Fierce-Sam Chapter Two…#mgtab @Natalieann121

Sam2

This is the last teaser of Fierce-Sam. You can catch up on the Prologue and Chapter One now.

Supported Her

Dani looked around her shop and smiled. It still amazed her how much it was thriving.

She’d never been book smart. She’d never been one to settle down. She’d never been one to plan on anything in life other than her next adventure.

Yet at one point she knew she had to figure out her future.

She had to decide how she was going to support herself because she wasn’t going to rely on her parents that loved her unconditionally even though she gave them every reason not to.

So several years ago her next adventure ended up being her career. When she’d made a decision, she’d told her parents and they supported her like she hoped they would. Then they helped her make it happen.

Several of her stylists were cleaning up their stations and getting ready to call it a night. She had twelve chairs here that were all rental chairs when they were occupied. Not all worked every day but most came in for part of it. If they weren’t here, then they weren’t making money. That had always been her motto.

Personally, if they didn’t show up, it didn’t change much for her, she still got her rental income, but it made the shop more desirable to have it flowing with clients and she pushed that attitude on them.

The best thing she could have done was to have such a diverse group of stylists. She even had one male and that had been hard to come by. She’d never tell her other stylists, but she gave him a discount on his booth rental to secure him with the hopes he’d get the word out and she could find a few more men to fill her remaining two chairs. She had stylists knocking down her door to work here, but she was holding out for the right ones.

She never in a million years thought she’d be as successful as she was currently.

Well, she looked successful, but her bank account was still pretty bare more times than not.

Everything she had went back into her business: Dee’s.

No one called her Dee. Not anymore.

Her name was Danielle and she went by Dani, but very few asked where the name “Dee’s” came from.

It was better that way. Her parents knew and that was enough. It was the only way she could think to honor her sister at the same time proving that she could make something out of her life. That her parents’ undying support was worth something.

“Dani. Your seven o’clock is up front.” She turned to see Patricia standing there, one of her first stylists when she opened the doors to Dee’s three years ago. “He’s hot. How the hell did you score him?”

“No clue,” Dani said, smirking. “I haven’t seen him myself. How hot is he?”

“Major hot. Like potato out of the microwave and lost my fingerprints hot.”

Dani rolled her eyes. Patricia always used food to make references. “How do you know he’s for me?” she asked, wanting to yank on Patricia’s chain a bit. Patricia was young and naive and fell for the teasing ways of the group more often than not.

“He asked for you,” Patricia said seriously. “I was cashing out my client when he came in the door. I was kind of hoping he was just a walk-in and I could snatch him up like a kid reaching for cotton candy at a carnival.”

“How can you be so skinny when all you do is talk about food?” she asked.

“I’m not any skinnier than you are,” Patricia said.

“True. But my problem is I never sit down to eat even though I love food.”

“You’re going to love the guy up front like I do Ben and Jerry’s on a hot summer night after my last boyfriend told me he found another love.”

Dani laughed and walked past Patricia. “I’ll go get him and see if he holds up to my chocolate chip cookie dough.”

“Screw chocolate chip cookie dough. This one is pecan sticky buns,” Patricia said winking. “If you get my hint.”

“I get it,” Dani said, knowing Patricia managed to pique her interest.

She got to the front and had to stop at the sight of the male specimen in front of her. Holy ever-loving hell he was smoking. Smoking like the grill at her granddad’s on the Fourth of July just waiting for the ribs to be seared. Okay, Patricia was rubbing off on her now.

“Hi, you must be Sam,” she said, holding her hand out to the tall, dark, and luscious man in front of her. Midnight wavy hair that she was dying to run her fingers through. A body that easily towered over her five-foot-seven-inch frame. He wasn’t built with a gym body, but he was slim, trim and oh so delicious to every one of her senses.

“I am,” he said back. His voice was just as deep and rich as the ice cream Patricia and she were comparing him to minutes ago. “And you’re Dani?”

“That’s me. Why don’t you come on back to my chair?”

“I appreciate you getting me in so fast,” he said.

“Not a problem. How did you hear about me, if you don’t mind me asking?”

“My mother gave me your card,” he said, wrinkling his nose adorably. Oh man, a guy who listens to his mama. Could anything be sweeter in her eyes?

“I never got your last name when you set up your appointment. Who’s your mother?”

“Diane Fierce, but I don’t believe she is a client of yours. She said she sees someone else here, but I didn’t get the name. She grabbed your card off the shelf. Said you were the owner and that she’d seen you cutting other men’s hair. Curly hair, and she insists I need someone who can handle it.”

She was thinking of all sorts of ways she could handle Sam Fierce right now. And none of them had to do with hair.

“Well, you can thank your mom for me. I’ll find out who does her hair at some point, but I appreciate her passing my name on.”

She turned and walked back to her chair, knowing he was following and wishing she was behind him so she could get a look at his body in more detail without him knowing. She wondered if he was doing the same to her. She hadn’t missed the way his eyes lit up when she introduced herself to him.

Once he was seated, she grabbed a cape and put it over his shoulders and fought the urge to inhale the mountain fresh scent of him that just impaled her nostrils as he shifted in the chair. Better than cologne in her eyes any day. Nature always won over artificial, but there was definitely a time and place for that bottled scent too.

“So what are we doing with your hair?” she asked, trying to focus on the task at hand.

“Whatever you think can be done to it. I’m pretty busy and finding time to get this done is difficult. If you want to go a bit shorter so it holds me over, you can do that.”

Even better. He was giving her a free hand. “Do you like to just wash and go or do you style it?”

“Wash and go. I don’t have time to style it, or if I do, by the end of the day it’s a mess anyway. I’d grow it long and put it in a ponytail, but my mother would start to call me Sammy or Hagar again and I’m not in the mood for that either.”

She burst out laughing, getting the Van Halen reference. “Sounds like your mother has a pretty awesome sense of humor.” The frown Sam shot her in the mirror almost made her lose it, but she held on, picked up her spray bottle, then stopped. “I should have asked if you want me to wash your hair first. It looks like you just did so I was going to spritz it, but it’s your choice.”

“I just showered, so yeah, wetting it down is fine if you want.”

The thought of him in the shower shouldn’t be filling her mind, but it seemed she had no control over anything.

She picked the clippers up and grabbed a comb, then started to sheer off his waves. She really liked them, but could tell if he didn’t spend time taming them they’d control him rather than the other way around.

“I’m going to go pretty short in the back and sides and maybe leave the top a bit longer.”

“Not too long,” he said. “I don’t want to look like a hipster. I’d never hear the end of it from my brothers if I did.”

She grinned. “I won’t make you look like a hipster. So how many brothers do you have?”

“Two,” he said.

“You’ve got to be the oldest.”

“Why do you say that?” he asked.

“Because you’ve got an air to you that just shouts authority and leadership.”

He snorted, but his grin said he was taking it in stride. “I’ve been told that a time or two.”

She was guessing it was more than a time or to.

They chatted back and forth during the cut about nothing in particular. Nothing personal about each other, other than he had two younger brothers. “So what do you think?” she asked before she put the scissors down. She was done in her mind, but if he wanted it shorter, she’d give him what he wished.

“It looks great. How about dinner?” he asked her suddenly.

“Tonight?” she asked back.

“It’s a bit late tonight. Another night?”

Going on a date with a man that she didn’t know a thing about other than his name? She hadn’t done that in a long time. She hadn’t been reckless in longer than she could remember.

But would it really be reckless? His mother was a client here. She knew his name. She could do an internet search on him. It’s not like she hadn’t been on blind dates in the past.

“Why not,” she said.

“Geez, you don’t have to sound so excited over it.”

She burst out laughing. “And inflate that ego of yours?”

“I like you,” he said. “Most women wouldn’t point my ego out to me.”

“I’ve been told I’m not like most women.” She figured he was just flirting and would blow her off at some point.

“Even better. So what is your last name, Dani?” he asked, pulling his phone out.

“Rhodes.” She took his phone and programmed her number in there. “Give me a call when you aren’t busy and I’ll try to make it work.”

“Oh no,” he said. “I’m not leaving here without having the date set. Let’s check our calendars.”

Guess he wasn’t going to blow her off. She pulled her phone out. “My last appointment this Monday is at five. I should be ready by six if all goes well. How about you? Or we can pick another day, but I work later most of this week.”

“I’ll pick you up at six thirty on Monday. I don’t have anything on my schedule that could hold me back. Not unless there is an emergency and hopefully there won’t be.”

She wanted to ask what type of emergency, but decided that could be a conversation for their first date. “Then I’ll see you on Monday.”

Once Sam was out the door, she walked back to her station to clean up. “Did I hear you just made a date with him?” Patricia asked.

“What are you still doing here?” Dani asked back. Patricia normally left after her last appointment. Right now there were only four girls in the salon finishing up.

“I wasn’t leaving until I knew for sure what was going on with the hottie in your chair. His last name is Fierce, right?”

“Yes. Wow, Patricia, I didn’t realize you eavesdropped so much.”

“I wouldn’t except Sheryl heard his name and said she does his mother’s hair. I think he’s a doctor.”

Dani spit the water she’d been drinking out of her mouth. Doctors didn’t hit on her. “Why does she say that?”

“Because she said Diane is always bragging about her three boys. One is a doctor, one a professor, and one an architect for the family firm.”

“Family firm. Guess he’s got some moolahs behind his name, then?”

“It seems it. Let’s just find out,” Patricia said, pulling her phone out of her pocket. “Oh man. Not just a doctor but a surgeon. Look at that shot of him.”

Dani grabbed Patricia’s phone out of her hand and looked closer at the picture of Sam in a suit and tie, his hair longer and slightly messy in the picture. Now she understood why he said it’d get out of control by the end of the day. Probably from caps during surgery.

“Hot damn. I’m going on a date with a doctor.” Who would have thought it?!

 

 

Fierce-Sam Chapter One…#mgtab @natalieann121

Sam2If you haven’t had a chance to read the Prologue you can catch up on that first.

Joy to Be Around

“Are you ready for this, Scott?” Sam asked when he walked into the patient’s room in preop to mark him up for his surgery.

“As ready as I’m going to be.”

“Okay, then stand up. I’ve got my trusty sharpie here to mark where we are cutting. Don’t want to remove the wrong part of your body,” Sam said. “State your name, date of birth, and what I’m doing today so we are all on the same page.”

“Scott Tress, March tenth, nineteen eighty-six. You’re removing a lumpy piece of fat from my liver that doesn’t belong there.”

“You’ve said this a few times already, I’m guessing,” Sam said, his eyes squinting at the humorous tone Scott had just supplied. Some of his patients were just a joy to be around, even in the worst of situations.

“It’s a rehearsed speech at this point.”

Sam used the purple sharpie to circle where he was cutting and then initialed it. “Like I said, we don’t want any errors.”

“I’d like to have kids someday,” Linda, Scott’s wife, said. “So please, only remove that ball of lump and not another…ball.”

Sam burst out laughing. These two were a riot. Scott was lucky. His tumor wasn’t cancerous. It was just a lipoma, but it still needed to come out since it showed no signs of the growth diminishing.

His wife and he were taking it all in stride and living life to the fullest. That’s the way they should. The way he was living his life.

Nothing holding him back. Nothing tying him down.

Fun with no strings, no commitments, and no stress.

His job was stressful enough, thank you very much.

When the curtain opened, Sam turned to see his cousin Wyatt standing there. “Hi, I’m Dr. Fierce and I’m going to put you to sleep today,” Wyatt said.

“Oh man,” Linda said. “Are you guys brothers? There are two of you?”

Wyatt looked at him and grinned. “Nope. We’re cousins though. I’m the other Dr. Fierce since Sam is the OG. He’s the oldest of the whole clan of us.”

“Clan?” Scott asked. “How many is that?”

“Well now,” Sam said, scratching his chin. “I’ve got two younger brothers. Wyatt has twin older brothers and a twin sister. Then we’ve got the quintuplets of the family. Four boys and another girl.”

“Wow,” Linda said. “How many of you are single? I’ve got two sisters and, damn, they’d be drooling right now.”

“Don’t do it,” Scott said earnestly. “Her sisters are psycho. Run while you can.”

“The quints, or the Fierce Five as they’ve always been called, are all taken. The rest of us though, we’re enjoying the single life. Work calls,” Wyatt said, holding his laptop up. Sam couldn’t agree more with those thoughts.

“Are you all doctors?” Linda asked. She was rubbing her hands together and Sam had a feeling this wasn’t going to drop anytime soon.

“No. Just Wyatt and I. He puts them to sleep, and I do all the magic.”

Wyatt snorted. “Magic. He couldn’t do what he does if it wasn’t for me sending everyone into the dreamland.”

“So what do the rest of you do?” Scott asked.

“Let’s see. Since we’ve got time to kill,” Sam said. “In my family, there’s me, then Bryce, he’s a Chemistry professor at Duke, and the baby is Ryder who is an architect for our fathers’ firm.”

“Father’s, as in both of your fathers?” Linda asked. Normally Sam wasn’t this talkative, but he was really taken with this couple and Wyatt was always one to sit and chat. Besides, they were still waiting on the OR to be prepped.

“My and Wyatt’s dads are twins and engineers. It’s the family business. Though Wyatt and I didn’t go into that business.”

“So what about your family?” Scott asked Wyatt, getting more comfortable on the bed. If that was possible. These temporary rooms did have TVs to pass the time, but the curtains didn’t provide much privacy for people lying in a bed with a gown on and nothing else.

“My older brother, Drake, is an engineer, Noah, his twin, is a high school principal. Then there’s me, and my sister, Jade, is also an engineer.”

“Where did the teaching positions come from?” Linda asked, scrunching her nose like she didn’t approve for some reason. That was odd.

“Our mothers are teachers. So really everyone followed in our parents’ footsteps but Wyatt and I,” Sam said. “We’re the rebels.”

“Any relation to the Fierce beer?” Scott asked.

“Funny you should ask that,” Wyatt said. “That would be the Fierce Five. Our cousins.”

“That is so cool,” Scott said. “Bet you guys have some serious family get-togethers.”

“It’s been known to happen,” Wyatt said. “So I know Sam made you state your name and date of birth, but I need to do it too. Why don’t we get this squared away and then one of my assistants is going to come in and give you the happy juice once the room is ready. Shouldn’t be much longer.”

“Guess we should get back on track now and get this thing out of me. But when it’s all done, I’m going to toast both of you with a bottle of my favorite Fierce brew.”

“We’ll do the same to you,” Sam said.

***

Several hours later, Sam let himself into his parents’ home for dinner. Once a month or so he came home for dinner. So did his brothers. It just didn’t seem to be the same day and that was fine.

His parents preferred having one-on-one time with each of the kids their whole life. They’d always worried someone would feel slighted for some reason.

Deep down as the oldest, he was kind of glad he got the attention. Once his brothers came along, he didn’t get as much. He wasn’t jealous by any means, but in a family as big as theirs, people tended to get pushed aside if they didn’t find a way to stand out.

Then throw in the fact he didn’t follow in his parents’ footsteps with academia or engineering and he felt he’d let them down at some point.

They’d never given any indication they were disappointed in him. Just the opposite.

But he always wondered if his father was upset that the oldest of the family wasn’t going to work for the firm.

“Sweetie,” his mother said when he walked in the door. “You’re earlier than I thought you’d be.”

“Surgery went pretty smoothly today. I like days like that,” he said back. “Did I beat Dad home?”

“He’ll be here in a few minutes. Why don’t you go get yourself a beer and go sit on the back deck? It’s a beautiful fall day.”

“That sounds just like what the doctor ordered,” he said and smiled over his mother’s giggle. She’d always been one to giggle and he found it humorous. She was the glue that kept them all together in the house. She barely topped his father’s chest, but she had the biggest heart and the strongest presence and nature.

He’d didn’t even have time to pour his beer before his father opened up the sliding glass doors and walked out to sit next to him.

All the Fierce men were big. His uncle Gavin was the oldest and the biggest at six foot five, but his father and Uncle Garrett weren’t far behind at six foot three. Sam was thankful he had his father’s height. All the boys did, which was funny since their mother was only five foot five.

“How’s work going, Dad?” Sam asked.

“Work is work. Just like it is for you too. No need to talk about that tonight,” his father said. He wasn’t sarcastic by any means, but Sam still wondered if something was going on that he should be paying more attention to. Maybe he needed to talk to his brothers and see if he was missing something. His father was normally more outgoing, talkative, or even happy.

He didn’t have a chance to say anything else before his mother came out with a glass of ice tea and sat next to them. “Sam, you need a haircut,” she said.

He ran his hand through his dark wavy hair. “I know. It’s just finding the time.”

“I’ve got a place you can go. They’re open until eight some nights. Better than the barbershop that closes early on you. Then you can see the same person all the time.”

He looked at his mother’s stylish bob. “I don’t need a hairdresser.”

“Sure you do. Every time you go to the barbershop someone different cuts it and it’s never the same.”

“Does it really matter?” he asked, wondering where this conversation was coming from. He couldn’t remember the last time his mother commented on his hair. Maybe high school when he wanted to grow it long. His wavy locks looked more like a wild perm from a nineties hair band than what he’d been trying to accomplish.

“Hang on,” his mother said and jumped up fast to leave the deck. He looked at his father only to get the normal shake that silently said not to argue with the lone estrogen-bearing human in the household. She returned and handed over a card. “Here. Ask for Dani. She owns the place.”

“I don’t need to see the same person as you,” he said, laughing, and could only imagine what his hair would look like when he left. A bowl being placed on his head came to mind.

“No. I wouldn’t do that to you. Dani is younger. I just see one of her employees. Someone closer to my age. Every time I go in there Dani has younger people in the chairs. Not just women either,” she said before he could make another comment.

He learned you picked your battles and this wasn’t worth arguing, so he said, “Fine. I’ll think about it.”

“Don’t think about it. Do it. Otherwise I’m going to start calling you Sammy.”

“Please don’t,” he said, knowing he’d call and ask for Dani as soon as he left. That stupid long hair stage had his mom calling him Sammy Hagar.

“Then do as your mother says and make the call.”

“Fine,” he said, putting the card in his pocket.

***

“Could you be any more obvious?” Grant asked his wife, Diane, the minute Sam was out the door.

“What?” Diane said.

“Giving him a card and telling him to get his hair cut. I can’t believe you.”

“I’m not waiting around. Even Ella got engaged a few months ago. Come on. We shouldn’t be this far behind Gavin and Jolene. We’ve got two of the oldest kids in the family.”

“That doesn’t mean you need to be so in Sam’s face about this. And I thought you and I were going to talk about it together. You just decided this Dani woman was good enough to set your son up with. Why?”

“I listened to what Jolene said. She said that I should go with my gut. I’ve seen Dani in the salon. She’s a hard worker. She’s cute, she’s funny, and she doesn’t seem to take much seriously other than her work. Her staff talk highly of her and she’s not so loud that she’d be obnoxious. She seems to just enjoy life in general.”

“That’s the last person you want to set Sam up with. That’s exactly how he is,” Grant argued. What was wrong with his wife? This was going to blow up in their faces before it even started.

“You’re missing the point. If you put two of them together that think alike, one of them may want something serious and work hard to get it.”

“Are you sure that tea of yours isn’t spiked? Like you said, the big word is may.”

Diane laughed. “Of course not. You were so bent about me bringing this up tonight and it went just fine. Trust me on this. Jolene would never steer us wrong.”

“Just because Jolene had success setting up her boys doesn’t mean we are going to.”

“We’re going to be just as successful. We just have to work a little harder. Jolene had it made finding employees for the business. We can’t do that with two of our boys. So when Ryder’s time comes, you’ll have to put more effort into that one. This one is on me. Let’s just see how it goes,” she said, standing up and walking over to sit on his lap in the living room.

“I hope it doesn’t backfire on us. Our boys aren’t stupid. They probably know we are up to something at this point. And they know their five cousins were all set up. Everyone knows it. Do you really think they’re not going to realize we’re doing the same thing?”

“Let them think it,” she said. “I don’t care if it’s a secret or not. I just want them to settle down. It has to start with Sam. He’s the most serious of them.”

“Bryce is the most serious, not Sam. Sam is just a playboy,” he argued.

“Sam is too serious about life in general. Everything but women. It’s time he got serious about a woman and I think Dani is the one for him.”

“Why is that?” he asked. “Because you feel it in your gut?”

“I felt it with you and I feel it for Sam.”

 

Fierce-Sam…Prologue #mgtab @Natalieann121

Sam2

Fierce-Sam

Prologue

“All right, Fierce, get over here. You want to see what it’s all about, it’s time to watch the master.”

Sam Fierce’s heart was racing faster than a woodpecker on crack. He was scrubbed and ready to go. He knew he wouldn’t be assisting in this surgery, just observing, but he had to start somewhere. All residents did at different points.

He’d assisted on plenty of surgeries in the ER, but now he was ready to focus more on a specialty field. Surgical oncology. Removing masses from organs, more specifically. Tricky, tough, and not for the faint of heart.

He didn’t want to go into general surgery. Not orthopedics either. He wanted something more detailed. Something not everyone could or wanted to do.

He wanted to be different. He wanted to thrive. In a family as big as his—being the oldest of all his siblings and cousins—he wanted to stand out. That’s what he was going to do. He was going to make a name for himself among all the Fierces.

The fact that he was in the OR with Dr. Salamone was enough to make him feel like he was rushing down the stairs on Christmas morning hoping Santa left him everything on his list. But this was his first scrub in and it was just an honor to be in the room.

They were removing a small mass attached to the kidney from a thirty-two-year-old male. It should be cut and dry. Pretty simple, if having a mass removed from an organ was simple. The biopsy had already confirmed cancer two weeks ago, but if it was localized like everyone was hoping, the patient might be good to go with just removal. Lucky dude that could go live the rest of his life with his young wife in the waiting room.

The anesthesiologist was monitoring vitals, the nurses were setting everything up and Sam was standing to the side while Dr. Salamone did what he did best. “Want to make the first incision?” he asked Sam, who stood there wide-eyed. Thankfully the mask was on his face covering the fact his jaw had just dropped. Holy shit, yeah. “It’s all marked and ready to go. Come make the first cut, then step back to give me room. This is a teaching opportunity for you. I’ve heard nothing but good things, and I want to see how steady you are when you’re put on the spot.”

All his nerves were pushed to the side and his confidence was ready to make sure his ego put his money where his mouth was. “Oh, I’m steady, no worries there.”

Sam stepped up, took the blade and made the cut exactly where it was marked, then stepped back and handed it off.

“Nice and straight. Ask any questions that come to your mind.”

“Will do,” Sam said, but so far he knew what was going on. And he still was quiet as could be, observing everything, until forty minutes later the machines started going nuts. The patient’s heart rate was dropping fast.

Sam stepped further back to give everyone room before he was asked. He was smart enough to know when to help and when to move aside.

“What’s going on?” Dr. Salamone asked. “There’s no excessive bleeding here.”

The anesthesiologist answered, “His oxygen levels are dropping too.”

Sam watched as everyone was calm and doing what they needed to. But twenty minutes later that calm had evaporated in the room like a sun shower in Hawaii. Come and gone just as fast. The patient now lay on the table with Dr. Salamone calling the time of death.

It seemed as if it was nothing Dr. Salamone had done, but rather a reaction to the anesthesia. At least that was the best guess at the moment, but it reminded Sam that anything could happen even if it wasn’t in his hands.

“Come on, Sam, time to tell the wife.”

“Am I doing it?” he asked. This would be the first time he’d have to do this, and though he knew it was part of the job, he wasn’t sure he was quite ready just yet. Mentally he was trying to prepare himself and think of what the hell he was going to say.

“No. I’ll do it. You’re still observing.”

Sam nodded his head and pulled his gloves and mask off and tossed them away in the labeled red box while the nurses picked up the OR for the maintenance team to come in and clean it before the next patient. There would be no cleaning these memories from his mind for a long time though.

Once they were out in the hall, Dr. Salamone turned to him and said, “Sorry you’re having to do this on your first time with me, but like I said, you have to be prepared for everything.”

Sam couldn’t believe how calm Dr. Salamone was. He was the best Duke Cancer Center had when it came to surgical oncology. Hell, he was the best in North Carolina in Sam’s eyes. In his late forties and still improving every day. All this had been said about Dr. Salamone time and again. He hoped one day those words would be attached to his name.

“I see that,” Sam said back, not sure what else he was supposed to say, just glad he wasn’t the one breaking the news to the family.

They made their way to the waiting room where the patient’s wife was sitting. She looked up from where she’d been staring at the TV on the wall. When she saw them, she stood up. “How’s Paul? How did he do?”

“Come into another room with me,” Dr. Salamone said without any emotion in his voice. It wasn’t cold, it wasn’t sympathetic, it was just…stale. Businesslike. Controlled.

“What’s going on?” she asked, the tears already forming in her eyes, Sam could see.

“Let’s go where it’s more private,” Dr. Salamone said.

The three of them found a smaller room and Dr. Salamone said, “Cindy, I’m afraid that Paul didn’t make it. It appears he had a reaction to the anesthesia administered and he stopped breathing shortly after the procedure started. We did everything we could.”

“You’re joking, right? This can’t be happening.”

Sam looked at Cindy. She was young, probably younger than her husband, maybe closer to his age of mid to late twenties. It just made him feel as if a blade was cutting through his own chest right now with nothing to numb the pain.

“I’m afraid not. An autopsy will be conducted, with your approval of course, for the exact cause. There is always a small percentage of patients this happens to and since he’d never been under before, we just didn’t know how he would have reacted.” Dr. Salamone reached his hand out to steady Cindy and helped her to a chair. “I’m deeply sorry. Is there someone we can call for you?”

This was the first time Sam had seen Dr. Salamone show any emotion. It wasn’t pretend; he was truly empathetic to the situation. It was almost as if he had to get the words out first and make sure they were nice and clear and understood. Now he was the person that Sam could look up to even more.

“My mother. Paul’s parents. I don’t know what to say to them,” Cindy said, crying now.

“We can take care of getting someone here for you if you give us the numbers,” Dr. Salamone said softly.

Cindy pulled out her phone and Dr. Salamone handed it to Sam. “Can you make the calls please?” he asked, nodding his head to leave the room to do it.

“Don’t tell them Paul died over the phone,” Cindy said. The tears were running down her face. She was staring at him, desperation mixed in with grief. “I don’t want them driving here knowing that. Try not to make it sound horrible for them.”

“Not a problem,” Sam said, walking into the hall to call the names she’d pointed to on her phone. He heard her sobbing uncontrollably on Dr. Salamone’s shoulder asking how she was going to go on without her husband. She’d never been alone. They’d just bought a house. How could she do it on her own? So many things he’d never thought of when he was dealing with the patients and not their actual lives outside of the hospital.

He learned something today, something that modern medicine could never teach him.

He learned that he’d never be able to put a wife through that. He was a Fierce and Fierce men took care of their significant others. If he didn’t have one, he wouldn’t have that added stress in his life. That added pressure that he wasn’t sure he could deal with when he was trying so hard to do everything right.

The perfect son.

The perfect surgeon.

The perfect husband was never going to happen.

Forever Love…Prologue #mgtab @Natalieann121

FOREVER LOVE

Here’s a peek into Forever Love

Prologue

“Yes, Ginger.” Leah sighed and glanced in her rearview mirror before she put her blinker on and moved into the left-hand lane. “I understand you’re stressed, but there is plenty of time.” She was a master at calming bride’s nerves.

The loud moan and screeching of, “But I want the right shade of pink for my flowers,” made Leah roll her eyes. There was no getting through to some brides…hence the name bridezilla.

“I’ll speak with the florist again. I promise,” she said as calmly as she could while watching the traffic around her.

“I want a new florist,” Ginger snapped back, her voice echoing on the Bluetooth in Leah’s car.

Leah held back the sigh this time. She was already on her third florist and was running out of options from her go-to vendor list. Smoothing over ruffled vendors was almost as bad as calming down nervous brides.

“Let me see what I can do. I’d like to give this last one another chance to match your girls’ dresses. The dye wasn’t off by much.”

“I want it perfect! My mother told me of someone a few cities away. I want you to contact them and see what they can do.”

Since Leah was running late and had a raging headache on top of it, she gave in and said, “I’m driving right now, can I call you back when I get to the office to get the information? Or better yet, can you just text me the name?”

“I’m paying you a lot of money,” Ginger said firmly, “and I want your undivided attention.”

Leah knew she shouldn’t have hit the button on her steering wheel to answer the call when she saw who it was. But as Ginger said, she charged a high premium for her wedding planning business. Her reputation in the Capital Region let her get away with it with all the high-profile clients under her belt. But it was the spoiled rich brats that got on her nerves. Not that she’d ever let anyone see that.

“Give me a second, Ginger,” Leah said, reaching for the pad on the seat next to her. She unhooked the pen that was attached to the top and clicked it. “What’s the name?” The minute Ginger started to speak, Leah realized the pen was out of ink. “I need a new pen. You’re going to have to text me when I hang up. I’m sorry, Ginger.”

“Leah,” Ginger screeched again. It was worse than being in a room full of two-year-olds that wanted milk when there was only water around.

She closed her eyes for one brief second praying she could shove the throbbing in her head back. The next thing she knew she was jerked back by her seatbelt and the airbag went off in her face.

She took a few minutes to orient herself, Ginger still yelling through the Bluetooth, wanting to know what happened. Leah shut her car off, hoping the call dropped at the same time.

The traffic wasn’t bad on Central Avenue. She’d been paying attention to cars all around her like she always did. All she’d seen was a BMW several car lengths ahead of her, but now it looked like she was kissing its back end.

There was knocking at her window, causing her to turn her head. “Are you all right?”

She shook her head, took inventory of her body and opened the door, glad the airbag was deflating.

“Yeah. What the heck happened? Did you stop in the middle of the road?” Leah asked. How the heck had she hit him when she was so far back?

The tall man was narrowing his eyes at her. “If you were paying attention you would have seen that asshole cut in front of me and if I didn’t slam on my brakes I was going to T-bone him.”

“So instead you took the risk I wouldn’t ram into you, which I did,” she said, feeling her anger rising when it rarely did before. This was going to end up being her fault, she knew it.

“You wouldn’t have hit me as hard if you’d had time to press on the brakes.”

“I was only going forty,” she said. “That’s the speed limit.”

He ran his hand through his thick wavy hair. Wow, he was good looking, not that now was the time to be thinking of that. “Doesn’t matter. You still rear-ended me.”

“I did. And I’m sorry,” she said, pulling out all of her diplomacy skills she had from dealing with annoying clients. She unbuckled her seatbelt and stepped out. Thankfully she wasn’t more than just shaken up and hoped to hell she didn’t get two shiners from this.

“Yeah,” he said, “I get it. Sorry. I’m running late for a meeting and this is putting me behind even more. Really, are you okay?”

“Shit,” she said, looking at her watch. Her hand went to her mouth. She never swore. “I’ve got a client that will be in my office in ten minutes.”

“I guess you are okay if that is the first thought on your mind. Looks like we’re both going to be missing our meetings. I’m Gabe, by the way.”

“Leah,” she said. “I guess one of us should call the police and I’m probably going to need a tow truck. I thought BMWs were made tougher than this.”

She was looking at her white BMW’s front end all crumpled up against the rear end of Gabe’s black one.

“At least we’ve got great taste in cars,” he said, but he didn’t laugh and neither did she.

She took another deep breath in since she’d mastered the breathing technique to get through the day at times, then she walked around to the passenger door and grabbed all her information for when the police showed up.

She wasn’t in the mood to chat with him, instead calling Madeline, her client that she was going to have to cancel, and then checking her text and email while trying to kill time. She was swamped and needed a full time assistant in the worst way but wasn’t quite ready to afford one yet.

There were so many things she wanted to do to expand her business. So many ideas, but for the moment, her methods of drumming up clients and vendors were working, so she had to stick with it unless she wanted to cut other expenses. Since she was bare bones in most areas, it wasn’t an option.

An hour later, the pleasantries of the police and sexy Gabe were done, they’d exchanged business cards in case there were any insurance issues, and she climbed into the tow truck to be brought to the BMW dealership for a rental while Gabe drove away.

She ran smack dab into a sexy guy and rather than getting her number for a date, she hoped she didn’t get a lawsuit.

Just another day in her life it seemed.

Another Chance…Chapter Two @natalieann121 #mgtab

Another Chance

The last teaser of Another Chance!! Catch up on the Prologue and Chapter One.

Here is Chapter Two

Blew Up

“So that was Matt, wasn’t it?”

Dena looked to see Amber standing next to her. Everyone had left but the two of them. They were just waiting for Amber’s husband, Zach, to pick them up and bring them home. Since Celeste hadn’t been drinking she dropped the rest of the girls off.

“How did you guess?” Dena asked, looking around the pub. He was gone now, but she hadn’t seen him leave. Once she’d walked back to her table, she angled her chair so that she didn’t have a view of the bar or the door. No reason to give into temptation.

“I saw you freeze when he walked in the door. I put the two together. At first I didn’t recognize him. Remember, you guys were a few years behind me in school.”

“Yeah,” Dena said softly. She really didn’t want to talk about this, but knew Amber wouldn’t let it drop. She never did.

“I hate to say this, and please don’t think I’m not on your side because you know I am. But damn, he has only gotten better with age.”

“I noticed,” she said dryly. Not that she wanted to, but it was hard to avoid it.

He was still just brushing six foot. Dark hair that was lush and wavy. Big brown eyes that she’d always lost herself in. He’d always taken such care with his appearance, but for some reason he looked a little off tonight. He was gorgeous as ever, his full lips so soft and kissable—she hated that those thoughts popped into her head—but he looked thinner than she’d seen before. His sharp cheekbones were more pronounced and his eyes looked tired, even troubled.

She hadn’t seen him personally since he walked out on her that night before they both left for college, but like the idiot she was, she’d never been able to put him far from her mind.

Social media posts drew her in like a bee to a flower. She didn’t follow him, but others she followed did and it was hard to avoid things about him all the time.

He was some big time lawyer in Manhattan like he always wanted to be at his stepbrother’s father’s firm. She was guessing he’d made it to the partner status he was striving for too, but wasn’t positive. It had always hurt too much looking into him more than necessary. Like holding onto the old dream knowing the outcome still broke her heart.

In the past two years if she saw anything regarding him, she clicked away. It was just too heart wrenching to keep stalking information on him. Between that and running into his mother and stepfather from time to time, she couldn’t seem to move past the shattered remains of her emotions and anger that had built up so high.

“Why was he limping?” Amber asked.

“What?” she said, turning to look at Amber now. She’d been looking off into the distance hoping Amber would change the subject.

“You didn’t notice he was limping?”

“No. I was opening the bathroom door and ran into him, but then I walked away. I didn’t see him leave nor did I watch him walk once he entered the front door.” Why hadn’t she’d paid attention to something like that?

“You had words with him when you went to the bathroom and are just telling me now?” Amber said, holding her by the shoulders. “No wonder you came back shaken. What did the prick have to say?”

Amber had always been blunt and to the point, but supportive as ever. “Not much,” she said. It was only a few words and Dena was positive Matt would be gone from Lake Placid within days. No use hashing it all out, even in her head.

But by the time Zach dropped her off at her apartment, the tears she’d been battling just let loose. Of all the freaking nights for Matt to make an appearance in her life—her thirtieth birthday with her closest friends.

She was supposed to be celebrating and having a great time. Not thinking about the past that blew up in her face like dynamite to an old abandoned warehouse.

Not wondering why she was never enough for him to come back to. Or for him to even stay. Not to even talk to her about it.

If given the chance, maybe she would have moved, but he never gave it to her.

They were both young and they had their whole lives ahead of them. He couldn’t expect her to make a permanent decision at such a time. It had been hard enough just going a few hours away from her father, but promising she’d leave forever? Please…she was only eighteen!

Once she was ready for bed, she shut the light off and climbed in, knuckled a few stray tears away and told herself that she was ready to move on with her life.

All those years ago she’d promised she’d never give him another chance—not like he was asking—but it was time to commit to that promise.

It was time to push Matt Winters from her mind once and for all.

 

***

 

Matt had been back to town for about a week now. He knew at some point he’d seek Dena out; he just didn’t know when or how and hated that it happened the way it had.

That he wasn’t prepared, when he prided himself on always being prepared for everything in life.

He was as good as he was at his job because he planned it all out. Even his life… “Take no chances” had been his motto.

He knew he wanted to be a lawyer when he was fifteen. He knew he was going to work for his stepbrother’s father’s firm too. How did he know? Because his stepbrother Randall told him.

Randall was years older than him and already practicing at that point. Whenever Matt had gone back to visit his father and stepmother, Randall would stop over to see him and take him under his wing. Tell him all about the wonderful and exciting life he had and how it could all be Matt’s one day too. An impressionable teen at that point, he was looking for anyone that would show some interest in him.

What he’d seen in Randall was someone that he could look up to. Someone that had it all together and was going to be successful. Everything Matt had wanted himself.

Sure, his father was smart and successful, but he was an engineer. Nothing exciting in that that Matt had ever seen. But moving to Lake Placid with his mother and stepfather had been the worst thing for a kid to have happen his freshman year in high school.

To go from being a short train ride to one of the most exciting cities in the US to some backwoods mountain where all you could do was ski or play ice hockey in the winter. The summer you could swim in the lake, but other than that, there wasn’t much for Matt to do. Not like he was used to. He’d never been an active outdoorsman and that was what Lake Placid catered to.

But he’d met Dena Hall and everything about Lake Placid didn’t seem so bad.

In the back of his mind he knew he was leaving the first chance he got and he’d told her so. Multiple times. She just never seemed to want to believe him. Or even listen to him when he’d come back from visits with his father and tell her about all the great things he’d done and how fun it’d be to live there.

Not even when he said he was going to Columbia University. That he was going to be a lawyer in the big city. That life was going to go back to the way it was for him before he was forced to this Godforsaken land.

Yet she still seemed so shocked when he told her the night before he left for good.

He wanted her to go with him. He all but begged her, but she’d always said, “I won’t leave my father. He’s already had one woman leave him, I won’t be the second. We’re all that the other has right now.”

“What about me?” he’d asked her. “You’d have me.”

She said it wasn’t the same and it hurt. Hurt more than when he found he’d be moving here to begin with. It seemed no one really wanted him the way he needed. No one put him first, except Randall taking him under his wing.

So he wanted her to hurt just as much and broke it off sharp and swift. He’d told himself it was better that way. That there would be no confusion or misunderstanding.

She’d know he wasn’t coming back and that she was the one who’d made that choice by not even giving him a chance, but telling him multiple times she’d never leave Lake Placid.

Well, she was right since she was still here. So then why was he wrong? Why did he come back?

Simple. He’d stared death in the eyes. He woke up in that hospital and knew that by his own stubbornness he’d thrown away what was the best thing in his life.

He’d never been able to find it again and was determined to win her back.

So he was here in this town he hated so much, but looking at it through the eyes of an adult and seeing it wasn’t so bad after all.

That everything he wanted in the big city didn’t happen the way he’d planned on it. That people made him promises they didn’t keep and used him for their own personal gain.

The question was, could he get Dena to break the promise she’d made to him years ago? Because he was determined that she’d take him back.

 

 

Another Chance…Chapter One #mgtab @Natalieann121

Another Chance

If you haven’t read the Prologue yet, you can catch up. Here is Chapter One!

Convinced Him

Twelve years later

“I’m so glad you all could come out with me tonight,” Dena said, looking around the table.

It was her thirtieth birthday and she wanted dinner and drinks with her girls. Everyone was married, or soon to be, but her, not that it mattered. All that mattered was that she wasn’t alone on this night.

“We wouldn’t make you have a solo drink,” Amber Monroe said. Amber and she had worked together for years for Dr. Max Hamilton and became the best of friends. Max’s wife, Quinn, was even sitting at the table with them.

“I needed to get away from Cole and TJ tonight. I’m not sure which one of them was whining more,” Rene said. Rene McGuire got married over the summer to Cole, and TJ was almost a year old. Rene had been working with Amber and her for two years now and fit in so well in their office.

“Cole always did whine when he was tired. They’re probably both sleeping on the couch right now,” Celeste Ryder said. Celeste was Cole’s twin sister and another close friend of the group. More like a co-worker of sorts. Celeste and Max jointly owned and operated a bed and breakfast solely catering to Max’s patients.

“How’s Jocelyn sleeping?” Riley Hamilton asked Quinn. Riley was Max’s sister, and Quinn had Jocelyn last May. Max also had two older kids from his first marriage.

“Sounds like she is sleeping much better than TJ is,” Quinn said, grinning.

“I’ll take Jocelyn anytime you and Max want a date night. I’ll take all three kids,” Riley said. “It will give Trevor and me some practice.”

Everyone at the table laughed. Trevor Miles, Chief of Police of Lake Placid, and Riley were newly engaged. “Come on now, Riley,” Amber said. “Max was telling us all that Trevor has the magic touch with the kids. You need the practice, not him.”

Riley wrinkled her nose. “I need kids in the house to practice though,” she argued.

Dena watched all the women at the table and fought back the envy. She should have been the first one married with kids by now. Not the last.

Twelve years ago she had it all planned out. She and Matt were going to college and when they were both done, they’d marry and have kids. Live happily ever after.

Sure, she knew Matt wanted no part of moving back to Lake Placid, but she’d been positive she could have convinced him otherwise. Except he dropped her like a hot potato straight out of the microwave and never gave her a chance to even decide if she wanted to move or not to be with him.

If she’d been given the choice, she might have. But she never was and it was water under the bridge of the tears she’d shed.

Now what mattered was the waitress who came over and started to take their orders. “Two bottles of wine,” Dena said. “My treat.”

“Shots,” Amber said. “My treat.”

“Just water for me,” Celeste said, looking down.

The waitress walked away and all eyes turned to Celeste. She’d been married well over a year now and had been trying to get pregnant. Since she’d had childhood cancer and extreme treatments, there was the possibility of her not conceiving. It wasn’t something that was talked about often, but right now might be a different story.

“You’re going to say it now?” Rene asked her sister-in-law.

“I really shouldn’t say anything. It’s too soon,” Celeste said, her eyes filling but a bright smile on her face. “I know you know what is going on, Rene.”

“Are you pregnant?” Amber asked, jumping out of her chair and running to Celeste. “Did Caleb’s swimmers hit home?”

Celeste laughed. “Modern medicine might have had a part in it,” she said. “We haven’t wanted anyone to know, but we tried in vitro fertilization and it did confirm I’m pregnant.”

There was a lot of squealing at the table, Dena running over and hugging Celeste too. She was jealous, but she wasn’t a bitch. If anyone deserved this, it was Celeste. “I’m so happy.”

“Please don’t say anything,” Celeste pleaded. “I’ve got to tell Caleb you all know. I mean Rene knew.”

“You kept this secret,” Amber said to Rene.

“Yeah,” Dena said, staring at Rene too.

“Please. We’re family. She had to tell us,” Rene argued.

“Leave Rene alone,” Quinn said. The quietest of the group, and though she was only a few years older than Dena and closer to Celeste’s age, she was more motherly than them all. “You all would have done the same thing, but now we know and we won’t tell a soul, but we will talk about it in this group only. Right, Celeste?”

“Yes,” she said. “But this is Dena’s night, not mine. So, Dena,” Celeste said, “any exciting plans for your birthday?”

“You’re looking at it,” she said. “I’m out with my girls and that’s the best thing to do on your birthday.”

“It sure is,” Riley said.

The waitress brought over the bottles of wine and the shots. Everyone held their shots up and Dena said, “To me. The last of the single ladies. Maybe this is my lucky year.”

“To Dena,” they all said, downing their drinks.

The minute Dena put her glass down, she turned to see the man that walked in the door, felt her face pale and had to fight the urge to not regurgitate the fireball they all downed.

“What is it?” Rene asked, looking over.

“Nothing,” Dena said, reaching for the wine, knowing she’d need it.

Amber and Celeste both made eye contact with her, but she shook her head. They’d been a few years ahead of her in school and she doubted they’d remember what Matt looked like, but she knew she’d never forget, and looking at him just now walking through the door made her heart stop as much as it did the first time she saw him in high school.

 

***

 

Matt opened the door to the bar, saw his mother and stepfather to his right, and headed in that direction without looking anywhere else. He really wasn’t in the mood to be out tonight, but hadn’t felt like going back to his childhood home for a meal either. He was avoiding the place that caused so much of his misery as a teen.

“Matt,” his mother said, standing up. “You look great. How do you feel?”

“Fine,” he said, trying not to snap. He was sick and tired of everyone asking him that question but knew he needed to get over it, as it wasn’t going to stop anytime soon.

“I’m so glad you could make time for dinner out tonight,” she said.

“It’s better than cooking for myself,” he said back.

“Don’t get sarcastic with your mother,” Bob said to him. He and Bob never got along all that well. They didn’t have a dislike for each other as much as a distaste.

Bob made his mother happy and that was all that mattered. But Bob was the reason they moved here to begin with and Matt would always cast that blame on his stepfather’s shoulders.

“I’m not,” Matt said, having no energy to argue. “I was just speaking the truth.”

“Now isn’t the time, you two,” his mother said, always the peacemaker. He knew his mother was thrilled he was here. “Have you made any decision yet on your future?”

“No. I just need to get my head on straight and then I’ll decide,” he said.

“Lake Placid could always use another lawyer,” she said.

“I don’t know.” He didn’t know what he wanted to do or where he wanted to be. Now he just needed to recover physically and mentally. He just wasn’t sure which one was going to take the longest.

“I’m just glad you’re back here.”

He hadn’t decided if he was glad or not. He didn’t know what he was feeling, but after the past six months there was one thing he knew. He wasn’t going to be able to move on until he made amends to the woman he loved and somehow won her back.

When dinner was done, he got up to use the bathroom and headed back to his table when the women’s room door opened next to him. Hot damn, the woman of his dreams was standing right there.

But she wasn’t smiling and he didn’t expect her to.

No, there was a fire in her eyes, and as much as it shouldn’t turn him on, it sure the hell did. Just like all those years ago when he had his first taste of her. A young filly that was as eager as him.

Her dirty blonde hair hung loose and flowing around her shoulders like it always did. Her light brown eyes were staring him down with emotional clouds building and making him want to jump back from the twister forming that would suck him up and toss him through the sky like a piece of useless metal.

He didn’t. He stood his ground. “Dena.”

“What are you doing here?” she asked, crossing her arms.

“Here in the restaurant? Or here in Lake Placid?”

“Both,” she said.

“Dinner with my mother and Bob. Why I’m here in Lake Placid is yet to be determined.”

He wasn’t about to lay his cards on the table at this moment. He had an uphill battle and he wasn’t sure he could even climb the stairs in his rental house half the time let alone this mountain that was going to be standing in his way.

A chisel couldn’t break her stare while she seemed to be trying to figure out her words. She never did that before—hesitated on her words—but the stare was familiar. He’d expected the frigid January temperatures of the outside to be aimed at him and he wasn’t wrong.

“I’m sure I won’t run into you again before you leave since you never planned on coming back.”

“Things change,” he said softly.

“Maybe in your mind, but not mine.”

He was afraid of that.

She didn’t bother to wait around and moved past him, but he still said, “Happy Birthday, Dena.”

Her shoulders stiffened, but other than that, there was nothing else to acknowledge she heard him.

Mount Olympus, here I come.

 

Fierce-Ella…Chapter One #mgtab @Natalieann121

 

Ella4

Catch up on the prologue before you read the first chapter!

Up to Something

Fourteen years later

 

“Mom,” Ella said. “I didn’t want to spend all day here. What is it that you’re looking for? Didn’t you buy enough stuff before Christmas?”

“I can’t stop myself from buying clothes for Jake and Jeremy. They look so much like Mason, and Jessica said they’re growing out of everything. Just like your brothers did. Jessica’s still recovering. She told me that the boys needed clothes.”

Ella rolled her eyes. Her twin nephews were five weeks old. Yes, Jessica had a C-section and was still recovering, but she wasn’t so weak that she couldn’t run to the store or order clothes online if the boys needed anything.

Which they didn’t because Ella alone had purchased over ten outfits for each of them for Christmas, all in the next size. Her mother was up to something and she was trying to figure out what it was. Thankfully, Ella was known for an abundance of patience. Something her mother lacked.

“Then why haven’t we gone into one children’s department store? You keep dragging me to women’s departments.”

“I don’t understand, Ella. You always loved to shop before.”

“I love to shop all the time, but I’m busy at work and I don’t really need anything with Christmas only being last week. You bought me a bunch of clothes, along with everyone else.”

“That’s because we all know how much you love clothes,” her mother said, bobbing her head up and down like she had all of Ella’s life. She’d never stop doing that either and Ella wondered if it was possible for someone to suffer a concussion from it with the speed her mother exhibited.

“Let’s go get some lunch and have a seat. Then you can tell me what this trip to the mall is all about before I go back to work.”

“You never take a day off. Why can’t you stay away for one full day?” her mother asked when they sat down in a booth at a restaurant in the mall. “Why can’t we just have a girl’s day to ourselves? One full day?”

She felt the tug of guilt, but since she’d spent several girls’ days with her mother in the past two months, she wasn’t falling for it today. “Because I’ve got too much work to do and no one else can do it but me.”

“Teach someone,” her mother argued.

Ella snorted out a laugh that had no humor in it at all. “It’s not that simple. There are things only the five of us do and know about.”

“There are nine of you now. Show one of the other girls how to do something.”

“Aimee has no desire to learn anything in the office. She runs the bar with Brody and it’s her thing. She’s good at it and she likes working with Cade and Aiden when it comes to food and promotions in the bar.”

“That’s true. What a good fit Aimee was for Brody.”

“You’d know. You found her.” Ella never suspected it until her third brother started dating someone seriously. None of them dated anyone seriously for years, and then they started dropping like flies caught in a web.

Her mother ignored her. “Fine. Then ask Nic.”

“Nic is in the kitchen with Aiden. She has her hands full and she doesn’t like working in an office. Again, she’s with Cade when it comes to taking pictures for the promotions and when she isn’t doing that, she is doing all the paperwork that Aiden can’t stand to do.”

“That’s another good fit too. I’ve been blessed with two wonderful daughters-in-law.”

“Again. You picked out Nic too.” She was just waiting for her mother to finally admit it.

“Speaking of daughters-in-law, I can’t wait until Mason and Jessica get married this summer.”

“You love having all these weddings so close together.”

“Of course I do. What mother doesn’t want to see her kids settled down? Jessica told me that she and Mason are each going to hold one of the twins during the ceremony. How sweet is that going to be?”

“Very sweet,” Ella agreed. Then again, Mason was always the sweet one of the group.

“Now we just need Cade and Alex to pick a date. I hope they don’t wait too long.”

“Just tell me the truth, Mom. You picked out Alex too. Why can’t you admit it to me? Everyone knows except Cade and Alex.”

“You’re not going to tell them, are you?” her mother asked frantically. She never had a poker face as much as she’d thought she did.

That was almost an admission, which Ella wanted to point out, but chose to store it away for another day. “Would it matter? Brody, Aiden, and Mason know they were set up and they aren’t upset over it.”

“Give Cade some more time. Speaking of that…if they aren’t upset over it, then why are you so set against me finding someone for you?”

“Don’t even think about going behind my back and doing that. I’m the only one who was on to you. I’ve got my eye on you right now.”

“Such a smart girl you are, Ella. Which is why I’m not going to go behind your back.” Before Ella could say anything, her mother turned to two men in suits at the table next to them. “Are either of you single? My daughter is. Isn’t she just lovely?”

“Mom,” Ella said, her face turning red. “Ignore her. She hasn’t taken her meds today and just blurts things out without thought if we don’t keep a tight rein on her.”

“Ella Marie,” her mother said, her jaw dropping. “What a horrible thing to say about your mother.”

The two men were laughing at them now. “Sorry, I’m married,” one man said.

The other said, “I’m not, but have a girlfriend. I know a few guys that might be interested though if you’re up for a blind date.”

“Take them up on it, Ella,” her mother urged. “You haven’t been on a date in way too long.”

Talk about mortification. Ella turned to the men, put her best business face on and said, “No, thank you. Sorry to interrupt your lunch.” Then she turned back to her mother. “That’s just rotten and you know it.”

“I said I wouldn’t go behind your back. I might as well do it in front of you now.”

“You’re impossible,” Ella said.

“You wouldn’t have me any other way.”

 

***

 

“Honey, I’m home,” Jolene shouted two hours later. “Gavin, where are you?”

“I’m in the kitchen,” he shouted back. Their house was always filled with yelling. Four big loud sons, her husband the biggest of all the boys in the house, and her and Ella. Everyone was always talking over the other.

“I didn’t have any luck today,” she said, dropping her bags on the floor.

Her husband of thirty-seven years looked down at her loot. “You could have fooled me.”

She waved her hand. “I always have luck shopping. I got the grandkids some clothes and toys.”

“As if they don’t have enough from what you filled under the tree this year. We’re going to have to get a bigger tree and put it in the larger family room next year,” he said.

She smiled at him, then walked over and gave him a loud smacking kiss. “I remember a time you wouldn’t have considered a tree, let alone Christmas decorations in the bar.”

“Then some smooth-talking beautiful woman told me to stop being a Bah Humbug and get over myself.”

“Aren’t you so glad you listened to me all those years ago?” she asked, loving that he wrapped her up tight in his arms just now. She’d never grow tired of being held by him and she wanted all her children to experience a love like she’d had for almost four decades.

“I am. So tell me what you aren’t having luck with if it wasn’t shopping?”

“Ella. I tried to introduce her to two very nice men in suits at the restaurant during lunch and asked if they wanted to take her on a date.”

“You didn’t,” he asked, pushing her back a little.

She stepped out of his arms and went to the fridge to get a beer. She needed one right now, then grabbed one for him. “I did. She told me she was going to be watching me now that she figured out I set the four boys up.”

“You actually admitted it to her?” he asked, looking shocked.

“Of course not, but I didn’t deny it. Why bother at this point? Anyway, I told her I wouldn’t go behind her back. I’m just going to do it in front of her face.”

“I can only imagine her reaction to that.”

“She told the two men I hadn’t taken my meds today and to ignore me.”

Gavin burst out laughing. “You should know better than to butt heads with Ella.”

“She learned everything from me. I’m older and wiser and I’ll still find someone for her.”

Gavin shook his head. “Leave Ella alone. Let her figure this out on her own. She’s always had the hardest time finding a man. Harder than the boys finding women.”

“That’s because the boys really did terrorize everyone she was interested in,” she argued.

“She set herself up for a lot of it. Always running around besting them her whole life and rubbing their faces in it. Then when she turned fourteen she stopped being a tomboy overnight and turned into a beauty queen. Those boys didn’t know what hit them and they got scared.”

She remembered the first time Ella asked her to go shopping and they turned her jeans and sneakers into skirts and shoes. She was so proud of her only daughter back then turning into a lady. But her sons all panicked and she’d heard them later that night formulating a plan to make sure no one touched their baby sister. She’d been proud of them too, but would never admit that to Ella.

“Ella has been there for each and every one of those boys through everything. Maybe now that they are all married, or soon to be, and have wives that could and probably will kick their butts, they won’t interfere with Ella finding a mate. That’s why it should be easier.”

“Jolene. Do me a favor and take a breather. Be happy you found someone for the boys, but Ella needs to be handled differently.”

“I know. Which is why I’m going to be right up front with it. I’ll find someone. You just wait,” she said confidently rubbing her hands together. Her husband grabbed his beer, rolled his eyes, and walked out of the room. “I’m telling you, Gavin,” she shouted after him. “I’ll find her the perfect man.”

Chasing Love…Prologue #mgtab @NatalieAnn121

chasinglove

Time for a glimpse into Chasing Love.

Prologue

“Meena, stop following us everywhere.”

Meena squinted her eyes at her older brother. She was bored and there was nothing to do. “Why can’t I play with you and Troy?”

“Because you’re ten and we’re fifteen and we don’t play anymore,” Brian said.

“Meena,” her mother said from the kitchen where she was baking cookies. The smell of ginger was awesome and she couldn’t wait to eat some, but she didn’t want to help make them. Baking wasn’t her thing. Neither was cooking or doing arts and crafts, coloring or playing with dolls. All the things her mother wanted her to do. “Leave your brother and Troy alone.”

“But I want to go outside with them,” she argued.

Her mother’s sigh could be heard loud and clear. “You can go outside but don’t go chasing them around. Let them be.”

Meena would take it as a win and rushed out the side door her brother and his best friend Troy just exited. Brian was lucky that his best friend lived in the same development as them, even if it was a few streets over. He was old enough to ride his bike around on his own with his friends, but she had to stay in the cul de sac where she could be seen.

When she was adventurous—which was often if her mother could be believed—she pushed her boundaries by going to the end of the street. Her mom could still see her if she craned her neck out the kitchen window more and that had been Meena’s answer.

Brian turned when Meena ran into the garage and got on her bike next to the older boys. “What are you doing out here, clown?”

“I’m not a clown,” Meena said, looking down at her rainbow tutu that she’d had on over neon green leggings. “You just wish you had my fashion sense.”

“She has you there,” Troy said to Brian. “I’d like to see you pull off that look.”

Meena giggled. If she was always chasing them around it was because she wanted to be by Troy and not Brian. Troy was always nice to her and made her giggle more than normal. He made all these funny feelings erupt in her belly a lot too.

“At least I can match my socks,” Brian said, laughing.

“It’s the style,” Meena argued. “You’ve got none, that’s why you can’t pull it off.”

“The style is to make sure you wear the brightest, boldest colors and nothing matches?” Brian asked, smirking. “I’ll stay out of style if you don’t mind.”

Meena shrugged. She was used to the comments that she received. Not just from her brother or her parents—who were too dull and boring in her eyes. Her parents were probably closer to most grandparents’ age and they looked it. Except when her mother went to work at the hospital. She was thinking those ugly black scrubs would always be around for the nurses.

Her father still wore a suit and tie to work every day to the insurance firm he owned. A black or blue suit with a white shirt and a solid-color tie. Usually red or blue. Lame! She hadn’t once seen him wear one of the ties she’d picked out for him. Her father didn’t believe her when she said pink and purple stripes looked good on him.

“That’s because you boys are boring,” she said back. Both of them were just wearing athletic shorts and some T-shirt with a logo on it. Neither Brian nor Troy ever wanted to really stand out and she didn’t understand that. Standing out from the crowd was fun and exciting.

How come no one thought like she did?

Troy laughed at her. “I like boring just fine, Meena. But you look cute dressed the way you are. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.”

Her smile lifted even more. Troy never picked on her. He never made fun of her. He said she looked cute. She wondered if he felt all those warm fuzzy bunnies hopping around in his belly like she did too.

“Thanks, Troy. You’re a lot nicer to me than my brother.”

“That’s because you’re not bugging him twenty-four seven like you do me.” But Brian brought his bike closer to her and tugged on her ponytail playfully. She wanted to be annoyed at him but found she couldn’t be. He’d never been really mean to her. He just wanted space that she didn’t feel like giving him.

“Can I go with you two, please?” she asked, trying one last time.

“No, Meena,” Brian said. “You’re too young and we’re going to hang out with our friends at the park.”

“Maybe another time,” Troy said, and the two of them started to pedal away.

“Why would you say that to her?” she heard her brother say to Troy. “Don’t encourage her to hang around us even more.”

“She’s just a kid looking for attention,” Troy said. “She only wants a friend to play with.”

Meena narrowed her eyes at the boy’s retreating back, then whispered to herself, “A friend, Troy? I don’t think so.” She giggled to herself. “You’re going to be my husband someday.”

Winter Love…Chapter One…#mgtab @Natalieann121

WINTERLOVE(1)

This is the last little teaser of Winter Love before the release. If you haven’t read the prologue yet, you can catch up.

One For The Books

Seven Months Later

Kendall shut her door and got out, then looked around the parking lot. There was more snow here than in Albany when she’d left this morning.

The wind was brisk and cutting right through to her neck, so she zipped her parka up higher and fought back the shiver.

Going to the back of her SUV, she pulled out one large piece of luggage and set it on the ground, thankful the pavement was clear and it would wheel easily enough to the front door of the lodge. The rest of her luggage could stay put for now.

She opened the front door and was just amazed by her surroundings. She’d been traveling for six months and she was wondering why she went to the tropical warm places in the summer and now, in the middle of the winter, she was in one of the coldest places on earth.

She knew why, but didn’t want to acknowledge it. Not even internally.

Probably not the coldest place on earth either, but Lake Placid sure felt that way. There had to be at least three feet of snow piled in places. She’d spent her six months out of the country like she’d told herself she was going to, and the next six were going to be a road trip.

One for the books.

One in honor of her parents.

This wasn’t really a lodge. Not like she’d thought, even though their website should have prepared her. The front lobby was massive with easily fifteen-foot ceilings. There was a roaring fire going in a fireplace surrounded by multiple pieces of leather furniture that were currently occupied by several people. Some drinking beverages in mugs, others in beer glasses. Both would be welcome right now.

“Can I help you?” the young woman behind the counter Kendall had stopped at asked. She’d just briefly glanced at the entrance of a shop and a restaurant on the other side of the building. She’d check them out soon enough. At least the restaurant since she was starving.

“Kendall Hendricks. I’m checking in.”

“Ah. So glad you made it,” the young clerk said. Shelly, her nametag said.

Check-in was at three, but since she was a day late, she figured they’d have no problem checking her in at noon. She’d left New York City while it was flurrying at nine yesterday morning. By the time she reached Albany, it was coming down harder and her lack of driving ability in anything other than rain made her stop for the day and grab a hotel.

“It seems you got a lot more snow here than in Albany,” she said.

Shelly waved her hand. “We got about ten inches yesterday but that’s nothing. It’s the wind that is the killer at times.”

“I’m glad I stayed back then.”

Ten inches was normal? What the heck was she doing coming here in the middle of the winter and staying for weeks on end? It was bad enough she had to buy an entire wardrobe to come East and start her trip at this end of the US.

“Shelly, I’m running—oh sorry, I’ll wait until you’re done.”

“Not a problem, Zeke. I’ll just be a minute.”

Kendall looked at the guy that had walked out a door behind the counter talking without looking. He was standing there fully dressed in winter bib overalls with an open parka and a helmet in his hand.

Shelly turned back to her. “You’re in Room 210. The elevator is to the left just past the stairs.”

There were only two floors with rooms. Fifteen rooms on each floor. But the property held several single-room cabins with efficiencies and a few multi-room cottages. She would have loved to reserve a cabin, but by the time she decided to come here, there were no vacancies for anything other than a room at the main lodge for her length of stay. She had no desire to move around once she checked in.

All her searches told her this was the place to be for the winter. Not only did they boast a highly rated restaurant and banquet hall, but the grounds were huge, spreading out, filled with cross country ski and snowshoe trails, along with snowmobile trails during the winter. There were horses on the property if someone was brave enough to battle the cold for horseback riding in the winter, but that seemed to be more sought after in the warmer months when the hiking trails opened up too.

She was going to be brave and do it all. She was going to channel her parents’ inner adventure skills.

“If you have any questions or concerns with your room, there is a directory by the phone to call the front desk, room service, housekeeping, or maintenance.”

“Thanks,” she said, looking at the man called Zeke some more. He was tall, but with his bulky winter garb she had no clue of the type of body he had underneath. His light hair was longer, shoulder length, but pushed off his forehead. He didn’t look to be the type to secure it back with anything other than a bandana or a hat.

Hopefully. Man buns never did anything for her. She didn’t care for a guy who styled his hair the same way she could. Call it sexist, but there it was. Long hair was fine on a man, as long as he still looked like a man.

She turned to grab the handle on her suitcase, glancing back at Zeke. He’d been watching her, then he grinned and sent her a wink. She smiled and nodded, then moved past him toward the elevators, hearing him say to Shelly, “I’m heading out on the trails to look for any damage from the wind. I’ll be back in a few hours. You know how to reach me if you need anything.”

“Will do, Zeke.”

Kendall got in the elevator and gave one more sidelong glance at Zeke. His name even fit him. He looked like a ski bum, one that might be a lot of fun to get to know while she was here, if he was single. This was actually the longest she’d planned on staying in one place: three weeks.

She was friendly and had no problem chatting up the locals, employees and businessmen alike. It helped her with her work for the moment.

Or what she was calling work for the past several months. Not like she was getting paid for it, but it was occupying her time and that was the point.

When the elevator dinged, she got out and turned down the hall to her room, slid the keycard through and pushed the door open when the light flashed green.

It was a pretty spacious room. The downstairs looked like a lodge with large light-colored logs making up the walls and ceiling, but the upstairs looked more like a hotel.

Her room had a nice queen-sized bed in the center, a flat screen TV on the wall above a large dresser. She unzipped her parka and took it off, then hung it up in a small closet. Looked big enough for winter clothes and skis to be stored in there. That was a nice bonus. Not that she had any equipment. She’d be renting it when the time came.

She popped her head into the bathroom, standard and good enough for her. There were a small fridge and a coffee maker on a counter against another wall, so that was a side benefit too.

She covered a yawn, sitting on the bed. She’d planned on unpacking, but maybe it wouldn’t hurt to lie down for a bit and rest. It was just nice knowing she’d be in one spot for a few weeks and she could take advantage of actually trying to relax…finally.

Christmas Love #mgtab

CHRISTMALOVE

What happens when even the strongest are blinded by insecurities?

Former model, Noelle Bennett has decided she wants to be behind the camera instead of in front of it. She is longing for peace and quiet. No more traveling. No more crowds. No more men hitting on her left and right. Or people only wanting one thing from her. Just her and the woods around her little home, snapping pictures of the landscape beyond. A normal life for once…maybe.

Veterinarian Chase Martin has always gotten along better with animals than people. So when a sexy woman who looks like she just walked out of a fashion magazine shows up at his clinic offering to volunteer to take pictures of the dogs for his rescue shelter, he finds what should have been a great idea turning into uncharted territory for them both. Now he is wondering how he got so lucky…or is it more how unlucky he’s always been?