by Amber Hart
Genres: Contemporary, New Adult, Romance, Suspense
Publication Date: May 19, 2015 by Flirt, Random House
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In the passionate, gut-wrenching sequel to Amber Hart’s Until You Find Me, Raven and Jospin must fight for each other in a world where love is never safe—and power is deadly.
Raven, a college girl from Michigan, came to the jungles of Cameroon searching for closure. Falling for Jospin, a handsome, charismatic hunter with dark secrets of his own, was never part of the plan. But despite their differences, their attraction is addictive, as exhilarating and wild as the rain forest itself—and also as dangerous.
For the sake of both their lives, their heated affair must remain a secret. Raven wants justice for her conservationist father’s death; to help her, Jospin must turn his back on his own father and the only life he has ever known. Together they risk being hunted by a band of ruthless poachers, but they take the chance anyway, working to bring down their enemies between each stolen kiss.
But when one slip puts Raven’s life at stake, Jospin knows he must act. He has captured Raven’s heart—now can he set her free?
Colors swirl like a tornado, paint slashing white paper. I don’t have a method behind this picture. Just anger. Just dark-colored smears and disoriented thoughts.
I don’t belong at the compound.
I stop painting for a moment. Stare at my stained hands. Try not to think about how this paint came from Mr. Tondjii’s warehouse, the same warehouse that holds boxes of canned food and gorilla meat.
The paper comes from Mr. Tondjii’s warehouse too. I can’t risk going to the habitat for my canvases. And, truthfully, there’s no guarantee that I’d ever have the strength to leave the habitat again if I were to see Jospin there, where I feel the safest—no guarantee that I’d come back to the compound to finish what I started.
I rip up the picture and start another one. Clovis gives me space. Watching as I work on the forest floor, but not saying a word. Keeping me safe and letting me go. It amazes me that he can lock it all up inside. His expression is neutral, as if he’s admiring the sun-speckled jungle. But I wonder: Does he ever want to let it all out? The lies and pain? His life is just as much at risk as mine, but he handles it better. He’s been dealing with it for so much longer than I have. Deceiving the alpha for a small chance to change the jungle.
Clovis claims he’s doing the right thing, even if he loses his life because of his so-called treachery. How many lives have I stolen? he questions. So many, Raven, he says. It’s all I have left to offer, he declares, to save what’s left of the gorilla species.
It’s all I have left to offer is what resonates with me. Because that’s exactly how I feel. This is all I have left to offer Dad, to carry out the mission that he started.
That he died for.
My second painting is slower. I’m holding paint tubes with my injured hand, the one that still can’t make a complete fist. Though I exercise it, I know it will never be the same, yet I still hope. Maybe that’s pointless, but I don’t care.
There are only three colors in my hand—purple, gray, and red—but I make do. This time, I paint the forest. Trees with leaves like cupped palms, trees with leaves like razor blades. My art forest is ghostly, murky. Smudges that could be anything. All they need to do is take a more definite shape. Form their destinies, these shadow things.
If I tried hard enough, could I do the same? Shape my destiny? Claim it as my own? Maybe I decide. Maybe it’s up to me, not to fate. Maybe fate is a trickster who fools you into thinking you have no control. I don’t know. But I have to try. My life might not be safe, but at least I’ll know that I chose this: to stop a monster.
Because Mr. Tondjii is just that.
I paint more and think of Jospin. Tears ask my permission to gather, to fall down my face, but I don’t let them. I don’t know if anyone, besides Clovis, is watching. Surely they are. Surely they don’t trust me just yet. Smart of them. So I’ll give them this: a girl who likes to paint. That’s all they know from the outside.
You’ll never see my insides.
By the end, I’m holding a picture of myself standing in shadow, looking out at the forest. Tiny relics rest at my painted feet. An eternity symbol for Dad, a knife for Jospin, a splotch of purple in the loose shape of a heart for Mama, the word life in sprawling, curling script. All right there, seemingly within reach. Yet Painted Me can’t grab them, because she’s too focused on the forest, which is covered in blood. Streaks of what look like ashen people line the forest. The sky seems to be falling. A world collapsing slowly above their heads.
I glance down at my real shadow. It’s sitting on the forest floor, its posture rigid. I think about the familiarity of my shadow. Find comfort in it. My shadow understands me. Copies my every move perfectly. Has been with me from the beginning. I can count on my shadow to always be there, one of the only things that will never leave me. My shadow reflects the darkest side of me. Even in the face of so much light. Especially then.
“What does it mean?”
Hearing Clovis’s voice startles me out of concentration. I peer at him. Dreads brushing his shoulders, his dark skin baking in spears of sunshine, arms leaning on his knees, sitting on a rock, and bending toward me to better look at my painting. His voice is soft and deep in case we’re not alone.
“It means,” I say, whispering back, “that I will crumble their world, the poachers, every one of them.”
Clovis’s lips twitch into the beginning of a smile. “Good.”
He doesn’t doubt me. He shouldn’t. I will find their weaknesses, even Mr. Tondjii’s. And then, only then, can I have the things waiting for me.
I reach out. Tear the painting to shreds. Because there will be no evidence here.
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