REVIEW by J’aime: Finding Pride by Jill Sanders – FREE Download! Includes an Excerpt!

THE FIRST BOOK IN THE PRIDE SERIES BY JILL SANDERS – FREE ON ALL MAJOR EBOOK RETAILERS!

Megan Kimble has finally freed herself from years of abuse at the hands of her ex. Now she can finally start a new life and figure out just who she really is. When her brother Matt dies suddenly, she takes a big risk and moves cross country to live in his house and take over his new business. This could be the chance she’s needed. There’s only one problem now. She can’t seem to escape the irresistible charm of her departed brother’s best friend. 

Todd Jordan just lost his best friend and business partner. Watching Matt’s sister move into town, his attraction to her is instant. Can he prove to her that all men are not the same, and resist his own desires as she learns to trust again? Overcoming the odds is just part of their journey. The two must first survive a fateful visit from Megan’s ex to have any chance at happiness.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About the Book

Finding Pride
by Jill Sanders

Series
Pride Series Book One

Genre
Adult
Contemporary Romance

Publisher
Independent

Publication Date
December 21, 2013

Download Your FREE Copy Today!
Amazon

 

J’aime’s Review

Megan is recently divorced and just lost her beloved brother. She moves across the country to start her new life in the house her brother left her, but didn’t count on his charming and handsome best friend…

Todd feels like the sister of his dead friend should maybe be off limits, but he can’t stop thinking about her…

It took me a little while to get invested in this book emotionally. In the beginning it seemed like the heroine was completely defined by her tragic past, and she took a little while to grow a personality. The romance also seemed like shallow lust-at-first-sight at first, and I was wondering if I’d enjoy the book, but the relationship developed into something more heart-felt and convincing as the story went on and the hero and heroine shared experiences.

Once it got going, I found a lot to like in the story. The heroine overcomes a truly horrible past and finds her strength. The hero is an “alpha male” that stays on the side of strong-willed and protective, without becoming pushy – most of the time. There’s one occasion where I felt he crossed the line, and the heroine rightly told him off for it. The supporting cast is full of likable characters, including a disabled (deaf) character portrayed positively. The small-town setting is vivid and believable.

I’d recommend Finding Pride for fans of contemporary romance. It’s a free download on all major ebook platforms.

See All Reviews by J’aime

 

Disclaimer

The review copy of this book was a free download (available on all major retailers). All titles reviewed on this blog are a fair and honest assessment of the book. No monetary compensation was received in exchange for this review. For more information regarding our review process, please visit our Review Policy & Review Request Submission page.

 

 

 

Excerpt

CHAPTER ONE

As the sun disappeared behind a dark cloud, a white sedan crept slowly down the winding road. A wall of trees on either side gave the impression that the only way out was to forge ahead. The black pavement weaved around tight bends, up and down rolling hills. If you could witness the scene from above, it would appear similar to a white mouse running through a maze on its way to find some cheese.

Several minutes had passed since the last open field. Every now and then a quick glance of a farmhouse or a barn would appear. But for now, the only view was the gray of the sky, the green of the trees, and the dark surface of the road.

The car was traveling towards freedom that had come at the worst price: death. Megan Kimble had just lost the last of her family.

Hours later, the sun peeked out of the clouds, landing on the small crowd gathered around a casket. Mist and fog hung in the afternoon air. The sun’s rays made the hill overlooking the small town of Pride, Oregon, appear to be cut off from civilization, like an island floating in a sea of fog. Not a sound came from the gathered mourners. Each person stood with their head down, looking at the dark, wet wood of the casket.

Megan stood in front of the crowd dressed in a dark skirt and a black raincoat. She looked down as tears silently rolled down her cheeks. Her long blonde hair was neatly tied back with a clip. The right sleeve of her coat hung empty, and her arm was tucked close to her body, encased in a white cast from her upper arm to just above her wrist.

Looking up, she gazed around the cemetery, not really noticing the people, only the old and crumbled headstones. Her eyes paused on a tall figure in the distance that appeared to hover above the mist. Blinking a few times to clear the moisture from her eyes, she realized it was a huge headstone in the shape of an angel with arms outstretched towards the heavens. It seemed to be reaching up in desperation, in need of a helping hand to ascend above.

Her thoughts drifted to Matt, and she looked back down at the casket. He had always called her his little angel. Looking at the simple wooden casket through teary eyes, she remembered her brother’s face as it looked fifteen years ago when she had awakened in a hospital bed with her young body covered in bruises, the memories of violence by her father’s hand gone, along with their parents’ lives.

Matt’s was the first face she had seen in the cold sterile room. His face had been streaked with tears, his eyes red as he’d comforted her. “Little Meg, everything will be okay. I’ll take care of you now. Don’t worry my little angel.”

Her thoughts snapped back to the cemetery as they lowered the casket into the wet ground. What had she ever done to deserve such a great brother? What had she ever given back to him? He’d given up everything for her, yet she couldn’t think of one thing she’d given him except lies.

Feeling hopeless and isolated, she began to wonder what she had left to live for. Why continue? She was all alone now; there was no one left to share her life with. Realizing it was probably Derek’s influence causing her dark thoughts, she tensed. Lifting her head, she tried to dismiss the thoughts of her ex-husband. He didn’t matter anymore, she told herself. He was out of her life forever.

As she stood in the old cemetery surrounded by a hundred strangers, she felt utterly alone. Matt had been her family, the only family that had really mattered. She had an aunt somewhere, but she hadn’t seen or heard from the woman in over fifteen years.

Glancing over, she noticed the priest walking towards her and quickly wiped the tears from her face. He was a short, stout man who was dressed in long, black robes. He wore a wide-brimmed hat that covered his curly silver hair. His face seemed gentle and kind. She could see that his eyes were red from his own tears. He had been very generous in the words he’d spoken about her brother during the short service.

She wasn’t Catholic. Neither was her brother, but at this point she wasn’t going to object. It had been a wonderful service and so many people had turned out. She didn’t know who had organized the service, but she was sure that the priest had had a big hand in it.

“Hello, dear, I’m Father Michael. We spoke on the phone a few days ago,” he said, as he took her by the hand. His hands were warm and comforting. “Matt was such a nice young man. I’ll miss him dearly.”

“Thank you. I’m sorry I wasn’t able to get here sooner. I would have helped you plan his service—”

“Don’t mention it. We all pitched in to help. That’s the wonderful thing about small towns.” He smiled and patted her hand a little. “The people in Pride don’t usually take to strangers, but Matt just fit in. He became part of the family, you might say. I know he wasn’t Catholic, but he did enjoy a good sermon and always attended our social events. Your brother was very well liked around here.”

It didn’t sound like he was talking about her brother. Matt had always been somewhat of a loner and had never really taken to crowds. But then again, they’d grown apart from each other when he’d moved out west to Oregon.

As the priest continued talking to her about Matt and the town of Pride, she looked around at the crowd of strangers in the muddy cemetery. It appeared that the whole town had braved the wet weather for her brother’s funeral. There were numerous faces, both young and old, many weatherworn from years on local fishing boats. She was used to being in crowds, having lived in a large city most of her life, but now it felt like every set of eyes were on her.

Shaking her head clear and taking another look around, she could see that, in fact, almost no one was looking directly at her. As her eyes scanned around, something else caught her gaze. A pair of the lightest silver-blue eyes she’d ever seen looked back at her through the crowd. The man stood a head taller than everyone else around him, and he was staring directly at her. For a moment, she forgot everything, including blinking.

The man had dark brown wavy hair, which was a little long and reached over his coat collar. From what she could see of him under his leather coat, he appeared to be thin. His face could have easily been etched in marble and put on display. His jaw was strong with the smallest of clefts in his chin. His lips were full and his nose was straight, but it was his eyes that caught her attention again. He was staring at her like he wanted to say something to her from across the crowded cemetery.

When Father Michael stepped between them, he broke the trance she’d been in. Blinking, she tried to refocus on the short priest. He was attempting to encourage her to stop by the church for services sometime.

“Megan, I feel like you’re already part of the flock. I’m sure we’ll be seeing you next week. If there is anything we can do for you, just let me know,” the father said while patting her hand. “You will let us know if you need any help moving in, what with your hurt arm and all.”

She looked down at her right arm enclosed in the white cast. She had it tucked closely under her raincoat, which she had left unzipped. The pain was a dull throb now, but that didn’t make the terrible memories go away.

“The Jordans are your nearest neighbors. They were very good friends of Matt’s. The two boys are young and strong. I’m sure they’ll be glad to come down and help you move in your things.” There was a matchmaking look in the man’s eyes, and she tried to take a step backwards, but her hand was still engulfed by his larger one. “And I’m sure their sister is looking forward to getting them out of her hair for a few hours,” he said with a wink.

“Thank you, Father. I’ll try to stop by the church for services. I don’t have much to move in, only a few bags, but thank you for offering.” It was the truth. Megan had sold what little furniture she had left. In fact, she’d been living out of her suitcase for the past few weeks.

“Well, now, if you change your mind, let me know,” he said, patting her hand one more time.

Just then a largewoman walked up to them. She had on a very bright blue dress covered in white flowers. Over it, she had a slick black raincoat that covered only half of the dress and half of the woman. She reminded Megan of a peacock all dressed up with its feathers ruffled.

“Father Michael, you let go of that girl’s hand so I can shake it. It’s a great pleasure to finally meet you, Megan,” the woman said while shaking her hand with a firm, warm grip. “I’m Patty O’Neil. I run the local grocery store. I’ve heard lots about you from your dear departed brother, God bless him.” The woman quickly crossed herself and continued. “I’m sure proud to finally meet you. O’Neil’s Grocery. It’s right down on Main Street. You can’t miss it,” she said. “It’s been in my family for generations. Well, if there is anything we can do…” She trailed off as the next person approached her.

And so it went, the entire town shaking her hand and offering their help in any manner possible.

 

********

Todd Jordan silently watched Matt’s younger sister. He’d recognized her instantly from the picture Matt had kept on his desk. She was a lot thinner now and very pale. She looked lost. Her broken arm, which she held against her tiny body, made her look even more so. He’d scanned her from head to toe when she’d arrived at the cemetery. The raincoat she wore reached halfway down her slender body, and her heels looked very sensible as they sat halfway sunk in the mud.

He remembered Matt telling him that she was recently divorced but couldn’t remember any more details. All he knew was that his friend hadn’t been happy about the circumstances. His thoughts were interrupted when Father Michael approached him.

“Well, now, young Todd.” The father always called him “young” even though he was now in his mid-thirties. “It’s a shame, yes, sir. Her heart is broken. It is your duty as Matt’s best friend to make sure you and your family help her settle in. Such a lovely thing, too. To think she’ll be living in that old, drafty house all by herself.” The father shook his head.

Matt’s house wasn’t drafty. If anything, it was in better shape than his own. He could tell the good father was probably up to his old matchmaking schemes.

“And to think, the poor girl will be moving in all by herself, and in the state she’s in, too. She could hardly shake my hand.” Here it comes, he thought, as his gaze once again swept over to where the object of their conversation stood. She was now surrounded by half the town and looked very lost.

“You need to do the right thing by Matt and make sure his little sister gets settled in safely. God has some answers for her. She’s come halfway across the world all alone to bury her poor brother.” Father Michael shook his head. “I want you to promise me that you and your family will stop by the house often, you hear me?” he said with a sad look on his face.

Todd’s gaze swept back to the priest. He knew that look. It was the same look he and a friend had gotten in high school after sneaking in to the cemetery with the Blake girls to try to scare them on Halloween night. The father had tried to scold them, but the entire time, he had been laughing at them, instead.

“Yes, Father,” he murmured. Father Michael nodded his head and turned away to greet another group of people.

Todd looked back over at Megan and saw that she was even paler than before. He grabbed his sister’s arm as she was walking past him and nodded in Megan’s direction.

“Someone needs to go save her,” he said under his breath.

“What do you suggest I do?” Lacey said with a stern look, placing both hands on her small hips.

“I don’t know. You’re the one who’s good at breaking things…up,” he added after his sister’s eyes heated. Then he grabbed her shoulders and pointed her in Megan’s direction.

He saw Lacey’s shoulders slump a little after taking in the sight of Megan being swamped by the whole of Pride.

“Humph,” Lacey grunted and started marching towards the growing crowd. His sister may be small, but she packed the biggest punch in town.

 

********

Megan stood there as an older gentleman talked to her. She hadn’t caught his name when he’d barged to the front of the line and grabbed her hand.

“I didn’t know Matt all that well, but he was a nice young man. He always had wonderful things to say about my bar, never once starting a brawl. Broke a couple up, though,” the bar owner said with a crooked grin. “Always such a nice m-m-m,” he started to stutter.

Concerned, she quickly looked up from the man’s hand, which was tightly gripping her own. Standing beside the bar owner was a pixie. Megan didn’t believe in fairy tales, but there was no other way to describe the woman. Megan had a strong urge to walk around the petite creature and see if wings were tucked under her dark purple raincoat. The woman was perfect, from the tip of her pixie-cut black hair to the toes of her green galoshes. Galoshes, Megan noted, that didn’t have a speck of dirt on them. She was shorter than Megan and very petite with rounder curves. Her skin was fair and her eyes were a crystal gray blue. She had a cute nose that turned up slightly at the end and full lips that were a light shade of pink. She also had a commanding look on her face.

The bar owner literally backed away without even finishing his sentence, then he quickly walked away without so much as a glance back. Within seconds, everyone who’d gathered around her had wandered off, all without a single word from the pixie.

“How…?” Megan’s voice squeaked, so she cleared her throat and started again, “How did you do that?”

“Well, it takes years of practice,” the pixie said with a smile. “I’m Lacey Jordan.” Her voice was smoky and laced with sexuality. “I was very good friends with your brother. I’m sorry he’s gone.”

The simple words touched something inside Megan. She could tell there was truth behind them. Lacey reached over and lightly grabbed Megan’s good arm and then led her towards a row of parked cars.

“I’m also your neighbor. Shall we get you in out of the weather and home where you belong? We’ve made some meat pie for dinner, and I’m sure by the time we get there, the whole town will be right behind us. We’ll go get my brothers and take you home.”

“Oh, please, I don’t want to be a bother. I’ll be fine.” Megan felt compelled to follow the small woman who still had a light hold on her arm and an air of command that surrounded her.

“Nonsense! It’s no bother at all. Plus, if you turn down dinner,” she said with a slight smile, “my brother Iian might get his feelings hurt. It’s not every day he makes the family’s famous dish.” She continued walking towards the row of cars. “Come on then, let’s get you out of this rain.”

Megan looked up at the skies and at that exact moment, it started to lightly rain. Her mouth fell open in shock, but when a big fat drop landed on her bottom lip, she quickly closed it. Lacey was still lightly holding her arm and pulling her towards the parked cars near the side of the small white church.

Having not eaten before her flight to Portland, Megan felt her stomach growl. Exhaustion was settling in, and she felt a chill come over her bones. She wasn’t sure what meat pie was, but if it had meat in it, she knew she could tolerate it.

“Oh! I’m sorry.” She stopped walking, and Lacey turned and looked at her. “I forgot to mention that I have a rental car over there.” She pointed slightly with her injured arm towards a small white sedan that she’d hastily rented at the airport four hours earlier.

“Give me the keys and my brothers can drive it over to the house for you,” Lacey said, waving towards a man who had the same rich black hair. He’d been standing towards the back of the buildings in the shadows, so far back that Megan hadn’t even noticed he was there.

As he stepped out, she saw that his hair was longer than his sister’s. The man strolled over, appearing to be in no hurry, and he looked like he rather enjoyed the nasty weather and his surroundings. To say that he was tall would be an understatement; he must have been six and half feet and it only took him a couple of strides to reach where they stood.

Megan had to crane her neck to look up into his face, and she noticed that he had the same light eyes as his sister. His chin was strong with a tiny cleft, and his lips held a lazy smile that made him look rather harmless. Lacey handed him the keys to the rental car, then waved her hands in a sequence of patterns in front of her.

Lacey turned back to her. “Megan, this is my brother Iian. He’s hearing impaired and uses sign language to communicate, but he can also read lips really well,” she said while continuing to sign. Then turning her face away from his she said, “He likes to eavesdrop, so be careful what you say while facing him.”

Smiling, Megan turned back to Iian in time to see the quick flash of humor in his eyes as he signed something to his sister. She gestured something back to him and hit him on the shoulder in a sisterly way.

“Come on, Megan. Iian will take care of your car.” They began walking towards the cars as the rain came down harder. Groups of people without umbrellas were quickly sprinting to their vehicles. Others with umbrellas were making their way more slowly.

When Megan sank into the passenger seat of Lacey’s sedan, chills ran up and down her spine. Lacey got in behind the wheel and started the engine. She turned the heater on full blast, and as it started to warm the inside of the car, Megan felt she could happily fall asleep right there.

They pulled away from the small church and the now-empty cemetery. The windshield wipers were clearing the rain from her view with a soft squeak, but Megan still felt like she wasn’t able to see much beyond the path that the headlights were cutting through the fog. Then she sat up a little straighter and looked over at Lacey, who had her eyes on the road. Realizing she had just gotten into a stranger’s car, she tensed. What did she really know about this small woman?

“You don’t need to worry,” Lacey said, not taking her eyes off the road. “I’m not going to kidnap you.” She turned her head slightly and smiled. “We’ll deliver you to your brother’s house before everyone else gets there. I hope you don’t mind, but we invited a few close friends over for potluck. It’s what Matt would have wanted, something small. Your brother was very well liked around town, and people will want to bid him goodbye in this manner.” She smiled sadly.

“Of course.” She relaxed a little and rested her head against the window, enjoying the soft hum of the engine and the gentle beat of the wipers. By the time they pulled off the main road, the sky was dark; the sun hadn’t come back out before setting for the night.

“Here we are now.” Lacey parked the car so the headlights hit the house full force. “Matt spent most of the first year remodeling the place. I think you’ll like what he’s done with it.” Lacey smiled at her.

Looking through the car window, Megan saw a large, white two-story house. Long green shutters sat on either side of picture windows that lined the whole front of the house. The front door was bright red with a brass knocker, and there were stained-glass windows on either side of the door. The windows seemed to glow brightly in the night.

Following Lacey’s lead, she opened her door, and together they raced for the front porch through the light rain. Standing on the huge, brightly lit covered porch, she watched Lacey open the front door with a key from her own key chain. As they crossed the threshold, Megan’s rental car pulled up in the driveway and parked next to Lacey’s sedan.

Watching from the doorway, she saw Iian step out of the car along with the silver-blue-eyed man she had seen in the cemetery. Both men looked up to the front door and nodded to her and then stepped behind the rental car and started pulling her overnight bags from the trunk.

“They’ll get those. Come on inside out of the cold,” Lacey said. She walked towards the back of the house, leaving Megan standing alone in her brother’s doorway.

Even though her brother had lived here for several years, she’d never visited Oregon before today. There had always been a reason not to visit him. Looking down at the cast on her arm, she realized that this was the reason she’d put off the last visit. The broken arm had been one more thing she had hidden from her brother, and she wished that she hadn’t postponed that last trip.

Quickly turning into the house, she tried to avoid thinking about her brother and her regrets. Lacey was walking back towards her from the back of a long hallway, rubbing her hands together for warmth.

Just then, both men walked onto the front porch and shook their heads like dogs, shaking the rain from their hair. They wiped their feet on the wire mat before crossing into the entryway.

Megan noted that their faces were very similar, yet she could see subtle differences in the men. Their height and weight for one. Iian was slightly taller, with a broader build. And although the brothers shared the same gorgeous eyes, it was the depth of the one brother’s that captured her attention again.

“Megan, this is my older brother, Todd,” Lacey said from behind her.

Todd nodded his hello and looked at her, causing warmth to spread throughout her.

“It’s chilly in here. Will you please start a fire in the living room before the guests arrive?” Lacey asked him.

Again, a nod was his only reply, and then he turned and went into the dark room to the right without saying a word.

“Iian,” Lacey said and signed along, “please take those up to Matt’s room and start a fire up there.”

Lacey walked away, turning on lights as she went. Iian jogged up the curved staircase that sat to the left of the entryway. He had her suitcase in one arm like it weighed nothing and had thrown her overnight bag over his shoulder. It had taken all of her strength to drag those two bags through the airport that morning. His hair was still dripping wet and he was humming to himself. Humming? Megan thought.

As everyone bustled around, starting fires and turning on lights, Megan stood in the main entryway. She felt useless all over again. Here she was standing in her brother’s home, letting strangers take care of her. Hadn’t she promised herself that she would take care of herself from now on? But she was so tired. She didn’t think that letting these people help her out for one night would hurt.

Lacey came back into the entryway. “Come on, let’s get you out of that wet coat.” Lacey reached for the rain jacket as Megan flinched away. Slowly Lacey’s hands returned to her side.

“I’m sorry,” Megan began, looking down at her hands, not wanting to look Lacey in the eyes. “I’m just a bit jumpy and tired I suppose.” She tried to smile. How could she explain she didn’t like to be touched?

“No need to apologize,” Lacey said, warmly. “You must be overwhelmed. I’m sure a bit hungry by now, too. At any rate, people will start arriving any minute, and I’m sure there will be lots of food.” As Lacey finished those words, the doorbell rang. “Go on in and have a seat by the fire. I’ll take care of this.”

Lacey pointed Megan in the direction of the two French doors that Todd had disappeared through earlier. Slowly walking towards them, Megan listened as Lacey greeted a group of people. Not really wanting to deal with anyone yet, she slipped inside the softly lit room and sighed as she rested against the wall.

Todd was across the room, bent over a pile of wood in the fireplace, blowing on flames that had started on some crumpled papers. He’d removed his leather jacket, and she noticed that he was wearing a white dress shirt that was stretched taut over his muscular arms. Powerful, was the word that came to her mind. She was nervous around powerful, so instead of walking over to the warmth of the fire, she turned back towards the doorway and watched Lacey greet everyone.

She was about to walk out to the hall and try to find the kitchen, when she felt hands lightly placed on her shoulders. Out of reflex, she jumped and spun around, her hand raised in defense.

“Easy,” Todd murmured. “Let me take your coat; you’re soaking wet.” He held his hands out as one would to a wounded animal.

Blushing, she said, “I’m sorry. You startled me.” She hung her head and turned around so that he wouldn’t see her face turning red. Her heart was racing and her hands started shaking. It still affected her, being touched.

Gently, he helped her out of her jacket, being extra careful around her right arm. He hung it next to his coat on an oak rack by the door. When he noticed Lacey watching from the doorway, he said to her, “She can eat by the fire. She’s frozen.”

Lacey nodded in agreement. “There’s a TV tray over in the corner. Go on, I’ll bring a plate of food in once it’s heated.”

Father Michael had just walked into the house and was standing in the doorway with a few other people. Todd nodded to them then quickly walked her back into the living room under several watchful eyes. His hand gently cupped her good elbow.

Megan followed him back towards the fireplace where the room was warmer. She held her hand out towards the fire. She hadn’t realized how freezing she was until the warmth hit her, causing her hand to tingle.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t realize how cold I was until now,” she said nervously to the room. She knew Todd was still behind her but didn’t wanted to turn and look at him just yet. Closing her eyes, she let out the breath she’d been holding since he’d touched her. She was nervous around him, around men. When he touched her, however featherlight it was, it was like a power surge rushing through her body. She’d been avoiding getting close to anyone for so long that she knew she was out of practice. Taking a deep breath, she turned to the quiet room.

“You have his eyes.” He interrupted her thoughts. He stood right inside the doors, his hands buried deep in his pockets as he watched her.

Megan was about to say something, anything, but just then Iian came into the room with a smile on his face. He stopped and took one look at his brother and then at her and signed something quickly to Todd. She wasn’t sure what he said, but Todd gave his brother a frustrated look and then walked out of the room without saying a word to either of them.

Iian walked over to her and took her hand in his and said in a rich, warm voice, “Megan, I am very sorry about Matt.”

Gasping, she realized she wasn’t aware he could speak.

He smiled slightly. “I can speak. I lost my hearing in an accident when I was eighteen. I don’t do it very often; my brother and sister say I have the most annoying voice.”

She could hear the little blunders he made with his voice, as if he was out of practice. But he had such a rich, deep voice, so much like his brother’s.

Speaking slowly and making sure to keep her face directed at his, she said, “You have a wonderful voice, rich and warm. Thank you for taking care of my luggage and starting a fire upstairs.”

He smiled, while still holding her hand in his warm one. “You’re chilled. Come over and sit down.” He pulled her towards a dark-colored couch near the fireplace. “Lacey is still greeting people, but I’m sure you’ll have a plate of food in front of you in no time. I’ll sit with you and keep you company until then.”

 

********

Back in the kitchen, Todd was helping his sister with the food, but his mind was back in the living room. He’d guessed by the look in Megan’s eyes and the way she had jumped at his light touch that someone had hurt her, and recently too. The look on her face was heartbreaking, and he didn’t care to see it on Matt’s little sister. He was glad she’d turned away when she had, so she couldn’t see the sadness and anger that had come into his eyes. Had Matt known this was going on? What she’d been going through? He didn’t think so, but that didn’t keep him from wanting to hunt someone down for the pain they had caused her.

His sister had seen the look on his face; she always saw everything. She had shaken her head at him and discreetly signed to him not to look so serious, that he might scare her. He’d quickly dropped his eyes and hidden it. He’d been so concerned about her, he hadn’t even realized that his face had shown it.

Earlier, he’d watched Megan when she’d gone to the fire. She had started to relax and had rolled her shoulders, showing him a hint of her long white neck. He’d felt a flash of desire so strong that he had winced. That was when Iian had entered the room and signed for him not to look so serious. Was he that serious of a person that both his siblings had to warn him about it in one day? He didn’t want to scare Megan, but he couldn’t control the way his emotions played out on his face.

His brother and sister had a way of seeing things for what they were, which always annoyed him. At this point, he couldn’t even muster up enough strength to go in there and talk with his brother about his feelings. He knew he wouldn’t get anywhere talking about it with Lacey, but he could at least hold his own with Iian.

Hearing people roam about the house, he could just imagine Iian and Megan in the other room talking. His brother had a way of making women feel very comfortable and at ease. Thinking about them getting together, he realized that maybe he did have enough strength to go talk to his brother about his feelings.

As he walked towards the kitchen door to go and do just that, Lacey stopped him with one word. “Don’t.”

He turned to her ready to argue, but she only smiled at him.

Quickly, he let his breath out in a loud puff.

“How is it that you can defuse any situation with that smile?” he said, pulling her into a hug. “You drive me nuts.”

She sighed and hugged him back, resting her head on his chest. “Give her time, Todd. Let Iian talk to her a while. She’s going to need to trust us. She’s had it hard.” Taking a deep breath and a step back, she grabbed a plate of food and handed it to him. “Now, go take this to her and no more strange looks!” She smiled as she pushed him out the door.

Every bone in his body said that his sister was right, but his blood was boiling so hot he wanted answers. Matt had been like a brother to him, not just his best friend. What hurt Matt, hurt him. He missed his friend and felt sad, angry, and lost about his death. He knew Matt would’ve wanted them to take care of Megan and so he was going to make sure she was taken care of, period.

He knew that his brother and sister felt the same way about her as he did. Megan was family now. But he couldn’t deny the quick pull he’d felt when he looked into those sea green eyes of hers.

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