CHARLOTTE, BOOK 1
Charlotte Bannon has been pursuing her dream of being a caterer since she was a teenager. After 10 years of grit and determination, it’s finally coming together. But woman does not live by bread alone. Whether she wants to admit it or not, she’s missing a man in her life. But like the spaghetti she threw at the ceiling when she was a kid, the ones she met never stuck around long. At 24 she doesn’t regret bedding those men but wonders if there’s ever going to be anything more.
Then she meets Nikos Petrakis. Is he the smoldering Greek god to match her goddess? The attraction grows with every meeting, and every moment they are apart she craves him—almost painfully.
Nikos is the man of her fantasies, and yet something haunts him. Is he part of Raven Harbor’s dark underbelly that she didn’t even know existed until now?
His shadowy side makes her second guess her feelings for him. Will she fight to keep him in her life or will he be just another man to fade to dust?
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STARTER BOX SET
Abbie 1, Charlotte 1, Ariana 1
Charlotte Bannon lay with her head propped on one elbow, gazing adoring eyes at Sean, the drop-dead gorgeous sleeping god she’d met only hours ago. The gleam of his skin, the ripple of his muscles, the luscious, plump lips that had felt so good on her—it was almost too much to bear. The attraction had been instant. The sex had been amazing. Maybe she’d drunk a wee much tequila…
She jumped at the ring of her cell and winced when Sean groaned and rolled over, pulling the sheets over his head. Her hand flew to her phone and picked up the call. “Ana, hold a sec,” she said getting out of bed. With two fingers, she snagged the used condom from the floor and deposited it in the wastebasket. “This isn’t a great time to talk.”
“It has to be because I need to speak to you now, Charlie.” There was urgency in her sister’s tone.
“Ok, hang on and I’ll go to the kitchen.”
Sean whipped the sheet off. “I’m trying to sleep, so would you shut up?” A scowl now marred the face of sleeping beauty.
“Hey!” she yelled back at him.
“Charlie, what’s going on?” Her sister’s concerned voice was loud through the phone.
“Nothing. I’ll talk to you later.” She hung up. “This is my house, Sean. If you don’t like it you can—” She wished the words back into her mouth.
But he’d already jumped to his feet and grabbed his jeans. He yawned. “Too bad, cuz I was looking forward to repeating last night,” he said, smirking in spite of his irritation.
Her nostrils flared. There was no denying how hot he was. She wanted to cry watching his sculpted physique disappear button by button when her phone rang again. “Not yet, Ana,” she grunted and hung up once more. She looked back with regret at the nearly clothed Sean, knowing how the next part went. The story always ended here. And as pissed as she was at him for his rudeness, what did she expect? This had been a one-night-stand. She silently watched him go, crying tears of frustration when her front door closed behind him.
“Grrrrrr!” The phone rang again. Putting it to her ear she answered with a gruff, “Yes.”
“What the heck’s going on, Charlotte?”
“Nothing. It’s nothing. Just some guy.” Just some blazing hot sex god.
Her sister tutted. “When are you going to settle down?”
“I’ve got too much on my hands for that.”
“If you’d spend a little more time sleeping alone you might find you have time for other things.”
Charlotte gasped. “You calling me a slut?”
“No. I wouldn’t presume to judge you, Charlie. What I am saying is that you are just filling an empty hole—pardon the pun.” She couldn’t believe her sister had just snorted. “I hope one day you’ll see what it’s like to have someone to give your heart to, someone who sees you for you and not just your booty.” Her sister cleared her throat. “Maybe you want to join a support group.”
“I’m serious. I think you need to figure out what’s holding you back. For sure Mom was no great role model.”
“Just because I happen to like sex and find no guilt in needing a lot of it in no way gives you the right to compare me to that woman!”
“That’s not what I’m saying, and you know it.”
“You know me better than that.”
“Then you need to choose your words more carefully, Anastasia, because that’s what it sounded like to me.”
Charlotte sniffed. “Accepted.”
“But I didn’t call to discuss your love life, Charlie.” Her sister paused. “Mom came by the house.”
“In Vermont? What the –? I hope you told her to go to hell.”
“I did not.”
“Why the goddamned hell not? She’s still after Gran’s money, isn’t she?”
“Yeah, right. You’re obviously not seeing this clearly. She’s lying like Pinocchio. Why the hell else would she come?”
“Because she wants to make amends.”
“Haaaa!” Her laughter rumbled from her belly.
“And she said she wants to be part of her grandchildren’s lives.”“Don’t you DARE let her near them!”
“Charlie, maybe we should just give her the opportunity to say what’s on her mind. She is our mother.”
“What? Is that your inner Buddha talking? For chrissake, Ana.”
“Everyone deserves a second chance. I’ve been thinking about this for some time now and I think we owe it to her….”
“We owe her jack shit.”
“…and to ourselves to hear what she has to say. People change.”
“Once a barracuda always a barracuda. No way. No fucking way. And don’t ever ask me about this again.”
Her sister went silent on the line. Charlotte heard her breathing. Ana was counting to ten.
She should have been a social worker—or a nun. Sister Mary Anastasia.
“Just think about it, Charlie. I think you’ll see I’m right.”
Charlotte bit her tongue, but damn her sister’s patience. They would never see eye-to-eye on this issue. She would NEVER let her mother back into her life. She was done. If that woman even came near her she was going to call the cops.
“Look, Ana. I’m hung-over, I’ve hardly slept and I have a gig tonight. I’ll call ya on the weekend.”
“OK. But I want you to give some serious thought to what I’m saying and keep an open mind about it. Please?”
“I’m not promising anything.”
“Just stay open, Charlie. And if you don’t call me back by Sunday I’m calling you.”
“I’ll call!” God! She again hung up on her sister and flopped back onto the bed. “Damn you, Rita.”
When she’d finally gotten to the point where she was at the acceptance stage in her grief over her mother’s desertion of them, Charlotte had avowed to herself to never refer to that woman as her mother ever again. In the last 15 years she’d only seen her once—when Gran died. That was 5 years ago. Charlotte gave a contemptuous sniff. The woman had shown up the day of the funeral with her French-manicured hand out, looking for an inheritance to collect.
There’d been no ‘estate’ to speak of. Gran had long since sold off anything valuable she owned and squirreled away the money. Then a week later, after her mother had gone back under her rock somewhere, a letter arrived. A lawyer in Florida had been charged with delivering it to Charlotte upon her death. Ana got one, too. Gran had known she was dying but didn’t speak a word of it to anyone. And in the letter? The result of a well-made investment. It was her bequeathment to her granddaughters: a fat stack of cash in a safety deposit box. For Charlotte it was enough to pay for school. It was heaven sent. Without that gift she’d still be waiting tables.
She heard the echo of her sister’s voice, the annoyingly ever-present sound of reason in her head.
She had nothing but respect for Anastasia—older by seven years and wiser by a million. She’d done everything right. She’d married a sensible man. Jed was a saint. It mystified Charlotte how her sister managed to always keep her shit together. They came from the same mother, for chrissakes.
After Ana went off to college, they only saw each other when she came home for a few weeks each summer and sometimes at Christmas. Then Ana got married right after graduation—a shotgun wedding. And soon one baby turned into three. Jed was a wonderful father. They were made for each other.
Charlotte had always struggled with her life compass; wrestled with it constantly. Maybe it was broken? Ana never failed to let her know when she thought she’d gone too far. But Charlotte followed her passions. They ruled her, often led her astray, although she didn’t mind. She didn’t think she’d like her life any other way. She was lucky to have her sister. But it pissed her off that she was nearly always right when it came to relationships.
But Ana’s new delusional take on the reappearance of ‘Mommy dearest’ had convinced Charlotte that this time her sister had lost it. The whole thing made her uneasy. She’d worked so hard, finally getting somewhere with her business. And now her mother was going to figure out a way to throw things into chaos. She had absolutely no doubt about it.