Title: Once Pure
Series: Shattered Past, Book 3
Author: Cecy Robson
Release Date: May 19, 2015
Genre: Contemporary, New Adult, Sports, Romance
ARC Received From: NetGalley
Reviewed For: Tasty Book Tours
Follow the tour
She bears the scars of the past. He blames himself for things he can’t control. Their defenses are up, but in Cecy Robson’s latest Shattered Past novel—perfect for fans of Monica Murphy and J. Lynn—true love lands a knockout punch.
Sofia Tres Santos remembers a time before her life went sour, before her innocence was ripped away, before she began punishing herself with risky behaviors and unworthy men. Now, at twenty, she just hopes she’s ready to rebuild some of what she lost. One way or another, it always comes back to her childhood friend and longtime crush, Killian O’Brien.
As strong as Killian is, Sofia has always been his one weakness. He knows Sofia has suffered and wants to ensure she’s never hurt again—not like before, and definitely not under his watch. When Sofia agrees to work at his mixed martial arts gym, Killian seizes the opportunity to help and protect the sweet girl he’s always cared for. And yet, as he trains Sofia to defend herself using his hard-hitting MMA techniques, he’s drawn to the vulnerable beauty in ways he never expected.
Other books in this series
(Please note: This story addresses abuse and rape. Please take this into consideration before reading further and/or purchasing this book.)
My heart ached for Sofia. It wasn't just the memories of the day she was raped or of the men she let use her body afterwards that me want to reach into the book and hold her. It was her reactions, her inability to scream or defend herself, her fear. God, her fear was so thick at times I felt like I was choking on it. It was understandable, don't get me wrong, but it was gut-wrenching to see her like that. I wanted her to be stronger, wanted her to see that she didn't have to be afraid, that she didn't have to feel like she was worthless.
Killian. I liked him, loved him actually. He went to town on a guy at his gym who dared to touch Sofia. He helped her learn to defend/protect herself. He took it slow with her in the bedroom, going as far as letting her tie him up so she felt comfortable enough to explore him. He did everything in his power to show her and let her know how much she meant to him, how long he'd waited for her, how much he needed her.
But their pasts... No matter how great sex is, how open, how accommodating you try to be, if the past isn't resolved it will always have the potential to ruin something beautiful. Sofia didn't want Killian to know about the men who used her after she was raped. Killian didn't want her to know about the promise he'd made to her brother Mateo, how the fact that he'd broken it had made her vulnerable, and the guilt he carried all those years.
I kept wondering, waiting, for them to get there, to address the elephants in the room so they could move forward. When talking about their pasts finally happened, I was relieved. I just wasn't prepared for the intensity of their reactions. Pain, anger, disappointment. Ms. Robson made what they were feeling tangible. They weren't just words; they were real, pulled me in. My chest tightened when Killian reacted so negatively after discovering what Sofia had allowed other men to do to her. I wanted to cry when Killian couldn't give Sofia an answer that proved he hadn't brought her on as an employee for his gym out of guilt, as a way of redeeming himself for breaking his promise and letting her down.
There was a lot more for them to go through in order to get the happy ending they'd been waiting so long for. Ms. Robson could have rushed through this part. She could have summed up the time that passed when they were separated. She even could have had them come back together after just a few days. Instead, she took her time, showed how they came to same undeniable conclusion: they were meant to be together and nothing would keep them apart.
Now, my favorite part of the story? The end, when Killian sums up their entire story in a handful of pages. Good Lord. Just when I thought Ms. Robson couldn't do anything to make me love this story even more, she did that and let me see the world through Killian's eyes. Sure, it's a total recap. Yes, it was part reiteration of things I'd already read. But it was all from Killian's POV. That alone made it priceless and precious.
It's an expectation now at this point. When I pick up a Cecy Robson Shattered Past book, I expect nothing but the best from her.
And, man, did she deliver.
Killian poked his head into the office one afternoon. “One of the boys is going for a coffee run. You want a latte or whatever that shit’s called?”
I giggled. Killian knew only one type of coffee: black. And even that he didn’t drink. “No, I’m good.”
“How about lunch?” He gave me a one-shoulder shrug when I raised my brows. “I ordered you a steak from Geno’s in case you were hungry. It should be here soon.”
A cheesesteak from Geno’s? Killer yum. “I’d love one. Thank you.”
“I told them no peppers.” He smiled. “You never liked peppers, right?”
He remembered. “No. Not on steaks.” I reached for my money. “Let me give you a few bills.”
“Don’t. I got it.”
I watched him leave in time to hear his sister, Erin, better known as Wren, enter the gym. I hadn’t seen her since the winter, but I heard her thick Philly accent loud and clear. “Hey, Kill. Did you order cheese fries? I’m starvin’.”
“You just got here!” Kill called from the front.
“That don’t mean I ain’t starvin’.”
She strolled in, tossing her gym bag on the empty chair in front of me. “Hey, Sofe. How’s it going, kid?”
“I’m all right. You?”
“Shitty. I think I’m getting my period.” Her two braids hung like thick black rope against her breasts. She rummaged through her bag and stood with a huff when she didn’t find what she was looking for. “Hey, you got any tampons on you?”
I snagged my bag from the floor. “I’m not sure, let me look.”
“Thanks. This womanly shit blows, you know? But I suppose if it’s all a part of me
squeezing out a few puppies one day, it’s worth it, right?”
“Mmm.” I couldn’t squelch my smile. I liked Wren. While “dainty” and “girlie” would be the last words I’d use to describe her, she’d always been kind in spite of her tough-girl persona. As the only girl in a household of six boys, she hated pink, hated dolls, and hated lip gloss. The only things she liked were cars and kicking ass. I wondered if she realized how stunning she was. Traffic seemed to stop when she strutted down the street, but she never seemed to notice. Wren was just Wren. It was one of her many qualities that made her so endearing.
I passed her what I had.
“Thanks, Sofe.” She jerked her chin. “So Finn tells me you’re doing Kill.”
I think my jaw fell somewhere near my feet. “N-no. I’m not, I swear.”
She shrugged and tucked the tampon into the strap of her sports bra. “It’s nothing to be ashamed of. He’s a good kid—like you, you know?”
Help me, Jesus. “H-how’s it going down at the auto dealer?”
“Oh, it’s awesome. Sold more F-150s last week than those fucktard pricks I work with.”
“Totally. You lookin’ for new wheels? I can get you a sweet deal. All last year’s models are going on sale in two weeks.” She held up two fingers for emphasis. “Two. Time’s tickin’, Sofe.”
“Ah, no. I can’t afford that now, but thanks.”
“All right.” She pointed at me. “You change your mind, you tell me. I watch out for those from the old neighborhood.”
Wren cocked her head as she took in the floral sundress I was wearing. She wore tight, tiny shorts that showed off her abs and long, muscular legs. The only skin I exposed was on my arms, face, and ankles. “You look real nice, Sofi. Too nice. You sure you’re not banging my brother?”
I buried my face in my hand. “Yes. I’m sure.”
“’Cause Finn said—and granted Finnie tends to exaggerate the truth—that Kill was all, like, into you. Then again, he has been since even before he got pubes.”
If Wren was trying to offer me a compliment it didn’t feel like one. “We’re not having sex,” I assured her. I squirmed when she continued to watch me. “So, what are you up to?”
“Teaching kickboxing and self-defense to a bunch of stay-at-home moms. Pissed me off, though, one came in all big and pregnant. I was like, yo, you can’t be coming in here all big and pregnant. You know that crazy-ass bitch with her crazy-ass hormones accused me of discriminatin’ against her?”
“Totally. And you know what happened?”
I shook my head.
“She broke her water.” Wren hooked a thumb behind her. “Right there on the mat next to the Octagon. Killian was all pissed and made me clean it up, can you believe that shit?”
I blinked back at her. “Ah, no.”
“Swear to God. Almost threw up doin’ it, too.”
Finn knocked on the door. “Wren. Your class is ready.” He frowned at her shoulder. “Why the hell do you have a tampon tucked in you bra?”
“I think I’m getting my monthly.”
She tossed the tampon in her bag and headed out. At five feet eight she was just two
inches shorter than Finn. Both had been the runts of the O’Brien clan. She clapped her hands together as a group of women gathered along the wall where a row of heavy bags were lined up. “Hey, listen up, ladies. Youz were all pathetic last time. Don’t be pathetic. It don’t pay to be pathetic when some asshole with a knife comes after you—”
A little boy about six ran out from nowhere, jetting in circles around Wren. She grabbed him by the collar of his T-shirt. “Hey. You see me talkin’ here?”
The kid nodded.
“You see me teaching a class?”
He nodded again.
“Then what the hell are you doing?”
The kid blinked up at her. “I got ADHD,” he answered.
“No one here gives a shit, kid.” She glanced up. “Who does this kid belong to?”
A woman in very unforgiving spandex tossed her bag against the wall and kicked off her sneakers. “Sorry, Wren. My ma couldn’t take him so I had to bring him to class. Sauron, get your ass over here.”
The kid resumed his circle sprints around Wren the minute she released him. “Sauron?”Wren asked. “You seriously named your kid Sauron, Gloria? Do you wonder why he’s fucked up?”
Gloria threw up her hands. “Don’t get me started. It was my ex’s idea. Sauron! Get over here before I take away your iPad!”
Wren rolled her eyes. “Christ,” she spat. “Okay, ladies, twenty kicks—ten each leg—let’s go. Sauron, you grab a bag, too.”
Sauron pointed to himself. “Me?”
Cecy Robson is the New Adult author of Once Perfect, Once Loved, and Once Pure and the award-winning author of the Weird Girls urban fantasy romance series. A self-proclaimed professional napper, Cecy counts among her talents a jaw-dropping knowledge of useless trivia, the ability to make her hair big, and a knack for breaking into song despite her family’s vehement protests. A full-time writer, registered nurse, wife, and mother living in the Great Northwest, Cecy enjoys spending time with her family and silencing the yappy characters in her head by telling their stories.