What did I just read? Its prequel stunned me with a law-dropping finale that I never saw coming, but this book kept me clueless and concocting a million different scenarios in my head until the very last page. And I still have no idea how to process all that has been unveiled and all that is yet to come. Ms Cole did not write just a sequel to an already brilliant storyline. No. She wrote a perfectly executed mind game to keep us glued to our seats, breathless, baffled, frustrated, intrigued, and utterly addicted to a story like no other, a story that stays with us, plays out in our heads over and over again, trying to untangle itself, only to leave us even more knotted up and mind-wrecked. I have to admit that I never saw any of it coming and I already cannot wait for more more more.
“I’ve failed you. I’ve failed you. But I’ll fix it.”
We left our heroine, Calla, facing a heart-shattering realisation, one that is still capable of pulling her mind into a whirlpool of hallucinations and delusions. Now more than ever, she is desperate for answers and hungry for the truth. However, no longer certain of her own memories or the intentions of those around her, she feels emotionally stranded and distrustful of everyone, especially of the man she still deeply loves, Dare. The more questions she asks him, the more unforthcoming and aloof he becomes, his constant hot-cold manner confusing her and making her feel even lonelier than she is.
“Secrets are the same as lies, and I must uncover his truth.”
When told that all the answers would be found at Whitley, her maternal family’s estate in England, she agrees to follow Dare back to his homeland, even though a strong sense of foreboding overcomes her every time she tries untangling her memories. Her love for Dare is her only anchor in a sea of uncertainty and pain ravaging her young mind, that love giving her the strength to face a reality that terrifies her, haunts her, and only adds even more unanswered questions to an already overwhelming pile.
“…your mind is closed. You don’t see things for what they are, you see things for what you think they should be.”
Her stay at Whitley proves to be even more mystifying than she ever thought possible, the unwelcoming air of the centuries-old estate and Dare’s increasing standoffishness further blurring her mind and weakening her grasp on reality. She is left to her own devices, free to roam the property and follow clues, each day uncovering more and more minute pieces of a puzzle that appears harder and harder to decipher, the picture slowly forming before her eyes terrifying her to her core. With the introduction of colourful new characters in this book, the story continually assumes new layers, offering answers that only throw us off course even further.
Once more, the journey into our heroine’s mind is as exhilarating as it is chilling. We flip those pages frantically, fuelled by curiosity and parched for answers, but nothing is what it seems and, in the end, I felt like my own mind needed a torch to find its way out of the delicious web of secrets that this story weaved so faultlessly. The chilly seaside setting has been replaced by the misty moors of the English countryside, but the atmosphere of these books remains the same, Calla’s sombre surroundings playing as important a role in the story as her own inner battle. From beginning to end, I could not put this book down, absolutely hypnotised by its poetic prose and inconceivable twists and turns, and I am still dwelling on it all.
“Why are you suddenly being so nice?”
“Because you’re mine, Calla. You just need to remember it.”
“What are you doing?” I struggle with words, but finally manage.
He turns and heads into the water without flinching from its cold temperature. I suck in a breath because he’s got that freaking tattoo on his back, spanning across his shoulder blades. Black words that read: LIVE FREE.
I’m a goner. A freaking goner.
“There’s a pool at Whitley,” I call out to him. “And I think it’s heated.”
Dare laughs and dives under the water, coming right back up, shaking droplets out of his hair.
“It’s not as fun.”
“Why is this fun?” I have to ask. Because the water is cold, there’s bugs, there’s mud.
Dare stares at me drolly. “Because we’re trespassing. This isn’t our property.”
This surprises me and gives me pause.
“The owners don’t know you’re here?”
“Nope,” Dare answers, unconcerned, back-pedaling away from me, without taking his eyes off my face. “Does that scare you, my little rule-follower?”
His little rule-follower.
“Again, I ask you,” my voice wavers a bit. “Why are you suddenly being so nice?”
He shrugs, his shoulder bare and glinting in the light. “Because you’re mine, Calla. You just need to remember it. Now come swimming.”
“I don’t have a suit.”
“You don’t need one.”
I counter and he parries.
My whole life, I’ve been a rule-follower. I’ve done what it is expected, I’ve taken care of my brother. Maybe… just maybe….
Before I can change my mind, I’m pulling my shirt over my head and shoving my pants down. Without looking at Dare, and with my face exploding into tomato red flame, I follow him into the water in my bra and panties.
It’s cold enough to take my breath away, or that might just be my exhilaration at breaking the rules. I can’t be sure.
“Have you come here before?” I suck in a breath around chattering teeth as I paddle in Dare’s direction.
He nods. “Plenty of times.” I don’t want to ask who else he’s brought with him.
“And the owners have never caught you?”
He grins. “Oh, they’ve caught me. But I can’t be tamed.”
I giggle at that, at the matter-of-fact way he said it.
I start to grow accustomed to the cold temperature and my teeth stop chattering.
Dare swims back and forth a few times, then treads water while he observes me. Oddly enough, and probably because the water keeps my body hidden, I don’t feel self-conscious.
“I think you’re a closet rebel,” Dare announces. I have to laugh at that.
“Not hardly,” I admit. “I’m terrified right now that the owners of this property are going to find us and call the police.”
“First, we call them coppers here,” Dare explains with a snicker. “And second, you don’t seem to understand the power of your name yet. Savages can do anything they like around here.”
“But you don’t consider yourself a Savage,” I remind him as I tread water. Something akin to warmth floods his eyes, and his mouth tilts up in the crooked grin that I am beginning to love. When he’s not smiling, I wait for it to appear, like an addict waiting for a fix.
“I fall under the same umbrella, though,” he tells me. “At least, for outsiders looking in.”
“Did you know that you speak in riddles?” I ask him in annoyance. He dives under water without answering, and within two seconds, he’s grabbed my ankle, pulling me under with him.
I struggle and twist, but he pulls me down, down, down, and then I’m against his wet hard body and suddenly, I don’t want to struggle anymore. I don’t want to push him away.
Not by a long shot.
His body is both strong and lean, cold and warm. It’s very hard, and I’m held against it, reveling in it, soaking it in. He’s angles and muscle, strength and grace.
He’s moving against me, his hips, his hands.
His fingers glide fluidly against my skin, creating friction even beneath the water.
I’m on fire.
The warmth spreads from my arms to my legs to my belly.
It’s a wild-fire, and suddenly I’m quite sure that he’s the only thing that can put me out.