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.

Fierce-Devin…Prologue

Prologue

Hope picked her phone up and saw the text from a coworker asking her to sign into work and help out for a power outage an hour away. She’d expected the call to come in since her boyfriend, Sean, who was a lineman for the utility company they both worked for, was just dispatched out.

When she moved here several months ago to be with Sean, he’d helped her get the job as a customer service rep. Because they didn’t work in the same building, let alone the same department, it wasn’t a conflict.

She grabbed her laptop and headset. Though she was done for the day, the OT would be nice. Sean paid for their apartment, but she tried to pay for the rest of the expenses so she didn’t feel too guilty. She didn’t care what her family said; she didn’t expect a man to take care of her. Not financially at least.

She started to swear when her computer decided to do an update when she opened it up and saw it’d be at least thirty minutes.

With her phone in her hand, she was ready to text her supervisor and explain when she caught sight of Sean’s computer on the kitchen counter. Maybe she could try his first.

She walked over and lifted the top and saw a screen for a password. Crap. She should have figured, even though she didn’t password protect hers. Knowing he was busy and wouldn’t get her text asking him what it was, she decided to try to guess it. He was a simple person. There was no way his password would be hard.

By the third try she’d gotten it with SexyMan1 and wanted to do a palm slap to her forehead. He was always walking around calling himself sexy or referring to himself as Sexy Man.

She might have done that move anyway when almost immediately messages started popping up in the lower right-hand corner of his screen. She wasn’t trying to be nosy, but it’s not like she could turn her head away from them once she’d seen the username LilyLove. What the hell?

After shaking her head, wondering if this was a dream—more like a nightmare—she realized it was a chat box for Tinder.

Work was forgotten, and since the message was up, she figured he was signed in and clicked his app and…jackpot. That piece of shit had been hooking up with women for years. And the entire time they’d been together!

Tears began rolling down her face and she wondered why he even asked her to move in with him if he was doing this. Why he said he loved her. Why he told her time and again he wanted a future with her.

Hope pulled her phone out and took snapshots of some of his chats to have as proof, not that she needed them to end things with him. Then went to the fridge and got a tub of ice cream and started to bawl her eyes out while she made a plan on how to get the hell out of here.

Fierce-Devin

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.

Devin Andrews loves his job at Fierce-The Brewery and working for his cousin Mason. What he doesn’t love is that his Aunt Jolene has set her sights on making him the next target of her matchmaking scheme. But he’s onto her and has no plans on falling prey like her unsuspecting children did. Besides, he’s not sure he has what it takes to fall in love since he never has before, even being the oldest of the family.

Hope Hall picked up her life and moved to Charlotte for a man. She should have listened to her family when they cautioned her against it, reminding her that she was too spontaneous with everything in life…even men. After being blind, stupid, and naive once again, she doesn’t want to go home and listen to them say they were right. Instead she is trying to make a life for herself—one without a man in it—and prove she can do it on her own.

Fierce-Jade

Jade Fierce thought she had it all. Many looked at her and assumed the same thing. She’s been misunderstood her whole life and was just sick of it. With all her brothers sliding into love around her, the dreams she’s had of wanting the same were suffocating her. But the last thing she plans on having done is her parents setting her up!

Brock James’s life changed forever the day a bomb exploded leaving him injured. With his military career over, he sets his sights on a new adventure. This one needing some help from none other than the sexy engineer he was partnered with at his best friend’s wedding the previous year. Only now he is worried she’s going to find out her parents might have had a hand in it and want nothing to do with him.

Passionate Vision…Prologue

 

PV FINAL

 

Prologue

 

“How about we get some ice cream tonight?” Claire’s father asked her.

She pushed back from the table. “Deal. I’ll help Mom clean up so we can get out of here faster.”

Her mother laughed. “You two go. Your father needs some fresh air and I do better without you underfoot.”

“Looks like it’s you and me,” Claire said to her father. When they were in the car, she turned and asked, “Why did Mom say you needed some fresh air? Is a case giving you problems?”

Her father was a detective with the NYPD. But he was also a witch…just like her. Her mother was an everyday average person with no powers other than loving them both unconditionally.

“Don’t worry about it, honey,” her father said, his hand reaching over to pat her thigh and then stopping before contact. She felt bad about that but was glad he understood too. “So, what kind of ice cream are you in the mood for?”

“Hard, not soft serve.”

“That goes without saying,” he said. They lived in Brooklyn and could go into the City anytime they wanted, but she liked staying in their borough.

Once her father parked at their favorite place, they got out and made their way to the counter. “I’ll take a scoop of chocolate and one of coconut in a waffle cone.”

Her father shook his head. “Just like your mother with the coconut. I’m old fashioned and I’ll take one of chocolate and one of vanilla in a waffle cone too.”

With their cones in their hands, they turned to leave, when a man rushed down the curb coming out of nowhere and bumped into her. Her father reached out and grabbed her to keep her from falling and in that moment Claire was slammed with every case he was working out in his mind.

Dead bodies flashed before her eyes. A child that was beaten and left in an alley. The homeless being questioned. Prostitutes walking around the precinct. The images just went on and on flashing everywhere.

Her father released her arms that he’d been holding, but she couldn’t move. Her face was pale—she knew it because she felt dizzy.

“I’m sorry,” her father said, but he took her arm again and led her to the car. He moved as fast as he could, but it didn’t stop more images from floating before her eyes. Past and present. She wasn’t sure how she knew that, but she did.

When they were seated in the car, her father turned the air conditioning on full blast to cool her off and said, “Put your head between your knees and close your eyes. Take a few breaths.”

Claire did what she was told. She knew it would help. She’d done it enough in her life when this happened.

“I need to touch something happy,” she said.

She heard her father get out of the car while she stayed in that position, then come back and put something in her hand. It was a dandelion and it worked. In her mind she watched its growth, the blossom, the fluff, then the wind blowing it away. Children picking them and pursing their lips as they made wishes.

All the things that were carefree and fun and her racing heart started to slow.

“I’m better.” She lifted her head and turned to look at him. “How do you do that? How do you look at that every day and deal with it?”

“It’s not like that for me,” he said. “You know that. You’re stronger than me. Your powers. I have to center myself to see things and even then it’s not all at once. I touch you, and it floods your body. The older you get the stronger they are. I’m worried about you, Claire.”

She snorted. “I’m kind of worried about me too. It’s hard to not touch people, to be careful of that every moment, but most times I don’t see things like that.”

“I know. I think it’s time your mother and I have a talk with you about some options.”

“What kind of options?” Her father started their car, their ice cream cones long gone. She’d dropped hers and she wasn’t sure what happened to his. “Guess ice cream was a bust tonight.”

He shut the car off. “Wait here.”

When he came back a few minutes later he had two cones in his hands. The same flavors that had fallen to the ground. “What did you tell them? I’m sure they asked why you were back again.”

“I said that you were training for a speed eating contest and were too embarrassed to say all four of these were for you.”

Her jaw dropped. Her father was good at making her laugh. “That’s mean.”

“It sure is,” he said, taking a bite of his. She did the same while he drove the few minutes back home.

“What are you going to tell Mom? She doesn’t understand.”

“She does understand. She might not feel or experience things like us, but she understands. Don’t you ever forget that.”

In the house, her mother took one look at her and then her father and said, “It’s time, isn’t it?”

“I think so. We had a little incident.”

“I’m standing right here,” she reminded her parents. “Time for what?”

“That you finish your last two years of high school at the Witches Academy in New Orleans.”

“You’re joking, right? That is where Zion and Madeline go,” she said of her cousins. They lived not far from the school and knew all along they’d go there. She didn’t see her cousins often, but they talked a lot.

They and their younger sister Abigail were all witches too. Her father’s sister, Emily, was a witch, but not Emily’s husband Anthony Batisti. He was as Italian as they came and she always thought it was funny they moved to Louisiana.

But her Uncle Anthony was family oriented and he wanted what was best for his son and two daughters when he realized they were witches like his wife. That meant having them be around more of their own kind.

Unlike Claire.

She was the only witch in Brooklyn that she knew of other than her father. It’s not like she announced it to anyone and never would, but she figured she’d know if there were more. She’d be able to feel it or sense it like she could with the rest of her family.

“We aren’t joking,” her mother said. “I’m going to miss you, but we can’t leave like your aunt and uncle did. Your father’s career means too much to him.”

“I can retire in ten years,” he said. “It’s hard to give that up. But you need more than I can give you. You need to be around others and you need someone to show you how to focus and control your powers.”

“I don’t want them,” she said, her eyes filling with tears.

“Then you need someone to show you how, if possible, to turn them off,” her mother said.

Her father looked hurt by those words, but at times she really wished she could do that. “I know I should go,” she said.

“School starts in a month,” her mother said.

“I’ll start making the calls in the morning,” her father said. “You shouldn’t have any problem getting in once they know you are a cousin of Zion and Madeline. If you want, why don’t you call your cousin and let her know. I’m sure she’ll ease your mind.”

“Maybe,” Claire said, standing up and hugging her mother. She hadn’t done that in a long time, too fearful of the images that would appear in front of her eyes. The sight of things no one saw but her.

And when her mother hugged her back all she saw was relief and happiness. Sadness and the past of the two of them playing through the years, but glimpses of peace in everyone’s eyes for the future.

When she stepped back she knew her father wanted a hug too, but he’d never ask. He couldn’t control what went through his mind any more than she could control the absorption of others’ thoughts, pain, grief, sorrows…visions.

“Once your mother gets everything arranged, we’ll fly down and get you settled. It’d be nice to see my sister again anyway. We all need a vacation and we might as well plan it now. It’s going to be fun. It’s a new adventure for us all.”

“Adventure is a good word for it,” Claire said but wasn’t sure she was feeling that excited over it. She’d miss her friends, the few she had, but she’d move on too.

Not many understood her and never would because she still had no intention of telling a mortal she was a witch, and if that meant being alone then so be it.

Grey’s Blind Date Discovery- Prologue

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Prologue

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

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

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

“What are your plans tonight?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Wingman?” Grey said. “I’ll pass.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“No problem,” he said.

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

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

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

“I’m happy the way I am.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No, nothing was as bad as them.

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

Fierce-Ella…Prologue #Mgtab @Natalieann121

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Are you ready for a teaser of Fierce-Ella? Here is the prologue!!

Prologue

Ella heard the knock at the door and lifted her head from the pillow. “Yes?”

“Can I come in, Ella?” her mother asked.

Her mother normally didn’t ask, but she guessed storming out of the living room and slamming the door was enough for everyone to ask permission if she wanted to be bothered. She didn’t usually lose her temper like she had, as she prided herself on being calm, cool, and collected at all times. Even as a teen.

Someone had to be the stable one of the Fierce Five and it was always her.

She had twenty minutes up here to get it out of her system, but it didn’t seem to be enough with her mother knocking on the door ready to barge in even if Ella told her no.

She flopped her head back down and wiped her tears on the pillowcase, then flipped it over and rolled off the bed. “Just a minute,” she said. She knew her mother was impatient, but she would wait when she thought one of her children needed it.

Walking into her bathroom quickly, she blew her nose, knuckled away a few more stray offenders, and splashed her face with cold water.

It wasn’t helping. She still looked like she’d been balling her eyes out in her pillowcase and she wondered why she was trying to hide that fact from anyone.

Because she never cried. Ever. It was a sign of weakness, and being the only girl of the Fierce Five made her want to be even stronger than them. She wanted to be Superwoman and they could be Batman’s sidekicks.

She went back into her room and looked around to make sure nothing was out of place, not that it ever was. She was extremely organized. She’d had no choice. That was how she was able to figure out if one of her brothers tampered with anything in her room.

“Hi, Mom,” she said, opening the door.

She turned her back and walked to her bed, then sat down and picked her pillow up, hugging it to her chest. She didn’t often show a vulnerable side, but she felt the time called for it since they all knew she was throwing a “hissy fit” as Cade shouted to her when she stormed out after his announcement.

She hadn’t realized her mother had her hands behind her back until she sat down and pushed them out in front of her, bearing her gift like the biggest prize in Charlotte, and said, “I brought us chocolate to share.”

There was a king-sized Hershey bar staring at her. She wanted to growl at her mother for tempting her, but instead reached for the whole thing and opened it up, then broke a piece off. “I’m not sharing.”

Her mother patted her hand. “You’re making a bigger deal out of this than it is.”

“I don’t think so,” she argued. “Why can’t I have anything to myself?”

“Ella. I get it. But you knew that one of the boys was going to go to the same college as you. We’ve been talking about this for a good year.”

She sniffled some more. She was hoping she could avoid it. She’d been so good at talking her brothers and parents out of everything, or talking them into something. No one gathered information and planned it out like her.

“Why Cade? Of all of them, why him? I’ll never get a boyfriend now,” she said as more fresh tears rolled down her face.

“First off, Cade is the best choice because, between you and me, I think he’s the one that might need someone to watch out for him, not the other way around. But don’t you dare tell a soul I said that.”

Ella felt her lips twitch. “Probably. But he’s also the worst of them when it comes to me around guys.”

“Well, now. You did that to yourself, Ella.”

She narrowed her eyes at her mother, who just continued to stare at her with a cocky smirk on her lips. “I don’t need them watching out for me or scaring everyone I like away.”

“You’re the youngest of five. Four older, bigger brothers who are going to protect and watch out for you your entire life. If you find a guy and he can’t handle your brothers, then he’s not worth it.”

She’d always thought the same thing, but it was getting annoying. “I had to all but beg someone to go to the prom with me this year. Do you know how humiliating that is?”

“Again,” her mother said, “that’s your own doing. It’s just a date. Your brothers wouldn’t terrorize a boy for one date. At least I don’t think they would. No, they wouldn’t.” Her mother’s head was shaking side to side after it’d been bobbing up and down.

“It’s not my fault that most guys are intimidated by me. If I use the logic of them having to accept my brothers, then they have to accept that I’m a strong woman.”

“Oh, Ella,” her mother said, patting her leg this time. Her mother was always touchy feely…unlike Ella herself. “You have so much to learn. You’re a strong woman and it’s a great trait to have. One I have myself. But when you find the right man, you’ll find you don’t always have to be so strong.”

“I don’t think so. I’m not ever relying on any man for anything.”

Her mother rolled her eyes. “You’re young. You’ll figure it out. Trust me, there’s time to find a guy, and when you do, you’ll find all these things you thought you wanted to be won’t make a difference.”

She didn’t believe a word her mother was saying. “I doubt it.”

“Trust me, Ella. Your time will come and when it does, it’s going to knock you and that pride of yours on your skinny little butt.”