Authors: Donina Lynn
Copyright© 2013 Donina Lynn
Cover Artist: Sour Cherry Designs
Editor: Karyn White
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
WARNING: The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal. No part of this book may be used or reproduced electronically or in print without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in reviews.
This is a work of fiction. All names, characters, and places are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
This book is dedicated to my family. Mom and Dad without your love, honesty, and support, I would have never accomplished what I have or be where I am today. You have taught me how to be strong, laugh, and believe in myself. Thank you for the sacrifices and all the help you have given me along the way. I love you.
Sabrina each day I grow even more proud of the woman you have become. You are my joy, and I am so grateful to have you as my daughter. I love you from here to the end of the universe and back.
ARMS OF SERENITY
Rock Services, 1
Copyright © 2013
Six Years Ago
oggy and confused, Becca opened her eyes to find herself in a hospital room. The last thing she could remember were headlights coming straight for her parents’ car and the sound of someone screaming.
When her vision
finally focused, she saw Mike sitting across the room. God, she loved him even more that he had come to be by her side. Becca couldn’t remember what happened, but knowing he was there gave her a sense of calm.
How long had she been out?
There were dark circles under his eyes, and his hair looked like he had slept in the chair. How tense he looked didn’t help with the pit that was suddenly growing in her stomach, either. Becca knew that look. After being together for three years, she could read every expression, twitch, and gesture. The way he was staring blankly at the wall and rubbing his hands together said it all.
Something was wrong.
Becca tried to say his name to gain his attention. The mound of sand that seemed to be in her mouth effectively stopped anything coherent from coming out, though. Her attempt at speech was more of a mutter. At least the sound seemed to get his attention. His eyes drifted to her before he stood up to start pacing at the end of the bed.
What is going on?
Becca knew she had been in a car accident and, now, she was lying in a hospital bed with tubes and wires hooked up to her. How badly had she been hurt?
Why hasn’t he said anything?
And why is he just walking back and forth, instead of coming over to be by my side?
She was scared, and all she wanted was the man she loved to reassure her that everything was going to be all right. Whatever was wrong, whatever the outcome, they could face it together. Becca had faith in him and their relationship.
abruptly stopped and turned to face her.
“You did it
on purpose, didn’t you, Becca? You got pregnant on purpose to trap me. My last year at college is supposed to be filled with parties, enjoying myself. Not raising a baby. I can’t believe you would do this to me. What did you think? You would tell me and, miraculously, I would propose? Did you think I would just forget about everything I want, everything I’ve been working for? We’re just lucky you lost the baby in the accident. You were about to ruin our lives. It’s over. I can’t trust you anymore, and don’t try to contact me. I never want to see you again.”
Mike turned and walked out the door before Becca could respond or tell him she didn’t know that she had been carrying their child.
Nothing was making any sense. She didn’t understand what had just happened. How could the man she loved—who had said he loved her back—just walk out like that? Why would he think she would try to trap him? She didn’t get pregnant on purpose. They had agreed to wait until after college to think about marriage and a family. Sure, she was late and knew there was a chance. But she hadn’t taken a test yet and didn’t know anything for certain. They had taken precautions. She just assumed the stress of midterms had caused her cycle to get screwed up. Becca covered her mouth with her hand to hold back the sob that tried to escape.
I was pregnant.
The realization slammed
into her like a freight train. She had been pregnant with Mike’s child and had miscarried because of the accident. Their baby was gone. Becca felt her heart shatter into pieces and wrapped her arms around her middle against the emptiness she suddenly felt.
Mike was wrong. They weren’t lucky. It was the worst thing that could have ever happened. How was it possible to feel so much loss when she didn’t even know she had something so precious growing inside of her?
The door started to open, and for a fleeting moment hope bubbled up inside of her. Becca prayed it was Mike coming back to tell her that it had been mistake and everything was going to be ok.
Her hopes instantly vanished when she saw a man wearing green scrubs and
a surgical cap walk through the door.
“Hello, Ms. Klayton. My name is Dr. Jones
, and I’m your mother’s surgeon.”
Surgeon? Oh my
“My mom? Is she al
l right?” Becca struggled to sit up but relaxed back on the pillow when the doctor placed his hand on her shoulder to stop her.
Please, you need to rest. Your mother is fine and is in recovery. However, there was considerable damage to her spinal column including several crushed vertebrae. I repaired what I could, but I’m afraid she won’t be able to walk again. There was nothing more I could do. Both you and your mother are lucky to be alive.”
Why was everyone using that word? Nothing that was happening was lucky. A loud buzzing suddenly filled Becca’s ears, and time froze when a question filled her mind. Where was her dad? He had been driving the car. Why hadn’t the surgeon mentioned how her father was doing?
Becca slowly lifted her eyes and looked at the man in green. Her voice quivered, and she held her breath when she gained the courage to ask the question that suddenly filled her with dread.
She shook her head when she saw the answer in his eyes. Becca pleaded with him as tears streamed down her cheeks. “No, please no.”
“I’m sorry, Ms. Klayton, but your father’s injuries were too extensive. We couldn’t save him.” He placed his hand on her arm. “I will send in a nurse to give you something to help you get some rest.”
Becca watched him walk out of the room and stared at the door. The room was silent except for her quiet sobs and the beeping sound of her monitor echoing off the walls. She was alone, scared, and knew that nothing would ever be the same again.
Nicholas “Boomer” Hollsten stared at the reports. They were the newest addition to the ever-growing pile that needed to be reviewed and required his signature.
What the hell did I get myself into?
I never wanted any part of this.
Frustrated, he pushed the papers scattering them among the mess of files and documents that had littered the top of the desk for the past week.
He sat back running his hand through his hair and down his face.
Taking a deep breath, he grabbed the tumbler he recently emptied and headed back to the makeshift bar. At least his father had left him something that he could appreciate.
He poured himself another glass of bourbon and turned around to scan the office that was now his.
Plain, bare, and boring were all words that came to his mind.
The walls were white with no decorations or windows.
There were metal file cabinets along the one wall and a door to the private bathroom along the other. The carpet was a deep brown with no pattern or added colors. The only furniture was the desk, the high-backed captain’s chair, and two leather cushioned seats on the opposite side.
The normal pictures of family found on other desks were absent
, and the closest thing to a personal touch was the stocked cabinet where his father had kept his liquor. When Nick looked around, it was like his father hadn’t occupied the space for the last thirty years.
The president of Hollsten Holdings
had kept his professional life as he did his private. He had been a cold, emotionless man who had squandered the money he made with no thought of his family, employees, or friends. Nick shook his head and chuckled. The idea of his father having friends was laughable, and he couldn’t remember anyone who was close to him, including himself.
He drained his glass, filled it again
, and walked back over to his chair. Sitting down he checked his watch. Tank should be coming soon. He looked up at the door to the office and thought about his escape.
Nick needed to get of there and find the nearest bar to drink away all that was laid out in front of him.
Maybe tomorrow he would have a better outlook on being the new head of the company.
. But at least a hangover would keep him from thinking about how the hell he was going to get a handle on all the shit that was piled in front of him.
There was a knock on the door
, and it opened with his cousin Brad popping his head inside. “Hey Nick, I got your text to come and see you. What’s up?”
Nick stood up and waived him inside.
“Brad, come in.” He shook his hand and gestured for Brad to sit in one of the leather chairs while he settled back in his. “Welcome back and congratulations. How was the wedding and honeymoon?”
. Barts was fantastic. We had the ceremony on the beach at sunset and spent the rest of the time in the villa or exploring the island. Victoria and I wanted to thank you again for sending us and taking care of everything.”
Nick looked at his cousin and shrugged
. “It was your wedding and your family.”
Cocking his head, Nick scrutinized the man sitting across from him.
Something was different about him. He had always been shorter and lankier than he was. But that had made him fast and wiry. When they would screw around and wrestle as kids, it was like trying to hold on to a snake. Brad would slither out of his holds and be back on his feet ready to strike before Nick knew what happened.
His blond hair seemed more pronounced now that he picked up a tan in the Caribbean
, and his eyes were the same blue that carried throughout the family. Only now there was a spark to them that Nick didn’t remember noticing before. That must have been what caught his attention. If Nick didn’t know better, Brad looked happy, even content.
Brad’s question brought Nick out of his thoughts.
married life works for you. You look good.”
“I feel good
, and it’s all because of Victoria. I didn’t know what I was missing until I met her. It might sound corny, but she completes me.”
Nick sat back in his chair with a smug look on his face
. “It doesn’t sound corny. It sounds like you’re a girl. Did she chop your balls off while you were lounging on the beach sipping fruity drinks with umbrellas?”
“You’re fucking hysterical.
My balls are right where they are supposed to be.” Brad shrugged. “Say what you want, but you will see what I mean one day. When you find true love, I’ll be telling you I told you so, and then I’ll kick your ass just because I can.”
It felt good to banter with Brad again. Coming from a small family, Nick didn’t have any siblings or relatives that he could consider close, except Brad. They had gone to the same school, played on the same teams, and spent countless hours restoring junk cars in Brad’s garage.
After joining the Army, the two of them had drifted apart.
Nick avoided coming home to his father, and those years spent apart had put a distance between him and Brad. Nick had missed his cousin and was glad that the two of them could fall back into the old patterns.
“You can try
, little cousin, but I wouldn’t want your new feminine side to get hurt.”
Brad sat back and laughed
. “It’s good to have you back, man. Hey before I forget, are coming to the reception? Victoria and I would really like for you to be there considering you are paying for that, too.”
, and why own a hotel if you can’t make good use of it?” Nick couldn’t help but think again of his father. He bought the hotel years ago to save with expenses on accommodations for visiting CEOs and stake holders of companies he was buying.
Nick did a mental shake of disgust.
His father only held on to the businesses or companies that benefited him in some way. He bought apartment buildings for his residence, restaurants for him to eat in and those that suited his needs. The others he sold or liquidated, destroying them from the bottom up without any regard to the people who worked in or cared about that company. His only thought was the money and his bottom line.
Brad shook his head at Nick.
“It’s more than the honeymoon and reception. Since you’ve been back you’ve been more than generous. Giving me the promotion to Vice President finally gave me the push I needed to ask Victoria to be my wife. If it wasn’t for you, I probably wouldn’t be married right now.”
Nick sat back and felt his jaw clench.
What the hell did that mean? There was no doubt Victoria was high-maintenance. Did Brad need to have enough in his bank account for him to be worthy to be her husband?
“Are you telling me she wasn’t willing to marry you before your promotion?”
“No, that’s not what I meant. She wanted to get married. I was the one that kept putting it off. I wanted to be able to give her the life she was accustomed to with her first husbands. It was my pride not hers.” Brad shrugged, “She has enough money for the both of us. I just didn’t want to be
husband. I needed us to be equal or at least be able to bring something to the table. You gave me that when you created the VP position and promoted me.”
He could understand Brad’s point and respected him for wanting more in his marriage. “I get it, and I’m glad it was your issue not hers. Don’t thank me for the job. You deserved it. You did the work, got a degree, and have been here since we graduated high school. If my father wasn’t such a cheap bastard and gave his employees opportunities, you would have been in that position a long time ago. I don’t know why you stayed with him all these years.”
Nick didn’t know why anyone stayed there.
The salaries were laughable, and his father had never created any positions higher than department heads. Even as the company got bigger, he kept the gap between him and his employees. He didn’t want anyone else to have any legitimate power or control except him.
Nick planned on relinquishing those reins.
He never wanted to take over for his father, and now that his death forced Nick to take his seat, he was going to make changes. He didn’t know a damn thing about running the company, and the most sensible decision was shift the power to the ones who knew what the hell was going on. Then maybe he could let the company run without him.
, I stayed because it was a good job. I started out as a gopher for your dad and worked my way up to the head of the Financial Department. Your dad gave me those moves up the ladder. He wasn’t as bad as you remember.”
Anger built up and coursed through Nick’s body.
How could anyone defend his father? He was a cold bastard who pushed away everyone who ever cared for him. Even his mother had left him, leaving Nick to be raised by a man who thought playing catch was frivolous and a waste of time.
He never hugged Nick or patted him on the shoulder.
There had never been any usual gestures between a father and son that showed emotion. There was nothing except wanting Nick to learn the company and eventually take over.
had never listened to his hopes and dreams. It was never what Nick wanted. It was always about the money. Nick slammed his fists down on the desk. “He wasn’t that bad? He was a…”
Brad interrupted him before he could finish and put his hands up in submission
. “Whoa! I didn’t mean to piss you off. It was just my opinion.” He laughed and got up to leave. “I think I will get out of here before I am kicking your ass. Don’t forget eight o’clock at the hotel and wear black. I’m the only one that can stand out.”
He was through the door before Nick could apologize for the outburst.
He tried to force himself to relax and ran his hand through his hair. When he did, he saw the mess of paperwork still lying on his desk.
I never asked Brad about deciphering these reports.
Nick needed to get out of the office
ASAP. Where the hell was Tank? Nick made a decision that if he didn’t show in five minutes he was leaving without him.
As if on cue, the door opened
, and Todd “Tank” Karlston came strolling through the door. He gave Nick a once-over. “You look like shit.”
watched his best friend and second-in-command of his former Special Ops team sit in a chair at the opposite side of the desk. Even Nick’s six-foot one frame was small next to him. Todd towered over most men, was bald, had a goatee, and looked all of the bad-ass Nick knew he could be.
He was also the calm one that kept Nick grounded.
They had traveled the road to hell and back many times, and with each one Todd kept Nick’s head on straight and focused on the mission. He was the closest Nick had ever had to a brother, and they knew each other better than anyone else. Nick didn’t need to look in a mirror to know he was right. He felt like shit and guessed he looked just as bad.
“Fuck you very much.
Now, get your ass up. I need to get out of here.”
Nick started to get up when Todd held his hand up to stop him. “Hold on
, and sit
ass back down. We have Rock business to discuss before we head to the club.”
With a frustrated grunt, he settled back in to his chair.
Was he ever going to get out of the office? It had been business all day, and Nick wanted to blow off the steam that had building since he walked in that morning. Todd wouldn’t let him sidestep Rock Services Group business for long, though.
I thought everything was heading in the right direction and things were getting up and running.”
We got our first job.” Todd pushed his seat back to cross his legs at his ankles. He needed a damn airstrip for him to fully stretch out.
Nick sat forward and put his arms on the desk.
Depending on what it entailed, their first job could be good. He was more worried if they were ready and if the opportunity had come in too fast. Hell, they didn’t even have a permanent base of operations yet and were working out of a rented office space below Todd’s apartment. “Can we handle this? What is it?”
The CIA has been given the task of looking into a list of DEA agents for possible leaks to 7
Gate.” Todd crossed his arms on his chest and waited.
Nick knew Todd wasn’t going to give up any other information without him admitting that he
had no clue to what he was talking about. He could feel himself quickly losing what little patience he had left. “You know you are going to have to back up and give me more intel than that. Who is Klingerman? What the hell is 7
Gate, and why is the CIA looking into the DEA?”
Todd gave Nick a smug smile.
“If you would get your head out of your ass and looked at a newspaper or TV once in a while you would know what’s going on in this city. You would also know that Klingerman is our CIA contact if you showed up for the conference call last week that I told you about.”