On paper they were the ideal match.
On the superficial surface, it was easy to assume they were a real life Ken and Barbie.
Caden Foster and Kelly Cameron.
Both born late in life to families that proudly boasted their ‘old school’ and more importantly, ‘old money’ traditions, they were well educated, civic minded and, according to Caden’s father, undeniably headed for the Governor’s Mansion. It was already carefully mapped out, down to the last detail, Kent Foster told his friends often. His son was a born leader, destined for greatness, who would certainly make past and future Foster generations proud. About this Kent had no doubt, and he was delighted that his longtime friend Jonas Cameron’s daughter would be the one standing beside his boy during his well-crafted climb up the often treacherous political ladder.
Kelly was bright and beautiful, charming and well-versed in what her role would be as Caden’s wife. A stunning blond with cool gray eyes and a smile that could melt any heart, Kelly was elegant and graceful, but beneath the sweet image she projected, she could be driven and cold and determined when it came to what she wanted. And she wanted to be Caden Foster’s wife, because he was going places, and she wanted to go with him.
That love wasn’t a part of the equation was fine with Kelly. She had no need for love. Emotions hindered people, they created stumbling blocks that simply weren’t needed in the life she wanted, standing beside Caden.
If Caden wanted something different … well, different wasn’t allowed in their world, a fact his father had often pointed out and when Kelly came into the picture, she repeatedly made if clear to Caden that his father was right.
He had a destiny; he had a purpose; he had a path he was meant to follow. He owed it to his family, to those who would look up to him to follow that path to its completion with no stops or detours along the way.
Logically, Caden Foster knew well what was expected of him.
Unfortunately, logic didn’t always factor into what the heart wanted and Caden’s heart wanted only one thing.
And it wasn’t Kelly Cameron.
Royce Spaulding knew returning to his former hometown wouldn’t be easy. Being in Ashton would bring him face to face with many of the ghosts and demons that had sent him running in the first place.
He had accepted that fact before leaving the safe little haven he had built for himself in New York, after receiving the phone call he had been expecting for years. His uncle was dead and not surprisingly, he had died in a drunk-driving accident after he fell asleep behind the wheel and crashed his old pick-up into an oak tree.
The news didn’t shock Royce; it didn’t even upset him. He was only relieved Hank Spaulding hadn’t killed anyone else when finally ending his own miserable life, and Royce suspected that countless others shared his thoughts on the subject. Hank Spaulding hadn’t had many, if any, friends, leaving little doubt in Royce’s mind that a memorial service or even a real funeral service wouldn’t be necessary, which suited his plans just fine. He didn’t intend to stay in Ashland any longer than he absolutely had to. The main reason for his desire to keep his return brief appeared in the form of a big, billboard size campaign sign placed strategically beside the marker welcoming visitors to genteel Ashland, North Carolina.
Elect Caden Foster For Mayor
Ashland Deserves The Best
It wasn’t a surprise, to learn that Caden was running for office, and it wasn’t a surprise to see Kelly Cameron standing close to his side in the professional campaign photograph, because Royce knew Kelly and Caden were on their way to becoming engaged, if they weren’t already.
He knew all about Kent Foster’s plans for his only child and how Kelly factored into them; but even knowing, he had to admit, to himself at the very least, that simply seeing any image of Kelly with Caden sliced right into his heart with the ease a knife would slice through melted butter.
And he hated himself for that. He wanted to hate Caden as well, but he couldn’t. Like it or not, and he most assuredly did not like it, he still loved Caden and always would, just as he knew that Caden still loved him.
Just not enough to pick me, to be with me, to tell his father the truth and build the life with me that we always dreamed about.
Instead, Caden had allowed him to walk away, saying it was for the best for both of them, that he couldn’t just turn his back on what was expected.
So he turned his back on me instead.
The truth was always a bitter pill to swallow, but Royce refused to hide from it. He was finished hiding who and what he was. Being back in Ashland wasn’t going to change that, not after ten years standing on his own. He was proud of who he was and everything he had accomplished without help from anyone, least of all the uncle he had come here to bury or the lover he still longed for but knew he could never have again. Unlike him, Caden seemed all too content living a lie.
No more than a week at the most and I’ll be back in New York and I will never have to come near this damn town again.
He could handle a week, no doubt. No problem. He would simply avoid Caden and he was certain Caden would carefully set about avoiding him as well, as soon as he learned, likely from his father, that Royce was back in town and any contact with him wasn’t an option.
And, if Kent said so, Caden would listen.
He always did.
The current state of their very separate lives was proof of that.