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Return to Rio
Can widower Aaron Estes and divorcee Luz Wilkinson ever put love first again?
You can’t have it all. At least, not forever.
Luz Wilkinson learned the hard way that balancing a career, marriage, and motherhood can end in absolute destruction of heart and soul. When the biological mother of her daughter tears the child away and ruins her reputation, Luz goes home to tiny Rose Creek to rethink life and ambition. She surrounds herself with discarded animals and plans never to care again.
Widower Aaron Estes lives for his daughter, Chloe. Fleeing from the horror of losing his wife in a school shooting, Aaron stops in Rose Creek on a whim and a random act of kindness from a gas station clerk - not a lot to build a life on, but a momentary redemption from his sorrow and fears for his daughter. Prompted by counselor Esmeralda Salinas, he takes Chloe to the Wilkinson place for therapeutic riding lessons, and finds Luz everything he wants in a mother for his daughter - but Esmeralda’s open pursuit is a problem. Burned by her divorce, Luz refuses any relationship involving another woman or a man with another woman’s child.
Unlimited love for their children comes easily - but will they ever be able to conquer past pain and love each other?
Sensuality Level: Behind Closed Doors
Luz headed after her. Aaron caught her before she got to the door. “Where are you going?” he demanded. “It’s late and it’s dark—”
“And something’s wrong!” she snapped. “Stay here with Chloe! I’m just checking for anything that might have set the dog off.” She bit back “again.” As she rushed outside, she couldn’t help wishing she’d had the dog on a leash— and her mother’s pistol in her hand.
She went around the side of the house, tripping once on a rock hidden in the shadow the house cast since the security light was on the other side. In the front yard, she stopped and peered out toward the road, where she could make out the shape of a dark car moving slowly along the fence line.
“What’s going on?” Aaron said from close by. “And don’t tell me to stay with Chloe, dammit! She’s asleep, and I’m not some panicked little kid afraid of the dark, even if it’s stupid to be out here—”
Tires screeched and taillights glowed as the car suddenly accelerated and sped away.
Not Ross Thurmond’s truck. The thought surprised her. Worried her. How had his brief, strange, visits here unnerved her like this?And then sudden suspicion hit her. Hard.
“God, no.” She thought she hadn’t spoken, but Aaron’s hand on her arm and the alarm in his face told her she had. “God, no, what?”
She thought of Chloe in bed asleep. Of Princess— where? At least she hadn’t heard yelping. But the pit bull hadn’t come back, either. Would Aaron leave when she told him? She really didn’t consider him a coward. He’d obviously gone through a lot without cracking. He just couldn’t bear to lose his precious daughter. She understood that. “What, Luz?”
She covered her face with her hands, and breathed a silent prayer that she was wrong. “I think,” she told him slowly, “that tomorrow we’ll find another dead dog.”