Fierce-Mick…Chapter One

Here is the PROLOGUE first

Chapter One

Proud Of Himself

Three Months Later

“Mick,” Wyatt Fierce said, opening the door to his place. “Come on in.”

Mick stepped into Wyatt’s place and looked around. He should have figured Wyatt would have this nice of a condo. “Thanks for the invite.”

“Anytime,” Wyatt said. “You don’t need to be invited. I’m glad you could come for dinner and have a drink. How are you finding it being back?”

“It’s like I never left,” he said.

He wasn’t originally from Durham, but not that far away either. Just about ninety minutes in a small rural area. Durham was the big city to him growing up. Duke had been a dream and to go there for his first four years and then med school was something he had thought someone from his background could only imagine.

He’d busted his ass for the grades to get in and stay there. He was proud of himself despite the debt he had to pay down.

Life didn’t turn out the way he wanted it to though, but he was making the best of it. He’d learned a long time ago to never plan on anything because there were no guarantees.

Not too many people he could rely on either. But one of those he could was standing right here in front of him. Not only Wyatt but the entire Fierce family that had pretty much taken him in when he was on his own.

“It’s been years, but I’m thrilled you decided to return. How’s your mom and sister?”

“My mother is the same as always. Got some new guy she is living with. I haven’t met him like I haven’t the past several. But, boy, do I hear about them. Julia is good too. At least the last time I talked to her.”

He wasn’t as close to his younger sister as he would have liked. He had regrets about that, but when it was time for him to leave for college he couldn’t get out fast enough. His younger sister was left behind with a mother that was never around and a father that was in and out of jail.

Michael McNamara had gotten fired from his job as a CPA for mismanagement of a client’s funds. He suspected that was a loose term for theft, but he wasn’t charged with anything. Then he turned to drugs and alcohol to dull the pain of his wife leaving him over the embarrassment. Drug usage turned to dealing to make money and it finally all caught up with him.

Between the drugs and the back child support, Mick’s father had seen a cell a few times for short stints. He was out now, but wiped from his kids’ lives. Or at least Mick’s.

Wyatt nodded his head. “How about a beer? Got a fresh stash delivered on Saturday.”

“I’d kill for a beer,” Mick said.

“Help yourself to what you want,” Wyatt said. “I’m going to light the grill and we eat like men tonight. Steaks and beers. Nothing green. Maybe I’ll put a few potatoes out there, but that is about as close as I’m getting to healthy.”

“Deal,” Mick said, moving to the kitchen. He opened the fridge and saw the variety, then grabbed one at random. All the Fierce beers were good in his eyes. He’d met the Fierce Five, Wyatt’s cousins who owned the brewery and a restaurant in Charlotte, a time or two. Hell, he’d been running through Wyatt’s family home for years secretly wishing it were his own.

“So, are you all set up at your place now?” Wyatt asked, coming back and picking his beer up off the counter. “Have a seat.”

They moved to the living room. “Set for the moment,” Mick said. “Thanks again for telling me about the complex.” It was one of the nicer ones he’d been in and gave him plenty of space. It was really more a townhouse than an apartment now that he thought of it. He just never did. A place to lay his head at night was all the same to him.

“My father and brother did a lot of work for them a few years ago when they were built. They always have an in on the best places around and when I told them you’d gotten a job here, they said to check it out.”

“I’m grateful to your family, as always,” he said. It felt like he’d said that a lot in life to Wyatt and his family.

“Don’t think anything of it,” Wyatt said. He started to shake his head. “I can’t believe you’re a medical examiner. Dude, really? What happened? We lost touch during our residencies and I’m sorry about that.”

Mick snorted. “Don’t be sorry. I was a state away and putting in more hours than I was sleeping. Just like you. It happens.”

“Don’t remind me,” Wyatt said. “But seriously. You had it planned out. Surgeon first, then emergency medicine. This was never on your radar.”

If there was one person he could be honest with, it was Wyatt. “I lost a patient,” he said. “It hit me hard. I know we all do. Not everyone does in a residency, but I did.”

“Sorry about that,” Wyatt said. “If anyone can understand the fear it’s me.”

Wyatt was an anesthesiologist. He held people’s lives in his hands daily in his job. Multiple times a day. Mick was never cut out for that. He found he wasn’t cut out for the medical field much when it came down to it. Not the way he’d imagined.

Again, life not going his way, so he made the best of it by adjusting and turning the wheel.

“You get it. But I was so far into it and couldn’t walk away. I know a lot do. But the debt I had. The time invested. It wasn’t an option. I moved to a pathology residence to finish up and here I am. I did a fellowship for forensic and that’s an option in the future too. Maybe government work someday, but for now I’m happy at Duke with you.”

Before he switched to pathology, he’d been going home at night so drained and shaken. It was eating at him and not healthy. He knew he’d probably give himself a heart attack if he continued. The doubt over what he was doing and the worry that he could kill someone was weighing too heavily on his shoulders. That doubt had been clouded under a mask of cockiness that a storm blew away fast.

“You said you were going into medicine because you wanted to make it big,” Wyatt said, reminding him. “You put too much pressure on yourself. Do you think that was part of it?”

He laughed. “You got me to admit that after we played beer pong. That doesn’t count.”

“It was the only way to get you to loosen up. Shit, I pranked your room daily and all you did was laugh, but you never said much to me on a personal level for those first few months.”

He didn’t want anyone to know what or where he came from. That his father was in jail at the time. His mother was on another boyfriend and hardly home. It was an embarrassment.

Being assigned a room with Wyatt Fierce, whose family was well known in the area, made him keep as much a secret as he could.

Mick was a pretty laid back guy and had no problem with jokes and pranks when many couldn’t stand that Wyatt was always doing things. Maybe that was why they got along so well.

That and the fact Mick almost idolized the guy, but never let on.

“Yeah, well. I did put a lot of pressure on myself and then I started to realize I wasn’t cut out for playing God. I wanted the easy things. Bring me a broken bone or a cut, a stomach bug. I could do that all day.”

Wyatt laughed. “Fishing objects out of anal cavities.”

He cringed. “Not that, but hell, I wasn’t risking a person’s life that way. Anyway, I was a few months into the ER residency and just…it wasn’t working,” he said, not wanting to admit much more. “I started to think of my options and realized if the person was already dead, I couldn’t hurt them.”

“Right on that,” Wyatt said. “So now you try to find cause of death rather than worrying about causing it.”

“Death never freaked me out. Neither do dead bodies.”

“Just when they came to you alive first?” Wyatt asked.

“Exactly. I always loved puzzles and this seemed to be the best situation for me. It’s not the most glamorous of medical jobs, but I’m a doctor and doing better than I ever thought I do.”

“Don’t knock yourself down,” Wyatt said.

“Never,” Mick said, forcing a laugh. “I’d say we could still be each other’s ride or dies, but that’s morbid considering our professions. And you’ve got the ball and chain around you now.”

“Don’t let my wife hear you say that. She’d kick your butt. And trust me, that girl is competitive and athletic. She scares me.”

Mick laughed. “I never thought I’d hear those words come out of your mouth.”

“When you find the right woman, you don’t give a shit about anything other than making her happy.”

“I’m not looking,” Mick said. “I’m having too much fun right now.” Lying never sat well with him, but it seemed the thing to say.

“I always said that too,” Wyatt said. “But when it hits you, it does. There is no stopping it. I didn’t bother to try.”

“I’ll take your word for it,” Mick said. “So how about we put that food on the grill instead of talking like a bunch of chicks. Seems your wife is wearing off on you. I hate to think I’ve got to find another partner in crime in the area to hit the bars.”

Wyatt snorted. “You’re saying that half-hearted and you know it.”

“You’re right,” he said. He had no time for a woman. He was just glad to be back by the guy he’d thought of as his brother for years and was thrilled Wyatt didn’t hold it against him for their lack of communication.

Part of Mick was embarrassed that he’d had all these plans and they didn’t pan out. Wyatt always knew what he wanted and made sure he got it.

But the other part was, he figured Wyatt had a big enough family, he wouldn’t miss Mick when he was gone and didn’t want to put it to the test. By him not staying in touch, he wouldn’t have had to worry about being hurt.

Wyatt held his beer up. “To the two of us being back together again.”

Which told Mick he had nothing to worry about. All those fears were just more pressure he’d put on himself for no reason.

“Together again. I’m now the third wheel.”

“We’ll find you a chick,” Wyatt said. “No worries there.”

“I can find my own when I’m ready,” he said, laughing. And he wasn’t ready.

Fierce-Mick…Prologue

Prologue

“What do you think of all of this?”

Lindsey White looked over to her sister, Stella, as they sat at a table in the front of the wedding reception. Her stepsister, Adriana, had just gotten married to Wyatt Fierce. Not that she was that close to Adriana even though her mother and Adriana’s father had been married for half a dozen years.

“I think it’s about as crazy as I thought it’d be,” Lindsey said.

“Yeah,” Stella said, laughing. “I mean we’ve known Carolyn and her family forever, but we’ve never been to anything like this.”

“Nope,” Lindsey said, looking out onto the dance floor. Everyone had eaten, the drinks were flowing and the laughter was contagious. But she and her sister were keeping their distance, just not used to this type of family gathering.

Their father had left them when they were younger, going with another woman and starting a new family. He’d paid their mom money each month and they visited every other weekend and a few holidays until they went to college, but the connection had never been there. Their father had a new family and that was all he was focusing on. Lindsey and Stella were just his obligation.

“How come you’re so quiet?” Stella asked her. “You look a little worn out.”

“Thanks for that,” she said.

“Only stating the obvious. Is work okay?”

She looked away from the dance floor. Lindsey wasn’t longing to join like maybe Stella was. Stella was more outgoing and liked to be part of the action, but it took her time to take that step. Lindsey liked to sit in the shadows.

“It’s work,” she said. “More bad than good, but what do you expect with my field?”

“I don’t know how you do it,” Stella said.

“Sometimes I don’t either.” Working in Child Protective Services wasn’t for the faint of heart.

“Let’s not talk about that. Who’s the hottie over there with Wyatt?”

“Your guess is as good as mine,” she said. They knew Carolyn and Garrett’s four kids. And they also knew Diane and Grant’s three boys since Diane Fierce was a teacher too. Not middle school like her mother and Carolyn, but her mother did like to get together with other teachers often and Diane was always in that group.

“How come you girls aren’t on the dance floor?”

Lindsey turned her head and looked at Carolyn Fierce as she came over and put her arm around her and her sister. “We’re good over here watching,” Lindsey said, smiling.

“Stella, I know you like to dance. Go out there and join them,” Carolyn said.

Lindsey looked at her sister and grinned. It was exactly the opening her sister, younger by two years, needed to join the fun. “Go,” she said. “You know you want to.”

Stella stood up. “I don’t want to leave you here by yourself.”

“If that’s what has been stopping you, then go. I’m a big girl. I’ve got two left feet. You don’t.”

Stella laughed and walked out onto the dance floor, Adriana smiling and beckoning her younger stepsister out to join the rest of them. Adriana got herself an instant family right there with three sisters-in-law and multiple cousins. She fit right in being as outgoing as she was too.

Not that Adriana didn’t get along with her and Stella. It was just they all lived in different areas and only saw each other a handful of times.

“I’ll keep you company if you don’t mind,” Carolyn said, taking Stella’s seat.

“I’m sure you’ve got better things to do than talk to me,” Lindsey said politely. She’d always loved Carolyn. She was friendly and sweet and treated her mother well. She might be a little jealous that Adriana was joining that family, but she’d never tell a soul.

“Nonsense,” Carolyn said. “How have you been?”

“Good,” she said. “Keeping busy.”

“And work is good?” Carolyn asked.

“It has its moments. It can be very rewarding,” she said. Which wasn’t a lie, unfortunately those moments were few and far between.

Carolyn nodded her head, then followed Lindsey’s gaze to the dance floor and the tall man in a black suit, except he was minus his jacket and tie now. “Wyatt is thrilled Mick could make it to the wedding.”

“Mick?” she asked.

“Mick McNamara. He was Wyatt’s old roommate in college and then med school. Mick did his residency in Virginia.”

Figures the guy was a doctor. Good looking. Almost smooth in a way. Dark hair that was styled with more product than she used by the looks of it. He was Wyatt’s height, but she couldn’t tell much about his build other than it was close to Wyatt’s.

“That’s nice,” she said.

“Would you like an introduction?” Carolyn asked her.

“No, I’m good,” Lindsey said. Men like that scared her. They had no part in her life. He probably went from woman to woman and she’d never been intimate with a man. Not that anyone was aware of that, not even her mother or sister.

Thirty and a virgin. Yep, not too many men wanted to get involved with that.

Fierce- Mick

The Fierce women are at it again! Jolene, Carolyn, and Diane have gotten their children settled and it’s time to move on to their nieces, nephews, and friends of their kids. Secretly…of course.

Dr. Mick McNamara never knew what it meant to be part of a family until he met Wyatt Fierce in college. Mama Fierce took him under her wing and made him feel like he always belonged when so many times in his life he never felt he did. He’s back in Durham with the family he always wanted and hoping that one day he can find his own family like the Fierces.

Lindsey White has carried around feelings of inadequacy since her father cheated on her mother and started another family. Lack of trust in men and a stressful job finds her a virgin at thirty and no hope of changing that. Until she meets her stepsister Adriana husband’s best friend. A sexy doctor who says she is everything he always wanted…too bad she doesn’t believe it.

Unexpected Delivery…Chapter One

If you haven’t read the Prologue, you can catch up here

Chapter One

Strings Attached

Two years later

“Hey, Ruby,” Evan said when he walked into Butler Construction’s office. “Got the house sold across the street from me, I see.”

Ruby Turner was the realtor that Butlers used exclusively for new builds. Not everyone that was selling a house in the development went through her, but if anyone wanted to build, they did. It was easier for them to contract with her to do all the work, to set it up with his cousin Whitney when the time was ready to start building and ordering, and then Evan, his brother Christian, and cousin Ryan would get to work along with the over one hundred other employees they had.

Evan’s father, Michael, and his uncle, Matt, now ran the company that their father had started many, many years ago. But his father and uncle were in the offices buying land and making deals both residential and commercial.

“I did. Should be closing in two weeks. Want some information?”

“Nope,” Evan said. “Don’t care. I want neighbors that keep to themselves. I built at the end of the road hoping for that. I’ve been lucky with the neighbors on the one side and the few others on my street, but those directly across the street had been a pain in my butt from the day they moved in.”

He didn’t like it known who he was, but it was hard to hide it with his truck saying Butler Construction on it. Even then, he pulled it in the garage every night.

It drove him insane when the last people that lived across the street would knock on his door every time they heard a creak in the house.

“Since when are you the grouch of the family?” his cousin Whitney asked. “That was Ryan’s job.”

“Ryan isn’t a grouch much anymore and you know it,” he said of his youngest cousin, Whitney’s brother.  “He struck gold with Shannon and a ready-made family. I can’t believe he is getting married in a month.”

“Which means there is hope for you yet,” Whitney said. “If Ryan can land someone, then you can.”

Evan laughed. “I’ve got no desire to land anyone. As I told my parents and Kaelyn at Easter when Sarah was talking about the new guy she was dating, when someone is older and single, they are set in their ways.”

Ruby laughed when Whitney snorted.

Evan’s sister, Kaelyn, was married to Harris Walker, ex-pro baseball pitcher. Harris’s younger sister started dating a guy that relocated to the area a few months ago. Mid to late thirties and never been married. Yep. Set in his ways and wouldn’t change, and Evan made a point of saying that and for Sarah to keep her eyes open with Caden Finley.

When Evan’s mother laughed and said he’d be single forever, he pretty much agreed.

“That’s not true,” Ruby said. “Josh had never been married or in a serious relationship. I hadn’t been either until we met each other. Sometimes you have to wait for that perfect person.”

“You guys are still younger than me,” Evan said. “Doesn’t count. And Josh is a nice guy.”

“And we know Evan isn’t,” Whitney said.

Evan just wanted to mind his own business and do his job. Nice wasn’t a word many said about him.

Yep, he could put on a smile for a buyer and normally did, but then when he turned his back the smile dropped faster than a cookie in the jar after being caught red-handed as a kid sneaking one before dinner.

“I can be nice,” Evan said, smiling. “When I want to. I don’t always like to play nice. Or as my mother likes to say, someone had to be Oscar in the family.

He was often referred to as Oscar the Grouch when he woke up as a kid. It took him a few hours to get going and warmed up to talk to people and then by the end of the day he was back to being grouchy.

Why talk to people when they didn’t have much to say that he was interested in?

As an adult he knew it was caffeine that he needed. Get a couple of cups of coffee in him and he was good to go and willing to suck it up for the day.

“Kaelyn was always the happy one,” Whitney told Ruby. “Christian, the quiet calm one.”

“Again, someone has to be,” Evan said. “And how are you feeling?” he asked Ruby. He’d heard last week she was several months pregnant.

“See?” Ruby said. “That was nice of you to ask and I’m feeling great. We’ll find out the sex of the baby in a few weeks. Never thought I’d be a mother. Heck, I never thought I’d even get married.”

“Can you imagine Evan as a father?” Whitney asked, laughing. “If he had a daughter, he’d probably follow behind her until she was thirty before anyone of the opposite sex could get close.”

“Damn straight,” he said. “Just like I tried to do with Kaelyn.”

“Didn’t work, did it?” Ruby said. “Though your sister seems happy enough.”

“It’s a good thing or Harris would have to answer to me.”

Whitney rolled her eyes. “Not only is Kaelyn not fazed by you but Harris isn’t intimidated and you know it.”

It was true. His brother-in-law was bigger than anyone else in the family and treated his wife and daughter like gold. The daughter that was conceived before they were married!

“Well, she’s as independent as you,” Evan said. “And you too, Ruby.” He knew enough when to kiss ass.

“Now you’re sucking up,” Whitney said. “Was there something you wanted from me or can I go back to work with Ruby?”

“Since I’m in your office, there is,” he said. “Sorry to interrupt.”

“It’s fine,” Ruby said. “I always enjoy visiting and making money. Just going over two potential new builds for you guys.”

“That’s what we like,” Evan said. “When it’s set to go, let Christian know.”

His brother was one of the engineers for Butler Construction. They had three employed now because they were so busy, but Christian dealt with all the new builds, another engineer with renovation projects and repairs that might need to be done, and a third with commercial properties. In the past few years it’d gotten to be too much for Christian to do it all.

“We know the routine,” Whitney said. “Stop being so bossy all the time.”

“I’m not bossy,” he said. “I’m just right. I’m only doing my job.”

“Whatever,” Whitney said. “Get out of here and let me do my job after you tell me what it is you need.”

“I’m looking to find out when the shipment of cabinets is coming in for the house on Glendale.”

Whitney dealt with everything in the office from ordering supplies to dealing with vendors and clients once the paperwork had been signed on a new build.

Ryan oversaw a good portion of the construction crews on site for multiple projects but liked to get his hands dirty in the mix and work along with them. He was more a day-to-day manager.

Evan oversaw everything from a bigger picture. He scheduled the workload, he made sure everything was on track to get done, and when to shift crews around on other projects, along with what timelines to give when projects came in.

“Just give me a second. I know they were on backorder, but I thought they were due tomorrow.” He stood there while Whitney started to type into her computer and then pulled it up. “Yep. Tomorrow it is.” She clicked a few more buttons. “They are en route too. So at least we know they were shipped.”

“Better than still being in the warehouse. Okay, that’s one less headache I’ve got to deal with and can go tell Ryan to continue as planned.”

He walked out of Whitney’s office and headed back to his truck to get on with his day, not sure why he was in such a hurry. It’s not like he had anything planned after work tonight or any other night.

He talked about not changing his ways and didn’t plan on it, but damn, there were times when it sure was lonely.

Unexpected Delivery…Prologue

Prologue

Parker looked around at the remaining ten castmates sitting in tribal council with her. It’d been a dream come true to be on Survivor and she made it to the merge.

In her mind, she was sitting pretty with her hidden immunity idol that took a risk getting when she was voted to spend the night alone on another island. She knew she rubbed people the wrong way. She’d been doing that her whole life and she was fine with it. Until she wasn’t.

“Be tough,” her mother used to drill into their heads. Her brothers, Marcus and Jeremy, were just as competitive as her, but they weren’t ones to rough it like she was. She’d do anything for a dare if she could come out on top.

Succeeding and being the best was something she always wanted. Maybe it was that she was the third of the four kids. Marcus was the oldest. Jeremy next, so he was in the middle too. Then her and finally the baby, Erin.

Yeah, Erin was the only one not competitive in the family and it drove her mother insane. Her father, he was used to their mother running the show, so he often ended up spending more time with Erin and cheering her up.

“So we’ve made it to the merge,” Jeff Probst said. “Anyone feeling safe?”

Parker looked around. She was fine, she knew it. Call her cocky, she didn’t care, but there were a lot of players that wanted Keegan out. Heck, she was thrilled when his name came up, as he was the first one to rally everyone against her in their tribe.

If people thought she was competitive and bossy, they’d never met Keegan before. He named their tribe. He took the lead, he told everyone what to do and when. Because she was a woman and had an opinion a few times, he’d given her shit.

No one gave her shit.

But she was smart enough to stay calm and work any angle she could. She wasn’t a great salesperson for nothing. She knew how to play the game of life and was doing well for herself at it.

And she had her safety that no one knew of hidden away and she wasn’t telling a soul.

She’d been watching this show since she was a little kid and too many people made the mistake of blabbing. Not her.

“I think we all know what we are doing tonight,” Tyler said. He was eighteen and had an issue with his mouth running like the results of consumed gas station egg salad for lunch that had sat out for a week.

“So, is it safe to say that it might be fairly unanimous who is going home?” Jeff asked.

There were some head nods, but no one was talking that much. Then Sandra said, “I’m not sure it’s ever unanimous. Everyone feels nervous at some point.”

“That’s true,” Jeff said. “What about you, Parker? Feeling safe? Your tribe has the majority of members with the merge. You could easily start picking people off from the other side. How safe do you feel?”

She heard Keegan snort two over. “Just like Sandra said: no one really feels safe unless they’ve got immunity hanging around their neck like Jason. So yeah, he probably feels real safe unless he wants to hand it to me.”

There was some laughter in the group. She might be confident and cocky, but she had a good sense of humor. At least she thought she did.

No one wanted to be sitting here for weeks starving and stinking without being able to make some jokes about it. Going to the bathroom in the bushes…yep, she was a pro at it now. When her family got to see these episodes months from now when she would be back home, they were going to laugh their butts off. Along with her coworkers.

Her mother wouldn’t be laughing. Not unless Parker took the win home. But she’d long since given two flying monkeys what her mother thought of anything.

She hoped to be laughing to the bank with that million-dollar check though.

There was more talk going around and she was listening like she always did but just wanted to get this vote over with. It should be ten for Keegan, and one for whoever he voted for. Everyone told him Tyler was the guy they were targeting, so that should be the one vote.

Who knew with Keegan? He was a wild card on top of being a dick.

“Let’s go vote,” Jeff said. “Tyler, you’re up first.”

One by one they all moved over and picked up the large coal pencil and wrote down Keegan’s name. At least she was ninety-nine percent confident everyone was.

When the last person was sitting, Jeff walked over to tally the votes and then came back. “Does anyone have a hidden immunity idol they want to play?”

Nope, she was holding onto hers, thank you very much. She’d wanted to split the votes tonight, but everyone insisted Keegan didn’t have an idol. That if he did, he’d be bragging to those closest to him.

He was cocky enough to do that, so she was confident Keegan was finally going home.

But when Jeff was getting ready to start reading the votes, Keegan stood up and said, “I’m pretty sure this is going to save my ass tonight.”

Her jaw dropped as she looked around at everyone else who felt the same way. No way. He had to be bluffing. He handed over what looked to be some rock with scratches on it. Hers was like a mini totem pole.

“Yes, this is one of the five idols that were on the island.”

“Five?” Tyler said. “There were five there?”

The island the members were sent to was out of play with the merge now. It was only when they were separate tribes. No one had any idea there were five of them. Everyone thought there might be two tops. One on each side for each tribe to find. Since Keegan and she were in the same tribe, she’d figured she had the only one.

Holy shit, there could be three more out there counting hers. How was it no one figured out there were so many?

“There are five,” Jeff said, taking the one from Keegan. “Now there could be four in play. One more thing to think about. But all votes for Keegan will not count. Let’s start.”

One by one Jeff pulled out sheets of the worn rough weathered paper and opened them up. The first six had Keegan’s name on them. Enough to send him home. Darn it.

She was starting to sweat. She had a feeling her name was going to be on Keegan’s sheet. That he’d outplayed them all and it was going to be a dirty bitter pill for her to swallow on a dry throat if that was the case.

By the time they got to the eighth vote, Jeff read, “Parker, one. Keegan, seven. Three more to go.”

But the next three had Keegan’s name on them. Son of a bitch!

“Parker. The tribe has spoken.”

She stood up with her torch to have it snuffed out when Keegan said, “No, Keegan has spoken.”

She could be a bitch about it but wasn’t going to be. She could be the bigger person even if it was killing her inside. This was national TV and she wasn’t stupid enough to do anything that could come back and haunt her. “Well played, Keegan.”

“I expected you to throw a fit,” Keegan said.

She smiled and winked at him. “You don’t know me as well as you thought you did.”

Then she walked off the set, her smile dropping the minute her back was turned. She’d throw a fit, but she’d do it in the hotel room after she took an hour-long hot shower and got all the grime off of her. When she was clean enough, she’d go stuff her face with food. It might be the only thing she had to look forward to before she got on the plane to go home.

Unexpected Delivery

Evan Butler has often been described as arrogant, grouchy, and inflexible. He just liked to say he was always right. When the wrong package is delivered to his house for the second time, he prepares to put a smile on his face and play nice with the new neighbor to bring it to its rightful owner. What he didn’t expect was the beauty that was going to make him realize that sometimes in life you’re wrong and you need to learn to compromise.

Parker Reed has had family pressure and competition shoved in her face her entire life. She’s always felt she had a handle on it. But when her sister dies, she realizes that life shouldn’t all be about getting to the top of the ladder. Only how do you change what you’ve always known and done? And when the sexy neighbor across the street enters her life, she realizes that maybe long term plans and goals aren’t the only things she should be focusing on anymore.

Family Bonds-Ava & Seth…Chapter One

If you haven’t read the Prologue yet, check it out here.

Chapter One

More To Offer

Three years later

“So, birth control options,” Emily Rauch said to Dr. Ava Mills. They were distant cousins, but that was the case with most of the Bonds on the island of this generation when they crossed family lines.

“I don’t see where you’ve been on anything other than birth control pills in your file. That was a few years ago?”

“Nothing in a few years. I’m not really keen on the pill again. I wasn’t a fan of the way it made me feel.”

“There are plenty you can try if you want,” Ava said.

“There are other options I think I’d rather explore.”

“So things are going well with the guy from the fundraiser? Enough that you are looking for birth control options?” Ava asked, wiggling her eyebrows. Lucky dog, her cousin was. It’d been way too long since Ava had any activity with the opposite sex. Heck, it might have been a year since she’d even been on a date!

“It’s been a few months now. You’ve seen us out to dinner and even came over to get the introduction. I want to know how you got out of that fundraiser.”

The fundraiser that island matriarchs Helena and Janet Bond oversaw to bring money to Amore Island to help fund the clinics and emergency services that taxpayer money didn’t cover. The island founded by their ancestors many, many years ago.

The island that she only worked at one day a week in the clinic. For now.

Ava grinned. “I was on call that week.”

“That’s your story and you are sticking to it?”

Maybe she should have offered to go on stage at the charity fundraiser and be one of the women men could bid on for a date if Emily was getting lucky with the guy who’d “won” her. No, no, it just wasn’t for Ava.

“Exactly. So tell me about your new beau.”

“Don’t you have other patients?” Emily asked.

“You’re my last of the day. I’ve got plenty of time to catch the ferry so don’t use that as an excuse either.”

“It’s only three,” she said. “How can I be your last patient of the day?”

“I didn’t know I had to report my schedule to you. But I had two cancellations and because I’m off the island, they called and rearranged it so that I could get out after you.”

Ava liked how accommodating everyone was at the facility where she worked. There were branches in Boston, Plymouth—where she was currently located—Amore Island, and other outlying areas. Her long-term dream had been Amore Island…at some point when there was an opening. It was coming true sooner than she expected though and since her father and brothers were now practicing on the island, she couldn’t wait to join them.

“It doesn’t bother you coming back and forth this way to work?”

“It’s only once a week.” Ava looked around as if she was afraid someone might walk in the closed door and hear them. “Until June that is.”

“What?” she asked. “What is going on?”

Her smile filled her face faster than when she was hired as an obstetrician less than two years ago. “I’m transferring here full time.”

“That’s great! I thought you didn’t want to be on the island.”

“It wasn’t that. I just went where the job was. I like it off the island and coming here once a week, but everyone is here. My brothers are at the hospital, my parents live here now with my father somewhat retired but the surgeon on call. I guess I’m finding the island is pulling me more than I thought. Or at least earlier than I thought it would. One of the doctors here full time wants to leave. She’s got kids starting middle and high school and they play sports and, well, you know how it goes.”

“I do. There is only so much you can do on the island. There are sports, but activities are limited and the traveling back and forth. It’s not a life for everyone.”

“You didn’t live here growing up,” Ava said. “Neither did we. But I find that things are different on the island now than they were when we were kids. There is more to do and more to offer.”

Life in the slow lane was calling her name after years of schooling. Now it was work, work, work and she was fine with that. But going home to her rented condo wasn’t as relaxing as it might be if she had a nice little cottage by the ocean. The next step of her journey would be to reach out to her cousin Drew and see if he knew of anything on the market that was in her range.

“Or maybe we are older,” Emily said.

“No clue. But I’m sure you know it’s hard to get medical professionals on the island to stay for long. Many come here young to get a job and experience, then leave when there is an opening at another satellite office in Boston or Plymouth. Or they come here when they are ready to retire.”

“Like your father,” Emily said. “Can we continue this while I’m dressed? I get the feeling you enjoy doing this to rattle me.”

Ava smiled. “Nothing really rattles you though.” She always did have a warped sense of humor, or so many told her.

“Talk to me through the door,” Emily said.

“Nope. I don’t want anyone to hear me as it’s not public knowledge. I just filled the paperwork out last week.”

Emily jumped down from the table, making sure the gown was covering her bare butt, and ran to the bathroom to change quickly so they could finish their conversation. When she came out, she said, “So why are you telling me? Or you needed to talk to someone other than your parents and brothers?”

“Right on the first try. I know you won’t say much, right?” Her parents and brothers were going to be thrilled, but they’d also start to jump in and give advice and suggestions on when or where she should move. She wanted to do this all on her own.

“My lips are sealed. When will it be public knowledge?” Emily asked.

“A few weeks or less. It gives me time to find a place of my own and start letting my patients know.”

“Those on the island will be thrilled,” Emily said.

“They will. Many still don’t like giving birth here, but I’m really pushing hard to get more advanced equipment. It’s better than it used to be, but we will never be equipped for any major emergency.”

“Which is no different than any other small town in the state. I look at it this way. There are plenty air lifted out of smaller rural locations in this state besides the island.”

“Exactly,” Ava said. “Anyway, so that is my news. Oh, I’m sure you heard another one bit the dust over Valentine’s Day.” That was two now in their family engaged of her generation. The green monster was starting to grow a little knowing Emily was getting some action too.

“Drew and Amanda?” Emily asked. “I did hear that. Helena has been burning up the hotlines. Amanda seems like a great person. Drew looks happy.”

“Drew is always happy,” she said. “So…will you be next?”

“Don’t even go there.”

“Ah, but you want birth control.”

“Which means I’m having sex.”

“Lots of sex?” Ava asked. “Come on. I’m in a dry spell and we are off the clock. You’re dressed again.”

Emily laughed. “More than I’ve had before, but it doesn’t seem to be enough either.”

“The best kind there is. So give me the scoop on him.” She needed something at this point to squash the urge to go home alone and watch another Hallmark movie with a tub of ice cream.

“Not much to say. You know how we met.”

“But you knew him before the fundraiser?” Ava asked.

“I did,” Emily said. “He delivers my mail. Everyone knows and I’m sure it’s the big talk of the family outside of Drew’s engagement and Hunter’s soon-to-be son arriving.”

“Don’t forget about Mac dating someone now too.” Just dating didn’t bother her as much as her cousins settling down and her wondering when she might have a shot at it. Being in Plymouth, she thought she’d have a better chance at meeting men and found that wasn’t the case.

“Is he really?” Emily asked. “Is it Kayla’s other roommate? Sidney?”

“That’s what I heard. That he’s been seen at the bar while she is working.”

“And he must hate it if people are talking about it,” Emily said.

“I’m sure, but Mac has no problem putting people in their place. Kind of like you.”

“Speaking of that. And me. What have you heard about me and Crew?” Emily asked.

“Not much. Just that you seem happy too. You know the family. That’s all anyone really cares about.” Many outside the Bond family thought they were all stuck-up, but the truth was, not many were. They were all caring and truly wanted each other happy.

“No one is making a comment about his career?”

Crew Ackley was a mailman. “I’m sure there are plenty that love to gossip that might. It’s no different than people commenting on Kayla and Amanda trying to land a wealthy man. Anyone that knows you knows you wouldn’t put up with it. You had no problem dropping Simon.”

Simon was Emily’s ex-fiancé that rumor had it only wanted the family name and money and part of the hotel Emily and her sister, Penelope, were building.

“No. No problem there, nor would I put up with it. So, back to my question. Birth control options.”

Ava rolled her chair over and pulled some brochures off the wall, knowing that their conversation was coming to an end, but it was fun while it lasted. She missed this with other women and found there wasn’t much of it in Plymouth.

The other doctors at the practice were older than her. The office staff and nurses didn’t really want to mingle with the doctors. Or maybe she didn’t want to mingle with them. She’d always had a hard rule about keeping friendships out of the office. It was just easier that way.

“The usual pill, a shot in the arm every three months, an IUD. Lots of information to read.”

“How soon could I get the shot in the arm?” Emily asked, looking at the brochure quickly. “I’ve read a bit on it already.”

“Today if you want?” Ava said, laughing.

“Give it to me.”

“Your wish, my command,” she said, standing up. “I’ll be back in a few.”

She’d given Emily her Depo shot, updated her notes in her computer, then went to the temporary office she used here. It was more like a coat closet and the next person that filled in once a week would get it once she moved over to the bigger office next door.

“Have a safe trip home,” Anne, her nurse for the day, said to her when she was walking out the door.

“Thanks,” she said, knowing it wouldn’t be much longer and she’d be home right here on the island.

Family Bonds- Ava & Seth…Prologue

Prologue

“Seth, I’m bleeding again.”

Seth Young looked up at his wife, Ellen, in the kitchen of their small home outside of Boston. “A lot?” he asked, looking at his watch. It was after eight and they’d just put their three-year-old daughter, Adele, to bed.

“More than last week,” she said.

Ellen was seven months pregnant with their son and in the past eight weeks had started to bleed slightly on and off. Her doctor said it can happen, but after the second time, Ellen was in the office in a panic where the doctor discovered she had placenta previa and told Ellen to try to take it easy while they monitored things.

Seth felt her doctor wasn’t doing enough to relieve their concerns. “Why don’t you call your doctor’s office now and tell them,” he said. “It can’t hurt to get it on record.”

“It’s after hours. It’ll go to whoever is on call,” she argued.

“If you don’t do it then we are going to the ER. This isn’t something to take a chance with.”

“I know. But I just got Adele down and it’s not that bad.”

“But worse than last time, you said.” He hated arguing with her, but sometimes she could be so stubborn in not wanting to put others out. He suspected it went way back to being the only child of divorced parents as they remarried and started new lives.

“Yeah. Okay, I’ll call now.” He waited while he listened to her talking to the service. “They said someone will call me back within thirty minutes.”

He wanted to grind his teeth over that. Thirty minutes was too long in his head, but then he’d told himself if it was an emergency they’d just go to the ER anyway.

And twenty-five minutes later, Ellen’s doctor called her back, asked a few questions, then Ellen hung up. “She said if it’s not nonstop then to rest and put my feet up and call the office to come in in the morning. If it starts to flow like a period, to go to the ER right away.”

Which Seth could have figured out on his own. “Then go lie down for the night. I’ll take care of the dishes when the dishwasher stops. Better yet, why don’t you get ready for bed? We can watch TV early together.”

“That sounds good,” she said, her voice a little shaky and he wondered if it was worse than she was letting on.

He pulled her into his arms to hold, then reached down and put his arms under her knees and carried her to their room and put her on the bed. “What do you need? Something to sleep in? Don’t do anything else right now until I get back.”

She laughed. “You take such good care of me.”

“That’s a husband’s job,” he said, going to the kitchen. The dishwasher would be done drying any minute and Ellen liked the dishes put away at the end of each night so that the day could start out fresh.

He wasn’t even halfway through when she started to shout his name and he went running to see blood on the bed.

He picked up his phone and called 911. There was no way he could get her there fast enough and he wanted her to have help immediately.

By the time the ambulance arrived, he had a neighbor at the house to stay with Adele. No reason to wake and worry his daughter.

The minute Ellen was loaded in the ambulance, he jumped in his car and followed them racing to the hospital, and prayed his wife and son would be okay.

He didn’t get that prayer answered when he had to return home the next morning in a haze of disbelief and confusion, wondering how he was going to break the news to his daughter that it was just the two of them now.

Family Bonds- Ava & Seth

Dr. Ava Mills always knew she’d end up on Amore Island, the island her family founded and built. She was just waiting for the position to open up to slide right in. And when it does, the transition is anything but smooth when her identity is stolen and her assets and funds frozen with her reputation on the line.

Seth Young moved to Amore Island to have his mother help him raise his daughter after the loss of his wife and unborn child. He’s worked closely with most members of the Bond family at the bank where he is President, just not Ava Mills. And when she applies for a mortgage, he has to break the news that her credit is shot. She needs help and he’s going to give it to her…just maybe not the help either of them had planned.

Fierce-Devin…Chapter One

Chapter One

Not Falling For It

Devin was in his office checking off production schedules when there was a knock at the door. “Hey, Mason,” he said to his cousin, one of the five owners of Fierce-The Brewery. He looked at the clock and saw it was seven. “You’re in early.”

“Couldn’t sleep,” he said. “I’ve got an idea for a new beer and wanted to talk with Ben about it before he got knee deep in other things.”

Ben was one of the brewmasters that worked the closest to Mason. There were plenty of them with the size of the brewery, but Mason seemed to go to Ben the most.

“Checking in on inventory control?” Mason asked. Devin oversaw production and distribution. Not a desk job completely, but a hands-on one too. He liked splitting his time. He worked four twelve-hours shifts and rotated his nights as he saw fit with Mason’s approval to assure everything was working properly on the night shift when the big guys weren’t around.

One could say he was the big guy at night, though he never felt that way. He might be a first cousin to the Fierce Five, but his last name was Andrews.

“How did it turn out?” Mason asked.

“Good. No issues or shortages. I’ll sit down with you at some point about storage and maybe rearranging things, but for now we are good.”

“Glad to know,” Mason said. “It’s one less headache I’ve got knowing everything is under control. I still can’t thank you enough for wanting to work here.”

“I should be thanking you for offering me the job,” he said.

A year ago Devin was living in Georgia working as a distribution manager for a large manufacturing company. He was the middleman getting shit on by those above and below him and he’d had enough. When Mason called and offered him a position he was creating, he’d jumped on it knowing he needed the out. Things were heating up and he was already in the crossfire. Not a good place to be in his position. Union workers weren’t happy and he wasn’t one of them even though they reported to him.

“It’s working out for both of us, and it takes the pressure off of me. Sometimes I look around here and can’t believe how big it’s gotten and I know it’s going to continue to expand. Which we need to talk about.”

Devin started to laugh. “You’re getting more requests from out of state?”

“I am. I’m ready to move into a few more, but we need to work out drivers and shipments and get vendors, figure the trucks out and the list goes on and on.”

“You get me the vendors, I’ll figure out shipping and the drivers, those schedules, you know that.”

“Good. Hope has been getting a lot of calls and putting things together. Maybe I’ll have you meet with her soon and it will give you an idea.”

“Sounds good,” he said. Hope Hall took care of all the orders for the brewery. She was a one-woman show taking calls, tracking down shipments, and dealing with any customer or vendor complaints. He suspected Mason might have to add some more staff on soon, but since that was her only job from a created position not that long ago, he’d already seen the writing on the wall for more expansion.

He went back to work when Mason walked out, would finish up his paperwork, then go down and talk to the guys on first shift once they were settled.

Coming in at ten at night and working until ten in the morning allowed him to communicate with staff on all three shifts. But since Mason and many others were here during the day, he wasn’t needed as much as someone to watch out at night.

When ten rolled around, he’d already had his office locked up and was heading up to remind Mason he’d be off tonight. His four-night weeks were normally Sunday through Wednesday, but he was closing on the house he was buying tomorrow morning and would need the night off to sleep and deal with his move.

“Heading out?” Mason asked him when he popped his head in. Talk about the prime office location. Mason got to look out over the floor of the brewery on a daily basis.

“I am. Just remember, I won’t be in until Wednesday night, so I’ll see you Thursday morning.”

“Oh yeah. Your house closing. Congrats again on that.”

“Thanks. Apartment living was getting to me, though I’m not sure I’m ready to be a homeowner and handle all the work that comes with it.”

“It’s not so bad and well worth the privacy.”

“Living in a development isn’t as private as I would have liked, but since it’s gated and they take care of the lawn maintenance, that was a major selling point.”

Mason laughed. “I enjoy riding the lawnmower on the weekend. It’s my quiet time.”

“Daddy!”

Devin turned to see Jacob and Jeremy come running into the office, followed by Jessica, Mason’s wife. “Mason doesn’t let me mow the lawn,” Jessica said. “I’ve begged him, but he says it’s his first baby and no one touches the tractor.”

“You just want to leave me with these two monkeys,” Mason said, as his twins were climbing in his lap with one reaching for the mouse on the computer, the other pulling at papers. They were a few months shy of three and quite the handful.

“I should have brought some bananas in with me,” Devin said.

“I don’t like bananas,” Jeremy said, jumping down and running toward him for a high five. Not to be outdone, Jacob did the same.

“Are they going to be here all day with you or are you getting stuff to work from home?” Mason asked his wife.

“Your mom is on her way to get them here. She had something to do this morning. I would have come in earlier, but they are wound for sound and I’m not sure I could handle them. She’d said ten.”

“Run,” Mason said to his cousin.

He was ready to turn and leave, but his Aunt Jolene was one foot in the doorway. “Devin,” she said. “How is my favorite nephew? My sister tells me every day how happy she is you are back in town.”

“I’m doing good, Aunt Jolene. Just telling Mason I’d see him Thursday.”

“Your house closing is tomorrow, right?” Aunt Jolene asked.

“It is. I need to sleep tonight and make sure I’m not half awake and signing the wrong papers.”

She laughed at him and then started to dance around in a circle with her grandsons. His aunt never sat still and was always moving fast. Which was why he needed to get out of here before she started to bring up another topic he hadn’t been able to outrun.

“We wouldn’t want that. Maybe once you’re settled, you wouldn’t mind me introducing you to a friend’s daughter. Kaylee is a sweetheart. I know you two would hit it right off.”

He looked at Mason and caught the smirk. “I’m good, Aunt Jolene. I can find my own woman.”

“All my boys said the same thing,” she said, “but we know how that turned out.”

“I’m thankful for Jolene’s interference every day,” Jessica said. “But I’m more thankful when she takes my wild children off my hands so I can get some work done.”

Mason moved toward Jessica and pulled her into his arms, then gave her a kiss. “Work? I was hoping we could play hooky for an hour or so.”

“See how well I did?” his aunt said.

“Yep, you did,” Devin said. “But I’m a big boy.”

“I told you to run,” Mason said. “You’re not fast enough.”

“No one is as fast as me,” Aunt Jolene said. “Just remember that.”

“I don’t need to be fast,” he said. “I need to be aware. And I am. Sorry, but I’m not falling for it.”

She pursed her lips and shook her head. “Ella said that too.”

“And we all know Uncle Gavin was responsible for her.”

“Oh, you better start moving,” Mason said. “Mom hates to be reminded that she didn’t have a hand in Ella’s. That’s why she set Jade up first because she couldn’t not have her finger on the pulse of a girl setup.”

Jade Fierce was Jolene’s niece on the Fierce side of the family. The daughter of one of Gavin’s brothers.

Devin and his brother Ivan and his cousins Liam and Faith O’Malley were Jolene’s kin. And they were all fully aware their parents were now trying to seek the help of Jolene in getting them to settle down.

Not happening.

When his time came, it was going to be of his own choosing. If he wanted it. Because he still wasn’t sure he was hardwired for love. If he was, then why was he almost thirty-five and had never fallen once?

He’d told his mother plenty of times he could find his own woman. He’d told his Aunt Jolene the same.

What he didn’t understand was why no one believed him or would leave him alone.

He decided it was time to escape while he still had some skin on his back after that burn for his aunt. He started to walk down the stairs and toward the offices in the back when he heard his name called.

“Hi, Hope.”

“Sorry to bother you,” she said. “I know you’re on your way out. Mason mentioned that he’d like the two of us to meet at some point to go over expansion into other states.”

“No bother. He talked to me about it this morning. I’m off tonight and will be back Wednesday night, so maybe we can talk Thursday morning? Send me an email of who and where he’s looking to ship to if you can.”

“I will. Thanks. See you in a few days. And congrats on your house closing.”

“Thanks,” he said, not aware she knew. As much as he liked to stop in and talk to her, she always kept it short and sweet no matter how much he lingered.

She turned and he watched her walk away. Her petite frame that barely came up to his shoulders with her brown hair resting against the middle of her back. He figured her to be about five foot two. He was six foot even and fine with it. He wasn’t as tall as his four male Fierce cousins, but being a few inches shorter wasn’t a big deal. Nor was he as big as Brody or Mason. He was built more like Cade, even though he didn’t sit behind a desk full time like Cade did. And he wasn’t as pretty or high fashion as Cade and that was fine with him too.

He was a regular old blue collar worker that put a lot of time in to get where he was.

He’d never be able to compete with his cousins and didn’t want to. Not like so many thought.

He wouldn’t begrudge them all their wealth and success. He wasn’t a jealous person.

He was happy with what he had in life and reminded himself daily.

If he was wishing he wasn’t going home alone at times, he wasn’t admitting it to anyone, least of all his Aunt Jolene.

He said he could get his own woman and he planned on it when he was ready.

Too bad the woman he wanted to get to know better just walked away from him and didn’t seem to be interested in anything other than a work meeting.