the words got tangled up. His tongue was thick and didn’t want to move right.
She brushed his forehead again. “What were you doing fighting with three men? I know you’re tough, but that was plumb stupid.”
Tobias wanted to take offense, but he couldn’t. Damn it. What did she mean three men?
“James was stomping around mad because he can’t find them. I think he believes they were the ones who hurt Will.”
That rang his bell. A memory danced at the edge of his mind. What had he heard and done? He was furious he couldn’t make his brain work.
“Then Deputy Ellis tried to arrest you.” She clucked her tongue and a warm cloth ran down his face with a touch as gentle as a butterfly wing. “I thought James was going to knock him out but then I told them to shut up and get out.” She laughed under her breath. “I think they about pissed themselves.”
Tobias laughed inside. She was such a sassy girl beneath the serious exterior. He liked that about her. She hid that part of her from most people. He’d seen it when she was at Pops’s cabin with the little ones. They followed her around like puppies, hanging on her every word. Not that he blamed them. He wanted to follow her around too.
“You were bleeding quite badly. Somebody stomped on your shoulder too.” She tsked at him. “I stitched you up and now I have two patients. Two Gibsons. Certainly didn’t expect that yesterday morning when I woke up.”
Neither did he. Hell, he hadn’t seen his brothers for over six months. Will came to see him more than James, but the winter had been long. The boys had stayed at Donovan’s and neither of them had ridden home to see him. Perhaps because it wasn’t their home anymore. It wasn’t anyone’s home. The cabin had become an empty shell made of wood and nails. Nothing more.
It was like him in a way. He was empty too.
Until he was around Rebecca. She reminded him of who he could be. She was a good person who healed people for God’s sake. What did he do? Get his ass beat by three men for a reason he couldn’t remember because his goddamn head was banging like a church bell.
“You broke my heart, Tobias.”
He stopped breathing. Hell, his entire body paused. She didn’t know he could hear her.
“I was angry for a long time. I didn’t tell my brothers but my sisters knew. They helped me when I cried.”
Shit, he made her cry. Damn, damn, damn.
“I thought you were the man of my dreams.” She chuffed a laugh. “I was naïve and stupid.”
No, he was stupid. As stupid and selfish as the day was long.
“Then I realized it wasn’t your doing. It was mine. I’m not that same girl, Tobias.” She sighed and her breath tickled across his skin. “I don’t think you’re the same man either.”
No, he wasn’t. He was an ass.
“But you’re still a good man, as rough as you are. Bad men don’t come riding to their brother’s rescue in a moment’s notice.”