For the last year, Emma Owens has been quietly detached from everything and everyone. Desperate to escape the demons that chased her out of her hometown, she’s learned that life here in Milwaukee is just less complicated and less tragic when it’s a one-woman show.
In the span of one week, everything about her carefully orchestrated solitude comes crashing down. Then again, she can’t really ignore the scratching coming from her patio door or the hungry, pleading grey eyes reflecting in the moonlight. Those four little white paws and that tiger-striped fur thaws some of the ice keeping her heart on lockdown and she’s attached before she knows what hits her.
Emma doesn’t have any better luck ignoring another pair of eyes, and her new neighbor, Finn Matthews, with his shy persistence and a painful past of his own, slowly chips away at the rest of the ice trapping Emma in her insecurities and her loneliness.
Taking a chance on her new roommate and her next-door neighbor opens a door she’d previously slammed shut: the door to a new lease on life and the right to forgive, to fight back, and to heal.
And the craziest part about it?
It all started with a stray cat.
She was lost…and he found her.
**Finding Emma is a full-length, standalone contemporary romance. Due to language and some sexual situations, this book is not intended for readers under 18**
by K. Ryan
Publication Date: October 20, 2015
“You look nice,” he told me, gesturing to the outfit he didn’t need to know I’d inappropriately agonized over.
“Thanks,” I grinned.
I was painfully aware of how overeager I sounded right now, but there wasn’t much I could do about it. The Browning Adonis had arrived. All mental functioning was shot now.
He just winked back at me and as he took a few unsteady steps to the middle of my kitchen, I found myself running an anxious hand through my hair, watching Finn survey my little cardboard box of an apartment.
“So you cleaned up a little, huh?” he cast me a knowing glance from over his shoulder.
“Don’t worry,” I shook my head, gesturing into the open air between us. “This isn’t for you. You saw this place before. It looked like a tornado ripped through here.”
“Nah,” he just batted a hand. “It wasn’t that bad. You’ve obviously never seen my place after a game day.”
I could only imagine…and then I realized I still wasn’t completely ready. Ugh. This was just pizza. That was it. And here I was, over-analyzing and freaking out over nothing more than a shared pizza between neighbors.
“Um, I just, uh…still need a few minutes,” I told him sheepishly, already feeling a slight flush creep across my cheeks in embarrassment. “I was on the phone with my sister-in-law before and I wasn’t—”
“I know,” Finn cut in with that sexy, sly grin that threatened to buckle my knees. “I’m early. Sorry about that. I just…well, I guess I just didn’t wanna wait another 10 minutes, you know?”
And with those words, all the doubt lingering over what this was, my own hang-ups, Finn’s intentions…everything…it all just slipped away.
“So, take your time,” Finn went on, leaning an arm against the dividing wall between my kitchen and my living room. “I can wait.”
There was something about the way one side of his lips rolled into a soft curl that told me those words might have a deeper meaning. If I stood there for too long, I had a sinking feeling I might do or say something I’d kick myself for later, so I gladly took the out he’d given me and retreated to the bathroom to put the finishing touches on my hair and my makeup.
Now, as I stood in front of the mirror with a tube of mascara in my hand and Finn Matthews waiting in my kitchen, I couldn’t help but feel like a complete idiot. There was a kind, generous, patient, funny, and devastatingly handsome man in my apartment and here I was, locked in the bathroom because I didn’t know what else to do. Because I was nervous. Because I was scared.
This was beyond stupid.
Laughing to myself, I swiped another layer of mascara on, passed a brush through my long, caramel-colored waves, tousled my bangs, spritzed a dab of perfume on just for good measure, and took one more glance in the mirror. There was a man out there I wanted to spend time with and I was just getting in my own way. Cristina’s words of encouragement echoed in my ears, but it was more than just that.
In spite of the short time I’d known him, and in spite of the sudden frenzied feelings of chaos he inspired in me, there was also an inexplicable aura of calm around him, too. Acceptance, even. Like nothing I’d done before meeting him, no place I’d been, and no ugly, pain-leaden past following me from Hickory really mattered all that much to him.
I could do and say anything in front of him, embarrass or lay myself bare, and he wouldn’t care. It was as if the past didn’t exist and with him, there was only now. It was as if he’d judged me from the moment we met, but hadn’t found me wanting…hadn’t tried to push me into anything I wasn’t ready for. He’d given me space, followed my lead, but shown me a different path at the same time. A new possibility. A new chance.
There was a safety in Finn Matthews’s presence I never thought I’d ever feel again.
It was liberation. It was a rediscovery. It was a door opening. It was that elusive second chance I’d been chasing since the moment I left my hometown without looking back. It was the possibility, the real, honest-to-goodness possibility, that everything might be okay now.
I glanced back at my reflection again and shook my head, a mirthless laugh escaping my lips. Turning this into something it wasn’t would only end up hurting myself in the long run. And while the idea that redemption, forgiveness, and second chances were irrevocably intertwined with a man, especially a man I barely knew, flew directly in the face of being the independent woman I’d once prided myself on being, maybe that was something I could live with.
That last thought was enough to propel me from the bathroom and back towards my poor excuse for a living room and I found Finn leaning against the wall with Oliver tucked under his arm and his free hand scratching underneath my cat’s chin.
Something clicked into place for me then and the time for second-guessing and overanalyzing was over. My feet padded over to him and the sight of that bright smile curling into his handsome face, the smile that was all for me, only spurred me towards him. Just as he pushed off the wall and turned to face me, my hands slid over both his cheeks to bring in him closer and then I pressed my lips against his mouth.
It only lasted for a moment, but when I pulled back, Oliver abruptly dropped to the carpet. Finn’s lips curved and his free arm snaked around my waist to pull me in as close to his chest as possible as his head dipped lower to capture my lips.
This time he didn’t let me pull back so easily. This time his lips parted, sealing his mouth over mine, taking the control and pressing me even deeper into his chest. My hands trailed down his cheeks to his neck, finally resting over the hard, sinewy muscles over his worn T-shirt.
His lips continued their ministrations and my feet lifted up onto my toes, Finn pulling me along with him as he leaned back. Then, he settled me back onto my feet, placing sweet, feather-light kisses against my lips and the hand around my waist drifted a little further down, curving down the side of my hip.
That was a little more than I felt ready for and when I pulled back just enough, Finn didn’t miss a beat, sliding his hand back up to its original resting place.
“Sorry,” he murmured against my lips.
I laughed and he quickly caught it with his mouth.
“It’s okay,” I managed to get out in between kisses with another laugh.
There was something about how careful he was being with me that told me pulling back and pumping the brakes was absolutely fine with him. No pressure and no need to rush something that just felt so good.
K. Ryan is a former English teacher, who graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point in 2009. In between ‘real life’ duties, she’s been writing the Carry Your Heart series quietly on the side for the last two years. When not writing, she’s either binge-watching something on Netflix, running, reading, or cheering on the Packers. She lives in the Green Bay area with her crazy-supportive boyfriend and the best decision of her adult life, a not-so-stray cat named Oliver.