Deliberately, Charlotte moved her palms to the broad wall of his chest. His heart beat out of control underneath her fingertips. She pushed against him and pulled back, breaking the kiss.
“Gray, we must stop,” she said gently, sounding perfectly in control but knowing her heart beat as fast as his did.
He looked at her in confusion a moment, then those beautiful blue eyes flickered with desire. The yearning she saw almost broke her resolve and Charlotte forced herself to keep from hungrily kissing him again. Instead, she brought a palm to his cheek, feeling the slight stubble against it.
“Are you all right now?”
His hand went to her wrist and encircled it, his thumb slowly stroking the delicate underside, making her pulse jump.
“I would say I’m sorry … but it would be a lie,” he said, his voice low and rough.
She bit her trembling lower lip, not trusting herself to speak.
His other hand went to her waist a moment and then he pushed himself to his feet, bringing her with him. Her thumb stroked his cheek once, reveling in the feel of him.
“You were having a nightmare,” she said softly.
His brow creased. “I can’t seem to rid myself of them,” he admitted. “There were times I had to follow orders that were given … and even times I issued orders myself … that caused the deaths of men under my command. It’s impossible to let go. I hear the anguished cries of the dying. The dreams can be vivid.” He swallowed. “I’ve tried to stop feeling—because with feeling comes vulnerability. I already hurt so much for those who were lost.”
“War is savage. The atrocities you saw may never leave you. But Gray, you and your commanding officers only did what you thought best. The loss of life is inevitable in battle. Please don’t keep holding yourself responsible.”
He shook his head. “I’m sorry you saw me like this.”
“I only hope I brought some comfort to you. I was afraid to awaken you.”
Instead, he’d awakened something within her that would never give her rest.
*Excerpt coming March 2020
*Excerpt coming April 2020