Today’s prize is a copy of Megan Hart’s newest release, Deeper and a “Read in Bed” pillow!
Of all the books I’ve read and/or critted for Megan, this is up at the very top of my favorite list, which says a lot because kidding aside, I happen to think Megan is one of the most talented and insightful writers out there right now.
This book is unexpected in so many ways. It’s a ghost story, a love story, a story about a woman who has returned to the place where she spent the most formative years of her youth and early adulthood. It’s sexy and smart and it made my heart ache in places.
Bess is a fabulous character. A woman who has turned a new corner in her life. A big scary one and she’s taking it on. She’s a woman with a lot of context and Megan Hart has a way of introducing her through the interactions she has with her sons, with her estranged, straying soon to be ex husband and through Nick.
The book wends its way forward by way of going back in time. As we learn about Bess from then, Bess from now is dealing with her choices. There’s a sort of dreamy quality about this shift. It’s not abrupt at all and it lends a sense of being out of time, which works well given that this is, in part, a ghost story.
This isn’t a romance though there are romantic elements. It’s Bess’ story, it’s her HEA and it’s a great book I can’t recommend enough.
Some lovers never leave you…
Twenty years ago she had her whole life spread out before her like a mesmerizing map. She was Bess Walsh, a fresh-scrubbed, middle-class student ready to conquer the design world. And she was taken. Absolutely and completely.
But not by Andy, her well-groomed, intellectual boyfriend who hinted more than once about a ring. No. During that hot summer as a waitress and living on the beach, she met Nick, a dark haired, local bad boy. He was, to put it mildly, not someone she could take home to Daddy.
Instead, Nick became her dirty little secret; a fervent sexual accomplice who knew how to ignite an all-consuming obsession she had no idea she carried deep within her.
Bess had always wondered what happened to Nick after that summer, after their promise to meet again. And now, back at the beach house and taking a break from responsibility, from marriage, from life, she discovers his heartbreaking fate–and why he never came back for her. Suddenly Nick’s name is on her lips…his hands on her thighs…dark hair and eyes called back from the swirling gray of purgatory’s depths.
Dead, alive, or something in-between, they can’t stop their hunger.
She wouldn’t dare.
Excerpt from DEEPER by MEGAN HART:
She didn’t remember much about it, just that she’d been small. With grammy holding one hand and her mom holding the other, little Bess had kicked and splashed at the water. A rogue wave had pulled her from her mom’s grasp and tumbled her, head over foot, beneath the water. She could recall the tug of the water and the scrape of sand on her back and face as she rolled. She’d held her breath instinctively, and closed her eyes against the sting of sand and salt. Her lungs had hurt in moments, worse than the scrapes on her knees and elbows. A rough slice of a broken shell cut her hand as she scrabbled for something to hold onto.
Just before they pulled her out of the water, the pain stopped. And she’d seen…
“The gray.” Bess startled upright, the words on her lips tasting like blood from where she’d bitten her tongue.
They’d pulled her out of the water and she’d vomited up the sea, and until now she’d forgotten all about how the world had turned to gray. Until now. Bess sat up higher, her heart pounding. The blanket tangled around her feet.
She smelled saltwater and seaweed, and blinking, turned to the doorway where a dark figure stood silhouetted.
She heard the soft plink-plink of water dripping onto the hardwood floor. She heard the sound of her own breath. She heard the rush and roar of the ocean outside.
She opened her arms.
He knelt at her feet and buried his face in her lap. His shoulders heaved. His hair, soaking, wet her skirt and his skin beneath her fingers was hot and wet. He was naked. Bess ran her fingers down the individual bumps of Nick’s spine, the sleek curve of his ribs. He’d always been lean, but now he seemed fragile, too.
He sobbed once, low, and grabbed her thighs tight. The odor of the ocean overpowered everything else, his usual sensual smell of soap and cologne with a hint of smoke gone. Nick moaned low in his throat, and broke her heart again.
“Don’t leave me again.” Each word sounded like it tortured him. His fingers curled into the folds of her skirt.
Though he radiated heat like sun-baked sand, Bess gathered up the blanket and wrapped it around him, then eased herself onto the floor beside him. Nick buried his face against her neck. His wet hair tickled her cheek. Bess held him tight, the two of them wrapped in the afghan, and wondered what to say to make all of this better.
“When you’re gone, I think you won’t come back.”
Bess rubbed her cheek along his wet head. “I came back, Nick.”
His arms tightened on her. His shoulders heaved a time or two more, but then he pulled away. His eyes flashed in the stripe of light from the window. She saw no tears.
“I had to go out,” she said softly. She pushed his hair, drying now, off his forehead, and cupped his cheek.
She’d always imagined Nick as fearless. She’d been the one to doubt. The benefit of hindsight showed her he’d been as afraid as she’d been. Maybe more. Even so, seeing him this way disconcerted her.
“I know you did.” Shaking off her touch, he sat with his back against the couch. The blanket fell around his waist. “Forget it.”
“When I came home, and you were gone…” Bess hesitated. “I thought you weren’t coming back. I thought I’d lost you, Nick. Forever, this time.”
He turned to look at her, the mouth that brought her such pleasure turned down at the corners. After a moment he reached to cup his hand on the back of her neck. She thought he might kiss her, maybe pull her onto his lap and start to fuck her there on the floor, and despite the bruises and the chafing, her body responded at once.
But Nick didn’t kiss her. He only looked at her. “I don’t want to go back. Not ever.”
Bess shook her head a tiny bit, not dislodging his grasp from her neck. “And I don’t want you to.”
Shadows bisected his faint smile. “No?”
“What are we going to do?” His fingers curled and his thumb pressed against the beat of her pulse. She leaned toward him, letting his heat wash over her. “When your kids get here? What then? You gonna tell them I’m your boyfriend? Tell â€˜em you’re fucking me, and oh, by the way, I’m not…I’m—”
She put her mouth on his to silence him. He let her kiss him, but he didn’t kiss her back, and after a second she pulled away. “Shh. I’ll think of something.”
Nick got up. The blanket fell away. She’d been on her knees for him before, but this time it didn’t feel right with him looking down on her. Bess stood, too.
Nick stalked to the wall and turned on the overhead light. Bess threw up her hand to keep away the glare, and blinking, didn’t see him grabbing her wrist until he was already pulling her toward the large mirror. He stared at their side-by-side reflections.
“What do you see?” He asked.
Bess’s eyes had adjusted now to the brightness, but she blinked a few more times. “Me. And you.”
Nick stared hard into the mirror. “I look the same to you. And you look the same to me. But not to yourself.”
“I don’t remember what I looked like then,” she said. “Unless I look at pictures. I can’t remember what it was like to stare at my face in the mirror, Nick. I look the way I look. I look my age.”
He turned to her. “You’re afraid of what people will say.”
“There’s more than one reason to be afraid of that,” Bess told him, not meaning to be cruel but hearing it sound that way.
Nick looked again at their reflection. “Do you think anyone would recognize me?”
He smiled. “How about someone I wasn’t fucking?”
“Gee, Nick,” she said, stung. “Was there anyone you weren’t fucking?”
“Hey.” He caught her arm as she pulled away. “Bess. Don’t. I’m sorry.”
She let him pull her close, her face against his bare chest. She slid her hands down his back to fill her hands with the firm, smooth cheeks of his ass. He nuzzled her hair.
“I just wonder,” he whispered. “If there’s anyone besides you who would remember who I am.”
TODAY’S QUESTION: Do you like ghost stories? Why? Why not?
I’ll choose a winner at random from the comments tomorrow at noon pacific!
DAILY CONTEST NOW CLOSED FOR ENTRIES