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Author Katie Mettner

Cover Reveal ~ The Secrets Between Us


Preorder on Amazon for release 08/22!

Of three things I was certain... 

The first? 

Mercy was exquisite in the most devastatingly broken way. 

The second? 

I didn’t know how to love, but for the first time in my life, I wanted to try. 

The third? 

The secrets between us could tear us apart forever. 

I wouldn’t let that happen. 

Chapter One

No one ever said life was easy. At eight, I learned what hard was. At sixteen, I learned what I thought was hard then, was actually a piece of cake. At twenty-four, I made another bloody mess of my life. For some reason, karma liked to screw me over every eight years like a little bitch. I was three years into the next eight and could hardly wait to see what she had in store for me. Honestly, the only thing she had left for me was death. I wanted to stand in the snow and yell into the cold, blustery wind, “Bring it, bitch!” But something always stopped me. I suppose it was the fear she would actually bring it.

I grabbed the hairbrush off the bathroom counter and ran it through my hair a couple of times, the hair staying up in a spiked do of badassery. It wouldn’t stay that way once I put a hat on, but it definitely said, I’m sassy like a black widow spider after mating.

In my opinion, black widows get a bad rap. The world thinks a black widow always eats the male after mating, but the truth is, that rarely happens. I guess the black widow spider is exactly the same as a human. Only occasionally is the male killed after mating.

I turned away from the mirror and the age-old question of how to talk about my past popped into my thoughts. Was there a less jarring way to talk about what happened? I ran a few scenarios through my head and finally shook it. Nope. There was literally no nice way to ease into the fact that you’re somewhat of a black widow. Apparently, you just have to go all in. I grabbed my winter parka from the hook by the door, slipped my arms into it, and stuffed my feet into my Sorel boots. I had snow to plow. I had cabins to clean. I had a life to live. I had to stop worrying about my past and how to tell other people about it.

I zipped the coat and yanked my scarf down off the hook. “Like who’s going to ask anyway, Mercy?” I mumbled from behind the bulky material as I threw the door open to face the frosty air. Suddenly, I was grateful for the scarf since it allowed me to breathe without freezing my lungs. “You’ve lived in Cashmere Creek for three years and no one has asked you a thing about yourself. In today’s society, no one cares about you or your past. They come, they fish, they leave. End of story.”

I tromped down the stairs of my cabin and noticed a blur coming at me from the corner of my eye. I braced myself, waiting for said blur to arrive before I took another step. He pulled up short, all four limbs flying, along with his ears, when he tried to come to a complete stop in under two seconds. It was like a car going from ninety to zero instantly. There’s always a little fishtailing and a rollover or two involved. The dog tumbled forward, rolled through the snow, and ended up at my feet on his back, his tongue happily lolling out the side of his mouth.

I rubbed his belly with my soft glove. “Beast, you’re crazy!” I chucked him under the chin and shook his leg while we danced. “Do you want to plow snow with me?” I asked the husky who climbed to his feet.

He barked once and plodded along next to me toward the camp’s equipment shed where I kept the plow. The sun shone brightly on my face and I had to chuckle at the irony of Mother Nature. From the inside looking out, the sun was brilliant, warm, and comforting, but when you stepped out the door, it was colder than the devil’s soul. When I moved here three years ago, the cabins were rarely rented in the winter. Back then, the busy season was the summer, when the fishermen and their families arrived for fun in the sun. After I winterized all the cabins, and started offering full-service bait, tackle, food, and drink, that began to change. With the best ice fishing in northern North Dakota, the men who called Cashmere Camp home for a week at a time couldn’t get enough. I was always booked solid two years in advance, except over the holidays. I kept the last few weeks of December light, so I could take a break from the constant work the camp required. It was the time of year where people were focused on their families anyway, so I wasn’t losing out on a lot of revenue when the cabins weren’t full.

Almost three years ago, the older couple who owned the camp wanted to move into assisted living. Since I had already been running the camp for a year, they signed the deed over to me on a land contract deal. A deal I was well aware I wouldn’t pay off before they died. I wasn’t sure what I would do then, but I’d never been one to live my life in the future. I had no choice but to live in the present. When things went south, and they always did, that’s when I figured out how to get myself out of whatever mess I was in.

It turned out I was right, and a few months ago they passed away in an auto accident on the highway. Should Ollie have been driving at ninety-four? Probably not, but you couldn’t tell him that. At least he and Meredith passed on together. When their attorney contacted me, I was expecting him to tell me I had to refinance or lose the camp, but that wasn’t the case. The Langstons’ will stated that upon their death, the camp was paid in full and the deed should be released to me. Since they had no children, and Cashmere Camp was what they’d devoted their entire married life to, they just wanted to be sure it was in good hands.

I slid the door open to the shed and stepped in, fired up the ATV, and waited while Beast hopped into the basket on the back for his ride around the camp. I put it in gear and motored out, lowered the plow, and started my daily duties. The circular drive had four inches covering it already, and it was still coming down, but that was nothing new around here. This close to Canadia, as my dad used to call it, we would get snow for days at a time. That was the reason there was no parking by the cabins. The common parking area near the front of the camp was easier to keep plowed and sanded. The fishermen had to hike it in from there, but no one seemed to mind. It added to the allure of a rustic camp in the middle of nowhere.

Speaking of the parking area, it was time to plow it. I motored that way, shoving snow off the path as I went. I raised the plow when I finished, ready to head back to the shed, when I noticed I wasn’t alone. A man sat in a car with the motor idling while he talked on the phone. I kept motioning him out, but he was so busy on his phone he never noticed me. I rolled my eyes to the cloudy sky. We got a live one here, folks. Nothing like paying big money to get away from it all, only to bring it all with you.

I shifted the ATV into reverse and backed up, then trundled toward the store. I parked the machine at the back door, since I’d need it again in an hour or two anyway, then helped Beast down. Stomping my boots off, I pushed the door open to the camp store and flipped on all the lights. The toasty air warmed my nose while my teeth pulled my glove off, so I could flip on all the coffee pots on my way by. I’d enjoy a cup of joe while I waited to see who Mr. I’m Probably a Dick actually was. I jiggled with laughter at the nickname and prayed he didn’t come into the store now. It was going to be hard to see him as anything else. I only had one booking for the week, and I promise you, the guy parked out there in an expensive Mercedes sedan wasn’t him. That guy was all work and no play. My guess was he pulled off the highway to deal with his phone, which I suppose is better than using his phone on the snow-covered roads and causing an accident.

“Maybe he’s talking to his mom, Beast,” I suggested, pouring the rich, dark brew into my travel mug and snapping the lid on.

His eyes said, Sure, and I’m not a gangly, uncoordinated beast.

I set the mug down and ruffled his fur before I picked it back up and headed for the bait tanks. I had to scoop out the dead minnows and make sure all the bubblers were working, then I’d have something to eat before my plowing duties resumed again. As you can tell, my days are super exciting and never monotonous.

“They might be monotonous, Beast,” I said, dumping a dead minnow into a bucket, “but at least they’re mine.”

“Who are you calling a beast?” asked a silky-smooth voice.

I turned slowly on my heel and came face-to-face with Mr. I’m Probably a Dick. Damn, he was one fine dick. I’d seen a lot of guys pass through these doors over the years and most of them resembled Paul Bunyan, while a few resembled the Blue Ox, but not this guy. This guy was a cross between a billionaire baby daddy from the front of a romance novel and a GQ lumberjack. He was a damn fine billionaire baby daddy lumberjack specimen if I’d ever seen one.

I wondered if he had one of those fancy ice fishing shacks out on the lake. I paused and took stock of his outfit. It was brand new. As in, cut the tags off and put them on in the car, kind of new. He was definitely one of those guys who liked to play at being a sportsman. He wore the clothes, but never left the cabin because he couldn’t put his phone down long enough to take a leak, much less go fishing.

A hand waved in front of my face and I reared back. “Earth to the strange woman staring at me like I have two heads,” he huffed.

I noticed his hand was soft, smooth, and manicured before I spoke. “Mercy. My name is Mercy Johnson. I wasn’t calling you a beast. My dog’s name is Beast,” I explained, pointing at the animal who had forsaken me for his sherpa lined bed.

His eyes traveled to the corner where Beast was giving him the stink eye. “Charming,” he said, disdain lining the word.

“Can I help you …” I paused, working hard not to say Mr. Probably a Dick.

Instantly, a lightbulb went on and his manners returned. He stuck his hand out for me to shake. “Right, sorry, got distracted,” he said, offering me a suave smile. Probably the same one he offered every woman before he deflowered her. It was sinful and meant to make me weak in the knees until I was putty in his hands. “I’m Hayes. I rented a cabin for the week.”

Oh, sweet mother of Jesus, this is Hayes Wheeler. I was expecting someone with grey hair and a plaid trapper hat. I was not expecting a young, sexy, understated buff, impeccably styled coffee brown hair, expertly groomed beard, ice blue eyes hidden behind a pair of black plastic glasses that were too big for his face but rested on his shapely nose in an achingly sexy way, doesn’t belong in a fishing camp kind of man. It was the sexy geek look I was always a sucker for. Always. Even after the last sexy geek tried to kill me.

“Of course, Mr. Wheeler, so sorry,” I said, smiling sweetly. I motioned him toward the counter and held up my hand. “Let me wash up and I’ll get you all checked in. I’ll pass on the handshake. I’d hate to get minnow juice on you.”

I breezed past him to the sink and washed, glancing down at my less than fashionable outfit I’d thrown on this morning. My old flannel shirt was half buttoned, but not the half that covered my cleavage. Fantastic. Mr. I’m Probably a Dick, I mean, Mr. Wheeler, was getting a show. Grasping the shirt closed across my chest, I scooted behind the counter to get him the key to his cabin.

“Not a problem,” he assured me while I opened the reservations on the computer. “I’ve never stayed here before. You had no way of knowing who I was.” He bounced up on his toes and then rocked back on his heels. He was going for relaxed, but there was an underlying sense he was poised to dart away at a moment’s notice.

He was the consummate professional.

He was a gentleman.

He was wild.

He was dangerous.

I tried to keep my eyes on the computer, but it was hard with all the sexy that oozed from him. Suddenly, he was a mystery I wanted to solve, but I couldn’t. I so couldn’t. But just in case, my eyes darted to his hand resting on the counter holding his wallet. I didn’t notice a ring, but I did notice the massive amount of cash in the wallet. Either he was rich, or he just robbed a bank.

“What do you need from me?” he asked, leaning on the counter nonchalantly.

I raised a brow in response. “What do you have to offer?”

What the hell is wrong with you, Mercy? My mother’s voice filled my head with her accusing questions.

I spend too much time alone, Mother, that’s what’s wrong with me, I shouted into the void of my dark, wicked head.

You already made one fatal mistake. Don’t make another one.

While I had an internal debate with my dead mother, his eyes traveled the length of my body from my lips to my sneakers and back to my lips. “My guess? More than anyone else in this camp ever has before or ever will again.”

My other brow went up. “Confident, are we?” My words were smooth as butter and I worried my black widow had come out to play.

“Always. Anything else is weakness. I don’t tolerate weakness.”

My insides deflated like a whoopie cushion and I huffed. “Well, Mr. I Don’t Tolerate Weakness,” I said, a.k.a. Mr. I’m Definitely a Dick, “I’ll take the remaining four hundred you owe me for the cabin rental. Do you need to rent an ice shack as well?”

His nose scrunched up and it was adorable, in a dickish kind of way. No, actually, it was all adorable, dammit. “You don’t honestly think I’m going to touch fish, do you?”

“Generally speaking, when people come to a fishing camp, they touch fish, yes,” I said slowly, in case he needed extra time to follow along.

“I’m not here to fish,” he said, throwing some bills on the counter.

I didn’t respond, just picked them up, counted them out, and handed him the key. I pointed at a pile of brochures on the counter. “Grab one of them on your way out. It has all the important information you’ll need, but since you aren’t fishing, you can ignore the front. Just pay close attention to the back. Checkout time, yadda, yadda.”

He grabbed one and flipped it over a couple of times, glancing back at me. “I’ll need the wi-fi password. It’s not on here.”

I started to giggle, but it didn’t end there. Soon my sides ached from the laughter spilling out my lips. He waited, his hands on his hips while I worked to resume my professional persona, two words I use loosely. Extremely loosely.

“Do I have to pay for that, too?” he asked, reaching for his wallet.

“I mean, if you want to, but it would do you no good. We don’t have wi-fi at Cashmere Camp.”

He froze with his long, sleek arm on his right ass cheek. “It doesn’t say anywhere on the website that there isn’t wi-fi,” he growled, his ears flaming red.

I leaned my elbow on the counter and smiled sweetly. “It doesn’t say anything on the website about wi-fi at all, Mr. Wheeler. Why? Well, because we don’t have it.”

“Hayes,” he hissed, his tone glacier cold, “and I need internet for the next week.”

I instantly stood up straight like a toy soldier. “Oh, well why didn’t you just say so?” I asked, taking down a coiled cord from a hook on the wall. “You’ll see the modem by the desk. Do you know how to use one of these here fandangled cords?” I held it up. “You plug this end in the modem. This end you stick in—”

“I know where to stick it!” he yelled, snatching it from my hand. With that, he spun on his heel and stomped from the store, the door actually hitting him in the ass on the way out.

I leaned on the counter laughing like a loon. Okay, so maybe that wasn’t great for business, but every once in a while, a girl has to have a little fun out here.

About the Author

Katie Mettner writes small-town romantic tales filled with epic love stories and happily-ever-afters. She proudly wears the title of, 'only person to lose her leg after falling down the bunny hill,' and loves decorating her prosthetic with the latest fashion trends. She lives in Northern Wisconsin with her own happily-ever-after and three mini-mes. Katie has a massive addiction to coffee and Twitter, and a lessening aversion to Pinterest— now that she’s quit trying to make the things she pins.

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