Title: Tessa Ever After (Caged In Winter #2)
Author: Brighton Walsh
Published: May 5th 2015 by Berkley
Source: Finished copy sent by the publisher for an honest review
"In this grippingly emotional New Adult novel from the author of Caged in Winter, what you want isn’t always what you need…
Jason’s been living (and loving) the rich playboy lifestyle for five years, but now his parents are pressuring him to get involved in the family business. The last thing he wants is another obligation, but when his best friend moves out of state and asks Jason to look after his sister, he can’t just say no.
Tessa had to grow up way too soon. After dealing with the aftermath of her parents’ deaths, then becoming a teenage mom, she knows the meaning of responsibility. Which is why, at twenty-two, she’s looking for so much more than a party boy. She’s looking for someone who can stand by her and her daughter…forever.
A relationship between them is doomed from the start, but who says they can’t have a little fun? But as Jason gets closer to Tessa—and her daughter—fun starts to turn into something else… Something Jason’s not sure he’s ready for."
Thoughts: Brighton Walsh writes some of the most addicting novels I have ever read, and (as you can see from my blog name) I'm all about addicting novels! Crazy sexy guy to swoon over? Check! Heroine you love to cheer for? Check! The cutest, most adorable little girl on this side of the planet? Double check!
Though TESSA EVER AFTER is technically a sequel/companion to CAGED IN WINTER, it can easily be read as a stand alone. Would I suggest reading CAGED IN WINTER prior to this novel though? HECK to the freaking YEAH! It's hard to appreciate Cade's protective nature in this novel without knowing him, the same way it's difficult to love Jason and Tessa as much as you do without initially meeting them prior to diving in. I'm completely grateful that the author decided to include Cade. He plays such a large roll in Tessa, Jason, and Haley's lives where I couldn't see this novel being complete without him. Keep in mind, even though he shows up for a cameo here and there, this is most definitely Tessa and Jason's story.
I honestly didn't know how I felt about both going in. I had a feeling their sexual chemistry would be hot, but boy howdy! Woo, excuse me while I fan my face as I remember some of those steamy scenes. These two together are hotter than a summer day in Houston. Be warned, and try not to read this book in public. You don't want people asking you why you're blushing, am I right?
What I wouldn't give to play a couple rounds of Twister with Jason. Just because I'm married doesn't mean I have to stop daydreaming about fictional guys, right? ANYWAY, moving on...
Tessa is most likely one of the strongest yet gentle female characters I've come across in quite some time. I couldn't imagine having a child as young as she did, and she handles it as best as she can. Her unconditional love for Haley touched me, and I couldn't help but admire her tenacity and drive. Haley is always her first priority, and I love that she even tries dating men she thinks will be good for Haley. Little did she know the exact person she's looking for and needs is right under her nose.
As far as Jason goes, I ached for him in regards to his parents. It's hard feeling like you're a disappointment, and it's even harder when your parents can't see past their dreams to see what's best for their child. In his case, his are more than willing to cut him off and force him into a life he clearly doesn't want. Jason's dad is the absolute worse, and I can't fathom why he just won't listen to Jason. At the end of the day, family is everything, but Jason's father seems to only see dollar signs and family legacies. If you've read CAGED IN WINTER, you can see what a great father figure Cade is to Haley, which is such a drastic change in how Jason's father treats him. Hugs to you, Jason!
Overall, I really enjoyed this novel and believe others will as well. In my opinion, although I liked Jason and Tessa, Haley stole the show. She is just too darn cute! I can see why Tessa can't say no to her and gives her so many cookies. Don't think I could say no to all the cuteness either! I recommend this novel to fans to Samantha Young, Noelle August, Tessa Bailey, and all those other awesome authors on my auto-buy list!
Excerpt from Tessa's point of view:
I threw the game. Despite my daughter wanting me to win—for girls everywhere, she said—I couldn’t. I feigned exhaustion, letting my body slump to the ground. Because my blood was boiling, my body on fire as I pressed against Jason’s body during a stupid game of Twister, and I couldn’t take it anymore. If Haley hadn’t been in the room, I would’ve pulled Jason down on top of me and let him strip me down right there on that stupid plastic mat.
In reality, I had a four-year-old to attend to instead of doing everything I wanted to. In the thirty minutes since putting Haley to bed, my urgency has faded, leaving behind only a subtle hum under my skin, but it’s there. This vibration of need when Jason is around that I never bothered to notice before. Or that I willingly ignored, which is probably more the case.
Despite that, despite wanting him, I’m in the bathroom under the guise of freshening up, even though I showered just a couple hours ago. I’m stalling, and I don’t know why. Haley’s asleep, Jason’s in the living room, presumably waiting for me, and I’m hiding in the bathroom.
Several minutes go by before a soft knock sounds at the door, sending me jumping nearly a foot in the air.
“Yeah . . .” I try to say, except my voice comes out all scratchy and breathless, so I clear my throat and try again. “Yeah?”
“Do you want me to just go home, Tess?”
“What?” I whip the door open, eyes wide and frantic, because that is absolutely not what I want. Not even a little bit. Leaning his shoulder against the doorjamb, Jason’s eyes snap to mine as soon as the layer of wood isn’t separating us anymore, and in that split second when our eyes meet, the heat between us cracks and sizzles just like it did while we were playing the game. Just like it’s been doing anytime we’re within twenty feet of each other. Shaking my head, I say, “No. I don’t want you to go home.”
His eyebrows lift up on his forehead, his expression one that clearly says he thinks I’m full of it. “You sure? Because you’ve been hiding in here for ten minutes.”
I open my mouth to argue with him about the hiding bit, but there’s no use. Instead, I simply nod and swallow, not sure I can find the words to tell him exactly what’s going on with me.
Mostly because I don’t even know myself.
It’s not like I’m a virgin, and even though it has been a while, I’ve never gotten like this with any of my previous partners. Never had this overwhelming nervousness, and I don’t know where it’s coming from. No idea why there’s this swarm of bees buzzing around in my stomach. Why I’m all breathless with anticipation and anxiety.
But then Jason steps forward, right into my space, one hand coming up and cupping the back of my neck while the other goes to my hip, his thumb slipping under the material of my shirt to graze the skin above my waistband, and I know exactly why there’s a tornado in my belly.
“Last chance,” he murmurs, his breath washing over my lips, and I don’t think I could tell him to stop even if I wanted to.
But I don’t. I don’t want to, so I shake my head, and finally—finally—he closes the distance between us and puts his lips to mine. The kiss is tentative at first, a question, and even though he gave me an out just a moment ago, I love that he’s not pushing it. When I don’t pull away, don’t do anything but grip the front of his shirt in my fists and pull him closer to me, he takes that as an answer and swipes his tongue across my lips. On a moan, I open to him, desperate to taste him again in a way I didn’t allow myself to think about before now.
Jason’s grip on me tightens, his thumb rubbing in circles against the pulse point at my neck, and I know he can feel my heart flying. It’s nearly pounding right out of my rib cage. His other hand curls around my hip, pulling me closer to him, flush with him, and I can’t stop from gasping into his mouth. He’s against me, all of him, strong and solid and hard, and I didn’t realize how much I wanted this until this very moment.
He’s already good at reading my cues, because no more have I thought it than we’re walking, fumbling down the hallway and into my bedroom. The door isn’t even closed before I start tugging up his shirt, desperate to feel his skin against mine. With a grunt and a curse, he reaches back and yanks his shirt over his head before his lips are back on mine, his tongue sliding against my own, and I can hardly breathe I want this so badly.
In the dozen-plus years of his being in my life, I’ve seen him without a shirt on too many times to count, but I’ve never felt his bare skin. Not like this. He’s sinewy and muscular, the body of a runner, all tall and lanky, the muscles in his abdomen defined but not obscene, his biceps cut but not bulky. I run my hands over every part of him I can reach, sliding from his chest to his stomach, following the trail of hair down then hooking into the waistband of his jeans, and I want those off, too.
“Jesus, Tess,” he groans into my mouth, and the roughness of it washes over me like a warm rain, comforting me in a way I didn’t realize I needed. He wants this. Me. Desperately. It’s reassuring to know I’m not in this on my own.
His lips brush across my cheek, his teeth nipping at my chin, his tongue licking a line up the column of my neck, and I think I might die right here. I might actually die, because my heart feels like the pounding hooves of a thousand horses, and I can’t seem to get my clothes off fast enough.
Giveaway: The fabulous ladies over at Berkley are giving away TEN copies of TESSA EVER AFTER and CAGED IN WINTER! Holy Swoonness, Batman! To enter, all you have to do is fill out the Rafflecopter form below.