Review: Break the Night by Anne Stuart

Format: E-bookbreakthenight_new.jpg
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Bell Bridge Books
Hero: John Ripley Damien
Heroine: Elizabeth Stride
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: May 01, 1993
Started On: June 16, 2018
Finished On: June 18, 2018

Break the Night by Anne Stuart is another one of her masterpieces in her long list of books (which I am forever grateful for), that more or less belong in the same category. Taking on the events surrounding the killer Jack the Ripper as a premise, Anne Stuart weaves a tale that left me wanting more on every single aspect of the story that unfolded.

Elizabeth Stride (Lizzie) is an artist trying to survive the LA scene. A creator of masks, Lizzie is caught in a nightmarish circumstance when a serial killer takes on her masks as part of the killer’s signature. Known as the Venice Ripper, Lizzie’s only saving grace comes from the fact that members of the public remain unaware of the use of Lizzie’s masks in the killer’s grotesque pastime.

However, Lizzie’s “anonymity” when it comes to the Venice Ripper becomes a thing of the past when news reporter John Ripley Damien i.e. J. R. Damien takes it upon himself to release the details about the masks in one of his articles featuring the Venice Ripper. Damien’s interest in the killer comes at a cost to both his personal and professional life. Renowned for his skill and talent as a reporter, Damien’s life takes a turn for the worse when he starts blaming himself for failing to see the line that exists between professional reporting standards and what is not. What could have been and what actually did happen.

Damien is haunted by dreams of a past that is filled with bloodshed, nightmares that seem hauntingly too real, when those dreams coincide with murders that happen in the present. Damien believes that stopping the killer is a job that is his duty, perhaps his past life had made it his responsibility to be the savior. But Damien knows that avenging the killer would come at a cost, a payment that he might have to make by giving his own life up in the process.

All of that is fine with Damien until Lizzie shows up in his life. Damien is none too shocked when an outraged Lizzie turns up on his doorstep, calling him out for publishing her details in relation with the Venice Ripper. While Damien tries to project an aura of indifference to all that is Lizzie, deep inside he knows that he is in deep trouble when it comes to her. The farthest thing from his usual style of women, Lizzie is what Damien would call a homebody, and for the very first time in Damien’s life, he wants to embrace the dreams of togetherness forever that he can see in Lizzie’s eyes.

However, there is a killer who is relentless, who is closing in on them as the passion between Damien and Lizzie ignites and burns with a ferocity that leaves them both stunned. And it will take everything Damien has got, all his wits about him to protect the most precious person in existence for him from a killer whose blood-lust has reached uncontrollable levels, taking on the task of the “cleanser of sinful souls” in the world.

I loved Break the Night. It is hard to believe that this was a story published more than ten years ago. Standing true to the test of time, as is the case with all Anne Stuart novels, both Damien and Lizzie are lovable and enticing characters. There is a vulnerability to Lizzie that is hard not to fall for, and a heart that yearns to open up to Damien and take him for all that he is – darkness and light together.

Damien is another topnotch example of heroes that Anne Stuart brings to life so effortlessly. Tall, lean, and darkly handsome in a way that makes a woman sit up and take notice, Damien’s demons run deep into his psyche, starting from a childhood that had been less than idyllic under most circumstances. However, it is Damien’s ties to a past that has long come and gone that is most intriguing, his often misplaced “blame” of self that takes place, because he is that kind of man.

Every Anne Stuart I pick up gives me a meaty read to sink my teeth into, delivers sexy and sinful heroes, pieces of whom I carry with me always; these are just some of the reasons why I would always keep coming back for more.

Recommended for fans of romantic suspense novels with a bit of creepy ethereality in the mix.

Final Verdict: Break the Night is the sort of novel that would rightfully leave you with the heebie-jeebies. Entwining long gone past events with the present, this is a story that will keep you reading into the wee hours of the night.

Favorite Quotes

“Damn it!” He hauled her upright, fury fighting with the panic that had suffused his body and winning. She simply stared up at him, her face wet with rain, and then it was too late. He pulled her into his arms, shoving her against the brick wall behind her and kissed her.
Her reaction was immediate. She slid her arms around his waist, clinging to him as if her life depended on it, and kissed him back. She tasted of rain and fresh coffee; she tasted of love and hope and despair.

For a moment, neither of them moved. And then he reached up to touch her, his hands cupping her shoulders, drawing her down, bringing her mouth to his. He kissed her slowly, gently, his mouth soft and damp and questing against her lips. He nibbled at her, tasting her. It was a kiss of such startling sweetness that she felt tears spring to her eyes, as a gnawing, yearning warmth started in the pit of her stomach and grew, spiraling outward, downward, filling her with such heat and longing that she began to tremble herself, and she wanted to move closer, to sink against him, into him, to press against him and dissolve.

“I’m yours, am I? Always?” he said, and there was no missing his bleak, self-mocking grin. “Lord, Lizzie, I only wish it were that simple.”
She let her eyelids flutter closed as she absorbed the feel of him against her. She could feel the sudden increase in tension, the hissing intake of breath. “Damn you, Lizzie,” he muttered under his breath.
She opened her eyes and smiled at him. “Only if you want me.”
The feel of him against her hips left no doubt in her mind, despite the torment in his eyes. He pulled himself away from her, heading into the living room like a man facing his executioner, and Lizzie almost smiled.

She had beautiful breasts, small and perfectly formed. He leaned over and put his mouth on her, drawing the nipple deep and hard against his tongue, and her body jerked in reaction. Her hands were clutching the rumpled sheet beneath them, and he pulled one away, bringing it to the front of his jeans, holding it there, feeling the exquisite agony of a desire so strong he didn’t know how long he could make it last.
He could feel the darkness closing around him, could feel the blood beating in his ears. His hands were rough as they stripped off her jeans, but if she protested he was beyond hearing, lost in some black, dangerous place of his own.

“No,” she said fiercely. “Don’t. I don’t want you to touch me… ”
He wasn’t going to listen to her, and neither was her body. Despite her hurt and anger, she was aroused, and he was deft, determined, as he reached between and caught her clitoris between his fingers, somehow knowing how to touch her in just the right way, and she climaxed, fighting it, her body tightening and rippling around his aching hardness, as a helpless little cry filled the darkness.

He hauled her up into his arms, roughly, before she realized what he was doing, wrapping her legs around his waist. He looked dark, remote, not t he man she thought she knew, as he shoved her up against the wall, his face almost brutal in the firelight.
He pushed into her, hard, filling her, and she braced herself, welcoming him, no longer worrying about pain, only needing him, more of him, all of him, but this time her body didn’t resist him, this time she was ready. Her face was crushed against his shoulder as she felt him thrust into her, and she cradled his head, holding on, wanting nothing but his release, his pleasure to fill her.

It was darkness, madness, blood and death. With each thrust of his body she went a little farther, a little deeper, lost in some world where nothing remained but the inexplicable, powerful feelings surging through her body, the sound of his breathing in her ear, the beating of his heart against hers, the slick sweat on his skin as he surged into her, again and again and again, deep and hard and eternal.

His body was lean and wiry and golden in the firelight, a runner’s body. She slid her hands up his chest, placing her mouth against his neck as she pushed him down on the mattress. He tasted of soap, of skin, of something dark and wonderful. She moved her mouth downward, over his flat belly, kissing, biting, tasting. And then she took him in her mouth, the full, silky length of him, consuming him, consumed by him, lost in an act she had never performed, not in this lifetime, and never with love.

His hands caught her shoulders, his long fingers caressing, and she could hear the strangled sound of his breathing, taste the salty sweetness of his desire, feel the blood course through his body. The night closed down around them, and there was nothing to fear, only the two of them, and she wanted this, she wanted him.
She spread her legs for him, closing her eyes as his hands cupped her hips, and waited for the thrust that would fill her.
A moment later, her eyes shot open when he set his mouth between her legs, using his tongue, his teeth, his lips, to bring her to the precipice, and she knew her first fear. And then there was no room for fear and she leapt over the edge, her body dissolving into an endless convulsion that stole her breath, her heartbeat, her mind and soul.

He rolled over on his back, taking her with him, looking up at her as she moved over his body, the two of them slick with sweat as the firelight cast eerie shadows across their skin. He reached out and caught her hips, but let her set the pace, his face drawn taut with the effort of control.
She felt smooth, sleek and powerful. “Don’t fight it,” she whispered in the darkness. “Give yourself to me. Now, Damien.”
His eyes shut tight. “Now,” he said. “Now.” And he thrust up into her, hard, filling her with his warmth, his wetness, his love.

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | iTunes

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Review: One More Valentine by Anne Stuart

Format: E-bookonemorevalentine_new.jpg
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Harlequin
Hero: James Sheridan Rafferty
Heroine: Helen Emerson
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: February 01, 1993
Started On: June 12, 2018
Finished On: June 16, 2018

As a romance reader who has an undying and unabashed love for all that is Anne Stuart’s books and her heroes, I have this wish that I would never run out of her books to read. That is one reason why I try to exercise caution and space out books from her and save them for the days when I NEED to read an Anne Stuart. When all the mushy reads with heroes who capitulate too easily get too much for me, I pick up an Anne Stuart, knowing that it would chase away those blues that only she can.

One More Valentine is a bizarre read in many ways. It deals with a hero who has been dead for sixty four years, who gets the chance to “live” for 48 hours every year. This time period coincides with the Valentine’s Day, the anniversary of the massacre that had killed James Sheridan Rafferty.

Assistant Prosecutor, Helen Emerson dreads the arrival of the Valentine’s Day every year. Single and in love with the old building which houses her apartment, Helen is a woman who stands out from the rest, not because she is a beauty of the kind that makes heads turn. She has strange dreams that she cannot make much sense out of, and a love for an era that had come and gone even before she was born into this world.

When Rafferty turns up on her doorstep, Helen wrongly assumes that he is from the defendant’s team on a case she is trying. Soon enough though, she learns that Rafferty is not exactly what he portrays himself to be. Thrown together by circumstance more than anything else, Rafferty is not altogether too happy with the idea of wasting his 48 hours “alive” babysitting Helen, a woman who disturbs his peace in more ways than one.

Helen is the direct opposite of the type of women that Rafferty usually goes for – the uncomplicated variety with whom he can have fun and leave when his brief sojourn on Earth is up for the year. Yet, he is drawn to Helen and irrevocably so, and in the span of the 48 hour period, Rafferty learns that there is no running from destiny that is determined to play catch up.

Helen is an innocent in a lot of ways, and the carnal desire that Rafferty invokes in her so effortlessly should be reason to scare her away, but in Rafferty, Helen finds the kind of man that she could definitely fall for, and fall hard. With danger courting her very existence, an old enemy of Rafferty’s out to wreak havoc and vengeance, Rafferty has no choice but to stick by Helen’s side, even if it means making himself vulnerable in return.

I loved the story, as strange as the premise and plot line seemed to be. There is no denying that Anne Stuart is a master storyteller, no matter what trope she chooses to write. In Rafferty, she brings the sort of hero who seems brusque and out of touch when it comes to courting a woman who is considered to be marriage material. And Rafferty steers clear of Helen’s kind for a reason. But there is no stopping the tide of desire that catches them both, tugging, cajoling, and enticing until there is no choice, but to give in.

I loved both Helen and Rafferty in equal doses. Helen gives as good as she gets, one reason why Rafferty has such a hard time turning away from her, though he tries his hardest to do so. The streak of independence that is a core characteristic of Helen infuriates and entices him in equal doses. I fell head over heels with the ending. When Anne Stuart decides to deliver a good ending, she does it spectacularly well, with just the right touch and flair.

Recommended!

Final Verdict: One More Valentine is the kind of novel that should be read on a rainy day, cozied up in bed, with a cup of hot steaming tea right next to you. The feels; they just explode with this little number!

Favorite Quotes

And maybe one brief kiss wouldn’t make things worse. He could brush his lips against her forehead, against the thick, sweet-smelling hair, and she might not even notice. It wouldn’t do any harm. Even if he threaded a hand through the thick hair at the back of her neck, tilting her face up to his, it wouldn’t cause irreparable damage. Even if she looked up at him, her eyes wide and solemn and waiting, her mouth pale and damp and slightly parted. He didn’t have to kiss her, did he?
Yes, he did.

He pulled her into the hallway, slamming the door on the bright winter sunshine, cocooning them in warmth and darkness. Pushing her up against the wall, he slid his hands under the heavy fur coat, around her body and pulled her tight against him, against his own hard, aching body, wanting to scare her away, wanting to take her, wanting a thousand conflicting things.
She stared up at him, wordlessly. And since he made no move to kiss her, she reached up on her tiptoes and put her mouth against his, sweet and shy and very brave. “Come on, tiger,” she whispered against his mouth. “What are you afraid of?”
“You, Helen. Just you.”

“I thought you were a ghost,” she said, her voice deliberately taunting. “Or a zombie.”
“Damn it.” He moved his hand from her mouth, cupping the back of her neck beneath the heavy fall of hair and kissed her then, his mouth hard against hers.
She closed her eyes, sinking back against the wall, reveling in the feel of him, of his hard, taut body, of his hungry mouth, pushing her lips apart, tasting, devouring, as if a man obsessed. She wanted to kiss him back, but he was too forceful, allowing her no choice but to accept, passively, when she wanted more and more and more.
When he broke the kiss he was breathing heavily, and she could feel him against the soft cradle of her hips, feel how much he must want her. He couldn’t turn her down this time, could he? She’d waited so long for someone she really wanted. She was tired of waiting.
“Helen,” he said, his voice nothing more than a rasp of longing.
She cupped his face with her hands, his dear, tormented face. “I want you, Rafferty. I’ve been waiting all my life for you. Don’t turn me away.”

“Trying to scare me off, Rafferty?” she whispered, stilling her reaction, keeping her hands from covering herself. “You can’t do it.”
“Can’t I?” he muttered. And he pulled the dress down over her narrow hips, so that it fell at her ankles, and she was standing there in the hallway, dressed only in a pair of serviceable white cotton panties and white silk stockings rolled to her knees.
He scooped her up then, wrapping her around his body, her legs around his hips, her arms around his shoulders, pressing her against the wall as he kissed her again, his mouth hot and wet and seeking, his long fingers cupping her hips, squeezing, pressing her against him, and she could feel his heat and hardness at the very center of her.

She began to work on the pearl buttons of his white shirt, unfastening them slowly, one by one, until she reached the belt of his trousers. And then she leaned forward and put her mouth against his chest, against the hair-roughened flesh.
He sucked in his breath, and for a moment she wondered if she’d been too bold. And then his hands cupped her head, gently, as she tasted him, her tongue tracing tiny patterns on his flat stomach, as her hands reached for his thin leather belt.
He pulled her up then, into his arms, and somehow they made it over to the sofa as his mouth met hers. He pushed her back on the cushions, kneeling over her, still fully dressed, and his hands cupped her breasts, the first time she’d felt a man touch her, and his thumbs danced across the tight peaks, sending a shaft of desire streaking through her, arching her hips against his imprisoning legs. His mouth followed, wet and hungry, suckling her, and she moaned, a soft sound of pleasure and frustration.

“Show me,” she said, overriding his concern. “We only have a few more hours. Show me what to do.”
He groaned, and his last attempt at restraint vanished as he reached between her legs to the heated, aching center of her. She arched against his hand, whimpering softly with pleasure, and in the darkness he smiled, murmuring to her, telling her how sweet and responsive she was, how soft and sleek and damp and hot she was, and how much he needed, wanted her.
“Slowly, love,” he whispered as he positioned her above him, throbbing and ready. “Very slowly. Make it last. God, Helen…” the words were a jumble of pleasure as she followed his lead, sinking slowly, filling herself with his strength.

When she was ready to shake apart, reaching for something beyond her grasp, he simply rolled her over on the bed, covering her, surging against her with a slow, steady pace that made her want to scream, to pound at his shoulders and weep.
And suddenly his control was gone as well, and he thrust into her, again and again, in a frenzy of need that brought forth her own wild response, and when he went rigid in her arms, his body arched against hers, his voice lost in a strangled cry, she was with him, shattering around him, tossed into the maelstrom of a love that knew no boundaries of time and space, life and death.

Purchase Links: Amazon | iTunes

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Review: Blue Sage by Anne Stuart

Format: E-bookbluesage2
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Harlequin
Hero: Charles Tanner, Jr
Heroine: Eleanor Johnson Lundquist
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: September 01, 1995
Started On: June 10, 2018
Finished On: June 12, 2018

Charles Tanner, Jr. is returning to his hometown. It would be an understatement to say that he is not looking forward to the “homecoming”. If Tanner were to have his way, he would never have made the journey, but then for the man who had been the father figure he never had, he would return to his place of origin, even if it means facing the demons left behind by his father.

Tanner’s father is a legend for all the wrong reasons. Known as a vet who had gone on a killing spree murdering sixteen and wounding one before turning the gun on himself, Tanner knows that he is going to end up stirring some bad memories for a lot of families who had lost loved ones.

What Tanner doesn’t expect to happen is to come across the all too beguiling Eleanor Johnson Lundquist, the almost 31 year old widow, and the lone survivor among the victims of the massacre at the hands of Tanner’s father. Tanner catches Eleanor during one of those rare moments in which she lets her uninhibited self roam freely; something that is not too easy given her revered status in the close-knit community that is Morey’s Falls.

With the anniversary of that fateful day coming, Tanner’s arrival undoubtedly stirs someone to once again force members of the town to relive the nightmares. With everyone on the edge, it is all too easy to paint Tanner as the bad guy. But within Eleanor, there is an altogether a different kind of storm brewing. For the very first time in her 30 plus years, Eleanor feels the stirrings of lust and desire, to take and be taken, and scandalously enough, by none other than Tanner himself.

As Eleanor and Tanner spends more time together amidst Tanner’s pursuit for the truth, they discover elements and facets to each other’s characters which otherwise would have remained uncovered. Each layer as it is peeled back, exposes a side that appeals to the other more. Tanner who has a habit of leaving, the itch that possesses him to go roaming and not stay put, finds himself with an inexplicable need for the very first time in his life to stay.

Blue Sage was a pleasant surprise because of the depth of the story that Anne Stuart delivered. Harlequin titles are not often known for the depth in their stories, but mostly quick reads that gives you a much needed escape. But somehow, Anne Stuart even then, managed to deliver books that were close to perfection with her ability to present to readers characters that seem polar opposites of one another, and yet form this bond around an almost indiscernible connection that springs to life from the get-go.

I loved both Tanner and Eleanor. Tanner with his lean whipcord physique, who believes that his pursuit of the truth comes from an innate responsibility towards the only man he looks up to, when it comes from a need within himself as well, to understand the man who had sired him, and a community that had failed all of them with their inability to see an unstable character for what he was, until it was too late.

I actually did think that there would be more to Tanner’s father’s story, but it didn’t turn out that way. Nevertheless, the whole aspect of a reemerging menace from within the community, with history repeating itself was a captivating aspect of the story.

I loved Eleanor as well. That inner vulnerability, core of strength, and the fact that she does identify with the fact that she is drowning on the pedestal that Morey’s Falls has put her on, to the way she blossoms under the touch of Tanner; the sensual awakening that is slow, hard and fast at the same time, were all parts of her story that I adored.

I loved the scene in the moonlight, up in the hills, with just Tanner and Eleanor – that was as elemental as it could get, and it somehow seemed fitting when it came to both of them.

The ending definitely made me teary-eyed. Tanner’s need to walk-about which hits his restless spirit and how it all played out was apt. Recommended for fans of contemporary romances with suspense in the mix.

Final Verdict: Blue Sage is magical and uncanny in equal doses; Anne Stuart waves her magic wand and creates characters that leaps off the pages, taking you for a ride you would never forget anytime soon!

Favorite Quotes

Lock your door, Ellie,” he ordered. “And I’ll keep away from Pete’s Fireside Cafe.”
She looked up at him. The shadows were all around them, the smell of the approaching storm thick in the air, and a sudden, waiting stillness caught at her.

He was so close, and so locked away from her. His blue eyes were hooded, unreadable, and his mouth looked hard and unyielding.
It wasn’t. Before she realized what he was doing he’d pulled her into his arms, out on the back porch in plain view of anyone who cared to

look. His hand cupped the back of her neck, holding her in place as his mouth came down on hers.

He lifted his head, his mouth leaving hers, and his eyes glittered in the shadowy half-light. “You kiss like a virgin,” he said, his voice softly mocking.
She kept herself from flinching. “I wasn’t kissing you,” she pointed out with an attempt to sound matter-of-fact. All she sounded was shaky. “You were kissing me.”
“Then let me do it properly,” he whispered, and the sound played across her spine like a thousand tiny leaves. “Open your mouth.”
She could no more deny him than she could have stopped her heart from beating.

It was beguiling, the innocence and enthusiasm in her untutored mouth. He kissed her slowly, lingeringly, giving her time to get used to the contours of his mouth, the dampness and texture, before using his tongue. He loved her little start of surprise at his intrusion, the acquiescence, the growing boldness as her tongue touched his.
Her hands tightened on his waist, digging in slightly, and if his mouth hadn’t been busy he would have smiled. Instead he encouraged her, teasing

her, his mouth sliding wetly over hers, lips nibbling, touching, biting, tongues dancing against each other.

It was unseasonably warm for a late-June night. Tanner’s pack was lying on the ground, his sleeping bag unzipped and spread out on the grass. She’d let Shaitan get a little closer, just close enough to read his expression. If it wasn’t welcoming, she could leave.
His dark-blond hair was wet and slicked back away from his face. His mouth was a narrow line, thin and unsmiling, and his cold blue eyes were in shadow. Ellie could feel the dampness in her hands as they held the reins, feel the trembling in her knees. Somewhere in the distance an old owl hooted, and overhead a million stars warred with the bright moonlight to flood the field with light.

Ellie didn’t move. Fear was supposed to be a cold, hard lump in the chest. Her fear was a blaze of fire burning deep inside, much lower down. She didn’t say a word, and neither did he. He merely stood there, his strong hand stroking Shaitan’s neck. And then he moved closer, and his hand left the horse, reaching to catch her bare ankle in his long fingers.
His flesh was hot, hers was cool. He slid his hand up her calf, up to the ruffled hem of her lacy nightdress. Before she realized his intent he’d pushed the material away, exposing her bad knee. His mouth followed his hand, tracing the line of scars that stretched along her leg.

She heard a quick, shocked intake of breath, and vaguely realized it was her own. And then his hands were reaching up, encircling her waist, and he was lifting her down, down from Shaitan’s high back, her body sliding against his, her skirts bunching up around her thighs, his warm, bare shoulders damp beneath her trembling hands.
She began to shiver in anticipation of some distant, unapproachable delight, and she felt Tanner, slippery with sweat, tremble in her arms. She wanted to cry, but she didn’t know what for. For the moon, still shining down on the entwined lovers? For the stars, glittering in the sky beside their sister moon? Or cry for herself, lost and seeking, shivering and reaching and aching and longing?

Her head thrashed back and forth in mute negation of something she couldn’t begin to understand. She wanted to tell him to stop, it was useless, it was more than she could bear. He thrust all the way into her, holding her with the pressure of his hips, and his hands caught her head, holding her still.
“Not without you,” he muttered obscurely. And setting his mouth on hers, he reached down between their sweat-slick bodies and touched her.
Her body arched, convulsed around his. Her mind, her emotions shattered, like the thousand stars of the Montana night, and she was gone, lost, floating, and Tanner was with her, his strangled cry swallowed in their last, desperate kiss, his body rigid in her arms.

“Ellie,” he said hoarsely, lifting his head, trying to pull away, to regain the last tiny shreds of self-control. He couldn’t do this to her.
She put her hand up to his face. It was shaking, and there was blood on her fingertips. She pulled his head down to hers, and her mouth was waiting. And her choice was life, not death.

He tore at her clothes and she helped him, raising her hips so he could slide down her jeans and underwear and throw them across the room, lifting her head so he could pull off the bloody shirt and send it flying after her other clothes. Her own hands were just as eager, just as desperate, fumbling with the zipper on his jeans, digging into his shoulders as she pulled him over her, on top of her, into her, wrapping her legs around him and holding him tight.
No sooner had he slid into that delicious warmth when more shudders of reaction began to wash over her. He held himself still, reveling in her helpless

response, and then he thrust deep, joining her in a white-hot blaze of heat that burned the past to ashes.

Purchase Links: Amazon | iTunes

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Review: Too Beautiful to Break by Tessa Bailey

Format: E-booktoobeautifultobreak
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Romancing the Clarksons, #4
Publisher: Forever
Hero: Belmont Clarkson
Heroine: Sage Alexander
Sensuality: 4
Date of Publication: September 26, 2017
Started On: June 08, 2018
Finished On: June 09, 2018

We have all come across the expression that sometimes, two people in love, they can act as if they are a universe unto themselves. In the fourth and final book of the Romancing the Clarksons series, Tessa Bailey explores that concept with the favorite couple of dare I say, most readers of the series since its debut novel.

Too Beautiful to Break is the story of the eldest sibling of the four, Belmont Clarkson, who literally takes your breath away from the very first moment you lay eyes on him. It is just like Sage Alexendar, the heroine describes him in the book, “Belmont was attractive. Yes. That much was made obvious by the way women got a certain look in their eyes as he passed. He evoked a chemical reaction that started in your stomach, as if he’d tucked his coarse index finger into your belly button and twisted. His height might have made him rangy, if it weren’t for all the muscle, honed from hours working on his salvage boat. His skin had an all-weather texture, bashed with salt water and sunshine, but his inner glow kept it from dulling in the slightest. Dark hair skirmished around his face and collar, no style to speak of, but thick and inviting and gorgeous in its disarray. The first time she’d set eyes on Belmont, she’d thought of far-off places. Grassy moors and mist and trench coats. Things she’d never witnessed, but read about in books. He was the only one of his kind.“, and I don’t think I can do more justice to Belmont’s character than that.

Belmont and Sage’s connection is one that manifests through every word, phrase, and sentence that describes them together in the entire series. Too Beautiful to Break just sets this fact in stone and Tessa Bailey brings to life how two people that are entirely drawn to one another like Belmont and Sage can disappear into a world of their own making. It is like Belmont tells Sage, they are two halves of one whole and I cannot agree more.

While for onlookers and even for us readers who have been following their “relationship” closely since the series began, it feels as if Belmont is the person who needs Sage to keep him grounded. When in reality Sage too, desires and wants that visceral connection between the two and uses it as her lifeline when things get too tough.

Sage is someone who comes from a broken home, with two dysfunctional parents whose entire world only consists of the two of them. Sage had grown up being a witness to the destructive dependency cycle that is her parents. It is the same sort of dependency she identifies with Belmont, a connection which she swears that she is severing for his own good as well, because the past that she had run from had come calling and Belmont has no place in any of it.

Sage comes from a small mining town, where the town’s entire population depends on the income generated from the mines. The fact that Sage had also taken the easy way out and run from a life that continued to bring her down, a life where she had been excluded from the family experience that should rightfully exist in a household that has two parents who are as love in with each other as Sage’s parents are; run Sage had, and run as far as she could.

It comes as a shock to Belmont when their parting brings to light the fact that it was not only him that had yearned for more when it comes to Sage and him. Sage lets him know in no uncertain terms that it is not okay for Belmont to take up such a large chunk of her life and not see her as a woman. Oh boy, does that seem to set Belmont off to finally act on his impulses that had been right about driving him nuts with his burgeoning desire for Sage, and enjoy it, I so did.

Belmont is the kind of man whose quite demeanor hides a wealth of passion inside of him. Belmont has trauma from childhood, the truth behind which he hasn’t shared with anyone, even his mother. Miriam, in the opening lines of the book, talks about how Belmont had grown up right in front of her eyes, become too solemn and forgot how to be a child, because he had carried the heavy burden of the sorrow his mother had carried in her heart for his father whom Belmont has never met.

Sage is adamant that she does not follow in the same path as that of her parents, whose toxic dependency cycle on one another prevents them from actually living and making a life together. So Sage pushes back, and Belmont who has been in love with Sage since forever, doesn’t hesitate to do everything in his power to prove to Sage that when it comes to her, he would move mountains because there is a fundamental truth that will never change – he is hers and she is his.

I found the trope that Tessa explored in Belmont and Sage’s story to be really interesting. I have come across various relationships where two people are just wrong for each other, even if they claim to love each other with everything they have. However, to witness two people who actually flourish, want, and need the other’s toxicity to make their love stronger is a novel concept in the way Tessa explored it in this novel.

I understood Sage and her need to get away from HER dependence on Belmont and vice versa. But that does not mean it doesn’t hurt Belmont, which hurts Sage as well. But what Sage did was important for the longevity and sustainability of their love for each other. You can love someone till your soul aches from it, but to make it stick and work so that you have that love with you for your lifetime takes hard work, commitment, and willpower to not lose essential pieces yourself in the love you have for the other. That I believe is a vital message for anyone and everyone, and I loved how Tessa explored it all with great sensitivity without painting anyone as the “villain” for it being so.

I loved and adored Belmont. I mean, who wouldn’t? He is the kind of strong and silent hero that romance novels often bring to life and we all swoon over. But I believe Belmont is in a league of his own in the understated manner in which he exudes an aura that refuses to be denied. When Belmont is in the room, you HAVE to sit up and take notice even though he has eyes for no woman but Sage. Yes, he is that kind of hero. His vulnerability at the core, and the fact that he was a virgin who had waited to discover the wonders of sex and lovemaking with the woman he loves was somehow fitting when it came to Belmont.

Loved the ending. I believe it delivered exactly the kind of peace and harmony between the Clarkson siblings that Tessa wanted to when she first started out with the series.

Definitely recommended!

Final Verdict: In Too Beautiful to Break, Bailey delivers the kind of love that is all consuming in its ferocity, gentleness, and ability to give. There is a beauty to Belmont’s character, supplemented by Sage’s that is hard not to fall for.

Favorite Quotes

“You are a woman, Sage. You’re the only woman,” Belmont breathed in a rush as he reached Sage, hauling her off the ground with both arms and up against his body—
And then their lips touched for the first time.
Something parted in Belmont’s mind, like clouds after a storm, and so much light shined through, it would have blinded him. Would have, if his eyes had the ability to remain open against the onslaught of euphoria. Need, too. There was always the need, but with his mouth finally pressing against Sage’s, desire grew huge and demanding. Going against every rule he’d given himself, Belmont tilted his hips and let her feel it.

“I stole it out of your suitcase. I broke a commandment and everything.”
“Why?” He breathed into her hair, sinking heat like an anchor in her belly. The shirt came off, her arms dropped to her sides, and she was left in nothing but a bra from the waist up. Inches from Belmont. “Why, sweetest girl?”
A light steam had begun curling in the air like beckoning fingers. Maybe this is a dream. It felt like one of the fevered fantasies she woke from on occasion, sweat slicking her breasts and neck. “Because I like the way you smell and it hadn’t been washed.”
His exhale was gravelly. “Sage.”

His soaped-up palms coasted over her rib cage and down, raking over her hips and moving inward to her belly. When his fingertips grazed the waistband of her underwear, Sage gasped and pushed her bottom back up against his groin. Belmont gritted her name, his vision doubling before swooping back together. “I’ve never been with a woman like this, Sage.” The truth was out, mixing with the shower mist, before he could stop it. “Never touched a woman beneath her underwear. Or her breasts. Never been inside.” He couldn’t swallow, so a choked sound broke loose. “I don’t really have a way to explain how much it’s you. Out of a million women, it would always have been you. My body…the part you feel between my legs…has never ached for anyone else.”
“I—I’ve never been with anyone, either.”

She pushed up with her backside, elevating his groin, inviting him to grind forward, so he did. He did it hard. And firebursts blinked in front of his eyes, the promise of satisfaction riding low and painful in his gut. But nothing compared to the flood of need that almost sank him when she spoke again. “I’ve touched myself, Belmont.” Even in the muted candlelight coming from the bedroom, he saw the pink flush steal up her neck and cheeks. He loved that display of Sageness so much, he licked it. He licked the increasing wealth of pink, up and down, left to right, until she started to whimper. “I know what I like.”
“Show me.”

Put your head back on my shoulder,” he ground out. “I can’t see your eyes.”
Danger. She shouldn’t. Being face to face with Belmont brought too much gravity. It would suck her back in, turn her back into someone she couldn’t be. But the gathering of release put a hole in her defenses. This was the man she’d clung to for dozens of hours, quietly begging for more. For all. So she didn’t just put her head on his shoulder, she threw it, using a foot on his knee as leverage to cinch higher. “There. There,” she choked out, peering up into his shadowed face. Shadowed, save his eyes, which practically glowed like blue coal as they raced over her face. “I’m right here.”
“I missed you.” A tremor moved through his huge body. “Don’t keep me banished.”

Sage’s flesh clamped around the thick presence of Belmont’s finger and she broke. She broke right down the middle, her legs jerking, the private, untested muscles low in her stomach convulsing until she screamed. It was like waking up in the bottom of a pool and marveling at the feeling of being encapsulated in cool, fresh heaven, but still scrambling for the air that waited at the top. So much relief. Almost too much to stand. “Oh my God. Belmont. Please don’t let go of me yet.”

Taking a deep breath for the courage to stop after one, Sage grabbed Belmont by the lapels of his jacket, drew him close, and molded their lips together.
He made this sound—mmmhh—and followed it with a groan so long and deep, she got lost in the never-ending vibration of it. His salty ocean eternity scent clashed with the forest, his texture, the heat of his body, exploding her senses. She’d barely processed that her feet had left the landing before they were dangling in midair, Belmont’s forearm slung beneath her bottom, the opposite arm wrapped around her back. So tight, like he’d never expected to hold her again.

Her teeth grazed his tongue and that shock sent searing pressure climbing up his cock. With a strangled shout, he twisted a hand in the hem of Sage’s dress and held it high, at the notch of her throat, watching in awe and disbelief as white ropes tugged from his body, striping Sage’s smooth, slight curves.
“Jesus, Jesus…Sage…I’m all over your belly.” He pushed the words out through clenched teeth. “Look how gorgeous you are.”
His climax seemed to go on forever and Sage’s reaction only made it more potent, more unbelievable. Watching him go over the edge seemed to elevate her to another plane, as well. She was sobbing by the time he finished, her hazel eyes glassy and unfocused.

She watched through a fevered fog as he wiped the sheen from his mouth, side to side, then ripped the material down the middle with the use of his teeth. “We’re two halves of a whole, you and I, Sage. I know there are things we need to work on. Me, mostly. I need work. But I know your heart, sweetest girl. You wouldn’t have given yourself over to me like that if you didn’t believe. In me. In us.” He tucked one half of the handkerchief into her panties, then dragged them up her leg, gently arranging them back in place. “So no more trading places for secrets. Anything you want to know about me, you ask and I’ll tell you. I’ll tear myself down the middle and let you see it all.”

Sage dug her fingernails into the meat of Belmont’s shoulders, loving his satisfied grunt. “You’re so hot,” she murmured against his mouth. “You’re so huge and hot and you don’t even realize it. Some mornings, when you follow me to get coffee and you’ve got the car keys in your hand…you look like the master of the world. And I’ve wanted you to…”
“What?” he prompted hoarsely. “Tell me.”
She pressed herself down, taking another two inches of his erection, stopping just at the point of pain, his strangled groan splitting the air. “I’ve wanted you…to want to…fuck me.”

“Just a little?” she whispered, barely aware of what she was going to ask, until the question was out. “Just a little. I want to remember you taking it.” My virginity. “I want to remember exactly how it felt when—”
“When I push all the way in, Sage?” His hand turned to a fist on her backside, the opposite one making the pew groan within its grip. “I’m only halfway in right now and you’re already trying to close your thighs on me.” His gaze danced over every bit of her face. “Do you really know what you’re asking for?”
“Yes.” Her fingertips skated up his chest and neck, tangling in his hair. “Belmont, please.”

“Oh. Oh, there. Right there.” Her back arched all on its own. “The way you’re sliding on me.”
His sudden focus zapped like an electrical surge, his scrutiny fell over her like a blanket. “I’m not moving. I’ll stay right here.”
“Please.”
“You don’t have to say please to me, sweetest girl.” Belmont’s hair was draping down on either side of his face again, so she could only see the way he bore down on that bottom lip with white teeth, only catch the occasional glimpses of hot blue eyes, but her hands were too busy clinging to his thrusting bottom to tuck the strands behind his ears. “You have no idea, Sage. No idea what it’s doing to me…knowing I can make you feel good this way. Look at you. Do you want me to fuck you harder now?”
“Y-yes. Keep going.”

“Belmont.” Her beautiful eyes held him captive, her thighs gliding up and down his hips in a seductive tempo. “Give me sons. Give me daughters. That’s how it was always supposed to be. From the very first minute.”
Belmont could barely stand the beauty those words unleashed inside him. It was an exhilarating rush through an endless field, Sage at his side. And there wasn’t a single barrier in their way. “I love you so much,” he managed, his hips beginning to flex…and then pump. “Marry me, have our children, never want for anything. Say yes to me, Sage.”
“Yes, yes, yes.”

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | iTunes

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Review: Too Hard to Forget by Tessa Bailey

Format: E-booktoohardtoforget.jpg
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Romancing the Clarksons, #3
Publisher: Forever
Hero: Elliot Brooks
Heroine: Peggy Clarkson
Sensuality: 4
Date of Publication: April 25, 2017
Started On: June 03, 2018
Finished On: June 08, 2018

Too Hard to Forget, the third book in the Romancing the Clarksons series by the impressively talented Tessa Bailey was a delightful read in so many ways. Too Hard to Forget tells the story of the youngest Clarkson Peggy, and how she makes use of the opportunity of the road trip the Clarkson siblings take to make a pit stop which she believes in all probability would allow her finally move on and forget the one man who has ruined her for all others.

Peggy, like her mother Miriam writes at the beginning of the novel, is a character with a million facets to her that you can never truly understand even if you spend a lifetime trying to. Its not that she is difficult as a person, no, the farthest thing from that. Peggy is made of a breed that allows you to see the wonderful bits to her as you watch, wait, and learn from her life.

Peggy might seem like the air-headed and most naive of the bunch, but Peggy’s heart is one that is pure gold. When you think you have finally figured her out, she manages to surprise you yet again.

Peggy turns up at her old university to face her demons head on, believing that she would be able to exorcise the man known as Elliot Brooks from her heart, body, and soul once and for all, and leave him wanting more while at it.

Elliot Brooks, head coach of the Bearcats, and known as the Ki,ngmaker is a man who is devoutly Catholic, continually paying penance for the part of his life that fills him with regret and loathing. Elliot is a man who was raised in a Catholic household as an only child, and has no particularly happy family memories to show him that life could be more than repenting for sins perceived and otherwise.

Elliot’s focus has always been on winning and baseball, and his life had held no room for a wife with whom he had had no particular affection, except for the child that had been born of their perfectly serviceable marriage. It is the death of Elliot’s wife that hits him the hardest, the guilt for all that he had not done, all that he had failed to do, and above all, his fiery attraction to a woman most unsuited for him, that makes him break all the rules.

Even as Elliot gives in, he keeps pieces and chunks of himself from Peggy, until at long last, he drives her out of his life, seemingly forever. Three years later, Peggy is back, more beautiful than ever, and to Elliot, she still represents everything that is sinful, every reason why the Church itself exists as an establishment for sinners to pay their penance and to remind themselves of what is more important in life. It is however a fight that Elliot loses every single time Peggy is within arms distance, a fight he loses to his innermost self which wars against his desire to completely possess Peggy one minute and walk away the next. All because he does not believe that he deserves the kind of light that Peggy has always shed in his life.

Too Hard to Forget is a novel that amazed me at every turn and made me sigh and swoon in equal doses. There is not a single aspect of the story that I would change, and it was undoubtedly precious from start to finish. Peggy’s character wasn’t one that I had warmed up to in the previous books all that much until her own story began in this installment. And once it did, I couldn’t get enough of her. That in its entirety is a rarity because it is usually the hero or the hero and heroine together that I can’t get enough of in most novels. But in this instance, once I fell in love with Peggy’s character, I did so for life, just like Elliot did and was fool enough not to recognize and accept it for what it was.

Peggy’s heart like I mentioned, is one that doesn’t allow her to usually see the bad in people. Perhaps that is where most would call her naive. But then again, the world needs more human beings like Peggy, who would be willing to go out on a limb for those that majority would usually not bother with. Perhaps that is in a way one reason why Peggy follows Elliot into the locker room and the rest, as they say is history.

While Peggy does believe she would find a way to move on from Elliot, it doesn’t really work out the way she had planned or thought it would. In the end, Peggy faces some hard truths about her own self and her need for Elliot’s brand of “love”, making her realize that she is worthy of more than the destructive kind of passion and love that exists between them. But of course, Elliot is not ready to give up without a fight, the fight for the love of his life, a woman he has wronged in so many ways as he has wronged himself by denying the happiness that could have rightfully being his, if only he had had the courage to move past his fears and preconceived notions of what life should be about.

Tessa Bailey’s mark is stamped all over the book, in spades. Dirty talk good enough to drench all your panties, sex scenes hot enough to singe and make you want and want more, and a hero who has control stamped all over his DNA, and loses it so spectacularly for the woman who owns his heart.

I would recommend this for everyone and anyone who loves an obstinate hero and a heroine who you would root for with every fiber of your existence. Yes, it is that kind of book.

Definitely recommended!

Final Verdict: Emotionally nuanced to perfection, Too Hard to Forget is wonderfully smutty, edgy, and made ALL of me clamor for more. This just might be in the run for my favorite Tessa Bailey yet; and that is saying a lot!

Favorite Quotes

“Shut your mouth.” His forehead ground against hers. “Shut your beautiful, ripe, little mouth.”
Desire thickening in her blood like oil, Peggy removed one of the hands he’d fisted on the locker, lowering it to the space between her legs. His nostrils flared, hot exhales bathing her face, eyelids slamming to a close. But she didn’t let his massive presence intimidate her. One by one, she smoothed open his curled fingers, then cupped Elliott’s hand at the juncture of her thighs, encouraging him with a roll of her hips to mold the flesh beneath the built-in panties of her cheerleading skirt.
“It’s okay to need this.”
“No.” His denial was a near-roar. “It’s not.”

With a jagged breath, Elliott grabbed up Peggy’s other leg, drawing it high around his waist as she guided his arousal toward her core. He entered her with a biting slam against the locker door, releasing the vilest of epithets into her ear. “Jesus Christ. This is what sin feels like,” he rasped. “Wrong and right, at the same time. Life and death. Blond, long-legged, and tight.”

The head of his rigid cock pressed against his belt buckle, straining painfully inside his pants. “That’s not how it works,” he rasped. “Prayer isn’t an excuse to sin.”
Peggy’s knee moved up and down the side of his thigh, and just knowing her legs were apart, her pussy out in the open, blasted another hole in his resolve. “No one will know. Touch them. Be as rough as you want,” she breathed. “I remember what you like. How you like to get mad at my body. Frustrated at it for making you want something natural.”
“Nothing natural about what we did.” His touch moved down, stopping a mere inch from her breast, fingers flexing. “You made me behave like a beast. Some of the ways I took you…some of the places…”
She groaned and it broke him. Knowing the memories had caused such a harsh sound of longing brought his clutching hand to her breast, where it kneaded the taut mound once before racing under her shirt. Lust railroaded him, and he was out of his mind with need to feel her bare skin. “Yes, Elliott. More.”

With a possessive snarl, Elliott pressed her to the wall with the use of his mouth, increasing the power of his suck until she cried out, twisting his hair with frantic fingers. She tugged him away with a cracked sob and then her lips were so close. So damn close. The most tempting of fruit. And he descended on their parted perfection like the Apocalypse was upon them.
“How do you do this to me?” he groaned against her mouth. “I can’t even get my dick hard unless I think of you. I bet you love knowing that.” The ensuing kiss was brutal, his tongue driving deep and claiming. “Bet you love knowing that sliver of stomach you showed me today in the car made it necessary to jerk off in my office with the door locked.”

She held her breath and waited once inside. Only a couple seconds passed until he blew through her doorway—sexual and intimidating—kicking the door shut, lifting her off the ground to attack her mouth. Peggy moaned into the kiss, her thoughts going fuzzy when Elliott’s tongue slipped past her lips, his free hand stroking down the side of her face, smoothing her hair in an affectionate gesture that made the last three lonely days worth every second. God. God. His huge presence combined with the passion of the kiss to rock the atmosphere. Thunder boomed outside, but she swore it was happening in her chest, between her legs. The smell of him and rain and…chocolate…was amazing.
“Shit,” Elliott rasped, pulling back. Rubbing a thumb against her lower lip, he dropped a kiss on her forehead, then reached into his jacket to remove a small, crushed bakery box. “This didn’t go according to plan,” he grumbled. “Nothing with you does.”
“What’s in there?”
“A cupcake. For your birthday.” He cleared his throat. “Happy birthday.”

Holy shit. Peggy shoved at Elliott’s shoulders, putting his back up against the bench, his expression rife with lust and anticipation as she applied the latex, sucking in a breath when she felt him pulsing against her fingertips. Using the bench’s wooden back for balance in her left hand, she moved higher on his lap, guiding his erection home with her right. “Oh God, oh God,” both of them groaned in a seemingly endless loop, as she sank down—
With only half his erection inside her, Peggy started to shake, the orgasm she’d spent so long chasing, busting through the dam of her middle and drowning her, dragging her under the churning relief. She felt Elliott’s hands in her hair, his powerful grip steadying her, mouth blocking her scream with a kiss. The kind of kiss you gave someone you might die without. Fast, slow, heads turning, bodies twisting. A full body kiss. “More. Elliott. More.

Peggy contracted her most intimate muscles around Elliott’s girth, listened as rusted epithets married in his throat, felt his fingers dig into the flesh of her backside. “These inches of yours,” she breathed up against his ear, licking the lobe, catching it between her teeth. “They’re the only ones that know the right spot to hit…the only ones that can make me scream. Or feel a damn thing. Please.”
Her back landed on the bench, the wood’s coldness reaching through the back of her jacket to wrap around her spine. But the rest of her…oh God, the rest was so fucking hot, she knew the word fever would forever hold new meaning. Elliott descended on her with the power of a pack of wolves, caged inside one man.
“Get your knees up. Get them up,” he snarled. Without waiting for her to comply with his command, he reached back and pulled her knees even with her hips, just out to the side. And that first drive with Elliott’s full weight on top of her was so glorious, it might have topped the orgasms he’d already given her. The positivity that she was being dominated, that she was prey and couldn’t escape his pinning heaviness, the thick evidence that he was man…it caused starburst to erupt behind her eyes, in her belly, all along her nerve endings.

As if sensing her resolve, Elliott set out to crush it, his mouth stamping down on her possessively, his tongue sweeping into her mouth and letting her taste his frustration. “Touch me,” he urged against her lips. “Skin on skin.”
She shook her head, trying to distract him with more kissing, but he pulled away, those eyes drilling into her, his lower body grinding in rhythmic devastation, sending her so close to the point of no return, she lost her ability to think straight.
“Damn you, Peggy,” Elliott growled, pressing his face into her shoulder. “I need your hands and eyes. I missed them most of all.” Their hearts slammed into each other between them, in perfect time with his rolling hips. But only hers was fracturing, splitting right down the middle, little pieces falling away as he continued. “No one ever touched me like you did. I’ve needed it, baby. I’ve been dead without it. Dead inside. Please.”

You’re making my chest hurt.”
She dropped the fork onto the plate with a clatter. “What?”
Elliott’s gaze cut away, clearly having surprised himself. “The way you’re sitting there…the sun making your skin glow.” He sat up straighter in an abrupt movement that dipped that mattress. “Looking at you makes me want to forget everything else and never stop. Every time I’m with you, I come closer to giving in. Setting aside my responsibilities so I can spend more time looking and listening to each and every damn word out of your mouth. Every time.”
Heart running circles around her rib cage, Peggy set the plate of food aside and threw herself at Elliott, laying across him horizontally, her lower half still twisted in the sheet. “You don’t have to set anything aside, you can just shift them a little.” She smiled into his chest hair. “I’m short. I’ll fit.”

Peggy turned, giving the coach her back, watching him over her shoulder, raising both arms in the air and clapping her hands together. Once. “We are the Bearcats and we want to win.” With a hip roll, she turned, sliding into the V of his thighs, smiling as he sucked in a winded breath. “We did it once before and we can do it again,” she continued, holding his knees for balance as she dipped down low and rose slowly, slowly, bumping her hips sharply to one side, and then the other, until Elliott finally gave in, reaching into his sweatpants, his hand moving in vigorous strokes. “Please don’t make us mad. ’Cause we’ll get nasty and mean,” she whispered against his mouth, before licking at the parted seam. “And we just might decide to roll over your team.”

Her back landed on the kitchen table a split second later, Elliott grunting above her as he shoved down his sweatpants, ripped off her underwear, and rammed home with a shout. “Christ. Christ, what you do to me. It’s the devil’s work.” He mounted her body, dropping his face into the crook of her neck. “When a man loses control of one part of his life, all others follow. All others.”
“And I’m the catalyst?” Peggy whispered, her voice shaking. “Guess you better punish me for it.”
When his hips gave that first rude pump, she felt it up in her throat, choking her and setting her free, all at once.

Elliott wasn’t having it. He slipped his left hand up and down her thigh, moving a little higher with each stroke. “Did you have to change your panties when you came upstairs, baby?” He tucked his thumb just beneath the material of her underwear, dragging it in an arc, stopping just a few inches from her pussy. “When you put on the new ones, I bet you gave your clit a little rub. Just once around with your middle finger. Maybe twice. But you stopped because you felt bad about fingering yourself in someone else’s house, sun out and everything. Did I get that right?”
“Yes,” she breathed, tilting her head to the side, giving Elliott an opening to scrape his teeth up the side of her neck. “How did you know that?”
“I know, because even though you were damp and horny in someone else’s kitchen, you’re a good girl deep down.” He sensed her withdraw at that, just a touch. But he wasn’t finished. “And I know because when your pussy gets wet, that real, aching, slick type of wet, you want to hold out for my cock. Don’t you?

“Yes,” she wailed as Elliott did just that. Tended to her like they had only one minute until the Apocalypse. His stiff tongue raked over her clit, lapping at it, while his middle finger slipped through moisture into her entrance. “Yes
“You don’t need to tell me yes when you’re this wet,” he groaned, stabbing his tongue as far inside her as it could go and drawing it out slowly, until his stubble met her sensitized flesh and scraped, before repeating the move several quick, mind-spinning times, all while his thumb strummed over her clit. “Keyed up in my passenger seat, wiggling around like I was already tongue deep in this soaked pussy of yours. Were you remembering how much I love licking it?”
Elliott pushed two fingers inside Peggy and her hips jerked off the bureau, her bare ass slapping back down into the surface as she cried out, “Oh God. Yes, I remember.”

“My favorite part was afterward. After you’d come enough to be fucking delirious…” A prolonged suck of her swollen nub that had her legs shaking, one knee bashing off the wall. “Then I’d slide you toward me or flip you over, whatever you were begging for, and your cunt would be so shiny for me. Ready for a pounding from my cock. Gorgeous.”
“Ohhh.” Her fingers plowed into his hair and gripped tight. “Do that again. Don’t stop. I need to. I need to—” Her pleas ended with a scream when Elliott pushed his fingers deep, jiggling them rapidly, while his mouth applied the sweetest amount of suction to her clit and sensation exploded below her waist. “Elliott. Jesus Christ.”

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | iTunes

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Review: Heartless by Anne Stuart

Format: E-bookheartless.jpg
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: The House of Rohan, #5
Publisher: Impeccably Demure Press
Hero: Brandon George Rohan
Heroine: Emma Rose Magdalene Cadbury
Sensuality: 3.5
Date of Publication: May 15, 2018
Started On: May 30, 2018
Finished On: June 02, 2018

At last, Heartless, the 5th book in the House of Rohan series by Anne Stuart is out,  a book that has been long awaited by fans. The fourth book, Shameless was published in 2011, with Anne Stuart promising fans that she would get around to writing Brandon George Rohan (Brandon) and Emma Rose Magdalene Cadbury (Emma)’s story. It has been four years since I discovered this delectable series by Anne Stuart and indulged to my heart’s content. Before the arrival of Heartless, I decided to do a re-read marathon of the entire series, which actually made Heartless all that more meaningful to me.

Heartless starts after a period of three years having passed since the Shameless. With Brandon living in the Scottish Highlands, recovering and recuperating from the mess his life had become after the war, Brandon is summoned home by his brother Benedick upon the birth of his and Melisande’s second child. Brandon is reluctant to make his way back to England, but it was finally time.

Taking a look at Emma’s life, it sure had changed considerably since then. Someone who had been the youngest madam in England had turned her life around to the point where she was now about replace Mr. Fenrush as the head of surgery at the Temple Hospital where she pursues her passion. Her triumphs in her professional life had not come easy, especially pursuing a career in the medicinal world as a woman at the time. But Emma has an innate talent that wins her peers over, except for Mr. Fenrush, whose anger towards her often seems more malicious than just professional jealousy on his part.

Emma and Brandon’s story is one that begins way before Heartless does. Which is perhaps why readers have been waiting with bated breathe for their story. Emma had been one of the volunteers at the hospital at the time during which Brandon had been admitted, suffering from war injuries. It is at the hospital that Emma and Brandon forge a bond, that for Emma had been something beyond her wildest dreams, especially for a woman such as herself considered as soiled in the eyes of the society. For Brandon (whose thoughts on their shared time together are revealed much later), Emma had been the lifeline which had held him together, and he had entertained unrealistic dreams of them being together, even knowing that Emma wasn’t probably the wisest choice as a life partner.

When Emma and Brandon’s worlds collide once again at the christening ceremony of Alexandra Emma Brandon Rohan, Emma is hopeful and at the same disappointed that Brandon doesn’t seem to remember her. And it is a game that Emma continues to and is willing to play, as long as it does not put her emotions in peril. However, even with the obstacle of Brandon’s pompous elder brother trying to force a bride on him standing in the way, there seems to be no obstruction strong enough to prevent Emma and Brandon from coming together, except of course for Emma herself.

Heartless was I suppose what you would call mellow, at least mellower than the rest of the books in the series. I understood the need for it. Both Emma and Brandon are broken in a way that no other characters we have come across in previous books have been, not even Brandon’s grandmother whom we encounter in Ruthless. Imagine being ripped off of your virginity in the cruelest way, being forced to sell your body by someone you had trusted, and not having a choice about any of it. Imagine going dead inside, having never sought pleasure in the act of sex, never understanding the pleasure to be had.

It is Emma’s character that requires care in this story. It is usually the male lead who almost always has issues that are seemingly insurmountable. But in the case of Emma and Brandon, it is Emma’s character that needed the TLC factor, and Brandon, having undergone what he had owing to his attempts to drown out certain aspects of the war he had witnessed in drugs and liquor, has the patience and endurance for the slow seduction required of Emma.

Emma’s avoidance of everything to do with Brandon does come with a price. It is an avoidance that is borne out of the need to protect herself, and that tactic applied to an escalating danger to her life ends up nearly costing her life. The period of separation that takes place was one that provided the emotional angst factor in spades, and Brandon never giving up on Emma was something I approved of and loved wholeheartedly. If ever there are two people who deserve to have their happily ever after, it is Emma and Brandon, and knowing that they did achieve it? Makes me smile from ear to ear.

Recommended for fans of the series. Brandon and Emma’s story was beautiful and soothing in a way that deviates from the norm that is Anne Stuart.

Final Verdict: Heartless might be a little late to the party, but it brings along a ton of angst, feel good emotions, and a whole lot of love. Emotionally heavier in comparison to the rest of the books in the series, Brandon has just the right amount of tenderness, steely determination, and sensuality to seduce Emma, for life.

Favorite Quotes

“Hullo, Charles,” Melisande said, and Emma knew her friend well enough to recognize the lack of enthusiasm in her voice. “I hope your wife and daughters are well?”
“As always. Elinor and the girls are in London, alas. Too many social commitments to allow them to escape.”
“And you were afraid our sister and her wretched husband might be in attendance,” Rohan interjected dryly. “You needn’t have worried. Miranda is once again expecting—I think she and the Scorpion are planning to repopulate the entire Lake District—so your wife’s delicate sensibilities wouldn’t have been offended.”

“You’re right,” he said slowly. “The only man who’s going to get in your bed is going to have to love you, and I’m afraid that’s a part of me that never healed.”
It felt like a blow. Why should the word “love” even be mentioned between them? “You’re stronger than I am,” she said calmly enough. “You could take what you wanted. I’m a professional, remember? I know when a man wants me.”
His smile was wry. “Oh, I want you very much. I doubt there’s a man who sees you who doesn’t want you, with the possible exception of my brother Benedick. Even a stuffy old prude like Charles wouldn’t be immune. But you’ve been hurt, you’re weak and trembling, and I don’t make a habit of taking advantage of frightened little girls.”
“I’m not. . .” she started to protest, when he bent down and brushed the softest, sweetest kiss against her mouth, gone almost before it had begun, so quickly that she could do nothing more than stare at him in astonishment.
“You are,” he said softly. “Good night, Emma.”
She stood outside her door, bemused, as he faded into the shadows. She put a hand to her lips, expecting some monumental change. They were no different—soft, slightly open. He’d kissed her, and life would never be the same.

She knew it was hogwash, just as she knew he didn’t belong in the rough wards of St. Martin’s Military Hospital. He had the voice of a gentleman, and she had yet to meet anyone who could falsify those tones. She had kissed him anyway, the soft brush of her mouth against his—harmless, innocent. Until the last night, when the kiss became something quite different.
He’d grown stronger, he’d been sitting up in bed, and she’d moved her chair closer, night by night. For some reason she continued to hold his hand—the human touch kept him tethered to this earth, she thought, never realizing it kept her tethered to him. Until the last night, or early morning, when she rose to leave him, and leaned over to give him her chaste, affectionate kiss.
Instead he’d caught her arm, tugging her off balance, and deftly managed to slip his hand behind her head to hold her in place while he deepened the kiss, pushing her mouth open with his, using his tongue.
She’d been too shocked to react, had simply let his kiss her, long and slow and hard, so thoroughly she felt. . . she felt. . .
His grip loosened, and she stumbled back from him, her hand to her mouth. “Harpy. . .” he’d said, laughter and concern in his voice, but she whirled and ran, through the crowded ward without a backward glance.

Why did you kiss me?”
He jumped. That was the very last thing he expected—he’d assumed she’d ignore the incident, skittish as she was, and he wasn’t prepared for her flat question.
He knew he hadn’t shown it though—he was an even better master of his reactions than she was. “That’s an inordinately silly question. I wanted to. There’s something about your mouth, I think. Why? You didn’t seem to mind.”
Her face had whitened, which he found extremely odd “You didn’t give me a chance to mind,” she mumbled, taking another hasty drink. He was going to have to tell Noonan about it. In the north they usually got by on gallons of hot, strong tea, but given that he allowed himself no other liquids, Emma’s drink might be a worthy addition to Noonan’s limited cooking repertoire.
“I’m sorry,” he said softly. “Should I have kissed you longer? Harder? Deeper?”

She rose suddenly, setting down her empty cup, and there was just the faintest bit of chocolate on the corner of her lip. “I really need to go back upstairs,” she said hurriedly. “I feel unwell. That is, if I’m to leave tomorrow I should probably rest. . .”
She’d been backing away from him, with good sense, since he’d risen as well and was moving toward her. He caught up with her just before she reached the door and casually pulled her away from it, backing her into the corner of the room away from the windows. Near a divan.
“I’ll let you go,” he said softly. “In a minute.” And he set his mouth against hers, his tongue licking out to taste that tiny bit of chocolate.
She shuddered, but it wasn’t in disgust. Her hands had come up to his shoulders, but they’d moved beneath his jacket, clutching the soft cloth that covered his shoulders, and the sound she made was one of soft, unexpected pleasure.

Words began spilling from his mouth then, when he’d been so determined to be silent. “Yes,” and “fuck” and “more” and “yes” as he moved faster, his own body beginning to shake with the power of his overwhelming lust. He couldn’t, wouldn’t say the word “love” but he could push into her, with dirty words whispered in her ear that made her tighten around him. He was fighting a losing battle with self-control, and he wanted to lose it, but she wasn’t quite ready, though he knew from her breathing, from a thousand other physical signs that she was near. “Don’t,” he said, his mind blank, “give it,” he muttered, and the battle was lost. “Now,” he groaned, feeling his seed boil up from his balls and spurt into her, and the last word he spoke, as he pulled free and collapsed beside her, was even worse.
“Harpy,” he said, and fell into an exhausted sleep.

If they’d been on that bed it wouldn’t have been he who was weeping. Emma and beds had an obvious connotation—in fact, the idea of any bed made him think of Emma. Any flat surface. Up against a wall. In a chair—he hadn’t done it in a chair for years. . .
He slammed a door on his thoughts. “Did I ever bed you in this house?”
She turned, and he couldn’t read her expression. “I assure you, until last night I had been blissfully celibate for eight years.”
He froze. “That’s not possible!”
She turned, calm and controlled, raising an eyebrow. “How so?”“You . . . that is . . . you . . .” he hadn’t been at a loss for words since he’d be a callow youth, and he simply stared at her in disbelief.
“I retired from the day to day tasks of a bordello and concentrated on the business side. Once a whore, always a whore, but in fact my hard-learned skills have not been put to the test for a very long time. I hope I proved satisfactory, my lord. I would hate to receive money for inferior performance.”

“You’re my harpy. You always say awful things. Do you want to leave?” He would let her, of course. He would let her out of his life if he had to, if she had to. He would die, but he would do it. For her.
“I want to stay,” she whispered.
The buttons on the night dress unfastened easily—the fussy thing wasn’t without merit. He could feel the tremor in her body and he knew she had to be handled carefully, not with the brute passion of the night before.
“I won’t hurt you,” he said.
She was holding very still as his hands moved lower and lower, the tiny pearl buttons releasing with just a flick of his shaking fingers. The gown parted to show her moon-silvered flesh, and he caught his breath. “I could wish you weren’t so perfect.”
“The ugliness is all on the inside,” she said.
“There’s no ugliness in you anywhere. There’s only pain.”

She heard her own scream with shock, and she quickly slammed her hands over her mouth, as a fierce, hard response rocketed through her, strange and untenable. “Don’t—” she gasped, but he was past listening, and then she was past protesting as she felt a sharp energy begin to build, to suffuse her body with something that surely was wrong. She was past fighting it, past worrying about it, and when she felt him slide two long fingers into her as he licked and sucked and bit, then she was gone, unable to stifle her response as it took over her body, leaving no room for herself there.
It was like being thrown over a cliff, sailing through dark, powerful winds and ending in a storm-tossed sea, and she could do nothing but hold onto him like the life raft he seemed to be, the only thing solid and safe in her mad, swirling world. Every muscle in her body had seemed to lock, as those waves crashed over her again and again. She couldn’t stop it, she couldn’t control it, and then she no longer wanted to, giving herself over to the wash of feelings. She hadn’t even realized he’d moved up, over her, until she managed to open groggy eyes to stare at him, at the triumph, the satisfaction on his face, things she could rail at, except for that shocking streak of tenderness in his eyes.

But when he pushed back in it was even more wonderful, and her hips rose to meet his, the walls of her sex tightening around him as her hands clutched his biceps. This was possession, but a different kind, a glorious one that she could hold in her heart. He took her, claimed her, but she took him as well, into her body, into her heart, into her soul, where he would always stay, no matter what happened. She finally let go, giving herself to him, to the rampant, building pleasure, to the joy of love that had cracked her guarded heart, as he thrust, each push a promise he couldn’t keep, but it no longer mattered. Deep and harder and harder and she wanted more, craved more.
“Yes,” she whispered fiercely. “Again. Again. More.”
The darkness that was closing around her split with lightning, and suddenly everything ceased to exist, only man and woman, elemental, eternal, as she seemed to burst apart in a shower of pure sensation. She could feel him with her, her love, her soul, joining her, flooding her, and she took everything in savage satisfaction and a guttural sob of triumph.”

Emma appeared dumbfounded, a rare occurence for his beautiful bride. “No,” she said. “That is … I didn’t say yes… I still think we should…”
Brandon took care of her protests in the most efficient way possible, and when she was too breathless to speak he glanced at Ellis. “Well, for the time being you’re my butler, and you will leave and see that no one disturbs you for the next hour.”
“Hour?” Emma said, sounding alarmed.
“Make that two.” He focused all his attention on Emma. “And take the damned dog.”
When they were finally alone, he turned back to her, and she was wiping tears from her cheeks. “Damn these things,” she muttered. “I only started crying five weeks ago and now I can’t seem to stop.”
“That’s all right, Harpy,” he murmured. “I’ll always be here to dry them. Accept it- there’s no way you can win against the assembled might of the Wicked Rohans. You’ll marry me and live happily ever after.”
“No one ever does,” she said.
“You will,” he said firmly. “I promise you.”

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Review: Dearest Ivie by J.R. Ward

Format: E-bookdearestivie.jpg
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novella
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Black Dagger Brotherhood, #15.5
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Hero: “Silas” Montasilas, son of Mordachy the Younger
Heroine: Ivie Hannaford
Sensuality: 3.5
Date of Publication: March 13, 2018
Started On: May 08, 2018
Finished On: May 10, 2018

Dearest Ivie is a novella set in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series, that fits in between the titles The Chosen and The Thief. What makes Dearest Ivie so notable is the fact that it steers away from the lives of the King, the Brothers, and their shellans. It takes readers away from all that and delves into the lives of ordinary civilian vampire population. If you are thinking that a story as such wouldn’t be half as interesting, you would be wrong. And let me tell you why.

Dearest Ivie, as the name goes, tells the story of Ivie Hannaford, a nurse who works with Havers, and is sort of hopeless when it comes to romance and dating. Probably to do with the fact that Ivie is the sort of person who tends to say what is on her mind and that is a character trait not be received well by most. I found Ivie’s character endearing and hilarious in equal doses and I loved her all the more for it. Sarcastic wit always gets to me, and Ivie had that in spades, especially in a story that needed it owing to the angst factor well delivered when it came to Silas, the hero.

Silas turns up in Ivie’s life rather unexpectedly, but is no less potent in the feelings that he invokes in her from the start. A bit elusive and secretive, Silas however takes Ivie’s breath away. Ivie comes from a huge family, her father Hirah, the six-five, bearded and tattooed hulk of a man who was one of the most lovable characters I have come across in the series. I fell in love with him from the very first moment he stepped into the story and that was it. Ivie is what you would call someone from the middle class or lower class perhaps, but Silas belongs to the glymera, the aristocracy, and comes from one of the founding families of the race.

However, it is not Silas that has issues with their different stations in life, but Ivie, who has a bit of reverse snobbery going for her, until Silas sets things straight – I totally loved him in that moment, for calling out Ivie on her behavior. But what was really tragic was how Silas keeps a secret from Ivie, a secret of the kind that might just be too much heartbreak for Ivie when all is said and done.

Like I mentioned earlier, Dearest Ivie was such a gem of a read. It had everything going for it. Snark and wit, a lovable heroine who knows what it means to be steadfast and loyal in the face of extreme challenges in life, a hero who is sexy, beautiful, and above all, kind-hearted and Ivie’s other half in every sense. How Ward managed to convey all that in a simple novella, I would never know. But then again, she is the genius storyteller and I am just the reader who cannot get enough of her books.

When I turned the last page, I wished to read more novels on vampire civilians – if the men are even half as sexy as Silas and the women are just as quirky and adorable as Ivie, I would consider it a novel/la that would make my day.

Recommended; even if you have never read a Black Dagger Brotherhood novel, this is totally awesome and can be read as a standalone!

Final Verdict: Dearest Ivie is one of the sweetest books I have read from a series that certainly does not do sweet. In the midst of all the danger and darkness that is Black Dagger Brotherhood, Dearest Ivie stands out for the laugh out loud humor & the beautiful characters. Loved!

Favorite Quotes

Opening her door, she leaned out into the carpeted corridor…and there he was, coming down to her, his smile as big as hers, his body just the same, his face just the same.
His scent just the same.
No suit this time, and that was good. Instead, he had on a black cashmere sweater and a set of slacks that were dark gray. He looked polished, expensive…delicious.
“Hello, stranger,” she said as he stopped in front of her.

“Do you mind?” he whispered.
“I’m sorry, what?”
But then he was taking her face in his hands and lowering his head—and she was pulling him down to her mouth, his lips the only thing she wanted in the world.
It was quite possible she moaned as he kissed her. Or maybe that was him. Who cared.
They shuffled inside and she closed them in, and then she was against him and wrapping her arms around his shoulders. It was a long while before they eased back, and even when they did, it was just their mouths. Everything else stayed close.
Silas’s eyes were heavy lidded and glowing as he stared down at her. “Hi.”

His mouth dropped down to hers again, his lips plying at her, his tongue coming out and licking for permission to enter. Broad, warm hands slipped around to her waist, and her breasts got tight as they met the wall of his pecs.
It was clear he was aroused.
And that got her even hotter.
But then he was cursing and putting her back from him. “Damn it. I promised myself I wouldn’t—”
“Do I look like I’m complaining over here?”

They ended up on the couch. She had no idea how they got there.
One minute, Ivie was standing against him, the next she was on her back and Silas’s weight was pushing her into the cushions. And then, when she parted her thighs, he accepted the invitation, settling himself between them, the hard ridge of his arousal stroking at her core through their clothes.
Rolling her hips, she arched into his body, and the groan he let out registered as a caress that went down into her abdomen.
When he pulled back, he was panting, his eyes at once glazed and hyper-focused. “Ivie…”

Silas sat forward and took her face in his hands, in that way he did. “You would do that for me?”
“Of course. I mean…well, you look like you could use it. When was the last time you fed?”
He answered the question by virtue of his scent, that spice of his flaring, his eyes going to her wrist, which was bare.
Instantly, she was hot all over.
“Not there,” she said huskily. “Here.”
Moving her dark hair to the side, she stroked her jugular. “I want you here. At my throat.”
His chest started to pump up and down, and a growl permeated the silence of her apartment. “Are you sure?”
“Oh, yes.”

With hands that were rough, Silas grabbed on to her and all but threw her on her back on the couch. And then he was on top of her, pressing her down into the cushions, his pale eyes volcanic, his body strung like a steel cable, his fangs elongating.
In a voice that was deliciously demanding, he said, “Even if I can’t stop?”
He wasn’t talking about taking too much from her vein. No, as he rolled his hips so she could feel his arousal, she knew damn well he meant sex.
“I don’t want you to stop.”
“There isn’t a lot of time. I have things I have to do at home. I won’t be able to stay afterward—”
“Shut up and get into me.”
He didn’t require any more urging than that. With a tremendous hiss, he bared his canines and bit her neck hard, the pain lancing through her body and translating into pure pleasure by the time it reached her core.

He still had his coat on, and that fine wool was all texture against her hyper-sensitive nipples, the hard ridge at his hips pushing into her core and then retreating until she was going to lose her mind, his scent a roar in her nose.
“I need you,” she barked. “I need you in me—now.”
Somehow he heard her, or maybe he had reached the same desperation she had—either way, he retracted his hips and moved one of his hands between them, yanking at the tie on the waistband of her scrubs as she helped by pulling them down and kicking them free along with her panties.
And then he was jerking at the fine leather belt he wore. She took over, pushing his hand out of the way as she freed the buckle, the button, the zipper.
The length of him was hard and hot and long in her hands.
And the sound he made turned her body into a tuning fork, the bass vibrating through her.
She was too impatient for the feel of him inside of her to do much exploring, and as soon as his head was at the heart of her, she pushed her pelvis forward so he sank in deep.

And then he was moving in her, pumping with thrusts that sent the top of her head into the armrest, a creaking noise rising up from the sofa’s supports, the banging sound probably the windowsill taking a beating. Or maybe the wall. Who cared.
Gone was the aristocrat with the nice manners and the polite words, the arching accent and the expensive clothes. Silas was utterly dominant as he took everything she had and demanded more, his pace rough and powerful, a male’s lust unleashed without restraint.
And she just wanted more.
As if he read her mind, he hooked his forearm where his palm had been, cranking her even tighter under his heavy weight, his hips pounding into her, the lower half of his body swinging freely—
Until he locked against her with a punch of his thighs, his erection emptying into her as he continued to suck at her throat.
All she could do was hang on to his shoulders.
And pray he never, ever stopped.
Sure it would kill her, but what a way to go.

Stroking her, his lids lowered and he growled, “Give me your mouth, female.”
He pulled her to him by the back of the neck and then she felt something between her legs that was hot and blunt.
Ivie sat down on his arousal, and they both groaned and jerked. Controlling the tempo, she rolled her hips and used her knees to go up and down, the pleasure so acute, she couldn’t decide whether to close her eyes so she could concentrate more or keep them open so she never forgot where they were and what they were doing.
Her release was overwhelming and he was right there with her, even though they were straining in the confined space, and their clothes were tangled, and oh, crap, the bucket seat was sooo in the way, and also the console—how great was it that none of that mattered?

“What do you most want to be remembered for?” she whispered.
His lids lifted and his eyes shifted to her own.
“My love for you.” He blinked slowly. “I wish to be best remembered for how much I loved you. Of all the places I’ve gone and people I’ve known and things I’ve done…my love for you is the purest representation of who I am. It’s the best of me, of who I am, of my soul. My love for you…is everything of me.”
Ivie teared up even though she did her best not to give in to emotion. “Silas…”
“Please don’t forget me. I know I’m probably supposed to tell you to move on with your life and dwell on this little slice of time we’ve been given…but just…take me in your heart wherever you go. It will be the life I wished I’d lived, by your side, enjoying the gift of time and health with you.”

“I thought you needed an oak of your own right now,” Rubes said gently from behind.
Ivie’s father was standing in the middle of the corridor, those biker boots planted on the fancy runner, his hands on his leather-clad hips, his tattoos gleaming in the low lighting because, of course, he had come without a jacket on.
Ivie squeezed her cousin’s hand in thanks and then she ran for her sire.
She hit Hirah like a car going out of control at full speed. And like a concrete pylon, her father didn’t budge. He just put his heavy arms around her and held her tight.
“He’s dying, Daddy. He’s dying…”
Her father didn’t say a thing. He let his strength do the talking as he kept her from collapsing in a heap in the hall.
“I love him so much,” she turned her face to the side and squeezed her eyes tight. “And he’s dying…”

And later, much later, she would reflect that it was then that she became an adult. Standing in that corridor, in her father’s embrace, she fully came into her maturity.
The thing was, when you were young, and you went to your parents for support, nine times out of ten, they could fix whatever was wrong. They could glue the broken rudder back on your sailboat. Throw a Band-Aid on a cut. Feed you when you were hungry, put you to bed when you were exhausted, hang out with you when you were alone. They could help you find what was lost, make the storms go away, buy you an ice cream when someone was mean to you for no good reason.
Parents, when you were a child, were the source of it’s-gonna-be-all-right.
But as Ivie leaned on her dad, it was as an adult.
He couldn’t fix this, and she knew better than to even ask.
“I’m so sorry, little girl,” he said in a voice that cracked. “I’m so sorry…”

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