More Than Enough (Book 1) – “SHAY AT HER FINEST!” – Cajun Bookworm
At Last (Book 2) – “Nothing Like a Little May-December Romance” – Renee Entress’ Book Blog
No Easy Choice (Book 3) – “Must read!” – SeekerofGreatStories
Equal Partners (Book 4) – “Strong Female Lead” – NJ Book Lover
A Different Way (Book 5) – “Another great by Kathryn Shay” – Amazon Review
To Trust Again (Book 6) – “A fitting way to end an entertaining series.” – Goodreads Review
“I’m going to miss you so much, honey.”
Jordan held onto Brooke like he had when he was little and going away to camp. “I don’t have to go, Mom. I can stay home for the school year.”
Over his younger brother’s shoulder, Grayson shook his head. “Me, too. I can still go to school closer. Elmwood College will take me this late.”
“No to both of you. But the offers warm my heart.” Brooke stepped back. “Now scoot. Anything you forgot to pack I can send to Italy.” Where he’d be studying architecture his senior year.
“I’ll be home at Christmas.”
“Maybe sooner for me,” Gray promised.
“Love you, Mom.”
They watched Jordan go through security, her heart twisting in her chest. Please let him be all right.
“Now,” she said, turning to Gray. “Let’s get you a cab back to UCLA.”
Gray’s eyes misted. “It sucks leaving you alone. Dad wouldn’t approve of both of us leaving.”
“Dad would definitely approve. He’d want what’s best for you, as I do. We fulfilled all his wishes, so we have to move on.” Those had included scattering his ashes across the Pacific, which he loved to fly over.
“Not too fast though.” Gray adored his dad, and after a year, still mourned deeply. “I’ll call once a week.”
“For a while you might. Then it’ll taper off so don’t worry about that either. I have a life, honey, even though dad’s gone.”
“At least you’re better than you were a year ago, but I know Dad can never be replaced in your heart.” Both boys had always resembled her and Zach, but it seemed gradually that Gray looked more like dad. He added, “I love you, Mom,” and walked out the door to grab transportation.
Brooke battled back tears. Eventually, she calmed found her own gate and caught the redeye back east. She slept most of the night. When she arrived in Syracuse, she was in good enough shape to drive down to Crystal City and got to the fire academy in time for her ten o’clock meeting. Though she dreaded it. Could anything be more boring than fire engineering?
But the department did need to train in new systems that would meet the standards put in place by New York State. Brooke had no choice but to be on board. She’d meet with Patrick Patel, a rep for Fire Engineering Incorporated, which moved their headquarters to Elmwood recently.
With graciousness and feigned interest, she walked into the chief’s office.
“There she is,” Joe Redman said cheerfully. “Fresh off the plane, I think.”
She smiled at Redman. “Well, I did drive back from Syracuse, too.” She turned to the rep. But the man in the chair who’d been talking to the chief wasn’t Patrick Patel. And her began to gallop in her chest. Her mouth fell open.
“Cord, this is Brooke Cartwright. Brooke, Cord Remington, the CEO of FEI.”
Finally, she regained her composure. “Cord, nice to see you again.”
Always an attractive man, he still had dark wavy hair, now shot through with strands of gray. His eyes were mesmerizing, almost silver, with dark rims of black.
“You too, Brooke. I understand you’re a Battalion Chief.”
“You two know each other?” Redman asked.
“Yes. It was decades ago.”
“We can catch up later.” Cord spoke with a strong, clear voice while hers came out shaky. “Let me tell you what services we provide.”
They sat. Cord talked, but Brooke didn’t hear anything but sound of the blood pounding in her ears…
It was twilight and Cord pulled her close to him on her front stoop of her small house. He smelled of the outdoors. “Time’s up, already.”
“I know. It goes by fast.” She kissed the hands that held hers.
“When can I see you again?”
“I’ll text you.”
His eyes glowed like mercury. “Honey, I’m getting sick of this dallying.”
“So am I.” A voice came from behind them.
Brooke froze, then she managed to turn around. Her husband Zach stood on the sidewalk in his pilot’s uniform of crisp white hat, navy trousers and white shirt.
Zach was home early from a trip.
“I want to know one thing.” Her husband’s voice was full of hurt and outrage. “Did you sleep with him?”
“Then you have to choose, Brooke. Him or me…”
Redman frowned. “Brooke, are you all right? I think we lost you there for a minute.”
“Um, yeah, I’m all right. I guess I do have some jetlag.”
Cord’s gaze narrowed. She didn’t have any such thing. She was shocked to see him. What would he have done if he’d known she wasn’t aware that he owned the company? He’d assumed she read up on it for this meeting.
The chief added, “Well, I’m afraid another meeting’s been scheduled by the mayor, so I’m out of time. Why don’t you two catch up and start talking about plans for training.”
The last thing Cord wanted was to be alone with her. They’d have to clear the air and he hated emotional scenes. Still, he followed her. When they walked into her office, she gestured him to a chair, and she took the seat at her desk.
He wouldn’t try to put her at ease. “Why didn’t you review the information on our website? I sent the address to Redman. I also provided literature so you’d be prepared. Even to see me.”
“I’ve been out of town for two weeks. My oldest son’s attending UCLA and we all went out early. My youngest is spending his senior year abroad. He flew out of California. So the three of us had time together before they left.”
She had two sons? He’d purposely never found out anything about her life. He watched her unflinchingly. “Zach didn’t go for such a momentous occasion?”
She faced him squarely. “Zach died over a year ago of cancer.”
“I’m sorry to hear that, Brooke.” Against his will, his tone softened some.
“Thank you. In any case, I missed the planning for our meeting. The chief texted me to ask if I could make one about the new training with Patrick Patel. He didn’t say it was with you.”
“Unfortunate. Patel’s my assistant.” He glanced out the window so he didn’t stare at her. Time had been kind to this woman. Her face was barely lined, her hair steel blond and down past her shoulders, still thick and fluffy. Her eyes had reminded him of a deep blue lagoon. “Is it going to be a problem that we’ll be working together?”
“I don’t know. It’s a shock.”
“Well, you’ll have adjust.”
Emotions battled to get out but he quelled them.
“I’d like to know more about your products and the procedure for training line firefighters. You think you can handle the line guys?”
“I was a firefighter for ten years—three here and seven in Chicago. Then I got interested in fire engineering. It was a different way to be involved in the service. I took courses in fire science, then interned at a company out there. I started FEI when I was thirty-five.”
“What are you doing back in New York?”
“Originally, I set up a satellite office here, with Patrick Patel running it. I’d come occasionally, and I could see my family.”
“You said originally?”
“Yes. My plans changed. For personal reasons, I’m making my corporate offices in Elmwood and I’ve moved east.”
“Why on earth are you doing that?”
“I assure you this had nothing to do with you.”
“I didn’t think it did.”
“As I said, for personal reasons, that I don’t care to share, especially with you. Now, when do you think you can get up to speed enough about Fire Engineering and our products? You can’t be of any help until you are.”
“I’m a quick learner. I’ll study up. I’ll be all alone in the house anyway.”
The sorrow in her voice rolled off his back.
“Can you meet on Wednesday?”
“He took his phone out. Checked his schedule. “I have free time at 4 o’clock.”
She checked hers on her computer. “That’s doable for me.”
“Then it’s settled.” He stood. So did she. “I’ll see you then.”
He got to the door but before he could open it, she said, “Cord?”
“Aren’t you affected by seeing me after all these years?”
He gave her a confused look. “Why would I be? That episode with you was a blip on the radar of my life. I barely remember it.” Briefly he held her gaze. “Goodbye.”
Cord strode out of the office. He didn’t lie often, but he couldn’t possibly let on that his breakup with Brooke Cartwright almost destroyed him.