MEANT TO BE MINE excerpt
She hid her scar behind her clothes, hid her sexual hunger behind mannequins in a window, but eventually, he would bring Sofia Mercer out of hiding.
Their lips parted and he traced a finger between her breasts, up the jagged trail of thick, knotted scar tissue. He wanted to see it, assure her it wasn’t ugly, but he’d given his word that he wouldn’t look, and he would kick his own ass before he violated that trust.
“It doesn’t feel ugly,” he said plainly. “I’ve got scars, too.”
“From fighting. This is different.”
What had she been imagining, all these years? Schoolyard brawls? A teenage fight club? Did she define him as someone so out of control that he’d gone searching for split lips, black eyes, and fractured ribs?
Yeah, it was different. Her scar was a result of a lifesaving medical procedure . . . not violence.
Laying his hand flat, he felt her heart pound quick and strong. Caught up in the moment, caught up in her, he whispered, “Losing you would’ve killed me.”
He felt her slip away from him before she moved a single muscle. When she did retreat, sliding off his lap, fixing her clothes, and raking an arm across her mouth, she said, “I told Abram we weren’t together. Was that a lie? Can we be together, Burke?”
“Casually, yeah. As friends, of course. But don’t rope me into more. It wouldn’t be good for you.”
“That’s not your call.”
“It is, though. Tell me something and be truthful about it. How many panic attacks have you had since coming back to town?”
“Uh-huh. And how many came on when I wasn’t near you?”
“Uh . . .”
“That’s my point. Think it’s a coincidence that your health teeters when I’m around? I’m harmful to you. I’ve known for a long time that I’m no good.” She didn’t know all the hell he carried. He’d do anything to spare her heart the burden of his skeletons.
“Stop it,” she whispered, getting to her feet. “You’d never hurt me.”
“Not intentionally, but the fact is I trigger something in you that you can’t physically handle. I meant what I said earlier—it would kill me to lose you. As much as I want you, and damn it, you know I do, I can’t keep putting you at risk.”
“Are you sure my health isn’t your excuse to justify walking away?” she challenged. “Hold me off, resist what’s good and real and permanent, then take off on your boat. That’s your plan, right?”
“It’s worked out nicely for years. You wouldn’t be the first woman to step back because she can’t handle my career. It’s dangerous, the hours can be shitty, and sometimes I can be on the water for weeks. I’d never ask you or anyone else to shut up and like it. If you want to bail now, I won’t hold it against you.”
“That does terrify me, but I’m not bailing. A career is one thing. Escape is something else altogether. I don’t think I can love you halfway—either I’m all in or I fold.”
Excerpted from MEANT TO BE MINE by Lisa Marie Perry. Copyright © 2016 by Lisa Marie Perry. Used with permission of Grand Central Publishing. All rights reserved.