It’s been twelve years since tragedy struck the senior class of Long Acre High School. Only a few students survived that fateful night—a group the media dubbed The Ones Who Got Away.
Liv Arias thought she’d never return to Long Acre—until a documentary brings her and the other survivors back home. Suddenly her old flame, Finn Dorsey, is closer than ever, and their attraction is still white-hot. When a searing kiss reignites their passion, Liv realizes this rough-around-the-edges cop might be exactly what she needs…
The boards of the restaurant’s back deck creaked somewhere behind Liv. She didn’t need to turn and look to know it was him. Her senses seemed attuned to his presence. She kept her eyes on the water, letting her greeting drift between them. “Hello, Finn.”
The quiet tenor of his voice hit her harder than she’d expected, the volume too close to how it used to sound against her ear in those stolen make-out sessions. Funny how even after all the years and the men who’d cruised through her life since, that voice still sounded so bone-deep familiar. She didn’t turn to face him, not trusting her expression to stay neutral. “I guess it turns out I have time for that drink after all.” She lifted her glass. “But I’ll warn you, I’m a few drinks in and all out of energy for polite chitchat.”
“Good. I don’t chitchat.”
He stepped a little closer, his scent drifting her way—some combination of cedar and mint. Like a man who chewed gum while chopping wood. The thought made her want to giggle.
“Are you okay?” he asked.
Liv scrunched her nose. “You mean, am I drunk?”
She wasn’t sure what the answer was on that one. Probably a little. She doubted she could be this close to him without anxiety bubbling up otherwise.
“No. You ran out of the gym today. I mean, are you okay?”
Was she? She hated that question. That was the question she’d probably heard most since that night—and then again when her mom passed from cancer two months later. That was what everyone always wanted to know. Are you okay?
But people asked, wanting her to say, Yes, I’m fine. I’m going to pull up my bootstraps and not make you uncomfortable with my messy feelings. No one wanted the real answer. But she got the sense Finn did. After all, he’d probably gotten asked that question just as much as she had. She released a breath. “Today sucked.”
She took a sip of her drink, the sweet liquid cool on her dry throat. “Being in the school got to me, but I’m okay now. Just a little panic attack—shitty but brief. Drinks and friends helped distract me.”
She could hear him shift behind her, skin against fabric, maybe tucking his hands in his pockets or crossing his arms. “Distraction’s good.”
She finally stole a glance at him, but he was shrouded in shadows, just a broad-shouldered silhouette. “You could’ve joined us. You didn’t have to eat alone.”
“Y’all looked involved in something,” he said, the gruff drawl in his voice making her think of steamy-windowed moments in the back of his car. She used to tease him that the more turned on he got, the more his country-boy accent showed. “You were reading papers. Seemed kind of intense.”
“Oh, that.” She turned back to the water, her shoulders curving inward and the sexy memories icing over. “We were opening this time capsule thing we did a long time ago. It’s probably good you didn’t come over and hear that part.”
She picked at a splinter in the wood railing. “Just something we did that summer after everything happened—promises we made to the Class of 2005 about our futures. Kincaid decided we should open the letters inside tonight to see what our teenage selves hoped we’d become. I decided we should get drunk after.”
He made a throaty sound—like a laugh that didn’t quite make it out—and moved closer. He settled next to her along the wooden rail, his gaze fixed on the dark water. “Sounds like a solid plan to me.”
“I thought so.” She rattled the ice cubes in her glass and dared a peek at him. But all she got was his familiar profile, the slight bump in his nose from when he’d broken it sophomore year, and the unfamiliar scruff as he took a sip from his drink. It was hard for her not to stare and catalog all the little differences, all the changes time and experience had given him. The harder angles. The dark mess of hair that looked at least two haircuts past neat. Expression that didn’t reveal a thing. He was still Finn somewhere in there, but gone was the boy with the wide smile and the playful attitude. There was a sharpness to him now, jagged edges. Like if she met him in a dark alley, she’d have trouble determining if he was friend or foe.
He lifted his drink in agreement and turned, his green eyes gray in the darkness. “That was my plan, too. Minus the time-capsule part.”
“Ha. Lucky you.” She shifted her stance and accidentally bumped her shoulder against his, sending a tendril of awareness down her arm. She wet her lips, ignoring the shiver. “Now you’ll never know if you lived up to teen Finn’s expectations.”
He was quiet for a moment, and she wondered if he was having the same push and pull inside as she was. On one hand, this felt comfortable. They’d always talked easily with each other. But at the same time, they were strangers now. Strangers who had this big, breathing beast between them.
He took a long swig from his drink. “Teen Finn didn’t have expectations. He just wanted to play football, not work for his dad, and get the hell away from here.”
“Guess you lived up to that last part at least. I was convinced you’d changed your name and moved to a foreign country.”
His jaw flexed. “Something like that.”
The four women, who hadn’t been particularly close before the shooting, came together afterwards and at one point before graduating and going their separate ways, wrote letters to be opened in ten years in which they each pledged–to themselves and to honor their classmates who didn’t “get away”–to do certain things with their lives. They all missed the decade mark, but when they are brought back to town for a documentary about their experience, the woman who had custody of the letters brings them with her. Over drinks, the four of them read their letters out loud and decide what they have or haven’t accomplished (with not a little bit of justification and hedging on some of their parts–and a teensy bit of cringing, too ;))
Liv’s pretty sure she doesn’t actually need to go through with her younger self’s plans–and absolutely sure that she doesn’t need to pick things up with Finn where they left off (she was from the wrong side of the tracks, and his father was very controlling and not terribly nice, to put it mildly, so theirs was a secret relationship) but of course fate–and Ms. Loren–have other ideas. I loved watching Liv and Finn as they reconnected, came to terms with their pasts, and figured out a way that they could move together into a future–second chance romance at its best 🙂
I’m not sure how this managed to be my first book from Ms. Loren, but it absolutely won’t be my last! Rebecca’s story is next–can’t wait!
Rating: 4 1/2 stars / A
I voluntarily reviewed an Advance Reader Copy of this book.