Fierce- Noah

Noah

Noah Fierce has always been called bossy or the leader in the Fierce family. But to the women he dated, he just didn’t measure up enough. He wasn’t going to change who he was or what he loved to please anyone, keeping him single longer than desired.

Paige Parker found herself the guardian of her nephew when her sister was convicted of murder. She was determined to devote everything she had to give him a normal life, even if it meant putting her own life on hold. After all, what man wanted to get mixed up in her drama?

Grey’s Blind Date Discovery- Prologue

GreyBDcover (1)

Prologue

Dr. Grey Baxter walked away from the patient on the operating table at Albany Med and pulled his mask off as he got to the door. He removed his gloves and gown and put it all in the red biohazard bin, then went to the locker room.

It was his last surgery of the day and he needed to clean up. He’d shower after each surgery if he could, but there was never time.

After his shower he was walking to his locker with a towel around his waist, rubbing his hands over his short hair. The old white hospital towel had already made a few passes over his dark brown hair which was more than enough to get the excess water out.

“What are your plans tonight?”

He turned to see Dr. Ed Clover, the anesthesiologist that was in the last surgery with him, standing there having come out of another shower. Too bad Ed didn’t care to put a towel around the waist of his bulging belly. Maybe it didn’t fit. Didn’t matter, but common courtesy was to cover up. At least in Grey’s mind.

“I’m going back to the office to finish up some paperwork and then I’ll probably go home and relax. It’s been a long day.”

Ed snorted. “You had what, three surgeries today? You’re young. That’s nothing.”

“That’s easy for you to say. You just sit there monitoring vitals and oxygen. I’m bent over a body cutting and snipping, drilling and hammering.”

These were common words and jokes they used often with each other. Grey wouldn’t want the responsibility of putting someone out for surgery and waking them up.

“I’ve been in four today,” Ed said. “I’ve got you beat. Come have a drink with me later. Be my wingman.”

“Wingman?” Grey said. “I’ll pass.”

Ed was forty-five or thereabouts, balding, a good fifty pounds overweight, and had scars on his face from acne as a kid. The only reason Ed dated as much as he did was because he was fast to tell women in the bar he was a doctor.

“Then just have a drink with me. You don’t need to pick anyone up, though it might lighten your mood a bit if you did. When was the last time you got laid?”

Grey moved away from Ed and went to his locker to get dressed. As luck—or not—would have it, Ed followed along, having the locker two down from him.

“I don’t share that information with people,” he said.

Because he was embarrassed to say how long it’d been. He hadn’t been on a date in over six months, sex had been longer. Not that he wasn’t fielding offers left and right, but he had standards.

Half the time he just wasn’t interested in going out and meeting women. The other times he was too tired.

He’d been there and done that. He had a woman and asked her to wait for him and she didn’t. She moved on and left him heartbroken. He’d never been able to find another woman to fit what he was looking for and was pretty sick of trying at this point.

“I bet it’s because you’ve got a secret life that you keep hidden.”

“Yeah, that’s it,” Grey said. Was this guy for real?

“All the women want the surgeons. You’re the ‘don’t kiss and tell type,’ aren’t you?”

“That’s me,” he said, getting dressed faster than normal. He didn’t have the patience for this conversation.

“If you change your mind I’ll be at City Line for happy hour.”

Grey nodded his head, slipped his shoes on, and then left. He wasn’t changing his mind.

When he got back to his office he almost ran into Cori Reynolds. She was running in front of him in a hurry like she always was, trying to see her husband, Jack, a fellow orthopedic surgeon in the office.

“Sorry, Grey,” Cori said, the ponytail holding her red hair swinging around her head. Normally she was dressed in her nurse’s scrubs with wild prints and colors, but she looked somewhat normal today in black pants and a purple and black top. Just her bright purple shoes were the only thing out of place.

“No problem,” he said.

“You know what it’s like when you want to see your man,” she said, giggling. She was always smiling and giggling. “Well, not a man for you. At least I don’t think so. I mean a woman. But if it is a man, well, same thing.”

He laughed, he had no choice. “I like women just fine, but don’t have one to rush to like you do.”

“We need to change that for you,” she said. She was almost running to keep up with his long stride. She was probably used to it since Jack was six foot five and Cori was probably barely five foot.

“I’m happy the way I am.”

“Aw, now I know you’re lying. You’re not happy because you don’t smile.”

“Not everyone smiles when they’re happy,” he said back and put a smile on his face for her.

“Yes, they do. Just ask Jack. He never smiled until he met me.”

She spoke the truth. Jack had been a loner in the department when he relocated here over six years ago. The guy barely spoke, let alone smiled. But now that he’d been married for years and had a four-year-old little girl, he smiled more often than not.

“He got lucky with you,” Grey said, speaking the truth. Cori was great. A little out there but had a heart of gold.

“Yes, he did,” she agreed. “You could get just as lucky. I could help with that.”

“No,” he said fast and moved to the door of his office. “I’m good. Have a nice visit with Jack.”

He went in and shut the door and let out a breath. Good grief, what the hell? What was everyone’s obsession with his dating life and trying to get him to go out?

Picking up chicks and getting set up on blind dates were for losers. He’d done it enough and was over it. It was almost as bad as dating apps.

No, nothing was as bad as them.

The truth was, he just had a hard time connecting with women because he was determined to not get his heart broken again.

Grey’s Blind Date Discovery

GreyBDcover (1)

Eight Blind Date books by the Hot Hunks Steamy Romance Collection. Grey’s Blind Date Discovery Book 1

Dr. Grey Baxter put his career above everything else in his life, including love. When his college girlfriend had enough, she left him heartbroken. Years later no one seems to measure up to what he thought he wanted and worse yet everyone is trying to set him up on blind dates like he’s some kind of a loser rather than a successful surgeon who is hit on left and right.

Sierra Stone thought her life was pretty great. She had a career she loved and lived in her hometown surrounded by family and friends. But morals, ethics, and a conscience made her speak up causing her to lose it all. Now she’s in a new city and her closest friend is determined to set her up with the worse type of man possible…a doctor!

Whether it’s an unexpected discovery, a curveball thrown your way, an explosive situation to defuse, a seduction on the horizon, a developing experiment, a dilemma to work out, a mystery to solve, or a debacle in the making. These eight blind dates by eight authors have one thing in common. Hot hunks finding their ladies!

The next in the Hot Hunks Steamy Romance Collection brings you swoon-worthy blind dates to make your pulse race, your body tingle, and your heart sing for more!

Natalie Ann- Grey’s Blind Date Discovery – Book 1
Angela Stevens- Logan’s Blind Date Curveball – Book 2
Jen Talty- Cove’s Blind Date Blows Up – Book 3
Stephanie Morris- Kyler’s Blind Date Seduction- Book 4
Alicia Street- Tyler’s Blind Date Experiment – Book 5
Katie O’Sullivan- Ed’s Blind Date Dilemma – Book 6
Suzanne Jenkins – Marty’s Blind Date Mystery- Book 7
Tamara Ferguson- Jack’s Blind Date Debacle- Book 8

Change Up…Prologue

change up

Prologue

Harris Walker jogged out to the mound of Citi Field in the bottom of the ninth. His blood was pumping; the fatigue that should have set in was nowhere to be found.

He was in a pitcher’s dream right now. What everyone hoped for. What they wanted to achieve and very few would.

Three more outs and he’d have his no hitter.

At thirty years old he knew he wouldn’t have too many more years in his pitching career.

A top prospect at just seventeen, he didn’t really develop until about five years ago. He didn’t get to show what he was made of and many started to write him off.

But, bam, out of nowhere, two years ago he grabbed control of his fastball, he mastered his changeup, and his curveball seemed to throw everyone off.

He was the pitcher players didn’t want to face. He signed one hell of a five-year contract to stay with the Mets when plenty were willing to pay him more.

Why? Because he was born and raised in Upstate New York and he’d been a Mets fan his whole life. Talk about a dream come true.

They drafted him, they put their faith in him, they gave him what he wanted in his contract. He was staying loyal because that’s who Harris Walker was.

And now he was going to prove to the owners he was everything they thought he was. He was going to show his pitching coaches they had every reason to believe in him.

Ace Reynolds got up to bat for the Atlanta Braves. He was seventh in the lineup and Harris couldn’t have planned this any better.

First pitch straight down the middle, ninety-eight miles an hour. Ace swung, missed, the crowd went nuts. Harris was like a squirrel going after those nuts himself, but he’d always been in control internally and he wasn’t letting anyone see the excitement he was feeling.

Second pitch, curveball, a little wide, called ball. One and one.

Third pitch, fastball down the middle, swing and—shit. Ace connected. Harris watched as the ball sailed into center field, but there was Johnny Reed, racing, diving, and catching it. One out. Two more to go.

Second batter only took three pitches too, pop fly that the catcher nabbed, and they were down to the last out.

The Braves put in a pinch hitter. Miller Smith who was on a hot streak. Bastards. They were already down three to one. Come on.

Harris didn’t care. Well, he did, but he wasn’t showing it.

He wiped his sweaty hand on his pant leg, he took a deep breath, and then wound up and threw a slider. Way out of the strike zone, but Miller swung, strike one.

The crowd was in a frenzy. The stadium felt like it was rocking.

He was going for speed. He wanted to prove he still had it with a hundred and five pitches down tonight.

Fastball, here it comes.

Miller connected, line drive, right at Harris, but not close enough for him to dive and catch it. He didn’t need to worry, because the second baseman had his back, plucking it right up over his head and bringing it in.

His teammates raced him on the mound, everyone slapping him on the back. The tears were rolling down his face and he didn’t give one shit about it.

He was man enough to cry over throwing the best game of his life.

And three hours later when he and Johnny and a few others were tossing back shots in a bar in downtown Manhattan, he was living the dream.

Women were hanging out around them, many rubbing against him…whispering in his ear. Yeah, he could go home with any of them, but he didn’t have plans on it.

He wanted to celebrate with his buddies. They had a game tomorrow and though he wasn’t playing, the rest of the team was.

Matt Greene, the Mets’ babysitter as they called him, walked over between him and Johnny. “Time to pack it up, boys. There’s a game tomorrow.”

“I’m not playing,” Harris said.

Johnny laughed. “Lucky shit. You play once every five games, get all the money, and more than half the chicks.”

Harris slapped Johnny on the back. “You like being my wingman, admit it.” The “half the chicks” was a running joke since many knew Harris barely took a woman up on an offer.

“Some wingman you are. We are both going home to empty beds tonight.”

The two of them laughed and followed Matt out of the bar and to his SUV. Matt was a good guy, just doing his job, making sure the players stayed out of trouble.

“Shotgun,” Harris called. “Since I’m the man of the hour.”

“You’re the man, all right,” Johnny said. “Ride in the front. I’ll just stretch out back here behind Matt anyway. You always push the seat back so far that the rest of us are squished. You aren’t the only one over six foot, you know.”

“Ah, but I’ve still got four inches on you,” Harris said, climbing in and putting his seatbelt on.

They were driving back to the building that he and Johnny both lived in. Not only were they teammates but darn close to best friends as well, always riding back and forth to Citi Field and the airport together.

Just blocks from their place, they were sitting at a red light when Harris caught a flash out the right corner of his eye. Headlights coming fast and nowhere to go, then the pain as it slammed into his door.

Nothing else after that. The rest was just darkness.

 

 

Change Up

 

change up 

Can physical therapist Kaelyn mend her shattered trust in men while trying to heal Harris’s broken dreams?

After throwing his first no-hitter, pitcher Harris Walker and his teammates went out for a night on the town. Little did he know it’d be the last strike he’d ever throw professionally. He returns home with the hopes of finding a new life, if only he can figure out how to put all his hopes and dreams behind him.

Kaelyn Butler has always wanted to make her own mark in the world regardless of the money behind her name. Her choice in men has left her heartbroken more times than she cares to admit. Skittish and distrustful of men? Yes, she is! So when Harris Walker shows up in her office for physical therapy and flirts with her, the last thing she has time for is the sweet-talking hottie. Then why does she find herself making poor choices again?

Cupid’s Quest- Prologue

CupidQuest

Prologue

Ruby got out of the car and pulled her backpack from the backseat that had been sitting next to her, flung it over her shoulder and put her head down while she waited for the social worker to open the trunk for her larger duffel bag. That was it, all her possessions were portable and had been for the past ten years.

“You’ll like it here,” Missy said. Missy Carter was her eighth caseworker. Seemed no one stayed at this job for long.

“Whatever,” Ruby said. Missy was young, she was eager, and she was clueless. Give her a year or so—maybe even six months—and she wouldn’t be so peppy dealing with her clients.

The two of them walked up the creaky stairs to a chipped white front porch that had seen better days. Out of place in the corner was one spray-painted black rocking chair. There was room for plenty more, but that solo one told her all she needed to know about this house.

While they waited for the front door to be answered, Ruby looked around the neighborhood. It was pretty much like most of the other ones she’d lived in. Not completely run down, but not nice pretty suburbia. Yeah, wouldn’t that be sweet? If ever!

When the door was opened, Ruby got a look at her new foster mother. She was probably in her fifties, tall, stocky and rough around the edges. That had to be her chair that no one was allowed to sit in while she escaped from the wards under her roof.

“Mrs. Wilson, this is Ruby Gentile. I’m Missy Carter,” she said, putting her hand out. “We spoke on the phone. I’m so glad you’ve got room for Ruby.”

“Always room for kids,” Mrs. Wilson said. “Call me Candy. Everyone else does.”

“Thanks, Candy,” Missy said.

“Come on in. Shoes off,” Candy said to Ruby. “You walk in the door, you take your shoes off. We’ve got rules here and I expect them to be followed. If you do that, we’ll all get along just fine. If not…”

Yeah, Ruby knew what the “if not” meant. It meant she’d be moving once again. All she wanted to do was find a place where she could stay long enough to make it through her last two years of school, which was starting in three weeks. Another school district she was changing to.

Ruby slid her old sneakers off and left them by the door where a few other pairs were taking up residence. Four that she suspected belonged to other kids by the range of sizes. She continued to stand there in the doorway, not making a move until she was told. Been there and done that and wasn’t about to assume a damn thing.

“Would you like to show Ruby around before we talk and fill out paperwork?” Missy asked Candy.

“Sheri!” Candy yelled at the bottom of the stairs that they were facing as they stood in the foyer of the older home.

Ruby remained until she was told otherwise, heard a door open above them, and a teenage girl close to her age came to the top of the stairs. “Yes?”

“Ruby is in with you. Show her your room and explain how we do things here while I meet with the caseworker.”

She couldn’t even call Missy by her name. Yep, Ruby knew how it was going to be here for sure.

“Come on up,” Sheri said, a smile on her face. Not even a forced one. Maybe Ruby was wrong. Most kids didn’t smile in foster homes. They just wanted to get by.

Ruby turned to Missy. “Thank you.”

Missy put her hand on Ruby’s shoulder. “You’re welcome, sweetie. I’ll be in touch.”

She nodded her head and went up the stairs and to her new bedroom. It was small, had bunk beds and one single in the corner. She’d never had her own room anywhere and didn’t expect that here either.

“I’m on the top bunk,” Sheri said. “I like it there. Suzie is in the single. She is out in the backyard playing. She’s ten. That leaves you under me.”

“No problem,” Ruby said, walking over and putting her backpack on the plain tan bedspread. They had different colored bedspreads, but they were definitely simple and cheap. At least the second-story room had an air conditioning unit in the window, even if it wasn’t on, though it would be nice if it were.

Sheri must have caught her gaze. “We are allowed to put it on for four hours a day when we go to bed. So we turn it on at eight and off at midnight. I’ve found that it cools the room down enough to fall asleep and then stays decent most of the nights.”

“It’s better than I’ve had at other homes.”

“They are strict here, but if you follow the rules it’s not so bad,” Sheri said.

“Who lives here?”

“Candy and her husband, Colin. He works construction and is gone a lot. He’s nice enough, keeps to himself for the most part. We are just people in and out of his house in his eyes.”

“How many kids?”

“You are the fifth. There are two boys in another room. They are set up for six and try to keep it three boys and three girls. The house is big, but they keep us in these two rooms.”

“It’s fine,” Ruby said. “Are you always this happy or told to be this way with the caseworker here?”

“I normally am. I’ve been in some bad places,” Sheri said, sitting on Ruby’s new bed. “This is one of the better.”

“So tell me the rules other than shoes by the door.”

“Meals are always the same time. She makes one thing and if you don’t like it, well, then you pick around it, but she won’t make you something different. If you miss a meal, then you are on your own.”

“We are allowed to get our own food if we miss it?” she asked.

“No. If you want to play a sport and miss dinner, then what you get is the nightly snack we all have around seven thirty.”

“Everyone gets the same thing there too?” she asked.

“Yep,” Sheri said. “But it’s food and I’ve been hungry before so I’m not complaining.”

Ruby had been too. Plenty enough times. “How long have you been here?”

“A year. I’m sixteen. I’m hoping I get to stay until I’m done with school.”

“Me too,” Ruby said. “I just turned sixteen. Two more years.”

“You’re lucky your birthday is over the summer. Mine is in April. Wherever I am, I pray they let me stay to finish school when I turn eighteen.”

The magic number when the payments stop and foster families normally want the bed opened up.

“Are we allowed to get jobs?” Ruby asked, knowing that was the first thing she planned on doing. There was a bus stop around the corner, perfect in her eyes.

“Yep. But you have to find your own transportation and still follow the curfews.”

“I’ll make it work,” Ruby said. She had to. She’d been doing that since her mother overdosed ten years ago and she started to get shuffled around.

All she wanted to do was have a home of her own someday. A family who was there for her or cared about her would be nice, but a home was her number one priority.

Cupid’s Quest

CupidQuest

Ruby Gentile made it out of the foster care system by keeping to herself and counting down the days until she was on her own. She considers herself a successful realtor now and loves that she is doing her part to put people in their forever home. Commitment issues often remind her she may never find what she always wanted as a little girl even if she secretly dreams of love and romance, happy ever after and prince charming…that forever home of her own.

Josh Turner lived through the horrific murder of his parents while he hid in the closet as a young child. He’s an investigator now sworn to protect, but those he loved…he couldn’t bear the thought of life without them. He’d lay his life on the line and make sure they never felt as scared and lonely as he had that one night. When Ruby ends up as his realtor, he realizes that she is the one he never wants to lose, if only she’d let him in.

Fierce- Drake…Chapter Two

Drake(1)

If you haven’t read the Prologue or Chapter One, you can catch up before the last except!

Losing Control

Two weeks later, Kara walked down the hall and rapped her knuckles on Drake’s open door. “Got a minute?”

His brown eyes lifted from his computer. “Sure. Come on in.”

She took a few steps in. “I just received a copy of the credit card statements and there are a lot of charges with no receipts to them. The girls in accounting asked if I had them since the policy is to turn them in to me so I can make copies.”

He grinned at her. No, not a grin. A smirk. That’s exactly what it was. “What receipts are you looking for?” He opened a drawer and pulled out a handful of white sheets and spread them on his desk.

Her eye started to tick over that move. The smirk that wouldn’t drop from his lips wasn’t helping any. “I’ll take them all,” she said.

She walked a few steps to his desk and held her hand out. He placed them all in there, his fingers touching her palm. She almost pulled back from the heat of that innocent touch.

When she found the one she was really looking for she wanted to scream. “I can’t believe you spent over three hundred dollars on dinner for five people.”

It just appalled her how much money Drake spent on dinners with clients. It wasn’t just dinners, but lunches, events, office supplies. The best of everything for Drake.

She could imagine how much he spent on his personal clothes. His car was over six figures. She knew because she had to look it up one day to come up with an auto allowance for him since he did so much traveling.

Disgusting. His sister, Jade, and cousin Ryder didn’t spend money like Drake did when it came to work. Their personal lives, she had no idea and that was their business. But work was hers.

Of course he was older than them and had more responsibility. And Drake did seem to bring in more business than anyone else.

Didn’t matter. In her mind, a budget was a budget and she was hired to make sure everyone followed one. She’d even given him a bigger budget than the rest of the staff.

“That included drinks and tip,” he said. “That place wasn’t cheap. Nor would I take them anywhere cheap. That’s a massive contract. One that is funding a good part of your job, I might add.”

She narrowed her eyes at him. He wasn’t being sarcastic. He was even smiling still. “I was hired long before you got that contract.”

His smile dropped. “You know what I’m saying.”

“No, I don’t know what you are saying. Why don’t you explain? Your father and uncle hired me to get control of the spending and set up budgets. To analyze costs per project and so on. Just in case you weren’t aware, I’m doing this so we can build the costs back into bids.”

“I’m fully aware of why you were hired. What I don’t understand is what the big deal is if we are building it into bids anyway.”

“It’s just frivolous,” she said. “I understand there are expectations, but do you plan on doing this every time you meet with the officials in Charlotte? This is the third time you’ve come back with large dinner or lunch charges.”

“I didn’t know I was being monitored so much,” he said, leaning back in his chair.

“Everyone is. That is my job. And I’m not monitoring you like you think. I just know what you spend. You’ve got the highest cost ratio in the firm.”

“Sweet,” he said. “Not bad considering I bring in the most money.”

She took a deep breath. She wouldn’t lose her temper. She never did. Not anymore. Those days of losing control were long gone. She put that life behind her once she was able to get in a position that she could support herself.

She’d never be poor again. She’d never be needy. She’d never rely on anyone.

“I understand it’s a good honor to have. To be able to bring in the kind of revenue that you do. In the future, if you could please bring me the receipts as you get them, it would save me from bugging you. Or the accounting department to come in looking for them.”

“Fine,” he said.

She nodded her head and walked out the door to go do the job she was hired for. She needed to get out of Drake’s presence before she said something she’d regret.

 

***

 

The minute Kara was out of his door, Drake leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes, counted to ten and took a few deep breaths.

It didn’t help.

He even tried to focus on what she was wearing today. Tan pants that fit her long thin legs. A simple light green top with a white cardigan over it. It wasn’t really green. More like moss colored. She wasn’t flashy, she never was, but she was always put together.

He laughed out loud thinking that she actually fit the image of a bean counter in his mind even though she was young. Probably a few years younger than him.

He wondered why she never smiled. Why she was so serious all the time. Why she couldn’t have fun at work when so many others did.

He got up and made his way to his father’s office, hoping to blow off some steam. Before he got there, he noticed his father in his Uncle Grant’s office with his Aunt Diane and went there instead. He could kill two birds with one stone.

“What’s going on?” his father asked him.

“Nothing,” Drake said.

“It didn’t seem that way to me,” his Uncle Grant said. “Are you having issues with Kara?”

“That woman drives me insane,” Drake said. No one ever seemed to get on his nerves like she did.

“What is the problem this time?” his father asked. “I like her. She’s on the ball.”

“She was complaining about my credit card statement. Said there were receipts missing.”

Uncle Grant laughed. “That’s her job. She is just making sure the charges are legit.”

“No,” Drake argued. “She was making comments about how often I take clients out to lunch and the places I take them.”

His father laughed this time. “I tell you all the time you overdo it and spend too much. We hired her to analyze costs and expenses. No one escapes it.”

“Whatever,” Drake said, knowing it was useless. He should have kept his mouth shut. He knew why Kara was hired. They all did and they all agreed it was a good move. Little did he know he’d be the one that got the most grief in the end. “Hey, what’s in there?” he asked his Aunt Diane.

“Donuts and muffins,” Diane said, moving the box toward him.

“Thanks.” He grabbed a donut and left, not wanting to stand there any longer. He had work to do, deadlines to meet, and people to call. All the things he’d been doing before Kara interrupted his thoughts.

The worst part was, he wouldn’t be able to get her out of his thoughts the rest of the day.

 

***

 

“So, is that who you’re thinking of for Drake?” Garrett’s sister-in-law asked him.

“It crossed my mind. It’s funny watching Drake get so flustered. What do you think?” he asked.

“I think you and Carolyn need to work on it while we figure out what is going on with Bryce and Payton this weekend,” Diane said.

“Are we horrible people doing this?” Grant asked his brother, then looked at his wife.

“No way. We’re good parents just trying to see our kids happy,” Diane said, then leaned up and kissed her husband on the cheek. “Enjoy, boys, I’m going shopping with Carolyn today.”

Grant sighed. “Talk about needing someone to look over credit card receipts.”

“Tell me about it,” Garrett said. “Maybe we should have Kara analyze our wives’ expenses.”

His twin laughed. “Imagine how well that would go over.”

“About as well as it’s going over with Drake. I don’t get it. He was all for this position last year.”

“Until he was getting targeted,” Grant said. “Of course we all knew that would happen. Drake does spend more than the rest of us.”

“He earns it,” Garrett said of his oldest son, the pride shining through.

“Of course he does. It’s a good thing he likes meeting with the clients so much. He took a lot of that off of our shoulders. You know how much I hated it. That was more your thing.”

“Yeah. You didn’t care about playing nice as much as I did,” Garrett said.

“You’ve never played nice a day in your life. That’s why we got into so much trouble growing up.”

Garrett laughed. “Good thing our kids aren’t like us.”

“Wyatt?” Grant said.

Yeah, Wyatt was a prankster. Just like their nephew Cade. “How about Ryder?” he asked of Grant’s youngest and another employee in the building.

“Yeah, well, Ryder is just more a pain and a headache to his brothers and cousins than he is to us at work.”

Ryder was actually the ideal employee, which was funny since he wasn’t always the ideal son when it came to listening. His youngest nephew was the one that turned Grant’s hair gray.

“That’s true. So, what do you think of Kara and Drake? Match or not? I know Gavin thinks it’s perfect from what we’ve told him, but they don’t seem to even like each other. Drake never loses his temper. He never gets annoyed or frustrated, and Kara seems to bring the worst out of him just breathing the same air.”

Grant laughed. “I’m with Gavin. I think it’s perfect. Love and hate are so close. Let’s just see how it turns out.”

“So what do you suggest? Bring them together on a few projects?”

“I think that is the perfect idea,” Grant said.

“Let’s brainstorm this weekend and figure it out. It’s got to seem legit. We don’t want to raise any flags. Sam and Dani worked out flawlessly. Bryce and Payton seem to be working from what Diane said.”

“Diane has high hopes for Bryce and Payton, but I’m still not sure. I’m reserving judgment. I guess there is no reason you can’t work on Drake now and see how it goes,” Grant said.

“I’ll talk to Carolyn tonight and get her take too. She’s been out of sorts that you’ve got one son down and are working on the second. Might as well give Drake the push and see where it takes us.”

“Let me know what you come up with,” Grant said.

“You’ll be the first to know.”

Fierce-Drake…Chapter One

Drake(1)

If you haven’t read the Prologue yet you can catch up.

Stuck Like Glue

Eleven Years Later

Drake yawned as he pulled into the parking lot at the family firm, parked his Audi A8 and got out, stretching his long legs.

All the men were tall in the Fierce family. His father and his Uncle Grant at six foot four. Just like Drake. His Uncle Gavin was the tallest at six foot five. Drake’s twin, Noah, was six foot three and Drake held that extra inch over his brother’s head like the Stanley Cup Trophy. The rest of the men in the family were anywhere from six foot one to six foot three.

Big, strong…fierce. Like their name.

Though Drake never considered himself that fierce. He was probably the most laid back of the group. He went with the flow like water over a dam. Whichever way the wind blew, he could float along with it like the white fluff from a dandelion.

He’d only lost his temper a few times in life and those times, he’d learned his lessons.

Physical violence never sat well with him unless he was wrestling with his brothers as a kid and even then he’d done it the least. He was more a lover than a hater.

It wasn’t worth losing his temper in the past and it was not now. Too much on the line.

He’d taken his suit jacket off when he got in his car and hung it up. He really didn’t even need to have it on today but got into the habit of dressing more when he was going to meetings like this. It’s not like he had a tie on, just a light gray shirt, almost white, his jacket and charcoal gray pants.

He decided to leave the jacket there for now; he’d be going home soon anyway. He should have just gone home after the meeting, but he had too much to do and had wanted to take a few of the men to dinner after. Which was why he was back at eight rather than six like most thought he’d be.

The two-hour drive from Charlotte allowed his mind time to work out a few kinks in his blueprints once the clients made changes and suggestions. Overall, the city was pleased with everything. And since it was a multi-year contract to repave roads, fix some bridges, and hopefully work on the water drainage if everything stayed in budget, he’d considered it a big win to get this contract. One he’d spent a lot of hours on. Hours of work and schmoozing officials. Come to find out, one of the officials knew his father, went to school with him back in Charlotte and reached out.

He snorted now, thinking he’d scored that big win, only to have his father and uncle laugh at him and say, “We like you kids to think those things, but they reached out to us first.”

That was his father and Uncle Grant, always busting on everyone’s ass. In a good way though. As family, they were stuck like glue.

He walked into the lobby of the four-story building his father and uncle owned, went to the elevator and punched the fourth floor where his office was located. Three fourths of the staff were on the fourth floor, the rest on the third with storage and conference rooms, the kitchens, and other miscellaneous rooms. The first two floors were renters.

When he got to the fourth floor, the lights were on, the cleaning people doing their thing, but most staff were gone. He would be soon, but wanted to finish up something first.

As he passed by the finance department on his way to his office at the other end of the hall, he saw a light on and popped his head in. Just as he expected, there was Kara Winslow working away at her desk. Probably planning spreadsheets full of meetings that she’d want him to attend first thing in the morning. “Late night?” he asked.

Her head shifted up fast, her dark eyes focusing on him behind her glasses. She didn’t always wear them, sometimes she had contacts in, he assumed. Her long brown hair was pulled back like it always was. Now that he thought of it, he didn’t think he’d ever seen it down.

Why he was even thinking that was beyond him. He tried not to think of her too much because, whenever he did, he’d grind his teeth.

She was always nice to him. Always friendly in a businesslike sort of way. It’s just she was so straight and narrow when he was so…not.

In her eyes it was black and white. One plus one always equaled two and she wasn’t happy if he went one penny over a budget she imposed on him. His last name was Fierce. Hers wasn’t. If he wanted to go over budget to land clients, no one could tell him no.

Well, his father and uncle could, but that was it. Not Kara, Financial Analyst—or whatever her title was—or not.

“I thought you were gone for the day,” she said. “You left at noon.”

He didn’t realize she kept such close tabs on him. Of course it was probably because she knew he was meeting with clients today and didn’t want him to exceed her budget. Too damn bad. He probably did. Not that he looked at her budgets half the time.

“I had a meeting at two thirty, then took a few guys out to dinner. I just got back into town and need to finish a few things up, then I’ll be out of here. Are you the only one here?”

“I’m sure,” she said.

There was a hint of sarcasm to her answer and he wanted to laugh. Most of the staff left at five each day. Some left at four. His father and uncle were flexible with hours if the work was done. Those that left early were normally here by seven or earlier in the morning. Not that he showed up that early, probably because he tended to work later.

His father and uncle were the ones here first thing. He, his sister Jade, and cousin Ryder tended to come around eight.

Kara was always here before him, and he wouldn’t put it past her to get here first and leave last.

“Not everyone puts as much time into their job as you and I.”

“Nope,” she said. “Was there something you wanted? I’m just finishing up now.”

“No,” he said, smiling just to annoy her. He knew a dismissal when he got one. “I saw the light on and didn’t know if it was just the cleaning people or not.”

“They will be done by eight thirty, so I try to leave before them.”

So there was a limit to how long she worked. That is, if she didn’t bring work home with her, which he suspected she did because she’d send him meeting requests over the weekend all the time.

“I’ll be out by then too,” he said, looking at his watch. Twenty minutes now. Guess he should have just gone home. “See you tomorrow.”

He turned to leave when Kara called his name. “Do you have your receipts for today?”

He rolled his eyes. “They are in my car. I’ll give them to you tomorrow.”

She laughed. “Okay.”

He walked back to his office knowing that laugh. The one that said she didn’t believe him. She had every right to think that too since he purposely wouldn’t give them to her now.

 

***

 

Kara watched Drake swagger out the door of her office and let out a breath she didn’t even know she was holding until she heard the gush of air.

Why did he have to get her so worked up all the time?

She swore he did on purpose. That he didn’t bring his receipts in and wanted her to chase him around for them. He probably found it some sort of game.

She didn’t chase anyone though. No man, that was for sure.

Men—she didn’t need them in her life. She didn’t need anyone and she was darn happy to be going home alone tonight.

Alone every night to the apartment she shared with her cat that didn’t mind she wasn’t there often.

She’d never thought she’d have a cat, but she’d found the kitten in the back of the apartment complex that she lived in and couldn’t let it starve. Couldn’t let it die. She’d fed it a few times, hoping it would get its strength or find a home.

It found a home, all right. With her.

That kitten was a fighter, just like her. They shared that trait and she felt a bond with the pet she never thought she’d own.

Tyson was strong with a soft meow that he only graced her with every time he saw her. He’d even slipped into the door one night and got into the building. She’d caved when she never thought she was someone to cave for anything and adopted the pet.

Speaking of caving, it was time to leave before Drake so she wouldn’t run into him again. She tried to limit their communication as much as possible. Heck, she thought it was him avoiding her more, which didn’t explain why he stopped into her office tonight.

Either way, she put her computer to sleep, grabbed her purse and walked to the door, then shut the light, and put Drake out of her mind as best as she could.

Too bad no matter how much she tried, he always found a way back in.

Fierce-Drake…Prologue

Drake(1)

Prologue

 

“It’s going to be great,” Drake said to Tami when he went to pull open the door to walk into Fierce on a Friday night in late May.

He and Tami had graduated from Duke just last week. It was the only college he’d planned on attending since his father and uncle went there for their engineering degrees…just like he got.

Next week he was starting at the family-owned firm and wanted to spend some time having fun with his girlfriend first. In his eyes, that meant going to Charlotte to catch some concerts and chill out. Tonight he was having a few drinks at his oldest uncle’s bar.

“Whatever you want to do,” Tami said, looking off into the distance. That was her lately. Distant. He had no clue what her problem was and every time he asked her, she said it was nothing.

He pulled her aside before they entered. “You’ve had very little input on this trip. It’s just a long weekend until we both start our new jobs.”

“You are starting your new job. I’m still waiting tables trying to get a job,” she said, her tone more sarcastic than normal. That had been happening a lot lately too. It was almost like she was pissed off that he didn’t have to bust his ass to find a job like so many other people.

What most didn’t realize was that he had to work twice as hard to prove he was worthy of the family business. His family didn’t give anyone a handout regardless of what many thought.

His father, Garrett, and his dad’s twin brother, Grant, worked hard to get scholarships into Duke years ago while their older brother, Gavin, paid as much of the difference as he could. They’d lost their father when they were young, but they remained solid as a family.

That’s what his family was…solid. And he was going to damn well prove that he had what it took to represent what they worked so hard to build.

“You’ll find something soon. You know it,” Drake said, always positive. Always cheerful. Laid back even. It was often said he was the most chill of the family and not much got under his skin.

Considering how big his family was, he’d had plenty of time to learn patience.

“Whatever,” Tami said. “I just want to drink tonight. I don’t know why we couldn’t get a hotel instead of staying with your cousin Brody.”

“Brody works until midnight tonight and then two tomorrow. He won’t even be around much. What’s the big deal?” Drake asked. He got along with his cousins and Brody was the only one who didn’t go to college, opting to work alongside his father in the bar.

At just twenty-one, Brody was the first of the family to get his own place. A two-bedroom apartment less than a mile from the bar.

“A hotel would be more fun. We could have gotten room service or eaten out every meal. Now it’s like you think I’m going to cook for you.”

“What’s going on with you?” Drake asked. “I never said anything about you cooking for me. You haven’t done that once.”

“You said you didn’t want to waste money on a hotel. I just assumed,” she said crossing her arms.

That was her again. Assuming things for no reason. They’d been dating over a year and he had no clue what the hell was going on with her.

“Why spend money on a hotel when I’ve got family here in town I can stay with? It gives us more money to do things.”

Not that Tami ever spent one dime of her money on anything. It didn’t bother him much in the beginning. But now after almost a year, it was getting on his nerves she never offered to pay for anything.

Just because his family had money and he was starting a job next week that would pay damn good for a twenty-two-year-old didn’t mean he was throwing his cash away on stupid shit.

“You never spend your money on anything unless it’s what you want.” He held her stare, waiting for her to say something else. Like how he pretty much gave her everything she ever asked for and now he was wondering why that was. Why he’d been seeing a future life with her when she was copping an attitude he hadn’t seen before. “Forget it,” she said, putting a smile on her face and moving in to kiss his cheek. “I’m sorry. I guess I’m feeling sorry for myself that I haven’t found a job yet when so many of our friends had positions lined up before they even graduated.”

That was more like it in his eyes. A reason for her behavior. “You’ll find something. Don’t worry.”

He walked back to the door and pulled it open, saw the place was packed but pushed their way to the back where Brody nodded them over to two chairs he’d pulled from the side and now moved to the bar. “I saved these just for you. Thought you would have been here before now,” Brody said.

“We got a late start out of Durham,” Drake said. Tami couldn’t make up her mind on what she wanted to pack. Rather than getting annoyed because he was used to her doing that, Drake had sat in the apartment she shared with two of their classmates for over an hour just flipping through channels on the TV.

“You’re here now. What can I get you to drink?” Brody asked, moving back behind the bar.

“White wine for me,” Tami said. “Whatever is good.” She had a thing for wine when they went out. Never beer, never a mixed drink. Just wine. Not many college students only drank wine. And not wine coolers either.

“I’ll take a Sam Adams,” Drake said.

“Drake, it’s so good to see you again,” his Uncle Gavin said, approaching them. “Not that we didn’t just see you at graduation last weekend. You and Noah made my heart proud watching you walk down that stage with Bryce. Who would have thought four more of the family would have graduated from Duke already?”

“It’s where I always knew I’d be,” Drake said. His cousins Ella and Cade were students now and his cousin Sam graduated two years ago, but the rest of the family went elsewhere.

“Try to stay out of trouble while you’re in town. You know your Aunt Jolene would like to see you before you leave. She’s off tonight.”

“I’ll make sure we stop over tomorrow,” he said.

“See that you do,” his uncle said, then laid down two menus for them to look over.

A few hours later Drake was having a good time at the bar. Music was playing, the place was crowded. Tami was on her third wine while he was nursing his second beer. She’d been quietly looking around at people. She did that a lot. People watched.

He got up to go to the bathroom and when he returned Tami was smiling big and chatting it up with some guy. Someone he’d caught her looking at earlier.

“Who’s this?” he asked, coming back over and putting his arm around her shoulder, pulling her close.

Tami stiffened under his arm and moved it off of her. Whenever she had more than two glasses of wine she acted differently and he could never figure out what character would appear. Sometimes overly friendly, sometimes cold, other times flirty. Tonight looked like a combination of cold with him and flirty…with someone else.

“Ryan,” the guy said. “And who are you?”

“Tami’s boyfriend. So if you want to move on with your night,” Drake said. Even though he was standing he could tell he would tower over the guy that was making moves on his girl. At six foot four, Drake was the tallest of all his siblings and cousins. The same height as his father.

“She seems to think otherwise,” Ryan said, standing up. He was a little wobbly on his feet and gave Drake a shove for good measure.

Yeah, all that calm everyone said he had, that was out the window when he threw a punch and knocked the guy back into the bar. Brody pretty much jumped over the bar and wrapped him up from behind; his uncle grabbed the other guy and moved him to the back.

“What the hell is wrong with you?” Brody said in his ear.

“You can let me go. I’m not going to fight you.” It was a bit mortifying that his younger cousin by almost two years, who was a few inches shorter, was much stronger. Then again, Brody had more muscle than them all.

“Damn straight you’re not. Go cool down in the back too.”

“That asshole is back there,” Drake said, knowing he wasn’t going anywhere near the man. “And what is wrong with you, Tami?”

She was grinning at him, her nails trailing down his arm. “Wow, Drake. I didn’t know you had it in you for that. I can’t wait to get back to Brody’s place now.”

Brody snorted next to him and whispered in his ear. “Dude. That’s wrong and not what I’d expect of someone dating you.”

Drake shook his head and took a step away from Brody. His cousin was right. “Tami, get your purse and let’s go.”

Only he was sleeping on Brody’s couch and they’d be leaving in the morning. His family had tried to warn him about her but he didn’t listen. He wouldn’t make that mistake again.