Family Bonds- Emily & Crew…Chapter One

Check out the Prologue first.

Chapter One

A Wakeup Call

“Crew, sweetie, I’m so glad you could make it.”

Crew smiled at his grandmother when he walked into the retirement home’s large common room where she was playing cards with her friends. “I wouldn’t miss it. You know that. This is easier for me than Christmas. Maybe I should fly you to me for Christmas.”

“Heavens, no,” she said. “Did you hear that, Ethel? My grandson wants to fly me to some remote island in the East.”

“Go,” Ethel said. “Take a bikini with you. You can borrow mine.”

His eyes went wide and then he heard his grandmother laugh. “I don’t need to borrow yours when I’ve got plenty of my own. How’s the ocean this time of year? It’d be just like taking the Polar Plunge.”

Thoughts of his grandmother in a bikini running into the freezing ocean were causing his heart to hurt in more ways than one. “How about we save the ocean until it’s warmer? Maybe you could visit in the summer?”

“We’ll talk about it another day,” his grandmother said. Which probably meant no. He’d been trying to get her to move with him for the six months that he’d lived on Amore Island.

Nope, she was content to stay in the retirement facility that he paid for back in Boulder, Colorado. She understood his need to leave and he just wished she would have come with him.

He only came back to visit one or two times a year and never the same time. He didn’t want his remaining family to know when he might be in town and he knew his grandmother would keep that secret.

“Are you ready to get some dinner?”

“I am. No one came to visit with you today?” he asked.

Lucy Hanson was his maternal grandmother. The only one he wanted to be around after his parents died tragically. He’d been in college burning through their money and partying the same way they were. It was a wakeup call to find out the small plane his father had just purchased and was flying crashed during a storm one night and there were no survivors. Pilot error had been the final call.

“Your Uncle Richard only comes around if he thinks you will be here. The same with his greedy kids.”

“You mean your other grandkids,” he said, smirking. Dina and Derek Hanson weren’t that close to him growing up even though they were around the same age.

Crew’s parents were just blue collar workers living paycheck to paycheck their whole lives until they struck it big on the lotto.

His mother’s brother decided that maybe his younger sister was worth something now. Like a handout when he’d never helped his parents when they needed it. After it was all left to Crew, his uncle and cousins thought they could squeeze some green out of him. Not happening.

“It doesn’t matter what their names are, they rarely come around. They are too busy with their lives.”

“Good for them,” he said sarcastically. He’d never abandon the one person to take him in and love him unconditionally. His grandmother loved everyone the same. Or she used to. She had little tolerance for her son and other grandkids now. “Let’s go back to your rooms and get your jacket.”

He offered his hand and helped her up even though she didn’t need it. She might be seventy-five, but she’d give most fifty-year-olds a run for their money in many things in life.

Once they were in her two-room suite on the first floor of the complex, he looked around the open area. There was a decent-sized living room with a four-person table near the galley kitchen. Her bedroom and bathroom were off to the side. She loved it here and he knew if he couldn’t get her to go with him, she was at least being looked after.

She came out of her bedroom with her jacket on over her black pants and UGG boots and he couldn’t hold back the laughter. “What?” she said. “You bought them for me.”

“I did,” he said back. He’d been stunned when she said she wanted a pair but figured they would be nice and warm on the grounds, not that she’d go out in public in them. Even her black pants were stretchy with a longer sweater. She looked pretty modern to him too.

“Then don’t laugh at me,” she said.

“I wouldn’t think of it,” he said back. “Even if I did.”

She slid her arm through his and they went to his rental, then drove to the restaurant for a Thanksgiving dinner.

“How long are you staying?” she asked after they’d placed their order.

“I’m flying out tomorrow,” he said. “I need to work this weekend.”

“You couldn’t take one extra day off?” she asked. “You flew in last night late and then tomorrow you’ll be gone again. It’s like you’re barely here.”

Which was the way he wanted it. The less chance of running into not only his mother’s family, but his father’s as well. Leeches were everywhere.

“Packages need to be delivered. I was lucky to get tomorrow off to travel and I managed to get out early yesterday.” Which hadn’t been easy either. It’s not like he could just drive to the airport. He had to get on the ferry, then go to Boston International. He got the earliest flight he could tomorrow so he wouldn’t have to worry about missing the ferry back to the island as it was.

“You’re a busy man, I know. If I haven’t said it enough, I’ll say it now. I’m proud of you for settling down.”

He wasn’t so sure he was settled. At thirty-two years old, he’d been traveling around for five years. After the death of his parents, he’d dropped out of college. It wasn’t like the degree in business he was getting was going to do much for him. He was barely passing as it was.

But he had to do something with his time and, for the hell of it, he applied to the post office. Good benefits and a nice federal job, what the heck. He only applied for part time and stayed that way for years allowing him the time to hang out with friends and party all he wanted. Even travel when he wanted most times.

Five years ago he’d had enough though and put in for a transfer to Phoenix for a full-time position, then later to Houston which he’d left to come here about six months ago. The cold was getting to him and it was time for warmer weather. Until he realized the heat wasn’t much better when he was walking around in it all day.

That started his journey to different places until he landed on Amore Island and felt like he might have found his home.

“I’ve got a good job and a nice house. If that’s considered settled, then yay for me.”

“I’d love to see you with someone special,” his grandmother said. “Have you been dating anyone?”

“I haven’t really dated anyone in years and you know it. You know why too.”

“One person, Crew. She was a piece of shit.”

He started to cough on the drink he’d just taken. “Good point.”

Lisa knew about his money and she liked to have fun. He was fine with that. Then his parents died and she was there for him. Until she told the biggest lie imaginable and cost him a shitload of stress and another major wakeup call. That had been the final straw for him to begin making plans to get out of Dodge.

“It was years ago, Crew. How many?”

“Almost ten,” he said. “And yes I’ve dated in that time. Of course I have. I just haven’t found anyone as wonderful as you.”

She laughed and he was glad of it. “And you never will. But you shouldn’t be comparing. Do you at least have your eye on anyone?”

“Yes,” he said before he could stop the word from tumbling out like snow during an avalanche. What the hell was wrong with him?

“Tell me about her,” his grandmother said.

“Not much to say. I paid three thousand dollars to have a date with her. I’m still waiting to set it up.”

“Crew! I hope you’re lying to me. Good Lord, that is one high-priced call girl.”

This time he couldn’t stop the laughter and decided not to correct her.

***

“Have you called the guy you owe a date to?”

Emily looked at her mother as she set the table for Thanksgiving. It was just her parents and her sister, Penelope, for Thanksgiving. She was fine with that as she was exhausted from traveling this past week.

“No, Mom. You know I’ve been out of town and we’ve had one issue after another at the hotel.”

“Which your sister and I have dealt with,” her father said.

Her parents and Mitchell Bond together owned thirty percent of Atlantic Rise Hotel. They’d fronted the cash for her and Penelope to get their start and then the two of them split the remaining seventy percentage and maintained majority shares. Not that her father or Mitchell did much more than offer suggestions or help when they needed it.

Her mother, Sophia, had introduced Mitchell to his wife, Janet; then Mitchell had returned the favor introducing Sophia to Mason Rauch. Mason, her father, was semi-retired now, just working remotely as Mitchell Bond’s Vice President of Marketing. Mason’s family was in the tourism business most of his life so he came by it naturally. Marrying her mother just added to his portfolio that would be handed down. Lots of rental properties and other investments more than anything, but the girls had no shortage of things they could do when they were older.

They went the hard route though and wanted to start from scratch.

No, neither she nor her parents were as wealthy as Mitchell or Scott Bond, or some of the other Bonds in the family, but they held their own.

“But it’s Emily’s baby,” Penelope said. “You know she can’t disconnect for one minute.”

“You’re no better,” Emily said back to her sister. “You’re just as much of a control freak as me.”

“I wouldn’t go that far,” Penelope said. “You bring freak to a whole new level. I just like to be organized. You want things your way or it’s the highway. I’m the nice one the employees like to talk to. You, you’re the one that they run from.”

“Your sister has you there,” her mother said.

“I can’t help it if I’m serious and determined. Penelope is just as much and you know it.”

“But I’ve got a softer approach than you.”

“Which is why we make a great team,” she told her younger sister.

“We do,” Penelope said coming over and putting her arm around her shoulder. “See. Soft approach.”

She rolled her eyes at her sister. “To answer your question, Mom. No. I haven’t reached out to Crew, but I plan on it next week.”

“What do we know about this guy?” her father said. “You said he’s your mailman? That’s a lot of money to pay to have a date with someone when he could just ask you. Do you even talk?”

“We talk all the time,” she admitted. “I mean when I’m home and he delivers a package. He normally rings the bell so I know it’s there. I’ve asked him to so it doesn’t sit on the porch.”

“So he drops a package off and leaves after he rings the bell?” Penelope said. “Maybe he has a crush on you to do that.”

“I doubt it,” she said. “Men like him want nothing to do with someone like me.”

“Uptight and a control freak?” Penelope said.

Emily didn’t think she was that uptight but understood many thought otherwise. Including her ex, Simon. He didn’t think she was so uptight when he was riding on her coattails. Maybe she shouldn’t have voiced that to him during one of their fights.

Oh well, in the past.

“Whatever. He’s nice. He’s always smiling and has a joke to say or something funny. I’ve given him cookies and drinks. Sometimes it’s really hot out and since he does go out of his way to ring the bell, it’s the least I could do. You know others just toss things and run off the porch.”

“You’re feeding the mailman,” her mother said. “That’s so sweet.”

She wanted to grind her teeth. This was why she didn’t tell her family things. But over the summer it could get hot out and there had been a few days Crew was carrying up some of her packages. They were big and heavy and he was sweating, his biceps and forearms were flexing, even his thighs and calves when he squatted down.

She’d actually been almost embarrassed to be staring and more so when he’d caught her. She immediately offered him a bottle of water that day and then a few more times when she saw him.

Most times he dropped her mail in the box by the end of the driveway, but if she was home and had a package, she’d almost always go to the door to get it and offer him something and talk for a minute. It’s not like she had packages sent daily, and she did track them to know the day they’d be delivered and worked her schedule around to be there for them.

Sometimes she wondered if she was just lonely that she was looking forward to seeing him.

But the last thing she expected was that he’d buy a date with her.

“That’s me. Sweet. Maybe he just wanted to pay me back for being nice to him. See, Penelope? Soft approach here too.”

“By upping the bid a thousand?” his father said. “No. There has to be more to it. I’m waiting for Helena to get more information on him to do a check.”

“Dad, he works for the federal government. Don’t you think they’d do a background?”

“No clue and don’t care. Mitchell will run the check once Helena gets the information. We just want to make sure there is no criminal background,” her father said.

“Which I’m sure Mac can do for you easily enough too,” she said of the chief of police. Mac Bond was family, he knew about the auction and though he said there was no way in hell he was getting on stage when he was asked, he still understood why the event was done. Though this was the first year Helena got the hair-brained idea to auction people off.

“Maybe I’ll have Mac deal with it then,” Mason said. “Especially if you are calling him next week to set up this date. Remember, stay in a public place.”

“Dad,” she said. “I’m thirty years old. I’m a big girl and know the dating rules. It’s a few hours and we’ll stay on the island. The date is his choice, he bought it.”

“I wonder what he has planned,” her mother said.

“Maybe he wants to take the time to tell Emily to cut back her shopping so he isn’t breaking his back,” Penelope said.

“You buy just as much as I do,” she complained.

“I do. But I don’t have a hot mailman delivering mine. Maybe I need to move to your neighborhood. Hmm, maybe that is why you are buying more and more lately. What do you think of that, Mom?”

She wasn’t going to agree with her sister that Crew was hot. It was bad enough they already knew she was giving him food and drink while he worked. And right now everyone was eying her funny too.

She was done talking about this. “So did you find out what it would cost to add more selections to the room service menu?”

“Emily has spoken,” Penelope said. “Back to work mode. It was fun while it lasted.”

Her mother sighed and looked at her watch. “One hour until the turkey is on the table. That means no more shop talk after. Understood, everyone?”

“Understood,” everyone said back.

If anyone wanted to know where she got her personality from, it was her mother. She speaks and everyone listens.

Family Bonds- Emily & Crew-Prologue

Prologue

“Next up is Emily Rauch, co-owner of the Atlantic Rise Hotel,” Helena Bond said. “As many of you know, she is from Patricia’s side of the family. Come on up here, sweetie.”

Emily squared her shoulders. The last thing she wanted to do was be put up for auction for the Bond family fundraiser, but it was for a good cause bringing in a lot of money that went to various much-needed and underfunded causes on the island. This year it was for the health clinic that many of her cousins worked at too.

“Here goes nothing,” she said to her younger sister, Penelope. Irish twins they were. Her mother having them just under one year apart. For one week a year, they were both the same age. This past summer, late August, they were both in their twenties. Then she turned the big three oh.

“You’ll be fine. I’m just glad she asked you and not me,” Penelope said.

“She didn’t ask you because she heard you were out on a date a few weeks ago and thought you were taken. I should have said it was a blind date and didn’t work out so you’d be stuck too.”

Penelope laughed and pushed her toward the stage where Helena was waiting with a big grin on her face.

Not her aunt, but close enough to one. Her mother, Sophia, was actually best friends with Janet Bond, Helena’s sister-in-law. Janet and Helena ran this fundraiser, but Helena was more the voice of it. Or at least the voice of the auction since it was her idea.

“I’m coming,” Emily said to Helena, who held her hand out, then grabbed Emily’s and patted it.

She did have a fear that she wouldn’t get that many bids. Or none at all. Her cousin Bode’s went well and she was afraid that might be a hard one to follow. Hailey Bond was after her and she knew damn well that would be high. Anyone with the last name Bond did well in life.

But she liked that she could hide behind being part of the family without really announcing it to the world.

“The bidding can begin,” Helena said to the auctioneer. Thankfully, it wasn’t one of the fast-talking kind and it was more in fun.

After she got an opening bid at a thousand, she felt a little bit better. When it started to go up in hundred-dollar increments by men she didn’t know, she was worrying a little, but everyone would be vetted before the date occurred through security measures.

The bidding was still going and she was standing there stiff in her fitted black dress and Valentino Garavani studded nude pumps. They made her feel powerful and feminine at the same time. She’d learned to master that in her life if she wanted to get ahead.

She had no problem getting noticed for her looks, but she was damn well going to make sure that wasn’t all someone saw.

Tough. Businesslike. Get out of my way if I’m in the zone.

Yep, that was what people thought of when they saw her.

Not sexy and laid back.

Not standing on stage with a big smile on her face waiting for some guy to pay a few thousand dollars to spend a couple of hours with her.

For the life of her she had no idea why anyone would want to.

But it was for charity, and on the island, the Bonds put that first.

When the bidding stopped, the auctioneer said, “Going once, going twice—”

“Three thousand,” she heard in the back. Damn, that just jumped up a thousand. There were some chuckles in the crowd and she was trying to see who belonged to the paddle that was just raised but couldn’t make out his face.

“Someone is interested in winning a date with Emily,” the auctioneer said. “Going once. Going twice. Three thousand it is to number sixty-one in the back.”

She nodded her head and walked off the stage, then caught sight of who it was and started to laugh. “Wow. Guess that might be the only way to get a date with me.”

Crew Ackley, her mailman, grinned and winked at her and she wondered how the heck he was able to drop three thousand dollars on this and why he would.

And at the end of the night, she made her way over to him. “That was nice of you. It will go for a good cause.”

“I’m sure it will,” he said.

“I’m not sure how this is going to work. You obviously know where to find me to set this up, but why don’t I get your number? I’ve got to go out of town next week and then with Thanksgiving, it might be a few weeks if that works for you?”

Crew pulled his phone out and she tried hard not to stare at his large hands. Everything about him was big and intimidating and she almost had to do a double take to realize it was him in the dark suit and black tie rather than the government-issued blue-and-white one with a bag over his shoulder as he hopped in and out of the truck driving around her neighborhood.

His dark eyes were laughing at her and she was trying her hardest not to flush like she always wanted to when he smiled at her. She’d never been attracted to big men before or ones that were rougher looking, but Crew got her salivating more than juice from an orange being squeezed in a press.

“That works for me,” he said, reading off his number. “Do I get yours so I don’t think it’s some cold call and send you to voicemail?”

“I guess you do,” she said. She sent him a quick text, heard his phone go off. “There you go. We’ll be in touch with each other.”

“We will,” Crew said, walking away. She tried her damnedest not to follow his movements, but when she heard Penelope laughing she knew she was caught.

Family Bonds- Emily & Crew

Emily Rauch was proving to be a powerhouse in the hotel business at a very young age. She and her sister had a vision and she was making it come true come hell or high water. She had to be tough in a man’s world and had no problem with it. Even in her family’s world…the Bonds. But she was determined to come out on top. If it meant staying single because men were intimidated by her, then so be it.

Crew Ackley was just a middle class kid until his parents hit the lotto and left it all to him when they died tragically. Then he learned that everyone wanted to be with him for a handout only. Fed up with not being able to figure out who was real and who wasn’t, he left the area and was starting over on a small island off the coast of Massachusetts. He thought that’d make him happy until he found a woman he wanted to get to know better who didn’t see him as anyone other than the man delivering her mail. But if he told her his worth, would she only see that?

Family Bonds- Mac & Sidney…Prologue

Prologue

“You’re later than normal.”

Sidney took a deep breath, prepared to put up with more shit tonight. When she decided to study abroad for her senior year of college she never expected the headache of feeling trapped when she should be enjoying her time. Poor choices on her part once again.

“It was busy tonight.”

“Or you were too slow,” Rod said back. Rodney Enfield was older than her by five years. But at just twenty-seven, his law degree and family money were turning him into a colossal douche. She wished she’d realized it months ago before she moved in with him and gave up her spot in her cramped shared apartment. Now she was stuck with him for another month until the semester was up and she could get the hell out of London.

He didn’t seem so bad at first and maybe it was the newness of the relationship, but the longer she was with him, the more she wondered who the hell he was.

“I have no problem keeping up,” she said back and moved to the kitchen. The flat she shared with Rod was three times the size of the one she’d shared with two other people. She’d take those close quarters back if she could. Instead she had to walk on eggshells to see what kind of guy he was going to be tonight. Loving, sweet, funny or downright rude and in your face asshole. Sometimes scary if he’d been drinking, but she’d been able to handle him most times.

And whenever the undesirable attitudes came out and she told him to cut the shit, he’d apologize and give her gifts the next day. After she’d walked away from him, proving he’d pushed too far.

She was pretty much over it now.

“Oh, then maybe someone wanted a bit more action than a drink tonight?” he asked, grabbing her arm when she tried to walk away.

“No.” She said, pulling her arm away. “But you’ve been drinking tonight I see.”

She knew enough to stay away when he had been. Looked like the asshole was out tonight. Long gone was the guy that was trying to romance her back to his place. She fell for his English charm and would always regret it.

The first time he put her down, she just figured it had to do with his upper crust personality. That he was making a joke and she wasn’t getting it. She even called him out on that and he’d confirmed it.

But then she started to realize that, no, he actually enjoyed putting her down. And when she was pissed off enough, he’d apologize and try to make it up to her and tell her she was too sensitive.

She’d never felt she was a sensitive person. That was Anne. Sidney was more pragmatic and realistic. Then why had she fallen for someone telling her she was more like her twin when he didn’t even know she had one?

Knowing she didn’t have much time left, she was trying to keep the peace as best as she could. He seemed to think she was going to stay here when the month was up even though she’d been talking about going back to Montana. Yep, she was the backwoods country girl he’d called her a few times too.

If there was an insult he could throw at her or demean her, he’d done that.

Sidney didn’t care. The simple life was all she ever wanted. Somehow she got sucked into more here and wished she hadn’t. She just thought it was the chance of a lifetime and did it more because Anne couldn’t. She was doing it because her twin never had the chance.

A stupid reason she’d have to live with.

“Nothing more than what you’ve been serving all the blokes that were hitting on you. I know I’m right,” he said, his hand gliding down her cheek.

She turned her head away and went to move, but he gripped her arm harder and held her in place. “Let go of me. It’s been a long night and I’m tired.” He was scaring her but she didn’t want to let on. Lately he almost seemed like multiple people to her.

“Don’t walk away from me, bitch. You should know better than that.”

This was new…and frightening. Talking down to her was one thing. Insulting her too. Threatening was another. She didn’t take shit from anyone. This country girl knew how to fight back.

“Let go of me now,” she said, her voice low, her eyes narrowed.

It was the wrong thing to do. His arm came up and backhanded her.

Stumbling a few feet back, she tasted blood, felt it pooling in her mouth from where her lip cut on her teeth. She turned and swung at him, but he blocked it and wrapped her up in a bear hug. She started to scream and kick, fight with everything she had. She wasn’t going down without leaving some of her own marks.

She was making enough noise that the tenants next door started banging on the wall and wanting to know what was going on.

“That was stupid,” he said low in her ear, releasing her and shoving her away. She caught herself before she hit the wall.

Marching to the bathroom, she slammed the door, locking herself in for now and trying to get control of her shaking.

An hour must have gone by as Sidney sat in there and cleaned up, hoping he’d pass out. There were tears in her eyes and she let them fall while she figured out her next move. First thing in the morning she’d be out of here when he left for work.

When she thought it was safe, she opened the door and saw the lights out in the flat, knowing Rod must have gone to bed.

She grabbed a blanket and curled up on the couch hoping to fall asleep.

When morning came, she pretended to be sleeping as she heard him moving around. He stood over her, looking at her, she knew. She could feel his eyes on her.

His hand came out and touched her arm lightly, and he whispered, “I’m so sorry, Sidney. Please forgive me. I don’t even remember much of last night. I hope you can forgive me. I must have blacked out. I just love you so much and the thought of you working last night while I was here alone sent me to drink more than normal.”

She battled back the snort along with the tears. He liked to make that excuse, but she knew better.

And when the door shut behind him, she jumped up and turned the deadbolt, then packed up her stuff. She would be gone within the hour and he’d never touch her again.

Family Bonds- Mac & Sidney

Mac Bond, Chief of Police. He came from the black sheep side of the family and he carried it wrapped like a noose around his neck. He was tough, he was strong, and he was cocky. Women loved his hard side at first, then ditched him when they realized he couldn’t be anything but. He was sick of feeling like he’d never measure up and figured he’d be alone for a long time.

Sidney Hollister has a few secrets in her life. She liked being alone and minding her own business. Then good old Mac Bond, Chief of Police, starts to flirt with her one night, and her eyes were opened to what a great guy and wonderful personality he actually had. And when a past threat enters her life, she finds that the tough, strong, and cocky side that other women complained about was actually what she loved the most.

Family Bonds- Drew & Amanda…Chapter One

D&A

If you haven’t read the Prologue you can catch up HERE

Chapter One

Figure It Out

Fourteen years later\

“Drew, your mother is on line one.”

Drew turned to look at his secretary, Connie. “I’m not here,” he said.

His mother had been trying to call his cell phone too and he’d been avoiding her. It seemed like lately all she called for was to ask if he was seeing anyone or that she had someone she’d like him to meet. No, thank you.

“It looks like you are to me,” Connie said back.

He narrowed his eyes and went to turn into his office, but his older brother, Bode, stopped him. “She won’t give up.”

“When did you get here?” he asked.

“I came in the back door and I’m not here long. I’ve got a few other properties to check out today.”

“Anything worth investing in?” he asked. Bode oversaw all the construction and maintenance for the rental properties, Drew, the sales and negotiating, the contracts for tenants and so on. He and his older brother had taken over the real estate business a few years ago so that his father could cut back and pretty much just sit on the board and boss them around…when he wanted.

His parents had raised three boys that were all successful and it was time for them to enjoy their lives. It seemed that was what the Bonds did. Had a business that was passed down through the generations.

Or most of them at least.

“I’ve got my eye on two. Once I see the amount of work it needs I’ll have you go check it out.”

“I’m trying to figure out how you find out about these houses before me when I’m the licensed realtor and you’re the contractor.”

“Because I am the contractor. People call me for work and then when I’m there they start talking about other properties in the area or tell me they are thinking of selling. They know I’ll tell you.”

It always annoyed Drew that Bode found out things before him when it shouldn’t. Must be the sibling rivalry.

They didn’t have it with their youngest brother who chose to be a dentist. No, Coy was the smart one it seemed. Instead, Drew and Bode went into the family business and convinced his father to expand it from just real estate sales to construction and rental properties all over Massachusetts, not just a few on the island that had been in the family for years.

“Whatever.”

“Boys,” Connie said. “Your mother is still on the line.”

“I told you to tell her I wasn’t here,” Drew said, turning to look at Connie’s grin.

“I thought you were joking since you are standing in front of me.”

He rolled his eyes. Sometimes things just went over Connie’s head. Bode smirked at him knowing exactly what was going through his mind.

“Tell my mother I’m not here,” Drew said. “I’m leaving right now. If it makes you feel better then you can wait until I’m out the door.”

“Okay,” Connie said just watching him. He let out a sigh, Bode laughed, so he went to his office, got his keys and phone, and left.

He wasn’t to his car before Bode was walking out telling him to wait up. “Did she really pick up the phone when I was out the door?” he asked.

“She did. She apologized for keeping Mom waiting and said she couldn’t find you.”

“She doesn’t mind lying about that, but couldn’t say I wasn’t there?”

“Who knows what she was thinking. Where are you going?” Bode asked.

“No clue. I hadn’t planned on leaving, but I didn’t want to talk to Mom either.”

“She’s getting a little bit crazy lately with the blind dates and you. Why is that?”

“I don’t know,” he said. “She doesn’t bug you or Coy.”

“That’s because I was seeing someone so she’s probably giving me some slack. She was on my case for months before I was dating Samantha.”

“What happened with you two?” he asked. Though Bode hadn’t been dating Samantha that long, he’d seemed pretty ticked off over the split.

“The same old same old,” Bode said.

“She only wanted the name?”

“Isn’t it always that way with us? Mom has it in her head that because she fell in love with Dad in one week when she was here with friends that everyone should fall in love that way.”

Drew shook his head. “I wish she’d get over it. She’s so stuck on the myths of this island. Not everyone meets and knows right away. Things were different back then, but she won’t listen to us when we say that.”

“She’s never going to change,” Bode said. “You know she’s always been a romantic. She sees the good in everyone and always has. She’s lucky Dad was a stand-up guy and didn’t take advantage of her.”

“Which is why the three of us boys are probably so anti-romance. She should have had girls or something.”

Bode laughed. “We tried to dress Coy up as a girl when he was younger. That didn’t fly.”

“Mom was so ticked off. I don’t even remember whose dress it was. One of the cousins had it on over their bathing suit.”

“Anyway,” Bode said, “Mom doesn’t mean any harm, but she just won’t back off. Tell her you’re seeing someone.”

“Then she’d want to know who it was,” he argued.

“Make a person up.”

“And she’ll want to meet her,” he said back.

“Then make up excuses why she can’t. You’re almost as bad as Connie with not wanting to lie.”

“It’s not that I don’t want to lie, it’s just I don’t want to get tangled in something like that. I’ll figure it out.”

“I’m sure you can go back in the office now without even leaving at this point,” Bode said. “I needed to talk to you about a few things anyway.”

“We’ve been out here gabbing like two women for ten minutes. Connie won’t even realize I wasn’t gone long. Walk with me across the street for a coffee since I’m out here.”

“Only if you’re buying,” Bode said.

“You should buy since you’re older.”

“Please, the younger brother always pays.”

“Which means you never have to open your wallet for anything.”

“It’s the price of the advice you just got.”

“That’s real good advice. Lie to Mom.”

The two of them laughed, got their coffees, then walked back to the office. Bode was right, Connie didn’t seem to notice that he barely left the parking lot.

“Your office or mine?” Bode asked.

“Mine’s neater. You’ve got tools and papers everywhere.” When they were seated in the two chairs around a table he asked, “What do we need to talk about?”

“Some of the rental properties haven’t had spot checks in a few years. We’ve been so busy, both of us, that we need to really make time to go in and check them out.”

“That’s your job,” he said.

“No. We both do it. I go in when there are problems. You do spot checks and play nicey nice with the renters.”

“They don’t even know us,” he said. “We’ve always had a property management company do it all.”

“Which you know is coming to an end soon. That’s my point. It was a waste of money and Dad agreed. Half the island knows we own properties; why should we hide behind a property manager? We talked about this with Dad last year.”

“I know,” he said. “One by one as leases ran out we were going to do the spot checks, introduce ourselves, blah, blah. I’ve done more than twenty of them so far. Isn’t it your turn?”

“Nope. Because once you have your meeting they start making their lists of things they’d like to see done and then it becomes my headache.”

“Which is why I didn’t want to do this.” He understood it was a money-saving move. A smart one too. He had no clue why one of his ancestors wanted to use a property management company out of Boston all those years ago, but Bode was right. There was no hiding anything at this point and they shouldn’t be. It’s not like they even had that many properties back then.

They were one of the biggest realty companies in Massachusetts and the only one on the island. Up until the last ten years it was a handful of rental homes at most on the island. Now it was close to fifty all over Massachusetts. They owned multiple apartment buildings too with other family members.

“We already started making the changes. We’ve only gone through about half the homes we own in the past six months. Can you let me know when the next one is so I can clear my schedule for the changes or work I’m sure I’m going to be asked to look over and schedule the crew to do?”

“Fine,” he said, getting up and going to his computer. “The next house is leased to Amanda Moore. Her lease is up in less than two months. I’ll send out the letter today to find out when a good time is to stop in for a spot check and introduce myself.”

“Good,” Bode said. “And you never know, maybe she’s some hot chick and not some retiree that came to the island for a few years to live life in the slow lane.”

“I couldn’t get that lucky even if I wanted to.”

Family Bonds- Drew & Amanda…Prologue

D&A

Prologue

 

“It hurts,” Amanda said as she gripped her mother’s hand.

“Of course it does. Did you think it wouldn’t?” her mother said back, not a lot of emotion in her voice. Not a lot of caring or sympathy either.

“Why won’t they give me something for the pain?”

There was sweat on her brow and every other part of her body. Her stomach was tight and the pressure was massive. It felt like her midsection was full of rocks. She’d bet a board could be broken across her belly.

“It was too late. You already started to have contractions and were too far along,” her mother said in the same know-it-all voice she’d used on her daughters their whole lives.

“Why do I have to go through this?” she whimpered.

The tears were running down her face. As if she wasn’t in enough pain this was all going to be for nothing.

“You didn’t have to and you know it. You went against our wishes and this is the price you pay. This is why seventeen-year-olds shouldn’t be pregnant.”

She’d been hearing this for months…ever since she’d told her parents she was pregnant. Thankfully she wasn’t showing by the time she graduated and no one really knew in school.

But Randall knew. Of course he did. She’d told him the minute she knew about the baby.

He’d panicked and told his parents who wanted her to end the pregnancy. Her own parents did too. Randall never really said one way or another what he wanted, but she didn’t care. It was her child and she was having it.

Randall wouldn’t stand up to his parents either. Not when there was money involved. He went off to college at Harvard a few months ago and they’d only talked twice. The last time was well over a month ago.

She’d have to assume they were done, though he never actually broke up with her. Must be the hundred-thousand-dollar check that was delivered to her two months ago was enough for him to wipe his hands of her.

She wasn’t going to be bought. They couldn’t make her end her pregnancy either. She didn’t give a shit what anyone said.

That check was going to set her up to raise this baby on her own.

Or that had been the plan.

The plan that wasn’t going to happen now.

“I wanted this baby,” she said, sobbing.

“We don’t always get what we want,” her mother said.

Amanda let out another scream and the nurse came in. “There, there. I know it’s hard. And I know it’s painful. It won’t be much longer. Breathe through your mouth. Slow breaths. The doctor is on the way.”

Her mother shot the nurse a look as if to say, “She deserves this for bringing shame on two families.”

“How much longer?” she asked. “I can’t take much more.”

“Not long. Your contractions are really close and you’re almost ready to push.”

“It doesn’t matter though,” she said. She wasn’t sure what was worse. The pain in her body or the one in her soul.

“I know, sweetie. I wish there was another way.”

The doctor walked in a few minutes later and told her to start pushing. She was pretty positive it sounded like she was being murdered in the room, and it sure the hell felt like it, so why not shout it out.

It wasn’t just her body that was being ripped apart, but her family and her heart.

She’d be leaving this town the minute she could. She was taking her money and she was going far away.

No one supported her. No one cared about her.

Hell, the nurse was showing more compassion than her own mother.

“You’re almost there,” the doctor said. Embarrassment was thrown out the window at this point with her legs spread wide, naked under the gown. Who knew what mess was on the floor from her body and she didn’t even care. She just wanted this over with.

“I can’t do it again.”

“One more,” the doctor said. “Just one more big push. I’ve got the head in my hand.”

Hearing that was enough for her to gather all her strength, grind her teeth, and push with everything she had.

“That’s it, I’ve got it now,” the doctor said. “Just relax for a minute.”

There was silence in the room. Only her breathing could be heard, her mother looking over at the doctors and the nurses at the other side of the room.

“Do you want to see the baby?” the doctor asked her while the nurses cleaned up the newborn.

She was having trouble catching her breath. Not just from the delivery but the pain in her chest. “Yes. I want to name my baby. She’s really gone?” she asked, even though they’d told her hours ago there was no heartbeat when she had her appointment.

She was only seven months pregnant and had pain so she’d called the doctor and drove herself there. The past six hours had flown by in one instant and lasted forever in another.

“There is no heartbeat,” the nurse said coming over and running her hand on Amanda’s sweat-dampened hair. “Do you want to hold your daughter?”

“Yes,” she said, taking in a deep breath. “Please.”

Her mother got up and walked out of the room, not even looking at her daughter or granddaughter.

Three weeks later, Amanda walked out of her parents’ life for good.

Family Bonds- Drew & Amanda

D&A

Two people wondering if they were destined to be alone might be fated to find each other on Amore Island.

Amanda Moore only wanted one thing in life. A family of her own. A child she could raise and nurture better than her parents had to her. When she thought she had exactly that, it was taken away from her and she’s never been able to find it again. Now she wonders if she ever will.

Drew Bond has spent his life dodging the setups by his mother. She was adamant her sons needed to find a woman and she knew the perfect ones for them. But everyone she put in front of him only wanted two things from him. Money and his name. All he wants is to find someone himself, but the one time he did, he’d been fooled and left heartbroken. Now he wonders if he’s just meant to be alone.