New Adult Romance, Contemporary Romance
Date Published: 1/15/2017
Whore. Slut. Tramp.
I don’t want to believe the words, but they’re true. Having sex with strangers temporarily affords me the necessary control to quiet the demons from my nightmares. But each unfulfilling encounter leaves me more emotionally empty than before. I’m trapped in a dead, brown shell, unable to break free.
Until the day he walks into my life.
Colin is everything that's good and pure–a beacon of light to my dark, lost soul. His music is a soothing balm, warming long-frozen places inside me. His kindness disarms me, making me long for more. But to have more, I’d need to reveal the horrors of my past.
And I can’t tell anyone. It’ll tear me apart.
I’ve been waiting for her all my life.
From the moment I laid eyes her, I knew Rose was my soul mate. I’m drawn to her inner beauty and yearn to show her the love she’s never known. The pain reflected in her lovely amber eyes rouses emotions deep within me, stirring the music in my soul and making my fingers take flight over the keyboard.
But Rose is a woman holding closely guarded secrets.
More than my next breath, I want to quell the haunted look in her eyes ... heal her broken spirit and make her whole again. She doesn't believe that's possible. But I won't give up.
Not until she lets me love her–all of her.
Warning: Contains graphic descriptions of abuse that may distress some readers.
I slide the last box of my belongings out of the back seat of Olivia's car and close the door with my hip. For a moment, I stand there breathing deeply of the fresh pine-scented mountain air. In the distance, beyond the brick building that houses our dorm, the majestic San Francisco peaks rise up in their cloak of foggy clouds to meet a clear blue sky. It's good to be back at Northern Arizona University. The city of Flagstaff and this school have been my haven since I left my old life behind two years ago. I don't miss it. No one in their right mind would. It was nothing short of hell. In a way, my life didn't really start until I moved here. It's still far from perfect, but whose life is? At least it's mine to live now, and no one can make me do anything I don't want to.
Funny that I lived that old life just two short hours away from here, yet no one I used to know has ever tried to find me–or if they tried, they haven't been successful. I'm glad. I don't want to see anyone from that time. No, that isn't entirely true. The only person I'd like to see again is my old friend, Emily. Other than her, I couldn’t care less. The people to whom I'm related by blood aren't my family anymore. The only real family I have now are Olivia, her mom, Abigail, and her younger sister, Jennifer. They took me in when I had no place else to go and helped me carve out this new life for myself.
The ache in my arms reminds me that I need to relieve them of their burden. I head for the main door of the dorm. One of the girls who lives down the hall from me and Olivia sees me coming and holds it open for me. I nod my thanks, then head up the stairs for the third floor where our room is located. I've made this trip up and down about ten times today, unloading all our stuff. By the time I reach the second floor, the strength in my arms is flagging and my legs are screaming to end this torturous exercise. After taking a short breather at the landing, I continue plodding up the next flight of stairs.
At the sound of heavy, rapid footfalls behind me, I move to one side to allow the person who is quickly gaining ground on me to pass by. My cumbersome load bumps into the railing, causing my foot to catch on the next step. As I'm about to pitch down the stairs, a pair of strong hands catch me at the waist.
“Whoa, there! Easy,” a sexy, masculine voice rumbles in my ear.
I automatically stiffen. I don't like being touched–especially by strange men–without my permission. Knowing he's only trying to help, I take a deep breath and will my body to relax.
He leans to one side, and out of the corner of my eye, I can see he's smiling.
“Are you OK?”
“Yeah, I'm fine.” You can let go of me now, I resist the urge to say out loud.
“Here, why don't you let me help you with that?” Before I can protest, he moves around in front of me and lifts the heavy box out of my hands. “So where are we headed?”
“Ah … next floor.” I point upward. “Room 329.”
He continues up the stairs with me trailing behind. The door to mine and Olivia's dorm room is open, but before entering he calls out, “Knock, knock.”
“Hi! Did you need something?” I hear Olivia's friendly voice coming from inside the room, but his tall, muscular frame blocks her from my view.
“Just helping your roommate with her stuff.” He lifts his arms, indicating the box.
“Oh! Well, bring it on in.”
He enters the room, and I follow.
Olivia finally sees me. “I was wondering what happened to you. You were gone for a while.”
Having placed the box on one of the beds, my helper turns around. “I'm afraid that's partly my fault. I nearly knocked her over in the stairwell. I figured the least I could do is carry her things.”
“Thank you,” I say to one of the buttons on the front of his shirt. I can't bring myself to make eye contact. It's something I tend to avoid with men, unless I'm on the prowl. I'm afraid it might encourage him to do something I don't want. Like ask me out.
“I guess I should introduce myself. I'm Colin … Colin O'Malley.” He offers his hand, first to Olivia–who introduces herself, too–and then to me.
It would be rude not to accept, so I place my hand in his. It almost completely envelopes mine, and at once, I notice his long fingers. Even though his hands are on the large side, there's a gentleness in them I don't expect. Now that I think about it, once I got over the initial shock of his touch, I'd noticed it in the stairwell, too. It also didn't escape me that he'd behaved like a gentleman and hadn't tried to “accidentally” cop a feel. He'd only held me until he was sure I'd regained my footing.
“So …” He leans down a little. “Do you have a name?”
Realizing I've been daydreaming, and still staring at his chest to boot, my face starts to heat. “Yeah, i-it's Rose … Rose Harmon.”
I finally lift my gaze to find him smiling at me. He has a gorgeous, model-perfect smile with straight white teeth. And wonder of wonders, it actually shows in his sparkling eyes. I don't think I've ever seen eyes quite so blue. They're the color of the sky I just saw outside. He has dark hair, almost jet black, with an unruly lock that falls down over his forehead, giving him a rakish look. I don't think I've ever seen a man this handsome in all my life, except maybe a few times in the movie magazines Emily and I used to look at in the library as teenagers.
Still smiling and holding my hand, he says, “Rose” as though he's trying out my name to see if it fits.
The sound of it coming from his lips makes my stomach do an uncharacteristic flip-flop, and for a moment I forget to breathe.
About the Author
Julianna is a hopeless romantic and believer in fairy tales. Even as a little girl, her fondest dream was to find a Prince Charming who would sweep her off her feet. She's happy to report she's been married to him for twenty-two years. Although she's been an avid reader since she was two years old, she never envisioned herself as a writer until six years ago. Now she feels like she's finally found her life's passion. The muses keep the ideas flowing faster than she can put them on the page. She hopes that her readers will love her characters and stories every bit as much as she's loved creating them.
Julianna currently lives in hot, sunny Phoenix, Arizona with her husband, an adult son, a teenage daughter, a Husky/Great Pyrenees mix dog, and two cats. In addition to writing, she enjoys reading, hanging out on GoodReads, surfing the web, watching TV or movies, book shopping, and feeding her insatiable thirst for knowledge.