Made For Me…Prologue

Prologue

Addison Fielding stood next to her brother at the cemetery as the priest spoke words about her father. The words weren’t registering anything other than ambient noises. She didn’t see the people or hear the sounds they were making.

All she could think of was her father being too young to drop dead of a heart attack. Or her mother being the one to find him at home when he didn’t return from his lunch break.

Roc Fielding was too healthy to have a heart attack. He was big and strong and hard like his name, Roc. Well, that was short for Rocco, but to her, her father was the rock of the family.

Now he was gone and it didn’t seem real.

Her brother, Cash, was standing like a statue, not moving, not flinching, until his hand touched hers. She wasn’t sure if it was an accident or not, but she grabbed it and held on. She didn’t know how her mother was holding it together when Addison had all she could not to sob loudly and fall to her knees that were knocking and shaking loud enough in her ears to be a drum solo.

“Would the family like to come up and say a few words?” the priest asked.

Cash looked at her mother. Addison knew her mother had a few things prepared but was going to keep it short and sweet. 

Madeline Fielding moved to where the priest was and said, “Listen. We all know Roc. We know what he’d want us to do and it’s not to stand here gabbing about him. If I talk too long he’d make some crack about needing a few more holes dug for people standing in this heat.” There were some chuckles around over that, but Addison just cried louder rather than smiling. Her father was one for bold statements to make her laugh, but it wasn’t happening now. “Roc was a good man,” her mother continued. “A great husband and a wonderful father. He’s going to be missed, but he wouldn’t want us to mourn too long, so I’m telling you all you better not.”

Her mother said a few more things, but she couldn’t hear it over her own sniffling and gasping for breaths. She felt Cash remove his fingers from her grasp and go stand next to her mother.

“Like my mother, I’ll keep this short. Dad told me once when we were at one of these…he said, ‘Don’t give me a long speech or anything. Just throw the dirt on me and get a beer in my honor.’”

There were a lot of grins and head nods and Addison wondered if she’d be allowed to have one of those beers to dull this pain inside of her. Then she realized there couldn’t be anything to dull it, she was sure.

“We’ll be having a gathering at the house if you’d all like to attend,” her mother said.

When they were back at her house, several of her friends were there by her side being her shadows. Many tried to make her laugh and she wasn’t sure why. A few of her close ones just held her hand or hugged her when they felt she needed it the most.

Maybe they were babying her, but she couldn’t be like Cash and hold it in. She wasn’t sure her brother shed a tear today, but she knew he did at night. She’d heard him last night in his room and got up to knock on the door and then stopped. If he saw her, he’d stop and she didn’t want to be selfish. He needed his time to grieve like she did.

Hours later, everyone had left and they were cleaning up the massive garage in the back where all the food and drink had been.

“Come here, you two,” her mother said. “Have a seat.”

“Are we going to lose the house?” Addison asked, crying. 

She’d heard people talking today when they didn’t think she was around. Talks about the landscaping business and how it’d probably fall apart without Roc there to run it.

And if the business failed, then would they be homeless too?

“No,” her mother said. “I wanted to tell you that I’m running the business from the office like I always did. Matthew and Michael Butler both assured me the contracts were still in place. They’d help me find some men to complete the work if I needed it. Your father did the work of more than one man.”

“I’ll get it covered,” Cash said.

“Cash, you’re nineteen.”

“Dad would want me to step up. I can do it.”

Her mother sighed. “He would and he’d be proud of you, but you’re learning. Other men have been here longer and you can learn from them.”

“We aren’t losing anything,” he said firmly. “I won’t let it happen.”

Her mother walked over and put her hand on his shoulder. “Neither will I. Your father is going to continue to watch over us. We are going to be just fine and you know it.”

Addison started to cry harder and her mother pulled her into her arms. “It’s okay, Addison. It’s going to be okay.”

“It doesn’t feel like anything will ever be okay again,” she said, holding onto her mother as tightly as she could.

“It’s just going to take time,” her mother said, running her hand over her hair.

She looked up at her mother’s face and saw the tears mirroring her own. Pulling away, she shouted, “There isn’t enough time to ever make this okay,” then ran to her room and slammed the door.

How could anyone say that when her world had come crashing down on her?

She’d no longer be Daddy’s little girl.

She wouldn’t be able to pick on him about being stricter with her than Cash.

She wouldn’t be able to hug him and hold him and tell him she loved him.

Her rose-colored glasses were now covered in dirt.

Made For Me

Pharmacist, Addison Fielding has a great career, but not so wonderful of a job. She still lives at home and appears content to the outside world but her internal battle has consumed her since she was a teen. At thirty-one she is wondering if maybe it’s time to take a step out of the battle zone of her mind and think about her future. If she could only get past leaving the home her father died in when she was a teen and not worry about losing that connection to him.

Dr. Marcus Reid knows what grief is. He knows guilt too. He will forever wonder if he did enough to save his sister. He struggles to get past those feelings and move on. But he’s had his sights on the sexy pharmacist at the hospital and soon learns that they share more than a mutual attraction for each other. And just maybe it’s what they both need to heal.

A Return For Ren…Chapter One

Check out the Prologue here…

Chapter One

Clean Cut 

Fifteen Years Later

Ren parked his SUV in the driveway of his childhood home. Man, he hated this place.

No matter how much his mother had tried to get him and his father to get along, he couldn’t get away fast enough. That summer before he left for college was both the best and worst of his life.

The best because of what he had with Zara Wolfe. The worst because he broke her heart with his need to escape the man that he’d never be good enough for.

He’d left for college and came home for the first summer because he had to see Zara again. But he’d worked his ass off at the marina and listened to his father give him shit about wasting his time on computers. If he thought the time away would change things, he’d been wrong.

It’d been a slim hope he had. That he could have the best of it all. Zara and a career he wanted.

Nope. It didn’t happen and he didn’t see it ever getting better, only worse. Like a festering wound that no amount of care could ever get the pus out of.

He swore it was his last summer there after that. He’d told Zara that and she hadn’t believed him.

They’d made their relationship work that first year of college and he’d been so thrilled to be able to do it. He’d only been two hours away from home, her an hour from him. It was easy enough to see each other on the weekends when they could.

She still talked about returning to Mystic and didn’t understand he wasn’t going to. He’d told her enough, but she either had clouds in her eyes or thought his father would change. She knew the man. Nothing would ever change with him.

Yet something seemed to because when he was younger there were some good memories.

Ones that filled his brain in the past month and choked him, making him wonder what the hell went wrong or shifted in his father’s eyes.

A week before he and Zara were getting ready to return to college, Ren broke it off with her. A clean cut was what he said he needed. He couldn’t do it again; he couldn’t come home and be treated the way he was. He couldn’t work his ass off and stress over trying to be someone he wasn’t.

He was a man of his word and it killed him to say what he had to her. 

They’d had no communication since.

All that was going to change. There was no way around it.

His life was in a tailspin out of control and he needed to regain his footing on the ice after a dizzying spin.

That meant being in Mystic for a few months…if not more.

He took a deep breath, turned his head to look in the backseat to see it all quiet and then got out. Shit was going to hit the fan, he knew, but he had to man up and do it.

He opened the back door and unbuckled his sleeping son. Six-month-old Max and he were fumbling this father-son thing together as best they could.

He released the seatbelt and picked the carrier up, his son passed out cold. He’d planned the trip around Max’s naptime after he’d eaten and was thankful for the quiet drive.

The fact his SUV was loaded up for not just him but also his son for a few months hadn’t been fun. He knew he’d forgotten things, but figured it might be easier to buy it here anyway. He’d make a few trips home at some point he was sure too.

His mother opened the front door for him and stood there shocked.

“Ren,” she said. “Who is that?”

“This is my son, Max,” he said.

His mother moved back and let him in. Her mouth opened and closed a few times and then she finally said, “You were here last month and never said a word. I’ve got so many questions and don’t know where to start.”

“I’m sure you do,” he said.

Last month, he’d gotten the call from his mother that his father had had a stroke and they were in the ER. He’d asked her to keep him up to date but wouldn’t come to town unless she asked. She hadn’t. He would have come for her and her only at that point. He figured he hadn’t seen his father in years so there was no reason to work the guy up.

He’d visited his mother once a year but avoided his father. He talked to his mother every few months too, but their communications were more emails and texts between those phone calls.

He supposed that was how it made it easier for him to hide the existence of his son.

Not that he knew of Max until four months ago himself.

“Come in. Take your jacket off and start talking. I’ll ask when you’re done.”

He appreciated that at least one of his parents gave him a chance to express himself. To tell his side of things. To be heard.

He removed his jacket and picked up the carrier to bring Max into the living room. Nothing had changed in here in the month since he came for his father’s funeral. He wasn’t sure why he thought it would.

His mother had said his father was fine after the stroke and there was nothing to worry about. Getting a call four days later to say he had a brain aneurysm and collapsed in the bedroom and didn’t make it had been more of a shock than Rachelle showing up on his doorstep with Max almost a year after he’d seen her last.

“This is Max,” he said. “He’s six months old. I didn’t know about him until four months ago. I’d been dating someone, nothing serious, and we went our separate ways.”

“How can you not know you have a child?” his mother asked.

He sighed. “I think she wasn’t positive whose it was,” he said. “I’m not sure of her reasons.” He wasn’t going to go into all the details now. It wasn’t the time. 

“Max was with his mother when you came last month?”

“No,” he said. “Rachelle passed away three months ago.”

“I’m so sorry,” his mother said. “What happened? So you’ve got custody of Max? You’re doing this on your own? Who watched him while you were here last month?”

He knew it wouldn’t be long before the questions started to fly. “She overdosed,” he said. “She brought Max to my place four months ago and said she was in a bad place and couldn’t care for him.”

“She just left her child with you?” his mother asked. “You said she didn’t know if he was your son?”

“I don’t want to get into it all,” he said. “At least not right now. Max is mine. I had a paternity test done the minute she left him. I also retained a lawyer to get custody drawn up. Aside from her admitting she was in a bad place, she never told me. She dropped him off and left. When I tell you I was clueless, you have no idea.”

He’d never changed a diaper or fed a kid before. Everything was new and foreign to him. Thankfully he had some good friends.

“How do you know she died?” his mother asked.

“She was found in her apartment. She had my name as her emergency contact. I suppose it was one smart thing she did. I’m still going through all the legal channels to change his last name to mine. He has Rachelle’s, but I’ve got custody.” He waved his hand. That was another battle he was dealing with but nothing he was stressing over at this point.

“I don’t understand why you couldn’t have said something to me four months ago. Or even last month?” his mother said. There were tears in her eyes and he hated that.

“Mom. I’m flying by the seat of my pants. When it happened I didn’t know what to do. When Rachelle died, things got more out of hand. Max and I were finally settling into things as best as we could and then Dad had his stroke and passed last month. You’ve had enough to deal with.”

“That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t have wanted to know I had a grandchild, Ren. I can’t believe you would be so cold and callous like that.”

The words sliced through him. He hated to think he was like his father, but it was not the first time he’d been accused of being that way. That he was the one that had to be right and could be cold to others.

He was with Zara too at the end. It was what he did to survive and it took everything he could not to beg her forgiveness afterward.

His mother didn’t deserve it though. She’d been the one person who had been in his corner in life.

“I planned on telling you,” he said. “Then everything with Dad happened and it didn’t seem the right time. But I’m here now.”

“You’re here because I need help to sell the marina. If I’d asked you to come to help me run it, you wouldn’t have.”

“No,” he said. “That isn’t a secret and you know it. I would have tried to talk you into selling it anyway. It’s too much for you. It was too much for Dad, but he didn’t want to admit it.”

“He didn’t,” his mother said. “Thankfully we’ve got enough good staff that are doing most of the work. Everyone has been great and hopefully they get to keep their jobs. I’m doing the best I can alone.”

“I know you are,” he said. “I’ve taken two weeks off of work to help get things set that you need. I’ll continue to help as best as I can, but I’ve got a job to do. I can do it remotely. I’ve been working remotely for years, as you know, so where I live isn’t a concern.”

“How are you going to do it all with Max though?” his mother asked.

“I’ve got daycare lined up. He starts tomorrow. I was hoping you could spend some time with Max today while I go get our rental set.”

“Of course,” his mother said. “I couldn’t understand why you wouldn’t stay with me while you’re here. Now more so with Max. I could help you.”

His mother’s eyes shifted to her grandson still napping away. He figured those baby blue eyes would pop open soon. His son was on a schedule and seemed to stick to it, but nothing was in a routine for either of them no matter how much he was going to try to keep it that way.

He looked around the living room of his childhood home. He tried to think of the good times, telling himself he wouldn’t want his son to ever feel the way he did growing up or even returning home.

Right now he just couldn’t summon the energy to do much more than explain to his mother why he was causing her pain. Why he didn’t tell her and knew she was hurt.

“It’s better this way,” he said. “You can spend time with him, but there is too much to do. He’ll go to daycare while I’m working during the day or I can help you if you need it. Then I’ll work at night when he’s sleeping.”

He was used to living his life that way and not getting a lot of sleep. He remembered one of the many fights he’d had with his father calling him lazy. Telling him all he did was sleep. A real man got up and did what was asked of him whether he was tired or not.

“I want to argue with you, but I’ve learned once you make a decision there is no changing your mind.”

“No,” he said. A flaw of his, he was sure. Something he had in common with his father and hated to even think that thought. One he was trying to change at times.

“How are you getting along being on your own with him?” his mother asked, staring at Max. 

He knew she was itching to get her hands on Max, but if he woke his son up he’d regret it. Max would be out of sorts and hard to calm down. And the last thing he wanted was his son waking up in a stranger’s arms. The kid had been through enough in his short life.

“It’s been interesting,” he said. Ren wasn’t one to admit when he was in over his head. At least to family. His friends knew and helped, but he hadn’t ever wanted his mother to know for fear his father would. He didn’t need more shit thrown in his face.

“I can only imagine,” she said.

Max started to move in his car seat. His fingers first, then his arms stretching. His legs were shifting and then his eyes popped open.

Ren made sure he got into Max’s view so his son knew he was there and safe. That he wasn’t being left in a strange place with a person he didn’t know.

“Hey there, buddy,” he said, unbuckling Max. He picked his son up and started to take his fleece jacket off knowing he was probably getting hot. “It’s okay.”

Max’s face started to scrunch up as if he was going to cry. Ren moved toward the diaper bag that he’d brought in with him and found his son’s stuffed monkey to hand over. It was one of the few toys that were with Max when he was dropped off and proved to be a major comfort for his son in the past few months.

“He looks just like you,” his mother said.

“Does he?” he asked. “I don’t really see it.”

“I’ll find some baby pictures of you. He’s the spitting image of you at that age except for the color of his hair.”

“Rachelle had light brown hair.”

Max was currently a blonde, but he wondered if it’d stay that way.

“Will I be able to hold him?” his mother asked. “Especially if you want to leave to set your place up? Where is it?”

“It’s only a mile from here,” he said. “I was lucky to find a house to rent until the end of January with the option of longer if need be.” He figured it’d give his mother time to bond with her grandson and maybe help with the loss of her husband. 

It would also give him the time he needed to see if he could win back the woman he’d loved and thrown away.

A Return For Ren…Prologue

Prologue

“Get your butt out of bed and to the marina,” Ryan Whitney said in his normal sarcastic tone.

Ren turned his head to look at his father. He was exhausted, as he’d just gotten to sleep a few hours ago. “I was doing my homework all night,” he said firmly, then flopped his head back down.

“You’ve got all weekend to do it so I don’t know why you have to stay up on Fridays. I think you were just playing games on the computer like you always do. I need your help today. There is a lot going on,” his father said with his hands on his hips.

Ren turned to look and saw it was barely seven. Jesus. He’d only been sleeping four hours tops.

“Ryan,” his mother said, coming to stand in the doorway of Ren’s bedroom. “Ren needs to do his schoolwork first. We’ve always said that. If he was up all night doing it then it was so he could help you at the marina without worrying about assignments. But he needs his sleep. Go to the marina and he’ll come down later. How many times have we talked about this?”

“Thanks, Mom. I just need a few more hours,” Ren said, his eyes on his mother who always came to bat for him.

“All you ever do is sit in front of that damn computer and tinker. You always say you are working on a program, but I think you’re playing games. And now you’re complaining you’re tired. When I was your age I was up every weekend at six and pulling my weight and staying until closing. Then I’d go out with my friends and get a few hours of sleep and still be ready to go the next day. Your generation is nothing but lazy.”

Ren ground his teeth. He wasn’t playing games. He was writing code. He was developing software and designs. It was an advanced class he was taking through the local community college that his mother encouraged. His father would never understand.

“It’s not games,” he said between his clenched teeth, and threw the covers back. He’d never get back to sleep at this point anyway. “Just because you can barely figure out how to open your email doesn’t mean I sit in here to avoid going to work. I know what I need to do. As Mom said I was trying to get it out of the way so you didn’t bitch to me for not paying attention at work because my mind was on school.”

“Don’t get wise with me,” his father said. “That job you work at is what is paying for all these classes you’re taking. A complete waste of time if you ask me. I need you at the marina.”

“It’s only a waste of time because it’s not what you want,” he snapped back. “The sooner you get out of my room, the sooner I can shower and get to work.”

“Ren,” his mother said. “Don’t be nasty.”

“Dad is,” he said back.

His mother sighed. “Ryan, go. Get to work. Ren will be there as soon as he’s ready. We’ll talk about this tonight like we have so many other times.”

His father turned and left, his mother staying. They heard the door slam. “Why doesn’t he understand I don’t want to be there?”

“I’m trying to get through to him,” his mother said. “It’s a family business. He took it over from his father. He thought you would do the same.”

“It’s not what I want,” he said. He could barely step foot on a boat without feeling as if his stomach was going to roll around and spit out his mouth. That wasn’t the worst of it though. His father and he were like oil and water. They didn’t mix at all and never would. Why would he want to work with a guy that didn’t understand him and belittled him with every other word?

“I know,” his mother said. “Continue doing what you are. You’ve got time yet.”

“Really?” Ren asked. “I’m graduating next month and going to college and he still thinks I’m going to come back and run the marina?”

“I got him to agree to let you get your education. You need it. He understands.”

It’s only because he knew his mother was paying for it. He’d overheard the conversations. No. The arguments. His mother standing up for him. Trying to tell his father the talent and potential he had. It’d come down to his mother saying she’d work more to cut costs if she had to, but her son was getting the college degree she never had.

 “But he thinks I’m going to throw away MIT to come back and run the marina and restaurant like him? Does he not realize that makes no sense?” Ren asked. He ran his hands through his hair. At seventeen he couldn’t figure out why his father was so bullheaded about things that were right in front of his face.

“That is where the time comes into play. You’re both so damn stubborn and have to have the last word at all times. Go shower and then go help your father. I’m leaving in a few minutes myself. I’ll talk to him again.”

“It won’t make a difference,” he said. “It never does.”

“We’ll see you there,” his mother said and left his room.

 He rushed through his shower because he wasn’t in the mood to put up with any more shit from his father, then he went to the kitchen and had a large glass of orange juice and a blueberry muffin. His mother would feed him again in a few hours. She was always the one watching out for him. 

He knew what he wanted out of life and he was going to get it. Then he was getting the hell out of Mystic and away from the Whitney Marina. Away from the man that didn’t understand him and made him feel like shit because of it.

It seemed like the past ten years of his life it’d been progressing and he wasn’t sure he could take much more.

If you didn’t agree with Ryan Whitney, then you were wrong. End of story.

But he was going to rewrite his own damn story and if his father didn’t like it, too damn bad.             Maybe they were alike, but it was time for him to take his own stand.

A Return For Ren

Zara Wolfe had her heart broken when her high school sweetheart said she wasn’t the one for him. They wanted different things in their lives and Mystic couldn’t be the place he’d live his life. She’d tried to move on but wondered if every guy she’d dated was being measured on the stick of her first love. Now he has returned and wants a second chance and she has to decide if she’s strong enough to go down that path again.

Ren Whitney had no intention of staying in Mystic and taking over the family marina. His father and he butted heads enough that at nineteen he waved his middle finger in the air and vowed never to return, which of course meant breaking the ties with Zara. With his father gone and his life being thrown an unexpected curveball, he realizes home and family are what he needs and prays he can get Zara to forgive him and find what they once had again.

Family Bonds- Hudson & Delaney…Chapter One

Check out the Prologue here

Chapter One

Underlying Cause

Thirteen Years Later

“Dr. Mills, there is a mother and child that came in a few minutes ago. I’ve got them in bay six. The boy looks to have a broken wrist and the mother a bruise on her face.”

He sighed; he knew what this was about. He’d seen it one too many times.

“Did they say what happened?” he asked the nurse. He looked at her nametag. It wasn’t easy to get staff on the island and he knew that many times nurses were sent over from Boston to fill shifts. It was standard but made it hard to keep people straight too.

He’d left Massachusetts General years ago because he saw way too much of this.

It was going to be everywhere—he knew it—but he wanted a more quaint setting. Not as many urgent and hard cases that burned him out. A place that let him spend more time with his patients trying to make a difference rather than slapping Band-Aids on wounds and rushing to the next open gash. 

As his father once told him, “If you wanted to spend time with your patients then you shouldn’t have become an ER doctor.”

He knew that too. The same with his twin, Carson, who was a radiologist. Patients were in and out most times and moved on to the next.

It was a balance. He had to not get too attached. Get just close enough to help but not get drawn in so much that he’d go home stressing.

“The mother is claiming the kid fell off his bike. The kid isn’t talking much.”

Classic signs of abuse. “And the kid. What is he saying? Nothing at all?”

“I asked a few times and he keeps looking at his mother before he answers.”

“I’ll see what I can get out of her. What about her face?” he asked. “Did you question her there?”

“I did. She said she tripped running to him and bumped into the wall.”

“Not very original,” he said.

“Especially since they’ve been here before,” the nurse said. 

He pulled his laptop closer to him that was on the stand he pushed around. “Thanks, Molly.”

She smiled at him, her face blushing some. He pegged her for early thirties. Probably a few years younger than him, but he wasn’t interested.

The ER was busy, as it normally was, but wasn’t slammed. He’d finished up with a patient forty minutes ago that was way too thin for anyone. He knew an eating disorder when he saw it and the husband brought her in for stomach pains.

After multiple tests and labs, he sent her out with a prescription for heartburn. That wouldn’t do much with the damage to the esophagus from all the vomiting the woman had been doing over the years. Her teeth were decaying and he knew his cousin Coy Bond would cringe looking in that patient’s mouth in his dental office.

The nurses discharged her and would give her information to seek help, but chances were it’d get ignored.

Just like this case might too. He was going to try harder and then not beat himself up later if he couldn’t get through to the woman.

He moved down to the bay where his next patients were and pushed the curtain aside. There was a kid that looked to be no older than seven sitting on the bed with his head down whispering to his mother, tears on his face.

“Hello,” he said. “I’m Dr. Mills. It looks as if you’ve got a wrist injury?”

“My son fell off his bike,” the mother said.

“And you are?” He looked at his computer. “Carolyn Murphy?”

“Yes,” Carolyn said. “This is my son, Ronnie.”

“Nice to meet you, Ronnie. Tell me what happened.”

The little boy looked at his mother, who said, “I told you, he fell off his bike.”

“Mrs. Murphy, it’s standard procedure to ask the patient their side of it. I’m trying to understand how fast he might have been going. Did he hit a rock and fly off the front? Did he feel lightheaded and fall off to the side? Maybe there is something more that could have caused the wrist injury that we need to figure out before he gets on a bike again.”

“Oh,” Mrs. Murphy said. 

“Ronnie, did you fall off the front of the bike or to the side?”

Ronnie looked at his mother. “Off the side.”

“Okay,” he said. “Did you hit your head or any other part of your body when you landed?”

He was looking at the kid who was in shorts and a T-shirt and there wasn’t one other scratch on him that he could see. Nothing that would show he fell off a bike. No grass stains on his clothes or skin. No abrasions. 

“No,” Ronnie said quietly. “Just my wrist.”

“Can I see your hand?” He reached for the kid’s hand. “Can you feel me touching your fingers?”

He was only lightly grazing them and getting movement in return, the kid flinching. “Yes.”

“Good.” He looked at the kid’s palm. “Did you land on the grass or pavement?” Ronnie looked at his mother. “It’s an easy question,” he said, smiling.

“Grass,” he said.

The kid’s hand and fingers, even his nails, were extremely clean. No way he was given a shower first, let alone his clothes changed or nails cleaned if he landed on the grass, which to cause a break would have kicked up dirt.

“Okay,” Hudson said. “We need to get you down for some X-rays, but it looks as if you might have broken your wrist in the fall.”

Mrs. Murphy started to cry. “It’s my fault.”

“How is that?” he asked.

“No, Mom,” Ronnie said. “It’s mine. I know better. I won’t do it again.”

It was the first time the kid’s voice was stronger and maybe he could get through that way. “I’m going to have a nurse come in and bring you for X-rays in a minute.” He turned when the curtain opened. “Looks like it’s good timing. Molly, can you take Ronnie for X-rays on his wrist?”

“Sure can,” Molly said. “You get to ride in a wheelchair.”

“I can walk,” Ronnie said.

“I know you can, but this is more fun and then we don’t have to worry about you tripping and falling and hurting your other wrist or banging your head,” Molly said with a smile.

“Protocol,” Hudson said. “And it’s fun.” He leaned down closer and whispered, “Don’t tell anyone, but sometimes when it’s slow here at night the doctors have races in them.”

Ronnie giggled as he was pushed out of the room, leaving him there with Mrs. Murphy. “Thank you,” she said.

“Let me look at your cheek,” he said.

“It’s fine. Just a bruise. I’m clumsy.”

He hummed in his throat. “Maybe there is a reason for that,” he said. “Are you lightheaded at times? There could be an underlying cause for it that shouldn’t go untreated.”

“I’m fine, Dr. Mills,” Mrs. Murphy said.

“I’m going to be frank then,” he said. “Your son has been in my ER three times in the past fifteen months for injuries. Each time you’ve had similar injuries or bruises. You’ve been here six times in the past two years.”

“I’ll repeat,” Mrs. Murphy said, “I’m fine.”

There wasn’t much he could do at this point. Not until he got the results from the X-ray.

He walked out of the room and went to another patient. That was what he did. Moved from one to another.

An hour later, his phone buzzed and he looked down to see it was his brother, Carson. It was late afternoon and Carson had started his shift two hours ago; Hudson would be leaving in a few hours. They tended to cross over a lot rather than working together.

Since they both lived at Hudson’s house, it’s not like he didn’t see his brother, but not often either.

As twins, they were used to being around each other except for the year he was here and Carson was still in Boston.

Hudson had gotten his position first when it opened, Carson a year later. He’d had his house and, rather than Carson trying to find a place to rent or buy one, it was easier to have them splitting the bills.

It was that or Carson staying with his parents who had a house on the island. That was what Hudson did at first since his parents weren’t always around. 

Now his father was a semi-retired surgeon filling in one week on the island and then the same at Mass General where he’d spent more of his career. The other two weeks he was on call or filling in as needed.

Their sister, Ava, was an OBGYN and worked at a satellite office in Plymouth until she relocated to the island permanently too.

Funny how they were all born and raised in Boston and only vacationed here and now resided on the island. The island was different than it had been when they were younger.

It had more to offer. There were plenty of transportation options and it provided a quieter life that he knew he wanted. More like knew he needed.

He texted Carson back that he was available to talk, but he knew what his brother was going to say.

“Hey,” Carson said, coming down to the ER. “Got a room to chat in?”

“Follow me,” he said. “You could have told me the results were ready for me to read. I know it’s a break.”

“It is,” Carson said. “It’s not from a fall but from a twisting motion. What’s going on here?”

“Domestic abuse,” he said. “I know it and the mother knows I know it. The kid isn’t talking.”

“I had him talking,” Carson said. “We were talking baseball to relax him.”

“Did he tell you he fell off his bike?”

“He did,” Carson said. “But I knew it was a lie when he wouldn’t look me in the eye.”

“Not to mention there isn’t another mark on him,” he said.

“No,” Carson said. “What are you going to do?”

 “I’ve tried to be subtle, but it’s not working. Got a minute to go in with me to give the results?”

 “I do,” Carson said.

The two of them walked into the room where Ronnie and his mother were. “I told you, Mom, there are two of them.”

Hudson grinned. “That’s right,” he said. “This is my brother, the other Dr. Mills. He took your X-rays.”

“I’m sorry to say that you’ve got a compound fracture,” Carson said. “Sometimes a simple break can be put in a cast, but due to the nature of this injury and how it occurred, Ronnie is going to need surgery to put a pin in it.”

Mrs. Murphy started to cry some more, Ronnie too. “But I only fell,” Ronnie said.

“Ronnie, we are doctors and can tell how an injury occurs most times from an X-ray,” Carson said. “Your wrist was twisted, you didn’t land on it.”

Ronnie started to cry louder.

Hudson leaned toward the mother. “Is there somewhere we can talk privately, Mrs. Murphy?”

“Yes,” she said, sniffling.

“Follow me,” he said, Carson staying with Ronnie.

“We have a few options here. I can call the police and have you charged with endangering the welfare of a child. I’m not sure if you broke his wrist—”

“No!”

“Then someone else did. Maybe the same person who put the bruise on your face?”

“I can handle it,” she said.

“You clearly can’t. We are here to help you. I can’t do that if you aren’t being honest with me.”

“It’s not that simple.”

“It never is, but there are resources for you. We have someone here at the hospital to help. Just give me the word and we can make it happen. We can get you safe and secure now.”

Mrs. Murphy looked unsure, but he felt he was getting through to her. “I don’t know.”

He opened the door and found another nurse and waved her in. “Can you please reach out to Delaney to come in here ASAP?”

“Delaney?” the nurse said.

“She’s the new patient services coordinator. I read the memo a few weeks ago. Her number should be at the desk.”

“Sure,” the nurse said.

“Someone is going to come in and talk to you and give you some options. I can still have you charged. I can have whoever did this charged too. Whether charges are dropped or not is your choice and a headache regardless. Or you can take a step and get you and Ronnie out.”

“I’ll talk to her,” Mrs. Murphy said. “It’s the best I can do.”

He nodded and then led Mrs. Murphy back to Ronnie. “We need to schedule surgery for your son,” he said. “We can do it here tomorrow, or get you to Boston via a chopper and into a safe place now.”

“Really?”

“Yes,” he said. He’d make it happen somehow, even if he had to call his cousin Egan and ask for a personal favor. He needed to get a good outcome today. He needed to feel like he was finally making a difference.

“Thank you,” Mrs. Murphy said.

Family Bonds- Hudson & Delaney…Prologue

Prologue

“Hey, Delaney.”

Delaney Hawkins turned her head from where she was walking out of the high school. It was the end of her freshman year and she just wanted to get the hell off the grounds.

It was bad enough being from a small town in Wisconsin where everyone knew her mother was the middle school art teacher and had Mrs. Hawkins at some point. Her mother was also the head of the PTA and there seemed to be nowhere she could run from being Terri Hawkins’s daughter.

Her father owned and operated his own garage and many in this area frequented that too rather than driving further out of town to a dealership.

Small towns and everyone knew your name. For a kid trying to blend in, it made an already awkward teenage life more miserable.

Now add to the mix that her brother was arrested for the rape of a minor, and yeah, there was nowhere to hide.

“I’m busy, David, what do you want?”

“Just wanted to talk to you,” David said.

Which was a complete lie. David was two years older than her. He played football and thought he should have been the captain, but he sucked. He didn’t even start, which was funny since the team barely had enough players on the roster.

But David had a big mouth and ran it more than he revved the engine of his beat-up old Camaro that he thought would land him some chicks. Both gave him a reputation of not only the girls thinking he was a dick, but the guys too.

“You never just want to talk. You want to lecture,” she said, moving faster. “Or rather make a point. Maybe a statement. You think you’re funny and smart, but I don’t. I’m late now.”

David ran up beside her. “How is your brother doing? It’s got to be hard living under his shadow like that. I thought I’d try to be a friend to you.”

She turned and looked at the smirk on David’s face. “I don’t need friends like you.”

“Because you all think he is so innocent,” David said with a snarl.

No, she didn’t think her brother was innocent at all. Her mother was investing all her time and energy into making sure Kyle didn’t spend any time in jail. Her father barely looked at her brother and was not willing to put a cent in for the lawyers.

Her mother was working an extra job and Delaney was the one that was being left behind. She was used to it for most of her life, but this was different. It was worse in so many ways.

Kyle had always been the kid in the family that got all the attention. A mama’s boy that could do no wrong and he knew it and played off of their mother’s emotions.

The fact her mother was trying to say he had some learning disability or mental illness when everyone knew that wasn’t the case was an embarrassment and a lesson in ignorance that everyone talked about behind her mother’s back.

Kyle knew exactly what he was doing. He didn’t think he’d get caught.

Or he was stupid and thought saying, “Raine came onto me. She was always sitting on my lap and flirting with me,” was his defense.

Raine was twelve. Kyle was nineteen. Yeah, stupid to be alone with her, let alone be sending sexy and flirty text messages back and forth. Messages Delaney had seen with her own eyes before he deleted them on his phone. 

He could deny it all he wanted, but she knew what she saw and read, but it’d be her word against his and she wanted to be left alone.

“My brother’s life isn’t mine,” she said to David. She’d been saying that for months now. In her mind, this trial was going to go on forever with the way her mother was stalling the lawyers. 

“He’s not going to get away with it,” David said.

She’d been walking faster with David on her heels, but she turned and stood her ground. “Listen. I don’t give you shit that your mother is sleeping with Mr. Henderson behind your father’s back so don’t give me shit over the fact that my brother did something bad that has nothing to do with me.”

David stopped in his tracks. “What?”

“You heard me. Maybe you should stop and think that every family has some skeletons in their closet that people are talking about in this town but aren’t mean enough to say it to the kids’ faces.”

“Yet you just did,” David said. “And you’re lying.”

“Guess you know what it’s like to be blamed or pulled into someone else’s actions now, don’t you?”

She turned and continued to walk away. She knew she shouldn’t have said that. It was something her mother had been bitching about. That everyone was talking about their family when teachers were having affairs right under spouses’ noses.

Yeah, nothing was ever quiet in this small town and that was why she wanted out and wanted it now.

But something told her she wasn’t going to get that wish any time soon, not until she could stand on her own two feet.

Family Bonds- Hudson & Delaney

Delaney Hawkins couldn’t wait to put her small town in Wisconsin behind her. Thanks to her brother’s actions, people didn’t just talk behind her family’s back, but right to their faces. She was innocent of his crime but no one seemed to care. Years of trying to stay there and move on with her life weren’t working, so she lit out across the country to an island off the coast of Boston hoping to put her past drama behind her. She soon realized that wasn’t as easy as she’d hoped.

Dr. Hudson Mills was only biding his time as an ER doctor in Boston until the position opened up full time on Amore Island. He was over the violence and crimes against the innocent. The irresponsibility and selfishness of most people. The small tourist island his family founded was where he wanted to be and he was finally content helping people and not being subjected to as much sensory overload as he’d been in Boston. His professional life was right on track…too bad his personal one was taking a hit trying to find someone he felt a real connection to.

Fierce-Flynn…Chapter One

Read the Prologue here

Chapter One

Great Relationship

Twelve Years Later

“Thanks for going with me to Carolyn’s Christmas Eve party,” Julia McNamara said. She’d lived in Durham now for a few months having moved this summer to start a teaching job. She loved the kids in her new elementary school and loved even more being close to her brother, Mick.

Julia’s life, that had always been stressful and lonely, seemed to finally be coming together for her.

Mick was married and had a baby girl, Ava, who was four months old. Julia was living in the townhouse Mick had bought when he moved here over a year ago and she had an awesome roommate along with a great relationship with her older brother that she’d been missing for years.

“No problem,” Stella said. “I was just going to be alone tonight anyway.”

Stella White was Mick’s sister-in-law. Stella’s older sister, Lindsey, was married to Mick and Julia couldn’t have asked for a better roommate when Stella decided to move closer after Ava’s birth and was looking for a place to stay.

“Why aren’t you spending the time with Walker tonight?”

Stella had been dating her boss, attorney Walker Olson, for a few months. Things had been going well, so Julia was shocked they weren’t together tonight.

“It’s still early and he’s got his daughter tonight because she is spending tomorrow with her mother. If it were only the two of them I’d do it, but I’m not sure I’m ready for a big family dinner just yet.”

“They all know you are dating. You know Walker’s father and sister,” she said, grinning. Walker’s father and sister were lawyers too at the firm where Stella worked.

She grabbed a red sweater to change into while Lindsey was going through her closet looking for something. Since Julia had the day off she could have gone alone earlier to the Christmas Eve open house at Carolyn’s, but she’d rather wait for Stella to get out of work and go with her.

“I know. Walker didn’t ask and I didn’t bring it up. He’s bringing Kaylee home in the morning and then going straight to his parents like he always does. I’ll go see him later in the day. We’ll have fun at my mom’s anyway.”

“Then I get to have the place to myself,” Julia said.

“Sorry about that,” Stella said.

“Don’t be sorry. You know my history. That is my norm. I’ll be looking forward to it. Especially after having screaming kids the past few days. The only thing that gets kids worked up worse than a bag of sugar is the thought of having a week off and getting gifts on top of it.”

“I remember those days,” Stella said. “Found my boots. Ready to go?”

“Let’s hit the road.”

“I’ll drive if you want,” Stella said. 

“Works for me. I’m still trying to figure out my way around this town.”

They arrived at Carolyn Fierce’s house shortly after. Carolyn had taken Julia in like one of her own since she’d always considered Mick a fifth child.

It was nice to be wanted but such an unfamiliar feeling on top of it. Maybe there was some jealousy there that Mick got a chance with another family while she was by herself. She’d never say anything though because she was happy one of them got it in their life.

She had her career to give her the family she never had. She got to think of those kids as hers and to help mold them and give them a life away from what they might be experiencing at home. Something she would have wanted as a kid.

“There you two lovely ladies are,” Carolyn said when they were greeted at the door. “Mick and Lindsey will be here soon. Mick had the day off. They are just waiting for Ava to wake up.”

She knew that. Mick, like her, didn’t have the best holiday memories either. He said he was doing things differently with his own family. The right way.

Julia wasn’t sure what was right, wrong, or indifferent. She was just used to getting by. She didn’t even like that Mick helped her out a few times over the years, but she was grateful just the same.

“Thanks for having me,” Julia said.

“Nonsense,” Carolyn said, taking her jacket. “I expected you to be here.”

Since she spent Thanksgiving with the Fierce family she was pretty sure she was expected to be with them for everything. She’d take it as it came since she was making new friends here and doing other things with singles now too.

Just not dating, which was a bummer when everyone around her was hitched it seemed.

“I still appreciate the invitation,” she said.

“Help yourself to food and drink,” Carolyn said. “Stella, Walker couldn’t make it?”

“He’s at his parents’ with Kaylee today. He’s got to bring her back to Tiffany’s in the morning,” Stella said.

“I understand. Well, you two know most that are here now since it’s family. We’ll introduce you to more as they come in or they will introduce themselves. It’s just casual. Stay as long as you want.”

“We aren’t staying that long, are we?” she said quietly to Stella when Carolyn was called away.

“No. They eavesdrop too much. I’ve learned my lesson.”

Julia laughed over the comment. On Thanksgiving, Stella and she were caught talking quietly about Stella’s relationship with Walker. Guess the Fierce women had Stella and Walker paired up in their mind to start on their matchmaking again. 

Stella was open to being set up. Julia thought that was funny, but considering Carolyn had a hand in Mick and Lindsey and that turned out so well, maybe she should give it a chance when they brought it up to her.

Nah. Not happening. 

She could find her own man when she was damn good and ready. So far her luck had sucked the big sour lemon in the romance department.

An hour later, they were moving around and she was sticking close to those she knew. Mostly the Fierces. She’d walked away to get a bottle of water and was stopped. “Hi. I’m Bryan. I work at Fierce Engineering. I don’t think we’ve met.”

He was probably in his mid to late thirties she was guessing. Older than her but not out of reach. She knew she was fussy even though she told herself not to be.

Most likely serious PTSD from watching her mother change out her men and complain about them so much. The last thing she wanted was to be compared to Laura McNamara, but she might have gone just a little too far in the opposite direction.

“Julia McNamara.”

“Nice to meet you,” Bryan said. His eyes were taking her in a bit more than she felt comfortable with. Maybe she shouldn’t have worn such a fitted bright sweater, but she wanted to be festive. It was a V-neck and it was possible the guy thought she was being sexy with the way his eyes were on her tiny B-sized boobs. “And how do you know the Fierces?”

“She’s my sister,” Mick said, coming over and standing next to her. “You know, family and all.”

“Got it,” Bryan said, moving away.

“That was rude,” she said, looking at her brother. He had a smirk on his face. His size and presence were enough that he didn’t need to be mean. Not that Mick was ever mean that she could remember. 

“Not as rude as his eyes on your chest. If I weren’t holding my daughter right now I might have said a bit more than what I had.”

“You said enough,” she said. “It was in your eyes that he knew to walk away. Maybe I wanted to know more about him.”

“No, you don’t,” Carolyn said. “He’s not for you. You wouldn’t get along.”

“And why is that?” Julia asked. The grin was still on her face that was close to her brother’s. She really didn’t want to talk to Bryan anymore but was curious why Carolyn thought that.

“As Mick said, his eyes were way too low. You don’t need someone looking there. You need someone looking in your eyes. Someone that will treat you well and with respect, not merely looking for a good time. That’s all Bryan ever wants.”

Which was what she’d figured out herself. “And how do you know that?” she asked, figuring Garrett, Carolyn’s husband, probably mentioned it.

“Just a guess,” Carolyn said. “He’s new. Hasn’t been employed with Fierce Engineering all that long, but I don’t care for the way he looks at women in general. So yeah, no respect and not good for you. Now if you want me to put my magic to work…”

“I’m good, Carolyn. But thanks for the heads up with Bryan.”

Carolyn patted her arm. “I figured you knew it anyway and was just yanking your big brother’s arm.”

“Was she right?” Mick asked when Carolyn moved away. He was running the tip of his nose on Ava’s now and it warmed her heart to see her brother so open and loving to his daughter. Didn’t look like he was damaged much by their upbringing. Or not permanently at least. 

She reached for Ava. “Of course I knew what Bryan was about. I’m not that naïve, Mick. But I’m learning those women don’t ever seem to be wrong.”

She remembered Carolyn’s words the next afternoon when she was home alone and her phone rang. It was her mother.

She wanted to let it go to voicemail but figured if she didn’t answer it, her mother would just continue to blow her phone up.

Here she thought it was the best Christmas she’d had since she was a teen but knew it was about to be ruined.

“Merry Christmas, Mom.”

“Julia,” Laura McNamara said into the phone. “I didn’t think you would answer. Your brother didn’t.”

Figures her mother wouldn’t even come back with a nice greeting but started out bitching like normal. It’s not like they didn’t just see her last weekend. “I’m sure he’s busy right now.”

“Too busy to talk to his mother?”

“That’s not a question for me,” she said. “No one said you couldn’t have asked to come to town to see us.”

“I shouldn’t have to ask to come to town,” her mother said. “Mick should be asking me, but he’s too busy being with his new family.”

She let out a sigh and wished she hadn’t said what she did. “We were there last weekend because you said it was better for you. Now all of a sudden you are saying today would be better. What did you do today?”

“I spent it with Don.”

“Who is Don?” she asked. She lost track of the men in her mother’s life, as they changed more than Mick did Ava’s diaper throughout the day.

“He’s my new boyfriend. I’m moving in with him on the first of the year. I told you about him, didn’t I?”

“Obviously not since it’s the first I’ve heard his name. You called on Thanksgiving complaining about your bills again. Just like you were last weekend.”

That was the norm with their mom. She was always trying to hit one of them up for money. Normally Mick since he had a lot more, but Mick had put his foot down years ago and only did things to shut their mother up. 

Julia couldn’t remember the last time she helped her mother out with anything since her teacher’s salary didn’t stretch that far and when she wasn’t working over the summer things were tighter. She normally got a job then but this past summer she had moved and was getting settled. She’d figure out next summer as it got closer.

Because even though her rent with Stella was manageable, she had a feeling she might be looking for another roommate at some point. She could handle the rent on her own, but it’d be tighter than her fitting into her skinny jeans after Thanksgiving dinner and she liked to have some breathing room without popping a button.

Worries for another day. Now she just wanted to get her mother off the phone.

“It doesn’t matter. Don and me, we had a nice lunch in. He had to work last night and didn’t get up until two hours ago. He didn’t want to go anywhere today.”

Which was just another contradiction with her mother like always. She wasn’t even going to ask what Don did because in a few months Don would be replaced. Either the guy would move out because he got sick of her mother, or her mother would find someone better.

When Carolyn made the comment about Bryan having no respect for women and being out for fun, she thought of her mother. Those were the men her mother attracted, but she was at fault too because she did the same thing.

No one was ever good enough. There always had to be someone out there better in her mother’s mind.

Her head fell back on the couch. Was she like her mother? Was she so fussy with men because she felt like there was more out there than she was attracting?

She hated to think that. The main difference was the fact that she normally only went on a few dates with a man before she made her decision to move on. She never moved in with them. Hell, she barely slept with a fraction of them.

“It sounds like you had a nice holiday then,” she said. Julia tried to keep the peace if she could. Must be because she spent enough time doing that in her job too.

“I did,” her mother said. “I’m sure you spent it with the Fierces.”

“Actually, no,” she said. Just to be ornery though, she added, “I did go to Carolyn’s yesterday, but today I was with Lindsey’s family.”

“Same thing,” her mother said. 

“If you say so. Did the sweater I give you fit?”

“I haven’t tried it on,” her mother said. “You could have just given me a gift card or money like Mick does. Then I could buy my own things.”

“That’s impersonal,” she said.

“No, it’s not,” her mother said. “I gave you gift cards.”

She rolled her eyes. She guessed that about summed up this call. “I can send you the receipt if you want to return it,” she said.

“No. I like it. It’s a pretty color and texture. I didn’t try it on yet.”

“Then why did you have to make the comment about just giving you money?”

“Money or gift cards are always nice and easy,” her mother said.

Again, no surprise out of her mother’s mouth. “I try to put a little effort into gifts for people.”

“So you’re saying I don’t?” her mother snapped. “I should have known better than to try to call either of you today. Neither of you can be bothered with me.”

Her mother hung up before she could say another word. That was about as lovely as she thought it’d be. She tossed her phone down on the counter and got up to get a glass of wine. 

That was her life now. Alone on Christmas day. Her and her wine because she was too picky to find a man. She was surprised her mother didn’t find time to slip that statement into the conversation like she normally did.

Thinking about that made her realize it wasn’t that bad of a conversation after all.

Fierce-Flynn…Prologue

Prologue

“Do you have everything packed?” 

“Yes, Mom,” Flynn Slater said. He was on his way to med school at the University of Maryland. He would have loved to go to Duke since he lived close by in Raleigh, but it didn’t happen. This was his second choice and he’d take it. With any luck, he could get back to the area for his residency if not a fellowship.

He hated to leave his mother, but in order for him to give them both a better life, he had to do what needed to be done today. 

That was what his mother did her whole life. Focused on today, worked for tomorrow and planned for nothing. It seemed like planning didn’t get her too far in life, she’d said often.

He didn’t believe that but had long since given up trying to tell her otherwise.

“I’m going to miss you,” she said. She never showed a ton of emotions. Not the sad kind. Humor, yeah, he was pretty sure he got his joking personality from her.

Probably because she was so bone tired from working multiple jobs that if she gave in to the sadness it’d suck her in. It was better to laugh at yourself she’d told him. Her low-paying jobs were the only ones she was able to get with her high school diploma after getting pregnant at nineteen and dropping out of college.

His father hadn’t been around much that he could remember. His mother worked her ass off putting the father of her child through college for his degree, then when he got a good job, rather than put a ring on her finger, he split for a better life and never paid support after the first few years.

Where Allen Martin was now was anyone’s guess. At least Flynn didn’t have the guy’s last name. He never asked his mother why that was either. He supposed it didn’t matter much at this point.

“You know I’ll miss you too. But I’ve only been home a few months. You were used to me being gone more often than not the past four years.”

He’d wanted to stay close to home for his bachelor’s, but he went where it was the cheapest. His brains and lack of family income got him a full ride in Ohio so that was his destination. 

He lived on campus because it was paid for, but he worked more than part time to have some money. He didn’t want his mother sending him money from another job she’d have to take on. He’d rather she could start to relax some in life.

He hated her working nights now, but she said it was easier and allowed her to get some more cleaning jobs during the day but not have it fill too much of her time.

Again, working herself to the bone and killing him to see it. 

“But you’ve been home for the summer,” she said. “I know I haven’t been home at night, but you’re sleeping. And during the day you’ve been working. We had dinners together and that I will miss.”

“Not as much as me,” he said. “Thanks again for teaching me to cook.”

College food wasn’t always the best and he ate what came with his meal plan. He’d do the same in med school, but he wanted to learn to take care of himself better. 

Or maybe he just wanted his mother to know he could. That she did right by him.

Too many times in his life he’d been embarrassed by what she did for money. By the little they had. He thought he hid it well, but he was sure she noticed. His mother saw everything.

It was his problem he had to outgrow. He couldn’t change where he came from, but he was damn well going to make sure the hard work stopped soon for his mother.

“You need to know how to do it. You can’t expect a woman to always take care of you.”

He grinned. “No one will ever be able to take as good care of me as you.”

“That’s a mother’s job,” she said, patting his hand. “Now finish packing and hit the road.”

He leaned down and gave her a kiss, then went back to putting his clothes in boxes that he’d stuff into his secondhand car, praying it got him to Maryland. 

He looked around his small room in the cramped two-bedroom apartment. They’d never lived in a house. Not even a rented one. Small apartments his entire life. They didn’t move often like a lot of people that rented, but enough.

It always bothered him to tell friends he was moving too, let alone have them at his place to hang out.

Growing up, he didn’t want to hang out with other kids in the complexes where he lived. Not those in the same situation as him. Many weren’t going to college and were going to work right out of high school, if they didn’t find some illegal way to make their money.

When they’d heard he was going to be a doctor, they shunned him and told him he thought he was better than the rest of them.

Well, he kind of did. 

But then those that were better than him in school shunned him for his upbringing too. So he found that he ended up being more of a loner growing up than he wanted.

He was able to recreate himself in college. No one knew where he came from or how his life was. They weren’t privy to his full ride because he didn’t share.

Having a job gave him money and allowed him to go out and do normal things that other kids did. To not be looked at as the one who didn’t have a lot.

He liked the feeling and he was going to keep it up at the University of Maryland. 

He was going to be Dr. Flynn Slater soon, not poor Flynn whose mother was a house cleaner people felt sorry for and gave her hand me downs when he was younger so she wouldn’t have to worry about buying clothes he was outgrowing so fast.

Thirty minutes later, he had everything packed up and the last box in his car. He knew his mother hadn’t been to bed yet and the sooner he left, the sooner she could get some sleep.

“I’ll call you later when I’m there,” he said.

She pulled an envelope out of her pocket and he shook his head.

“Don’t tell me no. It’s not a lot, but it’s more than you’ve got without it.” She said that a lot to him in life. She was right.

“I don’t want your money,” he said. “I’ve been putting money away all summer and even paying you rent.”

“Which I didn’t want. So here it is back.”

His shoulders dropped. He should have figured she’d do that. He was trying to give her a cushion so she didn’t have to work so many jobs. His full-time job this summer doing landscaping paid well, even if he busted his ass and got a shitload of blisters along with sunburn.

“Why take it then?” he asked.

She grabbed his hand and put the envelope in it. “Because I didn’t want to argue with you. Consider it an extra savings account for you. Run to the bank and deposit it now if you want.”

He was going to. It was a few thousand dollars he didn’t want to be carrying around and he knew if he left it in the apartment and she found it, she’d drive it to him.

“Thanks for everything, Mom. I’m going to get us out of this situation soon. You’re going to have your own place and you are going to stop being a slave to everyone else.”

She laughed like she always did. “It’s nice to have goals, but I just want you to be happy. That’s good enough for me.”

But to Flynn it wasn’t good enough for the woman who never dated again and dedicated her life to caring for him. He’d make her proud and he’d give her a better life because there was no one else who cared enough to do it for them.