Breathe (Hollow Ridge #2) by C.L. Matthews


Title: Breathe

Series: Hollow Ridge #2

Author: C.L. Matthews

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Release Date: April 14, 2020


You’d think five years would be enough time to cope and move on.

It’s not.

If anything, it’s given me more unrealistic ways to deal with my loss.

More pain.

And even worse, a woman I don’t love.

A woman that isn’t her.

I hate her.

She hates me, too.

My life’s a mess.

My heart’s nonexistent.

My soul was lost long ago.

Worst of all, I no longer have any fucks to give.

They say you find your true love after you lose your first one.

I call bullshit.



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I bottle the resentment and hatred as one would a black widow and praying mantis in a jar, wondering which would strike first and who would conquer all.
One time, Wes caught one of each in two separate jars. It annoyed me that he captured two beautiful creatures just to hold them hostage and watch them waste away.
He set the glasses side by side, mirrors, almost doorways, to see how calculated each species was.
The intrigue in his eyes terrified me, let me know something inside him may be darker than I bargained for, yet I did nothing but watch.
His fingers caressed the one housing the bright green mantis. He leaned in close, his eyes narrowing on the stillness, I’m sure.
When the insect didn’t move, only keeping a stock-still position, I wondered if maybe fear kept it frozen in place, but like Wes knew something I didn’t, he smiled.
The way his lips tilted at the edges conspiratorially made my insides squeeze uncomfortably. As a predator or person with a lack of empathy would, he gave me chills, but for some reason, it didn’t force my eyes away.
Like the impact when music hits really loud, the bass bumping throughout your body, I could only prepare for the cacophony of bulldozing emotions.
After deciding whatever he needed, he stared at the widow. Its red stomach patch faced away from us as it protected itself by hiding in the lid, but Wes saw. Tapping the lid several times, we watched as the spider plopped to the bottom.
He bit the inside of his cheek wordlessly, causing an insane curiosity to bite at my mind.
It made zero sense.
This was barbaric, but I didn’t do a single thing to stop this from escalating.
He unscrewed the lids, lifting both cylinders at the same time. Nothing could prepare me for what I witnessed next.
Anxiety gnawed at my stomach, creating an untamable distress to bubble through my chest. It burned and ached, acting as an early warning system as the two foes faced off.
Neither moved.
They both stood motionless, almost calculating, watching, observing the opponent.
It never occurred to me which would win, but staring at the black widow, knowing its bite was as deadly as it was vicious, my mind had made itself up.
It struck first. The widow went straight for the jugular, and that was its first mistake—taking the easy shot, the uncalculated risk of striking first.
The mantis, as if knowing all along, gripped the spider with its pincers, holding it like it was sushi, his arms the chopsticks of death.
It squeezed and squeezed, making sure to eat its legs while it writhed in its hold. Nausea built inside me, suffocating my every breath, but the mantis didn’t stop to recognize how uncomfortable I was.
How could it know?
This was a dog-eat-dog world. In this case, a mantis-eat-widow one, he did what he had to do to survive. He won, eating his winnings like a gloating king after battle.
And I learned something valuable that day: always watch your six, don’t trust words, and never take the first shot. I’d never lay victim to a man ever again.


Breathe by C.L. Matthews
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

You guys … ALERT … still no gumdrops buuuuuut there might be a rainbow!! 🙂

Ohhhh Toby Toby Toby …. Whaaaat are we gonna do with you?! Man, you make it almost impossible to like you and give us little choice but to root for you all at the same time! You are ridiculous! But also, a fictional character so I should probably stop the trajectory this is going in. LOL

If you’re read Inhale, Exhale, then you already know, maybe / probably / mostly, why Toby is so much. If you haven’t, do not fear, the author does an exceptional job for weaving the past and the present in the book to make sure you get a good solid picture. Truth be told, she’s exceptional at her craft. Her writing is relevant and respectful, always. At least the books I’ve read have been. She is meticulous and thorough in her storytelling, leaving no stone unturned. Every side and depth that makes up Toby the man today, is laid out for us in painstaking detail. The good, the bad and everything in between.

Joey may be young, but she has lived a lifetime. She is a young woman forced into the trenches of adulthood by the circumstances of her life, past and present. She is strong and fearsome and does not back away from the challenges of life.

Together, Joey and Toby, are perfect in their imperfections. They fit together seamlessly yet they are oil and water. *shrug* Their passion sparks off the pages, not always in a positive and nurturing way, but passion nonetheless! It is their imperfections that make this story unique and formidable, painful in the most glorious of ways and inspiring!

I’m not going to say this book is not a romance journey like I did with Inhale, Exhale because I believe the core of this story is love. Not the perfect Candyland kind, but the real kind. The kind that hurts sometimes. The kind that seems unforgivable at times. The kind that has flaws and imperfections, dark edges and shadows. The kind that mirrors life at its core. That’s what this book is about. And it is glorious! (and exhausting) lol you’ve been warned.

C.L. Matthews has proven time and time again that she is a powerhouse with her craft. I haven’t read a whole lot of her work, but what I have read has been outstandingly real and representative. She does her research and does not shy away for the dark corners of life. She puts it all out there and she does it respectfully. I won’t say this book is dark in the conventional definition, but it’s also not light. It deals with serious themes that can be triggering. You’ve been warned. Again 🙂

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Meet The Author

C.L. Matthews lives in lala-landia with her husband and invisible friends. She wants to riot the lack thereof authentic Mexican food in her state, but she’s an introvert at heart. She enjoys tacos, Red Bull, and warm water because she’s crazy. She’s an oddball and realizes it’s been mentioned before, just go with it. Her joys in life consist of writing unconventional romances, making book covers, causing havoc to her reader’s hearts, and genre-hopping when she needs a change of scenery. She’s a special kind of weird and enjoys every moment of it.

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