It’s funny how differently we view life when we’re young.
Everything feels possible- limitless.
If only things could stay that way forever.
Then maybe life wouldn’t be so complicated.
Maybe Jace would still be the same ten-year-old boy I fell in love with.
Maybe I’d still be that same girl too.
The girl who believed that there wasn’t anything we couldn’t overcome.
But I’m not that girl anymore.
Time has beaten me down, broken me, taken everything from me.
And it’s taken even more from Jace.
I naively believed that I could save him…
From his dad. From his anger. From his addiction.
And I nearly died trying.
It’s taken me four years to rebuild my life.
To piece my shattered heart back together.
But it all goes up in flames the moment I find myself face to face with the one person I never thought I’d see again.
He’s determined to prove he’s changed.
I’m terrified to let him try.
Because no matter how sweet it tastes, with Jace Matthews you never truly know if what you’re drinking is poison or wine, until it’s already too late.
A Thousand Cuts
I used to believe in fairy tales.
But then I grew up and I realized that life isn’t like the books I once loved so much.
There are no princes riding in on their white horses.
No magic wands or fairy god mothers.
And no happily ever afters.
Ryland Thorpe taught me the hard way that good doesn’t always win and sometimes the people we trust the most are the ones that can hurt us the deepest.
At fifteen, my world began and ended with him.
He was my older brother’s best friend.
He was my protector.
He was the boy I had loved since I was old enough to understand what loving someone meant.
And he was a liar…
It’s been five years since I’ve seen him.
Five long years and the memory of him still haunts me like it was yesterday.
Only he’s not just a memory anymore.
Prison has hardened him, changed him, altered him in ways I never expected. But beneath it all I can still see a glimmer of the boy I used to love.
When lies are exposed and secrets are revealed, I find myself questioning everything I thought I knew.
They say the first cut is the deepest.
They were wrong…
It’s funny how differently we view life when we’re young.
I remember the very first time I laid eyes on Cole Lincoln. It still feels like yesterday when he stumbled into my life with his messy brown hair and dark eyes. Even though I was only ten years old at the time, I knew right then and there that he was going to change everything.
From that point on Cole and I were always together—inseparable—and I naively believed we’d be best friends forever. But forever didn’t last nearly as long as I expected.
We grew up and grew apart, life driving the distance between us, but my love for Cole never faltered. Even long after he moved away, leaving me and our little town behind, I still carried a piece of him with me every single day. Because Cole wasn’t just my childhood best friend- the boy who knew me better than anyone else in the whole world. He was also my first love- a part of my very core.
When a tragic death brings us face to face again after six years, every single memory comes rushing to the surface. Only this is not the boy I fell in love with all those years ago. The man before me is hardened, intimidating, and so damn sexy I practically melt when those dark eyes meet mine for the first time in six years.
And like the first time he walked into my life, I know with complete certainty that everything is about to change.
The one word that describes my entire life.
They didn’t want me to know my true identity.
Now, I know why…
Held against my will.
I’ve become a bargaining chip in a blood feud that spans decades.
Mateo Rivera is the one calling the shots.
His father’s death put him in charge.
Now he holds all the power.
I should have known that he would ruin me the moment I laid eyes on him.
And he did.
He introduced me to a whole new world.
One filled with danger and desire.
I wasn’t just his prisoner.
I was his prize.
But as the saying goes, if you lie with the devil, you’ll wake in hell.
And now all that’s left is for me to burn.
For years I’ve been planning my escape.
Preparing for the day when I could leave home and never look back.
But when the moment came, it didn’t happen like I had planned.
I didn’t pack up my car and drive away, watching my old life disappear in the rearview mirror like I had always envisioned I would.
Instead, I ran—quite literally—as fast and far as my feet would take me.
I didn’t know where I was going, only that I had to get away.
And that’s when he found me…
He was unlike anyone I had ever met before.
A man who lived by his own code. Who answered to no one but himself.
He didn’t care where I came from or why I was running.
He didn’t care that my father was a powerful politician that would stop at nothing to bring me home.
Once he had me, I was his.
They say everything happens for a reason- that there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel. For the longest time I didn’t think that was true. I had stumbled around in the dark for so many years that I didn’t think I would ever find my way out. But when I finally did, it came in the most unexpected way.
Miles Hollins had been my brother’s best friend for as long as I could remember. We didn’t like each other much growing up. Or rather, we couldn’t stand each other. But after ten years of being gone, a lot had changed.
He wasn’t the same boy I remembered. I wasn’t the same girl either. So much had happened.
I moved away and got married.
Miles joined the military.
We both returned home broken in our own way.
I struggled to find my place in my new life. Miles struggled just to get through the day. But together we slowly began to heal. I quieted his demons and he gave me a sense of belonging. For a while that was enough.
But this is real life, and in real life nothing stays perfect forever. In real life not every story ends with a happily ever after. Sometimes the scars we carry are just too deep.
I promised him I would fight.
He promised me I would lose.
I’ll do everything in my power to prove him wrong. Because it’s when you find the one thing you can’t live without, that you truly find yourself.
Revenge is not the answer.
There is no peace in vengeance.
These are the things my mother taught me as a child.
I used to believe she was right.
I used to believe a lot of things…
I swore one day he would pay.
One day he would understand what it feels like to lose everything.
But just when I think I understand the rules, the game changes…
Now my very life hangs in the balance and there’s only one person that can save me.
But first he has to learn the truth about who I really am…
My name is Samantha Cole and this is my story.