Come Back for Me
"Corinne Michaels brings the emotions, romance, and hope in this stunning new series."Melanie Harlow
USA Today Bestselling Author
"A stunning, gut wrenching, and supremely emotional second chance romance that will leave your tissue box empty and your heart full. "Helena Hunting
New York Times Bestselling Author
One night, eight years ago, she gave me peace.
Just two broken people, desperate to quiet their pain and grief.
In the morning, she was gone and had taken my solace with her. I left for the military that day, vowing never to return to Pennsylvania.
When my father dies, I’m forced to go home to bury him. At least I'll finally be rid of his farm, which is grown over and tangled with memories I've fought to forget.
And that’s when I find her. She’s even more beautiful than I remember and has the most adorable kid I’ve ever seen.
Years have passed, but my feelings are the same, and this time I refuse to let her go. They say you can't bury the past, and they're right. Because when long-ago secrets are exposed, rocking us both to the core, I have no choice but to watch her walk away again . . .
Release date: January 7, 2020
Publisher: BAAE Publishing
Print pages: 358
Reader says this book is...: swoon-worthy (1)
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Come Back for Me
“Arrowood! Wake the fuck up!” Someone punches my arm, and I shoot out of my seat. My eyes dart around for whatever danger is present, but only find my buddy, Liam, next to me on the plane. “Man, you sure like to talk in your sleep.”
I rub my hand over my face, trying to clear the cobwebs. “I have no idea what I was dreaming about.”
Great. God only knows what I said. “Doubtful.”
“Dude, you were totally talking in your sleep.” His voice goes higher. “Oh, Connor, you’re so sexy. Yes, give it to me like that.” Then he returns his voice to normal. “I’m just saying that she was very animated.”
I know exactly what I was dreaming of—an angel. A beautiful woman with dark brown hair and the bluest eyes I’d ever seen. It doesn’t matter that I spent one night with her eight years ago, I remember her perfectly.
The way she smiled and crooked her finger at me to follow. How my legs moved without my brain ever giving them permission. It was as if she were sent from above to save me.
The night my father had gotten so drunk he sucker punched me as I walked out the door for boot camp, promising never to return.
She was perfect, and I don’t even know her name.
I elbow him, knowing there isn’t a chance in hell I’m about to confess any of that. “Thank God you’re married. No woman would be stupid enough to ever go for you now. Your impressions suck and you’re an asshole.”
He grins, no doubt thinking of his wife. Some guys have it all—Liam Dempsey is one of them. He has a beautiful woman to come home to, kids, friends, and he had one of those picture-perfect childhoods.
Basically, his life is the opposite of mine.
Only things I have that are worth a damn are my brothers.
“What are you talking about? There’s a reason they call me Dreamboat and call you Arrow. I’m a goddamn dream.”
“Here we fucking go. They call me that because of my last name, asshole.”
Liam chuckles and shrugs. “Maybe, but mine is because of my glowing personality.”
Even though he’s a total idiot, I’m going to miss him. I’m going to miss all of my team. I hate that this was my last deployment and I won’t be a part of this brotherhood anymore. I’ve loved being a SEAL.
“Thankfully, you’re so vain that I will see your glow anywhere I end up.”
“Any idea where that’s going to be or what you’re going to do now?” Liam asks.
I lean back in the much too uncomfortable chair of this C-5 plane and push out a deep breath. “Not a clue.”
“Glad to see you’re on top of your life. You need to get your shit together, Arrowood. Life isn’t going to hand you shit.”
Liam has been my team leader for the last two deployments and is like a big brother to me, but right now, I’d like not to be lectured. I have three older brothers who do enough of that as it is.
Although, I guess that’s what the SEAL team is . . . brothers. Brothers who would do anything for each other, including help the other through a big transition, even if it’s one that’s been coming for a while. Three years ago, I was on deployment. It was a routine checkpoint and my leg was crushed when a car tried to run through. I had a few surgeries, all looked good, but I’m not healing right. This deployment, I was on light duty, which was basically admin. I fucking hate admin. I wanted to be out there, making sure my brothers were safe. Then the doc gave me the news that I’m going to be medically discharged.
I’m no longer fit to be a SEAL.
And if I can’t do this, then I don’t want any part of it.
“I have plans.”
“Like?” he asks.
“Kicking your ass, for one.”
“You could try, young buck, but I wouldn’t put money on it.”
“If my leg were a hundred percent . . .”
Liam shakes his head. “I’d still kill you. But, all kidding aside, you can’t sign the papers in two weeks and have no idea what to do.”
My oldest brother Declan was up my ass and saying the same thing when I called him a month ago. Dec runs a huge corporation in New York City and said he was looking for a new head of security, but I’d rather ram my bad leg through a meat processor than work for him. He’s a hothead, who knows everything, and he doesn’t pay shit. I’ve already done eight years of that, so I’d like an upgrade in the financial department.
Still, he has a point. I can only survive on what little savings I have for so long, then I’ll need to get a job.
“I’ll figure it out,” I tell him.
“Why not go back home to the farm?”
My eyes narrow, and I bite back the anger that fills me at the mention of that place. “Because the only way I’ll step foot on that land is if I’m burying the man who resides there.”
The Arrowood brothers made a vow to take care of each other, protect one another, and that was what each of us did until I could get out. Two weeks after graduation was the last time I touched that farmland in Pennsylvania. I’ll live on the streets before I go back there.
He puts his hands up. “All right, brother, no need to look like you’re about to slice me open. I get it. No going home. I’m just worried. I’ve seen a lot of guys get out and struggle to navigate civilian life. As much as we bitch about this life, it becomes us, you know?”
He’s right. Hell, I’ve seen it too, but I wasn’t ready for getting out to be my reality. I would’ve done twenty years with a smile because the navy saved my life. I was going to end up in jail if I hadn’t enlisted. Then, when I was in, I got selected for BUDs and refused to ever be anything else. Now, it isn’t my choice.
“I’m not sure what else I could even be at this point.”
“My buddy Jackson has a company that takes broken SEALs, I’m sure he has room for one more.”
I flip him off. “I’ll show you broken.”
Before we can get any further into a spat, the officers come around, letting us know we’re preparing for landing and how they want the offload to go.
Homecomings are like nothing anyone can comprehend. They are filled with emotions, balloons, fanfare, tears of happiness, and a lot of excitement. The wives are dressed up, and the kids look perfect and polished when we know that their lives the last nine months were anything but. You can see the families so ready for a glimpse of their loved one they would climb on top of each other.
Then there is how we feel.
Our nerves are different. We are ready to get home and see the people we love, but at the same time, we know that it won’t be easy. Loving a man who is preparing to leave again can’t be easy. It’s why I’m grateful that love and marriage were never high up on my priority list.
I like knowing that there is no sacrifice made in order to love me.
The commander falls quiet, waiting for everyone’s attention. “Patterson and Caldwell will go first since they had babies while we were gone. Then it’ll be alphabetical to deplane. Once you’ve checked out with me, grab your gear and don’t report back to base for two weeks, understand?”
“Aye.” We all answer in unison.
He puts the clipboard down and eyes us all. “Don’t make me have to explain to my wife why I have to leave home to come bail one of you idiots out.”
A few of us laugh, but he isn’t because it may have happened two deployments ago. Thankfully, it wasn’t me.
The plane touches down, and I swear I can feel the energy shift. Since it’s alphabetical, I’ll be one of the first off, but our team is filled with guys who have kids. I’ll wait until they’re off, take the ass-chewing from Commander Hansen, and go on my merry way the same as the other single guys do.
Commander calls my name, but I stay rooted. His voice rises again. “Arrowood!” He glares at me, but I shrug. “Jesus, every damn deployment you morons do this. Fine, I’ll call your name twice, and if you don’t get up, you’re moved to the back of the line. Idiots. I’m surrounded by them.”
“See you in a few weeks,” Liam says as his name is called.
“I’ll be sure to say goodbye.”
He slaps me on my chest. “You do that.”
After the rest of the names are called, I hear mine again.
Commander doesn’t look at all happy, but I see the hint of pride hidden behind his scowl. “You’re a good man.”
“Those kids want their fathers.”
He nods. “Here’s your paperwork. I’ll see you back in fourteen days.”
I nod, take the paper, and head off. The sun is shining, and the air smells clean. There’s no dust or dirt clinging to my skin as I walk down the stairs.
“Yo, douchebag.” I freeze for a second before turning to face my brother—who isn’t supposed to be here.
“Sean?” He walks toward me, arms open and a huge smile on his lips.
“Good to see you home in one piece.”
We give each other a hug, slamming our hands on each other’s backs. “What the hell are you doing here?”
“I figured someone should see you home from your last deployment.”
“Well, it’s good to see you,” I say with a smile.
“It’s good to see you too, little brother.”
I may be the youngest, but I’m not little. Sean is the shortest out of us, but he has the biggest heart. I sometimes wish I was more like him.
“You know, I can slice you from ass to cheek in about ten seconds, you really want to spar?”
He slaps me on the shoulder. “Not today, I’m here for something else.”
“Yeah, we have to go meet Declan and Jacob . . .”
A sliver of worry fills me. We don’t exactly have family reunions. In fact, I think the last time the four of us were together was the day I graduated from boot camp. My brothers and I are all one year apart going down the line. My poor mother had four kids in four years and then spent the next seven years raising four boys who weren’t known for being easy kids. We banded together and were best friends—in all things mischievous.
Now, though, we’re all scattered like the wind and only see each other separately for the most part.
“Meet them where.”
Sean clenches his jaw and then releases a heavy sigh. “Sugarloaf. Our father is dead. It’s time to go home.”
“And now that’s over,” Declan says as he stares down at the hole in the ground where the casket rests. The graveyard is old with a few headstones that are still broken from the bonfire night where we all were idiots.
It’s quiet, and the smell of farming fills the air. A bit of manure, a bit of smoke, and a lot of regrets. I thought I would feel better now that he’s dead, but all I feel is anger.
“Not completely,” Sean reminds us. “We still have to figure out what to do with the farm and the land.”
“Burn it,” I say without feeling. Being back here makes me itch. Even with him dead, I still feel as if he’s watching, judging, and preparing to raise his fists. Hell, it still feels as if the secrets we’ve kept because of him are trying to choke me.
“Connor has a point. Although, it would make me feel better if the old man were still in it when we set it on fire,” Jacob tacks on.
I agree. My father used to be a good man. He loved his boys, his wife, and his farm, giving everything he was to each one. Then my mother died and we lost both parents.
Gone was the kind, fun, and hardworking man who taught me how to ride a bike and fish. Instead, he became a hollow drunk who used his fists to speak his rage.
And boy was he angry.
At everyone. At everything. Mostly, at my brothers and me for reminding him of the woman he loved and God took way too soon. As if we weren’t grieving the loss of the most wonderful mother who ever drew breath.
Dec shakes his head. “This is the only thing the bastard left us, and it’s worth millions. It’s also where Mom’s ashes are scattered. We’re going to be patient, like we’ve been, and sell it. Unless one of you wants it?”
“Hell no.” I don’t want a damn thing to do with it. I want it out of my life so I never have to come back to Sugarloaf again.
Everyone else grunts in agreement.
“Well, we’re all going to have to meet with the lawyer sometime this week, and then we sell the fucking thing.”
I have no doubts Dec has already pulled strings to get us the hell out of here as quick as possible. Just like the rest of us, he has a lot he wants to avoid in this town, which won’t be possible if we’re here more than a day.
The four of us pile into Sean’s car and head back to the house, but as soon as we get to the entrance, the car stops.
The wooden pillars with the sign overhead and our last name burned into the wood is aged, but still standing strong. I try not to remember my mother’s voice, but the memory comes too strong and too fast and I’m eight years old again.
“Now, what is one truth about an arrow?”
I groan as her brow lifts and she waits for the answer. “Mom, the new Nintendo game is at home, and I want to play.”
“Then you best answer me, Connor. What is one truth about an arrow?”
I saved money from my last birthday, but it wasn’t enough so I had to borrow money from Jacob for the game. He’s so mean, he made me do his chores for six months, but now I have the new Mario. All I want to do is play. I don’t care about the arrow.
She puts the car in park and crosses her arms. Mom used to be my favorite.
“Why do we have to say this each time?” I ask.
“Because it’s important. Family is what matters in this life, without that, you have nothing. When we cross this threshold, we’re back home. We’re with those who love us and this, my sweet boy, is where you will always belong.”
My mama is the best person I know, and as much as I want my Nintendo game—and I really want it—I want to make her happy more. I like making Mama happy.
“You can’t take a shot until you break your bow,” I grumble, hating that this is one fact she makes me recite.
She smiles. “That’s right. And why is that important?”
“Mooooom,” I whine because the game is calling me.
“Don’t, Mom me,” she tsks. “Why is it important?”
“Because if you don’t break the bow, you’ll never go forward, and an arrow was meant to forge ahead.”
Her eyes fill with love and happiness as she stares over at me. “That’s right, and you were meant to go places. Now, let’s go to the house to see if your brothers have left it standing.”
“And I get to play my game.”
Mom laughs. “Yes, and that—after your chores.”
“I can’t do it,” Sean admits as he stares at the dirt driveway.
One by one, my brothers left this place, and each of them took shifts coming back until I was old enough to leave as well. They protected me in a way I couldn’t appreciate at the time. Jacob delayed going to college by a year to make sure Sean could play ball and I wasn’t alone with Dad as much. Sean would take me to games, making sure I got out of the house once in a while after Jacob left. Declan went to college but spent his summers back at the farm, ensuring he could shield me from Dad’s fists whenever possible.
He looks the most uncomfortable, but he’s also the strongest willed of us all. “What is one truth about an arrow?” Dec chokes the words out, and I close my eyes.
Mom. What would she think of us now? Would she understand why we all left this place? Did she see the hell he put us through and what we became because of his choices?
Jacob answers. “Removing half the feather will make the arrow curve and alter its course, which is why sticking together matters.”
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