She can forgive, but can she forget? Some days, Everly still thinks she sees him. In the food court at the mall, or in a car speeding past as the light changes. It only lasts a second, but when it happens, she slips back to a time when she was ruled-and nearly ruined-by August Kincaid. And it doesn't matter that she's moved on, that she's about to marry another man. In those moments the only thing she can do to regain control is take a deep breath and remind herself that August can't hurt her-because he's in a coma. Except that he's not anymore. August is awake. With no memories, he sets out to solve the mystery of his lost life. He unearths a photograph of a beautiful redhead named Everly and knows instinctively that she's the key. But when he finds her, the August she describes is more monster than man. Tortured by the thought of having hurt her, August wants only to become the man Everly deserves. As the new August emerges, Everly glimpses the person she first fell in love with. But can she trust that this August is real? When the final secret of their shared past is revealed, one of them will make a choice that changes their future forever . . .
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Maybe it was something hardwired in my DNA—the same reason I wanted to save every kitten and stay dog that I saw wandering down the road or why I felt the need to give every spare dime I had to the old man on our street corner even though he reeked of alcohol.
Whatever it was, here we were—driving down the road towards the cliffs.
In a car with a man I loathed.
Ryan would kill me if he knew what I was doing. This definitely did not fit in with our status quo plan. It didn’t fit with any logical plan—at all. Yet, here I was, driving my psycho ex who had just been discharged from the hospital after waking up from a coma that no one ever thought he’d recover from.
And that’s when it hit me. He may never remember anything. Not a single kiss, a happy sigh or night spent in bed. The good, the bad—it was all gone.
Guilt hit me square in the gut as we drove, my fingers loosened slightly as I tried to relax and calm myself.
Status quo, I reminded myself.
Looking over at him, I tried to feel sorry for him. I tried to feel remorse.
But, all I saw was the man who locked me up.
And here are the days of our lives, folks.
Yeah, so much for simple and carefree. My life was totally fucked up.
My palms suddenly grew sweaty, as we turned down the block, closer towards the ocean. The salty air blew through the winter, reminding me of lazy evening long ago spent eating dinner out on the spacious patio, where the view seemed to go on for miles. I thought we’d raise our children in that house when he bought it.
I’d thought a lot of hopeless things back then.
Turning into the driveway that was no longer mine, I put the car in park, not bothering to kill the engine.
“Well, here you are,” I said, averting his gaze. I couldn’t look at him. Not here. Not with the flood of memories that were threatening to assail me.
“Thanks,” he answered, moving towards the door. He paused briefly as if he had something more he wanted to say, but decided against it and stepped out. The door shut and I felt air rush back into the small compact space.
I took one huge gulp of air, then another—willing myself not to cry.
August Kincaid would not make me cry.
He was awake, but he would not rule my life.
Not ever again.
Looking up, my eyes settled on the glove compartment—the place where I hid the key to my past. The key to this place.
What had been a mere duty I carried on in his absence now felt dirty and shameless.
It was my last physical connection to him…to this place. I needed to get rid of it. Now.
I ripped open the glove compartment, pulling out manuals and registrations for years back. Wow, I needed to clean this thing out.
Finally, I found it, in the very back where I had shoved it last time I’d visited—when he’d first awoken. Feeling resolved and settled, I jumped out of the car and stomped towards the front door, intent on my decision.
He answered before I had the chance to pound on the door.
It was a little disappointing—I had some pent up frustration to let out.
“Sorry, I was watching from the window. I wanted to make sure you got out of the driveway safely. It’s a bit steep,” he said lamely.
I rolled my eyes and let out a frustrated sigh. “You forget I used to live here.”
“Right,” he answered, rubbing the back of his neck nervously. Stepping back, he motioned for me to enter, which I hadn’t planned on. Hell, it was the last thing I wanted, but before I had the chance to decline, he was gone—disappearing around the corner towards the living room.
“What the—“ I huffed, as I quickly followed him. Had he forgotten manners during his two year slumber as well?
“Listen, I’m not here to hang out. Believe me—that’s the last thing I want to do with you. I just wanted to drop off my key.”
As I rounded the corner to catch up with him, I nearly gasped. What use to be a warm, beautiful room was now covered in dusty boxes, old papers and god knows what else.
“Your key?” he asked, turning around, his eyes searching the piles as if he were looking for something specific.
What exactly, I wasn’t sure.
“What is this?” I asked.
“Oh, um—everything I could find in the attic. I brought it all down, hoping I could make sense of…well anything.”
I stepped forward, picking a sheet of paper from the top of a stack. It was an old term paper from his days at Stanford. I held back the smile that wanted to break through, remembering what a brainiac he used to be.
He wasn’t that August anymore. He wasn’t anything anymore.
And I needed to get out of this situation.
“Well, I wish you good luck with that,” I said politely, placing the key on the stack of papers.
“This was my key to the house. I had it while you were—absent, just in case, but now that you are back, well—there’s obviously no need. So I’m returning it to you. Also, if you could remove me as your power of attorney, now that you’re able—I would appreciate it.”
His eyes met mine—those intense hazel eyes I’d fallen in love with at the tender age of eighteen, when life was easy and monsters were things of legend.
“Good luck August,” I said softly, before he had the chance to respond.
Turned out monsters come in all shapes and sizes—and right now, I needed to remember that.
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Author J.L. Berg is a California native living in the South. She is the author of the self-pubbed Ready series, which has sold over 100,000 copies. Married to her high school sweetheart. She and her husband have two beautiful girls that drive them batty on a daily basis. When she's not writing, you can find her with her nose stuck in a romance book, in a yoga studio or devouring anything chocolate.