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Extras Category: Bonus Scenes

Bonus Scene: Attached and Adoring, an Untouchable Bonus Scene for Trials and Tiaras

It feels a little strange to come back to Frankie and the guys all the way back in high school. While we spent almost three-quarters of the series here, the last five books (I count Graduation and Gifts in this number) were very much them moving beyond high school. So when it came to writing this bonus scene for Trials and Tiaras, I admit to being a little stumped.

Trials and Tiaras is actually one of my favorites in the series. Truthfully, I love all of them. But there are some of my favorite moments in Trials and Tiaras. From the dressing room, to Ian and Coop’s first time “sharing” to the determination of the guys folding around Frankie and Archie to protect them.

That, of course, then begs the question… What do I write for this bonus scene? It took me a minute. But I came up with something. Clearly, if you haven’t read Trials and Tiaras, this would include some spoilers so… go read it and come back. *winks* Everyone else? Buckle up.


Fucking Frankie gave me life. From the first kiss she let me give her to just now, sucking my tongue and every ounce of breath from me as I fucked her against the wall. I lived to be right here. The feeling of that sweet pussy pulsing around my cock and all of my bones turning to liquid as I filled her up.

Yeah, this was life.

I traced my tongue over her pulse point, lapping at the salty sweetness of her skin. The smell of sex wreathed her. Wreathed us. Cum smeared my thighs, but she was full of it. Full of me.

Need flared to life all over again, even as my dick began to soften, I kept myself firm against her. I wasn’t leaving her body until the very last second. In fact, I wanted to move in. This pussy was my pussy.

A laugh escaped her, the convulsing of her inner muscles flexing around me made me groan. Goddamn, it was heaven and hell, but I was slipping free. Fine. Just needed to get a little harder and we’d fuck right back in there.

Frankie needed to come a few more times today. It was my personal mission in life. Right now, my only mission in life, to put a smile on her face and keep it there. No more tears for our girl.


Then her laughter turned into the giggles and I dragged my head up to see what had her attention. Coop sat there staring at us with a boner and a grin.

“Hey,” Coop said. “Good day?”

I glanced back at Frankie then up at the ceiling. Sharing meant sometimes the other guys were around, and while I could share her…didn’t always mean I liked it. But there was no denying the gleam in Frankie’s eyes and the pleasure in her flushed face.

I searched for resentment, irritation, or even just—impatience. None of it existed. It was Coop. He made Frankie happy. He was a damn good friend.

“You know, I don’t even fucking care.” She needed to hear that from me. It was the truth. I really didn’t fucking care. Let Coop watch. I kissed her again and then added, “It’s a damn good day.”

Behind me, Coop let out a chortle of glee. “Good to know.”

“Hey,” Frankie said as I set her down slowly. I swore there was an imprint on my body as much as my soul from how tightly pressed together we had been. Would be again.

Oh, definitely again.

“Hey, beautiful,” Coop answered.“Feeling good?”

“I feel amazing…and a little sweaty. I also need to go suck Archie off if he’ll let me.”

My cock gave a hard pulse and twitch at that declaration. She still had my cum in her and running down my legs and she wanted me to come down her throat?

Sign. Me. The. Fuck. Up.

“And if you want to wait with that,” she continued in a voice drenched in sex. “I’ll totally take care of you too.”

Okay. That was fucking hot. She wanted me first, then him.

“I can wait,” Coop offered. Magnanimous of him. I just grinned. Her kiss swollen lips were going to look so fucking good wrapped around my dick.

“Where do you want me, babe?”

“Right here is good,” she said as she pushed me against the wall next to the kitchen. We’d barely even made it out of there. When she went to her knees, I swore mine wanted to give out but my cock was already straining. Her eyes held a thousand questions and all the love in the world.

All the love I would never need.

Was this okay with me? Her sucking me off while she let Coop get an eyeful of her bare ass and dripping…

Fuck, yes this was okay with me.

It was heaven and hell. Every touch had me jerking, from the smooth strokes of her tongue to the warm softness of her hands. But I just let go and rode the ecstasy as she took me deeper and deeper.

You’d think I’d last longer, but fuck this was Frankie.

My babe.

My heart.

She wanted me and when she stroked my thighs to let me thrust, I fucked into her mouth and kept my gaze on her the whole time.




Especially when her lips spread into a dazzling grin and a drop of cum clung to the corner of her mouth.

I needed a picture of that. And her pussy.


Coop cleared his throat and I glanced at him. Really?

“So…is it too soon to ask about how you did that thing with your hips?”

That thing with my…

Laughter swelled up inside of me. “Trade secret,” I told him as I dragged Frankie up and then kissed her. I liked that she tasted of me. I like that she was going to go over there and suck him off, soaked in me. “But I could be convinced to tell you…”

The last I directed at Frankie and her eyes lit up.

“Let him convince you to convince me, Babe,” I whispered. “Make him work hard at it.”

Then I pressed a kiss behind her ear before I added, “I want to hear you scream until your eyes roll back in your head and your pussy spasms in a cascade of orgasms. If he gets you there, I want to slide inside you and feel you as I fuck you.”

“That will convince you?” she asked, pure and delicious devilment in her eyes.

“It’s a start.”

She licked her lips, then trailed her fingers down my chest. “I like this plan.”

Me too, Babe. Fuck, me too.

I liked it enough that I let myself enjoy the sway of those hips as she sauntered over to the sofa and the way her swollen pussy lips pushed out when she bent over just before going to her knees.


I was really invested in this plan.

Bonus Scene: Suspicion, a bonus Lainey scene for Savage Vandal

Congratulations on 1000 reviews for Savage Vandal. You guys are amazing! It seems kind of surreal that this is actually my fifth bonus scene for Savage Vandal, however, back when I did them for every hundred reviews, you guys were on fire! So we had to alter the trajectory to 200, 500, 1000—etc.

With that in mind, this is a very special bonus scene. It absolutely contains spoilers for later in the series, so I would suggest you don’t read it unless you’ve finished at least Ruthless Traitor.

But, you’re here and you love Vandals, so you’re all caught up, right? *winks*


Grandfather was late, but his secretary called thirty minutes earlier to let me know a meeting had run long. She offered to reschedule our lunch or I could wait for him. Honestly, I didn’t have anywhere else to be and I was very fond of the seared scallops and creamy spinach stuffed salmon in the perfect garlic butter that Jacques served.

I didn’t eat at the club that often, but it was my favorite when Grandfather and I were able to steal away. Without hesitation, I’d ordered them along with the honey roasted duck that my grandfather preferred. They wouldn’t bring the meal out until he arrived, in the meanwhile, I enjoyed the sparkling water and nibbled on the charcuterie they’d brought me out to tide me over.

The combination of cheeses, smoked meat, and nuts with different jellies and compotes definitely teased my palate. So much better than school food. With a sigh, I checked my watch. In all likelihood, Grandfather would be another—

The chair across from me moved abruptly and I glanced up to find Adam sliding into the seat.


“I’m sorry,” I said, keeping my voice even. “I’m saving that seat for a man I actually like.”

“Well, when your grandfather gets here, I’ll excuse myself.”

I did not roll my eyes. “You can do it now. I’m perfectly fine sitting here in this lovely establishment, drinking water and eating cheese.” Not to mention I hadn’t invited him nor was I interested in having this little tēte-á-tēte. “Thank you for your concern.”

“I’m not concerned,” he replied in a droll tone, but his attention wasn’t on me. The waiter approached but he didn’t give the man time to speak. “Schloss Reinhartshausen Erbacher Markobrunn Riesling Trockenbeerenauslese, Rheingau, 1959. Two glasses.”

“Right away, sir.” The waiter obeyed the crisp instruction just like most people in our lives obeyed Adam or his father. They spoke with a careless kind of ease. They expected to be obeyed. They didn’t throw their weight around or yell. Most of the time, they didn’t even have to raise their voices.

“What?” he asked as I continued to stare at him. The problem with Adam was he knew he was in control, he thrived on it, and everyone around us always rushed to obey him.

Everyone except me and maybe Ezra.

“Nothing,” I said, demurring from the fight. This was a chance to eat at my favorite spot with one of my favorite people. I would not let Adam spoil it for me. So, I opened my purse and pulled out my phone.

As social faux pas went, this was quite rude. However, he started it when he invited himself. His soft chuckle rankled but I refused to let that show. Instead, I checked my messages, then my email. Tally was on holiday with her latest conquest and she’d sent me photos from the slopes in St. Moritz.

There was only one photo of her with—oh, what was his name? He was just the latest in a string she’d collected since the beginning of the fall term. Since I somehow doubted he would make it much past the winter break, I didn’t worry about it.

Emersyn’s messages were quiet still. Nothing from her since she’d gotten to Braxton Harbor. There were only a few stops left on the tour, she couldn’t wait to be free. But she was going to take advantage of the break to rest and work on her routines.

Going quiet while she had performances wasn’t unusual, but I missed her. The waiter returned with the wine, he took the time to open the bottle and presented a taste to Adam before he filled the two glasses and set the bottle into the ice he’d brought for it.

As soon as he was gone, Adam moved the second wine glass to me.

“You know I’m not old enough,” I reminded him.

“No one is going to say a word to you, enjoy the wine. Your grandfather will probably not make lunch at all.”

I frowned. “Why would you say that?”

“Just drink the wine, Lainey. We’ll order your favorites. Then when we’re done, I’ll take you home.” The patience in his voice just roughed over me like sandpaper.

“Why do you think my grandfather isn’t going to make it?” I studied him. Adam’s attention still didn’t seem to be focused on me. It would be a mistake to think he missed anything. Still, I picked up the wine glass and shifted so I could follow his line of sight.


I almost wished I hadn’t. Turning, I found Adam’s cool, assessing eyes locked on me and seeing almost too much. Too bad I’d noticed Bradley Sharpe. The man made my skin crawl and Adam loathed him.

“I had no idea he would be here,” I said rather than ask why his presence irritated Adam.

“Of course not,” he said almost dismissively. “Drink your wine, Lainey. Have you ordered your salmon and scallops?”

“Have I mentioned how much I hate you?” Damn him, the wine was good. The first sip was crisp and swirled over my tongue like a good mystery on a cold night.

“Not recently,” he said, his tone damn near indulgent. “I’ve almost missed your acerbic wit. You keep hiding at school. Would it help your appetite to say something now?”

I snorted. I hadn’t been hiding at school, I’d simply elected to forgo coming back for the holidays. The last time Adam and I had any kind of a conversation—it had been not long after his mother’s funeral.

That sobered my reaction.

“No,” I answered before my phone began to vibrate with a mad number of messages. I wasn’t alone. Several patrons seated throughout the dining room were reaching for their phones. I’d barely silenced the buzzing when I spotted the first headline.

Missing Heiress Sought in Disappearance of Dance Partner

Missing heiress?

My stomach sank even as I clicked on the message to open the article. A glass smashed across the room and I shifted in my seat. Adam was already rising and he moved around to block me and my view.

“Where the hell is she?” Bradley Sharpe’s harsh, cold words were like little stabbing bits of ice burrowing into my flesh. A hail storm raining down too fast to escape the stings.

I rose, but kept my distance. Not that I needed to worry.

“Elaine has no idea, Mr. Sharpe,” Adam said in a tone that bordered on threatening. “I suggest you withdraw and mind your tone and manner when speaking to her.”

“I wasn’t speaking to you.” Flecks of spittle left his lips as he went to sidestep Adam, but Adam was having none of it and this whole scene had the riveted attention of the restaurant guests.

“You’re not speaking to her, either,” Adam cut him off and I took a step back to give Adam the room to stay between us. I wasn’t afraid of Bradley Sharpe. But I didn’t like him.

And I definitely didn’t trust him.

He pinned those pitiless, dark eyes on me. “Where is Emersyn? I know you won’t leave her alone. Where is she? What did you do?”

Honestly, I was at a loss.

“I told you,” Adam said, this time he gave Sharpe a hard shove back. “She doesn’t know. Come at her again or try to speak to her again—”

Bradley threw a fist. Adam let him.

He. Let. Him.

Adam’s head rocked to the side. It was more of a slap than a punch, but the fist he returned knocked Bradley Sharpe down on his ass and I caught his arm before he could continue the assault.

The manager, the waiters, and even security were converging on us.

“Mr. Sharpe is clearly disturbed,” Adam said in that same superior tone. The muscles of his arm flexed under my grip, but he didn’t pull away. “Please escort him to his vehicle and away from here.”

“Of course, Mr. Reed.”

“Right away, Mr. Reed.”

Then in a matter of moments, the scene was over—Sharpe was gone, the other guests returned to their conversation and Adam turned his hand over under mine.

“Now,” he said, the calm so depthless it was eerie. “Let’s have our wine and order your food. Then if you want to tell me anything about Emersyn, we’ll take care of her.”

Tell him anything?

I swore my heart crumbled as I shook my head. “I really don’t know.”

It wasn’t until he helped me back into my seat and took his own that I saw something in his eyes that disturbed me to my soul.

It was pity, not suspicion. 

That made me reopen the article.

Emersyn Sharpe was missing and my heart sank all over again.


Bonus Scene: Untouchable Math and Meetings for Rules and Roses


9th grade prior to Rules and Roses

9th Grade


The car rolled up to the high school, and I leaned back in the passenger seat. Jeremy cast a sideways look at me. “There’s still time to change your mind, Mr. Archie.” It was the first day of ninth grade, and not only had we moved over the summer to a new house in Texas of all places, but I’d decided to go to school locally rather than remain at boarding school.

“Nope,” I said with a lot more confidence than I possessed. The last couple of years at Andover had been less than stellar. With Nana gone now, there was no reason to stay. She’d been the driving force behind my attendance. Particularly since she and Grandpa lived a few miles away. I could spend weekends with them. Grandpa didn’t want the house anymore, and I couldn’t blame him.

The last weekend I spent there, it had just been the two of us rattling around in that big empty place. Now that Grandpa and Edward were no longer on speaking terms, I didn’t even have that escape available. Grandpa’s last missive—passed through Jeremy since Edward, the asshole, had forbidden me direct contact with him—included the fact that he was selling the house, but would put the money into my trust for me.

I didn’t give a damn about the money. Honestly, I didn’t even care about the house. It was just a building without Nana.

This school though was a far cry from the boarding schools and preparatory academies I’d spent the last few years at. No uniforms in sight. The temperatures outside were sizzling. A hell of a lot more kids trailed up the walkways, got off of buses, and made their way in from the parking lot than had been at my boarding school.

A lot more.

Public school. Time to make my own way.

“I’m good,” I continued, glancing at Jeremy. The guy who was pretty much the family manager—from butler to chauffer to cook to confidant—regarded me steadily. “Seriously, I’m good. I want to do this. I need air to breathe that isn’t loaded down with expectations and plans made three generations ago.”

Also, I didn’t want anymore damn arguments about what my next steps would be. Edward and Muriel both wanted different things for me. From prep school to Ivy League to diving into the family business.

Yeah, none of those were on my list.

There had to be a life outside of the moneyed halls with their polite stabs in the back and poisonous arguments.

“You have your phone, I’ll be along directly at four to retrieve you. If that changes for any reason, just let me know.”

“Thanks, Jeremy.”

“Of course, Mr. Archie.”

At least riding up front meant it wasn’t as conspicuous that I had a driver for school. We’d finished all my enrollment the week before. Jeremy had come with me to do the paperwork and signed everything. He’d pretty much done that since I was five. I doubt Edward or Muriel had ever set foot inside one of my schools.


Somehow, I didn’t think it would change here

“See you later,” I told Jeremy as I stepped out into the muggy heat and slung my backpack over my shoulder. One look at what the other kids were wearing, and I was glad I had swapped out the polo shirt Jeremy put out for a band t-shirt I’d picked up at a concert over the summer.

As it was, the khaki shorts were gonna stand out, but fuck it. I tapped the top of the Lexus before walking away. I had my schedule in my back pocket, and I may or may not have memorized the layout of the school because it was three times the size of the academy. They like everything bigger in Texas apparently.

The first three classes of the day were boring as fuck. I might need to revisit my academic schedule. I was ahead of a lot of these classes, but Jeremy had been right in his advice to test the waters first. Fourth period had potential. I liked math. My engineering classes were in the afternoon, so those were something to look forward to, as well as foreign language. Two years of French to meet the requirements.

Another perk for public schools—so far, there was no assigned seating. I could skate in and grab a desk in the back row. It put me in the perfect position to watch kids as they hustled in. The other freshmen seemed to be a mixed bag of totally not giving a damn and seriously anxious. The anxious ones earned my sympathy, ’cause if I hadn’t practiced hiding my feelings for years, I’d probably look just like them.

The last four to skate in the door laughed their way into the classroom. Two jocks, though the third guy could be one, too, I supposed, but they weren’t what snagged my interest. No, the blonde in their midst with a faint smirk on her lips as she punched one of the jocks in the arm captured all of my attention.

“Shut up,” she muttered, then hip-checked the second jock. “Asses.”

“Awww,” the third guy complained. “It was my idea.”

She flipped him off so fast, I had to snort a laugh, then she slid into the chair in front of me, which worked for me. I didn’t mind the view at all.

Her friends, however, scowled, and the dark-haired guy gave me such a narrow-eyed look, I planted my gaze anywhere but her.

For. The. Moment.

As soon as the teacher walked in though, I kept studying her. She barely looked up from her books, except to answer questions. That kind of laser focus was scary. Still, math just got a hell of a lot more interesting, even if the subject material was easy

“Psst,” the blond jock leaned over and tapped her arm. I’d ended up sitting right in the middle of all of them, but I didn’t mind.

“Yes, Bubba,” she said over her shoulder with a grin. “I’ll help with homework after school.”

“Awesome,” he said, grinning.

With him distracted, I could see his answer sheet. Why did he need help? He had all the problems answered already, but he tucked the page into the back of his book and then put a blank sheet on the problem set.


Still, the glimpse of her profile had been like a donkey kick. She really was gorgeous. All too soon, the bell rang, and she and her escorts were gone before I could introduce myself.

That had to change the next day. Hell, I hadn’t even caught her name. I’d do better. I had first lunch, so I headed for the cafeteria along with the rest of the herd. A couple of girls smiled at me, and a guy from my first period class lifted his chin. I nodded back, but I couldn’t remember their names, if they’d been said at all. Probably better to just play it cool.

I stood in line with everyone else and grabbed a tray of the most frighteningly greasy pizza I’d ever seen, some French fries—who served fries with pizza?—and grabbed bottled water. I’d kill for a soda, but apparently, they didn’t sell those in the lunchrooms here.

Healthier options, or so it had said in the orientation packet. Looking at the greasy pizza, I had to seriously question that particular description. Whatever. Food paid for, I scanned the cafeteria seating. The tables were packed. I didn’t know enough of these people to just swing over and ask for a spot, so I navigated the room looking for an open table, when the blonde from math intercepted me.

Damn if I didn’t nearly swallow my tongue.

“Hey,” she said, and my brain went on hiatus for a solid five seconds. “I’m Frankie. You can sit with me if you want.” She indicated the nearly empty table behind her. Well, nearly empty except for her tray and backpack. “My friends will be here in a minute.”

The communication lines between my brain cells zapped to life, and I grinned. What was I going to say when a beautiful girl—seriously freaking hot—asks me to sit with her? I was not stupid.

“That’d be great, Frankie. I’m Archie.”

“Awesome! Those of us with ‘e’ at the end of our name need to stick together.”

I snorted a laugh as I slid my tray onto the spot next to hers and pulled out the chair. She said her friends were coming. I assumed that meant the guys from math, but maybe she meant girlfriends.

“You’re in my math class,” I managed as I unscrewed the top from my water bottle. Pithy one there, Arch. Really pithy.

“I know,” she said with a grin. Unlike me, she was in jeans, but they were ripped around the knees, and her t-shirt was tie-dyed. She kind of reminded me of a cool hippie. The green of her eyes held all of my attention. “Saw you when we came in. Did you go to Freeman?”

I had no idea what that was. “No, just moved here this summer.”

“Oh, cool…”

“We can’t leave you alone for five minutes,” said the guy she’d flipped off during class. “Don’t you remember you’re not supposed to talk to strangers?”

“Bite me,” she said, pointing a plastic spoon at him. Like me, she had a slice of pizza and some fries, but she also had a chocolate pudding cup and was eating it first. “Coop. Archie. Archie, Coop.”

“Hey, man,” Coop said with a grin as he set his stuff down on the other side of Frankie.


“Why are you all the way over here?” Ah, here came the other two guys. The darkhaired one pinned me with a look that was far from friendly. “Who are you?”

“Jake, don’t be an ass.”

“Hard for him to do that when it’s his default mode,” Coop said with a laugh. The other blond with Jake snorted.

“He’s sitting in Jake’s spot, and Jake never takes that well.”

Shit, she was already taken. That figured.

“Jake can sit there,” Frankie said, pointing opposite her. “It won’t kill him. Also, Archie, that’s Jake. He growls a lot, but he’s much nicer than he sounds, and that’s Bubba.”

“Hey,” Bubba said, sliding his tray onto the table. “I don’t growl, and I’m apparently not very nice.” But his laughter decried that as Frankie rolled her eyes.

I found myself grinning as Jake scowled but took the chair she pointed out. I could have offered to move, but I didn’t want to. Besides being pretty, she was adorable.

“Guys, this is Archie. He’s new, just moved in this summer, and he’s gonna hang out with us for lunch, so don’t be dicks.”

“When was the last time we were dicks?” Coop asked with a laugh, then bumped his shoulder to hers.

“This morning,” Frankie and Bubba said almost in concert, but Jake just snorted. He didn’t say much while we ate, but he did slide his pudding cup over to Frankie when she finished hers. The weight of his glare wasn’t lost on me, but I played it cool. Frankie chatted with all of us, and her enthusiasm for school just seemed to bubble over.

“Wait,” I said when something she just mentioned penetrated past my just soaking in her voice. “You have French this afternoon?”

“Yep,” Coop said, popping the p. “Both of us do. Sixth period.”

Excellent. “Me too.”

“Hey, that’s two classes together. What else do you have?”

“Engineering next, then history for seventh.”

“You’re with Jake next period then,” Frankie said, grinning. “Who do you have for history?”

I had another class with Jake. He met my gaze with the same amount of enthusiasm I experienced. That was going to be fun.

“Um…Rogers, I think.” I had to pull out my phone and look at the schedule

“Sweet, you’re with me and Bubba.”

Three classes with Frankie, but one of the other guys was in it? I could live.

“Well, at least now I have a reason to survive my first three classes of the day.”

She laughed, and Bubba snorted. He and Coop shared a look. Yeah, I was definitely treading on unwelcome territory, but she invited me so I wasn’t going anywhere. The next couple of minutes, she quizzed me about my last school, and I didn’t mind answering the questions, but I kept it vague.

She’d finished her pizza and was down to half her fries when she said, “I see Tiff and Sharon. I gotta go talk to them about spirit squad.” As she wiggled out of the chair, her hip bumped my arm before I could move out of her way. “Sorry.” Then she pointed a fry at Jake and Bubba. “You two owe me for this.”

Jake grinned at her, and it was his first real smile since sitting down. “You’re the best.”

“You really are,” Bubba told her. “Also, if I could put in a cookie order for my spirit box…”

“Yeah yeah,” she said with a flick of her fingers before walking away. “Don’t touch my fries, Coop,” she called back without looking behind her as she hustled across the cafeteria. Coop yanked his hand back with a laugh, but I tracked her progress until Jake leaned into my line of sight.

Snapping my gaze to him, I raised my eyebrows. “Problem?”

“Keep looking at her that way, and there might be.”

“Dating?” I asked because sure, if she was taken taken, I could bide my time.

“Nope,” Coop answered before Jake could say anything. “Frankie isn’t dating anyone.”

The other guy glared daggers at him, but I grinned. “No one, huh?”

Jake scowled, then drained his water bottle. Bubba shrugged. “Frankie doesn’t date.”

Maybe she just hadn’t met the right guy. “So, I’m not stepping on anyone’s toes if I ask her out?”

Across the room, she was talking to a table full of girls. Girls who alternated between chatting with her and glancing over here at us. But I wasn’t interested in them. Frankie’s grin was so damn open.

Finally, Jake sighed as I realized the dead silence meeting my question also involved the three guys exchanging looks. “No,” he said after a beat. “But let’s be clear, if she says no, you take her no, and if you hurt her, I’ll beat your ass.”

“And I’ll help,” Coop said. “You know, like bring the first aid and stuff.”

Bubba just shrugged. “What he said, but Jake usually does the hitting first and warning later. So take the warning for what it is.”

“Duly noted,” I said with a nod. She was on her way back, and when she grinned at me, I didn’t bother to hide my own smile. “Definitely need to do lunch again.”

“We do lunch everyday, genius,” Coop said.

“Great, you’re just going to open the door?” Jake grumbled.

“I didn’t have to,” Coop retorted.

“Y’all behaving?” Frankie asked as she dropped back into the chair, a little flushed and breathless. “Also, apparently, I have to do this spirit thing every day after school for the next couple of weeks. I officially hate you both.”

“Aww,” Bubba said. “We’ll meet you after football practice.”

“Pfft,” she said, but Jake offered her the pudding cup from Coop’s tray, and she laughed.

“Hey,” Coop complained. “I was going to give it to her.”

“You snooze, you lose,” Jake said with a grin, and I shook my head.

They were nuts.

But they were my kind of nuts.

Frankie popped open the pudding cup and looked at me. “We’re probably going to walk down to the diner after practice and spirit meeting stuff. You’re welcome to come with.”

Oh yeah. “Sure, just let me know when. I’ll have to text my ride.”

Yeah. School was definitely looking up. Tomorrow, I was definitely grabbing a pudding cup to give her, too.


Bonus Scene: Bravado and BFFs, a Rachel Bonus Scene for Defiance and Dedication

Congratulations on hitting 500 reviews for Defiance and Dedication. I gotta admit this takes a little mental readjustment to backtrack both in story and time now that I’ve finished Farewells and Forever. So while I am absolutely still going to do these bonus scenes, they might take on a bit of a twist. I think you’ll enjoy it (I hope).

For context, if you haven’t read D&D, this will contain some spoilers for events within that book. You have been warned.


I was already on the way down the stairs when the doorbell rang. I’d kind of hoped I’d get there before he rang the bell, but Dominic Walsh was both swift and efficient.

“I got it,” I called out for the guys who were upstairs playing a new game Jake had gotten for his birthday and for Jeremy who was down here somewhere. Sliding my phone into my back pocket, I opened the door to Dominic.

He looked every inch the lawyer in his dark suit, with a long, what looked like wool, overcoat and nice dress shoes. Sharp, professional, and not bad looking I supposed. It was hard to tell, though I did like his smile because it actually reached his eyes.

“Good morning,” he said, his breath fogging in the cold air. I stepped aside and pulled the door wider to let him in “Merry Christmas,” he continued as he undid the top buttons of his coat while I closed the door behind him.

“Merry Christmas,” I greeted him with a laugh. “This could have waited until after the New Year. I hate to think I’ve dragged you out during the holiday.”

“Yes and no,” he said, his eyes twinkling as he played along. “Also, nothing to worry about. I won’t even take up that much of your time.”

I took his coat. “Well, come on, let’s see if we can bribe Jeremy into coffee while we talk.”

“Why are we bribing Jeremy and who is here, Baby Girl?” Jake made it halfway down the stairs before he paused. “This is…”

“Dominic Walsh, Jake Benton,” I introduced him. They’d met him briefly before but they’d still been more than a little irritated with my choices and I didn’t think they cared for Dominic much.

Jake descended the last few steps and took the hand Dominic extended. “I didn’t realize we were having company?” The question in his pale blue eyes sought reassurance.

“It’s not about Maddy,” I promised him. I could do that. I’d asked Dominic to come, but I couldn’t tell them yet. I would, surprise be damned, if they needed it. But Jake nodded, the relief palpable.

“Good. What are we doing then?”

“Just have some papers for Frankie to sign,” Dominic said. “Won’t take long at all and then I’ll leave you to your holiday.”

Curiosity flared in his eyes and I could have predicted it, Archie wandered down because Jake hadn’t come back up.

“Right, let’s go on through,” I said, still holding Dominic’s coat. “The boys can go back to their game and I’ll be back up to root for you in a little bit.”

“Who’s here?” Coop called down and I didn’t roll my eyes but this was a little comedic.

“Walsh,” Archie answered, but unlike Jake, he didn’t shake Dominic’s hand.

Yep, time to move. I headed for the dining room and kitchen. It was a fairly public area of the house, but it would also work so we could sit at the table and I could sign the paperwork.

This was a huge transaction and I’d never spent this kind of money before. It had required moving into a trust account, then authorizing an agent, filing the tax paperwork, then transferring it. While that could all be handled electronically, this part still required my signature.

Jeremy was just putting out a pot of coffee and a pair of mugs on the table. I shot him a grateful look. He was in on my plans because he’d helped me track down the right car. We’d poured over the different models for two weeks to get the one I wanted for Archie.

“Mr. Walsh,” Jeremy said as he took the coat from me. “Can I get you and Miss Frankie anything else?” The distinct emphasis on our names wasn’t lost on the guys.

Archie’s eyes narrowed and Jake frowned, but Coop slid over and pulled out the chair I had my hand on the back of. “Need us, Beautiful?”

I could have kissed him, and since I could, I did. He dipped his head with a grin as his lips brushed mine once. A promise for later.

“I’m good. Really, this won’t take long.”

“Then we can wait,” Archie volunteered. Sometimes, they made surprises hard.

“I’m going for pizza,” Ian called. “Anyone coming with?”

Coop chuckled. “Probably not Bubba.”

While they didn’t sit at the table with us, they moved out into the sitting room—where they could see us and most likely listen, but not be in the middle.

Okay. We could work with that.

“Pineapple on mine please,” I called.

“I wouldn’t forget, Angel. Is your guest staying for food?”


Dominic’s lips twitched as he took opened his bag and pulled out three file folders. They were a lot thicker than I was thinking. Rather than waste time, I got coffee poured for us. Jeremy gave the boys look, then glanced at me.

I lifted my shoulders. Not much we could do with this. It would be fine. We’d made it this far.

He nodded.

“Right,” I repeated from earlier as I leaned forward. “What do we have?”

I’d just pretend it was fine for the guys to listen. Dominic understood what was at stake. He also made a good confidant for top secret surprises.

“We’ll start with the trust paperwork,” he told me. “Thank you,” he added as he picked up his coffee and took a sip. “We went over all the changes last month, but I just finished having it drafted. I read through it—” He slid the first folder over to me. “I’ve marked where you need to sign, but as always, read through the areas we changed and make sure the language works for you.”

“Right…” I flipped it open and sure enough it was the trust paperwork. Bless him, he’d not only marked the pages for me to sign, he’d included sticky notes with the details that we’d changed.

“I made sure to include the provisions you asked for,” he continued, then paused when I turned the page. “We split it across three of the accounts, while the trust as a whole is one fund, we’re not investing it all in the same manner. Spreading it out may slow the income, but…”

“…it’s better for the overall risk,” Archie supplied and Dominic glanced at him.


I bit my lip as I scanned the words, before I added my signature. “You were able to add the fund at the school for the LBGTQ+ resources…”

“I was,” Dominic said. “But, I made sure to include it as partial tax shelter for your income. The donations will always mark a ten percent slice off the overall income per quarter, with the first donation being a flat fee.”

That would work. Rachel had been talking about the center and the resources it offered for college kids who were just figuring out their sexual identity or needed more support. She volunteered there when she could, but they needed a bigger space and more counselors.

“This is excellent,” I said as I followed the notations down. Dominic had detailed bulleted requests for where we’d like the money to be used. “Can we do this?”

“We can. It doesn’t mean they’ll follow it. The donation, and the subsequent pledge gives them the money to use at their discretion. But, it doesn’t hurt to make the request. As they say, money talks.”

“Bullshit walks,” Jake volunteered and I didn’t laugh. Coop did, but I didn’t.

“Thank you.” Those signed, he handed me the next folder.

“These are the investments that you’ve already made, most of them are just for your review and to sign that you did authorize it. They’ll go over to the accountants and tax attorneys for later filings.”

I made a face, but the second page was where the sale paperwork for the car began. It would be in Archie’s name, but I would be the signatory to the full purchase. It had been paid, along with the tax, title, and license. There were provisions for the alterations made to assure it was street legal.

“I was thinking of dropping something off for Rachel after the holidays.”

“She’s not a huge fan of flowers,” I told him, frowning at the language on the engine changes. It had been certified by the mechanics and the experts, but maybe I should ask Jake—then again that would mean sliding this to him and trying to sneak it past Archie right in front of him.

I was good, but not that good.


“Well,” I said with a blink. “She likes flowers, but she used to work at a florist when we were in high school, so she’s kind of picky.”

“I like a woman who knows what she wants and isn’t afraid to ask for it.”

A laugh escaped me. “Then Rachel is perfect.”

“Yes,” he said. “She is. But I would like to do something. I didn’t get to see her before the holiday. Thoughts on what she’d like? Jewelry? Chocolates? A teddy bear?”

I frowned. “Teddy bear?”

“She has one, in her room,” he murmured. “Thought it might be something she collects. Or likes to do. The woman is somewhat hard to pin down.”

I finished signing the last few pages and then moved to the final folder that had a Christmas card in it along with a set of keys. I made sure everything stayed in the manilla envelope and then glanced over at Dominic.

“Well, she likes photography,” I offered. “But gifts are personal.”

“Yes, they are,” he agreed with me and took the file folders back sans the manilla envelope. “Those are your copies. Everything else will be certified, filed, and then I’ll send over the duplicates after.”

“Thank you.”

“You’re welcome,” Dominic said as he tucked the folders away, then pulled out another one. “As for presents. I hope you’ll enjoy this. Maybe just don’t open it until Christmas.”

Surprise flickered through me at the cheerful red envelope, but he was already rising and finishing his coffee, then the guys practically swarmed us to escort him out. Coop looked so damn amused it was funny. Thankfully, during the distraction, I passed the manilla envelope with the title and the keys to Jeremy and he secreted them away.

It wasn’t until we were back upstairs and Ian had returned with the pizza that Archie asked about the red envelope. I’d just set it on the coffee table.

“He said not to open it until Christmas,” I reminded him.

“Yeah, but we’re rebels and I say we can open it early,” Archie declared. “Who’s with me?”

Ian and Jake voted yes, but Coop shook his head. “I abstain, it’s Frankie’s gift.”

That earned a few crestfallen faces and I couldn’t resist them so I opened the envelope and pulled out the card. It was a pair of huge googly eyes with a Santa hat on.

Inside, Dominic had written naughty girl, you weren’t supposed to look until Christmas. Enjoy the tickets.

The tickets were for Hamilton and I laughed. We’d been wanting to see it and they were almost impossible to get. He’d also gotten us five tickets.

“Eh,” Jake said, his nose wrinkled. “That’s almost too good a present.”

“Then you’re going to have to help me come up with something for him.”

There was more grumbling but when I climbed into Archie’s lap and kissed him, they changed the subject.

Whew. Just two more days and I could spring my surprise.

That was a lot of kissing, but totally worth it.

On all counts.


Bonus Scene: Boys and Books, a bonus PoV for Rules and Roses


2nd Grade

“Let it go,” I ordered Alan Graves. He had his grubby fingers locked around my book and I wasn’t giving it up. I’d worked for two weeks straight to earn enough quarters from Mom to buy this book myself. Alan did not get to take it. We were supposed to be having free time on the playground right now and I’d brought my book out to read.

Alan made a face and yanked the book free. “Mine now. Whatcha gonna do?”

Balled up my fist and punched him in the nose was what I did.

He whacked me right back. Even though I had tears from the smack of my book hitting my face, I didn’t get to retaliate. A blur of dark hair slammed into him and they both went flying. So did my book. I barely scrambled to grab it and turned when I found Alan on the ground while a boy a little bit bigger than him wailed on him.

We were just out of sight of the monitors but one of the other kids yelled “fight!” and I whistled between my teeth. It sounded pathetic since I was actually missing a tooth but it was enough to get the second kid’s attention. Oh, it was the new kid. “C’mon,” I told him and curled my fingers. “You’re gonna get in trouble.”

He scowled. At first I thought he was glaring at me, but he jumped to his feet and then kicked Alan. I winced cause Alan made the mistake of rolling and the new kid got him right in the no-no square. The little squeal Alan made told me, hurt as much as it looked. Then the new kid stomped over to me and looked down at my book.

“You’re bleeding,” he said.

I swiped a hand at my face and winced at my nose. Yep. There was some blood. “He hits like a little girl.”

The new kid snorted.


“You hit him pretty hard,” he said. Alan had dragged himself up and limped away. One of the playground monitors glanced over at us and I grabbed the new kid’s arm and hauled him over behind the jungle gym and the slide. We weren’t totally out of sight, but didn’t want them to see the new kid with the dust all over him.

He looked like he’d been fighting.

“I said little girl,” I told him sternly and dusted him off before I straightened and stuck out my hand to him. “I’m Frankie.”

“Jacob,” he said with a grimace. “I like Jake better.”

“Okay, Jake.” I said as he shook my hand. “Thanks for helping.”

“No problem.” He squinted at me. “You sure you’re a girl?”

I yanked my hand out of his and glared at him. “Why do you think I’m not a girl?”

“Cause you don’t hit like one.”

“You’ve never had me hit you, you don’t know.” Course, I kind of liked the compliment. Just glad I didn’t get caught. I belted Sue Marie last week cause she called Coop stupid. Mrs. Diaz was pretty disappointed in me and Mrs. Hoffman told me I’d lose playground privileges for a week if I got caught fighting again.

Worth it.

“Heh,” Jake said, then scratched his ear. “Well, if you wanna hit me so I can find out for sure, you can. I won’t hit you back or nothing.”

I stared at him. “Why would I hit you?”

“So I can see if you hit like a girl.”

I rolled my eyes. Boys were so dumb.

“What?” Jake said. “I could take it.”

Yeah. Really dumb. “I don’t want to hit you. I wanna read my book.”

He shrugged. “Okay.”

“Anyway…thanks.” I carried my book away from the playground equipment and the other kids and found a place to sit. My nose was tender and there was only a little bit of blood. I rubbed it clean and then wiped my hand on my jeans. So far Alan hadn’t told on us. But he was also sitting at one of the picnic tables near the door crying.

I kind of felt bad until I looked at my book and the part where he ripped the cover and I scowled.

He better be crying.

A shadow fell over me where I sat and I glanced up to find the new kid—Jake—standing there. He dropped to sit next to me and I frowned. “What are you doing?”

“Sitting here,” he told me. “What are you doing?”

“Reading my book.” I mean, obviously, right?

Still, I hated that Alan tore a piece of the cover. I smoothed it down and opened it to the first page.

“What’s it about?”

“It’s about a girl detective.”

“Is it any good?”

I looked at him. “I like all her books. But I haven’t read this one before.”

“But you read the others?”

“I just said I like the other ones.”

“Oh,” he said slowly. “Right.”

Going back to my book, I turned to the first chapter and Jake scooted closer. Glancing up, I stared at him. “What now?”

“Just wanted to see if it’s good or not.” He stared at me for a minute. “Is it okay if I read it too?”

I squinted at him and pushed my tongue at the gap in my teeth. I was losing valuable reading time to this conversation. “I read fast.”

“I can keep up.” He lifted his chin and gave me a grin.

“I won’t slow down.” Fair warning. Cause Coop always complained about how fast I could read.

“Okay.” He nudged my shoulder and nodded to the book.


I leaned a little so he could see and then started reading. Like I promised, I didn’t slow down. We were on chapter three when a shadow blocked out the sunlight and I glared up to find Coop staring at us. Well, staring at Jake. “Hey,” I said with a grin. “I thought you were gonna miss recess.”

“Nah,” he said, flopping down in the dirt on my other side. “Just had to get my teeth cleaned.” Then he looked at Jake. “Who are you?”

“Jake.” He scowled right back at Coop.

See, I told you boys were dumb.

I elbowed Coop then said, “Jake’s the new kid. He beat up Alan for me.”

Coop glanced from me to where Alan was playing now and then back to me and Jake. “Yeah?”


“Cool,” Coop said and stuck his hand out. “I’m Coop.”

“You her boyfriend?” Jake asked and I rolled my eyes.

“No,” I said.

“Yes,” Coop answered.

“I don’t have a boyfriend, Cooper Brennen.” I pinched him.

“Yes you do! I’m a boy and your friend. So you have a boyfriend.”

We glared at each other. “Fine. I’m reading.”

Then I stuck my nose back in my book.

“Can I be your boyfriend too?” Jake asked and I stared at the sky. “I mean I’m a boy…”

“If I say yes, can I go back to reading my book?”

He grinned. “Sure.”

“Great, then fine. I have two boyfriends. Now lemme read before the–” Too late the bell rang and I sighed. I closed my book as they scrambled to their feet. Both of them offered me a hand and I snorted, I could stand up on my own.

We were almost to the door when Jake said, “When you’re done with the book can I borrow it?”

I glanced at him. So did Coop. Cause I didn’t lend books. I didn’t have that many.

“I have some books you can borrow,” he offered. Coop and I looked at each other and then back at Jake. “I can ask my mom if you guys can come over after school and see.”

“How many books?”

He grinned again. “I got a lot of books. Mom likes that I read.”

Lots of books?

“Yes,” I told him. “Coop and I would love to come.”

“We would?” Coop grumbled but I stomped on his foot.

“We would.”

“Cool,” Jake said, grinning wider. “I got video games too.”

“Now you’re talking,” Coop suddenly didn’t seem to mind. Games were fine.

I wanted the books.

I finished before school was over and I offered the book to Jake to see if he still wanted it. He grinned. We didn’t get to go over after school that day, but Coop’s mom promised to talk to Jake’s mom and it took us almost a week–Jake brought me my book back the next day and brought one of his with it. Then he asked if I had another of the Trixie books.

We traded books all week.

Coop made fun of us.

But it was still fun and finally, a week later, I got to see all the books he had.

He wasn’t wrong.

He had a lot.

Boys were dumb but boys with books were cool.

A few months later, I punched Jake. He deserved it. 

And you know what, he said I didn’t hit like a girl. 

Bonus Scene: Fists and Friends, a bonus scene for Rules and Roses


“Cooper Brennen,” the teacher called.


“Francesca—” I grimaced. “–Curtis.”


The kid sitting next to me crossed his gray-green eyes and I wrinkled my nose and then focused on the teacher again. He lived in my apartments and I’d seen him outside a couple of times, but I hadn’t met him before class today.

I was nervous enough about being here. My tummy kept doing these weird flippy flop things. Mom had told me I wasn’t allowed to cry so I hadn’t. I also had to be good, so I was doing my best. I’d been to pre-school before, but I had friends there. It was in the same building where Mom worked.

This was not.

And it was so much bigger.

I didn’t know anyone.

Tears pricked my eyes but I blinked them back because a girl at another table just started crying. When all the attention swung to her I let out a breath. The kid next to me crossed his eyes again when I glanced at him and I frowned.

“Fran-Chest-Ca?” he sounded out my name and I scowled.


I liked Frankie way better. Francesca was a terrible name.

Mom only called me that when she was mad.

The kid grinned. “That’s a boy’s name.”

Ugh. I made a face. Then stared at the board when the teacher started talking again. She had the crying girl all cuddled up when she called us to sit in a circle. We got to tell each other something about ourselves. I didn’t have much to say, but I did get to tell them I was Frankie and the teacher promised to remember my name.

By lunchtime I was exhausted, we got to go out on the playground right after food. We didn’t get our first break because we got to go to the library instead.

I loved the library.

The lady in charge of it was Mrs. Fredkins. She was the nicest lady ever and promised that by Christmas, we would be able to take books from the library home to read then bring them back.




I could already read. That was something not every kid in the class did yet. I could even write most of the alphabet neatly. I ate as fast as I could because as soon as I finished I could go outside. The kid who sat next to me in the class also sat next to me at lunch. But like me, he was hungry, so he ate as fast as he could, too.

I won and shot my hand up in the air. My teacher laughed and told me I was excused. I remembered to throw away my trash along with the brown paper bag and then raced outside. It was hot and sunny and there was playground equipment. I knew I had to be careful of the dress, even if I hated it, but I never got to go to the park.

Mom never had time. She had to do a lot of work and it was important that I entertain myself. This was the best part of preschool and I needed to know if it would be the best part of school school too.

The playground was huge.

I wanted to do everything.

I was up the slide in a heartbeat and flying down.

Stupid skirt got in the way, but I bunched it and made it work. I had on shorts underneath.

The boy from class was at the top of the slide when I got to the bottom and he wooted as he raced down. Then I was back up again.

Next was the jungle gym and I watched him scamper across the monkey bars and I was right behind him.

He laughed when I jumped off and landed next to him. “Swings?”


We turned and he ran into another kid. “Hey,” the kid groused and shoved Cooper. Cooper stumbled into me and then shoved the kid back.

He was a bit bigger than Cooper. But I was taller than Cooper too. Then the kid hit Cooper. I scowled. “You want a knuckle sandwich?” I demanded.

The other kid smirked at me. “Give it to me,” he demanded and pushed right at me. I balled up my fist and socked him. The big bully landed on his butt in the dirt. My hand hurt and the kid on the ground stared at me for a beat and then burst into wailing tears.

What a baby.

I was so disgusted.

Cooper stared at me, wide-eyed with his mouth open as one of the teachers charged over to us.

An hour later, I had to explain for the third time why I punched the boy—John—in the face. “I asked permission,” I argued tartly. I didn’t understand the problem. We weren’t supposed to touch other kids without their permission. I learned that last year. So I asked.

My teacher seemed to be struggling, mightily. The principal who had come in to talk to me was a big guy and I was a little scared when he’d first come in, but he listened to me tell the whole story and then he and the teacher both seemed like they were going to cry.

“Am I in trouble?”

“Francesca,” my teacher began.

“Frankie,” I said. “Please.”

“Frankie,” she continued, this time with a smile. “I am going to have to call your mother.”

My stomach dropped. I was in trouble. Mom was gonna be so mad. “But I asked first.”

“Yes, you did,” the principal said with a sigh. “We have to talk to your mom because those are the rules, and I need you to not ask other kids if they want a ‘knuckle sandwich’ again.”

I frowned. “He said yes.”

“John claims he didn’t know what it was,” my teacher said gently and I scowled. “That said, you shouldn’t hit.”

“He was being mean to Cooper and shoved him.”

“Then you get a teacher,” the principal told me. “I know this is new for you, but you have to follow the rules, too.”

I folded my arms and leaned back in my seat. “I did follow the rules. I didn’t touch him without asking.”

The principal cleared his throat. “I’ll leave Frankie with you, Ms. Diaz.” Then he left the room. It sounded like he was choking or coughing as he left.

Then it was just me and Ms. Diaz. The other kids weren’t here, they were in another classroom. I’d had to come sit with Ms. Diaz and talk after the fight. Not that it was a fight. John was just a big ol’ baby.

“Frankie,” she said, pulling my attention. “Do you understand why it was wrong?”

“No, because I asked first. I didn’t touch him without asking.”

“That was good. But even if you ask for someone’s permission to hit them, you shouldn’t hit.”

That didn’t make any sense. “Do you have to call my mom?”

“I’m afraid so, sweetheart. That’s the rules. You’re also going to need to sit out from the playground for the next couple of days.”


That wasn’t so bad. Mom was going to be so angry.

“But Mom is at work and if you interrupt her at work, she’ll get mad.”

“I’ll take care of it. You don’t worry. Okay?”

Yeah. I worried.

By the time the other kids came back and Cooper and I were sitting at our table, my stomach was in knots. Not because I was scared of school, but because I was scared of going home.

Cooper leaned over when the teacher told us to color our sheets and whispered, “Hey Frankie…will you be my friend?”

Really? I blinked and stared at him. “Okay.”

“Yeah?” he said, grinning.


He bumped my shoulder and then shared his crayons.

I didn’t get to play for the next couple of days and Cooper sat out with me. He wanted to be called Coop. I called him Coop.

Mom picked me up that first day and she wasn’t mad at all. She did ask me about it, but she wasn’t angry. If anything she laughed then asked me if I really hit the kid hard and I told her I had. She nodded and that was that.


Mom picked me up every day after school that week and she met Coop’s mom and then…the next week, Mom took us both to school and Coop’s mom picked us up after.

It was awesome.

Three weeks later, I was in the principal’s office again. I’d torn my last dress and I had a bloody nose. Felicia MacNamara had a black eye. I made sure she hit me first. But she’d been really mean to Coop and called him names.

So I made her mad.

They called my mom.

I got in trouble for this one.

Totally worth it.

Coop wanted to be my best friend after that.

Bonus Scene: Sluggish and Scrapbooks, a bonus scene for Trials and Tiaras


I hated being sick. Not a little bit hated, but actually loathed. Worse, I hated sleeping all the time and feeling groggy. Though if I wasn’t sleeping and hot, my nose was running and tickling and making me crazy. The night before in the bathroom, I stared at my red nose, swollen eyes and made a face. Archie slid up behind me and tucked his chin on my shoulder.

“If yew caw me bewtifuw like this, I’mma sneeze on yew.” The stuffy nose left my voice all kinds of thick and spoiled words with mashed consonants.

He kissed my nape. “I’ll survive, besides, I was going to say adorable.”

I’d made another face and then just leaned back into him. I was so tired. “I thwow something at yew tomowwow.”

Bless him, he didn’t laugh in my face.

Despite Jeremy’s threats, he also didn’t leave me to sleep alone and anytime I woke up needing something, Archie got it. Ian was there, first thing in the morning, with Jeremy and breakfast. Then Jeremy shooed them out for school.

I’d had texts from Jake and Coop as well as Rachel. I managed a shower which pretty much sapped all my energy, so I didn’t argue with Jeremy when he gave me medicine, checked my temperature and insisted I drink all of the hot tea he’d made me.

Hot tea with a heavy dose of whiskey and honey, holy crap, but it helped and I was asleep until just after lunch. I woke up to a huge bowl of soup, crusty bread that was still warm from the oven and more water. Jeremy fussed.

No one ever fussed over me.

Jeremy fussed.

The guys had after Homecoming, but this was different. 

He even moved me over to Archie’s desk to eat while he stripped and changed the bed.

“You don’t have to do all this,” I said for like the hundredth time and Jeremy gave me a mild look before pointedly staring at my food. So far, I hadn’t won a single argument. After he stripped the bed and remade it with fresh sheets, he vanished and then returned, there were fresh pillows, a pitcher with water, a clean glass and even some throat lozenges and… “Jeremy…”

He paused and glanced at me.

“How did you get so awesome?”

“Well, yours is not the first cold I’ve had to tend to, Miss Frankie.”

I smiled at that. “Sorry, I’m being so difficult.”

“Oh, you are not remotely as difficult as you might believe.” His chuckle was real. “I’m going to make you some more tea. Finish all that up, then leave it and get back in bed.”

With a sigh, I debated arguing that point but settled for… “Do you know where my backpack is?”

“Yes,” Jeremy said. “You don’t need it.” Then he was gone and I stared at the closed door, mouth open, more than a little shocked.

He’d meant it, too. I was back in bed by the time he returned with my tea.

“I could work on…”

“Getting better. You’re going to work on resting.” He set my tea next to the bed, then turned the television on. “The history channels are pre-programmed in, but you can also watch any of the movies we have in the digital library. If there’s something you want and it’s not there, let me know and I’ll get it added. Drink your tea. I’ll be back up to check on you in a couple of hours.” He didn’t slow as he gathered my lunch plates. “Also, if you need me before then, just press one on the phone there next to the bed, it will ring the kitchen.”

It will ring the kitchen. Then he was gone.

That night, the guys all teased me when I tried to complain but even then I couldn’t complain. Not really, Jeremy was being sweet. On the second day, I was already at the desk when he came up with lunch. I’d managed another shower and I hadn’t had the energy to blow dry my hair so I was resting up for that task.

“And how are we feeling?”

“A little antsy,” I admitted. The guys had been texting me on and off all morning and I’d nearly made my way through a full rewatch of Lord of the Rings. I loved the extended editions. I figured I could knock out the third movie after lunch if I didn’t sleep.

“Hmm.” He left my lunch and changed the bedsheets out then remade it before disappearing to get my tea. The amount of whiskey he put in it lessened each time and while it was different, I wasn’t complaining. I had actually felt better after each dose.

When he came back he had a tray with a teapot, cups, a couple of books stacked on it and I grinned. Was I getting to do some homework after all…

With a knowing look, he set the tray down. The books were not textbooks at all. But he didn’t pull them out, taking the time to pour the tea and preparing it before he moved a chair over and took a seat next to the bed.

Lifting the first book, he set it on the bed between us and then flipped it open and I swore my heart did a backflip of its own.

Baby Archie stared up from one of the photos on the page. I’d recognize those eyes anywhere. He looked pissed.

“Why is he so mad?”

“Because he had mastered the baby gates and figured out how to free himself from his crib by sliding open the bottom, then letting himself out of the room. He’d cheerfully stripped off his diaper and pee’d a path down the hall along one of the Persian rugs.”

I jerked my head to find Jeremy smiling fondly.

“He was always very clever.”

“I bet…but why is he mad?”

“Because I reversed everything and it took him another two months to figure out that he could still open the bottom if he went to the other side, but he couldn’t reach the locks on the gates.”

I giggled. That was hilarious.

“And here…” Jeremy touched the next page, Archie was dressed in a sailor suit. God, the cuteness was killing me. “We had to attend a function at a country club and Miss Muriel insisted on the outfit, this is the only picture we have of it before he figured out how to upend an entire bowl of punch.”

That picture was on the next page.

For the next hour, Jeremy entertained me with tales of Archie’s escapades as a child. Precocious didn’t begin to cover it. The pictures often included anecdotes that he’d written down about Archie and the events that happened. There was even one of him with a red nose, swollen eyes, and looking like hell. He also had the surliest scowl on his face.

“As I was telling you, you’re far from the worst patient I’ve had to take care of…”

The note next to the picture read: When young men don’t listen and go out even when they have a fever. They not only lose privileges, they get to suffer longer.

“Sometimes, when he’s ill, I trot these out for him so he remembers to listen.”

I grinned. “I’m almost afraid to ask…”

“Do I have a photo of you in a similar state? Well, we shall find out if you decide to be difficult again. Now. This book I’ll leave you to enjoy on your own. Then you should get some more rest. You’re looking better today. I’d say at least another day of rest and good medicine and you’ll be bouncing back.”

“Thanks Jeremy.”

After he left, I flipped open the next book and grinned. This scrapbook was all of us. Jeremy had made notations about us in the margins just as he had about Archie. Including the fact that we were good kids and good for him.

I was still holding the book when Archie got home and woke me as he eased out from my fingers. “Hey,” I said with a yawn and he settled onto the side of the bed and chuckled.

“Go back to sleep, I didn’t mean to wake you up.”

“It’s okay, I’ve had a lot of sleep today.”

He glanced at the book before setting it on the nightstand. “And someone busted out the photo albums. Please tell me he didn’t get out the baby pictures.”

I grinned and Archie groaned but when he laid down next to me I curled up against him. “You were adorable.”

“I’m still adorable,” he corrected, but chuckled. “Jeremy must really like you. He doesn’t get them out for everyone.”

That much I figured. Still… “He wanted to show me I wasn’t his worst patient.”

That got a real laugh. “Sorry, babe. I’m afraid that honor is definitely all mine.”

I tilted my head back and smiled up at him. “Well, the next time you’re sick, be ready to be spoiled rotten.”

“Will you play nurse for me and wear a sexy little number?” He wagged his eyebrows suggestively and it was my turn to groan. “I mean, if you’re feeling up to it…the doctor is in and I could totally give you a check up.”

A throat clearing at the doorway had me blushing so hard, I was sure my face went neon.

“You’re a killjoy, Jere.”

“So, I’ve been told. Dinner will be ready in an hour and Miss Frankie is due for another dose of medication. I can assure the doctor that checking her out is unnecessary.”


This is where I was going to die.

Right here.

I hid my face against Archie’s chest and he rubbed my back. “Fine, I’ll behave.”

“Well,” Jeremy said as he left the room. “There’s a first time for everything.”

I snickered then coughed. Then laughed a little harder as Archie’s shoulders shook and he dragged me up to sit with him and curl against his side. He held over the meds and the water, then turned on the television.

“The doctor will check on you tonight,” he murmured against my ear. “Promise.”

I was still grinning when Jeremy brought up dinner and gave us both a look before he headed out.

Nope, not going there, just gonna watch the show.

And the doctor definitely came to call later.

Bonus Scene: Dating and Decisions, a bonus scene for Rules and Roses


“Can I come over tomorrow?” I asked, the sight of Frankie in her underwear had been one thing, but the hurt in her eyes–that had gutted me. It had been a long time since I’d seen her really hurt.

And I don’t think I’d ever seen it because of me.

“I have to work,” she reminded me. “And I’m busy tomorrow evening.”

The words gouged into me like fish hooks dragging at my skin. She always had work. She worked harder than any other person I knew except maybe my mom. At the same time, the rejection in each syllable stung. Especially the last part.


Too busy for us.

“We’ll see you Monday,” Bubba said, clapping a hand on my shoulder and tugging me toward the door. Frankie didn’t say a word, just followed us to the back door and once we were out, she locked it.

The snick of the bolt sliding home had never sounded so final.


I blew out a breath as I shook off Bubba. No one said anything. Archie stared at the back door like he had x-ray fucking vision and Jake glared at me the same way.

“What the hell did you do?” he repeated his earlier question in a much lower voice that held a lot of aggravation and, if you knew him, worry.

I shook my head. “Nothing we haven’t done a hundred times before.” It wasn’t even the first time one of us ended up with torn clothes. Granted, it had been a while, but Frankie–what the hell had we fucked up? How had I done it? I was her best friend.

“So now what?” Bubba asked. “You guys planning on setting up camp out here?”

“Gonna grab something to eat and figure out how to fix this,” Archie announced. “I’m guessing none of us wants to do the escape room now.”

Yeah, that held zero appeal. “Sorry, man, I’ll…”

“Don’t worry about it, you might have stepped into the crap, but we all waded in after you.” Archie slapped me on the back once. “You two coming for food?”

Jake and I locked gazes for a moment and my phone buzzed in my pocket. The only reason I pulled it out was because I hoped it was Frankie. When Laura’s name flashed up at me, I scowled. “No. Actually, Jake can I borrow you?”

“Depends,” Jake said, almost drily. “You planning on giving me back?”

I rolled my eyes at the quip, but it was hardly the first time either of us uttered that old joke. We parted ways with Archie and Bubba leaving in Archie’s Ferrari while I climbed into the passenger seat of Jake’s SUV. While he started it up and turned up the air conditioning to dry the sweat from standing around outside, he didn’t pull out. We were both staring at Frankie’s apartment.

My phone buzzed in my hand.

“Is it her?” Jake asked and I shook my head before showing him the screen.

“What the fuck, man? Is that where you want to go?”

“Actually,” I told him. “Yes. I figure I need to break up with her in person.”

“I thought you weren’t really dating.”

I hadn’t intended to hook up with her again and I sure as shit hadn’t planned to make it anything serious. Laura had been kind of fun in the beginning, but she was a quiet thing. Sad. A little lonely. I liked the idea of supporting and encouraging her. But she’d long since come out of her shell. The last week…no, I let her tears and her neediness tug at me. She was open in a way Frankie had shut down and I wasn’t making excuses for myself because fuck that.

But Laura wasn’t the girl I wanted.

“We aren’t and we shouldn’t be.” Another text hit my phone. Laura again. What the actual fuck?

“Sounds like desperation, you sure you wanna see her in person?” The hostility bled out of his tone. “Cause the last thing you need is for her to go all nuts on you.”

“She won’t,” I said, then pinched the bridge of my nose. “Just, drive me…” I checked the phone. She was at the mall and wanted to know if I wanted to hook up for a movie or just to hook up.

I grimaced.

“Let’s go to the mall.”

“Your funeral,” Jake commented. Then he fell silent until we pulled into the parking lot at the mall. I’d told Laura to meet me near the northeast exit by the Jenson’s. “It’s Frankie, right?”

I cut a look at him. “You’re not stupid. Don’t ask stupid questions.”

“Fuck off,” Jake retorted, but there was no heat. “Just answer the question.”

“It’s always been Frankie,” I told him. “Same for you.” I wasn’t kidding myself. It had been the same for all of us. I’d had the unenviable role of watching each of these guys secure themselves a spot in her life. It helped that they were all my friends, too. But I’d have to be blind to not know she was who we all wanted.

We talked about it without talking about it. We danced around the subject like experts navigating a minefield of possibilities. The closest we’d come to a direct conversation had happened in ninth grade when Archie said he planned to date her and wanted to make sure we were all okay with it.

Four months later, he’d admitted defeat. Frankie hung out. Frankie didn’t date.

It was a fact we’d all kind of learned to live with because being her friend was totally worth it. More than worth it…

“I’m not doing this past summer again,” I told Jake as he pulled up near the doors. Laura exited as soon as she saw us. The smile on her face made me feel like a jackass. “If Frankie wants to date…”

“Then we’re dating her,” Jake said flatly and I didn’t disagree with him. “I get that Archie and Bubba want her, too.”


“But she was ours long before they showed up.”

I chuckled. “Glad you included me.” The humor was fleeting. “I’ll be right back.”

“Guard your nuts.”


Blowing out a breath, I left the SUV and met Laura about halfway. The slant of the sun created these weird shadows and the spot where we stood was in one of the diagonal shadows.

“Hey,” she said with a smile and reached up to kiss me. Yeah, I dodged that because no more mixed signals. “I didn’t know you were bringing Jake–I know you guys like to…”


We were seriously not having that conversation.

She blinked those big ol’doe eyes at me. “What?”

“Look, Laur, you’re a great girl…” Was there an easy way to break up with someone? Most of the girls I’d dated had never been long term. They’d always seemed to understand and had been perfectly happy to go back to being friends. Most of them hadn’t had Laura’s neediness though. And I was the jerk who put her in this position. “I mean that, but…I made a mistake this week.”

Her whole expression crumbled and I made myself not reach out to comfort her which would be the automatic thing to do. Right now, I needed to communicate clearly that I wasn’t interested. And honestly, I wasn’t. She’d needed someone to talk to and a shoulder to cry on. The kissing never should have happened.

“I led you on and I get that. But–we’re not a thing. We’re not going to be a thing.” Thank fuck she hadn’t brought her friends with her. “We’re friends, more acquaintances than anything else. I need you to understand that.”

Tears pooled in her eyes and I felt about two inches high.

Then her hand caught the side of my face and that sting burned.

She didn’t say a word before she marched back into the mall leaving me rubbing my face.

It could have gone worse, I suppose.

I turned to find Jake watching and the minute our gazes connected, he gave me a questioning thumbs up and I snorted.


Still, I checked my phone before I got back to the SUV and I sent Frankie a text.

If groveling was necessary, I’d do it.

But I was getting my best friend back and if that involved dating, too.

Well, then count me in.

Bonus Scene: Cocks and Creativity, a bonus scene for Graduation and Gifts


Re-reading the instructions, I scratched at my chin. The silicone mold didn’t seem so bad. All I had to do was get it hard, shape the softened and warm silicone around it, let it set and then peel it off. Afterward, I could work on getting the customized dildo made.

On the computer screen were a list of different piercing types. The one that had started this whole line of investigation had already been crossed off as no way in hell was I doing that to my dick. Not even for Frankie.

Well, okay maybe for her if she really wanted it but she didn’t so fuck that noise.

That left me with a few other options. After double-checking the door was locked, I finished getting everything set up. The warmer was basically a glorified wax heater, but I’d bought all the different pieces and just had it shipped in rather than talk to Jeremy or Archie about it.

One, I didn’t need that kind of grief. Two, that was a conversation I would never have with the guys if I could avoid it much less Jeremy.

Just nope.

Fortunately, Rachel had proved to be a fount of knowledge on the subject. And, she could keep a secret. Something else to be applauded. Warmer going, I glanced down at my dick and sighed.

“Okay buddy, you and me got some work to do.” We’d gotten as familiar with my hand as we used to be and neither of us were impressed with the return of this blast from the past. Frankie’s pussy was a lot warmer, fuck loads softer, and damn, the sound of her gasps when I first pushed in were enough to give a man life.

My dick twitched at the possibility. Missing her was like missing a limb. We talked almost every day or at least texted. Not the fucking same.

Also watching her go down on Jake over video chat was hot, but the pops and blurs when the signal decided to fuck up could leave me with some awkward, and frankly disturbing frozen screen images that I was never telling Frankie about.

Yeah, that wasn’t doing a damn thing for my dick.

I checked the timer, the silicone would be ready in about five minutes. So five minutes to get my dick on board with the plan. A plan that was going to be epic, my dick just had to get that picture. Standing in my bathroom where I’d plugged the silicone in, I went ahead and stripped the rest of the way down, pulled on the gloves I’d need, added a little oil—not a lot, just enough so the silicone didn’t stick to the skin then began a slow massage.

With my free hand, I lifted the phone and let out a sigh. It’d been two weeks since we’d left Frankie and Jake to go to Germany while we returned to the states. Two long weeks. I unlocked the private files and then hit play on the recording of Ian and Frankie that Jake had made when he’d also called us so we could listen.

To be fair, we’d told Frankie and after she got over being embarrassed, she made us play it where she could hear—that lasted for exactly ten seconds and then she said we could keep it and hidden her face.

It was as sexy as it was adorable. But the first audible cry of hers sent a pulse straight to my dick. Fuck. In no time at all, I was so hard, my balls ached from it and I had to hang onto that erection and soak it in silicone.

The first layer of warm silicone was almost nice but still wasn’t Frankie. Just the images her sounds made on that recording were enough to keep me there. Once I my dick was sheathed fully, I let out a breath and then stripped off the gloves and started the timer.

I was so jerking off as soon as this was over.

Then I took a picture of my dick painted up in the blue silicone because at some point, Frankie was going to need the laugh. Grinning, I waited patiently and skimmed through our cloud account of pictures from summer vacation. I was glad Archie added another layer of security to some of these because they were positively illegal and I fucking loved how happy and serene she appeared.

When the timer rang, I blew out breath. Thank fuck. Peel it off, hop in the shower and rub one out before I finished washing the rest of me. As promised the oil helped with the removal except no one mentioned the hairs on the bottom near my balls.



Tears popped in my eyes and my dick sank like a flagging ship as I pulled out what had to be every fucking hair on my balls.

I didn’t cry.


It definitely took a while to catch my breath.

The silicone sheath formed just like it was supposed to. Fabulous.

When I tested my balls, I winced.

They weren’t quite baby soft smooth, but they were close.

Maybe I owed Frankie for doing that wax job she did for us this summer.

I owed her big.

“Totally worth it,” I whispered as I hopped into the shower and tried not to let my balls rub on my legs. “Totally worth it.”


Bonus Scene: Abstraction, an alternate PoV scene for Savage Vandal


The rubble of the playground faded as did the sounds of the cars in the distance. The grind and rattle of the unit on the roof of one of the older buildings jerked to life as their furnace kicked on. The old elementary school, or the remains of it, were less than a half-block away to the south.

I didn’t look in that direction because you couldn’t see it from here, anyway. After the city shut it down and started bussing kids from the neighborhood to a more affluent section, the meth heads, the deadbeats, and the squatters had moved in. We’d cleaned them out a few times. But like vermin they kept coming back…

Thoughts of the school faded away as the beach continued to take shape. The lines and cracks were rougher here, I needed to texture them more. The scent of the paint filled my nostrils, it soothed even as I switched out cans. The knots in my neck from stretching my arms up didn’t really register nor did the burn in my arms.

The heat of the sun kissing the sand burned my back as I added new layers and added extra bits of detail until I uncovered the shore. The moment the ocean rolled in, foamy caps–it erased everything that had been there before. Beauty from decay. I could never quite make it new again, but I could hide the darkness beneath the color.

A cheap imitation?


My neck cracked as I took a step back. The sand had different depths and textures. Higher up, away from the tidal edge, I’d written Starling. I didn’t want that to wash away.

“You do really good work.” The starling’s voice always surprised me. It had so many different textures to it. Like the cracked wall behind the painting. There was strength and sturdiness, but damage had left its mark. The huskiness that kissed the underside of her voice told me how much she didn’t use it.

Definitely not out of fear. She could and had branded with her words. But she didn’t speak. Not that it bothered me too much. Still, it took me a moment to adjust from focusing on the wall to focusing on her. I hadn’t forgotten she was here and yet…

“You’re still here.” I smiled. She could have taken off. At any point while we were out here, she could have left. I would have let her. Not that I wanted her to go and not that I didn’t want her safe. Jasper seemed convinced there were more threats against her than the creature chained up in the fridge. Liam wouldn’t let me go see him. He had, but he didn’t want me in there.

I’d rather be with my starling anyway.

She gave a little shiver and I frowned. The temperature must have fallen. The sun had moved over the buildings and now we were in shadows. Part of why I stopped painting. We were losing the light. “But it’s cold.”

I packed up my stuff on autopilot. I collected even the empty cans. I was trying to paint over the decay and not leave more signs of the disuse and disrepair. “You should have told me it was getting colder.”

“You were the one without a shirt,” she reminded me in that tone that bordered on taunting, but never quite crossed the line. Particularly since her stomach rumbled. “Even your nipples are on point.” She might seem demanding to some, but there was an exactitude to her. She wanted her routines. She wanted things to be the way she expected them to be.

I couldn’t fault the desire. I wanted things to be in a certain order.

But she didn’t leave when she could have.

I glanced down at my chest and yes, my nipples were in sharp relief and paint spattered me. Not all that unusual. I had paint permanently on my skin in some places. I yanked on my shirt, then the hoodie and glanced at her after I had everything back in the bag.

“I’ve survived worse.”

For a brief moment, she met my gaze and held it. I didn’t like looking people in the eye. Not like this. If I did it growing up, it usually led to fights. Older kids would get pissed. Liam wasn’t always there to intercept the hits.

I learned how to dish out my own.

But I didn’t want to hit anything while she stared at me. “I’ve survived worse.” For a moment, her eyes shadowed and she looked away before I did.

“So have I.”

I searched for a way to ask her about what she’d survived. I didn’t talk about my past. Maybe she didn’t want to talk about hers. She hurried away from me though, not running. No, more like owning the cracked and broken pavement of this abandoned playground. The grace in her movements made me smile.

“You coming?” She called after she reached the top all on her own like she’d just climbed velvet red-carpeted stairs rather than crumbling cement.

My smile widened and an inescapable feeling fluttered in my chest.

The smash of a bottle punctured it and the dark voice saying “Well, well, well, what have we here?” smothered what escaped.

The flutters turned to rage.

They didn’t belong here.

They didn’t belong near her.

The world turned to sharp relief of shadows and light soon to be painted with red.