Authors: Lizzie Lynn Lee
Lizzie Lynn Lee
Lusciously curvy Simone Marsh finally calls it quits when she catches her cheating husband Sam in flagrante delicto. When her control-freak ex leaves her financially constrained, Simone has to return to her hometown and take a job as a housekeeper for three brothers she used to babysit.
She’s surprised to find the Codys have all grown into handsome young men. Luke Cody, the former Special Forces soldier, has become the sheriff, Nate Cody, a high-rolling Wall Street day trader, has become a reclusive Internet multi-millionaire, and the youngest, Jamie Cody, a former Air Force interpreter and now infamous Bellwood heartbreaker, is still harboring a childhood crush for Simone.
Simone’s headaches multiply when Jamie uses Simone’s problems to lure her into bed. Simone thinks she can manage the situation, but with Nate and Luke squeezing into the picture, it’s a love rectangle you’ll never see in any geometry book. Oh, the delicious possibilities! What’s a girl to do?
©Copyright Lizzie Lynn Lee 2015
Cover Art by (Lizzie Lynn Lee) ©Copyright (April/2015)
Edited by Tina Winograd
Line Edit by Mark Hooper
This is a work of fiction. All characters, places and events are from the author’s imagination and should not be confused with fact. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, events or places is purely coincidental.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any material form, whether by printing, photocopying, scanning or otherwise without the written permission of the author.
Not once in my life had I imagined returning to Bellwood as a failure. Twenty years ago, when I’d left this town to elope with Sam, I promised myself if I ever came back, I’d be a successful actress—a somebody. I was young then and naive, just graduated from high school and dating a boy nobody in my family liked.
I was also in love.
I thought with the love we had, we’d overcome every hurdle that came our way.
But reality was a wicked mistress. New York had more struggling actresses than any other city in the country. I found out the hard way that beauty and youth weren’t enough to land me a respectable acting job. Soon, my dream of being a Broadway starlet was squashed and swept into the storm drain under the city’s cold sidewalk.
I worked odd jobs to support us while Sam attended law school. Those early years were tough, but I recalled I was much happier then. After graduation, Sam took a job as a public defender for a year before he was scouted by a big law firm. Our life changed for the better. We were prosperous. As Sam wanted a full-time housewife, I never went back to pursue my forgotten dream. I devoted my life to being Sam’s perfect wife.
Now that our marriage was over, I was left alone with nothing. Only a broken heart and bittersweet memories. I returned to Bellwood with a couple of suitcases of clothes, a junky car, and meager savings. I came back just like I’d left.
The August sun boiled in full force. Perspiration made the back of my cotton dress stick to me. I stopped at a red light, slouching behind the wheel as my newly purchased old Chevy rattled miserably. I cranked open the window and immediately regretted my decision. The dry, suffocating summer heat ambushed me. Now I remembered this weather was one of the reasons I’d wanted to get away from Bellwood so badly in the first place.
My memory drifted as I gazed on golden ears of corns ripening in their husks as fawn-colored stalks danced across the horizon.
Just another small, bum-fuck-nowhere town in the Midwest’s Tornado Alley. I was born here. Grew up here, too. My family had strong roots in this place, and most of them had never strayed too far from home.
The light turned green, and I cruised down the main street. I took in the surroundings, immersing myself in nostalgia. The town hadn’t changed much since I’d left. A few stores in the town square strip malls had changed names and businesses. Bellwood’s only movie theatre had shut down for good. There was a new diner and hair salon; I found them quite a welcoming addition to the otherwise dull, farming town.
I turned right, driving past my old high school. My mom was a math teacher until she passed away five years ago. My dad died when I was five, and my mom raised me like a broody mother hen. I was as untouchable as a drill sergeant’s daughter. When I ran away to elope, my mom took it hard and immediately disowned me. Now my mom’s younger sister, Aunt Rebecca, lived in our house. She was a spinster, a bible thumper who ran the Sunday school in the church. Aunt Rebecca didn’t like me very much. The last time we spoke, she called me to say my mom had passed away and I wasn’t welcome at the funeral.
Two blocks down, I slowed to a halt and parked next to the curb of a new building. The property used to belong to the Cody family, whose three sons I babysat when I was a teenager. The warm Cody bungalow I remembered was gone, replaced by a modern, three-story, brick building with large dark-tinted windows and high steel fence surrounding the place.
Near the gate, I spotted a security camera. I took off my sunglasses and squinted.
Why would someone need a security camera in a sedate town like Bellwood? When my dad was alive, we never locked any door in the house. Only when I became a teenager did my mom boy-proof the windows and doors because she was afraid I might sneak out in the middle of the night.
I got out of the Chevy, checking the address on the printout. I’d got that right. The reason I was returning to Bellwood was to apply to the ad I’d seen on Craigslist. A family of three wanted a live-in housekeeper. I needed a job and a roof over my head. Besides, I didn’t have any other skills after years of being a homemaker.
It would be a fine solution for my immediate problems. After Sam left me, I realized I didn’t have anyone to rely on. The people I called “friends” over the years were all Sam’s. Now that I thought about it, Sam had never liked when I met new people on my own; he was such a control freak. Everything had to be his way or no way.
I rang the bell. Seconds later, a male voice, buttery and warm, greeted me from the speaker.
“Hi.” I waved at the camera. “My name is Simone Marsh. I came about the housekeeper ad. I was wondering if the job was still available.”
“I’ll buzz you in.”
The gate unlocked automatically, and I stepped into the portico. The sight of a well-tended garden to my right grabbed my attention. An old cherry tree stood in a corner. Half of the trunk had been neatly chopped, but the lower part still had branches. That brought back memories. The oldest of the cute Cody brothers used to climb that tree to hide from doing chores. I remembered I always looked at that tree first whenever Luke Cody had suddenly gone missing.
The door to the house swung open and a stunning young man dressed in a rather preppy ensemble came out.
“Hello,” I said, offering a handshake. “I’m Simone Marsh.”
The man looked astounded for a second. “Miss Lisiewicz?”
It was an eternity since someone had called me that. “Lisiewicz” was my maiden name. “Yes?”
“Oh my god!” He laughed. “What a coincidence. It has been a while.” He shook my hand enthusiastically.
“I’m sorry,” I faltered. “Have me met?”
“It’s me… Nate. Nate Cody. You used to babysit me all the time, remember?”
“Nate Cody?” I gave the young man a once over. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. The last time I saw him, he was a cute boy who liked to cling onto my skirt and follow me around. And now he was a tall, dark, and absolutely yummy.
“Is that really you? My Lord, you’ve gotten so tall! Do you still hate eating vegetables?” We laughed together. Nate and broccoli were sworn enemies.
“Ah, where are my manners?” Nate stepped aside. “Do please come in.”
Nate led me into an open kitchen, adjacent to the living room. It became evident that they’d torn down the old house and rebuilt it into a Zen-like pad. The interior was lush with masculine colors and minimalist monochromatic furnishings with a strong Asian influence. Dark bamboo flooring gave the space a luxurious ambience. Expensive draperies rivaled those at high-end boutique hotels. For a few seconds, I thought I was strolling down a chic Soho loft in New York, not a place in the heart of a backwater farming town in the Midwest.
“I love what you did with this place,” I complimented. “When did you decide to remodel?”
“Last year after Dad passed away. And I wouldn’t say ‘remodel.’” Nate cast me a shy-boy smile. His cornflower-blue eyes twinkled. “We totally tore the old house down and started from scratch.”
I paused. “Mr. Cody passed away?”
“Right after Luke came home from Iraq. Lung cancer. You know how the old man loved his smoke.”
“I’m terribly sorry. My condolences.”
Nate shrugged. “Dad got worse in his later life. He wouldn’t give up smoking even though he had emphysema.”
“Yeah. That stubborn old fart. But please, do have a seat.”
I pulled out a chair and parked my weary ass on the comfy cushion. “You said Luke was in the service?”
“Yeah. Not anymore though. He joined SOCOM after he graduated from high school. Did six tours in Iraq then a couple of years as a private contractor. He’s the sheriff now.”
My eyes widened. “Luke is Bellwood’s sheriff?”
“Hard to believe, huh? Dad was sure he’d end up in prison one day. Good thing he turned around. Luke changed a lot after you left.”
I couldn’t help but smile. Luke Cody was a hyperactive boy and was always getting in trouble. Their dad, Al, was a widower who raised three boys on his own. I helped the Cody household a lot when I was a teenager. Their mom, Charlene, died in childbirth. Fortunately, the youngest, Jamie, survived. I remembered how my mom fussed over Mr. Cody about taking care of baby Jamie after he was brought home from the hospital.
“How about some iced tea?” Nate suggested. “You look flushed.”
“That would be wonderful. Thank you.” Suddenly I realized I was parched. August wasn’t a nice time to be driving an old Chevy with dying air-conditioning.
Nate fixed me a tall glass of icy heaven. “Earlier you said your surname is ‘Marsh’? Don’t tell me you married Alley Cat.”
My ex got that nickname because he was an infamous ladies’ man in high school. Sam briefly had his dibs with all the pretty girls in Bellwood. But he went steady with me when we were dating. In his youth, Sam was very attractive and athletic; all girls swooned around him, me included.
I sighed. “Not anymore.” As much as I wanted to sound normal, the tone of my voice carried a twang of bitterness.
Nate cocked an eyebrow. “Not anymore? Divorced?”
“Yeah. We’re getting it finalized.”
“That’s a shame considering you’ve been together for so long. Like, what… fifteen years?”
“Twenty,” I corrected then took a sip of tea.
“Is that why you came back to Bellwood?”
“I heard he was doing well—a big shot lawyer in New York or something.”
Nate studied me. I could tell my reluctant answer ignited more questions than I was willing to answer. He saw my battered car parked at the curb, and yet I’d told him that my soon-to-be ex was a well-to-do attorney.
I toyed with whether I should tell Nate the whole story, but it didn’t seem appropriate.
I’d caught Sam with his new flame in flagrante delicto. In our house. In our marriage bed. I’d put up with his fidelity issues over the years. I loved Sam, and I didn’t want to give up on our marriage willy-nilly. Therapy and counseling usually worked. For a while. Then Sam reverted to his womanizing ways again. Over the years, I’d deluded myself with illusions that somehow, some day, Sam would outgrow his nasty hobby and fully devote himself to me because he was the only man for me, and we were meant to be together.
Lord, was I wrong. You couldn’t change a person’s personality. Many women blindly rushed into marriage, obliviously thinking they could somehow reform their bad boys into dream husbands.
On that fateful night, I’d finally had enough. I couldn’t take the constant torture he put me through. Like he did it just to hurt me. I kicked him and his slut out of the house and filed for a divorce the next day.
A month later, when we were negotiating a settlement in my lawyer’s office, Sam brought his new girlfriend over to rub it in my face. It hurt so much, I could no longer bear it. I said I didn’t want anything from him other than his signature on the divorce papers.
My lawyer objected, but I was persistent. I tried to save the last ounce of pride I had left. I packed my bags and left the rest behind. I didn’t even take anything Sam bought me. The cars, jewelry, or our joint accounts. I pawned my wedding ring and a bracelet that was on my person. I used the money to buy the Chevy and had a little leftover to support me until I could find a decent job. And that wasn’t going well either. The only job I was able to find was part-time waitressing in a family restaurant. The rent alone almost engulfed the entire meager paycheck.