USA Today Bestselling Author
Autumn in New York promises a turn in the seasons as we kick off the next stage of our lives. Colorful leaves falling, dropping temperatures, and the first days of classes loom even as the lingering summer heat and humidity make the city stifling.
Summer was a time to get away, to just be us, and what a magical time it was, but we can only run away from our lives for so long. We have family, careers, friends—new and old—as well as commitments waiting for us. With a new place to call our own in a new city I’m already half-in-love with, we’re not afraid of the challenges ahead.
Of course, not everyone is rooting for us, not everyone wants us to succeed, and some choices may come back to haunt us. But don’t come for those I love and expect me to do nothing. They might want to surround me in a layer of protection, but they’re mine and I’m more than willing to fight to keep them.
Feel free to test me, I’ve never failed one yet.
This is a reverse harem and the author suggests you always read the forward in her books. Contains some bullying elements, mature situations, and is recommended for 17+. This is the ninth in a series and the story will continue through future books.
As I started reading this book my mind went in so many directions with every word, my heart was pounding, my brain saying oh no, she wouldn’t would she? Evil author, very evil author. I’m not saying anything more about that you’ll have to read it yourself.
Now as the book continues Frankie has to assert herself with the guys to get them to back off. That always works, but she finds herself getting lonely. Then there’s a tension she doesn’t notice at first but Coop and Ian are both trying to help with that before she does.
Rachel provides a haven and an ear, as Frankie steps in to find answers to the accident. With the help of Whittaker she now has a New York firm to represent her Dominic Walsh is young but capable and Rachel likes to verbally spar with him. She also gives both the lawyer and the police a direction they definitely didn’t expect.
Jeremy is a favorite of mine always, he’s got the best advice without seeming to give it.
Frankie finally realizes she has to tell all of them what she’s been doing and her fears after an ice cream stop with Jake.
This is a favorite scene.
“Hey,” Ian said, having circled the sofa to where I was seated. He held out a hand and I took it then he settled back into my spot and pulled me into his lap. Arms tight around me, he kissed my temple. “It’s going to be all right, Angel. Five heads are better than one. Let’s start with the most basic questions, have you spoken to your grandparents?”
I shook my head. “No. I’m terrified of what their answer will be and before you ask, no I haven’t told Hank about the accident. I don’t want her to decide to take this out on him. He’s got a family and little kids…”
“Your family,” Coop interrupted.
“And he’s your father,” Jake tacked on. “A job he really seemed enthusiastic about.”
“Babe, we can’t protect you when we don’t know that there is a threat. He needs to know.” Archie groaned as he perched on the coffee table not far from me and Ian. Jake shifted to sitting on the other side of Ian, the four of them boxing me in neatly. “Babe— I love you for wanting to protect me, but not when it risks you. Nothing is worth risking you.”
“Nothing is worth risking any of you,” I argued. Ian’s arms tightened around me, and I leaned into him. I needed the strength more than he realized or maybe he did realize it and that was why he moved. “I get to protect you, too.”
Jake let out an aggravated sigh, Coop swept in. “Yes, you do. But I think the not sharing of potential problems should end now.”
Archie and Jake both glared at Coop who met their expressions with a bland one of his own.
“Secrets have a habit of coming back to bite us all in the ass. If Maddy really has had a break with reality enough to actively try and hurt both of you, then we don’t need issues chewing on us behind the scenes and breaking down the trust we’ve built.” He was still staring at Jake and Archie.
“Coop’s right.” Ian rubbed his chin against my shoulder. “As aggravating as it is that Frankie took this on herself, she had the forethought to involve Rachel and the attorneys. Then she came and told us. It might not be the kind of news any of us wanted to hear, but Frankie faced all of us. You two just have to face her.”
I shifted in his lap then focused on Archie and Jake. Neither looked happy. With Coop and Ian or with each other.
“Fine, fuck it. I’ll go first,” Jake said and he locked his gaze on me. “I told you I changed my schedule because it would be better for my focus. I let you think it was because I’d shifted my discipline, but the truth was I needed a break from Archie.”
My stomach bottomed out.
“Right, wrong, or indifferent,” Jake continued. “He should never have left you alone at your grandparents’ to drive back. I’m not saying I wanted him hurt in the accident, but you shouldn’t have been alone. His car. He should have been there.”
“I was trying to settle this between us,” Archie said after a long pause. “But even boxing didn’t help.”
All those bruises. I frowned.
“He’s not wrong, Babe, I should have been there, that said, he doesn’t get to decide who stays or who goes.”
“And you could learn to give a guy some space,” Jake bit out each word as though he were literally holding back his anger. To be honest, the two of them were closer right now than they’d been in the last few weeks. “But no, you have to be right there all the fucking time.”
“Did it occur to you that we’re always all here?” Archie retaliated, only his tone iced. “You got a problem, you deal with it. But we’re not punishing Frankie with some metaphorical tug of war.”
“Metaphorical my ass, you just have to do everything your way and the consequences be damned.”
So much of what Jeremy had gracefully danced around became clear. I’d gotten that there was tension. But this was more than that.
“Enough.” I pushed out of Ian’s lap as Archie and Jake both hit their feet. I was right between them and I’d be damned if they were going to keep this up. “Seriously, that’s enough.”
I glanced from one to the other. Pivoting, I faced Archie and I swore he damn near smirked and my blood heated. Not the time, Archie. Not the time. “You should know better than to keep shoving at Jake when he’s already dug his heels in. It just makes him angrier and more bull-headed. You can’t force people to like you and forgive you just because you wear them down and talk them into it.”
“Don’t you babe me.”
“You tell him, Baby Girl.”
At that, I whirled and poked a finger into Jake’s chest. “Don’t you start. You are not without fault here. Archie didn’t cause the accident. And I’m all right. You need someone to blame because it scared you. It scared all of you. Blaming Archie isn’t helping anyone right now. Add to all of that you changed your entire schedule so now we barely see each other and you thought that was the way to handle it?”
Jake’s expression fell and I threw up my hands before retreating from all of them and folding my arms.
“You’re all right, I should have told you about the Maddy thing right up front. But I get a say in protecting you as much as you get a say in protecting me. You hover, you make decisions, and you surround me like I’m fragile and I’ll break. But the one thing all of you forget is that I lived with Maddy my whole life. I know her better than all of you and I’m not wearing my willful blinders anymore.”
Ian frowned. “Then what do you think she’s doing?”
“Blaming Archie for losing me or maybe for losing Edward. Maybe both. She’s going to lash out. Archie is an easy target.”
“Excuse you.” Archie almost sounded offended, but Coop swatted him on the shoulder.
“She means you’re an easy target for Maddy’s rage.”
“I know what she meant,” Archie threw back at Coop. “But I’ll be fine. Frankie’s the one she’s always hurt.”
“But I’m also the one she wants.” Me and Edward apparently. Not something I’d ever think I’d have in common with Archie’s father.
“If she really is the narcissistic personality she seems to be, with psychopathic tendencies— then yeah. She won’t stand for being supplanted in your life. Archie’s the one who has been standing up to her the most.” Coop slid his hands into his pockets, and I swore my stomach dropped again.
Heather Long. Defiance and Dedication: Untouchable Book Nine (Kindle Locations 2108-2160).
The guys and Frankie do a lot of growing in this book. It’s a totally different world from high school and the stress is almost overwhelming.
There’s more than a little suspense with the whole Maddy thing, and then there’s a lot of fun too, with birthdays with not only the guys but also with Hank’s family.
So much to love, so much to want resolved, surprises that brought tears to my eyes and so much more that I couldn’t put this book down.
5 Contented Purrs for Heather!
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USA Today bestselling author, Heather Long, likes long walks in the park, science fiction, superheroes, Marines, and men who aren’t douche bags. Her books are filled with heroes and heroines tangled in romance as hot as Texas in the summertime.
From paranormal historical westerns to contemporary military romance, Heather might switch genres, but one thing is true in all of her stories–her characters drive the books.
When she’s not wrangling her menagerie of animals, she devotes her time to family and friends she considers family. She believes if you like your heroes so real you could lick the grit off their chest, and your heroines so likable, you’re sure you’ve been friends with women just like them, you’ll enjoy her worlds as much as she does.