Ahh, the noble hero. How can you not love a man who is selfless, stoic, and self-sacrificing...well, at least until he tells the heroine The Big Lie, the one that starts out, “You’re better off without me.”
The hero decides, on his own, without consulting the heroine, that it’s best for her to move on with her life, leaving him behind. While he doesn’t do this lightly, and he genuinely wants to ensure she has a better future, his noble actions usually end up breaking the heroine’s heart (not to mention the reader’s).
Let me show you what I mean:
Shattered by Joann Ross—Shane Garrett is an Army Night Stalker pilot, cocky and confident, and completely in lust with Army doctor Kirby Campbell. They spend many hours in bed before he leaves on another mission, and they don’t meet up again until he is brought, severely wounded, to the field hospital where she works. She does her best to patch him up so he can make it out alive to a military hospital. When she goes to visit him there, after his leg has been amputated, he does everything possible to send her away, insisting whatever feelings they’d had for each other were merely a result of the wartime environment. She tries several times to change his mind, but to no avail:
“Thanks for coming all this way just to check on me,” he said instead. “And hey, again, thanks for saving my life.”
She forced a brave smile as she wavered between leaving while she still possessed some small shred of dignity, or climbing up on that bed and strangling him with her bare hands.
“Hey.” Opting for dignity, she forced a light note into her voice. “I was just doing my job.”
She bent down to kiss him. So they’d been lovers. Surely they could leave this emotional train wreck as friends. What could be wrong with a simple good-bye kiss between friends.
Apparently, a lot.
He turned his head at the last second, causing her lips to brush his cheek.
It took every ounce of self-restraint Kirby possessed, but she managed, somehow, to keep from weeping until she was walking back down that long, long hallway.
It was only after she was gone that Shane, proving that even hotshot Night Stalkers could cry, put his pillow over his face.
Then bawled like a damn baby.
Edge of Sight by Roxanne St. Claire—The book actually starts in a later point in the story, but there is a wonderful deleted scene, a prologue, on Ms. St. Claire’s website which shows the hero Zach and the heroine Sammi when they first meet at a party, while he’s on leave from Iraq. Their attraction is instant, and they go from zero to sexy before the party is even half over. They spend the next nineteen days and nights together, and on the last morning, when Zach is getting ready to leave, Sammi confesses she has fallen in love.
He just stared at her, knowing what he should say...he should tell her how he felt.
But to tell her that was a contract...and he knew Sam. She’d abide by it. And that would only make her lonely and miserable. He had no right. “I have to go now,” he said quietly, standing quickly to avoid looking at her, not wanting to see the words hit her heart.
She tries to get him to commit to having some kind of contact with her while he’s gone, and he does his best to show how unlikely it is, without revealing how much pain he’s going through, because he is determined to keep her from tying herself to him.
He hugged her again, his mouth on her forehead. “Sammi...”
He could feel her entire body tighten with anticipation. Say it, Zach. Say it. “I had the best three weeks of my life.”
She sunk a little in his arms. “Yeah. It was fun.”
He kissed her once more, chaste, simple, sweet.
“Bye.” The lump broke in his throat. He backed away, nodded once, and headed out the door, mentally making the promises he couldn’t make verbally.
When I get back, Sammi. When he got back, he’d change this conversation and make everything right. He’d say the words she wanted to hear, when he got back.
If he got back.
Hold on Tight by Stephanie Tyler—There are so many wonderful storylines in each book of this series, but one is particularly poignant to me, even though he’s not the main hero. He’s known as Clutch, although his real name is Bobby, and he’s just recently divulged that to Sarah, the woman he loves. Her life is at risk now that he is trying to leave GOST, a special ops group that isn’t happy about his attempted departure. After being on the run, in danger, they spend the night together, with him reassuring her that he loved her and would keep her out of harm’s way. In the morning, he was gone.
Clutch had left Sarah the keys to his house—a place that was already paid for. He’d left her instructions, where he’d hidden money. The business he ran would close, but she’d have someplace to stay and she would have enough cash to get by for quite a while. He’d send her more, because he wasn’t going to need much.
GOST wouldn’t go after her—she’d be safe, because he was going back to them. He hadn’t planned on it, hadn’t wanted to leave her while she slept so peacefully, but at some point last night, when they’d been making plans, he’d known what he needed to do.
“You’ll come with me, then,” he murmured. “Into the wild, never looking back?”
“You can’t sell any more of your pictures. You won’t even be able to take them for pleasure. How can I take that away from you?”
“You’re not taking anything away from me. I’m giving it up willingly.” She stroked his back, cradled his head. And that’s when he made up his mind, wrote her a note that gave her some idea of the kinds of crimes he’d committed. Anything to make her fall out of love with him.
He returns to GOST, and when they ask why they should believe in his loyalty, he says:
“I agreed to this life, that’s why. And you agreed to leave anyone associated with me on the outside alive.”
A life for a life, and Sarah’s was always the more important. She could continue with her photography, go to school. Get married, have a family, get the hell out of this country, if she wanted.
She’d forget about him. And that would be the best thing she could do.
He wouldn’t forget anything about her for the rest of his life, though, no matter how long that was.
The man, John Caspar, stared him down for a second before shaking his hand. “Then the deal is done. Welcome back, Bobby.”
Clutch nodded, could swear he felt the last piece of his soul breaking off as he left the borrowed truck behind and got into John’s car.
Pardon me while I wipe away a tear or two for these noble wounded warriors, and the heartbroken women who love them. Which heroes have you read that tell The Big Lie? Share your favorites, so I can add some more angst to my reading list.