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Jennifer Youngblood

Romeo Family Romance 11 Ebook Bundle

Romeo Family Romance 11 Ebook Bundle

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He leaned closer. “What color are your eyes? Blue or purple?”


“Ah, violet.”

The song being performed on stage penetrated Cash’s consciousness. “Great!” he muttered. It was his song—One Way Home.

“You don’t like that song?” Luna asked.

He grunted in response.

She looked at the stage. “I like it. It’s one of the better Cash Romeo songs.”

He frowned. Was she dissing on him?

“I mean, they’re not really doing it justice.” She chuckled. “The guy’s doing a decent job, I suppose, but let’s be honest, how hard is it really to match Cash Romeo’s voice?”

The hair on the back of his neck rose. “You don’t like Cash Romeo?”

Luna shrugged. “He’s okay, I guess, if you’re into bubblegum music.”

An incredulous laugh ripped through Cash’s throat. “Bubblegum music?”

“Yeah, you know the over-commercialized drivel that the masses can’t get enough of.”

A reckless thought tumbled through his brain. “You think you could do better?”

She rolled her eyes. “Duh, it wouldn’t be hard.”

 “We’ll see about that,” he drawled as he rose to his feet. Just as the couple was finishing their song, Cash trotted up the side steps and onto the stage.

The announcer walked out, holding out his hand. “Hey, man, you can’t just come up here.”

Cash removed the hoodie. Gasps rippled through the audience as the announcer gaped.

“Mr. Romeo,” he stuttered. “Uh, I didn’t realize you were performing tonight.”

Cash offered a friendly smile. “If you don’t mind, I’d like to.”

“Of course.”

He stepped up and removed the microphone from the stand. “Anyone have a guitar I can borrow?” he asked glibly. This brought a few laughs from the crowd.

The man who’d just performed came hurrying out to hand Cash his guitar.

Cash gave the guy an appreciative nod. “Thanks.” He slid the strap over his shoulder as he pulled a stool close and sat down, perching his foot on the bottom rung. He slipped into performance mode as he placed the microphone back into the stand. “I thought I’d follow up that wonderful performance we just heard with an encore.”

A hearty applause sounded, along with a few whistles and cheering. “I’m gonna need a little help though.” He squinted as he scoped the room. It was a full house … all the better. Ah, there she was, standing near the bar, wearing a rigid expression. “Beautiful Luna,” he said ceremoniously, “despiser of all bubblegum music, come on up here.” He made a wide sweep with his arm.

She shook her head no. Cash could tell from the stubborn set of her jaw that she had no intention of coming up. But she’d change her mind once he got the crowd involved.

“Luna, Luna,” he chanted as he pumped his fist. The audience joined in. Finally, Luna set her tray on the bar and marched up to the stage, her face flaming red.

“Jerk,” she seethed. “You should’ve told me who you were.”

She was so darn cute and so incredibly beautiful. “And you should’ve quit while you were ahead.”

She shot him a dark look.

“Luna and I are gonna sing One Way Home.”


Piper had only been gone thirty minutes. She planned to take the entire hour for lunch. She took in a deep breath, her lungs feeling the punch of the crisp, cold air as she strolled along the sidewalk, nodding and smiling at the people passing in the other direction. She made her way down to one of her favorite spots—an open area that led to the town ski lift. Her eyes skimmed over the stretch of gleaming snow, glistening like diamonds in the bright sunlight. Laughter from children playing nearby drifted in the light breeze. 

She spotted an empty bench and was headed that direction when something cold hit her in the face. She gasped! Pain streaked across her cheek as her brain registered what was happening. She’d been pelted with a snowball. She jerked around in the direction it had come, only to get hit again. This time in the head. She gasped, shielding her face. More snowballs pinged her, one lodging in her mouth. She spit it out, sputtering, “What the heck!” A group of boys were throwing snowballs at her. Indignation swelled inside her. “Seriously?” she huffed.

She glared at them, expecting them to be quelled by her wrath, but then realized their attention was fixed on something or someone behind her. She turned to see a tall, athletic guy wearing a charcoal gray coat and black beanie hat. A jolt shot through her. He was handsome in the rugged, not too pretty, way she liked. He caught eyes with her, giving her a sheepish grin. He looked past her. “Hey guys,” he said as he held up his hands in a truce. “You’ve caught someone in the crossfire.”

“Not just someone,” Piper countered. “Me!” She shot him an indignant glare. Good looking or not, the man should be ashamed of himself for egging on these kids and getting innocent bystanders caught in the middle of their snowball fight. This was a public place, after all. 

More snowballs came hurling through the air like cold bullets. Some hit the guy. Others hit Piper in the back and head. “Watch out,” she shouted.

The guy laughed. “You could help.”

Piper’s jaw went slack. “What?”

The guy motioned at the group of boys who were bent over, refueling their snowballs. 

“It’s me against all of them. You could help.”

Piper grunted. The nerve of this guy! She straightened to her full height, giving him a withering look. “I don’t think so,” she muttered, about to continue walking.

“Listen to the little sissy,” one of the boys taunted, “asking a girl for help.”

The guy chuckled. “Did you hear that? Are you gonna let him talk to you that way?”

For an instant Piper was floored. Her eyes connected with the guy as a sizzle of awareness traced through her. His adventurous expression called to her inner child, breaking up the last of the tension ball inside her that had formed earlier when Deidre went on her rampage. A grin stole over Piper’s lips as she made a split-second decision. “No, I’m not.” She bent over and began hastily making snowballs. 


“Looks like you’ve got an admirer,” Clyde said looking in the direction of a striking brunette who was giving Jaxson the eye. When she realized he’d noticed her, a hopeful smile fluttered over her lips.

A casual smile drifted over Jaxson’s features as he tipped his hat. The girl blushed, her cheeks filling with color. 

“Always the playboy,” Lucas scoffed.

Jaxson lifted an eyebrow in amusement. “You like her, cousin?” 

Lucas blinked in surprise.

“Fine. I’ll bow out. I give her to you,” Jaxson said magnanimously. 

Lucas’s face turned bright red, his eyes narrowing. “You never had her to begin with.”

Jaxson’s spine straightened. “Really? Care to place a wager on it?” He looked at the girl again, flashing her a dazzling smile. 

“No thanks,” Lucas growled, turning his attention back to the rodeo. 

The girl was beautiful. Maybe he’d meander over to where she was after the rodeo, talk to her a bit, get her number.

After the other three riders were done, it was official. Jaxson had taken first place with Lucas claiming second. Jaxson’s eyes wandered over to the brunette again. They shared another smile. He looked behind her. His heart nearly stopped when he caught sight of a familiar face. He’d seen it many times in his dreams. It taunted him, called to him, filled him with an inexplicable longing that whispered of things that might’ve been. His brain took a snapshot of what he was seeing. Stylish blonde hair that fell softly on delicate shoulders. Memorable blue eyes that had the power to pierce a man’s soul. High cheekbones as shimmery as polished apples. He looked, then looked again. It couldn’t be! His insides froze even though his heart sped to a gallop. He swallowed the dryness in his throat. 

“Congratulations, man,” Clyde boomed, grabbing Jaxson’s arm. 

“Thanks,” Jaxson said automatically, his eyes shifting to Clyde for a split second. His vision went immediately back to the spot. He barely gave the doting brunette a second look as he scoped the area behind her.

The blonde was gone. Disappointment settled in his gut like a block of concrete. Maybe it was a trick of the light. He’d just thought of Lemon … how the trouble over her was the start of the friction between him and Lucas. Yes, that had to be why he thought he’d seen her. 

A hollow ache formed inside. The brunette was practically turning cartwheels to get his attention. He offered a courtesy smile, but her charms no longer had any allure. All he could think about was Lemon. He glanced at Lucas, resentment fanning a hot flame inside his chest. Time was supposed to heal all hurts, but that wasn’t necessarily true. 

Lemon Massey would always be the girl who got away. Thanks to her, Jaxson had locked his heart, never to be hurt again. He clenched his jaw, forcing away the gloomy thoughts. A few minutes later, he turned his attention back to the brunette. 

This time, his smile was genuine.


She reached for her phone on the nightstand to check the time. Her stomach clutched. Ten a.m. What the freak?! Zoe couldn’t remember the last time she’d slept this late.

Were the kids okay? Had they come in and tried to wake her? Daddy must think she was a total louse. Crap! She stood, her body feeling slightly shaky as she wheeled herself into motion. 

She heard a cry from outside. She went to the window and peered out through the panes at the muted gray of the overcast day. At least it was no longer raining.

Zoe saw movement, heard another scream. Milo’s scream! Her heart missed a beat as her eyes processed what she was seeing—Milo was on a runaway horse, holding onto the horn of the saddle for dear life. 

Zoe’s feet seemed to have a mind of their own as she ran out of the room and down the stairs to get to him. She threw open the front door and flew across the porch, hardly noticing the cold, wet wood against her bare feet until a sharp stab of pain shot through the ball of her foot. She doubled over, realizing she’d gotten a splinter.

“Pull on the reins,” she heard Daddy yell. “Show ‘em who’s boss.”

Tears sprang to Zoe’s eyes as she held up her foot for inspection. The splinter was wedged deep into her flesh. No time to worry about that now. Shivers of pain rattled through her as she hobbled down the steps and across the freshly mowed wet grass, which clung like matted eyelashes to her feet.

By the time Zoe got to the far edge of the yard, Milo managed to get the horse turned around and was now coming back. Instinct took over as Zoe ran out into the dirt road, which went alongside the house and led to the stables.

“Get out of the way!” she heard Daddy yell.

Too late, Zoe realized she was on a collision course with the horse, which had no intention of stopping. She saw the terror in Milo’s eyes as her body froze, her hands instinctively going up for protection as she braced for the impact.

Then, she saw a flash of movement out of the corner of her eye as she was knocked out of the way the instant before the horse went barreling by. 

She felt the blunt force of her back hitting the ground as her mind tried to wrestle with what was happening. A heavy weight pressed on Zoe’s chest, and then she heard Daddy’s voice. “Whoa! I got ya. You’re alright.”

A heady relief rushed over Zoe. Milo was okay. Now her, on the other hand … She took an assessment. Her back was pressed flat to the ground, wet gooey mud seeping into her clothes, skin, and hair.

Then, the synapses of her brain fired enough to truly realize what was happening.

Her eyes bugged as she looked up and found herself starting into two very blue, very recognizable eyes that had become the fabric of her dreams.

“Briggs?” she gasped. It registered in her brain that he’d saved her from getting mowed over by the horse.

He crooked a smile, the edges of his eyes crinkling. “Hey Z.”

Join the countless readers who have already fallen in love with the Romeo family.

Prepare to be swept away into a realm where dreams come alive and possibilities are limitless.

This memorable family will capture your imagination and transport you to a world where love, courage, and resilience prevail. 

With each twist and turn, you'll find yourself deeply invested, unable to resist the allure of their captivating stories.

🔥Get all 11 ebooks in the series for one low price!

 ❤️Start the Romeo Family Romance Series off with Noah Romeo in One Perfect Day. 

What if a spontaneous meeting morphed into a glorious adventure?

Would one day be enough?

Or would you want more? 

“This book made it to my top ten all-time favorites … loved everything about it! Highly recommend! So fabulous!” --Reviewer

🎸Purchase your ebooks and start your journey today! 




  • ✅ One Perfect Day
  • ✅ One Way Home
  • ✅ One Little Switch
  • ✅ One Tiny Lie
  • ✅ One Big Mistake
  • ✅ One Southern Cowboy
  • ✅ One Singing Bachelorette
  • ✅ One Fake Fiancé
  • ✅ One Silent Night
  • ✅ One Kick Wonder
  • ✅ One More Chance

Continued Synopsis

One Perfect Day

Read the book that started the saga!

“This book has made it to my top ten all-time favorites … loved everything about this book! Highly recommend it! So fabulous!” LaRae, Reviewer

She wasn’t looking for love, but one day with the right person might change everything ...

Piper Kell has zero time for love. She’s determined to become a success by working long hours and putting up with the unreasonable demands of her diva boss.

When a spontaneous meeting with knock-your-socks-off handsome and charismatic Noah Romeo morphs into the perfect day, Piper soon realizes that her career is not enough. She wants more …

One Perfect Day Chapter 1 Look Inside

📚Chapter 1 of One Perfect Day

A stab of uncertainty ran through Piper as she searched her brain. “No, that can’t be right. I double-checked the item numbers of the prints before I ordered them.”

Hot prickles rained down on her. She’d been so meticulous. Had Deidre given her the wrong information?

She began sifting through the papers on the reception desk where she was sitting, searching for the sticky note where Deidre had written down the item numbers.

“Well, obviously you didn’t, or you wouldn’t have shipped the wrong ones.” Deidre threw her hands in the air, leveling a hard glare. “This is a disaster! Mac and Angie Wilbrook’s anniversary party is tomorrow night. Mac was planning to present Angie with the prints.”

She rubbed her forehead, barking out a brittle laugh as she paced back and forth in front of the desk. She stopped in her tracks, balling her fists. “I can’t believe this is happening, now, when we’re in the middle of getting ready for Nolan’s reception! Do you know how much clout Mac Wilbrook has in this town?” Her voice went shrill. “Do you?”

Piper flinched, drawing back. “Mac seems like a reasonable person. I’m sure he’ll understand that we made a mistake.”

Fire shot from Deidre’s eyes. “You made a mistake!” Her head swung back and forth. “How could you be so irresponsible?”

Piper’s chest squeezed. “Can we call the distributor and have them overnight the right prints?” Piper felt like a condemned prisoner at the gallows, and her executioner was her diva boss. Piper winced at the crimson filling Deidre’s fine-boned face. She looked like an overripe tomato about to burst.

“Sure!” Deidre spat. “The other ones only took … what? Three weeks to get there?”

“I’ll call Mac and explain the situation.” Piper continued searching through the items on the desk, looking for that blasted sticky note, which would hopefully get her off the hot-seat.

“You bet you will!” Deidre asserted.

Piper bristled. She hated it when Deidre went on her rants, something that was becoming more frequent. “Everyone makes mistakes,” Piper said, fighting to keep her voice even.

Six months ago, when Piper first started working at The Landin Fine Art Gallery, she’d considered it a huge blessing to be able to learn from the celebrated owner, Deidre Landin, who was well-connected in the art world. Deidre had been impressed with Piper’s photographs, saying that she saw loads of potential.

Deidre assured Piper that if she worked hard and proved herself that Deidre would help Piper get discovered. Deidre had allowed Piper to put a couple of her photographs in the gallery, but they were hanging on a rack in the back, getting hardly any attention. The only thing that kept Piper holding on was Deidre’s assurance that she would hold a reception after the first of the year, introducing Piper’s photographs.

“I expected more from you.” Disgust coated Deidre’s voice.

Piper felt a burst of adrenaline when she found the note stuck against the back of a catalogue. “Here it is! The note you left me.” She held up the pink square of evidence. “Let me just check these numbers against the ones in the order.”

Placing the note beside her keyboard, she began typing. Swift feelings of exultation ran through her. “Here are the prints I ordered. They match the item numbers you wrote down.” It was all Piper could do to keep her expression impassive. She turned the screen so that Deidre could see it.

A furrow dented the strip of skin in between Deidre’s sculpted brows. “That can’t be right. Let me see that note,” she said brusquely.

Piper handed it to her, her insides swelling with victory. Would Deidre actually admit that she was wrong? Probably not, but at least she would realize that Piper wasn’t to blame for the mishap.

Deidre pointed. “Ah, ha! Here’s the problem. I wrote down Summer Sunrise, prints I & II. The ones you ordered are called Daybreak.”

Was Deidre seriously going there? Piper’s words rushed out. “That’s because the item numbers you wrote down were for the Daybreak prints.”

Deidre drew herself up, giving Piper a scathing look. “You should have caught the discrepancy.”

Piper’s spine stiffened. “And you should’ve gotten the titles correct, so as to avoid confusion.” The air gathered tension as the two women eyed one another like gladiators about to face off. Yes, Piper wanted this opportunity, but she was tired of cowing to Deidre.
Something hard and impenetrable flashed in Deidre’s eyes, evidence of one who’d been bred to get her way.

“I beg your pardon. Are you questioning me?”

Think of the long term … your goals! “No.” Piper swallowed the tightness in her throat. “I’m only saying that I can see how I could’ve made the mistake.”

Deidre’s hand went to her hip, a snarky smile twisting over her lips. “So, you’re admitting that this is your mistake.”

An invisible noose tightened around Piper’s neck as she clutched her throat. “I acknowledge that I should have noticed the discrepancy between the titles and the item numbers. However, if you had gotten the titles correct to begin with—”

Deidre held up her hand. “It doesn’t matter whose mistake this is. What matters is that we solve the problem.”

Piper had to fight the urge to laugh out loud. Cruella De Vil was changing her tune now that she realized she was partly to blame for the mix-up.

“In the future, I expect you to come to me if you have any questions about an order, especially one so important.” She gave Piper a steely look. “Is that understood?”

A scene flashed through Piper’s mind—her springing to her feet and slapping that superior look off Deidre Landin’s face.

“Is that understood?” Deidre asked again.

“Yes,” was all Piper said. The urge to tell Deidre off was so strong that Piper could scarcely contain it. Think of your photography, the voice in her head screamed.

Before coming to work for Deidre, Piper had spent two long years trying to get a foothold into the art world. The fact that she had two of her photographs in one of the most prestigious galleries in Park City, Utah was huge. Never mind that the photos were buried in the back. Come the first of the year, Piper’s work would be featured in this very gallery. Deidre had to know that if she didn’t make good on her word then Piper would quit. And, Deidre didn’t want that to happen. Piper worked her butt off, turning herself inside out to meet Deidre’s often unreasonable demands.

“Call Mac Wilbrook. Apologize profusely. Tell him that we’ll order the right prints and have them shipped right away. If he wants to keep the ones he has, we’ll sell them to him at a sixty percent discount. Then, call a florist and have a bouquet of roses sent to the Wilbrooks, congratulating them on their anniversary.”

Piper nodded, jotting down the instructions.

Deidre glanced around the empty gallery. “Where’s Scotty?” The gallery had only been open twenty minutes and there hadn’t yet been any customers.

“In the back, taking care of the new shipment that arrived this morning.”

Deidre brightened. “The Rutledge Collection?”

“Yes, I believe so.”

“At least one thing has gone right this morning. Make sure to get all of the inventory logged into the system. We won’t put any of it out until after Nolan’s reception. How are things going with that?” Her words came out in short thrusts as she enunciated every word. “I don’t have to tell you how important this is. We can’t afford any more mistakes.”

Piper raised her eyebrow. “Got it,” she snipped, “so long as my instructions are clear.” It gave her a slight feeling of vindication when she saw the hardening of Deidre’s eyes.

Piper’s dad was always saying that, You teach people how to treat you. It was good that Deidre realized that Piper was frustrated. She was dang frustrated, as a matter of fact! Yes, she wanted the opportunity that Deidre could give her, but she didn’t want to be the woman’s doormat.

“Did you contact the caterer?” Deidre snipped.

“Yes.” Several times. “They’ve assured me that everything is set.”

Sheesh. It was only Tuesday and Deidre was already obsessing over the details for the reception taking place this Friday, the day before Christmas Eve. Piper let out a long sigh. It was bound to be a long week.

“I want everything to be perfect for Nolan.” Deidre’s voice went soft and gooey the way it always did when she spoke of Nolan Vant.

Piper fought the urge to roll her eyes. “I’m sure it will be.”

“It had better be,” Deidre snapped.

The reception was for Nolan Vant, the elusive photographer whose fame and fortune spanned the globe. Eighty percent of all sales at the gallery came from Nolan Vant’s photographs. Nolan was Deidre’s boyfriend. She’d been raving about him for weeks. It would be nice to finally meet the man. Of course, Piper doubted that the real man could live up to the lofty picture Deidre had painted of him.

He certainly wasn’t much to look at. The only photo Piper had seen of Vant was taken when he was out on location. It was a side-shot, obviously a candid. Vant was wearing sunglasses and had a rather obnoxious-looking beard. Not the sort of man Piper would have pictured with glamour girl Deidre Landin. Then again, Vant’s tremendous success could make up for any lacking physical traits.

When putting together the promotional materials for the reception, Piper asked Deidre if there was a better photo of Vant they could use. Deidre had laughed, saying that Nolan hated publicity and preferred to remain behind the camera. “I had to twist Nolan’s arm to even get him to agree to this reception,” Deidre said. “It’s the first time in who knows how long that Nolan has made a public appearance, and it’s happening right here in our humble gallery.”

There was nothing humble about Deidre or her gallery. Deidre came from old money. Her dad had helped her start the gallery. Deidre’s problem was that she was pampered and spoiled. Everything had come too easily for her. Piper’s gaze flickered over Deidre. As usual, she was the picture of perfection … like she’d just stepped out of a fashion magazine. Her long, platinum hair that gleamed like water was owed to expensive hair products and the adept hand of a highly sought-after stylist who knew how to do highlights. Deidre was dressed in a winter white coat and matching pants, a Prada bag slung over her arm. She removed her sunglasses from her head.

“Here’s your mail.” Piper handed her a stack of envelopes.

Deidre glanced down, sifting through the envelopes in her hands. “I’m working a few hours in the office before heading to the airport to pick up Nolan.”

That was great news! Hopefully, Deidre would be so preoccupied with her boyfriend that she would stay out of Piper’s hair. Piper kept her voice casual as she asked, “Nolan’s coming in today? I assumed that he’d get here on Thursday.”

Deidre’s expression softened. “He’s coming in early so we can spend time together.”

“Will you be bringing him by the gallery today?”

“Nope, I plan to keep Nolan all to myself the next few days.”

Piper bit back a smile. “Have fun.”

“I will,” Deidre sang as she strolled to the back, her heels clopping with every step.

This time, Piper gave herself the pleasure of rolling her eyes. Deidre was a piece of work! Nothing like the kind, considerate boss she’d appeared to be when Piper first took the job.

The bell over the door rang, signaling the arrival of a man and woman—the first customers of the day. Piper stood, a professional smile curving her lips. “Good morning,” she said warmly. “Are you looking for anything in particular?”

“Just browsing,” the woman said with a hint of dismissal. Piper got it. People wanted to look around without being hounded by a sales associate. “If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask,” she said cordially.

“Thanks,” the man replied, his expression a touch apologetic as if to make up for the terseness of his wife.

A little before noon, Scotty emerged from the back. “The cases are all unpacked,” he announced, stepping up to the reception desk and handing Piper the packing slips.

Aside from Deidre, Piper and Scotty were the only full-time employees at the gallery. Another woman, Gail Finley, worked part-time to help fill in when needed.

“So,” Scotty began, his dark eyes sparkling with mischief. “It sounds like the witch was on her broom this morning.”

Piper made a face as she glanced furtively toward the back area where Deidre’s office was located. She leaned forward, lowering her voice. “Did you hear her? She accused me of mixing up an order, when the bulk of it was her fault.” Anger rushed back with a vengeance, souring her mouth.

He shook his head. “Sounds about right. Did I hear correctly? Is she leaving soon?”

“Yes,” Piper whispered conspiratorially, “to pick up Nolan Vant from the airport.”

Scotty clucked his tongue as he shook his head. “Poor, miserable chap. I wouldn’t wish that wazzock on a snake.”

A giggle rose in Piper’s throat as she put her hand to her mouth to stifle it. “Wazzock. That’s a new one.”

“It means idiot.”

“You’re terrible,” she said appraisingly, feeling vindicated that she wasn’t the only one who had a hard time with Deidre.

Scotty flashed a cheeky grin that revealed deep dimples as he began singing along to the tune of Jingle Bells playing in the background, “The witch is gone, the witch is gone, the witch is gone all day. Oh, what fun we’ll have today, as long as the witch stays gone.”

“Shh,” she hissed. “She’s not gone yet.”

From England, Scotty was a combination of handsome and cute in a Hugh Jackman meets Adam Sandler sort of way, but there were no sparks. In Piper’s eyes, he was just a friend.

“So, love, after the witch is gone, maybe we should swing by the chocolate shop, and then grab lunch.”

Piper was amused. “You mean swing by and grab Cori, and then we can get lunch?” It was cute to see the color that stained Scotty’s cheeks. Yep, just as she suspected, Scotty had a thing for Piper’s roommate and best friend Cori who worked at the chocolate and gift shop a few doors down.

Piper threw Scotty a perceptive look. “You know, you could just ask Cori on a date.”

Scotty laughed, his face turning redder. “I’m working my way around to it.” He winked. “Just give me time.” He cleared his throat. “Don’t say a word to her about my … err … intentions.”

“I wouldn’t dream of it.” Piper made a zipping motion over her lips. Cori and Scotty would make a great couple. Cori needed to find a guy who was down-to-earth as opposed to her normal pretty-boy, model types. “Word to the wise. You’d better act fast before another guy steps into the picture.” Cori had recently split up with her boyfriend. With her vivid red hair, lively green eyes, and bubbly personality, Cori had a string of guys wanting to go out with her.

Scotty’s eyes widened. “Yikes! I thought she’d at least wait a few days before finding a replacement for …”

“Axle,” Piper supplied.

His eyes rounded. “Axle? What was he? The starring character in an action movie?”

She laughed. “Oh, no. Axle’s too pretty to be an action star. He’s more of the runway model type.” She pursed her lips, posing.

He straightened to his full height, pushing out his chest. “Cori needs a real man … not some glass ornament type who can’t move for fear of getting broken.”

“I hear ya. Just don’t let any grass grow under your feet.” She pumped her fist. “I’m pulling for you, man.”

“Good to know,” he said with a cheeky grin.

The speaker clicked. The music was replaced by Deidre’s voice. “I got Nolan’s flight information and am surprising him at the airport.”

“You go get him, girl,” a woman said.
Deidre’s throaty laughter bounced around the cavernous space. “I can’t wait to get Nolan all to myself. No more camera crews or people around. Just me and him.”

Piper and Scotty looked at one another, fighting laughter. The music for the gallery was controlled from Deidre’s office. She must have hit something and was unaware that her phone conversation had overtaken the music and was being broadcast to the entire gallery.

Scotty sat down on the edge of the desk, propping his leg up as he folded his arms over his chest. “No wonder the poor chap travels the world taking photos. It’s to escape her clutches.” He jutted a thumb toward Deidre’s office.

Piper sniggered. “Probably.”

“You’ve got this,” the other woman purred in a cultured tone that reeked of wealth. “Maybe Nolan’s coming into town to propose.”

Pleased laughter rumbled in Deidre’s throat. “You never know,” she said coyly.

The woman’s voice shot up several octaves. “Girl, you’ve been holding out on me. You’ll be the toast of the town. A gallery owner joining forces with Nolan Vant. You’ll be unstoppable.”

“That’s the plan,” Deidre trilled. “Darling, I need to let you go. I’ve gotta get to the airport.”

“Have fun,” the woman chirped. “Don’t do anything I wouldn’t.”

“Don’t worry,” Deidre sang. “Ciao.” There was a click as she ended the call.

Scotty held up a finger. “Ah ha. The truth comes out. Nolan Vant’s exclusive deal is up for renewal the first of next month. If Deidre can trap him into marriage, she really will be unstoppable.”

Piper’s eyes widened. “Do you really think Deidre would stoop so low as to marry a man just to sell his art?”

He shrugged. “It’s Deidre we’re talking about. Who knows how low she’ll stoop?”

“Maybe you’re right,” Piper said with a shrug. Deidre was power hungry, but she seemed crazy about Nolan Vant. It was hard to say what Deidre’s motivations were.

A couple seconds later, Deidre strolled into the gallery area and up to the reception desk. She turned to Scotty. “How did it go with the new shipment? Were there any damaged items?”

“Nope. All good.”

“How did the conversation go with Mac Wilbrook?” Deidre asked, homing in on Piper.

“Surprisingly well. He was gracious. He does want the prints he already has and is grateful for the discount.”

“Good.” Deidre punched out the words like she was checking off a list. “Did you order the roses?”

“Yes.” Sheesh. Hadn’t Piper repeatedly proven that she was capable?

“Get the inventory done,” Deidre ordered.

Piper nodded.

“Well, I’m off,” Deidre said brightly. She walked a couple steps before stopping and tilting her head. “What happened to the music?”

Amusement flashed over Scotty’s features as he looked at Piper who was trying to keep a straight face.

“I’m sure it’s just a glitch. I’ll look into it,” Scotty said smoothly.

“See that you do. It’s much too quiet in here.” Deidre shuddered. “Customers will hate it.”

“Yes, the silence would be a travesty,” Scotty said dryly as he looked at Piper.

Deidre’s eyes narrowed like she was trying to decide if Scotty was making fun of her. “Fix it,” Deidre commanded as she turned on her heel and marched out, her shoes clacking.

Scotty folded his arms as he sighed. “Remind me why I keep working here.”

“Same reason as me,” Piper quipped, “because Deidre promised us that she’ll feature our work.”

He cocked his head. “Do you think she’ll follow through?”

Piper shrugged. “Time will tell. She promised me the first of the year.”

“She promised me spring.” Scotty pulled a face as he held up his hands. “The real question is—can I keep from wringing her scrawny neck before then?”

“At the rate she’s going, I’m not sure,” Piper laughed.

Scotty put his hands together. “Well, let’s go to lunch.”

“As tempting as that is, one of us should stay here. Why don’t you just bring me something back?” A teasing smile tugged at her lips. “Maybe some chocolate?”

A broad grin split Scotty’s face. “I like the way you think, love. I’ll throw a sandwich into the mix too.”

Piper wrinkled her nose. “You know what? On second thought. I’ll just go and grab lunch … after you get back. It’ll do me some good to get out of this place for an hour.”

“Amen,” Scotty boomed. He pumped his eyebrows.

“Wish me luck at the chocolate shop.”

Piper waved a hand. “Ah, you don’t need luck. Just throw a few of those sexy loves into the conversation. With your accent, you’ll have her eating out of the palm of your hand.”

“I can only hope.” He went a few steps, then stopped.

“The music.”

“Yep, better fix that. ‘Customers will hate it,’” she said, mimicking Deidre.

He saluted and went that direction.

Piper’s stomach rumbled. She touched it before turning her attention to the packing slips. Her hunger would have to wait until Scotty returned. In the meantime, she’d log in the inventory.

When the music came back on, Piper found herself humming along to the Christmas song playing. She was excited about Christmas and was looking forward to spending time with her family. Also, she was excited to get a break from Deidre.

Piper could only hope that Nolan Vant would keep her preoccupied so that Piper and Scotty could have a little room to breathe.

Would Deidre make good on her promise and feature Piper’s photography, or was working for Deidre and putting up with her crap a colossal waste of time and energy?

Only time would tell.


📚Excerpt from One Way Home

Later that night, after the kids were in bed, Zoe tucked her leg underneath her and settled into the couch in the den as she waited for Carl to get home. She turned on a movie, but it was hard to focus. Her mind kept going back to the opportunity at the Gads Art Gallery. Earlier, she’d been so excited to tell Carl the good news, but he’d not returned her call, possibly because he thought it was about the orange juice incident. Now, she was mostly just frustrated about the whole thing. What good was it to have such an amazing opportunity if she couldn’t share it with the one person who was supposed to be the closest to her? 

She looked out at the magnificent view afforded by the wall of windows in her den overlooking the small mountain city. The inky black sky and the twinkling lights from the houses below created a feeling of being alone, as if set on a ridge, separated from the warmth of community. A cold pang tugged at her stomach as she hugged her arms, trying to push aside the despondency creeping over her.

With a heavy sigh, she looked at the TV, forcing herself to concentrate on the movie playing across the screen. Eventually, her eyelids grew heavy as she nodded off to sleep.

“Come on,” Briggs urged, his voice floating above the babbling sound of rushing water in the nearby creek. He caught hold of her hand, pulling her along the trail. 

Zoe groaned. “I knew this was a bad idea. My daddy will tan my hide and yours too when he realizes we skipped chemistry class.”

Briggs stopped in his tracks, his sudden movement causing her to barrel into his back.

“Oops,” she said.

He turned to face her, his blue eyes sparkling brighter than the azure sky above them. He pulled his trademark crooked grin that had most of the female juniors at Jefferson High School pining away for him. “That’s the best part,” he murmured, as his gaze moved over her face so slowly and thoroughly that it caused her blood to run faster. “What can be better than practicing real life chemistry? Right here. Right now.” 

Her breath hitched, and for an instant, she was spellbound. He brushed her cheek with the back of his fingers. His featherlight touch both tickled and tantalized. Her lips parted as she lifted her face to his. She soaked in his boyishly handsome features. Smooth, tanned skin, those piercing blue eyes that were hijacking her thoughts more than she cared to admit. A lock of his deep honey-blond hair slipped down over his forehead. It was so darn cute and so wildly attractive. The adventure in his eyes beckoned to her, making her forget how reckless it was to come out to the swimming hole alone with Briggs McAllister, who was notorious for being a player. 

At the beginning of the school year, she’d promised herself that she wouldn’t fall prey to Briggs’ charm. Then, he began working at her daddy’s ranch. She watched him with the animals, how kind and compassionate he was. Briggs was a hard worker and had a serious side to him that he rarely showed at school. Zoe began finding reasons to go to the stables more often. Then it happened. Their eyes met for one long moment, and Briggs finally saw her. They’d spent many an afternoon after that laughing and talking until the sun began its homeward track down below the horizon. 

Briggs leaned closer. She could feel his warm breath on her skin. Could he hear her heart, racing like a stampede of horses? She closed her eyes, expecting him to kiss her.


When she opened her eyes, he was studying her with an enigmatic expression. “What?” she mumbled, the heat of embarrassment climbing up her neck. “I’m not good enough to kiss?” she taunted, instantly embarrassed at her boldness.

Conflicting emotions battled in his eyes. She felt his indecision, his complexity. Then the tough-guy mask slipped back over his face as a low chuckle rumbled from his throat. “Come on.” 

When they got to the swimming hole, Briggs began removing his socks and shoes. Next, came his t-shirt. She swallowed the tightness in her throat, trying not to gawk at his broad shoulders or his lean, sinewy muscles. Sheesh. Was that the beginnings of a six-pack? His swim trunks were red, white, and blue, with the stars and stripes of the American flag. 

He turned to her, pumping his eyebrows. “Your turn.”

Crikey! She should’ve thought this whole thing through more carefully. Why had she worn a two-piece? Why?! Taking in a deep breath, she slipped off her sandals before removing her shorts, trying to act like it was an everyday thing to undress with Briggs McAllister watching. When she hesitated, amusement glimmered in his ice-blue eyes. “Scared to take your shirt off, Romeo?” he teased.

Briggs got great delight out of calling Zoe by her last name and making a pun out of the word Romeo. She straightened to her full height, meeting his eyes. “Not in the least,” she retorted as she removed her shirt, making sure to hold her stomach in. The note of appreciation in Briggs’ eyes was flattering. 

He rewarded her with a large grin. “Chemistry.”

A heatwave rolled over her. “What do you mean?” she demanded, even though she had a pretty good idea of what he was getting at. The attraction between them was zigzagging erratically like lighting in a summer storm. 

He winked. “I’ll let you figure it out. Let’s do it,” Briggs shouted exuberantly as he caught hold of her hand.

She dug in her heels. “Wait. Where are we going?”

“To the rope swing.”

“Uh, I think I’ll just swim a bit first.”

“Oh no, Romeo. This is all or nothing.”

She winced. “Okay, then I’ll take nothing.”

He laughed. “Not an option. You’re going off the swing if I have to carry you.”

The thought of Briggs carrying Zoe, being so close to him, was almost more terrifying than going off the rope swing. When they got to the top of the ledge, overlooking the water, she swallowed hard, trying to calm her screaming nerves. It didn’t help that the rope was frayed and crudely tied to an overhanging tree branch.

“It’s a piece of cake,” Briggs said. He caught hold of the rope. “You just have to use enough force so that you swing out far enough into the water.”

Her gut churned as she peered over the ledge. “You mean so that I won’t hit the rocks on the side.”

“Exactly,” he beamed. 

The ledge was probably no more than twenty feet high, but Zoe felt like she was standing on the edge of a skyscraper, looking down into oblivion. She hated being a chicken, but she detested heights. Her palms were oozing perspiration as she clenched her hands. 

“Here goes,” he said as he swung out into the center of the water with such torque that he flew up into the air when he let go. He hit the water with a loud splash as he went under. When his head broke through the surface, he looked up at her with a mile-wide grin. “Come on in. The water’s fine,” he proclaimed. 

Zoe’s knees were beginning to shake. “There’s only one way out of this, Romeo,” she told herself as she grasped the rope. She drew back, offering a silent prayer. Please protect me, even though this is one of the stupidest things I’ve ever done. She swung out into the open air and let go of the rope when the expanse of water was underneath her. The force of the water stung the bottom of her feet as she went in. When she came up, a swell of exultation ran through her. 

“You did it!” Briggs exclaimed.

“Yes, I did.” And lived to tell the tale, she added silently as she threaded her arms through the water. It was cool and refreshing, making her feel reborn. Suddenly, she was glad that she’d skipped class to come out here with Briggs. Zoe couldn’t remember the last time she’d broken the rules. It felt kind of liberating. 

Briggs dog-paddled over to her. “Alright, Romeo. I’m impressed. You completed your first challenge. Now, it’s time for your final one.”

Nervous laughter gurgled in her throat. “No one said anything about challenges.”

He pumped his brows, making him look ridiculously charming. “Of course, there are challenges, that’s what life’s all about.” He moved closer, sending her cells swirling. “Now, for your final one. You have to complete this one before we can go home.”

She raised an eyebrow. “Is that right?”

“Yep,” he quipped, “because I have the keys to the truck, right over there on that rock.”

A reckless thought tumbled through her. “I guess I’ll just have to get there first,” she said as she made a break for it. Zoe had never been a terrific swimmer, but she swam with all her might, her arms pulling through the water as she kicked. To her dismay, Briggs beat her by a mile as he climbed out. “Ah, ha!” he said, grinning broadly as she began scampering over the rocks to get out of the water. He turned and extended a hand, the warmth of his skin seeped into hers as he pulled her out.

His eyes rounded. “Crap! I just realized we forgot to bring towels.”

She hugged her arms as she looked up at the sun. “I guess we’ll just have to drip dry.” Even though the sun was shining brightly in the sky overhead, it was the end of May and still a bit chilly, especially when they were dripping wet.

“I guess so,” he agreed, his eyes deepening to a smolder. “Unless …” his eyes slipped over her “… you want me to warm you up.” There was such a maddening sense of arrogance about him that ignited her senses. He knew the effect he was having on her and was enjoying every minute. Before she could utter a single word, he stepped close and slid his arms around her waist.

Her breath caught as she peered into his eyes.

“How’s that?” he asked.

“Good,” she squeaked. The feel of his arms around her was electrifying, shooting heat through her entire body. His hair stuck flat to his head, emphasizing his chiseled features. How could anyone be so good looking, so mesmerizing? It was getting to where Zoe was living for the chance to earn one of his crooked grins. 

“You’re trembling.”

It was being so close to him, but she wasn’t about to admit that. Her thoughts went back to what he’d said before they raced to the shore. “What’s the one thing I have to do before we can go home?”

“Ah, that.” A teasing grin tugged at his lips. “I was going to say that you had to swim the length of the swimming hole. Now …” He tipped his head looking thoughtful. “How about a kiss instead?”

She blinked, her pulse skittering as a deep longing stirred through her. She swallowed, forcing her voice to go light. “That’s a little underhanded, don’t you think?” 

He chuckled. “Why’s that?”

“You do have the upper hand. After all, I’m standing in your arms. You know,” she continued, “if I didn’t know better, I’d say that you forgot the towels on purpose so you could offer to warm me up.” She tried not to think of how his muscular body felt pressed against hers. If her daddy saw her right now, he’d tan her hide and then ground her for the rest of her life. 

“Maybe,” he grinned. His eyes flashed with a wicked glint. “So, do I get that kiss?”

A thousand tingles circled through her stomach as she sighed. “I suppose if that’s the only way I can get home, then so be it. Lay one on me,” she said bravely, as she closed her eyes and puckered her lips. She waited on bated breath for her very first kiss. As before when they were on the path, nothing. She opened her eyes to find him studying her with amusement. “What?” she squeaked. If he didn’t kiss her soon, so help her, she was going to bridge this distance and kiss him. 

He cocked his head. “I don’t think I will kiss you,” he mused. “Not here. Not like this.”

She frowned, her stomach tumbling over itself and falling into a desperate heap at her feet. “I—I don’t understand.” 

His eyes deepened to a rich, intense cobalt. “When we kiss,” he breathed, “time will stop, and you’ll want it as bad as me.” He leaned in close, his breath tickling her face. “You’ll crave the feel of my lips like you crave air,” he whispered. “Only then will we kiss.”

“I crave you,” Zoe replied, then jumped, waking up from her nap. She blinked, glancing around the den as a hot guilt surged through her. For a split second, her mind jumped back to the swimming hole with Briggs, the tender scent of honeysuckles lingering in the air. 

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