Truly Madly Deeply Boxed Set

BOOK: Truly Madly Deeply Boxed Set
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Truly Madly Deeply

A Carly Phillips Collection

Carly Phillips

 

 

 

 

 

Publishing History

Perfect Partners

Copyright 1999, 2011 by Karen Drogin

The Right Choice

Copyright 2000, 2204, 2011 by Karen Drogin

Solitary Man

Copyright 2000, 2004, 2011 by Karen Drogin

Truly Madly Deeply

Copyright: Karen Drogin, April 2013

eBook Cover Photo Copyright: Kellie Denison at Novel Graphic Designs, April 2013

Individual Book Cover Photo Copyrights: Julie Ortolon, October 2011

eBook design by:
A Thirsty Mind

Published by: Carly Phillips, April 2013

ISBN: 978-0-9893112-0-5

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without permission in writing from the Author except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locals, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Contents

Perfect Partners

The Right Choice

Solitary Man

 

AUTHOR NOTE

I wrote the three stories in
Truly Madly Deeply
back in 1999 and 2000 and they were published under my real name, KAREN DROGIN, for a category line of romances called, Zebra Bouquet. They have been out of print for almost a decade. No changes have been made in content from the time they were written. As an author, I have grown and changed, but these books hold a very special place in my heart. I’m thrilled to be able to share them with you now.

Perfect Partners

ONE

“I
’ve reached a decision. Will the parties please rise?”

Chelsie Russell eased back her chair and rose to her feet, scrutinizing the white-haired judge who held her niece’s fete in his hands. She didn’t dare look at her mother and father seated to her left. She could barely face their lies and manipulations. For the first time in her life, Chelsie wanted to lose a case.

Representing her parents had been a foolish undertaking made under stressful, grief-filled circumstances. The untimely loss of her sister had been raw, the guilt for things not done, acute. Having grown up in their home, she should have known her mother and father weren’t cut out to be role models to a young child.

The judge cleared his throat. “Rendering a decision between family is never easy.” He turned towards Griffin Stuart, a man Chelsie had wronged in ways she’d never intended. “You lost a brother in that car accident,” the judge said.

Griffin nodded. Chelsie swallowed over the lump in her throat. With his dark hair and strong features, the resemblance to her niece was unmistakable. So was his devotion. His earlier testimony proved his suffering ran deep. She clutched the edges of the scarred wooden table.

The judge turned towards Chelsie’s parents. “And you lost a daughter,” he said with compassion. “Your desire to raise your granddaughter is understandable. Admirable even, but not at someone else’s expense.”

Chelsie agreed. She hadn’t known her parents would breach the boundaries of fairness to obtain what they wanted. She only wished she had known. They all would have been spared this ordeal.

The judge continued. “No one benefits by lying and deceit. Nor will it gain you the result you seek. As a result, I hereby award full and permanent custody to the child’s uncle, Griffin Stuart, with liberal visitation rights granted to the Russells, who I hope have learned from this experience.” He banged his gavel. “Court is adjourned.”

It was over
. Chelsie laid her head in her hands as her parents stormed out of the room without a word.

Alone in the hallway, Chelsie leaned against the marble pillar and closed her eyes. Through her light silk blouse, the cold stone chilled her back and she shivered. Despite her relief over the outcome, common decency and her feelings for Griffin Stuart mandated she attempt to make amends.

She wondered if he’d even listen. Having avoided family functions, Chelsie’s dealings with Griffin had been limited to professional affairs. They would pass one another at bar-related functions with a friendly nod and an occasional exchange of pleasantries. At times, she even thought she’d been the recipient of a lingering look, but knew she had to be mistaken. Or perhaps she’d just wanted to be. Though she’d given him an admiring glance of her own, her chosen lifestyle left no room for any man, especially one whose ties to her family drew her into an emotional minefield.

And now? They’d have to be civil for Alix’s sake. Thanks to the judge’s ruling, Griff couldn’t deny her or her parents visitation, but she no longer expected him to greet her with an easy smile or a casual laugh. His reputation labeled him as a formidable attorney with a quick temper which he’d probably turn her way, given half a chance.

“Tough morning?”

Chelsie recognized that deep voice. Apparently, the endless day wasn’t over yet. “More than you can imagine,” she said as she lifted her gaze.

Hazel eyes blazed with unspoken anger and his blatant disgust charged the air around him. She remembered a time when those eyes had gazed upon her with friendly warmth. Looking at him now, aloof, distant, and treating her with disdain, she regretted the change. But she met the challenge without blinking.

She understood Griffin’s contempt and wouldn’t begrudge him his pain. She’d lost a sister. He’d barely gotten over the shock of losing his brother when she’d served him with custody papers.

She’d nearly cost him his niece, the only family he had left, and Chelsie knew that pain firsthand. She was intimately familiar with losing someone precious. “I just...”

“Don’t tell me. It’s always difficult to lose a case,” he said with undisguised hostility.

She shook her head. “Not this time.”

“Really?”

“Really. I owe you an apology.”

“Save the
I’m sorrys
for someone who cares. You did your job and you lost. Just be thankful you did, or who knows what kind of life my niece would have had?”

“She’s my niece, too.”

“A lot of good that almost did her.”

She winced because he was right. Because her parents had lost their daughter, Chelsie had succumbed to her mother’s tears and her father’s pleas, believing the couple would put their granddaughter first, before their active social life and status in the community. An orphaned little girl deserved more stability than one parent or guardian could offer. Chelsie had forgone fighting for custody herself because her single-parent home wasn’t the best choice for her niece, nor was Griffin’s. At least her parents could afford to care for the little girl, and Chelsie had planned on her own influence to compensate for her parents’ shortcomings.

Lying, cheating, and attempted bribery. They’d gone overboard this time. She shivered in disgust. Given the choice between the carefree bachelor and her materialistic parents, she’d gambled on hope and her parents... and lost.

She shifted her attention to the man to whom she owed more than an apology. “You have every right to be angry, but I’m glad you won.” Chelsie placed a hand on his arm. Searing heat and an unexpected jolt of awareness penetrated her fingertips. Warmth suffused her, awakening long dormant feelings. She shook her head, amazed a mere touch could ignite a flame so strong it threatened to consume her.

Though she forced her hand to remain on his muscled forearm, his heated strength settled inside her and shattered what little composure remained. “I’m sure you’ll make a great father,” she said, her words sounding hoarse to her ears.

“Uncle. She had a father.”

She knew that without his curt reminder. Though she and her sister had drifted apart over the years, Chelsie still felt the loss. Griffin and his brother had been each other’s only family. She couldn’t begin to imagine his pain.

The last few weeks had shown her that he and Alix were as close as parent and child. He’d obviously spent more time with the little girl than Chelsie ever had. At one time, she believed she’d had good reason to back away. She couldn’t be that selfish again.

Without warning, he jerked his arm back as if her touch repelled him. She curled her empty fingers into a fist.

Obviously, she’d been the only one to feel a powerful connection. She wouldn’t allow him to know he’d shaken her. “Look, I’m sure raising a child won’t be easy,” she began.

“I can handle it.” He folded his arms across his chest.

Her eyes followed the movement. He’d removed his suit jacket earlier. His paisley tie hung loose around his neck, and the first few buttons on his starched white shirt had been opened, revealing deeply bronzed skin.

He cleared his throat. She glanced up to find his intense eyes focused on hers. His gaze traveled the length of her body before finally settling once again on her now flushed face. But the effect of his heated gaze remained, evidenced by the tingling of her skin and the heaviness in her breasts. An appreciative glint sparkled in the depths of his dark eyes.

She had little time to ponder his reaction or her own surprising feelings. An instant later, the steely anger returned.

“Alix and I will be fine,” he said in an abrupt voice, reminding her of all that lay between them.

Chelsie swallowed hard. “I didn’t mean to imply otherwise. I just wanted to offer... I mean, if you should need help or anything...” She faltered.

“We won’t.” The chill in the air had nothing to do with the air conditioning. His cold stare told her in no uncertain terms that anything that passed between them had been one sided or existed only in her imagination.

Her overture had not been welcome. She sighed and thought of her niece. Though she had hoped to change his mind, she merely nodded her understanding.

“Look who Uncle Ryan has here.” A deep voice interrupted them.

Grateful for the temporary reprieve, she shifted her gaze. Alix bobbed up and down on the shoulders of a dark-haired man who had occasionally sat behind Griffin in the courtroom, a man who seemed as close to Griffin and Alix as any family member.

Griffin reached over, lifted his niece from Ryan’s arms, and held her close. Without warning, he tossed the two year old high, repeating the tickling episode Chelsie had seen many times that morning. The happy shrieks warmed her as nothing else could. At least her niece would have a happy life.

Seeing the smile on his face, Chelsie realized Griffin was a devastatingly handsome man. Coupled with his ability to put aside his grief for the sake of a child, Chelsie had learned much about him. She softened towards him once again.

Settled in her uncle’s arms, Alix reached out a hand and touched Chelsie’s hair. “Pretty.”

“So are you,” Chelsie said, ruffling the child’s dark curls with her fingers.

“Mommy.”

At the little girl’s heartfelt plea, pain seared Chelsie’s heart and she withdrew her hand. In truth, she had lost her sister long ago. Because Shannon’s family had represented the kind of life Chelsie wanted but would always be denied, she’d made the difficult decision to pull back from the closeness the sisters had always shared.

BOOK: Truly Madly Deeply Boxed Set
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