Title: The Way Back Home
Author: Carmen Jenner
Genre: Military Romance
Release Date: May 29, 2017
August Cotton shouldn’t be here. When a tragic accident calls him home to Magnolia Springs, this returned Veteran adds his parents to the list of things he’s lost in recent years, right along with his IED detection dog and his left leg. As the sole guardian of his four-year-old sister, August must rely on his Marine training in raising a tiny hellion who’s as stubborn as he is. But the Corps could never prepare him for this. Nor could they prepare him for Olivia Anders, a woman who’ll stop at nothing to get her way.
As owner of Paws for Cause, Olivia is no stranger to the broken men and women who return home from war. She’s no stranger to broken dogs either. In fact, she’s made it her mission to pair the two and enrich both of their lives, but pairing ornery and aloof August Cotton will take some work. The last thing August wants is some pushy southern woman occupying his parents’ bed and breakfast and forcing him to open up about the hell he narrowly escaped, but that’s exactly what Olivia intends.
They complete one another, and yet they can’t stand to be in the same room.
Can Olivia make this hardened Marine feel again and finally show his heart the way back home?
*** Intended for a mature 18+ audience only. This book may contain triggers for some readers.
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He eliminates the distance between us. His free hand snakes around my waist and pulls me up against his hard body, but he doesn’t lean in, not even when I reach up on my tiptoes. It feels as if I’m waiting on the edge of a precipice, afraid that I’ll fall and terrified that I won’t.
“Kiss me, August.”
He exhales and presses a kiss to the top of my hair. His arms tighten, and he whispers, “I can’t.”
The whole world comes crashing down around me. I glare at him and pull free of his grasp, willing away the tears that threaten to spill from my eyes.
“You know, if you want to see me naked and sweaty, all you have to do is ask, darlin’.”
“I do not . . . I wasn’t . . .” My words are stolen from me as he stalks forward with a maddening smirk on his face. “What are you doing?”
“Getting tired of waiting for you to be okay with this.”
“August, we talked about boundaries.” I press my hand to his chest because he’s too close, and I can’t think straight with the heady scent of his sweat and sandalwood soap distracting me. It wasn’t my intention to run my hand over that sweat, to feel the hard-won muscle beneath, but here I am, petting him as if he’s my favorite kitty.
“No. You talked about boundaries. I told you I was gonna fight, and I ain’t above fightin’ dirty.”
“How dirty?” I breathe.
August’s lips curl up into a smile. “So dirty.”
Both hands snake around my waist and he lifts me onto the counter, wedging his hips between my thighs. He hooks a finger in the sash and unties my robe as if he were opening a gift made just for him. I wrap my legs around his hips to pull him closer, and that’s all the admission he needs. He threads a hand through my hair and pulls my neck back to expose the tender flesh to his mouth. I close my eyes and whisper his name as my whole body turns to flame, starved for the oxygen that only his touch can bring. His hot mouth trails down my neck, his hands cup my breasts, squeezing, kneading, and I slide a hand between us, into the waistband of his shorts. I take his hard length in my hand, stroking him from base to tip. August grunts as he pushes my negligee out of the way with frenzied hands. His fingers find me bare and exposed with no panties.
“So fucking’ dirty,” he groans, wetting his lips.
I climb off the bike and slowly push it up the drive before abandoning it in the graveyard of broken mowers, tractor parts, and cars that make up the Cottons’ garage. I’m stalling. I know this. I know that he didn’t mean to hurt me. It was my mistake—I screwed up. I ache all over, and I want to just melt into a hot bath, but the second I walk in the door August is there, towering before me.
“Olivia,” he says. His eyes are red-rimmed, bloodshot, and stricken.
“No.” I shake my head and step back. I’m afraid if I let him apologize, if I don’t walk away now he’ll see between the cracks. He’ll discover why my arms are scarred. He’ll find that darkness within me, and I won’t know how to put it all back inside. I won’t be able to reel in the thread that’s unraveling from my center, promising to smother all that’s good like so much black tar and sorrow. “I can’t. Not tonight.”
“I’m so sorry. I feel sick to my stomach.”
“I can’t do this now,” I say more firmly, pushing past.
“Olivia, please?” August grabs my arms, drawing me against him. I struggle in his grasp, but it’s useless.
“Don’t touch me!” Tears spill over my eyes, and I shut my lids against the pain that feels as if it will tear me in two. “Let me go, please?”
“Are we going to ignore it forever?” The words are sharper than I intend, and they slice through the silence as if they were a roar, bitter and bruised with frustration.
His whole body stills. “No.”
“Then why won’t you say something?”
“What am I supposed to say?” he shoots back, equally as angry, and I’m stunned for a second, because it’s he who walked away, it’s he who’s been avoiding me, and he who seems to be perfectly fine, while I’m the one feeling like I just handed him my heart and he stomped all over it.
“What do you want to say?” I snap. “Obviously, you’re angry with me. You can’t even look at me. You haven’t looked at me since—”
“I can’t stop looking at you,” he hisses. “It’s all I’ve done since you got here, seen you and nothing else.”
“Then what?” I plead. “What aren’t you saying?”
“I’m terrified, okay?” he shouts, standing up and slamming his fist down on the table. I flinch. Zora sits up and growls. “I’m absolutely fucking terrified.”
“Of you, of this.”
Carmen Jenner is a thirty-something, USA Today and international bestselling author. Her dark romance, KICK (Savage Saints MC #1), won Best Dark Romance Read in the Reader’s Choice Awards at RWDU, 2015. A tattoo enthusiast, hardcore makeup addict and zombie fangirl, Carmen lives on the sunny North Coast of New South Wales, Australia, where she spends her time indoors wrangling her two wildling children, a dog named Pikelet, and her very own man-child. A romantic at heart, Carmen strives to give her characters the HEA they deserve, but not before ruining their lives completely first … because what’s a happily ever after without a little torture?
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