Fierce-Noah…Chapter One

Noah

If you haven’t read the Prologue, you catch up now.

Red Sheep

 

“I’m glad we could meet for lunch,” his mother said on Columbus Day. You should be off, but I know you’re at the school working. At least this pulled you out of the office.”

“You know how it goes,” he said. “Once school starts it’s nonstop. A month in and I’m still playing catch up on paperwork and grants. I swear this group of freshmen is nothing but trouble. Every year the new class is one of two things, they all get along for the most part with the exception of a few, or they cause more headaches than I’ve got bottles of aspirin for.”

His mother grinned at him. “You will have your hands full with this class. There are a group of troublemakers and a bunch of followers. The followers just feed off the troublemakers rather than standing up on their own. Not enough leaders in this generation I fear.”

His mother taught middle school English so she’d know since she had most of these kids. “You should have warned me.”

“And ruin all the fun? You know I like you to make your own decisions and opinions on the kids.”

She did. He did bounce ideas off of her earlier in his career as a high school history teacher, then when he was promoted to vice principal and finally principal three years ago just before his thirtieth birthday. Yep, his plan was going well. At this rate he should be superintendent well before he was forty, but the current one in the district was only in his late fifties so only time would tell how long he lasted.

Though the assistant superintendent was rumored to be retiring in two years, so if Noah could wiggle in there he’d have a better shot than moving to another district. He’d move but would rather stay in his hometown of Durham where the rest of his family lived and worked.

“It’s going to be an interesting year, I can see it now. I’ve got a handful of new teachers I’m trying to get set up and accustomed to. Then the older teachers who are set in their ways. The kids, the paperwork. Why did I want to do this?”

“Because you liked being in charge,” she said, patting his hand. Their food was brought out and placed down forcing her to move her hand. He wouldn’t admit he needed that little bit of reassurance, which was sad for being thirty-three. But sometimes you just needed your mother in life.

Not that he’d ever admit that to anyone, least of all to her or his siblings. They’d never let him live it down.

“I believe the word used to describe me was bossy,” he reminded her. “Drake is the chill one, I’m the bossy one, Wyatt the joker, and Jade is the baby.”

She picked up her fork to stab at a piece of chicken in her salad. “You all have your labels, though we know Jade hates being called the baby.”

“She hates it worse when we say she is the only girl.”

His younger sister was only two years behind him, but her three older brothers—especially her twin, Wyatt—watched her like a hawk and made sure no one messed with her. Of course after years with her brothers, Jade knew how to handle herself at this point in her life.

“It’s hard not to say that about her when she looks like a little princess all the time,” he said.

“She does like her clothes and accessories.”

“The pretty girl with the sharp tongue,” he said of his sister.

“She gets that from me.”

“Please,” Noah said, waving his hand. “You hardly ever swear or yell.”

She started to laugh. “I yelled plenty at you kids growing up and you know it. So what else is going on with work?”

“Not much. I’m just keeping an eye on a group I can see that is going to cause problems. Nothing has happened yet, but it’s brewing like a witch’s cauldron months before Halloween.

“Just nip it in the bud first, or try to.”

He always did at some point. “I’m doing more patrolling than normal on lunch breaks and when I think these kids are in study halls. I want them to know I’m there along with security.”

“Most are intimidated by you. They aren’t so much by the security.”

“I don’t think they see the security guards as an authority like they do me.” Being six foot three and built had something to do with it, he knew that. The other part was that for as much as he was firm, he was also friendly. He wanted to earn the kids’ trust.

“You have a way about you with the kids. You always did. You’re doing what you love. We sure the heck know you aren’t doing it for the money.”

He snorted. “So I’ve been told before.”

He started to eat his burger hoping that the conversation would stall. There had been plenty of women in his life that he’d dated that wondered why he chose his career over working for the family business or going into medicine like the rest of his family.

Only his cousin Bryce was in academics like him, but he was a professor at Duke working on his second doctorate. Then there was his cousin Sam who was a surgical oncologist at Duke Cancer Center, his twin Drake, an engineer at the family firm, his brother Wyatt, an anesthesiologist, sister Jade, an engineer at the family firm, and his youngest cousin, Ryder, an architect at the firm. A history teacher turned high school principal was the red sheep in the group.

Not black because he didn’t cause trouble, but red because he stood out like the stepchild that didn’t belong. At least in some of the women’s eyes he’d dated.

He’d once told his brother money wasn’t everything and he believed it. He wasn’t poor by any means. Hell, he just tipped six figures with his job this year so that wasn’t anything to sneeze at, but it wasn’t the kind of money the rest of his family made either.

“People need to get over it,” his mother said. “Society is so obsessed with what everyone has rather than who they are.”

“I try to tell the kids that too. They don’t listen.”

“You do a lot of good with those programs in school, Noah. Don’t let anyone tell you differently. For as many upper income families as there are here, there are more lower income. Everyone should be treated equally, but it doesn’t happen. You try your hardest to bring those kids together to be seen for what they contribute rather than what their parents give them.”

“Thanks. I do try. You and Dad never let the money change or mold us. We were given a lot of privileges; we all got out of college debt free and that is huge. We didn’t want for anything, but we appreciated what we had. I just want to pass that on to the next generation. I want them to see the person in front of them, not where they come from.”

Which was funny since he was a history major and it always annoyed him that people forgot how everyone got to where they were today. It was a tightrope he walked a lot in his profession. Teaching the subject, or making the person. He chose to make the person while he taught the subject.

“And you will,” she said. “So any kids in particular standing out this year to you? All grades?”

“Nothing really. I’m getting to know the underclassmen, but with so many faces it’s hard to remember them all. It seems the smart ones, the jocks, and the troublemakers stand out the most. Those in the middle—which are the majority—get lost in the shuffle.”

“No one gets lost, just remember that. I had this kid last year. Sebastian. Good kid if you could get past the tough exterior. He was new to the school. Smart, you could see it, but didn’t apply himself or didn’t want people to know he was smart. He definitely wanted to be lost in the shuffle and it made me sad. But I could see what a great personality he had through his work.”

“That’s the problem with kids. Sometimes they are afraid to put themselves out there for fear of being knocked down.”

“You’d know that, wouldn’t you?” his mother asked.

He’d never been knocked down a day in his life. He and his brother Drake were two of the biggest kids in his class. They played sports, they hung out in the popular cliques, and they had a lot of friends. But he had gotten more comments than he cared for about his field of choice.

“It’s not the same. I didn’t care if someone judged me. None of us do.”

“That’s because we raised you kids right. Other kids, like Sebastian, who knows what goes on in his house? I read his papers and I knew the type of kid he should be, but his actions didn’t show that. Anyway, keep doing what you’re doing and you’ll be just fine. Let’s finish up lunch, as I know you want to get back to the school and do more work while it’s quiet.”

“I’ll probably grab some paperwork to bring home. I was going to see if Drake wanted to get some dinner, but I’m sure he’s got plans with Kara.”

He was expecting his twin to pop the question to Kara Winslow at some point in the near future, but it hadn’t happened yet. They were just starting to move in together slowly and he wondered if he was going to lose all the time he and Drake spent together.

He was used to being with his twin once or twice a week, talking daily, but now, they just talked or texted more than hung out. Being the third wheel on a unicycle was pretty uncomfortable.

“So, invite yourself to dinner with them. Kara loves having you around and you know it.”

“I won’t do that. I don’t feel right just walking in their house anymore unannounced. It’s not just Drake most times.”

“No, but Kara is like family. Hopefully she will be soon. Those two are wonderful together.”

“They are,” he said, trying to squash the jealousy he felt for his older brother’s relationship. He’d always felt like he had to measure up to him and never could.

“You’ll find someone soon,” she said and then went back to eating.

He wasn’t so sure of that. It seemed like he swung and missed more times than a fifth grader trying to hit a professional pitcher’s fastball.

 

***

 

“Did you get anywhere?” Garrett asked her when she walked into his office after her lunch with Noah.

“Shhh,” Carolyn Fierce said as she shut his door. “We can’t be quiet if you ask me those things where people can hear. What is wrong with you?”

Her husband laughed at her. “Nothing. I’m just curious. Drake is falling into our plan just like we thought. Seeing him and Kara together makes me smile daily. Sam and Bryce are engaged, we are still one kid down from Grant and Diane.”

“I didn’t get far. Give me time. This one is hard. Just because I had a student whose aunt would be perfect for Noah doesn’t mean I can get them together. That would be too obvious. He was talking about how this class has a bunch of troublemakers. I slipped Sebastian’s name in there to see if he’s had any interaction with the kid.”

“Did he react?” Grant asked.

“No. Not even a flicker of his eyelids. I liked the kid a lot, I felt a connection to him through his writing, but he never acted as he wrote. Trust me, I know he’ll be in Noah’s office soon enough. It’s bound to happen. He’s smart and talented, but he wants to fade away and the kids don’t want to let him. It’s sad, it is, and my hope is Noah will recognize that and take him under his wing. But to do that he’d end up having to talk with Paige.”

“What do you know about Paige?” he asked.

“Not a lot. She has guardianship of Sebastian and I don’t know the whole story, and she was nice and sweet but very concerned. I could see she was focused on doing right by her nephew, but she might be in over her head too.”

“Noah will see that and step in to help. It’s in his nature to do that,” Grant said, rubbing his hands together.

“Exactly. So though I don’t want Sebastian to get in trouble, I’m sure it’s going to happen. We just have to wait this one out.”

“I hate the waiting game. Maybe we should start thinking about Wyatt in the meantime.”

She laughed. “Please. I can’t do two at once. Why don’t you start thinking of Jade? Maybe someone at work like Kara and Drake worked out?”

“Jade would never date someone from work, you know that,” Grant said. “She’s going to be a tough one, so let’s just hold off a bit.”

“You’re right. Girls are just much more difficult. Gavin had Ella ‘set up’ for years before it actually fell into place. He didn’t even let Jolene know what he’d done.”

Her sister-in-law had set up her four boys one by one and then when it came time for their daughter, Ella, she’d had no luck. Little did anyone know Gavin had started the ball rolling on the matchmaking long before Jolene got it in her head.

Now Carolyn and her husband, her husband’s twin, Grant, and his wife, Diane, were all trying their hands at matchmaking. They were three for three in the family and wanted to keep it going.

“Maybe we should think about Jade though if it takes that long,” he said.

“I can’t. We agreed we’d take them in order. Let’s focus on Noah, maybe think of Wyatt. I can’t do much more than that. What do you think I’m some miracle worker?” she asked.

“You whined you had no part of Drake and I did it all, so now that I’m suggesting Jade you want to back off. I can’t win with you.”

She moved into his arms and gave him a hug. “You win every day of your life with me and you know it.”

He kissed her on the forehead. “I do. And that is all we want for our kids.”

Fierce-Noah…Prologue

Noah

Prologue

 

“Well, hello there, hot stuff. I’m Kaylee. What’s your name?”

“Noah,” he said, moving over on the couch at the frat party he and his twin, Drake, were attending. He made room for her, her island scent hitting him hard in the nostrils, and he wondered if she’d dumped the body spray over her head like so many chicks seemed to be doing.

His younger brother, Wyatt, was upstairs with some freshman in his class. His cousin Cade was here somewhere with a girl too, but his cousin Bryce, who was in his junior year like Noah and Drake, was probably in his room studying.

“Noah is a nice strong name,” she said, running her long nail down his bicep.

“It goes with the last name,” he said, letting out a laugh as his twin, Drake, walked into the room and sat in a chair across from them. Drake ran his hand under his nose letting him know that he was thinking the same thing about Kaylee’s scent.

“And what is your last name?” Kaylee asked, her hair flipping over her shoulder. It was hard for him to not start coughing with the smell of coconut smacking him in the face. He hated coconut.

“Fierce.”

She giggled and snuggled closer to him. “Sounds perfect for you.”

“We like to think so,” Drake said, his grin growing wider.

Kaylee looked up. “Are you guys related?”

“Drake Fierce, Noah’s twin.”

“Oh, there are two of you.”

“Actually there are five of us here,” Drake said.

“All brothers?” Kaylee asked. Drake took a sip out of the red solo cup in his hand.

“No. Drake and I are juniors. Our younger brother, Wyatt, is a freshman. Our cousin Bryce is a junior; our other two cousins, Cade and Ella, are freshmen. So really six here, now that I think of it.”

“Fierce?” she said. “Like the engineering firm in town?”

“That would be our father and uncle,” Noah said back, surprised she’d recognize that. “How do you know?”

“My friend is going for engineering and she talks about the firm and how everyone wants to get their internship there. So let me guess, you are all going into the family business?” she asked, inching closer. He had the sudden urge to ask if she planned on going to the beach since she smelled so much like sunscreen.

Then he realized it didn’t matter. Kaylee wasn’t out for a relationship; she was out for fun. He knew her type.

“Cade and Ella are business students and going back to work for their family business in Charlotte. Bryce is studying chemistry or something. Who knows if it changed, but not engineering. He might just save the world one day with something he discovers,” he said laughing. His genius cousin would probably go to school his whole life.

“And what about you and your brothers?”

“I’m going for engineering,” Drake said. “Our youngest brother is following in our other cousin’s footsteps going into medicine.”

“Oh, doctors,” she said. Kaylee was almost on his lap. He was going to need a shower when he left if she rubbed against him anymore. “So engineering, pre med or, let me guess, a lawyer for you?”

Drake started to laugh. “He’s too bossy for those fields,” Drake said.

Noah just grinned. Not only didn’t he want any part of those professions, he didn’t think he was smart enough for them.

Sure, he could get by, but it wasn’t what he wanted. He wasn’t strong in math and science and business was boring to him. Nor did he want to wear a suit, so law was out.

“Bossy?” Kaylee asked. “I like men who take control. So what are you studying?”

“I’m a history major. I’m going into teaching,” he said.

“You want to be a teacher?” she asked, wrinkling her nose like someone pissed in her solo cup full of beer. “Why? There is no money in that.”

He snorted. “Why does it have to be about money?” Not only was she not plastered to his side now, she was scooting over like he had a stench to him.

“Micki,” Kaylee shouted across the room and waved her arm. “I’m coming, hang on. Sorry, my friend is calling me over.”

“No problem,” Noah said, shaking his head. Drake rolled his eyes and handed his drink over.

“Looks like you need this more than me. Want to get out of here?”

“Yeah,” he said, taking his brother’s drink and walking out of the door. They’d go back to their dorm now. They’d stayed in the same room since their first year. They had two other roommates too, but they’d never been apart.

“Don’t let her get to you. Those superficial chicks will go hook up with someone else.”

“Probably Wyatt,” Noah said, letting out a much-needed laugh. “Oh, I hope so, then I can bust on his ass that she came to me first.”

“That’s the spirit. Seriously, Noah, do what makes you happy, not what other people judge you by.”

His twin always knew what to say. Of course Drake was the one that floated with the wind and nothing ever bothered him or got under his skin. It was annoying but he’d gotten used to it.

“I don’t give a shit what she thinks. I know what I want to do with my life and I’d rather not have someone want to be with me for my name and how much money I make.”

“But we are so strong,” Drake said in a high pitched girly voice, taking the cup back and downing the rest of it.

“What the hell? It’s kind of sick, isn’t it?” Noah said, remembering how many times silly girls made that comment. His brother would know what he meant without explaining.

“It’s been like this for us forever. I don’t have a problem with it, why do you?”

“No problem at all,” Noah said. “It’s just the first time I’ve had a woman do that.”

His entire life everyone asked if he was going to work for the family business. Even his sister, Jade, was going for engineering at the University of North Carolina and his younger cousin Ryder planned on going for architecture. But he’d never had anyone react quite like that over his field of study.

“They aren’t worth your time,” Drake said.

“Nope.”

“Besides, we all know you want to teach because you want to spend the whole day bossing someone around just like Mom.” He shoved his twin off the sidewalk and kept walking. Drake caught up fast, laughing. “You know I’m right.”

Noah was the closest to his mother, who also happened to be a teacher. The same with his Aunt Diane. He wouldn’t consider himself a Mama’s Boy like his brothers and cousins always said, but he just found he had the most in common with her.

“Whatever. You’ll be busting your ass fifty–sixty hours a week and I’ll be working ten months a year and out at three. You tell me who the idiot is?”

“You won’t stay teaching for long and you know it. You probably have it all planned out on your way to superintendent.”

He wiggled his eyebrows at Drake, then turned to the door of their dorm building. Yeah, his twin knew him well, but it wasn’t anything he’d shared with family. His goal was to teach for a few years, then move up to a principal, then superintendent. He planned on being there by the time he was forty. No later.

“Guess you’ll have to wait and see,” he said. “I’m hungry. The food was shit there.”

“There’s nothing in our room and the cafeteria is closed. Pizza?” Drake asked.

“Sure. Call Bryce and see if he wants to join us. He’s always up for takeout and it’d get his nose out of the books.”

As they walked into their room, Drake pulled his phone out and called their cousin Bryce to get his ass over. Noah heard the arguing that ten wasn’t that late. The minute Drake mentioned pizza, he assumed Bryce was on the way when Drake said, “See you in ten minutes.”

He ordered the pizza and hung up. “It will be about thirty minutes.”

Drake grabbed the remote and turned the TV on in the living room they shared with their quad. Their two other roommates were nowhere to be found. It was just as well for him and Drake.

The minute Bryce walked in the door, he said, “I thought you guys were at that party. The one you wanted to drag me to. Couldn’t have been that great if you are back this early.”

Noah snorted. “It was fine, but we left.”

“What happened?” Bryce asked.

Noah looked at Drake and saw that he wasn’t going to say anything, so Noah fessed up. “Some chick was coming onto me, then found out what I was studying and took off.”

“Been there,” Bryce said. “Not your type so move on. If they don’t want you, they aren’t worth your time.”

“That’s what I said,” Drake said. “Enough gabbing about women. The food will be here soon and there is no reason to spoil our appetite.”

The three of them started talking about anything but women. He appreciated what they were doing, but they didn’t need to. It wasn’t that big of a deal.

But later that night when he was lying in bed, it still bothered him. Would it always be like this? Would a woman always see his name and assume he was going to have some big paycheck with his career and walk away if he didn’t?

Or worse yet, how would he know if they really liked him or not?

He shook his head and turned over. This stupid shit shouldn’t be keeping him up at night.

Fierce- Noah

Noah

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

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

Grey’s Blind Date Discovery- Prologue

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Prologue

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

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

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

“What are your plans tonight?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Wingman?” Grey said. “I’ll pass.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“No problem,” he said.

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

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

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

“I’m happy the way I am.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No, nothing was as bad as them.

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

Grey’s Blind Date Discovery

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

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

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

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

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

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

Change Up…Prologue

change up

Prologue

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fastball, here it comes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I’m not playing,” Harris said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nothing else after that. The rest was just darkness.

 

 

Change Up

 

change up 

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

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

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

Cupid’s Quest- Prologue

CupidQuest

Prologue

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Thanks, Candy,” Missy said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ruby turned to Missy. “Thank you.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Who lives here?”

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

“How many kids?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cupid’s Quest

CupidQuest

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

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

Fierce- Drake…Chapter Two

Drake(1)

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

Losing Control

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Fine,” he said.

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

 

***

 

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

It didn’t help.

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

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

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

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

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

“Nothing,” Drake said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

***

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Wyatt?” Grant said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You’ll be the first to know.”