Breaking Down Her Walls

By: Erin Zak

Leaving is what Julia Finch does best.



When a meeting with her birth parents goes horribly wrong, Julia escapes on a hastily planned road trip and winds up breaking down in a Colorado town so small the cows outnumber the people. Completely out of her element, she takes a temporary job as a ranch hand at Bennett Ranch. She only has to survive long enough to get her car fixed, and then she’s out of there for good.



Her bad luck continues when she meets the ranch owner, Elena Bennett. Elena is unhappy, abrasive, and annoyingly breathtaking. But the longer Julia stays, the more the ranch starts to feel like home, and her feelings for Elena become impossible to ignore. She’s spent years building her defenses high and running from her past. Could a love worth staying for be the key to breaking down her walls?







Acknowledgments





My heart belongs to Colorado. I grew up there. I experienced falling in love there, as well as my first heartbreak. It’s where I figured myself out. Colorado has a soul, and fortunate people get to feel that soul. When I started writing this story, I was hoping the process would help me stop missing everything about living there, but all it did was remind me why I fell in love with Colorado’s soul. I hope that I successfully made the mountains, the sky, the smells just as much a part of the story as the main characters, because for me? All of those things are why this story works to begin with.



I want to thank Radclyffe, Sandy Lowe, and the Bold Strokes Books team for taking another chance on me and my words. This entire experience has been so incredible, and I am honored that anyone thinks my stories are worth telling. So, thank you.



I also would like to thank my friends (writer friends included!) and family. For putting up with me when I had a deadline, for encouraging me when I was stuck in a rut, and for having a beer with me when I was so discouraged. The support and love I receive on a daily basis is so important, and I love every second, even when it might not seem that way.



Of course, I want to thank my amazing editor, Barbara. Your humor, wit, offerings of cake, and knowledge are so wonderful, and I thank the higher powers that I’m fortunate enough to have you on my side. Let’s saddle up those unicorns and head into the sunset.



Also, I would like to thank my beta readers. Without either one of you, this would never have been what it is today. And I love you both for helping and encouraging and for rooting for these insanely flawed characters, especially for Julia, because she may be more like me than any other character I’ve ever created.



And I always save the best for last…I want to thank my readers. I never thought I’d ever be able to say that! But I do have some and it makes me so happy. I can’t even describe the happiness, and I’m a writer! I should be able to explain things! The excitement you all had for Falling Into Her, and now for Breaking Down Her Walls, is so amazing and wonderful and unexpected. Thank you, thank you, thank you, from the bottom of my heart.





For anyone who has felt worthless…

You’re worth it. You’re always worth it.





Chapter One





Julia Finch’s lime green ’75 Dodge Dart stutters to a stop, clearly just as tired from the long drive as she is. She’s been pushing her trusty friend hard for the past three days and is surprised the car has made it this far. Julia figured it’d crap out somewhere in Kansas. Hell, or ten feet away from her rundown studio apartment in Chicago. Now she’s hoping to God it doesn’t die on her in this small Colorado town that she was detoured to. She didn’t pay much attention to the Falling Rocks signs, but when the highway was closed due to a rock slide, she realized maybe she should have heeded their warning.

She glances around the empty parking lot of the general store from the safety of her vehicle and wonders if she has stumbled into another realm. The town is straight from what she imagines the 1950s may have looked like. She hopes to God no one sees her and tries to be cordial. Julia always runs into someone somewhere who wants to learn more, ask more, look more than she wants or needs. And this place seems like just the spot where the people may have nothing better to do than ask questions.

Julia is angry about the detour. She just wants to drive and get away from Chicago, but now she’s in this wide spot in the road for who knows how long? She takes a couple breaths and tells herself to calm down. She’s farther along in her travels than she thought she’d be with only a couple days’ travel. She needs a shower and a good night’s sleep with clean sheets, so maybe this is the perfect opportunity.