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Embattled Minds

January 2nd, 2017
Author: JM Madden    Series: Lost and Found #2

Zeke Foster has little to no experience with women over the past couple of years, after being injured in Afghanistan. Brutally scarred, he has no expectation that he’ll ever find a woman capable of accepting him the way he is. But he can’t help but be enamored of Ember, the waitress of a local watering hole.

Ember Norton’s life has turned into one devastating catastrophe after another. When the scarred soldier with the kind eyes brings some security to her life, she’s afraid to trust her luck. She’s been self-sufficient for a long time. But his wounded soul calls to her and she finds herself falling for him.
In spite of the secrets he continues to keep.

This book may contain explicit intimate scenes, so if you are not 18+ then I probably wouldn’t recommend it for younger readers.
My Review

Zeke is one of the bigger LNF guys and has more scarring, especially on his face. He too, has trouble finding someone to accept and love him for what’s on the inside instead of his outward appearances. He is currently taken with Ember, a young mother whom works at a local diner that the LNF crew likes to frequent. Due to his severe stutter that he developed from a brain injury in Afghanistan, he at first has trouble talking to Ember as he often gets tongue tied in her presence, but she doesn’t mind, and is very patient with him. Even though he hasn’t known Ember long, he feels very protective towards her by defending her from a bunch of young obnoxious men in the diner, and when her dad has a PTSD episode that results in her getting un-intently hurt by him. Ember is quite taken with him, she doesn’t mind his scarring and she loves his kind blue eyes, she see’s him for what’s on the inside. Not only is he extremely kind to Ember, he also treats her son, Drew, in the same manner. At first Drew is curious about what happened to Zeke’s face – as all children usually are -, Zeke tells him he is like Humpty Dumpty, that he got hurt when a wall fell on him, and the doctors just couldn’t put him back together just right which results in him earning major browning points as Drew thinks it’s cool.

“I would walk over g-glass for you, in a damn hospital gown with my ass h-hanging out. And your son is brilliant. I look forward to playing Legos with him again.” He dared to reach out and tuck some hair behind her ear. “And I love you because you’re the only one that sees me, not the scars or the h-history, just me. You scare the hell out of me with how much you see.”
Ember looked up when he walked in, and when he saw her face, he felt like he’d been gut shot. Heavy bruising discolored the right side up to her eye, and she seemed to be in pain. Her mouth was pinched and her eyes squinted. When she realized he wasn’t one of the wait staff, she immediately turned away. “No customers allowed back here,” she called. She moved down the cook line and motioned to a Hispanic man she was working with to take her place at the grill. Zeke prowled down the parallel aisle until he was right behind her. “L-look at me.” She shook her head stubbornly. “You can’t be back here, Zeke.” “Look at me, please.” After a long pause, she turned her body toward him, but kept her face turned away. Bending his knees enough to peer into her eyes, he waited until she looked at him. Fury rolled through him as he realized he could see finger marks within the bruise. “Who d-did this to you?” She shook her head and refused to answer. Tears glinted in her eyes. “It’s no big deal, okay? Accidents happen. I was just in the wrong place at the right time. It happens when you own a bar.” Her eyes slid away and he thought there was something she wasn’t telling him, but he had a feeling if he called her on it she’d clam up completely. He reached out to touch a length of her dark hair that had escaped from her braid. Her eyes flickered and a single tear rolled down her cheek. He groaned. “D-d-don’t cry. I didn’t come in here to…up-upset you. Just had to check on you.”

Other than Ember and Zeke’s relationship, not much else happened in this book, which I didn’t mind as you don’t have to have angst or stress ridden moments in every book to keep you on the edge of your seat. Sometimes you just want a good clam book filled with happiness and good times, which this is what it was.

He hadn’t had a lot of relationship experience. Some of the guys he’d served with had girls, wives even, at home waiting for them, but it just hadn’t happened for him. Nobody had seriously pinged his radar. Ember didn’t just ping his radar, she damn near crashed his plane. The woman appealed to him in every way she could. Hell, she stood in front of him now with no bra, no make-up, her hair a mess, but she drew him to her like a drug. As he cradled her in his arms, he couldn’t imagine being anywhere else on Earth.
Zeke drifted over to her father’s guitar in the corner of the office. He stared at it for a few long moments, before glancing at her over his shoulder. “Mind?” She shook her head, curious what he would do with the old acoustic. It had seen better days and Dad kept it more for sentimental reasons than practical. Zeke picked it up and dust swirled away. He fitted it under his arm, running through chords to check to see if it was in tune. It wasn’t off by much, but his broad fingers tweaked and tightened until it was at perfect pitch. Seamlessly, he strummed the opening chords to “Home” by Michael Buble. Ember knew her mouth had to be hanging open, but she didn’t care. As if he couldn’t not, his deep voice fell into accompaniment. She stepped away to sink down into a chair, entranced by the broken man singing, eyes shut. Tendrils of need and longing crept into her heart, and it was one of the most beautiful things she’d ever seen. Tears filled her eyes. Almost halfway through the song, his fingers fumbled a note and he stopped singing. When she lifted her eyes to look at him, he stared at her as if he’d forgotten she were there. Jaw tight, emotion brimming in his eyes, he set the guitar back on the stand and walked out of the room. Ember could have wept. She didn’t know why he’d quit, but she wanted him to come right back in and finish the song. Her mind knew what melody was supposed to come next, but it couldn’t create the same type of emotion he had while singing. She thought back to the absolute absorption on his face as he sang, and realized he hadn’t stuttered or hesitated once through the entire performance.

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