Riding Rough (Rough Rider #2)

By: Aria Cole

Colt Sutherland has been to hell and back, from the day he was deployed to the desert to the one that nearly ended his life in an attack. Only one thing kept this soldier breathing, an angelic vision of a young woman with shiny blond hair and a smile that soothes the ache in his soul. The only girl to ever own his heart—the one that got away.

Back in his hometown, Colt finds the unexpected in Raven Wetherspoon. Her lush waves and seductive curves call to him, leaving him chomping at the bit to get to know her better, and get her underneath him. But can her touch really heal his battered warrior’s heart, or will the past that haunts him steal his life once and for all?

Warning: Skintight Wranglers, cowgirl boots, and bareback rides under the stars would leave even the wildest of bad boys believing in love at first sight. Letting go of the reins won't be easy when this filly needs breaking. Saddle up and hold on tight, Colt and Raven are riding hard for love!





ONE





COLT

SWEAT DRIPPED DOWN my face, prickles of heat racing up my spine as our convoy cruised down the dusty desert road.

“You see that truck, or is that my eyes playing tricks on me again?” Granger muttered at my side.

“Nah, I see it.” I wiped the sweat out of my eyes, trying to clear my vision.

“Whaddya think they’re up to way out here?” My battle buddy drew his gun tighter to his side on instinct.

“Hard to say. Should we go check it out?” Just as the last words left my lips, a series of small bombs lit up the ground around our truck.

“Fuck! IED!” Were the last words I heard Granger exclaim before my vision went black.

I had no concept of time when a bright light radiated through the darkness. A mesmerizing outline moving closer, gliding on easy footsteps. The flowing, champagne-silk hair parted in soft waves to one side, just like it did in the picture I carried in my wallet. Just how I remembered her.

My angel.

My Caroline.

The ache in my chest melted away as the beautiful girl from my childhood, now the girl of my dreams, drifted toward me, so close I inhaled the soft scent of cherry blossoms from the tree under which we shared our first kiss.

This must be heaven.

Caroline was here to save me.

*

I woke in a cold sweat, the same dream having played on fucking repeat in my mind every night for the three months I’d been home. Except, the last few nights had been different. Usually, the dream ended with a shattering blast going off in my head. Refreshing the memory of the last bomb that stole my buddy from me and tore into my leg, leaving behind the very visible manifestation of my inner torment. War changes a man.

Most of the nearly eighty mornings since I’d almost had my leg torn from my body on a rural desert road, I’d woken up feeling like I didn’t deserve to be alive. I thought about all those boys with kids and wives who lost their lives, and I felt an intense guilt that I was breathing. That I had managed to escape the gunfire with such a relatively minor injury. I was a lucky son of a bitch, and I wasn’t sure if I deserved the luck.

I rubbed at the scar on my thigh, then hauled myself out of bed. I tossed on the white shirt I’d worn yesterday, knowing only some fresh air and a walk could cool my thrumming heartbeat.

It was so fucking hard to shake these dreams.

Mild PTSD is what the nurse said I had.

I didn’t give a fuck what it was called, I just wanted my heart to stop racing, the dreams to stop waking me up long after dark.

I sucked in a breath of cool air, bare feet hitting the smooth wood of the deck as I stalked outside. The silver light of the moon cut sharp angles across the farmyard of Circle C Ranch. I was a fucking lucky guy when my sister and Nash said I could crash here while I healed, and now that she and my best friend were officially married—which still chafed me the wrong way—I was definitely wearing out my welcome.

It was just the damn nightmares that held me back… Being around my little sis and my best friend was therapy in its own way. The sense of familiarity and knowing, no matter what, those two would have my back. I didn’t need to feel any shame here; I just had to get better. I didn’t need to be strong, I just had to get through, one day at a time.

I kicked up dust with the toe of my boot, watching little clouds bloom into the moonlight as I walked closer to the paddock, closer to the barn, a place I’d been drawn to much more of late.

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