By: Brenda Jackson

Because of the difference in their ages, her parents had accused Bane of taking advantage of her, and her father had even put a restraining order in place and threatened Bane with jail time to keep him away from her. But that hadn’t stopped her or Bane from being together. When they’d gotten tired of their families’ interference, they had eloped.

She reached inside her shirt and pulled out the sterling-silver heart-shaped locket Bane had given her instead of a wedding ring he couldn’t afford. When he’d placed the locket around her neck he’d said it had belonged to his deceased mother. He’d wanted her to have it, to always wear it as a reminder of their love. His love. She swallowed a thick lump in her throat. If he loved her so much, then why hadn’t he kept his promise and come back for her?

Her mother had mentioned that Bane’s eldest brother, Dillon, had called a year ago when he’d heard about her father’s death. According to her mother, the conversation had been brief, but Dillon had taken the time to inquire about how she was doing. According to her mother the only thing he’d said about Bane was that he was in the navy. Of course her mother thought her daughter was doing just fine now that Bane was out of her life, and the Westmorelands probably felt the same way since she was out of Bane’s. What if her mother was right and Bane was doing just fine without her?

Drawing in a deep breath, Crystal forced her thoughts back to the car following her. Should she call the police for help? She quickly dismissed the idea. Hadn’t the note warned her not to trust anyone? Suddenly an idea popped into her head. It was the start of the holiday shopping season and shoppers were already out in large numbers. She would drive to the busiest mall in Dallas and get lost in traffic. If that didn’t work she would come up with plan B.

The one thing she knew for certain was that she would not let the person tail her home. When she got there, she would quickly pack her things and disappear for a while. She would decide where she was going once she got to the airport. The Bahamas sounded pretty good right about now.

What would Seton Industries think when she didn’t show up for work as usual? At present that was the least of her worries. Staying safe was her top priority.

Half an hour later she smiled, satisfied that plan A had worked. All it took was to scoot her car in and out of all those tenacious shoppers a few times, and the driver of the blue car couldn’t keep up. But just to be certain, she drove around for a while to make sure she was no longer being tailed.

She had fallen in love with Dallas but had no choice except to leave town for a while.

* * *

Sitting in the SUV he had rented at the airport, Bane tilted his Stetson off his eyes and shifted his long legs into a more comfortable position. He checked his watch again. The private investigator’s report indicated Crystal was employed with Seton Industries as a biochemist while working on her PhD, and that she usually got off work around four. It was close to seven and she hadn’t gotten home yet. So where was she?

It was the holiday season and she could have gone shopping. And she must have girlfriends, so she could very well be spending time with one of them. He just had to wait.

None of his family members had been surprised when he’d announced he was going after Crystal. However, except for Bailey, who knew the whole story, all of them were shocked to learn he’d married Crystal when they had eloped. His brother Riley had claimed he’d suspected as much, but all the others hadn’t had a clue.

Bailey had given Bane a huge hug and whispered that it was about time he claimed his wife. Of course others, like Dillon, had warned Bane that things might be different and not to expect Crystal to be the eighteen-year-old he’d last seen. Just like he had changed over the years, so had she.

His cousin Zane, who was reputed to be an expert on women, had gone so far as to advise Bane not to expect Crystal to readily embrace her role as loving wife or his role as long-lost husband. Zane had cautioned him not to do anything stupid like sweeping her off her feet and carrying her straight to the bedroom. They would have to get to know each other all over again, and he shouldn’t be surprised if she tried putting up walls between them for a while.

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