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Authors: Rebecca Avery

Maid to Order

BOOK: Maid to Order
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Maid to Order

By

Rebecca M Avery

Rebecca Avery is a software support professional by day and a romance author by night. She’s a pint-size mother of two and wife to the greatest man on earth. Born in the South, she now lives in a three-stoplight town in the Midwest surrounded by cornfields and a vindictive bullfrog. A lifelong member of multiple procrastinator clubs and organizations, she has somehow published several ebook romance novels and successfully turned a hobby into a dream come true. Additional books in this series by Rebecca M. Avery include Maid to Fit, Maid to Crave and Maid to Love.

Cakes, cookies and desserts... yes, Sir! Designing custom baked goods is Amy Carlton’s life. Owning her own cupcake shop is turning out to be a bit more than she expected. With business growing faster than she can keep up, she could use a little help... even from the deliciously grumpy Master Sergeant ‘Rusty’ Hawkins. Life has left a bitter taste in Rusty’s mouth. Lately he finds himself without much of an appetite for anything. Until one sticky little cutie shows him just how hungry he really is...

This book goes to Baby Johnny. I didn’t always understand you, figuratively or literally, but I always felt like I was important to you. This also goes to Uncle. Jeremy was dad’s favorite, Kristi was Doug’s favorite but you were always my favorite. Both of you will always be ‘special’ to me. Lastly I would like to personally thank the ‘real’ Amy for allowing an enthusiastic storyteller to sit in her cupcake shop, twisting reality into a whole new story. If you’re ever in Miamisburg, stop by AmyCakes. Best cupcakes. Ever.

Prologue

It had taken a little less time than he’d thought it would to get the guys from his unit settled into their civilian lives. Only a couple of months beyond two years in fact, which was impressive all things considered. He should be proud of that but the self-serving part of Master Sergeant Russell ‘Rusty’ Hawkins wanted them to still need his guidance.

That would merely delay the inevitable now. They deserved better than that. If he did this thing then he meant to see that they were able to go on with their lives… just without his interference and added weight.

Rusty had been a little angry at first when his three Army buddies followed him to his hometown of Beavercreek, Ohio. They’d all collectively decided not to re-enlist in the United States Army for yet another tour of duty and Rusty had expected to come home alone to deal with the wreckage of his life. He’d known back then that their presence would simply delay this process. So having them follow him as though he was still their fearless leader was a title he hadn’t wanted or needed.

Since then though, he felt like the extra time had given him a chance to atone for some of his mistakes. That reprieve was over now… they were all settled so maybe it was finally time.

Sergeant First Class Ronnie Brown was married now and halfway through earning a college degree that would ensure he could continue down a career path that he was just as suited for as he’d been for the United States Army. He’d earned Rusty’s respect more in the way that he’d somehow managed to take nearly every teenager in the neighborhood under his wing than he had by stepping in a few years back and doing what Rusty had been unable to…
where he’d failed.

Along with being a handsome man, Ronnie was also a born leader and the kids respected him. Every bit as much as the many new recruits Ronnie had trained for war over the years. The only training Ronnie offered these days was for various sports at his stepdaughter’s high school where he worked part time.

Kayla Brown, Ronnie’s wife, fit the southern gentleman like a glove. It was hard to believe they’d only been married for a year and a half. The little family seemed more like they’d never been anything but a strong indivisible unit.

Where Kayla was a little disorganized, Ronnie was meticulous. Where Ronnie was a little quiet and laid-back, Kayla was motivated and creative. They complemented each other and it showed… to the whole community.

Their
seventeen year old daughter, Addie, benefited greatly from their ability to mesh so well with each other. Ronnie was only a few years younger than Rusty but being married somehow shaved even more years off the man.

Watching the family of three find their way in the world together over the past couple of years had been one of the few bright spots in Rusty’s life since getting out of the service. It had also been kind of painful from time to time… and left him feeling a little bit like a kid looking through the window of a candy store… watching the other kids inside enjoying their treats… knowing he might never taste anything so sweet and good.

Sergeant First Class Seth Lewis, or “Pole” as the other guys referred to him, was a couple years younger than Ronnie even but also adjusting nicely to married life and all that it offered. Once a male dancer, Seth had recently graduated from a fast track program in architectural design at a local community college. He was currently working with a community outreach program to beautify the City of Dayton. Though he’d traded in his G-string for a tool belt, he could still catch and hold a woman’s attention if he chose to.

Fortunately for his wife, Tori, Seth only had eyes for her. The tiny woman was intelligent, logical, introverted and nerdy… mostly the complete opposite of Seth. Amazingly though, she was the leader of their little family which included Seth’s brother, Caleb, and Tori’s eight year old son, Zach. Caleb had been badly injured in a car accident a little more than a year ago and Tori had made a major difference in both his life as well as Seth’s. Watching the way the little lady looked after all the men in her life was also a little hard for Rusty sometimes. It allowed life to paint him with the green stroke of jealousy. To have someone…
a woman
… care for
him
… It was just one more thing he’d likely never experience for himself.

The youngest man in their tight knit extended military family, Staff Sergeant Ian Hamilton, still made them all get up at the ass crack of dawn to go work out. Ian was in school part time to become a pediatric nurse technician. A recent newlywed himself, Ian was also about to be a father for the first time… to twin
girls
. It was the first good laugh Rusty had enjoyed in years when Ian and his wife, Courtney, had come over to tell him the news.

Having recently stepped up from amateur fighting circuits into the professional fighting cage of one of the top ten MMA organizations in the country, Ian was the definition of rough and tumbly. Tori and Seth’s son, Zach, completely idolized him. As did any other little boy with too much energy to contain. Yet instead of a son to roughhouse with, Ian would be dealing with lace, perfume and makeup… times two.

Ian’s wife, Courtney, was a true warrior in every sense of the word. She’d stared down a traumatic experience and, though it had taken her years, she’d finally beaten down her demons. When she looked at Rusty sometimes, he wondered if she recognized
his
demons. Her own experience along with her profession as a psychology professor seemed to make her exceptionally good at reading Rusty and regurgitating things he was feeling or thinking. He didn’t care for that skill of hers too much, but he adored watching her waddling around, her stomach nearly as big as she was. Even now Rusty could feel the grin start across his face at the mere thought.

At least Ian and Courtney were getting the chance to experience being a parent along with all the rewards and punishments it provided to those brave enough to take a stab at the thankless job. For Rusty that concept was just as out of reach as finding a new career, a woman to love him or any of the other pleasures in life that his brothers in arms had found.

After sucking up the fact that whether he was their commanding officer or not his friends still saw him as the one in charge of things, he’d also accepted that fate had one last task for him. To see his friends…
his brothers
… happily adjusted. He’d done that now… mission accomplished.

Now that things were calm for the group, Rusty had begun to take a good look at his own life. So far what he’d found wasn’t pretty. He was a forty-three year old single male with no children. He lived in a two bedroom house his grandfather had left to him when he died. He worked as a janitor in the company he’d also inherited along with the house.

He and the guys had all worked for the cleaning business, Man Maid, at one point but one by one his buddies had moved on with their lives, leaving Rusty as the only one still mopping and cleaning up after others.

Man Maid was a joke… it was never supposed to be anything but a distraction for them all when they first got out of the service. In one way or another it had led all his brothers-in-arms to their new lives. Being the owner of the company, though, somehow meant a new or different life wasn’t an option for Rusty.

The bad part was that he didn’t know anything else…
war or cleaning
… that was the extent of what he had to offer the world. He wasn’t some well off business man or clever inventor. In fact, most of the time, he tried not to mention that he owned a business at all. When people discovered he was essentially a maid their expressions told him what they thought of his contributions to society.

Now that all his buddies were married with lives of their own… he wasn’t just the oldest of the group… he was also the only dud. At his age he should have an education, a career, a wife and family and be doing something more constructive with his life than pet sitting the over-sized military service dog affectionately named Sergeant Buck that was also part of their little group.

Even that task only occurred now on the off chance that Ronnie and Kayla happened to go out of town. Hell, that damned dog had more clout than Rusty did… having been the one to save them from an improvised exploding device or IED
when Rusty’s inaction had nearly cost them all their lives.

Anymore, if he could drag himself out of bed it was a good day. Most of the time, he just sat around in the dark trying to pep talk himself. Unlike with Ronnie, Seth or Ian, his words fell on deaf ears when spoken within the confines of his own head. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to succeed…
to acclimate
… he just
couldn’t
.

He wasn’t made of the same stuff as his military brothers. He wasn’t handsome like Ronnie. He didn’t have smooth dance moves like Seth nor was he a fighter like Ian. All he had to offer these days were a few choice words if a person happened to come across his path on a not so good day.

He’d known all along that someday he’d have to face the dreaded question of ‘what now’ but his buddies had acted as a blessed distraction until one by one they went their own way and no longer needed him. Once Rusty had watched the last of them promise their life to a woman and find their new path, his own destiny had risen up and sucker punched him right in the jaw.

That was the first time he’d thought seriously about what to do with his life. After a few months of contemplating his options the only real answer that he could come up with was a little hard to swallow, so he was still wrestling with it. It was a reasonable solution and he’d decided on it for the most part.

Once he did it though, he would no longer be the odd man out… the fifth wheel. Sacrificing oneself for the greater good was a noble thing… no matter how it was done. They would understand that eventually. Society talked about it, condemned the action, but didn’t really understand it. Much like any other mammal in the world, Rusty sensed that he no longer had anything to contribute to the pack, no longer had anything left at all for that matter.

This wasn’t self-pity… it was
nature
. Much like an old dog who would go off on his own to face his final mission…
alone
… this was no different. It was nature’s version of selective elimination… euthanasia… if you will. His brothers would understand that someday. They would be shocked and grieve at first but they’d get past it and eventually come to realize that not having to deal with the grumpy old man who served no purpose other than to make their lives more difficult was, in fact, a blessing.

Unlike the selfish deed that some people thought this single act was, he knew better. Selfishness would have been to take care of things the minute he was no longer an enlisted man and leave them to fend for themselves, but he hadn’t done that. No. Instead he’d suffered, as he was supposed to, in order to ensure they were all provided for and settled with a promising life and bright futures ahead of them. Since that task was now complete he just needed to get up the nerve to charge the field, so to speak.

As he sat staring at the notebook and paper that rested near his left hand and the gun that set next to his right hand, he realized that the concept was easier said than done.

BOOK: Maid to Order
3.37Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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