INTO THE BLUE
INTO THE BLUE
From the author of Fly with Me and the Capital Confessions Novels comes the newest in the sexy Wild Aces Romance series.
Eric Jansen—call sign Thor—loves nothing more than pushing his F-16 to the limit. Returning home to South Carolina after a tragic loss, he hopes to fix the mistake he made long ago, when he chose the Air Force over his fiancée.
Becca Madison isn’t quick to welcome Thor back. She can’t forget how he shattered her heart. But Thor won’t give up once he’s set his sights on what he wants—and he wants Becca.
Thor shows Becca that he’s no longer the impulsive boy he used to be, and Becca finds herself irresistibly drawn to him. But will Thor be able to walk away from his dream of flying the F-16 for their love or does his heart belong to the sky?
Originally a Florida girl, CHANEL CLEETON moved to London where she received a bachelor’s degree from Richmond, The American International University in London and a master’s degree from the London School of Economics and Political Science. Chanel fell in love with London and planned to stay there forever, until fate intervened on a Caribbean cruise and a fighter pilot with smooth dance moves swept her off her feet. Now, a happily ever after later, Chanel is living her next adventure.
Law school made Chanel realize she’d rather spend her days writing sexy stories than in a courtroom, and she hasn’t looked back since. An avid reader and hopeless romantic, she’s happiest curled up with a book. She has a weakness for handbags, her three pups, and her husband.
Chanel writes contemporary romances, women’s fiction, and thrillers. She is published by Harlequin HQN, Penguin/InterMix, and Penguin/Berkley and is the author of the International School, Capital Confessions, Assassins, and Wild Aces series.
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Eric’s hand felt warm against mine—warm and big. He squeezed, and even though he touched my fingers, I swore I felt an answering tightness around my heart, as though the power to crush it lay in the palm of his hand.
I wanted to pull back, had never intended to let him get this close, but here we were, and I didn’t move. The temptation was just too strong to ignore and it felt too good to have him hold my hand.
“I’m so sorry,” he whispered again, his voice and eyes full of an emotion that spelled trouble.
This time I did pull back, too close to losing my heart. Too much time had passed, too much between us. I didn’t want to fall into the trap of thinking that this could be something again, of letting old feelings confuse me.
“I need to go.”
“Can we get dinner sometime, or coffee, or something?”
“I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
“I know I don’t deserve for you to let me in again, not after what I did, but what if we just gave it a chance. If we took things slowly? What if we started as friends?”
I didn’t know how I was supposed to answer that one, what slow was with people who had the kind of baggage we did. We’d been engaged; I didn’t know how to pretend we were just two people getting to know each other. At the same time, I didn’t really know him. Not anymore. But what was the point of getting to know him if he was just going to leave again?
“What do you mean?”
“What’s changed?” I repeated. “You’re back here, but what’s different? What’s the point? You’re going back to Oklahoma in a few weeks, aren’t you?”
He shifted in his seat, his expression guarded. “Well, we have the deployment coming up, and then I’ll probably go on to my next assignment. I don’t know where yet.”
Yeah, I’d been here before.
“So nothing has changed. Not really.”
“I’ve missed you.”
I’d missed him, too. It wasn’t enough. It had been ten years. We’d been apart longer than we’d been together. It wasn’t like we could just hit “Play” and pick up where we’d left off.
“We still want different things.”
He didn’t answer me for a beat. “What if we didn’t want different things?”
I froze. He knew me too well, knew just how to worm his way back in.
“Don’t try to make this about me. Don’t come back here with your ‘maybes’ and your ‘what-ifs’ and expect me to hang my future on it. I’ve been here before. I know how this goes. You’ve been back, what, a day? Do you honestly think that after everything we’ve been through, I’m going to trust that you want a future together? That you’ll actually choose me?
“I’m not going down this road with you again. I’ve been there and all it did was give me years of heartbreak. I don’t trust you anymore. There is no us. Not anymore.”
I grabbed my wallet, putting some cash on the table for my breakfast. I got up on shaky legs, not giving him a chance to respond, not sparing him another glance.
I walked into Liberty, my gaze peeled on the crowd, searching for Becca.
Easy had texted me two hours ago and mentioned that she was here, and I’d gone back and forth over whether I should come out at all. It hadn’t escaped my notice that she’d pretty much been avoiding me all week, whatever truce we’d reached in the cemetery on Wednesday apparently forgotten, and while part of me knew I should give her the space she needed, another part of me was afraid that she would use the space to keep a wedge between us.
I couldn’t apologize, couldn’t grovel at her feet, if she wouldn’t forgive me. And right now, she was a locked door I couldn’t break through. I’d thought I stood a chance, thought that the fact that she still talked to me like I meant something to her, like we were friends, meant we had a shot. But now it felt like that had just been wishful thinking, and I really had blown it with her.
So this was it. My Hail Mary, Hallelujah, final attempt at getting her to let me in. I’d caused her enough pain over the years; I didn’t want to keep doing it. If she truly wanted me out of her life, then I’d give her that.
I spotted Easy first, his arm wrapped around the same girl he’d been with the first night—a girl with hair eerily similar to Dani’s. Easy saw me across the crowd and waved me over, the girl—Rachel or something—tensing immediately at the sight of me and answering the question of whether she knew who I was to Becca.
I cut through the crowd, still searching for her, nerves rolling around in my stomach.
Easy jerked his head in greeting. “Hey, man.”
Rachel looked ready to bolt and warn Becca I was here.
“Hey, how’s it going?” I asked, glancing over his shoulder, trying to make out Becca’s features in the sea of people. Liberty was packed tonight.
His lips curved. “She’s by the bar with Bandit.”Shit.
I didn’t know Bandit that well, but we’d been out together before, and if he was with Becca, it definitely wasn’t because he wanted to be friends.
Easy shot me a pointed look that irked the shit out of me. “Can you blame the guy?”
My gaze drifted to the bar, and then I froze.
Becca stood in a corner, the lights shining down on her like a fucking halo, the skirt of her dress brushing against Bandit.
She looked so beautiful that I felt it like a pang in my chest, the smile on her face one I’d seen so many times before, aimed at me. The one I’d lost. Thrown away. She looked like she was having fun, and then Bandit leaned in closer and said something that made her laugh, and her whole face transformed, her shoulders shaking, eyes sparkling.
I held my breath as her gaze drifted through the crowd; my heart hammered, waiting for the moment . . .
Our gazes locked, her body stiffening, the smile sliding off her face.
It knocked me back like a blow.
I’d envisioned finding a way to talk to her tonight, maybe dance with her, flirt with her; I hadn’t envisioned standing here with my heart in my hand, watching her flirt with Bandit of all fucking people, as what little hope I’d clung to died a bit inside.
I waited to see if she’d acknowledge me somehow, the plea that she’d throw me one of her smiles—something, anything—battering me inside. A wave, even. Just some sign that she saw me, that she still cared, that there might be a chance for us to put the past between us.
I’d missed her this week, missed seeing her face, hearing her laugh. We’d been apart for a decade, and somehow the glimpses I’d had of her had made everything harder, bringing back all those feelings we’d had for each other with a sharpness that pierced me.
Look at me. Please. Forgive me. Let me in.
I stood there like an idiot, the sound of Easy saying my name over and over again drowned out by the bar noise and the pounding of my heart.
And then she did turn, shifting her body away from me, tilting her face up to Bandit, her lips curving in a smile I knew all too well.
He looked like an All-American fantasy and he walked with an air I’d never seen on him before. He’d always been confident, brushing right up against cocky, but now? He carried himself like he could do anything, as though the remnants of the adrenaline high he must have felt in the jet crackled through his body like electricity.
He looked at me like he wanted to devour me, like those moments up in the sky hadn’t been enough and he needed to burn off more steam.
I was definitely up for the job.
Look at me. Please. Forgive me. Let me in.
“It feels like a dream.”
“You being here. In South Carolina. With me.”
“Not a nightmare?”
“It depends on the day you ask me.”
“Have dinner with me tonight.”
She grinned. “Okay.”
I graduated from “maybes to “okays”, and I felt like a fucking king.
Maybe it took losing her to realize just how much I needed her, the contrast between my life with Becca and my life without never clearer than in this moment.
What I love about the heroes of this series is that they are good men and still have the edge of badasses and super-alphas. They don’t mess around, they go for what they want without being dicks about it. They are open about what they feel and have no shame admitting it. It’s easy to fall in love with them.
Chanel Cleeton’s writing style is fluid. The dialogues feel natural and you can’t help sinking into the story and being swept away with it.