Life doesn’t always turn out as expected, something Iris McDonnell learns when she arrives in the Colonies. Her fiancé is nothing like the wealthy shipbuilder described in his letters. Instead, she finds an unemployed ex-convict who knows naught of plans to marry her, let alone promises of a lifetime of love. When hardship forces their paths to intertwine, Iris begins to see Riley as more than a criminal…
Riley West knew his sister, Gwen, was meddlesome, but he had no idea to what extent until Iris appears in his life demanding that they marry. With a town hating him and a past haunting him, the last thing he needs is a headstrong, optimistic woman with no clue of how cruel the world really is. When feelings for Iris unexpectedly erupt, Riley has to figure out how to put his life back together.
"It's over now, Riley. I know that prison must have been horrible for you, and I know you must have suffered greatly, but it's over now, and you're never going back. You have a chance for a new life. One where you can put it all behind you. Don't you understand?"
Riley let out a long sigh. "A new life."
"Yes, a new life. You have the whole world open to you now."
"Iris, I can't even get used to knowing that I'm not going to hang. People just take everything for granted. I sat there for six years hoping they'd kill--" He stopped, his voice breaking. He squeezed her hands so tight she thought they would break, but she said nothing.
"Will you--could I hold you for a minute?"
Something softened inside her. She thought of Riley alone in a prison cell, and wanting to die. Everything about him, his moodiness, his unpredictability, it could all be rationalized by one tragic experience. The door to understanding Riley West was finally unlocked, and she wanted to push it open wide and come inside.
She put her arms around his shoulders, and he immediately circled her waist and drew her close. He rested his chin on the top of her head and sighed once again, as if getting more air in his lungs would calm him. Then his body convulsed, and his grief wracked him in violent sobs.
Iris gently pushed his head down to rest on her shoulder. Riley was stubborn, unpredictable, and moody at best, but he was also human and had suffered beyond anything imaginable. And she wanted to comfort him and tell him that everything would be all right. That he was finally free to start living his life.