Her life changed in an instant. And he's the only one who could have prevented it.
From the New York Times bestselling author of The Pact and The Lie comes a new standalone contemporary romance about those McGregor men.
Jessica Charles shouldn't have even been in London when the unthinkable happened. She should have been back at home in Edinburgh, perhaps hanging with her boyfriend, having drinks with her sister or doing yoga with her group of friends. She should have been going on in her normal, dependable life as always. But on that fateful day in August, when a mentally-ill ex-soldier opened fire in public, Jessica's world changed forever.
Now single and crippled from the gunshot wounds, Jessica finds herself scared and alone, losing faith in herself and humanity with each agonizing moment that passes. That is until a stranger enters her life. A stranger who makes her live again. Keir McGregor has always been the strong, silent type. Throw in tall, dark, and handsome and you've got pretty much the perfect Scotsman. Except Keir is anything but perfect. He's got a past he's running away from and a guilty conscience he can't seem to shed.
But the more time he spends with Jessica, the more he falls in love with her. And the more his secret threatens to tear them apart. He may have been a stranger to her. But she’s never been a stranger to him.
“Sit. I’ll get you another drink.”
“It’s getting late,” I say feebly but I sit down anyway, my leg giving a protest of pain.
“You need something for that?” he says, noticing my wince.
“The scotch will do fine,” I tell him quickly, not wanting him to make a fuss.
“But really, I should go.”
“Why?” he asks from the kitchen. I hear the top pop off the bottle, the slosh of liquid in the glass. “Where do you have to be?”
I have to think about that for a moment. He comes over and holds out the glass. “I won’t keep you here if you don’t want to be here. But if you do want to be here, you don’t need to make any excuses.” I take the glass from him, holding it delicately in my fingers. He stands over me, a massive wall, waiting for some kind of response.
“I just…” I begin. “I…” I take a sip for bravery. Swallow. “I’m not very good at this.”
“Good at what?” “At…this. Being with a man.”
When he doesn’t say anything to that, I look up at him. He’s got a peculiar smile on his face, his brows raised. “You call this being with a man?”
I clear my throat, feeling my cheeks grow hot. “I mean. I’ve told you before –”
“Yes, how you don’t do relationships, how you don’t do sex.”
“I never said I don’t do sex,” I remind him quickly.
His eyes never stop searching my face. “Then what is it? What are you afraid to say?”
I have the sudden urge to flee and I know it must show because he suddenly points at me and says, “Don’t you dare say you have to go again. I want you to go back to what you said, that you’re not good at this. What is this? Us? You and me? There’s nothing mystifying about you and me, Jessica. You know quite well how I feel.”
I stare at him in shock. I do? “How?” He looks off with an air of impatience.
“I invited you to dinner, you turned me down.”
“But then you said just as friends.”
“And I meant it. But there are different types of friends. It’s up to you to decide what kind we are.” I put my drink down with a clunk.
“Holy pressure.” And now it’s not just my face going hot but my entire body, flushed from head to toe.
“You’re on fire, little red,” he says, his gaze skirting over my limbs in such a hungry way I can almost feel them on my skin.
“I have to say, I like this look on you. Hot and bothered.”
“Back with the innuendos again,” I comment but my voice is weak.
“No, no innuendos this time. You came looking for me tonight not because you wanted to confess but because you want something from me. What is it? What do you want from me? What do you think I can give you?”
Jesus. This is so utterly unnerving. His words slice right through me, his eyes still peeling under the layers, trying to get at something I’m not even sure of myself. If I lie, he’ll know. I can only be honest with him.
“I want…” I take in a deep breath, my eyes breaking away. “I want…company.”
“Company?” He sounds surprised.
I nod. “That’s the truth. I’m lonely. And I’m afraid. And I’m tired of being both those things. I want to be with someone who makes me forget who I am. You make me feel fearless in a way I didn’t think possible.”
There. That’s the truth. Most of it. It hangs in the air, thickening the tension like flour to stock. He sits down next to me, has a mouthful of Scotch.
“Wow,” he says, running his hand over the beard on his jaw. “And here I was thinking you wanted my cock.”
I burst out laughing. So does he, a big wonderful bellow. The tension in the room eases up a notch. “Sorry,” I tell him when I catch my breath. “I guess they can both mean the same thing.”
He sucks in his lip briefly, his eyes taking a lustful turn. “If you want it to.” We stare at each other for a few heavy beats. Then his focus trails back to my gaze and he says,
“Why don’t you stay over?” And there I have it. The chance to know what those full lips would feel like on mine, what his skin would taste like.
I swallow hard.
I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review. 5 of 5 stars!
The Debt could be summarized in few sentences with ununderstandable words and lots of tears and some smiles.
As one of the stand-alone stories from the Pact series, this beauty is also one of the most emotional, strongest books I've ever read by Karina Halle. Keir and Jessica both fight their own demons, he from his memories in Afganistan and she from the horrible incident which left her crippled.
And both try to find solace in each other, which leads them to gradually fall in love. But the point with this book is not just the swoon-worthy hero who looks a lot like Gerald Butler, nor the Scottish landscapes which are a challenge themselves.
Is the way Karina represents issues like PTSD, the survivor's guilt and how difficult relationships can be when two people don't know what they want from each other. It tore me to see Jessica try to come to terms with her situations and how Keir's horrible nightmares made him feel like he sometimes didn't deserve to be alive.
But I also loved how both, in the end, wanted to continue living to battle their demons and survive. This book was strong, a true gem in setting representation to issues many people deal with every day and they fear to speak to their loved ones.
I hope Karina Halle will always be one of the authors who will write not only about sexy heroes and heroines but also represent issues of this society and how these people can overcome them.
Truly recommended! ;)
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