Rob arrives at Crooked Tree determined to find a safe place for his niece and nephew. A family for them is the final thing on his list, and then he can vanish completely. Falling for a local paramedic along the way, is a disaster in Rob’s otherwise perfect plans.
Paramedic Aaron, the middle of five brothers, would like someone to love. A great believer in fate he is convinced though, that one day he’ll find someone. He just never thought it would be a man in so much pain, or that children would be part of the package.
Rob is ready to leave. Aaron wants him to stay. Their love has an expiry date, and it’s tearing them apart. Can they find a way to save what they have?
Length: 55,300 words approx.
Cover Design: Meredith Russell
Rob Brady knew three things. His sister was dead, he was the guardian to her two boys, and he was stuck in Hell.
And why am I fixating on Hell?
Oh yeah, the room, the kids, the crushing grief of absolutely fucking everything.
If Hell was a small, airless room with no windows, a flickering light, and two utterly silent children staring at him as if he’d personally murdered their mother.
Oh, and a thin-lipped woman from Child Protection Services looking at him the same way.
Of course, he hadn’t killed his sister because he only ever took out the bad guys. With ruthless efficiency, he’d carved out the poison in the US and kept its citizens safe. Most people would’ve described him as an assassin, but he was more than that; the last resort when normal lines of defense failed.
At least, he used to be until he caught a bullet things went pear-shaped.
“How long have they been on their own?” Rob Brady didn’t know what else to ask. He wanted to be angry with the DCFS but how could he be? Instead, he wavered between anger and guilt, and it was guilt that was winning.
“Mr. Brady, they were never on their own.”
“My sister—” He stopped talking when he realized he was just about to state how long ago his sister died when her children were sitting right there in the room. Lowering his tone, he then turned to Sylvia from the DCFS, efficient and steady, and just ever so slightly pissed at him. “A year. They’ve been on their own a year.”
Sylvia inhaled sharply and clutched her folders to her chest.
“And for a little less than that, we have tried to track down their uncle and been unable to find anything.”
“I know. I get that.” Anyone trying to find him would reach several dead-ends whichever way they went. First of all the navy and his time in the SEALs, then when he joined the team combatting mainland terrorism. At every turn, his existence was classified, and in the end, he’d become nothing more than a ghost. “That isn’t my point.”
Sylvia tapped a finger on the files in a steady rhythm. “Then please, can you enlighten me as to what exactly is your point?”
He opened the door and gestured for her to go into the hallway, following her out and shutting it behind them. He had questions and didn’t want to ask them in front of his nephews.
“Why has no one adopted them? Why don’t they have a forever home with a new family?”
“Because your sister’s intention was that you would take the boys. It’s explicitly stated in every legal form we have, and it was her dying wish.”
“But she couldn’t have known I would ever come back. Or that I was even alive…” He floundered for something to say. He’d come back to town on the off chance he’d see what was left of his extended family from a distance, and instead, he’d learned his sister was dead, after losing a battle with cancer, that there was no father in the picture, and that his nephews were in the system.
“Nonetheless, they are legally your responsibility. Given you worked so hard to get authorization from Governor Chilton, something I’ve never seen before, along with psych evals that no normal person would have access to, you are now in a position to leave with your nephews.”
The minute he’d heard about the boys, he’d realized he needed to get things done. He’d called in favors, had people who owed him create a backstory so tight he seemed like Mother fucking Teresa, and now he was here. His nephews needed a home, and he thought on his feet because he only had another three good months to put anything in place for them. He wanted them looked after, safe, and so he had one more mission before leaving. He’d have to delay spending his last weeks on a beach in Aruba, sipping cocktails and sleeping with anything that moved.
“I can take them today?” he asked. A small, hesitant part of him wanted her to say no, that there were more details to be ironed out.
“Yes.” She pursed her lips as if it were against her better judgment. But he’d passed all the checks, and the references were sound, he had the governor’s endorsement. It was done.
He pushed back into the room. Bran, the older of his two nephews, stared at him steadily. Toby, the youngest, sniffled and gripped his brother hard. Any ordinary uncle would’ve hugged them close and told them everything was going to be okay. But he wasn’t a regular uncle, and he swore Bran knew that because there was accusation in his eyes.
You don’t even know us; he seemed to be saying.
Was it right for Rob to be taking them from their new foster home? They’d been placed with a family currently fostering six kids, and on the surface, everything seemed okay. He’d done his due diligence, and the parents checked out, but there was a weird vibe in the house, a rule of fear, and he didn’t like it.
He’d stayed alive this long by listening to his instinct, and his gut told him he should take Bran and Toby, that he was the boys’ kin. He also knew where he could find them a better home. In the mountains, with rivers and horses, and a whole group of people who would look out for them.
“Everything will be okay.” Was he reassuring himself or the boys?
If anyone who knew him had seen he was being handed two children to take care of, they’d call the cops.
Of course, he could handle the cops. He’d done it before, but the kids would slow him down. Unless he strapped them to his back and—
Sylvia talked to him, or at him, and from her expression, she wasn’t impressed he’d stopped listening.
“Sorry, say again?” He glanced at Toby who was sniffling harder and snuggling deeper into his brother. I should go to Toby and…
Do what? Say what? Scare the kid rigid by being all up in his face?
“We need an address for our records. Unless you reside with Governor Chilton?” The last she added sarcastically.
Oh yeah, a house, an address, he probably needed those. He’d managed to fool them with his credentials so far, and the recommendation he’d gotten from the governor for a favor owed had cut through the red tape. The address was easy; it was the only place he had on his to-do list, the one where the kids could maybe have a home. He just needed to hire a lawyer, update his will, get Justin to agree to his proposal, and he’d be able to leave without any worries.
“Crooked Tree Ranch, outside of Helena, Montana.”
I love this whole series!!!
I’ll admit, it’s been a minute, so I had to go back and remind myself who Rob was, but if you loved and read Justin and Sam’s story, you’ll remember that he’s a former partner of Justin’s, sent to kill him in their book. Of course, he didn’t, because he wanted out of the life just as Justin did, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t dangerous and that when he left Justin alive, he didn’t think he’d ever see him again.
Rob never counted on checking on the sister he’d left behind at 18, when he signed up to serve his country. Imagine his surprise that she’d not only died but she’d left him her two children, boys, Toby and Bran. Now, we all know Jennifer’s a sucker for stories involving kids, and this one was no different. The two boys were a major part of this story; more so even than relationship that forms between Rob and Aaron, the sheriff’s brother, the paramedic. Remember him? Yeeeeah, I was excited for him too.
Unfortunately, things hadn’t been easy for Toby and Bran, shuffling into foster homes until they found Rob; (which meant, Rob wanted to be found), he was all set to leave them in foster care until he checked out the home of where the boys were staying and moved heaven and earth to get them with him. He didn’t know what to do with them and the boys didn’t trust him for a good little bit; but they needed him…they needed each other, Rob just didn’t realize it yet.
Rob had been shot and left badly injured after his last mission, and the effects from that were a problem. We don’t get to that problem for a while though, so I was left frustrated with Rob the majority of the book. And figuring something is going to happen to him; he takes the boys to Crooked Tree Ranch, because he hopes that Justin will have his back. It’s slow going, but Justin and Sam were my favorite and I knew that Justin would indeed have his back and take care of those kids should he and Sam need to. I fell in love with him all over again.
My heart still hurt for Rob, because I knew how hard he was trying to keep a distance from the kids, and trying to get the kids to keep their distance from him as well; and I hated seeing it; because those kids needed him so badly.
See, Jennifer not only loves stories about hot guys with kids; but she also has two kids, two boys and was a single parent until her oldest was 5. Remembering them trying to impress my husband of the last 9 years, wanting him to love them and be to them what they didn’t have. Stories like this one hits me close to home…(okay, and Jennifer will stop referring to herself in the 3rd person, and also mention, he jumped into that dad role and has been the best one ever since) So, I was rooting for this small family, even when I thought it was impossible.
I shouldn’t have worried though, not really; I’ve read this entire series and I’m also a big fan of Ms. Scott, and I know that especially in this series; we get our happily ever afters! And Aaron, he was stubborn, having all those brothers, I’m sure he had to be; but it worked in his favor here. He didn’t let Rob scare him or push him away, and the quiet way he loved Rob, not pushing him, even when he knew what the outcome would likely be….He was just there, loving him in the time he got with him. He fought for them, but he couldn’t make him do anything unless Rob was willing to fight for all of them. It was Justin who pushed, and I loved him all the more for it.
I loved them all actually, I don’t even know what I’m saying. And while Justin and Sam remain my favorite, I’ll have to say that Toby and Bran are a very close second. I’d love to read more about this little family and I hope we get so much more from this series. I love them all, and I loved the way this one ended. Yay for all of them..
Sigh…Great addition…I’ll take the next one, now please 😀
5 pieces of eye candy from me!
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RJ’s goal is to write stories with a heart of romance, a troubled road to reach happiness, and most importantly, that hint of a happily ever after.
RJ is the author of the over one hundred novels and discovered romance in books at a very young age. She realized that if there wasn’t romance on the page, she could create it in her head, and is a lifelong writer.
She lives and works out of her home in the beautiful English countryside, spends her spare time reading, watching films, and enjoying time with her family.
The last time she had a week’s break from writing she didn’t like it one little bit and has yet to meet a bottle of wine she couldn’t defeat.
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