An all-new emotional and gripping second chance romance—a standalone spin-off from Release—is out this week from author Aly Martinez, and I have a little snippet for you.
Assuming naked time was officially over thanks to my big mouth, I got dressed and sat on the edge of the bed.
She smiled when she exited a few minutes later, but I knew Nora well enough to realize her grin was strictly for my benefit. And didn’t that just suck after the laughs we’d shared in the hot tub.
What did not suck was that she walked straight over to me, wrapped her arms around my neck, and climbed onto my lap.
Why hello mixed signals.
I folded her into a tight hug. “Did I say something wrong?”
She let out a sigh. “No.”
“Then why are you wearing so much clothing?”
“I have to leave.”
I swayed away so I could see her face. “Right now?”
She framed my face in her hands and stroked her thumb back and forth across my bottom lip. “No. But I will tomorrow. And, eventually, you will too. You have a whole big life in New York. And I’m finishing up my student teaching in Clovert. I don’t know. Maybe we shouldn’t have…ya know?”
I shook my head. “No. I can honestly say I don’t know. Because there is nothing we did tonight that I don’t think we should have done a long time ago and from now on a lot more frequently.”
She looked away, but she wasn’t quick enough to hide the quiver of her chin. “I’m really just sick of hurting you, Cam.”
Leaning to the side, I forced my face into her line of sight. “Okay, now, I’m confused. What part of that do you think hurt me, exactly? Was it the noises? I promise you none of those were cries of pain, but if it bothered you, I can work on it. I’m always open to constructive feedback.”
She laughed, but it was sad. “Me coming here was supposed to be about you. To support you through hard times like you’ve always done for me. But then I showed up and you were really hot.”
I chuckled and hugged her tight. “Is it a bad thing?”
“Yeah, because now, I know how perfect you are. And you think you could get addicted to me, but I have to leave in the morning.”
And there it was. The truth that always lingered between Nora and me.
Our story was a tangled tale of time and distance.
Choices and consequences.
Love and longing.
But, throughout, we were never on the same page at the same time.
When we were kids, it had been out of our control. She’d lived in Clovert and I’d lived in Alberton; a summer together was all we could have hoped for. We’d grown up, but the circumstances that surrounded us were more complex than ever. Did I wish that she’d asked me to stay the last time I’d seen her? With my entire heart. Did I understand why she couldn’t? With my entire being. I could never expect Nora to love me until she loved herself.
As a man who would have done anything to fix things for her, that was a hard pill to swallow. I’d spent many nights raging at the unfairness of finding my soul mate in a shattered girl I could never quite hold on to. But those were the cards I’d been dealt, and I had to be realistic about my expectations of how things would play out.
The way I saw it, I had three options.
Walk away and close the door on Nora Stewart forever.
Show up on her doorstep, pulling her close and ultimately pushing her further away.
Or enjoy the moments when the universe saw fit to bring her into my life and hope like hell that, one of those times, I’d finally get to keep her.
I’d chose option three every single time because, in our story, it was the only plot line in which I got to keep her. Even just for a night.