How Gavin Stole Christmas #mgtab @natalieann121

How Gavin Found Christmas_update(1)

Can Jolene help Gavin find the Christmas spirit when he’s the epitome of Mr. Bah Humbug?

Gavin Fierce didn’t always hate Christmas. He wasn’t always grouchy about caroling, decorated trees, and the holiday spirit. But a tragedy broke him of all those fond family moments and memories. Now it’s not worth opening himself up to it again. Why bother to magnify the hurt even more?

Jolene O’Malley has always gotten her way. A little loud, a little overzealous, and a whole lot of pushy. She doesn’t know why Gavin feels the way he does about her favorite holiday, but she’s determined to make him understand. To make him feel something she knows is just hidden away trying to find its way out again. If anyone can make Gavin change, it’s her. After all, she’s a master at helping others.

Fierce- Cade Chapter Two #mgtab @natalieann121

Cade

 

Here’s the last little peek into Fierce-Cade. You catch up on the prologue and chapter one too!

Pretend Indifference

Alex put the phone down and went to work. She knew her mother was going to be reaching out to old clients. She’d seen the list of businesses herself. She didn’t expect many to call her though.

She especially didn’t expect to hear from Fierce, the biggest name on the list. The one that could generate a massive amount of future business for her. The one she really wanted a chance at working with. Not that she’d admit that to her mom since she put up such a fit about her mother reaching out to begin with.

Unfortunately for her, she’d have to deal with Cade Fierce now.

Not that she’d ever met him in person. Or any of the Fierce siblings. She remembered their mother, Jolene, and their father, Gavin, from when they came to pick things up from her parents when she was a kid. But she’d never seen their kids.

She knew of Cade though. Or better yet, his reputation at Duke.

Maybe it was all false? Or maybe not. She was painfully familiar with reputations and assumptions about herself and tried to keep that in perspective.

None of that mattered because he was going to be here in a few hours and wanted to see what she had to offer, so she’d be ready for him.

Only she wasn’t ready for him when he walked in the door all full of confidence with a swagger that would rival James Dean.

He had dark hair and darker eyes. Eyes that were smiling at her. No, smirking. Like he had something he wanted to say but was biting his tongue. She’d seen that look from men before and was going to pretend indifference, a look she’d mastered so long ago.

“Hi,” she said, walking forward with her hand out. “You must be Cade.”

“I am,” he said. “I’m looking for Alex Marshall. I’m supposed to be meeting him.”

She snorted. Should have figured he would have expected a man. Not only that…didn’t she just greet him like she knew she was his appointment? Guess he wasn’t as smart as she’d thought. “I’m Alex.”

He grinned at her. Didn’t apologize. Didn’t do much more than say, “Well, then I’m just on time when normally I’m late. Make sure you tell my mother that if you see her.”

She frowned, not understanding that comment at all. “Why would I tell your mother that? Or why would I see her?”

“I just figured you knew her since she asked me to give you a call and see if we could work something out on a business front. As for telling her I’m on time, I never am. Or so my siblings always tell me.”

He was sending her a smile that would melt even the strictest of nuns’ hearts. The one that stood over you with a scowl on her face and a ruler in her hand. Only that nun would look at Cade Fierce and politely hand over the ruler and apologize to him. That was dangerous.

She turned and glanced at the clock. “You’re two minutes early, actually.”

“I’m on time when it counts,” he said, winking at her. Smooth. Definitely smooth.

She wasn’t sure what to expect from him, but not someone this friendly. This nice. This charming. He wasn’t flirting when she kind of thought he might, was he? She couldn’t tell, which was odd for her. She wasn’t annoyed over that, not really. Guess all those rumors about him really weren’t true. Or he changed. Or she lost her edge, which was possible with her dry spell.

Nah, if what she’d heard was true, guys like that, they didn’t change. Like she said, he was smooth as silk.

Or like the soft buttery leather shoes she’d noticed he had on his feet with jeans that probably cost more than all the pants in her closet. At least his shirt wasn’t too flashy. A light pink button-down with the sleeves rolled up. It took one confident man to wear pink, even as pale as the one he had on.

“I’m a little short staffed right now, so if you don’t mind meeting here, that’d be great.”

“Where is everyone?” he asked, looking around at the front reception area they were standing in. It wasn’t anything modern or sparkly like she’d bet his office was, but it did the job.

“I’ve got two people in the office beyond that window, but one is out on maternity leave and another called in sick. I’m kind of manning the front and the back at the same time.”

“Are you the only one that does the work out back?” he asked, frowning.

“Hardly. I’m not sure what you’ve heard about our business, but it’s growing pretty fast. I’ve got about fifteen employees out back that rotate between all of the machines. Most of the work is set up once it’s designed, then it’s just making sure the machines do what they need to do, boxing up orders, shipping and such. With any luck, I’ll bring on more staff soon, but we’re pretty busy right now.”

It sounded good to her ears when she said it. He didn’t need to know that she just hired half that staff in the past six months when things started to jump. She was hoping it continued to flow and some of those part-timers could become full time. But for the moment she’d be happy to not lay anyone off.

“So show me what you’ve got,” he said.

She’d produced a bunch of sample items already with the Fierce logo on them that she had stored in a box to show him one by one. A slow tease of sorts. She was still thinking about the items, right? Yeah, she was. She shook her head.

“I still had access to the old Fierce logo from when my parents ran the business. I thought you might get a kick out of that.”

He did by the grin he was sporting. “That’s great. It actually gives me an idea for some throwback items. I’ll have to talk it over with my family. But you’ve nailed the red and that’s hard to do,” he said, holding a coffee cup in his hand. Not a small cheap one, but a nice big oversized one that required two hands. Like his two large hands wrapped around it.

Damn, she needed to stop being so distracted when she never was before.

“We can do just about anything when it comes to printing in terms of what we print on. I know that is not hard to find. Where I’ve grown the business from my parents’ days is with the range of designs and techniques.”

She pulled out a beer glass from a box and handed it over. “This is sweet.” He ran his long finger around the etching in the glass. “Can you get other glass styles? Who are your vendors for that?”

“I can give you all that information if we end up working together.”

He glanced up, his eyes staring at her while she held her breath to see if he’d call her out on that. He didn’t. “Sounds reasonable. What else do you have there?”

“My new baby is the embroidery equipment. Once I create the design and program it in, the machine does the rest. Personally, I like this better on clothing than the old school ink printing, but not everyone does.”

She handed over three red T-shirts with the Fierce logo on them. One for the brewery with a beer glass, one for the pub with a bar and stools, and one for the restaurant with a plate and silverware all embroidered under the name.

“My brothers are going to wet themselves over these.”

She laughed over his statement, amused all his smoothness flew out the window in his excitement. She’d take that as a compliment.

He grimaced. “Sorry. Completely unprofessional and it slipped. Words tend to fly out of my mouth when I’m excited about something.”

“Good to know.” She had this!

“So you said you design and program everything in?” he asked.

“Yes. I can do just about everything in terms of graphic design, but I like some stuff better than others.”

“Do you do web design?” he asked, his eyes looking hopeful.

“I can, but it’s not my specialty. For cost purposes, I’ve created and continued to update our webpage, but I’m sourcing out for the meat behind the basic pages.”

She’d have liked to save the cost of that, but there were only so many hours in a day and she was lucky to get five hours of sleep on a good day.

“Can you order from your website?” he asked.

“That’s why I source out. I upload pictures and descriptions for the items, but someone else makes it all work properly for ordering and processing.”

“That’s good to know. I’d love nothing more than to offer more items soon on our website too.”

“Great, but if you don’t mind me saying, you looked like you might have been interested if I did that also. Are you dissatisfied with who you have now?”

“Not at all. I was just hoping it would be a negotiating tool to put everything in one spot.”

“Sorry to disappoint you,” she said.

“Not disappointed at all. What else do you have in that magic box right there?”

Back to his smoothness again, throwing out accolades. “I’m not sure it’s magic, but if it gets me a job, then you can call it anything you want.”

She put the box on the counter for him to dig into himself. He was pretty much ignoring her at this point while he looked over everything she’d printed on, from pens, to shot glasses, to Christmas ornaments.

“Are you self-taught?” he asked, not even looking at her but still digging through the box.

“No. I went to Duke and majored in graphic design.”

His head snapped up fast, he hesitated, and then grinned. “So did Ella and I.”

“I know.”

 

Fierce-Cade Chapter One…#mgtab

Cade

Here is Chapter one of Fierce-Cade. You can catch up on the Prologue here if you want.

Peace and Quiet

Ten Years Later

“Cade, honey. I need a favor.”

He turned and saw his mother standing in the doorway to his office. He hated being in the office above Fierce because he never got any peace. For as much as he talked and liked to socialize, when it came down to work, he wanted peace and quiet for that.

If his family wasn’t bugging him, then his intern was, or another staff member. Everyone got mad when he worked from home so much, but it seemed it was the only way he could get anything done.

“Hi, Mom. A favor, huh?” he asked, smiling. He knew better than to say he was busy or push her off. It never worked when he was a kid and worked even less as an adult.

Jolene Fierce walked into the room and sat by him on the couch. He worked better with his laptop on his lap on the couch with his feet stretched out in front of him on the coffee table than sitting at his desk on the other side of the room. When people walked by and saw his desk empty, they assumed he wasn’t in. The couch was his favorite place to be.

“It’s not a big favor. Just a little one.”

Nothing was little when it came to his mother. “What’s in it for me?”

He sent her the charming smile he’d perfected when growing up. She’d been his test subject where he learned to master what looks to use when he wanted or needed something.

She reached her hand over and patted his cheek. “Always looking out for yourself, aren’t you? You’ll get something out of it.”

He didn’t like the look in her eye right now. He wanted to say sneaky, but she never was. She was always upfront. In your face more than upfront, but still, there’d never been any secrets with her. She’d never had the ability to keep her lips sealed, much like him. “So what do I get?” he asked, humoring her.

She squinted one eye at him. “Your siblings loving what you’ll show them.”

“They already love everything I do,” he said. He was laughing, but it was true. Everyone had their niche at Fierce. Just because no one understood his or wanted any part of it, they still loved what he did. Too bad they didn’t realize the amount of work it took for him to do it.

Brody, the oldest, ran the bar. He was the loudest and the leader of them all. He had a way with people and had always been a night owl.

Aiden was next by just five minutes. They all were born just five minutes apart. Or as his mother often told them growing up, “pried out of her five minutes apart.” Aiden was the most confident, the most skilled, and a master behind the food at Fierce that had people coming from all over to sample his creations.

Mason was the quiet one. The shy one. The smart one. Science ran through his brain like food was cut from Aiden’s knife. Mason created and brewed all the beer for Fierce. His brewery was listed as one of the up and coming in the US, with beer distributed all over the East Coast, more than quadrupling revenue for Fierce in the past two years alone.

Him. He didn’t have any special skill other than running his mouth and being the entertainment for the family. Someone had to liven the rest of them up and he decided it was going to be him. Everyone was way too serious. Or as he liked to say, “tight asses.”

Ella. The business mind. The CPA and numbers behind the business. The only girl. The baby that they all had to protect. Or so they thought. She could protect herself, and at times, had protected him. Not that he shared that with anyone, least of all his mother.

“You’re so cocky at times,” his mother said.

“So I’ve been told. I guess it comes with my line of work.” He ran all the marketing and promotions for Fierce and was the family lawyer to boot. No one seemed to take him seriously as the lawyer, at least not until the last few years. “So why are they going to love what I do even more?”

“Several years ago, your father and I used Marshall Printing for all our ads. Do you remember them? You were probably too young?”

“The name sounds familiar.”

He remembered the old fliers around the pub when he was younger. Even though he’d always felt like he didn’t have his place in the family business, deep down he really did. He liked to come up with slogans and ads. It was a good thing because he and his siblings knew they were going to make his parents’ business huge one day and they needed all the bases covered.

“Well, they kind of fell behind the times and just couldn’t meet our needs when we were growing so much. Then you started taking over even when you were in college and your father and I let you run with it.” She put her hand on his arm, patting it, just like she did his face. Humoring him again. Guess he got that charm from her. “You did such a good job that we didn’t interfere.”

“Like you want to do right now?” he asked, lifting his chin.

She laughed back at him. “Of course. Anyway, you’ve got a lot of vendors. I know you do. But you see, Marshall Printing is back in business. Or I should say they’re overhauled now. They can do just about anything and everything that you’re getting from multiple sources. Probably some things you haven’t even seen before.”

“How do you know this?” he asked.

“I still see Paula Marshall now and again. Anyway. I was wondering if you could go over and just talk with Alex. Hear them out and discuss what they’ve got, what we need, and see what the cost is. Wouldn’t it be nice to get it all in one place? Assuring it’s the same shade of red for everything?”

This time he narrowed his eyes. His mother liked to play the card of “I’m not sure what you kids all do” but everyone knew that was a big whopping lie. She had her finger on every pulse and nothing got by her. Ever. “You know as well as I do it drives me insane when I can’t get the reds to match.”

“Exactly. When your father decided on red, years ago when he opened this pub, it was Marshall’s that printed the very first shirts.”

He sighed. She had him and she knew it. He was a closet sentimentalist. “Fine. I’ll give them a call and see if we can work something out. No promises though. I’m happy with some of my vendors.”

“But not all,” she pointed out. Again, she knew more than she let on.

“Point taken.”

“You’re a good boy, Cade, despite what everyone else says about you.”

He shook his head when she left and went back to work.

A few minutes later Ella appeared in his office. “What did Mom want?”

“Why?” he asked. “I don’t bug you every time Mom stops into your office and asks for something.”

She smirked at him just like his mother was doing minutes ago. “That’s because Mom only stops in my office to ask if I want to go shopping. She never comes and talks to me about work like she does the rest of you guys.”

“Then go shopping with her. Maybe she’ll talk about work then.”

“I go shopping with her every other month. Don’t get me wrong, I love to shop, but even I have my limit.”

“There’s never a limit to shopping, Ella. She’s just bonding with you. She’s outnumbered and so are you. It’s that girl thing you two do that the rest of us don’t get. That and the spa.”

“You go to the spa just as much as I do,” she pointed out. At least she didn’t rub his face in the fact he probably shopped more than her. He had an appearance to keep up since he was out in the public more than the rest of them.

“Shhh. Don’t say that so loud.”

She shut his door. “You think you can hide everything, but you’re not very good at it.”

“How do you know I go to the spa?”

There were no secrets in his family. Or he should say very few of them between his siblings. He should be used to it by now, but probably never would be.

“You go to the same place I do. Don’t you think they’d mention it?”

“Shit. No. I thought that was one of those confidential things.”

“Cade,” she said, shaking her head. “That’s a doctor’s office, not a spa. Especially when they all brag about how charming you are to them.”

“Don’t be jealous that they like me more. They probably thought complimenting me would get you to be nicer.”

“I’m nice and you know it.”

“You could have fooled me right now standing there with your arms crossed.”

She dropped her arms but laughed at him. “Anyway. Seriously, what did Mom want? I heard her talking about the vendors. Are you changing them? Do I need to change any projections?”

“Calm down. You know, I used to think it was Mom that had her finger on every pulse, but it’s you. You get that from her. Geez, I’ll let you know if you need to change anything. She asked me to go talk to Marshall Printing. I guess they used to do all of the pub’s stuff years ago. Now they can do everything that I’m sourcing out through multiple vendors. She asked as a favor that I listen to what they’ve got to say.”

“Hmm. That’s odd.”

“Why?”

“Just that she’s never taken an interest like that before. Not to the point of asking you to work with someone.”

“She isn’t asking me to. She just wanted me to see what they have to offer. I’m supposed to ask for someone named Alex. I’ll give them a call later.”

“Alex Marshall?” she asked.

“Yeah. I guess. Why?”

“No reason.”

It sure didn’t look it to him though when Ella stormed out of his office.

***

“Ella, darling,” her mother said. “You just caught me grabbing some lunch. Do you want to join me?”

She’d run downstairs fast to see if her mother was still in the building, ignoring the looks she got when her heels made a racket on the stairs. Her mother was in the bar talking with her new daughter-in-law, Aimee. Brody and Aimee had gotten married just a few weeks ago. She’d watched her mother crying at the wedding, going on and on about how her oldest was finally getting married.

Then she listened to her mother talk about Aiden’s engagement and his wedding to Nic four months from now in December. Not to mention Mason’s engagement to Jessica and going on and on about future grandchildren.

The three brothers were all engaged or married to employees that worked for them.

All women that her mother had a hand in finding for them when she never used to take an interest in the business after the daily operations were handed over to Ella and her brothers six years ago.

Brody and Aimee, she let that one go. Nic and Aiden made her suspicious. Mason and Jessica blew her radar up. Now she was positive Cade was the next on the agenda.

“Sure, Mom. I’m hungry. What are you in the mood for?”

“I think I’m going to have a cannoli for lunch. Do you want one?”

Ella fought from grinding her teeth. She had such a weakness for sweets and her mother knew it. “No, thank you. I’ll just have a grilled chicken salad, Aimee,” she said before Aimee went to hand her a menu.

“Raspberry vinaigrette, right?” Aimee asked.

“You know me well,” Ella said. She often ordered something down here or came and visited Aimee when she needed a break.

“I’ll take the fish tacos with fries,” Jolene said. “And can you tell them to give me a container of the cheese dipping sauce that goes with the pretzels? And don’t forget the cannoli. You really should have one, Ella. You could use a few pounds on you.”

“What no woman believes ever,” Ella said, frowning. She was thin, but not skinny. If she let herself go, she’d put weight on and not in muscle, but in boobs. It always went there first and she hated it.

Aimee laughed. “I know. You like to dip your fries, Jolene. They know in the kitchen too.”

“How’s work going, Ella?” her mom asked. “You look like there’s something on your mind. What is it?”

“Nothing,” Ella said. “Well, not really. I just heard you telling Cade about Marshall Printing.”

“Always were my smart girl,” her mother said. “You’re trying to adjust your budgets or whatnot, aren’t you?”

Ella snorted. Her mother acted like she didn’t know the first thing about the books, but she knew everything. “You know me. I want to stay ahead of the game.”

“All you kids have something special that makes you unique. Well, no one is as unique as Cade.” Her mother waved her hand. “Never mind. Anyway. Yes, Paula told me her daughter, Alex, took over the business. Guess she went to Duke like you and Cade. Imagine that. She majored in graphic design and has given the business new life. She said Alex would be annoyed if Paula reached out to us, but she’d told Alex to get over it, that she was reaching out to all her old clients.”

“Hmmm,” Ella said. “Have you met Alex before?”

“A long time ago. She’s about five years younger than you guys. I remember her being around when I’d pick things up for the pub. Cute kid, always keeping to herself or helping out, just like you kids did.”

“Didn’t I hear you say something about an Alex Marshall winning some teen beauty pageant years ago? Bragging on how you knew that little girl and how beautiful she was. Such a talented dancer and so sweet.”

“You don’t forget anything, do you, Ella?” her mother said proudly. “Yep, that’s Alex. I guess her grandmother coaxed her into those pageants so she could get scholarship money for school. The business was barely holding together for a long time.”

“I’m glad to hear they’re turning it around. Or that Alex is,” Ella said smiling.

She was on to her mother, but for now she’d keep it to herself. If there was one thing she learned from her mother, it was to be sneaky.

Maybe her other brothers would enjoy seeing Cade set up. That had merit for all the times Cade got on their nerves. The question was, how would they feel if they knew they’d been set up themselves, and could they keep it from Cade?

Fierce- Cade… Prologue #mgtab @natalieann121

Cade

It’s that time for a sneak peek at Fierce-Cade!

Prologue

Cade made his way to the meeting place at eleven just as his text instructed. There was an excitement rushing through him, vibrating like the bass turned up to the highest number in the little convertible that he’d bought with his own hard-earned money.

Five kids meant they weren’t each getting their own cars when they got their licenses. Not when they were quintuplets. But since they all worked at the family pub, they all had the means to save or spend.

He’d tended to spend more than save early on, but when he discovered that chicks dug a guy in a hot car, he started to put those paychecks away faster than a pickpocket in New York City.

A nighttime rendezvous. Just what the doctor ordered with finals a week away. There was school, and there was play. Play normally took the lead in his life.

He was rubbing his hands together when he opened the door to the sorority house. In the basement, his text had said to go, so he made his way to the kitchen, then opened the door and walked down.

There were lights on in the house, but not too many people around. The two women he passed in the living room just looked up and smiled at him. They’d seen him here before picking up Sarah.

The stairs creaked under his weight. Not that he was heavy, but he was big. He and his brothers were all over six foot, and though he knew he still had some muscle to build, he was ripped just fine for twenty-one years old. The ladies sure didn’t mind if he could have added a few more to make a six-pack.

“Sarah,” he called out quietly. “Where are you?”

“In the back, Cade,” he’d heard and made his way past the ping pong table and old bar in the dingy room. It looked like a game room out of the seventies with the brown paneling and orange shag carpet, but what college kid cared about the atmosphere when they were drunk and hanging out, even looking to get laid.

It was a little darker in the back room, but there were a couch and some chairs. The door had been shut the few other times he’d been here and he was thinking now it was a sneak away room for a little bit of action without having to go to a shared bedroom on the upper floors. He was game for it.

“You got here faster than I thought,” Sarah said. “Normally you’re late.”

“You told me eleven. I’m good at following directions.” And he’d never be late if there was something in it for him. Something good.

“Are you now?” she asked. There was a look in her eye, one of secret pleasure that he couldn’t wait to explore. She’d sought him out weeks ago and had been extremely eager the few times they’d met up.

“I know that too,” he heard to his right, a higher pitched voice.

“Shit,” he whispered when he saw Lori standing there. He hadn’t seen her in a week or so since she stopped texting him out of the blue. She was all hot and bothered when she walked up to him in class that first time a few weeks ago.

“Me too,” a softer voice said.

He turned to the left, and as luck would have it, there was Allison. All that went through his brain right now was an escape plan. He was good at running from his siblings as a kid, but he had nowhere to go right now. Not only that, his pride made him stand his ground. He’d talked himself out of situations before, he could do it again.

“What are you all doing here?” he asked to no one in particular. Not like he couldn’t figure it out, though part of him was wondering what was really going on.

“We just wanted to see your face when you saw us all in the same room at once,” Sarah said. Now he knew where that pleasure came from. She was ready to twist his balls in a vise that was going to be two sizes too small.

“Let’s see if you can talk your way out of this one, Cade.”

When he heard the fourth voice, he turned and didn’t know what could be worse. Another woman he’d dated on campus, or his sister, Ella. Please, dear Lord, let Ella help get me out of this mess. “Well, Cade? What do you have to say for yourself now?” Ella asked him, just like she had so many times when they were growing up.

Guess not.

Fierce- Cade #mgtab @Natalieann121

Cade

Cade Fierce has spent more time worrying about who he wasn’t than focusing on who he was. The fourth son of quintuplets who always acted out for attention rather than for what counted, but he’s an adult now trying to prove that he’s different. That he’s changed. The only problem—his reputation precedes him…most of all in the lady department.

Alex Marshall knows all about the Cades of the world. She’s spent her life deflecting their advances since she matured much faster than the rest of the girls her age, and avoiding the rumors that came with it. Trust issues, yeah, she has them full force. Now all she wants to do is focus on rebuilding her parents’ business that got left behind the times. Cade Fierce is the last thing she needs in her life. Too bad she can’t convince herself that a need and a want are two different things.

Fierce-Mason…Chapter One #mgtab

Mason_3

If you haven’t read the Prologue yet, now is your time to catch up on it.

Rubbed Off

Thirteen Years Later

“Damn, bro, I’ve never seen you in action before. Even Brody would be scared.”

Mason turned and saw Aiden had walked into his home gym. The music was playing and he hadn’t realized he wasn’t alone. All his siblings had keys to each other’s houses. His parents’ too.

He picked up a towel and wiped his forehead. He wasn’t used to anyone seeing him while he worked out. He’d purposely done it when he knew no one would be around, dragging his butt out of bed while telling himself he hated every minute of it but knowing, as his mother told him so many years ago, the illusion was what worked. She was right.

And in order to maintain it, he had to stick to the routine. All those years ago, and even now, he thought of it like homework for a class. That allowed him to excel like he did in school.

“I doubt it,” Mason said, grabbing a drink and fighting the urge to put his shirt on, covering his sweaty chest and arms. He normally hid under clothing. He wasn’t as muscular as Brody by any means—no one was—but he was built. His body was by far the leanest of the group, probably the strongest, but no one said much about it when he was shirtless…which he very rarely was for that reason. No use tempting fate with conversations he’d rather not have.

All this training had improved his confidence. Or maybe it just improved his overall façade. He still never fought anyone. Years of classes and training and the most he’d ever done was some hand to hand with instructors for lessons. It was monitored and no one got hurt. No one actually fought. Just the way he liked it.

“So why are you going at it so hard right now?” Aiden asked, walking over to the mini fridge Mason kept in the room and getting his own bottle of water.

“Just my daily workout. No special reason.” No one needed to know it was dreaded as much as one of his mother’s lectures.

“Well then, thanks for making the rest of us look like pikers. When Nic sees you at the pool I’ll never hear the end of it.”

Mason laughed. Nic was Aiden’s fiancée of just a few weeks. Aiden had proposed on Christmas morning in front of the whole family. That was two of them engaged now. Brody had been first in the fall. His brothers seemed to be dropping like dominoes right now.

“She only has eyes for you. She’d have nothing in common with me other than you and I are brothers.”

“You supply the brew for our food in the kitchen,” Aiden said, laughing.

“There is that. What brings you by? Why aren’t you at work right now? Or at home in bed with Nic. Got to be something wrong with you.”

Aiden laughed. “Nic went in early. Her grandmother is there with some other staff and they’re showing them how to bake the bread for the restaurant.”

Nic’s grandparents used to own an Italian bakery, but it burned down years ago. Now Nic worked in the kitchen with Aiden, more like filling in. She was in charge of some of the changes going on, but basically she was now photographing everything for all of Fierce’s branches for marketing purposes. When she wasn’t doing that, she was teaching others in the kitchen her grandparents’ recipes for Italian pastries and bread.

“And you had nothing else better to do, after probably getting home at midnight, than to come here at seven in the morning?” Mason asked.

“Since when don’t you want to see me?” Aiden asked.

The two of them were the closest of the group. Quintuplets. And though they were all close, he and Aiden seemed to have the strongest bond. Which was funny because Aiden was the most confident of the group, Mason the least. The least confident in life in general. In school or work, Mason had more than all of them together.

None of Aiden’s had rubbed off on Mason in the past when maybe it should have though. He supposed that was why his parents put them in the same room. Maybe they should have put him in with Cade. At least Cade was good at running his mouth and Mason could have used a bit of that back then. Some smooth talking might have saved him a black eye a time or two. Or maybe one less time shoved against lockers.

“Let me just go grab a quick shower. You can go make us some breakfast and we can talk over what’s coming up on tap next and what I’m brewing for the spring and summer.”

“Sounds like a plan,” Aiden said, walking into Mason’s kitchen.

It wasn’t anything like the kitchen Aiden was used to, but Mason liked his house in the country away from everyone. He had a lot of lawn that he barely had the time to mow, but found he enjoyed it when he could. If he couldn’t, he’d call in a service. But the two acres gave him time to sit on a tractor and think of his end of the business.

The five of them all had their own specialty and they all ran it well.

Brody ran the bar. He was the loudest and the most personable. The most at ease in a group of people.

Aiden could cook like a dream. The things he thought of only made Mason’s head spin.

Cade, he was the family lawyer and in control of all the marketing and branding.

Ella ran everything and anything the rest of them didn’t want to do. All the behind the scenes work with money and paperwork.

Then there was Mason. It was all on him at times…or so it seemed.

He ran the brewery. The biggest moneymaker of the business and the newest part of it.

Four of them went away to college with dreams and plans to expand the family business and it was all falling into place. The most substantial addition was the brewery. The largest cost and biggest risk. His parents believed in him and they made it happen. Now it was the largest percentage of income with the most on the line.

His brews weren’t just sold in the bar but also bottled and shipped all over the East Coast. With any luck, they’d make their way out West at some point too. But right now he had his hands full just managing it as it was.

When he was done with his shower, he opened his door to the smell of bacon, eggs, and coffee. He didn’t even know he had bacon in his house.

“Where did that come from?” he asked Aiden, as two omelets were slid on plates, next to a huge mound of bacon.

“I brought it with me. You never have anything here. I was shocked you even had eggs. Now you’ve got more since I’ll leave the rest.”

He didn’t spend a lot of time at home, and when he did, he didn’t waste it cooking. Most of the time he grabbed a cup of coffee and a protein bar and ran out the door in the morning. At some point during the day, he’d go around the corner to the restaurant and get a good-sized lunch. His only real meal for the day. Dinner was whatever he found in his house that didn’t require a lot of effort.

“I appreciate it,” he said, sitting down and picking up his coffee. Everything Aiden touched tasted better than he could ever imagine. He’d long since given up asking how it was done.

“So tell me the plans? What are you starting now?”

It was only January, but most beers took weeks to months or even years before they were ready to tap. He was planning spring and summer brews now and would be starting the process soon. “I haven’t officially settled on anything. I’ll definitely bring back a few of the summer brews from last year.”

“Jolene for sure,” Aiden said. “Brody said that was a big hit and I was able to use it in a lot of recipes.”

Fiercely Jolene was a beer named after his mother. Sweet on the first sip, then the tartness just slapped you in the face. He thought it was funny to name it after her, so did his siblings. His mother, not so much…though she wasn’t laughing when she saw the sales.

“First on the list. I’ll make more and have Cade push the marketing on it.”

“You know Mom is going to frown over it. Cade wants to use her as part of the promotion.”

“Really?” Mason asked, laughing. “Serves her right.”

Mason remembered all the times his mother started out all nice and sweet with the five of them and then when they least expected it, she went in for the kill, making them all feel about two inches tall. She had some wicked ways with her punishments too and knowing all the kids’ weaknesses.

“Speaking of Mom, I heard you have her finding staff for you? Why?”

Mason stopped shoveling food into his mouth. “She’s been bugging me lately. Not sure what is going on, but every time I turn around she’s in the brewery just following me around, asking a million questions.”

Aiden burst out laughing. “Has to be getting on your nerves since she knows how much you hate to talk.”

Mason snorted. He swore his mother got bored and just picked a kid to torment. He was wondering what he’d done wrong to be the chosen one now. “I tried being nice and telling her I was busy.”

“Being nice has never worked with her before.”

“It didn’t this time either. She started lecturing me that I needed more women in the brewery. I know that. We try to make it as equal as possible, but I can’t help it if no women apply.”

Aiden rolled his eyes. “I’ve heard it all before.”

“Then she went on and on that the brewery is getting so much attention that the least we could do was get a woman to do the tours. Mix it up a little. I told her she could find that person if she wanted it so bad.”

His mother just wouldn’t stop nagging him about it and he was starting to think he was being punished, only he couldn’t figure out what would have warranted it.

“You’re letting Mom do that? Find someone to give brewery tours when she can’t even remember the name of half the beers, let alone the ingredients to go in it? You think that’s wise?”

“This is Mom we’re talking about. She’d never let anyone set foot in the business that wasn’t qualified or if she didn’t look under every rock to find out what she could about them. I’m not worried and I’m surprised to hear you are.”

“True. Still, this is one part of the business she is really clueless about.”

“It’s just part-time and whoever she hires, I’ll walk through with the person. If they’ve got a good enough memory, it’s easy. It’s more a rehearsed speech than anything.”

“Good luck to you then,” Aiden said. “I’d rather hire my own staff.”

“And we all know how much you love doing that,” Mason said.

Aiden was the worst of them all when it came to interviewing. He ran every potential candidate through the paces as if he were a drill sergeant during basic training. He had high expectations and it was hard for him to find what he was looking for.

“Just the same. Have fun dealing with Mom during this process,” Aiden said.

“How bad could it be?”

Fierce-Mason Prologue #mgtab

Mason_3

It’s time to start giving you a little look into Mason! Less than a week until the release!

Prologue

Mason Fierce looked around at the sterile white walls of the clinic taking inventory of every ache and pain in his body.

This was so embarrassing. Frustrating. Demoralizing.

This never happened back home, at least to this extent. Pushes, shoves, and petty words… those were easily hidden from others. But here at college, it was much worse.

He knew the answer why. He’d known all along, but just never wanted to consider that possibility.

It was because of his brothers.

No one messed with Brody or Cade. Even with Aiden. They may all look alike, all be around the same size, with the exception of Brody, who’d always been an inch taller at six foot two and covered with more muscles.

Mason was actually the same height as Brody, but he always hunched just a little bit. Always been the quiet one of the group. The smart one. The one that stayed in the shadows. He’d leave his brothers to all the action, thank you very much.

Even Ella walked with more confidence than him. The lone girl of the Fierce Five. Everyone was fierce. Everyone but him, it seemed.

Without his brothers in the picture at college, people weren’t so afraid to do more than push.

“Looks like you’ve got one hell of a shiner there.”

He turned his head and watched his mother walk into the room. What the hell was she doing here? Just what he needed. No one messed with her.

Pathetic, his mother was more confident than him, it seemed, when she strode in like she was ready to knock the biggest person out of her way with the flick of her fingertip.

“You didn’t think the clinic would call me when you ended up in here?” she asked, smirking at him. He’d only been in here for three hours. They must have called his mother the moment he entered, or she broke some records on the drive over.

He was in pain and there she was sending him that damn Fierce smirk that they all inherited. Only he hardly ever used it.  Why bother? It wasn’t as if he felt he could back it up, nor had he ever wanted to.

He happened to be the peaceful one of the group. Or as he’d been called one too many times by others when his brothers weren’t around: “a pussy.”

“What did they tell you?”

“That you’d been in a fight. Since I know you, I know you didn’t start it. You can’t stand to fight or fight back. I figured I’d better come in and see how much damage you incurred. Though you’re used to wrestling with your brothers, we know they took it easy on you when maybe they should have roughed you up a bit. One of you four had to be my gentle one and it happened to be you, Mason.”

He narrowed his eyes. So much for thinking he’d get sympathy; instead she was insulting him. He’d heard it enough in life about being the soft one, the kind one, the gentle one. It made him look more like a wuss than anything else.

He could be thankful his siblings never really used extremely insulting words to him. Oftentimes, he thought they were trying to toughen him up. He just didn’t want any part of being that way.

“Did you tell anyone?”

“Of course not, but you know they can feel when something is wrong. Aiden and Cade are probably busy right now partying in the dorms. Brody was working and stopped, then asked me if I’d heard from you. My guess is he felt something was off.”

Mason was the closest to Aiden and fully expected to hear from him. Not from Brody. But like his mother said, they were all probably doing something else. Brody was the only one that didn’t go to college, deciding to run the bar at the family business.

“What did you tell him?”

“I told Brody and your father that the school called and said you didn’t feel good. That it could be a nasty cold, but I was just going to come down and check. Since everyone knows how much of a helicopter mother I am, it wasn’t questioned. If Brody thought it was something else, he would have been here with me taking care of it.”

He wanted to snort at the nickname he’d given her so many years ago for always hovering over them all. “Thanks, Mom. I don’t need my brothers fighting my battles for me.”

She walked over and sat on the bed next to him, the jarring motion causing his aching ribs to intensify. That guy had one nasty club of a fist and he didn’t hesitate to lay it into Mason’s sides a few times.

“Mason, you four have always stuck together. It’s what family does. But I understand that it causes more problems than if you kept it all to yourself. Like with the dickhead Chuck all through school.”

“What are you talking about?” he asked nervously.

“Please, Mason. Every mother knows when their child has something going on in their life. Chuck bullied you for years. You took it and never said a word. I’m guessing because you knew Brody and Cade would be all over him like tape on lint.”

“Yeah,” he said. Then instead of being bullied for being the smart, quiet one, he’d be labeled the one that needed his brothers to take care of him.

“So what caused this today?” she asked.

“Nothing,” he said, glad she was moving out of the past and into the present.

“Your swollen eye says differently.” She reached her hand over and put it on his. “You didn’t want to do someone’s work for them?”

“No. It’s not that.” He’d had others hint that it would benefit him to do their work, but he’d walked away. Most left him alone and moved to another target. He might not have liked to fight, but he knew if he ignored it and didn’t give the satisfaction of being bothered, he’d usually be left alone.

“Then what?”

He turned his head and looked away from her, but she took ahold of his hand and held it. Something she hadn’t done in years. It was enough for him to say, “I’ve been tutoring someone. Guess her boyfriend took exception to the amount of time we’ve been spending together, even though it was only for schoolwork.”

“Maybe that girl didn’t think so?”

He snorted. “I’ve given her no reason to think otherwise. Her boyfriend is on the football team with a full scholarship. She likes having him on her arm. It’s all she ever talks about. Annoyingly so.” He was thinking back to all the times he’d have to tell her to just focus on the work, not her boyfriend, until they were done.

“Then maybe she likes to make him jealous or get a little extra loving from him? Some more attention that you’re saying she seems to crave.”

“Could be,” he said, shrugging. “You didn’t need to come here. I’ll be fine. I don’t want to press charges or anything. I’m not filing reports, whatever they told you.”

“I figured you wouldn’t. He’d lose his scholarship, probably be expelled too.”

“He’d just get all his buddies to say I started it, that it was self-defense. It’d only get worse, or I’d be the one expelled.”

She laughed. “You have so much to learn, Mason. Starting with this.”

She dropped a brochure on his lap. He picked it up and looked at it. “You want me to join a gym?”

“Nope,” she said, taking it out of his hand and turning it over. “I think you need to do this. If you aren’t going to fight back, then at least give the illusion that you can. Or make sure you can if you ever need to again. You’ve got the size; you just need to work on your confidence. This will help.”

“Boxing? You want me to learn to box?” Was she nuts? She’d just admitted he didn’t like to fight and she was dropping a brochure of the sport that epitomized fighting in his lap.

“Kickboxing too. Both of them. I just paid for a year’s membership. Once you’re healed, get your butt there.” She leaned over and kissed him on the forehead. “Trust me, Mason. No one will mess with you again.”

Fierce-Mason #mgtab

Mason_3

It’s the quiet ones you need to watch out for…proving who really is the fiercest of the five.

Mason Fierce was the smart one. The quiet one. The least fierce of the Fierce Five. He’s a force to reckon with running his own brewery and doing what he wants…the way he wants it. He’s still the smart one, still the quiet one, but he’s out to prove that brute strength isn’t what makes you fierce, but accepting who you are and embracing it makes you the fiercest of them all.

Jessica Corning has always loved science. She’s what many would call nerdy. Geeky, even. Never had a boyfriend, never even wanted one. She just wanted to focus on school and her hobbies. Her new love—beer. So a part-time job giving tours at Fierce Brewery is a dream come true for her. The last thing she expects is to find that maybe she wouldn’t mind having a guy in her life after all. If only her new boss would even notice her.

 

 

Fierce- Mason #mgtab

Mason_3

It’s the quiet ones you need to watch out for…proving who really is the fiercest of the five.

Mason Fierce was the smart one. The quiet one. The least fierce of the Fierce Five. He’s a force to reckon with running his own brewery and doing what he wants…the way he wants it. He’s still the smart one, still the quiet one, but he’s out to prove that brute strength isn’t what makes you fierce, but accepting who you are and embracing it makes you the fiercest of them all.

Jessica Corning has always loved science. She’s what many would call nerdy. Geeky, even. Never had a boyfriend, never even wanted one. She just wanted to focus on school and her hobbies. Her new love—beer. So a part-time job giving tours at Fierce Brewery is a dream come true for her. The last thing she expects is to find that maybe she wouldn’t mind having a guy in her life after all. If only her new boss would even notice her.

A Chance at a $15 Amazon CG #mgtab

I want to know what books you’d like to read next! I just finished the draft of Fierce-Cade (the 4th book in the Fierce Five Series) and will start the draft of Fierce-Ella soon. Fierce-Aiden was released and you can purchase it on Amazon.

But in the meantime, I’m trying to plan out where to go next. Many of you have sent me emails, comments, and reviews that you’d like to see more of the All Series and the Lake Placid Series along with the Fierce Five. Don’t worry, I do plan on adding to those other series as well.

So where does the Amazon gift card come into play? Hop over to my FB page by clicking on the picture below. Just comment : All Series, Lake Placid, or Fierce Five. On Friday the 18th, I’ll randomly draw and name for the gift card. Pretty easy and then I can get an idea of what you, as my readers, would like to see more of.

All Series