For one week only, you can get the first three books in the Reed Brothers series for only 99 cents!
Boxed set containing:
Tall, Tatted, and Tempting
Smart, Sexy, and Secretive
Calmly, Carefully, Completely
Google Play: https://bit.ly/2zVr6Uk
Amazon US: https://bit.ly/2NvPxK3
Amazon UK: https://bit.ly/2zUruT1
“I thought what she didn’t know wouldn’t hurt her… until it did.”
The buzzer on my desk phone went off and I ignored it, preferring to push papers around on my desk, pretending to look busy. I had patient charts to review, medications to approve, and a plethora of patients who were waiting for me to make my rounds. But first…first I had to find her. I had to find Lynn.
I had to at least try, although in my heart of hearts I knew she wouldn’t be found until she was good and ready.
The phone buzzed again, and I hit the appropriate button to mark myself busy so no one could buzz me anymore. I had too much on my mind. I knew I might even have to take a few days off so I could get my shit together.
I’d checked her bank accounts. I’d checked her credit cards. Her social media profile. Her phone. I’d checked everything, and I still had no idea where she was.
Suddenly, the door of my office flew open, slammed hard against the opposite wall, and in rolled a ball of fire.
My secretary followed her, trying to stop her forward trajectory, to no avail.
“What the fuck did you do?” the intruder snarled, bending over my desk so she could slam her fist on the wood in front of me.
My heart eased a little. If Ash was here, things would be okay. She could help me find Lynn. She might already know where she was.
I sat back in my chair and made a steeple of my hands in front of me. “Ash,” I said with a nod. “Always a pleasure.”
“Dr. Peterson, I’m so sorry,” my secretary stammered from behind Ash. “I told her you didn’t want to be disturbed, but she wouldn’t listen.” She reached for Ash’s arm, but Ash jerked back and then made a move like a charging bull at the poor woman. Mrs. Anderson blanched and backed up against the wall, her hand upon her heart.
“It’s okay, Mrs. Anderson,” I said calmly.
“I told her, Dr. Peterson, I really did,” she said, her voice shaking in the presence of the fury that was Ash.
“It’s okay,” I said again calmly. “She can stay. Can you close the door on your way out?”
“Do you want me to call security?” Her gaze dragged up and down Ash’s clothing, stopping on the torn jeans where we could all see a little too much of Ash’s thigh. Then paused again on the cropped shirt that was short enough to show a strip of soft, supple stomach. The lace of her bra, which stuck out the top of the ripped shirt she wore, was torn and frayed. The dirty, scuffed, overfilled backpack she carried had all her worldly possessions in it, I was sure. Ash liked to travel light. And dirty.
“No,” I said, still not moving. “You can close the door. We have a little business to take care of.”
“Are you certain, Dr. Peterson?” she insisted, her gaze jumping from me to Ash and back.
Ash lifted her voice high and mocked Mrs. Anderson. “Are you certain, Dr. Peterson?” she chimed. “Of course he’s certain, bitch. Now get out.” Ash made a move like she was going to jump toward Mrs. Anderson, and Mrs. Anderson scurried quickly to the door. Ash slammed it shut behind her.
“So nice to see you, Ash,” I said slowly.
“Where the fuck is she?” Ash perched her curvy little ass on the edge of the chair on the other side of my desk. She rested her arms on the desk and glared at me.
“What makes you think she’s gone?” I asked. I pretended to be occupied with the papers on my desk, stacking them into organized piles.
“I just left your house. She’s not there.”
“Lynn’s not a prisoner, you know,” I reminded her. Although, if I was truly honest, I knew she kind of was. She didn’t leave home, not unless something was terribly wrong, or one of her closest friends was with her, or unless I was with her.
“Lynn’s not a prisoner,” she parroted. “What did you do?” She glared at me.
“When was the last time you had a shower?” I countered.
She froze, but didn’t answer my question.
Ash was a friend of Lynn’s, and she lived on the streets most of the time when she was in town. She did odd jobs, a little waitressing when she could find someone with poor enough standards to hire her. With her heavy eyeliner, deep-black lipstick, and combat boots, she was a study in contradictions. Deep down, I knew she was good. But on the surface, she was bad. Very, very bad.
“Where have you been sleeping?” I asked mildly.
“Here and there.” She kicked back in the chair and lifted her scuffed and worn combat boots to rest on the edge of my desk.
“While Lynn’s gone, I want you to stay at our house.” I got up and walked around to her. “Take a shower. Get cleaned up. I’ll come home later and we can talk.” I sat on the edge of the desk and scooted over until her feet were against my hip. She softened as soon as I touched her, just like she always did. She might be tough as shoe leather on the outside, but on the inside, she was as soft as cotton. “We can make a plan. Find her.”
“Do you want her back?” she asked. Her eyes skittered around, looking everywhere but at me, so I bent over and captured her chin with my fingers.
“I always want her back,” I said. “Always.” The vehemence of my words startled even me.
“What did you do?” she asked again.
“I didn’t do anything.” Not this time.
“The last time she vanished like this was when you asked her to marry you,” Ash reminded me.
“I know.” She was gone for almost two weeks. I had to deal with Ash then, too. And several of Lynn’s other friends. “She came back, though. She always comes back.”
“I’m worried about her,” Ash whispered.
“I am too.” I laid my hand on her shin and gave it a squeeze. Her eyes fell closed and a tiny tear escaped, streaking across her black makeup, leaving a sooty trail down her cheek.
“I need for her to come back. It’s been a long time since she’s done this.” Ash laid her head back against the back of the chair, following her words with a damp, tear-stricken groan.
Two years, four days, and twenty-two hours since the last time Lynn vanished. “Did she say anything to you? Give you any indication she was stressed over something?”
She shrugged. “It’s not like she talks to me every day.”
“I know.” I patted her leg again, lingering just a little too long. Her eyes flew open and her gaze met mine. “Go home. Take a shower. You stink. I’ll be there later. We’ll talk.”
She glanced toward where my hand rested comfortably on her leg. “Talk,” she repeated.
“Yes, talk.” I couldn’t keep the corners of my lips from tipping up into a grin.
She lowered her feet to the floor and slowly stood up beside me, pressing her lithe body against mine. “Last time she was gone, we did more than talk.”
I remembered. “That was a mistake.”
Her eyes roamed up and down my body. “A mistake that tasted like it was right.” She licked her lips. “Damn. I missed you.”
In my own fucked-up way, I missed her too. “Go home. I’ll be there in a few hours. I have some things I have to do here.”
She nodded. Then she stepped onto her tiptoes and waited, her face tilted up toward mine. I bent and kissed her lips quickly and softly. “Later,” I whispered. “I’ll see you later.”
She nodded and walked toward the door. I opened it for her and stepped to the side, my back against the open door. She lifted her hand, each finger tipped with black nail polish, and stroked her finger down my tie.
“Not here,” I whispered.
“I know,” she whispered back. “Because I’m not her.”
I studied her face, searching for the features I knew so very well. “No, you’re not her.”
She nodded sadly and left.
I closed my door and rushed across the room to pick up the phone. I dialed my mom’s emergency number.
“Mason,” my mom said as soon as the phone rang once. She sounded out of breath. “Did you find her?”
“No, but Ash was here.”
Silence was the only response. “Mom?” I prompted.
“If Ash was there, Lynn’s okay.”
I knew that, but it didn’t make it any easier. “I want Lynn back.”
“I know you do, son. Just give it time. These things have a way of cycling around.”
“Mom…” I heaved out a sigh.
“I know,” she said softly. “But you know she’s safe. That’s what matters.”
What mattered was getting Lynn back, and I’d do anything to make that happen.
Available Nov. 1, 2017
I push through the doors of the tattoo shop with my heart in my throat. Paul Reed looks up, and I’m stunned, just like every other woman who looks at him is immediately taken aback by all his ink, the piercings over his eyebrows, the metal in his ears, and the blue of his eyes. Startling. There’s no other word to describe him. Except for kind. Kindness seeps from Paul Reed’s pores. You just have to be willing to look past the gruff exterior to see it.
His back is bent over a client as he works on a tattoo for a man who has almost as much metal on his face as I have on my car.
Paul smiles at me. “Hey, Wren,” he says. “What’s up?” He lifts his tattoo machine for no more than a moment, and then he looks back down and keeps working.
“Hey, Paul,” I reply. I swallow hard.
“What can I do for you?” Paul asks. He’s the only one in the shop today, since it’s early in the morning.
“I was hoping Friday might be here,” I say tentatively.
He tilts his head toward the back of the shop. “She’s cursing in the office right now, trying to balance the bank account.”
I hear a filthy curse come from the back room, and I bite back a grin. “Is it okay if I go back to talk to her?”
He nods. “If you’re brave enough.” Then he lets out a heavy sigh. “She threatened to chop my dick off when I took her a cup of coffee. So proceed at your own risk.”
“Thanks.” I walk toward the office and stop when I see the door is cracked. I rap my knuckles lightly and call out her name. “Friday?”
She looks up and blows a lock of dark hair from her eyes as the door opens just a little. I’m always startled when I see her looking like this. She doesn’t have a swipe of makeup on and she’s in jeans and a t-shirt. There are no high heels, no short skirts, no fishnet stockings, and no kissable red lips. She’s just Friday.
“Hey,” she says. She smiles at me. “Come on in.”
“Are you sure I’m not interrupting?” I step into the room and drop hesitantly into a chair across from her desk.
“I needed a break anyway.” She puts her pencil down and crosses her hands on her desk. “You doing okay?” she asks, her voice soft.
“Oh, yeah,” I say with a breezy wave. “I’m fine.”
“Good,” she says with a nod. “I’ve been worried about you.”
I bite my lips together.
“So, I’m guessing you didn’t just come here to shoot the shit.”
I scratch the tip of my nose. “I was wondering…” I heave in a breath. “I was hoping you might draw a tattoo for me.
Her brow rises. “What did you have in mind?”
“Just something simple to remember the…you know.”
“The baby?” she clarifies, her voice a lot stronger than mine.
“The miscarriage,” I say, clearing the lump that’s suddenly clogging my throat.
“The baby,” she says again, staring hard at me.
“Yeah, that.” I lift my thumbnail to my teeth and rip a piece of it off. I was almost three months pregnant when I miscarried. That was two months ago.
“Did you have something in mind?”
“Well, there’s no marker, no grave…no baby. Not really. So I want something simple. Just something to mark that he was here. It was an early miscarriage, so some people might even argue that he never existed. Since he never took a breath and all that.”
Her eyes narrow. “He may have never taken a breath, but he existed, and you were one hundred percent pregnant. You’re allowed to feel one hundred percent of the grief.”
Tears sting my eyes and I blink them back.
“I’ll draw something up for you and let you take a look. Want me to text it to you?”
I nod. “That would be great.” I get up and start for the door.
“Hey, Wren,” Friday calls out.
I turn back and look at her, waiting for her to speak. “Yeah?”
“Why didn’t you ask one of the guys to draw something up for you?”
I look everywhere but at her. “Well,” I start. But then I stop and bite my lips together.
“Well?” she prompts. But her face is all kindness and affection.
“You’re a mom,” I say.
She nods, her head going up and down slowly. “I am.”
“And I thought you might, you know, know a little something about loss.” I play with the corner of a poster on the door.
“I do,” she says with another nod. She heaves out a sigh. “I’ll draw something up for you, okay? If you don’t like it, we can go back and forth until we find the right memorial tattoo for you.”
“Do you think it’s stupid?” I ask quickly. I want to bite the words back as soon as they leave my lips. “Never mind.”
She gets up and comes to stand in front of me. She’s about six inches shorter than I am, but she looks dead into my eyes. “Some tattoos are about the past, and some are about the future. Some are about healing, and some just let the pain out. Some mark happy moments, and others commemorate the sadness. No tattoos are stupid. Well, except for ones people put on their dicks. I never did understand those. And since you don’t have a dick…” She finally grins and squeezes my shoulder. “I’m glad you’re doing okay.”
“It was good to see you.” I turn to walk out.
“Hey,” Friday calls out to me again. “Give your sisters a call. I know they’re worried about you too, okay?”
I nod and leave the shop, the bells over the door tinkling as the door closes behind me.
I step out onto the busy street and take in the hustle and bustle of morning in the city. I pull my phone out of my pocket and text my four sisters all at once.
Me: You guys want to go to karaoke tonight?
Finny: Bitch, it’s about time you texted us. And yes. I’m in.
Star: I’m in, if Marta can watch the baby.
Peck: Sam says we’re in.
Finny: Are we bringing men?
Peck: Sam says we are. LOL
Lark: We’ll meet you there at 7
Me: See you then!
Lark: Umm…Ryan wants to know if Mick can come.
Star: That’s up to Wren. Wren?
Me: It’s fine.
Star: It won’t be too weird for you?
Me: No. It’s fine.
It’s not fine. Not fine at all. But he’s Ryan’s brother. I can’t avoid him forever, can I?
I have four sisters. They are all blissfully happy.
Sam, one of the Reed brothers, met my sister Peck and they have a son and another baby on the way.
Josh, who works at the Reed brothers’ tattoo parlor, married my sister Star and they have a new baby, a little girl.
Tag is living with my sister Finny, and she’s pregnant. Tag already has a little boy, Benji. Tag wants to marry Finny, but she swears she doesn’t need a piece of paper.
Ryan, who also works as a tattoo artist at Reeds’, married my sister Lark. She’s not pregnant yet, but they’re trying. Lots.
And then there’s me.
And then there’s Mick.
And he was with me the day I lost my baby. And I haven’t seen him since.
And he’ll be at karaoke tonight. Shit.
What do you get when you put together one matchmaking doorman, some Reed brothers with good intentions, and five sisters, one of whom is a little lost? You get Tammy Falkner’s newest book, I’M IN IT.
Mick fell in love with Wren at the worst possible time. She was in the midst of something wonderful, and then she wasn’t. Her life changed in the blink of an eye. And in this situation, it wasn’t a change for the better. He can still remember when she felt the first cramp. When she pressed her knees together tightly in the front seat of his car as though she could hold that life inside herself by sheer will alone. And if will were all it took, she’d have succeeded.
But she didn’t succeed, and they were over before they began. She was too hurt. She was too raw. She was wishing for what could have been, while he was wishing for what was. And what was… well, it was nothing. At least not to her.
I only make this once a year, since it’s quite a production. It’s my sister’s favorite food, so I make it every Thanksgiving. If you’re in a crunch for time, you can fry the eggplant a day or two ahead of time, then assemble it on the day of.
If you have a favorite sauce, you can use that instead of tomato and garlic. Or use your favorite sauce from a jar. I find that a ton of basil and oregano overpower the subtle flavor of the eggplant, so I only use tomato and garlic.
2-3 large eggplants, peeled and sliced into one inch layers
½ cup of milk
Italian bread crumbs
Cheeses of your choice (I like mixing cheddar, mozzarella and parmesan) (And I like LOTS of cheese.)
Rice to serve it over
Once you’ve salted your eggplants and left them to sit on paper towels for a few minutes (it makes them less bitter), rinse them well.
Beat the egg with the milk. Put it in a bowl right beside your bread crumbs. Dry your eggplant slices, dip them in the egg mixture, then in the breadcrumbs, then drop them into a hot pan of oil. Brown them on both sides on a medium heat until they’re crispy on the outside. Drain them on paper towels.
Layer the eggplant slices in a large baking dish, alternating between eggplant, a layer of cheese, enough tomato sauce to cover the layer, and sprinkle the tomato sauce with some garlic powder. Repeat until your pan is full. Top with lots of parmesan cheese. Bake until bubbly. Serve over rice.
The next stop on our progressive dinner is at DM Marlowe’s house. She’s making Good Thyme Lamb Chops: http://www.dmmarlowe.com/progressive-holiday-dinner.html
You might not be able to get your own Reed Brother, but you can get a Reed Brothers shirt for Christmas!
Available here: http://bit.ly/2fieNBL