Publication date: January 19th 2015
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Aimee’s wedding is supposed to turn out perfect. Her dress, her fiancé and the location—the idyllic holiday ranch in Brazil—are perfect.
But all Aimee’s plans come crashing down when the private jet that’s taking her from the U.S. to the ranch—where her fiancé awaits her—defects mid-flight and the pilot is forced to perform an emergency landing in the heart of the Amazon rainforest.
With no way to reach civilisation, being rescued is Aimee and Tristan’s—the pilot—only hope. A slim one that slowly withers away, desperation taking its place. Because death wanders in the jungle under many forms: starvation, diseases. Beasts.
As Aimee and Tristan fight to find ways to survive, they grow closer. Together they discover that facing old, inner agonies carved by painful pasts takes just as much courage, if not even more, than facing the rainforest.
Despite her devotion to her fiancé, Aimee can’t hide her feelings for Tristan—the man for whom she’s slowly becoming everything. You can hide many things in the rainforest. But not lies. Or love.
Withering Hope is the story of a man who desperately needs forgiveness and the woman who brings him hope. It is a story in which hope births wings and blooms into a love that is as beautiful and intense as it is forbidden.
Note: This novel is recommended for 18+ due to sexual content and mature themes.
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I wake up covered in cold sweat and something soft that might be a blanket. I can't tell for sure, because when I open my eyes, it’s dark. When I try to move, a sharp pain in my temple makes me gasp.
"Tristan." The word comes out almost like a cry. In the faint moonlight coming in through the windows, I see him leaning on the seat in front of me, hovering over me. I imagine his dark brown eyes searching me worriedly.
"Are you hurt?"
"Just my temple, but I'm not bleeding," I say, running my fingers over the tender spot. I assess him next. It’s difficult given the dim moonlight. His white uniform shirt is smeared with dirt, but he appears unharmed. I turn my head toward the window. I can't gauge anything outside in the darkness.
"Where are we?" I ask.
"We landed," Tristan says simply, and when I turn to look at him he adds, "… in the rainforest."
I nod, trying not to let the tight knot of fear in my chest overtake me. If I let it spiral out, I may not be able to control it.
"Shouldn't we … like… leave the plane or something? Until they rescue us? Is it safe for us to be inside?"
Tristan runs a hand through his short, black hair. "Trust me, this is the only safe place. I checked outside for any fuel leaks, but we're good."
"You got out?" I whisper.
"I want—” I say, opening my seatbelt and trying to stand. But dizziness forces me back into my chair.
"No," Tristan says, and he slumps in the seat opposite mine on the other side of the slim aisle. "Listen to me. You need to calm down."
"How deep in the forest are we, Tristan?"
He leans back, answering after a long pause. "Deep enough."
"How will they find us?" I curl my knees to my chest under the blanket, the dizziness growing. I wonder when Tristan put the blanket over me.
"They will," Tristan says.
"But there is something we can do to make it easier for them, isn't there?"
"Right now, there isn't."
"Can contact someone at base?" I ask weakly.
"No. We lost all communication a while ago." His shoulders slump, and even in the moonlight, I notice his features tighten. His high cheekbones, which usually give him a noble appearance, now make him look gaunt. Yet instead of panic, I’m engulfed in weakness. My limbs feel heavy. Fog settles over my mind.
"What happened to the engine?" I whisper.
"Can you repair it?"
“There is really no way to send anyone a message?”
“No.” As if in a dream, I feel Tristan put a pillow under my head and recline my seat.
No rescue helicopter arrives. Not the following morning, or any morning after it. I expect Aimee to break down, but she doesn’t. It shouldn’t surprise me, though. I’ve suspected she is strong since I first met her.
Chris Moore hired me as his pilot two and a half years ago, giving me the chance for a
fresh start I so desperately needed. I was grateful to him, and even liked him. Despite his wealth and success, he was grounded and unpretentious. When I first met Aimee, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that she was just as unassuming.
And so much more.
She went out of her way to be friendly, making it easy to adjust to my side job as her driver when Chris didn’t need me as a pilot. I suppose I came off as cold to her, because I only acknowledged her effort with a curt thank you. But I wasn’t used to anyone being friendly to me. Over the past years people had either shown me pity or feared me. Not Aimee. Of course, she didn’t know anything about my past—Chris kept his word and never told her.
When first I drove Aimee to Chris’s parents’ mansion, I realized Aimee hadn’t given me any special treatment. She was genuinely friendly to everyone on the staff. They all liked to be around her.
So did I.
I liked it a little too much.
She had a way of growing on people without even trying. She was warm and eager to get to really know people. A bit too eager… and the secrets I carried were best left buried. So I was content with being around her, or observing her from a distance.
From where it was safe.
Here, where our lifeline depends on working and sticking together, where I’m prepared to do just about anything to keep her safe, it will be hard to keep that distance, but I will do my best.
"Just stay with for a little while, please. I need you so much, Aimee." The sound of my name from his mouth awakens something in me that has me writhing in a blazing torture. It’s doing things to me it shouldn't do.
"Shh, okay. I'll stay. I know it helps having someone."
"Not someone. You. You make the memories bearable, the present better. You have an unbelievably strong will to keep going, even if you don't know where you're heading, hoping you'll find something worthy at the end of the road. You have an inherent ability to pick up the good on the way—those that give you strength, the happy things, like your poems—and you go on. You pass that strength onto others, even if it costs you sleep and peace.
“I used to hate waking up every morning. Now I look forward to every day, even though we're stuck in this place. Because it means one more day with you." He caresses my lips with his thumb. I open my mouth, but he shakes his head. "Don't say anything, please."
For a long moment, we are silent, our gazes locked. I breathe in his hot breaths, tension crackling in the short distance between our lips. Then he pulls me into a kiss. The touch of his lips on mine electrifies me, shimmer after shimmer coursing through my nerve endings. His tongue takes mine in a primal claim. Icy shivers splinter my skin, and at the same time, fire awakens deep within me. I've never been kissed like this. Ferociously, with absolute, desperate need. I try to temper the heated emotions building inside me. I try to remember it's wrong. But that fleeting thought is drowned by the heat igniting his lips and hands, and I surrender. Tristan deepens the kiss until I'm out of breath. I become aware of his hard chest muscles, of every line and every ridge, as my hands roam wildly with a greed I don't recognize. His hands graze my body, traveling from my back to my thighs, spreading the fire in my center; I'm convinced it will consume me. With a jolt, he pulls me even closer to him, so I'm all but straddling him. His fingers fumble with my hair, as his blessed mouth cradles mine, coaxing a whimper from me.
Welcome! My name is Layla Hagen and I am a Contemporary Romance author.
I fell in love with books when I was nine years old, and my love affair with stories continues even now, many years later. I write romantic stories and can't wait to share them with the world. And I drink coffee. Lots of it :-D
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