ORDER A COPY: When Day Breaks (A KGI Novel)
Publishing Date: June 24, 2014
Paperback: 304 pages
Rating: 5 stars
Eden is said to be one of the most beautiful women in the world. Her face has graced countless magazines and her body has sold millions of dollars of clothing. But her fame and beauty has earned her more than she ever imagined. Evil is stalking her, determined to extinguish the ethereal beauty forever.
Swanson or “Swanny” as his teammates call him is always up for the next mission. He came back from Afghanistan wounded and scarred. Hardly the kind of man who even belongs in the same room with Eden. And yet there’s something about the quiet beauty that stirs his blood and makes him dream of the impossible. Because Beauty loving the beast only happens in fairy tales and KGI doesn’t deal in fairy tales. Ever.
Daryl Swanson, known to everyone as Swanny, was captured with Nathan Kelly and held by insurgents in Afghanistan. He was starved, beaten and tortured for information. It was the miracle of Nathan’s wife, Shea, that allowed Nathan and Swanny to escape their prison. They survived their ordeal, but they not not unscathed. Both suffer from nightmares and scars, but unlike Nathan, Swanny cannot hide all of his scars. Swanny bears a jagged scar down the side of his face.
In their latest mission, Nathan and Swanny have been asked to protect the sister of one of their former platoon mates. Ryder used to share his letters and photos of his sister, Eden, with the men. She wasn’t someone that Swanny could easily forget. She had an inner beauty to match her outer beauty.
Now someone from her father’s past wants to hurt her, and Swanny isn’t going to let anyone get close enough to try.
As a model, Eden is surrounded by people who are mostly just beautiful on the outside. Eden is intrigued by the quiet, soft-spoken man who keeps trying to hide his scar from her, yet she is drawn to his strength and bravery and she connects with him on a far deeper level than she has ever connected with anyone. He has an inner beauty that draws her in and opens her heart.
I don’t know that I have read a story with two more likable characters. We see the inner Swanny who is battling with nightmares and the insecurity of scarred face. He admits that the women haven’t been flocking to him since he returned from Afghanistan. He also remembers seeing pictures of Eden that her brother shared with them and he remembers thoughts of the beautiful woman that kept his warm on the coldest nights. There is something between them from their first moments but he only sees himself as the Beast to her Beauty.
Eden is as sweet as she is beautiful and she sees Swanny for his inner beauty and admires his outer beauty as well, which only makes us like her more.
Since most of KGI have met their spouses on a mission, there was no tension with his teammates when a relationship starts to develop between Eden and Swanny. In fact, the team is so happy that Eden sees more to Swanny than his scar, they are all but high fiving Eden every time she gives Swanny a look or boldly pursues him.
One interesting plot point that Maya doesn’t discuss but has me wondering is that Swanny has such strong gut feelings when things aren’t going right, so much so that his whole team trusts him and if he says “pull back” they don’t question, they pull back. I was wondering if this was attributed to the healing that was done to Swanny by way of Shea and Grace while he and Nathan were escaping their prison. They used a psychic link for Grace to heal his internal injuries, and although nothing is mentioned in the book, his strong feelings made me wonder if this was an aftereffect of that slight paranormal twist that Maya gave Nathan’s story, Whispers in the Dark. Hmmm.
I was put off by Donovan’s story which came out back in January, but I am loving the Swanny/Eden connection and yeah, yeah, there was exciting running from bad guys stuff, yada, yada, guns, whatever, but the Swanny/Eden story was absolutely sweet and addicting.
Received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
“It’s not ugly,” she said in a sincere voice. “It’s a mark of courage. Of survival. I think you’re beautiful.”
He reared back his head, surprise flaring in his eyes. He stared at her like she’d lost her mind.
“Beautiful?” he said hoarsely. “You’re beautiful. Not me.”
She leaned in, knowing she was being bold—too bold—but she simply couldn’t resist showing him with more than words that his scar didn’t put her off in the least. She cupped his face and slid her fingers down the puckered ridges.
He flinched and tried to withdraw but she leaned further, following him back as she continued her gentle exploration.
“I disagree,” she murmured. “I think you’re beautiful. Strong. A warrior. Your scar is a badge of honor. You forget, my father and brothers served in either the military or the police force. They have scars. They don’t bother me in the least.”
Swanny looked at a complete loss for words, but he remained frozen in place. Then he leaned slightly into the palm of her hand as if he enjoyed her touch.
“Can I kiss you?” she whispered.
Shock registered in his eyes She knew she was being forward. Practically forcing herself on this man. But she knew he felt it too. This inexplicable pull between them. She wasn’t imagining it.
“We shouldn’t,” he began. But she hushed him by fitting her mouth to his.
He let out a low groan and she licked over his lips, pushing gently so he’d open his mouth to her advance. And then, as she’d hoped, he took control of the kiss.
He pulled her into his lap, deepening the kiss, sliding his tongue across her in a gentle exploration. Her body molded to his perfectly. She leaned into him, enjoying the hard wall of muscle against her much softer body.
She was tall, nearly five-ten, but he was still a head taller than her. If they were standing her head would tuck perfectly underneath his chin and she’d only have to angle her mouth up a bit to kiss him.
She was the first to break the kiss but she wasn’t finished. Not yet. She started at the corner of his mouth where the scar began and she kissed a gentle line over the entire puckered slash that ended close to his eye.
“You are beautiful,” she whispered. “To me, you are.”
He framed her shoulders in his hands and pulled her away, regret simmering in his eyes. But there was also answering desire. He actually picked her up and deposited her back onto the sofa and then backed off, standing a distance away.
“That shouldn’t have happened,” he said hoarsely.
He dragged a hand raggedly through his hair and looked away.
“Besides the fact that my job is to protect you, you’re so far out of my league it’s not even funny. I don’t even exist on the same plane as you.”
Her eyes narrowed as she stared back at him, unwilling to give an inch.
“Don’t you think it’s me who gets to decide who’s in my league?”
“A woman like you doesn’t have to go slumming,” he said bluntly. “You could have any man you want.”
“Apparently not,” she murmured, looking pointedly at him.
He stared back at her in clear confusion. “Why me?”
She smiled ruefully. “Attraction doesn’t follow a set of rules, you know. But I know that I don’t look at the others like I look at you. I don’t feel any chemistry with them, or anyone else for that matter. Can you deny that you feel it too?”