Trying to escape her troubled past, Anna Romo has come home to Destiny determined to carve out a place for herself. When she buys the old Victorian house on the hill with the intent of furnishing it into a Bed and Breakfast, she’s thrilled by the possibilities.
Ex-biker-gang member Duke Dawson is as much a fish out of water in Destiny as Anna, but he’s handling it fine until an accident scars not only his body but his mind. When Anna stumbles across him in an old cabin in the woods near her newly acquired house, at first she’s terrified. But they work out a deal – she’s willing to keep his solitary living arrangement a secret if he’s willing to help her with some of the heavy lifting at the house.
Working together on the rennovations, romance brews between Duke and Anna. That is, until war hero Jeremy Sheridan returns home in a blaze of glory and sets his sights on Anna. Suddenly torn between the outgoing and charming Jeremy and the intriguing Duke, Anna’s heart is torn between two paths and left with only one solution.
Source: HarperCollins for review purposes
Anna recently returned to Destiny, and to her family, after learning that the woman that she thought was her mother had abducted her at the age of five. Her abduction played a big part in her brothers Mike and Lucky’s stories. She returned last year, all confidence and beauty, and stirred up the small town and made her brothers a little crazy because, despite the fact that she’d been gone for 20 years, she wasn’t immediately drawn to them and eager to become a part of their family again. Mike, especially, has been a little overprotective of her and it makes her feel claustrophobic and resentful. Anna took a little of the money she received from her “other mother” and bought a bed and breakfast, where she is living and slowly refurbishing, but it’s close enough to Destiny and her brothers that they are a part of each other’s lives.
Duke is staying in a shack on Anna’s property that has been abandoned for years and is in a sad state. He doesn’t care, though, because he is trying to escape for a little while. He sold his bar and moved to Indiana. At least, that was his intention. When that didn’t work out, he remembers Lucky telling him about the shack. In an effort to evade human contact and work through a few things, he makes himself a home there, amid the dirt and grime. One day, he stumbles upon Anna and, slowly, she pulls him out of his hideaway and tries to help him face people and civilization again. He offers to help her repair her home and the chemistry between them
Duke’s isolation is a coping mechanism for him because he feels guilt over an accident that claimed the life of a good friend of his. Though he wants to be left alone, he’s drawn to Anna and they begin a tentative friendship. Duke was left disfigured by the accident and has a long, scary scar on his face, which makes him think that no one would want to be around him and maybe he’ll never find a woman who can look past it. Especially beautiful Anna, who he cannot stop thinking about.
Anna understands Duke’s hiding away to an extent because of her past, but she slowly starts to push him into getting back out into the world. Duke isn’t ready to forgive himself or make his presence in Destiny common knowledge, so he and Anna live in their own little world at Half Moon Hill while they slowly fall in love. As soon as Duke makes an effort to step back into society, he feels threatened by a war hero who’s returned home and has his sights set on Anna.
I have loved the whole series so far and I’ve reviewed all 5 (to this point) books. I love this author and was excited to read more about Destiny, though I didn’t expect to connect with either Anna or Duke. Anna was just introduced in the last book, though she’s been a bit of a presence throughout the series. The issue I had with Anna was that her part in the previous book, Willow Springs, was essentially to keep Logan and Amy apart.
Duke had been an ancillary character and, though he is best friends with one of the previous heroes, we didn’t really get to know him very well and I never imagined he would be the focus of any of the books. But I have to say that I’m glad Ms. Blake utilized Duke in this capacity because I think he’s my favorite.
At the beginning of each chapter, we are presented with a quote from the book Phantom of the Opera, which I’ve never read, but I understand the premise. Basically it boils down to the fact that Duke sees himself as a monster, but the beautiful Anna sees past his scariness to a man beneath who is loving and kind, if not exactly sweet. They have something in common, these outcasts.
Duke’s survivor guilt is heartbreaking because you can’t really fix it. I love that, in all of the Destiny books, I expected them to be lighthearted and fluffy, but they have a deeper message. And oh, Holy Cheez-its, it was hot. Who knew lemondade could be such an aphrodesiac? Duke and Anna together were sizzling. I love that Anna wouldn’t give up on Duke, despite his many attempts to have his own way. The love story in this book was hot, fun, and satisfying. Bravo, Ms. Blake, and keep ‘em coming!
The slightly twisted gray metal mailbox that had seen better days was empty. Big surprise. She didn’t get a lot of mail. And some days she wondered why she bothered to check it at all.
So what now?
You could drive into town. Go to the bookstore. Stop by the police station and see if Mike’s there – God knew it would make her over-protective brother’s day if she purposefully paid him a visit.
Or … she could do something that sounded easier.
Berries. You can pick berries. She’d seen some blackberries on a walk in the woods recently, but they hadn’t yet been ripe. Maybe they would be now. Maybe you can make a pie from them. Not that she’d ever made a pie in her life. But it seemed like something an innkeeper should be able to do. And if she picked berries today instead of going into town, she wouldn’t have to try to fit in and pretend she had life completely under control.
Heading into the large detached garage, which held her 1965 cherry red Mustang and also served as storage space for now, she retrieved one of several brown wicker baskets that had hung from nails on the wall since before her arrival.
A moment later, the scent of freshly blooming honeysuckle met her nose as she stepped from the bright sunlight at the yard’s edge into the shaded isolation of the woods. At first, going for walks here had made her uncomfortable – it was one more new experience that had taken a little getting used to. But she’d soon discovered there was nothing to fear, and while the house and her yard were both peaceful, there was something different about being surrounded by the lush green of the woods. The forest was a distinct world of its own, one that couldn’t be easily tamed or controlled, and maybe she liked that a little.
She moved past tall, thick, old trees and stepped her way carefully through low lying shrubbery and brush. A glimpse of yellow wildflowers in the distance made her smile – though they were hidden deep in the woods, seeing them meant their beauty wasn’t wasted
Oh God, this place really is getting to you. She’d never thought such deep thoughts, let alone about something as pure as nature, before coming to Destiny.
But if you’re changing in ways, it must be because you want to.
She’d just caught the scent of more honeysuckle when something moved up ahead. She didn’t see anything – but she’d just entered a particularly dark, shady part of the woods. So she just kept walking. Where were those berries anyway? Hadn’t they been right around here? She returned to scanning the low lying greenery around her looking for ripened blackberries.
Aha – there they were! And they looked nice and plump and dark, ready for picking, just like the pictures she’d Googled to make sure.
She’d just started dropping the big, healthy-looking berries into her basket, though, when the brush moved again, much closer to her this time – and she looked up to find … oh dear Lord, a wildman. The sight paralyzed her, fear numbing every limb.
Over six feet in height and bulging with muscles that gave her the impression he could tear her limb from limb, he emerged through a patch of tall shrubbery, flashing crazy, piercing blue-gray eyes. Unkempt brown hair hung to his shoulders and a scraggly beard covered the bottom half of his face, not quite obscuring the angry scar that slashed its way down one cheek.
Anna lost her breath, let the basket drop to the ground, then began to take instinctive steps backward – promptly stumbling over a large tree root. Her butt collided with the packed earth as she tried to break the fall with her hands. Pain shot through her ankle and she heard a cry of anguish escape her throat, all the while sensing the rapid approach of the brute who had somehow materialized out of nowhere in her woods.
Get up. Get away. That was what her brain was telling her, but her body wasn’t quite obeying. She struggled to get to her feet, but her ankle gave out as she rose, and she landed on her rear again, even harder this time.
She raised her eyes to the hairy beast now stalking her. Oh God, his eyes were still just as crazed! Where on earth had he come from? Her heart beat like a drum in her chest as she flew into defensive mode – flighthad failed, so that left only fight to fall back on. “Who the hell are you and where did you come from?”
Despite the question, she hadn’t quite anticipated him replying with, “For God’s sake, Daisy Duke, relax,” in a deep, raspy voice that actually sounded … well, surprisingly confident for a wildman. She’d imagined him communicating more by … grunting or something.
But wait a minute. He thought she was Daisy Duke? Like from the old Dukes of Hazzard TV show? Clearly, this meant he really wascrazy, or at least not in his right mind.
Her reaction? Another desperate attempt to get to her feet and get the hell out of here before he attacked her – but it turned out to be just as futile and she ended up plopping painfully to her ass again with an, “Oomph.”
“Jesus, woman, stay down already,” he told her. “Doesn’t seem like walking’s your strong suit.”
She flinched. Whoa. The wildman was actually insulting her now? She huffed out a breath. “I’m injured, you Neanderthal.”
“Well, it’s no fucking wonder the way you keep falling down. Sit still, for the love of God.”
She just blinked, doubly stunned now. “Who the hell are you?” she asked again. “And what are you doing in my woods?”
His eyes still looked just as menacing, but his answer came with a bit less bite. “I didn’t know they were your woods. I’m just … staying in the cabin awhile.”
The cabin? What cabin could he mean? She didn’t know of any…
But then she stopped mid-thought, her jaw dropping. Because maybe she did know the structure he was referring to – but if so, she thought cabin a generous description.
She supposed it had been a cabin once upon a time, but it had long since decayed into an old shack that tilted to one side, its decrepit walls covered with ivy. She’d assumed the only creatures inhabiting the place were more along the lines of rodents. Of course, she still thought this guy looked like more beast than man, so maybe that didn’t bother him. But … why the hell would someone live in that place? Was he just some wandering homeless dude? And what was she going to do about him?
When she didn’t reply, he narrowed those gray eyes of his to say, “You really don’t know who I am, do you?”
Huh. She was supposed to? The fleeting idea that he was some famous rock star who’d decided to run away from it all flitted through her mind as she replied, “No. That’s why I keep asking who you are.”
“I’m Duke,” he finally told her. “Duke Dawson.”
Even while seated on the ground, Anna drew back slightly. She couldn’t have been more surprised if he had turned out to be a rock star. “Lucky’s friend?” she asked, utterly bewildered. Because she’d met her youngest brother’s best friend, Duke, several times, but … well, he hadn’t looked like this.