Every memory Lety Tres Santos has from her childhood comes with a scar—some emotional, some physical. Her father is an abusive drug addict, and her mother enables his destructive behavior. College offers Lety a fresh start . . . until her father finds a way to ruin that, too. Now, after losing her scholarship to kick off junior year, Lety must somehow stay in school, pay tuition, and turn a deaf ear to the whispers that follow her. And she intends to do it all without Brody Quaid’s help.
Brody is a lacrosse star, a 4.0 student—and as a freshman, he fell hard for the beautiful and spirited Lety. But their relationship crashed and burned because he couldn’t break through the walls she’s put up around her heart. With Lety hurting more than ever, Brody strives to win her back and make her believe in real love and true partnership. That will mean opening up secrets locked away in his own past—and trusting someone more than he’s ever dared.
Lety knows how painful it can be to depend on the wrong man. She also knows how much Brody wants to do this the right way. But it takes more than sizzling desire to move on and build a future together.
Praise for Once Loved
“This family drama filled with past horrors and possible salvation tugs at the heartstrings. Full of romance and humor—and a bit of steamy sex—this story from [Cecy] Robson is sure to be a hit in any collection.”—Library Journal (starred review)
“Brody made it his mission to be Lety’s rock. . . . Robson created a perfect book boyfriend in Brody Quaid, and many will enjoy his patience, sexiness, and unconditional love for Lety.”—Heroes and Heartbreakers
“With its skillfully developed characters and scorching sexual tension, Once Loved is a gorgeous second-chance love story you won’t want to put down.”—USA Today bestselling author Lauren Layne
“This heartbreakingly beautiful story and series is one to keep and read again and again. Truly beautiful. Amazingly touching, and completely breathtakingly beautiful. To say I loved this book is so mild a word, but I truly do, and I can’t wait for the next book.”—April Hollingworth, author of Double Magick in the Falls
“Once Loved was delightful, with characters you cannot help but root for. I cannot wait for Once Pure and Sophia’s story.”—Caffeinated Book Reviewer
“I was emotionally invested and the ending slayed me!”—Book Crack
“Intense and emotional.”—Under the Covers
“I really had a great time with this novel even though everything was really heartbreaking.”—Between Dreams and Reality
“This is a great book. I couldn’t put it down once I started it, and I cannot wait for the next one.”—Hines and Bigham’s Literary Tryst
Includes a special message from the editor, as well as an excerpt from another Loveswept title.
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
I abandoned the locker room in a rush. I’d barely spoken to anyone on my crew team, and while no one had said anything directly to me, I caught every stare, every whisper. Despite the dean’s best efforts, word had spread that the man arrested the previous day was my father. I wanted to scream. Carlos had meant to humiliate me, and he’d succeeded. Next to his fists, humiliation was his favorite weapon.
My duffel bag slapped against my back as I hurried through the athletics center, my steps slowing as I passed a group of soccer players. “Isn’t that Lety Tres Santos?” the girl in the center asked her teammates. “The one whose tripped-out father beat up the campus police?”
I whirled around. “Yup. That’s me.” They exchanged stunned glances. They hadn’t expected me to respond and weren’t prepared for my reaction. “Anything else you want to know?”
The three of them shut their mouths. It was easy for them to talk. Their fathers hadn’t arrived out of control. Their fathers weren’t ex-cons in and out of jail. And their fathers hadn’t spent a lifetime hurting them. I couldn’t say the same.
Carlos had arrived on campus only one other time, demanding money for drugs. If there hadn’t been witnesses, he would’ve struck me for denying him. My father was many things: an addict, bipolar, and an all-around asshole. Stupid was not one of his traits. So he’d left, but not before calling me a bitch in front of my friends.
One of the other girls shrugged. “Melody didn’t mean anything by it,” she said. “She was just asking.”
“There are better things to ask about,” I responded.
I stormed away. My mind insisted I should let the comments and attention roll off my back. Saint Jude’s was a small private college with a little more than two thousand students living on campus. Word traveled fast, and when the rest of the students arrived in two days’ time, it would travel even faster. But eventually, everyone would forget.
Except maybe me.
I pushed open the glass doors that led out of the athletics center. Two girls walking toward the building with volleyballs tucked under their arms saw me as I stepped out. One motioned to me with a jerk of her chin and spoke quietly to her friend.
Gee, I wonder what they’re talking about?
I continued forward without another glance their way. I couldn’t fight everyone in the world, it was too damn exhausting. So I cut left in the direction of the soccer field, where a few players remained. Although I wasn’t anywhere near them, they stopped kicking the ball to watch me as I passed. Shame made me want to cower and lower my head. Instead I forced my chin up. I was a tough Philly girl, after all, even though I was all but sobbing on the inside.
I trained my eyes ahead, toward where the athletics fields ended and cross-country trails leading into the woods began. If I could just make it there, I’d find some solace from the whispers and judgmental stares. At least, that was what I’d hoped.
The late August breeze rustled the leaves in the trees just as I stepped onto the trail, fanning my long dark hair around me. I breathed in deep, enjoying the fresh air and the quiet surroundings. Despite the drama of the previous day and the negative attention it had brought me, I really loved it here and preferred the campus’s remote location to Philly’s loud streets and obnoxious hustle.
Located in a small town just outside Allentown, Saint Jude’s was surrounded by acres of one of two things: woods or cornfields. The cross-country trails weaving through the woods served the athletes for one hell of an endurance run, and underage drinkers for a place to hold their illegal keg parties. You could be spun out of your mind, but if you followed any path, it would lead you out to the sports fields or to the main road. The cornfields were mostly used for hooking up or for freshman initiation, where first-year students streaked through the tall stalks in exchange for five-dollar T-shirts.
I shouldn’t have grinned, considering my day, except that I did. The cornfield streak was the first time Brody and I had seen each other naked. And yeah, we still wore our five-dollar T-shirts.
My smile faded. Brody, God, Brody. What was I going to do about him? He was sweet, and smart, and good to me. But I wasn’t good for him, even though I really wanted to be.
My anxious steps slowed the more I thought of him. We’d met in chemistry class at the beginning of our freshman year. He introduced himself as only Brody could, by nailing me in the head with a crumpled ball of paper. I’d glared at him over my shoulder. “Do that again, and I’ll kick your ass, pretty boy,” I’d warned.
He’d smirked. “You think I’m pretty?”
No, I think you’re hotter than Alex Pettyfer standing in hell, I didn’t say. Instead, “Pretty damn obnoxious” was my response. I’d turned around when the prof stepped into the lecture hall, stiffening when I heard paper crumpling behind me. I’d booted my laptop, certain he wouldn’t have the stones, when another ball of paper bounced off my head. Like a knee-jerk reaction, I flung my chemistry book at him. Brody caught it before it struck him in the ribs. Instead of getting pissed, he’d laughed and offered me a ride after class.
We’d spent the remainder of the year practically inseparable, but it wasn’t until the start of the next semester that we became more than close friends. What sucked was that it didn’t last.
Thanks to Carlos, again.
My two-hour crew practice had been brutal, but it was the thoughts of my family that left me suddenly tired. I left the trail after another five minutes of walking and crossed the road. I wasn’t ready to head back to my room, so I veered into the small reflection garden at the top of the hill. I took a seat on one of the wooden benches, allowing my duffel bag to fall onto the gravel walkway. I liked it here and visited often. It provided me with a sense of calm I’d always craved as a child. Simple, easy, not something I had to seek beneath my bed when I was scared.
This time, the peace didn’t last, and I wasn’t alone for long. A parade of steps thundered to my left. I glanced up and saw the members of our lacrosse team jogging toward me on their way to the trails. They all ran shirtless except for Brody. As co-captain, he raced in the lead alongside his friend Logan.
Lacrosse wouldn’t start until next semester. But Saint Jude’s had won the Division III NCAA championship the last two years. The coach planned to keep the title and made them train long before their first game took place.
Brody’s gaze flickered when he saw me. My body tensed. I hadn’t been prepared to see him, but I shouldn’t have been so shocked. The team ran the campus’s perimeter at the end of each practice and finished where the cross-country trails opened to the sports fields.