Noah and Willow know not to mix business with pleasure. They’ve both been burned in the past, he thinks she’s too young, and she definitely shouldn’t hook up with her boss. So, they don’t. Instead, they build a friendship, while fighting an obvious attraction.
But when Noah’s called back East after a natural disaster that threatens his home and the loved ones he left behind, he’s forced to face his past with Willow by his side.
Will their turbulent pasts hold them back from giving into fate? Or will the two of them realize that they’ve been each other’s calm before the storm?
Tilting her head and curling her hair between her fingers, her gorgeous mouth forms a megawatt smile “Wow. Every time I learn something new about you, I’m more and more impressed.”
She’s flirting, I’m not an idiot, but I don’t want to lead her on so I change the subject. “How about you? Were you born in California? I know you went to college out here from your resume, but—”
“There is no but,” she interrupts. “I have the most unexciting life imaginable. I was born and raised in Del Mar. I have two younger brothers, parents divorced when I was little, and Dad lives in Oregon with his new wife, Marcy. I went to college close to home to help Mom with the boys, and Sloane has been my best friend since fifth grade. That’s me in a nutshell. Boring, plain, uneventful. No one cares about keeping up with this Jones.”
I can’t quite read her. She rambled it off so quickly it almost sounds rehearsed. I have nothing else to go on, so I can’t tell if she’s hiding or avoiding something. I don’t pry, because I don’t like talking about my past either. And because of that, I’ve learned to always make small talk and keep the attention off me with flattery.
“I find it hard to believe that there’s anything boring about you, Willow Jones. You’re beautiful and smart and you have the whole world ahead of you.” Nice! Now I sound like her father. It just came out without thinking. I meant it as a compliment—a not too forward one—but by the wearied look on her face, I can tell she took it the wrong way. Damn, this woman brings me close to choking on my own tongue. What the hell?
“I guess you’ll just have to take my word for it since you seem to avoid me every chance you get.” She looks down again, making it impossible to read her face. She was flirting and I misled her with my goo-goo eyes.
Fuck! She found a way to catch me off guard and now I have to backtrack to fix this mess. Getting involved with a co-worker—or any woman right now—just isn’t on my to-do list. “I’m not avoiding you, Willow. I’m just not the guy for you.” I can’t say it’s not taking serious willpower to stay away. It’s hard to always be the good guy. Where the hell is Tori when I need her? I need to be bad. Very, very bad.
Instead of deterring her, my dismissal makes her bolder. Or maybe it’s the second vodka and cran. Willow pouts—intentionally, for sure—and those pretty, glossy lips snatch my attention. It’s so fucking sexy that my dick grows hard against my zipper and I shift in my seat so I don’t bring notice to the bulge in my pants. “Blaze warned me about you, you know.”
“Oh, really?” Now I’m curious. “Please enlighten me on the bullshit my friend’s fed you.” Blaze means well, but he always shares a little too much.
Willow laughs, exposing the smooth skin of her neck as her head falls back. What I wouldn’t give to taste that spot right there. Stop tempting me, Willow. You’re making this—and me—harder than it has to be.
She points a finger in my face, waving it around. “You see, if you’d accept my invitation to lunch once in a while, I could fill you in on all the bullshit he’s told me. But until I hear it from you, I’m forced to believe him.”
“Oh come, on. You’ve been working for me long enough to know I almost never take a lunch break. I eat on the site most days. That’s if I even get the chance. And like I said, I’m not the guy for you.” Keep saying it. It’s bound to sink in.
We first met Noah in Man of My Dreams as the unfortunate third person in a love triangle involving a separated married couple. By the time that book ended, I was glad that the married couple got back together. Because they f***ing deserved each other. And Noah deserved so much better.
Five years later, Noah gets the better he deserves in the form of Willow Jones. He doesn’t want to allow himself to act on the mutual attraction – she is an employee and one that he feels is too young for him. But ultimately, their feelings win and they start a relationship. Things aren’t all roses and rainbows – they have their challenges to get through, and it becomes a matter of whether or not those challenges are larger than their feelings.
There is always a part of a Faith Andrews book that will resonate with its reader. A characteristic, a life experience, a shared piece of history, whatever it is, it just shows how realistic and genuine Faith’s writing is. There is an aspect to Noah and Willow’s story where other authors would have given us readers a miracle. Instead, Faith keeps it real, and in doing so, gives the couple a better ending than I could have ever imagined or asked for.
I am a fan of Faith’s. There hasn’t been a book of hers yet that wasn’t a well written and well told story — even though I’m sure I’m in the minority over my reaction to the aforementioned MoMD, I can still appreciate Faith’s skill as a writer. After all, it takes as much talent to create a character that is polarizing as it does to create a likeable one, maybe even more.
And man, does she give us some likeable ones in After the Storm!! I already loved Noah, and Willow is a great match for him. But I also capital-A adore Blaze and Sloane, and can’t wait to see what the future holds for them. Regardless of whatever the storyline may cover, you can guarantee that you’ll get some of the best characters out there.
If you’re already a Faith reader, After the Storm won’t disappoint. If you aren’t yet a Faith reader, what are you waiting for?