Love & Secrets – Introduction

Love & Secrets - Cover

Charlotte’s Story…

“Momma look!” Six year old Charlotte called out, pulling on her mother’s hand to stop her as they passed by the pet store window.  “Oh momma!  Look at the puppies!”  Charlotte turned her eyes up to her mother’s.  “Can we get one?  Please?”

Debra shook her head at her daughter’s pleas.  “Charlotte, you know that we don’t have the room for a dog in our house or in our lives.  And besides, pets are a huge responsibility.”

Charlotte turned her pleading, blue eyes up to look at her mother.  “I’ll walk him every day!  I promise!”

Debra smiled gently, but shook her head.  “Honey, dogs need more than just one walk each day.  They need at least two walks, plus food and water, a place to sleep and…”

“He can sleep on my bed!” she assured her mother, practically bouncing with her eagerness to have a dog in her life.

Debra cringed in horror.  “Good grief, child!  No!  Dogs are dirty creatures! They won’t be sleeping on your bed with you!”

Charlotte glanced over at the puppies in the windows, knowing that her mother was firm in her decision.  But looking at the adorable creatures, Charlotte didn’t see how anyone could think that a dog was dirty.  They seemed…sweet and friendly!  Her friend Emma has a dog and they played all the time.  Emma’s dog slept on Emma’s bed and her friend wasn’t sick all the time.  So…how could a dog be dirty?  Yeah, she’d heard that they licked their butts, but…was that such a bad thing?

Okay, maybe licking one’s butt was pretty gross.  It wasn’t something she was going to dwell on though.

Unfortunately, her mother continued on with her errands, not even slightly tempted by the adorable puppies that were climbing all over each other, determined to…do whatever it was that puppies did.  They looked like they were playing, but some were biting another puppy’s ear.  None were very considerate of the others but…they were still cute.  They looked very snuggly and sweet, their dark eyes looking up at her as if they wanted her to pet them.

With a sigh, she followed her mother down the street to the grocery store, her longing eyes lingering on the sweet animal.

“I’m going to have lots of dogs when I grow up,” she vowed to herself.

“Honey, I doubt it.  Once you grow up, you’ll understand what a massive responsibility having a dog really is.  They are very expensive too.”

Charlotte didn’t think that dogs would be a responsi…whatever that word was.  They looked as if they’d just be friends and snuggle buddies.  A dog would be nice.  She didn’t even need a pretty dog!  Even the ugly dogs were cute.  She wondered if the rough-looking dogs were more loyal and fun than the pretty dogs.  Her friend had a pretty dog and that dog bit people and barked a lot.

Sighing, she continued into the grocery store, but her mind didn’t sway from her future with a canine companion.

 

Oz’s story….

Oz looked out at the massive building with intense satisfaction.  It had taken him years to get to this place.  Years of brutally hard work in some of the worst hot spots around the world and grim determination.  But he’d done it!  With the help of his brother and his best friend, the three of them had built this company and now the clients were screaming for their services.

His baby sister, who was actually in her mid-twenties, drove up and parked beside him.  As soon as she stepped out, Carly noticed him standing there and looked up at him curiously.  “Are you okay?’ she asked, walking up to stand in front of him.

“Yeah,” he replied calmly, looking at her features to make sure that she was happy and healthy.  “How are you?” Oz asked, just to be sure.

Carly smiled and leaned in to hug him.  “I’m doing really well,” she replied.

“No more issues with your new house?” he asked, putting his arm over her shoulders as he led her into the building.  She was a tiny thing and he wondered how he and their brother, Jayce, were so much taller than their little sister.  Even with those ridiculous heels she loved to wear, Carly still only came up to his chin.

“Nope!” she laughed.  “The house is good.  I’m going to buy a sofa this weekend.”

He grunted, nodding as they walked into the building together.  “I’ll come with you to help you pick it out,” he said and held the door for her.

Carly laughed, shaking her head.  “No way, Oz.”

He looked down at her.  “Why won’t you let me come along?”

She stopped in the middle of the formidable lobby and smiled up at him.  Once again, Oz was startled by the green of her eyes, so exactly like his own.  The only good thing that they’d inherited from their father.

“Because you will try to pay for my new sofa.”

Another grunt, this one of agreement.  “You don’t need to spend your own money, Carly.”

She shook her head.  “Oz, you and Jayce are the most generous brothers, but I’m buying my own couch.  I’m excited about doing this, and you’re not going to take that joy away from me.”

Oz hated it when she said things like that.  He loved spoiling her, especially since he hadn’t known about her when she was growing up.

“Fine,” he grumbled, nodding to the receptionist.  “Buy your own sofa.  But I’m coming over for dinner tomorrow night.”

“Why?  Are you still trying to spy on me and find out if I’m dating anyone?”

Oz stopped cold and turned on her.  “Carly…!”

She laughed and he was startled by how pretty she was.  His only defense was that Carly was his sister and…well, hell!  Sisters weren’t supposed to be pretty!  And they damn sure weren’t supposed to date any slime ball man!

Another laugh, accompanied by a light touch to his arm.  “I’m not dating anyone,” she promised.  “And yes, I’d be happy to have you over for dinner Saturday night and every night until your house is finished.  Jayce too,” she added on.  “Do you think Ryker would like to join us as well?”

Pacified, Oz grunted again.  “Sure.  Why not?”

The two of them continued down the long hallway, Oz noticing the small details, such as the state of the art security system, the elaborate lighting that he’d ordered installed once he’d read an article about the benefits of the specialized lights that helped staff members’ productivity.

He’d waited until this building was finished before starting on his own home, but the contractor had broken ground last week.  It would still be several months before the house would be finished though.  In the meantime, he was staying with his brother, helping Jayce to refinish the old Victorian home that he’d bought.

Yeah, all of his hard work had paid off.  Things were good now.  Life was pretty damn, good!

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