Series: Outlaw Hartes (Book 3)
NEVER A BRIDE?
Ten years ago, Cassidy Harte had stood at the altar waiting for Zach Slater. And when he didn't show up -- and was said to have disappeared with her brother's flirtatious wife -- she did the only thing she could do. Held her head up high. Helped raise her motherless niece. And swore never to get involved with a man again.
And then back into her life walked Zach -- with an "I'm sorry" on his lips, an explanation she refused to hear, and the vow that he would make her his once again. And this was one vow he was determined to keep....
Good second chance story. Ten years earlier the man that Cassidy had loved with all of her eighteen year old heart disappeared without a word a week before their wedding. He was seen leaving town with her brother's wild wife. Devastated, and feeling guilty that her man had destroyed her brother's life too, she devoted herself to caring for Matt's infant daughter and making a home for her two brothers. Now both of them have moved on with their lives, and her niece has a new mother and sister.
Cassidy feels a bit lost and without a real purpose, so she takes a job as the cook at a local guest ranch. She enjoys the work and the variety and meeting new people, even though she's never found anyone else she's willing to risk her heart on. She loves her elderly employer, and is sad but understanding when the woman sells the ranch to an unknown wealthy Denver businessman. She is stunned when the new owner arrives and it turns out to be Zach.
There were several reasons the Zach had left ten years ago, and none of them were because he didn't love Cassidy. In fact, one of the reasons he left was because he loved her too much to saddle her with a penniless drifter. Leaving hurt, but he thought he was doing the right thing. Over the next ten years he became a very successful man, but there was always something missing. Now he's returned to Salt River with the goal of winning her back.
It's not going to be as easy as he had hoped. Their initial meeting shows Zach just how bitter she is. She's the one who had to deal with the gossip and the pity. To make it worse, this is the first he's heard about Matt's wife leaving with him. He wants to explain, but first he has to get Cassidy to listen to him. Cassidy doesn't want to hear his excuses. The past is in the past and she wants it to stay there. But her heart isn't quite so ready to write off what they used to have together.
I really enjoyed Zach's persistence in trying to get back together with Cassidy. He knows he had gone about things the wrong way back then, and he's trying to show her that he's changed. There are some really sweet moments when his romantic side comes out and they are able to remember the good times. There are also a couple times when jealousy overrules his common sense and sets his cause back a little. His biggest issue is trying to prove that he didn't leave with Melanie, and that is turning out to be harder than expected. I also liked the way that Zach never tried to convince Cassidy that he didn't deserve her anger. He knows he does, and he takes all of her verbal blows without argument.
Cassidy's distrust of Zach was completely understandable. His return has brought back all the memories of everything she went through after he left. It has also brought back the attraction and the feelings she thought had died long ago. She had a real war going on within herself as to whether or not she wanted to take a chance on him again. I liked seeing her begin to see that the boy she loved was still there in the man. The extra maturity also enables her to stand up to her brothers when she makes the decision to give Zach another chance.
Not everything goes smoothly, because there was another reason that Zach had left town so abruptly. Older and wiser now, he realizes that he never believed that Cassidy would have stood by him, and that was one of the reasons he ran. When that past comes roaring back, it puts a strain on their new relationship, and Zach's pride gets in the way of him accepting her support. The person behind part of that past is not happy that Zach is back. As it turns out, he's played a bigger part in Zach's troubles than even Zach knows. The identity of the person isn't really a surprise, but there's a twist to his actions that I hadn't seen coming. The final confrontation was very good, and it was satisfying to see some people having to face up to how wrong they were.