Whatever. Archer had it good, made great tips as a wrangler at a dude ranch. His middle brother took life seriously enough and he hadn’t seen his oldest one in years. Wilder worked as a smoke jumper in Montana. Sometimes Archer wondered what would happen if he cruised to Big Sky Country and paid him a surprise visit—maybe he had multiple sister wives or was a secret war lord.
Growing up after their parents died in a freak house fire, they all slipped into roles. Wilder withdrew, brooding and angry, Sawyer became Mr. Nice Guy, always the teacher’s pet or offering to do chores. Archer rounded things out by going for laughs and practical jokes and causing trouble because someone had to remind everyone else not to take life so seriously. None of them were getting out alive.
He kept marching down the flights of stairs, tucking in his shirt. Grandma’s words played on a loop in his mind. “Using women like disposable silverware.”
Lord knew—those women used him right back. It was fun, didn’t mean anything.
He ground his jaw so tight his teeth hurt. Casual sex on pool tables, washing machines, countertops, and lawn chairs filled his physical needs, but these random hookups were starting to make him feel more and more alone.
On the ground floor, he slammed open the stairwell door. There were two corridors ahead. He turned left for no reason other than that’s the hand he favored. Seemed like he chose wisely because a side entrance gave him a quick exit. He walked out, wincing at the morning sun even as he gulped fresh air, fresh for the Vegas Strip, but a far cry from the Eastern Sierras’s clean mountain breeze. His heart stirred. He’d have some breakfast and hit the road. As much as he liked leaving Brightwater, he always missed home.
Archer reached to adjust his hat and grabbed a handful of wet hair instead. Twelve stories above, a stripping magician had found herself a mighty fine Stetson.
He stepped onto the street, jumping back on the curb when a city bus turned, the side plastered with a shoe ad sporting the slogan, “Can You Run Forever?”
Hell, he’d been running from accountability, stability, and boring routines his whole life.
Another thought crept in and sank its roots deep. Was he really running from those things, or was he letting his fears of commitment and responsibility run him instead?
Lia Riley writes offbeat New Adult and Contemporary Adult romance. After studying at the University of Montana-Missoula, she scoured the world armed only with a backpack, overconfidence and a terrible sense of direction. She counts shooting vodka with a Ukranian mechanic in Antarctica, sipping yerba mate with gauchos in Chile and swilling XXXX with stationhands in Outback Australia among her accomplishments.A British literature fanatic at heart, Lia considers Mr. Darcy and Edward Rochester as her fictional boyfriends. Her very patient husband doesn’t mind. Much. When not torturing heroes (because c’mon, who doesn’t love a good tortured hero?), Lia herds unruly chickens, camps, beach combs, daydreams about future books, wades through a mile-high TBR pile and schemes yet another trip. Right now, Icelandic hot springs and Scottish castles sound mighty fine.