Authors: Lucy Gage
Other Books by Lucy Gage
Ward Sisters Series
Back to December (#1)
Only One (#2)
Right Here Waiting (#3)
This Year's Love (#4)
Time to Begin (#5)
Ward Sisters Series Book 2
©2014 by Lucy Gage
All rights reserved
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, businesses, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
To the Reader
If you're wondering, you may have seen this book before under my previous publishing name. I had various reasons for making the switch, but I'm still the same writer, just with a new pen name. I hope you'll continue on the Ward Sisters journey with me. Books 1-5 have be re-published under my new name and have all been slightly revised to a second edition. If you purchased this book from Amazon previously, you should be able to get the updated file, since their tracking data will be the same. Back to December is getting a new cover. The e-book file will be updated again when the new print selection is available, so be on the lookout.
For new readers, this is the first book in what will be a 10-book series. As you can see from the list at the beginning of this book, we're halfway through the series now. All the books in this series can be read as standalone stories, but they are even more enjoyable if read as a series. There are no cliffhangers, so they do not have to be read in a particular order. However, if you're not a fan of spoilers, you will want to read them in-sequence, as each story assumes that anything revealed in a previous segment of the series is fair-game.
My contact information is listed at the back of the book, so feel free to follow me.
To my husband, my One. Because life needs balance, and even when I complain about it, you make me want to be a better person.
To my own two little miracles – I'll never be sorry to have either of you, lights of my life. Being a parent is the hardest and most rewarding job I've ever had.
As always, a huge thank-you to Laurie Breton, mentor and critique partner extraordinaire. Without you, this book wouldn't have made it to press, let alone be so much better than the first draft dreamed of being. Thanks for consistently pushing me toward my potential.
A special thanks to my own best friend, Sandra. She is, and always will be, the sister of my heart, the family I chose at age 10 and have never once regretted.
And last but not least, to my sister, Stephanie. We might not be twins like Liam and Mary Cate, but you're the one person I know who will always understand the things other people can't because you've always been there. I don't say it enough, but never forget that I love you.
Harpswell, Maine, present day...
Jenna pulled up to the big, white house with its New England charm, complete with a huge front porch. Numerous cars occupied the driveway, but since this place had been an inn, there were still parking spots. Unfortunately, there were none near the door.
“You ready for this?” Christopher asked. Jenna nodded.
Fake it til you make it
, she thought.
Rob and Emily were getting married and that meant there would be a crowd of people here soon. The gathering wasn't the issue, however; the problem was that one of those people would be Liam.
As Emily's full-time bodyguard, Liam now lived with their boss, Rob Deacon, aka movie star Deac Roberts. Jenna hadn't seen Liam in seven torturous, heartache-filled months when she wondered if he still loved her or if he'd changed his mind. She'd despaired for six months because she hadn't told Liam his baby grew inside her.
Jenna and Christopher, who was Rob's stylist, had discussed Liam during the entire flight to Maine from L.A. She couldn't hide her pregnancy. These days, Jenna could barely get out of her own way. Concealment was impossible unless she was seen from the neck up. That wasn't going to happen.
Christopher walked ahead to the house door and his massive frame engulfed the whole doorway. From a distance, Jenna observed Chris' air kisses upon Emily's greeting, and heard his compliment that she was glowing. He shouted over his shoulder, “Come on, big girl, you're lagging behind.”
“Ha-ha. You'd walk slower if you were me, too.”
Christopher replied, “Thank God I never will be. My figure couldn't handle it.”
She stepped into the house and hugged Emily, whose eyebrows shot up her forehead. Apparently, Rob had neglected to mention her pregnancy.
“I'm glad to see you!" Jenna said. "I'm so happy Rob finally came after you. He knows." She put a protective hand over her belly.
“Knows?” Emily asked, brow pinched in confusion, eyes narrowed.
“About the baby. I told him.”
Emily's face suddenly paled. Did she
not trust Rob? Jenna clarified, “It's not
baby! I meant I told him. Because he's my boss. And I'll need to take time off when the baby is born.”
Her breathing relaxed and Emily smiled. “Right. Of course! How far along are you?”
“About seven months. Actually, it's 34 weeks on Monday.” If Emily did the math, she'd know what that meant.
They walked toward the back to the kitchen, where Rob's former make-up artist, Reggie, stood alongside a tall brunette who Emily introduced as her best friend, Meg.
Reggie hugged Jenna, rubbed her belly and offered her friend a knowing look. Nervous, Jenna's smile wavered and she thought,
about to get real
She and Christopher stepped onto the deck. Across the expanse of wood, Liam stood in a small group. As handsome as ever, his recently-cut wave of brown hair accentuated his high cheekbones. His shoulders shrugged with a stifled laugh and his smirk made her smile. God, had she missed him.
Liam finally noticed her and Chris. His eyes found Jenna's and heat rushed through her body. Those gorgeous lashes framed twinkling brown eyes, the chocolate orbs that had first caught her attention, and her heart clenched at the memory. A grin spread across his face as wide as the one he'd given her at the Malibu house in January, the night when, after three years, he'd finally said he loved her.
Then his eyes strayed down her body to her breasts, which had grown from a C to a DD since the last time she saw him. As his gaze traveled to her hand on her belly, he wobbled.
“Grab him, Rob!” Emily shouted a second too late, because Rob barely caught Liam's arms before his best friend collapsed. In the process, Liam's head whacked Rob's nose. Rob lay his friend on the chaise before he asked for a cloth for his nosebleed.
Jenna gasped and tears sprang to her eyes. He knew that the baby was his, or else he wouldn't have reacted that way. Her hand instantly covered her mouth to stifle a cry of relief.
She looked down at the red-haired woman, who'd dropped to her knees beside Liam. She'd also gasped and panicked as he fainted.
Oh, my God! Is he okay? What just happened?” Red asked and looked at Emily.
And that was when she saw Jenna.
Red's eyes teared, her mouth drooped in a wobbly frown and her eyelids drifted closed for a second before a tear rolled down her cheek. When Rob told her to head into the house, that he'd take care of Liam, she agreed without a word as Meg helped her stand.
She must be Liam's girlfriend.
Get What You Need
Lynnfield, Massachusetts, sixteen years ago...
“Liam, did you ask your parents about showing your work? Those photographs should be seen. I need to know before the end of the week.”
“I asked, but my dad said he wanted to meet you first, Mrs. Henry. You know, because that kid and his teacher had an affair.”
Mrs. Henry, Liam's art teacher, laughed. “Of course. Let me know when he can meet me here. I really want other people to see your work, Liam. You have a real eye for composition.”
Two days later, after school, he walked into the fine arts wing with his father. “I don't know why it's a big deal, Dad. I'm a senior. Don't you trust me?”
“That's not the point, Liam,” his father said as he walked into the classroom. He stopped short and Liam crashed into him.
“Jesus, Dad,” Liam said as he walked around his father. Mrs. Henry and his dad were staring at each other, mouths slightly agape, eyes blinking. It felt like years before they moved. Finally, Liam couldn't take it anymore. “Mrs. Henry, this is my dad...”
“Bobby Neely,” she said. She offered her hand and his father took it.
“Peggy Dunning,” his dad replied. “It's been far too long.”
“It has,” she said, a big smile on her face, her eyes twinkling.
Liam was clearly not part of this conversation.
“Liam,” his father said, “you can show your photos. Meet me in the car.”
“I said meet me in the car,” he responded more firmly. Liam rolled his eyes and grumbled, but he listened and he left.
Four weeks later, Liam was getting home from school when he found his oldest sister, Mary Sarah, sitting on the back steps, crying. “What's wrong?” he asked.
“I miss her,” she whispered.
“The baby?” Liam asked. She nodded. At sixteen, Mary Sarah's birth control pill had failed and resulted in a pregnancy. Liam and his twin, Mary Cate, had been nine at the time. Mary Sarah's baby would be almost that age by now.
“You want to find her?” he wondered.
“I can't, Liam. The adoption was closed. Ma and Dad thought that was best. For everyone.”
“Let's try, at least,” he said.
“You want to help?”
“Try and stop me,” he replied with a small smile.
Mary Sarah was the only one of his five sisters besides his twin that he truly liked. Oh, he loved the other three, but he didn't much like them. They blamed Mary Cate and Liam's stint in juvie at the age of nine for the family's move to Lynnfield from South Boston. His father had admitted years ago that it had been Mary Sarah's pregnancy which prompted his parents to move, not the shoplifting charge that had landed Mary Cate – and Liam, by proxy for standing up to the cop who arrested her – in juvie.
“Thanks,” Mary Sarah whispered. She squeezed his hand.
“Hey, can I ask you a question? You might know the answer 'cause you're older.”
She sniffed. “Sure. What's up?”
“Who's Peggy Dunning?”
Mary Sarah's eyebrows shot up. “Uh, Dad's high school girlfriend. Why?”
“I thought Ma was his high school girlfriend?” That was the story they'd been told.
“After Ma. They broke up and Dad started dating Peggy. She'd been his childhood sweetheart. He left her to marry Ma when he found out she was pregnant with me.”
“How do you know all that?”
Mary Sarah rolled her eyes. “They argued all the time in front of me when I was pregnant. Half the time, I think they forgot I was there. You and Mary Cate were off causing trouble, so you didn't hear. Why did you want to know who she is?”
“Oh, no reason. Just heard the name recently. Let's get started looking for your baby.”
Two weeks after that, Liam was headed to the library for some research on the small New Hampshire town where Mary Sarah had stayed while she was pregnant. They had a great aunt who lived there, but asking her questions would alert his parents, and they were trying to do this without anyone in the family knowing. If they found the baby, then they'd tell the others.
On his way into the library, Liam thought he spotted his father, who was supposed to be at work for his second job.
Both Liam's parents had worked two jobs for years to keep him and Mary Cate in Catholic school, but once they left for public school, his mom stopped working a second job. His dad still worked at his position as a janitor in the evenings.
Bobby held hands with a woman who was
Liam's mother, Bitsy. Nope, the woman was his art teacher, Mrs. Henry, aka Peggy Dunning. His father's first love. Like two teenagers, Bobby backed Peggy into the wall of the building and then kissed her, long and desperate, as if he was holding back until...well, Liam shuddered to think about what
When they pulled apart, Bobby rubbed noses with Peggy and kissed her gently. Their hands lingered as they parted, waiting until the last possible second to let go when Bobby walked in Liam's direction. Liam wisely darted around the corner to the library and was safely tucked behind a column when his father passed, looking happier than Liam had seen him in more years than he could count.
, Liam thought.
What the hell am I supposed to do with
Nothing. Maybe it's a misunderstanding.
Yeah, right. That's how you kiss Dana when you want her to sleep with you. Kisses like that mean exactly what they look like.
Maybe it was a one-time thing. No use in ruining his parents' marriage over speculation, right?
Lynnfield, Massachusetts, fifteen and a half years ago...
He tried to ignore the fact that he knew, but every time he was looking for information about Mary Sarah's baby, he'd catch his father and Peggy making out like teenagers. Once, Peggy looked like she'd been ravished and Liam almost lost his lunch. His father was having an affair, and he had no idea what to do or say, if anything.
The Sunday after prom, Liam stumbled into the house, still a little drunk from the party the night before. He'd slept in a tent in his girlfriend, Dana's back yard, where they'd had sex until they both passed out cold. It was a good thing he lived down the street, since he couldn't have driven.
As he trudged down the hall toward his bedroom, he heard crying. At first, he thought it was Mary Sarah, because she still lived with them. The other three girls were off to college or had already married. But as he stepped closer to his parent's bedroom, he knew it was his mother.
, he thought.
Does she know?
If he didn't talk to his mother, he'd feel worse. As it was, he already felt responsible for reintroducing his father to Peggy because of the art exhibit. He knocked softly.
“Ma? You okay?” He heard shuffling, and she opened the door with tears clouding her eyes. Her face was blotchy, her eyes were puffy and her nose was running. The bags under her eyes said she'd hardly slept, and she looked as if she'd been crying for quite some time.
“Your father left, Liam,” she croaked.
. He pulled her in for a hug. “What happened, Ma?” Though he knew exactly what had happened. Bobby finally told Bitsy about his affair, and he'd chosen his lover over his wife.
Liam sat and listened to his mother cry, complain, lament her decision to make his father get a vasectomy after he and Mary Cate were born, until he was completely sober. The guilt weighed heavily on his shoulders. It was his fault. They'd see it eventually, once they realized who Peggy was and how his father must have reconnected with her. And, God, if he thought his sisters were unbearable about the move to Lynnfield, how much worse would they be about this? Unlike the move, this really was
Later that week, the paperwork arrived with his acceptance to Boston University. He'd planned to attend with Mary Cate so that the twins could stick together. They were best friends and hated the idea of being apart. Mary Cate had received a swimming scholarship, and though Liam hadn't been offered a scholarship from the hockey team, he'd been recruited and would have no trouble walking on to the team.
It had been the perfect scenario a week ago.
But as the days wore on, his mother's sadness didn't improve, it worsened. She laid it thick around Liam and he knew already that she blamed him, even if she'd never admit it. Once his sisters got wind, the accusations flew left and right.
The other envelope in Liam's mail came from Minnesota State. He'd been accepted there and they also had a hockey team. If he went to Minnesota, he'd be away from all this drama. Sure, he could go to UNH or UMaine, but those were car rides away, and he'd never avoid the circus.
But if he was across the country, they'd have to fly to see him. The only downside was that he'd have to leave Mary Cate.
When he told her his plan Mary Cate asked, “You sure you want to go that far, little brother?”
“If I don't, I'll never escape this bullshit. You know that. How long have they given us shit about juvie? If I leave, then maybe Ma can get over it more easily.”
“She's still in love with him, Liam. That won't go away so quickly.”
“No, but if I'm not here and he's not here, then there isn't as much of a reminder, right?”
Mary Cate sighed. “No matter what I say to you, it won't make a difference. You've made up your mind. You still gonna come home?”
“Of course. I'm not running away.”
“Right. Just promise you'll come see me sometimes. And that you'll let me come visit you out there.”
He hugged his twin. “I promise. If I could take you with me, I would. I can't ask you to give up your scholarship.”
“What are you gonna tell them?”
“That it's cheaper. It is. BU is expensive. And I'll tell them we decided that we need to grow up and live apart at some point.”
“I don't want to live apart,” Mary Cate said, tears in her eyes.
“Me either, but it's bound to happen eventually. It's not like when we get married we'll live together.”
“Why not? You can't marry a girl who won't let me live with you,” she joked.
“Yeah, and you can't marry a guy who isn't my best friend.”
“Well, then I guess we better be pretty selective when we get married, huh?” They both sighed. The worst part of all of this would be leaving his twin sister.
Three weeks later, they found Mary Sarah's daughter. She wrote a letter to the parents, being as discreet as possible, and let them know who she was, where she lived, and if her daughter ever wanted to know her birth mother, that she was available.
The move to college was painful when he had said goodbye to Mary Cate. It was the first time he'd been without his twin his whole life, and Liam was adrift without her to anchor him.
Minnesota State University, fifteen years ago...
A week after he walked on to the MSU hockey team, Liam was invited to a team party. All night, the older guys barricaded the keg so that the younger guys couldn't get to it. They were plying all the hot girls with beer. Liam sat in a corner, bored out of his mind, trying to decide if he wanted to go back to his dorm and find some other way to get drunk, when a guy plunked down beside him.
“This party blows,” the guy said.
“No joke. You're not on the team. How'd you even get in the door?”
“My brother is friends with the guy who rents the house.”
The guy in question was the biggest on the team, a defenseman who Liam was very glad was on
side on the ice.
“Shit. How the hell does your brother know him? He's a fucking house! No one messes with Luc. No one talks to Luc.”
“They were freshman roommates. My
is a house.”
Liam looked at the guy. He wasn't a wimp. He was a little on the skinny side, but he was tall and broad-shouldered.
“You ever play hockey?”
“Nope. Wasn't much of an athlete. Rick, he's my brother, he got me into lifting and running this summer. Rick played hockey and football. He played hockey here for three years.”
“Why'd he quit?”
“Because he got his girlfriend pregnant. He's on the daddy track these days. Had to get a job to support his family.”
“She do it on purpose?” Liam knew girls like that, who saw a star hockey player as a meal ticket.
“No way. She'd never do that. I've been friends with Kelly since we were kids and she's always loved Rick. They forgot a condom while celebrating our high school graduation.”
“She wasn't on the pill?”
The guy laughed. “She's a good little Catholic girl. We went to school together.”
“Good little Catholic girls still take the pill. And get pregnant on it. Just ask my oldest sister. Changes your life, man.”