"Pull Me Close" Is A Romance Worth Holding On To

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Title:  Pull Me Close
Series: (Panic #1)
Author:  Sidney Halston
Format: Kindle ARC
Length:  240 pages
Publisher:  Loveswept
Rating:  4.5 Stars

Welcome to Panic, a sultry Miami nightclub where bodies and hearts move to a beat that doesn’t stop at sunrise—the setting for “a magnificent story full of deep emotion” (Sawyer Bennett).

Katherine: I thought I could enjoy a night out like a normal person. I thought I could handle the flashing lights, the pulsing music, the crowded dance floor. I couldn’t have been more wrong. After having an anxiety attack and passing out during my sister’s engagement party at Panic, I wake up in the arms of the hottest guy I’ve ever seen. Nick Moreno’s no gentleman. But he might just be the man I need to help me take control of my life.

Nick: When I hear there’s some random girl passed out in the back room of my family’s South Beach nightclub, I’m pissed. My dad’s already behind bars and we can’t afford any more bad press. But after giving her a lift—literally—back to her apartment, I stop seeing Katherine Wilson as some random girl. She’s gorgeous, vulnerable, and braver than she knows. And when we kiss, all I want to do is pull her close and promise that she’ll always be safe in my arms.



Am I dead?
Confused and dizzy, I register voices in some crevice of my mind, but everything sounds distant. My thoughts are slow and thick like molasses, making it impossible to process what is going on.
“If this doesn’t work, I’m calling 911,” I hear a male voice say through my fuzziness. A strong smell of rubbing alcohol wafts up my nose, clearing a lot of the cobwebs and jolting me back into the present.
“I think she’s coming around,” a deeper, raspier voice says. The voices come in muffled, as if I’m underwater, but I still hear them, which means I’m not in fact dead. “Katherine?” Someone wipes a cold towel across my forehead, and the excess water drips down my neck as I struggle to open my eyes.
“There you go. Attagirl,” the softer voice says, pressing an alcohol wipe against my upper lip, forcing me to inhale. Senses assaulted, I jerk my eyes open. The light spotting my vision adds to the confusion.
“Get her up and out of here.”
“What the hell do you think I’m doing, Nick?” the soft voice argues. Realizing I have no clue as to my whereabouts or who these men are, I begin to breathe quickly again. Now that the spots surrounding my vision have left, I see two pairs of identical-looking green eyes staring down at me.
One looks concerned.
One looks utterly pissed off.
I sit up and accidentally knock my forehead against the chin of the pissed-off-looking guy. “Shit. Sorry,” I say, rubbing my forehead with my hand and trying to stand up on wobbly legs. The pissed-off guy catches me by the forearm and steadies me before I can land unceremoniously on my face. “Whoa. Slow down. Sit.” He drags me back down. His touch causes my warm skin to heat further, which then makes me realize my skirt has crept dangerously high up my legs.
“Here, sweetheart, drink this,” the concerned guy says, handing me an open bottle of water as I’m trying to right my skirt. With shaky hands I reach for the bottle and put it to my lips as the two men continue to watch me suspiciously. But as the liquid is about to hit my mouth I bring it back down, shake my head, and hand it back.
I don’t know these men. What if they’ve drugged the water?
“I . . . uh . . . where am I?” I ask, blinking a few times, my voice coming out shaky and squeaky. I feel sticky from all the sweat, and my muscles ache from the stress I endured before passing out.
“You’re at Nick’s office here at Panic. The nightclub you passed out in. I’m Matt, and that’s my brother, Nick. We own the club. Toro caught you right before you hit the floor.”
“Toro?” My voice sounds raspy even to my own ears.
“One of our bouncers,” he explains. “We were about to call an ambulance.”
An ambulance? An ambulance that’ll drive me to a hospital? A hospital full of people?
No.
No! My heart starts to race again, and I’m fighting back nausea.
“I’m okay. I’m sorry. Please, no hospitals.” Again I try to stand, holding the hem of my dress down at the same time, looking awkward as hell, I’m sure. The two men stand aside watching me. The pissed-off guy, who I now know is named Nick, looks me over distrustfully, arms crossed over his chest and his jaw twitching.
Frantically, I look around the room. Even though there is a sleek modern-looking desk with a glass top and chrome finish, the walls are cement and the ceiling is exposed, so I can see the ducts. I don’t see any windows. Not one. And the fluorescent light is flickering above me. My vision begins to blur and I’m afraid I’ll pass out again. “I . . . uh . . . Where’s the door? I need to get out of here.” An overwhelming need to escape consumes me, and I know it is just a matter of time until I start to freak out again. Nick isn’t helping matters by being creepily gorgeous with his unabashed angry glare.
“Wait. You can’t drive. You’re shaking. Are you going to pass out again?” Matt asks, taking a step closer as I take a step back.
“It’s okay, really.” His green eyes seem genuinely concerned and harmless; he even holds his arms out as if he’s trying to show me he comes in peace. On the other hand, Nick . . . he’s both scaring the crap out of me and intriguing me. Clearly his anger is directed at me. What have I done that’s so awful he has such an instant aversion? Our eyes lock accidentally for a moment, and I feel those emeralds pierce right through me in a way that is unreservedly intimidating. I make it a point to look away because I can’t figure him out and I don’t need to add a new set of confusing emotions to my already out-of-whack ones.
It’s weird. I’m in the middle of losing control of my body and I’m having perhaps the single most embarrassing moment of my life. Yet I’m also having some sort of visceral reaction to this man. To Nick. Whom I met just thirty seconds ago. A man who is staring at me as if I’m the most appalling creature he’s ever had the displeasure of meeting. I, on the other hand, have never seen a more attractive man before. His long hair is swept up in a bun that seems more like an afterthought than a style—but on him it looks particularly sexy. He’s also sporting a neatly trimmed beard that almost, but not quite, hides a pair of beautiful lips. I mean, I’ve seen lips like his. Full lips whose corners are tipped downward in a snarl. And his unconventional look—the beard, the hair, the scowl—contrasts sharply against the conventional but flawlessly tailored black suit, paired with a perfectly crisp white shirt and a thin black tie. Nick is striking, for lack of a better word. Or at least that’s what my stupid, traitorous body seems to think as my heart pounds not just from fear but from his intense gaze.
With all I have been through in my thirty-two years of life, I’ve never wished I was someone else.
Until today.
Right now, at this very moment, I wish I was someone who has her shit together. Someone who could possibly stand a chance with a man like Nick. Someone who doesn’t make Nick look pissed off. Someone who wasn’t carried in unconscious by a man named Toro. A woman who’d caught his attention on the dance floor, not on her back about to puke.
Matt snaps his fingers, trying to get my attention. “Hey—where’d you go?”
I shake my head wildly, trying to disengage my stare from those pissed-off green eyes are glaring back at me. I shift my eyes to Matt, who’s still talking.
“How ’bout a cab? We can call you a cab. Or Uber?”
I shake my head. “No.” I don’t know how less than an hour ago I had the strength to get in a cab by myself. I think it was because of the pill and because I had not realized how messed up I truly was. Months of talking myself into coming tonight had messed with the circuit in my brain. It had given me a false sense of bravery which had been squashed the moment I stepped foot into this damn night club.
“Oookaay . . . I can have an employee take you.”
Agitated, again I shake my head. All I want is out of the confines of the small room, because no matter how hot Nick is, I need to get the hell out. My anxiety over being in a windowless room with strange men trumps the unusual reaction I’m having to him.
I look around the unfamiliar area and begin to feel faint again. Matt carefully reaches over to my side, retrieves my purse, and slowly hands it to me as if any sudden movement will send me running.
He’s right.
“It says here you live on Collins Avenue,” he says, showing me my license, which one of them obviously took from my purse. “Nick lives close by. He can ta—”
“No, I can’t,” Nick bites out, his raspy voice reverberating through my body.
“Shut the fuck up, Nick,” Matt scolds. “She needs help.”
“Exit?” I ask in a low voice I barely hear and they don’t answer because they’re arguing about something. My heart begins to hammer against my chest again. “Exit!” I shriek this time because damn it—I need to get out of here. I turn my head to one side and then the other. I need to find the exit. Where the hell is the door in this place? And where are the windows? It’s been years since I’ve had a panic attack this bad. I’ve embarrassed myself enough. I need to get out of here. Now.
“Okay. Okay. Come on,” Matt says and I follow behind him but suddenly the Xanax starts to take effect. A warm feeling passes through my body and even though I’m still nervous, I’m also…not. It’s as if I can see myself moving but it’s not really me who’s moving.
“Look at her. She’s out of it,” Nick says, and snaps his fingers at me. “Hey. Hey, you.” To his brother he says tersely, “Her eyes aren’t focused. Damn it, Matt, we can’t have another run-in with the cops,” and he lets out a frustrated breath.
I open my mouth to speak but quickly close it and decide to save my energy. Nick turns to look at Matt, who doesn’t seem to know what to do with me. Rolling his eyes, Nick grabs me by the forearm so abruptly I lurch forward, my legs barely keeping up.
Normally I don’t like people touching me, and if I’d seen it coming, I’d have made it clear not to touch me. But, since he left me with no other choice, I don’t pull away. If his touching me means I’ll be far away from this room, I’ll gladly hold his hand the entire way. Touching is preferable to claustrophobia.
Nick pulls me out of the small, windowless room and into the hall. “You have to breathe. In and out.” He says it not delicately or comfortingly, but with a tone that tells me he thinks I’m weak and annoying and that he’s coaching me only so I don’t cause him any further problems. It’s clear he just wants me out of his club.
What a coincidence—seems we both want the same exact thing.

Excerpt. ©Sidney Halston. Posted by arrangement with the publisher. All rights reserved.



My Thoughts

Katherine and Nico's story is one that possesses all of the element that make a Contemporary Romance great!
In Nico, readers are presented with a strong, self-sufficient, business owner. Who is doing all he can to right the wrongs of his criminal father.  While struggling to cope with the implosion of his personal relationship.  As a result of his former fiance's refusal to seek help for her growing drug and alcohol addiction.

While in his leading lady, Katherine.  Readers discover a woman trapped within her home and within her mind.  A woman who so wants to be a part of life.  To have some semblance of normalcy; that she is willing to risk the onset of her severe PTSD to do so.
A risk that puts her and Nico on a shared path to a united destiny.
While putting readers on an emotionally charged path to a wonderful romance.
But that path is not one clear of more than its fair share of obstacles.

One of the most evident, and at times most frustrating?
 Nico.
He is not perfect.
He is a man haunted, shaped, and consumed by his past.
Which is why he seems to paint both Katherine and her problems with such a wide and judgement filled brush for the first few chapters of the read.
But...
Much to his credit, he soon does take the time to get to know both Katherine and her problems.
Resulting in both Katherine and the reader discovering a much more likable Nico.

Things progress with both the story and Katherine's work in coping with and changing her PTSD related behaviors, at nothing less than lightening speed.
A fact that, can prove quite disconcerting to the reader at times.
But then again the prospect of having a gorgeous  man as the reward for all of your efforts can really serve to inspire a girl to great achievement.

The supporting cast in this read is very limited.
This helps to focus attention on both the relationship and the effect of Katherine's illness on its dynamic.
And of course, this would not be a true Sydney Halston read without panty-melting sex.
With just a smattering of Nico-styled dominance for flavor.

This is a great read on all counts.  Spotlighting the very real mental health issue that is PTSD. In a very well expressed and relatable way.  In combination with a very readable love story/family drama.

Reviewer's Note:
Pull Me Close is the first book in a related series.  It may be read as a standalone. Or as part of its intended series.
    
   



All About Sidney

Sidney Halston lives her life by one simple rule: “Just do it.” And that’s exactly what she did. At the age of thirty, having never written anything other than a legal brief, she picked up a pen for the first time to pursue her dream of becoming an author. That first stroke sealed the deal, and she fell in love with writing. Halston lives in South Florida with her husband and children.


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