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"Never have I read an MC novel that was as grippingly emotional and heartbreakingly shattering, as the story of Winter Morrison and his one true love Birdie Beaumont."Reading Is Our Satisfaction Blog
She ran and took my heart with her.
Now I want it back, and hers too.
She can tell me no.
She can try to hide.
She can take her time.
But I’m a man on my knees.
Birdie Beaumont will be mine again.
My first lie had been to save us.
My second lie had been to save him.
My third lie broke me.
I still love him just as much as I did when I left him.
But I can’t have him.
Not after what I did.
Not after keeping it from him all this time.
Winter Morrison will never forgive me for what I did.
Release date: June 23, 2019
Publisher: Nina Levine Publishing
Print pages: 252
Reader says this book is...: action-packed (1) emotionally riveting (1) heart touching (1) heartwarming (1) strong chemistry (1) suspenseful (1)
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I slid the photo from his wallet and stared at it in surprise.
He kept me there all these years?
Looking up, I found him watching me intently.
“Come home with me tonight.” He said the words I hoped he wouldn’t.
A shiver raced across my skin. His voice had always done that to me. “No,” I said, when I wanted to say yes and chase him to the ends of the earth. I’d always wanted to chase him there. I’d spent years making plans and dreaming all the dreams of a life together. But life had a way of beating the dreams out of us. Of forcing us to let them go even when we clung hard.
The taxi we shared from the airport slowed to turn a corner.
God, what were the chances of running into your first love after you’d both returned from different corners of the world? “Share a taxi with me,” he’d said after we’d caught up over a few drinks at the airport bar. I should have said no then because, with every passing minute, he drew me further into his orbit.
His fingers laced through mine. “If I could change the way shit went down with us, I would, Birdie. Fuck, I’d take back all my choices and make better ones.”
My heart squeezed, and the pain that had never left roared to life. “Don’t say that. We know you wouldn’t. And I wouldn’t have wanted you to. Those choices were you, and I loved that about you.”
His features darkened. “You loved that I chose war over us? That every time I said I was done, I changed my mind and let you down?” The bitterness in his words slashed through the air. “Don’t bullshit a bullshitter, baby. I fucked it all up. Call it for what it was.”
Five years worth of my own guilt twisted deep in my stomach. He thought this was all on him when that was as far from the truth as you could get. I had my own stake in our ending, but it would kill him if he knew the truth. Or maybe I was more concerned it would kill me for him to know. For him to hate me for what I did.
He’d always wanted a child. Being a daddy had been higher on his list of goals than fighting for his country. And I’d fucked that up for us. Walking away from him had been for him, not about him. I wanted him to be the daddy he’d always dreamed of, and I couldn’t give that to him anymore, so I’d stayed away when he finally came home.
“I can’t do this….” My voice cracked, and I gulped hard as tears threatened.
If I could take back my choices and make better ones, I would. My choices had been far worse than his.
He moved closer, taking my face in his hands. Before I knew what was happening, his lips were on mine, claiming the kiss that could be my undoing. Because God knew, I’d thought about his kisses every single day I hadn’t had them. His kisses were everything, and this one was no different.
He set me on fire like he always had, and I felt myself falling down the abyss of need he’d always had a way of creating.
I still wanted him just as much as I had when I’d first fallen for him.
But I couldn’t have him.
Not after what I did.
I pulled my mouth from his and pushed him away, thankful when I realised the taxi had pulled up outside my house. Ignoring the torment in his eyes, I said, “We can never go back,” and exited the taxi as fast as I could. Stumbling up the path to my front door, I prayed he wouldn’t come after me. My resolve wasn’t as strong as I wished, and if he pushed for this, I could crumble.
As I stepped through the door, I glanced back at the cab. He stood beside it watching me. I held his gaze for what felt like forever, but neither of us moved.
When I finally closed the door behind me, I sagged against it and slid down to the floor.
Love was agony.
The choices I’d made that had ultimately destroyed us had been made for love.
The first choice had been to save both of us.
The second one had been to save him.
Both had broken me in the process.
3 months later
I lifted my cocktail and smiled at my bestie. “Here’s to a long and happy marriage, and all the sex you can handle.” I lifted the glass a little higher. “And for the love of God, let that sex always be as good as it is now.”
Cleo’s mouth spread out into a huge grin as she nodded. “Hell fucking yes!”
We both took a long swig of our drinks and then Cleo broke out laughing. I had no idea why, but it wasn’t an unusual occurrence for her.
“Okay spill, dude. What’s so funny?”
She took another long drink, her laughter increasing. “I was just thinking about him fucking me this morning. We were going for it, and he almost had me there when he got a leg cramp. He lost his footing and knocked a heap of shit off the kitchen table and then it was one crazy thing after another. You had to be there, but fuck, I love him so hard. He makes every day fun.”
I smiled so big for her. Cleo had been through some assholes, so I was happy she’d finally found Mark. “I love that, babe. You guys are perfect together And I’m so glad your honeymoon was amazing.” She and her husband, Mark, had just returned from Fiji where they’d spent a week.
Her smile eased a little, a serious expression crossing her face. “You’re gonna find your forever guy, Birdie.”
Cleo and I had been BFFs since high school so she knew me and my life inside out. She’d cheered on every one of my successes and cried with me over every heartache. She knew I’d screwed up my forever love years ago, but she still chose to believe another one would come along. I wasn’t so sure.
Eyeing the rest of our friends who were out on the dance floor, I said, “You wanna go dance?”
She squeezed my hand. “I know what you’re doing and I get that you don’t want to think about your love life, and I’ll support that choice right now because we’re all about the fun tonight, but I will never ever give up on finding the right guy for you.” She threw me a grin. “Just so you know.”
“I love you, lady, but if you continue this matchmaking thing you’ve got going on, I’m gonna have to seriously reconsider our friendship.”
Her eyes widened in mock surprise, because Cleo knew I was so not on board with her mission. “What? You don’t like the guys I’ve been sending your way?”
I smiled as I shook my head. It was hard to get mad at her because she was the kindest and most thoughtful person I knew. I drank some more of my cocktail and said, “Well, that last dude you found on that dating website did have a hot ass. I’ll give him that.”
“How do you know that? Did you meet him and not tell me?”
“No, he bombarded my inbox with photos of it.”
She emptied her glass and hit me with a wicked grin. “Any dick pics?” Motioning with her hand, she added, “Show me.”
Laughing, I passed my phone over as I stood. “Knock yourself out.”
She looked up at me. “Where are you going?”
“I’m going to get supplies. We need more drinks.”
“Babe, I’m fucked. Like, if I drink too much more, I might not recover in time for work on Monday.”
She was right, we were both drunk enough already, but I wasn’t ready to stop yet. “One more! And then you can go home and do dirty things to Mark.”
“Ha! I bet he’s already passed out.”
The boys were out tonight too, and there was definitely a 99 percent chance Mark was snoring loudly already.
“You’re having one more drink with me, and then I won’t force any more on you. Be back soon.”
I pushed my way through the rowdy crowd and headed for the bar. A million thoughts filled my mind, so I wasn’t paying much attention to anything or anyone until a deep rumble sounded from beside me when I reached the bar.
It was like time stopped and the world spun as that voice worked its way into my soul.
No, no, no.
I turned to face him, hoping my brain had connected the dots incorrectly. Hoping that when I laid eyes on the guy standing next to me, it wouldn’t be the man who still owned my heart.
His smile hit me first. Laidback and sexy, just like it was in the memories etched into my heart.
Then came his jaw—strong and chiselled. God, how I loved that jaw. It matched everything else about him.
But it was his brown eyes that did me in. The way they watched me with the kind of hunger that told me he’d been starving for way too long caused my knees to buckle.
The universe worked in cruel ways sometimes.
He dragged his gaze from mine and ran his eyes over my face like he was committing every line and angle to memory. There was no need for that, though. God, how I knew there was no need for that. A decade together meant all those lines and angles were so deeply a part of us they could be recalled in the same way lyrics of a long-forgotten song could be.
“What are you drinking?” he asked, finding my gaze again.
I shook my head. “I’m not doing this again, Winter.” Our last catch up three months ago was enough for me to know a repeat was dangerous. Especially when I was already drunk. God knew what I’d agree to with this much alcohol in me.
He opened his mouth to speak, but the bartender cut in, eyeing Winter. “What do you want, man?”
Winter watched me for another moment before answering the guy. “Two Jack and Cokes.”
I tried to get the bartender’s attention, calling out, “Make that one, not two,” but he was already making the drinks. I hit Winter with a glare. “I said no. And besides, I’m here with Cleo and I have to get back to her.”
“What’s she drinking?”
I continued glaring at him. “You’re not listening to me.”
“One drink, Birdie. Just give me that.”
His request slayed me. Not so much what he asked for, but what I could hear in his voice. The pain that still lingered there.
I cursed under my breath at the same time Cleo’s voice sounded from behind me. “Babe, I’m bailing on you. Mark just called—” She stopped abruptly when her gaze landed on Winter. “Oh shit…. Maybe I should stay after all.”
I didn’t want to be the reason she changed her plans, so I did what any best friend would do in this situation and faked the confidence I wished I felt. “No, you should go. I’m good here.”
She narrowed her eyes at me. “Are you sure? I can stay.”
I shooed my hands at her. “I’m sure. Besides, I’m going to go soon, too.”
She glanced down at the text that just hit her phone. “Mark’s outside. Turns out he couldn’t get through tonight without me.” She shoved my phone at me. “Don’t do anything you’ll regret tomorrow!” With that, she rushed off to find her husband, leaving me alone with Winter.
I closed my eyes briefly, trying to centre myself enough to deal with him, before opening them again and taking a deep breath. The desire for him I’d always felt deep in my soul skittered across my skin and fluttered in my stomach. This was going to get messy. I knew that as surely as I knew I’d never stopped loving him.
He slid my drink to me. Eyes focused intently on mine. “You look good.”
The gravel in his tone affected me exactly how it always had. Fuck. I gulped my drink, emptying half the glass. “I look like shit.” It was true. Work had been kicking my ass for a good couple of months and sleep wasn’t my friend. I needed a month-long nap.
“Shit is never a word I’d use to describe how you look, Birdie. Even on your off days you kill it.”
I stared at him, willing him to stop talking and to walk away. He wouldn’t, though. I knew that for sure, too. Winter hadn’t wanted our relationship to end. He’d done everything he could to convince me not to leave. It had taken me moving cities to finally show him we were over. Running into him three months ago, on the day I’d come home to Sydney for good, had rattled me. I’d been concerned he would try to see me again. When he didn’t, I figured it was a sign he’d moved past us. But the look in his eyes told me otherwise.
In an effort to talk about anything but us, I glanced around and asked, “Are you here with anyone?”
His eyes didn’t move from me. “No.” When I tried to avoid eye contact, he said, “Have a couple of drinks with me, Angel. I won’t let you do anything you’ll regret.”
My heart beat faster and my breaths quickened as my eyes found his again. Memories of our life together flooded my mind. Ten years couldn’t just be wiped from memory when you ended a relationship. Neither could the feelings. And him calling me by the name he’d made mine, and making me a promise I knew he’d keep because that was the kind of man he was, softened my resolve.
“Okay,” I agreed with a nod. “But I’m trusting you to make good on that promise.”
He leant his face close to mine, his lips grazing my ear. “I will, but I’m wondering why you need me to. That says something about us, don’t you think?”
I drew in a long breath. He was right, and now I’d shown my cards. I needed to get out of here before this went any further.
Pressing my hand to his chest, I said, “I’ve changed my mind. This is a bad idea.”
I spun on my heel to leave. I’d walk out of here, grab a cab and forget this ever happened.
But Winter had other ideas.
He always had other ideas.
Catching my hand, he spun me back around and pulled me in close. So close I could hardly catch my breath because of the need and want swirling between us. “If you think I’m going to let you walk away from me twice this year, you’re seriously mistaken, Birdie. I’m not ever allowing you to do that again.”
Birdie Beaumont had owned my heart from the moment she waltzed into my life the day I turned twenty. We met at a football match. I’d just won the game for my team, who happened to be her team, and she’d smiled at me as I ran off the field. I hadn’t been able to get the sexy blonde out of my head all day, and when she’d turned up at my birthday party that night with one of my teammates, I’d made it my mission to get to know her. She’d tried to tell me she wanted to date my teammate, but that was bullshit, and she knew it. Our instant connection had scared her, and she did everything to avoid giving in to it.
But I had never been a man who gave up on what I wanted, and I’d pursued the fuck out of her. And here we were, repeating history. Birdie continued to deny her feelings while I decided she’d be mine again.
I held her to me firmly enough that she’d have to fight to escape. “If you think I’m going to let you walk away from me twice this year, you’re seriously mistaken, Birdie. I’m not ever allowing you to do that again.”
Hell, she wasn’t a woman I could go on living without. I’d barely survived the last five years since she’d left me and fled Sydney. Since she’d ripped my heart out. She had no clue she still owned that heart. That my chest was a gaping hole of pain filled with nothing but memories that haunted my days and claimed my nights.
Her eyes found mine, and I saw everything I needed to see to know I hadn’t misread this.
Birdie wanted this as much as I did.
“Winter,” she said breathlessly, but the way she didn’t make any attempt to wiggle out of my embrace betrayed any argument she might attempt. “We can’t—”
I pressed a finger to her lips, silencing her. “I’m just asking for a few drinks. We can go for a coffee somewhere else if you don’t want to drink anymore.”
She remained silent, staring up at me like a deer caught in headlights. Still not moving out of my hold.
“You wanna go grab coffee?” I asked when she didn’t respond. It was actually my preference. It’d be quieter, and I’d have a better chance at getting her talking.
Shaking her head, she stumbled over her words in her haste to get them out. “No, I’ll stay here and have a drink with you. One drink.” It seemed she wasn’t confident about being somewhere quieter with me. That knowledge only confirmed my thoughts that she was trying to shut down her feelings.
I held her for a few moments longer, not wanting to let her go. But I eventually did and then motioned to the bartender for two more drinks.
She moved closer to the bar and placed her clutch down, still doing everything she could to avoid looking at me. I ran my gaze over her while we waited for our drinks.
Fuck, she was beautiful. I’d never found a woman who even came close to matching Birdie. With her blue eyes that captured me every damn time, flawless tanned skin, curves, and legs that went on forever, and those lips I’d spent too many fucking hours thinking about, she had everything that got my blood pumping. But it wasn’t just her physical attractiveness that took my breath away. Birdie was the complete package with a soul that far exceeded any beauty she had on the outside. Everyone who met her was drawn to her in inexplicable ways. She was like that song you loved and couldn’t get out of your head, but for the life of you, couldn’t figure out why you loved it so much. Kind and thoughtful in ways many weren’t, Birdie marched to the beat of her own drum, and I was powerless to do anything but hang off every vibration.
I paid for the drinks and slid hers across the bar, finally finding her eyes. I caught her off guard, and she quickly looked down. Before I could stop myself, I leaned in close and said, “Remember that night in Hobart when we got blind drunk and you ended up in that water fountain halfnaked before I could stop you? It was so damn cold that night and I—”
“You dragged me out of it, wrapped me in your T-shirt and jacket, and threw me over your shoulder so you could carry me to the taxi. And you froze your ass off—”
I held her eyes. “Because I loved you and I would have done anything for you.” I paused, my fucking chest squeezing with love for her. “I still would.” I didn’t need to remind her of the long night of sex we’d had that night. It had been the kind of sex no one would ever forget. But then, we’d always had that kind.
She took a deep breath and exhaled it slowly before taking a sip of her drink. “What are you doing, Winter?”
“Remembering the good times we had.”
“Yeah well, they’re just memories now. Dragging them up only hurts.”
“So you don’t ever think about us? I call bullshit on that.”
“You can call bullshit all you like, but it’s been five years and I’ve moved on.”
“You’re dating someone at the moment?”
She tensed like she used to when she tried to evade my questions. “I’ve just started seeing someone.”
The idea of another man’s hands on her tore me up, but it wasn’t anything I hadn’t thought of over the last five years. I pushed my displeasure down deep, locked that shit up because it wouldn’t get me anywhere tonight. “So he means nothing to you yet is what you’re telling me.”
“No, Winter. What I’m telling you is that we’ve been out a few times and I like him.”
I’d really fucked up our relationship when I hadn’t listened to her needs all those years ago. She had never demanded I walk away from the military, but if I’d stopped for just one moment and seen her and the struggles she’d been going through, I would have left a helluva lot sooner. And we’d still be together today.
This dickhead she was seeing had fucking nothing on what I could give Birdie. We had history, and that had to count for something. I knew everything about her. That her favourite singer was Eminem and her favourite colour was pink; that she reserved Sundays for family and meal prep; that she organised her clothes for the entire week on a Sunday night; that she always fell asleep watching TV at night and never usually made it past 9:00 p.m. because she was always up at 4:30 a.m. to go running. I knew her heart, and who had trampled over it. And all the regrets she’d ever had.
I might not have known her for the last five years, but I knew more than this new asshole did.
“How’s your mum, Angel?”
Her eyes widened a smidge, and she gulped down her drink. Placing the empty glass down, she picked up her clutch. “We’ve had our drink, and now I’m going home. My mum is good and no, she doesn’t ask about you anymore.”
My lips twitched at the attitude she threw my way. It was a low blow, me asking about her mother. Jennifer had always loved me and had rooted for me after Birdie ended our relationship. She’d kept in touch with me for a long time, keeping me updated on her daughter and the fact she was still trying to make her see sense.
Didn’t hurt to remind her of my ties to her family, though. At this point, I’d use every weapon in my arsenal.
When she took a step away from me, I reached for her. The spark of our skin touching couldn’t be denied, not even by her. I saw it in the flare of her eyes when they met mine again.
“You can run and you can try to hide, but eventually you will be mine again.” I leaned in close. “I’m going to enjoy the fuck out of the chase, just like I did the last time we played this game.”
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