“Phenomenal. Gets my highest recommendation!”
—LORELEI JAMES, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author
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…
Liv's words cut off as Finn got closer. The man approaching was nothing like the boy she'd known. The bulky football muscles had streamlined into a harder, leaner package and the look in his deep green eyes held no trace of boyish innocence.
Review* * * 3/4
(Source: advance e-galley provided in exchange for an honest review)
Returning to Long Acre High School, the site of a shooting years before, to be interviewed for a documentary unsettles Liv. As a survivor, she still carries the emotional scars from that horrific day. While she has moved on in certain aspects, there's also a part of her that is stuck. Finn is also struggling. His guilt over how he treated Liv in high school (keeping their relationship a secret) and how he left her vulnerable during the shooting has always made him feel unworthy of the hero status he attained after the shooting. He's since tried to make things right in his own way through his undercover work for the FBI. The work has been gratifying though it's taken its toll on his mental health. The time away to come do this interview is supposed to be a break from that world before he has to go back in. This reunion between them and their friends stirs up all the questions and hurt. It's a chance to say sorry and maybe rebuild from the ruins. What has caught Liv off guard is seeing how much of her life has remained stagnant when compared to the goals she had laid out for herself back in high school. Now after seeing Finn again, she feels inspired to rectify that and also help him take the time to disengage from his job, unwind and achieve some balance. Perhaps in helping each other, they can not only rekindle what they had but start a new, happier chapter in their lives.
The Ones That Got Away deals with loss, guilt, grief and ultimately forgiveness. Everyone manages differently after a traumatic event; no one can predict how it can affect a person and for how long. In Liv's case, she thought she was doing well throwing herself into her career until she forced herself to look more closely and she saw a pattern that only feeds her insecurities and fears. As for Finn, he's forced to look at what drives his need to live up to the hero everyone believes him to be. This is also a second chance story not just about love but also about life, re-prioritizing values and goals. And it's also about making sure the right people are there surrounding you and encouraging you as the healing continues.
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.”
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