Aubrey Duncan understands loss. She knows what rock bottom looks like, and she is determined to crawl back up to the top after the sudden death of her younger sister. She blames herself for her part in the tragedy, convinced that she could have done something, anything, to help her.
In her effort to gain redemption, Aubrey starts fresh at Longwood University and facilitates an addiction support group, hoping she can support someone else in the way she failed her sister. But what she doesn’t count on is an all-consuming fascination with group member Maxx Demelo, a gorgeous, blond, blue-eyed enigma who hides dark secrets behind a carefully constructed mask. He only reveals what he wants others to see. But Aubrey glimpses another Maxx hidden below the surface—a Maxx who is drowning in his own personal hell.
As Aubrey and Maxx develop an attraction too intense to ignore, he pulls her into the dark underbelly of the city club scene, where she is torn by her desire to save him and an inexplicable urge to join him in his downward spiral. Worst of all, she is beginning to love everything she should run away from—a man who threatens to ignite in her a fire that could burn her alive…
His eyes were piercing in their directness and I knew he wasn’t fooled by my attempts at sarcasm and nonchalance. My uncomfortable attraction to him, that had begun only a few days before, practically oozed from my pours. It was mortifying
And I knew I needed to shut this down. For both of our sakes. It wasn’t appropriate. And he was making me feel…disconcerted.
“Well, I think the group is going to be really helpful. I’m sure you’ll get a lot out of it,” I said lamely, hoping he got the point. It seemed extremely important to remind us both of who I was and what my role was in his life. I needed to reinforce where I belonged. I was a counselor in training. Someone to guide him on a difficult journey.
Maxx gave me a look that was hard to decipher. “I hope you’re right,” he said, running a dirty hand across his face, leaving a smudge along the bridge of his nose.
I had to clench my hand into a fist in order to resist the urge to wipe it away. And I knew there was more than my OCD at work here.
His words unsettled me. Was I reading a subtext that wasn’t there? Or was he purposefully communicating something that I had yet to figure out?
My guess was the latter.
He suddenly dropped his eyes and I was surprised by the vulnerability that danced across his face.
“I really hope you’re right,” he said softly and I didn’t know whether the comment was for him or for me.
I tilted my head at him, looking at him closely. He seemed lost in thought and I wondered what had him so consumed.
I couldn’t help but be curious about him. He made it impossible not to be. He was obviously a complicated man with a complicated past. I was simultaneously intrigued and annoyed that I was intrigued.
Because there was a definite line I shouldn’t cross. So why after meeting this man once was that boundary so hard for me to remember?
Maxx frowned and opened his mouth, then closed it again. Then he looked at me and I watched as his face smoothed over and any sign of openness was lost.
A. Meredith spent ten years as a counselor for at risk teens and children. First working at a Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault program and then later a program for children with severe emotional and mental health issues. Her former clients and their stories continue to influence every aspect of her writing.
When not writing (or being tortured with all manner of beauty products at the hand of her very imaginative and extremely girly daughter), she is eating chocolate, watching reality television that could rot your brain and reading a smutty novel or two.
A. Meredith is represented by Michelle Johnson with the Inklings Literary Agency.