A dancer who won’t back down. A soldier indebted to a promise. The only thing more dangerous than the threat pitting them together is the secret keeping them apart.
Contemporary dancer Anna Madison is determined to honor her mom’s memory. With the life she’s built in downtown Chicago hinging on an upcoming audition, now’s the worst time for her childhood best friend—and the only man she’s ever loved—to reenter her world. Her dad’s current DA case instigates enough danger without adding on the risk of losing her heart. Again.
Army Ranger Evan O’Riley has always known his place in Anna’s life. Letting his feelings compromise her safety simply isn’t an option. Especially when his promise to protect her drives him off the sidelines and into the one place even his special ops training can’t save him from. Anna’s arms.
Keeping her from uncovering the real reason Evan returns is one thing. Trying to hide the reason he left to begin with could destroy them both. But when the past they’ve both tried to outrun launches them down a heart-pounding road of threats, secrets, and attraction, resisting love may turn into the greatest risk they face.
Anna stopped beside a black gate leading to a park that could’ve passed for a cemetery. The tension radiating off her kept him a foot away.
“You, Evan.” She spun around, wavy hair a beautiful mess in the wind. “You’re the reason I can’t think straight.”
Her words clawed into his gut. She had every reason not to want him around. He’d fully expected it. But no amount of prepping could neutralize the pain of seeing it on her face.
Watery eyes approached him. “Five years. You left and haven’t been back in five years. No phone calls. No visits.” Her gaze plummeted to the ground, his heart right behind it. “Can you at least tell me why?”
The hurt in her voice wound around his own so tightly, no sound came out.
She looked up long enough to intersect his gaze. “Something else you have to keep from me. I get it.” She turned, but he caught her hand.
“Bells, please. I’m sorry. For more than you know.” More than he could ever tell her. “I left because I had to.” His heart took over as he brushed back the strands of hair billowing across her cheeks. “That doesn’t mean I went a day without thinking of you.”
Her lashes swept up, and an ache to hold her seized every part of him. He urged his eyes to stay even, his pulse to slow.
An unreadable expression propelled her into his arms. “I’m sorry, I just . . . I’ve missed you so much. Without you here, without knowing what was going on . . .” Anna squeezed him tighter. “You’re my best friend.”
He didn’t understand her response. Didn’t deserve it. But he couldn’t bring himself to step away. He curled his arms around her back and nestled his cheek to her hair. Her softness decimated his discipline of holding memories and desires at bay. The closer she pressed in, the harder the waves hit and intensified the yearning to tell her everything.
Swallowing, Evan slid his hand down her hair and loosened his hold. He’d led ambushes in Iraq, assisted Special Forces in Afghanistan, and conducted dozens of raids against Islamic terrorists. Yet, the most dangerous place he’d ever been in was right here in Anna’s arms.
Crystal Walton is one of those authors whose new releases are automatically on my ‘must read’ list. Her stories have emotional depth, character growth, clean but swoon-worthy romance, and writing that leaps off the page with life and vitality. This one is no exception. It’s everything that is beautiful (and awkward) about falling in love with your best friend, with some great suspense thrown in!
I loved these characters. Evan O’Riley is a modern-day knight in shining armour. He’s highly trained, chivalrous, and has that magnetic combination of fierce protectiveness and endearing tenderness when it comes to Anna. But Anna is NOT a damsel in distress. She’s compassionate, level-headed, generous to a fault, and she’s always felt caged in by her father’s protective measures. And that’s why she’s perfectly happy living on her own, even if she is struggling to afford food, clothing, and rent. Her independence is hard won, but sweet.
But Anna’s father is about to prosecute Michelli – the biggest black market trafficker in Chicago. Evan knows how Anna feels about having bodyguards, but he’s also more realistic about the threat Michelli poses; because it’s not the first time her father has prosecuted Michelli. Evan still carries the guilt of what happened last time, and he’s spent the last five years training to make sure he’s worthy of the promise he made back then. Now he’s the one person who can be right beside Anna, guarding her without her realising that’s what he’s doing. Now if only he could work out how to guard his heart at the same time!
As is always the case with Crystal’s stories, this isn’t just about the characters coming together or staying alive; it’s also about them growing as individuals and in their understanding of everything genuine love encompasses: honesty, sacrifice, grace, forgiveness. They have misread situations in the past, and those misapprehensions continue to guide their choices now. But through this story they are forced to confront those misapprehensions, and it is this aspect, woven so naturally into the story, that gives Crystal’s stories that added depth that perfectly balances the romance and suspense.
Anna and Evan are absolutely beautiful together and, OH MY, the romantic tension between these two! Totally delicious! If you love contemporary romance with a side of suspense, do yourself a favour and pick up a copy of this book.
I received a complimentary copy of this novel from the author in exchange for my honest review.
Release date: 24 August 2016
Publisher: Impact Editions
Author’s website: http://crystal-walton.com/