Fierce- Wyatt…Chapter One

Wyatt(1)

 

Catch up on the Prologue

Chapter One

Feel The Heat

Seven years later

“I’m Dr. Fierce, your anesthesiologist for your surgery today,” Wyatt said, moving behind the curtain for his next patient while he waited for the OR to open up. Shouldn’t be much longer. “Can you state your name and the reason you are here? I’m sure you know the routine,” he said to the woman with a big smile. She was a cancer patient coming back in for another surgery after her scan showed a spot of concern. This one on her kidney.

“Ashley Brookshire. And another Dr. Fierce is going to go in and remove some tissue from my kidney that with any luck is just some fat and not cancer.”

“That is exactly what we are all hoping for,” he said, rubbing his hand on her foot.

Most of the patients coming in for surgery were scared. They were stressed. They were emotional.

It was his job to not only make sure it was a safe and painless procedure but also to try to calm them. No doctor wanted a hysterical patient on their table.

Of course that was why there were such things as “happy” juice to calm a patient down. But if he didn’t need to do it, he wouldn’t.

Ashley seemed pretty darn calm to him.

“The other Dr. Fierce—a brother by any chance?” she asked.

“Cousin,” he said of his cousin Sam that was the surgeon performing the procedure. He was in another OR right now, just finishing up. When the room was ready, Ashley was the next patient.

“So, good genes in your family,” she said, wiggling her eyebrows. He turned when the curtain opened and saw a man walk in. “Steven, this is Dr. Fierce. Dr. Fierce, my surgeon’s cousin. Wow, it might get confusing in here.”

Wyatt laughed. “It can when we have our masks on. Don’t worry, we don’t often switch positions in the OR. I’m the one who likes to put people to sleep. Guess I’m just boring that way.”

Ashley laughed. “Something tells me you aren’t very boring. But anyway. Here we are. Waiting to find out the results. My oncologist told me since the last tumor that was removed was contained and small that I will only need radiation on my thyroid. I can handle that. Not a problem.”

“Sounds like you’ve got a great attitude.”

“Yeah,” she said. “Thyroid cancer is easily treated, but that stupid CAT scan showed something on my kidney. My other surgeon couldn’t remove it and referred me to Dr. Fierce. Your cousin. Yeah, this is confusing.”

He laughed. He was used to it. “I get it. Sam—we’ll call him that, he’s good with it, even with his patients at times—is the best there is. You’re in great hands.”

“Good to know,” Steven said. “He told us that it could be nothing, but you won’t know until you biopsy it. Just wish she could be awake for it. I hate when she has to go under.”

Wyatt flipped through her history on his computer. He already knew she’d had a few surgeries in her past. “You seem like a pro to me when it comes to being operated on.”

“I don’t know about that. No one wants to be a pro at this, but I’m kind of a klutz. Or I was in school. I seemed to get injured in every sport or activity I did.”

“Which is why she doesn’t do much of those things anymore,” Steven said. “When we were younger it was fine. We’re too old for it now.”

“Now I’m also having surgery for carpal tunnel. I’m only thirty-eight. Come on,” she said, letting out a huff.

“Society spends a lot of time on computers now,” Wyatt said, holding his laptop up. He hated every minute of it too and wished more people were interested in getting out and doing rather than watching. “While we wait for the room to be open, I’ll tell you I’m a proponent of KIS when it comes to surgery.”

“You want a kiss?” she asked. “That’s getting a little personal, but if Steven looks away, I’ll give you one on the cheek.”

“Now I know why you are so laid back.”

If only everyone was like this, but Wyatt knew that wasn’t life. He’d had plenty that he walked in and saw them in tears and it just killed him. The first time that happened he threw all the things he was taught out the window about always being serious and professional at work.

When he was ready to get to work, he could toe the line with all the weight on his shoulders, but this was about the patient. This was about relaxing them and helping them. It was called humanity in his eyes so he’d done what came naturally to him.

“There are too many things to stress about. I’m going to hold out hope it’s nothing, but I need to know. It’s better to know than guess,” Ashley said.

“I agree. And I’m afraid your husband might deck me if you gave me a kiss. KIS. Keep it simple. I’m sure you’ve heard it called happy juice before, but it’s Versed. It relaxes you and makes you forget anything before you go under. Most people are anxious and need it. You don’t seem so. So I’m asking if you want it. I’ll gladly administer it, but if you don’t need it, why take something?”

Many thought he was nuts to give that option, but why inject yourself with a drug if you truly didn’t need it? He’d had plenty of patients wide awake while they were wheeled down, remembering everything, and carrying on normal conversations with him and the team in the OR before they went under.

“I don’t think I need it,” she said. “But what if I do? I mean I normally get it and though I’m not an anxious person, what if I start to panic?”

“It works fast. If you ask you’ll get it immediately.”

“I’d like to try without it. I get nauseous and they already gave me stuff for that. Maybe I’ll wake up faster if I don’t get that.”

“It could help too,” he said. “I like to give patients the choice.”

“Let’s go without it,” she said. “Will you be in there talking to me? It could distract me.”

“She’s flirting with you,” Steven said. “I can’t believe she is doing that.” Ashley’s husband shook his head. “She’s always been a flirt. You aren’t going to steal her away from me, are you? Try to woo her in the OR?”

“I don’t think I could possibly compete with you.”

“Steven is the best husband there is. You might be a treat to look at, but something tells me you break a lot of ladies’ hearts.”

He forced a grin. He’d been told that a lot in life, but he always went in letting everyone know where he stood.

Fun. That was what he wanted. He didn’t take a lot in life seriously other than his job. This took all his focus and outside of the OR he stayed clear of commitments, stress, and headaches like the devil avoided Sunday mass.

When the curtain moved aside, he was thankful that his cousin Sam arrived. “How are you doing today, Ashley?”

“Ready to get this over with. I’ve been picking on your cousin. I just said I bet he breaks a lot of hearts, but the truth is, you probably do too.”

Sam grinned. “I might have broken a few in the past, but I’ve got a fiancée now that has stolen my own heart.”

Wyatt rolled his eyes. Everyone was falling like flies around him. First Sam, then Sam’s brother Bryce, then Wyatt’s brother Drake and over the weekend Drake’s twin, Noah, got engaged at Easter dinner in front of the whole family.

He was starting to feel the heat like never before.

Did he always think he’d want to settle down at some point? Sure.

Was he looking for it? Not really.

But with everyone falling like first-time skiers on the bunny slopes, he felt like all eyes were on him. They were even dropping in birth order too. What were the chances of that happening?

“So, we are all set?” he asked Ashley.

“Yes. I’ll bypass that drug and go with KIS.”

“Is Dr. Fierce trying to get you to kiss him?” Sam asked. “He does that with all the patients.”

Wyatt shook his head at Sam. “What can I tell you, the patients like me better than you. Just like the family. You may be the oldest, but I’m the favorite.”

“You keep telling yourself that,” Sam said.

But he didn’t need to. He knew his family loved him. His family loved everyone equally. It’d always been that way. Even if he did seem to get more attention than most.

Twenty minutes later, he was in the OR talking with Ashley, asking how her Easter went and listening to the stories of how her kids were too old for Easter baskets.

The circulating and scrub nurses were moving around the room preparing lights, setting out instruments, and getting everything ready.

Sam gave him the nod they were good to go, so he said to Ashley, “I’m going to put the oxygen mask on you now and you might feel a burn with this injection. It won’t last long if you do.”

She bobbed her head up and down and was still talking. She was almost babbling a little about her holiday, but he kept it up with her until her eyes started to roll back in her head. She was still awake, not quite ready to go out.

“You almost ready, old man?” Wyatt said to Sam.

Sam laughed behind his mask. “I’m not that much older than you.”

“No,” Wyatt said, “but the big old ball and chain is going on in less than two weeks. That smacks old to me.” He glanced back down at the vitals and his patient. Her eyes popped back open again.

“Don’t be jealous,” Sam said. “You wish you had someone as great as Dani.”

“She is pretty hot,” Wyatt said back. “It was just your luck of the draw you saw her first.”

“Get over yourself. Dani couldn’t stop flirting with me the first time we met. I know how to lay on the charm.”

“You learned it from me,” Wyatt said. “I’ve lost my ride or die partner. This is the final goodbye.” Ashley was fighting it, but she’d be out soon.

“There’s always Ryder,” Sam said back.

“No, thank you. His taste in women is horrendous.” Sam’s youngest brother, Ryder, ended up with all the nut jobs. Or as Sam liked to call them, “life suckers” where they just drain the life out of you.

“You think yours is much better?”

He looked down at Ashley and stopped talking because it was time to be serious. It was time for him to do his job that he was so good at. It was time to focus. And ignore the shot his cousin took at him with lethal precision.

Ashley was out, so he finished up what he had to do, then turned to Sam and said, “The floor is all yours.”

Fierce- Wyatt…Prologue

Wyatt(1)

Prologue

Wyatt Fierce took a seat, ready to listen to Dr. Raymond talk about the field of study he’d been wanting to do for years.

He was made for this, even if others thought he was nuts.

He didn’t care. It was his life, his career, and he was going to prove them all wrong.

He leaned over and grinned at the resident that sat two seats down from him. Monique and he had a few drinks at the bar last night before both going on their way. She was here just like him, but she was tapping her feet almost shaking his own chair.

Nerves? Yep, pretty obvious on Monique. Not him.

Steel rods, that was what his nerves were made of.

“Look around this room,” Dr. Raymond said. Wyatt did what he was told, nodding to a few other residents he’d seen in the halls in the past few years. “Some of you are going to make it; most of you won’t.”

Wyatt had known that coming in. He wasn’t worried.

“I don’t mean make it as a doctor,” Dr. Raymond said. “You might end up in primary care, you might end up riding a desk, or even working in a morgue, but not all of you are going to be an anesthesiologist.”

Wyatt had been hearing this from people for years. He knew the stats and he didn’t care. He was going to be one in this room that made it and didn’t care if the rest failed.

Fierces didn’t fail and he wouldn’t be the first.

He sat back in the chair to get comfortable, his long legs stretched out in front of him, his arms crossed in front of his chest. Might as well relax because that was how he felt when others were sweating around him.

Normally he couldn’t sit still. He was always running, always finding things to do.

Not when it came to this though. Sit in place and listen. He’d get an A every single time.

Dr. Raymond was walking about the room now, looking at each and every one of them, stopping to stare, probably to intimidate. Wyatt didn’t care. He had this covered.

“Dr. Fierce,” Dr. Raymond said. He hadn’t realized the guy knew his name, but of course he could have read it on the lab coat.

“That’s me,” he said.

“With a name like that, I’m sure you’re pretty cocky and full of yourself.”

Wyatt grinned when others in the room snickered. “I like to think of it as confidence.”

“Same thing if it’s not controlled,” Dr. Raymond said. “I know all about you.”

Shit. What did that mean? In the hospital he gave it everything he had. He followed the rules and he did his job. He stayed late and he worked hard.

But outside of the hospital—when it was playtime—he played just as hard. Call it an outlet, he wasn’t sure, but he’d never been serious about anything in life, or so most said.

He was the joker of the family. The one always out to get a laugh.

The one always being a wiseass.

But when it came time to buckle down he had the straps in his hands and was ready to settle in.

“And what is that, Dr. Raymond?”

The pacing around the room started again while Dr. Raymond made him wait. If the doctor thought he’d see Wyatt sweat, he wasn’t going to.

“I think you know what I’m talking about. There are eyes everywhere. You’re always watched in and out of the hospital.”

“Understood,” he said.

“Do you know why this discipline of medicine is so hard?” he asked, looking around the room.

“Because it pays the most,” someone said. Wyatt almost said that but knew enough to keep his mouth shut since all eyes were on him. Not the time to be a smartass, he knew.

“That’s why so many want to do it,” Dr. Raymond said. “But they fail because the money is just a little bit of consolation for the stress and pressure of what you do every day in your job. You are responsible for your patients undergoing surgery safely and comfortably. You put them to sleep. And you wake them up. Or you better damn well make sure you do.”

Textbook explanation that everyone knew.

Wyatt shifted in the chair a bit. “Dr. Fierce, do you think you have the ability to take this seriously?”

“Dead serious,” he said, getting a little sick of the attention on him. Which was funny since he normally loved attention.

“And that is what your patient is going to be if you don’t. Dead.” The silence that greeted him with that statement was almost as bad as the last nail going into a coffin. “If you can’t take it. If anyone can’t, then there is the door. I’m going to get myself a coffee and if there are fewer of you in the room when I come back, then so be it.”

Dr. Raymond left and Wyatt watched as a few let out a breath. Monique from last night stood up. “What are you doing?” he asked her.

“I can’t do this,” she said.

“What? It’s just a speech. You don’t know until you at least try it,” he argued when two more people stood up. What the hell?

“Yep,” someone else said. “And I’m sweating and shaking listening to him talk. If I’m doing it now with words, I won’t be able to handle it in the OR. There are plenty of fields for me to go in and this one isn’t going to be it,” said the guy who’d earlier stated it was for the money.

Wyatt sat there while those three left. There were only five in the room now.

When Dr. Raymond came back, he was carrying a tray with four cups. “Wow. There is one extra than I anticipated to be here. Does someone want to volunteer to go get the fifth cup?”

Wyatt wasn’t leaving his seat. A guy behind him said, “I’ll do it.”

When he was out of the room, Dr. Raymond said, “And he won’t make it either.”

“Why?” someone else asked.

“Dr. Fierce, do you know why?”

“Because you never leave the room until everything is completed and everyone is safe. We’re all safe, but you haven’t finished.”

“Correct,” Dr. Raymond said. “Maybe I’m wrong about you, but we’ll see. I’m usually never wrong.”

Family Bonds-Hunter & Kayla…Chapter One

H&K (1)

 

Catch up on the Prologue here.

Chapter One

To Hell And Back

 

Ten years later

“Are you kidding me, Marcy?” Hunter said to his secretary.

“Sorry. I wish I were. Patrice called when you were on the phone and she said she’d be here if she could, but her son has been throwing up since four this morning. She doesn’t want to cancel the interview because it’s the only applicant she received for the front desk position.”

“And she thinks I’d be a good fit for doing the interview in her place?” he asked. “I run this hotel and have for three years. I don’t interview lower level staff. That’s what I’ve got staff for.”

He wasn’t trying to come off like an ass, just be firm though it didn’t always come across that way. Ever since his father finally handed the reins over full time, Hunter had been making all sorts of changes to the hundred-plus-year-old hotel that his Great-great-grandfather James started and he was stretched a little thin on time.

Bond Retreat was the first hotel on Amore Island. Many more had been erected since that time, yet only Bonds owned them. But the first one was special and had been turned into a retreat and destination wedding hotel and resort while the other hotels on the island were more for family vacationers. After all, it was the island for love—amore—so why not cash in on it?

“I understand, but Carol is off today.” Carol was the assistant manager and also oversaw the front line staff.

“What about Pete?”

“Pete in accounting? No one in finance would know what to ask. It’s a completely different job than what they do.”

Hunter ran his hand through his thick black hair. “How about you?” he asked Marcy.

“I’m your assistant. I don’t interview and you know it. I don’t want Patrice on my case if I hire the person and she doesn’t work out. She wouldn’t dare say anything to you.”

“I wouldn’t bet on that,” Hunter said. Patrice had been in her position for ten years and was five years older than him. Sometimes she let him know that too, in a polite way. He didn’t consider himself a hard employer—even when he was trying to be—but he was driven and wanted everyone to work the same as him.

Some of it was because of his name. The rest was his stubbornness to maintain the family reputation that had been built up again after Great-great-grandpa James blew their line all to hell and back.

“Don’t even think of bringing up any of the other managers at the resort. None of them will want a hand in this. If you can’t do it, I’ll call Patrice back and tell her that you said to reschedule it. It might be weeks before we get someone filled at the front desk though and we are paying overtime to the current staff. They are really pressed.”

His staff knew how to pile the guilt on his shoulders and he wondered how he could be so weak.

Or maybe he knew when to cave and when to fight. Just because he hated interviewing and didn’t have the time didn’t mean it wasn’t one of those days to help Patrice out of a bind.

He let out a breath. “Fine. What time is it scheduled for?”

“Eleven. Here is her resume. I’ll have the front desk send her here when she arrives.”

“You can wipe that smirk off your face now that you and Patrice got your way. I think you two put your heads together and decided to pin this on me.” He started to flip papers around on his desk. “I’ve got to meet with the people at the conference at ten. I might be late.”

Marcy laughed. “We’d never do that. And if you’re a few minutes late, she can wait, it’s not a big deal. After all, you’re the CEO and you’re busy. We know.”

When she walked out the door still laughing he knew they did plan it exactly the way it happened.

He lifted up the resume of Kayla Rivers and looked it over. The only hotel experience she had was in housekeeping eight years ago. Looked like she was there for a year and then moved on.

She moved on with a lot of jobs by the looks of it. Lots of customer service positions, but not much more. Some labor positions too. Nothing steady either.

There wasn’t much he could do other than give Kayla an interview and hope it wasn’t a complete waste of his time.

 

***

 

Nothing ever seemed to go according to plan, Kayla thought as she sat in the waiting room outside of Hunter Bond’s office.

She was supposed to be interviewing with the manager, Patrice Martin, but when she showed up she’d been told Patrice was out with a sick kid. As if that wasn’t bad enough, Kayla had almost missed her ferry.

Time had never been her friend. She wasn’t late often, but she was always there right on the dot, normally from running the last distance to get in the door on time…just like today.

The short run and fresh air at least added some color to her face and took her mind off the bumpy ferry ride that turned her stomach and face to match the color of seaweed. Having never been on a ferry before she had no idea she’d react that way.

The minute she was in the building Kayla realized she had five minutes to spare and asked the front desk where the bathroom was so she could check over her appearance.

She’d turned down a hall, figuring she was lost, and bumped into someone, stumbled and he had to reach out to steady her so she didn’t do a face plant and have to show up for her interview with a black eye. When she looked up it was a man. A hot man. One that was staring down at her with a grin on his face, his big hands on her shoulders and then dropping away faster than she’d hoped. Talk about a crazy thought.

“I’m so sorry,” she said, rambling on. “I’m here for an interview and I’m nervous and excited because this island is so beautiful, but I look like Cinderella after the coach turned back into a pumpkin thanks to that ferry ride. I thought I was going to get sick it was so windy. I asked where the bathroom was and now I think I’m lost. But I suppose I should thank you for stopping my fall or I might look like the pumpkin guts smashed into me when the coach changed over.”

The man was laughing now. Since he was dressed up and there were a lot of people walking around in business attire, she assumed he was there for the conference and here she was babbling like a fool to him. Typical.

“You’re not lost. Keep going down this hall and turn left. And don’t worry, you look fine.”
“Thank you,” she said. She took a deep breath, wrapped her hand around the star pendant on her necklace, grinned at him and dashed away.

A few minutes later on the tenth floor, the woman named Marcy said to her, “Kayla, Hunter is ready now, if you’ll follow me.”

Kayla stood up and followed Hunter’s secretary to his office. She felt so out of place with her cheap—but clean—black pants and a white shirt with a blue cardigan over it. She suspected all the executives were housed here on the tenth floor.

“Hi, Kayla,” Hunter said with his hand out, then motioning her to a chair over in a sitting area.

Yep, that black cloud that always floated over her head from the day she was born to a teenage mother that would rather party than raise her seemed to cover the island, too. Here it was again as she faced the man she’d bumped into in the hall, looking like a train wreck while she was lost in his hotel.

“Nice to meet you,” she said as calmly as she could. There wasn’t much she could do other than acknowledge what happened. “Or we meet again. I’m kind of embarrassed.”

“No reason to be. We’ve all had rough ferry rides. And I’m sure Marcy explained to you why I’m doing the interview. Normally I don’t have a hand in positions like this.”

Meaning positions that were completely beneath him, she was sure, but wasn’t stupid enough to voice that, especially after the first crazy impression she gave him. “Not a problem. This place is even nicer than it looks online.”

“You’ve never been to the island before, I take it?” he asked.

“No.”

“Well, you got here okay,” he said. “I guess the first thing I should bring up is not everyone that works on the island lives on the island, but it is much easier to reside here. The ferry almost always runs on time, though the weather does play a part. There are three different ferries that you can grab. Two from the south port and one on the north end that comes in from Boston.”

“That’s the other end of the island,” she said. “How many miles away is it?”

“The Romeo Port on the north end is about sixteen miles away. Juliet Port is the south port that I’m assuming you came in on.” She nodded her head. “You can get a ferry from Plymouth or Provincetown off of Cape Cod.”

She’d done her research on the resort and the ferry she was taking to get here and how to get from the ferry to the resort, but that was all she’d done since she’d been working, trying to make up the time for being off for this interview so she didn’t go unpaid.

“I wasn’t aware of the two different ports, just how to get here today.” She caught herself reaching for her necklace to fidget and pushed her hands back down. She should have known that information and hoped it wasn’t held against her. This morning was going from bad to worse. She should just get up and walk out. It’s not like she’d ever see him again once she got on the ferry.

“Not a problem,” he said. “And you didn’t find the ferry ride that wonderful?”

“It was bumpier than I thought. I’d had an Uber waiting for me and then had trouble finding them.” Always something, but she’d finally found the driver and then got to the resort in the nick of time and ran through the parking lots to get to the entrance.

“It can be worse. It’s a windy day out there today. If you get the job, like I said, there are three different ferries that arrive at multiple times throughout the day. The first comes in around seven in the morning; the last to depart is nine at night. The last arriving here at eight.”

“So if I missed the last one, I’m here for the night?” she asked. “What are the hours of this job?”

He grinned at her, his straight white teeth flashing like a beacon calling her forth. His blue eyes were as clear as the sky had been outside when she ran in the door and had a humorous glint to them as he gazed at her. “We would never schedule anyone where they might miss a ferry. This position would start at seven at night and end at six a.m. An hour lunch and it’s four ten-hour days. This gives you time to catch the first ferry after work and not worry about missing it if you get held up at work.”

“Does that happen often? Being held up?” she asked and wondered why she was because she knew she’d be living here if she got the position. Which was pretty much a pipe dream with the way things were going. Yet he wasn’t acting like she didn’t have a shot. Probably just being nice.

Sometimes she just didn’t think before speaking and had to shut her trap so she didn’t blow this interview.

“It can if your replacement is late or you are dealing with a guest. Though on the night shift you aren’t quite that busy.”

“That all sounds good,” she said. “But if I get the job I’ve got a place to stay on the island.”

“Good,” he said. “Then let’s talk about your experience. I see though you’ve never worked the front desk at a hotel you’ve got a lot of customer service experience. A nice well-rounded resume.”

Which was probably his polite way of saying she’d bopped around from job to job lately. “I don’t want you to think I can’t hold down a job. Some of them I was laid off when the work slowed down. Some just didn’t work out, and others I found a better job.”

“So you are always looking for a better job?” he asked.

“No,” she said. “Not really. I started working at a young age and I’ve got experience in a lot of fields as you can see. Some of it just wasn’t to my liking, but I’ve never left before a year at any of my jobs. Sometimes I have jobs that overlap if you look closely.”

He lowered his head and focused on her resume. “I see that.”

“I’m a hard worker,” she said earnestly. She didn’t want to beg, but now was the time to sell herself if she had any shot in hell at this job. “I like to learn new things. I’m trying to find a career over a job. I guess that is the best explanation.”

“And you think this would be a career for you?” he asked.

“I’d like it to be. I just want to settle down and have a normal life.”

He laughed. “Life on Amore Island is hardly normal, some would say.”

She grinned. “Is it true what they say? That most come here to find love or are hoping for it?”

“That’s what they say. An island started by lovers that even one of the biggest storms of that time couldn’t prevent them from meeting. But I’ve been on this island my whole life and it’s just home to me.”

“You’ve lived here your whole life?” she asked, surprised to hear that.

“Not entirely. I grew up in Boston but spent my weekends here working or hanging out. Later I traveled by ferry back and forth to Boston for a few years, then decided it was best to just stay here. I can go into the city anytime I want and do, but I live here now.”

“I always wanted to live on an island,” she said without thought. She couldn’t stop her lips from flapping like the wind on the ferry ride and getting off topic. He didn’t seem to mind though so that was good.

“Then I guess you’ll get your chance,” Hunter said.

“What? I’m hired?” Woohoo—wishing on her necklace worked when it never had before. Imagine that.

“You are. When can you start?”

“I have to give two week’s notice at my job and move my stuff over here. It shouldn’t be too hard.”

She didn’t think so. She was just going to pack what she had in her car and bring it over in a few trips. It’s not like she needed much since she was going to be renting a bedroom and wouldn’t need furniture. She’d sell the used stuff she had and get some extra money for it.

Hunter stood up so she did the same, noticed that he had to be at least seven inches taller than her five-foot-five-inch frame easily. She figured he was a busy man and this twenty-minute interview was probably enough for him.

Not only that, she got the job and needed to get out of there before she did or said anything else stupid and he rescinded the offer.

“If you have any questions or concerns about the job or the move, Patrice can help you. You’ve got her number, correct?”

“I do,” she said.

“I’ll let her know that I’ve hired you and she’ll be in touch.” He held his hand out for her to proceed to the door and she did so, turning to shake his hand one more time. She must be more messed up in the head because she felt a spark and heat like she had when his hands stopped her from falling.

“Thank you so much. I’m excited to start my new career.”

“That’s what sold me, you know,” he said.

“What?”

“I don’t care what the rest of your resume says. I see you’re a hard worker by the jobs you’ve held. But you don’t want a job, you want something meaningful and that means more to me than any work experience. You can be taught the rest.”

Kayla nodded her head, and when she was out the door, she reached up and clasped the silver star on her neck that she always thought was a good luck charm. The only frivolous gift she’d ever been given with words that she’d kept close to her heart. On her way here she had made a wish on it while she’d held her breath in an attempt to not toss her cookies on the ferry ride over.

As good days went in her life, this one was right up there.

 

 

 

Cupid’s Quest- Prologue

CupidQuest

Prologue

Ruby got out of the car and pulled her backpack from the backseat that had been sitting next to her, flung it over her shoulder and put her head down while she waited for the social worker to open the trunk for her larger duffel bag. That was it, all her possessions were portable and had been for the past ten years.

“You’ll like it here,” Missy said. Missy Carter was her eighth caseworker. Seemed no one stayed at this job for long.

“Whatever,” Ruby said. Missy was young, she was eager, and she was clueless. Give her a year or so—maybe even six months—and she wouldn’t be so peppy dealing with her clients.

The two of them walked up the creaky stairs to a chipped white front porch that had seen better days. Out of place in the corner was one spray-painted black rocking chair. There was room for plenty more, but that solo one told her all she needed to know about this house.

While they waited for the front door to be answered, Ruby looked around the neighborhood. It was pretty much like most of the other ones she’d lived in. Not completely run down, but not nice pretty suburbia. Yeah, wouldn’t that be sweet? If ever!

When the door was opened, Ruby got a look at her new foster mother. She was probably in her fifties, tall, stocky and rough around the edges. That had to be her chair that no one was allowed to sit in while she escaped from the wards under her roof.

“Mrs. Wilson, this is Ruby Gentile. I’m Missy Carter,” she said, putting her hand out. “We spoke on the phone. I’m so glad you’ve got room for Ruby.”

“Always room for kids,” Mrs. Wilson said. “Call me Candy. Everyone else does.”

“Thanks, Candy,” Missy said.

“Come on in. Shoes off,” Candy said to Ruby. “You walk in the door, you take your shoes off. We’ve got rules here and I expect them to be followed. If you do that, we’ll all get along just fine. If not…”

Yeah, Ruby knew what the “if not” meant. It meant she’d be moving once again. All she wanted to do was find a place where she could stay long enough to make it through her last two years of school, which was starting in three weeks. Another school district she was changing to.

Ruby slid her old sneakers off and left them by the door where a few other pairs were taking up residence. Four that she suspected belonged to other kids by the range of sizes. She continued to stand there in the doorway, not making a move until she was told. Been there and done that and wasn’t about to assume a damn thing.

“Would you like to show Ruby around before we talk and fill out paperwork?” Missy asked Candy.

“Sheri!” Candy yelled at the bottom of the stairs that they were facing as they stood in the foyer of the older home.

Ruby remained until she was told otherwise, heard a door open above them, and a teenage girl close to her age came to the top of the stairs. “Yes?”

“Ruby is in with you. Show her your room and explain how we do things here while I meet with the caseworker.”

She couldn’t even call Missy by her name. Yep, Ruby knew how it was going to be here for sure.

“Come on up,” Sheri said, a smile on her face. Not even a forced one. Maybe Ruby was wrong. Most kids didn’t smile in foster homes. They just wanted to get by.

Ruby turned to Missy. “Thank you.”

Missy put her hand on Ruby’s shoulder. “You’re welcome, sweetie. I’ll be in touch.”

She nodded her head and went up the stairs and to her new bedroom. It was small, had bunk beds and one single in the corner. She’d never had her own room anywhere and didn’t expect that here either.

“I’m on the top bunk,” Sheri said. “I like it there. Suzie is in the single. She is out in the backyard playing. She’s ten. That leaves you under me.”

“No problem,” Ruby said, walking over and putting her backpack on the plain tan bedspread. They had different colored bedspreads, but they were definitely simple and cheap. At least the second-story room had an air conditioning unit in the window, even if it wasn’t on, though it would be nice if it were.

Sheri must have caught her gaze. “We are allowed to put it on for four hours a day when we go to bed. So we turn it on at eight and off at midnight. I’ve found that it cools the room down enough to fall asleep and then stays decent most of the nights.”

“It’s better than I’ve had at other homes.”

“They are strict here, but if you follow the rules it’s not so bad,” Sheri said.

“Who lives here?”

“Candy and her husband, Colin. He works construction and is gone a lot. He’s nice enough, keeps to himself for the most part. We are just people in and out of his house in his eyes.”

“How many kids?”

“You are the fifth. There are two boys in another room. They are set up for six and try to keep it three boys and three girls. The house is big, but they keep us in these two rooms.”

“It’s fine,” Ruby said. “Are you always this happy or told to be this way with the caseworker here?”

“I normally am. I’ve been in some bad places,” Sheri said, sitting on Ruby’s new bed. “This is one of the better.”

“So tell me the rules other than shoes by the door.”

“Meals are always the same time. She makes one thing and if you don’t like it, well, then you pick around it, but she won’t make you something different. If you miss a meal, then you are on your own.”

“We are allowed to get our own food if we miss it?” she asked.

“No. If you want to play a sport and miss dinner, then what you get is the nightly snack we all have around seven thirty.”

“Everyone gets the same thing there too?” she asked.

“Yep,” Sheri said. “But it’s food and I’ve been hungry before so I’m not complaining.”

Ruby had been too. Plenty enough times. “How long have you been here?”

“A year. I’m sixteen. I’m hoping I get to stay until I’m done with school.”

“Me too,” Ruby said. “I just turned sixteen. Two more years.”

“You’re lucky your birthday is over the summer. Mine is in April. Wherever I am, I pray they let me stay to finish school when I turn eighteen.”

The magic number when the payments stop and foster families normally want the bed opened up.

“Are we allowed to get jobs?” Ruby asked, knowing that was the first thing she planned on doing. There was a bus stop around the corner, perfect in her eyes.

“Yep. But you have to find your own transportation and still follow the curfews.”

“I’ll make it work,” Ruby said. She had to. She’d been doing that since her mother overdosed ten years ago and she started to get shuffled around.

All she wanted to do was have a home of her own someday. A family who was there for her or cared about her would be nice, but a home was her number one priority.

Fierce- Drake…Chapter Two

Drake(1)

If you haven’t read the Prologue or Chapter One, you can catch up before the last except!

Losing Control

Two weeks later, Kara walked down the hall and rapped her knuckles on Drake’s open door. “Got a minute?”

His brown eyes lifted from his computer. “Sure. Come on in.”

She took a few steps in. “I just received a copy of the credit card statements and there are a lot of charges with no receipts to them. The girls in accounting asked if I had them since the policy is to turn them in to me so I can make copies.”

He grinned at her. No, not a grin. A smirk. That’s exactly what it was. “What receipts are you looking for?” He opened a drawer and pulled out a handful of white sheets and spread them on his desk.

Her eye started to tick over that move. The smirk that wouldn’t drop from his lips wasn’t helping any. “I’ll take them all,” she said.

She walked a few steps to his desk and held her hand out. He placed them all in there, his fingers touching her palm. She almost pulled back from the heat of that innocent touch.

When she found the one she was really looking for she wanted to scream. “I can’t believe you spent over three hundred dollars on dinner for five people.”

It just appalled her how much money Drake spent on dinners with clients. It wasn’t just dinners, but lunches, events, office supplies. The best of everything for Drake.

She could imagine how much he spent on his personal clothes. His car was over six figures. She knew because she had to look it up one day to come up with an auto allowance for him since he did so much traveling.

Disgusting. His sister, Jade, and cousin Ryder didn’t spend money like Drake did when it came to work. Their personal lives, she had no idea and that was their business. But work was hers.

Of course he was older than them and had more responsibility. And Drake did seem to bring in more business than anyone else.

Didn’t matter. In her mind, a budget was a budget and she was hired to make sure everyone followed one. She’d even given him a bigger budget than the rest of the staff.

“That included drinks and tip,” he said. “That place wasn’t cheap. Nor would I take them anywhere cheap. That’s a massive contract. One that is funding a good part of your job, I might add.”

She narrowed her eyes at him. He wasn’t being sarcastic. He was even smiling still. “I was hired long before you got that contract.”

His smile dropped. “You know what I’m saying.”

“No, I don’t know what you are saying. Why don’t you explain? Your father and uncle hired me to get control of the spending and set up budgets. To analyze costs per project and so on. Just in case you weren’t aware, I’m doing this so we can build the costs back into bids.”

“I’m fully aware of why you were hired. What I don’t understand is what the big deal is if we are building it into bids anyway.”

“It’s just frivolous,” she said. “I understand there are expectations, but do you plan on doing this every time you meet with the officials in Charlotte? This is the third time you’ve come back with large dinner or lunch charges.”

“I didn’t know I was being monitored so much,” he said, leaning back in his chair.

“Everyone is. That is my job. And I’m not monitoring you like you think. I just know what you spend. You’ve got the highest cost ratio in the firm.”

“Sweet,” he said. “Not bad considering I bring in the most money.”

She took a deep breath. She wouldn’t lose her temper. She never did. Not anymore. Those days of losing control were long gone. She put that life behind her once she was able to get in a position that she could support herself.

She’d never be poor again. She’d never be needy. She’d never rely on anyone.

“I understand it’s a good honor to have. To be able to bring in the kind of revenue that you do. In the future, if you could please bring me the receipts as you get them, it would save me from bugging you. Or the accounting department to come in looking for them.”

“Fine,” he said.

She nodded her head and walked out the door to go do the job she was hired for. She needed to get out of Drake’s presence before she said something she’d regret.

 

***

 

The minute Kara was out of his door, Drake leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes, counted to ten and took a few deep breaths.

It didn’t help.

He even tried to focus on what she was wearing today. Tan pants that fit her long thin legs. A simple light green top with a white cardigan over it. It wasn’t really green. More like moss colored. She wasn’t flashy, she never was, but she was always put together.

He laughed out loud thinking that she actually fit the image of a bean counter in his mind even though she was young. Probably a few years younger than him.

He wondered why she never smiled. Why she was so serious all the time. Why she couldn’t have fun at work when so many others did.

He got up and made his way to his father’s office, hoping to blow off some steam. Before he got there, he noticed his father in his Uncle Grant’s office with his Aunt Diane and went there instead. He could kill two birds with one stone.

“What’s going on?” his father asked him.

“Nothing,” Drake said.

“It didn’t seem that way to me,” his Uncle Grant said. “Are you having issues with Kara?”

“That woman drives me insane,” Drake said. No one ever seemed to get on his nerves like she did.

“What is the problem this time?” his father asked. “I like her. She’s on the ball.”

“She was complaining about my credit card statement. Said there were receipts missing.”

Uncle Grant laughed. “That’s her job. She is just making sure the charges are legit.”

“No,” Drake argued. “She was making comments about how often I take clients out to lunch and the places I take them.”

His father laughed this time. “I tell you all the time you overdo it and spend too much. We hired her to analyze costs and expenses. No one escapes it.”

“Whatever,” Drake said, knowing it was useless. He should have kept his mouth shut. He knew why Kara was hired. They all did and they all agreed it was a good move. Little did he know he’d be the one that got the most grief in the end. “Hey, what’s in there?” he asked his Aunt Diane.

“Donuts and muffins,” Diane said, moving the box toward him.

“Thanks.” He grabbed a donut and left, not wanting to stand there any longer. He had work to do, deadlines to meet, and people to call. All the things he’d been doing before Kara interrupted his thoughts.

The worst part was, he wouldn’t be able to get her out of his thoughts the rest of the day.

 

***

 

“So, is that who you’re thinking of for Drake?” Garrett’s sister-in-law asked him.

“It crossed my mind. It’s funny watching Drake get so flustered. What do you think?” he asked.

“I think you and Carolyn need to work on it while we figure out what is going on with Bryce and Payton this weekend,” Diane said.

“Are we horrible people doing this?” Grant asked his brother, then looked at his wife.

“No way. We’re good parents just trying to see our kids happy,” Diane said, then leaned up and kissed her husband on the cheek. “Enjoy, boys, I’m going shopping with Carolyn today.”

Grant sighed. “Talk about needing someone to look over credit card receipts.”

“Tell me about it,” Garrett said. “Maybe we should have Kara analyze our wives’ expenses.”

His twin laughed. “Imagine how well that would go over.”

“About as well as it’s going over with Drake. I don’t get it. He was all for this position last year.”

“Until he was getting targeted,” Grant said. “Of course we all knew that would happen. Drake does spend more than the rest of us.”

“He earns it,” Garrett said of his oldest son, the pride shining through.

“Of course he does. It’s a good thing he likes meeting with the clients so much. He took a lot of that off of our shoulders. You know how much I hated it. That was more your thing.”

“Yeah. You didn’t care about playing nice as much as I did,” Garrett said.

“You’ve never played nice a day in your life. That’s why we got into so much trouble growing up.”

Garrett laughed. “Good thing our kids aren’t like us.”

“Wyatt?” Grant said.

Yeah, Wyatt was a prankster. Just like their nephew Cade. “How about Ryder?” he asked of Grant’s youngest and another employee in the building.

“Yeah, well, Ryder is just more a pain and a headache to his brothers and cousins than he is to us at work.”

Ryder was actually the ideal employee, which was funny since he wasn’t always the ideal son when it came to listening. His youngest nephew was the one that turned Grant’s hair gray.

“That’s true. So, what do you think of Kara and Drake? Match or not? I know Gavin thinks it’s perfect from what we’ve told him, but they don’t seem to even like each other. Drake never loses his temper. He never gets annoyed or frustrated, and Kara seems to bring the worst out of him just breathing the same air.”

Grant laughed. “I’m with Gavin. I think it’s perfect. Love and hate are so close. Let’s just see how it turns out.”

“So what do you suggest? Bring them together on a few projects?”

“I think that is the perfect idea,” Grant said.

“Let’s brainstorm this weekend and figure it out. It’s got to seem legit. We don’t want to raise any flags. Sam and Dani worked out flawlessly. Bryce and Payton seem to be working from what Diane said.”

“Diane has high hopes for Bryce and Payton, but I’m still not sure. I’m reserving judgment. I guess there is no reason you can’t work on Drake now and see how it goes,” Grant said.

“I’ll talk to Carolyn tonight and get her take too. She’s been out of sorts that you’ve got one son down and are working on the second. Might as well give Drake the push and see where it takes us.”

“Let me know what you come up with,” Grant said.

“You’ll be the first to know.”

Fierce-Drake…Prologue

Drake(1)

Prologue

 

“It’s going to be great,” Drake said to Tami when he went to pull open the door to walk into Fierce on a Friday night in late May.

He and Tami had graduated from Duke just last week. It was the only college he’d planned on attending since his father and uncle went there for their engineering degrees…just like he got.

Next week he was starting at the family-owned firm and wanted to spend some time having fun with his girlfriend first. In his eyes, that meant going to Charlotte to catch some concerts and chill out. Tonight he was having a few drinks at his oldest uncle’s bar.

“Whatever you want to do,” Tami said, looking off into the distance. That was her lately. Distant. He had no clue what her problem was and every time he asked her, she said it was nothing.

He pulled her aside before they entered. “You’ve had very little input on this trip. It’s just a long weekend until we both start our new jobs.”

“You are starting your new job. I’m still waiting tables trying to get a job,” she said, her tone more sarcastic than normal. That had been happening a lot lately too. It was almost like she was pissed off that he didn’t have to bust his ass to find a job like so many other people.

What most didn’t realize was that he had to work twice as hard to prove he was worthy of the family business. His family didn’t give anyone a handout regardless of what many thought.

His father, Garrett, and his dad’s twin brother, Grant, worked hard to get scholarships into Duke years ago while their older brother, Gavin, paid as much of the difference as he could. They’d lost their father when they were young, but they remained solid as a family.

That’s what his family was…solid. And he was going to damn well prove that he had what it took to represent what they worked so hard to build.

“You’ll find something soon. You know it,” Drake said, always positive. Always cheerful. Laid back even. It was often said he was the most chill of the family and not much got under his skin.

Considering how big his family was, he’d had plenty of time to learn patience.

“Whatever,” Tami said. “I just want to drink tonight. I don’t know why we couldn’t get a hotel instead of staying with your cousin Brody.”

“Brody works until midnight tonight and then two tomorrow. He won’t even be around much. What’s the big deal?” Drake asked. He got along with his cousins and Brody was the only one who didn’t go to college, opting to work alongside his father in the bar.

At just twenty-one, Brody was the first of the family to get his own place. A two-bedroom apartment less than a mile from the bar.

“A hotel would be more fun. We could have gotten room service or eaten out every meal. Now it’s like you think I’m going to cook for you.”

“What’s going on with you?” Drake asked. “I never said anything about you cooking for me. You haven’t done that once.”

“You said you didn’t want to waste money on a hotel. I just assumed,” she said crossing her arms.

That was her again. Assuming things for no reason. They’d been dating over a year and he had no clue what the hell was going on with her.

“Why spend money on a hotel when I’ve got family here in town I can stay with? It gives us more money to do things.”

Not that Tami ever spent one dime of her money on anything. It didn’t bother him much in the beginning. But now after almost a year, it was getting on his nerves she never offered to pay for anything.

Just because his family had money and he was starting a job next week that would pay damn good for a twenty-two-year-old didn’t mean he was throwing his cash away on stupid shit.

“You never spend your money on anything unless it’s what you want.” He held her stare, waiting for her to say something else. Like how he pretty much gave her everything she ever asked for and now he was wondering why that was. Why he’d been seeing a future life with her when she was copping an attitude he hadn’t seen before. “Forget it,” she said, putting a smile on her face and moving in to kiss his cheek. “I’m sorry. I guess I’m feeling sorry for myself that I haven’t found a job yet when so many of our friends had positions lined up before they even graduated.”

That was more like it in his eyes. A reason for her behavior. “You’ll find something. Don’t worry.”

He walked back to the door and pulled it open, saw the place was packed but pushed their way to the back where Brody nodded them over to two chairs he’d pulled from the side and now moved to the bar. “I saved these just for you. Thought you would have been here before now,” Brody said.

“We got a late start out of Durham,” Drake said. Tami couldn’t make up her mind on what she wanted to pack. Rather than getting annoyed because he was used to her doing that, Drake had sat in the apartment she shared with two of their classmates for over an hour just flipping through channels on the TV.

“You’re here now. What can I get you to drink?” Brody asked, moving back behind the bar.

“White wine for me,” Tami said. “Whatever is good.” She had a thing for wine when they went out. Never beer, never a mixed drink. Just wine. Not many college students only drank wine. And not wine coolers either.

“I’ll take a Sam Adams,” Drake said.

“Drake, it’s so good to see you again,” his Uncle Gavin said, approaching them. “Not that we didn’t just see you at graduation last weekend. You and Noah made my heart proud watching you walk down that stage with Bryce. Who would have thought four more of the family would have graduated from Duke already?”

“It’s where I always knew I’d be,” Drake said. His cousins Ella and Cade were students now and his cousin Sam graduated two years ago, but the rest of the family went elsewhere.

“Try to stay out of trouble while you’re in town. You know your Aunt Jolene would like to see you before you leave. She’s off tonight.”

“I’ll make sure we stop over tomorrow,” he said.

“See that you do,” his uncle said, then laid down two menus for them to look over.

A few hours later Drake was having a good time at the bar. Music was playing, the place was crowded. Tami was on her third wine while he was nursing his second beer. She’d been quietly looking around at people. She did that a lot. People watched.

He got up to go to the bathroom and when he returned Tami was smiling big and chatting it up with some guy. Someone he’d caught her looking at earlier.

“Who’s this?” he asked, coming back over and putting his arm around her shoulder, pulling her close.

Tami stiffened under his arm and moved it off of her. Whenever she had more than two glasses of wine she acted differently and he could never figure out what character would appear. Sometimes overly friendly, sometimes cold, other times flirty. Tonight looked like a combination of cold with him and flirty…with someone else.

“Ryan,” the guy said. “And who are you?”

“Tami’s boyfriend. So if you want to move on with your night,” Drake said. Even though he was standing he could tell he would tower over the guy that was making moves on his girl. At six foot four, Drake was the tallest of all his siblings and cousins. The same height as his father.

“She seems to think otherwise,” Ryan said, standing up. He was a little wobbly on his feet and gave Drake a shove for good measure.

Yeah, all that calm everyone said he had, that was out the window when he threw a punch and knocked the guy back into the bar. Brody pretty much jumped over the bar and wrapped him up from behind; his uncle grabbed the other guy and moved him to the back.

“What the hell is wrong with you?” Brody said in his ear.

“You can let me go. I’m not going to fight you.” It was a bit mortifying that his younger cousin by almost two years, who was a few inches shorter, was much stronger. Then again, Brody had more muscle than them all.

“Damn straight you’re not. Go cool down in the back too.”

“That asshole is back there,” Drake said, knowing he wasn’t going anywhere near the man. “And what is wrong with you, Tami?”

She was grinning at him, her nails trailing down his arm. “Wow, Drake. I didn’t know you had it in you for that. I can’t wait to get back to Brody’s place now.”

Brody snorted next to him and whispered in his ear. “Dude. That’s wrong and not what I’d expect of someone dating you.”

Drake shook his head and took a step away from Brody. His cousin was right. “Tami, get your purse and let’s go.”

Only he was sleeping on Brody’s couch and they’d be leaving in the morning. His family had tried to warn him about her but he didn’t listen. He wouldn’t make that mistake again.

Gifts of Love…Prologue @NatalieAnn121 #Mgtab

 

giftofloveGifts of Love is just 99 cents!

Prologue

 

Brendan rolled over on Christmas morning and looked at the clock to see the bright red light showing seven thirty. It was later than he imagined since he was normally up earlier when it came to the holidays.

He guessed he was more tired than he thought he was. He couldn’t wait for the day when he didn’t feel like this. Like his body was fighting for every breath to just get up and move. He was hoping today wouldn’t be one of those days, but it seemed not much in his life was going the way he thought it would.

When he walked out of his room and down the stairs, he saw his parents sitting at the small kitchen table drinking coffee. “Morning,” his mother said.

“Merry Christmas,” he said back, looking around for his sister. “Where’s Kat?”

“Sleeping. You know her, once her head hits the pillow she is out like a light.”

“Yeah, but it’s Christmas morning,” he argued.

His younger sister, Katrina, was the most chill eleven-year-old he knew. When she was a toddler she hardly ever cried. If she didn’t get her way, she just strutted away proud as can be like it was her right to not get what she wanted and decided to do something else. Like a cat—and that was when he decided to shorten her name.

His father shrugged. “You can go wake her if you want. I’m sure she’s excited…at least she will be once she stretches and rubs the sleep from her eyes.”

He grinned, turned, and went back up the stairs. When he pushed Kat’s door open he saw that she was almost curled into a ball with the comforter half hanging on the floor. “Wake up, Kat. Santa came.”

She did exactly as his father said, lifted her arms over her head, stretched, her legs straightening, her toes pointing, her mouth twisting in a yawn. “Did Santa really come or are you making it up?”

He figured she probably didn’t believe anymore, but he wasn’t about to ask that and give up the secret if she did.

She stood up and stretched one more time, then followed him down the stairs. They were both wearing their new Christmas pajamas that they opened the night before, a tradition his parents had done for as long as he could remember.

“You know I wouldn’t tell you something that wasn’t true. There are gifts under the tree from Santa.”

“I believe you,” she said, running past him and down the stairs. There were the energy and excitement she showed when she wanted to.

Brendan jogged down after her. Trying to fight back how tired he’d just gotten, he sucked in a bit of air, his heart racing, then sat down on the floor while his sister looked around at the boxes.

“Are you okay?” his mother asked.

“I’m fine. Just got winded a bit. You know how it gets. It will pass.”

“I’m sure it will,” his mother said, always one to humor him. He’d like it to pass permanently. Soon, he knew. Not much longer before he had surgery to fix his heart.

Was he scared? Shit yeah. No fifteen-year-old wanted to have their chest cracked open and their heart exposed, but he knew he’d be fine after, so it was best to get it over with.

He looked around under the tree hoping to see some new video games. It seemed like that was all he did with his time since it was discovered he had aortic stenosis a few years ago. He was most likely born with it, though he never showed symptoms.

Then all of a sudden he got active in sports and found he was tired more than he should be. A routine physical showed a heart murmur. He was watched and continued to play sports, but everything got worse. That was when all the tests were done, the procedures and such.

Nothing was working and as a last resort he was having valve replacement surgery in two months.

It wasn’t what he wanted to think about right now. Instead he was looking forward to what was on his wish list.

What he wanted was a gaming computer. He had a Playstation and an Xbox. He had no care for a Wii, but his big wish was the computer.

The problem with that…a good one was thousands of dollars and his parents already spent enough money on his medical bills. He couldn’t ask them for something as expensive as that.

His hope was that he could get a job when he turned sixteen to add to the money he was putting away from all the holidays. Then he could buy one himself.

Kat was now ripping into her gifts. New clothes, jewelry, a few board games, and books. She was easy to please and all girl. Princesses and frilly things were right up her alley.

Once the living room resembled a war zone of red, green, and Santa paper, his father handed him another small box. “One more thing.”

“Who is this from?” he asked, not seeing a name on it.

“Just open it and you will see.”

Kat turned to watch while he opened it up and saw the letter from Make A Wish Foundation. No way. It couldn’t be. He’d applied a while ago, never thinking he’d get it.

He read the letter, felt his eyes fill up with tears and wasn’t even the least bit embarrassed over it.

“Are you getting your computer?” Kat asked.

“No,” he said, looking at her, then his parents. “We’re going to Disney.”

Kat screeched and started to jump around the room. Disney wasn’t his first choice, though he enjoyed a good ride like the next person. He was all about Epcot and special effects at the movie studios. But this trip wasn’t for him, it was for his family.

So much time, energy, money, and emotions were spent on him and it was time to give back for all that everyone sacrificed. He was getting a new lease on life, and with it, he was going to pay back his family.

So he did the one thing he could. He was giving his parents a vacation and his sister a chance to spend some time with princesses.

The joy on everyone’s face made up for not asking for his gaming computer. And when they went in a few months and he saw them all smiling, it would be the best trip of his life.

It’s My Chance…Chapter One

It's My Chance

If you haven’t checked out the Prologue, you can do that now. Here is chapter one!

Nine Lives

Two months later

Monday morning Logan pulled into McGuire’s B&B a little more than five hours after he’d left New York City.

His body was stiff and sore and he needed to get out of the car and walk it off. Stretch. Bend. Anything to get out and just move.

Maybe it was too soon to sit for this long, but he couldn’t stay in his apartment staring at the walls any longer contemplating his future.

He’d left the Army shortly after his buddy Trevor Miles. Trevor got out before anything major happened to him. When Logan barely escaped being blown to pieces with a bomb, he knew it was time to move on—after he lost one of the only women he’d let into his life in that explosion, knowing he’d have a hard time getting past it.

The job at NYPD seemed the logical decision. He went back to where he’d grown up in Manhattan and figured why not?

He’d been stabbed on the force a few years ago and been told he was lucky to be alive. Just a few more inches and he would have bled out like a gutted deer.

Did he leave his job after that? Nope, he went right back at it.

But this time, he was starting to think of the whole three strikes and you’re out. He had his third strike, he wasn’t out, but he wasn’t sure he was ready to try the nine lives theory either.

He had a month left on his medical leave to come to terms with his future.

And why he felt he had to come to terms with anything surprised him since he had more zeroes in the bank than anyone ever knew.

He didn’t flaunt it and never would. Why? Because it wasn’t who he was.

But that wealth was making it easier for him to walk away from the career he loved and not worry about starving. That wealth wasn’t going to make him happy if he couldn’t figure out what to do with his life though.

Thirty-five was just too damn young to do nothing.

He walked up to the front door of the B&B, let himself in and heard a woman call out from the back, “Come on in. I can see you on the camera.”

He looked up in the corner and saw a camera aimed at the door, then walked toward the voice. She was standing there, her hands kneading dough on the counter. “I’m Celeste Ryder. You must be Logan Taylor. Trevor and Riley’s friend.”

“That’s me,” he said. When it came time to escape, he figured why not go up in the mountains and relax in nature. Though he lived in the big city and had loved the action, there was a part of him that just wanted peace and quiet in his surroundings. Water, trees, woods. Anything different than what he was coming from.

Celeste wiped her hands off, then walked forward and shook his hand. “So glad to have you. Can I offer you a drink or a snack after your long drive before I show you the cabin?”

“I’m good,” he said. He really just wanted to get his stuff unpacked and sit down and have a beer from the cooler in his vehicle. He knew he’d have to get some food at the store, but he wanted a cold beer before he did anything else.

“Then let me show you where you’ll be staying.”

“I can find it myself if you’re busy,” he said.

“It can wait,” she said. “I’m just making a few pies for dinner. I serve breakfast at eight, lunch at noon, and dinner at six. On that wall is the menu for each day. If you aren’t here for the meal, there are normally leftovers and snacks around.”

He looked over at the large chalkboard and saw the menu in a neat script. He was both impressed and touched by the hominess of something he’d never experienced growing up. Home cooked meals by a parent. Nah.

His mother never cooked a day in her life. Why would she when she’d grown up with housekeepers and cooks herself? When she married, she wasn’t about to change or learn anything different from what she’d known.

Divorcing his cheating, lying father when Logan was five just padded his mother’s bank account with a lot more than she’d had. Marrying someone twenty years older than her a few years later did the same. Now she was a widow with not a care in the world living in Long Island on the water, being catered to by all sorts of staff.

Cooking for her only son, yeah, nothing she’d ever cared to do.

“Let me just grab your keycard.”

He watched as Celeste walked to what he assumed was an office off the kitchen and that was when he noticed she was pregnant. His best guess was not too far along, but long enough that there was a slight bulge showing with her leggings and fitted shirt to her mid thigh.

He was kind of surprised to see her so covered up even though the windows were open letting in some nice spring air. He was still warm in his shorts and T-shirt though it was barely eighty out now. Eighty in the mountains did feel cooler than eighty in the concrete jungle.

Celeste walked back out and handed him the card. “This will get you into the cabin out back and in here too. Every guest has one for the main house, but that will access both locations.”

He followed her out the back door and saw the little cabin closer to the water along a stone path. “It’s bigger than I thought it’d be,” he said.

“It’s where I used to live before I got married. My husband, Caleb, and I live in the house to your right. The smaller house, or what we really refer to as the cottage, on your left is where Max’s patients stay.”

“Riley’s brother?” he asked.

“Yes,” she said.

Trevor’s wife Riley’s brother was a plastic surgeon that had relocated here years ago from New York City himself. Logan had met Riley when Trevor needed his help trying to find who was stalking Riley on his own home turf almost a year ago.

Once they realized it wasn’t really a stalker, but a woman with disabilities that missed Riley and their friendship, Trevor and Riley came back home, got engaged then married only a few months ago. No long engagement for them. Just a few months.

They’d flown back to New York City so Riley could have Debra in her wedding. The woman who’d missed her and kept sending her flowers and letters. Logan was Trevor’s best man for the small ceremony held in an upscale restaurant.

Riley and Max had come from money. Not as much as him, but again, no one knew that and if he had his way no one would.

Celeste opened the door and he followed in behind her, looking around. There was a small galley kitchen on one wall with a counter and two stools. It opened up into a small living room that more than suited him with a couch and chair, a TV on the wall.

The colors were blues, greens, grays, and extremely calming. Just what he needed in his life.

“The bedroom and bath are behind those doors.”

He walked the few steps and looked into the tiny but efficient bathroom, then popped his head into the bedroom. There looked to be a queen sized bed. Again, enough for him. He’d be fine without his king bed for a month. “Is that a deck off the back?” he asked, looking out the sliding door to the water beyond.

“It is. It’s not big, but enough to sit out and enjoy the view with a cup of coffee.”

“Or a beer,” he said, grinning, knowing he was going to do that the minute Celeste was gone.

“Absolutely. I don’t provide alcohol at the main house. Guests are allowed to bring their own; however most don’t do it unless they drink it that night. Otherwise it’s stored in their room or the kitchen where someone else might drink it.” He smiled at her laugh. “But here, you’ve got more privacy.”

“I’m surprised this was available,” he said.

When he made the last minute decision to come here, he feared he’d be in a hotel the whole time. He wasn’t sure he could handle that, but would have if he needed to.

“I don’t rent it out often. As I said, I used to live here. Caleb is trying to convince me to hire someone full time to care for the B&B and move in here, especially with the baby coming. It’s just so hard to step away from something you love doing though.”

“Yeah, I know,” he said quietly.

She just looked at him, nodded her head and said, “I’ll let you get unpacked and settled. No need to let me know whether you’ll be around for meals. There is always plenty though.”

“Thanks,” he said, then followed her out and back to the parking lot to get his things. His shoulder was aching like a cat in heat, his side not much better, but the sooner he had his belongings in the cabin, the sooner he could have that beer on the deck.

He opened the back of his brand new black SUV. His last car had too many bullet holes in it to repair. He should have gotten another sedan, but something told him to change that too.

After two trips to the cabin, he finally grabbed his little cooler that was filled with a six-pack of his favorite craft beer. Long Island, Brooklyn, the Bronx. Craft breweries were flowing there and he had his pick of more than he could name. Short of filling the back of his SUV up with beer for the month, he hoped he could find a few here he wouldn’t mind.

His clothes could wait to be put away, but the beer really couldn’t.

He pulled the can out, found a glass in the kitchen, poured it, and then made his way to the deck. There were two chairs and one was calling his name.

He’d taken one long sip when his phone rang. He looked down to see Trevor calling him. “Hey,” he answered.

“Did you make it?” Trevor asked.

“Sitting on the deck with a cold one as we speak.”

“Damn. You couldn’t even wait for me?”

“Come on over,” Logan said. “I could use another by the time you get here.”

“Can’t,” he said. “On duty. How about you come to the house tonight and have dinner? We can have a few on my deck while Riley cooks for us.”

“Barely three months of marriage and you have her cooking for you?” Logan asked, grinning.

“Riley is a great cook. She loves taking care of me,” Trevor said.

Logan heard the humor behind the words. The love too. Yeah, he was jealous. “But will she love cooking for someone else?” he asked, taking another long sip of his ice cold brew that hit the spot better than it ever had before.

“We had planned on it. She gets out of work at five. I’ll be out shortly after. How does six thirty sound? Sometimes she can be held up at work with patients.”

Riley Hamilton-Miles was a dentist in town. Trevor, the chief of police of Lake Placid. “Sounds good. Anything I can bring?”

“Just yourself,” Trevor said. “I asked Kennedy to join us, but it’s her late night at the spa.”

Kennedy Miles, Trevor’s sister. Another reason he came here, but he had no intention of letting Trevor know that, at least not tonight. “I’m sure I’ll see her at some point.”

“You two seemed to hit it off at the wedding. Figured it wouldn’t hurt to have a friendly face to show you around besides me.”

Kennedy was more than a friendly face, but he doubted she was going to be all that friendly to him when she saw him again. That was probably why she’d declined the dinner invitation.

“I’ll see you in a few hours,” Logan said, disconnecting the call, thoughts of Kennedy in his mind.

Kennedy had had a little bit too much to drink the night of Trevor’s wedding. The two of them ended up back at her hotel room. Things were getting heated, and if it were anyone else, he wouldn’t have stopped.

But he did. He realized it was his best friend’s sister and told himself it wasn’t right. He couldn’t have a one-night stand with her. Especially since they’d both drunk more than they should have.

He’d stopped when everything within his body told him to push forward and strip her naked like she’d asked him to do.

She hadn’t been happy with him when he stopped and then left. She’d probably been embarrassed though she had no reason to be.

He hadn’t been able to get her out of his mind in the past few months. He’d walked out of her hotel room just two weeks before he’d gotten shot.

And all those times he’d been told he was lucky to be alive…well, he was ready to put some of that luck to use and finish what was started with Kennedy.

 

It’s My Chance…Prologue

It's My Chance

Here is the Prologue for It’s My Chance!

Detective Logan Taylor was on his way home after a twelve-hour stakeout. An all-nighter which he hated with a passion. And one thing Logan didn’t do was hate much.

A good guy. The good cop, he was always told. Even his buddies in the Army said he was too happy to be a Ranger, smiling more than anyone should for a man that was an elite sniper.

Was he always happy though? Partially.

The other times the smile was just in place out of habit. Some to throw people off. Some to just mask what was going on in his mind.

That his job was getting to him, that it had in the service too. But this was what he was good at and why not do what he excelled at?

What he excelled at right now was keeping his eyes open when he’d been up for more than twenty-four hours. He’d worked a case all day, gathering what he needed for the drug bust that would be coming soon. He volunteered to stake out the suburbia house hoping to catch the stay at home mom making a mistake.

Where had the days gone when drugs were run through gangs? Now it was June Cleaver while her kids were at school. It still made his head spin.

It was just after eight when a call came in over the radio of a robbery in progress not more than a block from him. Other patrols were called in, but he knew he was closer.

Go in that direction, or go home and get some much-needed sleep?

It was an easy decision in his mind. He picked up the radio and called it in, knowing he’d be the first on the scene.

When he pulled in front of the jewelry store in his plain black sedan, he hopped out with his weapon drawn just as the assailant came running out of the store, saw him and grabbed a woman who was paying more attention to her phone than her surroundings.

“NYPD,” Logan shouted, his gun aimed. “Drop your weapon and release the woman.”

“Let me go and no one gets hurt,” the masked man said, his voice shaking, his eyes darting all over the street.

“Let her go. You hear the sirens. Backup is on the way. We can do this the easy way and let me get you cuffed, or the hard way.”

The woman started to shake, cry, and plead. “Please let me go.”

The masked man tossed the woman aside and rather than drop his assault rifle, he lifted it the same time as Logan took final aim, both of them firing, Logan diving for cover. He felt the bullets rip through at least two parts of his body, then lost consciousness before he could see if his bullet hit the target he was aiming for.

 

 

Holiday Hunks- Jake’s Christmas Decision

HolidayHunksTemplate(1)

Prologue

 

“What do we have?” Jake Baxter asked as he stumbled into the room. Being woken up from a dead sleep was never fun, more so in a war torn country.

“A convoy was just attacked out in the desert. We believe two are dead, four taken.”

Another reason why he wasn’t sleeping. He was here on base; his best friend from childhood was in the desert miles away. “Do they have names?”

His commander looked at him, shook his head, and said, “No. Here are the images from the satellite.”

Jake watched the muddy green clips of the convoy moving at a fast pace, then a bright light as the explosion flipped it on its side. Within minutes, gunfire erupted, two bodies were left and four taken prisoner. If they didn’t get to them soon, they’d be tortured like the civilians Jake and the rest of his squad were sent here to protect…then most likely killed.

“When do we leave?” he asked, looking around the room at the Night Stalkers that would be going up in the AH-6M that he’d be piloting.

“We are waiting on word. Suit up. This is a rescue mission. The sooner we can get in, the sooner we can catch them unaware.”

Ten minutes later they had their coordinates, instructions, and were in the air.

It didn’t take long to get to the village where their men were brought. They were ready to provide group support to the other men on their way, while having the ability to fire Hellfire missiles several miles away.

Jake knew he had to focus on the mission at hand, but his mind, and his heart, were with Rob. Rob, the buddy he’d grown up with and talked into joining the army with him. He knew damn well Rob was down there somewhere on the front line trying to get his men back too.

Minutes from their location, they were taking on enemy fire while Jake tried to maneuver the chopper away. It was a balancing act—get to the men on the ground, save the men with him in the air, protect the others with the same objective as him…the prisoners returning safely.

The more fire they took on, the more he had to move away from where they’d thought the men were being held and circle back.

The gunfire on the ground was increasing. Jake locked in on his target and fired, blowing up a building and giving the men relief to make their move.

As he moved closer to provide more coverage, alarms started to go off, he was taking on heavy damage and knew if he didn’t pull back, he could be brought down.

He didn’t want to leave. He didn’t want to pull back. He wanted to know Rob was safe.

His choices were narrowing when smoke started coming out of the engines and his orders were to abort. He didn’t. He stayed and he fired, and he continued, until he had no other option but to choose between the men in the chopper with him, or the men on the ground that were retreating.

He did what he was told. He provided cover to get the men out of there and they’d go back for the hostages another day.

Another day didn’t come, when the bodies of the four soldiers showed up hours later— beaten, broken, bloodied, and beheaded. One of them was Rob.