If you’re looking for a series written with heart, impeccable skill and capable of turning you into a gushing mess over a gentle cowboy whose mere presence on a page will make you grin ear to ear, look no further than the Lost and Found series. Unlike anything else I’ve ever read before, the truly uplifting love story of Rowen and Jesse captured my heart from the very first page and instantly become a favourite of mine.
Although Lost and Found did not end on a nail-biting cliffhanger and it left us in a rather happy place, content with the steady bond these characters managed to forge and the difficulties they rose above, I was ecstatic to have their story continue and to see what other obstacles they would have to overcome both personally as well as a couple. We find them navigating the tricky waters of a long distance relationship, their love and devotion to one another being a constant beacon for their young relationship, but the miles between them and the long periods of time apart keep feeding the demons inside them and making them fearful of losing the one thing they cherish the most in life – each other.
“Loving someone as much as I did Jesse meant the darkness of the world seemed so black I never wanted to walk out the front door. Around every corner was some terror threatening to take away what I held most dear.”
Rowen is now in a new city, pursuing her passion in art and slowly making a name for herself in this new world far away from the only place she ever considered home – Willow Springs. Her love for Jesse grounds her, keeps her from reverting back to the scared and angry little girl that she once was, but knowing he has been and always would be the light at the end of the tunnel she used to live in, makes her constantly fearful of losing him, of him finding someone better than her, almost expecting it to happen sooner or later. She loves him with all her heart, but her self-destructive tendencies resurface at times, convincing her that she would eventually end up destroying the little piece of heaven she has found with Jesse.
“I always knew I would be the one responsible for tearing us apart because that’s what I did and that’s what I was good at. No matter how hard I tried to be something else, something better, I couldn’t keep the destructive part of me fully contained.”
Jesse is secretly fighting his own demons while away from Rowen. His self-control is failing him, nightmares from his childhood have returned and his anxiety and fear of losing the love of his life are rearing their ugly heads at night, when he’s most vulnerable, and torturing him with flashbacks from his abuse-ridden childhood. His mind has equated the fear of losing Rowen to the fear he experienced as a little boy at the hands of two cruel parents, and the more they struggle as a couple with distance and time apart, the more Jesse’s mind turns against itself and convinces him that the woman he adores is better off without someone as unstable as him in her life.
“I don’t want her to know. I don’t want her to be a part of it. I don’t want her near it. I want her as far away from the poison flowing through me as I can keep her.”
Once more, this story makes us feel so many emotions, at both ends of the spectrum, without becoming too dark or too gritty. Jesse’s childhood memories are gruesome, heart-shattering and I needed to take a break while reading them as they were sometimes too hard to bear, but they were necessary if we were to understand this beautiful person, the emotional hardship he had overcome and the miracle of a man he had become given his horrible past. His every smile became that much more precious, his every positive outlook on life that much more awe-inspiring. His selfless heart, his ability to love others unconditionally and need to protect them, shelter them even from himself, made Jesse a sight to behold.
“A woman like her was every man’s dream. A woman who couldn’t be shaken and would stand shoulder to shoulder in the face of a storm. I’d found that kind of woman and, beyond all belief, she loved me. And I had to let her go.”
They both make mistakes in their relationship, purely due to inexperience and their young age, but their love for each other never fades, never gives up, never makes them doubt each other. It’s the one constant in their life they can depend on and eventually the one thing that conquers even the darkest and more vicious of demons from their pasts.
“When Jesse and I were close enough to share the same breath, confusion and uncertainty were distant memories.”
It is impossible for this story not to affect you one way or another. There is such inherent positivity in every word, every concept, every bit of her heart that the author has woven into this beautiful story. Ms Williams has a very unique way of communicating with the reader, making us feel so much, so deeply and so quickly, without using overtly detailed descriptions or wordy scenes. She takes aim with her words and hits the bull’s-eye every single time. She can make you laugh and cry on the same page, and walk away from that same scene with the biggest grin on your face.
“She’s managed to bust free from the weight of her past to get on with her life. She’d grown, evolved, and was setting the world on fire. I, on the other hand, was digressing, shrinking, and setting myself on fire.”
I am selfishly unprepared to say goodbye to these characters and as happy as their ending is, I am hopeful that we will get to see more of them in the future, even through someone else’s story… a cowboy with a proclivity for smartass comments and the colour black, perhaps? Either way, bravo, Ms Williams, and thank you for everything this story has made me feel and for this silly grin that I do not seem to be able to erase from my face. This will always be one of my favourite stories ever and Jesse Walker will forever be my favourite book boyfriend.
“Our priorities aren’t what we say they are. They’re what we show they are.”
“You kids be good now. I’d hate to win a bet this easily.” Garth winked as we passed him and Jolene.
“You’re not winning another thing tonight, Black. Get that through your dark skull and darker head now.”
Rose was following the girls into the kitchen when Jesse whacked Garth in the stomach. “Go cuss already. You know you’re about to die from keeping-it-all-inside poisoning.”
“Nah, I don’t think so. Tonight’s the first night of the past two weeks I’m actually tickled pink we made that little bet.”
“Tickled pink? What the hell, Black? What has happened to you?” I asked.
Jesse moved his mouth outside my ear. “See? It’s already happening. Talking in little girl words is the first sign he’s about to keel over from poisoning.” Jesse wrapped his arms around my waist and continued for the door. “Come on, Black. Just get it out. It will all be over soon, and I promise, I won’t gloat in my win. Too much.”
Garth made a crude motion with his hand. Jolene cringed and moved away as he continued pumping his fist in front of his crotch. “Take notes, Walker. That’s the only action you’re going to be getting for a while.”
“And that’s our cue to leave.” Jesse guided me the rest of the way onto the porch.
“Good night, Jesse! Thanks so much for taking such good care of me.” Nails on a chalkboard—that’s exactly what Jolene’s words sounded like to me. “See you at breakfast.”
“Night, night, Jolene. Keep that ankle elevated. You wouldn’t want to spend the summer with one nasty cankle,” I replied before Jesse had a chance. “It was really great to meet you.” I knew my sarcasm wasn’t lost on Jesse or Garth, but neither of them let on that my farewell was anything but genuine.
“So great to meet you too, Rowen. Have a nice night.” When a hobbling cast sounded like it was moving our way, I hurried to shut the door.
“Oh, I plan to.” Making sure the door was closed—firmly—I wrapped my arms around Jesse’s waist.
“Plan to what?” He tilted his hat back and leaned in. The look in his eyes made my stomach bottom out.
“Have a nice night. Have the nicest kind of night a girl could have with a guy like you.”
“I like where this is going.”
“You better. Because we’re not going far.” I shoved Jesse until the backs of his legs ran into one of the porch swings. Yep, that would do. It would have to because my need for the man had burst free. Keeping it bottled when he was within arm’s reach was a chore, and it was utterly impossible when we were alone and he graced me with that look. I was straddling his lap before he’d fully collapsed into the swing.
“I really like where you’re going with this.”
Grinning at him, I slid off his hat and wove my fingers into his hair. “I missed you.”
His eyes closed as I massaged his scalp. “Good.”
“Good? You’re glad I missed you so bad I almost skipped class for a few days to hop on a bus just so I could see you for a couple hours before I had to turn around and get back to reality?”
“Yeah, I am glad.”
That was the first time Jesse had admitted to being glad about me being uncomfortable. I had to be missing something. “Why?”
His eyes opened and locked onto mine. “Because, Rowen. Because the day you don’t miss me is the day we’re doomed.”
Jesse’s words never failed to amaze me. He saw everything a bit differently than everyone else . . . but what he saw was so right. “In that case I missed, missed, missed, missed, missed you.” Leaning in, I kissed the tip of his nose.
“And I’ve never been happier to know that you missed, missed, missed me.”
“You missed a couple misses in there.”
Jesse’s smile spread. “So I’m forgiven for not picking you up tonight at the very place we met?”
A Greyhound station smack in the middle of Montana. The place we’d met. It might not have been ideal for most romances, but it was our place, and that trumped everything else. “That depends,” I said before skimming my lips up his jaw.
He shuddered. “Depends on what?”
“On how persuasive you can be?” My mouth moved to the other side of his jaw.
“Oh, I can be persuasive.” His voice was rougher. Rough enough I knew what he wanted to do, which made it that much harder to keep restraining myself.
When my mouth was just outside his ear, I kissed his earlobe. “Show, don’t tell.”
Jesse’s hands formed over my hips as he shifted me into a more suitable position. “Showing.”
His head turned, his mouth searching for mine. When he found it, the weeks of separation and torture of anticipation poured out in one kiss. Jesse expressed his love through his touch, as opposed to the boys before him who had merely used “love” as a justification to touch. When Jesse’s mouth moved with mine, I sensed exactly how he felt about me. It didn’t matter how many times I’d kissed him; I never got used to the magnitude of it. I knew it was something a person never could get used to, so I did my best to enjoy it and be in the moment.
My fingers curled into his shirt and pulled it free of his jeans. His hands slid up my legs, past the hem of my dress. We were on the porch swing, one wall separating us from whoever was still in the kitchen, but getting caught seemed less irresponsible than stopping the ride we were on. I might have actually died from the disappointment if Jesse’s hand had lowered and his lips stopped. So I pressed on, my lips unyielding against his. Just as I was tugging his shirt over his head, the front door swung open.
The figure stepping out onto the porch was enough to freeze us in place. The porch lights flickered back on, and a grin as wide and maniacal as the Joker’s formed on Garth’s face. Shutting the door first, he ambled our way. “Looks like I was about two minutes early to walking in on you losing our bet, Walker.”
I, like the frozen idiot I was, kept Jesse’s shirt three-quarters of the way up his back. Jesse’s hands slid down my legs, out of the “danger zone,” and they paused just above my knees. “Get out of here, Black. Go find someone else to harass. I’m busy.”
“Oh, I can see just how busy you are.” Garth winked at me for a grand total of fifty thousand times. “Carry on. I can wait until morning to be declared the winner.”
He was swaggering his way down the stairs when Jesse called out, “Come on. You and I both know there’s no way you’ve gone two weeks without cussing. It’s impossible for you, Garth.”
“Is it?” Garth paused and cocked a brow. “But enough about me. Let’s talk about you and how it’s a physical impossibility for you to carry out your end of the bet. Especially now that your precious, hot-for-you Rowen is here.” Garth took another long look at Jesse’s and my position, smiled, and headed for his truck. Jesse was mid-groan when Garth whistled. “Might I suggest ice? A large bag of it. Apply directly to the groin area, and that might help with the level of blue your balls are going to get if you consider stopping your johnson mid-game.”
The pieces fell into place about Jesse’s bet when Garth’s truck fired to life. By the time he’d peeled down the driveway, I’d directed as stern a look as I could manage at Jesse. “You made a bet with Garth Black that you could go longer without sex than he could without cussing?”
“Maybe?” I screeched. “Maybe? What kind of an answer is that, Jesse Walker?”
Half of Jesse’s face wrinkled. “It seemed safer than an outright yes.”