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When he left for a twelve-month deployment, she knew it would feel like forever before they saw each other again. She didn’t realize how right she was.
When Lance Corporal Brecken Connolly gets taken as a POW, Camryn hopes for the best but steels herself for the worst. In the end, steel was what she needed to survive when he didn’t. She moves on the only way she knows how—gilding herself in more steel.
Years go by.
She builds a new life.
She leaves the old one behind.
Until one day, she sees the face of a ghost on the news. Brecken seems to have risen from the dead, but she knows she can’t perform the same miracle for herself. While Brecken was held in a torture camp for the past five years, she’s been trapped in her own kind of prison. One she can’t be freed from.
The man she mourned comes back to join the living, but the girl he wanted to spend his life with isn’t the same woman he comes back for. Brecken isn’t the same person either. The past five years have changed them both. While he’s determined to put the pieces back together, she’s resolved to let hers rot where they shattered.
Broken or not, Brecken wants her back. He’ll do anything to achieve that. Even if it means going against the warden of Camryn’s personal prison—her husband.
“I love you. Still. Always. There’s nothing you can say or do to change that.””
This is a beautifully heartfelt story. A second-chance-romance with a bit of a twist, this book had me feeling everything and kept me glued to my kindle from start to finish. I loved it!
Camryn and Brecken were childhood best friends. Growing up in difficult families, they found peace and happiness together and fell in love as teenagers. We meet them when Brecken, now 20, is heading off on deployment for 12 months, with grand plans to come home and marry his girl and build the life they always wanted together.
“I’m coming back for you, Camryn Blue Gardner, so you’d better be waiting for me, or I’ll just have to come find you and remind you why you fell crazy in love with me.”
Their plans are left in the dust when Brecken is taken prisoner, and when his brutal death is splashed all over the news, Camryn is left shattered. Almost six years later, Camryn’s life may have moved on, but emotionally, she has never recovered from losing the love of her life. And then her fragile world is upended again when she receives news that he’s actually alive, and on his way home.
“Hey, Blue Bird.” His voice was lower, his words raspier than before. “Sorry it took me so long to make it back.”
OMG, the feels!!!!!! I felt every moment of their reunion. But the girl that Beckett left behind is long gone, and while he has been subjected to hideous torture during his captivity, she has been through her own torment and is living in her own hell. They are both scarred – inside and out – by all that they have been through, and though Camryn is now far from Brecken’s reach, the one thing that hasn’t changed is their love for each other, which is obviously as strong as it has always been.
“I told you forever ago that I wasn’t going anywhere. That there was no one else for me. No one else I wanted to love. Nothing can change that.”
They are in an impossible situation, where Camryn isn’t free to be with the man that she loves, and the angst and emotion is beautifully written, without becoming overwhelming. Instead, it creates a delicious intensity in an already emotionally wrought situation, and my heart was pounding as it all played out.
“You … That was all I thought about when I was rescued, that was all I thought about during the six years I was there. You.” He slipped a wisp of hair behind my ear. “You were what kept me alive in that hell. And you’re what will keep me alive in this one.”
“You’re free. Alive. How is this hell?”
… “It’s hell to go from loving someone, thinking of them every minute of every day and thinking you’d never see them again, only to make it home and see them and realize they aren’t yours to love anymore.”
OMG, Brecken absolutely owned my heart! He is broken, yes, but he is a survivor and there is nothing he won’t do to protect and win back the girl he loves. And Camryn may initially come off as weak (and I still question some of her decisions), but as her story is fully revealed, her strength starts to show, and I could understand why she made the choices she did.
“I married him,” I whispered even as my hand found his chest.
“But you belong to me.”
And their love story is an absolute swoonfest! Though initially and understandably tentative, their reconnection shows how much they still mean to each other, and there are lots of sweet moments in the middle of their passionate and emotional journey as their fight for the happy ending that they always wanted.
“I never asked to be the world’s hero. All I ever wanted was to be yours.”
This is a beautifully written story. A story of love, honour, courage, strength, and the power of true love, wrapped up in a dramatic and emotional romance that captivated me from start to finish. It’s not always an easy read, with some truly dark elements, but the story is gorgeous (if somewhat predictable), with an epilogue that finishes everything off beautifully, and I loved it.
An Advanced Review Copy was generously provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.
“It’s been six years. Everything’s changed. I have. You have.” My eyes lifted. “Why? Why are you trying to win me back?”
He exhaled, his lips parting. “I’m going to win you back.”
When his hand slid around the bend of my waist, winding behind my back, I jerked. His touch was different tonight, hungry, determined. My head clouded, blocking out reason or letting it surface to the top, one or the other.
“I married him,” I whispered even as my hand found his chest.
“But you belong to me.”
My eyes closed as he bowed me against him. I wasn’t sure how two bodies that had been as broken as ours could be so strong when joined. “How do you know?”
“I can see it in your eyes. Every time you look at me.” His other hand lifted to my chin, tipping it until our eyes connected. His brow rose slowly, like I was proving his point right that very moment.
“That’s a confident statement.” My voice shook, but my body felt steady. Unwavering.
“It’s the truth.”
My chest was moving so hard, it brushed his with every breath. What was I doing? Where had I found myself? The man holding me had died only to be resurrected six years later. It was too late, but it wasn’t over.
No matter what, Brecken Connolly and I would never be over.
“Twenty-six days,” I said slowly. “That’s all I have to give you. That’s all I have to give. Four weeks. Once he’s back, you know the way it has to be.”
His face broke, but his hold didn’t budge. “It’s not enough.”
My fingers curled into his shirt, looking for some way to hold on to him. “I know.”
His other arm suddenly looped around me and he lifted me off the ground, his grip going around my backside when my legs tied around him. “But a fucking eternity wouldn’t be enough either, so it’ll just have to do.”
He carried me through the sand and up the stairs of the cabin, then he propped me against the wall so he could open the screen door. Something slipped out of my mouth when he flexed his hips into mine.
“Told you it wasn’t a morning issue,” he whispered in my ear, but I could hear the smile in his voice. “Just a Camryn one.”
He made the same motion with his hips, applying a little more friction this time, causing a louder sound to echo from my lungs.
Opening the screen door as silently as he could, he carried me inside.
“You can set me down, you know?” I whispered.
“I know,” he said, his arms tying tighter. Once all of the lights were off, the cabin closed up for the night, he padded down the hall.
“You know where you’re going?”
His head nodded beside mine. “I’ve always known.”
My hands went behind his neck. His skin was warm and familiar. “And where’s that?”
He exhaled against my skin as he closed the bedroom door. “Toward you.”
He set me down once he’d untied my legs from around his waist, and he took a few steps back. He stared at me for a moment then reached for the lamp on the dresser.
“What are you doing?” I asked.
“Turning on the lights.”
I watched him flip on another. “Why?”
“Because I want to see you. Because I want to watch your face as I move inside you. Because I want to see your skin flush when I make you come.” He flipped on one more light, then all of his attention turned to me. “Because I want to see everything.”
My heart took off as I imagined being intimate with him with every light in the room on. My body wasn’t the same one he’d left. It had carried a burden; it bore the scars of a shattered soul and a broken body. “I don’t want you to see me. Not like that. In the dark, you can imagine the way I was before.”
When I reached for the closest lamp to switch it off, he stopped me. “I don’t want to imagine.” His hand curled around mine, guiding it away from the lamp. “I want the real thing. I want the real you.”
“You’ve seen my body. You know what I look like beneath all of this.” I motioned at the fresh clothes hanging off of me, covering me from my wrists to my ankles to my neck.
“When I look at you, I see beauty and strength, and the one person in the world who gives me a reason to live and a reason to die.” He drew me to him, his face creased in lines of concentration. “That’s what I see when I look at you.”
About the Author
Nicole Williams is the New York Times and USATODAY bestselling author of contemporary and young adult romance, including the Crash and Lost & Found series. Her books have been published by HarperTeen and Simon & Schuster in both domestic and foreign markets, while she continues to self-publish additional titles. She is working on a new YA series with Crown Books (a division of Random House) as well. She loves romance, from the sweet to the steamy, and writes stories about characters in search of their happily even after. She grew up surrounded by books and plans on writing until the day she dies, even if it’s just for her own personal enjoyment. She still buys paperbacks because she’s all nostalgic like that, but her kindle never goes neglected for too long. When not writing, she spends her time with her husband and daughter, and whatever time’s left over she’s forced to fit too many hobbies into too little time.
Nicole is represented by Jane Dystel, of Dystel and Goderich Literary Agency.