He Found Me by Whitney Barbetti + GIVEAWAY {BOOK TOUR}

When I was seventeen, I disappeared. I walked out the door of my apartment with a backpack and never looked back. I left the life of Cora Mitchell behind, seeking freedom from my real-life nightmare.
But my freedom came with a cost. I lived a fictitious life for the next six years, never letting anyone close enough to see underneath the fa├žade that was Andra Walker.
I was content with my simple little life.
Until I met Julian.
And the moment I started allowing myself to open up, allowing someone to see through the superficial, was the very same moment the Monster from my past would return to find me





I am married with two boys. When I’m not changing diapers or cutting food into tiny bites, I escape to Starbucks for hours. 
I love music and have a playlist for everything.
I like watching creepy shows when I am home alone but then I instantly regret them once my mind starts breeding irrational fears.
I have about 20 bacon things in my fridge.






In an instant, I’d walked right into a wall. Or, it only felt that way. I was chest to chest with a wall of muscle that belonged to one Julian Jameson, currently clothed in a navy blue fitted tee, lying against his torso so that it was perfectly contoured to his muscles. I barely registered the warm hands that wrapped around my bare upper arms, steadying me.
My breath caught before I tilted my head up, meeting his deep, cocoa powder brown eyes. My eyes moved over that short hair on his beautifully sculpted jawline before meeting his eyes again and I bit my lip. This was the closest I’d been to him, face to face, breathing the same air. I’m not sure how long we stood there, looking at each other. I became aware of his breath, warm on my face. Cinnamon and sandalwood permeated the few inches of air that separated us.
“Andra,” he said, the sound gravelly in his throat. His hands left my upper arms, and I nearly stumbled backwards from the loss of warmth. He made a move to grab me again, but I stepped backwards, out of reach. My hands gripped the banana peel and water bottle, grounding me, reminding me of what I was doing.
“I was just swimming,” I blurted out. It sounded defensive. Why?
Julian allowed a smile to lift one side of his lips. “I know,” he murmured. He looked pointedly at the bikini top before looking back at me. I saw his Adam’s apple bob in his neck before he took a hesitant step backwards. The distance felt like an ocean in regards to breathing room, but I was still wrapped up in his presence and felt the goose bumps rise up on my skin instantaneously. “I was coming to find you. Does seven still work for you?”
I nodded, and licked my lips. “I was just heading up to get ready. I’m guessing bikini wear is out for wherever we’re going?” I gestured across my body with my water bottle.
Julian’s eyes raked over my torso. A muscle twitched in his jaw. “Unfortunately, yes. Dinner in a restaurant is what I’d planned on.” His voice sounded gruff and I was pleased that he seemed to be tracking the movement of the droplets of water sliding down my front, disappearing into the towel around my hips.
I smirked, feeling a little more level headed. “What didn’t you plan on?” I exaggerated a wink, attempting to lighten the heady tension.
Julian laughed and tucked one hand in a pocket of his khaki cargo shorts. “You. I definitely didn’t plan on you.” He drew his free hand through his hair and shook his head, an amused expression lightening up his features.
It could have sounded like a line coming from anyone else, but from Julian, it felt natural, and honest. An area deep within my chest bloomed with warmth. I couldn’t help the smile that curved my lips. “I’ll take that as a compliment.”
I stepped around him, intending to head to my cabin before his hand on my shoulder stopped me. I looked at him with an eyebrow raised.
He looked at me with an unspoken question on his lips, eyebrows drawn together in concentration, before reaching behind me, cradling the back of my head. My eyes closed involuntarily and I sucked in breath through trembling lips. I felt his fingers delve into my hair, right under the bun I’d made. And, just as soon as I’d readied myself to be pulled closer, I felt his fingers skillfully remove my hair tie, allowing my hair to cascade down my back.
I opened my eyes, watching his face as he brushed a hand through my hair, resting his hand on my back right where the hair ended, just below the bikini’s strings. His features softened, his expression turned appreciative. “Wear your hair down,” he murmured, “tonight.”
I didn't trust my voice just then. I met his eyes and nodded. His hand slipped away from my back and he smiled tightly at me before abruptly turning away and walking up towards the big house.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Are you okay?” he asked, concern etched into his face, creating lines between his eyebrows.
I nodded, swallowing the tension that had stymied my voice. I pushed off the car, standing just a few feet from Julian. I heard my heart pounding in my ears but I stepped closer to him anyway, paying little attention to the anxiety rushing through my veins. Looking him in the eyes, I murmured, “I just need to do this.” Before I could allow the protesting voices in my head change my mind, I reached forward and grabbed the back of his neck. I pulled his face slowly towards mine and took one deep, fortifying breath before I crushed my lips to his.
It took only a second before his arms slid around my waist, pressing my chest to his. He kissed me back with a fervor that rivaled my own. The anxiety in my veins was overpowered by the instantaneous lust that rippled through every part of my body. I thought by kissing him, I’d calm the ache I felt whenever I was around him. Instead, I felt like I was drowning in him, desperate for buoyancy in the sea of my need for him.
I let my hands tangle in the hair behind his ears, dragging my nails across his scalp. Julian’s hands moved to the back of my head as he pushed me back against the car with little force. One hand moved into my hair and he twisted his fingers into my curls, tugging on them just enough to tilt my head back.
His lips left mine to travel along my jawline, slowly, kissing just behind my earlobe, before making their way back to my mouth, brushing his facial hair against my skin along the way. All the breath rushed out of my lungs and I gasped for air as his lips crushed against mine. One of my hands moved down to cup his jawline and I drew indefinite shapes into the hair that grew there with my thumbnail. He nipped at my upper lip and then my lower lip before sucking my piercing into his mouth. My knees grew weak and I gripped the back of his neck with more force than before. Something warm and heavy settled deep in my chest, depriving my lungs of the little remaining breathing room.
Julian pulled away and rested his cheek against mine, each of us trying to catch our breath. We were still tightly pressed together, his heartbeat rapidly echoing off of mine. My chest heaved as I gulped air and tried to calm the storm raging within me. His arms had slid over my shoulders, hands braced on the roof of the convertible. His upper arms rested gently on top of my shoulders in this position, sort of like a loose hug, and I ran my hands down his biceps, holding him in place, steadying myself. His weight on me was comforting, as if I was in need of comfort in some way.
I was completely oblivious to our surroundings, and suddenly thankful this road was not a busy one. I felt Julian’s warm breath tickle my ear as our breathing leveled out.
“Thanks,” I whispered right into his ear. I felt his returning smile against my cheek before he pulled back and looked at me face to face, his hands sliding to my shoulders. “I’ve wanted to do that since yesterday. And I couldn’t wait any longer. I needed to get it over with,” I said, smiling softly.
Julian’s eyes closed briefly before he let out a laugh. Opening his eyes, he said, “Get it over with? Well, I can tell you that this-”he gestured between us “-is far from over. Especially after that kiss.” He shook his head in amused disbelief.
His words should have scared me, but instead the warmth in my chest bloomed, surprising me. I rubbed my hands up and down Julian’s suit sleeves, a gesture that was meant to calm myself more than him. He leaned forward and touched his forehead to mine. We were nose to nose, eyeing each other with a quiet hunger.

~~~~~~~~~~~

I felt my ankle vibrate once. The phone. I froze. Then it vibrated again. And again. It didn’t stop vibrating.
HIDE.
I quickly closed the lid of the jewelry box and picked it up, whipping my head around in desperate search of a hiding place. I heard the pounding on the concrete steps outside. “Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck!” I exclaimed under my breath. I didn’t have time to panic. I reached the bedroom door and closed it quickly before dashing into the closet.
As I closed the bi-folding doors, I heard the sound of the front door being unlocked right before the swish sound of the door swinging open. It was at that moment I remembered my backpack in his office, the USB still plugged into the computer. My entire body went still at that moment, except for the boom-boom-boom of my heart. I prayed harder than I ever had for a miracle.
I peeked through the slats of the closet doors, seeing the light from the moon slashing a stripe across the dresser. It illuminated the now-empty space where my jewelry box once sat. An unmistakable square of dustless space signaled that something was missing. I’d grabbed the box on a whim, not realizing until now that it was my intention to bring it back with me.
I heard the sound of keys hitting the entry table before I heard the door to the freezer open in the kitchen and checked my watch. 12:20 AM. My right leg started dancing up and down, a definite sign of nerves getting to me. A moment later, I heard the unmistakable sound of a glass bottle being set on the counter. Then, the creak of a cupboard and the sound of a lighter piece of glass being set on the counter.  Vodka and his shot glass. I couldn’t help but think of the frozen chicken I had purposefully avoided so many times and wondered, momentarily, if it was still there.
Unfortunately, the dust that had settled in the closet from my absence was sprinkling the air around me, disrupted by my movements. I felt my nose twitch from the tickle. Shit. I covered my free hand over my nose and mouth and prayed for quiet.
I sneezed.
I wasn’t sure how loud it had been, but I knew soon enough that it had been loud enough to alarm the Monster.
I saw the hallway light turn on, illuminating the space between the door and carpet. My heart was beating like a jackrabbit’s. I wondered, briefly, if I could see my heart beating right through my shirt. Panic squeezed my veins. There were no colors to name off in the dark to calm me. Any moment now I would go into shock from the fear of coming face to face with the Monster. Nearly seven years and I was still crippled by anxiety. I willed myself to be brave, to be strong, but my body betrayed me. Sweat prickled my palms.


I saw a shadow of his steps to the door and sucked in shattered breath. It hit me then that I was breathing in the same air as the Monster once again. Bile rose up into my mouth and I swallowed it back. This was reliving one of my many nightmares, but worse. I closed my eyes, praying this was just another nightmare. Praying this wasn’t real.



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