Date Published: December 1, 2016
Publisher: Dark Hollows
Brianna ran with her daughter, Melinda, from Arizona all the way to Minnesota to escape her blackmailing sister, Kathy. Melinda belonged to Brianna now, not Kathy, who gave her up for adoption to Brianna and now Kathy suddenly has a desire to be a mother? Ha! There’s money out there for single moms and cold hard cash is the only thing Kathy understands.
Besides, Minnesota has something Brianna finds she is very interested in – Hockey.
Okay, maybe not hockey, but one specific hockey player by the name of Devon Saint Martin. Big, gorgeous and wealthy, Devon has it all. Including a long string of stunning ex-girlfriends. So Brianna knows he would have no interest in plain-Jane Brianna.
Except, the first time they meet, it was up close and personal and they were both naked.
Afterward Devon made it perfectly clear he was not only interested, he wants Brianna. But the man is famous for his “never gonna get married” attitude and there’s no way Brianna is going to fall victim to the devastating “Devon charm” and be yet another notch on the man’s hockey stick.
But when little Melinda decides “Debon” is her “bestest fwend” Brianna finds it impossible not to fall for the man who gently holds her daughter’s heart in his hand.
Except then some very unpleasant incidents begin to take place and it has both Devon and Brianna questioning who it could be that is jeopardizing their fledgling happiness, and whether or not their fragile love can survive.
Devon walked back into his office but no sooner had he sat down behind his desk and picked up the set of documents in front of him, intending on getting through at least the proposal for the new project he was financing when Marie once again stuck her head inside the door. This time she was unable to actually announce who was there to see him. Leslie forced her way passed the older woman, giving her a “huff” as she strutted by.
“Ms. Barrington is here to see you.” She sighed as she gave Leslie’s back a disapproving frown. “Should I show her in?”
Devon chuckled. “No worries, Marie. Thank you.” He waited until the older woman closed the door. “What do you want, Leslie? You sure as heck are not here to interview for my new secretary, I know that much.”
“Secretary? Me?” She shook her head as she gracefully sat in one of the posh chairs that were in front of Devon’s desk. “Why is that old woman leaving again?”
“She’s moving. Now why are you here? I’m busy and it’s been a trying morning.”
“I was going to have you to take me to lunch.”
“Lunch? We don’t do lunch anymore, Leslie. We’re not dating, remember? I thought you understood that.”
“Oh, don’t be ridiculous, darling.” She waved off his comment as if he were being funny. “I know you didn’t mean it when you said we were over.” She leaned forward to reach out across the large desk, attempting to touch Devon but he leaned back in his chair just in time. He looked down at her extended hand and was tempted to pat it or take it in his, acknowledge it in some way. He was not used to being rude. But he thought better of it. If she thought he wasn’t serious when he said things were over, allowing her to touch him would obviously send the wrong message.
“I’m hardly being ridiculous, Leslie. It was mutual. We both decided it.”
“All I remember was you saying you didn’t want to get married.”
“And I remember you telling me it’s marriage or nothing.”
“Well, clearly, I was upset, that’s all. Besides, I plan on changing your mind.”
“You’re not going to. I told you right from the start I don’t do commitment. Marriage is not in my future. With you or anyone else.”
She probably thought it was cute or sexy. Devon was suddenly thinking her antics never really were.
She was still for a moment and Devon groaned inside. He could tell she was brewing up something in that pretty head of hers. Her sly eyes met Devon’s again. “I get it. So no more talk about commitment or marriage. But that doesn’t mean we can’t still be…friends, right?” She smiled again as she stood and slowly slid herself up onto the edge of Devon’s desk right in front of him, running her hands up and down her too thin body drawing attention to the skin tight dress. A dress he instantly knew Brianna would never choose much less wear and just why Brianna and her possible predilections popped into his head at that particular moment he had no clue. But he quickly realized he much preferred Brianna’s easy style to Leslie’s near OCD when it came to fashion and diet.
“We probably can’t be friends.” Devon choked out.
Unfortunately, Leslie most likely believed his sudden inability to talk was about her and her attempt at seducing him. In reality, it was the flush of emotion that rushed through him at the very thought of Brianna. What the hell was going on with him?
“Exactly what I was thinking,” he heard Leslie purr. “But no worries. We can be friends with benefits. Take me to your condo and I’ll show you what I mean. Maybe skip lunch and get a little exercise in instead?” She reached over and once again tried to touch Devon’s still out-of-reach hand. He pulled it farther away.
When did having a woman trying to seduce him suddenly feel so wrong?
Well, at least the truth would get him out of this very uncomfortable situation.
“Can’t. The building had a water main break and as far as I know it hasn’t been repaired yet. I actually moved out for a few days.”
Leslie narrowed her eyes at him as she pulled back her hand. “So what hotel are you staying at?”
Devon laughed. “Not staying at a hotel, either. I am now staying at Brad’s house.”
“Brad and Julie’s?”
Wow. Her eyes widened and her voice even cracked with how distressed she was about that information. “Yeah. You have a problem with that?”
She came off the desk to stand and face him. “Isn’t that where that…that friend of Julie’s is staying, too?” A hand came up to accentuate the word “friend.”
“Brianna?” Oh crap. He couldn’t help the ridiculous smile that he knew now was all over his face and heart at just saying her name out loud. Almost like saying it made her belong to him somehow. If that was the case, he wanted to say it again. And one more time for good measure. But he would then risk sounding like a lunatic.
Geez. He had it bad.
“Yes. She’s there, too.” He shouldn’t do it. It wasn’t wise. But, again, something else was totally at work here. “In fact, we have connecting rooms.” Shut up, shut up, shut up. You are being thoughtless, maybe even cruel. “I even ended up walking in on her bath the other night.” Oh man, he felt heat fill his face as he remembered vividly Brianna’s wet body, how it felt against his hot skin. His own body instantly responded. One thing he knew for sure, having a women fill his head totally at random like this had never happened to him before. And then he noticed something else that had probably never happened before.
Leslie was speechless.
But only for a moment. However, for that moment, her pretty mouth hung open in an “O” and astonishment froze her face. It truly was priceless.
Finally, Leslie regained control and glanced down at her dress, straightening it as if it were somehow out of place. She huffed, then shot her look back up to Devon. “Well, that is just absurd, then. They already have company. You may come and stay at my condo.”
Devon had to hand it to her, she was one very determined lady.
“No, Leslie. Again, we don’t have that kind of relationship any longer.”
“She’s the next one?”
“Excuse me? What are you talking about?”
“Brianna. Is she the next notch? The next conquest? It would be unbelievable, to say the least, but I guess I wouldn’t put it past you to go after an easy mark like her this time. I made you work incredibly hard for me.”
The irritation rose so quickly Devon was just as surprised as Leslie when he came out of his chair, sending it careening backward. “How dare you call her easy? You don’t even know her.”
The shock that was once again showing on Leslie’s face turned to anger. “How can you even think about someone like her? She’s trailer trash! She has a kid out of wedlock, she’s running from God knows what, and she can’t even live in a place of her own. She has to mooch off of friends. And Julie knowing her and being best friends makes all the sense in the world to me, now. I always knew Julie came from garbage. How she was able to brainwash Brad into marrying her is beyond me.”
Devon was now the one standing with his mouth hanging open. He sadly realized he had no real feelings for this woman. He had at one time thought she was hot and she was definitely beautiful. They were two traits that always rose to the top of his list when it came to figuring out if he would date any woman in particular. But it just now dawned on him that women like this were only ever those two things from a distance. Never close up.
And this particular “up-close” moment with Leslie was ugly. He didn’t like it that Leslie insulted Brianna. There was also a hard twinge when she insulted Julie, who, honestly, could take care of herself. His instant reaction was to fiercely defend both of them.
Except, this behavior had always been Leslie. It shouldn’t have surprised him.
Devon’s anger disappeared. How could Leslie help who she was? For the first time since he met her, he recognized this miserable jealousy coming from her as just that. Miserable. He marveled that there was a time when having women fighting over him would have been a huge turn on. But Devon knew now those days were completely over.
Devon stood and came around the desk. Taking Leslie by her elbow he turned her and led her out of his office, right to the elevator. When they arrived he pressed the down button and finally looked at her again.
“I’m sorry, Leslie,” he said softly. He reached up to touch her beautiful face. “It’s over and it’s time for the both of us to move on.”
The look on her face hardened, wrinkles Devon had never noticed before deepened. She actually looked evil and Devon snapped his hand away. But in the blink of his eyes, it was gone and Leslie’s beautiful face was back. “It’s not over, Mr. Saint Martin,” she said softly. “You’ll come back to me, you’ll see.” She reached up and put a hand on his chest. “I love you and I’m going to make you see how much you love me, too. We’re going to be together.”
“No.” Devon shook his head. “No, we won’t.” The elevator dinged. “I wish you happiness. I really do. You probably shouldn’t come back here anymore either.” Devon stepped away, turned and headed back for his office. Unfortunately, it wasn’t soon enough because he saw the look of pure hatred return to Leslie’s face. He groaned inwardly knowing he would most likely have to deal with her at least one more time. He just hoped neither Julie nor Brianna were at risk. He would have to let Brad and Julie know, just in case. In fact, Brad had said something about the three of them, Brianna, Julie and that cute little Melinda, heading out to the zoo this very morning. Maybe a little personal protection was in order.
Teri had beautiful hands. Something I always noticed. Not that she had manicures all the time or used a special lotion, she just had naturally beautiful hands. She also had beautiful handwriting. You could always tell if she wrote a particular note or actually signed the birthday card, because her handwriting was unique. At least it was to me. She got it from our mother who was, and is, meticulous about certain things, and her own handwriting was just one of many she took pride in. That wasn’t the only thing Teri got from our mother. She got our mother’s beauty, perfect skin, amazing energy, and keen eye for detail. She also got our mother’s solid common sense and, along with my other two sisters and my brother, brilliance. Well – maybe she got some of that from our dad as well. Sadly, I didn’t get any of it, the hands, the beauty, the common sense or the brilliance. And the handwriting? Some would say “Good grief, no”. But the one thing Teri and I did have in common was reading. Oh yes. A passion for both of us and Teri had hundreds and hundreds of romance paperbacks, all of which, she read. Every single one.
Unfortunately, at the young age of 23, Teri was diagnosed with cancer, and after battling it for three long years, the cancer took her life. A number of weeks after her death, when going through her things, the family discovered a file folder of notebooks and loose papers, all filled with her handwritten romance stories. Who knew? None were complete, but it was obvious we also shared one other thing. She, like me, had, at one point, dreams of becoming an author. But, along with so many of her dreams, she was never able to make it happen. So I gathered up that file and stored it away, vowing that someday I would make at least that denied dream come true. Then a few years ago I became a published author with, now, over twenty books under my author name.
I was finally ready.
Which was a good thing. I had a bout with breast cancer last year and my mom was recently diagnosed with colon cancer. It put things back into perspective for me. I wanted that book done. So here it is. Complete.
This book is a combination of all those beautifully handwritten notes, stories and out-lines, found in that old, and now very tattered, file folder. It is also a combination of our writing styles, something I think Teri would appreciate, respect, and, I dare to believe, like. I see her adding this paperback to her enormous collection and moving right on to the next dream, this one finally fulfilled.
And my mom? She may or may not read it. I hope she does. Otherwise, it will still have a special place on her book shelf that she designated a long time ago for this very book.
Thank you Eden Connors, Michelle Williams and the awesome Shannon West, all true heroes, for believing in me enough to pull this off and committing to publishing this book even before I finished it. Thank you to my family of crazy people who allowed me to take this file of Teri’s writings so many years ago and for believing that I could possibly make it what it is today, a little contribution to the paperback romance world. And thank you, Teri, for letting us find your treasure in the first place so I, along with so many awesome others, could complete this dream for you, for our family and, hopefully, for many happy readers who will now be able to see not only what your beautiful hands created but a tiny piece of your heart.
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