Healing Harts #2
By: T.J. Kline
Released June 2, 2015
J. Kline’s Healing Harts series continues as a soldier suffering from PTSD and a therapy dog trainer find that some scars can only be healed by love…
Julia Hart knows how much good she does training therapy dogs—it’s what helped her overcome her own trials after a relationship turned unexpectedly violent. But moving beyond her mistakes meant trusting only her family with her heart.
Dylan, a former soldier, has run out of hope for recovery. Plagued by nightmares and flashbacks, he doubts anything will help him overcome his PTSD. When his brother convinces him to try one last time, he agrees to get a therapy dog.
Dylan didn’t expect to find Julia or a chance for a “normal” future again. But when Julia’s attacker is released from prison, Dylan and Julia will have to face the past together.
Julia was sure she would never tire of looking at him. Every part of him was hard muscle, ridges and valleys, hollows and crevices beckoning her eyes. And her hands. Dylan closed his eyes as her fingers traced the lines of his tattoo over his chest. “Did you have this before?”
“The part over my chest. The rest was added after I got back.” She looked at the extension of the tattoo over his neck and arm and saw the scars beneath the colored ink. “I couldn’t stand to look at the scars. They were just a reminder of how I failed.”
Julia wondered how she hadn’t noticed the scars before. Her eyes misted as she realized the agony he’d endured with his injuries. Her fingers ran over the marred flesh, and she pressed her lips against the scar on his arm. Dylan winced, tensing, but didn’t move away from her. “Dylan, you didn’t fail. What you went through was horrible, but every bit of it was what brought you here.”
He buried his hands into her hair, tipping her chin up so she was looking at him. “If you would have asked me a month ago, I would have changed it all. Now?” He shook his head.
Julia knew the bittersweet pain he was going through. A part of her was dying to go back and change what happened with Evan. In hindsight, she would never have allowed him on the ranch, would have kept more distance between them. She would have watched Misty’s reactions to him closer. But her past had brought her to this point in her life, where she was able to train service dogs with more depth than she’d ever thought possible. Her own battle with PTSD helped her understand and help others, and that was an experience that had given her far more than it had ever taken. Without it, she never would have met Dylan, never have learned to trust again, or to love again. The cost to reach this place was steep and painful.
“I know.” She held a hand to his cheek, looking into his eyes, seeing the grief he still felt for his friends. “I know.” Her voice caught. There was nothing else to say.
Julia unbuttoned her jeans and pushed them over her hips before stepping back into Dylan’s arms. There were no words that would take away the sting of what they had lost. But she could show him there was a reason they were spared, a future that could be had, if they were brave enough to grasp it. What had only moments before been teasing kisses with smiles and laughter turned into something far more sacred, their heated mouths pressed together and reminding one another of the frailty of life.
Dylan’s hands slid over her back to pull her against his chest, her breasts pressed against him. He slid one strap of her bra off her shoulder, and his teeth grazed over her flesh. She whimpered in thrilling agony. As he unclasped the wisp of material, her hands slid down his back to lightly drag her nails over his rounded buttocks, and he growled against her neck. The vibration of his breath against her skin paired with the shadow of beard growth on his jaw made her shake with need, and she pulled him backward toward the bed, dropping the rest of her clothing along the way.
Laying her on the mattress, Dylan stretched out beside her, his finger trailing between her breasts to her stomach. “You are so beautiful. So much more than I deserve.”
His words broke her heart. Didn’t he understand how amazing he was? How honorable? He saw failures where she only saw strength. He saw himself as lacking where she saw him as overflowing with goodness.
And she had no idea how to prove to him that he was more than an injured soldier. He was a loyal friend, a devoted brother, a tender lover, a hero. He was the most amazing man she had ever known, and he didn’t see it. Telling him proved nothing. She could only show him how she felt.
Julia pushed Dylan so he lay flat on the bed, and straddled his hips. “Why can’t you see what I see?” Her hair fell around their faces like a curtain, forcing him to focus on her eyes. “Why can’t you believe me when I tell you how incredible you are?”
She leaned closer, her lips brushing against his. “Why won’t you quit fighting against the truth and accept what everyone else sees in you?”
J. Kline was raised competing in rodeos and rodeo queen competitions since the age of 14, She has thorough knowledge of the sport as well as the culture involved. She has had several articles about rodeo published in the past in small periodicals as well as a more recent how-to article for RevWriter. She is also an avid reader and book reviewer for both Tyndale and Multnomah.
(5 Digital Downloads of HEART’S DESIRE, book 1 in the Series)