"...a sweet tale of second chances, love, and faith in that love."
- Cat, Cat's Reviews
What's Left of Me
Courage. Loyalty. Selflessness.
These are just some of the traits that made me a Marine, yet I ditched every single one of them the day I set foot back on American soil. I wasn’t brave. I was a coward, a disappointment, a … killer. Unable to face my family and friends, I did what any person in my state of despair would do and left town, allowing the darkness building within my soul to consume me.
Four years have since passed, and even though the memories of what can’t be changed continue to haunt me, the thoughts of what I can change haunt me more. My feelings for Jenna have never faltered. And I don’t know if she’ll be able to forgive me for the things I’ve done, but that’s a chance I have to take. She’s my saving grace—the reason I’m alive. I owe her more than I’ll ever be able to give … but if she’ll take it, she can have what’s left of me.
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“Cole?” I softly say as I lean toward the door. “It’s me, Jenna.”
I stand there for what feels like an eternity, curious as to whether he’s even in there, and just as I’m about to leave to check the second floor, the door slowly cracks open a few inches. Tentatively, I push it farther and enter the study.
“Close the door and lock it, please,” Cole says with his back turned to me as he crosses the room.
I do as he requests and stand with my back pressed against the door as I take in the space. I’ve only been in here a few times and never on good terms. Emma and I often referred to it in our teenage years as the “lecture room”—which is pretty self-explanatory.
Cole takes a seat behind his father’s massive desk, placing his face in his hands and his elbows on his knees. It’s a sight that breaks my heart. I can’t imagine what’s going through his head right now, and even though I want to know, I don’t ask.
With slow and easy steps, I make my way over to him, pausing to retrieve his suit jacket from the floor and neatly lay it over the edge of the desk.
“You don’t have to do that,” he mumbles through his hands.
I smile, even though he’s not looking at me. “I don’t have to do a lot of things.” Moving closer, I stand in front of him and rest my hand on his shoulder, while my other gently brushes through his hair. We stay like that for a while, not speaking, not moving, as I attempt to comfort him.
“I’m so fucked up, Jen,” Cole says, finally breaking the silence. “I should be happy and enjoying the welcome I’ve received, yet here I am hiding out in my parents’ house because I … I don’t feel like I deserve it.”
Tears prick my eyes at the agony in his voice. “Cole,” I say in sympathy.
He reaches for me then, placing his hands on my hips and pulling me to him as he rests his forehead against my stomach. “Why am I like this?”
My throat is thick as I reply, “You’re holding on to a lot of guilt for something that wasn’t your fault. No one blames you for what happened.”
Cole releases a short, sardonic laugh.
Finding his response odd, I place my fingers beneath his chin and tip his face up to look at mine. My question dissolves, though, as I gaze into his wounded eyes. There’s so much we need to talk about, but for the life of me I can’t bring myself to ask him anything. It scares me, the answers I may get, but I’m mostly scared of causing him more unnecessary pain. I stroke my fingers along his face, through his hair, and the short stubble along his jaw. “I want to help you, Cole,” I say. “I just need you to tell me how.”
Taking hold of my hand, Cole turns into my wrist and presses his lips to my skin. “Just be with me.”
My chest aches and burns as I try to hold it together. “I’m here. For as long as you want me to be.”
“Do you mean that?” he asks, and cups my jaw in his palm.
“Of course,” I say, and my eyelashes flutter as his thumb strokes my cheek.
His hand slides around to the back of my neck, and our lips meet as he pulls me in. There’s no rush. No hurry. He kisses me with leisure, just sweet, feather-light movements of his lips against mine. It makes me feel cherished. Worshiped even. And I wonder how it’s even possible for him to make me feel these things and forget about the rest of the world when he’s fighting his own inner battle.
Guilt creeps into my bones, and it’s me now who feels undeserving. Here is this broken shell of a man making me feel cherished. Making me feel worshiped. All while I stand there and graciously accept what he offers.
The need to make him feel what I feel consumes me. Tilting my head to the side, I attempt to deepen the kiss—dipping my tongue out to test the waters. Without missing a beat, Cole’s tongue glides against mine as he grips handfuls of my skirt at my hips to pull me closer. I straddle his thighs and continue to kiss him, making my intentions known, as the leather chair rocks backward with a soft creak from the sudden movement.
This I can give him. Because I know for a fact that when I give myself to him, there isn’t another thought in his mind. It’s just me and him, and the rest of the world and all of our problems just disappear.
"What's Left of Me is one of those stories that immediately touched my heart. It's an easy read and the writing is pretty simple, which makes it pure and it enabled me to strongly feel the multitude of emotions Kimberly Lewis poured into her story. I read it with tears in my eyes. There's a great contrast, at night Cole is the vulnerable one and Jenna is strong for him and during the day it's the other way around. What's Left of Me has a surprising number of layers for a novella. I really loved this amazing moving story." - Suze, With Love for Books Blog Click here for the full review
"What's Left of Me is a sweet romance, about hidden love ... but with a hard edge. I applaud the author for taking on the tough subjects of PTSD, survivors guilt and Alcoholism, I also loved the way that she managed to wind them into the story, in a soft way." Cara, Cara's Book Boudoir Click here for the full review
"This tells the tale of two old friends that discover they have the sparks and chemistry that just might mean true love! Jenna and Cole have known each other forever ... Cole is carrying around some really heavy baggage. My heart hurt for him and for the heaviness he feels in his heart. Jenna, despite having gone through some hard times as well, seems to be doing well and looking forward to moving on and living life ... Overall, it's a sweet tale of second chances, love, and faith in that love." - Cat, Cat's Reviews Click here for the full review