They told me I was an angel.
I sang like one, they claimed, and I was such a pretty child, what with my rosy cheeks and blond curls and big, bright eyes that changed from pale blue to gray depending on the lighting. I had eyelashes the envy of every woman who saw me and a smile that lit up a room.
I was smart, too. Memorized lines easily and delivered them with skill. So gifted. It was in the blood, they said. A family dynasty of talent.
Such a charmed life, I led. Travel, fame, and fortune. The envy of all.
I was five years old the first time he hit me.
Caitlin Timberlake exited the Telluride Regional Airport terminal and turned in a slow circle as she feasted on the scene. Colorado's Western Slope was a world of jagged, rocky mountain peaks, of icy-cold streams that burbled and frothed and grew silvery fish that tasted like heaven when cooked over a campfire for breakfast. The San Juan Mountains in summertime presented a banquet of color—hills of green and gold; red rocks and alpine meadows blanketed in wildflowers of pink, blue, purple, and yellow, all presenting majestically beneath an azure sky.
She filled her lungs with clean mountain air, smelling pine and fir and forest, and tension melted from her bones like snowfall in spring.
For the better part of eight years, she'd lived in New York City, hustling and bustling and busting her butt as a textile designer, trying to build a life for herself. She specialized in fabric design for bedding and while she liked the creative aspects of the job, work fulfillment remained elusive. After all, pretty bedspreads would never change the world, and Caitlin wanted her work to matter. She wanted her life to matter.
Caitlin's discontent had been born in the moment when she'd learned that her brother Chase had gone missing in a war-torn part of the world, and it had grown in the weeks that followed. His safe return home hadn't squelched the emotion. She'd discovered too much about herself and her wishes and desires during that troubling time.
Primarily, she'd recognized that she'd spent too much time living thousands of miles away from those she loved. It had taken her some time to figure out what she wanted to do about it and even more time to make the decision to act. A few significant hurdles remained in her way, but she was closer than ever before to becoming her own fairy godmother and making some of her wishes come true. She exhaled loudly, grinned, and announced, "Hello, Colorado. I've missed you."
She'd have sworn she heard the wind whisper back,
Welcome home, Caitlin.
"I'm doing the right thing," she told herself. Now if she could only convince her mother of that fact.
Well, that was a battle for another day, one after she'd cleared her hurdles and had her fairy wand in hand. Today it was time to shift into bridesmaid mode.
Caitlin had flown to Denver yesterday after work and spent the night in an airport hotel. This morning's flight into Telluride had landed right on time, and the hotel shuttle was waiting for her. After wrestling with her purse, her tote, her computer case, and two suitcases stuffed to overflowing with necessities for her role as bridesmaid, she wanted to kiss the friendly van driver who introduced himself as he took the burdens off her hands.
The fact that Will Gustophsen was cute and about her age didn't hurt, either.
A year ago when her college friend, Stephanie Kingston, asked her to be a bridesmaid at her destination wedding, Caitlin hadn't hesitated to say yes. She just wished she'd known sooner about all the stuff Steph needed her to bring with her and she'd have shipped it ahead.