Swept Away (Grayton Series Book 5)By: Jill Sanders
~ Grayton Series ~
Willow & Caleb
To my dad,
who helped open the door
to my imagination…
Willow has had a hard time trusting people, especially men, ever since her reckless father abandoned her at a young age for the romantic idea of life on the open road. After finally graduating from college, she’s now enjoying her new job and carefree life on the beach. When an injured stranger shows up on her doorstep looking for her deceased dad, she is instantly thrust back into the dark past she’s been trying to escape her whole life.
Cocky Caleb has never really had it easy, but lately, things have taken an extreme turn for the worse. Seriously injured and on the run from outlaw biker’s hell-bent on controlling him, he seeks shelter with the only person who could possibly save him once and for all… if he can keep his smart-ass mouth shut.
There wasn’t much that nine-year-old Willow got really excited about, but seeing her father after he’d been gone for two months was one of them. Even if it meant her older sister, Wendy, was in one of her “moods.”
Her big sister had forced her to help clean up their tiny apartment. Willow had even had to help clean the bathroom they shared, a job she had learned early on to avoid by pretending to puke every time she got near the toilet with the brush. This time, however, Wendy had made her clean even the mirror and the sinks all by herself.
After the great cleaning, the entire apartment smelled like pine and was even cleaner than when they had moved in almost a year ago. They both sat on the sofa in their Sunday dresses, waiting for the front door to swing open.
But, after what seemed like hours, Willow must have fallen asleep waiting, because she woke when Wendy picked her up and carried her into their shared bedroom. The room was so small, there was only space for the one bed, which Wendy always ended up giving to Willow. They had slept on the bed together until recently when her sister complained that she kicked in her sleep.
Willow had asked why Wendy didn’t sleep in their father’s bed in the other bedroom, but her sister had never given her an answer.
As Wendy gently pulled off Willow’s dress shoes and set them beside the bed, she asked, “When’s daddy going to get here?”
Wendy tucked Willow’s favorite silky blanket under her chin. “I’m not sure, sweetie.” Her sister brushed a blonde strand of her hair behind her ear.
“I wanna stay awake.” Willow pouted.
Wendy shook her head. “You have school tomorrow.”
“But, Daddy—” she started.
“Willow, you know the rules.” Her sister frowned down at her. Instantly, Willow shut her mouth. They had agreed to a set of rules the last time their father had left them alone. Willow had done her best to follow each and every one. Not that she was afraid of her sister. Wendy had been nothing but kind to her for as long as Willow could remember.
It wasn’t fear that kept her from pouting now, but respect. Her sister had sacrificed so much for her, there was no way she was going to do anything to upset her. Not when she remembered the last time Wendy had gone out of her way to give Willow the new shoes she’d asked for.
After her Sunday dress was pulled from her, Willow rolled over and tucked herself into a tight ball. Silent tears streamed down her face at the thought that she wouldn’t be able to see her father that night. When the dark thought crept into her mind that it might be months more before he’d come home, she curled herself even tighter and dreamed about the last time she’d seen either of her parents.
Several hours later, she felt a warm hand on her face and opened her eyes to her father standing over her.
“Daddy?” She reached up and rubbed her eyes to make sure she wasn’t dreaming.
“Sweet Willa,” her father whispered. Just hearing his nickname for her caused happiness to spread throughout her entire body. She launched herself out of the bed and straight into his waiting arms.
Her father smelled like booze and smoke, but she didn’t care. Not once his arms wrapped around her and held her tight. She felt safe for the first time in months.
Finally, she pulled back and looked into his scruffy face. He looked a lot thinner than she remembered and there were dark circles under his eyes. She touched his long silver beard and, looking into his blue eyes, she asked, “Why did you stay away so long?” She whispered it since her sister was still asleep on her sleeping bag near the corner of the room.