Authors: Alexis Gold
This is a work of fiction. Similarities to real people, places or events are entirely coincidental.
Copyright 2016 ALEXIS GOLD
All Rights Reserved To ALEXIS GOLD
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Cafe owner Jasmine Fields always knew never to mix business and pleasure but sometimes it was hard to resist.
After hiring hunky Mason Graham she found herself obsessed with his bad-boy persona and it was not long before she fantasizing about his naked body too.
Then when he made a move on her, all bets were off..
However, whilst Jasmine always knew that Mason was a man who was no stranger to danger she had no idea just how dangerous her
could really be...
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Delaney Hart hated living with her alcoholic Uncle and she always wished someone would walk into her life and sweep her off her feet.
That day arrived when local Cowboy Wade Oliver walked into her diner one beautiful summers afternoon and asked her out on a date.
However, whilst Wade was initially besotted with Delaney he did have an ulterior motive for dating her and soon she would have a very, very tough choice to make...
Table Of Contents
– MR. COWBOY
The sound of gunfire sliced through the air—whizzing past the majority of soldiers, burying deep inside the flesh of others. In a war zone, silence is deadly. At least the sound of gunshots revealed the locations of the shooters hidden within the depths of the jungles. The air was humid and filled with thick, murky smoke, instantly causing sweat to drip down the back of the young soldier’s neck. Wiping his brow, he took a deep breath, as he knew that this moment would come eventually. It had been a quiet and peaceful few days: the mark of suspicion. He lowered himself closer to the ground, resting his back up against a large rock as protection from the bullets that ricocheted off of the military vehicles.
The gunfire suddenly ceased, leaving an eerie feeling throughout the camp. The soldier’s ears buzzed with the anticipation of another gunshot, but it was his job to check if his camp was clear of danger. He stayed as low to the ground as possible, breathing in tiny breaths that allowed for the intake of oxygen, but did not fill his lungs with the choking fumes.
The young man’s fellow soldier and best friend appeared at his side and gave him a nod, signaling that the coast was clear. He slowly rose and began to walk toward the devastation that the enemy had left in their wake. Several bodies lay scattered, positioned unnaturally with limbs twisted in stomach-turning directions. He bowed his head in respect before checking for living soldiers.
Abruptly, time slowed to a crawl. He barely had a moment to comprehend the alarmed yell from his friend before the gunshots sounded from the bush beside him. A loud cracking sound followed by more gunfire made him fall to the ground, but he still hadn’t realized what had happened until he looked down at his leg. Several bullets lodged deep into the now-snapped bones of his leg, which was covered in blood. He felt his breath quicken as he began to hyperventilate. His body was quickly fading into shock. Through his increasingly blurry vision, he watched as his best friend stormed into the camp, letting off bullets of rage.
The young soldier gripped a photo of a beautiful woman with dark skin, deep emerald eyes, and long curls of hair. It was not a photo of romance like most soldiers would have, rather it was a photo of family, his sister – a woman who shared his face and his blood; the only person in the world who would be destroyed by his loss. As he slowly faded, he whispered his gratitude that he never showed her what he would now carry with him to the grave. The blurry image of camouflage approached him as he felt his fellow soldier fall to his side and began to shake him. He heard a voice yelling, “Calvin, Calvin!”
“Calvin,” Jasmine shook her sleeping brother. “Wake up. You’re home; it’s all over.”
She watched as he sat straight up and gasped – his sweat-filled face morphed from terrified to confused to annoyed. He rolled his eyes as he sprawled back down in bed. She gave him a look of worry and began to speak, but was interrupted before she could start.
“Jas,” Calvin said. “It’s fine. I just had another nightmare.”
“I know, but that’s the third time this week. I thought you were getting better. Are you nervous about starting your new job? Maybe that’s why you’ve been so tense,” she said as she bit her lip – a nervous habit she developed as a child that still hadn’t quite gone away.
Jasmine was concerned that her brother was reverting back to having nightly panic attacks and flashbacks. Ironically, she didn’t remember Calvin being much of a nightmare-ridden child. While most children tend to wake up nightly needing a parent’s comfort, he rarely needed anyone to tell him that it would be okay.
As children, Jasmine and Calvin grew up in the small town of Rootsville, Ohio. Acres of corn were arranged in neat rows around the border of the quaint rural setting. Known for its farmland, Rootsville was only made exciting by its town center – a charming square of shops, theatres, and diners. Although many children could not wait to leave the town in search for a bigger and better place, Jasmine always adored the small-town environment.
She loved the rows of rustic homes, as each had a unique personality. She loved knowing everyone’s name and story – a trait she picked up quickly working in her parents’ café. The café was named The Morning Bell, which doubled as a bed and breakfast because of the convenient apartment located above the shop. She worked at The Morning Bell every day, getting to know every face in town.
Calvin also worked at their parents’ café, but Jasmine could always tell that Rootsville was never where he wanted to be – he was always searching for more. Her brother was a strange child who would spent most of his day holed up in his room, nose-deep in schoolwork, even on school breaks. Unlike Jasmine, he didn’t like to be around people. It made her sad that he preferred to be alone, noticing that it resulted in others isolating him as well.
At school, her brother was ruthlessly bullied, making it necessary for her to often stand up for him when he wouldn’t stand up for himself. She loved people and despised when they treated each other poorly. When she wasn’t hanging out with friends or running for student government positions, the rest of her high school time was devoted to defending her brother.
At some point in Calvin’s senior year, when Jasmine had graduated and been volunteering at the local hospital in her spare time, she noticed that something had changed. He was no longer letting others bully him, and she had found brochures of requested information for college programs overseas. When opening the brochures, she found red pen marks circling tuition costs with a large letter “X” next to each one.
The costs were all much too expensive for him to afford, and their parents were saving to retire without money to spare. Jasmine had remembered that the hospital bulletins were full of advertisements for joining the U.S. Army. By serving, he would not only get to travel the world, but he would also be able to attend college free of charge when he returned.
Excitedly, Jasmine told Calvin her idea. After several hours of self-deprecation and hesitation, he eventually became intrigued and decided to apply. That summer, he was shipped off to boot camp to chase his dreams while she remained in the town she loved to chase her own. When her parents saved up enough money, they decided to retire to Miami, Florida and passed the café torch to Jasmine.
She promised to take good care of The Morning Bell, and proved her sentiment over time as she brought more and more business into the café. She removed the bed and breakfast option and converted the upstairs apartment into one of her own so she could easily work whenever she wished – a true workaholic at heart. She was living her dream for the following two years, as happy as could be, until she received the call that her brother had been seriously injured and would be shipping back home early.
After he was released from the military following a brutal run-in with a stream of bullets, Calvin simply had not been the same since. He lost his leg, which was aptly replaced with a prosthetic. With the loss of his military duty, he also lost his will to do anything at all – not work, school, or relationships. He wouldn’t even keep in contact with the soldier friend he made while serving, refusing to even use his name.
Although Jasmine tried to hide it, a creeping thought in the back of her mind always told her that she was partially responsible, as she convinced him to join the military in the first place. Therefore, when he had nowhere to go, she took him in and allowed him to live with her in her apartment for as long as he needed.
She knew that, by doing so, it meant that she would have to take care of her brother without demeaning him and making him feel like a child. While she was prepared for taking him to physical therapy appointments to help him adjust to his artificial limb, she was not prepared for the sleepless nights that she spent anticipating his screams from flashbacks that riddled his mind as soon as he closed his eyes.
She tried to get him to see a therapist when he first came home, gently explaining that Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is not a condition that one can typically battle alone. He insisted that he would be okay once he adjusted back to civilian life. To Jasmine, it seemed as though the adjustment period was stretching longer and longer. He had been home for over a year and he was still barely progressing forward. She was happy to help and would offer her guidance for as long as it took, but it definitely wore on her mind – especially since he would soon be spending some of his time outside of the apartment. He managed to find the motivation to apply for a job as a factory worker at a local industrial plant. She was hesitant to support the dangerous idea, but she would never dare express her concern as long as he was attempting to find peace.
“I know you’re worried,” Calvin sighed, offering Jasmine a tight hug of gratitude. “I’ll be fine. Working will be good for me. I really need to get out of your hair, anyway.”
“Hey,” she gently smacked him over the head. “You’re my brother, so I’ll always be here for you no matter what.”
He replied with a mockingly smug grin, “Okay, enough with the waterworks. You have to get ready for work. Aren’t you interviewing today?”
“Oh, yes. You’re right.” Jasmine needed a new chef for The Morning Bell. The previous week, she posted flyers throughout Rootsville announcing an upcoming open-interview day at her café. She had a habit of hiring terrible chefs who would either never show up for work on time, constantly burn food, or were flat-out crazy.
Her latest hiring disaster, Winnie, was a flighty woman in her mid-forties who nearly burned down the café after a multitude of problems. From the beginning, Jasmine and Winnie never fit well together. Winnie was an eccentric woman with her own theories regarding how items should be cooked – but she needed the money for her many children, and Jasmine didn’t want to turn her away.
The first few weeks with Winnie went as to be expected with a new employee – asking an array of questions and making several small mistakes, such as over-cooking an egg or incorrectly calculating the total of an order.
It happens, she’s simply learning the run of the place
, Jasmine would tell herself.
However, as the weeks progressed, Winnie seemed to be declining in her skills rather than improving in them. The two women would get in massive arguments regarding the proper way to cook eggs and meats – which Winnie insisted on over-cooking, as she believed that diseases would spread if the food wasn’t burned to a crisp.
On one day in particular, Jasmine arrived at The Morning Bell early to pre-make several food items, such as egg sandwiches and slices of bacon, to ensure that they would be properly prepared. When Winnie entered the kitchen and saw eggs that weren’t spongy and bacon that wasn’t nearly-black, she threw a tantrum.
Screaming about the dangers of diseases, she shoved all of the pre-made food into the oven and set the broiler on high. As quick as a blink, the oven caught fire from the intense heat combined with the amount of food inside. Flames engulfed the inside of the oven while thick, billowing smoke rolled out from the edges and began filling the air – all in only several seconds.
Winnie stood, gaping at the flames in shock. Thinking quickly, Jasmine grabbed the fire extinguisher from the cabinet beside the refrigerator. Reaching carefully, she turned off the heat, opened the oven door, and sprayed the cold foam at the molten food particles. Thankfully, she was able to eliminate the fire before the alarms went off and alerted the fire department.
She turned around to ask Winnie what she was thinking, and was left with absence. Winnie had run out of the door to escape to wherever she lived. The open cash drawer led to the inkling that she attempted to steal money. Unfortunately for Winnie, Jasmine always remembered to empty the cash drawer every night before she went to bed to avoid theft – one disaster averted.
Jasmine figured that it wouldn’t be possible to find anyone who would be worse than Winnie, at least. After receiving a sarcastic “good luck” sentiment from her brother, she quickly ran into her room and grabbed the nicest clothes she owned. Slipping on a black pencil skirt and a white collared shirt, she felt that she would make a perfect impression on any potential employee.
She believed in the philosophy that the interviewer should be just as well-dressed as the interviewee, as she wished to attract a professional chef who truly cared about the business, unlike her last hires. Her love of people often got the better of her when interviewing. She was easily swayed by those who had a sad story or needed the money. More often than not, it seemed as though people would always know exactly what to say to get her to hire them, even if it was not the complete truth.
“Well, not this time,” Jasmine said to herself as she pulled back her long, curly hair into a neat ponytail. She opened her makeup bag and dabbed the dark skin of her face with a light bronze color to highlight her cheekbones. She grabbed a long silver tube from the makeup bag and applied a coat of mascara to the lashes around her round, hazel eyes.