Category Archives: LIT BITS

Sandy Lo’s short stories and sample chapters.

Spotlight – Chapter One

Available on Kindle March 1, 2017.
Available on Kindle March 1, 2017.

Spotlight” is the 6th book in the “Dream Catchers” Series and is from the perspective of photographer Haley Foster and rock star Jordan Walsh’s daughter, Aylin. “Spotlight” will be released March 1, 2017.  PRE-ORDER SPOTLIGHT

SYNOPSIS

Aylin Ashton always had a voracious heart and is fiercely loyal to the ones she loves. At twenty, she wants more than the celebrity lifestyle her family is known for—she wants an identity of her own with friends who care about who she is and not her last name.

Most of all, Aylin wants the love story her parents have. In a world full of divorce, and a society that has made it hard for her to be “normal”, she is not sure if true love can be her reality.

She finds herself struggling to grow romantically and keeps hitting a dead-end with men. From the egotistical pop-rocker Rad Trick to hipster music critic Mike, Aylin is not particularly gaga for either of them, and can’t help to pine for too-old-for-her Irishmen, Colin Houlihan, who happens to be her father’s tour manager!

The impetuous Aylin can’t help but make passes at the flirty, always doting on her Colin, and when he actually admits an attraction to her, the two are on dangerous ground.

The experience leaves Aylin wounded, but ultimately sends her on a journey to find out who she is and what she really wants, and maybe to the special someone she had hoped for.

Read the “Dream Catchers” Series on Amazon!

CHAPTER ONE

“Aylin, you don’t have to decide your major right now,” my college advisor chuckled at me.

I am a sophomore at NYU and really want to figure out my career.  I took a couple of semesters off to travel with my parents and be a nanny for my Aunt Cami and Uncle Drew.  I thought it would give me time to figure out my life path.

My parents tell me I’m in too much of a rush to grow up, and maybe I am.  I was surrounded by grown-ups my entire life.  They were past this whole indecisive, career-choosing, love-seeking phase.  I hate not knowing my future.  I want answers.  I want to know who I will be and who I will be with.  I’ve always been a tad impulsive and impatient.  Okay, maybe I am more than a tad of both those things.

“Mr. Vecchio,” I sighed.  “I feel like I’ll just delay the time I’m spending in college.  I mean, what if I decide to be a doctor and I haven’t taken any courses related to that?”

I ran my hand through my blonde hair and Mr. Vecchio looked at me, obviously amused.  He has a graying goatee with one hair too long that seems to tickle his upper lip when he talks.  It must bother him because he scratches the goatee every so often.  I contemplated grabbing the pair of scissors on his desk and snipping it off for the past ten minutes.

“Do you want to be a doctor?”

“No way,” I shook my head, trying not to focus on the goatee.  “Too much blood and pain and politics.”

I know doctors help people, but the medical industry is riddled with corruption and medication that cures shit—and by shit, I mean not much of anything.

“I’m more of a holistic type.”

“So, you want to study holistic medicine?” Mr. Vecchio asked, crossing his hands and placing them on the desk, with a mocking expression.

I shook my head, “No, I don’t want to go into medicine at all.”

He was totally missing my point!

“Aylin, are you wasting my time today?”

I pushed my hair behind my ears and groaned.

“You’re my guidance counselor.  Help guide me!”

He rolled his eyes, “You’re a kid still.  Go out and join a sorority.  Stop worrying so much about your career.  It’ll come to you.  Make friends, date, party a little and next semester, we’ll talk.”

He stood up and made his way to the door cueing me to leave.  I looked at him in disbelief.

“Join a sorority?  Party a little?  That is your guidance?”

Mr. Vecchio chuckled again, which really must have made his goatee tickle his lips.  Immediately, he ran a hand over his mouth before giving me a condescending look.

“You need to lighten up, kid.”

Ugh, I hated people who called me kid!

“Why am I even in college then?  I’ll just go party,” I shrugged, standing up, grabbing my bag and storming out of his office.

Okay, maybe I was a little high-strung lately, but I wasn’t always that way.  I did whatever anyone else wanted to do, or wanted me to do.

Aylin, you want to come on tour with us instead of going to your prom?  Sure, Dad.

Aylin, can you get us tickets to a Yankee game?  Sure, friends who don’t give a damn about me.

Aylin, can we have sex?  Sure, Rad.

Ugh, Rad Trick.  Maybe he had a little more to do with my irritable, “help me, I’m lost” state than I’d like to admit.  He was someone I thought was my friend.  I should have known any guy with a name like Rad would be trouble.  I was warned, too—by my parents and Cami—that Rad’s bad boy image in the tabloids wasn’t all publicity.

Rad Trick is a solo artist, who likes to think of himself as a rock star, but is more pop-rock that would be played on the Disney Channel in between those over-acted cheesy shows that I indulged in way more than I like to admit.

He is tall, kind of skinny with thick, dark hair, almost black eyes, and olive skin.  His parents are from Greece and his full first name is Radamus.

He is managed by Out Of The Woods Entertainment, my aunt Cami’s company, which also manages my dad’s band, Tortured.  I had met Rad a bunch of times in passing, but he asked me to lunch a while back and we began hanging out whenever he was in town.

I knew Rad’s image was tarnished.  I knew about the stints in rehab and how frustrated Cami always seemed when talking about him.  Like my mother taught me, though, I didn’t judge books by their cover.

Rad didn’t want to get to know me because I was Jordan Walsh’s daughter or Drew Ashton’s niece.  That was a first for me.  I felt special.  Rad truly seemed interested in who I was as a person.

We listened to each other when it felt like no one else understood.  He told me about his addictions.  I told him about my inexperience with love.  He talked about how strict his parents were.  I told him how laid back mine were.  We shared the same feelings toward our friends—that they were using us.

One thing we didn’t share was a mutual attraction.  Sure, I thought Rad was good-looking, but I didn’t feel drawn to him in any physical way.  I wanted to be, though.  Wouldn’t that have made life easier?  If I could just force myself to fall for someone who genuinely liked me?  I enjoyed talking to Rad, though.  He told me I was a good influence on him, and I believed him.  It made me feel good about myself.

He also said something about my parents one night after too much alcohol—on my part—that struck a chord.  I had never thought about it before, but it made me wonder.

“Your parents are a little selfish, huh?” he asked, as we sat in his Upper West Side penthouse on a super uncomfortable, modern couch.

“Selfish?” I gasped.  “No,” I shook my head vehemently.  “They’re great.  They’ve given me everything I need and more.  I’m lucky,” I smiled, but felt a twinge in my stomach of uncertainty.

Rad flashed a smile as he reached out and brushed my cheek.  He always found little ways of touching me.  I knew he wanted more with me, but I was grateful he hadn’t made a move… yet.  I hoped I would return his affections eventually.

“It’s okay, Aylin.  It doesn’t make them bad people.  They both have busy careers and they did what worked for them, to keep you all together.  But did it work for you?”

“Did what work for me?”

The alcohol and Rad’s accusations along with how close we were sitting were mixing me up.

“Traveling around the world?  Being pulled out of school?  Living in their shadow?”

I pulled back from him, “I’m going to go.”

Rad grabbed my hand and pulled me down.

“I’m sorry if I upset you.”

I looked at him and didn’t realize I was crying until he brushed back my tears.  He pulled me into a hug and I couldn’t stop the tears from falling as he consoled me.  When I finally looked at him, he made his move.  He kissed me and I felt too overcome with emotions and confusion to do anything but kiss him back.

It was a nice kiss, but I didn’t feel any more for him than I had before it happened.  I politely left and walked around aimlessly.  I never spoke about my parents’ “selfishness” again.

Rad took that moment, and the vulnerability it evoked within me, and tried to recreate it whenever we were alone, which I tried to keep to a minimum.  I missed our talks, but I was afraid of facing his affection and exposing anymore negative feelings.

Of course, I didn’t take Cami’s advice and try to cut off the friendship.

“It is impossible to get over someone you see all the time,” she explained when I told her about Rad’s one-sided attraction.

Cami knew that better than anyone.  From what I understood, she harbored a crush on my dad for twenty years!  I’m glad she and Uncle Drew are getting married in a week; they’re perfect together.

Instead of listening to Cami, I continued to hang out with Rad.  I even began initiating kisses with him.  Why?  Out of fear of losing the only real friend I had, and still hoping he would grow on me romantically, like Mom and Dad grew on each other.

One night Rad and I were making out—after too much alcohol again—and I was feeling turned on.  It wasn’t necessarily an attraction, but my hormones took over.  I had never even been to third base before and wanted to wait to find love, but I felt strongly for Rad as a friend.  I had rather lose my virginity to him than any other guy in my life at that moment.  I didn’t stop him when he put his hand up my dress and into my panties.

He pulled his hand away right when I was about to go over the edge and looked into my eyes.

“Can we move into the bedroom?”

I knew this was a grown-up decision.  It could change everything.  But right then, I wasn’t thinking clearly.  Rad had worked me up just enough that I wanted to finish what we started.  I wanted to become a woman; one who made decisions for herself and didn’t drift aimlessly and comfortably like I always had.

The walk of shame I took at three a.m. had me feeling awful.  I felt bad for leaving, but I thought it would be worse if I stayed.  Sneaking into my Riverside Drive brownstone made me feel even worse, like I did something wrong.  Why did it feel wrong?  I was twenty-one!  I don’t have to ask permission to have sex or stay out late.

My dog, Tilly, came running to me and I pet her quickly, hoping the sound of her clicking paws on the wood floors didn’t wake Mom.  Dad was somewhere in England on tour.  I was grateful I wouldn’t have to look into his eyes for the next few days.  Could fathers tell when their daughter’s innocence was gone?  Although, I still felt pretty damn naive and like a little girl more than ever.  It was a stupid move.  It wasn’t a sign of maturity or taking control.  I was anything but in control.

As I got changed for bed, I thought about Rad and wondered if I could ever love him, or even like him enough to date.  That was why it felt so wrong; I knew he had feelings for me and they were not reciprocated.  I cried myself to sleep with Tilly by my side.

Tilly had only been in my life for a year, but she was the best dog.  Dad and I rescued her from an ASPCA event I was volunteering at.  Mom was skeptical about having to take care of a dog with all the traveling we did, but it’s worked out.

The next morning, I worried what I would say to Rad or how he would feel about me sneaking out on him.  He sent me a text that afternoon, but it wasn’t what I expected to see.

Had a great time last night.  Thanks 😉

I guess I expected something along the lines of him asking why I left or that awkward “we need to talk” text.  For the next few days, I kept waiting for something like that to come, but it never did.  I didn’t receive any other communication from him until almost a week later.  The text came in at night.  Late at night.

Wanna come over? :-)~

Ok

It became clear to me I was a booty call. Maybe that’s all I ever was to Rad; a conquest.

That whole situation along with the need to find out who I am and what I want had me all sorts of screwy.

When I got home from school, the irritation from visiting with my guidance counselor and receiving a follow-up text from Rad had consumed me.  This time, Rad’s text said something about missing my body and it made me cringe.  I slammed down my bag and noisily searched through the freezer for vegan ice cream.  Mom and I weren’t complete vegans, but just about.

I found the ice cream wedged in the back of the freezer covered by giant bags of frozen broccoli.  We kept an emergency stash in case of PMS or particularly bad days.  Today wasn’t an awful day and it was a little early for PMS, but after my “best” friend reduced me to friends with benefits and my guidance counselor told me to join a sorority, ice cream was called for.

I sat down on the couch with the carton of Turtle Trails and a spoon while flipping the Yankees game on.  I glanced at my phone to see Rad sent me another text.

Are you ignoring me?  I’m leaving tomorrow for L.A.  I really want to see you before I go.

I shoveled a huge scoop of ice cream into my face before picking up my phone and responding.

Okay.  Not at your place.  We need to talk.

I have a meeting at Out Of The Woods in a few.  Want to meet me there and we can go to Serendipity?

I looked at the ice cream in my hand and knew a Frrrozen Hot Chocolate was not what I needed.  I got sick the last time I had one.  Serendipity and pizza were my two huge dairy exceptions, and I always paid for them later.

Sure. What time?

The T.V. announced Uncle Drew to the plate and I gave the game my attention for a moment.  Tilly jumped up on the couch beside me and I welcomed her warmth as opposed to the cold container in my hands.  I heard the front door open and Mom giggling on the phone with someone.  She walked into the living room, holding a dress bag.

“I can’t wait to see Ben give you away.  It’s going to be so cute,” Mom cooed.

It was obvious she was talking to Cami.  Mom was almost as excited for the wedding as Uncle Drew and Cami were.  If you knew Cami, you’d know getting excited and giddy about something didn’t always go hand-in-hand for her.  That kind of changed when she and Uncle Drew began dating.

“Hey A,” Mom called to me.

I waved at her with the spoon in my hand and she must have figured out what kind of day I was having.

“Cami, I’ll talk to you later,” she said draping her dress over the arm chair just as the T.V. roared.

Uncle Drew hit a homerun.  Before Mom could hang up, I could hear Cami cheer through the phone.  She was obviously watching the game too, and I had to laugh.  Mom sat on the other side of Tilly who acknowledged her with a wag of her tail.

“Emergency stash?” She asked, motioning to the carton and I nodded.  “Bad day at school?”

“My guidance counselor is a jackass.”

“Aylin,” she smirked.

Mom secretly enjoyed when I cussed.  She once told me I was adorable when I was mad, which frustrated me since I was trying to be serious—not adorable.

“Mom, he told me I need to lighten up and party more,” I sighed, handing her the ice cream.

She laughed and took a heaping scoop of Turtle Trails.

“What?  I don’t think he’s supposed to advise that,” she said with her mouth full.

“Right?” I huffed.

“Forget him.  How about we go out to dinner and make fun of his misshaped goatee?”

I laughed.  I love my mom.  Rad wasn’t my best friend.  Mom is.

“I wish I could.  I’m meeting Rad,” I said glumly.

“Oh,” she nodded.

She sounded disappointed and I wanted to tell her what’s been going on.  I told my parents everything, but I didn’t want to upset them.  I didn’t want to prove everyone right about Rad and reveal my stupidity.

“I love you, Mom,” I stood up.

She smiled, “I love you too.  Are you okay?”

I shrugged, “I just want to find my place, you know?”

She tilted her head, “You’re right where you belong.”

Leave it to Mom to say something cheesy and perfect.  It made me angry that Rad called my parents selfish when they care so much.

“You know what I mean,” I said.  “I want to figure out my career and find my peeps.”

She laughed, “Your peeps?’

“I love you guys, but I don’t have friends—”

“Aylin, you have a ton of friends,” Mom said.  “Everyone loves you.”

I sighed, “Mom, you know that I stopped hanging out with people from high school.”

“That was your choice, A.”

“Yeah, well, they just didn’t seem like good friends when they would ask for tickets to a Yankees game or concert all the freaking time.  I mean, you saw how those girls would gawk at Dad when they’d come over.”

Mom stood up and pulled me into a hug.

“They’re kids and even adults are so wrapped up in putting celebrities on pedestals.  Your dad hates it.  That doesn’t mean they didn’t like you.  Do you think if you were some stuck-up snob that they’d still be your friend even with the perks?”

I pulled away and looked at her.  Mom’s grey eyes were determined to convince me my friends cared about me.

“Yes, I do.”

She didn’t know how to respond.

“Maybe your guidance counselor is right.  You need to party a bit and make some new friends.”

I rolled my eyes and pushed her lightly.

“Right, like you were such a party animal in college,” I stuck my tongue out at her.

“You don’t want to be like me,” she laughed.  “I had social claustrophobia!  It was awful.”

“Being like you isn’t so bad, you know?” I smiled.

Mom shoved me this time and we laughed.

“You’ll find your way,” she said, as if she could promise that to me.

I nodded, wanting to believe her.

Read the “Dream Catchers” Series on Amazon!

Spotlight – Prologue

Available on Kindle March 1, 2017.
Available on Kindle March 1, 2017.

Spotlight” is the 6th book in the “Dream Catchers” Series and is from the perspective of photographer Haley Foster and rock star Jordan Walsh’s daughter, Aylin.  “Spotlight” will be released March 1, 2017. PRE-ORDER SPOTLIGHT

SYNOPSIS

Aylin Ashton always had a voracious heart and is fiercely loyal to the ones she loves. At twenty, she wants more than the celebrity lifestyle her family is known for—she wants an identity of her own with friends who care about who she is and not her last name.

Most of all, Aylin wants the love story her parents have. In a world full of divorce, and a society that has made it hard for her to be “normal”, she is not sure if true love can be her reality.

She finds herself struggling to grow romantically and keeps hitting a dead-end with men. From the egotistical pop-rocker Rad Trick to hipster music critic Mike, Aylin is not particularly gaga for either of them, and can’t help to pine for too-old-for-her Irishmen, Colin Houlihan, who happens to be her father’s tour manager!

The impetuous Aylin can’t help but make passes at the flirty, always doting on her Colin, and when he actually admits an attraction to her, the two are on dangerous ground.

The experience leaves Aylin wounded, but ultimately sends her on a journey to find out who she is and what she really wants, and maybe to the special someone she had hoped for.

Read the “Dream Catchers” Series on Amazon!

PROLOGUE

Prologue

True love was something I knew existed, but I also believed it to be rare. Relationships crumbled too often for me to think it common.

My parents said the words “I love you” often—to me, to one another, to their friends. But I hadn’t given any thought to what those words meant. I loved lots of things, like animals, other children, ice cream, and my family. Outside of that, I never had a dire need for any particular person or object growing up, until recently.

I know how much I love my parents, but the kind of love Mom and Dad have for one another is what really baffled me. They embody true love. In today’s world, you don’t see it often, but it was always right in front of my face.

Throughout my school years, I couldn’t remember a single friend whose parents weren’t divorced. While traveling with my dad’s rock band, Tortured, I would meet so many celebrities who were on their second or third marriage. Some never settled down with anyone at all.

Even my dad’s best friend, Danny and the band’s manager, Cami, who were married almost as long as my parents had been, got a divorce a few years ago! I came to find out Danny was cheating on Cami, and they never had what she would describe as true love to begin with. The demise of their marriage opened my eyes to the fact that love is sometimes (most of the time) a novelty that wears off.

I used to be content surrounded by two loving, amazing parents who had the coolest careers. Mom is a notable photographer whose work had been featured in just about every magazine across the world. Dad, AKA Jordan Walsh, famous lead singer of Tortured, is renowned for his voice, songwriting, good-looks and humble personality. I’m proud of who my parents are and all they have accomplished.

While people think they’re cool for their professional accomplishments, I find their love for one another to be the most significant thing about them. They’re incredibly in sync with each other. They’ve been together for over twenty years and they still act like teenagers with a crush. I want that.

I don’t know when I will have it—if I will ever have it. While I am grateful for the life I’ve been blessed with, relating to my peers, making friends and having boyfriends is difficult.

I am around the band more than anyone else and they’re all at least twice my age. When I am not on tour with Tortured, I am accompanying Mom on photo shoots with teen heartthrobs, or cheering on Uncle Drew, shortstop for the New York Yankees, at home games. That is normal for me, but it isn’t for the average person.

Now that I’m no longer a teenager, I have grown tired of tagging along with my parents. I used to be a boisterous free spirit who went with the flow and didn’t stop to think about anything but the moment I was in. Senior year of high school was a serious wake-up call. I grew frustrated with my so-called friends when they continuously wanted to use me to get to Tortured or the Yankees or set them up with a celebrity.

Kayla was the closest I had to a best friend. We met when we were fourteen, and kept in touch through social media and text messages while I traveled with my parents. She’d always beg me to Face Time from backstage at whatever event I was at and made lots of ridiculous requests—like celebrity phone numbers.

I used to be happy and excited about life. When I turned eighteen, I suddenly felt alone. I couldn’t trust any of the friends I made in high school and meeting new people was not easy.

I keep waiting for something and I don’t know what that something is. I thought college would be better. I could discover some kind of career calling and find real friends, but ultimately, I want to find true love—to have a partner in life to express all of these emotions to. I don’t want to feel used for my last name, the celebrity company I keep, or my money.
I’d settle for a simple crush on someone my own age who wasn’t super out-of-reach. The hugest crush I ever had was on my dad’s hot tour manager, Colin Houlihan. As soon as he said hello to me with that adorable Irish accent, I was planning our life together at eight-years-old.

Not long after I became infatuated with Colin, I asked Mom how she knew Dad was her soul mate. I hoped her explanation would help me identify the feeling within myself one day.

“Did you know right away?”
She laughed, “No, I hated your father at first sight.”
My eyes widened, “Hated him?”
She nodded, “I thought he was gorgeous, of course, in that unpolished way he has about him, but we were totally different people. I feared boys, especially ones that smoked and had tattoos…”
“Dad smoked?” I gasped, disgusted.
“Yes, repulsive, right?” She rolled her eyes and then laughed, as if she was lost in the memory of when they first met.
“So, did Dad fall for you right away?” I wondered. “Did he annoy you so much until you just went out with him?”

Fame or no fame, Dad had a way about him. He was good at getting people to do what he wanted, especially girls. He was what most people called charming, and I’ve been told many times that I have inherited his charm. I don’t know about all of that since most people were too entranced with my father than to ever notice me.

Mom laughed at me thinking Dad forced himself on her.
“Your father thought I was a stuck-up brat. But we both felt like we had to prove something to the other one. I think we came off so different that we were both a little intrigued, and secretly liked challenging each other,” Mom shrugged. “We got to know each other and realized you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover,” she concluded.
She looked at me the way she did when she wanted me to come away from something with a lesson. Never judge a book by its cover, got it, Mom. She didn’t realize the response I was searching for, though.

I never did get a clear answer of the moment Mom knew Dad was her true love, or how she knew. Does the feeling just hit you? Was it gradual?

Now at twenty-one, I feel I should know something about relationships and love, but I am still clueless and desperately wanting to mature in that department. As for the whole “don’t judge a book by its cover”… well, I never did, and sometimes I think I should have. Sometimes a book turns out exactly like its cover, and its one you never should have read to begin with.

Read Chapter One

Read the “Dream Catchers” Series on Amazon!

The Reunion – Chapter 1

The Reunion Book Cover FeaturedTHE REUNION is the 5th part of The Dream Catchers Series. It acts as a direct sequel to “Take Me Home“, following the storyline of music mogul Cami Woods and Yankee short-stop Drew Ashton. Enjoy this sneak peek…

Purchase “THE REUNION” on Amazon!

Chapter One

“Cami, Matt Porter is on line one,” my new assistant said, the excitement in her voice evident.

“Thanks, Jeannie,” I said, rolling my eyes when she turned away.

I thought rock star groupies were bad enough. My first client was Tortured, and with me being in love with the lead singer, Jordan, in the beginning, I hated all of their female fans. And then, I decided to get involved with the band’s drummer, Danny, and the line between jealous girlfriend/wife and encouraging music manager became very fine.

Now, I manage a few different pop acts, and I have decided teenyboppers are way worse than rock groupies. Grown women turn into bumbling idiots around these guys and it amuses me. But I will admit, I am a groupie when it comes to something—the Yankees. I’d known Drew Ashton since he was a kid, but when he put on those pinstripes, he became a man to me. Don’t get me wrong, with or without the baseball uniform, I’d love Drew, but whenever he’s in uniform, I want to tear it off of him.

“Porter, what do you want?” I picked up the phone.

“I’m sorry, are you too busy to talk to your favorite client?” Matt asked, teasingly.

I laughed, “Is this actually a business call?”

Matt Porter is part of Sound Wave, a boy band that has defied time, and lasted over twenty years. Matt is also one of my best friends.

“Well, no. But my wife is making me call to find out if you’re registered yet.”

I laughed, “We just got engaged a week ago.”

“I know, but you know Laura, she’s excited.”

“I am too,” I gushed.

“I’m happy for you, Cam.”

“Thanks Matty. Tell Laura as soon as I register, I’ll let her know. I have to get going though. Danny should be dropping off Ben any minute.”

“All right, tell Danny he’s an ass and give Ben a hug for me.”

“Will do,” I laughed before hanging up.

My ex-husband, Danny, is one of those guys most people—correction, most women love. However, he is so hotheaded sometimes that he makes enemies easily.

“Mama!”

I whirled around in my chair to see my four-year-old son running toward me. I swooped him up into my arms.

“Benny Boy, I’ve missed you!” I smooched his face and he giggled.

I love my little boy’s laugh. It does something inside my heart that I can’t explain. I looked up at Danny and he smiled.

“Who’s the new chick?” he nodded toward the reception desk.

I gave him a look of warning as I stood up with Ben in my arms.

“No way.”

“Come on, don’t be jealous,” he smirked as his six-three frame towered over me.

“I am not jealous. I’m engaged.”

“Right,” he rolled his eyes. “Young Andrew couldn’t even give you a ring?” he asked, grabbing my left hand.

He loved to remind me of Drew’s age.

I rolled my eyes, “Can you just please be happy for me?”

“Happy for you and Drew?” he asked with a scoff.

“Mama, I miss Drew!” Ben yelled.

I could see the pain on Danny’s face. In spite of myself, I felt bad for him.

“You’ll see him tomorrow, Ben,” I told him, before setting him down, and he took off running toward a bin of toys I kept in my office for him on days I had to take him to work with me.

“Do you know how often he talks about him?” Danny asked, letting out a sigh, once Ben was immersed in his toys.

I placed a hand on each one of Danny’s biceps, turning him toward me and staring into his vulnerable blue eyes.

“Ben is your son. No one will ever replace you.”

“With you or with Ben?”

I pulled my hands away from his arms and stared up at him. Danny’s eyes looked even sadder. I hated when he had that sweet and sensitive look. He was so much easier to deal with when he was being a jerk.

“We’ve been through this, Danny. I will always love you, but we never had… we aren’t right for each other. You know that.”

He nodded, “It’s just hard, you know? I mean, we get divorced and you’re thriving. Shit, you look incredible and you’re getting married…”

“What happened with you and Vanessa?” I asked, with a sigh, glancing over at Ben. “Did you cheat on her?”

Danny didn’t answer the question.

“All she did was nag me.”

I shook my head. “Right. Well, I’m sure you’ll find a woman who’s not a nag and will tolerate your temper, your drinking, and your infidelity. Maybe try an open relationship,” I laughed, crossing my arms over my chest.

“Forget it, Cami,” he waved me off. “I thought we were friends and you just want to kick me when I’m down. Buddy, I’m leaving, give me a hug,” he called to Ben and crouched down.

Ben ran over to Danny and hugged him.

“I love you, Daddy. Thanks for the drums,” he said, holding Danny tightly.

My heart melted, and once again I felt bad for my ex-husband who made his own bed and is lying in it—alone for the time being, which I’m sure will be very brief.

“D,” I said, but he just waved me off and walked out the door.

Sighing, I closed the office door and looked down at my son.

“Daddy got you drums?”

“Uh huh, and he said I can bang on ‘em really loud,” he giggled.

I laughed, “I’m sure his neighbors will love that.”

Around three a.m. that night, I woke up to Drew sliding into bed naked. He had been on the road for several days for the first few games of the American League Championship against the Baltimore Orioles. I was sad I didn’t get to attend any of the games due to work and Ben, but I was hoping to attend some of the home games coming up if there would be more than one.

I wanted to be there for the Yankees to sweep the championship and move on to the World Series! I wasn’t sure if that was possible though. I already couldn’t attend the next game.

I wrapped my arms around Drew as he kissed me.

“Great game tonight,” I said, nuzzling his neck.

“Sorry I woke you.”

“I’m not,” I said, reaching over and turning on the light.

I wanted to see Drew’s gorgeous face, even though it took my eyes a moment to adjust to the light.

“Why do you have clothes on?”

I laughed as I kissed his chin and looked up at him.

“My son is in the next room.”

“Benvy,” Drew smiled genuinely. “I’ve missed him.”

“He missed you too. His daddy is kind of jealous.”

Drew was quiet for a moment as he lay back against the pillows and I hovered over him, wrapping an arm around his firm, bare torso.

“Will Danny ever not hate me?”

“Drew, don’t let it bother you.”

He looked sad and vulnerable laying there naked and contemplative.

“It does bother me. Danny used to be like a brother to me…” he sighed. “Jordan and I hung out with him all the time. Now, it’s like…” he shook his head. “Forget it.”

He reached out and caressed my arm as I stared at him. It wasn’t like Danny and Drew were at each other’s throats, but they were far from friends anymore. I felt like it was all my fault.

“I’m sorry,” I sighed.

“Cami, you’re not to blame,” he said, warningly.

“Then whose fault is it?”

“Danny’s.”

I rolled my eyes and lay down in his arms. Drew had the best arms—strong, muscular, but not obnoxious like those steroid-pumped body builder types.

“Right. Danny pushed us together,” I said sarcastically.

Drew chuckled, the vibration in his chest going through my body.

“No regrets, Cam. I would lose Danny’s friendship again as long as it meant I get to keep you.”

I bit my lip as I smiled. He looked down at me and pulled my chin up so he could look into my eyes. He loved when I was bashful; something that I wasn’t often. Drew leaned down and kissed me, making my toes curl. I melted into him and my hand drifted under the blanket to his erection. Drew’s lips traveled down to my neck and his hands began lifting my shirt.

The next morning, I could hear Ben’s footsteps running down the hallway. I quickly got out of bed and slipped on my robe just in time for Ben to burst into my bedroom in his favorite Despicable Me pajamas.

“Drew!” Ben yelled just as I scooped him up into my arms.

“Shh, let Drew sleep,” I whispered, carrying him out of the room.

“Mama,” Ben pouted as I shut the door behind me. “I want to see him.”

“I know, baby boy, but you know Drew works hard. He needs his sleep.”

“You shouldn’t keep him up screaming then,” he said, as I set him down.

I was mortified, but wanted to laugh at the same time. The great thing about your boyfriend being gone for days at a time is you somehow make more time for sex when he comes home. I had no idea how to respond to my son, so I didn’t.

“What do you want for breakfast?”

“Eggs Benny,” he said, running down the hall toward the kitchen.

I laughed, “You know only Drew can make it the right way.”

Ben couldn’t pronounce “Benedict” and Drew decided to call it “Eggs Benny” and let him think it was named after him. It was pretty adorable.

“Did I hear someone order Eggs Benny?”

Drew’s morning voice was deep and raspy. Ben gasped, turned around and charged back down the hallway. I peered around the corner of the kitchen in time to see my son practically disappear into my fiancé’s arms. The sight of them embraced my heart.

Drew walked down the hallway, still holding Ben.

“Sorry Mama kept you up with her screaming,” Ben sighed. “Girls.”

Drew couldn’t contain his laughter as I smacked my hand over my face.

“I know, right? Girls are so weird,” Drew said to Ben before grinning at me in such a way that made his dimples more defined.

“She probably watched a scary movie before bed,” Ben shrugged his shoulders.

“Yup, that was it,” I quickly said. “I learned my lesson.”

Drew had a stupid smirk on his face now as he tried not to laugh again and placed Ben down.

“Alright, who’s hungry?” he changed the subject.

Ben and I both raised our hands and Drew smiled, clapped his hands together and headed into the kitchen. He knew his way around it much more than I did, though I did learn some things from him over the years.

“I have to get ready,” I pouted.

“Tell work you’re sick,” Ben winked at me, a gesture his father taught him.

I put my hands on my hips and scoffed at him.

“That would be a lie, mister.”

He shrugged, “You’re the boss. You can’t get in trouble.”

“Where do you get these things from?”

“You, Mommy. Remember?”

Drew chuckled as he got the eggs out of the refrigerator along with a cylinder of biscuits to pop in the oven.

“I believe you have used those words.”

“Ugh, I never thought he would remember them.”

“Benvy, it’s just you, me and Uncle Jordan today,” Drew said, pointing an egg toward him.

“Yes! Just us boys!” Ben yelled.

I smiled and then wrapped my arms around Drew and kissed below his ear.

“Invite Danny.”

Drew sighed, “Jordan already did. He said he was busy.”

I nodded, wishing there was a way I could make things right between them. Danny was incredibly stubborn though, and I wasn’t sure he could ever let something like this go. His pride was hurt, and the fact that our son loves Drew so much was just a salty reminder to the old wound.

As I was about to walk down the hallway, Drew called out to me.

“Are you coming to the game tomorrow?”

“I can’t, remember?” I asked, stopping and looking at his back as he grabbed a skillet.

“No, of course I don’t remember,” he laughed. “I can barely keep track of my own schedule, and yours is even crazier than mine.”

“That’s an exaggeration,” I shook my head. “The Video Music Awards are tomorrow. I have three clients performing and six of them attending.”

“Oh right, Jordan did say something about Tortured closing the show. I wish I could go with you guys,” he sighed.

It wasn’t often that Drew showed any resentment toward his career, but in certain moments, I could tell it frustrated him. It frustrated Jordan just as much when he had to miss attending Yankees games due to his career. I truly think if Drew weren’t a ball player, he’d travel on tour with Tortured. And if Jordan weren’t the lead singer of Tortured, he’d travel to every away game with his brother. Their relationship was sweet, and their loyalty to one another was admirable.

I was thankful to have both of these men in my life. There were plenty of rough patches between Jordan and me, and Danny and me, but looking back, we fought like family because that’s exactly what we are.

After I was finished getting ready for work, I walked back into the kitchen where Drew and Ben were finishing up breakfast.

Drew had a plate of Eggs Benedict, spinach and a biscuit set aside for me. He ran a hand over my ass, pulling me into a kiss.

“Girl, you look so good I want to sop you up with this biscuit,” he said, in a silly voice as he grinned at me.

I laughed and smacked him away. Ben giggled too. I ate quickly, wishing I did have the day off to spend with my boys. After breakfast, I dressed Ben for the day as Drew showered. The doorbell rang and I hurried over to open it. As soon as I did, this puppy bounded into my apartment.

“Holy shit,” I jumped as Ben cheered, totally oblivious to the slip-up of my bad language. I looked at Jordan who apologized and scooped the golden retriever into his arms. “Whose dog is this?”

“Mine,” Jordan grinned, patting the dog that lapped at his chin as Ben fussed to get his hands on the puppy. “I figured she could come to the park with us.”

“You got a dog?”

I was okay with dogs from a distance—grown and calm dogs that didn’t drool or shed or need to be walked. This puppy with large paws, panting tongue, and seemingly unruly behavior did not appeal to me. I was somewhat surprised it appealed to Jordan.

“What’s his name?” Ben asked.

“It’s a girl, buddy,” Jordan knelt down so Ben could pet her. “Her name is Tilly.”

“”That’s a silly name,” Ben giggled.

“Well, she is a silly dog.”

“When did you get her?” I wondered.

“Last week.”

“And Haley’s okay with this?”

“Well, I don’t think she was too keen on it considering she would get stuck taking care of her when I go on the road, but I went to that ASPCA event with Aylin, and this little pup was there and needed a good home, and A and I fell in love.”

I rolled my eyes, “I would punch Drew if he adopted a dog for me to take care of.”

Jordan laughed, “You pretend to be indifferent to this face, but I know you’re just jealous,” he said before holding Tilly’s chin up to me. “Besides, Haley already went out and bought a collection of toys for Tilly. I knew she’d love her. I also offered to take Tilly on the road with us.”

I gasped, “What?! Jordan, you are not bringing that mutt on the road with us.”

“Watch me,” he said, just stern enough to let me know he means business, but still with a small smile on his face to also let me know he didn’t want it to turn into a fight.

“Mama, can we get a puppy?” Ben asked, petting Tilly who licked his cheek.

Gross! I am so going to have to disinfect my son later!

“Not unless you walk her and feed her,” I said, crossing my arms over my chest and glaring at Jordan for inspiring this want for a dog in my son.

“Okay!” Ben agreed to my conditions.

“Hold it, can you go outside by yourself?”

Ben pouted, “Not yet.”

“Well, until you’re old enough to go outside by yourself, you can’t have a dog.”

Ben’s pouty lips started to tremble and I knew what was about to happen. He was a perfect angel until he didn’t get his way. Then, the tantrums were embarrassing at best and irritating at the very least. I was usually on the receiving end of these tantrums while everyone else always gave him his way. I am the lone bad guy to my son and it aggravates me to no end. Danny never disciplined him. Drew bargained with him in a way that left Ben content. But Mommy was the witch who always told him no, even though my dog argument was completely valid, and could be renegotiated at a later date. I’d still say no then, but he didn’t know that!

“I hate you!” Ben yelled, breaking into a fit of cries.

Jordan looked surprised by the outburst and I glared at him.

“Thank you very much, Uncle J. You can deal with this, I’m going to be late,” I sighed, grabbing my purse and jacket.

“Ben, calm down, you can come over and play with Tilly anytime,” Jordan tried to quiet him as he placed the dog down and pulled my son onto his fur-covered knee.

“Promise?” Ben sniffled.

“Yes. Now, be nice to Mommy.”

Ben furrowed his dark eyebrows over his crystal blue eyes and looked at me with a “humph”.

“We’ll talk more about getting a dog later, okay?” I offered. “But it’s a big boy talk, so no crying, okay?”

“Okay, Mama. I don’t hate you,” he mumbled.

“Can I have a kiss to prove it?” I asked.

Ben slid off Jordan’s knee and I knelt down to offer my cheek. He wrapped his small arms around my neck and he kissed my cheek before hugging me. Just then, I felt something slobbery on my cheek. Yuck. I turned my head and Tilly was panting as she stared at me and wagged her tail.

“She loves you too, Mama,” Ben giggled.

“Great,” I forced a smile and shot Jordan another aggravated look as he held in a laugh. “Tell my fiancé goodbye for me and to not get any ideas,” I nodded toward Tilly.

“Have a good day, Cami,” Jordan waved me off.

While riding the elevator from the penthouse down to the lobby, I wiped my cheek with a baby wipe. My phone rang as soon as the elevator doors opened. I sighed and reached into my purse for it as I heard the doorman, Gary, greet me.

I put the phone to my ear and waved to Gary as I gave my attention to the call. I knew I came off as a rich snob to most people who didn’t know me, and maybe even to those who did. I didn’t waste much time on chitchat and when I wasn’t working, I was spending time with my son, boyfriend and close friends. My life didn’t have room for much else. Besides, I was used to not letting people into my world. I was protective of those I loved and cautious of whom I let into my life.

How I ended up with Andrew Ashton who talked to strangers on the regular is kind of funny. We are definitely more opposite than alike, but I think that’s why we work.

“Cami, we need to push back Rad’s album.”

These are the last words I wanted to hear, especially first thing in the morning. Rad Trick is a huge pop star that is one of my clients. He’s made me a ton of money, but he also makes all of my employees at Out Of The Woods Entertainment and me work frustratingly hard for it.

“Bobby, I don’t get why you guys can’t get it together before the new year. Rad finished recording the album months ago,” I huffed as I hailed a taxi.

“The record label is laying off practically the entire publicity department and getting new people in.”

I got into the taxi and recited the address of my office to the driver.

I sighed into the phone, “So? Are you hiring incompetent people who can’t jump on and promote the shit out of an album?”

I heard Bobby groan and I knew ultimately this was the label’s decision. I also knew if we pushed the album back, we’d be competing with Bex Moore’s new album. While Rad was Bex’s direct competition, he won’t outsell him. As Rad’s manager, I know that sounds terrible, but I’m also looking out for the best interest of everyone involved. While competing pop stars can spike up sales, it can also hurt the hype in the long run.

“Look Bobby, you’ll be screwing this album over.”

“Cami, the album is screwed if we release it in November. Publicity wise, we don’t have enough time or plans. February will work better.”

“Let me talk to Rad and I’ll get back to you,” I said hanging up abruptly.

I immediately called Rad Trick, knowing he wouldn’t answer. I hung up and sent him a text reminding him about our meeting today. The entire ride to the office, I thought of marketing schemes to help amp the album up and if we could still release the album as scheduled. Suddenly, a light bulb went off just as the taxi came to a stop. I almost ran out of the cab without paying. I told the driver to keep the change before hurrying off to the building. I bypassed security and got into the crowded elevator.

I barely noticed one guy trying to talk to me with his eyes until he began actually making small talk with his mouth.

“I’m sorry, what?” I looked over at him.

Couldn’t he see the brilliant idea floating above my head? I didn’t have time for his useless flirting.

“Are you a model?”

I laughed as I buried my nose into the iPhone in my hand, “Yeah, a very short one.”

I could see his smile from the corner of my eye.

“Well, you’re beautiful.”

“Thank you,” I said, glancing over at him.

He was kind of cute and looked somewhat familiar. I have probably passed him before, but had no intention of getting to know him just so he could continue to shower me with uncomfortable compliments and I could shut him down with the fact that I am engaged.

“I’m Chris,” he said, holding his hand out to me.

Just then, the elevator door opened and several people stepped off.

“Cami,” I said, shaking his hand, but immediately pulling away, not wanting to encourage this guy dressed in an expensive suit and tie.

“Nice to meet you,” he said as the elevator started moving.

“Yeah,” I nodded, watching the lighted floor numbers change.

“Running late?” he laughed.

“Oh, no… just eager to work,” I shrugged, realizing I sounded lame, but not really caring. I loved my job.

“That makes one of us,” Chris said. “I’m guessing you’re not a lawyer.”

“Not quite,” I laughed and just then the elevator stopped at my floor. “This is me,” I said, stepping out of the elevator.

“Wait, have we met somewhere before?” he asked, holding the door, causing the rest of the elevator patrons to groan.

I rolled my eyes, “You need a new line and someone else to use it on.”

Now would be a good time to have an engagement ring on, but Drew and I have been so busy that we haven’t picked one out yet.

An hour later, I was trying to pull some major strings to make my plan work. I called J.J. into my office. J.J. worked for me and handled Rad’s day-to-day business. I knew he was crucial to get Rad to agree to my idea. They were practically best friends.

“What’s up?” J.J. asked, sitting down and folding his hands behind his head.

“The label wants to push Rad’s album back to February.”

“February?!”

“February 11th,” I nodded.

“That’s crap. Bex Moore’s album comes out the same day!”

“I know. And you and I both know that Bex will get all of the T.V. spots because he has a better track record.”

Rad Trick, while having just as big of a fan base as Bex Moore, was considered the bad boy of pop. He was in and out of rehab, late for appearances, and was known to throw in a random cuss word on live National television.

J.J. sighed, “Can you talk them out of the push back? I mean, we risk losing interest if we wait.”

“I think we should stick with the push back and tell the fans that we’re adding another song to the album—a duet.”

“Duet? With who?”

I smiled widely and J.J. looked scared.

“Bex.”

“What?” J.J. freaked out.

“Come on, it’ll be so shocking… a duet with bad boy Rad and angelic Bex! Fans will go insane and it’s a win for both artists,” I said, proudly.

J.J. scratched his chin.

“So you’re saying both albums will be released the same day?”

“Yes, and both albums will have the duet on it. Leading up to the release, we’ll drop a single from Rad and about a week before the album comes out, we’ll release the duet along with the announcement of some joint promotional tour dates.”

“Cami, you are a genius,” J.J. said in awe. “How did you get Bex’s people to agree?”

“Well, I happen to know that Bex was trying to get his hands on a song written by Matt Porter, his own idol. Matt thought it was a little too edgy for Bex and would work better as a duet. So I pulled all the strings,” I shrugged.

“Wait, so not only did you get this for Rad, you actually will be bringing in tons of writer’s royalties for another client?”

“Of course,” I grinned, too happy with myself.

“I think I just got a boner.”

I rolled my eyes, “Disgusting.”

“Seriously. Drew is a lucky guy,” J.J. said.

“Out of my office, J.J.,” I waved him away.

The meeting with Rad Trick went a little rocky at first. He wasn’t keen on the idea of teaming up with his competition, but he liked the idea of winning over the industry. He had been warned by me that his career would downward spiral quickly if he didn’t clean up his act. I basically had Rad by his pompous pop star balls, and he knew it.

Around four o’clock, I heard a commotion throughout the office. I knew that usually meant either Jordan or Sound Wave walked in. I had a fairly professional team of people working at Out Of The Woods Entertainment, however, some of the interns and my receptionist became overly excited on occasion.

I poked my head out of the office and was almost knocked down. The commotion wasn’t just made over Jordan, but him, his MVP brother AKA my fiancé, my son, and the furry bulldozer named Tilly.

“Jordan!” I yelled as the dog jumped on me.

He ran into my office and grabbed Tilly by the collar.

“Down, Tilly!” He yelled.

“Two words for you,” I huffed, brushing my clothes free of dog hair. “Obedience school.”

“Cami, she’s a baby. She’ll learn.”

“I doubt she’ll learn from you. You don’t have time to teach her.”

Jordan wasn’t even listening as he knelt down to play with the dog. Drew came in holding Ben and they were both covered in grass stains. I smiled as Ben was set down and ran to me. I picked him up and kissed his forehead.

“You’re filthy.”

“Real men get dirty,” Ben grinned.

“Oh, is that what you’ve learned today?”

“Yup!” Ben said as Drew walked over.

He was always repeating phrases Drew taught him. It was at times adorable, and at other times, I wanted to lecture my fiancé for teaching my son things that I would eventually have to reprimand him for.

I looked up at Drew as he leaned down and kissed me.

“We were hoping you could get out early.”

“Haley wants you all to come over for dinner,” Jordan said from the floor where he was scratching Tilly’s belly.

I looked around my desk and knew I shouldn’t, but also knew I could do work later or stay late tomorrow. Now that the Rad Trick decisions have been made, there was nothing too pressing.

We left about twenty minutes later. As we got into the elevator, there was a middle-aged woman who looked at us with disdain. I couldn’t blame her. My fiancé and son were messy-haired with grass-stained jeans while Jordan was carrying a little feisty beast. As we dropped another floor, a twenty-something woman got on and her eyes lit up. This wasn’t uncommon for Jordan or Drew, but I don’t think she even noticed them. She immediately began petting Tilly.

“So cute!” She cooed. “What’s her name?”

“Tilly,” Jordan said.

It must have been his voice that she recognized as her jaw dropped suddenly and she just stared at him for a few seconds.

“Oh my… wow, you’re…”

“I am,” he laughed, shaking her hand.

The girl couldn’t seem to recover after that and it was quite awkward. I tried to hold back my laughter by burying my head into Drew’s chest.

“Mama, what are you doing?” Ben asked.

The elevator reached the lobby and just as we were about to get off, Chris, the flirty lawyer was getting on. He smiled at me.

“Hi Cami,” he said, but his jaw dropped once he noticed Drew with his arm around me, and then his face paled as he looked at Jordan.

Wow, even smooth Mr. Lawyer was star struck. It gets really old. Jordan and Drew didn’t mind, but I knew they both appreciated normalcy and those moments were rare.

Jordan made eye contact with Chris before looking at the girl.

“It was nice meeting you,” he said to her before giving Chris a nasty look as he got off the elevator.

Drew pulled me along awkwardly, taking Ben’s hand with his free one. As we walked outside of the building, I curiously looked at Drew for answers. Jordan put Tilly down and held her leash as he headed to the subway station. He looked tense suddenly.

“What was that about? Do you know that guy?” I asked, trying to place where I knew him from.

I just figured he had looked familiar from seeing him around the building.

“How do you know him?” Drew turned the question on me.

“I met him in the elevator this morning. He must work for that law firm that just moved into the building.”

“I bet he hit on you, right?” Jordan asked, turning to look at me.

“He was flirting,” I shrugged. “But I wasn’t…” I said quickly, looking up at Drew as if I were in trouble for something.

“That was Christian Eriksson,” Drew said.

My eyes widened and I looked over at Jordan, now understanding the tension. Christian is Jordan and Drew’s cousin who was in love with Haley and who is just an all-around asshole. He was even engaged to Tasha Torres, Haley’s best friend for a bit. I hadn’t hung around him all that much. I do recall him always staring at Haley, though—in that creepy, yearning kind of way.

We swiped our Metro cards and hurried onto the A train that just arrived. The subway ride to Jordan and Haley’s place was kind of coldly silent, except for Ben playing with Tilly as he sat on my lap.

“Cami?”

“Yeah?” I asked, looking at Jordan.

“Don’t talk to Christian, okay?”

“Okay,” I nodded.

“He’s just devious and I don’t want him to know anything about my family.”

“I understand,” I said.

Drew took my hand that wasn’t holding onto Ben.

“Are you going to tell Haley?” Drew asked.

“I don’t know. I’m just pissed now I have to run the risk of seeing him anytime I come into my management’s office,” Jordan sighed.

“I’m not too happy you have to run into him now,” Drew said, looking at me.

I rolled my eyes, “It’s not like I’m going to become friends with him. You know I’ll put him in his place.”

Jordan and Drew both laughed.

“She’s right, bro. Cami will completely castrate him if he tries to hit on her,” Jordan said, somewhat excitedly.

Drew smiled, “That’s my girl.”

“Mama, are you sure we can’t get a dog?” Ben asked.

I groaned and shook my head at Jordan as the train came to our stop. He just laughed as he stood up. We got to Haley and Jordan’s brownstone on Riverside Drive, which they had moved into a year ago. The area suited them much more. It was quiet and scenic with Riverside Park close by. Jordan and Haley hated the snooty, rich people that sometimes can inhabit my neighborhood, and they used to live among the crowded Midtown craziness; I’m sure they have some peace of mind in the area now.

Haley came out of the kitchen and Tilly practically knocked her down just as she did me.

“Tilly,” Haley laughed. “Down, girl. Down,” she said, petting her.

“How mad are you about this?” I asked, taking my shoes off at the door.

Haley pushed her blonde hair behind her ears and shrugged.

“It’s nice to have someone keep me company when I’m alone,” she shrugged.

Jordan walked over to her and pushed her while she was still in the squatting position, and she fell over. Tilly began licking her face as Jordan taunted her.

“Please, don’t sound like you’re a prisoner in your big brownstone while I gallivant around the world.”

Jordan just walked over her as she struggled to get off the floor.

“Mr. Sensitive,” Haley laughed, pushing Tilly off her and standing up. She shoved Jordan in the back and he turned around with an easygoing smile, showing he was joking. Haley wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed his lips.

Just then, Aylin came down the stairs.

“Hey Uncle Drew, hi Aunt Cam,” she said, hugging us briefly. “Hey Ben,” she messed his hair. “See you guys later.”

“Wait, where are you going?” Jordan asked his nineteen-year-old daughter.

“Out,” she said as Tilly nuzzled her legs.

“Where?”

“Dad, I don’t know. I’ll be out with my friends and we’re playing it by ear.”

“I can’t believe you’re not going to spend time with your favorite uncle,” Drew said, placing a hand over his heart as if he were in pain.

“Sorry, we’ll have lunch soon,” she said, hurrying out the door.

I plopped down on the couch and looked over at Haley and Jordan expectantly.

“We’ll have lunch?” Drew laughed, sitting down next to me and placing a hand on my thigh.

“Welcome to our world,” Haley shook her head. “As soon as she turned eighteen, she became too cool for any of us.”

“Come on, you can’t expect her to always want to be around you guys. She’s a teenager and just wants to spread her wings,” I said, understanding completely.

Haley let out a heavy sigh, “We don’t hold the reins tight, Cami. It’s not like we held her back like my parents did to me.”

She walked into the kitchen and Jordan followed her. I looked at Drew.

“Well then. I wasn’t trying to offend her.”

Drew smiled and caressed my cheek, “I don’t think you did. I think Jordan and Haley are just having a hard time facing the fact that their baby is growing up.”

I looked over at Ben and put my head down on Drew’s shoulder.

“And you want to have a baby knowing we’ll have to let him or her go at some point…” I said, as I kept watching Ben play with Tilly, trying to imagine my life with him as a teenager.

Drew wrapped his arm around me and rubbed it.

“I know what you’re trying to do.”

“What?”

“Cami, stop expecting the worst.”

I looked at him, “I’m not. I’m being realistic. Drew, I might never get pregnant and you have to accept that.”

“I accept it, but a little bit of hope from you couldn’t hurt.”

“I’m going to see if Haley needs help,” I said, standing up. I kissed Drew deeply. “I love you.”

Drew looked at me with his deep brown eyes.

“Don’t give up, Cami. Not yet.”

I nodded and gave his hand a squeeze before walking into the kitchen. Jordan and Haley were practically having sex on the island in the middle of the kitchen. Haley noticed me first and immediately hopped down, straightening her shirt.

“Sorry to interrupt,” I laughed.

Haley blushed, “My husband has this thing for being inappropriate.”

Jordan chuckled and rubbed her shoulders, “I just know how to get her to relax.”

Haley turned bright red and I found them to be somewhat sickening and adorable all at the same time.

“No need to explain. I am fully aware of the charms the men in this family have. Do you need any help?”

Jordan kissed Haley’s cheek before walking out of the kitchen.

“You want to help me set the table?” Haley asked.

“Sure,” I said, going to the cabinet to grab the plates. “And don’t worry about Aylin. She loves you guys. You remember what it was like to be that age. You always want more freedom and to feel like you don’t have to answer to anyone.”

Haley smiled and nodded, “I knew this parenting thing was too easy all these years.”

“Ben is going to be a terror as a teenager, I just know it. He’s Danny’s son,” I rolled my eyes.

Haley laughed, “Yeah, he’ll be a bit of a bad boy if he’s anything like his dad.”

“Drew wants one with me,” I said, turning around.

She looked at me and smiled, “Does that surprise you?”

“No, but I don’t know if I can give him one. You know how hard it was for me to have Ben.”

She had a sympathetic look on her face and I knew she understood my concern.

“Drew will love you no matter what,” she offered.

It was the perfect thing to say. I felt like I always say the wrong things when trying to cheer up Haley, like before in the living room, but she always knew how to make me feel better. I still don’t know how I was lucky enough to have such compassionate people around me when I sometimes lacked any kind of empathy for others.

I was blessed with a beautiful family. I worried if twenty years from now, though, would I be enough to keep Drew happy? I looked at Haley and Jordan—and all the perfection that is them. I admired their love and hated it all at once. They were the only married couple I knew who had lasted this long, and looked happy, and still desired each other in such a way. I knew Drew looked up to them, and aspired to have what they have. Damn them for setting such a high expectation.

Still, they were my best friends and I am happy to have them, and so incredibly relieved that they’ve come to love Drew and me together. It took some getting used to for them. They seem genuinely excited for Drew and me, and I loved them even more for that.

Continue reading “THE REUNION” on Amazon!

Read the rest of the Dream Catchers Series!
Dream Catchers (Book 1)
Breaking The Moon (Book 2)
Expressions (Book 3)
Take Me Home (Book 4)

The Reunion – Prologue

The Reunion Book Cover FeaturedTHE REUNION is the 5th part of The Dream Catchers Series. It acts as a direct sequel to “Take Me Home“, following the storyline of music mogul Cami Woods and Yankee short-stop Drew Ashton.  Enjoy this sneak peek…

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Prologue

I lie awake, holding the small black velvet box. My boyfriend, Drew, was passed out next to me. It wasn’t often he got drunk, but tonight it seemed everyone at Carney’s Pub wanted to buy Drew a shot for his winning homerun. No, Drew doesn’t play baseball for some bar league. He’s Andrew Ashton, #12 and co-captain of the New York Yankees, my favorite baseball team since birth.

As for me, I’m not sure how I got so lucky to have his heart for over three years now. Drew brings out the best in me. He argues that fact repeatedly, though. Everyone knows me, Cami Woods, as a hard-ass bitch, who is a savvy entertainment mogul with a cold heart. Or at least they knew me as that.

Things kind of changed when my marriage to Danny DeSano, drummer for the chart-topping band Tortured, ended miserably, and I gave birth to our son, Benvenuto. That year was the best and worst for me. I fell into a deep depression that had me re-evaluating my life.

Out of nowhere, Drew Ashton swept me off my feet. What I thought was purely a physical thing with the kid, after all, he is eight years younger than me, wound up being love. Real love—not just the stuff I pretended to feel for my ex-husband.

Fast forward a few years, and here I am, the eve of my fortieth birthday trying to muster up courage to propose to the love of my life. I meant to do it at dinner, but one drink led to another, and before I knew it, we barely made it to our penthouse apartment on the Upper East Side to have sex.

Drew has made it clear to me from the beginning that if I wanted to get married, I would have to propose to him. He had proposed to his college girlfriend, Katie—his first, and only love before me. She turned him down and it crushed him. I really can’t help but to hate that girl for hurting my baby that much, even though I understood her not being able to handle his career. Some girls just can’t deal with all the traveling and crazy schedules, or the fame.

As for me, I would be a hypocrite if I didn’t support his high profile career. These days, my name is in the press just as much as his. Not only am I his girlfriend, but my relationship and divorce with Danny was big news a few years ago, and I am the most known music manager in the industry. I am constantly signing waivers to be involved in various reality shows—whether to be a guest judge on music competitions or to have one of our artist meetings filmed.

Drew and I deal with each other’s careers just fine. We get how important it is; how our careers gave us confidence, purpose, drive and passion that we just did not have growing up. On top of Drew “getting it,” I knew he’d make a great stepfather to my little Ben. The kid already idolizes Drew. So, why am I wide-awake pondering the decision to marry him? Fear. Drew’s hang-up is the proposal; mine is the actual marriage. Danny and I were married for so long and we’re lucky we didn’t kill each other. I know Drew and I have a totally different dynamic, but still. Marriage can change everything. Why ruin a great thing?

Still, nothing would make me happier than becoming Drew’s wife. Would that make him happy, though? He would love nothing more than to have a child with me. We’ve been trying for months. Between my age and difficulty conceiving in the past, I didn’t have to wait to hear it from the doctor to know it would be difficult, especially without fertility drugs. I decided I wouldn’t put Drew through the side effects of those drugs. I heard horror stories of how women acted, and I didn’t want to become a raging bitch, especially not to Drew. He still has hope though. I admire his confidence and positivity, but if we get married and can’t get pregnant, will he wind up hating me?

“What’s that?”

I jumped and nearly threw the ring box at the ceiling. I looked over and Drew chuckled.

“What is it?” he asked again, as I slipped my hands under the blanket, trying to casually find the ring box.

“Nothing,” I glanced at him quickly.

“Nothing, huh?” he fumbled around under the blanket.

“Drew!” I yelled, trying to restrain his hands, and I felt the box slip further down the bed.

“Do you have a sex toy or something down there?” he asked, lifting the blanket, trying to peek in the dim lighting.

I laughed hysterically, “What?”

“Seriously,” he stared at me.

I turned on my side and rested my head on my arm.

“Why would I need a sex toy, first of all? And if I did like that sort of thing, why would I keep it from you?”

“Maybe I just don’t do it for you anymore,” he smirked, tracing a finger down my cleavage.

“Um, did it seem like you didn’t do it for me earlier?” I asked, scooting closer to him, feeling the ring box ricochet off my knee.

Drew smiled and leaned in closer to me. As I got lost in his kiss, I forgot all about the ring box. When we pulled apart, he held it up to me.

“What’s in here that you need to hide from me?”

“Drew,” I sighed, ripping the box from his hand.

“What? Did some guy give you jewelry? Should I be jealous?” he asked, not looking the least bit worried.

I’m glad he trusted me so much. It made me smile. I knew what I had to do, but more importantly, what I wanted to do. I turned on the light and sat up in the bed. Drew did the same.

“Everything okay?” he asked. “I wasn’t really worried, but now you’re scaring me.”

I leaned over and pecked his lips.

“I love you, Drew, and I want to be with you forever, but I need to know how you’ll feel if we can’t have kids.”

Drew’s big brown eyes crinkled at the thought.

“It’ll happen for us. I know it,” he smiled, taking my hand.

“But if it doesn’t?”

“Cami, did the doctor say something?”

“Just what she’s been saying. At my age, and with my complications, it’s unlikely. It was a miracle I had Ben.”

Drew sighed, “Right. It was also a miracle Haley and Jordan had Aylin, remember?”

Haley and her husband Jordan are my best friends. Jordan is also Drew’s older brother. Again, I admired his optimism.

“We’ll keep trying,” I said.

After all, trying was the easy part that didn’t change anything about our dynamic other than holding out hope for something that just wouldn’t happen.

“But I just… if you won’t want to be with me, I’ll understand…”

“Shut up,” Drew groaned. “You’re talking crazy. If we can’t have a baby, we’ll adopt or something.”

I nodded, and looked down at the ring box before handing it to him.

“Open it,” I smiled, tucking my hair behind my ears, and cuddling closer to him.

“It’s for me?”

“Yes.”

“But it’s your birthday,” he said, squeezing my thigh, and glancing at the time. It was 12:09 a.m. “Happy Birthday officially, baby,” he kissed my cheek.

I smiled at him, “Just open it.”

Drew opened the box. He looked down at the platinum band in astonishment. I got up on my knees and he looked over at me as I leaned over him.

“Will you marry me?”

His face broke out into a huge grin and he laughed.

“Hell yes!” He grabbed my face and pulled me into a kiss, causing me to fall into his chest.

He rolled me onto my back.

“Thank you,” he whispered, kissing my neck. “I thought you’d never ask.”

“Me neither,” I laughed.

“We have to get you a ring, too,” he said, rolling my nightshirt up to my navel as he began sucking on my stomach.

“I don’t need a ring,” I said.

“Right,” he chuckled, sending goose bumps across my skin.

“Well, there is this one ring I saw when I went to pick up this one…” I laughed, setting the ring box aside.

“It’s yours,” he said, moving lower on my body.

I realized I could probably get him to agree to anything at that point as he loved on my body. I can’t believe I’m getting married again!

Continue reading THE REUNION on Amazon!

Read the rest of the Dream Catchers Series!
Dream Catchers (Book 1)
Breaking The Moon (Book 2)
Expressions (Book 3)
Take Me Home (Book 4)

Indigo Waters – Chapter II

Indigo Waters by Sandy LoIndigo Waters is now available on Kindle.

Everyone fears something. Indigo Waters is about taking life adventures and the people you want with you along for the ride. Full synopsis here.

Chapter II

            The flight to Fort Lauderdale was a restless one for both girls.  Cosette’s stomach was tied up in knots about the thought of spending most of her summer on the water.  As for Madeleine, she hated sitting still.  She just wanted to get off the plane and smoke a cigarette already.

            The plane landed at seven-fifteen-am.  Not only were the girls on edge, they were also exhausted from the early flight.  They had to make it to the executive airport by eight-thirty.  From there, they were taking a charter plane to The Biminis, a small chain of islands in The Bahamas.

            “I still don’t understand why Mom didn’t fly us in last night,” Madeleine gave her signature eye roll as she hoisted one of the suitcases off the baggage carousel.

            Cosette stared at her, “Maddie, do you think Mom wants us alone in Florida for long?”

            “Ugh!  That woman is so aggravating,” she said.  “I’m not a kid anymore.  I understand you are, but I’m nineteen now.”

            “I’m more responsible than you,” Cosette argued, grabbing a floral suitcase from the carousel.

            “Pfft,” Madeleine said, impatiently waiting for her third bag.

            Cosette crammed everything into two bags while Madeleine contemplated bringing a fourth oversized suitcase.

            “If you don’t like Mom’s rules, move out,” she shrugged her shoulders.

            “I wish I could,” Madeleine mumbled, finally seeing her last bag and retrieving it.

            The girls hurried to the taxi area.  Cosette approached a driver from behind.

            “Excuse me, Sir,” she said softly.

            No response.  Madeleine patted the guy’s back somewhat roughly.

            “Buddy, can you take us to the Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport?”

            He was about to whirl around and give the rude Northerner a piece of his mind.  When he saw the light blonde beauty, he changed his mind.

            “Sure thing, miss,” he responded, immediately helping the girls with their luggage.

            “Speak up, Co,” Madeleine laughed.

            Cosette didn’t respond and just got inside the taxi.  The entire ride to the smaller airport, Madeleine decided she needed to lay down some rules for her younger sister.

            “Don’t go all traumatized kid on me in front of everyone, okay?”

            Cosette glared at her, speechless.

            “If something needs to be done in the water or even close to it, I’ll take care of it.  Mom said she told Cappie about your issue, but if he pushes, I’ll volunteer.”

            Cosette couldn’t figure out if Madeleine was being protective of her or was simply embarrassed by her.  The way she said “issue” made Cosette feel like she was handicapped or had a mental disorder.

            “…And try not to act like a total dork or try to be my mother on this trip.”

            “Are you done?” Cosette asked.

            “For now,” Madeleine smiled curtly.

            “Good.  My turn.  How about you don’t try to sleep with every guy on the boat?  Um, and try not to buy any pot from the Bahamians.  I don’t need you getting arrested in a foreign country.”

            Madeleine tilted her head to the side, squinted her eyes and curled her lips.  Another signature expression of hers.

            “Oh, and the same goes for me—I already have a mother.”

            Madeleine scoffed, “Not a very good one.”

            Cosette bit her tongue, “I turned out okay.”

            “Right, because Cosette is perfect.”

            And Madeleine is fearless, Cosette thought.  She didn’t say it, though, afraid a compliment would go to her sister’s head.  And why should she compliment the bitch anyway?  All Madeleine ever did was insult her.

            They arrived at the airport and gathered their luggage from the trunk of the car.  Cosette began to walk away with her two bags as Madeleine struggled with her three.  She took one look at the tiny charter plane she’d have to get on, and her stomach tied itself in more knots.  We’ll be flying over the ocean in that little thing?

            Just as Cosette approached the door to the building, it swung open.  Captain Lawrence Hughes stood there with a warm smile on his face, his bald head shining under the Florida sun.  Cosette barely remembered him grabbing her out of the water five years ago, or him at the funeral, but his face was most recognizable from so many Navy photos she had seen.  Of course, Cappie had hair then.

            “Is that little Cosette Hadley?  My God, girl, you’re practically a woman!”

            Cosette smiled shyly, “It’s good to see you, Captain Hughes.”

            He pulled her into a hug, catching her off guard, “Call me Cappie.  Captain Hughes was my dad.”

            Cappie came from a long line of Navy captains.  His tall frame engulfed Cosette’s petite one.  He spotted Madeleine smoking a cigarette.

            “Ah, there’s your sister.  The feisty one,” Cappie remembers the small blonde with pigtails, who was as stubborn as her father and as quick tongued as her mother, even at seven.

            At the funeral, she had quite the chip on her shoulder, but Cappie passed it off since she had just lost her father.

            “Feisty doesn’t even come close to describing Madeleine,” Cosette said before walking inside the airport, which consisted of three small rooms.

            “Come on, girly!  Yoo-hoo, Madeleine!” Cappie yelled out to her.  “We have to get you checked in.”

            Madeleine huffed and put her cigarette out before lugging her bags.  Cappie grabbed two from her, groaning as he did.

            “Shit girl, how much crap did you bring?”

            “We’re going to be gone for two months.”

            Cappie chuckled, “This isn’t a beauty pageant, Barbie.”

            Madeleine could tell already that this guy was not going easy on anyone.  He seemed warm enough and passed everything off as a joke, but she could see he was a hard ass.  She knew the type well, having enough authority figures coming down on her over the years.  Cappie was putting on a show for the other passengers sitting in the airport, who would be guests on the boat.

            “I don’t like him,” Madeleine said to Cosette, sitting down next to her.

            “Cappie?”

            “Yes.”

            “Why?  He was Dad’s best friend,” Cosette said, as if that automatically made him likeable.

            “I don’t care,” Madeleine shrugged.

            “I remember him being nice.”

            “What?  When you were five?” she rolled her eyes with a laugh.

            Cappie walked over just then.

            “Madeleine, just so you know, no smoking in front of guests.  Whenever we dock, you can get off and do what you have to do.  You hear me?”

            She held back her eye roll, knowing Cappie was her free ticket to Bimini.

            “Yes, Cappie.”

            “Good girl,” he nodded at her before walking away.

            “I don’t like him,” she repeated her earlier statement.

            Cosette laughed, “Oh, because he said no to you about something.  How dare him!”

            “Shut up.”

            Cosette looked around the small room.  She wished Miranda was there.  She was always shy around new people, and it wasn’t like Madeleine had anything pleasant to say to her.  There were a few older couples along with a mother and daughter who seemed to be speaking German.  Cosette knew this trip wasn’t going to be what Madeleine expected.  She was fine keeping to herself; that was easy.  Madeleine figured the trip would be like a cruise with college guys on vacation.  Cosette knew better—she did her research.  She knew exactly the kind of boat they would be on.

            “Where are all the young people?” Madeleine whispered.

            “Oh, I’m sure some of them are already in The Bahamas, you know, get some time on the beach before the big dolphin expedition,” Cosette said, placating her sister.

            One by one, people were called up to the desk to weigh their luggage and have their passports checked.  Madeleine wouldn’t sit still as they waited to board the plane.

            “Is this your first time on this expedition?” An older woman asked.

            She looked to be in her mid-sixties.  Cosette had heard her talk to everyone else in the room, including the Germans.  She already knew her name, Peggy, and that she had been on the expedition three other times.

            “Yes,” Cosette answered shyly.

            Madeleine instantly jumped into the conversation.

            “We’re apprentices of Cappie’s,” she bragged.

            “Oh, how nice.  Are you girls in college?” Peggy asked.

            “I’ll be going to the University of Miami in the fall.”

            “Wonderful.  How about you?”

            Madeleine shrugged, “College isn’t really my thing.”

            She instantly felt judged by Peggy, who went on to speak to Cosette about her Ph.D. in biology.  Peggy did most of the talking, and Cosette listened politely, but by the time they were boarding the plane, she was relieved.  It was exhausting hearing about Peggy and her husband, Harold’s travels around the world.  Harold, who wandered around the room with a giant camera hanging around his neck, for his part, grunted or mumbled a sentence out here and there.

The plane ride over to South Bimini was under a half an hour.  Madeleine got to sit in the co-pilot’s seat, where she asked a ton of questions.  Cosette was clutching her seatbelt the entire ride.  She could hear Cappie trying to call things out to her, but she just kept her eyes closed.  Flying wasn’t a fear of hers, but with the plane being small and hovering low over the ocean, it was terrifying.  She kept picturing herself in the ocean, trying to rescue herself and Madeleine out of the crashed plane.

            She heard Cappie laugh before she felt him pat her shoulder.  She wasn’t used to being touched.  Her father was always affectionate, but the rest of the family was not anymore.  Physical contact from strangers, especially from a man, made her feel slightly awkward.

            “Co, we’ve landed.  You can open your eyes.”

            She looked over at him and nodded silently as she undid her seatbelt.  Her relief only lasted a moment before the knots in her stomach twisted into ones of the bulky Double Fisherman’s variety.  Her face became paler, knowing in just a short time they would be boarding a boat—one she would spend more time on than land for the entire summer.  She immediately felt sick.

            “You don’t look so good,” the German teenager said in a heavy accent.

            “She’ll be fine.  I’m Madeleine,” she introduced herself to the tall fair-skinned girl with bright red hair.

            “Isabel, nice to meet you,” the girl smiled.

            They began to talk, but Cosette zoned out as she followed behind.  She was trying to breathe deeply.  They went through the customs process with the Bimini officials before boarding a bus.

            Cosette tried to focus on the Island as they drove through—the colorful houses and the Bahamian children running down the street.  There wasn’t much to look at though.  There were no big landmarks or hoards of people.  There were just trees, flowers, and beaches.  It was such a tiny place, not like Portland, Maine.  Cosette instantly thought back to living on small Bailey Island.  She loved being surrounded by water and boats.  She knew it was ironic that she no longer wanted to go near either of those things.  When she really thought about it, she felt betrayed by her mother for sending her on the expedition.  If Mom was in the water that day, would she be able to go back in?  She wondered.  Cosette wished her family would just understand.

            The bus stopped in front of the dock; at the end sat a blue yacht with the word “Indigo” on the side.  Cosette imagined her father inspecting every inch of the boat and insisting Cappie let him have a spin.  A smile crossed her face before quickly fading as she saw her dad’s body in the water; sinking them both.

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