A new adult romance from Entangled's Embrace imprint...
Some things can never be fixed...
Nothing feels right. Not since my best friend died and I screwed up the one promise he asked me to make. The past follows me everywhere, tangling me up like weeds, reminding me that my life is empty. So goddamn empty.
Then she walks into the bar, all bright beauty and sweet lips made for kissing.
Em Stewart is a complication...one I need to avoid. She's got heavy secrets of her own, ones she hides from her friends-and lies about to herself.
No matter how hard I try, I can't resist her, and our unexpected road trip sure as hell isn't helping my cause. But I'll be damned if I screw up my first chance at something real...
|Product dimensions:||5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.39(d)|
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By Erin Butler, Heather Howland
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2015 Erin Butler
All rights reserved.
Figured. The one night my brother convinced me to go out, anything and everything reminded me of Kelsey Larkin, which in turn reminded me how everything had gone to shit since she'd picked Chase over me.
We sat at the bar at Pete's, a small dive in the center of town and a major hangout with the college student crowd, which was why I usually avoided it — and Finn gravitated to it. They pretended to card, but not very carefully, especially if you were female and showing some skin. Both were prerequisites for my older brother, so, at least one of us was happy.
I sure as hell wasn't. Hadn't been since Kelsey gave me her ultimatum a few months ago — accept Chase, or we were done. But just how was I supposed to accept the guy who killed my best friend? I hadn't figured that out yet and damn well didn't feel like trying.
I hadn't seen her since.
Nights like this though, regret seeped in deep. The emptiness overwhelmed me like it used to, which scared the shit out of me. I'd tried to shut my eyes between Finn's nudges to look at this girl or that girl to drown out the commotion around me. It made it easier to think, and to hope for a better day tomorrow.
But tonight Finn was on a mission to get me to return to the living, as he put it. Kelsey wouldn't leave my head, though, no matter how loud the music or how crowded the bar. No matter how much I wished I could feel like I had before the accident. My head was a fucked up place to be. And that was before Kelsey's friend Em strolled into the bar and turned my shitty night out into a fucking unbearable one.
Now she wasn't just in my head, she was in my goddamn face.
Surrounded by a few girlfriends — luckily none of them were Kelsey — Em eyed the crowd as if we were all fish in a bowl. When her gaze landed on me, she waved. I gave her a slight wave back, right before her friends dragged her toward the dance floor and started dancing, Em in the middle.
I turned to Finn. He'd persuaded me to come out by saying he needed a wingman. It was bullshit. He had no trouble getting girls to sleep with him, but he knew exactly what to say to get me out where he could work on me about not being a hermit and wasting the best years of my life and whatever else he'd been spewing since we'd straddled the wooden stools.
"You know her?" he asked, his stare following Em across the floor, the wheels in his head already turning, contemplating whether Em could — or would — help me with my "problem." According to Finn, part of my issue was I hadn't gotten laid in a year. He didn't want me to have sex to forget about Kelsey. He wanted me to stop thinking, period. Finn had never understood, though. The emptiness was the problem.
I needed to put a stop to Finn's thoughts right then. Even if I were the type to use women, Em would be the last girl I'd choose. Well, second to the last. Kelsey would edge her out. "She's a friend of Kelsey's."
Finn stopped his incessant scratching at the label on his beer, his face tightening with an unspoken curse. "Don't let it get to you, man. You've been doing better."
"I'm fine." If he were in my head, he would know I was just a damn good pretender.
He stepped into my line of sight, blocking the view of the dance floor, and quirked a knowing eyebrow at me. "Yeah. You're fine. Why the hell are you squeezing the life out of that beer then?"
He was right. I loosened my grip on the bottle and took a swig. "Forget it, bro. Just find a lady so we can get the hell out of here."
"Easy for you to say. Pops gave you the apartment. And you're not even using it to its full advantage. Why don't we both find some ladies and get laid?"
A couple of years older than I am, Finn should've been Dad's go-to choice to have the apartment after our older brother Declan moved out to get a place with his girlfriend, but they'd never really seen eye-to-eye. He was still stuck at home because of me and never missed a chance to remind me of that fact either.
"Dude. Like I haven't let you have use of the apartment. Jesus. When are you going to let that shit go? Dad doesn't trust you. You only think about sex, girls, and beer. In that order."
"What's wrong with that? You are loyal to a fucking fault. Live a little, man." He pointed at the sea of faces. "You can't tell me you haven't noticed girls checking us out." Voice falling to a whisper, he leaned in close. "This shit isn't kosher, Ronan. He didn't mean for you to stop living your life."
My body froze and I gripped the neck of my beer hard. Mentioning Kyle Larkin was dangerous. He hadn't known him like I did. He had no idea what Kyle meant when he told me to take care of Kelsey. A quick count to ten later, like I'd taught myself to do, I leaned over and placed my forearms on the bar. "Listen, bro, if you wanted the apartment, you should have stayed working at the shop, or —"
"I work at the shop." He took a swallow of his beer. "Sometimes."
Finn's definition of "sometimes" was once a month, if that. I couldn't even remember the last time he was there and actually got under a car. He'd answer the phones and set up appointments, but blue-collar work didn't seem to be in his repertoire. To him, I was crazy for enjoying it.
My brother glanced over his shoulder, eyes already shining with alcohol haze. "Quit your shit. We're about to be twinning."
Finn had a hot girl detector. The thing was like sonar. Military grade.
Curious, I peeked in the same direction until I zeroed in on a set of twins in skintight dresses. One in white. One in black. They did nothing for me, but Finn would expect me to play nice and flirt.
Instead of smiling or even acknowledging them, I did my best to ignore the whole situation. I had my own shit to worry about and didn't feel like fucking pretending tonight. I was in no shape to let a girl into my life. The shackles were invisible but they were there. There was a constant tug-of-war going on inside, where part of me wanted to suck it up and see Kelsey again so I could keep her safe like Kyle wanted, but the other part couldn't fathom forgiving Chase. She'd asked me to do something impossible and then chosen him over me. At the moment, my own mind was still winning out.
Finn leaned casually back against the bar. All he had to do was smile and the twins came slinking over. "Okay," he asked, his smile filling the entire bottom half of his face, "who's the bad one and who's the good one?"
When they giggled, Finn nudged my arm, and I reluctantly spun toward them. The one in white looked me over and licked her lips.
Was that supposed to be sexy? Probably. It honestly had no effect on me. Before I examined that reaction, an excited yell caught my attention. "Bear!"
I turned, thankful someone had helped me out of this awkward situation until I saw who it was.
Em held out her hands and made grabby motions. It was obvious she was trashed. As with Kelsey, I hadn't seen Em in months, and never in our history had we ever done the hug-when-we-saw-each-other thing. A smile and a wave, maybe. She was just Kelsey's cute, energetic friend who sometimes talked really loud and happened to be around a lot.
Finn poked me in the shoulder and gestured toward her. Em's hands were still outstretched. Sighing, I pulled her into a hug.
When she backed away, she wobbled a little. She righted herself by placing her hand on one of the bar stools. After pausing briefly to make sure she could stand without help, she smiled up at me. "You should buy me a drink. My boyfriend went on vacation without me because he's a douchebag, like whoa, and my friends dragged me out here so I won't sit at home and wallow all by myself."
That sounded exactly like something Em would say even if she weren't shitfaced.
"No," the girl next to her said, "we brought you here to find someone better."
Em sneered, grabbed the drink out of the girl's hand and downed it. "They're bitches, Bear. Don't mind them."
I lowered my head to hide the chuckle forcing its way out. Em was always like that. She gave it to you straight. "What's their problem?"
"I don't know. I'm like the mom and all my kids are fighting."
The girl snatched the empty glass out of Em's hand and slammed it on the bar. "Um, hello." She grabbed Em by the shoulders and twirled her in a circle. "He could have taken this on vacation," she said, motioning to Em's body.
Since it had been pointed out to me, I couldn't help but look. Damn. Em had grown up.
"You deserve better, and deep down you know it," her friend said.
Em's girlfriends cheered while she pouted.
I motioned toward the bartender. "One round for the girls, on me."
They squealed, then shouted their orders all at once. When the drinks came up, Em passed me a shot glass and held her own in the air. "To high school, when things were easy." She clinked her glass with mine then threw it back.
Toasting to high school seemed appropriate. In high school, Kyle was still alive and I didn't feel like I let him down every damn second of every day. Back then, for the first time, I'd been a part of a group of people that were something special. We were friends. We were everything to each other. Now, I was left out again.
I tossed my shot back without knowing what it was. A nasty licorice taste coated my tongue. Ugh. Sambuca. It did not go well with the beer I'd been nursing.
One of Em's friends slid another shot across the bar toward me, and I swallowed that, too. I figured what the hell. If I had to see Em, I might as well try and get too drunk to remember it.
The twins had each slid an arm around Finn's waist. I hid a smile. Only my brother could pull off crazy shit like that.
Finn rested his hand on my shoulder. "You need any help with these ladies?"
"Nope." I plastered a smile on my face. The sooner he left, the faster I could sneak out the back, go home, and wallow all by myself, like Em had said she wanted to do. I'd planned on a night of Netflix anyway. May as well make that happen. "I got this."
"Great." Finn winked, his eyes glassy, then he took one of Em's friends and moved her right next to me. "Show my brother a good time. He's forgotten how to have one."
To me, he leaned down and whispered, "I guess I'll be twinning by myself."
His voice held all the tasteless glee I'd expect of a cast member of The Jersey Shore. I shook my head as he sauntered off, his arms around both ladies.
"To the dance floor," yelled the girl Finn had basically handed to me. She grabbed me and yanked me along behind her as she marched to the makeshift dance floor.
We danced to song after song, and the girls bought me drinks until my head was fuzzy. The alcohol transported me into an altered state where everything was heightened yet frayed around the edges. Kyle was still dead, but it didn't hurt at the moment. I still had the promise I made him, but it was more like a "Well, I'll see what I can do." The music thumped in my ears, but it was just noise. The lights were bright but blurred. My fingers were numb when I held Em to me and danced, but her tight body was real. And I had friends. They were all around me.
I was actually having a good time. Mostly because Em was a hell of a lot of fun, and even though looking at her reminded me of Kelsey, it felt natural. Comfortable. I'd been around Em before, I reasoned, so I could certainly do it again.
"You better slow down," she said, nodding at my fifth shot.
"You slow down." I threw the now empty shot glass onto the nearest table. It slid and crashed against others.
She leaned into me, her hand on my chest, and laughed. "I mean it. You're getting sloppy. How am I supposed to enjoy your muscles if you can't stand up straight?"
I tightened my arms around her. "You're enjoying my muscles?"
"I think all my friends are about to faint with how much they're enjoying your muscles." She slapped my shoulder after seeing my reaction. "Don't smile like that. Perv."
"Who? Me?" I teased, then slipped my hand into hers. "You want anything to drink?"
She shook her head. "Nah. I stopped a while ago."
"Why? I thought you were trying to forget. It's nice not to think for a while, isn't it?" I picked her up by the waist and pretended to toss her in the air.
She squealed and hacked at my arms. "I actually know my limit. Apparently you don't."
I let her down and twisted her around to the beat of the music. She tripped over her own feet. Yep, she was done.
She looked back and laughed so hard she bent at the hips. "Ronan! Holy shit. I almost fell over. Told you I was at my limit."
Huh. She called me Ronan. "You know my first name?"
"Duh." She laughed again. "We went to school together. I know everyone called you Bear in high school, but I always liked Ronan better. It fits you."
Em turned and set a path toward the bar. She hopped on a stool and patted the one next to her. After a while, she smiled and pointed to the girl Finn had pushed at me. "Looks like my friends are having fun."
From this angle, it looked like her friend and some random guy were giving nearby dancers a little mouth-to-mouth demo. "You could say that."
She rolled her eyes. "Well, I'm glad someone's having a good time."
She seemed like she wanted to be here as much as I did, which was a tick past the "Nope, I'm good" notch.
"Tell me about it. Finn dragged me here. He thinks I need to get laid or something."
Em giggled into the back of her hand. Okay. Maybe that was a little TMI. She nodded, though. "My friends, too. Want me to get laid, I mean."
"But you have a boyfriend. What's the story there?"
"Not really sure. He promised he'd take me on his family vacation, but I'm almost positive his uptight parents put a stop to that idea. Tina and everybody think it's the perfect opportunity to find me someone else. Or something like that. Who knows what they're thinking, actually. I try not to because it gives me a headache."
"I take it they don't like him."
She shook her head and it was a while before her gaze focused on me again. Her eyes were shiny. I couldn't tell if it was from the alcohol or something else. Swallowing, she looked down at her shoes. "Nope. And I don't really know why, either. It's not like he ever did anything to them. He feels bad about not being able to take me. I mean, I think he does. He knows I was looking forward to it."
Her eyes started to tear up so I put my hand on her arm. "I'm sorry, Em."
"Yeah, well, it's hard when the children are all fighting." She smiled but it looked fake.
Jesus. We were sad. I was moping around over Kelsey. Em was lamenting her boyfriend's absence. This wasn't high school, and everything had changed. The friends I'd thought I could count on for life were either dead — or sucked. It was less than a year since Kyle died, less than a year since I'd decided I would have nothing to do with Chase ever again, but only a few months since Kelsey made a bad situation even worse by telling me I had to forgive Chase if I ever wanted to hang out with her again.
"You know, Em. If you want to be with your boyfriend, why don't you just go be with him? I mean, fuck what your friends think. If you love him, you love him. It seems to me I'd do pretty much anything for someone I loved, even if everyone else thought it was a bad idea."
Her eyes searched my face. "That's some solid advice, considering how drunk you are. I guess you really can't help who you fall in love with, right?"
She nodded to herself once. "I think I'm going to go to the bathroom."
I watched her walk away, sliding past couples, bodies brushing up against hers, and I sighed. She looked about as confused as I felt.
Holy. Crap. Bawling in a bar? In front of Ronan freaking Pearse for God's sake. What the hell was wrong with me? That would've been a new low.
I swung the bathroom door open and waited in line. One girl stood crying her eyes out near the hand dryer. Another's friends tried to convince her to leave because she'd fallen off a stool while trying to dance on the bar, and everyone else just looked as if they had to go to the bathroom. Like. Now.
The old "escape to the bathroom" routine wasn't one of my finer moments, but I hadn't seen or talked to Ronan in four months. Dumping all my problems on him didn't sound like a very good plan. He had way more baggage than I did anyway. Kyle, Chase, freaking Kelsey. God, he must have thought I was so pathetic.
I fired up my phone after rolling my eyes at the long-ass line. Two texts from Nate waited for me. My heart jumped. I looked first at the time stamp. He hated when I didn't respond right away. Dammit. He'd texted at six o'clock. It had to be going on eleven now. He was pissed. I knew it before reading the texts.
The first one read: I miss you. The second had a more pissy tone. All right, it was far past a little pissy. That one read: What the hell? Where are you? This is the only way we can talk to each other and you're going to ignore me? You better not have gone out.
Shit. Shit. Shit. I wished I could call him, but he'd be able to tell I wasn't home. The music in this damn bar thumped from even three blocks away. I sent him a quick text instead: Sorry. Phone was on the charger. I miss you, too!
Excerpted from Last Wish by Erin Butler, Heather Howland. Copyright © 2015 Erin Butler. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
*ARC received from Entangled Publishing in return for an honest review* Although this book can be read as a standalone, I feel I would have benefited from reading the first book, How We Lived, to better understand these characters and their long history. Maybe I would have understood why Em was in such an abusive relationship at the beginning. Also, a couple of things seemed a little off to me, one of which was that when Em was in the hospital, Ronan waited around for hours, then disappeared without a word to her for a week. Then suddenly when they see each other again, no mention is made of it and they are together again. I liked Ronan and Emily and I did enjoy the book. I just felt I needed more details.
In this story two people help each other make changes within their lives. Em is coming out of an abusive relationship uncertain of how things with go with her life. She knows that she's attracted to Ronan but not sure if he is ready for more than friendship. Ronan still mourning the loss of his best friend is trying to come to terms with the fact everyone has moved on but him. He's at a bar drinking when Em Stewart pushes her way into his life. She encourages him to forgive and to move forward and leave the past behind After Ronan saves her from a mistake of her own making he sees her for what she really is a beautiful woman inside and out.. Ronan shows Em that she is a sexy woman deserving of being loved. They both have struggles they face individually and as a couple but they know the can survive anything as long as they have each other. This book has everything you could possibly want in a book. Characters that draw you into their story, amazing chemistry and a well developed story. I loved this book and can't wait to read more from this author.
3.25 to 3.5 I want a Bear hug Stars So the beginning of this book had me on the fence about continuing as it felt super Young NA angsty drama. Fortunately, I powered through this first impression and it finally gripped my interest when our main character’s Em and Ronan’s relationship started to unfold. Last Wish although a standalone follows closely the happenings of book 1 of the series, so if you don’t want to flounder with the situation I’d recommend reading that first. Since I didn’t it took me a bit to understand all the relationships at play in this one. Ronan has been lost and hurt since his best friend died in some kind of accident while their other best friend was driving (or so I gathered from what little reference there is to the actual accident). Everything is a bit messy and effed up at this point. In comes Em, a friend of all of them but not as close, and definitely not the quirky little girl he remembered from high school (which was like 2 years ago so this kind of felt a tiny winy bit absurd… but whatever). She is brave, free, fun and light which is everything Ronan is missing in his life right now. Em is having problems of her own when she finally accepts she is in an abusive relationship and decides to break things off with that creep. By circumstances Ronan is the one to come to her rescue when her car breaks down, and the short road trip they share will mark a new beginning for them both. I liked this story, the writing was good and I really liked both Em and Ronan (he was quite dreamy let me tell you, for a 21 year old anyway). But I felt the general timing was a bit off. For starters Em leaves her boyfriend and basically the next day is starting up with Ronan. While I’m all for insta-love and when you-know-you-know scenarios this felt a bit rushed. I mean she was in a verbal and physically abusive relationship, and yes, she did finally see the light and decided enough is enough but I’m not sure a nice guy saying you’re beautiful would be enough to sort your head out. The progression of their relationship was a bit fast paced too, all things considered. I still enjoyed it, I just wish they’d had a bit more time to establish it. What almost totally killed my romance buzz I had going with the story was the complete highjack of the ending by the couple in the first book. Yes, it was sweet but that left Em and Ronan’s HEA in second place and that didn’t sit well with me. Maybe if there’d been an epilogue that focused on them this wouldn’t have happened to me. Still, I wouldn’t be averse to reading more from this author. *I received a complimentary copy from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review*
Em Stewart has found herself stuck in a miserable relationship, with a man who is not who she thought he was, and who continually makes her feel like she is not worthy of love and happiness. When she shows up to surprise him on his vacation, she finds herself once again on the receiving end of his abuse, and for her that is the last straw, she has finally had enough and is ready to head back home and let him go. But after a minor accident she finds herself stranded, and not sure who to call to come rescue her, so she turns to her friend, never expecting her to send Em's high school crush to be her knight in a shining armor in a tow truck... Ronan is man with a battered and bruised heart, and is in great need of someone to bring peace and happiness back into his life. He is struggling with the death of his best friend and the loss of friendship he had with two very important people in his life. His family has been trying to bring him out of his depression, but no matter what they try he chooses to continue to sulk in the privacy of his apartment. When a friend needs his help, his father encourages him to go help her, in hopes that it will give him a sense of purpose again, and possibly bring him back to reality. He decides to go never expecting it to completely change the course of his life... This story captivated my attention almost immediately, Em and Ronan pulled me right into their world and had me hanging onto to their every word. The story line was packed with so much intensity and emotion, that at times I could literally feel the power of every word, as if I was right there in the story with them feeling everything. I can honestly say that this was one of the best introductions to a new author that I have had in a long time, Ms. Butler took me on a emotional literary journey that I am sure will be lingering with me for a long while. She is truly a master at her craft, and a author that I think everyone should add to their reading list! Highly recommend you meet Ronan and Em, they are sure to provide you with one amazing literary escape, and have you blushing a time or two!! ARC requested through NetGalley, and kindly provided by Entangled Publishing in exchange for a honest and unbiased review.
I love it when an author steps away from the safe route and adds in a bit of spark and stirs the pot a bit in the story. This one did just that by including some mystery to the storyline that keeps your interested perked up. You have to read between the lines for the first 1/3 of the book to try and figure out some of the plot that happened behind the scenes. Something bad happened; this you know. Friends are separated. Hearts are hurting. Your interest is peaked to keep on going. And there is some heat building up. The looks; the memories; the recognition that maybe, just maybe, your heart can be opened again. That memories don't have to be bad and good memories can be added along the way. *Sigh* The author did a great job with the crafting of this book. It is not just sex and love... although there is nothing wrong with that! But there is emotion and feelings and you are right there with the characters as they try to figure out their path to happiness. Parts are a bit shocking but speak to the current atmosphere of the world today. Ms. Butler created a pleasurable combination of love, friendship, and new beginnings in this young adult romance. Enjoyable and memorable. This is an author to watch for more great things to come!
Captivating story with great characters! Although aimed at the New Adult readers, this is a very emotive story that will appeal to a much wider audience. This book is full of angst and turmoil. As teenagers, Ronan (aka Bear), Chase, Kyle and Kyle’s sister, Kelsey, were the dream team of friends, supporting, encouraging and caring for each other. When Kyle died in a car accident when Chase was driving, Ronan struggles to come to terms with it all – losing one best friend because of the actions of another made him feel like he’d lost them both and months later he’s still struggling to forgive Chase, which also means he’s troubled because Kyle made him promise to look after Kelsey – and she won’t let him near till he’s forgiven Chase. Emma Stewart was on the periphery of the friendship group, a friend of Kelsey’s who joined in with them sometimes. She secretly had a crush on Ronan but is now in an abusive relationship with Nat. She goes to visit Nat on holiday, driving miles to see him, only to be rejected and told to stay home. She has a near accident on her journey home and Ronan comes to her rescue. Their journey home is the start of a relationship for the two but there’s much more to come before they’ll have a chance at achieving a HEA! Although this is the second book in the series, it works well as a stand alone – I haven’t read the first book and still really enjoyed this one. Exploring grieving, abusive relationships and young love could make this a sad read but it is anything but. Written in an easy to relate to, empathetic manner, this is a lovely story to get lost in. The angst and turmoil experienced is related by the use if different points of view used in the story, making it simple to understand where the key characters are coming from and going to. This is a captivating story that I have no hesitation in recommending to anyone who enjoys their romance to have much more to the story, exploring difficult situations and emotional responses. Thanks to the author, publisher and NetGalley, too, for letting me read an ARC of this book in exchange for this, an honest review.
An awesome story that picks up right where How We Lived left us. Ronan (aka Bear) is still struggling with the death of his friend Kyle and the fact Kelsey, Kyle's sister, is now dating the person responsible for Kyle's death. How can he keep his promise to Kyle to protect his sister like this???? Emily "Em" Stewart is temptation. One he needs to avoid but she's light to his dark and he finds himself drawn to her. Em has secrets though. Problems he can't even imagine. When Kelsey sends Bear on a rescue mission to help Em, he finds that he can't stay away and he doesn't want to. What he wants to to help her and keep her safe. I highly recommend this one!