Ryan Kendall is broken. He understands pain. He knows the hand of violence and the ache of loss. He knows what it means to fail those who need you. Being broken doesn’t stop him wanting the one thing he can’t have; Finlay Tanner. Her smile is sweet and her future bright. She’s the girl he grew up with, the girl he loves, the girl he protects from the world, and from himself.
At nineteen, Ryan leaves to join the Australian Army. After years of training he becomes an elite SAS soldier and deploys to the Afghanistan war. His patrol undertakes the most dangerous missions a soldier can face. But no matter how far he runs, or how hard he fights, his need for Finlay won’t let go.
Returning home after six years, one look is all it takes to know he can’t live without her. But sometimes love isn’t enough to heal what hurts. Sometimes people like him can’t be fixed, and sometimes people like Finlay deserve more than what’s left.
This is a story about war and the cost of sacrifice. Where bonds are formed, and friendships found. Where those who are strong, fall hard. Where love is let go, heartache is born, and heroes are made. Where one man learns that the hardest fight of all, is the fight to save himself.
Hearing Crookshanks greet Ryan in the hallway, Fin scrambled madly through the mess on the kitchen bench. Grabbing the tin she’d just filled, she flung open the oven door and tossed it recklessly in the direction of the wire rack.
“What are you doing?”
The words came from so close behind her she shrieked and jumped. Her pulse racing, she slammed the oven door shut and spun around to stand in front of it. Ryan was leaning casually against the entrance to the kitchen in his army fatigues, his arms folded and brow arched as he watched her.
“Nothing,” she lied, blinking her eyes wide in an attempt to salvage the surprise.
Fin meant to have all this done before Ryan got home, but she got held up at work. That’s what happens when you tell people you’re leaving work early, she thought crabbily. Suddenly everything becomes urgent.
Ryan looked over her shoulder at the disaster zone, and she shifted a little to the left. Her movement exposed the oven door, and he immediately turned and pointed at it, accusation making his eyes sharp. “You’re baking a cake.”
Fin tilted her head and shrugged. “Well, you know, it’s for Crookshanks.”
Her breath caught when a grin spread slowly across Ryan’s face and lit up his dark eyes. He lifted his chin at her. “Come here.”
Needing no further invitation, Fin launched herself at him. She twined her arms around his neck, and when he picked her up, she wrapped her legs around his hips and kissed him.
His fingers dug into her legs, a deep groan rising from his chest when she stroked her tongue against his. She broke the kiss when she couldn’t breathe. As her head fell back, he licked a pathway down her exposed throat and bit down on the tender skin of her neck where it met her shoulder.
“Oh,” she moaned, rubbing her hips against him.
“God I needed that,” he muttered, his voice muffled as he nibbled and licked his way back up. “Needed you. Been thinking about fucking you all day.”
Ryan’s eyes were heavy-lidded and hot when she looked into them and smiled. “Happy birthday, Ryan.”
“You remembered,” he murmured.
“I’ve never forgotten. I baked a cake for your birthday every year you were gone.”
He rested his forehead against hers and whispered softly, “Baby.”
Fin closed her eyes. “I didn’t know where you were, or what you were doing, but even if you weren’t here, I wanted to make sure you had a cake.”
She opened her eyes, seeing him arch a brow.
“And who got to eat my cake?”
“I did.” She grinned. “And Crookshanks. And if there was any left, I’d take it into work.”
Ryan ran his eyes along the length of the kitchen bench until they fell on the bowl she had tucked in the corner. He strode towards it and sat her down on the bench. Standing between her thighs, he dipped his finger in the thick, cream cheese frosting. A shudder of heat flooded her body as she watched him lick it slowly from his finger.
“Mmm, baby. This is good.”
His hand reached for the bowl again, and she smacked it. “Leave some for the cake.”
Ryan smirked as he scooped up some more. “It’s my cake.”
He smeared the frosting over the swell of her breasts, and she gasped. “What are you doing?”
Leaning down, he began licking it off her skin.
“Oh God,” she breathed, fisting his hair in her hands and shivering at the wet heat of his tongue stroking her skin.
“I’m making up for all those years of missed cake.”
The idea of baking Ryan a cake every day for the rest of her life suddenly held enormous appeal.
He slipped his hands underneath the hem of her pretty pink dress and spreading his fingers wide, ran them up her bare thighs. “You taste so good,” he moaned.
Loud thumping came from the front door and he froze, his muscles tensing as his grip on her tightened. “Tell me you didn’t.”
“Open the door before we bust it down,” Kyle yelled.
Ryan groaned, his head falling onto her shoulder.
“I did.” Fin sighed and he took a step back, letting her slide off the bench. “I’ll get it.”
“Hey,” he said, and she looked up at him. “Thank you. For doing this.”
“I’m just glad you’re here so I can.”
“Me too,” Ryan agreed, his lips curving softly. He wiped at a smear of frosting on her cheek. “I’ll get the door,” he told her and disappeared up the hallway.
I will start off by saying Ryan story, his history, struggle and demons reminded me of the poem “Who Will Cry for the Little Boy”. The meaning of that poem was made just for him. No kid, teenager or man should live with the weight of something beyond their control. He was seven and it wasn’t like he didn’t try to prevent it.
I really do not know what the author’s inspiration was for this story but damn she hit it on the head. If I can suggest more than 5 ☆’s I would. Like Julie said, no one could tell them what they saw in them, they had to learn and grow on their own. Wow, a struggle it was and throughout the entire story I felt the lesson was learned but then BAM something else happens.
I cried my assignment off when Fin read her letter because it felt as if I received it myself. Ryan letter was what he needed and the laughs of their “brother code” had tears following as well. To say it was an emotional roller coaster would be an understatement. It gave the struggles love ones go through when family is off at war. Some return and some don’t, the question is are you strong enough to make that sacrifice and dive in.
She now resides in Brisbane, Australia, a city in the state of Queensland where she works as an accountant, along with a sideline wedding cake business and her writing.
She is married with two children, has two dogs and house in the suburbs, and a pile of friends and family dotted all over the country that help keep her sane.
When she’s not busy running after naughty kids, filthy dogs, crunching numbers, piping buttercream and writing books, you can find her curled up in bed in the early hours of the morning reading new books and re-reading old favourites. Her favourite books are the Black Dagger Brotherhood series by J.R. Ward in which she longs to eventually join the brotherhood and change her name to Phierce Mutha.