Eternal…Prologue

eternal

Prologue

 

Brina Shepard looked in the side view mirror, saw it was clear, put her blinker on and passed the car. She glanced down at the number on her dash. She was going twelve miles over the speed limit. On this stretch of Central Avenue people went even faster so she’d be fine.

And if she wasn’t fine, too damn bad. She needed to be in court in twenty minutes. It was going to take her fifteen minutes to get there. That didn’t count traffic or finding a parking spot.

Damn her for being caught up meeting her client. She should have put it off until after court, knowing she’d be sucked in like she always was. She had a bleeding heart at times and couldn’t walk away.

She was just getting ready to turn off onto Wolf Road to get to the Town of Colonie courthouse when she noticed the red lights flashing behind her. No!

Maybe they weren’t for her. She hoped. She prayed.

It didn’t help when the state trooper car got on her rear bumper and turned the siren on.

She put her blinker on again and turned on Wolf, and then pulled into the first parking lot, the trooper right behind her.

Her head dropped back against the seat. Since she was in a hurry she opened the glove box up and was pulling out her registration, while she hit the button to roll down the window.

She waited for the trooper to come to the window, knowing she was definitely going to be late now. The judge hated when people were late in his courtroom and she knew that.

“Do you know why I pulled you over?” the trooper asked. She hadn’t even heard him walk up to the car and almost jumped out of her seat.

“Sorry,” she said. “I’m in a hurry to get to court. The judge doesn’t like to be kept waiting.”

“You’re a lawyer?” he asked, lifting an eyebrow.

She put a smile on her face. “I am,” she said back. She had her registration in her hand along with her license now but was hoping she wouldn’t need it.

“Then you won’t have any problem getting out of a ticket,” he said, his hand held out.

Her smile dropped when she placed the documents in his palm.

Shit, shit, shit. When would she learn? Instead of being most likely to succeed in her senior year of high school she should have been voted most likely to be late to her own funeral.

The trooper came back faster than she expected. She looked up and couldn’t really see much of his face with his sunglasses on. He was tall, at least she thought he was since she was in an SUV and he was bent over to talk to her.

He smelled good. What the heck? How could she tell that when she was in a parking lot on a summer day?

“Here you go,” he said, handing her back her registration and license and another piece of paper.

“My ticket?” she asked.

He tilted his head and, damn, if he wasn’t extremely hot too. She should be completely annoyed right now, not noticing how good-looking he was. If it weren’t against every principle she had, she’d flirt with him.

Nah, she’d said she was going to the courthouse and he didn’t care. Not that she said it to get out of the ticket because she didn’t really want to do that either.

“You broke the law,” he said. “Lawyers know all about that.”

“Yes, I do,” she said, tossing it all on the passenger seat. “Have a great day.” She wanted to add, “jerk” to it but wouldn’t. Like he’d said, she’d broken the law. She may be a lawyer but she was an honest one.

“You too,” he said, smiling…no, it was a smirk.

She rolled her window up, put the car in drive, and pulled back into traffic.

She was running into the courthouse eight minutes later and through the doors. At this point she was just shy of being ten minutes late. She supposed it could be worse.

“Counsel Shepard,” the judge said. “You’re late.”

“I am. I’m sorry. I was rushing to get here and, well, I was pulled over by a trooper. I was trying, I really was, to get here on time, but traffic is crazy today.”

The judge smirked at her like the trooper did. “Did you get a ticket?”

“Yes, sir, he gave me one.”

“Did you tell him you were an attorney?”

“I mentioned I was on the way to the courthouse and the judge didn’t like me to be late.”

“And you still got a ticket?” the judge asked, laughing this time.

“I did.”

“Can I see your ticket or is it in your car?”

She pulled it out of her briefcase where she stuffed it when she grabbed everything moments ago. “Sure,” she said, wondering what was going on. Was he going to take care of it for her? Not that she’d ask that.

“What’s the name of the officer?” he asked when she moved closer to the bench. She felt like she was the main act at the circus right now with all eyes on her.

“Trooper N. Randal.”

The judge took his pen out and wrote something down. “Good to know for future reference if he’s ever in my courtroom.”

“Why is that, Judge?”

“Because he isn’t swayed or doesn’t back down. I like men like that. It reminds me of a younger me. Now, can we please get on with your case and client?”

“Yes, sir,” she said, walking back to the desk where her client was waiting. She hoped she didn’t chip her tooth with as hard as she was grinding her teeth. The only way this day could get worse would be if she lost her case.

Eternal

eternal

Eternal love? Is that possible for two people who have sworn off romance and happy ever after?

Brina Shepard is who she is. She’s strong, independent and a do-gooder. She’s always out for the underdog and will fight for what she believes in. She won’t fall in line and she won’t conform with the majority. If it means she can’t climb the ladder in her career fast, then so be it. She feels the same way about her personal life. A man? Who needs one? Been there and done that, and it’s not worth it in her eyes.

 
Nathan Randal has a sense of justice that won’t bend for anyone. He carries around the guilt of a family tragedy on his shoulders and the destruction of his family would forever cloud his thoughts. A relationship or happy ever after hasn’t been experienced in his life and he figures at this point it never will be. Not unless he could find someone who thought the same way as he does…if she exists.

Family Bonds-Hunter & Kayla…Chapter One

H&K (1)

 

Catch up on the Prologue here.

Chapter One

To Hell And Back

 

Ten years later

“Are you kidding me, Marcy?” Hunter said to his secretary.

“Sorry. I wish I were. Patrice called when you were on the phone and she said she’d be here if she could, but her son has been throwing up since four this morning. She doesn’t want to cancel the interview because it’s the only applicant she received for the front desk position.”

“And she thinks I’d be a good fit for doing the interview in her place?” he asked. “I run this hotel and have for three years. I don’t interview lower level staff. That’s what I’ve got staff for.”

He wasn’t trying to come off like an ass, just be firm though it didn’t always come across that way. Ever since his father finally handed the reins over full time, Hunter had been making all sorts of changes to the hundred-plus-year-old hotel that his Great-great-grandfather James started and he was stretched a little thin on time.

Bond Retreat was the first hotel on Amore Island. Many more had been erected since that time, yet only Bonds owned them. But the first one was special and had been turned into a retreat and destination wedding hotel and resort while the other hotels on the island were more for family vacationers. After all, it was the island for love—amore—so why not cash in on it?

“I understand, but Carol is off today.” Carol was the assistant manager and also oversaw the front line staff.

“What about Pete?”

“Pete in accounting? No one in finance would know what to ask. It’s a completely different job than what they do.”

Hunter ran his hand through his thick black hair. “How about you?” he asked Marcy.

“I’m your assistant. I don’t interview and you know it. I don’t want Patrice on my case if I hire the person and she doesn’t work out. She wouldn’t dare say anything to you.”

“I wouldn’t bet on that,” Hunter said. Patrice had been in her position for ten years and was five years older than him. Sometimes she let him know that too, in a polite way. He didn’t consider himself a hard employer—even when he was trying to be—but he was driven and wanted everyone to work the same as him.

Some of it was because of his name. The rest was his stubbornness to maintain the family reputation that had been built up again after Great-great-grandpa James blew their line all to hell and back.

“Don’t even think of bringing up any of the other managers at the resort. None of them will want a hand in this. If you can’t do it, I’ll call Patrice back and tell her that you said to reschedule it. It might be weeks before we get someone filled at the front desk though and we are paying overtime to the current staff. They are really pressed.”

His staff knew how to pile the guilt on his shoulders and he wondered how he could be so weak.

Or maybe he knew when to cave and when to fight. Just because he hated interviewing and didn’t have the time didn’t mean it wasn’t one of those days to help Patrice out of a bind.

He let out a breath. “Fine. What time is it scheduled for?”

“Eleven. Here is her resume. I’ll have the front desk send her here when she arrives.”

“You can wipe that smirk off your face now that you and Patrice got your way. I think you two put your heads together and decided to pin this on me.” He started to flip papers around on his desk. “I’ve got to meet with the people at the conference at ten. I might be late.”

Marcy laughed. “We’d never do that. And if you’re a few minutes late, she can wait, it’s not a big deal. After all, you’re the CEO and you’re busy. We know.”

When she walked out the door still laughing he knew they did plan it exactly the way it happened.

He lifted up the resume of Kayla Rivers and looked it over. The only hotel experience she had was in housekeeping eight years ago. Looked like she was there for a year and then moved on.

She moved on with a lot of jobs by the looks of it. Lots of customer service positions, but not much more. Some labor positions too. Nothing steady either.

There wasn’t much he could do other than give Kayla an interview and hope it wasn’t a complete waste of his time.

 

***

 

Nothing ever seemed to go according to plan, Kayla thought as she sat in the waiting room outside of Hunter Bond’s office.

She was supposed to be interviewing with the manager, Patrice Martin, but when she showed up she’d been told Patrice was out with a sick kid. As if that wasn’t bad enough, Kayla had almost missed her ferry.

Time had never been her friend. She wasn’t late often, but she was always there right on the dot, normally from running the last distance to get in the door on time…just like today.

The short run and fresh air at least added some color to her face and took her mind off the bumpy ferry ride that turned her stomach and face to match the color of seaweed. Having never been on a ferry before she had no idea she’d react that way.

The minute she was in the building Kayla realized she had five minutes to spare and asked the front desk where the bathroom was so she could check over her appearance.

She’d turned down a hall, figuring she was lost, and bumped into someone, stumbled and he had to reach out to steady her so she didn’t do a face plant and have to show up for her interview with a black eye. When she looked up it was a man. A hot man. One that was staring down at her with a grin on his face, his big hands on her shoulders and then dropping away faster than she’d hoped. Talk about a crazy thought.

“I’m so sorry,” she said, rambling on. “I’m here for an interview and I’m nervous and excited because this island is so beautiful, but I look like Cinderella after the coach turned back into a pumpkin thanks to that ferry ride. I thought I was going to get sick it was so windy. I asked where the bathroom was and now I think I’m lost. But I suppose I should thank you for stopping my fall or I might look like the pumpkin guts smashed into me when the coach changed over.”

The man was laughing now. Since he was dressed up and there were a lot of people walking around in business attire, she assumed he was there for the conference and here she was babbling like a fool to him. Typical.

“You’re not lost. Keep going down this hall and turn left. And don’t worry, you look fine.”
“Thank you,” she said. She took a deep breath, wrapped her hand around the star pendant on her necklace, grinned at him and dashed away.

A few minutes later on the tenth floor, the woman named Marcy said to her, “Kayla, Hunter is ready now, if you’ll follow me.”

Kayla stood up and followed Hunter’s secretary to his office. She felt so out of place with her cheap—but clean—black pants and a white shirt with a blue cardigan over it. She suspected all the executives were housed here on the tenth floor.

“Hi, Kayla,” Hunter said with his hand out, then motioning her to a chair over in a sitting area.

Yep, that black cloud that always floated over her head from the day she was born to a teenage mother that would rather party than raise her seemed to cover the island, too. Here it was again as she faced the man she’d bumped into in the hall, looking like a train wreck while she was lost in his hotel.

“Nice to meet you,” she said as calmly as she could. There wasn’t much she could do other than acknowledge what happened. “Or we meet again. I’m kind of embarrassed.”

“No reason to be. We’ve all had rough ferry rides. And I’m sure Marcy explained to you why I’m doing the interview. Normally I don’t have a hand in positions like this.”

Meaning positions that were completely beneath him, she was sure, but wasn’t stupid enough to voice that, especially after the first crazy impression she gave him. “Not a problem. This place is even nicer than it looks online.”

“You’ve never been to the island before, I take it?” he asked.

“No.”

“Well, you got here okay,” he said. “I guess the first thing I should bring up is not everyone that works on the island lives on the island, but it is much easier to reside here. The ferry almost always runs on time, though the weather does play a part. There are three different ferries that you can grab. Two from the south port and one on the north end that comes in from Boston.”

“That’s the other end of the island,” she said. “How many miles away is it?”

“The Romeo Port on the north end is about sixteen miles away. Juliet Port is the south port that I’m assuming you came in on.” She nodded her head. “You can get a ferry from Plymouth or Provincetown off of Cape Cod.”

She’d done her research on the resort and the ferry she was taking to get here and how to get from the ferry to the resort, but that was all she’d done since she’d been working, trying to make up the time for being off for this interview so she didn’t go unpaid.

“I wasn’t aware of the two different ports, just how to get here today.” She caught herself reaching for her necklace to fidget and pushed her hands back down. She should have known that information and hoped it wasn’t held against her. This morning was going from bad to worse. She should just get up and walk out. It’s not like she’d ever see him again once she got on the ferry.

“Not a problem,” he said. “And you didn’t find the ferry ride that wonderful?”

“It was bumpier than I thought. I’d had an Uber waiting for me and then had trouble finding them.” Always something, but she’d finally found the driver and then got to the resort in the nick of time and ran through the parking lots to get to the entrance.

“It can be worse. It’s a windy day out there today. If you get the job, like I said, there are three different ferries that arrive at multiple times throughout the day. The first comes in around seven in the morning; the last to depart is nine at night. The last arriving here at eight.”

“So if I missed the last one, I’m here for the night?” she asked. “What are the hours of this job?”

He grinned at her, his straight white teeth flashing like a beacon calling her forth. His blue eyes were as clear as the sky had been outside when she ran in the door and had a humorous glint to them as he gazed at her. “We would never schedule anyone where they might miss a ferry. This position would start at seven at night and end at six a.m. An hour lunch and it’s four ten-hour days. This gives you time to catch the first ferry after work and not worry about missing it if you get held up at work.”

“Does that happen often? Being held up?” she asked and wondered why she was because she knew she’d be living here if she got the position. Which was pretty much a pipe dream with the way things were going. Yet he wasn’t acting like she didn’t have a shot. Probably just being nice.

Sometimes she just didn’t think before speaking and had to shut her trap so she didn’t blow this interview.

“It can if your replacement is late or you are dealing with a guest. Though on the night shift you aren’t quite that busy.”

“That all sounds good,” she said. “But if I get the job I’ve got a place to stay on the island.”

“Good,” he said. “Then let’s talk about your experience. I see though you’ve never worked the front desk at a hotel you’ve got a lot of customer service experience. A nice well-rounded resume.”

Which was probably his polite way of saying she’d bopped around from job to job lately. “I don’t want you to think I can’t hold down a job. Some of them I was laid off when the work slowed down. Some just didn’t work out, and others I found a better job.”

“So you are always looking for a better job?” he asked.

“No,” she said. “Not really. I started working at a young age and I’ve got experience in a lot of fields as you can see. Some of it just wasn’t to my liking, but I’ve never left before a year at any of my jobs. Sometimes I have jobs that overlap if you look closely.”

He lowered his head and focused on her resume. “I see that.”

“I’m a hard worker,” she said earnestly. She didn’t want to beg, but now was the time to sell herself if she had any shot in hell at this job. “I like to learn new things. I’m trying to find a career over a job. I guess that is the best explanation.”

“And you think this would be a career for you?” he asked.

“I’d like it to be. I just want to settle down and have a normal life.”

He laughed. “Life on Amore Island is hardly normal, some would say.”

She grinned. “Is it true what they say? That most come here to find love or are hoping for it?”

“That’s what they say. An island started by lovers that even one of the biggest storms of that time couldn’t prevent them from meeting. But I’ve been on this island my whole life and it’s just home to me.”

“You’ve lived here your whole life?” she asked, surprised to hear that.

“Not entirely. I grew up in Boston but spent my weekends here working or hanging out. Later I traveled by ferry back and forth to Boston for a few years, then decided it was best to just stay here. I can go into the city anytime I want and do, but I live here now.”

“I always wanted to live on an island,” she said without thought. She couldn’t stop her lips from flapping like the wind on the ferry ride and getting off topic. He didn’t seem to mind though so that was good.

“Then I guess you’ll get your chance,” Hunter said.

“What? I’m hired?” Woohoo—wishing on her necklace worked when it never had before. Imagine that.

“You are. When can you start?”

“I have to give two week’s notice at my job and move my stuff over here. It shouldn’t be too hard.”

She didn’t think so. She was just going to pack what she had in her car and bring it over in a few trips. It’s not like she needed much since she was going to be renting a bedroom and wouldn’t need furniture. She’d sell the used stuff she had and get some extra money for it.

Hunter stood up so she did the same, noticed that he had to be at least seven inches taller than her five-foot-five-inch frame easily. She figured he was a busy man and this twenty-minute interview was probably enough for him.

Not only that, she got the job and needed to get out of there before she did or said anything else stupid and he rescinded the offer.

“If you have any questions or concerns about the job or the move, Patrice can help you. You’ve got her number, correct?”

“I do,” she said.

“I’ll let her know that I’ve hired you and she’ll be in touch.” He held his hand out for her to proceed to the door and she did so, turning to shake his hand one more time. She must be more messed up in the head because she felt a spark and heat like she had when his hands stopped her from falling.

“Thank you so much. I’m excited to start my new career.”

“That’s what sold me, you know,” he said.

“What?”

“I don’t care what the rest of your resume says. I see you’re a hard worker by the jobs you’ve held. But you don’t want a job, you want something meaningful and that means more to me than any work experience. You can be taught the rest.”

Kayla nodded her head, and when she was out the door, she reached up and clasped the silver star on her neck that she always thought was a good luck charm. The only frivolous gift she’d ever been given with words that she’d kept close to her heart. On her way here she had made a wish on it while she’d held her breath in an attempt to not toss her cookies on the ferry ride over.

As good days went in her life, this one was right up there.

 

 

 

Family Bonds- Hunter & Kayla…Prologue

H&K (1)

Prologue

Many many years ago…

In the late 1700’s when English Captain Malcolm Bond was dropping off a shipment in America, he was given the offer of a lifetime…the hand in marriage to the sole remaining heir to the Rummer’s shipping empire. All he had to do was find the island the Rummer’s owned off the East Coast. An island he hadn’t known existed. He had three days and when a storm hit throwing him off course, he knew his chances of expanding his shipping business to America were sailing away out to sea.  

After being afloat and out of control for over twenty-four hours, the sun rose on the third and final day of the offer. Land was before him, so he guided his boat to the shore. What greeted him wasn’t just success or greed, but a vision of loveliness that made his heart pound and hands sweat greater than navigating through that storm. What he faced was his destiny. His future wife. And what many would call love at first sight…fate.

Present time

“Melissa, do you have a minute?” Kayla asked. She’d been dreading this conversation, but she didn’t have a choice at this point.

She’d be eighteen in two months and she’d be graduating in three. Not only was she hoping she wouldn’t have to leave her foster home until then, but she was also praying she could convince them to let her stay just a bit longer.

“Sure, Kayla. Why don’t you help me with dinner while we talk? The other kids should be back in thirty minutes.”

Scott and Melissa Fryer’s foster home had been one of the nicest she’d been in. They were young, too young to have teenagers, but they needed the money and they did the best they could. Better than most.

Kayla knew when she turned eighteen they’d stop getting the money for her and would want another kid in her place, but she had nowhere to go.

Crashing on their couch would be the best-case scenario. Worst, the old room above the garage. She wasn’t fussy. She’d take any roof over her head she could get.

Picking up the peeler, she attacked the potatoes with the same confidence as she was forcing for this conversation.

“You know I’m turning eighteen in two months.”

Melissa turned, her brown ponytail swishing about on her head. “I do know. Don’t worry, you can stay until you graduate. Scott and I already talked about it months ago.”

That was a relief, but she needed more. “Thank you. That was part of this conversation.”

“What’s the other part?” Melissa asked.

“I’ve got a bunch of applications in for a full-time job after I graduate. College is out of the question. My grades just aren’t good enough, and well, I’ve got no money and living on campus and everything else. It just wouldn’t work.”

She wouldn’t know what to do when there were breaks. She’d have nowhere to go, no transportation, nothing. She’d be stuck.

Stuck was a pretty shitty feeling she learned a long time ago.

“I know. I’m sorry about that. I wish we could help you,” Melissa said.

“I wouldn’t ask that. I know you’ve got your hands full here. It’s not that. It’s just that I was hoping that maybe I could stay on a little longer until I can get some money put aside to secure my own place or find a roommate or something. I need a car for the job, but I’m hoping to take the bus.”

Melissa’s eyes got a little teary and Kayla thought for sure she was going to burst into the waterworks herself when she got the answer.

“I’ll talk to Scott tonight about it.”

“I can sleep in the loft above the garage. There’s a bathroom in there with a sink. That is good enough, and if you wouldn’t mind me coming over for a shower once a day, I’d be out of your hair. I could pay you rent from my part-time job and I’ll take care of all my food. It’s just…”

“You’d be on the street or in a homeless shelter if we said no. I know. That’s why I’m sad. I wish there was more I could do for you. For so many in your situation. And the garage wouldn’t work. That bathroom is nasty and hasn’t been used in years.”

“I’ll try to fix it,” Kayla said.

She didn’t want to be a nuisance or in their way and she knew she was begging, but the truth was she was desperate. She needed to know now if they weren’t going to let her stay so she could figure out other plans.

“No,” Melissa said, reaching her hand over and laying it on hers. “It’s not safe. There is no heat there or anything. It gets cold in the fall and…no. That won’t work.”

“I know you need my room for another child and my guess is you’ll get one pretty fast.” There were plenty out there looking for homes, which provided a source of income for those who wanted to foster kids. Too bad most kept the money and didn’t give much back to the kids themselves.

Kayla didn’t have a ton, but the Fryers did buy them clothes and necessities. They never went hungry; they even did some fun activities now and again like the movies or bowling. They celebrated holidays on a low scale, but at least it was a celebration of sorts.

“I’m sure we will get someone in there once we tell them we are ready. It’s probably not much, but I don’t see any reason why you can’t sleep on the couch in the basement. That space down there isn’t all that cozy or modern, but it’s warm and I can move some things out of the way. We’ve got the extra furniture there and I know you kids go down there to hang out at times.”

The basement wasn’t that bad. It was old and musty, but it was dry and warm in the winter. Warmer than the loft above the garage would be. And she’d be in the house to use the bathroom too. It was better than she could have hoped for. She’d say luck was on her side, but not many would consider her future living arrangements as lucky as she did at the moment.

“That’s good. I can do that.”

She couldn’t help it when a tear escaped down her cheek. It was one of relief and happiness, not fear or stress. Kayla hadn’t shed too many tears in her life that weren’t associated with negative actions or thoughts.

“I’m sure Scott will be fine with it,” Melissa said. “Maybe I’ll clean out that back storage room and move the couch in there to give you some privacy. You’ll need a place to put your clothes and things.”

Her things…she didn’t have much more than enough clothes to fit in one dresser. What Melissa was offering was more than she could have hoped for.

She set the peeler down and hugged Melissa. “Thank you so much. I appreciate it. And I’ll pay you rent and I’ll feed myself. Really I will. I won’t be a burden. I just don’t want to be on the streets.”

“We wouldn’t let you stay on the street. Scott and I knew one day this might happen with one of you kids. You’re the first to age out on us. I just didn’t realize it’d be so hard.”

“You don’t know the half of it,” Kayla said and held onto Melissa a bit tighter.

There was no reason to tell Melissa how scared she’d been to have this conversation. Or how terrified she was that she might not find a job and that she would be on the streets at the end of the year because she wouldn’t overstay her welcome.

Kayla wasn’t looking for a handout, just a little help standing on some wobbly legs.

 

 

Family Bonds- Hunter & Kayla

H&K (1)

Hunter Bond always knew he’d take over Bond Retreat on Amore Island, the island established by his ancestors. He was the only son of an only son for generations, so it was expected he’d be the next in line. Was he tired of being reminded about the island’s legacy? Sure. Was he determined to do things his own way? Of course. Was he going to do his part to not tarnish the family reputation? Probably not.

Kayla Rivers always said she had multiple clouds over her head. Gray ones. Ominous ones. Very often black ones. When she saw an ad for a job on Amore Island—a place where people supposedly found love at first sight—she should have run in the other direction since she’d never been loved a day in her life. Instead she ran forward hoping and praying for once in her life she’d find happiness rather than disappointment.

Starting Over…Prologue

startingover(1)

Prologue

“Blair, stay out of trouble.”

“I always do, Nana,” Blair said back as she rushed out the backdoor of her grandmother’s house to play in the garden.

It wasn’t a traditional garden. Even at five years old, Blair understood that.

No, Nana had beautiful flowers that most had never seen or heard of. She had herbs and spices that she was always mixing in foods and jars, doing things she told Blair she would learn about someday. And she had food in the garden too. Lots and lots of vegetables. Blair went running over there to check on them first.

Nana told her she could pick out the vegetables for their salad tonight. Daddy was away for the night and Blair loved spending time with her Nana. Really the only woman in her life.

As she made her way through the rows of cucumbers and peppers, tomatoes and zucchini, she heard a noise.

Moving closer, she saw a bird on the dirt, just a small blue one. A blue jay it was, Nana had told her one day. Nana was the smartest woman she knew.

“It’s okay, little birdie. Are you hungry?” she asked, assuming it was looking for worms just like Blair was looking for her dinner too.

The bird looked up at her, its eyes dark and appearing almost…in pain. Blair wasn’t sure how she knew that, but she just felt it deep inside.

“Are you hurt?” she asked, glancing closer and noticing the wing seemed to be missing some feathers…and tilted at a funny angle.

“Nana will know what to do. You stay right here.” She turned and went running back to the house. “Nana! Nana!”

“What’s wrong, Blair?” her grandmother asked her as she came rushing out the kitchen door.

“My dream,” she said. “My dream. Remember I told you this morning that a bird was lying on the ground and it looked funny to me.”

“Yes,” her grandmother said. “What about it?”

“It was red in my dream, but it’s blue now.”

Her grandmother looked confused. “What bird?”

“The one in my dream,” Blair said with her hands on her hips. “I mean it was red in my dream, but it’s blue in the garden.” She grabbed her grandmother’s hand. “Follow me. It’s hurt.”

She raced back to where she’d seen the bird and noticed that it’d moved and wasn’t there where she’d left it. “Blair. I’m baking. I need to get back inside.”

“There was a bird here. I know there was. It was hurt.” She was moving around, looking. “Here. It’s right here. Look at it.”

Her grandmother looked over the bush and saw the blue jay lying on the ground and moved closer to it, only to have it lift its wings and fly away. “It doesn’t look hurt to me. I bet it was just sunning itself.”

“Like getting a tan?” Blair asked.

Her grandmother laughed. “I guess you could say that. Some birds do that. But it’s fine. You saw that.”

“Why did I dream it was hurt though?”

“Do you know it was hurt in your dream?”

“No. It was just lying on the ground, but I thought birds only sat in a nest or flew.”

“Well, now you know otherwise.”

“Okay. At least I know that not all parts of my dreams always come true like I told you. Just little bits and pieces.”

Her grandmother sighed like she had in the past. Just like her father did too when she would tell him she’d have dreams and pieces would come true.

“Blair, you really shouldn’t tell too many people about these dreams. It’s okay to say it to your father and me, but I hope you don’t tell anyone else.”

“But it’s cool when they come true. Except when they are sad. Then I don’t want them to come true.”

“Do they always?” her grandmother asked. “Or just sometimes?”

“Just sometimes. But when I wake up I know if it will come true or if it was just something funny or what I watched on TV.”

Her grandmother put her hand on her shoulder and squeezed. “Just keep them to your father and me or yourself, okay.”

“Why?” Blair asked.

“Because people will look at you funny. They will judge you. You don’t want that, do you?”

“You mean like they judge Daddy.”

Her grandmother’s shoulders dropped. “What do you hear about your father?”

“That he’s never been with a lady. That he likes men.”

Nana’s chest heaved in and out. “You’re too young for this conversation, but it’s one Daddy should have with you. All you need to know is everyone is different, but that doesn’t mean they love people any less.”

“Just like me being different because I see things in dreams and they sometimes come true?”

Her grandmother laughed. “Yes, Blair, just like that. Go pick out your vegetables for dinner. I’m sure this batch of cookies is more than burnt right now so I need to get some more in the oven.”

“Thanks, Nana.”

“For what?”

“For not saying I’m being silly. Daddy doesn’t say it either, but I’ve had other friends tell me that.”

“And now you know why you should sometimes keep those dreams of yours to yourself.”

Starting Over

startingover(1)

Can his wacky neighbor heal this single father’s broken heart?

Blair McKay has always been quirky. Her grandmother has often told her to keep things to herself so others didn’t roll their eyes. Sometimes it’s hard though. Especially when she finds a guy she cares for and wants him to know everything about her.

Philip Aire is a single father trying to make it work. His sexy neighbor is a much-needed distraction and his daughter has grown attached to Blair too. He doesn’t care that most in the neighborhood roll their eyes at her profession or wacky ways and words. All he cares about is her…that is until her words and insight start to make him wonder if she is really so far out there after all

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?