Family Bonds- Roark & Chelsea… Prologue

Prologue

“What’s going on in your life, Roark?” his cousin Hudson Mills asked him. Hudson’s twin, Carson, was at the table too at McKay’s for drinks and dinner. Roark was on the island for the weekend because he just needed to get the hell out of Boston before he cracked. Not that he’d ever let people see him do that. “It’s got to be more exciting than Carson’s life on the island.”

Roark grinned. “Same old same old. Work is crazy busy and continues to be. The lawsuits are piling up now from the building issues that Sam’s firm tried to cover up. I joked she was good for the family in more ways than one.”

Just one more lawsuit dropped on his desk. As a defense attorney, he’d always been more out for justice than money, but with his family ties and career, the money was flowing faster than the justice. He’d never complained before, but there were only so many hours in a day.

“Everyone seems to be hitting gold lately,” Carson said. “My twin included.” Carson was referring to their cousin Bode and his fiancée, Sam—that engagement was just a few weeks ago on New Year’s Eve. Hudson was seriously dating Delaney. Here he and Carson were single and saying they loved it. 

Roark did to a point. Until he went home at night and had nothing and no one other than work. Then he was wishing he weren’t so single.

“I have,” Hudson agreed. “You keep talking about women so much and going back to Delaney, I’m starting to think you’re jealous.”

“Nah,” Carson said. “I can get any woman I want. I could take one home tonight if I wanted to and I’ve got my own place to brag about.”

Roark grinned. “Have you even set it up yet or are you living out of the boxes?” Since he had to get out of town, he’d offered to do the house closing for Carson yesterday, then helped him move out of Hudson’s house. Rather than sit by himself at his parents’ all weekend, drinks with his cousins sounded like the best invite he’d had in months.

“He’s living out of boxes. He’s not as organized as I am,” Hudson said.

“My bed is set up, the furniture is in place and the TV mounted. Some of my clothes are put away.”

“The ones that were already on hangers and in the drawers of your dresser when we moved it,” Hudson said, laughing.

“That still counts,” Carson said. “I’ve got a lot of other things to do with everything you guys bought me for the new house. Which I appreciate.”

“We knew you would,” Hudson said.

For now Roark enjoyed sitting here and watching the twins banter back and forth while he let his brain relax. It was hard to be the funny laid back one on the outside but stone cold on the inside to get the results he needed for his job. If only he could disconnect half the time.

“Who are you waving to at the bar?” Hudson asked Carson.

Roark turned his head with Hudson to see.

“Sidney is working. I didn’t think she worked nights anymore,” Carson said.

Mac Bond, the chief of police, had married Sidney who’d worked as a bartender here since she moved to the island a few years ago. Looked like Mac was keeping his wife company as he sat at the end of the bar. Another one in the family settled and happy.

“Who knows?” Hudson said. “But Mac will be there all night so you better behave.”

“Got the chief of police in the bar and a defense attorney at my table,” Carson said. “I’m good as gold.”

“I’m not bailing your ass out of anything,” Roark said, grinning. Though he totally would because that was what family did. The Bond family, they stuck together.

A few minutes later their nachos came out and they started to pick at them while they chatted about anything other than women.

Until the waitress came over and said, “There is a table over there that would like to buy you guys some drinks.”

The three of them turned to see the women sitting there. Good-looking women laughing and waving. He and Carson waved back. Hudson nodded his head.

“Sweet,” Carson said. “But how about we buy them one instead? My brother here is taken, but Roark and I aren’t. You can pass that on if you’d like.”

The waitress made her way back to talk to the women, them laughing and nodding their heads and waving back. 

Their burgers were brought out shortly after, and they each got another beer. This was going to go down smooth and he wondered what his life had turned into that a burger and beer were the highlight of his past year.

Mac made his way over and pulled out a chair with his beer and sat. “You boys behaving tonight?”

“We are,” Hudson said. “Or I am. Not so sure about these two. Eat with us.”

“My meal is on the way out. Sidney told me to get lost. I hover too much,” Mac said.

“Congrats on the baby,” Hudson said. “We heard the news but haven’t had a chance to see you.”

“Thanks,” Mac said. “Scary as fuck right now, but Sidney seems to be taking it in stride.” Not just married but a kid on the way. Again, Roark told himself he was good single and coming and going as he liked, but was he really when he felt jealousy over talking about Mac’s future child?

“How is she feeling?” Hudson asked. “She looks good.”

“Feeling fine,” Mac said. “Said she doesn’t even feel like she’s pregnant. I might be going nuts if I had to see her sick daily.”

Carson grinned. “We know Hunter did with Kayla the first time when she was pregnant with Ben. Now he’s used to it. Sidney is tough.”

Hunter Bond was his first cousin. His boss Hailey’s older brother. They were close growing up and still were, though Hunter lived on the island now while Roark enjoyed his condo in Boston, just visiting the island when he needed to get away or work called him here.

“She is,” Mac said. “At least I know I’m not the only one acting like an idiot and will until I’m holding my kid.”

“And then you’ll be even more protective,” Roark said. “We know it.”

Mac frowned, then shifted back when his meal was delivered. “I’m sure,” Mac said. “What are you guys doing out while I babysit my wife?”

Hudson laughed. “Which I’m sure she isn’t enjoying and doesn’t need.”

“Nope,” Mac said. “They were short staffed and she said she’d fill in. She’s been part time days only for months. Once the baby is born though, she’s done here.”

“Her idea?” Roark said, lifting his eyebrow. He figured he should participate a bit more in the conversation since he was normally the more outgoing one. “Or protective hubby not wanting her here?”

 “Hers,” Mac said. “Thank God. I didn’t want to be the ass to bring it up and it saved me from suggesting it.”

Roark sat there listening to the conversation and replying when needed, but his eyes were drawn to the table of the women that the drinks were sent to. Lots of looks happening and one blonde was catching his eye. She’d shifted and glanced over plenty too…just looking at him.

Maybe it was more than the burger and beer he needed tonight, trying to remember the last time he’d had a soft woman by his side.

“Go talk to the opposite sex,” Hudson said when the bill came. “I’m heading home to my woman. I’ll have a nice warm body next to me tonight.”

Carson and Roark looked at him and laughed. “Who says we won’t?” Roark said.

Mac had already gone back to Sidney, Hudson out the door, he and Carson picked up their beers and moved to the table of the three women. As they got there, one got up.

“Ladies,” the one said. “Call me to come get you if needed, but have fun. I’m going back home to talk to my husband.”

“Bye, Noreen,” a redhead said. “I’m Cora and this is Chelsea.”

He nodded and put his hand out to the blonde. He was staking the claim there. “Roark,” he said.

“I’m Carson,” his cousin said and sat next to Cora. No reason to give last names. He didn’t when he was out. Nor was he saying what he did for a living and neither would Carson. This was a night of fun and entertainment. 

He lifted his hand and called for more drinks to be delivered and the four of them started to talk. “Visiting the island?” he asked Chelsea.

“Yes. Just here for the weekend. More for work than anything,” she said. “You?”

He wasn’t going to ask what her work was because he didn’t want to give out his information. “Welcome to Amore Island then. I’m here for the weekend too.” He figured there wasn’t anything wrong with saying that.

After his third beer in almost five hours, he realized it was late and Carson was getting cozy with Cora. He and Chelsea had been talking too. Nothing personal. Just things on the island that were interesting. He tried to hold back anything about the history so it didn’t give it away he was from an ancestor or was here often.

When Carson got up with Cora and said they were going back to his place, he looked at Chelsea. She had a big smile on her face and he was thinking she was game for the same. He wasn’t going to ask. He wanted her to offer it up. He wasn’t stupid.

“Do you need a ride somewhere?” he asked. Her friend did say to call her to come pick her up.

“Only if it’s with you,” she said. “Of course you’re probably with your friend, huh?”

Shit. He wasn’t bringing her back to his parents’ house where he was staying. No way. That would raise too many questions. It worked in his favor that she assumed he was staying with Carson. “I’ll get us a hotel if you’re game.”

Definitely would solve a lot of problems…like having no clothes with him or a hotel room of his own.

“You only live once,” she said.

He pulled his phone out and decided the casino was easiest. If he went to The Bond Retreat that his grandfather, Uncle Charlie, and cousin Hunter owned, he might be recognized. Nope. Not risking it. 

His other cousin, Eli, owned Bond Casino, but texting Eli privately, he’d get a place discreetly. It wouldn’t be the first time that happened.

After five minutes, he said, “We are set.”

“That was fast,” she said, standing up.

“Got lucky,” he said. 

“Guess we are both going to tonight.” She was grinning, her long blonde hair halfway down her back, and he realized she was tall for a woman. Only about six inches shorter than his six foot three. He liked women with long legs. Ones that could wrap around him in a night of passion.

He drove them to the casino, parked and walked in. When he got to the front desk, he said, “Roark.” She wouldn’t know if that was his first or last name. No way he was giving his last. 

The minute they were behind the closed door of their room, he reached forward and yanked her close to his body, their hands grasping and pulling off articles of clothing faster than he’d ever seen happen before.

He wasn’t sure which one of them was more eager and he wasn’t going to question it either.

The next morning, he woke up first. He never slept much and wished that wasn’t the case, but his mind was always racing.

This time it had more to do with the sexy woman that was sleeping next to him and gave him exactly what he needed last night. Maybe over breakfast he could find out more about her. There was something that was pulling at him and he wasn’t ready to let go.

He threw the covers back and quietly made his way to the shower.

When he came out ten minutes later she was gone. Not one sign of her having been here other than a few loose strands of her hair on the pillow.

Guess it wasn’t meant to be and he tried not to be disappointed once again.

Family Bonds- Roark & Chelsea

Roark French has put his career first for years. Ever since he got his heart broken by his first love he’s only focused on the law. He always said he’d try to find someone again, yet he couldn’t bring himself to. Work was kicking his butt so he decided to go to the family home on Amore Island for the weekend to take a break. The last thing he expected was to not be able to get his one night stand out of his head and he has no way of finding her…until fate is working in his favor. He wasn’t letting her go this time!

Chelsea Faison knows what it’s like to reinvent herself. When she discovers her younger sister is going through the same things she did, she steps in to take over for her mother. She is starting life over on Amore Island with a teenager in tow. A place she visited when she needed a break and did something she’s never done before. A one night stand. The last thing she expects is to find out that the hot guy who made her forget the drama in her life for a night not only works for the same firm as her but is her boss’s first cousin.

Fierce-Jonah…Chapter One

Check out the PROLOGUE first

Chapter One

Work On Your Delivery

Seven Years Later

“Holy crap,” Megan Harrington said. She’d just walked into the backyard of Ryder Fierce’s house for a Jack and Jill party for Cody McMillan and Raina Davenport’s wedding next month. She loved Raina and considered her her best friend and couldn’t wait to be in their wedding.

This was the first Fierce party she’d been to and Ryder and his wife, Marissa, being the best man and matron of honor in the wedding, were hosting it.

She’d be meeting the rest of the wedding party too, which included Raina’s brothers, Jonah—whom she’d be paired up with—and Trent Davenport and Tori Miller, a college friend of Raina’s. Those two would be paired up too.

“Problem?” she heard and turned to see Raina standing there and then reaching in to give her a hug. Raina had been so quiet when they first met working at Fierce Engineering a few years ago, but now she’d come out of her shell. More so once she started to date Cody.

A match set up by Grant, Garrett, Diane and Carolyn Fierce. Those two couples sure did have the magic touch when it came to finding mates for their family. And since Cody was Grant’s daughter-in-law’s brother, they felt he was family.

They also thought some of their employees fell into that category too, which was how Raina popped into their head for that match.

“Is that your brother? I knew he was big, but I didn’t think he was that big.”

Jonah Davenport owned a gym and was a personal trainer or something. He was a big guy in both size and personality, but she hadn’t expected to see the man that was almost as tall as Grant and Garrett at six foot four and bigger than anyone else here. 

“Yeah, that’s Jonah,” Raina said, “standing next to Trent.”

Raina’s other brother was an inch or so shorter than Jonah and, though he looked to be in great shape too, he appeared small next to his brother. Everyone looked small in comparison.

Good Lord, she’d bet Jonah had a foot and a hundred pounds on her. They were going to look funny next to each other in the wedding party.

“You’ve said before his bark is worse than his bite,” she said, laughing.

“It is. I won’t say he’s a teddy bear, but don’t let his looks bother you. We know you can handle anything. Just crack a few jokes like you normally do. He’ll smile and you guys will get along fine. I should have made sure you were introduced before, but life gets in the way and Jonah is always so busy with the gym and all.”

“I’m sure,” Megan said, moving over with Raina to meet the man that she was trying not to drool over. 

Yep, he was big and intimidating, but he was hotter than hell on this summer day, making her wish she could go stand in front of one of the fans that were moving the breeze around on the deck. She should have figured Ryder would have everything here.

She’d never been to his house before. Not to any of the Fierces’ houses. Many employees were invited to a lot of the parties, but not everyone.

At least she knew more than half the people here today.

“Jonah, this is Megan Harrington. She’s going to be walking with you down the aisle at the wedding. I figured you two would be good paired up together since you’re stuffy and she’s not,” Raina said.

“I’m not stuffy,” Jonah said. “Just because I wanted to punch your fiancé in the face when he hurt you doesn’t make me stuffy.”

Megan lifted her eyebrow when Raina laughed. Even Cody did, having heard a few feet away. “I’d never hurt your sister and you know it,” Cody said.

“Yeah,” Jonah said. “As we know, she was the stubborn one then.”

Cody slipped his arm around Raina. Megan had no idea what this was about and would try to find out later, but it was probably nothing. For all intents, Cody was a gem and brought the best out of Raina.

“It’s nice to meet you,” Megan said. “You’re not going to want to punch me in the face if I upset your sister, are you? I mean there are times at work I annoy her when I want her to walk away from her desk and get lunch with me. That doesn’t count, does it?”

Jonah snorted. “I’d never touch a woman that way. And my sister can take care of herself.”

Just great. She insulted the guy. Raina reached her arm out and pinched her older brother. “Jonah, stop it. Megan was only making a joke and now you’re going to have her feeling bad.”

She looked at Raina and smirked. Jonah did look as if he felt bad about what he’d said. “Sorry. Guess I’m not allowed to joke either.”

Man, this dude was stuffy if he thought that was a joke. “No problem,” Megan said. “You might need to work on your delivery a bit more.”

Raina giggled and was pulled away by Cody. Trent, who had walked away, came back too. “I overheard Raina introduce you and you giving Jonah crap. Good. Someone needs to. I’m Trent.”

She shook hands with Raina’s other brother. She knew he was a few years older than Raina, but a few years younger than Jonah. She was guessing she and Trent might be the same age or a year apart, as she was older than Raina too.

At twenty-eight, Megan had to hear her mother reminding her multiple times monthly that her sisters were both married and had kids when they were her age. Here she was not able to even find a guy she could stand being around for more than a few months.

Or maybe it was the men she was dating. Ones that her older parents thought were perfect and she felt were boring.

“I’ve been told I’m good at giving people crap,” she said, grinning. “Mostly by my parents. Or maybe they said I’m good at giving them fits. That’s it.”

Jonah cracked a grin this time. “We might have that in common.”

“No might about it,” Trent said. “You’re the one that Mom said was going to be the death of her. You just made life so much easier for me. I’m the good kid now.”

“Well then,” she said. “We might have more in common than that, Jonah. I’ve never been the good kid. I’m the oops later in life baby that doesn’t seem to want to conform or do what she is told.”

She wasn’t sure why she said that when she rarely said it to many. Raina knew because they were friends, but not many others knew. It wasn’t something she was proud of. That her parents would never think she was good enough or doing the right things.

She’d even followed her father’s footsteps into accounting hoping he’d be happy. She supposed he was when it came to her career choices though she didn’t get her CPA like he’d wanted. And he sure the heck wasn’t happy about her personal life choices.

“Conforming is for weak people,” Jonah said. “Right, Trent? You’d know a thing or two about that.”

“Ass,” Trent said, shaking his head and walking away.

“That wasn’t very nice,” she said.

“I’ve been told I’m not a nice guy,” he said. “But in this case it was just me getting even for his crack. He gets told worse things than that being an attorney. He knows it.”

“We all have to live with our choices in life,” she said.

“You’re not kidding,” he said and she wondered what he meant by that.

***

“Carolyn,” Diane Fierce said. “Come here.”

She watched as her sister-in-law left Raina’s mother’s side and made her way over. “What’s going on? Do we need to bring out more food? Ryder told us to let the caterers do it all.”

“No, no,” she said. “Not that. Look at Jonah and Megan over there.”

They’d been at the party for a few hours now. She was thrilled that there was another wedding happening next month. They sure did good work. 

“That is interesting,” Carolyn said. “Jami was just telling me she is so happy Raina is settling down and has thanked me again for the helping nudge we had in this. She was hinting toward her boys. What do you think?”

“I don’t know Jonah and Trent all that well,” Diane said. “But I can see with my own eyes and Megan’s eyes have sought Jonah out a few times today when they weren’t together. And they seem to be talking again. Jonah’s eyes doing the same.”

When she’d seen the two of them together when Megan first arrived, her spidey senses saw the fireworks going off and her wheels started to turn.

“Why didn’t you tell me you were thinking that hours ago?” Carolyn asked.

“Sorry,” she said. “I’ve been busy and talking with people.”

“It could work,” Carolyn said. “Megan is such a sweet girl. I can’t believe no one has snatched her up yet. She’s funny and has a great personality. The two of them do make a striking couple too. Should we go corner her and see what is going on?”

“No cornering needed,” she said, lifting her arm and waving Megan over. Her sister-in-law laughed at her. “Hi, Megan. Are you having a good time?”

“I am, Diane. Your son knows how to throw a party. I’m thinking he got that from you.”

“Aren’t you so sweet to say that,” she said. “You’re here alone?”

“I am,” Megan said. “Sad but true. It’s all good. I wanted to get to know Jonah anyway. I’ve got to dance with the guy and since he could squish me if I misstep, or he does, it’s best to make sure our feet are moving in the right direction, don’t you think?”

“Most definitely,” Carolyn said. “He is a big guy. Intimidating too.”

“In a sexy way,” Diane said, lowering her voice and winking.

“He is that,” Megan said. “I’ve gotten a few smiles out of him. Raina said he needs to loosen up. Trent said he was stuffy too.”

“And we know you aren’t that. If anyone could get someone to relax,” Carolyn said, “it’s you.”

“Yep,” Megan said. “Just need to spend the day with him at the wedding and then we can move on. I want to have fun that day and it’d be better if my dance partner did too. Of course, for all I know, he’ll have a date and someone else to dance with. Then I’ll be out there busting a move on my own. Unless you two ladies want to join me.”

Diane laughed. Oh yeah. Megan was perfect for Jonah in her mind. The old opposites attract thing was going to be full force. 

“We’ll be out there with you,” she said. “As for Jonah, I believe he and his brother are single.”

“That is what their mother told me,” Carolyn said. “I think she wants our help. We do good work, you know.”

“I’ve heard and seen it,” Megan said. “Oh, I’m sorry. Raina is waving me over. I need to run.”

“We’ll talk to you again,” she said, then turned to her sister-in-law. “Well?”

“That’s the one we are working on next,” Carolyn said. “Guess we’ll have to fill the guys in later on it. As sad as it is, they see Megan more at work.”

“Yeah. I don’t like this part of it,” she said. “But at least now that Flynn and Julia appear to be moving in the right direction we do need to focus on someone else.”

“Yay us,” Carolyn said. “I’ve got to go hunt down my husband and see if I can get some more information on Megan. I’d try Jade, but she’ll see right through me. Kara actually might be the best bet.”

“I’m going to hit Ryder up. He has the loosest lips. We’ve got this.”

Fierce-Jonah…Prologue

Prologue

“You’ve got this, Jonah.”

Jonah Davenport looked at his girlfriend while she helped to tape up his ankles in the locker room. Her red hair hanging over her shoulder in big loose curls, her makeup artfully applied, the skintight black dress she was wearing putting her on display for anyone to notice.

Molly Webster was one hot chick that he’d been lucky to land when he met her in the gym over a year ago.

She’d been the one to push him toward MMA fighting when he’d only been training like one, not actually willing to get in the ring to fight. It was more of a hobby to him.

He’d spent years learning various martial arts as a kid and had a few black belts. He’d competed when he was younger and loved it.

As he got older though, he started to develop an interest in boxing. Bodybuilding. All sorts of physical activity.

Though he was a big guy—a really big guy—he’d never been one to get in a ring and pound on a person for the joy of it.

“It’s going to be a rough one,” he said.

He’d been in several matches now in the past nine months, winning all but one, normally by a knockout or tap out. He’d had one loss that went the full rounds and he lost by the judge’s decision. He still felt like a winner to last that long though.

This wasn’t going to be his career, though, no matter how much Molly was pushing for that to happen.

“Jonah, you’re bigger than him,” Molly said, running her hands on his biceps. “You’ve got a longer reach. You’re taller. You can take him and you know it.”

“Rodney is undefeated. I’m not sure I’m ready for this.” 

Rodney Mastermind had been fighting for three years now moving his way up the ranks. He hadn’t lost once and, as good and as fast as Jonah was catching on, he still had his doubts he should have signed on for this match.

But Molly wanted to be his agent and promoter and he’d let her do it because she loved him and said she saw his potential.

“You ready for this, Jonah?”

He looked over at Mike, his trainer. He’d confided in Mike that he was having second thoughts, but like Molly, Mike told him it’d be a hard match but he’d be fine. He had the upper hand.

“As ready as I’m going to be,” he said.

Mike taped up his hands for him and he turned when his mother and father walked into the locker room. At twenty-five, Jonah wasn’t embarrassed they were here. He knew his mother wasn’t happy about this, but they were at every match in his corner, his mother covering her eyes for most of it and then helping nurse his bruises when Molly wasn’t around.

 He knew his mother didn’t care for Molly all that much, but she never said so either.

“John, Jami,” Molly said to his parents. “We’ve got this. You can go get your seats.”

“They are fine,” Jonah said. 

Secretly he wanted to see them anyway. Something about this fight wasn’t sitting well with him.

“It’s not too late to back out,” his father said quietly. As if he knew Jonah was nervous when he never was before. “You’ve got a job and a career. No reason to stress us out over this.”

There was a smile on his father’s face that didn’t reach his eyes. Jonah hated the job he had as a guard at the correctional facility in Durham his father worked at, but his two years of college didn’t give him too many options.

His problem was, he didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life. He was starting to think it wasn’t this, and when this fight was done, he’d figure it out more, but he’d never been a quitter and wouldn’t be one tonight.

“It’s all good,” he said. “Come give me a kiss for good luck, Mom.”

His mother moved over and kissed his cheek and whispered in his ear, “Go get ’em.”

It was a forced bravado, he knew. 

His parents left, Mike and Molly giving him his normal pep talk, telling him how wonderful he was and how he was going to wipe the floor with Rodney’s spit. 

Ten minutes later he was in the ring, the bell went off and the fighting started. It was a free-for-all of kicks and punches. Dodges and twists, catching of feet and throwing them down. 

He’d landed as many as he’d taken at this point and after the first round he knew this was going to be a brutal match. 

But the more he landed, the better he felt. Until Rodney got him in the jaw and he saw stars. Then before he could get his balance, Rodney’s left foot came up and connected with the side of his head and all Jonah saw was blackness before he hit the mat. 

He should have gone with his gut and backed out of this fight was all he thought the second he saw that foot coming toward his head. 

Fierce-Jonah

Megan Harrington is the baby of the family. The oops kid that came along when her parents were getting ready to focus on college and grandkids for their other children. They tried to make her be someone she wasn’t or didn’t think she’d ever be. Then why as an adult is she still trying to win their approval or make them proud? Maybe it was time to do things her way and if that means finding a man that would shock them, then she was all in, even if she needs a little help from her matchmaking bosses.

Jonah Davenport found himself in a career that didn’t suit him. When the love of his life pushes him toward something he wasn’t comfortable with, he still gave it a try. Until it changed his life forever and she left him to pick up the pieces on his own. He’s determined that no one will ever make him feel that way again, all the while trying to hide the results of his past mistakes from his family. Until his sister’s best friend enters his life and he realizes that sometimes you can’t control it all.

The One…Prologue

Prologue

“Hey, Gillian. What are you doing here this morning?”

Gillian Bridges walked past her brother, Trey, and into his apartment on Saturday morning. He’d had the day off, being a fireman in the town of Colonie, and she needed to talk to him.

“I’ve been thinking about what you told us this week.”

Her brother told her and their parents that a woman he’d been dating found out she was pregnant. He hadn’t gone into a lot of details and she wasn’t going to pry too much, but the gist of it was he was going to raise the child alone once the baby was born. 

Their family being close jumped in and said they’d help in any way they could. With him working nights and weekends, often being called in last minute, they’d have to be there to support him.

“If you can’t manage it, I understand, Gillian. You’ve got your life with Mike.”

She snorted. “About that. I’m going to start looking for my own place.”

“What’s going on?” Trey asked. “You guys have been together since college.”

“We have,” she said. Almost ten years at this point. “And what is going on is nothing. We are still in the same place we were when we moved in together.”

“Oh,” Trey said. “I thought you were happy.”

“I’m not even content. We’ve talked and I get nowhere. He’s not ready for more and I’m tired of waiting.”

She was twenty-nine years old and thought she’d be married and have a few kids by now. Not sharing the same small apartment she’d gotten with Mike seven years ago. That was just a step up from the one they’d been sharing before with other roommates.

Looking back, she couldn’t figure out where she fell into this hole, but hearing that her brother was going to be a father kicked her butt in gear to do something.

“I’m sorry about that,” Trey said.

“Don’t be,” she said. “It’s my fault. The reason I’m here is that you said you were looking for a place too. I haven’t started my search. I’d like to find somewhere close to you. It will make it easier.”

“If you need to move out, Gillian. Do it,” he said. “Don’t wait for me. I’m not sure how long it will take me to find something.”

“It’s not a need as much as a want. I haven’t even talked to Mike and I don’t plan on it. Not like you think. Nothing will change. It never does.” 

They’d had the same conversation for years. She wasn’t one to give idle threats that if he wasn’t ready she’d leave and hope he’d change his mind. He hadn’t changed it yet so it was about her now.

“If you’re really thinking of moving out and finding a place, one of the guys at the department mentioned a two-family house for sale that he wished he could purchase. I overheard them talking last week. Not sure if it’s still available. If you don’t mind that, you can live upstairs since you’ll be helping me with the baby.”

“Perfect,” she said, smiling. She was getting excited over it. They’d have their own spaces and she could get her baby fix when she wanted. 

“If you’re sure,” Trey said. “Man, it would take a load off my mind if you were that close.”

“I’m positive. I’m not changing my mind. Even if Mike changes his, which he’s not going to, I’ve got to do this for me. I feel like I’ve lost a part of myself somewhere. Maybe your news was the kick in the butt I needed.”

Trey forced a smile. “Glad I could help.”

“You know what I mean,” she said. “How are you holding up?”

“Still in shock, but it will work out. It always does.”

“That’s right,” she said. “It always does. I’m starting to get excited.”

“Slow down,” Trey said. “The house might not be available. It might be a horrible buy. Could be a lot of things. It’s not easy to find another one, so this could just be nothing more than a conversation we are having.”

“It doesn’t matter,” she said. “There is hope there and I haven’t felt any hope in too long.”

Trey looked at her, the older brother who watched out for her when they were younger, but they’d both gone about their separate lives as adults.

“I feel bad,” Trey said. “Until you started this conversation, I hadn’t realized how much you have changed.”

Her shoulders dropped. “Changed how?”

“You’re not the happy carefree little sister you always were. Seeing you getting excited and smiling bright, one that is reaching your eyes, that just hit home for me. I haven’t seen any of that in a long time.”

“No,” she said, sighing. “It’s time to get it all back.”

“Then that is what we’ll do.”

“Thanks,” she said. “Don’t tell Mom and Dad. Not yet. See if the house is available, and once we know more, then I’ll break it to them. They love Mike.”

Trey snorted. “They love Mike because you do. They’ve got nothing against him, but if you aren’t happy, they are only going to want what is best for you and you know it.”

It was exactly what she needed to hear.

“What is best for me is to rediscover the person I used to be, not the one that fell into some boring hole and feels she is stuck in the mud for a man that could care less about moving on.”

“Then let’s get you out of there and cleaned up,” Trey said, laughing. “We can muddle through the next year together because I’m going to need all the help I can get.”

She needed this in her life now. Something to actually look forward to.

The One

Gillian Bridges had an idea of where she’d be at this point in her life. Nothing worked out the way she planned and she can’t help but wonder where she went wrong or what was wrong with her. She is trying to put herself first, but self-doubts keep getting in the way.

Rick Masters put work before everything. Family, friends, a personal relationship, even his health. When he realizes the world is passing him by, he makes the decision to move back home and start over. To focus on the important things. But is it too little, too late and did he lose his chance?

A Journey For Jasmine…Prologue

Prologue

“Why?” Jasmine Greene asked her mother. “I don’t understand why we have to move again.”

“You know how it is,” her mother said. “Your father’s work takes us all over the world. We never stay anywhere longer than a few years. We’ve been here for two.”

She didn’t care that her mother was using a gentle voice right now. The one she used when she was trying to teach English to the native children.

They were in Cambodia currently and her twelve-year-old mind was just fed up with picking up and moving nonstop.

“Why can’t we stay longer?”

“You hated it here when we came,” her mother said. 

“I remember,” Mark said. Her oldest brother never did side with her. 

There were five of them and she was smack dab in the middle.

Mark was sixteen, Dahlia fourteen, Jasmine at twelve, Ivy ten and Chase, the baby, rounding it out at five. She figured her mother was done after Ivy but guess they had one more in them.

 All five of them had dual citizenship having been born in different countries.

Maybe it’d be cool to some kids, but not her.

“Stay out of it, Mark,” she said. “You hate it just as much as I do. We all do, but Mom and Dad do what they want when they want. We are just stuck to go along with it.”

“Jasmine,” her mother said sternly. “Enough. I’m going to have to go through this with Dahlia and Ivy when they get done with their work too. I’m not sure what it is about you girls that are always giving me grief.”

“Maybe we are sick of hopping all over the world. This is your and Dad’s dream, not ours. We are just the baggage you tote along with your clothes.”

“Go to the gardens and take a time out. You need it. I need it. I expect you to calm down and be supportive of this. Your father does wonderful work in the world and you know it.”

Her father was a doctor working with Doctors Without Borders. She knew it’d always been his dream to take this journey with his wife. But maybe they should have thought more of it before they had five kids.

Kids that never sat in an American classroom one day in their life.

They didn’t get to have friends they’d grow up with. Play sports either.

They were home-schooled by their mother. 

Sure, they traveled more than most do in their entire life, but it wasn’t for everyone. 

She was sick of always having to learn a new way of life. Figuring out pieces of the language to be understood. Only having her siblings that she could speak freely with.

“I’m not saying he doesn’t,” Jasmine said. “I just don’t understand why we can’t stay with someone else and live like normal teens.”

“Neither of your grandparents can take all five of you and we wouldn’t ask that of anyone,” her mother said. “You know that and I’m not sure why you bring it up at times. We’re a family and we are going to stay one. You’re traveling the world like so many would love to do.”

“I’m not one of them,” she said, stomping away and going into the garden as her mother told her to do.

It was her quiet place, and the only good thing she could say was that her mother loved flowers as much as her. 

Every temporary home they’d lived in, her mother made it as comfortable as she could. They had a little garden with flowers and vegetables and they learned to care for them.

No, she didn’t like Cambodia any more than she liked living in Chad, Ethiopia, Madagascar or Haiti. She didn’t even remember the other places they’d lived other than she knew she was born in Peru. 

Where she wanted to be was back home in America. Only she had no home there. 

She had family there and nothing else. Everything in her life was temporary.

“I heard,” Ivy said, sniffling, twenty minutes later. Jasmine had been walking around and touching the flowers. There were so many jasmines in the garden and she found it funny. You’d think she’d be at peace here more, but she wasn’t. Just with the flowers, but it didn’t matter what country they were in.

She turned to look at her ten-year-old sister. The girls were all named after flowers and maybe that was why they stuck together and gave their mother fits. Who knows? It probably had more to do with the fact everyone was fed up with the life.

“I’m sick of it,” she said.

Ivy had tears in her eyes. “I hate flying. I don’t want to fly again.”

Jasmine forgot about that. She was so stuck in her own misery that she didn’t remember Ivy was afraid of heights and airplanes. Not that her parents seemed to care because they were all going to find themselves on another one in a few weeks. She didn’t even ask where they were moving to. It wouldn’t have mattered anyway.

She opened her arms and Ivy came running to hug her. “It’s going to be fine. You can sit by me.”

“I don’t want to be on one of those small planes again that shakes.”

She sighed. They spent a lot of time on them to get to these remote places. “You can close your eyes and listen to a movie like we always do. It could be worse. You could be like Dahlia and get sick half the time.”

“I heard that,” Dahlia said. She shifted and saw Dahlia in the doorway looking pissed off. The oldest girl of the group was by far the moodiest. “This bites.”

“Glad to know I’m not alone,” Jasmine said.

“Chase is sucking up to Mom saying he can’t wait for another adventure. Mark is laughing at us,” Dahlia said, “but he only has one more year of this and then he gets to go to college. This is probably his last move.”

“God,” she said. “Lucky him.” 

Not that she had any clue how that would work out either or where her brother would go during breaks. It wasn’t her concern. She just wanted to get past this and figure out where their next step was going to be. 

She was so over packing too, but it’s not like any of them had a lot of possessions. They lived minimalistic lives. Lives of a nomad in her mind.

“I can’t wait until it’s my turn to be done with this,” Dahlia said.

“Me neither.”

“Then you’re all going to leave me with Chase,” Ivy said, wailing.

“You might get lucky,” she said. “Mom and Dad might get tired of it by then.”

Dahlia snorted. “You always say what is on your mind, but you know as well as I do, it’s not going to happen.”

“Nope,” Jasmine said. “Looks like it’s another change. I guess the best we can hope for is Mom is done having kids.”

Dahlia laughed and Ivy just cried harder. Someone had to joke about it because it was the only way she felt she could get through.

A Journey For Jasmine

Jasmine Greene had a childhood many would dream of. Traveling the world. Learning new cultures. Experiencing things most only saw on TV. But to her, she’d lost so much and only wanted to be like others her own age. She’s on her own now, in the small town of Mystic, doing what she loves. What she is still missing out on is a relationship with a man and hopes to find it someday. It’d be on her terms though because letting others call the shots in her life is a thing of the past.

Wesley Wright tragically lost his wife and was struggling to move on with his life. When he saw the opportunity to buy a marina that he’d vacationed at with her, he took a risk and changed courses. He is terrified he is in over his head and treading carefully to stay afloat. The last thing he is ready for or thought he’d find is another woman to lose his heart to and maybe give him what he’s been needing and wanting for so long. He only has to convince her that he really is ready to let the past go.

Family Bonds- Alex & Jennie… Chapter One

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

Chapter One

Just Different

Eighteen Years Later

“Happy New Year, Zandra. Do you want to come to Aunt Jennie?”

“Don’t encourage her,” Griffin said when he walked into the living room on New Year’s Day. 

Jennie had lived on Amore Island for around six months now. After all these years, she’d finally found her brother again. 

She’d taken that step to find him. Not the other way around. He’d said he’d always be there for her, but he wasn’t.

She didn’t hold it against him. Or at least she didn’t think she did. Not after worrying he’d died when she found no trace of him months after they were placed in separate foster homes.

He’d graduated from high school, left her a note that he was going away, but saying he’d be back when he could. That he was going to try to build a life for them.

She believed him, but he never came back.

It wasn’t until earlier in the year she realized he’d enlisted in the service and was there until about eight years ago.

If she was pissed he didn’t seek her out then, she’d voiced it a few times since they reconnected but realized that Griffin had a lot more demons than she did.

No, actually he didn’t. His were just different.

But Griffin had a family now. One he made for himself with the Bond family—his employers—and then now with his fiancée, Penelope, and daughter, Alexandra.

“I like Zandra,” Jennie said, winking at her future sister-in-law.

“See, Griffin,” Penelope said. “It’s got a nice ring to it. Zandra Zale.”

Her big brother took his daughter out of her hands, kissed her and said, “Alexa Zale or Lexa. Or, I don’t know,” Griffin said, “how about her name, Alexandra, which Penelope chose. Now I’m starting to realize it was only to shorten it on me.”

Jennie reached for her niece again. It did her heart good to see her brother more lighthearted than she ever remembered before.

Griffin had always been intense as a kid. She supposed they didn’t have much of a choice in their household.

She’d noticed it more when she sought him out earlier last year, but now he was just a different person.

One that was turning back into the overprotective brother she remembered before with a side of sweetheart mixed in.

He listened now when he didn’t years ago. She felt like she was heard, but it was like taking a stick and beating it into the rock of his head more than she wanted.

“You’re so much fun to bust on,” Penelope said. “Right, Jennie?”

“If you say so,” she said.

She didn’t remember ever busting on Griffin much. There wasn’t a lot of laughter or joking in their house.

She’d fought hard to move past that and felt she’d gotten to that point.

Sometimes she got sucked back in, but it was getting better. She hoped.

Hard not to when she lived on this small island off the coast of Massachusetts. She had a job she loved and always dreamed of. For the Bond family. And hadn’t been thrilled when that happened and was positive Griffin had something to do with it, but she told herself she had to let it go.

She was working her butt off to prove she could do the job.

Like she worked her butt off to get her degree and make something of her life. The easy way would have been to get a job after she turned eighteen. To share an apartment with people and live paycheck to paycheck.

Instead, she was lucky enough that the last foster family she ended up with helped her. They guided her.

They wanted her to make something of herself.

She worked hard in school, she got a lot of aid and scholarships and didn’t have a ton of student loans. Not as much as many did in her situation.

She had a job and an apartment in college with other students and was able to live there when school was out and work more.

Paycheck to paycheck had been her world until about four years ago. 

She finally felt like she was on her feet some more, money was in the bank, her debt manageable. 

Then Griffin stepped in without talking to her and wiped it all out.

Looking back, she knew he was making up for the promise of being there for her. Come to find out, he’d had his eye on her for years but she’d hadn’t known. He did not want her to know.

She was still pissed about that too. Him taking it upon himself to decide if she could handle him in her life again.

That he didn’t want to disrupt what she made of herself.

She’d had it. No more with people telling her what to do.

“Penelope says a lot,” Griffin said. “I’ve learned not to argue either.”

“I need your secret,” she said to Penelope. “It seems all Griffin and I do is argue.”

Jennie was grinning but noticed the pained look on her brother’s face. “I’m trying,” he said.

“I know,” she said, sighing. “I appreciate everything you’ve done this year. I really do. I owe you for a lot and I’m not used to owing anyone anything.”

“You don’t owe me a thing,” Griffin said. “Never.”

“Here we go again,” Penelope said, snatching her daughter away. “You two are going to have to figure this out. Jennie, we are thrilled you are here. I’m so glad Griffin has you in his life. He needs you as much as you need him. He was wrong to be gone as long as he was and he’s trying to make it up to you. Trust me, I’ve lectured him enough about it.”

“She has,” Griffin said. “I’m ganged up on here.”

Jennie grinned. “I don’t want you to feel that way. I love being here. I love that you made it happen. I’m not used to anything like that in my life. Not working for billionaires. Not knowing my brother is best friends with one and even owns some of a freaking casino.”

Her brother’s best friend was Eli Bond. Griffin confessed to her months ago that he owned five percent of the casino when she was arguing about him buying her a house. She’d said no way. She was fine with her apartment. The one her employers, Drew and Bode Bond, owned and squeezed her in before others on a waiting list.

She worked for Bond Realty and needed a place to stay. She’d been making do at Atlantic Rise for months until the apartment became available. 

Since Penelope owned Atlantic Rise Hotel with her sister, Emily, they wouldn’t let her pay to stay in one of the suites. Another thing handed to her and this time she had to argue with not only Griffin but Penelope too.

She’d lost there.

“I’d hardly say you’re ganged up on,” she said, laughing. “You’re bigger and stronger than all of us.”

“I’m not so sure about that,” Griffin said sarcastically. 

She laughed, as she’d only been joking. Jennie was pretty stubborn herself. She had to be. There’d been no one watching out for her for years. 

“Penelope, is there anything I can do?”

“Nope,” Penelope said. “Relax. Emily will be here soon with Crew and my parents. I don’t often get to cook holiday dinners and offered this year. It’s cold and blustery out and I don’t want to bring the baby out in it.”

Her niece was barely two months old at this point. Cute as a button and the apple of her brother’s eye. She also knew that once the rest of the family got here, she’d be fighting for a chance to hold her niece, which was why she came early.

“Does Alexa need a bottle soon?” she asked, looking over to see her brother wink at her. She wasn’t sure she’d ever seen him do that before.

“She does. Griffin can get it for her while I check on the snacks in the oven. Everyone will be here soon and I’ll have it all ready.”

She walked over and sat in the rocking chair and heard her brother and Penelope talking quietly in the kitchen. She could almost see them, but they were at the far end and not facing her.

When they returned together, Griffin handing her the bottle to give her niece, and Penelope sitting down, she knew something was on their minds.

“What’s going on?” she asked.

“Why do you ask that?” Penelope asked when Griffin sat next to her.

“Because I can feel it in the air. You two want to talk to me about something. Just say it.”

“It’s not me,” Penelope said. “It’s your brother. I told him if he was going to do it, he better do it now before everyone got here.”

Her shoulders dropped. “What are you going to try to do for me now?”

Penelope grinned. “Told you,” she said to Griffin.

“I don’t care,” Griffin said. “Hear me out before you say no or freak out.” 

She didn’t like the sound of that. It was bad enough Griffin paid her student loans and car off on her before she moved here, but then he paid all her moving expenses and had her fly with her stuff on the Bond private jet. Talk about overkill.

“You’re only doing this now because I’ve got your daughter in my arms and you know I won’t yell.”

“She’s got you there,” Penelope said.

“I bought a house,” Griffin said.

“Okay. Good for you. Is that for when Penelope is ticked off and it’s bigger than a doghouse to go to?”

Penelope giggled. “He’s still got his apartment on the penthouse floor of the casino for that.”

“I won’t need it,” Griffin said. “Penelope loves me too much to make me stay there. She wants me in bed at some point each night.”

“Don’t let Griffin kid you,” Penelope said. “He likes to cuddle in the guise of hogging the bed. But he’s the one that wants me in it with him.”

“Aren’t you two just so cute,” she said, shaking her head.

“If my fiancée is done cracking jokes like she always does, I’ll tell you I bought the house not far from here. It’s not big. It’s a cottage. Three beds, two baths. About eighteen hundred square feet. If I tell you I bought it for you, you’ll flip out.”

“Damn straight,” Jennie said. “Sorry. Darn straight. I don’t need you buying me a house.”

They’d been around this block enough, and she’d thought she’d finally gotten through to him.

“It’s mine. Not yours. However, I’ll rent it to you for what you are paying for your apartment,” he said.

“Which is a fraction of what you can get for rent on this island and you know it,” she said.

It wasn’t cheap to live here. Older homes that needed a ton of work were still hundreds of thousands of dollars. 

“It’s closer to your job. It’s closer to us. You can come visit Alexa anytime you want. Maybe babysit?” he said, smiling.

“Oh, now I see how it is,” she said with a small grin.

“Jennie,” Penelope said. “This was the best compromise I could get out of him. I’m on your team. You know as well as I do, Drew and Bode need the apartment for the workers for the retirement community.”

She did know that. She was a financial analyst for Bond Realty and her main job was attached to the retirement community. 

The townhouses were all up with residents in them. They were privately owned with just monthly HOA fees for the grounds and other services that would be provided in the future.

But the apartments were still a ways from being completed.

By the end of summer, the goal was half of the one hundred apartments would have residents in them on one side of the building while the remaining half were worked on over the next winter. This was easily a two- to three-year project.

Other buildings needed to be completed this summer too. The rec center, a gym, a cafeteria and more. All that was going to be done so that those fifty filled apartments had things to do and services provided for them.

It would still grow for years, but they were getting there.

And the sooner it filled up, the busier she’d be also. She had some time on her hands work wise and Drew had her doing other work for the business and filling in as needed where things tied together. She didn’t care and only wanted to prove her worth.

“You’re hitting low,” she said. “Did you get that from Griffin?”

“She’s sneaky,” Griffin said.

“That is what you love about me,” Penelope said. “I had to be sneaky to get you. I wore you down without you even knowing.”

“Yeah,” Griffin said. “Like a tick under my skin and by the time I realized you were there I was already infected.”

Jennie snorted. “That’s kind of gross but probably accurate too.”

“Very much so,” Penelope said.

“Back to the house,” Griffin said. “I’m closing on it in a few weeks. Then we can go in and make any changes to it.”

“I don’t need to make changes,” she said. “It’s your house. You can rent it and make more money since workers need to be on the island.”

“You know that isn’t what he wanted or needed,” Penelope said. “Your apartment would be part of Drew and Bode’s benefits package for their workers. It’s one bedroom, but they’d still get two beds in there, if not a sleeper sofa too.”

She sighed. Penelope was right. She knew those things because it was part of her job. And if two to three men could live in her place and not take the ferry back and forth, they could work more because they wouldn’t be handcuffed to the limited transportation to and from the island with the tighter ferry schedule in the winter months.

“I’ll think about it,” she said. “But I’m not making any changes to it. Or if I want that, I’ll do it. No more money, Griffin.”

“It was updated in the past seven years. It’s not huge, but a lot more space than you’ve got. Penelope will show you the pictures of it online.”

Penelope stood up and got her iPad, then brought it over and started to swipe through while Alexa was still drinking her bottle. 

She saw Penelope try to swipe fast past the price, but she’d caught it and bit her tongue. It wasn’t her money and she had to get over the fact that her brother was worth more millions than she could ever imagine. That didn’t take into account that he was marrying into the Bond family who had wealth like in fairytales.

She was making more at her job than she’d thought she would and figured they’d paid her that because of her relation to Griffin. Then she realized it had more to do with the cost to live on the island. She’d seen the salaries of others in the company and realized what she was making was generous but fair with the company and not any kind of special treatment.

“The place doesn’t need any work,” she said. 

“The paint colors are ugly,” Penelope said. “Don’t you think?”

“They are,” she said. “And if I decide to move there, I’ll paint it myself. But it’s livable. Trust me, I’ve lived in a lot of places. That’s the nicest and you know it, Griffin.”

“I know,” he said. “There were others I looked at, but this is a nice small home that doesn’t need work. Yep, I can rent it out and make money, but I didn’t buy it for that reason.”

“You bought it for me,” she said. “Regardless of whose name is on the title. Let’s not kid ourselves.”

“Fine. I bought it for you. You can pay me rent. I know what you’re paying now. I asked Drew. You can have more than double the space and your own place. You’ve never had that before. I want you to. Please, Jennie. I’m not going to say I owe it to you. I owe it to me. I was wrong for what I did. I made a promise to you and I’m going to keep it. I said I’d always be there and I am. I was absent for years, but I’m not now.”

She looked at her brother. The words hitting home. A reminder of what he’d said to her on the worst day of her life. 

Those words were the truth. He’d been absent for years, but he was trying now. She had to give in and try with him.

“Fine. It’s a lovely place. I’d be thrilled to live there. But no more, Griffin. This is it. Do you hear me?”

He got up and walked over to kiss her on the cheek. “I hear you. As a thank you, you can babysit your niece one day this week too so I can have a date night.”

“Of course,” she said. “Anytime and you know it.”

The door opened a few minutes later, Emily and Crew’s voices coming down the hall. “Perfect timing,” Penelope said. “Griffin broke the news and he won. Mark your calendars on that one.”

All she could do was shake her head. Her brother really thought she was going to say no when she’d be crazy to.

She only had to remind herself to not get too used to this, as she’d seen how quickly her life could change.