Authors: Shyla Colt
The Boy iS mine: Monica & Brandy
Real Love: Mary J Blige
Brandy : Down
Caught out there : Kelis
All 4 One : I swear
Boys2men : I’ll make love to you
Jon B: Someone to Love
Sade : No Ordinary Love
Tyrese : sweet Lady
Tyrese : Lately
Mazzy Star: Fade into you
Fiona Apple : Sleep to Dream
K-Ci &JoJO- All my Life
Faith Hill : Breathe
EnVogue : Don’t Let Go
To all my readers out there who asked me for older couples finding love. This book is for you because everyone should see themselves in stories.
Tag line: Deserted, humiliated, and broken he leaves his heart at the altar.
Deserted on his wedding day and left to raise triplets alone, Houston Maloney leaves his heart behind at the altar. Focused on his car restoration business and his three little ones, he’s made it through the terrible twos, and tougher threes with the help of Godmother extraordinaire, Liv Cole.
When his fiancée Rain ran off with Liv’s boyfriend, Anthony, the two find themselves equally betrayed. While dealing with the aftermath, they form a strong bond.
When a fire forces the feisty, independent, Liv to seek shelter in the Maloney home, the best friends begin to see what’s right in front of them. The passion flows naturally but their progression is hindered by past scars.
Can they recover from loss and heartache to try again for love?
I clasp my hands in front of me and rise on the pads of my feet, impatient for the bride to arrive in all her glory. After eight turbulent months of pregnancy, and another eight months of no sleep, Rain and I are finally exchanging vows and officially joining our lives. I knew from the moment she sashayed her way into my shop in a pair of tight jeans and a red and white checkered t-shirt she tied just above her belly button she was the one for me. Her melodic voice woke something in me as she pursued a job as a model for the upcoming car show.
With her deep pink cupid’s bow lips, round hazel eyes, wavy chestnut brown hair that falls around her slender oval-shaped face and a coke bottle frame, she’s a stunning woman. Still, it was her free-spirited nature, sweetness, and gentility that hooked me. Rain Marshall is unlike any woman I’ve ever known. Raised by a pair of hippies who believe in living off the land, free love and listening to your gut. Dark and light, we're opposite colored cheese pieces. Different, but irrevocably linked.
I've been serious my entire life. It’s what happens when your old man spends half his life in the United States Marine Corps and then builds a business from the ground up. Hard work, discipline, and organization were qualities bred into me from the minute I was old enough to understand what the words meant. As the firstborn of three children, caring for others is a habit.
Rain brings out a different side of me. I wanted to get married the moment we discovered she was pregnant. She resisted. The idea of ownership didn’t sit well with her. I wore her down over the months. Today we'll settle in and become the family I always craved.
I’m old fashioned. I want my woman sharing my last name, in my bed, and loyal to only me. It’s been a point of friction in our three-year relationship. None of that will matter in twenty minutes. I glance down at the gold watch my father got me when I graduated from college with an Associates in Mechanics before I went on to a specialized school for classic restoration.
Some of my best memories as a kid involved fixing up old heaps with Dad in the garage when he was stateside. I never wanted to join the military, like my brother Braedon, but I followed him into the auto business. I happen to be on the other end of the spectrum. He sells automobiles. I keep them running, restore their original beauty, and deal exclusively with others who feel the same way.
Money's tight. Maloney Mechanics is still new and building a reputation. Having triplets in the second year of business ownership lead to long hours and too much stress. Phoenix, Echo, and Deja are worth every second of the struggle. I never understood unconditional love until I looked at these small beings, dependent on me for everything. Not even the all-consuming emotion I have for Rain comes close to the complete adoration I have for our brood. They are the reasons my heart beats.
I struggle to ignore the eyes boring into me. I hate being the center of attention. People nowadays continually seek gossip fodder. I like to fly under the radar and run with a small circle of people I like and trust. I was never one to stomach bullshit. Political correctness and I aren’t terms that go hand in hand, and I accept that. Sweat gathers on my skin. The afternoon heat sweeps through the same tiny church my parents wed in over thirty years ago. It’s standing room only. I regret my decision to wear long sleeves.
I clear my throat and glance back down the aisle. Mummers flow through the pews.
What the hell is taking her so long?
I have my best man, Ollie, behind me. We kept things fairly small and intimate. Hell, the church wouldn’t allow for anything more. The strains of Sea of Love begin. I can’t stop the smile that pulls my lips so wide they hurt. The music stops. Rain's Maid of honor, and godmother to my children, Liv, stumbles into view.
The tears and mascara tracks running down her umber skin make my stomach churn. Her eyes are red, and her heart-shaped faced looks swollen. Her careful updo is awry, along with her strapless black down.
A white sheet of paper dangles from her hand. I uproot my feet from the floor and rush towards her. I met her at the last pew, grabbing her around the waist when she sways.
“I am so sorry, Houston," Liv says softly.
“What the hell is going on?” I pull her outside into the tiny hallway.
“She’s gone. They’re gone.” She hiccups.
“Anthony and Rain. I can’t believe she did this. How could I be so fucking blind, not to see it?” She shakes her head.
“Gone where?” I ask unable to comprehend the picture she’s painting.
“I don’t know. Sh-she said she couldn’t live this life anymore.” She shoves the white slip of paper into my hand. I lift it, struggling to read as my hand trembles. My eyes burn. Moisture blurs my sight. I blink to bring the scrawling letters back into focus. Droplets fall, joining Liv’s tears. Grief slams into my chest like a freight train. The room spins around me. I stumble back, ball the letter up in my fist, lean my head back and scream. Wailing breaks out a moment later.
The kids. I need air. Desperate to be out of the stifling building, I stumble into the crisp mountain air. The picturesque view of the mountains with their green peaks and tall lush trees does nothing for me. My peace is gone. The floor has fallen out of my world. My stomach wars. I run to the bushes and lose my breakfast. Unable to hold back the tears any longer, I puke and sob like a little bitch.
Doubled over, I keep my hands pressed against my thighs as I struggle to breathe with the weight bearing down on my chest. It’s like sucking air through a straw. My body shudders. My throat, my eyes, and my nose burn. Footsteps sound behind me. I wipe my mouth with the back of my hand and straighten. I have to be stronger than this, for my children. God, my kids.
I close my eyes against the pain sending an invisible ice pick through my temples. I rub my eyes with my sleeve and turn to face a devastated Liv. Our gazes met. The pain in her deep-set dark brown eyes reminds me of my own.
“What do I tell everyone?” I croak.
“The truth. Your Mom and Dad took the letter. Maybe they’re telling the church.”
“What the fuck am I going to do now, Liv? What do I tell my kids? How am I going to take care of them and keep up with Mahoney’s?” I ask thinking of my shop. “I can’t believe she did this.”
“Me either,” she whispers. She steps close and grabs my hand. “You aren’t alone. You have your parents, Ollie and me. I told you I'd always have your back when I agreed to me M 3’s Godmother. Whatever you need, I’m going to be there.”
I shake my head. “It’s not your job.”
“I never said it was. Let me do this. Let me be useful. ‘Cause if I don’t.” She trails off shaking her head. She shivers like she’s in subzero weather. I hate the sun beaming down on us as the sun sinks into the horizon casting an unworldly golden glow. It was supposed to be a sunset wedding. The only thing entering twilight is my life. I thought Rain and I were headed for the light and better days. Instead, I’m facing endless darkness.
I have no real answers. The letter she left behind gave me nothing more than a weak apology and a half-assed rant about needing her freedom to explore life as she wished to experience it. I gave her my heart and in return, she gave me three children, a Dear Jane letter, and a lifetime of embarrassment over being jilted.
The chiming of my phone pulls me from sleep. I hit the silence button, roll onto my back and stare up at the familiar robin's blue ceiling. Today’s a bittersweet moment, the first day of kindergarten. My little lifesaving miracles are growing up too fast. I slide from beneath the gray flannel sheets and sit up, stretching my arms over my head. The memory foam mattress puts my queen sized pillow top at home to shame.
Maybe that’s the reason I’ve been spending more and more nights over here. I zombie walk to the on suite, shed my thin white cotton nightgown, and get into the shower. Mornings here are early ones because I’ have to cook for a tiny army. Houston knows his way around a stove, but I want to give my best friend a break.
Between running the business, and taking care of the triplets, he hardly has time to breathe. Many People can’t understand my devotion to the family. The fact is, the four of them saved me. Times were dark after Anthony’s treachery. I’d been expecting an engagement ring. After five years of living together, paying bills, and helping him get to where he needed to be I took his odd behavior as a sign of an impending proposal.
I thought the extra hours and whispered phone conversations with my best friend were planning sessions. I was right in a way. Heat fills my face as I scowl. Even now, the event makes me feel like a complete idiotic. I learned the hard way, not to put all that time, energy, and emotion into a man who hasn’t made a substantial commitment.
Not that I’m worried about relationships. It’s clear I have a bad picker.
I'm getting what I need with the triplets and Houston. I have companionship, unconditional love, and loyalty. The only two men who’ve proved I can depend on them were my father and presently, Houston. I move away from the disagreeable memories and focus on the hot water beating down on my skin. I want to make this day as special as possible.
More awake, I slip into a comfortable pair of jean shorts, and an Our Lady of Angels parent T-shirt. I pad to the stainless steel appliance kitchen any cook would kill for. The butcher block counters, white subway tiles, and matching Island were an upgrade over the years. He’d put sweat, tears, and love into this fixer-upper. Like cars, he turned what was once old and worn into a new and personalized item. I wash my hands, pull out the waffle iron, and move to the kitchen to pull out the turquoise Tupperware bowls full of batter I made the night before. I pop the lids revealing the bright pink and light blue mixtures. Some families like pancakes, we like waffles. It’s a tradition to make them for any special event.
The light on the iron blinks green, and I start up the process. The scent of vanilla and something firmly in the funnel cake family fills the air. The shuffle of feet brings my attention behind me.
“Smells good Livy.” Houston’s ruffled in an adorable manner with his dark hair all over his head and a crooked beard. It’s all too easy to picture the almost forty-year-old as a child. His light grayish blue eyes stand out against his tan coloring and the short chocolate-brown hair that falls over his forehead. I want to smooth down his thick mustache. Curled up at the ends, it makes him look like a cartoon villain. I smile at the vulnerability he’s displaying.
Outside of the home, he’s always so serious, polished, and put together.
“Thanks, are the kiddos up, yet?”
He scratches his chest. My eyes are drawn to the broad chest that fills out the white t-shirt. I lick my lips. The man is like a fine wine. He gets better with time.
“Not yet. I’m going to get dressed and then go wake them.”
“You know you have to wear the shirt I got you right?” I cross my arms under my breasts and narrow my gaze.
“Yes. You’ll ruin the pictures if you don’t,” I say.
He sighs. “Alright.” Pleased, I grin.“I swear, you’re just as bad as Deja and Echo. They’ve learned this sass from you,” Houston says.
I snicker. “I think that’s Daddy’s DNA manifesting. But nice try.”
I bump his hip with my own. He kisses my cheek. His soft hair tickles my skin, and I giggle.
“Thank you, Liv.”
“Nowhere else I’d rather be,” I reply honestly.
He moves away. Immediately I miss his heat and the comforting scent of wood and pine as he walks strides away. His long legs eat up the distance. I can’t help admiring the view. The flannel pants flow over his firm, taut rump. My best friend is a total hottie. I'm not ashamed to say a part of me wants to sample his Dad bod. Lean and broad shouldered, he has the hussy inside me eager to grind on him shamelessly.
I clear my throat and return my attention to my task. My hormones are surges through me hot and powerful like lightning. What they say about women hitting their peak in their thirties is true. I’m pushing thirty-five and wearing out Bobs left and right. My sexual frustration makes me wish I were the one-night stand type. I’ve never been able to manage it. Sex and emotion remain irrevocably linked for me.
Since the thought of getting serious with a man makes my anxiety flare, it’s been a three-year dry spell. I place the plates on the large table in front of the French doors that lead out onto a deck along with the silverware and make a serving line. The kids have whipped cream, rainbow sprinkles, apples, and strawberries for toppings. A turquoise pitcher of milk sits on the table.
“Look who's ready for their big day,” Houston says.
I step away from the table as Echo, Phoenix, and Deja enter the room. The sight of the munchkins in their blue and white plaid jumpers with crisp white shirts, and high ponytails held up by the matching patterned ponytail holder melts my heart.
Phoenix is every inch his father’s child in navy blue pants, and a white polo. With the exception of his brownish-blonde hair and baby face, he was a replica. The sight of Houston in black pants and an OLA t-shirt made my lip twitch upward. He scowls at me playfully, and I look down to hide my smile.
“You guys are so cute," I squeal.
I kneel and open my arms, holding my little miracles close as I kiss their cheeks.
“Are you ready to eat so you can go to Kindergarten?”
The enthusiastic chorus of yes makes me grin. I meet Houston’s soft gaze over their tiny frames. Houston gives me a full out smile that turns me to goo. Smiles from him aren’t in abundance these days.
“Okay, special breakfast time. Then we need to take some photos, okay? I have a bunch of things lined up for us, so we need to get started.” I stand, and they rush to the table with us trailing behind.
“You ready for this, Dad?”
“I’m feeling like an old man. They’re about to turn five, and soon I’ll be forty.”
“You wear it well. That’s all that matters, right?” I ask with a wink.
He turns the intensity of his gaze on me, wraps his arms around my shoulders and pulls me closer. “ I can always count on you to make my day brighter.” He places a sweet kiss on my temple. For a millisecond I wonder what it would be like if he aimed for my lips.
The wayward thought scares the bejesus out of me. We have a good thing going. I can’t let whatever I have going on ruin that. I force my muscles to remain relaxed and inhale deeply.
After breakfast, I snap a million pictures, and we load up into the off-white restored Woody station wagon. The drive is a short one, and I ignore the stares we get as we exit the car and lead the children inside. I’m usually mistaken for one of two things, a nanny or the girlfriend. I’ve learned to let it all roll off my back. I’m not here to meet their approval. It’s all about making sure the kids are okay.
As the little ones find the friends they’d made recently at a pre-kindergarten picnic, I'm the one tearing up.
Houston rubs my back. “I knew you weren’t going to make it. You’re such a freaking softie.”
“Shut it, Hous,” I say as he leads me out of the classroom. It’s only half a day, and I’m a wreck.
“You want to go to the Boo Hoo Breakfast in the gym?” he asks rubbing the back of my neck with his calloused hand. I shake my head and burrow my face into him.
His body shakes with laughter, but he keeps his teasing comments to himself as he leads me out of the school.
“It’s just a few hours, and we’ll be picking them up again. You took the day off, right?”
“Yeah. They fell all over themselves to give me the date. They know they owe me for all the overtime I’ve been putting in with this new campaign. People think Public Relations is all fun and friendships, but it’s truly a lot of research, ass kissing, finesse, and to a point trial and error. The past few months I feel like I’m a cyborg cause everywhere I go there's an electronic device in my hand. I’m always on the net.”
“We need to plan a trip and get away,” he says.
“You make it sound so easy.”
“Cause it is.”
“Oh please, Mr. workaholic is not lecturing me about needing a break from work.”
“Hey, I been getting much better with it. I had to work like that when we were starting up.”
I place my hand on his arm. “I know, and I’m so proud of everything you’ve accomplished.”
His face turns a light shade of red, and I wink. He hates praise. Which only makes me want to tell him how amazing he is. Not many men could handle being a single dad of three and run a successful business. He opens the door for me, and I climb into the cab. He’s got impeccable manners. I’m shocked he’s still single. From the looks of the women coming into the shop to ask about modeling opportunities during the car shows, it’s not for lack of women trying. He hasn’t had a date since Rain left him at the altar.
Part of me is relieved. Embarrassed, I roll down the window to cool my heated face. It’s sick, this codependence we developed. But without it, I’m alone.
If he ever finds a woman, I’ll back off.
I’d do anything to see him and the kids happy.
“We have some time to burn. Where do you want to go?” Houston asks.
“Wherever the road takes us.”
“Thank you, Doc. Brown. We’re not going back to the future, though. We’re on a tight schedule.”
I giggle. “I love that you go along with it.”
“Who else will humor you?”
“Everyone, because I’m awesome, duh,” I say.
“Whatever gets you through the day, Livy.”
I roll my eyes, unable to keep the smile off my face. He’s good at that, making me laugh. I study him with my peripheral vision. He’s relaxed as he steers with ease. The sunlight hits him, highlighting the strands of gray starting to sprout. It makes him look distinguished.
“Where are you taking me Hous?”
“Does it matter?”
“Nah.” I lean back and close my eyes enjoying the warmth of the sun on my skin and his presence. “Missed you this month.”
“I know. Our schedules were so opposite. I felt like you were always leaving the house when I was coming home.”
“How did the restoration of that sting ray end up?’
“Real well. The guy brought in two more clients.”
“That’s fantastic. Why don’t you sound more excited?”
“I’m burnt out. I love what I do, but I need a break. I 've been thinking about planning something special for the triplets’ birthday. Are you going to be available to get time off during the Labor Day weekend?”
“Consider it done. Are you going to let me in on your plan?”
“I thought we should do Schlitterbahn.”
“That would be awesome! I love New Braunfels.” The charming town sat on the same river that fed into Schlitterbahn, one of the best water parks in the United States, and felt like the town time forgot with its small homes, perfect lawns, tin roof covered shelters full of picnic benches, and mom and pop stores.
“I know. I figured it’d be low key, fun, and there’s no shock I love the vintage factor.”
“I’m game. Do you need me to help with anything?”
“I’ll rent the house this week. You know how fast they book up.”
“Yeah, I do.”
“Will you handle the decorations and get the four-one –one on presents? ”
“You expect me to wrap them too?” I ask dryly.
“You do it so beautifully, darling. It’d be a shame for me to ruin the tradition by giving the kids ugly presents.”
I can hear the smile in his suave southern drawl. Originally from up north, my twang isn’t as rich as a native’s. I could listen to his baritone all day. He pulls down the road that leads to Zilker park, and I smile.
Perfect place to kill a few hours.
“How was school guys?” I ask as I drive us home.
“Fun,” Echo says. She’s my bubbly one. With her light brown hair, hazel eyes, and delicate features, and petite frame, she’s like a fairy spreading happiness and light. She balances out Deja. With her dark brown hair, blue eyes, and quiet countenance she’s the total opposite. She’s a creative dreamer like rain. It worries me. I try to work on keeping her grounding, without stifling her spirit.