Lark and Soren spent the next six months hiking the Continental Divide. They spoke to no one but each other for the duration of their trip, which meant that at times they grated on each other’s nerves.
In other ways they grew closer than ever, and they spent much of the journey talking about their pasts and discussing their hopes and dreams for the future.
As the son of a junkie, Soren had spent his adolescence taking care of everyone around him. To Lark it was clear that Soren couldn’t stand not to have someone to take care of, and Lark didn’t want to be taken care of.
When they returned to the Baileys’ farm, it became clear that they either needed to take the next step in their relationship or go their separate ways. Lark wanted to go to Denver, while Soren wanted to return to his grandfather’s ranch. It was the one place where he’d ever felt truly at home, and he needed to see it one last time.
Lark and Soren parted ways, and Lark drove up to Denver to room with Thompson. She needed to figure out her life, and Denver seemed as good a place as any. Lark started working odd jobs in the city, fleeing to the mountains with Denali on her days off to hike and explore the area.
One day she ran into Agent Cole, who was working at the FBI office in the city. He asked her to grab coffee, and she reluctantly agreed.
Lark could hardly believe it, but she liked Chase Cole. Since she was no longer a fugitive, he was no longer her enemy. They were able to talk like real people for the first time ever, and she learned that she and Cole had a lot in common.
Cole’s father had been an abusive drunk, and they had both been raised by single mothers. They both wanted to do good in the world, and they were both, in a way, survivors.
Their coffee date turned into two, and they began to date more seriously. Lark knew immediately that Cole was a better match for her than Soren. He was heavily involved with his career, which meant that Lark had plenty of time to herself. He didn’t try to trap her with commitment. In fact, the relationship felt disappointingly casual at times.
But no matter how hard she tried to banish him from her mind, Lark couldn’t stop thinking of Soren. She wondered what he was doing and if he had moved on. Except for one birthday card, she hadn’t heard from him since they’d parted. Either Soren had gotten on with his life, or he was trying to give her her space. Either way, the silence was painful.
Lark knew that her feelings weren’t going to dissipate. In fact, they seemed to be getting worse. She’d reread Soren’s card so many times that the envelope was falling apart. At times she thought she would go crazy, and she began to pull away from Cole.
She’d been half living at his apartment, but it wasn’t her at all. It was cold and stark and in the middle of the city. There was nowhere for Denali to run. There were only a few small windows in the living room, and the mountains looked impossibly far away.
That evening when Cole came home, Lark told him that she wanted something different. He was upset, but he wasn’t surprised. Lark had made it clear when they’d started that Soren had been her first and only love, and Cole had struggled to fill his shoes.
The next day, Lark said her goodbyes to Cole and Thompson and loaded up her Jeep. She drove straight through to the Texas address that Soren had scrawled at the top of the envelope, not knowing whether he would be there.
For all Lark knew, Soren could have moved on. He could have sent the card from his new girlfriend’s house, but the address was her only lead. Going to Soren was impulsive — borderline crazy — but she had to know if he still had feelings for her.
The address led Lark to a lonely country road, and her heart beat harder the closer she got. She couldn’t see any address for the properties she passed, but she knew at once when she’d reached the farm. It was like stepping into someone else’s dream. The wrought-iron sigh above the gate read “Wild Horse Ranch,” and she could see the horseshoe sculptures along the fence that Soren had told her about.
When she pulled up, Soren came around the house looking as though he’d been working all morning. He was wearing faded Levi’s and nothing else, and Lark’s heart jumped into her throat. He was just as handsome as she remembered, but looking at him felt like staring into the sun. Her heart and body ached for him, but she couldn’t just reach out and touch him.
Soren had stopped dead in his tracks, looking as though he’d seen a ghost. His face was a deep copper from days spent working in the sun, and his skin was glistening with sweat.
Lark gave him an awkward wave, and Soren asked what she was doing there. Lark tripped over her words as she told him that she’d come to visit. She felt stupid and selfish for showing up unannounced, and she apologized profusely.
At first Soren stared without saying a word. Lark waited and then turned to go. She could tell from his expression that she was not welcome there, and it killed her to know that she had destroyed her one chance at happiness.
Tears trailed down her cheeks as she stumbled back to the Jeep, but Soren yelled out and told her to wait. Lark froze. She didn’t want to turn around and show her face, but Soren knew her all too well. He came up behind her but didn’t say a word. He knew Lark was crying, but he didn’t reach out to comfort her. That would have been too much.
Lark dried her tears and turned around, and they walked out to the pasture in silence. Soren didn’t take her hand, and he kept a healthy distance between them. Lark thought it was because he was angry, but for Soren, it was a necessary boundary. He had no intention of throwing himself at Lark. He needed her to come to him.
Ten minutes into their walk, Lark blurted out her feelings. She told him about living in Denver and how miserable she’d been without him. She told him she’d thought about him every single day and that her feelings had only grown stronger.
Soren listened without saying a word. Lark knew that he was about to reject her, and she’d prepared herself for it. The disappointment was almost too much to handle, but it was better than keeping it bottled up inside.
She took a deep breath and turned to leave. She’d said all she needed to say. But to her surprise, Soren grabbed her by the hand and held on tight.
Lark swallowed. She couldn’t look at him, but she didn’t need to. Soren did all the talking. He told her that he’d thought about her every minute of every day and that it had taken all of his willpower not to run to Denver after her. He said that he’d forced himself to let her go to see if she would find her way back. He’d known it was the only way.
Soren had spent the past year and a half on his own, and he’d battled his demons a thousand times over. He’d wanted to return to Carlsbad to be with Axel, Bernie, and Simjay, but he’d forced himself to stay and rehash his most painful memories alone. He’d finally made peace with the ghosts of his past, but he hadn’t been able to shake his love for Lark.
When Lark finally turned to look at him, Soren’s gaze was fierce. It had been a long time since they’d been together, but there was no mistaking the love in his eyes. Desire flared through Lark, followed by a glow of love and familiarity.
They collided in a passionate embrace, and Lark felt something inside her mend. It had been broken and aching for months, but being back with Soren told her that she was exactly where she needed to be.
Lark and Soren went back to the house to celebrate their reunion, and they never parted ways again.