The Darkest Sunrise (The Darkest Sunrise Duet, #1)
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Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never harm me.
Whoever coined that phrase is a bald-faced liar. Words are often the sharpest weapon of all, triggering some of the most powerful emotions a human can experience.
“It’s a boy.”
“Your son needs a heart transplant.”
Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never harm me.
Syllables and letters may not be tangible, but they can still destroy your entire life faster than a bullet from a gun.
Two words—that was all it took to extinguish the sun from my sky.
For ten years, the darkness consumed me.
In the end, it was four deep, gravelly words that gave me hope of another sunrise.
“Hi. I’m Porter Reese.”
I’d never for the rest of my life forget those moments in my office with Porter Reese.
The ones where the world finally stopped—even as it kept turning.
I had patients waiting on me, but I couldn’t care less. I’d been waiting for over a decade to take a single breath that didn’t hurt. And, no matter how much I tried to deny it, nothing hurt with Porter, not even in the darkness.
How Porter gave that to me, I wasn’t sure. He didn’t understand my situation. But he didn’t pretend to. He didn’t offer any sage words of advice or try to give me a pep talk about moving on. He just listened and held me.
He’d spoken words, I was sure of it. But those moments were all about feelings.
There was something inherently freeing about telling him about Lucas. Our situations were different, but the same shade of black painted both of our souls.
But, as I clung to him, trying to perform the impossible task of collecting myself, it hit me that the darkness was all we’d ever have.
In the light, we lived on polar-opposite ends of the spectrum.
Porter had his children. His future was in ballet recitals and baseball games. And, after hearing his story, I was happy for him. Really, I was. But I couldn’t handle being a part of that.
That was his life. Not mine.
And, when he aimed a sad smile at me and used the pads of his thumbs to dry under my eyes, I knew he realized it too.
Leave it to me to connect with a single father. I mean, seriously. Karma was sadistic.
Peering up at him, I softly asked, “So, what now?” I didn’t want the answer though.
He shrugged, but it wasn’t in indifference. It was disappointment. Heartbreakingly so. It was also real, no matter how much I wished that it weren’t.
I sighed. “At the risk of sounding like a teenage girl, I really like you.”
His face lit. “I like teenage girls.” His eyebrows pinched together as he quickly amended, “Never mind. Ignore that. It sounded way better in my head.”
Giggling, I gave him a squeeze.
He groaned as he returned it. “Any chance we can rewind to Saturday night?”
“Would it change anything?”
He tipped his head down so he could see me, his blue eyes becoming dark and serious. “No. But that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t do it again.”
My stomach fluttered. Jesus, he was such a good guy.
It was going to break me more than I already was to let him go, but I had to end it before I had the chance to beg him to stay.
“Porter, I want to. I just…” I closed my eyes and stepped out of his arms while confessing the one word that I feared was starting to dictate my life. “Can’t.”
“I know,” he replied, allowing his fingers to linger on my shoulder until I was out of his reach.
Wrapping one arm around my waist, I attempted to ward off the chill his body had left behind and choked out, “I’m so sorry.”
He twisted his lips—his beautiful, plump, kissable lips. “Don’t apologize. It’s okay. Seriously, I’m not that great. Trust me. You’re getting the good end of the deal.”
I barked a laugh only to start crying all over again. Pointing to my eyes, I said, “This is ridiculous. We barely know each other. You must think I’m insane.”
He chuckled, that deep, masculine sound I loved so much, and it only made the pain in my chest intensify.
“If you’re insane, Charlotte, I’m certifiable. Because this fucking sucks.”
God! The fact that he felt it too made it that much worse.
He brushed the hair off my shoulder, a tingle lighting my skin where his fingers touched. “How about this? If you ever decide you can, promise me I’ll be the first to know. I believe I owe you a kiss.”
I fought back a sigh and asked, “How old is your youngest?”
“Creeping on four.”
I hiccupped a laugh. “You’re in luck. Mills women age really well. I mean, I’m a workaholic who will probably die of a heart attack by the time I’m forty, but if I make it that long, you are in for a real treat.”
He smiled and I wanted to cry all over again.
Christ. What the hell was wrong with me?
Oh, right. The first man I’d felt anything with in as long as I could remember was walking out of my life. And I was all but pushing him out the door because he had children.
When he kissed my forehead, I sucked in a sharp breath and allowed a million memories to flash on the backs of my eyelids.
Memories of me laughing, his eyes lit up as he watched me, a huge smile on his face.
Memories of him touching my lips after that kiss he’d promised.
Memories of us curled up on a couch, watching TV together, a fire crackling in the background, but that warmth only he could give me radiating in my chest.
Memories of him making love to me, slow and desperate.
Memories of me coming home to him after a long day’s work and crashing into his strong arms seconds before falling asleep.
Memories of us watching the bright sunrise together.
Memories that would never exist.
And then Porter left.
He didn’t say anything as he backed out of my office, but goodbyes were spoken all the same. My heart felt as though it were being ripped from my chest with each step he took closer to the door.
He never tore his gaze from mine. It was both a gift and a punishment, because for the first time since I’d met Porter, it gave me the opportunity to see the staggering emptiness in his eyes.
I hated it almost as much as I loved it. He’d lived through hell, but for one lunch, one dinner, and over half an hour in his arms, it had brought him to me.
That was enough.
And, as I watched the door close behind him, I accepted that it would have to be.
After that day, the sunrise only got darker.
The Brightest Sunset (The Darkest Sunrise Duet, #2)
Coming July 27th
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You won’t want to miss this amazing series!
Originally from Savannah, Georgia, USA Today bestselling author Aly Martinez now lives in South Carolina with her four young children.
Never one to take herself too seriously, she enjoys cheap wine, mystery leggings, and baked feta. It should be known, however, that she hates pizza and ice cream, almost as much as writing her bio in the third person.
She passes what little free time she has reading anything and everything she can get her hands on, preferably with a super-sized tumbler of wine by her side.