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Rico Rodriguez was my first friend, first kiss, and first love. Then he was my first heartbreak.
Seven years ago, he left me and this small town to join the Army. Now he’s back, a single dad in search of a second chance.
But I’m not the girl he left behind, and I have no interest in taking a walk down memory lane.
It will take more than his sexy smile, sweet son, and meddling mom to mend this broken heart.
Author’s Note: Hearts to Mend is a sexy, full-length, small town, second chance romance with an own-voices depiction of surviving a major medical crisis. Featuring a single dad hero and a firefighter heroine, Hearts to Mend is Book Two of the Hearts of Texas series, but it can be read as a standalone. Though you really should read Book One (Hearts on Fire), too, because it’s fabulous!
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Excerpt From Hearts To Mend By Christina Berry
That’s when I see him, that familiar face, a face I once knew better than my own, a face I once loved with all my heart. I watch with confusion as Rico comes running at me, looking every bit as worried as Chloe looked when she tackled Drew. And for a moment, just one moment, I let myself imagine that someone does care enough about me to worry. That he cares enough to come running.
And then he’s in front of me, breathing hard and staring at me with those deep, dark eyes. Rico comes as close as he can without interfering with the medic, reaching for me, his fingers taming my tangled hair, stroking my neck, his thumb tracing a soft line across my cheek.
I blink up at him, completely entranced by his eyes and the soft way he’s touching me. Like he’s pushing a strand of hair out of my face, over and over again, his fingers stroke behind my ear. It used to be his spot, where he’d caress sweetly after we made out under our tree. It’s hypnotic and erotic, and it’s messing with my head.
Rico is the only man—or boy, for that matter—who has ever been sweet to me. Everyone else sees my armor. They know they can be rough with me, so they are. Rico, though, is gentle. He touches me like I’m breakable, and he never wants to break me.
Leaning down to my level, his gaze so intense it’s like he’s staring into my soul, Rico asks, “Are you okay?”
No. I’m not okay. I haven’t been okay for a long time. But right now, staring into the depths of his eyes, I feel…better.
The logical part of my brain tries to reason with me: It’s the adrenaline. It’s making you confused. Don’t fall for his strange Rico magic. But the look he’s giving me right now—such affection and caring, such total relief to be at my side—it’s too powerful. It’s the look I’d longed to see all those years ago when he would have come home from the war, ready to start our life together.
There’s a part of me that fills with rage: Why did I have to wait so long for this? But another part, a bigger part, is overwhelmed with the desperate need for more. His fingertips caress me, but I need his hands, his lips, his whole body.
So I let myself forget everything else.
The apartment fire and the chaos of the crowded scene fade into the background. I turn away from our complicated past and unknown future so all I can see is him and me, right here and right now. I let everything go when I grab the front of his shirt and yank, pulling him to me and mashing my lips against his.
Rico seems confused, frozen in place, but that passes quickly, and then he’s tightening his fingers on the back of my neck, pulling me against him as his mouth melts to mine, his lips softening as he kisses me for the first time in too long. It’s so different, yet so much the same.
Rico still tastes like I remember, but he’s a man now, and he kisses like a man, not a boy. When he takes the kiss deeper, his tongue doesn’t beg—it demands entrance. And I gladly give it. He brings a second hand up, cupping my cheek, his fingers tangling in my hair, and I clutch at his shirt, feeling the rigid muscles of his chest as I hold on. God, he’s hot, and his kiss is volcanic, hotter than the fire I just came out of. I’m melting into him, completely pliant to his hands, his mouth, his warmth.
“Dude! What the fuck? Get off her!”
Confusion washes over me at the sound of sharp voices. I blink my eyes open to see Rooster yank Rico backward.
The sudden shift in our situation surprises Rico too. He keeps his eyes fixed on me, ignoring Rooster as he catches his breath, his luscious lips swollen from my kiss.
“Wait.” Rooster is staring at me, too, looking more confused than Rico. “Dee, did you want him to…?”
He doesn’t have to finish his question, and I don’t have to give him an answer. He knows. We both know. Everyone here knows. Yes, I wanted his kiss. I’ve always wanted his kiss. But as soon as I recognize that reality, I remember the other reality too. Rico hasn’t always been gentle and kind and good to me. I might be tough, but I’m still breakable, and I just kissed the asshole who broke my heart.
“Fuck,” I say as I wipe my mouth and frown at Rico. I glance past him and all around at where the whole town is watching. And, insult to injury, there’s my actual injury. John, still busy doing his job, checks something with my ankle, and I yelp in pain.
“Let’s get you to the hospital,” John says.
I nod and studiously avoid eye contact with Rico and everyone else as they wheel me into the back of the ambulance and shut the doors.
“Fuck!” I yell up at the ceiling, feeling helpless and weak and stupid.
I can’t believe I just kissed the only man who ever hurt me. Worse than that, I just kissed him in front of everyone. And, worst of all, there’s this lingering urge inside me to do it again.
Meet The Author Of Hearts To Mend By Christina Berry
Christina Berry is an award-winning author of sex-positive contemporary romance. Her debut novel, Up for Air, won “Sexiest Consent” in the 2021 Good Sex Awards, and her first two Lost in Austin series books won the Readers’ Favorite Gold Medal in Romance – Sizzle in 2021 and 2022.
A citizen of the Cherokee Nation, Christina is originally from Oklahoma, and currently resides in Austin, Texas. When not writing, she’s usually helping her husband with their never-ending home remodeling adventure or marathon watching true crime television.
Interview With Christina Berry
Q: What drew you to your book’s genre? Why that story?
CB: Despite being a moody goth, I absolutely love happy endings. I need them in my life. Let’s face it, life is tough. Sometimes we need a little escape from reality, and Romancelandia is a great escape from the dull, dreary, difficulties of the real world.
I love reading romance because I’m guaranteed a happy ending. Even the books that make me cry, will ultimately leave me with a smile, because an HEA (happily ever after) is literally the only rule in romance. As a romance writer, I like to think that I’m giving my readers something to smile about, too.
Q: What is your book about?
CB: This answers the second part of question one, too: the “why this story” question. You see, there is a big part of this story which is not mentioned in the blurb, and it’s the whole reason I wrote this book. One of my main characters in Hearts to Mend suffers a stroke. Surprise!
I wrote this book as a form of therapy, in a way, because I suffered a stroke last year. It had a profound effect on me, and one of the ways it affected me most was a case stroke-induced writers block. For months, I couldn’t write about anything except the stroke, so I decided to write the stroke into my fiction.
What came out of that was Hearts to Mend, a second chance romance between childhood sweethearts Dee and Rico (a fierce female firefighter and a sexy single dad). He ended things when he went off to war, but he’s back now, along with his adorable little boy, and he’s desperate to win back Dee’s heart.
One of the characters experiences a stroke, and I was able to write an own voices depiction of that experience. It was like exercising demons, and getting that story written and out of me has allowed me to jump back into fiction writing again. Yay!
Q: Describe your main characters in three words.
CB: Dee is fierce, standoffish, and lonely. Rico is loyal, honest, and lonely too.
Q: Why did you choose your setting?
CB: I set almost all my books in Texas. I’ve lived in Texas most of my life, so I know it well and I like to write settings that are so rich in detail they are characters in and of themselves.
Plus, with Texas, there’s so much variety of setting here. I set the Lost in Austin series in the dive bars of Dirty Sixth Street, while the Hearts of Texas series is a bucolic rural settings in the Hill Country. I have a female detective series I’ve been playing with that I plan to set down on the petrochemical coast around Houston.
With each setting, I like to delve deep into the details, truly conveying the sights and smells, the weather, the people, and mood of a place, so readers can come away wanting to visit or avoid, depending on their persuasions.
Q: How many books have you published and which is your favorite?
CB: Hearts to Mend is my sixth book. I also have the first three Lost in Austin books (Up for Air, The Road Home, and After the Storm). There is also book one of the Hearts of Texas series (Hearts on Fire). And I have a novella called Wishing Upon a Star.
My favorite will probably always be The Road Home (book two of the Lost in Austin series). It’s a rockstar/roller derby romance, and the main character is an Eastern Band Cherokee rockstar. I’m a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, and so this book gave me the opportunity to include Cherokee culture and language in the story. Want to know how to say “I love you” in Cherokee? Check out The Road Home to find out. 😉
Q: What is your favorite food?
Breakfast tacos!!! And not just any breakfast tacos. I make my own, and they are the best. I use salsa verde from a great place here in east Austin called Joe’s, and butter tortillas from HEB’s bakery. Instead of scrambling the eggs, I cook them over easy so the yolk bursts and blends with the salsa and drips all over everything. They’re very messy and very delicious!
Q: Where can our readers find you on social media?
This Or That Questions:
Coke or Pepsi? Coke with Kraken Rum in it
Book or Movie? Book for romance, movie for everything else
Shower or Bath? Bath, Hot tub, pool – I’m a soaker
Spiders or Snakes? Snakes are pretty cool, actually
Summer or Winter? Winter so I can wear leggings and sweaters with skulls on them
Haunted Mansion or Un-haunted Shack? Haunted Mansion! 100%! And I’ll befriend the ghosts.
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