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Warning. This book contains racial epithets and graphic sexual language.
Viewed as a monster by many, Chase Hudson is a born and bred racist, who is unashamed of the twisted beliefs instilled in him as a boy growing up in the neo-Confederate community founded by his grandfather. Chase accepts his lot and path in life by keeping to himself, knowing he can depend on and trust in no one but himself. Until his path crosses with Larke. The one person who has every reason in the world to despise him, but instead treats him like a man who is worthy of her compassion, trust and so much more.
Larke Taylor has never forgotten her harrowing encounter with the boy who’d threatened her harm at the tender age of nine. Thirteen years later, she is shocked and heartbroken to see the man Chase has become, after rejecting her innocent offer of friendship. His very presence frightens and intrigues her like nothing else. But beneath the hate-inspired tattoos telling her everything she needs to know about him, Larke finds it hard to deny all the other signs that speak to her heart. The ones telling her that Chase is much more than a monster. He is a man deserving of love and way more than the life he leads, even if he doesn’t realize it.
As their relationship deepens, both are defenseless to defy their desire and all-consuming need for the other. Larke knows while Chase is the only man who captivates and holds her heart, he is also the one person who has the power to shatter and burn it to ashes if he refuses to put her above his legacy of hate.
Wow. She had given Chase a mouthful. Larke immediately regretted telling him so much about herself. Had to be because of how little she went out with the opposite sex. Something she would definitely remedy if it prevented her from running her mouth to a white supremacist. One, who also assumed he was entitled to her respect for the simple fact of being who he was.
“I guess your mom must be real proud, huh?”
Her heart felt heavy. “She was,” Larke told him, unable to keep the sadness from her voice. “She died over a year ago.”
“Thanks,” she said, glancing over at him carrying the picnic blanket. “My mom was ill for a while.” Larke lifted a shoulder. “Life has to go on, right?” “
He nodded. “That’s true. My grandfather died a year ago too. But like you said–have to keep it moving.”
She said nothing to that, only cringing inwardly at exactly what she assumed he had to keep moving and supporting. Once they arrived near a large pond, away from the walking trail, Larke stopped and place her laptop bag on a bench. Although the area was empty save for her and Chase, it didn’t bother her. Her skin no longer prickled with fear at the thought of being alone with him. In the place of her unease from earlier, was uncertain curiosity.
“Aren’t you concerned someone you know might see us out here at some point?” she asked, sitting beside him on the bench.
He shook his head. “No. As for the people I know, most of them wouldn’t come around these parts. Too many…” His voice trailed. He averted his gaze as if he’d caught himself before saying something he knew would start an argument. “It’s too diverse for the people I know. Not everyone can handle going out in a world that isn’t the way we’d like it to be.”
Larke stiffened. “How exactly would you like it to be?”
He refused to answer. Issuing her a pointed look, he grated, “I didn’t drive all the way out here to talk race with you, Larke.”
Okay. Now they were getting somewhere. “Then why did you come? Please tell me. Why did you drive all the way out here from your Aryan homeland to see me, when all we have in common is that we were two kids stuck in a bad situation together? We’re nothing to each other. We weren’t even friends.” Although I gave you my necklace to keep and remember me by.
“I wanted to see you.”
Those were his only words. Larke waited for him to elaborate, say something else. Nothing. His blue eyes pleaded with her to understand. His gaze, so intense, stroked her face, leaving no misunderstanding. Chase wanted her, despite everything he believed in. She wrapped her arms around her middle, her entire body shivering with emotions that excited and terrified her.
Trapped beneath his stare, Larke forced herself to look away. Not for the first time since meeting Chase, she felt the urge to run. To get as far away from him as she could, without a glance backward. But what good would it do? The last time she ran from him, she’d found herself in a different sort of danger. Now, as a grown woman, in spite of everything Chase stood for, there was a faint stirring of butterflies awakening inside her stomach whenever their gazes met. Larke groaned silently. Lord help her, she wasn’t even sure she wanted to run.
“How can you want to see me when we both know this isn’t right?” She tapped a finger to her chest. “I’m not supposed to be right. Not enough for you to have an interest in me; apart from wishing me gone.” She narrowed her eyes at him and shook her head. She might not want to run from him, but she could still put an end to this insanity. “Whatever this is, I can’t. I honestly can’t.”
Her emotions ran the gamut. Guilt, frustration, anger at herself for actually contemplating allowing Chase into her life, made Larke dizzy with confusion. His jaws hardened as she took the blanket from him. “You understand and agree with me, don’t you?” Please say you do and make this easy.
Instead of answering, he reached into his back pocket, withdrawing something that at first appeared white and shiny. Larke sucked in a breath as he held out his hand, allowing the pearl necklace to dangle below his finger.
“You kept it?” she asked, flabbergasted that the plastic pearls looked as she’d remembered them. She’d assumed he’d thrown away her friendship gift.
“I planned on throwing it away after you gave it to me,” he said, “could never bring myself to go through with it, though. I kept it in a box at the back of my closet. I forgot about it for a couple of years until I saw you again.”
“Did you clean it,” she asked jokingly, still trying to wrap her mind around this. “It looks a lot better than when I had it.”
His lips twitched into another half smile. “I wiped it off last night. Didn’t think you’d be too impressed if I showed up with your necklace looking grungy.”
The smile fell from her lips. “You’ve known for awhile that I come here in the mornings, haven’t you?” she asked, gently without suspicion. “Were you watching me all the time, at my apartment too?”
“No.” A faint tinge of red stained the top of his cheeks. He backtracked. “I mean, okay. I did go back to your apartment building one morning. That’s when I followed you here. I never went back to your place. That I swear. I ain’t no stalker. I was only trying to figure out the best way to talk to you. That’s all. Like I said–it was never about trying to hurt you or anything.”