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  Yours To Hold

Yours To Hold

by Darcy Burke

Ribbon Ridge #2


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The next in USA Today bestselling author Darcy Burke’s sexy and emotional family saga about seven siblings who reunite in a small Oregon town to fulfill their brother’s dying wish… Years ago, golden-boy Kyle Archer left Ribbon Ridge without a word. Now, with heartbreak on the verge of tearing his family apart, the black sheep is back and he’s determined to earn their trust by uncovering the truth behind Alex’s death. But the moment he confronts Maggie Trent-the therapist his parents blame for the tragedy-Kyle is stunned by his powerful attraction to the beautiful doctor… and drawn to her like no woman he’s ever met before. When gorgeous, charismatic Kyle approaches Maggie about his brother’s death, she agrees to help him search for answers. And as they piece together Alex’s last days, their undeniable chemistry turns too hot to ignore. But when their relationship becomes more serious than either anticipated, Kyle may be forced to choose between the woman he’s desperate to hold on to and the family he almost let slip away.

{CN}Chapter One{/CN}

{H1}July, Ribbon Ridge{/H1}

Kyle Archer wanted answers. The elevator chimed as it hit the third floor. He stepped into the corridor, his gaze finding the list of medical offices, and more specifically, the name he sought.

Psychology, Maggie Trent, PhD, 320

Following the arrow indicating the suite numbers, he turned left and strode down the hall with purpose. Suite 320 was on the right, about halfway down. Without pausing, he pushed open the door and took in the gurgling fountain in the corner, the instrumental music featuring what he thought was probably a lute and a sitar, and the muted lighting. He supposed it was meant to establish a calming environment, though none of it did anything to soothe the frustration that had taken root in his gut over the past week.

He went to the check-in window, which was closed. The glass slid open as he approached. A guy in his late twenties with brown, wavy hair and horn-rimmed glasses looked up at him. “May I help you?” he asked in a quiet, almost tranquilizing tone. His mouth relaxed into a pleasant, rather bland smile. He was probably trained to put people at ease, but he only set Kyle’s teeth further on edge.

Kyle forced a brittle smile. “Hello, I have an appointment with Dr. Trent. I’m Cal Drogo.” He tried not to smirk as he said the TV character name, but given the receptionist’s lack of reaction, it was apparent he’d neither watched Game of Thrones nor read the books.

“Yes, Mr. Drogo.” He glanced at his computer screen. “No insurance, is that right?”


The receptionist’s lips pursed. “The scheduler explained that you’ll receive a discount if you pay in full today?”

“She did. And I will.” Kyle whisked out his wallet and handed over a hundred bucks. The fifty-minute appointment was ninety dollars without insurance.

Horn-rims gave him change and handed him a form on a clipboard. “You’ll need to fill this out—front and back.”

Kyle didn’t touch the proffered item. “I explained that I didn’t want to complete any paperwork before I meet the psychologist. It’s part of my . . . paranoia.” He glanced away in an effort to convince Horn-rims that he might suffer from some sort of anxiety disorder. Kyle was a lot of things, but anxious or high-strung wasn’t one of them.

“I see. No problem.” Another patronizing smile to accompany his sugar-sweet tone. “Have a seat, and we’ll call you when it’s time. Feel free to help yourself to some herbal tea.” He indicated a minibar in the corner that surely lacked the accoutrements of a typical minibar. Bummer. Kyle could’ve used a stiff shot of something to get through the next hour. If this even took that long.

Kyle stowed his wallet in his back pocket and nodded. “Thanks, I’ll check it out.”

The tea station had no coffee and no tea with any caffeine. It did, however, have little bags of gluten-free crackers. How hypoallergenic.

“Cal Dr—” The feminine voice cut off. “Cal Drogo?” She sounded skeptical, and Kyle knew this one had gotten the joke.

He turned, smiling, then crossed the empty waiting room to where the young woman stood at an open door with a clipboard in her hand.

“Your name is seriously Cal Drogo? Like that massive guy on Game of Thrones?”

He’d needed a fake name, and it had been the first thing that had come to mind. Kyle, Cal, they sounded alike. Though he hadn’t spelled it the same as the character. That would’ve been a dead giveaway. He’d take the little bits of humor he could find in life. “Weird, right?”

She laughed. “Totally. You’re pretty tall, I’ll give you that, but nowhere near dark enough. You look like a surfer dude.”

“Guilty as charged.” At six-three, he was nearly as tall as the actor on the show, but where that guy was tall, dark, and scary looking, Kyle was blond, blue-green-eyed, and in possession of a smile that said I’m all about having a good time. So far that had served him pretty well.

They turned a corner, and he followed her to a door at the end. Next to it was a shiny placard that read Maggie Trent, PhD. Kyle’s gut tightened, and just like that, his brief bout with good humor evaporated.

The young woman who’d escorted him smiled warmly. “Go on in, Mr. Drogo.”

Kyle didn’t spare her another glance as he moved into Dr. Trent’s office. The door closed behind him as he stepped farther inside. Dr. Trent looked up from where she stood behind her desk. The smile curving her lips froze, and her eyes—dark like the TV show character whose name he’d borrowed—widened.

“Your name isn’t Cal Drogo.”

“What gave me away? I’m pretty sure your assistant, or whatever she is, doubted that was actually my name, but she went along with my joke. Why won’t you?” Normally, his tone would be light, teasing. He could scarcely carry on a conversation without injecting some sort of humor or sarcasm. But he wasn’t messing around with Maggie Trent, and so his words came out hard, clipped.

Her gaze turned wary. “I’ve seen your picture. You’re Kyle Archer.”

“Alex showed you pictures of us?” It bothered him to think his deceased brother had talked about them to a stranger, but then that’s what you do in therapy, right? Talk about your family? He wished he could ask Alex, but of course he couldn’t. Not now. Not ever.

She nodded stiffly. “Yes. This,” her voice squeaked, “this is highly inappropriate. I can’t talk to you.”

Kyle glanced around her cozy office. Besides her desk and the bookshelf behind it, there were windows, a leather couch, and a chair. He assumed the couch was for clients and the chair for her. He sat in the chair. “I figured you would say that. It’s why I made the appointment under a fake name and refused to give them any of my information.”

She scanned the paper on her desk and frowned. “You told them you were too paranoid to give that information over the phone.”

He leaned back and put his feet up on the leather ottoman. “Yep, I did.”

Straightening, she crossed her arms. She was more attractive than he’d envisioned. He’d pictured a middle-aged, dried-up hag with a pointy nose. Maybe with a little greenish tinge to her skin. He’d imagined a monster. How else would he see the woman who’d counseled his brother and failed to stop him from killing himself?

However, life was a cruel bitch, and Maggie Trent was quite pretty. She was about Kyle’s age—twenty-eight—but had little pleats between her eyebrows that gave the sense she worried too much. Maybe she had anxiety.

She blinked—her eyes were the color of Dad’s special recipe Christmas stout, dark and rich like bittersweet chocolate. A light freckle dotted her upper right cheek. He couldn’t get a good sense of her hair because it was wound up on her head, though it was also dark, and little springy curls grazed the back of her neck.

“If you’re done staring, you should go.”

“No, I don’t think so.” He cracked a lazy smile, which didn’t reflect the animosity roiling inside of him. “The going, I mean. I’m done staring.”

She exhaled loudly and dropped her hands to her sides. “I’m not doing this. I’m really sorry about Alex. So sorry.” Her voice broke, and she looked away toward the windows.

A pang of sorrow hit Kyle, and he hesitated. No, he was doing this for Alex.

That wasn’t necessarily true. He was doing it for the entire family.

Kyle didn’t want to prolong this interview, so he got right to the point. “How did my brother get the drugs he took?” He’d taken a mix of antidepressants, sleeping pills, and painkillers. A potentially lethal mix for anyone, but for someone with Alex’s chronic lung disease, it was absolutely deadly.

She looked at him sharply, her gaze shrouded with anguish and regret. “I don’t know.” Her words carried the weight of unshed tears. “I . . . I cared about him a great deal.”

He steeled himself against feeling sorry for her. “He was my brother. And he never should’ve been able to get his hands on drugs like that, not with his illness. He had to have obtained them illegally.”

She shook her head. “I can’t prescribe drugs. I’m not a medical doctor.”

“I know that.” He needed to move. He stood up and walked the length of the couch.

She backed up a step, even though her desk and several feet separated them. “Are you here to accuse me of something?”

“Like what, lethal incompetence? Yeah, I think you have to be a pretty shitty therapist if one of your clients killed himself. You have to live with that, though. I just want to know who contributed to my brother’s death. What they’re doing is illegal, and I’m going to put a stop to it.”

Moisture gave her eyes a luminous sheen. “It won’t bring him back.”

“It’ll make a lot of us feel better.” He moved forward again. “There’s a psychiatrist in this office. Did he give Alex the drugs?”

She shook her head, jostling the curls that grazed her neck. “No one would prescribe them to him—not with his condition. You’re right that he had to have obtained them illegally. But I don’t know how. He didn’t discuss—” She sank down onto her chair. “I can’t talk to you about this. It’s unethical.”

“Why? Are you telling me about his treatment? I haven’t asked what you talked about, though I’m sure we’d all like to know. You do realize his suicide shocked the hell out of all of us? My family is a mess. Our parents are barely speaking to each other.”

Her expression was pained, those lines between her eyes creased to full effect. “But you’re back home. That’s a good thing, right?”

Alex must have told her about him and that he’d moved to Florida almost four years ago. Like everyone else in his damn family, Alex believed he’d run away and had wanted him to come home. Kyle didn’t think Alex had killed himself to provoke that, though he couldn’t help but think it had made it onto his list of pros. As if Alex had sat down and made out a list of reasons to off himself and reasons to live. Even if he had, why hadn’t the latter been long enough?

Kyle’s chest tightened. “I don’t think that’s any of your business.” He had enough trouble dealing with his family members regarding his return. He didn’t need some shrink nosing in, too.

“You blame me,” she said softly, her hand rising to her chest, where it fluttered briefly before dropping to her lap once more. “I’d blame me too, I think.”

Damn, she was making it hard to be pissed at her. With those sad eyes and lips that were an inch from quivering—or so he imagined. He could also imagine kissing them. Now, that pissed him off.

He gritted his teeth. “So what are you going to do to make it right?”

She blinked at him and her eyes darkened, which he hadn’t thought possible. The emotion around her mouth shifted into something harder. “If you think anyone can make this right, you’re fooling yourself. Even if you find out how he got the drugs, it won’t bring him back. It won’t change the fact that he chose death over life.” Now her lip did quiver. Exhaling roughly, she looked away again.

“It’s the only thing I can do.” Kyle shoved his remorse aside. It sounded like she might blame herself, but so did he. Hell, every person in their family carried a hefty piece of guilt. If he’d been here, maybe he would’ve seen something to indicate his state of mind. His sister Sara, who had been here, insisted that wouldn’t have been possible.

“I don’t think that’s true. I think you honor Alex by coming back here, by rejoining your family.” She glanced at him nervously. “If that’s what you’re doing. I don’t mean to presume.”

“Keep your therapy to yourself. It didn’t help Alex, and I don’t want what you’re selling, doctor.” He set his hands on his hips, his forefingers dipping into the pockets of his jeans. “I want those drug dealers, whoever they are, to pay.”

She stood and crossed her arms across her chest again, as if they could provide some sort of defense against his anger. “I told you already that I can’t help you with that.”

“Did he talk to the psychiatrist here?”

She shook her head. “I didn’t even work here then. I had my own practice in Ribbon Ridge.”

“Which you conveniently shut down after Alex died.”

“There was nothing convenient about it,” she snapped. “I was devastated.” She flicked him an uneasy glance and edged closer to her desk. “I think you should go.”

“I’m not finished.”

Her gaze turned stoic. “I’ll call security if I have to.”

“Security? Do you feel threatened?”

She tightened her arms around herself. “I don’t feel comfortable.”

“Then welcome to our hell.” He pulled out the business card he’d stashed in his front pocket. He dropped the creased rectangle on her desk. The Archer logo with its A shaped into a bow and arrow stared up from the face. “Call me when you have information to share—and don’t tell me you don’t have anything. You talked to my brother—what, every week for nearly a year? I’m sure you’ll think of something that can help me.” He speared her with an icy glare. “It’s the least you can do.”

Her look of remorse did nothing to ease his frustration at walking away empty-handed, but he hoped she’d come around. She had to have something that could help him track down the person—or people—who’d provided Alex with the means to kill himself. If she didn’t . . . He refused to go down that path.

He turned and strode from her office, leaving the door ajar as he went. Her assistant was in the corridor. “Finished already?” she asked.

“For now,” he said darkly, not bothering to adjust his tone.

A half hour later, he walked into the headquarters of Archer Enterprises on the southwestern edge of Ribbon Ridge. Home to nearly fifty employees, it oversaw operations of nine brewpubs and countless real estate endeavors. The two-story building, designed to Dad’s specifications about eight years prior, sprawled at the edge of wine country with epic views. Yet, stepping inside never failed to jolt Kyle with uneasiness. He was filling in for his younger brother Hayden while he was on a yearlong leave of absence making wine in France. And Kyle was, as everyone liked to point out, no Hayden.

Nodding at the receptionist as he passed, he took the central curving staircase up to the second floor. Hayden’s—rather, Kyle’s—office was toward the southeast corner, situated between his dad and Derek Sumner, the two people who currently despised him most. Altogether, the work environment was awesome.

The executive assistant he shared with Derek looked up at him as he approached. “Hey, Kyle. How was your lunch?”

Natalie Frobish was young, attractive, and worked like a fiend. She was the first person there in the morning and the last one who left at night. She’d only been with Archer two years—since graduating from nearby Williver College—but both Dad and Derek constantly remarked how Archer would be lost without her. Kyle was pretty sure Dad wanted to promote her to his assistant when his retired next year. But it didn’t take a rocket scientist to see Natalie had ambition, and Kyle thought her upward mobility at Archer would move her out of the executive assistant category before that could happen.

“It was fine.” He hadn’t told anyone he’d planned to ambush Dr. Trent. Better to keep his plans to himself until he had something important to share. He hoped he’d have something important to share—and soon.

Natalie gestured for him to come around to her desk. It was tucked behind a counter at which she greeted those who visited the executive wing.

Since she was being a bit secretive, Kyle glanced around, but the office was quiet. Dad’s assistant, Paula, was out to lunch, and Dad’s office door was closed. Derek, who was CFO, didn’t seem to be about either. Kyle stepped around to where Natalie was sitting. “What’s up?” he asked quietly.

Her dark eyes—maybe a shade lighter than Dr. Trent’s—found his, and she pointed at her computer screen, which showed a large bouquet of flowers. “Paula and I were thinking of sending these to Emily from Rob.”

Too bad Dad hadn’t thought to send flowers to his wife on his own. Things between them had been strained since Alex’s death, and then Mom had gone to France with Hayden almost two months ago. Kyle and his siblings hoped this separation would help both of them heal.

He’d spoken to Mom several times, and she sounded better, more relaxed. Dad, however, was as tense and short-tempered as ever. It was like he just didn’t want to deal with the grief at all, so he shoved it away. Since he was already pissed at Kyle from four years ago, their relationship was as uneasy as ever. Kyle’s desire to help his father find some closure following Alex’s death had prompted Kyle to track down how Alex had obtained the drugs he’d used to kill himself. And scoring some points in the meantime wouldn’t be a bad thing.

Kyle put his hand on her desk as he leaned down to look at the flower arrangement. “It’s a nice sentiment, but I wouldn’t do it. I’m not sure how things are between them.” They’d find out when Mom came home in a few weeks for Derek’s wedding.

“Okay, it was just a thought.” Natalie touched Kyle’s hand, catching him a bit off guard with the gesture. “I really care about your dad—about all of you. Paula does too.” She smiled brightly.

Kyle withdrew his hand from beneath hers and moved back around to the other side of her desk. “It was a good idea. Just maybe not right now.” Dad was so uptight all of the time—Kyle and his siblings were all worried about him.

Dad’s office door opened. His slate-gray eyes landed on Kyle. “I thought I heard you.”

“Hey, Dad.” Though they had yet to discuss Kyle’s departure four years ago, Kyle knew it was coming at some point. Dad was still pissed that Kyle hadn’t accepted the job he’d offered, and Kyle was still frustrated with how Dad had meddled in his life. And if he were truly honest with himself, he was ashamed, too. A conversation would happen someday, preferably when Dad was in a more positive mental state.

“Come in here for a minute.” Dad turned from the door and went back behind his desk. When Kyle came in, he said, “Shut the door.” Uh-oh. Dad sat down.

Kyle didn’t want to sit, so he stood in the center of the office and folded his arms over his chest. “What’s up?”

Dad glanced at the chair, registered that Kyle wasn’t going to get comfortable, and briefly pressed his lips together. “Have you and Derek nailed down the details for our booth at the Ribbon Ridge Festival?”

“Nearly.” Though it was taking forever, as they were communicating almost entirely by e-mail.

“You know, things might happen faster if you and Derek actually talked.”

Probably, but the rift between Kyle and his former best friend was deep. He imagined they would’ve lost touch entirely if Derek hadn’t moved in with the Archers during their senior year of high school when his mother died and he’d subsequently become the de facto eighth Archer sibling. Now Derek was as much a part of their family as Kyle. And, like the situation with Dad, Kyle didn’t think they could ignore the past forever. But he was fine doing it for now. Better than fine. “Hey, don’t blame me.”

Dad leaned back in his chair, his gaze cool with skepticism. “So if Derek came to you tomorrow and said, ‘Let’s start over, forget what happened four years ago,’ you’d drop whatever grudge you’re holding and move on?”

Derek had betrayed him. He owed Kyle an apology, and it was never going to come. Fuck it. “We’ll take care of it.” Kyle’s response was clipped. He itched to turn and leave.

“How? I want to know how you’re going to improve your working relationship at least. When I agreed to let you fill in for Hayden, I expected you to behave professionally.”

Kyle dropped his arms to his sides. “Haven’t I? If you have an issue with how I’ve performed, I’d like to hear it.” Kyle hadn’t really known the first thing about being a chief operating officer, but Hayden had been very helpful, even from France. Kyle had worked harder than he’d ever worked in his life to try to prove himself, and he was sick of taking the brunt of Dad’s grief and anger. “When are you going to cut me some slack?”

“When you’re ready to talk about what happened before you ran off.” Dad set his forearms on his desk, which had become far more cluttered than Kyle ever remembered it being. “You never even thanked me.”

The familiar resentment gathered in Kyle’s chest, made him grit his teeth. “Because I didn’t ask for your help. I had things under control.”

Dad’s eyes narrowed. “You didn’t, and the fact that you still don’t realize that is why I don’t cut you any slack.”

Kyle threw up his hands. “I guess my coming back and participating in Alex’s project and taking over for Hayden didn’t earn me any points at all.” He turned to go.

“Is that why you’re doing all of this, to earn points?”

Not precisely. He’d wanted to see if he could make something of himself in the face of everyone’s doubt—Alex had given him a perfect opportunity. “I wanted to come home.”

“For how long?” Dad asked quietly. “You need to regain my trust, Kyle. You need to regain everyone’s trust. And you’re not going to do that if you don’t actually engage and really come back.”

What more could he do? He was afraid he knew the answer—patch things up with Derek—but he wasn’t ready for that. Not yet. “I am back, Dad, and I’m doing the best I can. Too bad it’s never been enough.”


Darcy BurkeDarcy Burke

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Darcy Burke is the USA Today Bestselling Author of hot, action-packed historical and sexy, emotional contemporary romance. Darcy wrote her first book at age 11, a happily ever after about a swan addicted to magic and the female swan who loved him, with exceedingly poor illustrations. A native Oregonian, Darcy lives on the edge of wine country with her devoted husband, their two great kids, and two Bengal cats. In her “spare” time Darcy is a serial volunteer enrolled in a 12-step program where one learns to say “no,” but she keeps having to start over. She’s also a fair-weather runner, and her happy places are Disneyland and Labor Day weekend at the Gorge.


Other Books by Darcy Burke

Where the Heart Is (FREE Prequel Novella) Book .5
Where the Heart Is
Home is more than a place . . .Breaking free from her structured life, Chloe English quits her high-powered job and moves across the country to work as an art teacher. The simple life is all she hoped it would be until her house burns down, leaving her homeless. When a handsome firefighter swoops in to save the day, she can’t believe her luck. He’s laid-back and unassuming, everything she’s looking for in a man—or so he seems. It turns out he’s as ambitious as her ex, comes with a family who could be more stifling than hers, and harbors dark secrets he may never be able to share. Orphaned as a teenager, Derek Sumner has found a place in his best friend’s family. However, the love and support of his surrogate parents and siblings can’t erase the grief and loss he struggles every Christmas to banish. But this year he meets the fun and sexy Chloe, whose optimism and sense of joy are incredibly contagious. Can she help him face his bleak past so they can forge a happy future?
Links to Purchase Where The Heart Is

Amazon: B&N: iBooks:

Only In My DreamsOnly In My Dreams (Book 1)
Fed up with her self-imposed single life, successful event planner Sara Archer heads to a bar for a night of dancing … and bumps into Dylan Westcott, a high school crush she hasn’t seen in years. Harmless flirting leads to a hot, completely uncharacteristic one-night stand. But when she wakes up alone, Sara knows there won’t be a repeat.Dylan, a divorced, ex-military construction contractor, limits himself to casual flings—his failed marriage proves he’s better off alone anyway—but he can’t stop dreaming about Sara. And when his firm is hired to oversee the renovation project run by the Archer siblings, the two are unable to resist their explosive chemistry. But when their secret affair grows beyond “friends with benefits” and neither is willing to admit they want more, family drama and emotional scars may ruin their chance at a love they believed was only in their dreams. Links to Purchase Only In My Dreams
When Love HappensComing Soon
When Love Happens (Book 4)
In a town as small as Ribbon Ridge and with a family as large as the Archers, even the best-kept secrets don’t stay buried for long… Tori Archer is married…well, on paper anyway. She hasn’t actually seen her husband since the disastrous morning after their impulsive Vegas wedding. The memories of their intense passion may still make her weak in the knees, but Tori knows their marriage was a mistake. After six months filming abroad, television producer Sean Hennessy wants nothing more than to track down his sexy, captivating wife and get her into bed…fast. So when his boss sends him to Oregon to persuade the famous Archer sextuplets—the former stars of a reality TV show—to do a reunion special, Sean sees the perfect chance to win Tori back. But Tori wants nothing to do with him and is determined to push him away. Yet their attraction is as hot as ever and Sean will do anything to prove their relationship was more than just a fling…because he knows that when real love happens, it changes everything. Links to Pre-Order When Love Happens Amazon: iBooks:

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