Wide Open Spaces (Shooting Stars #2)


by Aurora Rose Reynolds

Prologue

“You have to let him go now.” Kathleen softly lays her hand on my shoulder. Shaking my head, I feel my throat close up and pain—excruciating pain—slice through me. “I know this is hard,” she says gently.

“No, you don’t,” I choke out, feeling tears drip down my cheeks as I rest my lips against the smooth skin of my baby’s forehead.

“Shel, baby,” Zach says, capturing my gaze as he walks around the bed toward me. “We agreed. This is the best thing for him.”

Swallowing hard through the pain expanding inside of me, I pull in a deep shaky breath, closing my eyes.

“I hate you,” I whisper, blinking my eyes open meeting his gaze once more. I have no idea how I can love and hate someone so much, but both of those emotions rock through me as I hold my son in my arms.

“You don’t mean that.” The pain in his voice rips me apart a little more, and I lean my head back, closing my eyes, needing to block him out.

“Shelby,” Kathleen prompts, and my eyes open.

“Can I have a minute alone with him before you take him?” I plead, looking up at her.

“Of course,” she agrees softly, wrapping her hand around my shoulder and squeezing gently before leaving the room.

“I want to be alone with him, Zach,” I whisper, not even looking to the side of the bed, where he’s still standing.

He’s silent for a moment. I wonder if he even heard me. “He’s my son, too,” he says, causing bitterness to well up inside of me.

“Yeah, well, you can say goodbye when I’m done,” I tell him, hearing the indifference in my voice.

“I love you, Shel.” The feel of his lips against the top of my head causes a fresh wave of tears before I hear his retreating footsteps, carrying him farther away from me. The door finally opens and shuts promptly, leaving us alone.

Inhaling a ragged breath and releasing it slowly, I press my finger to my boy’s chin, where there is a dimple identical to his father’s. “If things were different, if I knew I could make it and give you the life you deserve, I would never give you up,” I whimper, pressing a kiss to his forehead. I bring his tiny body up to my chest and lean back, letting his weight settle against me until it’s time to let him go.

I wake feeling warm, my arm and leg thrown over Zach, the steady beat of his heart playing in my ear like my favorite song. Sliding my hand from his abs, I rest it over my now flat stomach and swallow down the tears burning my throat.

“It will be okay. I swear it will be okay,” Zach whispers to the top of my head, while I bury my face against his chest.

I know he’s wrong. A piece of me is missing. A part of my soul is gone. I will never be okay again.

Chapter 1

Shelby

Shutting off my car, I stare at the two-story house I used to call home. It looks the same as it did when I left. The deep blue is still vibrant, even more so now against the backdrop of the gray sky behind it. The white porch is still welcoming, with flowers hanging from the banister.

My grandmother and I would spend hours planting flowers in those boxes during the summer. When she passed away during my sophomore year of high school, I made sure to keep up the tradition in her memory. It looks like, in my absence over these last fifteen years, someone else had taken over the job.

Looking at the bright blooms growing wild, hanging over the sides of the boxes, I wonder if Granddad hired someone to plant them for him when he left to live in Florida. He never mentioned that he cared about the flowers we planted. Honesty, I don’t remember him mentioning them. Growing up, I didn’t even think he noticed, but now, looking at the blooming buds that are artfully arranged, I know they meant something to him after all.

“Mom?” Turning my head, I look at my son Hunter and force a smile as aching pain and regret slice through my chest.

“Sorry, honey. I spaced out. Do you want to unpack tonight, or do you want to wait until tomorrow, kiddo?”

Looking over his shoulder, he eyes the boxes and suitcases piled in the back then looks at me. I hate the sadness I see in his eyes. I hate I’m the cause of his pain. I know he misses his father already, and I know that at ten years old, he doesn’t understand why we’re no longer together even if it’s been over two years since we separated and divorced.

“Tomorrow,” he grumbles, and I feel that ache in my chest expand. He hates me for moving him across the country. Away from his friends, away from everything he knew. And I hate myself a little bit, too, for failing miserably at keeping my family together. I just hope this move will be a new start for us.

“Tomorrow,” I agree softly, unhooking my belt and opening the door.

Rounding the hood of the van, Hunter has already made it to the porch and is waiting at the top of the stairs, with his eyes pointed over my shoulder. Stopping, I look behind me as rain soaks through my clothes. I can’t believe how much the town has changed and grown. When I’d left home, you could see the sound from the front porch of my grandparents’ home. Now, the view is blocked by houses that have been built up side-by-side across the road.

“Is it always raining?” Hunter’s voice breaks into my thoughts, and I turn back toward him and take the steps slowly, noticing they are rotting out in a few spots. Something I will have to fix soon.

“Not always, but this is a rainforest, so I guess the answer in some ways is yes,” I tell him, when I make it up to the covered porch.

His brows draw together over his blue eyes, making him look like his father, as he asks, “This is a rainforest?” While looking around.

“It is.” I want so badly to reach out and run my finger down his cheek, but I keep my hand locked at my side. I don’t know exactly when it happened, but some time ago, he stopped wanting my affection. Stopped being my little boy.

“Really?” he asks curiously, with wide eyes. “It doesn’t look like a rainforest,” he states, and he’s right; it doesn’t look like what you might imagine a rainforest would look like.

“It doesn’t look like one, but it is all the same.” I smile, and his eyes move over my face then to the view, and his face loses the curiosity it held a moment ago.

He turns, muttering, “Whatever.”

Biting my lip, I take the key the lawyer mailed me out of the front pocket of my jeans, put it in the lock, and turn. The door opens with a loud creak and dust rises up from the floors. A loud alarm sounds, making us both jump. Running into the house, I look frantically for some kind of alarm system, finally finding the small white box off the door in the kitchen. Flipping the panel open, I stare at the numbers.