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First pages

Chapter 1

Keira Callahan twirled a lock of her long red hair around her finger as she looked out the window. It was a long flight from Boston to Las Vegas, and she was antsy to get off the plane and stretch her legs. The Las Vegas strip loomed large, where garish neon signs for the casinos and hotels competed against each other, wooing tourists to their particular destination. It was an adult playland, where ordinary people did outlandish things. What was it about this place that made rational and responsible folks do the craziest things? The saying “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” existed for a very good reason. It was a city where the fun never ended and people could live out their dreams: or be caught in their worst nightmare. Both happened on a regular basis.

Keira didn’t come to Vegas for fun, and this certainly wasn’t her first trip here, but it was the first time she’d come without a job or even a place to call home. The Boston firm she had worked for had downsized, and her head was on the chopping block. It didn’t seem to matter that she was the most productive marketing specialist they employed. She had been the last one hired and was, therefore, the first to be served with a pink slip.

It had taken her completely by surprise, and she was stunned when her boss gave her the news. Though he praised her performance on the job, he had to let her go, and she had little recourse except to leave graciously. It was never wise to burn professional bridges; you never knew when you would need them again. She would miss the friends she had made while working there, especially Sylvie and Karen. She had promised them she’d call as soon as she got back in town. Sylvie had also told her that anytime she needed somewhere to stay, her couch had an open invitation written on it. That was one invitation Keira didn’t want to accept. She hated imposing on her friends and just needed a little time to find another job. How hard could it be? As it turned out, much harder than she could have imagined.

On top of her unexpected layoff, her apartment lease was expiring. With no job and no prospects for one in the near term, the last thing she wanted to do was continue paying the overly inflated price for her luxury apartment. It was time to make a bold decision. She’d realized early on that she could live with a lot less than all the bells and whistles of her current apartment, so she informed her landlord she wouldn’t be renewing the lease when it came due next month. She’d really enjoyed living there, especially with the twenty-four-hour fitness center, and it had been easy to strike up a conversation with quite a few of the other tenants. She would definitely miss the convenience, but not the size of the rent due every month.

After putting her belongings in storage, Keira had hopped a plane to Vegas to spend some quality time with her sister. Maybe being away from the hustle and bustle of the city would allow her to figure out what she wanted to do next with her life. Did she want to stay in the cutthroat business of marketing, always trying to come up with the next great campaign? Or did she want a less competitive career? She had to admit she did love the creative energy in designing a client’s campaign, but she could live without all the drama that came along with it, and most especially the threat of another layoff at a new marketing firm. No matter where she went, she would always be the new girl until they hired someone else. With the economy not showing any signs of rebounding any time soon, Keira knew companies would not be likely to hire two public relations/marketing professionals in the same year.

She had no desire to go through this layoff process again. It had been shocking and a bit demoralizing to be called into her manager’s office. Maybe it was time to find a different way to utilize her skills. At twenty-six, she felt she still had a few years to explore different options before she settled into a comfortable career path.

The wheels of the plane touched down on the runway with a soft thump, and they taxied to their gate. Keira was anxious to see Lea and the kids again. She missed her sister, and six months was too long between visits, especially since the children seemed to grow overnight. She was always amazed with each visit how much they had changed since she’d last seen them. With no deadline for returning to Boston looming over her, she planned to stay a few weeks this time and really enjoy the visit.

When the plane door opened, she stood up and stretched her lean frame before retrieving her carry-on bag from the overhead bin. Her bag was light. She hadn’t brought much with her, but whenever she visited Vegas, she always packed a little black dress, in case she wandered down to the casinos. She waited patiently as row after row emptied before making her way down the aisle and out into the terminal.

As she exited the secure area, she heard the familiar scream: “Aunty Keira!” It didn’t take long to spot her six-year-old niece, Shannon, bouncing from one foot to the other. That exuberant welcome brought a smile to Keira’s face. Her two-year-old nephew, Colin, was holding tight to his mother’s hand, not yet willing to let go of her comforting presence.

“Mommy, can I go now?” Shannon begged.

“Yes, but don’t run into anyone,” Lea said.

“I won’t. I promise,” the little girl said before racing through the terminal, dodging other travelers left and right.

Keira hurried toward Shannon, letting go of the suitcase handle when the little girl flew into her arms.

“Aunty Keira, I missed you so much,” she said, hugging her tightly around the neck.

Keira kissed her sweet apple cheeks. “I missed you too, Shannon, and I’m so happy to see you. You’re getting so big.”

Shannon nestled against her neck. “Promise you’ll stay?”

“Yes, I promise… for a little while. Do you want to pull my luggage?”

Shannon jumped down and immediately grasped the handle of the rollaway suitcase. “I can do it.”

“I know you can. You’re such a big girl now. How about we go see your mother and brother?”

The little girl chattered nonstop as they made their way to the other end of the terminal. Lea stood waiting for them, her son at her side, wearing a smile that lit up her pretty face. Keira felt a little like Shannon as she hurried the last few feet to embrace her sibling.

“I’m so glad you’re here,” Lea said. “I’ve missed my little sister. It’s been too long.”

Keira hugged Lea tightly. “I know. I feel the same way.” She stepped back and knelt down to Colin’s level. “Hi, Colin. Do you remember me?”

The little boy shook his head and buried his face in his mother’s skirt.

“He’ll warm up to you once he gets to know you again. He’s going through a shy phase right now.” Lea picked up her son. “Let’s go,” she said as led them out of the terminal and to the car.

“Oh, I forgot how hot it gets out here,” Keira said, putting her suitcase in the trunk of the car.

Lea strapped Colin into his car seat and helped Shannon hop up into her booster seat. “Hot? This is nothing. It’s only supposed to be ninety-eight today. Last summer, we had more triple-digit days than I care to remember. Thank goodness for the pool, or the kids and I would have spent the whole summer in the house.”

It wasn’t long before they were turning into the well-maintained subdivision. All the homes had stucco exteriors and red-tiled roofs. Keira looked up and down the street. The homes all looked the same. She wasn’t a fan of these kinds of developments or the brown landscaping most of the homes sported. She missed the green of New England—green grass, green trees, and green shrubs. Water was scarce in Nevada, and most homes boasted rock gardens in the front yards instead of grass.

“Here we are,” Lea said, more for the children’s sake than Keira’s.

 “Mommy, can we go swimming?” Shannon asked.

“Maybe later. First, how about we eat lunch? I’m sure your Aunt Keira is hungry.”

“Aunty Keira, do you want to go swimming with me?”

Keira laughed at her niece’s one-track mind. She turned around and looked at Shannon. “Maybe later. Mommy is right. We should eat lunch first, don’t you think?”

“I’d rather go swimming,” Shannon said, her lower lip pushed out in a pout.

“How about a deal?”

“What deal?”

“First we eat, and then, after your nap, I’ll go swimming with you. Does that sound good?”

“But I’m not tired,” Shannon whined. “I’m a big girl now. I don’t need naps.”

“Want to know a secret? I love naps, and I can’t wait to have one. Want to share my bed with me?”

The little girl pushed a stray curl off her face. “Really?”

Keira glanced at Lea, who nodded her approval. “Absolutely. We can have a nap together.”

Lea got out of the car and unstrapped Colin while Keira helped Shannon out of the booster seat.

“What do you want for lunch, Shannon?” Lea asked.

“Grilled cheese,” the little girl said without hesitation.

“I love grilled cheese,” Keira said. “Good choice.”

Lea opened the trunk, and Keira retrieved her suitcase.

“I can pull it,” Shannon said, taking the handle from her aunt.

“Thank you, Shannon.”

Within twenty minutes, they were all happily munching away on grilled cheese sandwiches, carrot sticks, and milk.

Keira kissed her niece’s cheek. “You made a good choice, Shannon. These are delicious.”

Shannon smiled and glanced at her mother. “Mommy makes the best. Even Colin likes it.”

“I can see why. They are so good,” Keira said with a smile.

When everyone had eaten their fill, they all marched upstairs to take a much-needed nap.

“I’m really not tired,” Shannon said, climbing up on the queen-size guest bed.

“I know, but I am, and I’m so happy that you will keep me company.”

“Really?”

“Yes. Really,” Keira said as she pulled the comforter down to the end of the bed. “Such nice soft pillows. I’ll be asleep in no time.”

“Oh, no!” Shannon cried out.

“What’s the matter, Shannon?”

“I need Puppy. I always sleep with Puppy.”

Keira took the little girl’s hand and helped her off the bed. “Okay. Let’s go get Puppy.”

With Puppy in hand, Shannon snuggled next to her aunt and was asleep within ten minutes. Keira lay there, relishing the closeness she had with her niece. She wondered if this wasn’t the path she should pursue. Find a great guy to marry and have children? She tried to imagine what her life would be like, but try as she might, that particular vision of happiness was not what she wanted at this point in her life.

She leaned over and planted a soft kiss on Shannon’s cheek before slipping out of the room in search of Lea.

Chapter 2

“Forget it, Elizabeth. I don’t see how I can pull it off,” Cade Tyndale, the fourteenth Earl of Barrett, said to his twenty-three-year-old sister. It saddened him to see the frown on her pretty oval face. “Besides, eligible young women don’t pop up out of thin air these days. I fear the worst, that Edward will indeed inherit the estate even though I’ll keep the title, Earl of Barrett. What’s a title without the estate? I won’t be in charge of making any decisions about how the income is spent. Those decisions will fall to Edward. We must resign ourselves to it.”

Elizabeth shook her head vigorously, her blond hair flying out around her head. “Cade, don’t say that. We’ll figure something out,” she said, turning and staring out the window of their ancestral home. “It’s not fair. Why does it have to be like this?”

Cade walked to her and wrapped his arm around her shoulders, giving her a gentle squeeze. “I know, but that’s what the will states. There’s no contesting it. If I could have changed the terms, you know I would have done it.”

She turned into him and buried her face in his chest, soft sobs escaped her throat.

He stroked her hair while holding her tight. “Please don’t cry. It won’t be so bad.”

She lifted her tear-stained face to look at him. “What about the agricultural school and the artists’ retreat? What will happen to them?”

“I was able to endow the agricultural school, and the program will continue to support fifteen students each year in perpetuity, but I’m afraid I can’t say the same for the artists’ retreat. There aren’t enough unencumbered funds at this time to endow that program.”

“You can be sure Edward won’t continue with the artists’ retreats. Plus, he wants to evict the tenants and sell off some of the land. Did you know that?”

Cade raked his hand through his hair, an exhausted sigh escaping his lips. “No. I had no idea that was his intention. Are you sure about it?”

“Of course I’m sure.” Elizabeth pulled out of his embrace and folded her arms across her chest. “He doesn’t care about the manor and all the good we do for the villagers. Taking care of the estate means work, and we both know Edward is averse to that. He’s all about having fun. If he inherits, he and Courtney will spend the money on foolishness—more trips abroad, gambling, and endless amounts of shopping… like Courtney needs any more clothes or jewels. She has enough for ten women, but she’s greedy and won’t stop buying more until the money is completely gone.”

Cade stiffened. He knew his sister was correct in all her assumptions. As much as he didn’t want to believe his brother could be so callous about the welfare of their ancestral home, he had seen firsthand how Edward defined handled money. But what course did he have to prevent Edward from inheriting? Cade would be twenty-nine in five days, with not even an engagement on the horizon. His father’s will specifically stated he must to be married for a full year before his thirtieth birthday if he wanted to inherit the estate to go along with the title that had come to him automatically on his father's death. His father had firmly believed that a man with a family was much more responsible than a bachelor with no ties to a home. How wrong that assumption was, especially when it came to Edward and his callous attitude. Cade should have been more diligent in proving to his father that he was dedicated to the estate. Perhaps then, he would have changed his will to not include that requirement. Truth be told, Cade had thought he’d be married by now, but no one had piqued his interest enough to propose.

“Perhaps a ball,” Elizabeth said.

“A ball?”

“Yes, of course. Young women love balls, and you’ll be able to find a suitable wife.”

Cade gently grasped her small hands within his. “Stop.”

“What?”

“Please stop. There will be no ball. I cannot find a wife like that. There is no fairytale ending here.”

“But Cade…”

Cade shook his head. “I’m sorry, Elizabeth, but there’s nothing more I can do.”

Tears welled again in Elizabeth’s blue eyes before spilling down her cheeks. “Won’t you keep trying?”

He tried to pull her in closer for a hug, but she ran out of the library. Cade watched her leave, then turned to gaze out the window. He was out of options to make things better for her and for the future of the estate. There was no way he’d find a bride in less than a week. It was hopeless, and Edward would inherit the estate.

Behind him, he heard footsteps and turned to see his valet enter. “Will there be anything else, sir?”

Cade shook his head. “No, Clifton. Let’s go. There’s nothing more I can do here. Besides, I’m looking forward to enjoying myself in Las Vegas for a few days.”

“Very good, sir. The car is waiting.”

Chapter 3

Keira found Lea in the family room, sitting on the sofa with her lean legs tucked under her, drinking a cup of tea. Lea had their mother’s beautiful dark hair and brown eyes, while Keira had inherited their dad’s red hair and emerald-green eyes. Growing up, she had always been jealous of her sister’s hair and flawless skin, but as Keira grew older, she began to love being a redhead. She’d even come to love the sprinkle of freckles across her nose and cheeks and had stopped concealing them with foundation.

“There you are,” Keira said as she walked into the family room. Lea’s hair was pulled back in a casual ponytail, which made her look younger than her twenty-nine years, but there were dark circles under her eyes that spoke of too many sleepless nights. She wondered what was keeping Lea awake these days.

The house was blissfully quiet, at least for the next hour or so. If they were lucky, they’d get ninety minutes of quality sister time before the children woke up from their naps. She joined Lea on the couch. “Shannon fell asleep in no time. That is, after she got Puppy,” Keira said.

“Yes. She has to have Puppy with her, or she won’t go to sleep.” Lea chuckled. “I hope she grows out of that stuffed animal before it falls completely apart. It’s been washed so many times, I’m afraid one of these days, I’ll be picking bits and pieces of it out of the washing machine.”

“She’s such a sweet little girl. I’ve missed her. Can’t believe how much they’ve both grown between visits.”

Lea nodded and took another sip of tea. “I’m sorry. I didn’t even ask if you’d like some tea.”

Keira shook her head. “No. I’m fine, but do you want to tell me what’s wrong?”

“Nothing. Why do you ask?”

“Because I know you, and the dark circles under your eyes speak volumes.”

Lea sighed. “Never could fool you, could I?”

“No. Now what’s up?”

“I’m worried.”

“About what? Come on. We’ve always shared everything, remember? The good and the bad, whatever it is. You know about my problems, so what’s bothering you?”

“You’re right. I’ve been keeping this bottled up for so long that it’s just become part of my every waking thought.”

Keira reached out and squeezed her sister’s hand. “I’m here now. You can tell me.”

Lea nodded. “When we first moved out here, business was booming. Mike and I thought we’d be able to save a nice nest egg for the future, but now he has to travel farther and farther away for jobs. He’s in California this week, bidding on a job. If he gets it, the money will be good, but he’ll be away from home for six to eight weeks at a stretch.”

“Wow, that sucks. I had no idea the economy out here was so bad,” Keira said.

“Yes, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to get better anytime soon. I’ve been basically a single mother for months now.”

“What are you going to do?”

“I want to move back to San Diego, but we haven’t had any luck selling this house. The house just sits on the market, like every other one for sale in the development. There aren’t any buyers flocking to Las Vegas these days. The casino business is down, which means the local economy is also suffering. They’re not hiring extra workers at the moment, so no one needs to buy a house. It’s a bad situation, and we’re stuck in the middle.”

Keira let out a pent-up breath. She’d had no idea her sister was going through this. “I’m so sorry. When will Mike be home?”

“He only gets to come home every other weekend. It’s just not financially possible every week, and that’s been tough on the kids too. They miss him.”

“What if the house doesn’t sell? Then what?”

Lea buried her head in her hands, and the emotional floodgates opened as heart-wrenching sobs wracked her slender body. “I don’t know,” she blurted out between sobs.

Keira scooted closer and wrapped her arms around Lea. “It’ll be okay. I’m here now. I’ll do whatever you need me to do.”

It was long minutes before Lea stopped crying. She reached for the Kleenex box on the end table and pulled out a number of tissues to wipe her eyes and blow her nose. “Thanks, Keira. You have no idea how glad I am you’re here. I’ve been struggling with this since Mike started traveling so much. We just can’t manage it here anymore.”

“Will you go back to San Diego if the house sells?”

“Yes. Our closest friends are still there, and at least there’s work in the area.”

“That’s good. Who doesn’t want to live in beautiful southern California?”

Before they could continue their conversation, Lea’s cell phone rang.

“Do you need to get that? Keira asked.

“It’s the real estate agent. Let me put it on speaker.”

“Hello?”

“Hi, Mrs. Armstrong. This is Nancy,” the caller said.

“Oh, hi Nancy. What’s up?”

“I think you’re going to be happy. I have a buyer for the house.”

“You do? How can that be? We haven’t had a showing in weeks.”

“This morning, I posted the new pictures I took the other day, and I got a call within an hour. I’d like to come over and tell you about the offer. How’s four o’clock this afternoon? Will that work for you?”

“That will be great. See you then. Bye.”

“Bye.”

Keira saw her sister smile for the first time since she’d arrived. “Wow. There’s a buyer, huh?”

“Yes. And they’ve made an offer. Nancy is coming over at four today to present it.”

“That’s wonderful.”

“Yes, it is.”

Keira could hear the trepidation in her sister’s voice. “What’s wrong? Isn’t this a good thing? It’s what you’ve wanted.”

“I don’t know. Now that I think about it, this doesn’t feel right. It’s just so sudden. The house has been on the market for weeks without a single bite. I guess I’m a little stunned, that’s all. It sounds too good to be true, you know what I mean? I don’t want to get my hopes up.”

“Well, let’s see what the offer is first. If it’s a good one, you’ll be able to talk to Mike about it tonight. Looks like you could be moving sooner than you think.”

“I know.” Lea hugged her. “I’m so glad you picked this week to visit. I don’t think I could have managed all this myself.”

“I’m sure you could have, but I’m happy I’m here too. Perfect timing, huh?”

“Perfect.”

The sisters were able to talk and plan for the next hour before Shannon came bounding down the stairs. “Aunty Keira, where are you?”

“In the kitchen,” Keira said, and Shannon skipped into the kitchen. The little girl’s energy seemed boundless, and Keira couldn’t help but smile. “Did you have a good nap?”

“I guess so, but you said you’d sleep with me,” Shannon said.

“Well, I just woke up myself. Needed some tea before we go swimming,” she said, kissing Shannon’s cheek. “You still want to swim, don’t you?”

Shannon jumped up and down. “Yay.” She turned to her mother. “Mommy, I want to wear my pink bathing suit.”

Lea held out her hand. “Okay, let’s go upstairs and get changed, but we must be quiet. Colin is still sleeping, okay?”

Shannon nodded and headed back up the stairs with her mom, Keira following behind them. It didn’t take long to change into their swimsuits, and within minutes, they were ready for the pool.

“Mommy, do you want to come in?” Shannon asked.

“Not right now. I need to keep an ear out for Colin. You play with Aunty Keira, okay?”

“Okay.” Shannon looked at Keira. “Want to see me swim?”

“Of course, but let’s get your floaties on first.”

“I don’t need them anymore. I can swim without them now.”

“You can?” Keira asked. “Okay, lets get in the water.”

Keira held Shannon’s hand as they walked down the steps and into the pool.

Shannon bobbed her head. “Watch this,” she said, swimming across the width of the pool.

Keira clapped. “That’s great. When did you get to be so good?”

“Mommy taught me.”

Keira gave Lea a thumbs-up and said, “Well, she did a very good job.”

For the next forty-five minutes, Keira splashed around in the pool with Shannon. She wanted to give Lea a bit of a break, and keeping Shannon occupied was what would help Lea the most today. Her sister was more stressed than she’d seen in a long time. Keira had never seen her so upset. She hoped the realtor had good news and the offer to buy the house was decent. She didn’t know what Lea would do if it was a low-ball offer. Could they even afford to take a loss on the house? Would they finally be able move out of Nevada?

“How about we go inside and have a snack? I saw that your Mommy bought strawberries. I love strawberries,” Keira said to Shannon.

“Me too,” Shannon said, climbing out of the pool.

Lea was walking into the kitchen holding Colin when Keira and Shannon came inside. “Good timing. I was going to fix Colin a snack. Want something?” Lea asked.

“We want strawberries,” Shannon said, skipping to the kitchen table.

“Shannon, how about you change first?”

“But Mommy!”

Keira jumped into the conversation. “I’m going to change too. Shannon, what should we wear? Want to help me pick?”

“Okay.”

Lea mouthed “thank you,” and Keira nodded as she took Shannon’s hand and led the little girl up the stairs.

Keira spent the rest of the afternoon playing games and reading to the children. Even Colin was beginning to warm up to her. He was a sweet little boy who loved to be read to while he pointed out all his favorite characters in his Richard Scary book.

At four o’clock, the realtor rang the doorbell. “Hi, Mrs. Armstrong,” she said as Lea opened the door.

“Hi Nancy. Come in and, please, call me Lea.”

“Shannon, can you play blocks with Colin for a few minutes while we talk to Miss Nancy?” Keira asked.

The little girl nodded, and Keira joined Lea and Nancy at the dining room table.

“I was so surprised to get your call,” Lea said. “I was beginning to give up hope of ever finding a buyer.”

“I can imagine, but I think you’re going to be pleased,” Nancy said.

“Okay, what’s the offer?”

Nancy pulled the paperwork out of her briefcase. “It’s a full-price cash offer.”

Lea inhaled sharply. “Really?”

Keira leaned forward. “What’s the catch?”

Nancy nodded. “Right. I was getting to that. The buyer wants to move in by the twenty-ninth.”

“The twenty-ninth of what?” Lea asked.

Nancy swiveled her eyes between Lea and Keira. “Well, that’s the catch. He wants to take possession by the twenty-ninth of this month.”

“That’s only two and a half weeks away,” Lea said.

Nancy nodded. “I know, but that’s what he needs. Seems he has to establish residency in Nevada this month. He didn’t say why he needed to do that, and I didn’t ask. I just know it’s a good offer, and I wanted to bring it to you as soon as possible.”

“Wow, that is a big catch. I don’t know if I can get the house packed up in that short amount of time,” Lea said.

“I hear you, but the problem is, if you can’t agree to his terms, he’ll move on to the next property. With so many properties for sale, someone is bound to agree to his terms.”

Keira patted Lea’s hand. “Of course we can do it. I’m here to help. I’ve packed up and moved so many times, I’m the resident packing expert,” she said with a chuckle.

Lea frowned. “I don’t know. I need to call Mike. Nancy, would you excuse me for a moment?”

“Of course.”

While Lea went into the living room to call her husband, Keira chatted with Nancy. “Guess business has been slow lately, huh? I saw quite a few ‘For Sale’ signs when we drove through the development.”

“You don’t know the half of it,” Nancy said. “Our inventory is more than I’ve ever had available in ten years of selling real estate. Too many folks bought at the top of the market, and now they find they can’t afford their home anymore. Plus, now they’re underwater on their mortgage and they can’t sell for less than what they paid. It’s a tough situation to be in, with no easy way out.”

“That’s rough.”

“Yes. I feel bad for my clients, especially when hardly anyone shows up for the open houses we hold.”

It wasn’t long before Lea joined them at the table. She wore a wide grin on her pretty face. “Looks like we’re moving! Where do I sign?”

Chapter 4

“Aunty Keira, I want to pack,” Shannon said, running into her little brother’s room.

Keira smiled at her niece. Packing with Shannon was more like two steps forward and three steps back. The little girl wanted to oversee the packing of all her toys, and she didn’t want her toys packed with Colin’s blocks. Big girl toys don’t mix with baby toys, she told Keira.

“Sure, can you start to empty the toy box? Then we can see how many packing boxes we need. How’s that?”

Shannon nodded and tipped over the bucket in front of the toy box, sending eighty Duplo blocks scattering in every direction. “Oh, no!” she cried.

Keira shook her head. “That wasn’t exactly what I meant.”

“I’m sorry,” Shannon said, her lower lip quivering. She was on the verge of tears, and a total meltdown would definitely put a damper on the packing.

Keira walked to her and gave her a hug. “It’s okay, pumpkin. Don’t worry. We’ll clean it up. Let’s get one of the white trash bags from the kitchen. That way, we can keep all the blocks together.” Keira released Shannon and held out her hand. “Come on.”

Shannon grabbed her hand. “I know where the bags are,” she said, dragging Keira out the bedroom door.

“Thank goodness. Now I won’t have to open every drawer in the kitchen. Thank you for being such a good helper.”

The little girl began singing her own little melody. “I’m a good helper. I’m a good helper.”

Keira chuckled. She was amazed at how quickly Shannon’s mood changed. Being with the children was good experience for the day when she would have her own family, whenever that day came. She definitely wasn’t in a hurry to have a child. They were exhausting, and she’d only been here a few days. She and Shannon came down the stairs and passed the dining room on the way to the kitchen. “Shannon, why don’t you go get a couple of bags while I talk to Mommy?”

“Okay,” she said and skipped into the kitchen.

Keira joined her sister in the dining room, where Lea was surrounded by boxes, some taped up and marked, some half-full, and a bunch of empty ones. “How’s it going?”

Lea turned. “Not bad, but I’ve decided to weed out stuff as I pack.” She pointed to a stack of boxes in the corner. “Those are going to Salvation Army. I had no idea how many glasses I had. Who needs three full sets of stemware?”

Keira chuckled. “I have no idea. I don’t own a single set.”

“Oh, do you want a set? I didn’t even think to ask you.”

Keira shook her head. “No, that’s okay. If I want a set, I’ll get them when I go back to Boston. Right now, everything is still in storage, and I don’t have anywhere to put stuff.”

“Okay. How’s it going upstairs?”

“Shannon is helping me pack up the toys.”

Lea chuckled. “Really? Is it more like she has to play with everything first before it can go into a box?”

Before Keira had a chance to answer, Shannon came bounding into the dining room. “I got three bags.”

“Shannon, are you helping Aunty Keira pack?” Lea asked.

“Yes, but Colin has too many blocks.”

“He does?”

Shannon nodded, her dark curls bouncing around her head. “Uh huh.”

“Well, you be a good girl and help pack them all up, will you?”

“Okay. Come on, Aunty Keira,” she said, grabbing Keira’s hand and dragging her out of the room.

Keira looked over her shoulder. “Sorry, I’ve been summoned,” she said with a chuckle. “See you at lunch.”

“Have fun!”


AUTHOR Q&A

About me

Debra Elizabeth is the romance pen name for fantasy author Debra L. Martin. She has been writing all kinds of stories since her teens and decided to finally publish her romance stories under a pen name so as not to confuse her fantasy fans. She publishes epic and urban fantasy with her co-author and brother, David W. Small and blogs regularly at Two Ends of the Pen. Debra lives in New England with her husband and two kitties.

Q. Why do you write?
A.
I've always loved to tell stories and have been writing since my teenage years. I hope readers fall in love with my clean and wholesome romances featuring swoon-worthy heroes!

Next in:
Romance
Bound By Shadows
Murder, mystery, and underground tunnels.
Prelude
You can't change fate--or can you?
Unremarkable
See the future—change the future?