Unexpected Delivery…Chapter One

If you haven’t read the Prologue, you can catch up here

Chapter One

Strings Attached

Two years later

“Hey, Ruby,” Evan said when he walked into Butler Construction’s office. “Got the house sold across the street from me, I see.”

Ruby Turner was the realtor that Butlers used exclusively for new builds. Not everyone that was selling a house in the development went through her, but if anyone wanted to build, they did. It was easier for them to contract with her to do all the work, to set it up with his cousin Whitney when the time was ready to start building and ordering, and then Evan, his brother Christian, and cousin Ryan would get to work along with the over one hundred other employees they had.

Evan’s father, Michael, and his uncle, Matt, now ran the company that their father had started many, many years ago. But his father and uncle were in the offices buying land and making deals both residential and commercial.

“I did. Should be closing in two weeks. Want some information?”

“Nope,” Evan said. “Don’t care. I want neighbors that keep to themselves. I built at the end of the road hoping for that. I’ve been lucky with the neighbors on the one side and the few others on my street, but those directly across the street had been a pain in my butt from the day they moved in.”

He didn’t like it known who he was, but it was hard to hide it with his truck saying Butler Construction on it. Even then, he pulled it in the garage every night.

It drove him insane when the last people that lived across the street would knock on his door every time they heard a creak in the house.

“Since when are you the grouch of the family?” his cousin Whitney asked. “That was Ryan’s job.”

“Ryan isn’t a grouch much anymore and you know it,” he said of his youngest cousin, Whitney’s brother.  “He struck gold with Shannon and a ready-made family. I can’t believe he is getting married in a month.”

“Which means there is hope for you yet,” Whitney said. “If Ryan can land someone, then you can.”

Evan laughed. “I’ve got no desire to land anyone. As I told my parents and Kaelyn at Easter when Sarah was talking about the new guy she was dating, when someone is older and single, they are set in their ways.”

Ruby laughed when Whitney snorted.

Evan’s sister, Kaelyn, was married to Harris Walker, ex-pro baseball pitcher. Harris’s younger sister started dating a guy that relocated to the area a few months ago. Mid to late thirties and never been married. Yep. Set in his ways and wouldn’t change, and Evan made a point of saying that and for Sarah to keep her eyes open with Caden Finley.

When Evan’s mother laughed and said he’d be single forever, he pretty much agreed.

“That’s not true,” Ruby said. “Josh had never been married or in a serious relationship. I hadn’t been either until we met each other. Sometimes you have to wait for that perfect person.”

“You guys are still younger than me,” Evan said. “Doesn’t count. And Josh is a nice guy.”

“And we know Evan isn’t,” Whitney said.

Evan just wanted to mind his own business and do his job. Nice wasn’t a word many said about him.

Yep, he could put on a smile for a buyer and normally did, but then when he turned his back the smile dropped faster than a cookie in the jar after being caught red-handed as a kid sneaking one before dinner.

“I can be nice,” Evan said, smiling. “When I want to. I don’t always like to play nice. Or as my mother likes to say, someone had to be Oscar in the family.

He was often referred to as Oscar the Grouch when he woke up as a kid. It took him a few hours to get going and warmed up to talk to people and then by the end of the day he was back to being grouchy.

Why talk to people when they didn’t have much to say that he was interested in?

As an adult he knew it was caffeine that he needed. Get a couple of cups of coffee in him and he was good to go and willing to suck it up for the day.

“Kaelyn was always the happy one,” Whitney told Ruby. “Christian, the quiet calm one.”

“Again, someone has to be,” Evan said. “And how are you feeling?” he asked Ruby. He’d heard last week she was several months pregnant.

“See?” Ruby said. “That was nice of you to ask and I’m feeling great. We’ll find out the sex of the baby in a few weeks. Never thought I’d be a mother. Heck, I never thought I’d even get married.”

“Can you imagine Evan as a father?” Whitney asked, laughing. “If he had a daughter, he’d probably follow behind her until she was thirty before anyone of the opposite sex could get close.”

“Damn straight,” he said. “Just like I tried to do with Kaelyn.”

“Didn’t work, did it?” Ruby said. “Though your sister seems happy enough.”

“It’s a good thing or Harris would have to answer to me.”

Whitney rolled her eyes. “Not only is Kaelyn not fazed by you but Harris isn’t intimidated and you know it.”

It was true. His brother-in-law was bigger than anyone else in the family and treated his wife and daughter like gold. The daughter that was conceived before they were married!

“Well, she’s as independent as you,” Evan said. “And you too, Ruby.” He knew enough when to kiss ass.

“Now you’re sucking up,” Whitney said. “Was there something you wanted from me or can I go back to work with Ruby?”

“Since I’m in your office, there is,” he said. “Sorry to interrupt.”

“It’s fine,” Ruby said. “I always enjoy visiting and making money. Just going over two potential new builds for you guys.”

“That’s what we like,” Evan said. “When it’s set to go, let Christian know.”

His brother was one of the engineers for Butler Construction. They had three employed now because they were so busy, but Christian dealt with all the new builds, another engineer with renovation projects and repairs that might need to be done, and a third with commercial properties. In the past few years it’d gotten to be too much for Christian to do it all.

“We know the routine,” Whitney said. “Stop being so bossy all the time.”

“I’m not bossy,” he said. “I’m just right. I’m only doing my job.”

“Whatever,” Whitney said. “Get out of here and let me do my job after you tell me what it is you need.”

“I’m looking to find out when the shipment of cabinets is coming in for the house on Glendale.”

Whitney dealt with everything in the office from ordering supplies to dealing with vendors and clients once the paperwork had been signed on a new build.

Ryan oversaw a good portion of the construction crews on site for multiple projects but liked to get his hands dirty in the mix and work along with them. He was more a day-to-day manager.

Evan oversaw everything from a bigger picture. He scheduled the workload, he made sure everything was on track to get done, and when to shift crews around on other projects, along with what timelines to give when projects came in.

“Just give me a second. I know they were on backorder, but I thought they were due tomorrow.” He stood there while Whitney started to type into her computer and then pulled it up. “Yep. Tomorrow it is.” She clicked a few more buttons. “They are en route too. So at least we know they were shipped.”

“Better than still being in the warehouse. Okay, that’s one less headache I’ve got to deal with and can go tell Ryan to continue as planned.”

He walked out of Whitney’s office and headed back to his truck to get on with his day, not sure why he was in such a hurry. It’s not like he had anything planned after work tonight or any other night.

He talked about not changing his ways and didn’t plan on it, but damn, there were times when it sure was lonely.

Unexpected Delivery…Prologue


Parker looked around at the remaining ten castmates sitting in tribal council with her. It’d been a dream come true to be on Survivor and she made it to the merge.

In her mind, she was sitting pretty with her hidden immunity idol that took a risk getting when she was voted to spend the night alone on another island. She knew she rubbed people the wrong way. She’d been doing that her whole life and she was fine with it. Until she wasn’t.

“Be tough,” her mother used to drill into their heads. Her brothers, Marcus and Jeremy, were just as competitive as her, but they weren’t ones to rough it like she was. She’d do anything for a dare if she could come out on top.

Succeeding and being the best was something she always wanted. Maybe it was that she was the third of the four kids. Marcus was the oldest. Jeremy next, so he was in the middle too. Then her and finally the baby, Erin.

Yeah, Erin was the only one not competitive in the family and it drove her mother insane. Her father, he was used to their mother running the show, so he often ended up spending more time with Erin and cheering her up.

“So we’ve made it to the merge,” Jeff Probst said. “Anyone feeling safe?”

Parker looked around. She was fine, she knew it. Call her cocky, she didn’t care, but there were a lot of players that wanted Keegan out. Heck, she was thrilled when his name came up, as he was the first one to rally everyone against her in their tribe.

If people thought she was competitive and bossy, they’d never met Keegan before. He named their tribe. He took the lead, he told everyone what to do and when. Because she was a woman and had an opinion a few times, he’d given her shit.

No one gave her shit.

But she was smart enough to stay calm and work any angle she could. She wasn’t a great salesperson for nothing. She knew how to play the game of life and was doing well for herself at it.

And she had her safety that no one knew of hidden away and she wasn’t telling a soul.

She’d been watching this show since she was a little kid and too many people made the mistake of blabbing. Not her.

“I think we all know what we are doing tonight,” Tyler said. He was eighteen and had an issue with his mouth running like the results of consumed gas station egg salad for lunch that had sat out for a week.

“So, is it safe to say that it might be fairly unanimous who is going home?” Jeff asked.

There were some head nods, but no one was talking that much. Then Sandra said, “I’m not sure it’s ever unanimous. Everyone feels nervous at some point.”

“That’s true,” Jeff said. “What about you, Parker? Feeling safe? Your tribe has the majority of members with the merge. You could easily start picking people off from the other side. How safe do you feel?”

She heard Keegan snort two over. “Just like Sandra said: no one really feels safe unless they’ve got immunity hanging around their neck like Jason. So yeah, he probably feels real safe unless he wants to hand it to me.”

There was some laughter in the group. She might be confident and cocky, but she had a good sense of humor. At least she thought she did.

No one wanted to be sitting here for weeks starving and stinking without being able to make some jokes about it. Going to the bathroom in the bushes…yep, she was a pro at it now. When her family got to see these episodes months from now when she would be back home, they were going to laugh their butts off. Along with her coworkers.

Her mother wouldn’t be laughing. Not unless Parker took the win home. But she’d long since given two flying monkeys what her mother thought of anything.

She hoped to be laughing to the bank with that million-dollar check though.

There was more talk going around and she was listening like she always did but just wanted to get this vote over with. It should be ten for Keegan, and one for whoever he voted for. Everyone told him Tyler was the guy they were targeting, so that should be the one vote.

Who knew with Keegan? He was a wild card on top of being a dick.

“Let’s go vote,” Jeff said. “Tyler, you’re up first.”

One by one they all moved over and picked up the large coal pencil and wrote down Keegan’s name. At least she was ninety-nine percent confident everyone was.

When the last person was sitting, Jeff walked over to tally the votes and then came back. “Does anyone have a hidden immunity idol they want to play?”

Nope, she was holding onto hers, thank you very much. She’d wanted to split the votes tonight, but everyone insisted Keegan didn’t have an idol. That if he did, he’d be bragging to those closest to him.

He was cocky enough to do that, so she was confident Keegan was finally going home.

But when Jeff was getting ready to start reading the votes, Keegan stood up and said, “I’m pretty sure this is going to save my ass tonight.”

Her jaw dropped as she looked around at everyone else who felt the same way. No way. He had to be bluffing. He handed over what looked to be some rock with scratches on it. Hers was like a mini totem pole.

“Yes, this is one of the five idols that were on the island.”

“Five?” Tyler said. “There were five there?”

The island the members were sent to was out of play with the merge now. It was only when they were separate tribes. No one had any idea there were five of them. Everyone thought there might be two tops. One on each side for each tribe to find. Since Keegan and she were in the same tribe, she’d figured she had the only one.

Holy shit, there could be three more out there counting hers. How was it no one figured out there were so many?

“There are five,” Jeff said, taking the one from Keegan. “Now there could be four in play. One more thing to think about. But all votes for Keegan will not count. Let’s start.”

One by one Jeff pulled out sheets of the worn rough weathered paper and opened them up. The first six had Keegan’s name on them. Enough to send him home. Darn it.

She was starting to sweat. She had a feeling her name was going to be on Keegan’s sheet. That he’d outplayed them all and it was going to be a dirty bitter pill for her to swallow on a dry throat if that was the case.

By the time they got to the eighth vote, Jeff read, “Parker, one. Keegan, seven. Three more to go.”

But the next three had Keegan’s name on them. Son of a bitch!

“Parker. The tribe has spoken.”

She stood up with her torch to have it snuffed out when Keegan said, “No, Keegan has spoken.”

She could be a bitch about it but wasn’t going to be. She could be the bigger person even if it was killing her inside. This was national TV and she wasn’t stupid enough to do anything that could come back and haunt her. “Well played, Keegan.”

“I expected you to throw a fit,” Keegan said.

She smiled and winked at him. “You don’t know me as well as you thought you did.”

Then she walked off the set, her smile dropping the minute her back was turned. She’d throw a fit, but she’d do it in the hotel room after she took an hour-long hot shower and got all the grime off of her. When she was clean enough, she’d go stuff her face with food. It might be the only thing she had to look forward to before she got on the plane to go home.

Unexpected Delivery

Evan Butler has often been described as arrogant, grouchy, and inflexible. He just liked to say he was always right. When the wrong package is delivered to his house for the second time, he prepares to put a smile on his face and play nice with the new neighbor to bring it to its rightful owner. What he didn’t expect was the beauty that was going to make him realize that sometimes in life you’re wrong and you need to learn to compromise.

Parker Reed has had family pressure and competition shoved in her face her entire life. She’s always felt she had a handle on it. But when her sister dies, she realizes that life shouldn’t all be about getting to the top of the ladder. Only how do you change what you’ve always known and done? And when the sexy neighbor across the street enters her life, she realizes that maybe long term plans and goals aren’t the only things she should be focusing on anymore.

Family Bonds-Ava & Seth…Chapter One

If you haven’t read the Prologue yet, check it out here.

Chapter One

More To Offer

Three years later

“So, birth control options,” Emily Rauch said to Dr. Ava Mills. They were distant cousins, but that was the case with most of the Bonds on the island of this generation when they crossed family lines.

“I don’t see where you’ve been on anything other than birth control pills in your file. That was a few years ago?”

“Nothing in a few years. I’m not really keen on the pill again. I wasn’t a fan of the way it made me feel.”

“There are plenty you can try if you want,” Ava said.

“There are other options I think I’d rather explore.”

“So things are going well with the guy from the fundraiser? Enough that you are looking for birth control options?” Ava asked, wiggling her eyebrows. Lucky dog, her cousin was. It’d been way too long since Ava had any activity with the opposite sex. Heck, it might have been a year since she’d even been on a date!

“It’s been a few months now. You’ve seen us out to dinner and even came over to get the introduction. I want to know how you got out of that fundraiser.”

The fundraiser that island matriarchs Helena and Janet Bond oversaw to bring money to Amore Island to help fund the clinics and emergency services that taxpayer money didn’t cover. The island founded by their ancestors many, many years ago.

The island that she only worked at one day a week in the clinic. For now.

Ava grinned. “I was on call that week.”

“That’s your story and you are sticking to it?”

Maybe she should have offered to go on stage at the charity fundraiser and be one of the women men could bid on for a date if Emily was getting lucky with the guy who’d “won” her. No, no, it just wasn’t for Ava.

“Exactly. So tell me about your new beau.”

“Don’t you have other patients?” Emily asked.

“You’re my last of the day. I’ve got plenty of time to catch the ferry so don’t use that as an excuse either.”

“It’s only three,” she said. “How can I be your last patient of the day?”

“I didn’t know I had to report my schedule to you. But I had two cancellations and because I’m off the island, they called and rearranged it so that I could get out after you.”

Ava liked how accommodating everyone was at the facility where she worked. There were branches in Boston, Plymouth—where she was currently located—Amore Island, and other outlying areas. Her long-term dream had been Amore Island…at some point when there was an opening. It was coming true sooner than she expected though and since her father and brothers were now practicing on the island, she couldn’t wait to join them.

“It doesn’t bother you coming back and forth this way to work?”

“It’s only once a week.” Ava looked around as if she was afraid someone might walk in the closed door and hear them. “Until June that is.”

“What?” she asked. “What is going on?”

Her smile filled her face faster than when she was hired as an obstetrician less than two years ago. “I’m transferring here full time.”

“That’s great! I thought you didn’t want to be on the island.”

“It wasn’t that. I just went where the job was. I like it off the island and coming here once a week, but everyone is here. My brothers are at the hospital, my parents live here now with my father somewhat retired but the surgeon on call. I guess I’m finding the island is pulling me more than I thought. Or at least earlier than I thought it would. One of the doctors here full time wants to leave. She’s got kids starting middle and high school and they play sports and, well, you know how it goes.”

“I do. There is only so much you can do on the island. There are sports, but activities are limited and the traveling back and forth. It’s not a life for everyone.”

“You didn’t live here growing up,” Ava said. “Neither did we. But I find that things are different on the island now than they were when we were kids. There is more to do and more to offer.”

Life in the slow lane was calling her name after years of schooling. Now it was work, work, work and she was fine with that. But going home to her rented condo wasn’t as relaxing as it might be if she had a nice little cottage by the ocean. The next step of her journey would be to reach out to her cousin Drew and see if he knew of anything on the market that was in her range.

“Or maybe we are older,” Emily said.

“No clue. But I’m sure you know it’s hard to get medical professionals on the island to stay for long. Many come here young to get a job and experience, then leave when there is an opening at another satellite office in Boston or Plymouth. Or they come here when they are ready to retire.”

“Like your father,” Emily said. “Can we continue this while I’m dressed? I get the feeling you enjoy doing this to rattle me.”

Ava smiled. “Nothing really rattles you though.” She always did have a warped sense of humor, or so many told her.

“Talk to me through the door,” Emily said.

“Nope. I don’t want anyone to hear me as it’s not public knowledge. I just filled the paperwork out last week.”

Emily jumped down from the table, making sure the gown was covering her bare butt, and ran to the bathroom to change quickly so they could finish their conversation. When she came out, she said, “So why are you telling me? Or you needed to talk to someone other than your parents and brothers?”

“Right on the first try. I know you won’t say much, right?” Her parents and brothers were going to be thrilled, but they’d also start to jump in and give advice and suggestions on when or where she should move. She wanted to do this all on her own.

“My lips are sealed. When will it be public knowledge?” Emily asked.

“A few weeks or less. It gives me time to find a place of my own and start letting my patients know.”

“Those on the island will be thrilled,” Emily said.

“They will. Many still don’t like giving birth here, but I’m really pushing hard to get more advanced equipment. It’s better than it used to be, but we will never be equipped for any major emergency.”

“Which is no different than any other small town in the state. I look at it this way. There are plenty air lifted out of smaller rural locations in this state besides the island.”

“Exactly,” Ava said. “Anyway, so that is my news. Oh, I’m sure you heard another one bit the dust over Valentine’s Day.” That was two now in their family engaged of her generation. The green monster was starting to grow a little knowing Emily was getting some action too.

“Drew and Amanda?” Emily asked. “I did hear that. Helena has been burning up the hotlines. Amanda seems like a great person. Drew looks happy.”

“Drew is always happy,” she said. “So…will you be next?”

“Don’t even go there.”

“Ah, but you want birth control.”

“Which means I’m having sex.”

“Lots of sex?” Ava asked. “Come on. I’m in a dry spell and we are off the clock. You’re dressed again.”

Emily laughed. “More than I’ve had before, but it doesn’t seem to be enough either.”

“The best kind there is. So give me the scoop on him.” She needed something at this point to squash the urge to go home alone and watch another Hallmark movie with a tub of ice cream.

“Not much to say. You know how we met.”

“But you knew him before the fundraiser?” Ava asked.

“I did,” Emily said. “He delivers my mail. Everyone knows and I’m sure it’s the big talk of the family outside of Drew’s engagement and Hunter’s soon-to-be son arriving.”

“Don’t forget about Mac dating someone now too.” Just dating didn’t bother her as much as her cousins settling down and her wondering when she might have a shot at it. Being in Plymouth, she thought she’d have a better chance at meeting men and found that wasn’t the case.

“Is he really?” Emily asked. “Is it Kayla’s other roommate? Sidney?”

“That’s what I heard. That he’s been seen at the bar while she is working.”

“And he must hate it if people are talking about it,” Emily said.

“I’m sure, but Mac has no problem putting people in their place. Kind of like you.”

“Speaking of that. And me. What have you heard about me and Crew?” Emily asked.

“Not much. Just that you seem happy too. You know the family. That’s all anyone really cares about.” Many outside the Bond family thought they were all stuck-up, but the truth was, not many were. They were all caring and truly wanted each other happy.

“No one is making a comment about his career?”

Crew Ackley was a mailman. “I’m sure there are plenty that love to gossip that might. It’s no different than people commenting on Kayla and Amanda trying to land a wealthy man. Anyone that knows you knows you wouldn’t put up with it. You had no problem dropping Simon.”

Simon was Emily’s ex-fiancé that rumor had it only wanted the family name and money and part of the hotel Emily and her sister, Penelope, were building.

“No. No problem there, nor would I put up with it. So, back to my question. Birth control options.”

Ava rolled her chair over and pulled some brochures off the wall, knowing that their conversation was coming to an end, but it was fun while it lasted. She missed this with other women and found there wasn’t much of it in Plymouth.

The other doctors at the practice were older than her. The office staff and nurses didn’t really want to mingle with the doctors. Or maybe she didn’t want to mingle with them. She’d always had a hard rule about keeping friendships out of the office. It was just easier that way.

“The usual pill, a shot in the arm every three months, an IUD. Lots of information to read.”

“How soon could I get the shot in the arm?” Emily asked, looking at the brochure quickly. “I’ve read a bit on it already.”

“Today if you want?” Ava said, laughing.

“Give it to me.”

“Your wish, my command,” she said, standing up. “I’ll be back in a few.”

She’d given Emily her Depo shot, updated her notes in her computer, then went to the temporary office she used here. It was more like a coat closet and the next person that filled in once a week would get it once she moved over to the bigger office next door.

“Have a safe trip home,” Anne, her nurse for the day, said to her when she was walking out the door.

“Thanks,” she said, knowing it wouldn’t be much longer and she’d be home right here on the island.

Family Bonds- Ava & Seth…Prologue


“Seth, I’m bleeding again.”

Seth Young looked up at his wife, Ellen, in the kitchen of their small home outside of Boston. “A lot?” he asked, looking at his watch. It was after eight and they’d just put their three-year-old daughter, Adele, to bed.

“More than last week,” she said.

Ellen was seven months pregnant with their son and in the past eight weeks had started to bleed slightly on and off. Her doctor said it can happen, but after the second time, Ellen was in the office in a panic where the doctor discovered she had placenta previa and told Ellen to try to take it easy while they monitored things.

Seth felt her doctor wasn’t doing enough to relieve their concerns. “Why don’t you call your doctor’s office now and tell them,” he said. “It can’t hurt to get it on record.”

“It’s after hours. It’ll go to whoever is on call,” she argued.

“If you don’t do it then we are going to the ER. This isn’t something to take a chance with.”

“I know. But I just got Adele down and it’s not that bad.”

“But worse than last time, you said.” He hated arguing with her, but sometimes she could be so stubborn in not wanting to put others out. He suspected it went way back to being the only child of divorced parents as they remarried and started new lives.

“Yeah. Okay, I’ll call now.” He waited while he listened to her talking to the service. “They said someone will call me back within thirty minutes.”

He wanted to grind his teeth over that. Thirty minutes was too long in his head, but then he’d told himself if it was an emergency they’d just go to the ER anyway.

And twenty-five minutes later, Ellen’s doctor called her back, asked a few questions, then Ellen hung up. “She said if it’s not nonstop then to rest and put my feet up and call the office to come in in the morning. If it starts to flow like a period, to go to the ER right away.”

Which Seth could have figured out on his own. “Then go lie down for the night. I’ll take care of the dishes when the dishwasher stops. Better yet, why don’t you get ready for bed? We can watch TV early together.”

“That sounds good,” she said, her voice a little shaky and he wondered if it was worse than she was letting on.

He pulled her into his arms to hold, then reached down and put his arms under her knees and carried her to their room and put her on the bed. “What do you need? Something to sleep in? Don’t do anything else right now until I get back.”

She laughed. “You take such good care of me.”

“That’s a husband’s job,” he said, going to the kitchen. The dishwasher would be done drying any minute and Ellen liked the dishes put away at the end of each night so that the day could start out fresh.

He wasn’t even halfway through when she started to shout his name and he went running to see blood on the bed.

He picked up his phone and called 911. There was no way he could get her there fast enough and he wanted her to have help immediately.

By the time the ambulance arrived, he had a neighbor at the house to stay with Adele. No reason to wake and worry his daughter.

The minute Ellen was loaded in the ambulance, he jumped in his car and followed them racing to the hospital, and prayed his wife and son would be okay.

He didn’t get that prayer answered when he had to return home the next morning in a haze of disbelief and confusion, wondering how he was going to break the news to his daughter that it was just the two of them now.

Family Bonds- Ava & Seth

Dr. Ava Mills always knew she’d end up on Amore Island, the island her family founded and built. She was just waiting for the position to open up to slide right in. And when it does, the transition is anything but smooth when her identity is stolen and her assets and funds frozen with her reputation on the line.

Seth Young moved to Amore Island to have his mother help him raise his daughter after the loss of his wife and unborn child. He’s worked closely with most members of the Bond family at the bank where he is President, just not Ava Mills. And when she applies for a mortgage, he has to break the news that her credit is shot. She needs help and he’s going to give it to her…just maybe not the help either of them had planned.

Fierce-Devin…Chapter One

Chapter One

Not Falling For It

Devin was in his office checking off production schedules when there was a knock at the door. “Hey, Mason,” he said to his cousin, one of the five owners of Fierce-The Brewery. He looked at the clock and saw it was seven. “You’re in early.”

“Couldn’t sleep,” he said. “I’ve got an idea for a new beer and wanted to talk with Ben about it before he got knee deep in other things.”

Ben was one of the brewmasters that worked the closest to Mason. There were plenty of them with the size of the brewery, but Mason seemed to go to Ben the most.

“Checking in on inventory control?” Mason asked. Devin oversaw production and distribution. Not a desk job completely, but a hands-on one too. He liked splitting his time. He worked four twelve-hours shifts and rotated his nights as he saw fit with Mason’s approval to assure everything was working properly on the night shift when the big guys weren’t around.

One could say he was the big guy at night, though he never felt that way. He might be a first cousin to the Fierce Five, but his last name was Andrews.

“How did it turn out?” Mason asked.

“Good. No issues or shortages. I’ll sit down with you at some point about storage and maybe rearranging things, but for now we are good.”

“Glad to know,” Mason said. “It’s one less headache I’ve got knowing everything is under control. I still can’t thank you enough for wanting to work here.”

“I should be thanking you for offering me the job,” he said.

A year ago Devin was living in Georgia working as a distribution manager for a large manufacturing company. He was the middleman getting shit on by those above and below him and he’d had enough. When Mason called and offered him a position he was creating, he’d jumped on it knowing he needed the out. Things were heating up and he was already in the crossfire. Not a good place to be in his position. Union workers weren’t happy and he wasn’t one of them even though they reported to him.

“It’s working out for both of us, and it takes the pressure off of me. Sometimes I look around here and can’t believe how big it’s gotten and I know it’s going to continue to expand. Which we need to talk about.”

Devin started to laugh. “You’re getting more requests from out of state?”

“I am. I’m ready to move into a few more, but we need to work out drivers and shipments and get vendors, figure the trucks out and the list goes on and on.”

“You get me the vendors, I’ll figure out shipping and the drivers, those schedules, you know that.”

“Good. Hope has been getting a lot of calls and putting things together. Maybe I’ll have you meet with her soon and it will give you an idea.”

“Sounds good,” he said. Hope Hall took care of all the orders for the brewery. She was a one-woman show taking calls, tracking down shipments, and dealing with any customer or vendor complaints. He suspected Mason might have to add some more staff on soon, but since that was her only job from a created position not that long ago, he’d already seen the writing on the wall for more expansion.

He went back to work when Mason walked out, would finish up his paperwork, then go down and talk to the guys on first shift once they were settled.

Coming in at ten at night and working until ten in the morning allowed him to communicate with staff on all three shifts. But since Mason and many others were here during the day, he wasn’t needed as much as someone to watch out at night.

When ten rolled around, he’d already had his office locked up and was heading up to remind Mason he’d be off tonight. His four-night weeks were normally Sunday through Wednesday, but he was closing on the house he was buying tomorrow morning and would need the night off to sleep and deal with his move.

“Heading out?” Mason asked him when he popped his head in. Talk about the prime office location. Mason got to look out over the floor of the brewery on a daily basis.

“I am. Just remember, I won’t be in until Wednesday night, so I’ll see you Thursday morning.”

“Oh yeah. Your house closing. Congrats again on that.”

“Thanks. Apartment living was getting to me, though I’m not sure I’m ready to be a homeowner and handle all the work that comes with it.”

“It’s not so bad and well worth the privacy.”

“Living in a development isn’t as private as I would have liked, but since it’s gated and they take care of the lawn maintenance, that was a major selling point.”

Mason laughed. “I enjoy riding the lawnmower on the weekend. It’s my quiet time.”


Devin turned to see Jacob and Jeremy come running into the office, followed by Jessica, Mason’s wife. “Mason doesn’t let me mow the lawn,” Jessica said. “I’ve begged him, but he says it’s his first baby and no one touches the tractor.”

“You just want to leave me with these two monkeys,” Mason said, as his twins were climbing in his lap with one reaching for the mouse on the computer, the other pulling at papers. They were a few months shy of three and quite the handful.

“I should have brought some bananas in with me,” Devin said.

“I don’t like bananas,” Jeremy said, jumping down and running toward him for a high five. Not to be outdone, Jacob did the same.

“Are they going to be here all day with you or are you getting stuff to work from home?” Mason asked his wife.

“Your mom is on her way to get them here. She had something to do this morning. I would have come in earlier, but they are wound for sound and I’m not sure I could handle them. She’d said ten.”

“Run,” Mason said to his cousin.

He was ready to turn and leave, but his Aunt Jolene was one foot in the doorway. “Devin,” she said. “How is my favorite nephew? My sister tells me every day how happy she is you are back in town.”

“I’m doing good, Aunt Jolene. Just telling Mason I’d see him Thursday.”

“Your house closing is tomorrow, right?” Aunt Jolene asked.

“It is. I need to sleep tonight and make sure I’m not half awake and signing the wrong papers.”

She laughed at him and then started to dance around in a circle with her grandsons. His aunt never sat still and was always moving fast. Which was why he needed to get out of here before she started to bring up another topic he hadn’t been able to outrun.

“We wouldn’t want that. Maybe once you’re settled, you wouldn’t mind me introducing you to a friend’s daughter. Kaylee is a sweetheart. I know you two would hit it right off.”

He looked at Mason and caught the smirk. “I’m good, Aunt Jolene. I can find my own woman.”

“All my boys said the same thing,” she said, “but we know how that turned out.”

“I’m thankful for Jolene’s interference every day,” Jessica said. “But I’m more thankful when she takes my wild children off my hands so I can get some work done.”

Mason moved toward Jessica and pulled her into his arms, then gave her a kiss. “Work? I was hoping we could play hooky for an hour or so.”

“See how well I did?” his aunt said.

“Yep, you did,” Devin said. “But I’m a big boy.”

“I told you to run,” Mason said. “You’re not fast enough.”

“No one is as fast as me,” Aunt Jolene said. “Just remember that.”

“I don’t need to be fast,” he said. “I need to be aware. And I am. Sorry, but I’m not falling for it.”

She pursed her lips and shook her head. “Ella said that too.”

“And we all know Uncle Gavin was responsible for her.”

“Oh, you better start moving,” Mason said. “Mom hates to be reminded that she didn’t have a hand in Ella’s. That’s why she set Jade up first because she couldn’t not have her finger on the pulse of a girl setup.”

Jade Fierce was Jolene’s niece on the Fierce side of the family. The daughter of one of Gavin’s brothers.

Devin and his brother Ivan and his cousins Liam and Faith O’Malley were Jolene’s kin. And they were all fully aware their parents were now trying to seek the help of Jolene in getting them to settle down.

Not happening.

When his time came, it was going to be of his own choosing. If he wanted it. Because he still wasn’t sure he was hardwired for love. If he was, then why was he almost thirty-five and had never fallen once?

He’d told his mother plenty of times he could find his own woman. He’d told his Aunt Jolene the same.

What he didn’t understand was why no one believed him or would leave him alone.

He decided it was time to escape while he still had some skin on his back after that burn for his aunt. He started to walk down the stairs and toward the offices in the back when he heard his name called.

“Hi, Hope.”

“Sorry to bother you,” she said. “I know you’re on your way out. Mason mentioned that he’d like the two of us to meet at some point to go over expansion into other states.”

“No bother. He talked to me about it this morning. I’m off tonight and will be back Wednesday night, so maybe we can talk Thursday morning? Send me an email of who and where he’s looking to ship to if you can.”

“I will. Thanks. See you in a few days. And congrats on your house closing.”

“Thanks,” he said, not aware she knew. As much as he liked to stop in and talk to her, she always kept it short and sweet no matter how much he lingered.

She turned and he watched her walk away. Her petite frame that barely came up to his shoulders with her brown hair resting against the middle of her back. He figured her to be about five foot two. He was six foot even and fine with it. He wasn’t as tall as his four male Fierce cousins, but being a few inches shorter wasn’t a big deal. Nor was he as big as Brody or Mason. He was built more like Cade, even though he didn’t sit behind a desk full time like Cade did. And he wasn’t as pretty or high fashion as Cade and that was fine with him too.

He was a regular old blue collar worker that put a lot of time in to get where he was.

He’d never be able to compete with his cousins and didn’t want to. Not like so many thought.

He wouldn’t begrudge them all their wealth and success. He wasn’t a jealous person.

He was happy with what he had in life and reminded himself daily.

If he was wishing he wasn’t going home alone at times, he wasn’t admitting it to anyone, least of all his Aunt Jolene.

He said he could get his own woman and he planned on it when he was ready.

Too bad the woman he wanted to get to know better just walked away from him and didn’t seem to be interested in anything other than a work meeting.



Hope picked her phone up and saw the text from a coworker asking her to sign into work and help out for a power outage an hour away. She’d expected the call to come in since her boyfriend, Sean, who was a lineman for the utility company they both worked for, was just dispatched out.

When she moved here several months ago to be with Sean, he’d helped her get the job as a customer service rep. Because they didn’t work in the same building, let alone the same department, it wasn’t a conflict.

She grabbed her laptop and headset. Though she was done for the day, the OT would be nice. Sean paid for their apartment, but she tried to pay for the rest of the expenses so she didn’t feel too guilty. She didn’t care what her family said; she didn’t expect a man to take care of her. Not financially at least.

She started to swear when her computer decided to do an update when she opened it up and saw it’d be at least thirty minutes.

With her phone in her hand, she was ready to text her supervisor and explain when she caught sight of Sean’s computer on the kitchen counter. Maybe she could try his first.

She walked over and lifted the top and saw a screen for a password. Crap. She should have figured, even though she didn’t password protect hers. Knowing he was busy and wouldn’t get her text asking him what it was, she decided to try to guess it. He was a simple person. There was no way his password would be hard.

By the third try she’d gotten it with SexyMan1 and wanted to do a palm slap to her forehead. He was always walking around calling himself sexy or referring to himself as Sexy Man.

She might have done that move anyway when almost immediately messages started popping up in the lower right-hand corner of his screen. She wasn’t trying to be nosy, but it’s not like she could turn her head away from them once she’d seen the username LilyLove. What the hell?

After shaking her head, wondering if this was a dream—more like a nightmare—she realized it was a chat box for Tinder.

Work was forgotten, and since the message was up, she figured he was signed in and clicked his app and…jackpot. That piece of shit had been hooking up with women for years. And the entire time they’d been together!

Tears began rolling down her face and she wondered why he even asked her to move in with him if he was doing this. Why he said he loved her. Why he told her time and again he wanted a future with her.

Hope pulled her phone out and took snapshots of some of his chats to have as proof, not that she needed them to end things with him. Then went to the fridge and got a tub of ice cream and started to bawl her eyes out while she made a plan on how to get the hell out of here.


The Fierce women are at it again! Jolene, Carolyn, and Diane have gotten their children settled and it’s time to move on to their nieces, nephews, and friends of their kids. Secretly…of course.

Devin Andrews loves his job at Fierce-The Brewery and working for his cousin Mason. What he doesn’t love is that his Aunt Jolene has set her sights on making him the next target of her matchmaking scheme. But he’s onto her and has no plans on falling prey like her unsuspecting children did. Besides, he’s not sure he has what it takes to fall in love since he never has before, even being the oldest of the family.

Hope Hall picked up her life and moved to Charlotte for a man. She should have listened to her family when they cautioned her against it, reminding her that she was too spontaneous with everything in life…even men. After being blind, stupid, and naive once again, she doesn’t want to go home and listen to them say they were right. Instead she is trying to make a life for herself—one without a man in it—and prove she can do it on her own.

Challenging Colt- Enemies to Lovers…Prologue


“Have you talked to Stan Brewster yet?”

Colt Baxter looked up at Janet Steele standing in his doorway. She was a partner in the firm he’d been employed with since he’d passed the bar. He had high hopes of moving up and becoming a partner here and in the past few years they’d been squashed more than a kid’s fist hitting their first birthday cake.

Dangling the carrot in front of his face? Yep, been going on for longer than he cared to admit. If he could work up the nerve, he’d leave this all behind him, but starting over was daunting too.

“No. It’s on my list of things to do this week.”

“You need to do it today. Put some pressure on them.”

He put the pen down that was in his hand and stared at Janet. She was probably in her fifties and attractive. Hard not to be with the amount of work she’d had done over the years.

She’d gotten to the top by being ruthless, heartless, and finding a lot of bedmates.

She’d wanted Colt to be in that bed of hers at one point and it’d been a tricky situation to get out of, with her casually hinting his partnership was on the horizon.

That was almost two years ago and he’d managed to slip away without ruffling too many feathers.

Or so he thought until he started to get handed what he felt were some cases challenging his morals. It was one thing he’d never wanted to do in his career and lately it seemed like it was all he did.

“This is getting out of hand,” he said. “Did it ever occur to you that there was a reason Stan was representing himself?”

“Partnerships are offered to those that bring in the money. This was an easy cash cow in your name,” she said, smirking at him.

So she thought she was doing him a favor? Hardly. More like she knew he hated frivolous lawsuits and this was one that was killing him inside. Was it a punishment for not warming her sheets? He had no clue and didn’t want to even think of it now.

“It’s not easy when it’s the guy’s livelihood. He’s representing himself because he can’t afford a lawyer.”

“Colt,” she said in that condescending voice of hers, then moved into his office and took a seat across from him. “There is no reason to go to court for this. That is what his insurance is for. Easy peasy and move onto the next.”

“He doesn’t want his rates to go up or to go bankrupt trying to pay this out,” Colt said. “He’s barely holding it together with the bad press now.”

“And he wouldn’t have had the bad press if he’d just settled months ago when this happened. You knew our client was going to leak this if Stan held out too long.”

He narrowed his eyes. “At your suggestion.”

“If it gets the case closed then it does. You should have been the one to do that. He’s our client and yet you sound like you are working for the Brewsters.”

“I know who I’m working for,” he said. “Now, let me get it done.”

Janet got up and walked out of his office with a shit-eating grin on her face, knowing she got her way. Like she always did.

But unless he wanted to walk out on his job, he had to do it. When had he become such a coward afraid to take that risk? Had he gotten so comfortable here? Or was it the thought of losing everything he’d worked for, all the progress he’d made toward that partnership where he’d be able to choose his own cases?

He picked the phone up and placed the call to the man he dreaded talking to because the truth was, he wished he were working for the Brewsters and could nail his own firm’s ass to the wall for this bullshit. He wondered how much longer he could go on like this when he hated everything this place seemed to stand for.