Eternal Vows (Hideaway (Kimani))

A Hideaway Wedding Wager

Twins Ana and Jason and their cousin Nicholas are successful thirtysomethings who are single—and loving it. They have no idea that their relatives are betting on which one of them will get married first. But by the family’s New Year’s Eve reunion, will all three have learned what it means to be really lucky—in love?

An irresistible attraction…

Among Virginia’s horse-country elite, Nicholas Cole-Thomas is the ultimate eligible bachelor. After escaping one disastrous relationship, Nicholas plans to remain single. Yet, when the beautiful veterinarian working on his horse farm needs help, he invites her to stay under his roof. And the closer he gets to her, the closer he wants to be.…

Blurring the lines between business and pleasure is risky for Peyton Blackstone. It’s not just Nicholas’s charisma but his gentleness that enthralls her. But when trouble from her past resurfaces, will he be man enough to trust her…no matter what the consequences?

Hideaway Wedding Series

Good-natured boasting raises its multimillion-dollar head at the Cole family compound during a New Year’s Eve celebration. Family patriarch Martin Cole proposes each man in attendance place a one-million-dollar wager to the winner’s alma mater as an endowment in their name. The terms: predicting who among Nicholas, Jason or Ana will marry before the next New Year’s Eve.

Twins Jason and Ana Cole have given no indication they are even remotely thinking of tying the knot. Both claim they are too busy signing new talent to their record label. Former naval officer Nicholas Cole-Thomas has also been dragging his feet when it comes to the opposite sex. However, within the next six months Ana, Nicholas and Jason will encounter a very special person who will not only change them, but change their lives forever.

In
Summer Vows,
when CEO of Serenity Records Ana Cole signs a recording phenom to her label, she ignites a rivalry that targets her for death. Her safety and well-being are then entrusted to family friend, U.S. Marshal Jacob Jones, and Ana is forced to step away from the spotlight and her pampered lifestyle. She unwillingly follows Jacob to his vacation home in the Florida Keys until those responsible for the hit on her life are apprehended. Once Ana gets past Jacob’s rigid rules, she finds herself surrendering to the glorious sunsets and the man willing to risk everything, including his heart, to keep her safe and make her his own.

Nicholas Cole-Thomas’s entry into the world of horse breeding has caused quite a stir in Virginia’s horse country. Not only is he quite the eligible bachelor, but there is also a lot of gossip about his prized Arabian breeding stock. In
Eternal Vows,
Nicholas meets Peyton Blackstone, the neighboring farm’s veterinarian intern. He is instantly drawn to her intelligence, but recognizes the vulnerability she attempts to mask with indifference. Nicholas offers Peyton a position to work on his farm, and when they step in as best man and maid of honor at his sister’s spur-of-the-moment wedding he tries to imagine how different his life would be with a wife of his own. Just when he opens his heart to love again, someone from Peyton’s past resurfaces to shatter their newfound happiness, and now Nicholas must decide whether their love is worth fighting for.

Record executive Jason Cole will admit to anyone that he has a jealous mistress: music. As the artistic director for Serenity Records Jason is laidback, easygoing and a musical genius. His brief tenure running the company is over and he’s heading to his recording studio in a small remote Oregon mountain town to indulge in his obsession. But all that changes in
Secret Vows,
when Jason hears restaurant waitress Greer Evans singing backup with a local band. As they become more than friends, he is unaware of the secret she jealously guards with her life. And when he finds himself falling in love with Greer, Jason is stunned to find she is the only one who stands between him and certain death, at the same time realizing love is the most desperate risk of all.

Don’t forget to read, love and live romance.

Rochelle Alers

Happy the husband of a good wife, twice-lengthened are his days; a worthy wife brings joy to her husband, peaceful and full is his life.

—Sirach
26:1, 2

Prologue

S
olar lighting illuminated the in-ground pool and property surrounding David and Serena Cole’s sprawling Boca Raton mansion. The house was filled with four generations of Coles. The men who’d gathered in the library at the West Palm Beach family compound New Year’s Day had gotten together again—this time in David’s private office. The four men lit cigars and raised snifters of aged brandy, toasting their success for a covert investigation that had thwarted a hit man’s attempt to kill Ana Cole.

“¡Salud!”

David peered at his brothers and nephew over the rim of his glass. “I know it’s not in good taste to toast someone’s demise, but if anyone needed to be put in the dirt then it is Basil Irving.”

“I agree with David,” intoned Timothy Cole-Thomas. “The bastard should’ve been taken out a long time ago.”

Martin Cole lifted an eyebrow when he stared at his nephew. “Damn, Timothy. That’s cold. What happened to you being the gentle Cole?”

Running a hand over his cropped salt-and-pepper head, Timothy returned Martin’s steady gaze. “Niceness stops whenever someone threatens
my
family.”

“I have to agree with Timothy,” Joshua Kirkland said quietly, his deep voice carrying easily in the soundproof room. “Irving may have met an untimely end, but there’s still the matter of his younger brother who has taken over as CEO of Slow Wyne Records. I don’t know how much baby boy knows about the music industry but instinct tells me he bears watching.”

Timothy nodded. “You’re right, Josh. That’s why Diego told Simon to keep an eye on him. Ana may have evaded the trap, yet who’s to say they won’t shift the focus to Jason.”

“My son isn’t as benign as he appears,” David said. “Let’s just hope someone doesn’t decide to challenge him.” He set his glass on a side table. “Now that we’ve offered our insincere condolences I’d like to discuss the wedding wager. Those of us who bet on Ana marrying first are one-third closer to the grand prize.”

David, his brothers Martin and Joshua and his nephew Timothy had each wagered a million dollars to establish an endowment in the name of their alma mater as to whose unmarried thirty-something children would marry before the end of the year. David had had to put up two million because he had an unmarried son and daughter.

Martin sucked in a mouthful of tobacco. “You’re not going to count Ana’s wedding in the wager?” he asked, blowing out a cloud of smoke.

David shook his head. “Come on, Martin. Man up and admit I’m right.”

Martin squinted at his youngest brother. “You’re not right, David. Ana and Jacob’s marriage was a setup.”

Holding his cigar between his thumb and forefinger, David blew out a series of smoke rings. “Tell him, Timothy.”

A shaft of light from a floor lamp filtered over Timothy’s lean dark brown face when he shifted on his chair to stare at his uncles. “Diego told me Jacob asked him to stand in as best man when he and Ana plan to renew their vows this coming New Year’s Eve.”

“I told you, big brother,” David drawled smugly.

Martin shook his head in disbelief. “Diego sets up a bogus marriage—”

“It’s not bogus, Martin,” Joshua Kirkland interrupted. “Their marriage license is as legal
and
binding as any of our marriages. And it’s not the first time a Cole woman has married her protector.”

Timothy nodded. “My Celia married Gavin Faulkner and made me a grandpa for the second time.”

Martin’s expressive eyebrows lifted. “Bragging, nephew?”

“Hell, yeah,
Tío
Martín.”

“Wait until you have as many grandchildren as Joshua and David before you starting boasting,
sobrino,
” Martin countered.

Joshua’s straight white teeth shimmered in his sun-browned face when he flashed a wide grin. “I’m about to pull ahead of David. Jolene is pregnant.”

“Again?” the three chorused.

“Michael and Jolene always said they wanted six children,” Joshua explained in defense of his son and daughter-in-law. “They’re now planning to close on an eight-bedroom, ten-bath farmhouse set on six acres in McLean, Virginia. Michael told me he’s keeping the former owners’ flock of sheep and half a dozen horses.”

Bracing both feet on the terra-cotta floor, Martin rested his elbows on his knees. “Speaking of horses. There’s still the question of whether Nicholas will be bitten by the love bug before the end of the year.” Nicholas’s obsession with horses had begun at a very early age. The first time he sat atop a pony during a friend’s birthday party, he felt as if he was born to ride. Nicholas would never become a jockey because of his height and weight, but that hadn’t diminished his dream to ride and breed champion horses.

“Only time will tell,” Timothy said. “If he is and does marry, then I’m out of any future wedding wagers.”

“Has Jason decided where he’s going to set up Serenity?” Joshua asked, segueing to a topic they’d avoided discussing in the presence of their wives.

There came an uncomfortable silence before David spoke again. “He told me a real-estate agent showed him a house in Coral Gables. He also said he’ll probably buy Ana’s condo once she and Jacob start a family.”

Joshua stubbed out his cigar in a large ceramic dish and then stood up. “I’d like to stay, but it’s time I head out now. I’m planning to fly back to Santa Fe tomorrow morning.”

Timothy stretched out his legs. “How are you flying back, Josh?”

“I’m going first class.”

The recently retired CEO of ColeDiz International, Ltd. shook his head. “Forget the commercial carrier. I’ll call Diego and arrange for you to go back on the company jet.”

Joshua sat down. “Thanks. I’m getting too old to hang around airports with the huddled masses.”

Timothy frowned at his uncle. “Even though your last name is Kirkland you’re still exempt from taking commercial flights.” Martin had decided more than forty years before that anyone with Cole blood was forbidden to take commercial carriers following the kidnapping of his daughter. Only Judge Christopher Delgado, a federal judge who’d married Joshua’s daughter, was exempt from the family edict.

“I doubt if anyone would ever link me to the rest of you guys.”

“Even with the blond hair and green eyes, you’re still a Cole, Josh,” Martin insisted.

Joshua smiled. “I don’t think you guys will ever let me forget—”

A knock on the door stopped what he’d planned to say and all conversation ended and everyone stared at the door. There was only the sound of measured breathing as David got up, unlocked and opened the door. “Where have you been?” he asked his grandnephew.

Diego Cole-Thomas hugged David, then each of the men when they rose to greet him. His deep-set dark eyes swept around the room. “I just got back from the Keys. What are you guys celebrating?”

Timothy smiled at his son. “David’s crowing because he managed to get another one of his kids married—with your help of course.”

Sitting on a leather club chair, Diego crossed one leg over the over. “I may have set up Ana and Jake’s marriage, but remember I offered them an out. But, after seeing them together less than an hour ago I can say they’ll spend the next forty or fifty years together.”

Martin snorted. “Why is it that all of David’s kids marry law enforcement? Gabriel married an ex-undercover DEA agent, Alexandra hooks up with someone from the CIA, and now it’s Ana with a U.S. Marshal.”

David, filling a snifter with brandy, handed it to Diego. “Maybe they’re turned on by guns and badges.”

“Or they have a need to feel protected,” Joshua added.

“Don’t even go there, Josh,” David retorted. “You will not attempt to psychoanalyze my kids and say I didn’t protect them when they were growing up.”

“I don’t think that’s what he meant,” Martin interjected quickly. “You and Serena raised your children as if they were ’70s flower children, and now that they’re out in the big bad world they look for someone whose life is or was governed by a set of laws and regulations.”

David relit his cigar. He pushed out his lips. “That sounds plausible.”

Joshua gave him a smug grin. “Don’t get me wrong, brother. I envy your kids because they live by their own set of rules. Now, we’ll have to wait and see who Jason hooks up with.”

Timothy gave his uncles an imperceptible nod as he raised his glass. “Here’s to Jason marrying a schoolteacher.”

David lifted his snifter, smiling, and the four others touched glasses, intoning, “To Jason.” What he didn’t say was that he doubted whether Jason would marry before Nicholas. His youngest son was still too transient and free-spirited to settle down with a woman and start a family. Jason told him as soon as the relocation for Serenity was finalized he planned to spend at least three months in Oregon where he’d set up a studio in the sprawling house he dubbed Serenity West. It was there where he wrote and edited music for the label’s newly signed and veteran performers.

His brothers and nephew teased him about his children, but no one knew his sons and daughters better than he did. And, that alone would make him the final winner in the wedding wager.

Part One
LOVE LOST

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