No More Hiding…Prologue

Prologue

“Don’t torture yourself by watching this. We know how it’s going to end.”

She turned to look at her grandfather in his living room in Chicago. She’d been staying with them for the summer months while investigations were going on in Los Angeles preparing for this trial. Best to get out of the spotlight, where she hated to be to begin with.

“I have to know the verdict,” she said. 

“You know what it’s going to be,” her grandmother said. “We all know. There is way too much evidence.”

She was aware of that, but her sixteen-year-old mind couldn’t process that her life had changed forever only six months ago. That the life she knew had all been a sham and there would be no going back. 

Not now.

Not ever.

“I need to see it for myself. Mom doesn’t think it’s true. She thinks it’s all a lie.”

The camera zoomed in on her mother in the courtroom, a used-up tissue in her hand, Christian Dior sunglasses on her face. No, Amelia Carmichael would never believe her husband could do something like this.

“Your mother has been naive since the day she spoke her first word,” her grandmother said. “She’s always had her head in the clouds and you know it.”

She didn’t think she was anything like either of her parents. She wasn’t flighty and naive like her mother. She wasn’t a bullshitter and cutthroat like her father.

She just…was. 

It was probably best she was with her grandparents now and would fight to stay if she could. Chicago was still a big city and she’d fit in, but with any luck no one would know who she was.

“I don’t understand how she couldn’t see what is right there,” she argued. “I know everyone is shielding me from it, but it’s not possible.”

There was no way she could avoid it. When her father was arrested around the first of the year and charged, he’d been released shortly after on bond, but once he tried to leave the country, he’d been locked up and the trial pushed forward.

It was difficult to go to school daily at the all-girls academy she attended. Everyone knew what was going on and plenty had no problem voicing their opinions.

She’d left the school shortly after and was home-schooled for the remainder of the year.

All those friends she had, they left her in a heartbeat. Just like her parents were trying to do when they were going to flee the country.

No, her mother wasn’t going with her father when he was caught. Or so she said. But she wouldn’t have been surprised if her mother ditched her soon after for them to escape together, leaving her anyway.

Those tears at night in her mother’s room, where she talked to herself and the words carried through the walls…yeah, she knew her mother planned on meeting up with her father again.

Her grandparents had been her rock, swooping in and pulling her back to their home. Her mother never fought it and she didn’t think her mother would if she asked to stay here permanently.

“There is no shielding her with it being such a high-profile case,” her grandfather said, shaking his head. 

“They are coming in now,” her grandmother said.

The three of them held their breath as the judge was reading the verdict.

All she heard was the word “guilty” and she picked up the remote and shut it off. There were multiple counts against her father, but she knew enough. He’d be found guilty of them all. There was no way he couldn’t be.

She looked at her grandparents, the tears all dried up months ago.

“What am I going to do?” she asked.

“You’re staying with us. Your mother won’t fight it,” her grandfather said. “You know that.”

“Thank you,” she said.

“We can get you a new identity if you really want it?” Her grandfather looked at her grandmother. She’d brought it up before in passing. “We’ve talked to a few lawyers. Changing your name will help you move forward and you can start a fresh life here.”

She nodded her head yes. She wasn’t Alexa Violet Carmichael anymore. Today had to be the last day.

“I want to be Vivian Getman,” she said.

Her grandmother had always told her she looked exactly like her great-grandmother, Vivian, and she’d loved the name. Why not? Getman was her grandmother’s maiden name. It was a change but not something pulled out of the sky for her to try to remember either.

“Then that is who you’ll be,” her grandmother said, standing up and pulling her in for a hug. “And we’ll start calling you by that now. It’s a new life starting today, Vivian. Make the most of it.”

No More Hiding

Vivian Getman is not the person she used to be. With her father in jail and the death of her mother, her grandparents helped her recreate herself and start over. Thirteen years later she is all alone in the world and moves to a small development called Paradise Place, in Upstate New York, across the country from where her life began. She is ready to live for today and hope for tomorrow until the threat of her secret gets in the way.

Brent Elliot is exactly who he says he is. A grouchy hermit that is anti-social. The death of his twin sister as a teen, then his best friend in the line of duty a year ago, sends him into isolation in a town in Upstate New York. When he meets Vivian Getman he is torn between the love he has for her and the secrets he thinks she carries. Crossing the line to find out those secrets just might mean the end of what he’d thought he’d never have.

A Romantic For Rose…Chapter One

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If you haven’t read the PROLOGUE catch up here

Chapter One

She Was Feisty 

Seven Years Later

Thomas had just been told to walk to the backroom of the Blossoms storefront. That all three sisters were there. He’d been looking for Lily, but it was best to get them all together. More so, he’d get to see Rose.

Rose Bloom was a tough nut to crack. Something he’d been trying to do for years with little to no success. Whenever he crossed paths with her she was always polite but never warm. Never rude, but not friendly either. Or overly friendly.

If he’d been secretly hoping to ask her out for years, he didn’t tell a soul. It’s not that he hadn’t dated in all that time. He had. But they weren’t Rose. Or maybe his mind just kept going back to Rose so much that he couldn’t give anyone else a chance.

Her light brown hair was pulled back now like it always seemed to be. She had tan pants on and a blue shirt. She was never as feminine as her sisters in her attire, but she wasn’t boyish either. 

Poppy was doing some version of a dance in place and he felt his lips start to tug. “Talk about a great day for the Bloom sisters,” Poppy said.

“It is,” Lily said, then turned her head to see him standing there.

“What are you doing here, Thomas?” Rose asked before he could even say hi.

“Don’t be nasty,” Poppy said. “I know you’re not here for the new contract, Thomas. Lily just told us. It has to do with Taylor, doesn’t it?”

He held back his sigh over the words out of Rose’s mouth. He hadn’t thought she was purposely being nasty to him as much as Rose must have sensed the reason for his visit.

Not long ago the girls’ long lost father who had abandoned them reached out saying his other daughter from another woman was dying from cancer. The guy wanted money from the Bloom sisters. Thomas knew it right away and was going to do his best to protect them.

It might not be exactly what he was hired for as their attorney, but he felt he had to do it personally for the three girls who’d had a rough start in their life.

It wasn’t the first time either that he’d stepped up and gone above and beyond for them. Last year Mary Blossoms, Carl’s sister that no one knew existed, did the same thing. She came looking to start trouble and try to blackmail Lily in regards to her marriage to Carl. He wasn’t going to let that happen and not only dug up any dirt he could on Mary, but he’d also subtly threatened her with a countersuit of defamation. The older woman left town fast, but he’d kept that little bit to himself.

One thing he learned about the Bloom sisters was they only had each other. When he’d come back to work with his father, Carl had passed away, leaving the three sisters alone again. They were adults, but they were still alone in his eyes. His father had filled him in on the history of the situation and the will. And that the will to leave everything to the girl’s mother, Holly Bloom, had been in place before Holly had died.

It seemed to him Carl might have been the only family they’d had. And that meant knowing Logan Price was back in town trying to take advantage of Rose—no, the Bloom sisters—then he was going to put a stop to it.

If he’d thought the marriage between Carl and Lily was odd, it wasn’t his place to judge.

His parents didn’t have the best marriage. He’d witnessed it for years and listened to it long after it’d ended when his mother bitched about his father nonstop. He was in middle school and would have preferred to stay in Mystic and not move to Greenwich where his mother’s family was from.

He didn’t have a choice. His father wasn’t the best husband or father at times. He was detached and Thomas knew that, but he would have still preferred to live here.

He was looking at the three girls now. “New contract?” he asked to them all.

“I’ll fill you in later,” Lily said. “But does your visit have to do with Taylor?”

“It does,” Thomas said. “Can we go to your office to talk? Jasmine sent me back here. Sorry I didn’t call ahead of time, but I was in the area and took a chance at stopping in.”

It was a white lie. He wasn’t in the area until he hopped in his car and drove over. News like this, he wanted to deliver in person. Not just to see Rose again, but to see how she’d react. These girls had been through enough in his eyes.

“I’ve got work to do,” Rose said and went to turn. So much for seeing Rose, he thought, but Lily grabbed her younger sister’s arm. 

“No, Rose. You’re going to hear this,” Lily said.

He’d never seen Lily use that tone and he could see Rose was pissed.

He wanted to try to smooth things over if he could. “I won’t take up too much of your time,” Thomas said, his eyes never leaving Rose. His voice was softer too. He figured Rose knew he was always trying to extend himself more around her and though she’d never tried to get away or brush him off, she didn’t move forward either.

Rose nodded at him after she’d held his stare and the four of them went to Lily’s office.

“Tell us what you found out,” Poppy said.

“First off, Logan Price does appear to be your father short of the DNA test. All my checking verified a lot of what he said, timelines and so on. There doesn’t seem to be any other Logan Prices in Vermont around his age.”

“He’s not our father,” Rose said firmly. “He’s just the man who shot sperm into our mother.”

“Rose,” Lily said. “That’s crude even for you.”

“It’s the truth,” Rose said, crossing her arms.

Damn, she was feisty. And hot. Well, she was always hot to him, but like this, he just wanted to yank her in and plant his mouth on hers. He couldn’t keep the grin from his face. “Taylor, on the other hand, doesn’t appear to be your half-sister. I’m not sure Logan even knew her twenty years ago.”

“Really?” Poppy asked.

“Yes. Taylor Michaels, age twenty, was born in Harrisburg, Virginia, to Patricia Michaels. The father listed on the birth certificate is Anthony Michaels and he’s in jail for armed robbery. He’s been there about five years. Patty and Taylor didn’t move to Vermont until about two years ago.”

He wasn’t going to come back to these girls until he had answers. He wasn’t surprised with the answers he found and hated to deliver the news, but someone had to and he’d rather it be him.

“Great. Lies on top of lies. That is what we come from,” Poppy said.

“We don’t come from that,” Lily said. “Continue, Thomas. I’m almost afraid to hear the rest, but I’m sure I know where this is going.”

This was the part that chapped his skin raw and made him thankful he was a lawyer on the right side. “Taylor isn’t dying of cancer. As far as I can tell, she isn’t even sick.”

“What?” Poppy asked. “We saw her.”

“We saw what they wanted us to see,” Lily said.

“I told you not to go,” Rose said. “You never listen to me.” He wanted to wink at Rose but knew she might not appreciate it so held it back. As always, she was saying the least of the three when he was around.

“How were you able to get medical records?” Lily asked, ignoring Rose.

“I didn’t. I couldn’t get that. But I was able to make some calls and if you call enough and get the right person they give you information innocently. Logan’s biggest mistake was giving you so much information that you could check into it. Not one oncology office in Vermont has a Taylor Michaels as a patient. I called as an attorney to the billing department that she incurred so much debt at and said we’d like to settle and they had no record of anything.”

“Shit,” Poppy said. “So it was a scam?”

“Seems it. Patty works for a bank. Their donation campaign is going into an account there labeled for Taylor Michaels Donations and Medical Expenses. Which of course works against them,” he said.

“How is that?” Poppy asked.

“You can’t defraud the public to solicit donations. There are a few things we can do. If we let the site know what we found, they will shut the campaign down.” To him that was the easy way, but he had to give them all the options.

“Do it,” Rose said.

“Agreed,” both Poppy and Lily said.

“The other thing you can do is turn this information over to the Vermont State Police. They will investigate and press charges. It will be out of your hands. They will contact the site to keep it tidy.”

“Do it,” Rose said again. “Dear old Dad can go to jail as far as I’m concerned.”

“Yes,” Poppy said, looking at Lily.

Before Lily could say anything else, Rose said, “It’s two to one. Majority rules. That is how we operate.” Rose stood up and walked out of the room. She lasted in his presence longer than he figured she might. He turned his head to watch her go. He’d love to follow after her and see if she was okay, but he couldn’t. She’d probably bite his head off on top of it for doing it in front of her sisters.

Lily sighed. “I’m sorry for Rose’s behavior. She is struggling with this.”

“No reason to apologize,” he said. It was exactly what he figured. He’d known all along Rose wanted no part of Logan being in town. He’d gotten to know the sisters fairly well over the past few years when he took over the practice after his father semi-retired. Lily was practical. Poppy was emotional. Rose was withdrawn. “I didn’t want to tell you this over the phone.”

“I’m glad you didn’t,” Poppy said.

“I agree with my sisters though. I can’t believe this is the second time in a year someone is trying to scam us out of money,” Lily said.

“The price of success,” he said.

“I know,” Poppy said. She started to sniffle.

“Thank you, Thomas,” Lily said. “You always seem to go above and beyond for us and I appreciate it. I’ll be in touch tomorrow if you’re around to talk about the new contracts we got.”

 “I’m always around,” he said. 

He left after that and went back to his office. He would have liked to say goodbye to Rose. Or at least see how she was doing, but she was nowhere to be found.

He finished up work, figured he’d go home and spend an exciting night looking for something to cook and doing his laundry.

Which reminded him he ran out of laundry pods and that was why it was building up so much.

He swung by the drugstore on the way home and was turning out of the aisle with the detergent in his hands when he noticed Rose standing in the women’s aisle. Oh crap. He wanted to talk to her, but would she be embarrassed?

Before he could turn around, she lifted her head, saw him and laughed when he felt the heat fill his face. “You don’t have to pretend you don’t see me here because of what is in my hands.”

Always upfront and to the point. “How are you doing?” he asked, moving forward. “I know today wasn’t the best day.”

“Actually, it was,” she said.

“How is that?”

“We got a lucrative contract that Lily will tell you about. One that I worked on and got for us. Or it’s my first big major contract. The news of Logan didn’t surprise me. I knew it all along. So all he did was sprinkle on my parade. The sun is out and he can go rot for all I care.”

Thomas grinned. “I’m glad,” he said. “And congrats. How about a celebration dinner then? On me?”

Her smile dropped and she stared at him. Here he’d been waiting for his chance and he threw it out there like a rotten fish in a bakery and now the whole store full of items had to be replaced.

“I suppose I should,” she said. “Then I can apologize for my behavior.”

“Geez, don’t sound so excited over it.”

Her grin was back in place. “See, that made me happy that I said yes.”

“What’s that?” he asked. He wanted to take note of it so he knew for future reference.

“That you can be sarcastic like me. That you aren’t always this nice guy.”

“Trust me, I’m not always nice.”

“I’m not so sure about that,” she said. “But at least I know you’ve got some sarcasm in your little toe.”

“And I think you’ve got some niceness in your little toe,” he said.

“Again, straight shooter too. Another thing I like.”

Now they were finally getting somewhere. He probably shouldn’t have been holding back for years, but there wasn’t much he could do about it now.

“Do you need to go home first or anything?” His eyes drifted back to the box of tampons in her hand.

She grinned. “Nope. These are for the office. Lots of women working there, you know, and someone was complaining that someone else took the last one.”

“Okay then,” he said. “Maybe more information than I needed to know.”

“Men,” she said. It really did seem to him she was in a much better place than she was when she stalked out of the backroom today. “Do you need to go home first and wash some clothes? Maybe change out of your suit. Bet it’s hot in that thing.”

“It is,” he said. “How about give me thirty minutes and we can meet somewhere if you want. I’d offer to pick you up, but I’m sure you’re going to say no.”

She smirked at him. “We can meet.”

“You pick,” he said. “As long as I’m not cooking, I don’t care where the food comes from.”

“Imagine that,” she said. “You took the words right out of my mouth.”

They decided on a restaurant on the water. Both of them paying for their things and then leaving. He had enough time to run home and put on jeans and a shirt, maybe shorts. She was putting shorts on, he was positive. They weren’t going anywhere fancy.

He drove faster than normal, was undressing as he was walking through the house and dropping clothes as he went in his rush. He wanted a fast shower and needed to get a move on to not be late.

Ten minutes later he was rushing back out the door and driving to the restaurant, pulling in the same time as Rose.

And just as he thought, she had on jean shorts and flip flops and he was all but drooling over her long thin legs that he hadn’t seen before. Damn it, he needed to get some brain cells back in his head or this night was going to be a massive flop for someone that had been waiting for the opportunity for years.

A Romantic For Rose…Prologue

Prologue

“Are you sure that you’re good going alone?” 

Rose Bloom turned and gave her older sister the look that she’d perfected years ago. The one that said, “Don’t ask me again or I’m going to walk away.” 

Lily sighed and reached her hand toward Rose, but Rose stepped back. “I know you mean well, Lily,” she said. “But this is my line. Tom knows I’m coming. You told him everything. He’s going to talk to me and we are going to add it to the business and draw everything up. You went through this with Poppy.”

Lily had started selling candles and soaps years ago at craft fairs after she’d married Carl Blossoms, their boss. Their mother’s boss too. But their mother died suddenly, leaving the three girls orphans. Lily being eighteen stepped up to be the mother she was most times in their life and ended up marrying Carl, a man old enough to be their father.

It was an odd marriage Rose never understood. She tried not to question Lily’s motives either seven years ago. And when Carl passed away a few months ago, though she never really believed her sister had a traditional marriage, the three girls were all devastated.

Carl was about as close as a man had ever gotten to being a father to her in the past several years when they’d lived under his roof. He didn’t interfere too much, letting Lily care for and raise them. But at eighteen, sixteen and fifteen, the three girls had lived through more than most double their age.

“I had to go with Poppy though,” Lily said.

“Because you didn’t want her to mess it up. I’m not flighty like Poppy.”

The middle sister of the three of them, Poppy was known to be somewhat of an airhead and dramatic most times. They were used to her behavior and personality, but their lawyer, Tom Klein, normally only dealt with Lily personally. Or when Lily was with them.

But Rose was her own person. She didn’t need someone to hold her hand or guide her way. She knew what she wanted. The business that Lily started was thriving. It wasn’t just candles and soaps but lotions too. Poppy started her line of purses and accessories over a year ago and that was taking off.

Rose wanted something of her own. She’d known all along it’d be jewelry and now she just had to master her craft more. But having it in writing that she had her own line, she’d push herself more. It forced her to take that step and leave the area for a short period to get her specialized training.

“I know,” Lily said. “Call me if you need anything.”

“I’ll be fine. It’s not like I’m driving out of state. Just going ten minutes away. I’ll still be in Mystic. I could send up a flare and you’d see it.”

“And I’d come get you,” Lily said.

“I know. But you’re needed here. I’ll be back in an hour or less, I’m sure.”

Lily nodded her head. They were upstairs from the flower shop that Lily had inherited when Carl had passed. They’d lived here when their mother was alive, but when their business took off, they needed office space and Carl suggested they take the upstairs for storage and a place to work.

After a few years of hustling and getting massive wholesale orders, it was apparent that space wasn’t going to cut it and Lily took out a loan for a manufacturing plant. They weren’t utilizing nearly the space they had, but Lily had a vision and she was sure they’d grow into it. Already Poppy had an area there with two employees added to the other ten that ran the machines and packaged up the products.

“Okay,” Lily said. “Good luck.”

She rolled her eyes at her sister. Rose didn’t need luck. “I’ll be fine.”

She left and drove to Tom’s office. She’d been here before. There were two other attorneys that worked here and a few staff that she’d seen moving around when she’d been here. 

“Can I help you?” the woman at the front desk asked.

“Rose Bloom here to see Tom Klein.”

“Just take a seat and I’ll let him know you’re here.”

She moved to one of the chairs and sat. It wasn’t even two minutes before Tom came out to see her. He was probably around sixty or so she was guessing. She wasn’t good at ages and never really cared all that much.

“Rose,” Tom said. “Come on back to my office. It’s so good to see you. And I’m sorry about Carl.”

“Thanks,” she said. “You knew him longer than me.”

“I did,” Tom said. “I’ve been his lawyer since he opened his flower shop years and years ago. Probably before you were born.”

She smiled. “Yes.”

“Lily told me why you’re here. I must say, you girls are just thriving.”

“It’s Lily,” she said.

“Poppy has a line and now you want one,” Tom said. “I think it’s wonderful. Carl was very proud of you three girls.”

“That’s nice to hear.” 

She’d never had anyone tell her that before in her life. If Carl said it to Lily, it was never shared and Lily would have shared that, she was sure.

“Why don’t you tell me a little bit about what you are looking to do,” Tom said. “Jewelry, right?”

“Yes,” she said. The two of them talked for a few minutes. She knew none of this had to do with the legal documents but more with having a conversation. Tom did like to know everything he could, but he wasn’t warm and fuzzy with it. Not mean or businesslike either. Somewhere in the middle.

Rose would probably be considered rude by some. Short and to the point. There wasn’t a warm or fuzzy bone in her body, but she was definitely businesslike. She was polite too, at least during working hours.

With family and friends…she said it like it was or just left the room. Most were used to her being that way. She didn’t like to talk and didn’t feel like she needed to open her heart up to people. Why, when it hurt way too much? It was better to keep it locked up so she didn’t feel anything.

There was a knock at the door and as she turned to look, Tom said, “Thomas, come in and meet Rose Bloom. Rose, this is my son, Thomas. He decided to return to the area and work with me.”

She reached her hand out to the tall man that was older than her, but she’d be shocked if he was thirty yet. No way. 

“Nice to meet you,” Thomas said. “And sorry to interrupt, but can I steal you away for one minute, Dad? I’ve got Judge Williams on the phone.”

“Of course,” Tom said, standing up. “I’ll be right back, Rose.”

She nodded and pulled her phone out. Just like she figured, there was a text from Lily asking how she was doing. She wasn’t going to answer it. There was no reason to.

A minute turned to two and then Tom returned. “I’m sorry about that. I’m thrilled my son is back where I think he belongs. I’m sure you’ll see more of him. It was always my hope he’d take over the practice.”

“But he wasn’t working around here before?”

“No,” Tom said. “He was in California where he went to college. He’s been practicing there about four years, but I’m glad he’s back.”

Four years. So that would put him about six years older than her, making him around twenty-eight. “Then I’m sure we’ll cross paths again,” she said.

“Definitely. Now let’s get down to business.”

She was walking into Lily’s office thirty minutes later. “Well?” Lily asked. “How did it go?”

“Fine,” she said. “We talked for a few minutes. His son interrupted us and then we got back to work. He said he’d get you the papers in a week for us all to sign.”

“Great,” Lily said. “I didn’t know he had a son. I like Tom and all, but he never talks about anything personal. Of course I never did much either.”

Poppy was the only one that was an open book between the three of them.

“His name is Thomas. Very original,” she said, grinning. “Tom said he’s been in California practicing for four years. I peg him at late twenties. Tom said he was hoping Thomas would take over the practice when he retires.”

“I hope he doesn’t retire soon. Geez,” Lily said.

“If he does then he does. There are other lawyers out there. And now his son.”

“What was he like?” Lily said. “Tom is so professional and businesslike.”

“I only saw the guy for a minute when he popped his head in. He had a shirt and tie on if that helps any.” 

She wasn’t about to tell her sister that Thomas had brown hair nice and trim. That he looked to be at least six feet with a sweet body to match. His clothes were fitted well to his body showing that he might have some muscle hidden there and his handshake was firm. Like he wasn’t going to go light because she was a woman.

Nor did her sister need to know that Thomas had a nice smile. A warm one. Something that she never got from Tom. Not that their current attorney needed to smile at her, but Thomas did. And it made her heart skip a beat and take notice of the man.

“I’m sure it’s fine,” Lily said. “Poppy is in the other room and I want to take you two out to dinner before we go home. We should celebrate.”

The three of them still lived in the house that Carl left to Lily. Poppy had graduated college last year and though they were all getting a decent paycheck for their work with the business, they tended to be frugal.

Not to mention with Carl’s passing not that long ago, she and Poppy didn’t want to leave Lily alone just yet.

“There isn’t anything to celebrate,” Rose said. “The paperwork isn’t done yet and it’s not like I’m ready to produce much. Just the few pieces I’ve been making and nothing that I want to put online yet. I’ll be gone about eight months to train and then I’ll be ready to roll.”

She’d had a few pieces listed. Sterling silver pieces with dried flowers under glass for earrings and necklaces, a few rings. But she was ready to start designing more. More than the few pieces in her collection in her room. She didn’t think she was quite ready yet no matter how much she wanted to run when she was still learning to crawl.

“But you’re getting there. You’ve got a talent and you will refine it when you’re training. We’re going to miss you, but you can come home at any time. Poppy says she’s going to go visit with you too. And there is a reason I want to celebrate. I have an idea.”

“I want to know the idea now,” Poppy yelled from the other room.

“She always did listen in on other people’s conversations,” Rose said.

“Get in here, Poppy,” Lily said.

Poppy was there in a flash. “What’s your idea?”

“I think we need a storefront. We’ve been using the flower shop for candles and lotions and putting some of Poppy’s things there, but people aren’t looking for that when they come in here.”

“No,” she said. “They aren’t going to look for rings in a flower shop either.”

“Exactly,” Lily said. “So I ran the numbers and think we should take the risk. The shop will be filled with our products. Lotions, soaps and candles, Poppy’s line and a line for you, Rose. You want to design unique pieces. People need to see them and try them on. You can still sell online, but a jeweler needs a jewelry store. You can have a section just for you.”

She’d been the least emotional of the three of them. The one that held it in even when Lily tried to get her to open up.

For once she felt her eyes fill up. “Really? You’d do that?”

Poppy moved over and hugged her and she wanted to wiggle out of her sister’s arms, but didn’t. Lily stood up and hugged her too. They didn’t do a group hug often but now seemed to call for it.

“We’ll always be there for each other,” Poppy said. And of course, Poppy was sniffling.

“Poppy is right. The business is in our three names. We’ve got our branches that we specialize in, but it’s one unit. Let’s go for it. What do you say?” Lily asked.

“I say yes. And I know you’re the business one of us though we all have a business degree, but we should each put cash in. Maybe the money Carl left us?”

Lily was left the most. The house, the flower shop, a decent life insurance policy. But Poppy and Rose each had a life insurance policy of fifty thousand left to them. They’d had no clue and when the cash was deposited in her account she’d felt rich beyond means.

“That is your money,” Lily said. “I figured you’d want to pay off your student loans.”

“I can do that easily enough,” Rose said. “None of us have that much. Maybe if we each put twenty-five thousand in? Unless Poppy spent all her money.”

“I didn’t,” Poppy said. “I haven’t decided what to do yet. But I think we should do it. It’d be less of a loan and feel more like ours individually. Or does that sound silly?”

“Not silly,” Rose said. “In an odd way I think Carl would love us doing this.”

“It’d make him feel like he was part of it too,” Lily said. “Then yes, we can do that if you want. Here’s to us expanding again.”

“To us,” she said. 

“Rose has a tear in her eye,” Poppy said. “Look at that. For once she is showing some emotion without us badgering her. Miracles can happen.”

She squirmed out of their arms and walked out of the room to their laughter. Damn it, how had she let that tear fall?

A Romantic For Rose

Rose Bloom is the baby of the Bloom sisters. The one that was the hardest to get a read on. The one that held it all in rather than burden her sisters. She has secrets she’d rather not share and they are in her past where they belong. If they’d jaded her opinion of men, well, she didn’t have much of a favorable one since her father skipped town when she was a baby. Then why is she wondering and waiting for their sexy attorney to finally make a move toward her? Or is she just going to have to bite the bullet and make it herself?

Thomas Klein spent too much of his life trying to be someone he wasn’t. Years of having his mother lecture him to not be like his father drove him to move across the country. But his father calls and asks him to take over the family firm and finds it’s what he’s been waiting for. The minute he meets Rose Bloom, he is intrigued. Yet it’s been seven years while he’s trying to get a read on her. Maybe it was time to just be himself and make that move. If she shoots him down, then he knows he can move on, but he’d still continue to protect her and her sisters like he’s been doing for years.

Family Bonds- Bode & Samantha…Prologue

Prologue

Bode Bond adjusted his tie one more time, then cursed his mother when he got out of his truck.

Her crazy harebrained idea to auction off the singles in this generation and try to pair people up. Worse yet, his brother Drew managed to sneak out of it by saying he was dating someone. He couldn’t get any information on her other than it was a tenant that gave Drew cookies during a house visit. He supposed it didn’t matter other than his brother outsmarted him and Bode got stuck with Coy going up for auction for a date.

He walked in the door, his mother noticing him right away. “Smile now,” Helena Bond said. “You look like you’re going to be up on the stand for murder.”

“I might be if I get stuck with some bimbo. Or maybe that will serve you right for doing this to your own flesh and blood.”

His mother smiled at him, adjusted his tie that he thought he’d fixed, but obviously not, then curled her finger for him to lean down. He did because, as much as she annoyed him, he did love her.

She kissed his cheek. “You’d never end up with a bimbo permanently though you attract them like stink on fish. But maybe you’ll get an exciting night out of it and loosen your tight ass up.” His jaw dropped. She’d never talked to him like that before. She patted his cheek, then said, “Go relax and have a good night. It’s for charity.”

 He stopped himself from storming off like he wanted to, found his table with his brother Coy already there with Hunter and Hailey Bond and Hunter’s fiancée, Kayla. “What are you smiling about?” he asked Coy.

“Just watching Mom get the best of you like she always does.”

“Jerk,” he said to his baby brother. “How come you don’t have a dress on tonight?”

“Talk about being a jerk,” Coy said, laughing. It was a running joke for a lot of reasons, but mainly because Drew and he managed to convince Coy to put a cousin’s dress on at a party when he was younger. “But you aren’t going to rile me up tonight. You want someone to take your frustration out on and it’s not going to be me. And here comes Drew with his date too. Damn. Don’t embarrass him.”

His other younger brother stopped in front of the table with a stunning blonde on his arm. “Boys, this is Amanda Moore. Amanda, my brothers Bode and Coy. You already know Hunter, Kayla, and Hailey.”

“She’s the cookie lady!” Bode said. “Dude, you’re an ass. You made me think she was a cougar.” There was laughter around the table over this. Now he knew what Hunter, Hailey, and Kayla were grinning about because they obviously knew who Drew’s date was.

“Cookie lady?” Amanda asked, shaking her head with a grin and taking a seat next to Kayla.

“You sent Drew home with cookies after that first meeting. I asked if you were a granny. Then when he said you were dating I asked if you were a cougar. He never corrected us.” His brother would pay for that too.

“As you can see, I’m not either. I’m the same age as Drew,” she said.

“And she should be called the cookie lady,” Hunter said. “She supplies Kayla and junior with sweets each week. She doesn’t send enough because Kayla isn’t good at sharing. And, Drew, I know you haven’t formally met my fiancée.”

Drew held his hand out and shook Kayla’s. “It’s nice to finally meet you, Kayla.”

“You too,” Kayla said. “I’m having a hard time keeping everyone’s names straight. So I will apologize upfront if I call you the wrong name. Though since you’re dating my best friend I don’t think that will be a problem.”

“No, she’ll just confuse Bode and me,” Coy said.

“Not likely,” Bode said. “We are nothing alike.” His baby brother never got his hands dirty a day in his life. He was as comfortable as could be in his suit. He probably wore one daily as a dentist rather than scrubs.

“Ignore my brothers,” Drew said. “They are still ticked I got out of this and they are stuck.”

“I’m stuck too,” Hailey said. “But it is what it is. I’m going to prove to you guys I can bring in more money.”

“Not if I don’t like who is bidding on you,” Hunter said.

“Whatever,” Hailey said. “Becoming a dad is making you think you can control things with me. It doesn’t work that way, Hunter.”

“Guess I’ll have to see who you end up with tonight then,” Hunter said.

Dinner had been served and they were just waiting for the dreaded auction. Amanda and Kayla excused themselves and while they were gone, over walked one of Drew’s exes. Or more like someone he dated once. Now Bode could get some entertainment for the night watching this.

“Drew, I haven’t heard from you in months. Your mother thought we’d be perfect together, but after that one date you never called me again.”

Yep, that was his mother. Always trying to set her boys up. It never worked out. He knew firsthand and if she tried it one more time he might disown her. He wouldn’t tell her that, but he’d want to. 

“Excuse me,” Amanda said. “I believe you’re in my seat.”

The woman stood up. He hadn’t even caught her name. “I’m sorry. And you are?”

“I’m Drew’s girlfriend, Amanda.”

The brunette squared her shoulders and stuck her bottom lip out. “I didn’t know that Drew was dating anyone. His mother never said a word when I saw her last month.” Bode started to grin and looked at Drew to see what the next move would be. This entertainment was worth what he was going to have to do on stage.

Amanda didn’t bother to say anything, just took her seat, proving Drew’s date had a lot of class. Bummer on the drama he was hoping to witness. “Thank you,” Drew said. “I didn’t want to be mean, but I knew she could put on a show. She wouldn’t with you saying something.”

“I was afraid you were going to end up in the gentleman’s lap behind you if you moved back anymore.”

He and Coy started to laugh. “Drew always was the nice guy between us. That’s why he tries to get out of being set up so much so he doesn’t have to deal with that crap anymore,” Bode said. 

“You’re the grouchy one in the family,” Hunter said to him.

“Just call me Oscar and I’ll go find my garbage can right now,” he said. Gladly, and anything to get out of this room.

He didn’t get that lucky though because the auction started and he was first. 

He grudgingly got on stage and stood there like a fool while his name was stated and what the opening bid would be. There were enough eyes on him that he started to sweat but resisted pulling the collar of his shirt away from his neck.

It wasn’t even a second before numbered cards were going up. All women. None that he wanted anything to do with. Nope, he shouldn’t be judging, but he was. He’d seen all those types in his life. They heard his name, they looked him over and they saw dollar signs and a way to try to reform him.

Fuck that. He was who he was and damn happy to be that way.

When a man’s hand went up on a bid he flushed, but thankfully the older gentleman was quick to say he needed something fixed in the house. Once he said that the man’s wife grabbed the card out of her husband’s hand and kept upping it until she won, saying, “I’d like whatever he wanted fixed to be completed. It will never get done any other way.”

There was a lot of laughter after that statement, and in the end, Bode figured he got the better end of the deal.

When Bode came back to the table he was actually relieved. “That wasn’t so bad,” he said.

“You didn’t think so when that redhead in the corner was bidding pretty heavily on you,” Coy said. “You started to sweat. I could see it from here.”

“Yeah. I’m glad that didn’t work out. Just wait your turn,” Bode said, then shut his trap until the bidding was done.

When the auction was finished, he found the woman that’d won him for the night. He was still hoping it was what she said and wasn’t something kinky he was getting sucked into. And of course that was just making him lose his mind considering there shouldn’t be anything dirty about the auction. His mother would smack him over that thought.

No, she wouldn’t. She made the stupid comment about him getting some excitement when he walked in and he was positive it was to wind him up. Damn her. She knew what buttons to push to get him nervous. He didn’t think she was that sneaky.

He reached the couple and stuck his hand out. “Hi, I’m Bode Bond. Though you’re aware of that.”

“I am,” the older woman said. “I’m Ella Cartwright and this is my husband, Dr. John Cartwright. We have a house on the island and some things need to be done and updated. I can’t get him to call anyone to come work on it so I bid on you to check it out.”

“So you don’t need any work done immediately?” he asked.

“Well, we’ve got a few leaks here and there, but I wouldn’t do that to you. It’s more that I’d like you to come and look things over and let us know what our options are, maybe some costs. What a contractor would do. I also know you are extremely busy so I’ll consider this faster than calling to get an appointment.”

He laughed. “That works.”

“I need the leak in the bathroom fixed,” John said. “Seriously. I can’t get a plumber out here and if I have to listen to my wife complain about the dripping one more night…”

Ella slapped her husband’s arm playfully. “That is what he was bidding on you for. We do have a leak and it is driving me insane. But while you’re there, if you could humor me on some other work?”

“I’d love to,” he said. Not only did he get out of a date with someone he had no interest in, it looked like he could be getting some business out of it too. He couldn’t wait to tell his mother how this all backfired on her. 

Family Bonds- Bode & Samantha

Bode Bond was the grouch of the family. The one that didn’t like people and had no problem telling them that when he’d had enough. Women wanting him for his name, money or an attempt at reforming him only pissed him off more. If he wanted what his parents had, he realized it would never happen because as many had said in the past, no one would put up with him. Until Sam…

Samantha Cartwright couldn’t seem to be the person her father wanted. She wasn’t the boy he’d been longing for and she didn’t follow him into medicine like her older sisters. When work stress gets the better of her and she ends up in the ER, everyone babies her more. Including her boyfriend, Bode. He was the last person she figured would be that way when she finally found someone that seemed to understand her. Maybe she was just wrong once again. It’s not like her life wasn’t imploding around her and she’d be damned if she’d take him down with her.

Fierce-Walker…Chapter One

If you haven’t checked out the PROLOGUE you can here.

Chapter One

Giving Me Fits 

“Come on, Kaylee,” Walker said to his thirteen-year-old daughter. “I’ve got a stop to make before the office and an early morning interview.”

“I’m coming,” Kaylee said, running down the stairs as she threw her purple backpack over her shoulder. She was wearing jean shorts that seemed a little too short for him, but they did cover her thighs halfway down. She had an aqua T-shirt on that just touched the waist of those shorts. She was covered if she stood still, but if she lifted her arms her belly would be exposed.

He was ready to send her back to her room to change when she stopped in front of him. “What’s on your face?”

“What?” she asked and moved toward the mirror in the hall to look. “Nothing.”

He moved to stand behind her and pointed to the pink on her cheek with one hand and the soft shimmer on her eyelid with the other.

His daughter frowned. “Mom said I could start to wear makeup.”

“Mom is only one of your parents.”

“But, Dad. All the other girls are.”

“I don’t care,” he said. He was going to have words with Tiffany over this. They shared custody of Kaylee and had since his daughter stopped breastfeeding while he was starting law school. He’d gone around the block more than once with his ex over her allowing things like this without talking to him first.

“Can I wear just a little bit? Please? You like to negotiate.”

His daughter always had his card, but he liked that she wasn’t a pushover either. He had to get over the fact she was growing up before his eyes, but he wasn’t ready to let her be older than what she was. The thought of buying her first sports bra was still traumatic to him. Thankfully she was more into them than anything lacy and pretty right now.

“No eyeshadow,” he said. “Blush and lip gloss.”

“Cool. Mom said no lipstick.”

He paused. “I should talk to your mother,” he said.

“No,” she said, quickly running into the hall bath. He watched her take some toilet paper and wipe her eyes. “Lip gloss is different. It’s like Chapstick now. Can we buy some?”

He let out a sigh. Kaylee would be with him for the next few days. She spent half her time with him and half with her mother. He found lately it was more with him and wasn’t sure the reason but would have to find out soon enough. Just not this morning.

“If I’ve got time after work we can run to the store. I’ve got the final say.”

“Thanks, Dad,” she said, hugging him. Just like he thought, her arms went up and so did her shirt.

 “Go change that shirt.”

“I thought the makeup would distract you from that.”

Like her mother at times, trying to play games. “I’m always paying attention. Shirt, now. Hurry up. We’re going to be late.”

Kaylee ran back to her room where she had more than enough clothes, but she did bring things back and forth all the time between both houses.

When she came back down in the same shirt he was ready to open his mouth, but she lifted her arms and he saw she had a tank top on under it in the same color tucked into the shorts. “I’m covered.”

He wanted to be annoyed but realized she’d make a damn fine lawyer someday if she wanted to be. She’d have a spot at the family firm if she did.

When they were finally in the car, Kaylee turned to him. “I like you in that suit.”

“Now you’re trying to butter me up.”

“Maybe,” Kaylee said. “But I do. It’s a nice color. More modern than your black and gray ones.”

“It’s because you picked it out and knew I didn’t want it,” he said. Somehow he’d let his daughter talk him into this dark blue suit that wasn’t navy but wasn’t a normal blue either. It was more muted but dark. With the white shirt and blue-and-brown-patterned tie and the brown shoes she’d made him buy too, he had to admit she had good taste.

“But you know you look good. Maybe now you can land a woman.”

His shoulders dropped. He dated on and off, but he never brought anyone home to meet Kaylee. Unlike his ex. Which made him wonder if that was the issue. “Why does it matter if I’m dating someone?”

“Because you’re always alone.”

“Not always and you know it,” he said. “You don’t need to meet everyone I go on a date with.”

“I know. But maybe I want to. They’ve got to be better than who Mom brings home.”

“What’s going on with Jason?” he asked.

Tiffany had been dating Jason for about six months now. He knew because even though Tiffany never mentioned a man in her life, Kaylee always did. 

“Mom said he wants to move in. I don’t want to be there if he does.”

He ground his teeth. “She didn’t tell me someone was going to move in.” That was part of their agreement of joint custody for years. He wanted to know those details or he’d go for full custody and he’d win. Hands down and she knew it.

He didn’t want to be an ass, but he’d been played enough by Tiffany in life and he didn’t want that influence on his daughter. But a daughter needed her mother at times too.

“He stays there now but doesn’t live there. I heard them talking last week about it. Jason wants her to talk to you. He’s pissed that he can’t just move in without you knowing.”

“I don’t give a shit if he’s pissed or not,” he said. “You’re my daughter.”

“I know. Mom said she wasn’t ready yet for Jason to move in. So maybe it’s just him being pushy. She never likes that. She’s libel to push him away soon.”

His ex had a habit of wanting her way and calling the shots. It didn’t work the way she planned with him and it never would. “You know I’m here to talk to if you need anything.”

“Thanks, Dad,” she said. He pulled into the parking lane to drop her off. She leaned over and kissed him and he was thankful she didn’t feel the pressure to distance herself from him like so many her age did. “You’re the best.”

“That’s only because you got your way this morning.”

“Half my way and half yours. Compromise. Have a good day. Remember, lip gloss tonight.”

“You won’t let me forget.”

He pulled out and went to Fierce Engineering to pick up some documents for work and then had to get to his office for the interview that was set up first thing by his assistant.

He made his way to the fourth floor. It was barely eight, but he knew Grant and Garrett would be in. They always started early like his father did.

The receptionist wasn’t at the front desk so he made his way to the wing where Grant and Garrett had their offices and saw the twins talking in Grant’s.

“Morning,” he said.

“Walker,” Grant said. “We were just talking about you.”

“All good I hope,” he said.

“Always,” Garrett said. “How is that sweet girl of yours?”

“Giving me fits like a typical teenage girl,” he said.

“Grant never had those headaches,” Garrett said. “He got lucky with all boys.”

“You love Jade,” Grant said. “She’s your baby and your little girl.”

He knew the Fierces well. He’d been friends with Bryce all through high school and college. The two of them roomed together for their last two years before he went to law school. He’d moved into an apartment for those two years.

“She is,” Garrett said. “And now she’s going to have a baby of her own in a few months. I can’t believe all my children will have children before the year is over.”

“Just like you, Grant,” Walker said. Sam and Bryce both had boys around one. Ryder, a ten-year-old and he’d heard Marissa was pregnant. He’d never thought he’d have a kid at twenty-three, but shit happens in life. He wouldn’t change a thing.

“Kids are the best part of our lives,” Grant said. “Here are the papers. We are sitting here talking your ear off and I’m sure you’ve got to get to work.”

“I’ve got an interview scheduled soon, so I should hit the road.”

“Good luck with it,” Grant said. “I’m glad to hand over that task to someone else now.”

“I wish I was so lucky,” he said, “but this is a person that will be working more with me, so I’d like to have somewhat of a say.”

He left a few minutes later and drove to his office fifteen minutes away, parked his Mercedes sedan and made his way to his office.

“You look nice today,” Amelia said. She was his assistant and had been since he started at his father’s firm. She was married with a few kids in high school and one in college.

“Thanks. Kaylee is taking credit for the suit.”

“She has good taste,” Nicole said, turning the corner toward her office. Nicole was one of the law clerks that worked with him the most. She was young and eager and flirting more than he cared for at work. He just kept it professional though.

“Compromise,” he said, remembering his daughter’s word. It was better to let his daughter pick out one suit for him and get her away from the clothes she wanted that he felt were too old for her.

Since Kaylee’s mother was so cheap, most of Kaylee’s purchases fell on his shoulders and gave him some of the control. The only time Kaylee got things he didn’t know about was when Tiffany was playing her games again.

“I’ll let you know when your first interview is here,” Amelia said.

Nicole was still standing there watching him with a big grin on her face. “First?” he asked. He’d seen his calendar blocked out for ninety minutes and didn’t realize there was more than one.

“Yes. There are two candidates that it was narrowed down to. One of these should be great. Either one,” Amelia said.

“Okay,” he said, turning and moving to his office. He heard Nicole sigh when he did that and pretended he didn’t.

At least he’d have a choice in the decision. Which was more than he felt he got other times in his life.

Fierce-Walker…Prologue

Prologue 

“I can’t believe you’re a mother,” Stella White said to her sister, Lindsey McNamara. Her sister had given birth to her daughter, Ava, a few days ago and was home resting in the new house they’d lived in for a few months.

“Neither can I,” Lindsey said. “Less than a year ago I didn’t even know who Mick was and now I’m married with a baby.” 

Her sister looked down at the baby in her arms drinking a bottle. The dark hair was more Mick than Lindsey’s blonde. 

“It all started with Carolyn too,” she said. Carolyn Fierce was a very close friend of their mother, Maggie. They all knew the story of how Carolyn set up her children with their spouses and their mother had a hand in it with their stepsister, Adriana, who was not only married to Wyatt Fierce but pregnant with their first child too.

At Wyatt’s wedding, Dr. Mick McNamara had caught Lindsey’s eye, one of Wyatt’s best friends from college.

“I wasn’t on their radar for Mick,” Lindsey said. 

“You keep telling yourself that,” Stella said, grinning.

“He didn’t talk to me at the wedding. I noticed him though,” Lindsey said.

“And he noticed you,” she said.

“True. But it wasn’t until he called from work and said his name.”

“You only knew his name because Carolyn came over and caught you looking at Mick and said who he was.”

“You win,” Lindsey said. “Because once Carolyn and Mom heard me say his name again they got their heads together.”

“They did,” Stella said. “Then came this darling little girl. How long are you taking off of work?” Lindsey worked in a retirement community as a case manager. 

“Three months,” she said. “Then Mom will be taking over for daycare on the days Mick is working. I feel bad she retired and then is going to do this, but it’s better with Ava being so little. When she is older we’ll look at other options.”

“It’s what Mom wants,” Stella said. “She’s been waiting for one of us to have a baby.” 

“She offered to watch Wyatt and Adriana’s son too, but they have daycare lined up,” Lindsey said. “Carolyn said she’d watch their son, but with Noah and Drake both having twins a few weeks ago, there is no way they were letting Carolyn watch five kids.”

“What is everyone doing with their kids?” she asked. “Do you know?”

In the past Stella could have cared less about babies and marriages. She was out for fun and trying to find a guy for herself. She was realizing now that all that fun was leading to misery and it was time to slow down and figure her life out.

“Kara and Paige are both taking off three months too, but I didn’t get too many details. I’m sure they are all going to daycare at least part time. Kara has the most flexible job of them to take time off.”

Kara Fierce worked for Fierce Engineering as a Finance Director, Drake an engineer. Noah was a high school principal and Paige a dental hygienist. 

“I’m sure they will figure it out with Carolyn leading the charge and helping out as needed. But Mom will have Ava in a few months and I’m sure Adriana’s son at times too.”

“Do they have a name picked out yet?” she asked.

“Not that I’ve heard. They are still arguing. They’ve got about six weeks though. Do you want to hold her?”

“Can I?” she asked, reaching for Ava. “Where is Mick?”

“He’s at the grocery store picking up things for the week. He’s taking two weeks off to be with me too, but he knew you were here for the weekend and wanted to give us time to visit.”

She’d driven in from Wilmington last night, the two-hour drive not that bad. She’d stay until Sunday…maybe longer. It could be time to broach that now with her sister and feel her out.

“I’m thinking of moving back,” she said.

“Really?” Lindsey asked, her eyes lighting up. “That’s great.”

“Do you think? I want to get to know my niece.”

“I do think it’s wonderful. I know we both wanted to leave the area. Too many bad memories for me, but it was time to come home.”

“I didn’t want to get away like you did,” she said. “I didn’t care about Dad as much. Or I didn’t let it bother me.”

Their father cheated on their mother. He remarried the woman he’d had an affair with and they’d had two sons. Brent White decided sons were what he really wanted and doted on them and only did the obligatory time with his two daughters.

Stella never let too much bother her in life, or so she let on. But Lindsey struggled more.

“You wanted to go out and have fun and not get lectured by Mom,” Lindsey said. “Be honest.”

“Maybe,” she said. “But I’ve had enough fun to last me a while.”

She was running her fingertip across Ava’s cheek as she drank the rest of her bottle. When it was empty, Lindsey took her daughter back and put her on her shoulder to pat her back. “What’s going on?”

“Nothing,” she said.

“It’s me you’re talking to. I know you.”

“You’re talking to me like it’s your job,” she said, squinting one eye at her sister.

“Maybe you need that. But I feel like something is going on.”

Stella wasn’t ready to say it completely. Maybe a little. “I was seeing someone. We worked together. It didn’t end well.”

“So things are dicey at work?” Lindsey asked.

“Not anymore,” she said. “I left a few weeks ago.”

“You’re not working?” Lindsey asked, shocked.

“I am. You know I’m a notary and a signing agent. I’m working independently and making my own hours. It’s just I never know when I’ll get work or how busy I’ll be.” 

She was hustling and taking every job she could. What she thought would be fun turned into a lot of driving and paperwork. She never blocked her schedule off for work and text messages would come in giving her little to no notice to accept a job. She grabbed every one she could if she could fit it in.

The work itself was easy enough. She’d done enough of it in her job at the bank she’d worked at for years. She’d moved around helping in the mortgage department, the legal department. Anywhere they needed her, she moved or she trained. She was flexible and always willing to meet new people.

 Now, thinking back, she should have stayed more focused, but it didn’t matter. She had a lot of experience and figured she could find a job somewhere. She hadn’t even tried because she’d been deciding where she wanted to live.

“But that isn’t stable. You’ve probably got no benefits or insurance.”

“And there you go sounding like Mom.”

“Sorry,” Lindsey said. “I can’t help it.”

“I know. And that is why no one knows. Don’t say anything.”

“I won’t. But maybe you should move back here. I’m sure you’ll have no problem finding a job.”

“I shouldn’t. I can and will continue to do what I am. But I don’t want to live with Mom either, so I’d have to find a place, and that might be hard without having a job.”

“Well,” Lindsey said. “I might have a solution there if you want a roommate.”

She hadn’t had one in years. “Depends on who it is.”

“You know Julia got a teaching job here. When Julia said she was thinking of moving closer to spend time with Ava too, Mick decided not to sell his townhouse and instead let Julia pay the mortgage. She wants a roommate to help with the bills and is looking, but I’m sure she’d be fine with you. You’re family.”

She’d met Mick’s younger sister a few times and liked her a lot. She could see them living together. That could work out. “I’d have no problem with it, but you should ask Julia.”

“I’ll call her if you are serious about this,” Lindsey said. “Take some time to think it over.”

“There is nothing to think of,” she said. “If Julia is willing, then I’ll do it.”

Maybe it was the push she needed. “Then give me a minute to call her if you want to take Ava for me. Are you sure?”

“You know me. I make a decision and I’m set. I don’t need time to think things through.”

Which was probably how she got in this mess but wouldn’t mention that. She was downplaying it for now. Her mother would be on her case enough when she found out. 

Maggie Lopez would be thrilled her baby was moving home, but then less than thrilled it was done without a steady secure job. She’d find one, she was positive and until then she had enough money and could make more.

Things always had a way of working out in life. That was how she’d lived for most of her adult years.

“Very true. I just don’t want to get Julia set up for you to come and then have you decide on something else tomorrow.”

Stella grinned and stood up to walk around the room while she rocked Ava. “Not happening.”

“Then I’ll call now.”

She watched as Lindsey talked to Julia, explained briefly that Stella wanted to return and was looking for a place to stay, then heard Julia’s excited voice. 

When Lindsey hung up the phone, Stella asked, “So it’s a yes?”

“She’s thrilled. She was struggling over having a stranger as a roommate. I guess it was fate. You live that way, right?”

“I do. But what is better than fate is the Fierce interference. Do you think Carolyn will put me on her radar now?”

“Do you really want that?” Lindsey asked. “You just said you didn’t have a good breakup and you left your job.”

She sighed. “You’re right. It’s just they are so good at what they do, so I figured if they put some work into me, I wouldn’t have to.”

“That’s always been your problem,” Lindsey said. “You don’t want to put the work or effort into the important things.”

There was no use arguing because her sister was one hundred percent right.

Fierce- Walker

Stella White decided it was time to return home after dating a coworker resulted in her leaving her job. She’s promised herself she’d never do it again. Only she finds herself extremely attracted to her new boss. It might not be smart to jump on that ship again, but they were keeping it quiet for now. Until the Fierces decide she is their next target and give her the push and approval she had been waiting for.

Walker Olson was burned once. He was played by his ex to be her meal ticket when she got pregnant on purpose. He didn’t give her what she wanted and has spent the past thirteen years dedicated to his daughter. But now even his daughter has told him it’s time to find a woman and is determined to have a hand in it along with his friends and family. Maybe having someone else pick out a woman for him would work better than when he tried on his own.