You are beneath me. You stare up at me. You gaze, lovingly, into my eyes, and you do not look away as you come apart. I see this moment, over and over and over again…
You whisper something, as the shudders wrack you, yet the words you whisper are lost to me. I want those words—they mean everything.
What is it you whisper in the moment of our most intimate completion?
My name, surely.
What is it you whisper, Ava?
Please, tell me. Whisper those sounds to me again, even just once, I beg you.
Come to me, and come for me, and come with me: I will hear those sweet, dulcet syllables blooming from your lips and I will know myself, and I will know I am home.
* * *
Memory is a harsh mistress: she embellishes the beautiful and serene, yet she also sharpens the edges of pain.
All I have left of my husband, Christian, is memory. Everything else is gone. Our son, Henry, conceived and cherished and born and grown in the fertile soil of our love…he is dead. He molders six feet under the black loam of a Florida cemetery. The home we created for ourselves, in Ft. Lauderdale, is a pile of rubble, demolished by a hurricane. That home, and everything in it, is utterly gone. Even the rubble, by now, is likely cleared away.
And all I know is, right now…I’m scared of letting myself grieve for Henry.
I’m scared I’ll never find Christian. And if I never find Christian, what will I do?
Who will I be?
Instead of a peaceful vacation, however, what I find in Ketchikan is trouble. The kind of trouble that’s six-plus feet of nerdy hotness I can't resist. I mean, who could? He's a genius with no idea how attractive he is, an enigma of contradictions: awkward yet confident, fascinating and flirtatious, yet aloof and evasive of physical touch.
He's utterly and deliciously sexy in every way—and oh, so innocent.
* * *
I can recite all of The Iliad and The Odyssey in the original Greek. I can do advanced mathematics in my head and memorize entire books with ease. By the time I graduated high school I had been scouted by several international soccer teams and recruited by think tanks, the NSA, and the CIA.
All of which is totally useless when a woman like Harlow Grace is standing in front of me, trying to talk to me, flirting with me, touching me. She’s Helen of Troy—a woman with a face that could launch a thousand ships, a woman wars are fought over.
It turns out she’s not just beautiful—she’s famous. A Hollywood sex symbol. A superstar known all over the world…
And yet somehow she’s interested in me?
That should have been it. I should have hit the road as soon as I could, because I’m a vagabond, a drifter. A homeless orphan with no family and no future except what I create for myself. Which is why getting tangled up with a guy—no matter how tall, dark, quiet, and sexy he may be—is a really terrible idea.
Yet…I kissed him anyway. And that one kiss? It set my world on fire, turned everything upside down.
I know I shouldn’t get involved with him. I tell myself I won’t. Yet, I still get pulled in by him and his seven brothers and their wives and girlfriends—by the concept of family, something I haven’t had in a very, very long time. Something I never thought I’d have again.
Every moment I spend with Lucian turns my present into perfect, and puts my future at risk.
* * *
As the second youngest Badd brother, I’ve lived my entire life in the long, broad shadows cast by my older brothers—the burly, bad boy bartender, the Navy SEAL, the trick pilot, the athlete, and the rock star twins. Even my younger brother, Xavier, finds a way to outshine everyone in the room with his unassuming charisma and dizzying intellect. More and more lately, I’ve been asking myself where I fit in.
And then Joss Mackenzie fell into the Inside Passage in the middle of a freak snowstorm, and in so doing, fell into my life. I saved her from the icy water, but can I can I save myself from falling for a girl I know is only going to end up doing the one thing she does best—leave?
It’s evident from the first kiss what the answer is—there’s no saving myself, not from the magnetic appeal of her wild, untamable spirit, or the exotic allure of her caramel skin and long dreadlocks and golden-brown eyes and perfect body. I’m helpless against this attraction.
But as I seek to find myself and my place among my larger-than-life brothers, will I lose my heart to the exotic beauty with walls a mile high and a tragic past?
I am desperate. For you. For touch. For a kiss. For the scrape of your hand down my stomach. For the slide of your lips across my hipbone. The sweep of your thigh against mine in the dulcet, drowning darkness. For the warm huff of your breath on my skin and the wet suck of your mouth around me and the building pressure of need reaching release...I am mad with need.
Wild with it.
I cannot have you. I have lost you, as I have lost myself.
And so I go in search. Of myself, and thus the man who might return to you, and take you in his arms.
I loathe each of the thousands of miles between us, but I cannot wish them away, for I hope at the end of my journey I shall find you. Or rather, find myself, and thus…you. Myself, and thus us.
I am taking the long way home, Ava.
* * *
I’m losing my mind, and I don’t know how to stop it. I shouldn’t be writing to you, but I am. I’m friendless, loveless, and lifeless. You’re out there somewhere, and still you’re all I really have. I hate my reliance and dependence on you, emotionally and otherwise, and that reliance is something I’m coming to recognize. I hate that I can’t hate you as much as I want to. I hate that I still love you so much.
I hate that there’s no clear solution to our conundrum. Even if we could forgive each other, what then?
I hate you, Christian. I really do.
But most of all, I don’t.
Complicatedly (still) yours,
Love is in the air, commitments are being made, careers are being abandoned—nothing is easy. Except our sexual chemistry. Which is off-the-charts hot. But is it JUST chemistry, or is it more? We both want it to be more, but the question is, which one of us is going to be the first to risk heartbreak in order to find out? We both have dark pasts that are holding us back and may keep us from true happiness.
Intense sexual connection is easy…love, commitment, and figuring out the future? Well…that’s a whole lot harder.
And it’s twice as hard when you’re twins.
I know it’s crazy, but I don’t give a damn
shouldn’t want you near me
but you’re inside me, can you hear me
I’m praying you need me, baby say you do
I’m laying in bed, dreaming of you
cuz I remember you moving, gliding
can’t get over you, baby I’m trying
why can’t I have you, why’s it have to be so complicated
the love I feel hasn’t faded
I wrote those lyrics for Jonny after he walked away.
It was never meant to be between us; I knew it, he knew it, we talked about it.
The trouble is, love never listens to logic. And for two people who have never really had a home or known love, logic is all that keeps us going: be smart, survive, do what has to be done. And, in my case, take care of my son. Forget my dreams, forget love…nothing matters but making it day by day.
But then I met Jonny, and everything changed.
* * *
I’m a vagabond. I’ve lived my whole life out on the ocean, surviving by my wits and my knowledge of the sea. I’ve never needed anyone, never stayed in one place long enough to let something like that happen.
Christian, the only person I’ve ever really cared about, goes missing and gives me a box of letters and makes me promise to take it to his wife, Ava. Problem is, when I get to her, Ava is missing too, and their condo is ruined by the same hurricane that claimed Christian. And then I meet Delta, Ava’s sister, Christian’s sister-in-law, and she changes everything.
It wasn’t supposed to be anything. Nothing was supposed to happen. We helped dig out survivors of the hurricane together, and that was it. Only…that wasn’t it. Something happened. And now I can’t get her out of my head, or out of my heart.
Even when I walk away, I can’t escape her. Especially when I hear her voice on the radio, singing a song meant for me:
You walked into my life, with your dark skin and brown eyes
I tried to resist you, tried not to kiss you
you speak soft and you move slow
you’ve got strong hands and few words
but I hear it anyway, everything you don’t say
I tried to resist you, tried not to kiss you
but god, your lips, the way you moved your hips
the way you said my name
and said you felt the same
the way you took my hand