In this tender military romance from the bestselling author of Hold on Tight—perfect for fans of of Jill Shalvis and Susan Mallery—a war-shattered veteran gets a second chance at love with the one that got away.
No girl can resist a man in uniform—especially if that man is Nate Riordan. But after an injury in the line of duty leaves Nate broken, body and soul, the soldier finds himself addicted to his pain meds, with no place to call home. Desperate for an escape, Nate reluctantly accepts a friend’s invitation to a new veterans’ retreat. Expecting a little R&R, Nate is shocked when the sight of his physical therapist opens up another old wound: heartbreak.
Years ago, Alia Drake fell hard for Nate, but never made her move. Instead, she set up her sister with the sexy, confident military man, a foolish decision that continues to haunt all three of them. Now, with Nate as her patient, she can make things right—even if it means getting too close for comfort. A healing touch and a little honesty work wonders, fueling a physical intimacy that crosses professional boundaries. This time, with desire in the air once more, Alia won’t hold anything back.
You didn’t have to be a pain-management guru to see it. It wasn’t the tapping that had hurt him. It was talking about what had happened. It was remembering.The tender points on his body told her that his brain was overreacting to pain signals. He was feeling more pain than there was, like a mic and speakers in a terrible feedback loop. It was pretty common with trauma, particularly trauma that had both a physiological and a psychological component.The first step was breaking the loop.She put her hands on his shoulders.His skin, even through his T-shirt, was much warmer than she was expecting, and the sensation surged through her fingers with a shock that she’d failed to brace herself for. That sheer, electric human connection.If a physical therapist has natural feelings of attraction toward a patient, he/she must sublimate those feelings in order to avoid sexual exploitation of the patient.Words to that effect had been all over her ethics textbook.She pulled her hands away for a moment. Recalibrated her mind. Put her hands back on his skin. The sensation was less intense this time, but still there. Like the heat in his body threw a switch beneath her surface.Sublimate.She knew what it meant, but she really wasn’t sure how the hell one accomplished it. She’d never thought to ask.Maybe this was a bad idea. She’d thought of it as making reparations, but it was starting to look more like making the same mistake twice.It wasn’t like she had a lot of choices here. She had a man in pain on her table. He’d been treating his pain with an addictive painkiller. She was currently the only physical therapist on staff. A litany of facts that didn’t give a shit about her feelings, natural or unnatural.Surely treating him—despite any stray “natural feelings of attraction”—was a lesser evil than kicking him out of her office and probably sending him back to the pill bottle. Especially since she’d already screwed up his life once because she couldn’t control her attraction to him.A physical therapist stands in a relationship of trust to each patient and has an ethical obligation to act in the patient’s best interest and to avoid any exploitation or abuse of the patient.Noticing that her body reacted chemically to the nearness of his wasn’t exploitation or abuse. And it was pretty clear that it was in Nate’s best interest right now to break the pain loop.Tentatively, she sent heat into her own fingers, warmed the area over his collarbone. So much tension vibrating in him. Maybe that was all she was feeling, the live-wire coiled energy of a man who’d been wound too tight. She was used to all kinds of electricity pouring off people, the accumulated impulses that a human body stored and shed. What she’d felt a moment ago was just that, another form of strange energy. Nothing to make herself crazy over.She felt more confident now. Right. Nate was in pain. She could help.She pressed his shoulders gently down, trying to give his neck a little more room. She kneaded with her thumbs, urging the thick knot of muscle to let go. A firm, businesslike touch. Professional strokes.God, his skin is smooth.She watched as his lips, which had been pressed together, softened. Loosened, relaxed. Felt something uncoil in her own body. In her chest.Lower.Damn it.
I’ll admit I was a teensy bit put off by Alia’s being so quick in the beginning to believe that Nate was only talking to her to get with her sister–Becca wasn’t even there when he came over!–her self-sacrificing tendencies were kind of hard to swallow at times. But I have to also admit that I could see the whole thing playing out the way it was described; it wasn’t totally beyond the realm of believeability.
But–frustrating at times? Oh, yeah.
Of course if it hadn’t all happened like that, then we’d have about half the story here, so it works out in the end. And I was pretty incapable of putting the book down for the rest of the story, so…yeah. You do the math here 😉
I loved Nate’s character. The way he was so determined to get clean so that he could keep the “promises” he made–even though they weren’t actual promises, and whether or not they’re the right choices for him and others aside, his determination to come out the other side was admirable. Plus, hot ex-military guy who gets along with everyone and wants to help troubled kids. What’s not to love there?
I liked that Alia was able to stand her ground with all those big, alpha guys and get them to try meditation and Pilates and all those therapies that made them look sideways at her when she first suggested them. Even though she had personal issues (ie still trying to raise her–adult–kid sister, a perpetual inability to put herself first, or even second 90% of the time) she wasn’t afraid to take a stand at work, especially when it’s for the benefit of her patients.
And Nate and Alia together? Loved. Fantastic chemistry and smoking hot scenes together. Awesome with a side of awesome sauce!
Can’t Hold Back is a story about promises, and being there for others yet also being true to you, and a great love story. I’m not sure how I missed book one in the series ( Hold on Tight ) but you’d better believe that’s an issue I’m going to fix–soon!
Rating: 4 stars / A-
I received a complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review.
USA Today bestselling author Serena Bell writes richly emotional stories about
big-hearted characters with real troubles and the people who are strong and generous enough to love them.
Serena loves to embrace new hobbies, and has at various times enjoyed birdwatching, backpacking, violin, Ultimate Frisbee, skiing, tennis, ice-skating, dance, needlepoint, kayaking, paddleboarding, meditating, and swimming laps—to name just a few.
Her supportive husband lovingly accepts each new hobby and all the equipment it requires, and her two school-aged children provide opportunities to explore new activities like coaching basketball and remembering just how much math she’s forgotten.
You can sign up for her new release updates here! http://www.serenabell.com/newsletter