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New Release Review and Giveaway! BUILT TO LAST by Julie Ann Walker (Black Knights Inc. #12)

Built to Last cover

 

Synopsis:

Masterful, mysterious, and completely ruthless, Jamin “Angel” Agassi joined the Black Knights Inc. after a mission-gone-wrong forced him to undergo extensive plastic surgery and change his name. He’s going to bring down the world’s worst crime syndicate, and hopefully keep Sonya Butler, a love from his past, from discovering who he really is…

When a dark-eyed stranger gets caught up in Sonya’s latest mission, she starts to question all her hard-won instincts. Something about Angel tells her he’s more than he seems, and sometimes, when she least expects it, he reminds her of a man she used to know. As the bullets fly, she realizes that in love and war nothing is ever what it seems…

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Excerpt:

What was he doing? What the hell was he doing?

Oh, right. With everything he had, he was kissing the woman he’d fallen in love with a decade earlier and, God help him, loved still. His mind and body had traveled down I-Want-Your-Sex Road so fast that he’d missed his exit to This-Is-a-Really-Bad-Idea Town.

A really bad idea, he warned himself and followed that up with It isn’t fair to her.

Of course, when she slipped her tongue between his teeth, tentatively exploring, it took everything he had not to fall to his knees. Her mouth tasted of love and loss, of a wonderful and terrible past and a murky, tormented future.

It’s not fair, he silently reminded himself again. She doesn’t know who I am.

And yet she wanted him.

It was there in her eyes when she looked at him. A familiar longing. A confused, punch-drunk hunger that defied logic and reason because it was instinctual, a product of their lizard brains recognizing in each other the perfect physical mate. All the plastic surgery in the world couldn’t mask that.

“Mmm,” he hummed when she sucked on his tongue. Just a little. Just a nibble. He angled her head so he could align their mouths more closely.

In all the years that had passed, he had tried to convince himself their connection, their passion, had been a product of their youthful hearts. Two undisciplined lovers hungry to experience the thrill of the fall. But now? Oh, now, with her in his arms, with her mouth eager and greedy on his, he realized it had been so much more.

He didn’t believe in fated love or one-and-only’s, but neither could he discount the truth staring him in the face. Or, rather, the truth gripping his shoulders and trying to inhale him.

No woman had ever come close to touching his heart the way Sonya had. And certainly no woman had ever brought him the kind of pleasure she did.

And believe me, he thought as he nipped her plump bottom lip, knowing it would make her gasp, I let plenty of them try.

Since he’d left her, he hadn’t exactly lived the life of a monk. Looking back, he realized he’d been searching for Sonya inside other women, looking for that same connection, that same spark. But no matter how hard he’d tried, no matter how many birds he’d bounced atop countless beds, he’d always come up empty-handed.

Now, he realized that was because Sonya was it. The one. The standard by which he’d judged women and beauty and bravery and grace. He’d compared every smile to her smile, every laugh to her laugh. To him, she was everything a woman should be, her name branded upon his heart.

Fool that he was, he took great delight in knowing she felt the same, knowing she’d only ever loved one man. Him.

Or, at least she loved me as I was back then, he thought, stepping in to her until she was flush along his front, loving the feminine heat rolling off her body and the way she didn’t hesitate to rub herself against him.

That was the problem, wasn’t it? Not that she rubbed herself against him; that was heaven on earth. But that she loved him as he was back then. Because—and this was God’s honest truth—that man was dead in all the ways that counted. When Mark had become Majid who had, in turn, become Angel, he’d given up his home, his name, his face…and the woman he loved.

He’d done it in the name of Israel and freedom and the lives of innocent people everywhere including hers. But he’d done it nonetheless. He’d left her.

Left her to miss him. Left her to mourn him. Left her to fend for herself in a treacherous and merciless world. And look what had happened. She’d fallen into the grasp of a man like Grafton.

How can she ever forgive me?

Anguish grabbed hold of his heart and shoved it into his throat at the same time she grabbed the back of his head and went up on tiptoe to press herself more firmly against him.

When guilt had threatened to swamp him over the years, he had always been able to justify things to himself and chase the insidious emotion away. Now, knowing what had become of her, knowing if he had stayed, she wouldn’t be in this awful position, remorse wormed its way inside his gut and set up shop.

He’d wronged her for the right reasons. He’d made a decision that broke their hearts and quite possibly saved their lives. He’d wrecked their little world to make the larger one safer for everyone.

Yet…was it possible there might have been another way? Could he have answered the call of his country and his ramsad and held on to the woman he loved? Ten years ago, he would have insisted that how things had happened was the only way any of it could have happened. Today? Well, today a seed of doubt had been planted.

It was all so complicated. So confusing.

There were only two things he knew for sure. First, he was determined to figure out why she allowed herself to work for Grafton, to discover precisely what the bastard had on her to keep her under his thumb if it wasn’t her love and loyalty to the jewel thief. Second, along with bringing Grafton/Spider down, he was determined to save Sonya. She didn’t deserve this fate she’d found for herself. He believed that with everything inside him.

His thoughts dissolved then because her starved and impatient kisses turned abandoned. She’d lost herself to passion, hungrily devouring his lips and tongue and running her hands over his shoulders, up into his short hair. His mind drifted back to a time when his thick, dark locks had been long enough for her to curl her fingers around. His cock responded to her wicked seduction by straining against the fly of his jeans, seeking the heat and the soft give of her belly.

She moaned with pleasure.

He moaned for more of her.

Review:

Phew–what a ride the final book in the Black Knights Inc. series takes us on!

We finally get to know the mysterious Angel better, and the plot with bad guy extraordinaire Spider comes to a head. Angel’s story is a second chance romance–Sonya’s the woman he fell in love with before his extensive plastic surgery, before his vocal cords were altered, before he changed his identity–and the side he was on (or did he?)–multiple times. I wasn’t a huge fan of the way he was determined for way too long that he’d never let Sonya know who he really was–honestly, dude, that’s never a good idea, everyone knows that; plus it will never, ever work, geesh–though I guess I understand why he did it.

Actually, no. Not the right choice, Angel. You had So. Many. Chances. Grrrr. Anyway…

(On the whooo hooo! side of things, the Ace/Rusty storyline finally gets resolved too–yay! 🙂 )

If you’ve read all the rest of the books in the series, there’s no way you’re going to want to miss this one. Even if every single series character doesn’t show their face here, there is a wrap up at the end that lets readers know what their future plans are going to be. If you’re new to the series, though, I really don’t recommend starting here–at the very least, you’ll want to read the last few that come before this one first. A standalone this book isn’t–but a non-stop adrenaline ride for at least 80% of the book, it is. 🙂

Rating: 4 stars / B+

I voluntarily reviewed an Advance Reader Copy of this book.

Giveaway!

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