There is something about an Abbi Glines book that gets to me every single time without fail. Her stories are not just consistently engaging and compelling, but each new book feels like she’s pushed the envelope one step further, taken her characters one extra step into the uncharted territories of her own endless imagination. You never know what you’re going to encounter, what kind of story she has weaved for us this time around, but one thing is certain – each book is a skin-tingling joy ride start to finish and it just keeps getting better and better.
After meeting him in the very first scene of Fallen Too Far as the guy Blaire aims her gun at, and then seeing him as the perennially level-headed and dependable fixture in all five instalments of the Rosemary Beach series, we finally get to properly meet Grant Carter and discover the man behind that panty-dropping smile. Grant is the stepbrother that Rush Finlay shortly had, but regardless of their parents’ marital status, they’ve been brothers through and through since they were little kids. Known as a perpetual womanizer just like his brother once was, Grant is not discreet when it comes to the identity of his many conquests, all but one – the woman at whose beck and call he has been for a long time and whose insistent hold over him he doesn’t seem to be able or willing to escape from – Rush’s younger sister Nan. A dysfunctional and volatile relationship from the very beginning, their connection is based purely on physical attraction, but its very existence stands in the way of the only genuine emotional bond Grant has ever formed with another woman. And that woman is Harlow Manning, Nan’s half-sister.
“Three kinds of women in this world. The kind that sucks you dry and leaves you with nothing. The kind that only wants a good time. And the kind that makes life worth a damn. That last kind… she’s the one that gives as much as she takes and you can’t get enough. She’s the kind… if you lose her, you lose yourself.”
Harlow is a fiercely independent young woman, her inner strength and self-sufficiency making her the perfect leading lady for a man who sees commitment as a vulnerability he won’t allow himself to have. Comfortably resigned to her own loneliness and the very opposite of a clingy female, Harlow lets Grant seduce her and allows herself to develop feelings for him, but the moment he shows his reluctance to claim her as his, she retreats back into her emotional fortress, making him then work all his charm and then some in order to get her to trust him again.
“You make me want things and feel a way I’m not ready for.”
When secrets from the past bring them closer together, they decide to give in to the blazing attraction between them and take a chance on one another, only to find out how deeply entrenched their own fears and insecurities truly are. Harlow is a heroine that awakens every protective bone in you; she is so accustomed to her own solitude and misplaced belief that she is unworthy of attention, that she cannot see herself as someone capable of competing with Grant’s past. Her defensive mechanisms never fully fade away and she never stops protecting her own heart, especially from a man whose life has taught him that love equates hurt and that loss is an unavoidable part of the equation.
“You smell like heaven and hell all wrapped up into one.”
This was such a surprising departure from the previous two storylines in the series, both of these characters having very personal journeys to travel before they can fully embrace the bond between them. Quite frankly, I have no idea how rough those journeys will be or what kind of roller-coaster Ms Glines will take us on with their story, but I know for sure it will be one heck of a ride.
“I’m not the kind of girl you plan forever with.”
Rosemary wasn’t a big town. It was a small strip of beach. So how was it that Harlow had managed to completely avoid me for three days? I had done everything I could think of to run into her. I knew she had Mase here but I still wanted to get her alone so I could talk to her. I needed to find my peace with her.
I stood outside the club, waiting on her to pull up. She had tennis in ten minutes. I had cheated by having Woods call Adam and ask her court time then had him change it for an hour later. He hadn’t been happy about it but he had also wanted me out of his office so he had agreed as long as I left him alone for the rest of the day.
I watched as Harlow pulled her car up to the valet and climbed out in a short white tennis skirt that didn’t help my focus. Tennis skirts weren’t meant to be that damn sexy.
I walked over to open the door for her before one of the staff could. She lifted her eyes and stopped walking when she saw me standing there. I could see the questions in her eyes and I wanted to answer every damn one of them. She just needed to listen.
When she started walking again she kept her head down and attempted to walk inside without acknowledging me. I gently wrapped my hand around her arm. “Your court time was postponed an hour today. I need to talk to you. If you will let me talk. I will leave you alone if that’s what you want. I just need you to listen to me first.”
Harlow’s spine was stiff as I spoke quietly in her ear. She didn’t move or respond right away. Finally, she simply nodded.
“Thank you,” I replied. “We need privacy. Will you come to my truck?”
Harlow let out a defeated sigh. “Yes, I guess I will.”
She wasn’t happy about it but she was doing it. I needed to celebrate the small victories.
We walked in silence to the parking lot and I unlocked my truck and opened her door then walked around and climbed in on my side.
“Talk. I’m listening,” she said without looking at me. Her eyes were fixed straight ahead.
“What we did… what happened meant something to me.”
Harlow didn’t even flinch.
“When I got the call about Jace I rushed back in a state of shock. Then… then I watched as Bethy completely crumbled. At the funeral, she was bent over in so much pain from her loss it terrified me. She had planned forever with Jace. She had loved him with everything she had and he had been taken from her. She couldn’t get him back.”
Harlow was still staring straight ahead, although I could see the worried frown on her face.
“And all I could think was what if I loved someone that much and I lost them? How could I live? I glanced over at Rush and Blaire. He was holding her while she wept and I wondered how he would even be able to wake up every morning if he lost her. Or if he lost Nate.” I paused and took a deep breath. I was more open than I’d been with anyone about this. I hadn’t even explained it this way to Blaire and Rush. I had held myself back some. I was just laying it all out for Harlow.
“I decided I never wanted to be that vulnerable. I never wanted to love someone that much. I never wanted to face losing the one person that owns me. So, I got drunk. Because I also realized I could easily fall in love with you. In just two short weeks I had began to care for you. I had feelings I hadn’t experienced before. Not like that, at least. It scared me. I knew you would be the one to own me if I let you. I ran from it. I drank too much whiskey and when Nan showed up I messed up. I should have stayed away from her. But in my head she’s the one that I thought I was in love with once. I hadn’t been. I realized that after only two weeks with you. I was in lust with Nan. I liked being needed by someone, and Nan needed me. That was all it ever was for us.”
Harlow had finally dropped her gaze to her lap as she twisted her hands nervously.
“I never meant to hurt you. Hurting you is the last thing I ever wanted to do. What you gave me I didn’t deserve, but believe me when I tell you I’ll cherish it forever. It meant more to me than you know. But I shouldn’t have taken your innocence that night. I should have been a man and realized I didn’t deserve it and walked away. But you made me weak. It’s one of the things about you that scares me. No one has ever made me weak.”
Finally, Harlow turned her head to look at me. Her hazel eyes no longer looked hard. Instead, I saw understanding there. She simply nodded. “Okay. You’re forgiven.” Then she opened the door and climbed out without another word.
I sat there and tried to let all the emotions that were churning inside me calm down. I didn’t want her to take it so easily and walk away. But I couldn’t give her more. That was it for us. I had explained it and she forgave me. So, we were over now? The ache that came with that reality hurt. I reached up and rubbed my chest and laid my head back on the seat and closed my eyes.
“What did I just do?” I muttered.