Releases Jan 8th
This book is part of the Perfectly Imperfect series:
There are numerous ways to differentiate one person from the next. Hair or eyes color, personality, sense of humor, and so forth. For some, it's a medical diagnosis.
While that can be life-altering, it also doesn't define you. However, it can shake you, change you, shape you. But our core remains-the need for acceptance, love.
We're here to give those that are perfectly imperfect their beautiful, heartwarming happily ever afters.
Chapter 1 - sneak peek
The relief of being pain free was…well, to be honest, I’m still trying to get used to it. Even the twinge of discomfort I feel almost a month after my surgery has nothing on the years long grip endometriosis had on me, keeping me from so many life events—for me, but especially for my daughter, Lily Ann.
The saying “New Year, New You,” couldn’t be more apt. At forty-one years old, and almost four weeks out from a hysterectomy, I was ready for the next chapter in my life. Better health, a new career, and now finally my own home. No more renting.
This new year was going to be our best yet. Even if I couldn’t give my daughter the one thing she’s asked Santa for since she could talk—a sibling. She’d been forced to grow up too fast without her father in the picture then having and beating childhood cancer.
Sighing, I didn’t want to go down that particular part memory lane so I pushed all thoughts of what I couldn’t give my daughter and focused on all the positives in my life.
Today was my first official day back to work at Carter Security, and I was Kiersten, one of my closest friends, to arrive for lunch. Typically, I brought my lunch to work as the company has a nice break room. I loved my job as a scheduling operator. Right now, I was assisting other account managers, and hoped to gain my own accounts when I reached my one-year anniversary.
We specialized in all forms of security services and protection from high-profile athletes, multi-million-dollar businesses or wealthy clients who required various forms of personal security, on-site services, or system-wide technical expertise.
I finally felt as if I’d found my place with this company. And best of all, it provided an excellent health plan, and the salary was more than I’d ever thought I’d ever earn.
“Hey, sorry I’m late. I offered to drop off a last-minute order not far from here.” Kiersten sat down grinning at me, then reached across the table and squeezed my hand. “Hey, I know that look. What’s up? I seem to remember you telling me that brooding over things you couldn’t change was behind you now that you’ve had your surgery.” Leaning back, she scanned the menu just as the waiter arrived.
Giving him our orders, we declined his offer of a bottle of wine. “Maybe next time, we have to go back to work after this.” He gave me an unexpected once-over which left me in a bit of shock. When was the last time a man had checked me out? I mean, he was at least twenty years younger, but still, he was cute. My heart sped up at his attention.
“Look at you. You’re practically glowing over there, getting lingering looks from hot, younger guys. I’m telling you, Goldie, this is your year. I’m so happy you’re healthy. Lily’s happy and healthy too, plus your awesome new job. Now you just need a man.”
Head spinning from Kiersten’s sudden arrival and optimistic words, I laughed the last part of her statement. Scanning the restaurant, I watched as the waiter walked away, stop at the bar, and enter our order onto a tablet. Definitely too young. He glanced over his shoulder and caught me checking him out. I felt my cheeks warm as I quickly glanced away. Unfortunately, in doing so, my gaze landed on a table full of men which included the owners of the company I worked for. They were with a couple of our soon-to-be clients.
Kiersten’s earlier comment about needing a man popped into my head because the one man who would have been at the top of my list, if I had a list of men I wanted to date, was the boss I considered totally off limits and out of my league. And he was staring at me. I couldn’t look away. Then, in a sexy as sin move, one of his eyebrows lifted, and his full lips lifted in a brilliant smile.
I wanted to melt into the floor. Oh, man he was hot and even more so when he smiled. Women from the age of eighteen to eighty didn’t stand a chance around this man. Somewhere around six-one-ish and leanly muscled he was a walking fantasy. And he’d been in mine a little too often lately.
What should I do now? I’d been caught and, knowing Ford Carter, he’d find a way to tease me. He was the laid back of the two owners, who happened to be cousins, and single. But I knew how dangerous workplace relationships could be so I’d had locked down my attraction to him from day one. But a girl could still look.
I’d met Lily Ann’s father at work almost eleven years ago and swore I’d never go through that nightmare again. It didn’t matter how nice, sexy, and smart he was—Ford was off limits.
I not only needed this job, I wanted this job, and that was a first for me. Unlike past jobs I took only to pay the bills, I could see myself working at Carter Security for a long time.
Ford’s look had not only ignited a full body flush but unleashed a swarm of butterflies in my lower belly. Gathering my wits, I shrugged my shoulders and broke eye contact. The waiter’s attention had been nice, and it gave my ego a much-needed boost, but the look from Ford, heck any look from him, often produced dangerous feelings within me.
Okay, every time he looked my way.
And maybe I had given in to the “if only” daydreams a time or two where the “if only” became the dream of us meeting when I was younger, healthier, etcetera, etcetera., but I tried to keep them to a minimum since it left me all kinds of frustrated.
“Wait, what’d I miss? Why are you all red?” Kiersten’s voice and eyes held concern and confusion. She looked around the restaurant, and I knew the moment she spotted the reason for my reaction. Ford was no longer looking at me, but that didn’t really matter. Somehow, she’d picked up on my attraction to him without me ever saying a word. It’s what good friends inherently knew about each other. Like how I knew she was holding tight onto her feelings for Dr. Jack Monroe without ever telling me what was going on between them. It made me think perhaps I should find out what was really going on and offer any help I could considering he’d been my surgeon.
“Tell me again why you’re not going after that tall drink of water?” Kiersten smirked.
Rolling my eyes, I wiggled in my seat. I couldn’t shake that look from Ford. “I really don’t know what you mean. He’s basically my boss, so he’s off limits, even if he was interested in me. Which he’s not.”
A different person delivered our lunch, thank goodness. I really didn’t want to deal with whatever the first waiter might have had on his mind. I was terrible at let downs, hence why I’d stayed with my ex way too long.
Smiling at the server, we waited until we were alone again to continue our conversation. Keeping my eyes forward, I fought the urge to look back over at Ford’s table.
“Goldie, you’re a beautiful woman. There’s no reason to write off finding a man to share your life with. You’ve been fighting to become healthy again for so long, you deserve to let loose, have fun. So why not him?”
Not wanting to argue, I ignored her question then dug into my meal. Twenty minutes later, after taking the not-so-subtle hint to change the subject, Kiersten was telling me about Holly’s, her boss at Just Desserts, whirlwind romance and upcoming marriage to Zane Snow. He was the brother of Noel Snow-Scott, a friend and wife of TS Scott, one of the owners of the Idaho Outlaws, a United States Baseball League team and one of Carter Security’s biggest clients. In fact, I’d been working with one of their players before taking time off for my surgery.
“So, you up for going out on New Year’s Eve? Harlowe told me she invited you.” Harlowe worked for the Idaho Outlaws and was married to Zak, and that meant Ford would probably be there. I wasn’t sure I could handle being in a social situation where he would have a date and I didn’t.
“Maybe your sitter, Ms. Baker, can watch Lily?”
Kiersten was seven years younger than me with the drive and energy to still party, but I was more than happy curled up on the couch with my daughter, watching movies or reading one of my cozy mysteries.
“C’mon. All the cool kids are doing it. I bet Ford will be there.” Grinning, she reached for the check before I could grab it.
“Where am I supposed to be? Hi Goldie.” Ford somehow had magically appeared at our table without my noticing. How’d he do that? Even at work, he had a way of sneaking up on me.
“I hope you don’t mind the interruption. Zak and I were having lunch with the team from RJ Imports, and I didn’t want to leave without stopping by.”
His dark brown eyes twinkled, and his smile…darn it, it should be certified dangerous. Another round of fluttering erupted in my belly and even though I no longer had a uterus, the way he was looking at me had me envisioning a baby boy with Ford’s dark eyes and dimples and that was not only more dangerous but crazy. I could never give him a child and I had no business thinking anything could happen between us. He was not the man for me.
“Not at all. Ford, this is my friend Kiersten Stafford. She manages Just Desserts.”
He took Kiersten’s hand, and a rush of jealousy overtook me. Darn it. I had no claims on him, but it took me a minute to calm my heartbeat and stop thinking about removing her hand from his—forcibly.
“Uh, thanks for stopping by. I’ll be back to the office soon and be ready to—”
“No rush. Enjoy your lunch. We’re all glad you’re back. You look great, by the way. In fact, you’re glowing.”
“Right? I was just telling her that,” Kiersten said.
What did he mean? Was he just being polite? Was he flirting with me? For a moment, no one said anything. Too tongue-tied to respond, I nodded, then sent Kiersten a pleading look.
She took my hint, saving me. “It was nice meeting you, Ford. Maybe we’ll see you at Zak and Harlowe’s New Year’s Eve party?”
“That would be great. Nice to meet you as well.” Ford grinned at her, then turned back to me. “See you later, Goldie.” He paused, giving me another quick, but interested look before leaving.
Both Kiersten and I watched him walk away. As soon as he passed through the front door, she turned to me, smirking. “That man wants you, Goldie. If any guy looked at me the way he was just looking at you, I’d be running after him.”
Blinking rapidly, I shook my head. “You’re wrong. He’s that way with all his employees. He’s nice to everyone.”
“Keep telling yourself that, my friend. But I want an update later on about how the rest of your day at work goes.”
A half hour later, as I settled behind my desk, I was still stunned at what happened at the restaurant. Was Kiersten right? Was Ford really attracted to me?
And if he was, what was I going to do about it?