The Man I Want to Be (Under Covers)(3)

By: Christina Elle

The pain in his leg and face didn’t relent. Which could only mean one thing—Kenna wasn’t a vision. She was here. After twelve years, she was back and there was no escape from his past and what he’d done to her.

Kenna McCord shuffled as fast as she could across the hot sand, cursing herself for not taking her trainer up on the extra sessions he’d offered. Cardio was not her friend, and it was never more evident than right now as she struggled for air after only a handful of rushed steps. How did Pamela Anderson make running across the sand look so effortless? She hadn’t, Kenna decided. Pamela Anderson was full of shit.

She swiped the back of her hand over her clammy forehead, pulling with it a few annoying little hairs that were falling into her eyes.

He was here. Bryan. Or as she called him: Bear. Her long ago love and once fiancé. She’d practically been a child then. That time in her life seemed a million years ago. But his betrayal certainly felt fresh based on the way her body simmered with renewed anger.

Out of all the beaches in the world, why did he have to be on this one?

She made it to the edge of the badminton playing area before a strong hand gripped her arm and jerked her to a stop. She gasped and tried to pull against the restraint, but she knew from experience it was futile. The man attached to the hand was not only stubborn, but he was stronger than a raging bull.

She whirled around to face him, casting her anger out like a force field. “What?”

“Fuck.” He drew back. “It’s really you.”

“Of course it’s me,” she said, crossing her arms.

He looked different now. He’d been a clean-cut, twenty-one-year-old when she’d last seen him. He was still tall as an oak tree and wide as a barn. But his hair was long, secured at the base of his skull with a rubber band. He had a full beard that made him appear gruffer. His broad, muscular chest and defined biceps that were noticeable even with a shirt on were also new. As she looked at him now, he most definitely personified his childhood nickname of Bear.

He narrowed his eyes like he still didn’t believe it. “What are you doing here?”

“I belong here. What are you doing here?” She jabbed a finger into his solid chest, trying to impale him, but immediately regretted the motion when a stroke of pain shot up her hand. Damn, his chest was even firmer than she remembered.

His jaw tightened. “That’s impossible. You don’t know anyone. You don’t have any family.”

Okay, that struck a nerve. He was right. She didn’t have immediate family to speak of. Only Aunt Estelle. But that was no reason to hold it against her and act like she was some sorry loser.


She hauled her fist back again, but before she could connect a second time with his arrogant face, he caught it in his big palm. Kenna pulled her hand back and thrust it on her popped-out hip.

His bushy eyebrows crunched together. “What the fuck was that for? Stop punching me.”

“I’m such a loser,” she said. “That it? I don’t have any friends or family so there’s no way anyone would want to invite me to a beautiful beach like this?”

“What? No. That’s not what I meant. It’s just—I’m surprised. I didn’t expect you to be here. After…” He swallowed and ran a hand over his crown of shoulder-length, dirty-blond hair. “You know, after everything that happened. I just figured you’d want to stay as far away from me as possible.”

“I do, believe me.” Kenna relished in his hurt expression. Oh, how she wanted to give him a piece of her mind. She’d practiced for weeks what she’d say to him when he finally returned home. She was geared up and ready to blast him with everything she had.

I trusted you. Gave you my whole heart, every tiny shred, and you ripped it out without a second glance. You made me love you. Live for you. Want to marry you, and then you walked away and never came back. Twelve years you kept me waiting…and like an idiot, I did. I loved you even when everyone in our small town told me it was a lost cause. That you’d forgotten me. Us.

I never gave up hope.

Until finally one day she’d woken up and decided she didn’t want to live in misery anymore. The only solution she’d come up with was to never place her trust in another person and allow them the power to crush her like Bear had done. So she’d hardened herself. She’d moved on, ignoring the incessant slice of emptiness of never knowing what she’d said or done to keep him away.

“I’m going to ask this one more time,” he said, dragging her back to the present. “What are you doing here?”