Albert Camus

Don't walk behind me; I may not lead. Don't walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Can't Hold Back (Returning Home #2) by Serena Bell

In this tender military romance from the bestselling author of Hold on Tight—perfect for fans of of Jill Shalvis and Susan Mallery—a war-shattered veteran gets a second chance at love with the one that got away.


Release Date: December 15th, 2015 

In this tender military romance from the bestselling author of Hold on Tight—perfect for fans of of Jill Shalvis and Susan Mallery—a war-shattered veteran gets a second chance at love with the one that got away.

No girl can resist a man in uniform—especially if that man is Nate Riordan. But after an injury in the line of duty leaves Nate broken, body and soul, the soldier finds himself addicted to his pain meds, with no place to call home. Desperate for an escape, Nate reluctantly accepts a friend’s invitation to a new veterans’ retreat. Expecting a little R&R, Nate is shocked when the sight of his physical therapist opens up another old wound: heartbreak.

Years ago, Alia Drake fell hard for Nate, but never made her move. Instead, she set up her sister with the sexy, confident military man, a foolish decision that continues to haunt all three of them. Now, with Nate as her patient, she can make things right—even if it means getting too close for comfort. A healing touch and a little honesty work wonders, fueling a physical intimacy that crosses professional boundaries. This time, with desire in the air once more, Alia won’t hold anything back.


Nate lifted a kayak off the rack, and a spasm of pain in his shoulder caught him off guard. The kayak tilted, and he righted it quickly and lowered it to the ground. Cracking the resort’s kayak wouldn’t be a good way to return the favor Jake had done by taking him in.

He was damn grateful to Jake. For inviting him to stay at R&R, and for keeping the offer open even after Nate had stubbornly refused it the first time. And he was grateful to Braden and his grandparents, for giving him a project. A reason to get clean and stay that way, something to hold on to as he’d flushed the last oxys down the toilet. A purpose to cling to as he’d picked up the phone and dialed Jake’s number and on the long drive down from Seattle, when the pain in his head and neck had filled his mind and almost drowned out the Mariners game on the radio.

But somehow he’d kept his eyes on the road and his foot on the gas.

I got this, J.J.

He rubbed his shoulder, shrugged it a few times, but that only made things worse. He was going to have to bull through it today. And tomorrow. And the next day.

He crossed to the shed for a life jacket and a paddle.

The pain was mysterious and ever-changing. Sometimes it was a stab behind his eyes or a wave of nausea, the migraines he’d been told to expect in a wake of the blast. More frequently, it was his neck, his shoulders, his back, all of which had taken a beating when the blast had thrown him. That made sense. But sometimes the pain obeyed no logic. It started in one place and spread, lighting up points all over his body until he felt patched together out of signal flares of pain. Here! And Here! And Here again! Or it was everywhere at once, like the flu, an ache that told him where he began and the rest of the world ended.

It had definitely been worse since he’d watched his pain meds spin in the water funnel.

He’d seriously contemplated snatching them back up. He knew what that meant. You only thought about putting your hands in the toilet to recover melting tablets if you were an addict. And of course he’d known, long before he’d flushed, that he was. But there was nothing like having it spelled out. 

This drug owns you.
This pain owns you.

But he didn’t care about that right now. He was going to do this, keep moving forward, haul himself bodily over every obstacle, and cling to the incline with bleeding fingertips if necessary.

With effort, he slid the kayak to the edge of the dock and into the water. He wedged his paddle behind the seat and slipped in. He’d kayaked a ton as a kid, so he knew the ropes, including self-rescue. Still, he’d forgotten the particular gravity of a slim boat like this one, and as he pushed off, he almost capsized. The effort of stabilizing sent arrows of pain up the right side of his back. Damn.

There was a woman standing on the dock.
Alia Drake.

“We had an appointment.” She frowned across the small but growing span of water between them, her arms crossed.

He didn’t bother asking how she’d known to look for him here. When he’d headed this way, he’d walked past a group of guys sitting on the back porch. If she was hunting for him, she would have asked them if they’d seen him.

“Sorry,” he muttered. Only he wasn’t. He’d deliberately blown off the appointment, because—well, for a lot of reasons. Because he’d had enough physical therapy to be sure that whatever was wrong with him, PT wasn’t going to fix it. Because he hated medical offices and doctors and nurses and PTs. And most of all, because the last thing he needed right now was Alia Drake.

The space between them was widening. The temptation to start paddling full speed away from her was strong, and the only thing that kept him from doing it was the fact that pain still had his neck in a death grip. He took a deep breath and waited for it to subside.

She turned away from him, and for a moment he thought she’d given up, but then she came toward him with a lifejacket and paddle in her hands. He watched as she lifted a kayak from the rack and dropped it effortlessly into the water.


She slid neatly in, surprisingly graceful for such a tall woman, and pushed off.
“I don’t want company.”
“Tough. I told Jake I’d help you.”
“And this is helping me how?” He was mad enough to look her full in the face, and that was a big mistake.

She looked right back at him, utterly uncowed, and her gray-green eyes were generously fringed with sooty lashes. Her cheeks were pink with anger.

She was startlingly pretty. He’d privately thought her the more beautiful of the two sisters, even though Becca’s beauty was more conventional. When Alia had made it clear that she wasn’t interested—that her sister was the available one—Nate had given only one backward, regretful glance—metaphorically—before turning his appreciation on Becca.

But now he admired the thick, glossy strands of Alia’s straight, medium-length dark hair. She wore no makeup, and he was charmed—against his will—by the freckles scattered over her nose and cheekbones. She was tall for a woman, and strong. On the dock, when her legs had been level with his eyes, he’d surprised himself with the impulse to run his hands over the muscle in her legging-clad thighs and strong bare calves. And yet—he’d noted, before the life jacket and spray skirt had covered most of her—she had curves, too. Nothing showy. Everything in proportion. She looked—real. That was it. As if she were built for purpose, not for any man’s entertainment.

About the author:
USA Today bestselling author Serena Bell writes richly emotional stories about big-hearted characters with real troubles and the people who are strong and generous enough to love them.

Serena loves to embrace new hobbies, and has at various times enjoyed birdwatching, backpacking, violin, Ultimate Frisbee, skiing, tennis, ice-skating, dance, needlepoint, kayaking, paddleboarding, meditating, and swimming laps—to name just a few.

Her supportive husband lovingly accepts each new hobby and all the equipment it requires, and her two school-aged children provide opportunities to explore new activities like coaching basketball and remembering just how much math she's forgotten.

You can sign up for her new release updates!

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