Finding the Road to Us - Carrie Ann Ryan
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Carrie Ann Ryan Carrie Ann Ryan

Finding the Road to Us

Book 6 in the Wilder Brothers Series
Finding the Road to us Purple Cover, dog tags in foreground.
Special Edition

I was ready to say, ‘I do’, then my fiancé left me at the altar.

Broken and embarrassed, Trace and Elliot helped me run away—ditching my wedding dress in the process.

When I come back to the Wilder Retreat to show the world I’m no longer hurting, I know I must ignore my traitorous needs when it comes to these two men.

Because my body wants them both.

And my soul craves them just as much.

I know I can’t choose, and part of me asks why I should.

Only when we decide to take that chance and share everything, the danger from our pasts refuses to let our choice stand.

With one kiss, one dance into temptation, we could lose everything.

Including our lives.

read an excerpt

Finding the Road to Us is Book 6 in the Wilder Brothers series

Finding the Road to Us Characters Profiles

Finding the Road to Us

“Are you sure you’re okay to do this? You can take the day off.”

I smiled at my sister-in-law, and while I knew she was doing her best to soothe my hurts after my accident, I just wanted to get on with my life. Embarrassment crawled over me, but I didn’t think she would notice.

After all, it wasn’t every day that a Wilder fell off a cliff. At least I hoped to hell it wouldn’t be every day.

“I’m fine, really. It was only a few stitches, and thankfully I’m the Wilder with the longest hair, so it is covered.” I slid my hand through said hair and shook it out. My hair touched my shoulders now, something that it hadn’t ever done. When we were younger, all of us had short hair. My dad had liked us to look like the little soldiers and airmen that we would become, and only my sister ever had long hair.

“Are you joking right now? You scared us.”

I reached out and gripped Alexis’s hand. She smiled and squeezed back.

“I am fine, and I’ve been working with you on this wedding for months now.”

Alexis shook her head. “And I’m so grateful for that. I hadn’t realized that both members of my team would get pregnant at the same time and end up on maternity leave while this wedding happened.”

“I know the babies came early, but are they okay? For real?”

A soft expression slid over Alexis’s face, and she nodded. “The babies are just fine. I promise. It was a little scary there at first, but they barreled their way into the world with love. And now both moms are at home with their family and their new babies, and I am so grateful that you stepped up. I know wedding planning isn’t your thing.”

I shrugged, sliding my hand through my hair again. The stitches itched, and I knew that meant it was healing, but it still bothered me more than I cared to admit. I had been such an idiot going on a hike like that with tennis shoes, but I hadn’t been able to get my boots back in time, and I hadn’t wanted to cancel my hike with Trace. Not that it mattered, because Trace and I were just friends, and I was going to get over it. And get over myself.

That the rejection was all in my head. He couldn’t really reject me if he didn’t know that I wanted him in the first place.

“Anyway, I’m just so grateful that you’ve been here for everything. I couldn’t have done this without you.”

“Yes, you could have. You could rule the world without any help.”

“That’s a lie. You know it takes a whole team and this whole family to make this work.”

I shrugged, looking across the vast expanse of the Wilder Retreat and Winery.

“You’re right. It does.”

When my brothers and I got out of the military—through hardship, retirement, or being forced out due to injury or things that we’d rather not talk about—I had no idea what we were going to do.

I was the youngest of the family, other than our sister who lived in Colorado and had started her own family. She was the first one to move on, to create a life outside of us. I was proud of her. Because she went through darkness and came out on top, with the best possible outcome.

But when my brothers and I had gotten out within months of each other, we had nowhere to go.

But Eli, our eldest brother, figured it out for us. He not only found a road for himself, but a way to bring us all along.

We bought this piece of land outside of San Antonio using our savings, and family money that had come from losing our parents, and from selling our uncle’s winery out west.

It hadn’t been easy, and we had a few false starts, but now the Wilder Retreat and Winery was making a name for itself. And not only for the accidents and horrors that had happened to our family along the way. Those I’d rather not think about.

Now the retreat was used for weddings, parties, events, and a tranquil place to relax and get away. We were right outside the city, a hop, skip, and a jump from all the major highways in and out of San Antonio. The I-35 corridor meant that San Antonio, New Braunfels, San Marcos, and Austin were practically one big city at this point. That meant traffic from all major South Texas cities were near enough to us that we were a real destination. People could come and eat at Kendall’s restaurant in the inn, or at the upcoming Signature restaurant that she was building on the other side of the property. That would be a high-end five-star exclusive. And Kendall could handle it. We also built a spa that had infinity pools and its own staff. Another oasis for our guests that was also built environmentally conscious.

Of course, there was also the winery, the initial main draw of the place. Two of my brothers ran the place. We had our own vineyard that we worked our asses off to maintain. Amos, our vineyard manager, kept up with everything there for us, and worked closely with my brothers. While Naomi, our innkeeper, worked with Eli to keep the inn and the guest cabins running.

Each of us had our own job and worked hard. We added on to what was here when we bought the place and made it our own. And now most of my sisters-in-law were either working as part of the place or brought in clientele because of who they were.

“You’re lost in space again, are you sure you’re up for today?” Alexis put her hand on my arm, a reassuring and comforting gesture.

I shook myself out of my thoughts and focused on my sister-in-law. “I’m fine. It’s one wedding. We’ve got this.”

“Go knock on wood when you say that. It’s one big wedding.”

“Yes, the groom is a big business guy who happens to have a giant social media following as a model. I’m surprised there aren’t screaming fangirls outside the gates.”

“Don’t tempt fate. Trace and his team are already making sure that we don’t have things like that, since both Lark and Bethany are on property.”

“With Lark and Bethany on the property, is Trace working with them?” I asked, doing my best to sound casual. Because it shouldn’t matter. I should ignore the fact that Trace saved my life.

Trace was not mine and wouldn’t ever be. And while I was the final single Wilder, that didn’t mean I wanted to try something. I had before, and I lost it. I didn’t want that pain again.

“Yes and no. His team is, but he’s also working the wedding. He’s been shuffling things around a lot, since he’s running the security teams for Bethany and Lark from afar. I don’t know how he does it.”

I grunted and looked down at my paperwork. “I don’t know either.”

“Elliot.” She paused, her teeth pressing down into her lip. “I know we’re busy and we have a thousand things to do, but what’s wrong? You’re usually bouncing around and making doing a thousand things at once look easy.”

I wanted to curse at myself, but instead I put on a bright smile and did my best to make sure it looked real. “I’m doing a few more things than I used to, and I don’t think I’ve had enough caffeine. Usually, I’ve had like seven cups of coffee before now.”

Alexis winced. “Please tell me you’re being facetious when you say seven cups.”

“I don’t exaggerate. Not at all.” I said, my voice going high pitched, and Alexis just rolled her eyes and grinned. “Well then, I’m going to go check on the flowers.”

“Fantastic, because that’s something I’m not in the mood to deal with.”

“Florist issues?”

“I don’t even want to talk about it, but I think I’m done with this company. I’m just done.”

Considering I had to use the same company for my events, even though the amount of flowers for a wedding versus a corporate retreat were two completely different volumes, I nodded tightly. “Mold again?”

“Wilted roses, they smell awful, and they were late. We’re making do, the bride isn’t going to notice, but I’ll know.”

“We’ll kick their ass later.”

“Damn straight.”

Alexis’s earpiece went off, and she nodded at me before heading towards whatever fire she needed to put out.

I went back to my checklist for the wedding, which was weird.

When we first started this company, it had been somewhat established when we bought it. Events were already happening here, though not as organized as we made them now. Weddings were also done here, but the original wedding planner had been a disaster. Then the next one we hired had been a flake, and ran off. We’d ended up with Alexis, and things fell into place—she was a damn magician. The fact that she had married my oldest brother Eli, was just the actual icing on the cake.

I wasn’t a wedding planner. Hell, I had been a medic in the Air Force before all of this. My job had been to keep people safe and do my best to stabilize them so they could get to the actual base hospitals, and dealing with shit I didn’t even want to think about anymore.

But I had thrown that all away, run from all of my training, schooling, all because I lost the one person I shouldn’t.

Once again I did my best not to think.

I was doing a lot of that lately, and I knew my family had started to notice, because I was the bubbly one. The happy one who could make anyone smile and tried my best to weave everyone together because when you had six testosterone-filled men in a room that were all related and all had trauma of their own, things tended to explode, even if we all loved each other and actually liked each other. I was the mediator, the happy one.

At least, that’s what I tried to be.

But I had a feeling that my family was starting to see through that.

I needed to fix my facade, but it shattered a bit more when I fell off that damn cliff.

And, as if I had summoned him, I looked up at a very familiar face, the hairs on the back of my neck rising.

Trace. A friend of course, who worked with us, and was so out of my league it wasn’t even funny.

Not only was he nearly a decade older than me, he was gruff, had been through hell, and could probably kill a man with his pinky.

He was also standing next to his very beautiful girlfriend, who I had only met a few times in passing. They hadn’t been dating long, but had known each other for years. Since childhood, if what I remember Bethany saying was true. Trace didn’t bring her around much, as Trace didn’t live on the property like many of us did. He had a life outside of us and wasn’t a Wilder. He was pretty good about keeping that line between us.

Alicia was gorgeous. She had long fiery-red hair. It was all natural and she looked like an Irish or Scottish princess ready to fight for her honor, like that Disney movie.

She smiled up at Trace, who looked down at her and nodded.

That’s when I noticed the ring on her finger.

I staggered back, swallowing hard.

They hadn’t been dating that long. I hadn’t even known they were exclusive. And now, fuck. Shame hit me as I remembered I had touched him, had wanted to kiss him, had felt his hard cock beneath me after I fell on top of him.

He hadn’t wanted me like that, couldn’t want me like that. Because he was clearly taken.

Alicia looked over at me and smiled. She waved, the sunlight glittering off that shiny rock.

“Elliot. Oh, it’s so good to see you. I hope it’s okay I’m crashing the wedding.” She winked as she said it, her voice sultry and smooth.

She sounded as if she fit in anywhere, and from the five-thousand-dollar bag on her elbow, fifteen-hundred-dollar pair of heels, and expensive dress, I figured she came from money and knew how to spend it.

Or maybe I was just judging because I was embarrassed.

“No problem. If you’re here with Trace, then we can just say you’re staff.” I winked as I said it, putting laughter in my tone.

She clapped, her ring shining again. I gestured towards it.

“I guess congratulations are in order?” I asked.

She grinned, flashing her ring again and looked up at Trace. “It only took twenty years, but here we are. Kidding! Actually, we’re more engaged to be engaged, according to the families. My grandmother asked me to wear the ring and we’re testing it out. We’ll decide our own fate later, but it’s fine to pretend. Right?” She kissed Trace’s cheek.

I didn’t know what I saw in his eyes, was it love? Or was I just blind because everyone was moving on without me, even those I hadn’t realized were ready?

“You know families. Not sure if we appreciate it, but I made a promise…” Trace’s voice was gruff, and he nodded towards me. “You doing okay? Need anything? I know you’re filling in for two people on top of your job right now.”

“I’ve got it. But thank you. Are you set?”

Trace nodded again. “I’m all set. I’m going to get Alicia here a place to stay out of the way, and then I’ll come help you.” He narrowed his gaze at my forehead. “I know your hair’s hiding them, but your stitches, are they okay?”

“I’m fine,” I said, trying not to grit my teeth.

Alicia’s hand went up to her mouth. “I’m so sorry. Trace told me all about it. That must have been so scary. I’m so glad he was there for you.”

“I’m glad he was there, too. Good thing he’s strong, right?” I asked, grinning.

“Oh, I know.” She blushed as she said it, fluttering her eyelashes up at him.

Trace wrapped his arm around her waist and nodded at me. “I’ll be back.”

“Sure. Yeah.”

I sighed and went back to my actual job, definitely not thinking about Trace.

He was nearly engaged. Which didn’t make any goddamn sense to me, but I knew about family obligations. Just like the rest of my family. Oh, some were already married and having kids, some were on their second marriage to each other, and I was the one left behind. Of course, my cousins were also single, and they would be coming to visit soon. I was in charge of planning that, too, but I had at least a year. So at least I wouldn’t be the lone single one. The fifteenth wheel or whatever.

But I needed to get my head out of my ass and focus. Trace was apparently engaged to be engaged and didn’t seem to mind it.

And that meant I needed to get over myself as well.

I went through my checklist and listened to Alexis as the wedding started and music began to fill the arches. This was an old barn that had been renovated into a classy open structure. It was gorgeous, very high-end, and our celebrity clientele liked to use it.

I hadn’t seen the bride yet, as she hadn’t been part of my job, but I had met the groom at another business event on the property.

They didn’t have any attendants, which I found weird, but the groom said he’d wanted his bride to be the spotlight. I figured he wanted the spotlight, but I was just being catty.

It was only the minister and groom standing up front, as people sat down in their white chairs, and turned towards the bride.

I did the same, standing in the shadows.

She was beautiful. Gorgeous.

Long ash-blonde hair that had been curled into waves down her back. She had a veil that went down her back. Her long voluptuous dress billowed around her like she was a fairy princess. And it was a lot of dress, but it fit her figure and worked for her. Her bouquet of white roses cascaded in front of her, with a few purple flowers mixed in for a pop of color.

She was one of the most gorgeous women I had ever seen, like an actual princess walking towards us.

Her jewelry was simple, just small studs in her ears, her diamond ring, and a green emerald surrounded by diamonds on her middle finger.

She smiled up at the groom, looking nervous. I grinned, knowing that this was why we did it. I didn’t like planning weddings, but I loved weddings. I loved people finding their match.

I watched it almost every week, and it always made me think that there were people out there for each other.

I looked towards the groom as he watched his bride, and frowned.

The groom shifted from side to side, looked around, and swallowed hard.

Was he nervous? Well, his bride was beautiful, maybe he was trying not to cry.

The groom shifted again before he turned on his heel and ran. He didn’t run towards his bride, to pick her up and carry her towards the minister.

No, he ran. Away.

The moment he saw his bride, he ran.

Towards the trees, away from the aisle.

There was silence as the live orchestra stopped, a single violin bow making a screeching sound that echoed into the outdoors.

Then the whispers started, and they got louder and louder, wondering what the fuck had happened. Someone ran after the groom, to make sure he was okay, thinking that maybe he was sick.

But I didn’t think so.

I looked at the bride as she stood at the end of the aisle, eyes wide, hand clutched around her bouquet, and my heart fell. She had just been left at the altar, in the most dramatic way possible. I had to do something. Because I might not believe in love, but I believed in heartbreak.

I prayed to hell that there was some way I could fix this. Even though I knew there was no way to mend a broken heart.

end of excerpt

Finding the Road to Us

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Content Warning:

Discussion of past trauma from war, assault (on MC by antagonist), severe weather, blood, discussion of death, discussion of self harm.