Gabrielle March has always known her place in the world and it is clearly not in the ranks of the rich and famous. Now she’s about to get an amazing gift from someone who is rich and famous that will rewrite her past, change the course of her future and put her life in danger. As someone who’s always considered herself merely a spectator in life, Gabrielle will have to break out of the confines of that mind set to make her dreams a reality. All she needs is a mega dose of courage and some positive thinking— two traits in short supply—to finance her own video production company and take her rightful place in a world that should have been hers all along.
After surviving the divorce from hell, corporate king pin, Pierce Hastings, is back in the game. Finding the right woman was not happening until the exasperating, opinionated, utterly charming Gabrielle March invades his life. He’s baffled that a woman so outwardly bold and confident harbors such self doubt and low self esteem beneath her skin. Pierce wants to spend the rest of his life with her but first Gabrielle must learn to love herself and believe in her amazing talent. Known as the “fixer,” Pierce wars with himself to remain “hands off” until Gabrielle figures things out for herself and chooses to become the woman he knows she can be.
Read an excerpt:
**My thoughts**Chapter OneGabrielle March was a heartbeat away from disaster. With less than three hundred dollars to her name and over four hundred thousand dollars in debt, she was down to her last paltry drop of optimism. The only good thing about her predicament was that she lived in Prescott, Georgia and people here didn’t get their legs broken because of non-payment of debts. At least she didn’t think Turner Beaumont over at the First Federal would resort to physical violence. After all, it wasn’t like she was the culprit who ran up the debt. No, that was all courtesy of her dearly departed dad.Sitting in a back booth at Patsy’s Sugar Bowl, her stomach rumbling, Gabrielle sucked in the aroma of grilled burgers and the best fries this side of Atlanta. It was her birthday and her best friend, MaryBeth Penholster, was buying her lunch.In this red vinyl booth, the two of them had clocked hundreds of hours eating and talking about everything from first periods to first loves. Even now, as “thirty something” women of the world, it was still the best place for comfort food and girl talk.MaryBeth slouched in her petal pink scrubs across the table from Gabrielle, her hot pink nails clicking against the Formica top. “Come on, Gabby. It’s your birthday. Lighten up.” She pursed her lips and took a long pull on her soda. “You’ve been dealing with your dad’s mess for over a year now. Give yourself a break––put it out of your mind at least for today.”Gabrielle couldn’t help but smile. She and MaryBeth had been best friends since kindergarten– knew each other inside and out. So alike in many ways, there was one vast difference between the two. MaryBeth came from a circus of a family with oodles of siblings, nieces and nephews, aunts and uncles, and grandparents. Gabrielle was a party of one–a thirty-two year old orphan.“Ok. I’ll do my best.” She cracked a smile at her friend.If Gabrielle had a sister, she would want her to be just like MaryBeth. Her warmth and friendship had seen Gabrielle through some dark, lonely days.MaryBeth sighed, “It sucks big time, Gabby. No way in hell should you be stuck with your dad’s debts. Sorry, here I am telling you not to think about it and I bring it up.”“It’s alright.” Gabrielle glanced down at the express envelope, on the top of her stack of mail. Why open it? She didn’t see the point in subjecting herself to more misery, especially today. In all likelihood it was another past due notice from her dad’s legion of creditors. Like fleas on a coonhound, they seemed to multiply daily.Gabrielle saw MaryBeth frown at her as she fingered the edge of the envelope.“Gabby, don’t you dare.”“Hey, it’s from somebody in Weybridge, Massachusetts. I don’t think Dad owes anyone from the state of Massachusetts.” Curiosity overriding concern, she ripped the tab open and pulled out a heavy vellum envelope. The expensive stationary was a statement in itself— definitely not from a collections agency.“Who’s it from?” MaryBeth asked. “Girl, you look like you have seen a ghost.”In a way, she had. Gabrielle sank back against the booth’s pouchy vinyl, her breath whistling through her teeth. It wasn’t bad news but it was certainly odd.She handed the letter across the table to MaryBeth. A faded color photo dropped out of the envelope onto the table. My oh my. Her dad and a beautiful young woman, clad in a modest red bikini, stood on a dock beside a Chris Craft, a vintage mahogany speedboat. Her dad, suntanned and handsome, beamed blissfully at the camera; he looked like he didn’t have a care in the world.MaryBeth picked up the picture. “Hmm, hmm. Your daddy was a handsome devil.” She toyed with the straw sticking out of her soda glass. “So, you going to go see this Mrs. Hastings or not?”“No. I can't just go trotting off to Massachusetts.” Gabrielle stuffed the letter and photo back into the envelope. “This Mrs. Hastings probably has some old photos that belonged to Dad. It's not a good time to leave the paper.” Gabrielle was tempted but her priority was right here in Prescott taking care of her dad’s weekly newspaper. After all, it’s what she’d promised him and a promise— even made under duress—was a promise. Well, the old newspaper was still breathing, but the prognosis wasn’t so good.“Right. ‘Important obligation’ definitely equates to a box of old photos.” MaryBeth gave Gabrielle a smug “I know you better than you do” look.Patsy hustled over to their booth with two piping hot cheeseburgers and baskets of crispy fries. “Here you go, darlins.” She looked down at the envelope on the table, then at Gabrielle’s face and elicited a motherly cluck. “Hope you didn’t get some bad news, honey.”“No, ” Gabrielle assured her. “Just a letter from an old friend of Dad’s.” Gabrielle stared at MaryBeth, willing her to silence. As much as she adored Patsy, the woman delighted in serving her patrons tasty morsels of gossip along with the blue plate special. Gabrielle had no desire for her personal business to be the talk of tonight’s dinner crowd.“Order up,” the cook bellowed from the kitchen; then dinged the bell, like rapid-fire exclamation points.“You need anything else, let me know.” Patsy tucked her serving tray up under her arm, patted her lacquered up-do, and turned to pick up her next order.As soon as Patsy was out of ear-shot MaryBeth leaned forward. “You’ll go, if only to satisfy your insatiable curiosity.”“What would I do with Max? You can’t keep him, MaryBeth. With your allergies, you’d puff up like a blowfish in five minutes. I sure can’t afford a kennel.”“Take him along. You always say he’s a good judge of character.” MaryBeth picked up a golden fry, dragged it through a puddle of ketchup and popped it into her mouth. “These days, everybody seems to take their pets on vacation.”Three bites into her juicy cheeseburger Gabrielle looked up to see Ted, her editor-in-chief, marching through the front door with fire blazing in his eyes. Oh Lord, now what? Couldn’t she have one blessed, crisis-free day?“They shut the frigging power off.” Ted huffed, blotting his damp, flushed face with a wad of what looked like a page from yesterday’s edition. “It’s hotter than a furnace in there and those crappy old desktop computers are useless. I sent everyone home.”He jammed his fists onto his string bean hips and stared her down. Even though Ted was two years older than Gabrielle, sometimes it felt like she was dealing with a teenager who thrived on daily doses of high drama.“Marge said it’s going to take a credit card or cash to get it turned back on.” He slapped down a bright pink sticky note alongside her burger. Without waiting for a response, he wheeled around and stalked out the door.Gabrielle winced at the amount. Her stomach began its usual fiery response to bad news. She rummaged in her leather satchel for the prescription Dr. Faircloth had prescribed. “Reduce your stress,” he’d preached. He’d also thrown the word ulcer around a few times.Where was she going to get the money for this? Practically everything of value she owned had already been sold on EBay. All of her David Yurman bracelets and ring–gone; her one and only Prada bag—sold.Hold on a minute. Gabrielle’s multi-tasking brain erupted with an idea. She snatched the plane ticket off the table. The price was absurd. Mrs. Hastings—fancy stationary aside— shouldn’t have paid for a first class ticket. Who in their right mind would spend this much just for a seat in the front of the plane? If she could reallocate the money then she could resolve a few of her problems.“MaryBeth, think your buddy at “Wings of Travel” could change this ticket?”MaryBeth rolled her eyes. “If I have to go out with him, you’re going to owe me, Gabby.”“Ok. Ok.” Then Gabrielle heard the “happy birthday to you” song and looked up to see Patsy carrying a large pink, polka dot birthday cake–the appropriate number of candles blazing. Floyd added his sweet baritone from the kitchen pass through.“Thanks, guys.” She gave a little wave to the lunch crowd.If this happened in any other restaurant in Georgia, Gabrielle would be ten shades of red. The truth was, she’d spent more birthdays than she could count right here at the Sugar Bowl. Her mother had died on Gabrielle’s tenth birthday. After that, her dad overlooked every one of them but Patsy and Floyd always made sure there was some kind of celebration.“Got to make a wish, Gabby.” Patsy smiled, waiting patiently for the “wish” so she could cut the cake.“Yeah, I do.” Gabrielle closed her eyes. Please let this first class ticket be enough to cover The Examiner’s electric bill, my coach airfare and Max’s dog ticket. Oh…and please, let Mrs. Hastings be a dog lover.****Pierce Hastings drummed his thumbs on the steering wheel to the pounding beat of Aerosmith. Even Steven Tyler’s high pitched wail couldn’t drown out Pierce’s thoughts of his perfect vacation blasted to hell, and by a damned email, no less. Yeah, in a few hours he would have been deep into northern Canada casting for salmon on the St. George River. Just he and his buddies, plenty of beer, several cases of wine, Kobe beef steaks, a slew of fresh-caught fish, and not a woman for two hundred miles; best of all no cells, computers or satellite phones allowed.He glared at himself in the review mirror. “Idiot.” Why in hell did you check your damned email anyway? Now this vacation was going to happen without him.Disgusted, he jammed the Range Rover’s accelerator almost to the floor, eating up the half-mile drive. He started to bank the long right turn when out of fucking nowhere, a grey Mercedes appeared, coasting down the middle of the damned two-lane driveway like it was on a parade route.“Son of a …” Pierce yanked the steering wheel sharply to avoid a crash, sliding onto a landscaped shoulder and obliterating a long stretch of colorful wildflowers. God dammit. He’d planted those suckers himself.He looked into his rear view mirror to see the oblivious driver and car disappear over the hill. He steered back onto the drive and blasted warp speed towards the back entrance of the house.Pierce climbed out of the car. The heat beat against him without mercy. In the time it had taken to roll up the sleeves of his blue, pinstriped shirt, sweat beaded up on his forehead. The heat was blistering but he still took the time to inspect the SUV for scratches and found none. The only tell-tale signs of his near miss— if you wanted to call it that— were the spokes of the SUV’s wheels, now riddled with pink, yellow, and purple wild flowers. If Gerald saw them, Pierce would never hear the end of it.Grabbing his duffle from the back, he ignored his favorite G. Loomis fly rod and reel that would go unused this weekend. Seconds later, Pierce slipped into the sanctuary of his mother’s blessedly cool kitchen. Every cell in his body whimpered in relief.“My goodness, Pierce.” His mother blanched when she saw him. “This is a surprise. I thought you left on your fishing trip this morning.”“Something came up,” he hedged. Truth was her shocker of an email blasted the hell out of his fishing trip. How could a man go off to enjoy the peace and quiet of the wilderness knowing his mother was plotting to give away part of their company?She frowned at him from her stool at the large granite island.“With James at the beach, I didn’t want my best girl spending the Fourth of July alone,” he fudged, giving her shoulders a gentle squeeze.The way she nervously twisted the pearls at her throat told him she was trying to decide if somehow he’d prematurely received her email. When she offered up a beatific smile, he was convinced she believed her plan was still a secret.Pierce despised secrets. In his opinion, surprises were good…secrets bordered on evil. His mother’s email smacked of a secret, an old one, and weren’t they the worst? “An opportunity to set right a terrible injustice,” her email said. “Restitution for an indefensible crime against a decorated war hero.” Where in hell did she come up with a decorated war hero anyway?“That’s very sweet but I am not going to be alone, dear. “My houseguest is due to arrive shortly.”He looked down at the top of her silvery head and waited for her to elaborate, only to be disappointed by her silence. “Ok. Does this mystery guest of yours have a name?”“Gabrielle March.” Her lips thinned, indicating she didn’t appreciate the third degree. “There is certainly nothing mysterious about her, I can assure you.”She pushed a stack of manila file folders to the far end of the island. “We’re going to have a quiet weekend, perhaps dinner at the club on the Fourth. You would be bored to tears.”His curiosity kicked into over drive. Could Gabrielle March be part of the “righting a terrible wrong” plot his mother was hatching? He’d keep his prying to a minimum and let the weekend unfold. No point in letting his mother know he was on to her.“Don’t give me a second thought,” he said. “Actually, I could do for some boring. It’s just what I need. I promise not to intrude.” Twelve bedrooms and three hundred and some acres was plenty of space for a handful of people. “But, I’m anxious to meet your houseguest. Is it Miss or Mrs. March?"“Miss.” Then she added, as if to discourage any further interest on his part, “Her companion’s name is Max.”“Sounds like a damned bookie,” Pierce grunted. Perfect. A weekend with an old spinster and her bookie boyfriend.Millie, his mother’s cook for over thirty years, appeared in the pantry doorway. Her dark face split into a wide grin when she saw him. “I thought I heard that car of yours roaring up the drive. Are you hungry? Would you like me to make you a nice turkey sandwich?”“No, thanks, Millie. Maybe later.” At least she seemed pleased to see him.Millie took a cookie tin out of the cupboard and put it on the granite counter. “Little Jimmy and I made these sugar cookies this morning. Help yourself. But the pantry is off limits, you hear? Those pecan pies and shortcakes are for your mama’s guest. If you see Jimmy, tell him he’s had his last cookie today.”“Got it.” Well, obviously Millie wasn’t that overjoyed to see him. He’d keep an eye out for her five year old grandson, Jimmy, a holy terror.Millie lumbered toward the dining room. Pierce turned back to his mother. "When is your guest due to arrive?""Gerald went to pick her…them up. They should be back in the next hour.” She gave him a stern look, the kind she use to give him when he was ten and had said, or done, something inappropriate. “I want you to be on your best behavior, Pierce.” With that parting shot, she turned and trailed Millie into the dining room.Jesus. It’s not like he was a mindless Neanderthal, he snorted. He reached for the manila folders his mother had forgotten. On top was an eight-by-ten color photo. Whoa. Pierce did a double take. This little hottie was beyond gorgeous. A mass of beautiful chestnut hair spilled across her shoulders, setting off golden skin and a pair of killer green eyes. Something about her seemed…almost familiar.Her smile was playful, with the slightest hint of…what? Whatever it was, Pierce knew he wanted some. If this little number was his mother’s houseguest, the prospects for an entertaining weekend just quadrupled. He flipped the photo over to see if the beauty really was Gabrielle March. A slash of blood red ink grabbed his attention. Drummond Investigations/ Subject: Gabrielle March.His gut felt like he’d been sucker punched. His family had dealt with scandal and greedy opportunists over the years. Within a month of his dad’s death, this past January, two women had filed bogus paternity suits against his estate hoping to wring money from the family. Neither had gotten a damned cent and neither would Gabrielle March.If she were here for the money, he’d toss her butt out the door before she had time to unpack her toothbrush and nightie. Nobody was messing with his family.* * * *For two days Gabrielle envisioned her arrival at Mrs. Hastings’ home. At the top of a long, winding drive there would be a sweet elderly lady standing in the doorway of a pretty, restored farmhouse, awaiting her arrival. Why the woman felt the need to buy Gabrielle such an extravagant first class ticket, she couldn’t imagine. She only hoped Mrs. Hastings hadn’t pinched pennies to do it. At least the money had gone to good use–The Examiner’s electric bill was paid and both her airfare and Max’s were covered.The truck slowed and Gerald, Mrs. Hastings’ handyman, turned into an elaborate brick entrance. Enormous black wrought iron gates, inset with an “H” medallion, stood open on either side of the wide driveway. Gabrielle’s pulse kicked up a few notches when she imagined a house worthy of such a grand entrance. Mercy. The architectural masterpiece stole the breath from her body. Scratch the farm house.On the crest of a velvety green knoll stood the most spectacular house she’d ever seen. A sweeping, red brick pillared mansion, that would make Tara look like a tidy B & B, stretched from almost one side of the horizon to the other.The truck slowed to cross a bridge over a sparkling stream littered with smooth boulders. Perfect for picking your way across to the opposite bank. Soon they passed through a valley of wildflowers, a riot of blue, pink, and yellow. Gabrielle was about to comment on the profusion of flowers when she saw the tire tracks that annihilated an entire section of blossoms. Whoever did such a selfish, destructive act should be forced to fix the mess themselves.Gerald picked up the walkie-talkie off the console. “Tony, some idiot drove through the wildflower patch on the north end of the bridge. Go over there and see what you can do to shore it up.”Minutes later, now at the top of the hill, Gerald brought the truck to a halt in the circular brick drive in front of the house. He grinned at Gabrielle's reaction. "Sort of bowls you over, don’t it?"At a loss for words, Gabrielle simply nodded. What could anyone who lived in a place like this want with her? As far back as she could remember, her dad preached against the evils of excess and the sins of living a life based on wealth and materialism. Every insecurity she’d ever buried bubbled to the surface. What could her dad possibly have in common with someone like Mrs. Hastings? She looked up at the stately brick edifice in front of her, full of apprehension.The beveled glass entry door swung open and a tiny silver-haired woman made her way down the steps. Max, who’d been seated between her and Gerald, bolted through the truck window the moment he saw her. Gabrielle wrenched the door open to go after Max, afraid his eighty-five pounds would squash delicate Mrs. Hastings like a bug. Luckily, Gabrielle got to him before he could do any damage."Gabrielle, I am so happy you are here." The elfin sprite took both of Gabrielle's hands in hers, beaming with enthusiasm.Her warmth eased Gabrielle's anxiety. "It was so nice of you to invite me."“It’s my pleasure." She turned excitedly to Max. “You are a handsome boy.” The woman laughed like a young girl as he danced around her. "Did he get along alright on the plane?""He seems to be fine." The vet had given her a prescription to relax Max during the flight, but it was obvious it had already worn off. Gabrielle’s pulse jumped when the dog eyed the ornate fountain centered in the middle of a mountain of bright red geraniums. "Don't even think about it, Max." She signaled him to sit.Gabrielle was amazed when Mrs. Hastings–dressed in what had to be very expensive silk pants–knelt down and scratched him affectionately behind the ears. He nuzzled her pocket and discovered a cookie; seconds later, she slipped him another."It was the first time for both of us to fly. Thank you so much for letting me bring him along.” Gabrielle knew she was babbling but she was nervous and couldn't seem to stop.“I am thrilled Max is here. Your phone call about him truly made me look forward to your visit even more.” She slipped him another dog cookie. “When I was a girl, we had several Labs. They have a special place in my heart.”Elizabeth stood and looped her arm through Gabrielle's and started in the direction of the front door. "Let's get out of this hot sun, shall we?"Max trotted politely alongside Elizabeth and Gabrielle into the house. The foyer, with its amazing stained glass dome, was even more impressive than the exterior. A uniformed maid silently crossed the white marble floor towards them. “Excuse me, Mrs. Hastings, Mr. James is on the phone.”"Thank you. I’ll take it in my study. Please show Miss March into the blue salon and bring her some refreshments.” She turned to Gabrielle. "Make yourself at home, dear. I'll join you in a moment."“Of course.” Gabrielle had to make an effort to keep her mouth from dropping open as she surveyed her surroundings. She felt like she’d stumbled into a segment of Celebrity Homes. As she turned to follow the maid, Max bolted in the opposite direction."Ah… excuse me." Gabrielle sprinted through the massive foyer to catch up with Max. Only two years old, he was unpredictable in a strange environment. Two things the dog loved–playing tag, and food. "Max, here boy.”"Max, where are you?" She hissed. In hot pursuit, Gabrielle hurried down a long carpeted corridor lined with beautiful oil paintings and crystal wall sconces. On her left was a large family room, and to her right a sunny solarium filled with exotic flowering plants and tall potted palms. Oh, no. Surely Max wouldn't mistake one of them for a tree!
This was an interesting romance. Gabrielle is still reeling from the loss of her father, only to find out that he was harboring numerous secrets. Her life isn't exactly what she thought it was and is potentially changing for the better. I felt a connection to her in that my own father passed away about a year ago. Those moments when she was sadly thinking about him touched me for that reason.
Gabrielle's life is about to change, hopefully for the better. Pierce is a difficult man to resist, as is all of that money and power and answers to these family secrets. It's interesting enough to hold your attention all the way through.
Buy links: Kindle
In one media or another, Christy McKee has written her entire life. In middle school, she started a neighborhood newspaper in her hometown in Ohio. Stories about whose poodle just had puppies or where the Millers spent their vacation were pretty boring—at least to her— so she embellished with a few bits of overheard gossip which got her into big time trouble with the neighbors. Amid a flurry of apologies issued by her parents, Christy’s news operation folded overnight and she was shipped off to a nearby summer camp. Clearly she was not cut out to be a newspaper woman.
Christy’s degree in Radio-TV-Film opened a world of creative possibilities. She enjoyed her work as a reporter and news anchor in Missouri and Ohio, but after a few years she gave in to her creative itch and moved into production. Although not as glamorous as being “on air” it satisfied her growing passion to create a story and characters—even if those characters only existed inside a 30 second TV commercial. It was a short time fix for someone who craved a more diversified range of opportunities. Christy took a brave leap—sacrificing a regular paycheck— to work as a full time freelancer, writing/producing everything from travel brochures to radio commercials. It wasn’t enough— she wanted to create her own fictional world and fill it with unforgettable characters. Finally three years ago, Christy beat back self-doubt and embraced the risk and exhilaration of writing and never looked back.
- Website www.christymckee.com
- Twitter https://twitter.com/ChristyMcKee
a Rafflecopter giveaway