For my husband, the best dad in the world. And for my daughter Emma, as always.
For my patient readers, you’ve waited while I wrote this series very slowly. I’m pretty sure glaciers move faster than I write. Thanks for sticking with it.
*Special New Release & Bonus Content*
Killian wraps up the West Bend Saints series. The book can be read as a standalone, although it’s better if you’ve read the others prior to reading Killian, especially because Killian does have spoilers in it for the other books.
To celebrate Killian’s release, I’ve included THE ENTIRE SERIES in Killian for a limited time! And if you’ve already read the first three books, don’t worry — I have some new fun content for you, too! Read on, because I have some BONUS EPILOGUES included!
I’ve placed Killian first in the book, so if you’ve read the other books, you don’t have to flip through the book to get to Killian. If you haven’t read the other books in the series, you can find the links to each of the other books (in order after Killian) in the table of contents. The series order is as follows:
Elias (Book One)
Silas (Book Two)
Luke (Book Three)
Killian (Book Four)
Since I’ve included all of the books, that means that Killian itself is not fifty bajillion pages long, so don’t be misled by the ginormous page count on the Amazon page or the crazy number of Kindle locations in this file.
These are full-length novels, and Killian weighs in at around 80k words, so it’ll end around 30% on your Kindle, if you’re trying to keep track of the pacing. The other books range from 60-75k words each, with Elias ending around 54%, Silas at 77%, and Luke at 100%.
As a fun extra bonus, I’ve also included bonus epilogues for the prior books! Those are marked in the table of contents for easy access. If you’ve already read those books, I hope you enjoy seeing what the future has in store for Elias and River, Silas and Tempest, and Luke and Autumn. (Spoiler, one of the couples ends up with twins and triplets!)
I know a lot of you have been waiting patiently for Killian, and I hope that you love him as much as I do.
Almost Eight Years Ago
One knock on the door, and my entire world was changed forever.
I’d prepared for that moment since Adam slipped the wedding band on my finger back when I was eighteen years old, young and naïve and invincible. I felt like I’d aged two decades in the past six years.
I would age even faster after the knock on the door. Every cop’s wife thinks about that moment, steels herself against the fear that her husband won’t return from his shift. Each time Adam left, I held my breath, wondering if this would be the time he wouldn’t come back.
When I saw the officer in dress uniform standing in the doorway, I knew all there was to know. I didn’t need to hear anything else after those words, even if I could have heard the rest of what he said over the sound of my own sobbing.
Adam Nelson. 1984-2008. Killed in the line of duty.
One sentence to sum up a whole life.
One knock on the door, and I was a widow at twenty-four years old.
I hadn’t told Adam I was pregnant. I had just found out. I was saving the news until after the first trimester.
He died not knowing he was a father.
It wasn’t until later that I found out everything I knew about Adam had been a lie.
“Shit.” I mutter the word under my breath as I glance up at the clock, wiping my flour-covered hands down the length of my apron. Why am I always running late? "Not running late" should be next years' New Years resolution. Of course, acquiring organizational skills and eating fewer cupcakes should probably be up there on the priority list too. In fact, if I had better organizational skills, I’d write that down on a sticky note or put it in a planner so I remembered the next time I was making resolutions.
“Opal, are you absolutely sure you’ve got things covered?" I ask. "I hate to leave you here manning the front and back of the store at the same time. We could easily shut down early.”
Opal rolls her eyes at me as she walks through the kitchen, headed toward the front of the store. My kitchen. I bought the bakery a few months ago, yet it still feels strange to think about this place as my own. I’d never owned anything before this, not even a house, and here I am running my own business. Cupcakes and Cappuccinos is my store, a combination coffee shop and bakery. "It's Monday. This place isn’t exactly teeming with activity,” she says as she breezes past me, the door swinging behind her.
"I have the Peterson anniversary cake," I call, hanging my apron on a hook and following her to the front. "I'll drop the cupcakes off at Chloe's school and then I'll be back to decorate it."
"Take your time. The bakery won't burn down in the hour or two you're gone." Opal tsk-tsks me the way she always does before slowly meandering around with a cloth in her hand to clean the empty tabletops. A handful of customers are scattered throughout the front of the store reading newspapers and typing on their laptops.
Opal shakes her head at me because I can't let go of my city roots, the rush-rush-rush of life that people in West Bend, Colorado just don't seem to possess. Everything moves slower here, and everyone seems to like it that way. I'm the odd one out, too high strung for this place, perpetually juggling a hundred different things and feeling like I'm failing at all of them.
Opal has been here since I bought the bakery. She came with it, a carryover from the prior owners. She was the only employee who stayed after I bought it – and not by my choice. I wanted to keep the other existing employees as well, but she was the only one who wanted to stay and work for me.
I came to West Bend, far removed from Chicago and the weight of my husband's name, in order to shed my past. Within days of my and Chloe's arrival, rumors spread that we were hiding something – that we were in the witness protection program or fleeing from an abusive man, or even that I was a felon evading the authorities. Town residents decided that I was a woman to be either hated or pitied.
All of the residents except Opal.
Opal just shook her head and clucked her tongue, all too aware of the drama apparently inherent with living in a small town. She's a fixture in West Bend, born and raised here, and is probably the most even-keeled person I've ever met. “People in this town got no business poking their nose in your past,” she’d said. “Glass houses and all that. Besides, we all got pasts. Don’t let it bother you. They’ll come around eventually. People always do.”
The first month, I cried myself to sleep most nights convinced this entire thing was a mistake. I could count the number of customers on one hand that came through the bakery that month. But then, by the second month we were here, customers began slowly trickling in and we started to build up regular business.
None of that kept the old biddies in town from continuing to speculate about what we could possibly be running from, of course. The rumors haven't stopped. And they've affected Chloe, despite how much I've tried to protect her. Mean girls in her first-grade class tease her.
I check the basket on the counter: two boxes of cupcakes, paper plates, and napkins. "Shit. I forgot juice boxes."
"Get out of here and go on over to Connie's," Opal orders, waving the cloth in her hand. She gives me a look over the edge of her purple leopard print glasses. "You’ve got time. Are you sure about going to the school?"
I frown, briefly regretting not simply dropping the cupcakes off at school this morning. I'd feel just awful if my going to her elementary school fueled more whispers
and rumors from Chloe's classmates.
But it's Chloe's birthday. Technically, we celebrated it on Saturday, making the four hour drive to celebrate it with my parents. But today is her actual birthday and on her birthday of all days, I didn't want to drop her off at school and let her fend for herself. So what if I'm a little overprotective? It's my fault that she's a pariah in her class. It was my decision to move here from Chicago, and it's my job to be protective of her.
“I’m sure,” I say, my voice firm. “It’s Chloe's birthday. She only turns seven years old once.”
I feel a pang of guilt at the prospect of leaving Opal to manage the store by herself. Rachel, the front counter girl, quit this morning. Any day but today, I'd have been glad to get rid of her, since her work ethic was less than stellar. But her drama this morning left me behind schedule with baking. Opal said it was good riddance because the girl was more trouble than she was worth anyway.
In twenty minutes, I need to be at Deerfield Elementary School armed with cupcakes and juice boxes because I want to be there in case those bitchy little first graders give my daughter any grief.
I dart over to the general store, not even making an attempt at polite conversation with Connie C., which is just fine. Connie C. decided when I arrived in town that she didn’t like me on sight. I usually avoid coming into her store, but desperate times call for it. I grab two packages of juice boxes and stuff one under each arm. I'm glancing around, trying to decide if there’s anything else I've forgotten when I get hit by a brick wall.
A brick wall that spills icy-cold liquid all over my shirt.
“Are you freaking kidding me?” I squeal as the juice boxes fall to the floor with a thud. I look down at my white t-shirt, now covered in brown liquid that is rapidly spreading across my breasts. Of course I wore a white t-shirt today. That’s just fantastic.
“Damn it, woman. Watch where you're going.” The brick wall has a voice. A voice that calls me woman like we’re in the nineteen-fifties. A baritone voice that sends a tingle through me or maybe that’s just the freezing-cold liquid that is making my nipples hard.
It also smells like whiskey.
That's stellar. Now I can head to the elementary school reeking like I've been hitting the bottle all morning.
“What the hell? Did you just call me woman?" I look up.
He looks at me with dark eyes, his expression unreadable. The second I meet his gaze, I swear electricity runs through me from the top of my head to the tips of my toes, a jolt of arousal that's completely unexpected.
He’s bearded and rough-looking, not the kind of guy who works at a desk. He’s the kind of guy who works with his hands. My eyes drift lower as if they have a mind of their own, landing right on his hands, tough and weathered from working in the sun. If I touched his palms, I know they'd be rough and calloused. The thought of what he could do with those hands makes me shiver.
I should be embarrassed by the way my eyes follow the tattoos that wrap around his forearms and snake up to his biceps before disappearing under the sleeve of his t-shirt. I should definitely be embarrassed by the way my eyes linger on the expanse of his broad chest.
Then I come to my senses and stop gawking at the man because he’s the jerk who just spilled booze on me right before I have to be at the elementary school.
And he’s the one who just addressed me as woman.
"You saying you're not a woman?"
The way he said the word a minute ago is hardly like the way it rolls off his tongue now. Now he says the word low and seductive, his voice gravelly.
Or is the seductive part just in my head? Seduction is something that should be nowhere near my brain right now.
“I’m clear on my gender, thanks."
He's so close that I can smell him – soap and aftershave and the outdoors. When I say gender his eyes drop lower and he makes no attempt to hide the fact that he’s looking at my boobs.
“My eyes are up here, Neanderthal,” I say, my voice terse. “Stop looking at my boobs.”
Brick Wall meets my gaze again. “You were looking at mine.”
My face warms as I think about the way my eyes lingered on his chest. “I was not."
“Whatever you say, woman." He squats down to pick up the juice boxes scattered around the floor and places them into a nearby basket. I think I detect a smug smile under his beard like he’s purposely trying to rile me up, and it makes me even more irritated.
I don't bother to disguise the huff that escapes my lips as I grab two juice boxes out of his hands. I definitely try to ignore the heat that rushes through me when my hand grazes his. I'm not attracted to this brute. Not a chance.
“Thanks for the help.” I roll my eyes as I rise to my feet holding the basket.
“Next time, you should watch where you’re going.” Brick Wall turns and walks away with his cup in his hand.
“Now wait just a second.” I follow him down the aisle. “I should watch where I’m going? You’re the one who ran into me.”
“You need to get your facts straight. You ran into me.”
“I did not run into you.” This guy is arrogant, misogynistic, and clearly lacks social skills. I should let it go, but I'm too annoyed. Instead, I follow him to the coffee station where he disposes of his cup and fills a new one with ice. “Maybe you’re having trouble thinking clearly because of all the booze in that cup. And stop calling me woman."
“It’s iced coffee." He empties one creamer after another into the cup until I'm almost certain there's as much cream in there as there is coffee. “What else am I supposed to call you? You didn’t introduce yourself. Where I come from, that’s just plain bad manners.”
“That was obviously not just iced coffee. I smell like a distillery."
He doesn't say anything. He holds a handful of at least five sugar packets and rips the tops off of them, his eyes focused on mine. Then he winks.
Forget it. I don't have time to stick around here making small talk with a philistine. I stomp to the front of the store and set my basket full of juice boxes on the counter. “There are twenty-four in there. I’m kind of in a rush.”