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Emma Cooper is determined to fulfill her mother’s dying wish to scatter her ashes with Aiden Sheffield in Linx, Texas. Just one problem. Why Texas and who the hell is Aiden Sheffield? The only clue is a faded piece of her mother’s stationary. Emma imagines Aiden is a former love of her mother’s, but when she meets the beautiful, damaged stranger, she realizes her assumptions couldn’t be more wrong. He’s hot and young. And Emma is as confused as ever.
Aiden Sheffield would rather go to hell than Linx. Who does Emma think she is disrupting his carefully built life? The last thing the Marine needs is to slice open the sealed wounds of his painful past. Yet, as he gets to know the lovely Emma, a woman who manages to smile even though she’s lost everything, he changes his mind. He will not let her go to hell alone.
But neither is prepared for the devastating evil waiting for them at the end of the road. It might just destroy them.
This is my first read by this author, and I am so glad I picked this book up! The blurb intrigued me, and I am happy to say that the story was everything that I was hoping for and more. A raw and emotional character-driven story that is both deeply profound and so much fun, with the different aspects balanced perfectly to create a read that had me laughing, swooning and falling in love, at the same time breaking my heart with its dark and gritty drama. It was a wonderfully immersive story, and I loved it!
After tragically losing both of her parents in the space of a year, 20-year-old Emma Cooper is carrying out her mother’s last wishes by seeking out a man named Aiden Sheffield, and travelling with him to the small town of Linx in Texas to scatter her ashes. She has no idea who Aiden is or how he is linked to her mother, but she is determined to keep the promise she made. When she travels to Oregon to find Aiden, he is far from what she was expecting. She assumed he would be a past love of his mother’s, but instead he turns out to be a handsome young man that instantly sets Emma’s heart racing. But far from being welcoming, he is a broody asshole who appears to want nothing to do with her.
Aidan is the hot-guy-romance-hero trifecta – he’s an ex-SEAL, an MMA fighter, and he runs a dog shelter (*swoon*). So from that alone we know he’s tough and strong with a heart of gold. His attraction to Emma is as immediate as hers is for him, but he resents her coming into his carefully constructed life and reminding of a past he has worked so hard to overcome. But he shares some of his past with her, and after she ends up staying at his ranch with him for a few days and he spends some time with her, he knows there is no way that he can allow her to return to the town that almost destroyed him, so he agrees to go with her.
His smile is sad. “You’ve been carrying it for a long time, Emma. Let someone else carry it for a while.”
Road trip! I freaking love road trip books! There is something about the experiences of travelling, and the intensity of two people being together all day every day that creates a wonderful set up for a romance. Add in the ridiculous chemistry that sizzles between Emma and Aiden, and the stage is set for some awesome fireworks!
I absolutely loved the relationship between these two. Yes, there is darkness and drama, but there is also a fantastic sense of fun, and the teasing, flirting and banter is sensational!
“Do you really think I’d risk my lovelies being strewn all over the internet?”
“Well, no. Wait what do you mean by lovelies?”
The pretty blush crawls across her collarbone. “Shut up. Don’t make fun of my euphemism.”
“You can say a word like euphemism, but not vagina.”
She makes a disgusted face. “It’s an ugly word.”
But it’s such a beautiful thing.
“I prefer to call my stuff lovelies. The bottom line is my lovelies are for my own private enjoyment not public consumption.”
I nod slowly. “Uh huh. How about you replay that sentence in your head again, Cooper.”
“What I said…” She face palms herself. “Shit, it makes me sound like I masturbate a lot.”
“Yeah, it does, but there’s nothing wrong with it. It’s nice we have so much in common.”
The story is written in dual POV so we get to see where both of them are at, and I loved the opportunity to get inside of their heads – experiencing the light and the not-so-light moments right along with them.
I buy us hot dogs and try not to watch Emma eat hers. I’m must full of great ideas these days. Yeah, buy her some phallic food and dare your dick not to jump. What a fun game this is. In fact, why stop here? I’m sure she could go for a banana or, better yet, a Popsicle. Shit, what the hell is wrong with me?
I don’t want to care for her. I want to be indifferent, pretend she does not affect me in any way, but she makes it impossible…because she affects me in every way.
The emotion between them builds quickly but realistically, and I could feel each little shift in their relationship, and I loved every fun, passionate moment of it! From reluctant allies to friends to lovers, their open acceptance of each other, and of all that happens between them, is absolutely beautiful to read.
“There is nothing in the world that can make me forget you. There is no ignoring what I’m feeling. There is no letting you go.”
But their road trip is leading them down a dark path, and as they slowly fall for each other, Aiden starts to open up about his past and all that he has been through, and it is absolutely heartwrenching. This book has some incredibly dark themes and it’s not always an easy read. It’s graphic and disturbing, and there are definitely some triggers to be aware of (physical and emotional abuse of both children and adults), but it’s written with heart and emotion, and it really allows you to understand all that Aiden has been through and how much he has overcome. My heart ached for him, and it made him all the more incredible for being able to open himself up to Emma so completely.
Cut me a break, Emma. I’m in new territory with no map or compass. Give me a second to find my way to you…please.
And that darkness that haunts Aiden so deeply becomes all too real as they reach their destination. Will they be strong enough to face the horrors of the past head-on, or will it destroy them and all that they have managed to build together?
I tuck a strand of hair behind her ear. “Don’t let me lose you.”
I loved this book. It’s a heart-pounding ride, and the blend of dark drama and sweet, fun, chemistry-filled, sexy romance is really well done. Emma and Aiden are wonderful characters, and their journey – both literal and figurative – is beautifully written. My heart ached for them and all that they went through, and I feel like I experienced it all alongside them as they deal with the past, experience the present, and move towards their future.
I wasn’t ready to let these characters go, but the book ends in a great place, and I finished this book with a huge grin on my face.
Absolutely beautiful – 4.5 stars.
An Advanced Review Copy was generously provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.
“May I help you?” he asks, his smile tight like it’s forced.
Struggling to find my voice, I finally respond. “Aiden Sheffield?”
“Guilty. Are you here to adopt?”
The pit bull whines at that. Without taking his eyes off me, Aiden pulls out a plastic bag from his pocket and throws him a treat. Unable to keep staring at him, my gaze shifts down. I get a good look at Aiden’s pal. The dog’s tail wags, but only one of his ears perks. The other ear is completely missing, and the poor boy’s jaw is misshapen. Aiden draws my attention back to him. “You’re making my pack nervous.”
That’s exactly what they look like…a pack. A family where he is the alpha. All the dogs have now come toward the fence, sitting in a straight line. They seem calm but curious as they flip their heads between us. “They don’t look nervous.”
“They are. They can smell your fear. They won’t hurt you.”
“Then what are you afraid of?”
He smirks, moving forward so we are only inches from each other, separated by the chain-link fence. His gaze lingers on me, far too long for comfort. He smells masculine, of soap and sweat and something distinctively him. “Who are you, mystery girl? Too old to be selling cookies, too young to be from the Gazette, and too innocent to be spouting religion.”
“I’m Emma Cooper. Angela’s daughter.” It’s a flicker in his features, but I catch the scowl before it disappears. The dogs start surrounding Aiden and stare at me with suspicion. It’s as if they are protecting him…from me.
“What do you want?” His tone is curt, almost demanding. I shift from foot to foot.
“Can we talk?” The dogs stand at attention now.
“Go to the house and wait for me.” He snaps the words like a command.
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About the Author
Not knowing a word of English, MK Schiller came to America at the age of four from India. Since then, all she’s done is collect words. After receiving the best gift ever from her parents—her very own library card—she began reading everything she could get her greedy hands on. At sixteen, a friend asked her to make up a story featuring the popular bad boy at school. This wasn’t fan fiction…it was friend fiction. From that day on, she’s known she wanted to be a writer. With the goal of making her readers both laugh and cry, MK Schiller has penned more than a dozen books, each one filled with misfit characters overcoming obstacles and finding true love.