Respect by Jay Crownover
Once upon a time, there was a beautiful princess who called a corrupt kingdom home sweet home.
Protected and sheltered from the worst the world had to offer, she fell in love with the crumbling city that burned and blazed around her. Every dirty corner, every scary shadow, found a place within her heart. So did a man who was violent and dangerous, just like the streets she claimed as her own.
He was all business and brutality, except when it came to her. With her, he was calm, caring, and heartbreakingly patient.
He warned her over and over that he wasn’t the man for her, but she refused to listen. She never expected either the streets or their enforcer to hurt her, since she’d given her heart so completely to both.
She should have known the streets in the Point were always going to be savage, and so was the man committed to keeping control of them in the hands of criminals and bloody kingpins.
Blindsided by a betrayal which cut so deeply she was sure the wounds would never heal, the princess fled the home she loved and the man who broke her heart. Throwing away her rusted, twisted crown was supposed to help her forget. All it did was make her long for everything she left behind. She told herself she would never go back, but in this tormented kingdom, family is everything. Eventually, she has no choice but to return.
While she was gone, the people who loved her worked hard to make the city safe, and the man who destroyed her sank deeper into the darkness. Going back shouldn’t feel like surrender… but it does. As this pretty princess hovers on the edge of the unknown, the past attacks with a vengeance. It’s a good reminder that puppy love eventually grows up and turns into something with sharp teeth and one hell of a bite.
She never asked for the keys to the kingdom. She’d much rather go out and build her own.
In my life, I’d been shot, stabbed, beaten, and tortured. I couldn’t remember any of those things hurting as much as seeing the damage I did to Karsen up close and personal. I knew I was going to break her heart. I didn’t have a choice. But seeing the long-term effects of my actions still clinging to her, lingering with her, it burned somewhere deep inside of me. I felt it right next to the place that had been empty and hollow the second she left.
I lifted a hand and ran my fingers over my scar. It was a bad habit, one I mostly controlled, unless I was extremely anxious over something. There wasn’t much in this world that pushed me toward my nervous twitch. The young blonde in front of me was—and would always be—the exception to the rule. Even when she was way too young to make me nervous, I still found myself touching my face as a reminder there were some mistakes that stuck with you forever.
Realizing I needed to rein in this situation, I dropped back a step so she wasn’t as crowded and tried to relax my always rigid and alert stance. When you were nearly six-and-a-half-feet tall and built to take beatings and bullets, looking nonthreatening wasn’t exactly an option. The slender young woman watching me like a hawk was the only one who ever acted like she saw something beyond the battle scars and armor I showed to the rest of the world.
“I know I hurt you…” It was lame. Weak. But it was also true. I knew I hurt her. I meant to. It was the only way to get her to go. It was the only way to give Race what he wanted. It was the only way to keep my ass out of jail. But she’d had time—four years, to be exact—she’d had space, she lived a whole life without me or the Point in it. I was hoping the distance may have brought clarity, the realization I would never have done what I did without a damn good reason. But looking at her furious face, I understood I’d been existing on wishful thinking and false hope for far too long.
Karsen’s pale eyebrows shot up and her pretty, pink mouth dropped open like the hinges on her jaw had suddenly stopped working. Another one of those ugly laughs that shouldn’t come from such a pretty girl shot out of her mouth. Slowly, her head shook back and forth as if she couldn’t believe I not only had the audacity to sneak into her home, but to speak of our shared history in such simple terms.
“You did not hurt me, Booker.” She pointed a shaking finger at my stinging face. I was going to have a bruise and probably a partial shiner. I was proud of her for defending herself. I was glad living in a place where she could breathe without choking on pollution and corruption hadn’t made her soft or complacent. “You annihilated me. The girl I was before doesn’t exist anymore, and that sucks, because she was pretty damn special.”
I blinked at her in confusion.
She looked the same. Older, slightly more polished and pulled together, but she was still the same stunning girl I’d been carefully dancing my way around since she was sixteen. “Who are you now?
She scoffed at me and rolled her eyes. “I’m a girl who’s homesick—and a woman who’s sick of my home—all because you’re there. I’ve wished every day for the past four years that I’d never met you.”
Ouch. Direct hit.
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Jay Crownover is the international and multiple New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Marked Men Series, The Saints of Denver Series, the Point Series, the Breaking Point Series, and the Getaway Series. Her books can be found translated in many different languages all around the world. She is a tattooed, crazy haired Colorado native who lives at the base of the Rockies with her awesome dogs. This is where she can frequently be found enjoying a cold beer and Taco Tuesdays. Jay is a self-declared music snob and outspoken book lover who is always looking for her next adventure, between the pages and on the road.
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