Cupid’s Quest- Prologue

CupidQuest

Prologue

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Thanks, Candy,” Missy said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ruby turned to Missy. “Thank you.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Who lives here?”

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

“How many kids?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cupid’s Quest

CupidQuest

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

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

Fierce- Drake…Chapter Two

Drake(1)

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

Losing Control

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Fine,” he said.

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

 

***

 

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

It didn’t help.

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

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

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

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

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

“Nothing,” Drake said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

***

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Wyatt?” Grant said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You’ll be the first to know.”

Fierce-Drake…Chapter One

Drake(1)

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

Stuck Like Glue

Eleven Years Later

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

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

Big, strong…fierce. Like their name.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I’m sure,” she said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She laughed. “Okay.”

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

 

***

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It found a home, all right. With her.

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

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

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

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

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

Fierce-Drake…Prologue

Drake(1)

Prologue

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I’ll take a Sam Adams,” Drake said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fierce- Drake

Drake(1)

Drake Fierce is the most chill dude in his family. Nothing stresses him or ruffles his feathers. So it comes as a massive shock when an employee of his family’s firm makes his blood pressure rise and the snarkiness come out in full force.

Kara Winslow’s life was anything but neat, tidy, or perfect like the Fierce family. Dull, boring, and stable were words often used to describe her. Then why does Drake get under her skin and manage to break her unflappable control so much?

Gifts of Love…Chapter One

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

Past the Stress

Fifteen years later

Holly was sitting at her desk trying her darnedest to get two and two to equal four. If it equaled five she’d be thrilled, but currently it seemed like it was a big fat red three.

She wanted to lay her head down on the cold metal contraption of a desk that was older than her and just start to bang it a few times and try again. It didn’t matter. The business was still struggling.

The last few years just weren’t kind to the family tree farm. This past summer had been better for sure, but they were still digging out of the hole of repairs to some of the greenhouses. Equipment that had to be replaced. And then there were her grandmother’s medical bills that had mounted when the family realized her life savings was gone.

Added to that was her brother Ryan’s idea to use fifteen acres for growing hops for local brewers. It was a great investment in their future, but it was an investment and that meant loans they had to take.

This first summer had covered their investment, but they didn’t yield much profit. Next year they would. Now she just hoped to get past the stress on her end to make it all work.

One thing or another always seemed to happen.

But Christmas was around the corner and always a big time of year. At least she hoped so.

She looked up when she heard a knock on the doorframe to see her older brother, Ryan, standing there in old worn jeans, work boots, and a thick flannel shirt open over a T-shirt. She wasn’t dressed much differently. Though she worked in the office, she’d fill in where she was needed and could end up on the grounds getting her feet and clothes dirty.

“Brynn Harper was here earlier.”

“Who?” Holly asked.

Her brother walked in and sat in the chair across from her. “From Harper Construction.”

That perked her up a bit. Harper Construction was one of the biggest construction companies in Saratoga. In all of the Capital Region in Upstate New York.

“What did she want?”

“They had a falling out with their landscaper and are looking for bids for new ones for the spring.”

“Really? And they reached out to us? This could be huge.” Her heart was already moving faster than Thumper’s big fluffy feet over the possibilities and the potential income of this.

“Yep. They are big into family-owned businesses. Her husband and his brother have owned and operated Harper’s for years. They are looking for a few things. They have a lot of rental properties, and they do flips. So they need landscaping for those houses. But the bigger part is the new builds in their developments. Most people want the property already landscaped and so they would pick what they want and Harper’s would contract with someone. Hopefully us,” Ryan said, grinning wide.

She wished she could be as carefree and laid back as Ryan, but she seemed to be born with the stress gene in the family. That was probably why she sat behind the desk while he got to work the land. It suited him better, often the one found whistling while he worked.

“So what do I need to do?” she asked, her pen ready and paper in front of her, dying to dive right in.

“Here’s her card. I told her you’d get in touch for more specifics.”

She reached for the card and placed it right in front of her on the keyboard. “The minute you are out of my office, I’m on it.”

“That’s the smile I’d like to see on your face more often. I’m kind of sick of seeing the frown. You know you’ve got more worry lines than anyone should for twenty-eight.”

She snorted. “What no woman ever wants to hear. That’s why you’re still single at thirty-two.”

“The same as you,” he said back. “But I’ve got one more thing. It’s a day of good news.”

“Good news is always welcome, especially when I keep seeing red and would love to see some black.”

“Better you than me,” he said. “I’m happy dealing with the green all day long.”

“We all have our strengths,” she said. “So put me in an even better mood and tell me the other good news.”

“Brendan St. Nicholas just left here a few minutes ago.”

“Am I supposed to know who that is?”

“Really, Holly? What world do you live in?”

“A world that doesn’t know who Brendan St. Nicholas is.”

He laughed and started to rub his hands together. “Does Force Frontier ring a bell?”

“Huh?” she said. “Should it?”

“It’s one of the best-selling battle royale games out there. Right up there with Apex.”

“No clue,” she said. “That is your thing, not mine.”

Her brother had always been into video games. She couldn’t care less.

“Whatever. You never do anything fun.”

She rolled her eyes. “I do a lot of fun things, but video games aren’t part of it. Anyway, is there a point to your video game nights and this conversation?”

“Force Frontier was created by Brendan St. Nicholas. That and several others. He’s the local good guy turned into more zeroes behind his name than we’d ever have. Anyway, he does this big toy drive every year.”

Now she knew who it was and she didn’t like where this was going. “What did he want with us?” she asked slowly.

“He wants to use Lane Tree Farm as the location for his toy drive this year.”

“Ryan,” she said slowly. “You know how I feel about this.”

“Too bad, Holly. This is a family decision and you know you will be overruled.”

She knew that. “How can you want to be involved in this after everything Granny went through?”

Their granny had always had a soft heart and wanted to help people out. She’d made some bad decisions and got taken advantage of. They all wished they’d known what was going on but they didn’t until it was too late.

“But Brendan isn’t like that. He isn’t asking us for any money. He isn’t asking us for anything other than the space to collect the toys.”

She hoped Ryan was telling the truth. And this could be huge, but she just had a distrust—more like a distaste—for any charity organization or do-gooder. They always wanted something in the long run, at least from her experience.

She wasn’t a sucker like her granny was. She was more practical. More serious, and more in your face. If Holly didn’t like you, you knew it.

“So what does he want?” she asked.

“Just what I said. He’d like to have the drive here at the farm. It’s perfect. Think of the business we would get. People will come here and drop off gifts for a few weeks before Christmas at the same time they will be looking for Christmas trees.”

“I suppose we could decorate the area well with wreaths and Christmas plants and such. Try to make a profit that way. At least more than normal. Mom will be all over that.”

“There you go putting that business mind to work. Maybe set up some decorative trees that people could buy? You know we’ve talked about that before.”

They had. Her mother loved to decorate and did a lot of the plants and displays around the farm. She’d just eat this whole thing up. As much as she wanted to fight this, Holly knew she’d lose, and if it meant a bigger profit, which they needed, she’d give in, as long as she didn’t have to deal with this guy.

“Mom would love that,” she said.

“She would.” Ryan threw another business card on her desk. “We need to make a decision tonight. He gave us twenty-four hours. If we don’t want to do it, he will move on to his second choice.”

“How did we end up as his first choice?” she asked.

“No clue, but when you talk to him, you can ask that.”

And there was the dread. “Why do I have to talk to him?”

“Because you run the business end of things.”

“Then why did he talk to you?”

“Because he walked onto the grounds and I recognized him. I knew it was better that I take the first step. You would have told him off or ticked him off.”

She laughed. “I’m not that bad.”

“I don’t know about that. Anyway, I’m going to go talk to Mom and Dad, then we can bring Granny in on it later tonight, but you know her…”

“No need to ask. She’ll say yes to anything that has to do with giving kids toys.”

“As should you,” Ryan said. “Brendan does good for the area. Look him up. He’s a great guy.”

“You say that because you like his game.”

“Games,” Ryan said. “He’s big. Huge. You wouldn’t understand.”

“No, I wouldn’t,” she said. “But I can be a good family player and suck it up for a few weeks.”

“You’ll be thrilled when you see all those black numbers on those spreadsheets of yours.”

“There is that,” she said, grinning. “So what? I’ve got to call the guy tomorrow or something?”

“I’ll go talk to Mom and Dad, get their take.”

“They will agree,” she said grudgingly and wondered why she was putting up a fight. The business needed it and she’d have to suck it up.

“They will, but I like to cover all my bases. Then I’ll come back and let you know. Give him a call in the morning and go from there. I’m sure he has all sorts of people that will do the work for him. You probably won’t have to talk to him much at all.”

“There is that,” she said, feeling better about that thought.

“I’ve got work to do now. Go back to your numbers, as we know that is the only thing that makes you happy.”

“It’s not the only thing,” she said.

“That’s right, Reese makes you happy.”

“Of course,” she said, looking over at the picture of her chocolate lab puppy on her desk. Normally she brought Reese to work with her, but twice a week she dropped him off at doggie daycare so he could play with his friends.

“Do you have separation anxiety for two days a week?” Ryan asked, grinning.

“Of course not,” she said.

“Liar.”

“Get out of here,” she said, waving her hand. “You got your way, now let me get to work.”

Gifts of Love…Prologue @NatalieAnn121 #Mgtab

 

giftofloveGifts of Love is just 99 cents!

Prologue

 

Brendan rolled over on Christmas morning and looked at the clock to see the bright red light showing seven thirty. It was later than he imagined since he was normally up earlier when it came to the holidays.

He guessed he was more tired than he thought he was. He couldn’t wait for the day when he didn’t feel like this. Like his body was fighting for every breath to just get up and move. He was hoping today wouldn’t be one of those days, but it seemed not much in his life was going the way he thought it would.

When he walked out of his room and down the stairs, he saw his parents sitting at the small kitchen table drinking coffee. “Morning,” his mother said.

“Merry Christmas,” he said back, looking around for his sister. “Where’s Kat?”

“Sleeping. You know her, once her head hits the pillow she is out like a light.”

“Yeah, but it’s Christmas morning,” he argued.

His younger sister, Katrina, was the most chill eleven-year-old he knew. When she was a toddler she hardly ever cried. If she didn’t get her way, she just strutted away proud as can be like it was her right to not get what she wanted and decided to do something else. Like a cat—and that was when he decided to shorten her name.

His father shrugged. “You can go wake her if you want. I’m sure she’s excited…at least she will be once she stretches and rubs the sleep from her eyes.”

He grinned, turned, and went back up the stairs. When he pushed Kat’s door open he saw that she was almost curled into a ball with the comforter half hanging on the floor. “Wake up, Kat. Santa came.”

She did exactly as his father said, lifted her arms over her head, stretched, her legs straightening, her toes pointing, her mouth twisting in a yawn. “Did Santa really come or are you making it up?”

He figured she probably didn’t believe anymore, but he wasn’t about to ask that and give up the secret if she did.

She stood up and stretched one more time, then followed him down the stairs. They were both wearing their new Christmas pajamas that they opened the night before, a tradition his parents had done for as long as he could remember.

“You know I wouldn’t tell you something that wasn’t true. There are gifts under the tree from Santa.”

“I believe you,” she said, running past him and down the stairs. There were the energy and excitement she showed when she wanted to.

Brendan jogged down after her. Trying to fight back how tired he’d just gotten, he sucked in a bit of air, his heart racing, then sat down on the floor while his sister looked around at the boxes.

“Are you okay?” his mother asked.

“I’m fine. Just got winded a bit. You know how it gets. It will pass.”

“I’m sure it will,” his mother said, always one to humor him. He’d like it to pass permanently. Soon, he knew. Not much longer before he had surgery to fix his heart.

Was he scared? Shit yeah. No fifteen-year-old wanted to have their chest cracked open and their heart exposed, but he knew he’d be fine after, so it was best to get it over with.

He looked around under the tree hoping to see some new video games. It seemed like that was all he did with his time since it was discovered he had aortic stenosis a few years ago. He was most likely born with it, though he never showed symptoms.

Then all of a sudden he got active in sports and found he was tired more than he should be. A routine physical showed a heart murmur. He was watched and continued to play sports, but everything got worse. That was when all the tests were done, the procedures and such.

Nothing was working and as a last resort he was having valve replacement surgery in two months.

It wasn’t what he wanted to think about right now. Instead he was looking forward to what was on his wish list.

What he wanted was a gaming computer. He had a Playstation and an Xbox. He had no care for a Wii, but his big wish was the computer.

The problem with that…a good one was thousands of dollars and his parents already spent enough money on his medical bills. He couldn’t ask them for something as expensive as that.

His hope was that he could get a job when he turned sixteen to add to the money he was putting away from all the holidays. Then he could buy one himself.

Kat was now ripping into her gifts. New clothes, jewelry, a few board games, and books. She was easy to please and all girl. Princesses and frilly things were right up her alley.

Once the living room resembled a war zone of red, green, and Santa paper, his father handed him another small box. “One more thing.”

“Who is this from?” he asked, not seeing a name on it.

“Just open it and you will see.”

Kat turned to watch while he opened it up and saw the letter from Make A Wish Foundation. No way. It couldn’t be. He’d applied a while ago, never thinking he’d get it.

He read the letter, felt his eyes fill up with tears and wasn’t even the least bit embarrassed over it.

“Are you getting your computer?” Kat asked.

“No,” he said, looking at her, then his parents. “We’re going to Disney.”

Kat screeched and started to jump around the room. Disney wasn’t his first choice, though he enjoyed a good ride like the next person. He was all about Epcot and special effects at the movie studios. But this trip wasn’t for him, it was for his family.

So much time, energy, money, and emotions were spent on him and it was time to give back for all that everyone sacrificed. He was getting a new lease on life, and with it, he was going to pay back his family.

So he did the one thing he could. He was giving his parents a vacation and his sister a chance to spend some time with princesses.

The joy on everyone’s face made up for not asking for his gaming computer. And when they went in a few months and he saw them all smiling, it would be the best trip of his life.

It’s My Chance…Chapter One

It's My Chance

If you haven’t checked out the Prologue, you can do that now. Here is chapter one!

Nine Lives

Two months later

Monday morning Logan pulled into McGuire’s B&B a little more than five hours after he’d left New York City.

His body was stiff and sore and he needed to get out of the car and walk it off. Stretch. Bend. Anything to get out and just move.

Maybe it was too soon to sit for this long, but he couldn’t stay in his apartment staring at the walls any longer contemplating his future.

He’d left the Army shortly after his buddy Trevor Miles. Trevor got out before anything major happened to him. When Logan barely escaped being blown to pieces with a bomb, he knew it was time to move on—after he lost one of the only women he’d let into his life in that explosion, knowing he’d have a hard time getting past it.

The job at NYPD seemed the logical decision. He went back to where he’d grown up in Manhattan and figured why not?

He’d been stabbed on the force a few years ago and been told he was lucky to be alive. Just a few more inches and he would have bled out like a gutted deer.

Did he leave his job after that? Nope, he went right back at it.

But this time, he was starting to think of the whole three strikes and you’re out. He had his third strike, he wasn’t out, but he wasn’t sure he was ready to try the nine lives theory either.

He had a month left on his medical leave to come to terms with his future.

And why he felt he had to come to terms with anything surprised him since he had more zeroes in the bank than anyone ever knew.

He didn’t flaunt it and never would. Why? Because it wasn’t who he was.

But that wealth was making it easier for him to walk away from the career he loved and not worry about starving. That wealth wasn’t going to make him happy if he couldn’t figure out what to do with his life though.

Thirty-five was just too damn young to do nothing.

He walked up to the front door of the B&B, let himself in and heard a woman call out from the back, “Come on in. I can see you on the camera.”

He looked up in the corner and saw a camera aimed at the door, then walked toward the voice. She was standing there, her hands kneading dough on the counter. “I’m Celeste Ryder. You must be Logan Taylor. Trevor and Riley’s friend.”

“That’s me,” he said. When it came time to escape, he figured why not go up in the mountains and relax in nature. Though he lived in the big city and had loved the action, there was a part of him that just wanted peace and quiet in his surroundings. Water, trees, woods. Anything different than what he was coming from.

Celeste wiped her hands off, then walked forward and shook his hand. “So glad to have you. Can I offer you a drink or a snack after your long drive before I show you the cabin?”

“I’m good,” he said. He really just wanted to get his stuff unpacked and sit down and have a beer from the cooler in his vehicle. He knew he’d have to get some food at the store, but he wanted a cold beer before he did anything else.

“Then let me show you where you’ll be staying.”

“I can find it myself if you’re busy,” he said.

“It can wait,” she said. “I’m just making a few pies for dinner. I serve breakfast at eight, lunch at noon, and dinner at six. On that wall is the menu for each day. If you aren’t here for the meal, there are normally leftovers and snacks around.”

He looked over at the large chalkboard and saw the menu in a neat script. He was both impressed and touched by the hominess of something he’d never experienced growing up. Home cooked meals by a parent. Nah.

His mother never cooked a day in her life. Why would she when she’d grown up with housekeepers and cooks herself? When she married, she wasn’t about to change or learn anything different from what she’d known.

Divorcing his cheating, lying father when Logan was five just padded his mother’s bank account with a lot more than she’d had. Marrying someone twenty years older than her a few years later did the same. Now she was a widow with not a care in the world living in Long Island on the water, being catered to by all sorts of staff.

Cooking for her only son, yeah, nothing she’d ever cared to do.

“Let me just grab your keycard.”

He watched as Celeste walked to what he assumed was an office off the kitchen and that was when he noticed she was pregnant. His best guess was not too far along, but long enough that there was a slight bulge showing with her leggings and fitted shirt to her mid thigh.

He was kind of surprised to see her so covered up even though the windows were open letting in some nice spring air. He was still warm in his shorts and T-shirt though it was barely eighty out now. Eighty in the mountains did feel cooler than eighty in the concrete jungle.

Celeste walked back out and handed him the card. “This will get you into the cabin out back and in here too. Every guest has one for the main house, but that will access both locations.”

He followed her out the back door and saw the little cabin closer to the water along a stone path. “It’s bigger than I thought it’d be,” he said.

“It’s where I used to live before I got married. My husband, Caleb, and I live in the house to your right. The smaller house, or what we really refer to as the cottage, on your left is where Max’s patients stay.”

“Riley’s brother?” he asked.

“Yes,” she said.

Trevor’s wife Riley’s brother was a plastic surgeon that had relocated here years ago from New York City himself. Logan had met Riley when Trevor needed his help trying to find who was stalking Riley on his own home turf almost a year ago.

Once they realized it wasn’t really a stalker, but a woman with disabilities that missed Riley and their friendship, Trevor and Riley came back home, got engaged then married only a few months ago. No long engagement for them. Just a few months.

They’d flown back to New York City so Riley could have Debra in her wedding. The woman who’d missed her and kept sending her flowers and letters. Logan was Trevor’s best man for the small ceremony held in an upscale restaurant.

Riley and Max had come from money. Not as much as him, but again, no one knew that and if he had his way no one would.

Celeste opened the door and he followed in behind her, looking around. There was a small galley kitchen on one wall with a counter and two stools. It opened up into a small living room that more than suited him with a couch and chair, a TV on the wall.

The colors were blues, greens, grays, and extremely calming. Just what he needed in his life.

“The bedroom and bath are behind those doors.”

He walked the few steps and looked into the tiny but efficient bathroom, then popped his head into the bedroom. There looked to be a queen sized bed. Again, enough for him. He’d be fine without his king bed for a month. “Is that a deck off the back?” he asked, looking out the sliding door to the water beyond.

“It is. It’s not big, but enough to sit out and enjoy the view with a cup of coffee.”

“Or a beer,” he said, grinning, knowing he was going to do that the minute Celeste was gone.

“Absolutely. I don’t provide alcohol at the main house. Guests are allowed to bring their own; however most don’t do it unless they drink it that night. Otherwise it’s stored in their room or the kitchen where someone else might drink it.” He smiled at her laugh. “But here, you’ve got more privacy.”

“I’m surprised this was available,” he said.

When he made the last minute decision to come here, he feared he’d be in a hotel the whole time. He wasn’t sure he could handle that, but would have if he needed to.

“I don’t rent it out often. As I said, I used to live here. Caleb is trying to convince me to hire someone full time to care for the B&B and move in here, especially with the baby coming. It’s just so hard to step away from something you love doing though.”

“Yeah, I know,” he said quietly.

She just looked at him, nodded her head and said, “I’ll let you get unpacked and settled. No need to let me know whether you’ll be around for meals. There is always plenty though.”

“Thanks,” he said, then followed her out and back to the parking lot to get his things. His shoulder was aching like a cat in heat, his side not much better, but the sooner he had his belongings in the cabin, the sooner he could have that beer on the deck.

He opened the back of his brand new black SUV. His last car had too many bullet holes in it to repair. He should have gotten another sedan, but something told him to change that too.

After two trips to the cabin, he finally grabbed his little cooler that was filled with a six-pack of his favorite craft beer. Long Island, Brooklyn, the Bronx. Craft breweries were flowing there and he had his pick of more than he could name. Short of filling the back of his SUV up with beer for the month, he hoped he could find a few here he wouldn’t mind.

His clothes could wait to be put away, but the beer really couldn’t.

He pulled the can out, found a glass in the kitchen, poured it, and then made his way to the deck. There were two chairs and one was calling his name.

He’d taken one long sip when his phone rang. He looked down to see Trevor calling him. “Hey,” he answered.

“Did you make it?” Trevor asked.

“Sitting on the deck with a cold one as we speak.”

“Damn. You couldn’t even wait for me?”

“Come on over,” Logan said. “I could use another by the time you get here.”

“Can’t,” he said. “On duty. How about you come to the house tonight and have dinner? We can have a few on my deck while Riley cooks for us.”

“Barely three months of marriage and you have her cooking for you?” Logan asked, grinning.

“Riley is a great cook. She loves taking care of me,” Trevor said.

Logan heard the humor behind the words. The love too. Yeah, he was jealous. “But will she love cooking for someone else?” he asked, taking another long sip of his ice cold brew that hit the spot better than it ever had before.

“We had planned on it. She gets out of work at five. I’ll be out shortly after. How does six thirty sound? Sometimes she can be held up at work with patients.”

Riley Hamilton-Miles was a dentist in town. Trevor, the chief of police of Lake Placid. “Sounds good. Anything I can bring?”

“Just yourself,” Trevor said. “I asked Kennedy to join us, but it’s her late night at the spa.”

Kennedy Miles, Trevor’s sister. Another reason he came here, but he had no intention of letting Trevor know that, at least not tonight. “I’m sure I’ll see her at some point.”

“You two seemed to hit it off at the wedding. Figured it wouldn’t hurt to have a friendly face to show you around besides me.”

Kennedy was more than a friendly face, but he doubted she was going to be all that friendly to him when she saw him again. That was probably why she’d declined the dinner invitation.

“I’ll see you in a few hours,” Logan said, disconnecting the call, thoughts of Kennedy in his mind.

Kennedy had had a little bit too much to drink the night of Trevor’s wedding. The two of them ended up back at her hotel room. Things were getting heated, and if it were anyone else, he wouldn’t have stopped.

But he did. He realized it was his best friend’s sister and told himself it wasn’t right. He couldn’t have a one-night stand with her. Especially since they’d both drunk more than they should have.

He’d stopped when everything within his body told him to push forward and strip her naked like she’d asked him to do.

She hadn’t been happy with him when he stopped and then left. She’d probably been embarrassed though she had no reason to be.

He hadn’t been able to get her out of his mind in the past few months. He’d walked out of her hotel room just two weeks before he’d gotten shot.

And all those times he’d been told he was lucky to be alive…well, he was ready to put some of that luck to use and finish what was started with Kennedy.

 

It’s My Chance…Prologue

It's My Chance

Here is the Prologue for It’s My Chance!

Detective Logan Taylor was on his way home after a twelve-hour stakeout. An all-nighter which he hated with a passion. And one thing Logan didn’t do was hate much.

A good guy. The good cop, he was always told. Even his buddies in the Army said he was too happy to be a Ranger, smiling more than anyone should for a man that was an elite sniper.

Was he always happy though? Partially.

The other times the smile was just in place out of habit. Some to throw people off. Some to just mask what was going on in his mind.

That his job was getting to him, that it had in the service too. But this was what he was good at and why not do what he excelled at?

What he excelled at right now was keeping his eyes open when he’d been up for more than twenty-four hours. He’d worked a case all day, gathering what he needed for the drug bust that would be coming soon. He volunteered to stake out the suburbia house hoping to catch the stay at home mom making a mistake.

Where had the days gone when drugs were run through gangs? Now it was June Cleaver while her kids were at school. It still made his head spin.

It was just after eight when a call came in over the radio of a robbery in progress not more than a block from him. Other patrols were called in, but he knew he was closer.

Go in that direction, or go home and get some much-needed sleep?

It was an easy decision in his mind. He picked up the radio and called it in, knowing he’d be the first on the scene.

When he pulled in front of the jewelry store in his plain black sedan, he hopped out with his weapon drawn just as the assailant came running out of the store, saw him and grabbed a woman who was paying more attention to her phone than her surroundings.

“NYPD,” Logan shouted, his gun aimed. “Drop your weapon and release the woman.”

“Let me go and no one gets hurt,” the masked man said, his voice shaking, his eyes darting all over the street.

“Let her go. You hear the sirens. Backup is on the way. We can do this the easy way and let me get you cuffed, or the hard way.”

The woman started to shake, cry, and plead. “Please let me go.”

The masked man tossed the woman aside and rather than drop his assault rifle, he lifted it the same time as Logan took final aim, both of them firing, Logan diving for cover. He felt the bullets rip through at least two parts of his body, then lost consciousness before he could see if his bullet hit the target he was aiming for.