New York Times bestselling author Samantha Young returns to her Scottish roots with a brand new Adult Contemporary Romance series of interconnected standalone novels, and I have the stunning cover of the first book for you, as well as the Prologue!
My best friend’s mother once told me, “You would think after numerous attacks of grief the human body would be unable to process any more sadness. But our hearts have an annoying amount of endurance.”
Since she was one of the bravest people I knew, her words stuck with me as I grew older. And I found out she was right. Most people’s hearts are built to withstand loss and grief.
No one, however, said anything about guilt and regret and how those two things can haunt you long after loss.
I didn’t want to be haunted. No one does. So I was pretending I wasn’t and throwing all of my focus at my job. Not my job as a sales assistant in a cute boutique clothes store in Old Town. It just paid the bills. Barely. Which was why I was currently running late after doing overtime at the shop. I took all the overtime I could get … unless it cut into my other job.
Not really a job, actually. It was so much more than that.
“Nora, can you help a customer?” Leah’s head appeared around the doorframe, looking into the closet we called a staff room. “Where are you going?”
I pulled on my backpack and strode past her. “Remember, I finish at twelve today. It’s five after.”
“But Amy isn’t here yet.”
“I’m sorry. I have to get to the hospital.”
Her eyes widened. “Oh? What happened?”
“Uh, excuse me … ” A girl stood at the counter looking annoyed. “Can someone help me, please?”
Leah turned to the customer and I took the opportunity to dash out of the store without having to explain myself. I knew my boss probably regretted hiring me. She hired two Americans: Amy and me. Only one of us lives up to our national reputation of being a friendly extrovert.
Take a guess which one of us.
It’s not that I’m not good at my job or even that I’m not friendly. I just don’t share personal shit with people I don’t really know, and Amy and Leah seemed okay with telling each other everything from their favorite color to their partners’ ability to give them an orgasm on a Friday night.
As I climbed the hill from the shop and hurried up the old cobbled road of the Royal Mile, my anxiety increased. It was stupid because the kids would be there when I arrived, but I hated the idea of being late. In the weeks that I’d been visiting, I hadn’t been late once. And I still needed to change my clothes. I’d have to do it when I got there but before any of them would see me.
They called Edinburgh the windy city and today, like its forces were against me, it lived up to its name. I strode into the wind feeling its icy resistance. A whimsical part of me wondered if the city was trying to tell me something. Would I look on this day in the future and wish I’d listened to it and turned back? Weird crap like that crossed my mind a lot lately. I lived in my head.
But not one day out of the week.
Today was for them.
Hurrying, I cut a twenty-minute walk down to fifteen. It would’ve been less if not for the damn wind. I almost skidded to a stop once I reached the ward, the nurses looking up in surprise when I appeared at their station sweaty and out of breath.
“Hey,” I puffed out.
Jan and Trish grinned at me. “We didn’t know if you were coming today,” Jan said.
I grinned back at Jan. “Only illness or death.”
Catching my meaning, she chuckled and came around the nurses’ station. “They’re all in the common room.”
“Where can I change before they see me?”
She shook her head in amusement. “They won’t mind.”
“I know.” I shrugged.
“Alison is in the common room so her private bathroom will be free.” She gestured down the hall in the opposite direction of the common room.
“Thanks. Two minutes,” I promised.
“They’re already here. Both of them,” Jan said.
Relieved, I nodded and darted into Aly’s empty private room to her bathroom, the door banging shut behind me.
Yanking off my sweater and jeans, I began to feel a little hum of excitement in my belly, as I always did when I was about to spend time with them. And it was about them.
“It is,” I snapped at myself.
I pulled on my green leggings and shirt, about to button the shirt closed when the bathroom door suddenly jerked open.
The breath left my body as I froze, looking up at his familiar eyes staring down at me.
He was so tall, his shoulders so broad, he almost filled the entire doorway.
I tried to open my mouth, to ask him what he thought he was doing, but the words got stuck as his gaze drifted from my eyes to my lips and down. His perusal was long and thorough, from head to toe and back up again. He lingered on the sight of my bra beneath the open shirt, and when his eyes finally returned to meet mine, they were brimming with heat.
His expression was determined.
A mixture of fear and thrill and nervousness burst through me, finally melting my freeze as he stepped into the bathroom, locking the door.
“What are you doing?” I stumbled into the wall behind me.
Amusement danced in his eyes as he moved slowly, predatorily toward me. “I’m thinking that Peter Pan has never looked so sexy.”
Unfortunately, I was a sucker for a Scottish accent.
Clearly, or I wouldn’t have ended up here, so far from home.
More than that, however, I was beginning to think I was sucker for him. “Don’t.” I put my hand up to stop him but he pressed his chest against it, and covered my hand with his own. I stared at how small mine was in comparison, and a shiver tickled down my back and around to my breasts. My breathing faltered as he took another few steps into me until there was barely any space between us. He was so tall and I was so not, I had to tilt my head back to meet his eyes.
His burned. They burned for me in a way no man’s ever had.
How was I supposed to resist that?
And yet I knew I had to. I scowled up at him. “You should go.”
In answer, he pressed the entire length of his body against mine and heat flashed through me. A ripple of excitement in my lower belly. Tingling between my legs. My nipples hardened.
Angry at my body and angry at him, I shoved at him but it was like trying to shove a concrete wall. “This is totally inappropriate,” I hissed.
He grabbed my hands to stop my ineffectual shoving and gently but effectively pinned my hands above my head. My chest thrust up against him and I gasped as my breasts swelled.
Eyes dark with knowing and intent, he bent his head toward me.
“Don’t.” I shook my head, hating the bite in my tone, but carrying on nonetheless. “I’m not playing cavewoman to your caveman.”
His lips twitched. “Shame that. Do you often deny yourself what you want?”
“No, but I think with my head, not my vagina.”
He laughed, his warm breath puffing against my lips.
I loved when he laughed. I loved when I made him laugh. He needed laughter more than anything. The sound thrilled me, making my belly squeeze with pleasure. And I realized it wasn’t just my body betraying me but my heart too.
As if he’d seen the thought in my eyes, he let go of one of my hands so he could press cool fingers against my breast, over my heart. I gasped at the dizzying sensation of being touched so intimately. He said, “Have you ever thought about thinking with this thing?”
“As far as I’m aware, my left breast isn’t much of a thinker,” I evaded.
He grinned. “You know what I mean, Pixie.”
“Don’t call me that.”
Expression turning thoughtful, he said, “I thought we were friends.”
“We were. But then you pinned me to a bathroom wall.”
“Thanks for the reminder.” He took hold of my free hand again and pressed it back to the wall with the other. At the flash of anger in my eyes, he said, “If you were really pissed off about it, you’d be struggling.”
I flushed. “It would be futile. You’re a giant.”
“I’d let you go. You know I would. I’d hate it. But I’d let you go … if you didn’t want this?”
We looked silently at one another, his face so close to mine, I could see little flecks of yellow gold in his green eyes.
In those moments, I forgot where I was. Who I was. And what the right thing to do for him was.
And I didn’t even realize I was straining toward him until he brought it to my attention. “Why are you fighting this when you want it?”
Why was I fighting this again?
I closed my eyes, shutting him out, which allowed the memory of why to return to me. “Because—”
His mouth crushed down on mine, silencing me. Surprise turned to instinct. I kissed him back, meeting his tongue with my own, straining against his hold on my wrists but not to get away. To wrap my arms around him. Run my fingers through his hair.
Heat flushed through me like I was covered in fuel and he’d started a fire at my feet. It lashed like lightning until I was surrounded in a blaze.
Too hot. Too needy. Too everything.
I wanted to rip off my clothes.
I wanted to rip off his clothes.
And then he broke the kiss to pull back and stare at me in triumph.
If he’d been anyone else, if it had been any other moment, I’d have called him out for being smug.
Instead, I remembered exactly why we should not be doing this.
Whatever he saw in my expression made him loosen his grip on my wrists. I lowered them but he didn’t step away.
He waited, his hands resting gently on my small shoulders.
Something in his eyes made my defenses crumble. Tenderness rushed through me and I found myself caressing his cheek, feeling his stubble prickle my skin. Sadness doused the fire. “She’s gone,” I told him gently. “Not even I can distract you from that.”
Pain, unbearable, bleak anguish fought with the desire in his eyes and he slowly slid his hands off my shoulders and down to my waist. With a gentle tug I fell into him, clutching at his chest.
He tore through my soul with the whispered, tortured words, “But you can try.”