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Hello everyone, thank you for stopping by today! I'm so glad to be a part of the Just Remember To Breathe Blog Tour, presented by Enchanted Book Promotions! Today, you will a wonderful Excerpt, my Review, and you have the chance to win One E-Book Copy of this great Novel, so also look for the Giveaway below! :)
Title: Just Remember to Breathe
Author: Charles Sheehan-Miles
Genre: New Adult Romance
Alex Thompson’s life is following the script. A pre-law student at Columbia University, she’s focused on her grades, her life and her future. The last thing she needs is to reconnect with the boy who broke her heart.
Dylan Paris comes home from Afghanistan severely injured and knows that the one thing he cannot do is drag Alex into the mess he’s made of his life.
When Dylan and Alex are assigned to the same work study program and are forced to work side by side, they have to make new ground rules to keep from killing each other.
Only problem is, they keep breaking the rules.
The first rule is to never, ever talk about how they fell in love.
Excerpt (Alex's POV)
While we waited for the wagon train to pull up with his breakfast, I asked him, “So, um… I know this is weird, but other than Doctor Forrester’s work, I don’t really know much about what you’re doing these days.”
He leaned back and looked me in the eyes, an odd smile on his face. “That’s a pretty open-ended question,” he replied.
Oh, wow. That was exactly what I’d said to him on an airplane a lifetime ago. “You remember that?”
“I’d answer that, but I don’t want to break the rules.”
“Very funny,” I said, wrinkling my nose at him.
He grinned, and said, “All right, fair enough. You go first.”
“I won’t say if I remember it or not. But you get to ask the first question.”
I laughed and shook my head. “All right. I guess I let myself in for that one. Why exactly did you pick Columbia University of all places?”
He shrugged. “Believe it or not, Columbia has really active outreach to vets. One of the recruitment guys found me in a hospital room at Walter Reed back in March. The rest is history.”
At this point he was leaning back in his chair, one arm resting on the empty seat next to him. I leaned back in mine as well, stretching my feet across underneath the table and letting them sit on the empty chair.
“Your turn,” I said.
He looked at me, and I blushed a little, looked down at the table.
“So, last winter you were trying to decide what to write for your final paper. What did you end up settling on?”
I took a deep breath, and looked up at him. “I can’t believe you remember that. I mean… you were in the middle of a war, and getting shot at and blown up and hospitalized, and you remember me agonizing over my paper?”
A sideways smile, and he replied, “I’m the one asking the question right now.”
I rolled my eyes. “Okay. I ended up doing a paper on the legal defenses for rape in the nineteenth century in the United States.”
“Wow,” he said. “That’s fantastic. I’d love to read it sometime. I probably wouldn’t understand word one of the legal stuff, but I’m interested anyway.”
“Don’t knock yourself, Dylan. You may come from a different background than me, but you’re a smart guy.”
“Not anymore,” he said, grimacing and tapping on his forehead.
I grimaced, thinking with regret that I wished he’d stop beating up on himself, and said, “My turn?”
I thought. There was so much I wanted to know. And most of it skirted too close to the topics we avoided, too much of it broke the rules, too much of it simply led to heartache. Finally, I said, “What was the best thing you saw in Afghanistan? I know there was horror, and war. But were there moments of … I don’t know… grace?”
He swallowed, and nodded once. I was astonished to see his eyes start to water.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to —“
He held up a hand, saying stop. “It’s okay.” He took a deep breath, then said, “Okay. So, we’re out there in the boonies. And I mean… way out there. Little village in the middle of nowhere called Dega Payan. It’s way up in the mountains, and until a couple years ago, there wasn’t even much of a road to connect them to anything. It was like a five hour drive to get anywhere.”
“So, one day we’re there. Helping distribute food, there’s UN workers, and we’re trying to make a nice impression and all that. And there’s this little girl, standing there watching us. I guess she was … about twelve maybe? I could picture her in middle school, if they allowed her to go to school, which they probably don’t. Anyway, she was smiling, and joking around. Kowalski… he was from Nevada. Also from the middle of nowhere, go figure. Kowalski gives her a candy bar, and she hugs him. And then he turns to come back to us, and we hear a clink sound. Everybody panics, and I look down, and see the grenade. Someone threw it from the crowd, and it landed right at the little girl’s feet.”
Oh, my God. All I could think was, this was his moment of grace? His good thing that happened?
His eyes were really red now, and his face twisted a little as he said, “So, anyway, Kowalski… he threw himself on the grenade. He hugged it, with his back to the little girl. And it went off, and … he was just … shredded. Killed instantly. And you know… that little girl… she didn’t get touched. Not even a drop of blood. He saw that little girl, and just … threw his life away to save her.”
I shook my head, and even though he couldn’t cry, I started to. I couldn’t help myself. Because when he was telling that story, it was like I could see into his soul, and oh, God, did that hurt.
“I’m so sorry,” I said. “I’m sorry I asked. I’m so sorry that happened.”
“No,” he said, shaking his head. “Don’t be. Don’t you get it? Can you imagine the … the heroism? That’s what grace is all about. He didn’t even think for one second about himself. All he thought about was that little girl, and saving her life.”
I sniffled. “Okay, new rule. If I’m about to ask you something that will make me start crying when I hear the answer, um, can you veto the question?”
He smiled, gently, and said, “If you want.”
“Your turn then.”
The waitress showed up then, and brought us our food. And … let me tell you. I had actually underestimated how much he ordered. She had to bring two trays. Seriously. He tried to reorganize the plates a little, and ended up taking three quarters of the table. Pulling the pancakes toward him, he poured about ten thousand calories worth of syrup and butter on them, then started eating.
After swallowing he said, “Okay. What’s your favorite thing to do now that you’re in New York?”
I took a small bite of toast while I thought. Then I frowned. What was my favorite thing? I had things I liked to do, for sure. Kelly and I going out together. Going to the Butler Library. Picnicking in Riverside Park. What else? It’s not that I hadn’t enjoyed my freshman year in college, I really did. It’s just that… nothing stuck out that I could tag as a favorite thing. Except one. And that was … sitting in Doctor Forrester’s office. With Dylan.
I frowned, then said, “I can’t answer that one.”
He widened his eyes and grinned. “You’re kidding me. That’s not in the rules.”
“Screw the rules,” I said. “The only answer I can give is a lie.”
“Pick some other question, soldier boy.”
“I’ll get an answer one way or another. You can’t tell me you’ve been in New York for a year and you still haven’t come up with anything you love doing.”
“I can tell you anything I want.”
“You set the rules of this game, Alex. Not allowed to lie.”
“Nothing says I have to answer, though.”
He shook his head, then laughed. “I’m going to be obsessed with this.”
“Because in all the time I’ve known you, I have never seen you change the rules of anything mid-game. This is just… mind-blowing.”
I wanted to growl at him. Instead I ate a bite of my eggs, then said, “If I answer, you have to promise to just forget I said it.”
He was thoroughly enjoying this. God. “All right,” he said. “My short term memory sucks anyway.”
I stifled a laugh, then said, “Okay. Then the truth is, the time we’ve been working together in Doctor Forrester’s … that’s the answer.”
He blinked, the smile slipping for a fraction. I couldn’t figure out what his expression meant, because if I’d seen a picture of it, I would have guessed abject terror. But that only lasted a moment, and then he said, “I don’t remember any question or answer, so I get another one, right?”
“Dylan! That’s not fair!”
Now he was really grinning.
“Fine,” I said, trying not to break out laughing. He looked so happy.
“Okay,” he said. “Now I’m finally getting somewhere.”
I chuckled. I couldn’t help it.
“Let’s see…. Kelly’s still your roommate here, I’m thinking. Tell me all about the last time you two went out. I want to know about your life here. What did you guys do?”
Jesus. He had a knack for asking heavy questions, didn’t he? But, I found myself telling him the story. Of our night out, and how Randy had grabbed my arm, and she pepper sprayed him. I left out all discussion of Dylan, of course. I also left out the background between me and Randy, including the fact that I’d known him since middle school, and especially the fact that he’d tried to rape me.
“Okay, wait a minute, I don’t understand. I get it that the guy was coming on too strong, but why did she pepper spray him?”
Suddenly I was blinking back tears again.
“Oh, shit,” he said. “I’m sorry. Whatever it is, you don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to.”
I bit my lower lip, then whispered, “He tried to rape me last spring.”
Everything about Dylan’s demeanor changed in an instant. He went from relaxed, enjoying himself, then concerned, but after the word “rape” came out of my mouth, he was sitting up straight in his chair, alert. His face had gone cold, rage in his eyes like I’d never seen before. He was shaking.
“What did you say his name was?” he asked, his voice very low.
“It doesn’t matter,” I said.
“Yes. It does.”
“Because if I ever see him, I’m going to put him in a fucking hospital. For a long time.”
He was serious. Really serious. I had no doubt that if Randy Brewer was in front of us right now, Randy would end up in the hospital. And Dylan… would end up in jail.
“You really have changed a lot,” I whispered.
“What?” he asked.
“I’ve known you … in a lot of different ways. But the one thing I’ve never thought about you was that you might be dangerous. Except to me.”
He blinked. “Alex. Listen… whatever our history is, doesn’t change the way I feel about you. The way I’ve always felt about you. I’d do anything to …”
He stopped. Was he struggling over a word again? Or holding back? Or was there a difference? And he didn’t even say a word about me telling him he was dangerous for me. Because really, he knew that, didn’t he? That we were dangerous to each other. Where was the big surprise in me saying that? I turned back to his stall.
“You’d do anything to what?”
He almost growled in frustration. “To … go back… go back and prevent that from happening to you. To protect you.”
Was he about to say, to go back and change things? To go back and not hang up on me that night? To not disappear like he did?
“Listen to me, Dylan. This is important.”
He was still staring at me, his eyes crazy intense. He nodded. “Okay.”
“Forget about it. It’s past. Okay? We don’t need that. We don’t need… this. Eat your breakfast. All right? Time for a change of subject.”
He looked at me, calm, his gaze cool. Concentrating. I felt a bead of sweat in my hair, and took a deep breath.
“All right,” he said. His voice had fallen back into that low growl that used to drive me insane. “It’s your turn.”
“My turn for what?”
I closed my eyes. This was a playful game four years ago. Now it was … frightening. Time to turn to something more cheerful.
“I’m not sure I want to play any more.”
He practically collapsed in his seat, no longer intense, no longer staring. He closed his eyes, and took a deep breath, and said, “I’m sorry. Christ, I’m sorry. Alex, I’ve got some… let’s just say, anger issues.”
“I can see that,” I said, desperately trying to regain the light tone we’d had before.
“So ask me a question,” he said. “But try to pick something not so intense, and I’ll do the same.”
I shook my head, then said, “All right. Your favorite memory, ever.”
He smiled bitterly. “I can’t answer that. It’s against the rules.”
“Oh, screw the rules. Tell me.”
He took a deep, shuddering breath. “My favorite memory, was sleeping with you in my arms in the Tel Aviv hostel the night before we left. It was … bittersweet, but wonderful. I didn’t actually sleep that night. I just watched you. All that night, and then again, all the way home on the plane. We only had a few hours left, and I didn’t want to lose a second of it sleeping. I was up about forty eight hours I think, finally crashed hard on the plane back to Atlanta from New York.”
I gave him a small, tentative smile. “Mine is the night we first kissed.”
“Near the Dead Sea,” he replied.
“It was dark, and the wind was blowing,” I said, “and it was cool, and we were alone.”
“You said, ‘This could get complicated.’”
I suddenly laughed out loud, trying to hold back tears at the same time. I remembered saying that. I’d never been more right in my life. “It sure did.”
“Yeah,” he said. “It did.”
“Where did we go wrong?”
He shrugged. “I don’t know if it’s because we couldn’t let go, or because we let go too much.”
I shook my head. “I don’t either.”
He looked at the table, and didn’t reply.
Finally, I said in a near whisper, “Dylan… do you ever think…” I couldn’t finish the question.
He kept looking at the table, and then replied, so quietly I almost couldn’t hear him. “Always,” he said.
I swallowed. “We should go.”
“Yeah,” he replied.
(Thank you to the Author, for providing a Review copy!)
Wow. This was one phenomenal story! I'm just so happy to have read Just Remember To Breathe! I feel like I have read more New Adult Romances recently, and I love that, as this has been my New favorite genre for some time now, and this story fits this genre so well.
This story took my breathe away, as first, it was written really well...just excellent! There was a great flow and I just found myself reading pretty quickly because I just wanted to know what would happen next. So, this was definitely a page turner! The emotions & feelings were just believable, and in ways, I felt I can connect with the two main characters. I really enjoyed reading both Alex's and Dylan's POV; it was just so helpful reading and understanding the story from two perspectives, and thought it blended together pretty well. The characters, including the main and minor ones were just a blast to read, and they all just seemed believable. I loved that this story was primarily taken place in a college setting, as that felt relatable to me and in general, the locations were described really well, from the Middle East to NYC, I felt like I can picture everything, and felt like I could be there. Whenever I'm reading, I enjoy picturing the scenes like they are a film, and that's I felt with this story! :)
Just Remember To Breathe was intriguing, lovely, and a heart felt read. There are some humorous scenes, some where you can feel the love, but there are also hard situations to read that are just heart breaking. Alex and Dylan have known each other 3-4 years, and met when they were 16, 17 on a school like program/trip, After that trip, they would be forever changed by each others' presence. For about two years they had an on and off long distance relationship, and during Alex's first year at Columbia University, there is a misunderstanding when she and Dylan have their usual skype date, and it results to a break up that leaves both of these lovers shattered. Months later, in the fall, when the new school year starts, Dylan and Alex meet yet again, and they try to avoid one another, but it's hard when they might still love one another, and the question is, do they give their love another chance? Can they, when they have had so much happen since their break up? Dylan was in the War, and came back wounded physically but also with guilt, frustration, and self-hatred. Alex deals with hurt and anger from not hearing again from Dylan; unwanted attention from a guy that really sexually assaulted her last spring, and it was close to being called a rape. She is just feeling like she can breathe again, until she sees Dylan again.
Overall, I feel there are good messages here. I found that second chances are possible, commitment is just so huge in any relationship, and that misunderstandings can be turned around, and let me just say, that I was real happy by the end, and even wanted a tad more but all I can write now, is read this wonderful story and I Recommend it!
Also...just wanted to add, that I read recently from the Author's website that there is going to be a stand alone novel from one of the characters in this story, and I'm now really excited for that one, as you will read little hints of what it might be like and that includes a rock band aka rock musician, so definitely looking forward to that one now! :)
My Rating: 4.5/5
Rated-R (Mature Language and Content, I say for readers 17+)
About The Author
I’m a forty-ish writer of several novels including Republic, Insurgent, Prayer at Rumayla and Just Remember to Breathe. I’ve got a few short stories and two non-fiction books out there as well.
My background: I spent some time traveling the Middle East on my own in the late nineteen eighties, then went back courtesy of the United States Army as a tank crewman during the 1991 Gulf War. After that I spent most of the next two decades pursuing dual careers: nonprofit activist and information technology professional. Eventually the two combined: from 2003 until 2009 I was completely in the nonprofit sector, served as executive director of two nonprofits and director of IT of a third.
Unfortunately, when the 2008 economic crash hit, it took my career with it. For several years I had to retool, and managed restaurants in the Atlanta area. Recently I found my way back into my chosen career: I work in veterans outreach and public affairs for a law firm which represents disabled veterans. In my free time I write books, this blog, play with the kids, and generally try to make it through life doing as much good as possible.