Author: Roni Loren
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release: Sourcebooks Casablance | June 5, 2018
Most days Rebecca Lindt feels like an imposter…
The world admires her as a survivor. But that impression would crumble if people knew her secret. She didn’t deserve to be the one who got away. But nothing can change the past, so she’s thrown herself into her work. She can’t dwell if she never slows down.
Wes Garrett is trying to get back on his feet after losing his dream restaurant, his money, and half his damn mind in a vicious divorce. But when he intervenes in a mugging and saves Rebecca—the attorney who helped his ex ruin him—his simple life gets complicated.
Their attraction is inconvenient and neither wants more than a fling. But when Rebecca’s secret is put at risk, both discover they could lose everything, including what they never realized they needed: each other
She laughed and kissed him. This morning she’d melted down. But somehow this man had her laughing and turned on only a few hours later. Everything inside her felt buoyed.
She’d forgotten what that felt like.
Wes parked the van in front of the house and cut the engine. “Well, I’ll take it as a good sign that your car is still here. If those guys showed up with your keys, they would’ve taken your ride.”
Rebecca frowned. “No. I didn’t have my car keys with me since I walked today, but at least everything looks the same as how I left it. Plus, my car keys are hanging on a peg in the kitchen. They wouldn’t be hard to find.”
Wesley eyed her. Her voice was confident, but she kept smoothing the leg of her scrubs, her hands like nervous birds not knowing where to settle. He had the weirdest urge to hug her and tell her it was going to be all right, to take that fear from her. But a sure way to freak her out even further would be for some strange dude she’d just met to hug her. He was freaked out enough for both of them that he even that urge. “Hey, why don’t you tell me where your spare key is hidden, and I’ll go in and check the house for you first.”
There. That was a reasonable, not weird way to help.
She glanced his way, frowning. “If the alarm’s on, I need to turn it off, and I don’t want to sit out here. That’ll stress me out more than going in with you. I’m the only one who will be able to tell if anything’s been moved anyway.”
“Fair enough. Whatever makes you feel most comfortable is fine. But the minute something seems off or out of place, we bail and call the cops. Pinch my arm or something to signal me.”
Her frown deepened, a little line appearing between her brows, as if she couldn’t quite figure him out.
He couldn’t stop his smile. “What’s wrong? You look like you’re trying to figure out a really hard math problem.”
“I wouldn’t make this face for math. I’m good at math.” She let out a breath. “I guess I’m just trying to figure out why you’re being so nice to me. You don’t…know me.”
“Does that matter? If I knew you, would I not want to help you out?”
She stiffened. “What?”
He tilted his head. “I mean, are you secretly some evil comic-book villain who’s about to take over the city? Or do you have plans to kill me and store my body in your basement when we get inside?”
Her pinched expression flattened into something droll. “Austin houses don’t have basements.”
“Whew.” He wiped his brow. “I’m safe.”
She snorted and then covered her nose and mouth like she was surprised the sound had escaped. “You’re kind of strange, Wesley Garrett.”
He shrugged. “I get that a lot.” And that was a helluva lot better than what most people probably called him these days. “Now, are we going to bravely search your house like two TV detectives? Because I am so down for that right now. I need to bang open doors and yell, ‘Clear!’”
She laughed, the soft, husky sound filling the space between them and sending a pleasant ripple through him. The feeling was so unfamiliar that it stalled his breath for a second. How long had it been since he’d been around someone he could simply joke with and relax around? Someone who wasn’t looking at him like he was damaged goods? Or who wasn’t checking him for signs of a backslide?
He didn’t get clean-slate conversations like this anymore. Not with his family. Not with friends. Not even with himself. Rebecca felt like a gulp of clean, fresh air. He wanted to close his eyes and inhale. In this moment, he could be a man with no past. He could be whoever he wanted to be. And right now, he wanted to be the guy who was making this woman laugh.
She cocked her head. “You say that like you’ve been planning to do this TV detective routine for a while.”
“It’s a life goal,” he said solemnly. “I mean, I’ve done it at home alone, but that really isn’t as fun. Plus, it pisses off the neighbors. All those banging doors.”
She laughed again, and he felt like he’d won some kind of prize. She seemed like someone who didn’t give those laughs away easily.
“Now all we need are weapons,” he declared.
She reached into the bag of takeout and pulled out the eco-friendly cornstarch forks Dev used in place of plastic cutlery. “How’s this?”
“Perfect. We can go for the eyes.” He took his fork and grabbed the keys. “Let’s do this.”
“I’m ready.” Some of their playing around must’ve distracted her from her nerves because when Rebecca got out of the van, her shoulders seemed looser and there was a tentative smile on her face. She nodded toward the house and set her fork on the hood. He followed suit, since if he really had to take action, he’d need his hands free. “My extra key is by the back door.”
They headed around the house and into the small backyard. She hunched near an overgrown herb garden and fished around, finally coming up with one of those fake rocks. She flipped it over and keyed in a three-digit code on a spinner combination lock.
Wes snapped a leaf off one of her plants and inhaled the scent. “Mmm, lemon thyme. You’ve got quite a collection out here. Cilantro. Oregano. Italian parsley. I’m a little jealous.”
She glanced over her shoulder at him. “I honestly have no idea what most of them are or what to do with all of them. I had the house landscaped when I moved in, and I guess the gardeners picked the perfect spot because they grow like crazy. Except the basil, which was the one I actually knew how to use. That one was a goner during the first hundred-degree day of summer.”
“Basil is a sensitive soul.” It was on the tip of his tongue to tell her he could show her how to use the herbs, but he held the offer back. His brother had been right. Making her laugh was like some weird sort of drug to his starved system, but she didn’t need a guy flirting with her right now. It couldn’t go anywhere anyway. He didn’t date, for one. And even if he was doing the casual hookup thing these days, she didn’t strike him as the type who’d be down for that, especially with someone like him. He had nothing to offer her besides garden-care tips.
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The second book of the The Ones Who Got Away series was definitely so much better than what I expected. For its subject matter—and around the time I read and reviewed this book it is sadly a reality yet again— this series has struck a chord in me. It’s not an easy theme to begin with, and both in the previous book and in this one, the repercussions of such a horrible event are there for the characters who survived. For those who are not familiar with it, the series revolves around a group of high school acquaintances who survive a school shooting and become dubbed The Ones Who Got Away.
As you can guess with the subject matter that connects all the heroes and heroines of the books, this was a very emotional read. I can’t even begin to imagine what it would feel like to experience something like this and move on, and what scars it leaves on a person, but I do think Roni Loren led me pretty close. Especially in this book. Especially through Rebecca. I wasn’t so sure about her in the previous book, but having one’s own story is for times like these, and Rebecca quickly became a character I could relate to, one who reached into my conscience, that deep place where I tucked away the girl I was in high school, all safe and sound.
This book was important, I think, for it felt like a criticism. The school system, gun control, parenting and everything in between, even the smallest detail, that can be a determining factor when it comes to violence committed by our youngsters these days. Through Rebecca and Wes, we got so many sides to the same sad story. And I loved it that Roni Loren gave it a hopeful ending, blending it with romance which I’ll come to in a minute. I’m usually not one who likes her romance reads on the heavier side but with real issues handled so nicely like this one, I realized it makes my reading experience even better. And it’s all I could hope for.
As for the romance, oh dear. I’m a sucker for friends to lovers stories and although this wasn’t exactly such a story—Rebecca and Wes’s attraction was lightning fast and the chemistry was off the charts from the beginning after all— but I still like to consider it a little bit like that. From the moment they meet and greet, they had a spark waiting to ignite, but they also became friends first. They kept up the flirting at all times but they also shared and supported. And they had one of the sweetest email correspondence I’ve ever read in a book. In a nutshell, I loved them. How sexy and sweet they were together, how determined to help they were, and how courageous and positive they both stayed in the face of all the shit they had to deal with. An inspiring couple they definitely were.
I’m adding five spoonfuls of this story into my hodgepodge, and looking forward to the next story because I now know Roni Loren is going to wring my emotions in the best possible way yet again.
Three copies of The Ones Who Got Away