Summer After Winter

Hooked in the Hills #1

by Rhiannon Hart

Summer After Winter

The struggle to overcome the death of her boyfriend.

The older man who is spoken for.

The hidden love that needs to be revealed.

Follow Pepper Parker's heart-wrenching journey of imperfect love, lust, and romance.

When Pepper Parker struggles to overcome the death of her boyfriend, Sam, she moves to Stirling, a small country town to start a new life. She buys the perfect cottage nestled in amongst the gum trees, finds the perfect job and is blissfully living with a guarded heart.

That is until she locks eyes with Aiden Thomas Taylor, a sexy older man and successful property developer who is the first person to make her legs quiver and her lady parts flutter.

A property development overseas, a girlfriend of convenience and the discovery that Aiden's brother killed Sam jeopardizes their relationship.



Release Date: April 9, 2019
Genre: Contemporary Romance

A Red Satin Romance


Chapter One


It's Winter. Today is a beautiful midsummer's morning, but I'm still stuck in winter. In my mind, the rain is falling, the sky is gray, and I can hear thunder in the distance. The bed is cold and empty, and I feel numb and lost. I'm in desperate need of being brought back to life.

I threw my journal across the room like a child throwing a tantrum. The happy faces of unicorns who danced beneath glittery rainbows slid down the wall, crashing onto the dresser. Such a delightful covered book wasn’t intended for my dark and dreary mood. I was supposed to fill it with silly stories, new memories, and happy moments.

I buried my head under the pillows, trying to drown out the storm in my mind, but the tiniest ray of sunlight beamed in through the window, piercing through my pillow layers, warming my face. The stifling heat under the pillows quickly thinned the air. Becoming too much to handle, they also were launched across the room.

Like every other morning, I had rolled over to say good morning to Sam only to be reminded that he wasn't there. As always, when closing my eyes to fight back the tears, I was plagued by the same depressive questions. Was I destined to be alone forever in a cold, empty bed? Would I ever find happiness again? I pushed the unanswered questions to the back of my mind and told myself to harden the fuck up. After all, it was a new day and the beginning of a new life.

My mother had been telling me this for weeks now, drilling the positivity into my brain, trying to make it stick. She had been my only support system as we had no other family close by.

My father left when I was born, never to be seen again, and my mother was an only child. I had no siblings or cousins to grow up with, to learn from or ask for advice. It was only Mum and me fumbling through this thing called life, working our messes out together.

Opening my eyes, I looked around to find that she had littered my bedroom with different colored post-it notes. There were thousands of them, different colors stuck to every inch of my room. A blue one, attached to the pillow beside me, was flapping with the movement of my ceiling fan, giving me glimpses of writing, which intrigued me. Plucking the sticky bit of paper from the pillow, I began to read. Today is a new day, Pepper, the beginning of a new life. Every piece had been written on with her beautiful, cursive writing.

My mother had somehow managed to sneak in during the night, surprisingly, because I hadn't had a full night’s sleep in over a year. My routine involved waking up screaming, covered in sweat and trapped in a nightmare, before drifting back to sleep only to repeat the steps over and over.

Looking around the room at all the pretty colored bits of paper made me smile. Not only because it would have taken Mum hours but also because I had slept, for the first time in what felt like forever. We had sat up late the night before watching movies, a much loved Sunday night tradition, and even with so little sleep, she still went to extreme measures to get me out of this funk.

Smiling was not something I did much anymore, and when returning to my regular frown position, I noticed my whole face hurt. I massaged the sides of my jaw with both sets of fingers, pressing hard and deep. It felt like I had used muscles for the very first time that had remained paralyzed and still for so long.

It had been just over a year since my boyfriend Sam died, or should I say was killed, and there had been no desire for smiling. I was catapulted unwantedly into a world of sadness and tears, and even in moments when my insides wanted to burst out into laughter or song, I felt guilty, pushing it back down to embrace the darkness.

I peeled back the covers, dragging myself up out of bed and into the bathroom. I unraveled my long, mousy brown hair from the tight bun it had lived in for as long as I could remember and stared at myself in the mirror.

I was standing there for what felt like a lifetime, looking at every inch of my sickly thin body. Running a bony finger across the scar above my eyebrow, the memories of the car accident were still fresh. It angered me that I had allowed my mental and physical health to reach this point.

In the corner of the bathroom was a vintage, claw foot bath which had become my favorite place to soak away the days. It sat in front of a bay window overlooking the backyard where wildflowers grew in thousands.

I turned the taps to a fast but steady flow, poured in bath oil scented with coconut, and climbed in, slipping under the lukewarm water. On one too many occasions I hadn't wanted to come back to the surface. Today was not one of those days. I re-emerged, feeling a moment of peacefulness. The steam radiated off my exposed skin, and the negativity floated away.

I got out of the bath and lightly dried myself off. The towel draped over my naked body, wrapping around me more times than usual. I left my hair down, falling into loose curls halfway down my back and put the tiniest bit of makeup on to try and bring my pale face back to life.

I reached for the nearest pair of pants I could find and threw on a shirt from off the floor, removing stray post-its from myself in the process. I struggled to find a matching pair of shoes but settled for an old pair of flats located at the bottom of my closet.

It was the first day of my new job. I had been offered work at a boutique candle shop which had just opened in the town center. I hadn't worked a single day in my life. I never had to. I had no experience, nothing to offer; I was just a broken girl looking for a fresh start.

Sam had been the hard worker determined to build us the perfect life. He insisted on being the man of the house and often joked about training me to be a stay at home wife, barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen. I didn’t want that, to rely on someone for the rest of my life. And now, his death had forced me into independence, to behave like an adult, to grow up and challenge my sheltered life. I welcomed it; there was an element of excitement, but I was weak and had no confidence in myself whatsoever.

I moved to Stirling in South Australia a few months ago in search of that fresh start, and although I still struggled, I loved it here. It was a quiet, little town with picturesque streets lined with maple trees and cobblestone paths. I found an old cottage for sale with a white picket fence and a stone fireplace nestled amongst the gum trees.

Every Sunday there was a farmer’s market, mum would drive up from the city to come with me and then spend the night to hold me while I cried. We would stuff our faces with cakes and other baked goods and then curl up on the couch and watch movies.

Mum loved the city, but I didn't miss it at all, and I didn't miss the apartment Sam and I shared together. All the good memories from there had been overshadowed by the bad, and besides, he would want me to be happy, and Stirling had started to feel like home.

I flew out the front door on foot, trying my hardest not to be late by darting in and out of the back streets. I breathed in the fresh scent of the country air, grateful that I was alive and had found this fantastic town to live in.

I passed paddocks of cows with calves by their side and rolling green hills that reached as far as the eye could see. I could hear a rooster crowing in the distance and the sound of a tractor working on a farm. I arrived just in time.

Nora's Place was written in big, wooden letters above the door. There was ivy growing up the brick walls, and planter boxes filled with lavender that scented the warm, summer breeze. I was scared. My palms were sweating, and my heart was racing a million miles an hour. I reached for the door handle, pausing for a moment to take a deep breath. I was having trouble finding the courage to go inside.

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