How much can a man take before he breaks?
1,843 days. That’s how long I survived in that hellhole. They tried to break me, but I resisted. And I owe it all to the memory of warm summer nights, the scent of peaches, and the one woman who loved me more than I ever deserved to be loved. Now, I’ll do anything to get back to her.
Only Shelby Eubanks isn’t the girl I left behind all those years ago. She’s someone else, a stranger. My Shelby-my little green-eyed firecracker-would never give up her dreams, would never disappear into her mother’s ambitions. But I won’t give up on her. On us. I may be broken, and scarred, and not the man I used to be, but I will do whatever it takes to remind her of the story of us.
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I just need a moment alone, to remember how to breathe and to remember how to push the hurt away so I can go back out there and do my job. Hold my head high with a smile on my face and pretend like dancing with Eli, being close to Eli, and letting him rain insults down on me, didn’t cut me in half.
As soon as I turn the handle and push open the office door, I feel something solid slam into me from behind, moving me faster into the dark room. I trip over my feet and an arm slides around my waist to steady me before whirling me around. I smell his soap and recognize his firm hold on me before the moonlight shining in the floor-to-ceiling windows behind me illuminates the shadow of his face, but that doesn’t stop the rapid thumping of my heart as the door is kicked shut with a slam and my body is turned and pushed roughly against the wall next to it. With the first touch of his hands, the first feel of the heat from his skin against me, I’m lost. I’m drowning in a pool of desire I’ve only ever felt with him, and I never want to come up for air. Every inch of my body is on fire, begging for more, needing everything I’ve been missing, but knowing everything about this moment is wrong. This can’t happen. I can’t want this and I certainly can’t act on what I’m feeling.
Before I can shove him away, shout at him, and tell him to let me go, his mouth is on mine. His chest pins my arms between us and I clutch a fistful of his dress shirt in my hands when my lips automatically part for him. His tongue quickly pushes into my mouth and I feel tears prickling behind my eyelids when I taste him, so familiar and so beautiful it breaks off yet another piece of my heart. One of his hands moves from around my waist and I feel the heat from his palm as it slides against the side of my neck to the back, his fingers gripping tightly to the hair at the base of my skull to hold my head in place. His kiss is punishing and hard and I can do nothing but hold tightly to the front of his shirt as our tongues battle together and I try to remember how to breathe.