Authors: Brenda Jackson
Tags: #Fiction, #Romance, #Contemporary, #General
But she did. And when she turned to face him, she almost fell from the stool on which she’d been standing. For a moment she teetered precariously, arms flailing, as she tried to regain her balance.
Within an instant, Chance stepped forward and gathered Kylie in his arms. “Are you okay?”
The soft, husky words from Chance’s lips fanned against her temple and changed the heat of her embarrassment to something else entirely.
“Yes, I’m fine,” she said. “It’s just that you…startled me.”
He simply nodded, but continued to hold her.
“I’m okay, Chance. You can put me down now,” she said, although her voice lacked the conviction to persuade him to do so.
“Are you sure?”
No, Kylie thought.
I’m not sure.
And as much as she wanted to wipe the arrogant smirk from his lips, desire—the likes of which she’d never experienced before—raced through her, igniting her awareness and testing her resolve….
Delaney’s Desert Sheikh
A Little Dare
Scandal Between the Sheets
Stone Cold Surrender
Riding the Storm
Jared’s Counterfeit Fiancée
Strictly Confidential Attraction
The Chase Is On
Taking Care of Business
The Durango Affair
Ian’s Ultimate Gamble
is a die “heart” romantic who married her childhood sweetheart and still proudly wears the “going steady” ring he gave her when she was fifteen. Because she’s always believed in the power of love, Brenda’s stories always have happy endings. In her real-life love story, Brenda and her husband of thirty-three years live in Jacksonville, Florida, and have two sons.
bestselling author, Brenda divides her time between family, writing and working in management at a major insurance company. You may write to Brenda at P.O. Box 28267, Jacksonville, Florida 32226, or by e-mail at [email protected] or visit her Web site at www.brendajackson.net.
I love writing family sagas, so it is with great pleasure that I bring you another family to join the Madaris family and the Westmorelands. Meet the Steeles of North Carolina—four brothers and their three female cousins. They are a family of strong, passionate people that are FORGED OF STEELE.
I am very proud that this first book in the series—
—is my fortieth romance story. Not only am I introducing a new family to my readers while celebrating my fortieth novel, I am also thrilled to be part of the launch of Kimani Romance, Harlequin’s new line of African-American love stories.
One of my favorite movies is
The Parent Trap,
I did a little parent trapping of my own. In this story, two teenagers decide their parents, wealthy businessman Chance Steele and shop owner Kylie Hagan, need love lives. They take matters into their own matchmaking hands and their efforts pay off. Soon their determined-to-stay-single parents find out just how hard it is to avoid two teenage cupids’ arrows and to control their overheated hormones….
I hope you find Chance and Kylie’s story as fun, sexy and heartwarming as I did. When you get a chance, please visit my Web site at www.brendajackson.net to view a special book trailer that introduces this story and the handsome Steele brothers.
Let the celebration begin,
To Gerald Jackson, Sr., my husband and hero.
To my sons, Gerald and Brandon,
who constantly make me proud.
To my agent extraordinaire, Pattie Steele Perkins.
To my editor, Mavis Allen, who asked me
to be a part of the Kimani Romance line.
To my readers who have supported me
through 40 books.
Beloved, I wish above all things
that thou mayest prosper and be in good health, even as thy soul prospereth.
y mom needs to get a life!”
With a sigh of both anger and frustration, fifteen-year-old Tiffany Hagan dropped down into the chair next to her friend, Marcus Steele.
“I thought you said that the reason you and your mom moved here to Charlotte a few months ago
for a better life,” sixteen-year-old Marcus said after taking a huge bite of his hamburger as they sat in the school’s cafeteria.
Tiffany rolled her eyes. “Yeah, that’s what I thought, but now it seems that her idea of a better life
is making mine miserable. Just because she got pregnant at sixteen doesn’t mean I’d go out and do the same thing. Yeah right! I don’t even have a boyfriend and if she keeps up her guard-dog mentality, I never will. She needs a life that doesn’t revolve around me.”
“Good luck in her getting one,” Marcus said, taking a sip of his soda. “My dad is the same way, maybe even worse. He’s so hell-bent on me making good grades and getting into an Ivy League college that I barely have time to breathe. If it weren’t for my three uncles I probably wouldn’t be playing football. Dad sees any extracurricular activities as a distraction.”
Tiffany shook her head in disgust. “Parents! They’re so controlling. Can’t they see that they’re smothering us?”
“I wish there was some way that I can shift my mom’s attention off of me,” Tiffany said, unwrapping her sandwich. “If only she had another interest, like a boyfriend or something. Then she could get all wrapped up in him and give me some breathing space. I don’t remember her ever dating anyone.”
After taking another bite of his hamburger, Marcus
said, “My dad has dated occasionally since my mom died seven years ago, and although I’m sure some of the women have tried, none of them holds his attention for long.”
Tiffany laughed. “Then he better not ever meet my mom. One look at her and he’ll be a goner for sure. I hate to brag but my mom is hot,” she said proudly.
“Hey, my dad doesn’t look too bad, either.” Marcus grinned. “Maybe we ought to get them together since it seems that neither of them has a life,” he added teasingly.
Tiffany was about to bite into her sandwich when Marcus’ suggestion sank in. A huge smile curved her lips. “Marcus, that’s it!”
He looked at her, baffled. “What’s it?”
“My mom and your dad. Both are single, good-looking and desperately in need of something to occupy their time besides us. Just think of the possibilities.”
Marcus began thinking. Moments later, he smiled. “Yeah,” he agreed. “It just might work.”
work. Think about it. If we got them together, they would be so into each other that they wouldn’t have time to drive us nuts.”
“Yeah, but how can we get them together without them getting suspicious about anything?” he asked.
Tiffany smiled mischievously. “Oh, I bet I could think of something….”
Less than a week later
ylie Hagan regarded with keen interest the handsome specimen of a man dressed in a dark business suit, who had just walked into her florist shop. That was
unlike her. She couldn’t recall the last time a member of the male species had grabbed her attention. Denzel Washington didn’t count, since each and every time she saw him on the movie screen it was an automatic drool.
She continued watering her plants, thinking that
the woman he was about to buy flowers for was indeed very lucky. The good news was that he had selected her florist shop—she was the newbie in town, and Kylie needed all the business she could get, since she’d only been open for a couple of months. Business was good but she needed to come up with ways to make it even better.
Her heart jumped nervously when, instead of looking around at her vast selection of green plants and floral arrangements, he headed straight for the counter. Evidently he was a man who knew what he wanted and what he needed to woo his woman.
“May I help you?” she asked, thinking that with a face and physique like his, he probably didn’t need much help at all. He stood tall, six-three at least, with a muscular build, a clean-shaven head, chocolate-brown eyes and skin tone of the richest cocoa, altogether a striking combination. The drool she usually reserved only for Denzel was beginning to make her mouth feel wet. As she continued to look at him, waiting for his response, she suddenly noticed that he wasn’t smiling. In fact, he appeared downright annoyed.
“I’m here to see Kylie Hagan.”
Kylie lifted her eyebrows and the smile on her face began fading at his rough and irritated tone of
voice. What business did this man have with her? All her bills were current, which meant he couldn’t be there to collect anything. And if he was a salesman, with his less than desirable attitude, she wouldn’t be buying what-ever it was he was selling.
“I’m Kylie Hagan.”
Surprise flickered in his drop-dead gorgeous eyes. “You’re Kylie Hagan?”
“That’s right and who are you?”
The name didn’t ring a bell, but then she had only recently moved to the area. “And what can I do for you, Mr. Steele?”
He stared at her for a moment, and then he said, “The only thing you can do for me, Ms. Hagan, is keep your daughter away from my son.”
Kylie froze. The man’s words were not what she had expected. For a long moment she stared back at him, wondering if she had misunderstood. But all it took was the deep scowl on his face to let her know she had not.
“Keep my daughter away from your son?” she repeated when she finally found her voice.
“Yes. I found this note yesterday that evidently dropped out of Marcus’s backpack. They were planning on cutting school together on Friday,” he
said as he pulled a piece of paper out of the pocket of his jacket.
“What!” Kylie shrieked, grabbing the paper out of his hand.
“You heard me and you can read it for yourself,” he said, crossing his arms over his chest.
Kylie read, then after the first few lines she wished she hadn’t. Three emotions enveloped her: hurt, betrayal and anger. Tiffany had always promised that if she ever got serious about a boy that she would tell her. Granted, she and Tiffany hadn’t been that close lately, but a promise was a promise.
“Now can you see why I want your daughter kept away from my son?”
Chance Steele’s question sliced through Kylie’s tormented mind and grated on her last nerve, deepening her anger. She came from behind the counter to stand directly in front of him. “Don’t you dare place all the blame on Tiffany, Mr. Steele. If I read this note correctly, she was merely responding to a note your son had sent asking
to cut school. The nerve of him doing such a thing!”
“Look, Ms. Hagan, we can stand here all day and we won’t agree who’s to blame. But I think we will agree on the fact that your daughter and my son shouldn’t even be thinking about cutting school. I
have big plans for my son’s future that include him attending college.”
Kylie glared at him. “And you don’t think I have those same plans for my daughter?” she snapped. “Tiffany is a good kid.”
“So is Marcus,” he snapped back.
Kylie breathed in deeply and closed her eyes in a concerted effort to calm down before a blood vessel burst in her head. They weren’t getting anywhere biting each other’s heads off.
“Ms. Hagan, are you all right?”
She slowly opened her eyes to focus on the man looming over her. Concern was evident in his gaze. “Yes, I’m fine.”
“Look, I’m sorry I came barging in here like this,” he said, the tone of his voice calmer, apologetic. “But after reading that note I got upset.”
She nodded. “I can understand why. I’m pretty upset myself.”
“Did you know our kids were hung up on each other?” he asked. She could tell that he was trying to maintain a composed demeanor.
“Mr. Steele, until you walked into my shop and dropped your son’s name, I had no idea he even existed. Tiffany and I moved here a few months ago from New York State, right before the start of the
new school year. I knew she had made some new friends but she’s never mentioned anyone’s name in particular.”
“Okay, so as parents, what do you think we should do?” he asked.
His voice was drenched in wariness and Kylie could tell he was deeply bothered by all of this, but then he wasn’t the only one. “The one thing we shouldn’t do is demand that they not see each other. Telling them to stay away from each other will only make them want to see each other more. Teenagers will always deliberately do the opposite of what their parents want them to do. And once they start rebelling, it will be almost impossible to do anything.”
She didn’t have to tell him that she knew firsthand how that worked. Her parents had tried to keep her and Sam apart, which only made her want him more. The more she and Sam had sneaked around, the more risks they had taken until she had eventually gotten pregnant at sixteen…the same age Tiffany would be in about ten months.
“We have to do something. In confronting Marcus about that letter, I’ve thrown a monkey wrench into their plans for Friday. But how can we be sure this won’t happen again?”
At the sound of Chance’s voice, Kylie dragged
her thoughts back to the present. “I’ll talk to Tiffany and, like I said, she’s a good kid.”
“Yes, but it appears that my son and your daughter are at the age where overactive hormones cancel out good sense. We need to do what we can to make sure those hormones stay under control.”
“I fully agree.”
He reached into his pocket and pulled out a business card. “This is how to reach me if you need me to do anything further on my end. I talked to Marcus but things didn’t go well. I did the one thing you indicated I should not have done, which was demand that he stay away from Tiffany. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him that angry or rebellious.”
Kylie nodded as she took the card from him. She didn’t want to think about her upcoming talk with Tiffany. “I appreciate you dropping by and bringing this to my attention.”
“Like I said earlier, I apologize that my approach wasn’t more subtle. But Marcus’s last words to me this morning were that nobody would stop him from seeing Tiffany. I was furious and still riled up when I decided to come over here.”
He sighed deeply and then added, “It’s not easy raising a teenager these days.”
“Don’t I know it,” Kylie said softly, feeling
terribly drained but knowing she would need all her strength when she confronted Tiffany after school.
“Well, I’d better be going.”
“Again, thanks for coming by and letting me know what’s going on.”
He nodded. “There was no way I could
let you know, considering what they’d planned to do. Have a good day, Ms. Hagan.”
As Kylie watched him walk out of her shop, she knew that as much as she wished it to be so, there was no way that this would be a good day.
The moment Chance got into his truck and closed the door, he leaned back against the seat and released a long sigh. If the daughter looked anything like the mother, he was in deep trouble. No wonder his usually smart son had begun acting downright stupid.
Kylie Hagan was definitely a beauty. He had noticed that fact the moment he had walked into the flower shop and headed straight toward the counter. When she had come from behind that same counter and he’d seen that she was wearing a pair of shorts and a T-shirt, he’d thought the outfit fit just right on her curvy, petite body and showed off her shapely legs too perfectly. Braided dark brown hair had been styl
ishly cut to accent her face. Her creamy chocolate skin complemented a pair of beautiful brown eyes, a perky nose and an incredibly feminine pair of lips.
How in the world could she be the mother of a fifteen-year-old when she looked barely older than twenty herself? She looked more like Tiffany’s sister than her mother. Perhaps Tiffany had been adopted. There were a lot of questions circulating around in his mind, but the foremost was what the two of them could do about their kids who seemed hell-bent on starting a relationship that neither was ready for.
He understood Marcus’s interest in girls—after all he was a Steele—and Chance could distinctly remember when he was younger. He had fallen in love with Cyndi when he’d been just a few years older than Marcus, and had married her before his nineteenth birthday after she had gotten pregnant.
He would never forget that day when Cyndi had come to him, a mere week before he was to leave for Yale University, to let him know she was having his baby. He had loved her so much he decided not to accept a full college scholarship and leave her alone. Instead, he had married her, gone to work at his father’s manufacturing company and attended college at night. It hadn’t been easy and it had taken
him almost six years to get a degree, but he and Cyndi had made the best of it and he could look back and honestly say that although there were hard years, they had been happy ones.
And then the unthinkable happened. Cyndi had noticed changes in a mole on the side of her neck, a mole that was later determined to be cancerous. Even after surgery and chemo treatments, four years later, on the day Marcus should have been celebrating his ninth birthday, they were in the cemetery putting to rest the one woman who had meant the world to Chance.
He straightened and started up his truck. Although he would never think of marrying Cyndi as a mistake, he couldn’t help but remember her plans of attending college; plans that had gotten thrown by the wayside with her pregnancy. If he had it all to do over, he would have been more responsible that night when they had gotten carried away by the moment.
And then on top of everything else, he couldn’t forget the promise he had made to Cyndi on her deathbed; a promise that he would make sure that their son got to do everything they hadn’t done, and take advantage of every opportunity offered to him, which included one day attending a university that would give him the best education.
That was the reason he was driven to make sure Marcus did well in school. Of course it was Chance’s hope for him to one day join the family business, the Steele Corporation, but if Marcus wanted to do something else after finishing college, then he could do so with Chance’s blessings.
As he began backing out of the parking lot, he contemplated the emergence of Tiffany Hagan in Marcus’s life. He didn’t think his son’s interest in the girl was going to fade away anytime soon, regardless of what kind of talk Kylie Hagan had with her daughter. That meant Chance needed to have a “Plan B” ready. Under no circumstances would he let Marcus succumb to teen lust and ruin the life he and Cyndi always wanted for him.
His thoughts shifted to Tiffany’s mother again, and he felt lust invading his own body. The difference was he was a man and he could handle it.
At least he hoped he could.
After reading the note, Helena Spears glanced up at the woman who’d been her best friend since high school. “Are you sure Tiffy wrote this, Kylie?”
The two of them had met for lunch and were sitting at a table in the back of the restaurant. Kylie shook her head. Leave it to Lena to try to wiggle her
goddaughter out of any kind of trouble. “Of course I’m sure. I can recognize Tiffany’s handwriting when I see it and so can you. Those curls at the end of certain letters give her away and you know it.”
Lena shrugged as she handed the note back to Kylie. “Well, the only thing I have to say in defense of my godchild is that if Marcus looks anything like his daddy, then I can see why Tiffy fell for him.”
Kylie didn’t want to admit that she’d thought the same thing. “You know Chance Steele?”
“Oh, yeah. There are few people living in Charlotte who don’t know the Steele brothers. They own a huge manufacturing company, the Steele Corporation. There are four of them who were born and raised here. They’re not transplants like rest of us, and they are very successful, as well as handsome. Chance is the CEO and his brothers have key positions in the corporation. There are also three female cousins, one of which works in the PR Department. The other two chose careers outside of the company, but all three are members of the board of directors.”
Lena took a sip of her drink before continuing. “Chance is the oldest and the one I see most often with my charity work. He’s a big supporter of the American Cancer Society. His wife died of cancer around seven years ago.”
Kylie, who had been putting the note back in her purse, suddenly lifted her head. “He’s a widower?”
“Yes, and from what I understand, he’s doing a good job raising his son.”
Kylie frowned. “Not if his son is enticing girls to cut school with him.”
Lena laughed. “Oh, come on, Kylie. You were young once.”
“I remember. And that’s what I’m afraid of,” she said, meeting Lena’s gaze with a concerned expression. “You recall how I was all into Sam. I thought I was madly in love. It was like my day wasn’t complete until I saw his face. I was obsessed.”