The Returning Hero

The Returning Hero by Soraya Lane Page A

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Authors: Soraya Lane
didn’t want to hurt her, had no intention of pushing her away, but this was something that he needed to prepare for.
    “I can’t,” he muttered, rolling firmly on to his back.
    Jamie tucked her knees up to her chin and wrapped her arms around her legs. The mood had changed, was no longer about sex and suddenly included a whole lot of stuff that Brett wasn’t ready to face. Gone was the fun, flirty vibe they’d had happening between them, replaced by a serious, we-need-to-talk session.
    “You’ve never talked about…”
    “And I don’t want to,” he said, voice firm as he interrupted her. There was no way he was going to start talking, not now. That he was going to ruin what had been an otherwise perfect evening by dredging up exactly how his skin had become so disfigured.
    “Can we just pick up where we left off?”
    “You don’t need to tell me, Brett, but let me see. Please? ” she asked.
    He shut his eyes, not wanting to get angry with this woman who’d been through so much, who he so genuinely cared about. Who was being so brave in another way that he knew must be beyond difficult for her. It shouldn’t be so impossibly hard, but it was. Opening up had always been difficult for him, yet he’d told her openly about the truth of his past, about his parents and how he still felt responsible for their deaths. This, though…this was different. The pain was too fresh.
    “I’m embarrassed,” he admitted, opening his eyes and looking straight into hers. “I’m no longer the guy who can go to the beach and just take off his top without thinking about it. It’s not something you want to see or hear about. It’s not who I am. And it’s not how I want you to see me.”
    Now it was Jamie shaking her head, telling him he was the one in the wrong. “No, Brett,” she told him, voice low and husky. “You are still that guy, because you’re still handsome and you’re still you. I don’t care what your skin looks like, but we can’t do this without you opening up to me. We can’t take this further if there’s any secrets between us.”
    He knew he was being stupid, that there was no point in delaying the inevitable, but letting Jamie see what he’d been through, what he was still going through, was like giving up a piece of his soul that he’d never intended on letting anyone be witness to. His skin had always been tanned and blemish-free, he’d always been the one to whip his shirt off on a hot day, but everything had changed the day he’d been burned. And not just his body, but his mind, too.
    “It’s ugly,” he said, voice flat, knowing he was fighting a losing battle.
    “I don’t care,” she said straight back, her gaze unwavering. “I just want you to let me in, Brett.”
    Jamie dropped her arms and moved closer, hands on his shoulders as she gently motioned for him to move. She couldn’t have made him budge an inch if he hadn’t wanted to, but he knew that the only way Jamie was going to trust him, that they were going to move past this, was if he let her in. If he trusted her to see what scared him the most.
    Brett took a deep breath and reluctantly rolled over onto his stomach, hands under his chin as he lay there for her to inspect him. He was expecting a gasp, something to tell him what a shock it was for her seeing him like that, but all he could hear was silence. A long stretch of silence that had him holding his breath, wishing he’d refused.
    And then she touched him . Brett dropped his head into the pillow. He’d been waiting for her to make a noise and now he was the one forcing back a groan. Or maybe it was a cry for help, he didn’t know—all he knew was that Jamie was touching him in a way that was making him want to scream at her to stop, and at the same time beg her never to take her hands off of him. Because now she’d seen it, there was no going back, and all of a sudden he wanted her to see the real him. Needed her to see his pain and help to heal him, because he

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