Well, I guess it took a taciturn beast of a man with superpowers in the bedroom to prove me wrong—Karina Halle can truly take any storyline and turn it into gold. With impeccable timing and meticulous character development, she spun a scenario that at first glance might appear ‘fluffy’ and predictable, into a compelling exploration of all that it takes to form a functional relationship between two people who believe themselves not to be ‘built’ to be in one. This is a story of recovery, of hope, of battling our darkest demons for the promise of a brighter tomorrow, and of love overcoming all. I adored this book, every sizzling, moving, startling, devastating part of it, and as I found myself glued to its pages, I was once more reminded of how utterly addicted I can become to this author’s brand of storytelling.
“…my bed feels empty. Like it’s missing someone. And not someone who leaves in the middle of the night or the next morning. Someone who will stay.”
Kayla Moore is a young woman in her early thirties who has watched all her closest friends find and fight for true love, and while envious of their happiness, she does not believe herself capable of such romantic notions of love and happily-ever-afters. Unsettled and unfulfilled in her professional life, constantly feeling like she is just spinning her wheels but never actually getting anywhere, and tired of meaningless hook-ups that leave her emotionally empty and disappointed in herself, Kayla aches for change in all aspects of her life, but is too afraid to take the first step. In a desperate attempt to regain some semblance of control over her life, however, she swears off men, determined to focus her energy on her family and friends instead…until a rugged Scotsman walks into her life and immediately makes her forget her own self-imposed vow of celibacy.
“I can’t stop staring… even though I manage to glide my fingers over my mouth to make sure I’m not actually drooling. He’s probably the most stunning man I’ve ever laid eyes on, and I immediately want to rub myself all over his face. If that’s not love, I don’t know what is.”
Lachlan McGregor has met and bedded his share of beautiful women in his life, but he has learnt that most of them are not interested in him beyond his ‘famous rugby player’ persona, only drawn to the glamour of celebrity and indifferent to the complex person beneath the surface. He is quiet, reserved, extremely protective of his privacy, and only passionate about two things in his life—playing rugby and rescuing stray dogs from the streets.
“My past belongs to me and no one else.”
When Lachlan meets flirtatious Kayla, he dismisses her as just another beautiful but shallow woman who is only interested in getting in the sack with him, but the more he gets to know her, the more he realises that behind her ballsy, no-filter bravado hides a sensitive, loving, intriguing woman who undoes him emotionally and sets his body on fire. So, even with Lachlan’s impending return home to Scotland in just a few weeks’ time, their decide to spend those weeks in each other’s arms, discovering one another’s bodies and getting to know each other better, all the while pretending their days together are not numbered.
“You’re leaving on Sunday,” I tell him. “That’s less than a week.”
“So?” he says. “What does that have to do with anything?”
I cock my head. “It means…well, what can happen between now and then?”
“I can f*ck your brains out,” he says gruffly. “That’s what can happen.”
And while they are getting their fill of one another, every chance they get…and against any surface they can find, they inevitably start falling for each other—deeply, unexpectedly, desperately—realising more and more each day that saying goodbye in the end would be an impossible feat.
“Everything she offers up is so beautiful, but it’s never enough. I don’t just want to touch her and be with her, I want to fuse with her. I want to sink inside her so deeply that she’ll feel bereft without me there.”
Nothing quite prepares them, however, for the gravity of the demons from Lachlan’s past as they resurface suddenly and start affecting every aspect of their budding relationship. And the more he spirals down into his demons’ embrace, the more he pushes away the only woman he’s ever truly loved.
“I love a broken, damaged man who might run the both of us into the ground.”
A sensitively written and genuinely compelling tale of a love set against all odds, of a man’s relentless battle with his past and of a woman’s fierce faith in him. I was moved by the way Ms Halle approached such delicate topics, carefully and responsibly, never sugar-coating any aspects of them, and presenting them to us in all their terrifying reality. I was stunned by the intensity of the connection between these characters, the magnitude of everything they felt for each other, and the selflessness with which they loved one another. And my skin burned from all the scorching chemistry between them, the sex scenes alone in this book deserving of a standing ovation…or ten. This book was such a welcome addition to the series, bravely delving into heavier, angstier themes lacking in the previous instalments, and showcasing this author’s extraordinary ability to tackle them effortlessly. A great read, satisfying cover to cover.
“I’m so in love with you,” he whispers, the roughness of his cheek pressed against mine. “So in love. There is no bottom. I just keep falling.”
I casually fish my phone out of my purse to check but there’s nothing on the screen except for my Orphan Black wallpaper. I get in line for coffee instead and hope that I’m not being stood up.
I’m almost at the cashier – five minutes has crawled by and I want to stab everyone in the lineup with a stir stick – when I feel a presence to the side of me. It’s more than a presence. I feel eclipsed.
“Kayla?” Just one rough, Scotch-soaked word and I’m dessert all over again.
Play it cool, play it cool.
I turn to face him. I look up. And up. And I give him the biggest grin in the world. I’m surprised my tongue doesn’t loll out of my mouth.
“Oh, hi!” I say, way too enthusiastically. “Lachlan, right?”
He frowns. Obviously not endeared by my raging awkwardness.
“Uh, yeah. Sorry I’m late. Still finding my way around.”
I know I should look away. Say something else, even. Maybe “It’s not a problem, what would you like to drink?” or something.
But I can’t. I am rendered speechless by this man. I am Jell-O, putty and other soft, mouldable substances. I am anything but Kayla Moore when I am around Lachlan McGregor.
So I stare at him. Black jeans, nicely fitted, a dark grey flannel shirt that looks cozy enough to sleep in and plays up the breadth of his chest and shoulders. In the natural light of the ferry building, his eyes are lighter, leaning more towards grey-green, like the water of San Francisco Bay. The more he frowns at me, his lightly tanned forehead scrunching together into deep, craggy lines, the more I like it. I feel like I’m being examined. Scrutinized. And he looks rough. Dangerous. I want him to spill all his secrets.
I barely hear the words uttered from behind me. Lachlan looks over my shoulder, then tilts his head at me.
“You’re wanted,” he says in his thick brogue.
“Oh?” I ask coyly.
He jerks his chin at the barista at the counter. “It’s your turn.”
Right. That. I smile again and I know it reads pure goof. So much for being sexy. Or even tolerable.
I turn and give the barista my attention. I quickly order an almond milk latte for myself.
“What would you like?” I ask Lachlan.
“Tea, black,” he answers.
“Oooh, black tea, living dangerously,” I tease him.
He doesn’t smile back. He just stares at me, brow furrowed, like I’m too stupid to live.
Well isn’t this going just great. I remind myself that I’m not here to win Lachlan over, to be sexy, cute, funny or anything that I normally am. I’m here to write about Bram’s stupid charity. I find myself cursing the Scot once again.
I pay and then step off to the side while we wait for our drinks.
Lachlan reaches into his jeans and pulls out two rumpled dollar bills, holding it out for me.
“What’s this?” I ask.
“For the tea,” he says gruffly and shakes it at me.
“Thanks,” I tell him, “but it’s on me. Don’t worry.”
He grunts something then reaches over to the counter and sticks the money in the tip jar, which gets an appreciative thank you from the overworked barista.
Thankfully he gets his tea right away and my latte doesn’t take long either, so we don’t have to stand around awkwardly while I think about things to say. It’s funny, I had spent all morning going over questions I was going to ask him but now that he was here, standing in front of me, I could barely remember where I worked.
“So,” I say to him, wishing I had wrote my questions down on my phone instead of on the notepad. That I had left at the office. “Do you want to take a stroll outside?”
He nods, taking a sip of his tea, his eyes darting everywhere else except me.
I clear my throat and we walk side-by-side away from the coffee shop and past the market stalls. It’s actually a good place to meet someone you don’t know – there’s lots to look at.
But of course all I want to do is look at him, even though I get the feeling that my eyes constantly roving all over him isn’t that appreciated. It’s just that it’s hard when you’re walking beside a beast of a man. I feel so tiny in his shadow.
“Have you done interviews before?” I ask.
He gives me a sidelong glance. “Have you?”
I grimace, feeling sheepish. “Uh, well, not really. This is my first one. I mean, legitimately. In university I wrote for the school paper but that was a fucking long time ago.”
He nods. Another sip of tea. “Bram mentioned that.”
“What else did he mention?”
“That this could help get him some attention.”
“Him?” I repeat. “Aren’t you in this as much as he is?”
Lachlan shrugs. “Not really. I just helped out with what I could.”
We come to the doors leading outside to the docks and he holds one open for me. Well, at least he hasn’t forgotten his manners.
“Thank you,” I tell him. He makes a dismissive noise in return.
The air is beautifully fresh outside and seems to clear my head. The sun shines down with ferocity we rarely see this time of year.
“So back to you,” I say, bringing it around. “Have you done lots of interviews before? I mean, I don’t know, you must be used to it with rugby. Aren’t rugby players celebrities over there?”
Another nod. “I’ve done some.”
We pause at the railing overlooking the ferries, watching seagulls wheel overhead, and I wonder if I should start taking notes. Then again, he hasn’t really given me any information yet.
“And what rugby team do you play for back in Scotland? I heard you represented the country at the World Cup.”
“I play for Edinburgh. And I was in the last two world cups.”
“Did you win?” I ask hopefully.
He turns his head to look at me and shakes it ever so slightly. I could swear he almost looks amused. “No.”
“Aw, that sucks,” I say because I’m not really sure what the right response is.
He shrugs. Leans against the railing and stares off into the distance. The breeze ruffles his hair slightly, gold brown highlights catch in the sun.
I do the same and lean on the rail beside him, my arms looking like toothpicks in comparison to his, his sleeves rolled up to showcase thick forearms. I glance over the tattoos and when I look up, he’s staring down at me. I’m not sure he realizes how intense his gaze can be and it takes a lot for me to look away.
“Do your tattoos tell a story?” I manage to say.
He keeps on staring, completely unreadable. Then he looks down at his arm and it flexs beautifully. “Everything tells a story.”
Now it’s my turn to give him the eye. “Do you mind elaborating?”
“Will my tattoos help with the article?”
“It might,” I tell him, starting to get a bit frustrated at how un-forthcoming he is.
But still, he doesn’t elaborate.
“So how was the no pants party?” he asks, adjusting his stance so he’s facing me.
I blink at him. “What?”
He looks me up and down. “When I first saw you, you had a shirt on that said ‘no pants party’.”
He’s joking, right? I find myself scrutinizing him just as he does to me. Then his mouth, that gorgeous, luscious mouth, quirks up, just a bit. It’s subtle but it’s the closest thing I’ve seen on him to a smile.
“Pants are usually a waste of time,” I tell him. “The only reason I’m wearing them now is because my work expects me to be ‘professional’,” I add, using air quotes.
“How would they know if you’re wearing pants or not?” he asks and then cranes his head to look at my ass.
I’m both flattered that he’s looking and hella confused as to why. I frown. “Huh?”
“Oh,” he says, bringing his gaze back to me. “In the UK, pants is another word for underwear. Thought you had a predisposition to go commando.”
I laugh. “No, no. Well, I do. I mean, underwear is a waste of time really. But no, the shirt was about…anyway it doesn’t matter.”
“I agree,” he says.
“Pants being a waste of time.”
My mind goes wild. I’m picturing him not only without any pants on, but with no underwear either. I try and keep my eyes focused on his upper body instead of looking for a dick imprint and getting an idea of what nude Lachlan really looks like.
“Of course,” he continues, “it’s smart to wear them during a match. You’d be surprised how many times your shorts get pulled down during a tackle.”
And my imagination explodes. “The other guys pull down your shorts?” My brain is suddenly bombarded by images of him wearing tight little shorts while other big, burly men pull them down. Dicks flying everywhere.
He looks me over. “Have you ever seen a rugby game?”
“No. But if you wear shorts and other men are constantly pulling them down, I may have to start watching it.”