Apart, they are broken, but together, they are whole
Effie and Heath are famous. Not for anything they did, but for what happened to them as teenagers. Abducted and abused by the same man, they turned to each other for comfort until they were finally able to make their escape.
Now adults, their relationship is fraught with guilt and despair. Whether fighting or making love, their passion is strong enough to destroy them both—and Effie’s not about to let that happen. She knows it’s time for her to have a “normal” relationship, and Heath is nothing but a constant reminder of the dark past they share. Heath, on the other hand, knows Effie is the only woman he can ever love. She may want to forget what happened, but he’s convinced that they must face their past together in order to move forward. So while Effie continues to bring new men into her life, Heath becomes obsessed with proving he’s the one she needs.
Then a new crisis arises and Effie begins to lose every scrap of self-control she ever had. As she struggles against her desire to return to the one man who understands her, she discovers that sometimes the only safety you find is with the person who is the most dangerous for you.
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“Hold Me Close is one more stellar read from Megan Hart…” — BadAss Book Reviews
“Megan Hart at her flawless best.” — Jessy’s Book Club
“Hold Me Close immediately grabs readers and keeps them deeply ensnared the whole way through.” — San Diego Book Review
“If you are already a fan of Megan Hart, Hold Me Close does not disappoint, if you have not read Ms. Hart, understand that she writes stories that tear your heart out, after twisting it a bit, she will, ever so sweetly tuck it back into your chest, no worse for the wear. Prepare to be sucked into a dark world where the light at the end of the tunnel is tinted orange. ” — Writing While Distracted
“Hart paints the results of Heath and Effie’s kidnapping with a skillful brush in her astute interpretation of events. Her development of the complex characters complements the emotional and raw story. Polly’s sweetness and curiosity offset the agony the protagonists endure.” — RT Book Reviews
Elisabeth had pulled up three oils Effie had painted, not a triptych on purpose though they’d ended up being one. Similar themes as the ones the collectors bought—straight lines, simple subjects, with hidden images you had to search hard to find. They had clocks, but they were barely hidden, no challenge to find. She’d always assumed that was why nobody had wanted them.
“They’re a secret. Aren’t they?” Elisabeth shifted in her chair to draw some lines in the air above the picture on the screen. She glanced at Effie, but her voice and her gaze were somehow…reverent didn’t seem to be the right word, but respectful. Yeah, maybe that.
Effie tilted her head. “Why do you say that?”
“Well, the reason why people love your work is because it’s a challenge. Finding the clock. Right? You make them not only appreciate the piece as something enjoyable to look at…not always pretty,” Elisabeth amended. “Sometimes a little disturbing. But always enjoyable. Yet you also make them look behind what the picture is what’s hidden in it. I’ve been on the forums. They love it, like a grown-up version of Where’s Waldo.”
“Yes, but for freaks,” Effie murmured.
Elisabeth didn’t laugh. “Yes. There’s the voyeuristic aspect to it. Yet these three…well. You barely have to glance at them to see the clocks. It’s not super obvious, but it’s there, and there and there.” She pointed. “But that’s not the real hidden picture. Is it?”
Effie sat back to study the other woman. “No. It’s not. What do you see?”
Elisabeth used the mouse to click something, blowing up the picture on the screen. Her grin turned kind of secret, assessing. Something in her eyes glowed as she glanced at Effie.
“You have the clocks, of course. You always do. But here, here and here,” Elisabeth traced the lines, “you have this. It’s the shape of a heart and two initials. E…and H.”
It was true, and real, and nobody else had ever seemed to see it. Effie had shown the three pieces separately and individually to several people and had featured them in her store. Elisabeth was right about that—they’d been in the inventory for a couple years, never selling. Nobody had ever inquired about them.
“I’d always thought they were some of my best work,” Effie said quietly. “Not like the piece I sent to Naveen. But really good.”
“They are more than really good. The piece you sent to Naveen is art. If you do more like that, they will also sell. They will make people talk, there’s no question about that. But these, Effie…” Elisabeth sat back and pressed her fingertips to her eyelids. She drew a hitching breath. In a broken, rasping voice, she finished, “you made these for someone you love. Didn’t you?”
Effie swallowed against the tightness in her throat. “Yes. Someone I love very much.”
Elisabeth gave her a watery smile and grabbed a tissue from the box on her desk to wipe her eyes and then her nose. “I can tell.”
“Maybe that’s why they didn’t sell.” Effie reached for a tissue herself.
They stared at each other across the desk.
“Does he know?” Elisabeth asked after a moment.
“About the paintings?”
“No,” Elisabeth said. “How much you love him?”
Effie shook her head. “No. He couldn’t possibly. I’ve never told him.”
Elisabeth spun in her chair to look at the photo on the wall. “You should tell him, Effie. Even if he doesn’t love you back. Trust me on this, you’ll regret it if you don’t.”
The problem had never been about Heath loving her back. Effie pointed to the photograph on the wall. “Did you tell him? The guy who gave you that picture?”
Elisabeth looked at her. “Yes, I did. More than once.”
“Do you still love him?”
“Yeah,” Elisabeth said. “Still.”
Effie frowned. “And what happened?”
“Nothing,” Elisabeth said. “But at least I can take comfort in the fact he knows. No matter what else happens, he will always know it.”
“Even if you can never be together?”
“Especially then,” Elisabeth said, and after that the conversation moved to other things.