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Release Day! HOLDING OUT by Serena Bell (Returning Home #4)

HOLDING OUT now live at your favorite e-book store
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She’s done being a virgin. He’s willing to help her out. Only now he has a problem of his own: He can’t stop wanting more.   

The answer has to be no, of course. No way Griff Ambrose is going to help Becca Drake lose her virginity. Not only is she his friend’s little sister, but Griff doesn’t do commitment—not since the day he came home from war to find his house empty and his wife gone.

But he can’t get Becca’s request—or pretty much anything else about her—out of his head. What can it hurt, anyway? If it’s awkward afterwards, they can just avoid each other. Right?

Becca Drake has turned her life around, and she’s proud of how much butt she’s kicking. The shy girl with the self-esteem problem has been shown the door, and New Becca’s in the driver’s seat. There’s just one more demon she has to exorcise. Virginity is messing up her sex life. Guys who might be okay with giving her a test drive act like they’re being auditioned for marriage when they find out she’s never had intercourse.

Griff is the perfect candidate to do the deed: He’s her friend, he’s sexy as heck, and neither of them wants anything serious.

Then Becca’s job goes belly up and she takes a temporary position at the veterans’ retreat where Griff works. Now she and Griff can’t stay out of each other’s way—and their entanglement keeps getting messier—and sexier. Worst of all, it’s getting harder and harder for Becca and Griff to lie to themselves about what they really want…

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As she approached the range, she saw him with the big bow in his arms, slinging arrow after arrow into the center of the target so they stuck out like bristling porcupine quills.

She hung back, watching. He wore a plastic chest guard and a leather arm guard, which made him look a little bit like some medieval hero. And she wasn’t sure which was more mesmerizing: the clutch of muscle in his back and shoulders, the cords in his forearm, or his absolute laser focus.

She imagined what it would be like to have all that intensity and concentration turned toward her. That precision. That devotion to his task.

Her body warmed and softened in appreciation. Which was unusual for her. She didn’t get turned on looking. She didn’t get turned on that easily, period. She usually needed a lot of warming up.

Except, apparently, when it came to Griff Ambrose.

He reached into the quiver hanging across his body and came up empty.

“Hey,” she called.

He jumped. When he turned, the expression on his face was dark. Angry, she thought.

“Sorry—I didn’t mean to startle you.”

He crossed his arms. “I’ll do it.”


She’d heard the words but couldn’t make sense of them.

“If you still want me to. If you haven’t already enlisted CJ or some other boy. I’ll—take your V-card.”

She felt a huge smile threaten to break out all over her face, but her gut told her to play it cool. She shrugged. “CJ wants to take me out for dinner. He was actually quite the gentleman about asking me on a date.”

His expression darkened further. “No. No dates with CJ. That’s the deal. If I’m going to do this—”

She raised her eyebrows at his grim tone. God, he was making it sound like a household chore. “It’s not like you have to. I told you, I’ll find someone else—”

“God. No. I’ll do it. I said I’d do it. I don’t want you to pick some random guy. Then Nate would really kill me.”

“It’s sex with a virgin—a friend, even—not a death march,” she snapped.

She was aware of an ache in the center of her chest. For a minute there, she’d thought—

But he was just doing her a favor, of course.

He shook his head. Closed his eyes. Then opened them again. “You’re right. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean for it to sound like that. It’s not a hardship,” he said, then gave a short dark laugh. He took a step forward, touched his hand to her cheek, his thumb moving over her mouth without touching it. An unfamiliar stab of heat shot through her. She wanted to lean forward and take his thumb between her teeth.

That wasn’t her, either.

He took a step back, dropping his hand. “I know you don’t want to make a big deal of it. So I’ll just say this. It’s an honor, okay?”

For some stupid reason, that made her eyes fill up with tears. She blinked, and luckily none of them fell, though he blurred in her vision.

The moment stretched to awkwardness, and she looked away. When she turned back, he was examining the feathers on the end of an arrow.

“You still offering that archery lesson?

“Hell, yeah. Walk with me. We’ll collect the arrows.”

She fell in beside him.

“When you approach the targets, you always need to make sure no one’s shooting. It’s easy right now because we’re the only ones here, but sometimes it gets a little more complicated.”

He tapped the target at the base of one of the bristling arrows. “You want to grab the arrow close to the target face, down low on the shaft,” he said.

She wasn’t someone who heard double entendres everywhere. Or at least she hadn’t been, before playing Taboo the other night with Griff. Something about him wrapped everything up in sex. Add to that the fact that he’d actually agreed to have sex with her—

Yeah. She was thinking about shafts. And grabbing them down low. She could feel her cheeks getting pink, and she cursed the fact that she blushed so damn easily.

Were words supposed to do that? Creep under your skin, down your spine, along your nerve endings? Were they supposed to light you up like a Christmas tree?

While she’d been getting wet over skinny sticks with feathers on the end, Griff had pulled the arrows from the target, collected them in a fist, and turned back up-range.

She followed him back, suddenly wishing she’d said something. Some brilliant sexy teaser about how she always liked to grab low on the shaft. Something provocative enough to make him drop the arrows, take her in his arms, and kiss her until she couldn’t breathe.

She’d never been kissed till she couldn’t breathe, but she suspected Griff could have that effect on her.

“Stand here,” he said, toeing a sandy spot on the ground. “This is the foot marker.”

He gave her an arm guard and showed her how to strap it on. “You don’t really need a chest guard. It’s just to make sure the string doesn’t catch on your clothes. If you were hunting or fighting it would be a bigger deal.”

He stood behind her. “Is this okay?”

“Is what—?”

He wrapped his arms around her so that the bow was in front of her and lifted her left hand to the grip. She was hyperaware of his body behind hers, solid and hot.

He showed her how to nock the bowstring into the cleft at the end of the arrow shaft.


Not a word she’d ever heard used. Or used herself. Or contemplated. Not a word she would have said was sexy. But with him standing just behind her, his breath against her ear, his hands guiding hers, it was a word that could lick itself right into every last cleft on her body.

If she turned around right now—

But she couldn’t. The way they were standing, and the bow in her arms, froze her in place.

“And then you draw it back, tight—”

He wrapped his hand around hers, drawing her fist back, and the string with it. Now she made herself focus on the bow and arrow, because it was taut in her arms, and it didn’t feel like something to mess around with. Its contained energy was fierce.

Like the man behind her.

“See this?” he said, and he drew the arrow back a little further, until his fingers brushed her mouth.

It was difficult to breathe.

“This is called the kisser button. For obvious reasons. You use it to get alignment with your mouth at full draw. You line up on the gold—that’s what we call the center of the target. You sight it over the top of the grip. Right where the arrow head is aimed, see? And then you let it fly. Release it. Okay. I’m going to let go. You keep the tension on.”

He unfurled her fingers from around hers and stepped back, taking his body heat with him and leaving the full strength of the bowstring in her fist. Her arm muscles trembled—maybe from the pull of the string, or maybe not.

“Let go,” he said.

She released it. The arrow flew and lodged itself with a hiss in the target. Not anywhere near the center, but still.

She stood there a moment. Her hands and arms still felt shaky. Hell, her whole body felt shaky.

“Nice,” Griff said. When she turned to look at him, his gaze was steady on her face. His eyes seemed to bore into hers.

“Now you just need practice.”
Serena Bell author photo

About the author:

USA Today bestselling author Serena Bell writes contemporary romance with heat, heart, and humor. A former journalist, Serena has always believed that everyone has an amazing story to tell if you listen carefully, and you can often find her scribbling in her tiny garret office, mainlining chocolate and bringing to life the tales in her head. 

Serena’s books have earned many honors, including an RT Reviewers’ Choice Award, Apple Books Best Book of the Month, and Amazon Best Book of the Year for Romance. 

When not writing, Serena loves to spend time with her college-sweetheart husband and two hilarious kiddos—all of whom are incredibly tolerant not just of Serena’s imaginary friends but also of how often she changes her hobbies and how passionately she embraces the new ones. These days, it’s stand-up paddle boarding, board-gaming, meditation, and long walks with good friends. 


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