Protecting You, an all-new emotional second-chance romance from Lena Hendrix, is available now!
One moment of hesitation and I lost Maggie forever.
Since then, we’ve spent the last 15 years in this small town circling each other and pretending neither remembers how right it felt when we were best friends.
Now she’s a single mom and she doesn’t need a “broody, grumpy cop” like me complicating her life. No matter how many times her heated gaze scorches my skin, I can never have her in the way I want.
So I push her away—but it’s for her own good.
Because if she knew the truth of what I did, she wouldn’t just have hurt feelings, she would truly hate me.
She has a guarded heart and it’s all my fault.
But I don’t have a heart at all. I gave it to Maggie O’Brien a long time ago.
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I couldn’t. Maggie hadn’t released her arms from around my neck, and I couldn’t
As we inched closer toward Maggie, I could see her partner was getting bolder, pressing his hips into her ass as they swayed. She pulled away, turning to push her palm against his chest. A low rumble vibrated within me at seeing him completely oblivious to her discomfort. The song faded, and I thanked Casey Mae for the dance, effectively dismissing her and ignoring the pout she clicked into place.
Two steps forward and I was pressed against Maggie’s back, my hand wrapping possessively around her trim waist. “You okay, doll?” My voice rumbled low against the shell of her ear.
“There you are!” Her eyes were wild as she turned and threw herself around my neck. Instinct took over, and I wrapped her in my arms. For a moment, I pulled her close to me, drowning in the warmth of her body, the delicate scent of floral perfume and her skin. My cock thickened at the closeness of Maggie’s body pressed against mine.
I’ve waited fifteen years for this.
Maggie still clung to me as I shot her dance partner prick a murderous glare. He took one step back, both palms in the air. Shaking his head, he backed away and wound himself around the next girl who smiled in his direction.
I should stop touching her. Let her go.
I couldn’t. Maggie hadn’t released her arms from around my neck, and I couldn’t force myself to peel my arms off her. Instead, I took a deep inhale of her sexy, floral scent and filed it away in my memory for later. Around us, the mood shifted. The lights slanted, and the low bass of a slow country song reverberated through the speakers.
Instead of releasing my shoulders, Maggie’s plush hips began to sway. “I think he’s still watching,” she whispered against my skin.
“Definitely,” I said. That douche had all but forgotten about us, but if that was what she thought, I was going with it.
One hand ran up her back, settling between her shoulder blades, and I pulled her chest against mine. I knew it was a mistake. My carefully crafted detachment was the only way I knew how to protect her from all my bullshit. Her heart hammered through the delicate fabric of her top, and I could feel the diamond tips of her nipples press against me.
I swallowed a groan as we swayed and moved to the music. Slow, practiced breathing was the only thing that kept me from completely unraveling in her arms. Up close, Maggie was even more beautiful than I could stand.
She was everything I needed but had no right to want. Not after what I had done. I shoved my demons down and focused on the fact that Maggie O’Brien was swaying in my arms, humming along with the band.
“You smell nice,” she said quietly. Her voice was barely audible above the noise in the bar.
“Mmm,” I harrumphed, unable to form a coherent thought, let alone actual words. A thousand thoughts tumbled through my head, but I couldn’t seem to find a way to give voice to a single one.
You smell nice too.
I miss you.
This feels too good.
The song faded, melted into a new one, and my ability to form a singular thought returned. My back stiffened as I pulled to my full height, causing her fingers to untangle from my hairline. The cold left behind by the absence of her hands prickled down my spine.
What the fuck are you doing? You’ve done nothing but ruin her entire life.
Dread pooled in my stomach as I thought back to all the choices that brought us here, all the things that I had done. I thought of David. I had no right to enjoy the feel of Maggie’s soft breath tangling with mine.
Steadying her on her feet, I held her at arm’s length and leveled my breathing. Her long fingers curled around my wrists, pushing against my pulse points as they hammered against her fingertips.
I’d let it go too far. How had I let her creep past my defenses and seep into my bones? The swirling greens and amber of her eyes burned into me. Everyone around us melted away.
I could do it. I could pull her into me and crush that full mouth against mine and finally claim her.
“Cole . . .” Maggie took the tiniest step toward me.
I swallowed past the gravel in my throat.
“You need to be more responsible.” I pushed past the undulating crowd, fleeing before I could do something epically stupid, like finally caving to my deepest desires. Bitter self-loathing washed over me as I caught the disgusted look that marred Maggie’s gorgeous face. I’d hurt her with the very words I knew would cut deep. But I had to protect her, and her heart.
Even if it cost me everything.
Sunny Shelly’s Review: 5 Stars
This series keeps getting better and better! We’ve gotten hints of Maggie and Cole’s backstory in the previous Chikalu Falls books, and Lena Hedrix did not disappoint with the emotional second-chance romance she delivered in Protecting You!
Protecting the people of Chikalu Falls is engrained in Cole Decker as a third-generation police officer. But protecting Maggie, the best friend he’s been in love with since he was a teenager, just about ruined him. There is so much history behind the estranged relationship between Maggie and Cole, and I loved how these two went from him (seemingly!) hating her to getting the HEA they both deserved. This emotional, heartwarming, heartbreaking story was captivating from start to finish.
LH also did a really great job of writing Cole’s relationship with Maggie’s daughter, Lottie. And of course, there’s the tight bond between Deck and the other guys, Lincoln and Colin. When things blow up between Cole and Maggie, when the weight of his secret is crushing him and destroying him from the inside out, the bond between these friends really shines as they tell him what a dope he’s being! One of my favorite scenes was between Deck and Lincoln! I’ve thought that the secondary characters were excellent supports from the very first book in this series, and I was thrilled to see that LH continues to write them that way.
I received an advanced copy and voluntarily left a review.
Lena Hendrix is the author of steamy, contemporary romance novels. Her love of romance started with her grandmother’s Harlequin paperbacks and now Lena’s stories are full of heart, humor, and plenty of strong Alphas with marshmallow insides-she likes her coffee hot and her heroes hotter!
Lena lives in the midwest with her husband, three children, and two derpy Australian Cattle Dogs. When she’s not writing or devouring new novels, you can find her hiking, camping, fishing, and sipping a spicy margarita!