Friday, June 5, 2015

Once Pure (Shattered Past #3) by Cecy Robson

Displaying oncepurse-banner.jpgShe bears the scars of the past. He blames himself for things he can’t control. Their defenses are up, but in Cecy Robson’s latest Shattered Past novel—perfect for fans of Monica Murphy and J. Lynn—true love lands a knockout punch.
Sofia Tres Santos remembers a time before her life went sour, before her innocence was ripped away, before she began punishing herself with risky behaviors and unworthy men. Now, at twenty, she just hopes she’s ready to rebuild some of what she lost. One way or another, it always comes back to her childhood friend and longtime crush, Killian O’Brien.
As strong as Killian is, Sofia has always been his one weakness. He knows Sofia has suffered and wants to ensure she’s never hurt again—not like before, and definitely not under his watch. When Sofia agrees to work at his mixed martial arts gym, Killian seizes the opportunity to help and protect the sweet girl he’s always cared for. And yet, as he trains Sofia to defend herself using his hard-hitting MMA techniques, he’s drawn to the vulnerable beauty in ways he never expected.
As Sofia grows stronger, she also grows brave enough to open herself up to love. And along the way, she challenges everything Killian believes to be true, showing him that no matter how much he dominates in the ring, the real battle is fought in the heart.



I was so tired of being afraid . . . and weak. When would it end?

My head jerked up when I heard someone approach.

The doorknob twisted and Killian stepped in. He paused, his smile fading and his brows drawing tight. He shut the door behind him as I hurried to rustle through my notes in an attempt to look busy.

He placed his large palms against the desk. “What’s wrong?”

I sat and reached for a pen, keeping my gaze averted. “It’s loud out there,” I managed.

He glanced back behind him, although the door remained shut. Shadows of concern darkened his features when he returned his face to mine. He didn’t believe me. Why would he? It didn’t take a genius to see I was scared.

My grip tightened on the pen. “Maybe I should work from home. If we talk some now, I can get most of the work done at my mother’s house.”

“What happened?”

Killian’s harsh tone had me meeting his stare. For the most part, Killian was pretty laid- back, but rage lingered just beneath the surface. It was why he was almost undefeated in his weight class. He knew when to release it.

Fury stirred behind his deep blue irises. I knew it wouldn’t take a lot for him to open the lock that caged his anger. If he suspected that anyone had mistreated me there would be serious trouble, with me coming out badly in the end. “I don’t think I should be here,” I told him truthfully, hating my voice for how it shook.

Killian stiffened. “Sofia . . .”

“It was a mistake,” I blurted. “I’m not ready.”

Killian’s focus narrowed in on my face. He was trying to figure out my sudden change. Knowing so scared me senseless.

I stood then sat and stood again. My words made no sense, but they were the only ones I could form then. Fear paralyzed me constantly, making it hard to function.

That was the reason I’d turned to computers to begin with and become so adept. It was just me and a machine incapable of judging or hurting me. If a task or function didn’t work, I started over until I got it right. I never had to worry what could happen to me when I sat in front of the keyboard. Never had to fear who could reach out and grab me. Never had to be afraid it would spill my darkest secrets. I could escape into my work, knowing I couldn’t be harmed.

Life didn’t have that luxury.

“I shouldn’t have come across so strong,” Killian said.

I straightened, my lips parting slightly. “What?”

He bowed his head, releasing a heavy breath. “When I invited you to come here, and you agreed, I thought maybe you were agreeing to more—I shouldn’t have assumed that. I’m sorry.” My grip loosened on my pen until it fell from my grasp and onto the desk. Oh, no. Please don’t.

“I should know better than to push. I just thought, it won’t happen again,” he added quickly. “I swear it won’t. But please don’t leave. I meant it when I said that I needed you.”

He did want more. And now I’d ruined things.

I rubbed my eyes, frustrated.

When Killian first took over the gym last fall, his expenses were huge and his profit minimal. I’d built him the most basic site to attract business and helped him with promo. Philly took care of its own. When word got out that he was a local boy—with five years of professional MMA matches under his belt and taking on trainees—business exploded and so did the chaos. He needed a better site, a better bookkeeping program, and better organization.

“I need you, Sofia,” he repeated. “I can’t trust anyone else with my accounts and personal information. Will you stay and help me?”

He needed me. I dropped my hands away and lifted my chin. “Okay.”

“Yeah?” Considering I’d changed my mind twice in the span of an hour, I couldn’t really blame him for doubting me or my sanity.

“Yes, I’ll help you,” I promised. I rustled through the papers on the desk again, trying to offer more of an explanation. But there I was again, unable to make sense out of what was right in front of me.

I could feel Killian’s gaze on me. Originally, I wasn’t supposed to start until the end of July. But when he called me a few days ago and gave me the lowdown, I knew he couldn’t wait.

He continued to watch me in silence. I finally stopped and lifted my chin. “I’m sorry,

Killian. I don’t want to be so . . .” “Pathetic” was the first word that came to mind. But thankfully I didn’t say it out loud.

“You don’t need to be sorry about anything.”

But he was wrong.

I motioned to the door, unable to keep my eyes on his. “The thing is I need some privacy. It’s hard to focus with the noise.”

Killian leaned back and crossed his bulging arms, exposing the religious tats painting them. There was something unnerving about the Archangel Michael staring straight at me. Then again, he knew my sins well.

“The doors need to stay open, and so do the blinds,” Killian said.

A group of male voices laughed some distance away. Was it those same guys? I motioned toward the door again, my hand starting to shake. “I-I can’t concentrate. It wasn’t this loud last time.”

I wasn’t sure what Killian caught in my expression, but whatever it was deepened his voice. “I’ll buy you some plugs.”

“It won’t be enough,” I added quietly.

He watched me for a beat. Man, it was as if he could see straight into my thoughts.

“Listen, Sofia, most of my guys training are decent. But some aren’t. I want to make sure you’re safe. I can’t do that if I can’t see you.”

“What if I lock—”

“No.” His tone was firm. “I need to know you’re safe at all times.”

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