Lt. Grayson Masters is focused on graduating the Apache helicopter course, and the last thing he needs is his gorgeous new roommate Samantha Fitzgerald distracting him. While her smart mouth and free spirit are irresistibly irritating, he can’t deny their off-the-charts chemistry, no matter how hard he tries.
Having just been expelled from college, Sam has no business digging for Grayson’s secrets while she’s hiding her own, but that doesn’t stop her from trying to tear down his walls. Each barrier she busts through drops one of her own, though, and she’s not prepared for the truth: another woman laid claim to Grayson’s heart long ago.
Falling in love is something neither Grayson nor Sam can afford, and when that line is crossed and secrets are exposed, they’ll learn that sometimes it’s the answered prayers that will put you through hell.
“Samantha?” His eyes softened, revealing the give in him, and it cracked my own defenses.
“Have you ever made a mistake, Grayson? And I don’t mean the kind that costs you an apology. I mean one that destroys you? Where you lie awake at night, unable to sleep, because you’re terrified of what’s going to happen the next day, and the one after that? Where you’d give anything, and I do mean anything to go back and make a different a choice? Where you’re sick all the time at the thought of what you’ve done? Because I have. I’ve crumbled my entire future, shredded any hope of finishing college, and killed off who I used to be. And I don’t…I don’t know how to come back from something like that.”
I jerked back, but he held me immobile against him.
“Stop, and listen to me. I’m not going to belittle you by saying nothing is that bad, because some things are. Things happen that change who we are, and what we’re capable of. So you’re not going to ‘come back’ from that any more than you’re going to erase whatever you did. You have to decide if you’re going to try to keep patching yourself up or if you’re going to tear down and rebuild.”
“I don’t know how to do that.”
“You wade through the pain, and the guilt, and the excuses you make to yourself. Stop drowning in alcohol to numb the fear, and suck up the bitter taste of accountability. You move on with who you are now. It’s not easy. If you think you screwed up that badly, then maybe you did, but you also have to leave room for the chance that you didn’t. Have you talked about it?”
I shook my head. There were two of us who knew the whole truth, and that circle was big enough. “I’m not sure I’m ready to let go of everyone’s vision of who I am. It’s so much prettier than the truth.”
“Not even Ember?”
“Definitely not think-through-everything-twice Ember. She wouldn’t understand, and I’m not sure I could handle her reaction.”
He swallowed and broke our stare like it had become too much because we both knew the truth—it had. “That’s the hardest part, letting someone see who you really are—scars and all. I’m…” He cleared his throat. “You need to trust someone enough to tell them the truth. Make peace with it before it eats you alive. I listen really well if you don’t have anyone else.”
I scrambled to throw up a wall between us. It was safer when he was hurling snotty comments at me. That, I knew how to handle. But this Grayson? The one holding me carefully, keeping me warm while the storm raged outside, offering to help carry the crippling weight destroying me? I didn’t know what the hell to do with that one.
“Why would you even offer? Everything you know about me is a mess. I drink too much, wear too-little clothes, dance on bars, and impose on everyone around me because I can’t get my shit together.”
“You can get your shit together, you’ve just chosen not to up until now. You took that first step with Maggie. I’m offering because I’ve made that kind of mistake, Sam, the one you don’t come back from. I look at you, and I see what I went through. It’s too late for me.” He took a deep breath. “But you? You’re going to spring back, so yeah, I’m offering.”
“As friends?” I held my breath, needing to hear it. The push and pull, the attraction, it was all there on my side, but I wasn’t sure about his, and I wasn’t about to make an ass out of myself. We were roommates, and this could get complicated really quickly.
Our eyes locked, and heat skimmed down my limbs, leaving chills in its wake. “We’re both adults—”
“Well, trying to be,” I joked.
His lips quirked up at the corners. Almost a smile. “Right. I’m not going to say that I’m not insanely attracted to you. I don’t lie. Ever. Plus, I’d have to be dead not to realize the way you affect me. But I’m also not in any position to act on it, and let’s be honest—you’re not, either. But I think we can stop picking each other apart and be friends.”
“Friends that are insanely attracted to each other?”
He inhaled sharply, like my attraction to him had been some secret. Yeah right. I’m pretty sure my body threw out “screw me now” signals the minute he walked into a room, even when I was angry with him. Hell, perversely, especially when I was angry with him.
The siren wailed again, and I jumped, despite the exhaustion pummeling me.
“An hour to go,” I muttered, looking at my iPad.
“Relax and try to get some sleep.”
“Like there’s a chance of that.” But he tucked the comforter up to my chin and drew me closer, so my head rested on his chest.
“Just try. Some of us have to get up for work in the morning.” His tone was light and teasing, so I didn’t jump his case about giving me shit.
I yawned, feeling my body betray me and start to shut down like he’d flipped some magic Sam-sleep button. “I’m glad we can be friends.” Sleep slurred my words.
Rebecca Yarros is a hopeless romantic and lover of all things chocolate, coffee, and Paleo. In addition to being a mom, military wife, and blogger, she can never choose between Young Adult and New Adult fiction, so she writes both. She’s a graduate of Troy University, where she studied European history and English, but still holds out hope for an acceptance letter to Hogwarts. Her blog, The Only Girl Among Boys, has been voted the Top Military Mom Blog the last two years, and celebrates the complex issues surrounding the military life she adores.
When she’s not writing, she’s tying on hockey skates for her kids, or sneaking in some guitar time. She is madly in love with her army-aviator husband of eleven years, and they’re currently stationed in Upstate NY with their gaggle of rambunctious kiddos and snoring English Bulldog, but she would always rather be home in Colorado.